Week 1 Fantasy Football Matchups

Editor's note: Dave Richard breaks down every game from a Fantasy perspective each week with the help of CBSSports.com NFL Insider Pat Kirwan, who will provide his unique take to assist owners in their lineup management.

Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, Soldier Field
Indianapolis Colts
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Andrew Luck Tough start for Luck. Non-div opponents threw only 10 TD vs. CHI in '11.
RB Donald Brown Bears allowed just nine total TDs to opposing running backs last season.
RB Vick Ballard Makes NFL debut. Avg'd 5.7 yards per carry w/ 29 rushing TDs at Miss State.
WR Reggie Wayne Has 16 touchdowns, 10 100-yard games on road over last 5 yrs. Should still be OK
WR Austin Collie Didn't score until Week 17 last yr after landing 15 TDs past 2 yrs.
TE Dwayne Allen Bears tied for second in most TDs to tight ends last year (9).
TE Coby Fleener Debuts near his hometown of Joliet, Ill. Caught 18 TDs from Luck at Stanford.
DST Colts   Bears gave up 14 sacks in 5 gms vs. 3-4 scheme Ds in '11. Can't trust Colts.
Chicago Bears
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Jay Cutler Threw 2 TDs in 4 of 6 home games last year. Colts pass D allowed 25 TDs in 2011.
RB Matt Forte Has 555 total yds, 4 TDs in 4 career Week 1 gms incl. 141 total & TD at IND in '08
RB Michael Bush Might score vs. woeful Colts run D (15 TDs allowed in 2011). Sleeper.
WR Brandon Marshall Worth one last read: Marshall had 220-2805-14 in 37 games w/ Cutler in DEN.
WR Alshon Jeffery   Caught 8-106-0 in preseason play, expected to see plenty of snaps in debut.
TE Kellen Davis   Led Bears in rec. TDs last year w/ five. Expect more targets in '12.
DST Bears Even with Luck starting & Urlacher hurting, Bears D should have good start.

Andrew Luck starts his NFL career on the road against a team known for defense. Look for the Bears to create problems in four ways: One, Chicago will use their 'mug' defense where they blitz the two inside linebackers and force Luck to move. Two, they will roll the coverage to Reggie Wayne and force Luck to find his second and third reads. Three, Luck has never seen Tampa-2 coverage the way Chicago can play it if Urlacher is on the field and Brian can take away the deep middle like no one else in the league. Four, look for the Bears to move Julius Peppers around before the snap and stress the line calls while getting the mismatch he wants to get after Luck. We're not in Palo Alto anymore, Andrew. -- Pat Kirwan

Miami Dolphins at Houston Texans -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, Reliant Stadium
Miami Dolphins
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Ryan Tannehill   Awful first matchup vs. HOU D that allowed 4 multi-TD passers in 2011.
RB Reggie Bush HOU not only allowed just 7 rush TDs to RBs but no RBs caught TD on HOU in '11.
RB Daniel Thomas   Had career-best 107 yards vs. HOU last yr. Tough to trust not knowing his role.
WR Davone Bess   Fair PPR sleeper. Has 18 4+ catch games over last two years.
WR Brian Hartline   No preseason work makes him a risk against anyone, especialy HOU.
TE Anthony Fasano   Texans allowed 3 TDs to TEs last year. You can do better than this.
DST Dolphins   Overmatched for this one. Good front seven will have hands full.
Houston Texans
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Matt Schaub Weird: Never topped 225 yds & 1 TD in 5 yrs as Week 1 QB for HOU.
RB Arian Foster There's nothing I could type here that would keep Foster out of your lineup.
RB Ben Tate Totaled over 130 yds last yr. against MIA w/ Foster very limited.
WR Andre Johnson 4 TDs in 5 career games vs. hometown Dolphins w/ 103 rec. avg.
WR Kevin Walter   Questions about playing time, losing targets to Lestar Jean keep him limited.
TE Owen Daniels Scored on MIA in '11 but Dolphins allowed 2 TDs to TEs rest of yr after that.
DST Texans Phenomenal matchup vs. rookie QB at home with few playmakers.

