The Detroit Lions will face the Atlanta Falcons to open the season in a matchup that should be intriguing to fantasy owners. This Week One contest pits strength vs. weakness as the Lions own a potent passing attack which should match up well against the Falcons’ pass defense. Last season, the Falcons were the ninth-worst pass defense, allowing 228.4 yards per game. Entering 2008, they lost their best defensive back, DeAngelo Hall, and should struggle keeping up with Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. The Falcons didn’t fare well against the run last season either but the ground game isn’t an area of strength for the Lions. It will be interesting to see who wins the battle of weaknesses as the Falcons’ poor rush defense will be up against the Lions’ ineffective running game.
Roy Williams – Williams has a great matchup this week and all logic would suggest that the upcoming contest has the potential to be one of his biggest games of the season. Keeping that in mind, Williams is historically a poor Week One performer. Williams has played in four Week One games for the Lions, averaging 3.25 receptions for 34.5 yards and 0.25 touchdowns. If Williams is ever going to buck the trend of Week One disappointment, it would probably start this week against the Falcons.
Calvin Johnson – Johnson, last year’s No. 2 overall selection, enters opening week with tremendous potential to produce. The Falcons don’t appear to have anyone on the roster that can matchup with the 6-foot-5, 239 pound burner. Also, Johnson flashed outstanding ability throughout the preseason, recording nine catches for 170 yards and a score in very limited action. Just as impressive was his 18.9 yards-per-catch average. Johnson appears to be poised to have a strong campaign and may start with a bang against the Falcons.
Jon Kitna – Kitna is an interesting play for opening week. He is playing against a poor pass defense and has two outstanding targets in Williams and Johnson. However, Kitna needs to prove that he will be more responsible with the football before fully gaining the trust of fantasy owners. Kitna isn’t the strongest option to start for your fantasy team this week but he does have a favorable matchup and could serve as a strong situational play if needed.
Kevin Smith – Smith, a rookie running back from Central Florida, will enter Week One as the Lions’ top running back. The Lions’ new commitment to the run will surely see Smith receive a fair amount of carries, which could translate into a big day against the Falcons’ sub-par run defense. Smith is a slightly risk start for two reasons. The first is that he is a rookie and this will be his first taste of a meaningful NFL game. The second is that the Lions, although committed to the run, have shown only intermittent success. Smith ran the ball well at times during the preseason but also had several short gains, finishing with a 3.9 yards-per-carry average.
Rudi Johnson – There is much excitement among Lions’ fans surrounding the signing of Rudi Johnson. There is nothing wrong with the excitement as long as fans don't rush to insert Johnson in their starting lineup for Week One. Johnson joined the Lions less than a week ago and still needs time to fully learn the playbook and develop chemistry with his teammates. Also, it is easy to remember the three consecutive years that Johnson rushed for 12 touchdowns and over 1,300 yards but it also cannot be forgotten that he averaged only 2.9 yards per carry a season ago (injured). Johnson could end up developing into a decent fantasy player but it most likely will not be this week.
Top 10 NFL Plays of the week
- 1. Joseph Addai - Addai is expected to be one of fantasy football’s better players in 2008 and should get the year started with a bang against the Chicago Bears’ poor run defense.
- 2. Brian Westbrook – A consensus top-three fantasy pick, Westbrook is not only a stud for fantasy teams, he has a tremendous matchup against the St. Louis Rams
- 3. Tony Romo – Romo is one of football’s most productive quarterbacks and could be an every-week starter in most leagues. The fact that he’s playing the Cleveland Browns’ weak pass defense makes him an even more appealing play.
- 4. Terrell Owens – Romo will need to throw the ball to someone and the most likely target will be Owens – often.
- 5. Brett Favre – Whether Favre can come close to matching last season’s production is debatable but he should have no problem carving apart the Miami Dolphins’ secondary.
- 6. Jason Witten – The Browns just aren’t good against the pass so look for big games out of the Dallas playmakers – including Witten.
- 7. New England Patriots team defense - The Patriots will matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, the one team that will not be able to exploit their problems in the secondary.
- 8. Calvin Johnson – Look for the uber-talented sophomore to start the year off strong against the Falcons.
- 9. Larry Fitzgerald – Fitzgerald was inconsistent last year but put up nine receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns the last time he played the San Francisco 49ers.
- 10. Philadelphia Eagles team defense – The Rams’ offense isn’t exactly known for protecting the ball or protecting the quarterback. This is good news for the heavy-blitzing Eagles and newly acquired interception machine Asante Samuel.
Fantasy Sleeper of the week
Detroit Lions team defense – The Lions have an underrated fantasy defense, which produces turnovers and generates sacks. The Falcons’ sub-par offensive line may struggle protecting rookie Matt Ryan, who may make a lot of mistakes if pressured. Look for a big game out of this unit.
Fantasy Bust of the week
Jay Cutler – Many are expecting Cutler to have a breakout year in 2008, if he does it probably will have to begin after the Denver Broncos’ Week One game against the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders pass defense is one of the league’s best and their secondary is bursting with top-notch talent. Also, Cutler struggled against the Raiders last season, throwing one touchdown pass and four interceptions in two games.
Mike Mady is a regular contributor to RoarReport.com, and a fantasy football expert. He is also a correspondent for KFFL.