Here's yet another reason why the NFL crushes all the other sports: Smart opening game scheduling.
Week One is simply overflowing with compelling match-ups, and no matter how much of a football nut you are, it's going to be impossible to watch every game that you'd want to.
The defending champion Steelers are battling the Titans and towel-stompin' LenDale White.
TO and the Bills takes on his diva nemesis, Randy Moss, with "Goldenboy" Tom Brady returning again to relevancy and bringing millions of women back into televised football.
Philly and Carolina, two NFC heavyweights, are dueling in Carolina on Sunday morning, while Miami and Atlanta, two surprise playoff teams in 2008, are squaring off in the Georgia Dome.
Jacksonville versus Indianapolis is always a good, tight, game and the Redskins versus Giants will be another NFC Beast slobberknocker.
With all that being said, the deftest scheduling of all was sending the Rams to Seattle and the Niners to Arizona.
Instead of having the putrid NFC West pollute four opening day games with their wretchedness, the league is quietly dusting them under the opening day rug by having them play interdivision games against one another, so sensible fans the world over can ignore them guilt free.
Rams-Seahawks? Unless you're a fan of one of those teams - and Flying Spaghetti Monster help you if you are - you're not watching that game.
49ers-Cardinals? That's a little bit better, and the redbirds did go to the Super Bowl last year, but again if you're sober and excited about this afternoon tilt, chances are that you don't have a supermodel waiting for you at home.
The good news here is that as your humble NFC West fantasy "expert" (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA) having only two games to cover means less work for me, and that is never, ever, a bad thing.
So without further ado, let's get on with it...
St. Louis at Seattle
Guys I like:
Rams WR Donnie Avery. The Seahawks ranked dead last in the NFL last season and gave up the second most passing yards in the league. According to the 2009 Football Outsiders Almanac, they were 31st in the league in defending opponent's number one receivers, and with Torry Holt gone, Avery's that guy for the Rams. I'm not saying start him necessarily if you're in a two receiver league, but if you're in a league with a "Flex" spot or a TE/WR option, then Avery would be a good choice here.
Rams QB Marc Bulger. I almost never, ever recommend having this guy on your fantasy team, let alone playing him, but if you happen to be one of the unlucky schlubs out there who had to settle for Bulger as your No. 2 QB, then this might be the one matchup - besides Detroit - where it might be justifiable to give him the starting nod. The Seahawks will be better this season and the best scenario would be in having them up 17 points at half time, giving Bulger carte blanche to air it out in the second half.
Seahawks RB Julius Jones. Now that he's got Edgerrin James as his understudy (in the "Manu Ginobili" role, as James called it), most fantasy gurus are completely off Jones, if they were ever on him at all. But the Rams were 29th in the league versus the run last year and Jones went off for 140 yards on 22 carries in Week 1 against them last season. I'm betting that Jones will be eager to show his coaches what he thinks of the James acquisition and he'd be a nice play as a second back.
Seahawks WR Deion Branch. First of all, don't laugh. A lot of football pundits had Branch being a possible cut last weekend, but now that's he's survived the roster crunch, he's absolutely worth a waiver claim here as a flex guy. The Rams were 31st in the league in allowing receptions to third or "other" receivers and you know their defensive game plan will be dedicated to taking away Seattle's splashy free agent acquisition, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Rams nickel guys stink, and Branch could have a big day in the slot.
Guys I dislike:
Seahawks WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Rams will focus on him way too much in the season opener and I want to see what kind of chemistry he and quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will have before jumping on his bandwagon. The guy doesn't have Chad Ochocinco on the other side taking all the coverage away from him.
Seahawks TE John Carlson. I'm high on Carlson, in general, but the sorry Rams were actually middle of the road in covering tight ends last year and they have more pronounced weaknesses in their secondary that opponents will exploit. Chances are you have a better match-up elsewhere on your fantasy roster.
Rams RB Steven Jackson. For a terrible team, the Seahawks were only 18th in the league versus the run, instead of like 26th or something you'd expect. With Aaron Curry aboard, they now have a trio of speedy young linebackers that figure to play the run well and that, along with the decent chance that the game could be one-sided in the second half, might take away his carries in the third and fourth quarters.
San Francisco at Arizona
Guys I like:
Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin. The 49ers just named Shawntae Spencer as their starting right corner, to everyone's surprise, including his. Spencer tore his ACL during the second game of the season at Seattle last year, and this opening test might be a bit overwhelming for him. Boldin is a question mark for the game because of a hamstring pull, but we'll find out more about his status by Friday, and if he's good to go, he's a must play.
49ers WR Isaac Bruce. A lot of folks are high on Bruce's young teammate, Josh Morgan, but for now I'm in a wait-and-see mode with him and would prefer to cast my lot on the dependable veteran. Like the Seahawks-Rams game, we could have a 17 point margin in this one early, so Bruce will get a lot of underneath catches in the second half and would be a decent third choice for a receiver.
Cardinals QB Kurt Warner. An absolute lock of a play. The 49ers have no pass rush to speak of, but a great run defense, so Warner is in line to have a huge day.
Guys I dislike:
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, 49ers CB Nate Clements has struggled in the preseason, but in two meetings against him Fitzgerald had 31 and 46 yards against Clements last season, his two lowest totals of the season. After his playoff heroics, a lot of attention will be paid to Fitzgerald and San Francisco will take their chances with a gimpy Boldin and Steve Breaston.
Cardinals RB Beanie Wells. While there are courageous types out there ready to ride this guy, I'm not ready to jump on him out of the chute. The 49ers front seven plays the run very well, especially against guys who aren't speedsters, so I'm not expecting a whole lot from Wells in this one.
49ers TE Vernon Davis. Supposedly, 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye's offense will be "tight end friendly this season. Like San Francisco coach Mike Singletary says, "Don't tell me, show me." Until Davis proves he can run fluid routes and doesn't have hands of stone, I'm avoiding him like swine flu.
49ers RB Frank Gore. Probably not the best idea to tell the free world that Gore is your best playmaker and that you are looking to go to him as much as humanly possible, as Raye and Singletary did last week. I'm guessing the Cardinals will be locked on to #21 pretty good. Obviously, if he's on your roster, chances are you picked Gore pretty high and are obligated to play him, but if you have a decent third option, you might want to think it over.