As we all get ready for week 1 in the NFL, it's time to take an in-depth look at some of the match-ups to kick start the season for teams in the NFC South. This week all four NFC South teams (Carolina, New Orleans, Atlanta, Tampa Bay) play at home and should look to start the season off with a few wins in their respective division.
New Orleans Saints: As the Saints get ready to face the Lions in their home-opener, get ready to see a high octane offense get started on one of the worst teams in the league (Detroit), in terms of yards allowed by their defense in the '08 season. Saints owners need to start their QB, RB's and WR's in the Saints offense week 1, because they should be marching in the end-zone with regularity this week.
Detroit at New Orleans - Week 1
Team Breakdown Offense:
QB: Drew Brees: Last year the Lions gave up an average of 232 yards allowed through the air, Brees averaged 311 passing yards a game and should be poised to continue his assault on the less-talented Detroit Lions. A game with 300 passing yards and 2/3 TD's is becoming expected for this stud QB.
RB's: Pierre Thomas/ Reggie Bush: Thomas is listed as questionable to start the season off, so look for Reggie Bush and Mike Bell to get things rolling on the ground for the Saints this week against Detroit. Bush should see a fair amount of carries and targets from the backfield, with Bell taking short yardage and goal-line carries. Bush should be considered a strong start against the Lions and should eclipse 100 all-purpose yards and a TD against a woeful Lions defense. Bell could possibly have a strong game around the goal-line with Thomas' absence, but you should be doing better than him in your roster to start the season.
WR's: Marques Colston/ Lance Moore/ Robert Meachem: This should be an interesting storyline to watch, with Moore and Meachem battling for catches look for Colston to maintain his status as the No.1 WR, who should be targeted frequently in the Saints high-powered offense. With Pierre Thomas out to start the season, Colston will get looks in the red-zone frequently and should produce over 100 yards and 1/2 TD's. Moore and Meachem are highly skilled talents for the Saints, but with Bush, Colston and Shockey getting looks, it may be hard to see what is forthcoming for the other WR's against the Lions in week 1. Moore was dynamite last year, but will he continue to shine after a tumultuous off-season of injuries? Meachem has been the highlight of camp and looks to finally step up as one of Drew Brees' favorite targets. Make sure you keep an eye on this scenario, because Brees' targets are fruitful in fantasy play. Devery Henderson should be an afterthought with a new-look Meachem in the picture.
TE's: Jeremy Shockey/ Billy Miller: Shockey has quickly become an afterthought in the Saints offense, with all the targets Brees has at his disposal look for Shockey to be inconsistent throughout the year. Billy Miller has been injured as of late, giving Shockey a grand opportunity to produce to start the season, with Brees as his QB he should be targeted on third downs a fair amount this week, giving him a chance to start the season off on the right foot. If he can continue playing at a high level, he should gain the trust of Brees and continue to contribute through the air for the Saints. The match-up is good, let's hope Shockey can take advantage.
Carolina Panthers: Carolina gets the regular season started at home facing the Philadelphia Eagles, with a terrible end to the '08 season,look for Delhomme to manage the game with the strength of his team in the backfield. The Eagles have taken 4/5 games in the regular season against the Panthers, but with a new OC in Sean McDermott, the Panthers are going to be looking to run wild over the Eagles defense to start their '09 campaign. Last year the Eagles gave up an average of 92 yards on the ground and 182 yards through the air, while the Panthers averaged 152 yards on the ground and 197 yards in the air per contest. A stingy defense against a monster running game, it should be interesting to see who comes out on top to start the season.
Philadelphia at Carolina - Week 1
Team Breakdown Offense:
QB: Jake Delhomme: Delhommeis now two years removed from Tommy John surgery and seems to have a strong safety valve in WR Steve Smith, but don't get your hopes up against a stifling Eagles secondary. Delhomme needs to prove he is worthy of starting against tough competition and should only be considered an emergency start against a tough Philadelphia defense.
RB's: Deangelo Williams/ Jonathan Stewart: Deangelo and Stewart should be ready to go in week 1, with Deangelo and Stewart facing a tough Philadelphia defense, it should make for an interesting match-up for owners who targeted Williams in the first round ofdrafts this summer. I personally think that given Stewart's off-season and Deangelo's pre-season, Williams should again be an intimidating presence for any defense around the goal-line and out of the backfield, against Philadelphia he should be a guaranteed start, considering he is the focal point of the offense. Stewart should get his 10/12 touches (if healthy), but Deangelo will be the main attraction and should post good stats across the board. If Stewart is unable to play due to injury, look for rookie Mike Goodson to showcase his ability and possibly be an attractive sleeper candidate to start the season behind Deangelo.
WR's: Steve Smith/ Muhsin Muhammed/ Dwayne Jarret: Steve Smith will be the focal point of the air movement in Carolina, and should be considered a must-start this week against the Eagles, or any other teams defense for that matter. Muhammed will continue to take the second WR spot on the depth chart, but neither he nor Jarrett should be considered strong fantasy plays in the season opener. Jarrett has more upside, but I want to see him reach his potential before we even think of starting him. Smith is the only reliable WR on the roster for fantasy purposes.