With Brandon Marshall gone, the Texans' focus could be on Reggie Bush. Unfortunately for him, in 2011 Bush rushed for just 18 yards against Houston. There could be more of the same this year considering rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is making his first start with no receiving threat to force double coverage. Miami backup Matt Moore told me that in 2011 about 50 percent of the defensive calls against Miami involved some form of a double-team to Marshall's side. With him gone, the defense should be more focused on the run. To get Bush going, Miami will spread out the personnel grouping and try and get Bush the ball against the middle linebacker in the pass game. But Bush wasn't even the main factor on the ground against Houston last season, Daniel Thomas was. Thomas had 18 carries for 107 yards and there's little doubt the Dolphin players believe he is on the verge of something big, even with a change in coaching staffs. The more I think about this game the less I like Reggie Bush as a Fantasy running back. -- Pat Kirwan

Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome
Washington Redskins
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Robert Griffin III Aside from noise, matchup not bad. NO had just 16 sacks at home last year.
RB Alfred Morris Rushed for 195 yards & TD on 39 preseason carries. Should play a part.
RB Evan Royster 100 total yds w/ TD in preseason, finished '11 w/ back-to-back 100-yd games.
RB Roy Helu   Scored 2 TDs in preseason finale blowout. Had as many TDs in 15 gms last yr.
WR Pierre Garcon Led starters in rec. yds in preseason. Just 3-31-0 at NO in '11 w/ QB Painter.
WR Santana Moss 9 of 14 TDs allowed by NO in '11 caught by non-No. 1 WRs.
TE Fred Davis NO pass D held tight ends to just 5 TDs w/ no 80+ yard gms in 2011.
DST Redskins Saints avg'd 34.2 PPG last yr incl. 41.1 PPG at home. Hands off!
New Orleans Saints
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Drew Brees Should have field day vs. secondary already down one starting safety.
RB Darren Sproles WAS good vs. receiving RBs -- only one had 41+ yds rec. -- but Sproles explosive.
RB Mark Ingram WAS allowed 5 rush TDs on road last year; Ingram scored 3 of 5 TDs at home.
WR Marques Colston Avg'd 81.6 YPG last year; WAS allowed 22 pass TDs in 2011.
WR Lance Moore 10 of last 16 touchdowns have come at the Superdome.
TE Jimmy Graham Matchup vs. depleted safeties is ideal. 7 of 11 TDs last yr came at home.
DST Saints Sneaky sleeper this week vs. RG3 in his first game w/ suspect WAS run game.

Robert Griffin III starts his professional career in a very tough spot in New Orleans. The Saints averaged 41 points a game at home last year and went 8-0. Surprisingly, the Saints didn't sack opposing quarterbacks all that much in the Superdome (16) and they didn't intercept a lot of passes (five). With the suspensions a major factor for the defense and the coaching staff, you would think RG3 has a good chance for a terrific opening day. Heck, Cam Newton threw for 422 yards and two touchdowns in his opening day loss last season, but I don't see that for RG3 for a few reasons. The Superdome will be so loud that communication will be a problem. Keeping pace with the Saints offense means more risk taking and more throwing than Griffin is ready to handle. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have three defensive principles in this game to make things difficult for Griffin. First, a contain pressure package that will restrict Griffin's ability to leave the pocket. Don't expect the defensive ends to ever cross the face of the offensive tackles and give up containment along the edge. Second, when Spags wants pressure, look for safeties and corners to be involved in the blitz calls. Spags knows to send athletes after athletes and keep in mind safety Roman Harper led the Saints in sacks last year with 7.5. Third, look for a 'spy' principle or delayed blitzer in key passing situations. The Saints know they have to hold the Redskins under 30 points in order to win and the Redskins will be challenged to get there with Griffin in his first game. -- Pat Kirwan

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, MetLife Stadium
Buffalo Bills
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Risky play but did hang 264-3-0 on NYJ in last meeting at NYJ (26/39 passing).
RB Fred Jackson Last scored on NYJ in '08 but did total 120 yards in last game against them.
RB C.J. Spiller Should remain involved in Bills offense even with Jackson back.
WR Steve Johnson Revis who? 22-283-3 in 6 gms vs. NYJ his best vs. AFC East rivals.
WR David Nelson Scored in both games vs. NYJ last year. Decent PPR sleeper.
TE Scott Chandler   Risky choice. Jets allowed just 4 TDs to tight ends, added LaRon Landry.
DST Bills Excellent Week 1 choice given Jets QBs, thin WRs and Bills upgraded pass rush.
New York Jets
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Mark Sanchez   Had 4 TDs in last game vs. BUF but has struggled under pressure in past.
RB Shonn Greene Scoreless in career vs. BUF -- and that's when the Bills' defense was bad!
RB Bilal Powell   Might be worth scouting his reps in case something happens to Greene.
WR Santonio Holmes Tough matchup vs. improved BUF secondary but has TD in 3 straight vs. Bills.
WR Stephen Hill   Had 9-106-0 in four preseason games. We'll see him develop eventually.
TE Dustin Keller Has two 2 TD games in last three vs. BUF. 5 TDs in last six September games.
DST Jets Held Bills to 14 or fewer points in three of last four meetings.

