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AFC South Player Analysis
Matt Wilson,, Staff Writer

Tennessee Titans (vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

QB Marcus Mariota: Even though the rookie played solidly during the latter parts of the preseason, you're obviously not going to plug Mariota into your starting lineups as he makes his first career regular-season start. Mariota, as you probably know, is making the painful transition from a college spread passing attack to a conventional NFL offense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense was terrible all around last season, but head coach Lovie Smith is starting to work his magic with this unit. In other words, this matchup could be far more challenging for Mariota than expected. Keep an eye on how well he throws the ball and how often the athletic Mariota totes the rock. ( 200 yds pass with 1 TD and 1 Int; 16 yds rush )

QB Zach Mettenberger: The cannon-armed Mettenberger will backup Mariota. Unlike Mariota, 'Mett' is an immobile pocket passer. If Mariota is cut down by an injury, Mettenberger, who played in seven games last season (six starts), would have some low-end fantasy QB2 upside. ( 61 yds pass; 2 yds rush )

QB Charlie Whitehurst: ( 14 yds pass; 1 yd rush )

RB Bishop Sankey: Although Sankey will get the Week 1 start, it looks like Tennessee will use a committee backfield for now. He is expected to handle the early-down work while Dexter McCluster likely will see action in a change-of-pace role. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense is showing signs of getting much tougher against the run. This is a far more challenging matchup for Sankey than you may think. ( 39 yds rush; 1 catch for 9 yds )

RB David Cobb: The rookie fifth-round selection has been nursing a calf injury and looks like a long shot to suit up for Week 1. Fantasy owners, however, should keep an eye on Cobb when he returns. While Sankey has played solidly overall during the preseason, he doesn’t have firm grip on the starting gig. Cobb still could steal plenty of touches and possibly Sankey’s job. ( 18 yds rush; 1 catch for 6 yds )

RB Dexter McCluster: McCluster will resume what was a very unpredictable third-down role last season. His week-to-week touches varied from a low of two to a high of 11. Unless McCluster’s role becomes more consistent, he lacks fantasy appeal. ( 9 yds rush; 2 catches for 16 yds )

RB Antonio Andrews: The big runner has vultured some goal-line touchdowns during the 2015 preseason. Since David Cobb (calf) is not expected to play, Andrews could see some early-down/goal-line work. Although he lacks standalone value, Andrews could hurt the fantasy prospects of Cobb and Bishop Sankey if he continues to steal goal-line touches. ( 13 yds rush; 1 catch for 3 yds )

WR Kendall Wright: During the preseason, Wright quickly emerged as a favorite target of rookie Marcus Mariota. While Wright is a proven talent with fantasy WR3 potential, he is a risky play with Mariota throwing the rock in his first career regular-season start at a hostile road venue. ( 1 yd rush; 5 catches for 62 yds )

WR Harry Douglas: The Titans have decided to bring rookie second-rounder Dorial Beckham-Green along slowly, which explains why Douglas likely will get the starting nod opposite of Kendall Wright. With rookie Marcus Mariota slinging the rock in his first career NFL start against what looks like an improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, it's hard to get excited about Douglas' fantasy prospects this week. ( 3 catches for 42 yds )

WR Justin Hunter: Assuming Hunter makes the team, he likely will operate in a rotation in the third wideout slot with rookie second-rounder Dorial Beckham-Green and veteran Hakeem Nicks (assuming he makes final roster). After struggling with a case of the dropsies and the playbook last year, Hunter failed to impress during the preseason. If you also factor in rookie Marcus Mariota throwing him the rock, Hunter should not be on your fantasy radar. ( 2 catches for 32 yds )

WR Hakeem Nicks: ( 1 catch for 16 yds )

WR Dorial Green-Beckham: The Titans love this size-speed specimen, but it looks like they plan to bring their admittedly raw rookie second-rounder along slowly. Don't expect Beckham-Green to make an impact during the first half of the season while sharing touches in a No. 3 receiver rotation with veterans Justin Hunter and Hakeem Nicks. ( )

TE Delanie Walker: Some thought he would establish some quick chemistry with rookie Marcus Mariota, but Walker sat out most of the preseason due to a thumb injury. He projects to finish 2015 second on the team in targets to Kendall Wright. On paper Walker looks like a solid play against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that has struggled notably against opposing tight ends. ( 4 catches for 50 yds )

