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Fantasy Intelligence Report: Week 1

On the first play of the second quarter during Minnesota’s matchup with the Washington Redskins on December 24, 2011, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson dove into the end zone for an easy 1-yard touchdown. What would follow would not be so easy for Vikings’ fans and fantasy owners to digest.

“Anytime you take a blow to the knee like that, you’re concerned about the ACL, MCL,” Peterson said at the time of the injury. “I’m trying to stay as positive as I can.”

Despite facing grave odds of making a speedy enough recovery to start Week 1, Peterson has stayed positive throughout the entire rehab process. Now, according to the
St. Paul Pioneer Press, he insists that he’s “ready to roll” and has cleared every medical roadblock. The bad news for Peterson is that despite his enthusiasm and willingness to play this Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Vikings organization may not be aligned with his “vision.” That doesn’t bother the All-Pro.

“To be honest, it doesn’t matter what they believe or what they think is best,” Peterson said. “That’s not going to affect the decision of the coaches or it’s not going to affect me. I feel like Coach Frazier has my best interests at hand.”

For the time being, Peterson is being pegged as a game-time decision. I wouldn’t count on much from the courageous runner this week, especially with a capable Toby Gerhart waiting to pick up the slack.

In Cleveland, rookie running back Trent Richardson has also been battling a knee injury (on a much smaller scale) that has kept him from playing any preseason football. However, according to the
Cleveland Plain Dealer, he is expected to go on Sunday, and is excited to make fans believe he is truly as good as his projected ceiling.

“It’s been a fight,” Richardson said. “I haven’t played no football yet and people still talk about me and still have high hopes for me and stuff like that. I’ve just got to make believers and I’ve just got to make myself believe that I can play this game still and do what I can and play every down like it’s my last.”

But is he ready to be popped by a fierce Eagles defense?

“I’m very anxious to take a pop and give one,” he said. “In my head, it’s I’m going get hit or give a hit. To me, if you’re a running back you don’t want to get hit too many times. You want to give that first hit. I can’t wait.”

It isn’t clear how much Richardson will play on Sunday, but he’ll be ready either way and I really “can’t wait to see what the results are going to be on Sunday.” Brandon Jackson is expected to be the primary backup, and will likely give Richardson plays off on third downs, as pass-blocking is Jackson’s biggest strength and perhaps the rookie’s biggest opportunity for improvement. In other words, set your expectations low until Richardson takes his knee out for an official test run.

G.T.E.M. – Going The Extra Mile

Let’s go the extra mile, and break down a 3-4 base defense that could mean big things for two offensive units.

Weak 2 WR – Play-Action, Waggle Right, Split End (Z) Out N Up

It’s 1st-and-10. The San Diego Chargers are in a base 3-4 defense (similar to what the San Francisco 49ers run) and have employed a Cover 1 blitz package – man coverage on the outside, with one deep safety. The two middle linebackers (marked with Xs) don’t have a passing assignment, thus will hover around the line of scrimmage and move with the play. The two outside linebackers will blitz off the edge no matter what kind of play the Green Bay Packers run. Safety Eric Weddle (player with the right angled arrow) gets to roam, and on this play has decided to spy quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

For the Packers, there are really just two routes – Greg Jennings’ short post route on the bottom and Jordy Nelson’s out-and-up route at the top. Rodgers will go to Jennings only if the deep safety (Steve Gregory) drops back to help out on the (Z) top receiver Nelson and allows a 12-15 yard zone to be exposed. Rodgers snaps the ball and goes play action (fake to running back James Starks). He rolls out, with his eyes down the field, reading the deep safety. Since the deep safety decides to follow behind Jennings, Rodgers immediately floats the pigskin down the field to Nelson, who is in man coverage for the easy 64-yard completion.

This play was run to perfection by Rodgers. He read the scheme at the line, knew where the safeties where on the field pre- and post-snap, and threw it to the right spot on the field where only Nelson could make the catch.

The bottom line here is that plays like this will be prevalent when the green-and-gold offense hits the field this week. Head coach Mike McCarthy will use the running game and short screens to draw the safeties in. Then he’ll hit the big plays down the field with players like Nelson and James Jones, while drawing up short and intermediate routes for tight end Jermichael Finley and Jennings. In other words, Jones and Nelson may be better upside starts this week than Jennings and Finley in non-points per reception formats.

Furthermore, other offenses like the Oakland Raiders (who play the San Diego Chargers), may elect to follow suit, especially when up against similar coverage and formation schemes. Did you draft Darrious Heyward-Bey? You may want to start him this week.

D.S.O. – Don’t Sleep On…

Here are a few players who fantasy owners shouldn’t disregard, but probably will in Week 1.

Nate Washington

, Tennessee:

With Kenny Britt suspended this week, and the New England Patriots coming to town, Washington should be a lock in every starting lineup. Not only were the Patriots one of the worst pass defenses in 2011, but they score gobs of points on offense. Washington should definitely pick up some added garbage time production as well.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

, Buffalo:

Fitzpatrick isn’t viewed as a starting quarterback in most 2012 league formats. However, fantasy owners who don’t have a Top 5 signal caller and are playing matchups should like the one in New York this week. Fitzpatrick threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns in his last game against the New York Jets. Do I need to say anymore?

Greg Olsen

, Carolina:

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a pretty solid secondary, so Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will have to find ways to get the ball to Olsen, especially when he’s matched up against a linebacker. The bonus for Olsen owners is that Jeremy Shockey is no longer stealing away touches.

S.O.N.P.T. – Speaking Out: NFL Party Time

I was going to dig in to and rip apart Chief Diversity Officer (state department) John Robinson, who recently penned a column describing the phrase “holding down the fort” as being mildly offensive to Native Americans. However, that chatter was too “Debbie Downer” (I hope that’s not offensive to those named Debbie) for the commencement of a new NFL season.

Instead, here are the five things I’m looking forward to most when it comes to the start of the NFL season.

– Victor Cruz’s salsa dance, and how many wide receivers will try to mock or modify it. Buffalo Bills wideout Stevie Johnson is at the top of my watch list.

– Painfully watching Tim Tebow slowly overtake Mark Sanchez as the Jets starting quarterback, especially when the offense starts averaging three field goals per game. Tebow will get them to four.

– Counting the number of times Aaron Rodgers slaps on his title belt, while tallying how many defensive linemen get taught a lesson after foolishly pretending they’re champs, too.

– Watching my daughter (she’s almost one-and-a-half) speak more clearly than the replacement amateur referees that have received more attention than Ed Hochuli’s biceps.

– Waking up Sunday morning.

Thanks for reading!

Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). E-mail him your thoughts

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