People are high on the Bills and down on the Jets, both in terms of victories and Fantasy starters. The offseason acquisitions for both teams set the tone for their early impressions. Buffalo acquired two excellent pass rushers in Mario Williams and Mark Anderson while the Jets put Tim Tebow on the roster. The Bills offense faces the Jets pressure scheme which held them to 35 points in two games last year but only sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick one time in 71 pass plays. Darrelle Revis may slow down receiver Stevie Johnson even though he did catch 11 balls for 159 yards and a score last year, but the Bills have developed an interesting hybrid player to offset the tight coverage. Look for David Nelson to play similarly to Aaron Hernandez of the Patriots as a big, physical receiving threat. Last year he caught nine passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets and should be more effective this season, especially when the Bills go to their no-huddle offense. -- Pat Kirwan

Atlanta Falcons at Kansas City Chiefs -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, Arrowhead Stadium
Atlanta Falcons
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Matt Ryan Should have time to make plays w/ KC LB Tamba Hali not chasing him down.
RB Michael Turner RBs w/ 15+ touches vs. KC last yr had 10+ FPTS 7 out of 11 times.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers   Falcons need to be in shootout for him to be on the field a lot. Unlikely.
WR Julio Jones Only scored in 1 of 4 outdoor games last yr -- but he's a must-start anyway.
WR Roddy White You'll start him anyway, but in 7 yrs White has never scored in Week 1.
TE Tony Gonzalez First game at Arrowhead as visitor. Has 7 TDs in 16 outdoor games since '09.
DST Falcons KC avg'd 15.7 PPG in nine games w/ Cassel at QB in 2011.
Kansas City Chiefs
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Matt Cassel Has 1 TD in each of last 4 openers. Has 16 2+ TD games in 39 KC games.
RB Jamaal Charles Avgeraged 4.9 yds per carry & 9.0 yds per catch this preseason.
RB Peyton Hillis Has 90+ total yds in 12 of last 20 gms w/ 14+ touches.
WR Dwayne Bowe Last 20 gms w/ Cassel at QB: 112-1,822-19
WR Jon Baldwin   Quiet preseason (8-62-0) along w/ Bowe's return dashes expectations.
TE Tony Moeaki   Missed all of '11 w/ ACL tear. 3 career TDs. Kevin Boss a factor.
DST Chiefs ATL avg'd 24.6 PPG in last 10 of '11 incl. 2-pt effort at NYG in playoffs.

Everyone expects the Falcons to have a high-powered passing attack, especially since Kansas City will not have their premiere pass rusher, Tamba Hali. Many expect Matt Cassel to be throwing the ball a lot and he may very well have to late in the game, but the real opportunity may lie with the Kansas City run game. Granted, Atlanta was sixth in the NFL against the run last year, but gone is middle linebacker Curtis Lofton. Lofton led the Falcons with 147 tackles. Kansas City is totally reenergized with their run game getting Jamaal Charles back from injury and acquiring Peyton Hillis. Last year after Romeo Crennel took over, the run game was called 99 times (33 per game) in the final three games and it produced 380 yards (127 per game) with Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster carrying the ball. Charles and Hillis are going to touch the ball close to 38 times between the two of them in this game as runners and receivers. Charles touched the ball 17 times a game for 121 yards in 2010 and he should be back in that area of production. Hillis only had three games with 20-plus carries last year, but when the Browns fed him the ball that much he averaged 102 yards on the ground. Hillis has 10 games in his career with 20-plus carries and has averaged 115 yards rushing at 5.3 per carry. The Chiefs hired him for those kinds of days.

Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, Cleveland Browns Stadium
Philadelphia Eagles
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Michael Vick Of 4 250+ yd passers CLE allowed in '11, 3 came in last 6 games.
RB LeSean McCoy Browns allowed 13 100+ total yd RBs in 2011!
WR Jeremy Maclin Browns gave up just 7 TDs & two 100-yd gms to WRs in '11.
WR DeSean Jackson Ex-Eagles assistant Dick Jauron now def. coord for Browns.
TE Brent Celek CLE: 5 TDs to TEs in first 5 '11 gms; Celek has just 2 Sept. TDs
DST Eagles Allowed only nine pass TDs on the road last season.
Cleveland Browns
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Brandon Weeden   NFL debut. PHI allowed 6 pass TDs, 1 200+ yd passer in last 5 2011 games.
RB Trent Richardson Practiced all week, will face run D that gave up 100+ rush yds per gm on avg.
WR Greg Little Lame preseason (5-48-0) dimmed potential after 60-catch seasson.
WR Josh Gordon   Last played ball at Baylor in '10 (42-714-7).
TE Jordan Cameron   Big target who bumped Evan Moore off roster. Deep sleeper for '12 season.
DST Browns   PHI avg'd 24.7 PPG last year; opposing defenses had just 2 TDs vs. Eagles.

Philadelphia's run defense was ranked 16th last year and played well at times. In two games the Giants only had 131 yards on the ground, the Cowboys only had 166 yards and the Redskins 172 yards. Now the challenge is rookie Trent Richardson. I think Richardson is going to be a terrific running back and even crack the 1,000 yard mark this season, but I would stay clear of him in this game. He hasn't had a full preseason, the quarterback is a rookie and the receivers do not threaten the Eagle corners. On top of that, the Eagles can score and turn a team like Cleveland into a one dimensional passing team. The addition of DeMeco Ryans at middle linebacker as well as rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks gives the advantage to Philadelphia. -- Pat Kirwan

St. Louis Rams at Detroit Lions -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, Ford Field
St. Louis Rams
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Sam Bradford DET struggled w/ QBs last yr but Bradford struggled too. Tough to count on him.
RB Steven Jackson New Rams' scheme should focus on Jackson being very involved. Obvious start.
RB Isaiah Pead   Slow preseason took the shine off of him. Keep him benched.
WR Danny Amendola Has 5+ catches in 10 of last 17 games, all with Sam Bradford at QB.
WR Steve Smith   Appears to be part of first-team offense, caught 6-84-0 in the preseason.
TE Lance Kendricks With Lions safeties a mess, Rams might try using Kendricks down the seam.
K Greg Zuerlein Huge leg. Made 5 of 6 preseason kicks including four from 50-plus yards.
DST Rams Defense will improve under Fisher but they're overmatched here.
Detroit Lions
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Matthew Stafford You'll start him, but STL pass D allowed only 1 2-TD passer over last 10
RB Kevin Smith 319 yds, 5 TDs came in three home games last year. Rams run D still a mess.
WR Calvin Johnson History vs. STL (54 yds, TD) & Jeff Fisher (66 yds, no TD) can be ignored.
WR Titus Young Of 19 WR TDs STL allowed, 9 went to non-No. 1s. Young had 2 home TDs in '11.
TE Brandon Pettigrew Rams were awesome vs. tight ends last yr; only allowed 1 TD.
DST Lions Allowed 20.5 PPG at home last yr; STL scored 8.1 PPG on road last yr.

There's no reason to talk about Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford or Steven Jackson from this game. If you have them on your roster then play them, but if you are looking for a dark horse to round out your roster for the day consider Kevin Smith. With Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure not available for this game and the Lions not really looking for another back until after the first week, they will get some good production out of Smith. Stafford will throw him the ball 4-6 times and call his name in the run game close to 15 times. The Lions should have a solid lead in this game and the four-minute drill will be a factor in the fourth quarter. St. Louis was 31st against the run last year and it's going to take time to change that reality. I could see Smith winding up with 20 touches for 90 yards and a touchdown.

New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, LP Field
New England Patriots
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Tom Brady Titans' 1st gm w/ out CB C. Finnegan. Brady will test secondary over and over.
RB Stevan Ridley 6 of 10 rush TDs allowed by TEN came from the 5-yard line or closer.
WR Wes Welker Had 10-150-2 vs. TEN in '09. 7 TDs in last two Septembers is personal best.
WR Brandon Lloyd Played at TEN last 2 yrs; 11-115-0 in 2010, 4-38-0 in 2011. Might beat that.
TE Rob Gronkowski Won't matter, but Titans allowed one TD to a TE in their last 8 games last yr.
TE Aaron Hernandez Averaged 2.5 more yards per catch on the road last season than at home.
DST Patriots Allowed '11 opponents to score 21+ pts in 11 of 16 games; avg'd 2.5 sacks per gm
Tennessee Titans
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Jake Locker First career start comes vs. Pats D that allowed 26 pass TDs last year.
RB Chris Johnson Last TD scored in Tennessee: Dec. 19, 2010 vs. Houston. Still have to start him.
WR Nate Washington Had 12-212-4 w/ Locker last yr. Pats ranked 31st vs. pass in '11.
WR Kendall Wright Caught 5-60-1 in last 2 preseason games w/ Locker; 15.4 rec'g avg. last yr.
TE Jared Cook Caught 7-81-0 in 3 games w/ Locker last yr. Pats allowed just 3 TDs to TEs in '11
DST Titans   Patriots avg'd 32.1 PPG in 2011; Titans had 11 INTs, 28 sacks a year ago.