TE Anthony Fasano: Fasano will operate as a blocking specialist and occasional goal-line target. He lacks fantasy appeal. ( 1 catch for 10 yds )

TE Craig Stevens: ( )

PK Ryan Succop: Succop is a rock-solid kicker. However, his fantasy prospects are severely limited in a Titans offense (30th in scoring last season) that isn’t expected to improve by leaps and bounds with rookie Marcus Mariota at the helm. ( 2 XPs, 1 FG )

Def Tennessee Titans: The revamped Titans defense simply isn’t good enough right now to take advantage of rookie Jameis Winston making his first career start and operating behind a turnstile of an offensive line. Tennessee, however, could rack up a few sacks. Last season the Titans finished 16th in quarterback takedowns, but they also placed a miserable 29th in takeaways. Tennessee also allowed 27.4 points per contest. ( 2 sacks )

Indianapolis Colts (vs Buffalo Bills)

QB Andrew Luck: The Colts triggerman draws one of his toughest match-ups of 2015 right off the bat. A Buffalo Bills defense that yielded the second-fewest fantasy points to enemy quarterbacks while topping the NFL in sacks and finishing third in takeaways last season is now under the direction of new Bills head coach and defensive guru Rex Ryan. It's doubtful that Indianapolis will be able to mount a rushing attack, so look for lots of dink-and-dunk throwing from Luck. He should cobble together a solid fantasy outing, but very little will come easy for the stud passer this week. ( 281 yds pass with 2 TDs and 1 Int; 22 yds rush )

QB Matt Hasselbeck: ( 41 yds pass )

RB Frank Gore: Gore’s Indianapolis debut probably won’t be a memorable one. He draws a tough road matchup against a ferocious Buffalo Bills defense that surrendered the fifth-fewest fantasy points to enemy tailbacks last season. Even though the slowing 32-year-old Gore will receive plenty of touches as Indianapolis’ starting three-down runner (hint: the “Ahmad Bradshaw role” in the Colts offense from last year), you should ratchet down the expectations this week. ( 69 yds rush; 2 catches for 17 yds )

RB Dan Herron: There’s been some debate about whether Herron will have weekly standalone fantasy value this season. The capable three-down back is locked and loaded as Frank Gore’s backup, and it’s reasonable to think the Colts will try to save some wear and tear on the 32-year-old Gore whenever possible. Herron doesn’t belong in starting lineups, but keep an eye on how Indianapolis uses him. You shouldn’t expect much this week versus a super-aggressive Buffalo Bills defense that surrendered the fifth-fewest fantasy points to enemy tailbacks in 2014. ( 35 yds rush; 2 catches for 18 yds )

RB Josh Robinson: The rookie sixth-round selection is expected to handle the No. 3 tailback duties behind Frank Gore and Dan Herron. Don’t expect Robinson to see much action this week against a stout Buffalo Bills defense that yielded the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing runners last year. ( 5 yds rush; 1 catch for 2 yds )

RB Zurlon Tipton: The plodding Tipton was the favorite to outduel Vick Ballard for Indianapolis’ No. 4 tailback gig. It would take a slew of injuries up the depth chart for Tipton to see the field against the Buffalo Bills this week. ( 7 yds rush; 1 catch for 6 yds )

WR T.Y. Hilton: Don't expect Hilton to light it up against a stingy Buffalo Bills defense that surrendered the ninth-fewest fantasy points to enemy wideouts last year, but we all know Andrew Luck's favorite target is too good to bench. ( 1 yd rush; 5 catches for 78 yds )

WR Andre Johnson: The Colts' new top possession wideout will reward fantasy owners with some nice performances in 2015, but this matchup versus a ferocious Buffalo Bills defense that allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers last season is obviously a tough one for Johnson. Dial down your expectations. ( 5 catches for 52 yds )

WR Phillip Dorsett: Even though a knee injury slowed the rookie first-rounder during the preseason, the electric Dorsett is expected to start the 2015 regular season as the Colts' No. 3 wideout. However, his fantasy prospects look bleak this week against a tough Buffalo Bills defense. Assuming Dorsett is healthy enough to suit up, he'll likely lose some snaps to Donte Moncrief. The Colts also like to use two-tight end formations, which rarely require a third receiver. ( 2 catches for 19 yds )