TE: Dante Rosario/ Jeff King: Rosario was a week 1 savior a year ago, but never did much to gain momentum for the fantasy world after that. With the system firmly in place in Carolina, it would be a miracle to see either of these two produce anything more than a few catches from the TE position in week 1. Stay away from this TE situation, you shouldn't have either of these guys in your lineup for the first week of the season, or any week after that until proven differently.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs have a rough start to the '09 season facing one of the toughest opening day challenges in the Dallas Cowboys. With new head-coach Raheem Morris at the helm, it should be interesting to see how the firing of OC Jeff Jagodzinski will improve their passing-game. Quarterbacks coach Greg Olsen was promoted to add a new element to the Bucs air attack, featuring two capable pass catchers in Bryant and Winslow. The Cowboys last year gave up an average of 294 yards in offense to their counterparts, while the Bucs averaged 341 yards of total offense last year.
Dallas at Tampa Bay- Week 1
Team Breakdown offense:
QB: Byron Leftwich: As nice as it is to have a starting QB in your roster, this QB will be playing on a short leash for most of the season and should be aware of one of the most prolific pass-rushers in the league (Demarcus Ware) on Sunday. Leftwich should be hard pressed to put up stats against dallas in week 1, so , basically, stay away from this match-up altogether. With the future (Freeman) sitting on the sidelines, a few feet away, there's a slight chance he doesn't even make it through a full game, if he struggles to adjust to the offense early on.
RB's: Derrick Ward/ Earnest Graham/ Carnell Williams: This RBBC looks to be a mystery to fantasy owners altogether, with Williams playing the spoiler for Derrick Ward's coming out party, it now seems to be a log jam in the Bucs backfield. I will take a shot and say that Carnell Williams will be the third down back with Graham punching it in for the TD's and short yardage work, that leaves Ward to be there two-down back, rendering any chance of goal-line work and three-down duties. Do you really want to start anyone of these guys against Dallas?..at least until you get a chance to see this tree bear some fruit.
WR's: Antonio Bryant/ Michael Clayton:With a change in direction from the old offensive philosophy, we might see a boost in attempts per game from the WR's that are currently on the Bucs roster. Don't get to caught up in those sentiments, Byron Leftwich is still the QB of the Bucs offense (for now), and he hasn't shown anything to make us like the Bucs offense in the pre-season. With Winslow and Bryant on the team, they should be the focal point of the air attack in Tampa Bay, and they should be two offensive weapons that pay dividends for fantasy owners. Bryant should be targeted (if healthy) frequently against Dallas' defense, so he should be a safe play for week 1 of the regular season.
TE: Kellen Winslow: Fantasy owners will want to start K2 with regularity this season, after a bitter split with the Browns organization Winslow has the potential to lead all tight-ends in scoring, as one of the few receiving options in the Bucs offense. Winslow (if healthy) should be a top option at the tight-end position on a team that is trying to throw the ball more frequently. Against Dallas the Bucs will look to showcase their new toy and target Winslow a fair bit, so don't be afraid to start him in week 1 against the Cowboys.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan and company are starting their regular season campaign at home this year against the Miami Dolphins. This game should be an interesting battle between two teams on the rise, with Gonzalez and White leading the air attack, and Turner and Norwood controlling the ground, this team looks poised to take the next step in fantasy elite. Week 1 will be their easiest match-up until week 5 when they play the 49'ers, it will be important for this team to start hot, and they will need a lot of points to do it against tough competition.
Miami at Atlanta- Week 1
Team Breakdown offense:
QB: Matt Ryan: Ryan should see allot of pressure on the outside this week facing Porter and Taylor, he will be forced to make quick decisions in the pocket and rely on the running-game to keep the drives going. With that being said, Ryan is a star in the making and should be started against a Miami defense that gave up over 200 passing yards a game on average in '08. With Gonzalez, White and Jenkins, Ryan should have plenty of weapons at his disposal to disperse the ball to throughout the game.
RB's: Michael Turner/ Jerious Norwood: Michael Turner is a beast in the backfield, with his ability to move the pile and score TD's, he should be started against any team in the NFL. Last year the Dolphins gave up 118 yards on the ground average in '08, so Turner should be good for some red-zone looks and 20 or more touches in the game. Norwood probably won't cut too much into Turner's carries, but should still see his 10/15 touches on the ground and through the air.
WR's: Roddy White/ Michael Jenkins: With Atlanta's ability to move the chains on either side of the ball, White should remain the No.1 targeted WR on the Falcons roster throughout the regular season. Gonzalez is now in the picture, making Michael Jenkins role a little slimmer in terms of targets, but Matt Ryan will continue find the open receiver in the offense and give his WR's chances to make plays. Miami gave up an average of 227 yards a game through the air, so White and Jenkins could put up decent stats on an improved Miami defense.
TE: Tony Gonzalez: Gonzo is playing with his first franchise QB in years, and finds himself in a good situation to produce right out of the gate for the Falcons. Miami should have a difficult time matching up against one of the most prolific tight-ends in the NFL, I can see him catching 7 or 8 balls for 90 yards and a TD to start the season off at home. Gonzalez is a stud on a better offense, so expect big things from this guy throughout the regular season and week 1 against the Dolphins.