New England with Tom Brady under center usually gets off to a hot start. Last year they averaged 30-plus points for the first five games and I expect more of the same this year. The Patriot offense is the best part of the Patriot defense. With their no-huddle, 12 personnel attack package they can score quickly and turn the Titans into a one dimensional passing team. That will put a lot of pressure on second-year man Jake Locker. Locker only threw 66 passes last year, which is hardly enough experience to match throws with Brady. No Kenny Britt for this game is also a big factor. Bill Belichick will defend Chris Johnson first and then worry about Jake Locker. When the Titans faced good quarterbacks last year like Brees, Ryan, Schaub and Roethlisberger, Johnson did not get close to 20 carries. In fact, in those four games, Johnson averaged 12 carries a game. Belichick will have a whole series of pressure calls to confuse Locker once his offense gives him the lead. Last year the Pats averaged over 33 points a game on the road and I don't think Tennessee can stay up with them in the scoring department. -- Pat Kirwan

Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings -- Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, Mall of America Field
Jacksonville Jaguars
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Blaine Gabbert Had improved comp. pct. (61.0) & yards/att. (6.0) in preseason. Worth watching.
RB Rashad Jennings 291 total yds, 1 TD in 3 starts. 227 total yds & TD in 3 career dome games.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew Can't trust him after holdout through camp. Won't start, might get 10 touches.
WR Justin Blackmon Had 10-136-1 in preseason w/ 1st-string. MIN allowed 22 pass TDs last year.
WR Laurent Robinson No one expects repeat of 2011, but could match 61.2 receiving yard avg.
TE Marcedes Lewis Mularkey utilizes TE; Vikings allowed 3 TDs to tight ends in last four in 2011.
DST Jaguars Jaguars had double-digit Fantasy points in 6 of 16 games last season.
Minnesota Vikings
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Christian Ponder Topped 250 passing yards once in 10 starts last season.
RB Toby Gerhart Zero TDs at home in 2 yrs, JAC allowed 12 rush TDs last yr. He'll still be good.
WR Percy Harvin In 4 gms w/out AP last yr Harvin avg'd 100+ rec. yards, 20+ rush yards & 1 TD.
WR Michael Jenkins   Just keeping Jerome Simpson's spot warm.
TE Kyle Rudolph Matchup vs. SS Landry will be interesting. Big TEs did well vs. JAC last year.
DST Vikings Vikes had league-best 50 sacks in '11; Jaguars allowed 44.

Two of the best running backs in the NFL will barely play in this game. MJD finally returned to the Jaguars after a failed attempt to get a new contact or get traded. Adrian Peterson is back from a serious injury but didn't touch the ball in the preseason and will play sparingly, if at all. I would stay away from both backs for Week 1. I don't think I would use Rashard Jennings even though he was impressive in the preseason and I feel the same way about Toby Gerhart in Minnesota. Gerhart had one rushing touchdown last year on 109 carries. -- Pat Kirwan

Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals -- Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, University of Phoenix Stadium
Seattle Seahawks
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Russell Wilson Cards allowed 17 pass TDs last yr & 3 rush TDs by QBs.
RB Marshawn Lynch 1 TD in 4 gms vs. ARI as member of Seahawks. TD came in 2010, not 2011.
RB Robert Turbin Averaged 136.08 total yards, 1.64 TDs in final 2 yrs (25 gms) at Utah St.
WR Sidney Rice Both of Rice's 100-yd games in 2011 came in Seattle.
WR Doug Baldwin   Totaled 63 yards w/ no TDs in two games against Cards last year.
TE Zach Miller   Tough matchup: SEA allowed 2 TDs to TEs in last 10 games in '11.
DST Seahawks Last matchup: ARI topped 20 pts vs. SEA for 1st time in 4 tries.
Arizona Cardinals
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB John Skelton   Last 2011 start was vs. SEA: 22/40, 271-1-1
RB Ryan Williams NFL debut after getting 40 yds & TD on 8 carries in preseason.
RB Beanie Wells Missed both games vs. SEA last yr.; had 3 TDs in previous 3 against them.
WR Larry Fitzgerald 213 yards, TD in 2 gms vs. SEA in 2011. Has 10 TDs in 16 career matchups.
WR Andre Roberts   Scoreless in career against Seattle. Have to be pretty desperate to use him.
TE Todd Heap   Had second-best 6-61-0 game against 'Hawks last season.
DST Cardinals Yielded 33 pts over 2 games to Seattle last year, 58 total in 2010.