WR Donte Moncrief: Speedy Donte Moncrief will slide into the Colts' No. 4 receiver job, which will make his week-to-week usage very unpredictable. If Phillip Dorsett (knee) isn't healthy enough to suit up against the Buffalo Bills, Moncrief will get the nod as Indianapolis' third wideout. If Dorsett plays, Moncrief's usage obviously will take a hit. Don't forget - the Colts like to use two-tight end formations, which limits the number of snaps that Moncrief and Dorsett will play. ( 1 yd rush; 2 catches for 28 yds )

WR Griff Whalen: The fourth-year pro operates as the Colts' full-time punt returner and part-time kickoff returner. It would take a laundry list of injuries up the depth chart to make Whalen fantasy relevant. ( 1 catch for 10 yds )

WR Vincent Brown: ( 1 catch for 6 yds )

TE Dwayne Allen: Don’t expect a big game from the touchdown-dependent Allen versus a Buffalo Bills defense that has been very tough against enemy tight ends. ( 2 catches for 27 yds )

TE Coby Fleener: Indianapolis’ second tight end is not a recommended fantasy play against a Buffalo Bills defense that has done a great job of containing opposing tight ends. ( 2 catches for 28 yds )

TE Jack Doyle: ( 1 catch for 5 yds )

PK Adam Vinatieri: This matchup against a ferocious Buffalo Bills defense is obviously not a great one for Vinatieri, but he should do more than enough to justify a spot in your starting lineup. Last season the Bills allowed 8.1 points per game to enemy kickers. ( 3 XPs, 2 FGs )

Def Indianapolis Colts: Indianapolis is a solid all-around fantasy defense. this unit finished in the top 10 in both sacks and takeaways in 2014. However, this matchup against the Buffalo Bills doesn’t look all that fantasy friendly. Last season the opportunistic Colts also finished 19th in points allowed (23.1 per game) and struggled against the run, surrendering 113.4 rushing yards per game. We all know the Bills are going to utilize a “Ground-N-Pound” attack. In addition, Buffalo allowed only 2.4 sacks per game and committed just 1.4 turnovers per contest. The Bills’ revamped Tyrod Taylor-led offense has looked very efficient during the preseason. Save Indianapolis for a better matchup. ( 2 sacks, 1 Fumble )

Jacksonville Jaguars (vs Carolina Panthers)

QB Blake Bortles: Bortles has looked sharp during the preseason, but we'll have to wait and see whether his success in the pretend games carries over into the regular season. Even though the work-in-progress Bortles is not a safe starting option versus a Carolina Panthers defense that ranked 17th in fantasy points allowed to enemy quarterbacks last season, fantasy owners should keep an eye on him. An improved Bortles would make a nice streaming option. ( 194 yds pass with 1 TD and 1 Int; 25 yds rush )

QB Chad Henne: The eighth-year pro will back up Blake Bortles for the second straight season. Don't expect to see Henne under center against a tough Carolina Panthers defense unless Bortles goes down with an injury. ( 53 yds pass; 2 yds rush )

RB T.J. Yeldon: The Jaguars plan to start Yeldon and use their rookie second-round selection as a three-down back and goal-line specialist. However, a tough matchup versus a Carolina Panthers defense that has been sturdy against the run will make Yeldon’s regular-season debut less than spectacular. ( 50 yds rush; 2 catches for 17 yds )

RB Denard Robinson: The speedy and shifty Robinson will operate as Jacksonville’s third-down and change-of-pace back behind starter T.J. Yeldon. Game flow will play a huge role in what likely will be Robinson’s unpredictable week-to-week workload. “Shoelace” obviously doesn’t belong in starting lineups against a rock-solid Carolina Panthers defense. ( 22 yds rush; 1 catch for 6 yds )

RB Toby Gerhart: Gerhart is expected to slide into an H-back and short-yardage specialist role. Look for him to receive just a single-digit number of touches against the Carolina Panthers. ( 13 yds rush; 1 catch for 9 yds )

RB Storm Johnson: The plodding Johnson averaged 3.0 yards per carry in six games played (one start) during an unremarkable 2014 rookie campaign. Assuming Johnson makes the final roster, he would handle the No. 4 running back duties. Don’t count on Johnson playing meaningful snaps against the Carolina Panthers. ( 7 yds rush; )

