The beginning of the fantasy football season is always one of glorious expectation and excitement, kind of like that Staples commercial with the dad riding the shopping cart down the aisles with “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing in the background. We laugh, we cry, we throw our laptops against the wall, we disown our friends, then befriend them again, and most importantly, we all share the elation and heartache of a week won or lost by a stud player or a dud flare out. Oh the NFL, how we love to hate you so. Without further ado, here are my stud and dud predictions for Week 1 of the NFL season. Good luck my gentle snowflakes.
Stud: Philip Rivers
I know, I know, there is no Vincent Jackson and the Chargers seem to be missing that deep threat to jack up his fantasy numbers, but you have to remember that Rivers has built up his impressive resume with a laundry list of underachievers, well, them and Antonio Gates. The 2010 season will be no different. Rivers will be a stud this week no matter who is on the field because he still has an unproven running game and they love to throw the ball, especially against Kansas City. In two appearances against KC last season Rivers and the SD offence put up 37 and 43 points, respectively, and Rivers himself threw for a total of 585 yards, 5 TDs, and an average QB rating of 121.8.
Dud: Chad Henne
Henne is in a slightly different situation than Rivers is coming into week 1. Henne has a new big name wideout in Brandon Marshall, an established two headed rushing attack with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown, and has a cakewalk week 1 with the hapless Bills… or so it seems…dun dun duhh. Yes, the Bills offense has created this dark aura of incompetence around the entire team, which causes one to forget that the Bills were the second best defense against the pass in the NFL last season, and when Miami is on the docket they show up to play. When Henne was “hitting his stride” late in the season he went 17-31 for 175 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs, and a QB rating of 42.5 against a Bills squad that had nothing to play for.
Stud: Chris Johnson
I’ll let the shock settle… put down the paper bag… take deep breaths... there we go we’re all settled now. So, yeah, he’s pretty good right? Top back in the league last season, top pick in probably every fantasy draft around, and who of those people would want to wait to reap their rewards? We all know what Johnson can do, so let us focus upon the Raiders. They have slightly improved all over the field from a year ago, but until we see that in action I can only look at their run defense from last year and shudder. Last season the Raiders gave up over 155 rushing yds/g and were tied at the bottom of the NFL for rushing TDs allowed at 24. On top of all that they gave up 100+ rushing yard games to the likes of Correll Buckhalter, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Willis McGahee (167 yds, 3 TDs). Even though Johnson has never played Oakland in his short career, him and his fantasy owners must be drooling at the opportunity to get their hands on some fresh meat.
Dud: Brandon Jacobs
Even though he is playing against the Panthers (22nd against the run in 2009) there are too many unknowns about the Giants attack to make this worthwhile. Jacobs has not had a 100 yard rushing game since week 10 of the 2008 season, the Giants offense has transitioned to a pass first system, and the progress made by Ahmad Bradshaw could leach some of his touches on Sundays, but every week people continue to give him the benefit of the doubt. There are just too many risks and too many unknowns for Jacobs to be anything other than a dud to start off the season.
Stud: Calvin Johnson
Calvin Johnson is a genetic freak of an athlete and is generally underappreciated around the league as one of its top wide receivers. For the most part he has not been able to reach that status because his team has lacked consistency at the quarterback position but that problem has been resolved with the young Matthew Stafford. Johnson put up decent numbers in 2009, but never reached his potential after being marred with injuries throughout, but now he is healthy and 2010 is a new year. Week 1 gives him the Bears secondary to work against. The Bears vaunted defense is certainly not what it once was and even if it was I foresee Johnson going off this weekend and making a statement to the league that Johnson, and maybe even the Lions as a whole, is for real. Johnson last season in two match-ups with the Bears: 14 catches, 219 yds (15.6 yds/c), and a TD, but with their improved offense he will be even more of a red zone threat this time around.
Dud: T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Second/Third option on a run first team and has way too much hype around his big name and big hair rather than his production. Housh signed a huge contract two years ago and has yet to live up to his own standard as one of the most efficient receivers in the league. In 2009, T.J. Houshmandzadeh only had two 100+ yd receiving games on a pass first team in a relatively weak division. You can’t even argue that the opportunity wasn’t there because in order for Housh to get those yards his QBs had to throw the ball almost 100 times (52 and 45) in two games. Now, Houshmandzadeh is on a run focused offense and is going up against the best secondary in the league in week 1. Sorry Baltimore faithful, you’ll have to wait a week or so, or throw the ball every down this week, to get the production one would hope from this guy come Sunday.
Stud: Greg Olsen
While Chicago’s offense tends to stutter more than a child with a speech impediment, but there is one thing that is certain, Jay Cutler loves throwing to Greg Olsen. Olsen was targeted a team high 108 times last season and caught 8 TDs, 3 more than the highest WR total (Johnny Knox- 5). Needless to say I can see this trend continuing, especially against the screen door like secondary of the Lions who Olsen tore up for 5 catches, 94 yards, and a touchdown in the 2009 season finale in Detroit. Look for him to put up similar numbers in week 1, and hey, if we go by last season he has a 50/50 chance to score, I’ll take those odds.
Dud: Chris Cooley
While the McNabb/Shanahan era is just beginning in Washington, one of the stalwarts in the crimson and yellow has been Chris Cooley. He has been a consistent producer on the offensive side of the ball, but missed most of last season with injuries, and over the past two seasons Cooley has only scored 3 touchdowns. In the short amount of time he saw the field last year he never broke 100 yds and had weak performances against some of the leagues worst pass defenses like Detroit, Tampa and Kansas City. I just do not see Cooley bouncing back against an aggressive Dallas secondary that is out to prove their worth.
Honorable Mention: Kellen Winslow (because he still plays in Tampa)