Here are the two NFC West teams that feel they can give San Francisco a run for the division title. Both teams have inexperienced quarterbacks under center with rookie Russell Wilson in Seattle and John Skelton in Arizona. Both head coaches want to protect their quarterbacks with a solid run game. Neither Beanie Wells nor Ryan Williams played against the Seahawks last year and the offensive line in Arizona is a question mark, especially at the tackles. The strength of the Cardinal run game will be inside behind the guards and center attacking rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. I'm afraid the carries will get split up and neither back will generate great numbers. Seattle wants to feature Marshawn Lynch but he has a sore back and head coach Pete Carroll really likes what he sees in rookie Robert Turbin. Another case of too much distribution to get one man the production you need. -- Pat Kirwan

San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers -- Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Lambeau Field
San Francisco 49ers
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Alex Smith Rocky start for Smith. 875-3-3 in 5 gms vs. playoff teams in 2011.
RB Frank Gore GB allowed just 3 rush TDs to RBs (4 RB TDs total) at home in 2011.
WR Michael Crabtree Of 9 games w/ 5+ catches last yr, 7 came on the road.
WR Randy Moss 3-24-0 in one preseason game. Looked OK but limited reps is an issue.
WR Mario Manningham   Of interest: Manningham has TD in each of last 2 visits to Lambeau.
TE Vernon Davis Packers gave up 9 TDs, 74.0 YPG to TEs last season. Davis SF's top target.
DST 49ers One of three very tough road matchups for Niners D this season.
Green Bay Packers
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Aaron Rodgers Last home gm w/out 2+ TDs: Wk 17 of '10. Before that it was Wk15 of '09.
RB Cedric Benson Had 17-64-0 vs. GB last yr w/ Bengals. SF allowed 2 rush TDs last yr.
WR Jordy Nelson Scored in all 8 reg. season home games last season.
WR Greg Jennings Scored in 5 of final 7 regular season games in 2011.
TE Jermichael Finley Of 3 TDs TEs caught vs. SF last year, two were to No. 2 TEs, not starters.
DST Packers Infusion of youth in front seven, development of KR Cobb is appealing.

The 49ers gave up the fewest points in the NFC and the Packers scored the most points in the NFL. The Packers were the top seed and the 49ers were the second seed in the NFC a year ago and now they meet in the regular season opener. There's no doubt the Niners expanded their passing game potential in the offseason with the addition of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham and they will need them in this game. Last year, Alex Smith threw less than 25 times in eight games, but that will not be the case this time against a Packer team that averaged 40 points at home last year. Frank Gore is still the featured running back but if this game gets into a scoring contest Gore will not be a factor. He caught one pass in the last five games last year and only 17 for the season. Look for Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James to have bigger roles in the game if the Niners have to start throwing the ball. The Packers were the seventh-ranked run defense a year ago, mainly because the Packer offense created a one-dimensional opponent that averaged just 24 run plays a game. -- Pat Kirwan

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium
Carolina Panthers
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Cam Newton Totaled eight TDs (4 rush 4 pass) in two games vs. TB in 2011.
RB DeAngelo Williams Scored in each of 2 gms he had 15+ carries in '11. 2 TDs in last gm vs. TB.
RB Jonathan Stewart Had exactly 99 total yds & TD in each game against the Bucs last season.
WR Steve Smith Last 100-yd gm vs. TB was in '08. Totaled under 50 yds in 2 '11 gms vs. Bucs.
WR Brandon LaFell Had career-best 103-yd, 1 TD game vs. Bucs on Xmas eve 2011.
TE Greg Olsen All five of his 2011 TDs came vs. 4-3 scheme defenses. None vs. Tampa Bay.
K Justin Medlock   Made 4 of 6 kicks in preseason, 1 of 2 kicks in last NFL action -- in 2007!
DST Panthers TB scored just 17.9 PPG in 2011 but made significant offensive improvements.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Josh Freeman 2 total TDs in each of last three vs. Panthers.
RB Doug Martin 27-97-2 rushing, 4-19-0 in parts of three preseason games for TB.
RB LeGarrette Blount   Only 1 of 11 career TDs came in game w/ under 10 carries.
WR Vincent Jackson TB leading WR last 2 yrs avg'd 4 rec./gm. VJack avg 17+ YPC last 4 yrs.
WR Mike Williams 2nd ever NFL TD was vs. CAR; none since against Panthers (3 gms).
TE Dallas Clark   Makes Bucs debut. Avg'd 9.8 yards per catch in last 2 years w/ IND.
DST Buccaneers   Allowed 86 pts to Panthers in two games in 2011 (Newton: 8 TDs).