RB Bernard Pierce: Assuming the plodding power runner makes Jacksonville’s final roster – he has played solidly during the preseason – the fourth-year pro, who has averaged a career 3.8 yards per carry, would operate as the team’s No. 4 back. Pierce won’t see much action against the Carolina Panthers. ( 13 yds rush; 1 catch for 1 yd )

WR Allen Robinson: 'A-Rob' has quickly emerged as Jacksonville's top pass-catching threat and Blake Bortles' favorite target, and should vacuum up targets all season. The second-year pro Robinson's matchup against the Carolina Panthers and their ball-hawking secondary, however, looks like a toughie. ( 5 catches for 57 yds )

WR Allen Hurns: Although he isn't a special talent, Hurns seems to have a knack for making plays. The second-year pro will start opposite of Allen Robinson as the team's top possession wideout, but keep in mind that Hurns, who signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent last season, is still learning the NFL game. Don't expect a big outing from him against the Carolina Panthers' ball-hawking secondary. ( 3 catches for 35 yds )

WR Marqise Lee: The second-year pro showed some flashes late in 2014. However, a hamstring injury has forced Lee to miss tons of preseason practice time in new offensive coordinator Greg Olsen's scheme. Lee has fallen way behind No. 2 wideout Allen Hurns in the pecking order and could open the season behind current No. 4 wideout, rookie Rashad Greene, on the depth chart. Jacksonville plans to use a lot of two-tight end formations, which don't require a third wideout, so Lee - assuming he's healthy and keeps the No. 3 job - would offer just marginal fantasy value. ( 2 catches for 25 yds )

WR Rashad Greene: The rookie fifth-rounder has played solidly during the preseason and has a good chance to open 2015 as the team's No. 3 wideout over the injured Marqise Lee (hamstring). Greene, in case you didn't know, was the favorite target of Jameis Winston (Bucs) at Florida state. The Jaguars, however, plan to use two-tight end sets regularly, which means that Greene, assuming he beats out Lee for the No. 3 job, would have very limited fantasy value in a rotational role. ( 1 catch for 4 yds )

TE Marcedes Lewis: Before Julius Thomas (finger surgery) was injured, Lewis was expected to operate mainly as a blocker this season. With Thomas on the mend, Lewis should see a few extra targets come his way, but the 10th-year pro isn’t fantasy starter material against a Carolina Panthers defense that does a good job of containing opposing tight ends. ( 1 catch for 18 yds )

TE Clay Harbor: The sixth-year pro is expected to start in place of the injured Julius Thomas (finger surgery). Last season Harbor has teased fantasy owners by following up unusually strong outings with dud performances. Overall, he averaged just 3.5 catches per game while Marcedes Lewis was sidelined with an injury for eight games. Even in a starting role, Harbor is not a trusted fantasy option. ( 1 catch for 10 yds )

PK Jason Myers: In case you missed the news, the Jaguars traded 12th-year pro Josh Scobee (Steelers) and handed the placekicking duties to Myers. He kicked in the Arena Football League last year after going undrafted out of Marist. While Myers has a strong leg and a Jacksonville offense that finished 31st overall and last in scoring should improve, there are much better kicker options available. ( 1 XP, 1 FG )

Def Jacksonville Jaguars: While Jacksonville could make things a bit challenging for a Cam Newton-led offense that struggled through the preseason, you shouldn’t trust the Jaguars in this matchup. Granted, they can pressure the quarterback. Jacksonville finished a surprising sixth in sacks last season. However, the Jaguars also placed just 24th in takeaways, 26th in total defense and 26th in points allowed. Carolina’s revamped offensive line is a worry, which admittedly plays into the strength of Jacksonville’s defense. Last season Panthers quarterbacks were sacked 2.6 times per game. Carolina’s offense also committed just 1.4 turnovers per contest. ( 2 sacks, 1 Fumble )

Houston Texans (vs Kansas City Chiefs)

QB Brian Hoyer: Hoyer has emerged as the Texans' starting triggerman, but the lesser-armed passer and barely mediocre talent didn't exactly light it up during the preseason and is on a short leash. With Arian Foster (groin surgery) out of action, Hoyer probably will have to pick up some of the offensive slack. The Kansas City Chiefs defense, however, should be tough against the pass. ( 213 yds pass with 1 TD and 1 Int; 8 yds rush )