The Panthers put 86 points on the Bucs last year in two games and only gave up 35. Tampa Bay went out and got offensive help with Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Doug Martin. Greg Schiano believes in the run game and the Panthers will have one more defender in the box than Tampa has blockers on most first and second down situations. The Panther linebackers can all run and will slow down Doug Martin. Vincent Jackson could have a good day against the Carolina defense that lacks a pass rush (25th in sacks last year) but VJ averaged fewer than four receptions a game last year with Philip Rivers throwing to him. This game comes down to Josh Freeman playing like he did in 2010 when he led the Bucs to a sweep of Carolina with four touchdown passes, zero interceptions and sacks. During the preseason, Freeman only completed 18 of 34 for 164 yards and a single TD. No one knows if Freeman will rebound and make his offense click like it did in 2010. -- Pat Kirwan

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos -- Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, Sports Authority Field at Mile High
Pittsburgh Steelers
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Ben Roethlisberger In 4 gms at DEN has totaled 1,087 yds, 10 TDs & 4 INTs.
RB Isaac Redman Had 142 total yards at DEN in playoffs; ended reg season w/ TD in last 2.
RB Rashard Mendenhall   Would be shocked if he played after tearing ACL last January 1.
WR Antonio Brown Had 4+ receptions in 12 of 17 games last year (88 total yds at DEN in playoffs).
WR Mike Wallace 17-242-0 in last five 2011 gms incl. 3-26-0 at DEN in playoffs.
TE Heath Miller   Held scoreless thru last 10 gms of 2011 incl. playoff game at DEN.
DST Steelers DEN: 19.3 PPG last year; Manning avg. 19.5 PPG in 4 gms vs. PIT
Denver Broncos
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Peyton Manning 1,079 yards, 7 TDs, 4 INTs in 4 career games (incl. playoffs) vs. PIT
RB Willis McGahee 61 rush yds in playoffs vs. PIT last yr; 7 TDs in 11 career games vs. PIT.
RB Ronnie Hillman   Totaled 3,581 yards & 38 TDs in two years at San Diego State.
WR Demaryius Thomas 2011: 64-1,131-7 in 12 total games in 2011 w/ Tebow at QB.
WR Eric Decker Only 3 of 9 TDs came at home last year. That might change …
TE Jacob Tamme W/ Manning in IND in '10 caught 67-631-4.
DST Broncos Held PIT to 23 pts in '11 playoff game. Allowed 24.4 PPG overall.

I watched each team on my preseason camp tour and there's a lot to like about both squads. Peyton Manning is 2-2 against the Dick LeBeau Steeler defense. Peyton averages 41 pass plays a game against the LeBeau defense, so expect plenty of throwing against the Steelers. LeBeau has figured out how to get to Manning, sacking him 1:15 pass plays called, which means 2-3 sacks in this game. The other thing LeBeau does to Peyton is limit his big plays. It is amazing that the Peyton led Colts only have five pass plays in four games over 25 yards -- or barely one a game. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker may change that, but the Steelers were the top defense in the NFL a year ago, especially against the pass. When Peyton has beaten LeBeau he has thrown five touchdown passes in the two wins and when he's lost it was just two scores, three picks and seven sacks. I see Manning with 250 yards with two touchdowns (Decker & Thomas one each). Manning is 13-15 when sacked three or more times and the Steelers know how to bring the pressure. The Steelers have revenge on their mind after to losing to Denver and Tebow last year. -- Pat Kirwan

Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens -- Monday, 7:00 p.m. ET, M&T Bank Stadium
Cincinnati Bengals
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Andy Dalton Had 373 yds in 1st ever gm vs. BAL but just 1 TD w/ 3 INTs. 232-0-0 in 2nd mtg.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis Scored in each of 2 gms vs. BAL in career, but that was with the Patriots.
WR A.J. Green Had 2-26-0 in 1 gm vs. BAL in '11. Talented WR but BAL strong vs. WRs in '11.
TE Jermaine Gresham Ravens allowed 3 TE TDs last year. Gresham had 8-120-0 in 2 games last yr.
DST Bengals Allowed 55 points over 2 gms to Ravens in '11; allowed 20.2 PPG overall.
Baltimore Ravens
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Joe Flacco Hammered Bengals for 400-3-1 in two games last season.
RB Ray Rice 2 TDs in each of last two meetings w/ Bengals in '11. Must-start. Duh.
WR Torrey Smith Had career-high 165 yards w/ TD vs. CIN last season.
WR Anquan Boldin 35-yd TD catch vs. CIN last yr was 1st TD vs. CIN in 3 games w/ BAL.
TE Ed Dickson   Hasn't topped 21 yards rec. in each of 4 gms vs. CIN in 2011.
K Justin Tucker NFL debut. Made 40 of 48 FGs for Texas & 6 of 7 FGs in preseason.
DST Ravens Allowed 16.6 PPG last yr incl. 14.5 PPG to Bengals.

Last year the Bengals were 0-8 against playoff teams and they averaged just 16 points in those games. Andy Dalton is a rising star as is his receiver, A.J. Green, but Green had his lowest yardage production day against the Ravens in 2011, catching just two balls for 26 yards and zero touchdowns. In fact Green did not catch a touchdown in his last five games of 2011 as teams started to take him away with more double coverage. The double coverage didn't discourage Dalton from throwing to him as Green averaged eight targets a game and had five games with over 10 targets per, but when the heat is on, Dalton might struggle. True, the Ravens pass rush is a big question without Terrell Suggs and with rookie Courtney Upshaw nursing a sore shoulder. Look for the resourceful Ravens to get big guys Terrence Cody and Haloti Ngata on recently-signed center Jeff Faine and rookie guard Kevin Zeitler. That mismatch along with Ray Lewis helping to make up for Suggs' absence with blitzing should put enough pressure on Dalton to make him ineffective. That in turn could lead to a disappointing day for Green -- I would be surprised if he had any more than five receptions for 50 yards. -- Pat Kirwan

San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders -- Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET, O.co Coliseum
San Diego Chargers
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Philip Rivers Has 274+ yards in each of last 4 & 2+ TDs in 3 of last 4 vs. OAK.
RB Ronnie Brown Should do well vs. OAK D that allowed 107.5 rush YPG to RBs in '11.
WR Malcom Floyd Had 7-127-1 in last gm vs. OAK. Had a 213-yd, 1 TD gm vs. OAK in '10.
WR Robert Meachem Replaces Vincent Jackson. OAK allowed 21 TDs to WRs in '11.
TE Antonio Gates Impeccable career vs. OAK includes 106 yds & TD at OAK last year.
DST Chargers Gave up 50 total pts to OAK (without McFadden) in two 2011 games.
Oakland Raiders
Pos. Name Rating Comment
QB Carson Palmer Went for 716-4-2 in two games vs. SD in 2011.
RB Darren McFadden Didn't play SD last yr. Did have 15 TDs in last 20 games. Stud.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey Last game of 2011 was vs. SD: 9-130-1. SD allowed pass TDs to WRs in '11.
WR Rod Streater Caught 18 passes for 165 yds in preseason. Had 19 rec. at Temple in 2011!
DST Raiders Gave up 38 & 27 pts to SD in last two games vs. them in OAK.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has some pretty good numbers in his 12 games against the Raiders, but he is also 1-3 in his last four against the Silver & Black. Rivers did throw five touchdowns last year in his two games vs. Oakland, which is what we care about here, but Vincent Jackson is gone and Ryan Mathews isn't ready. Jackson only had 30 receptions and four touchdowns in 11 games against Oakland and I think the combination of Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal can deliver that kind of production. I'm not as optimistic about Ronnie Brown having a big night on the ground but if he only has to produce the 15 carries for 93 yards that Ryan Mathews had in his two games against Oakland, he should get close. The Charger offensive line concerns me and I expect Rivers to feel the pressure, but I also think he connects enough for 260 yards and two touchdowns. That means Antonio Gates should have a big day. In his last four games against Oakland he's averaged five receptions, 81 yards and a touchdown.

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Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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