QB Ryan Mallett: Cannon-armed 'Big Tex' will back up Brian Hoyer to start the season, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Mallett under center at some point if Hoyer struggles. ( 19 yds pass )

QB Tom Savage: ( 4 yds pass )

RB Alfred Blue: He is expected to get the starting nod as long as Arian Foster (groin surgery) is on the shelf. The mediocre Blue plodded his way to just 3.1 yards per carry as a two-down bruiser last season, but he has looked a bit faster in 2015 preseason action. While Blue has flashed some competence as a receiver, the Texans likely will continue to utilize him as a two-down runner. The Kansas City defense is regarded as above average against the run. ( 73 yds rush; 2 catches for 19 yds )

RB Chris Polk: Even though Polk has compiled some nice numbers while operating as a three-down back during the preseason, it looks like he’ll start the regular season buried behind Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes on the depth chart. Don't expect Polk to receive more than a single-digit number of touches. ( 26 yds rush; 1 catch for 9 yds )

RB Jonathan Grimes: With Arian Foster (groin surgery) on the mend, Grimes is expected to operate as the Texans’ backup tailback and third-down specialist behind fill-in starter Alfred Blue. It’d be a surprise if Grimes received more than a single-digit number of touches. ( 11 yds rush; 1 catch for 5 yds )

WR DeAndre Hopkins: With a weak overall collection of receiving talent around him, Houston's new No. 1 wideout should be a target monster all season. The Kansas City Chiefs defense is tough against the pass, but Hopkins should still rack up a solid outing. ( 6 catches for 83 yds )

WR Cecil Shorts: Shorts is expected to start over coveted rookie third-round pick Jaelen Strong and journeyman Nate Washington - at least for the short-term. Since talented target-monster DeAndre Hopkins will command a lot of attention from opposing defenses, Shorts should see plenty of single coverage in a Texans passing attack that usually funnels through the top-two wideouts. The matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, however, is considered a toughie on paper. ( 4 catches for 44 yds )

WR Nate Washington: The 32-year-old Washington is expected to open the season sharing No. 3 receiver snaps with rookie third-round selection Jalen Strong in sub packages. Since Houston's base offense usually features two-tight end sets with just two wideouts, it's hard to imagine Washington seeing enough looks to be fantasy relevant. ( 1 yd rush; 2 catches for 31 yds )

WR Jaelen Strong: We saw glimpses of the rookie third-round selection's talent during the preseason, but struggles with a hamstring injury and poor conditioning explain why Strong likely will open 2015 buried on the depth chart behind Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington. Even though Strong isn't expected to contribute immediately, he could emerge later in the season. ( 1 catch for 3 yds )

WR Damaris Johnson: The fourth-year pro is still a backup wideout (31-331-1 in 2014) and part-time kickoff/punt returner. There's obviously no fantasy value here. ( 1 yd rush; 2 catches for 19 yds )

WR Keshawn Martin: Houston's featured punt returner caught just six passes last season. ( 1 catch for 3 yds )

TE Garrett Graham: Texans head coach Bill O’Brien featured the tight end position regularly when he was the play-calling maestro of the New England Patriots offense in 2011, but O’Brien wasn’t interested in using Graham as a pass-catching threat last year. He was targeted just 26 times all season. There has been no reason think Graham’s tiny role in the offense will expand. ( 3 catches for 28 yds )

TE C.J. Fiedorowicz: Houston is expected to use the second-year pro mainly as a blocker once again. Fiedorowicz caught four passes in 2014. ( 1 catch for 2 yds )

TE Ryan Griffin: ( 1 catch for 9 yds )

PK Randy Bullock: He’s a risky play this week. The Kansas City Chiefs have given up some productive outings to enemy kickers. However, it’s a tough to predict whether the Arian Foster-less Texans offense will produce a nice number of field goal chances for Bullock or very few scoring chances for him at all. ( 2 XPs, 2 FGs )

Def Houston Texans: The Texans look like a strong play at home in what should be a low-scoring contest. Last season Houston topped the NFL with 34 takeaways but finished only 19th in sacks despite the presence of J.J. Watt. A revamped secondary with three new starters, however, is a worry. The Kansas City Chiefs offense finished 25th overall and 16th in scoring in 2015. Kansas City also yielded the seventh-most sacks but committed the fourth-fewest turnovers. ( 2 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 Fumble )

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