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First Month’s Predictions: Part 1

First Month’s Predictions: Part 1 (of 3)

The most difficult and gut wrenching part of the fantasy football season is always the first month. In that critical opening stanza of the season, owners are jubilant, disappointed, shocked and most of all baffled by their new team. Everywhere owners look there’s questions. Is your star runningback underperforming or is it just because his matchups haven’t been good? Are you really going to bench a receiver you spent a fifth round pick on, for some unknown named Victor Cruz you just picked off the waiver wire?

Wouldn’t it be easier if owners knew exactly what was going to happen in the first month? That’s where I come in. Here are my fearless predictions for the first month of fantasy football. Hopefully, this will help get you through that first month and also help those owners who haven’t drafted yet make those final, tough decisions, on who you’re going to pick.

If Donovan McNabb is healthy, the
Washington Redskins will upset the

Dallas
Cowboys in Week 1

Put me in the group that has the Cowboys going to the Super Bowl this year. I’m still standing by my remarkably unsexy Cowboys over Ravens Super Bowl prediction. On the other hand, the Cowboys haven’t really looked that good in the preseason, have they? For the Hall of Fame game they were able to sustain a couple long drives, but repeatedly had problems getting into the end zone. In the second preseason game Tony Romo went 4-for-11 for 30 yards with one touchdown and an interception.

The Cowboys’ biggest offseason move was drafting Dez Bryant and he’s been injured for almost all of training camp and has yet to play in the preseason. Look, I understand it’s just the preseason. I’m not saying the Cowboys are going to disappoint this year, but it looks like, at least for the start of the season, there will be some growing pains.

And, that’s exactly where the Redskins will find the vulnerable Cowboys, at the start of the season, in

Washington
, against a hungry Redskins squad that wants to start the McNabb era on a victorious note. The Redskins always play the Cowboys tough.   Even last year, when the Redskins were historically terrible, I’m talking about got-beat-by-the-Lions terrible, they still managed to only lose to the Cowboys 7-6 in one of the games they played.

If you look at the recent history of this rivalry, both teams have split the series every year for each of the last three seasons, and in 2005 the Redskins swept the Cowboys. I think this year will be no different. The Redskins will upset a

Dallas
team that’s still figuring out how to score and then get promptly beaten by the Cowboys later in the season when Bryant is more comfortable in the offense and McNabb is probably less healthy.

How does this affect you from a fantasy football perspective? If you’re an owner of the Cowboys’ players, don’t panic. It’s just one game. The next two games on the schedule for
Dallas are Chicago and Houston, two potential shootouts which will get you boatloads of fantasy points for all

Dallas
players involved.

Dallas
’ best days are ahead of them. You’ll just have to wait til week 2 to see them.

While the Cowboys’ loss will be overrated in its importance, the Redskins’ victory will start a very up and down season for them. For Redskins’ fantasy owners, specifically owners of McNabb, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, the first month is going to be a dream come true. We’re talking about high-scoring shootouts with the Texans and Philadelphia Eagles plus a massive beatdown against the hapless St. Louis Rams.

The defeat of the Cowboys and the subsequent month of fantasy goodness will make owners regret passing on the Redskins during the draft. Unfortunately, it will all come to an end whenever McNabb gets hurt and every Redskin fantasy player plummets in value.   

And, make no mistake about it, McNabb will get hurt. It happens nearly every year.   The only question is when. When will ‘Sexy’ Rexy Grossman take over as the Redskins’ new quarterback and start the turnover-a-thon he’s known for?    

That’s why I’m advising owners not to get sucked into the early Redskins’ hype.   After that first month is finished and all of the Redskins are at their highest value and everybody’s healthy, that’s when you trade them. I’m calling them the “Sell High Skins” this year. They will be one of the early season’s success stories but it will be up to clever owners to fully take advantage of it … before disaster strikes and ‘Sexy Rexy’ becomes the starter.

After Week 1, Jay Cutler Will be on Pace for 80,000 Passing Yards and 98 Touchdowns

The biggest game in fantasy football in Week 1 will be the Chicago Bears versus the Detroit Lions. Owners of Jay Cutler, Calvin Johnson, Johnny Knox, Matthew Stafford (you’ll be bitter that you didn’t start him) and Javhid Best will be on top of the world. We’re talking a shootout of intergalactic proportions.  

Now, of all the players I mentioned above, Cutler clearly has the most questions. Owners have good memories and haven’t forgotten how putrid Cutler was last year, no matter who is running the offense these days. I’m cautioning owners that no matter how many touchdowns he scores against

Detroit
, the jury is still out on Cutler. Let’s wait til week 2 when the Bears take on the Dallas Cowboys, a quality opponent with a ferocious pass rush, before we start predicting Cutler’s on pace to break Tom Brady’s touchdown record.  

For Cutler owners, who play in work leagues and/or in leagues that have inexperienced, gullible owners, Cutler’s trade value will never be higher than right after the Detroit shootout and you may want to move him if you can get a king’s ransom in return. Or you might just want to stick around with Cutler for a while.   After all, not many quarterbacks can throw for 98 touchdowns.

Don’t Worry, The Vikings Will Be Fine

I know nearly all of the news out of

Minnesota
has been bad. Sidney Rice is out for at least the first half of the season and could be out even longer. Percy Harvin won’t stop having migraines. Brett Favre’s ankle might not be fully healed. There might be dissension in the locker room. So, now everyone’s saying that the Vikings are a train wreck waiting to happen and this is the kind of team you want to stay away from in fantasy football.

I couldn’t disagree more. Let’s tackle the Rice injury first. Look, Rice’s injury is sad, especially for those owners, who have already drafted him. Still, I have to say to those unfortunate Rice owners, why did you have a fantasy football draft this early in the first place? This is Reason No. 327 why it’s best to have the draft as late as possible. Remember this next year, when one of your fellow owners tells you that you have to hold the draft in early August because he has to go to a wedding. Hopefully now, your response will be, “Weddings? Is this a joke? I thought we were talking about serious things.”

But, I digress. Rice had a stellar 2009 season, but how much of it really was Rice and how much of it was that he had Favre throwing to him? Let’s take a brief look at Rice’s 2008 season when Favre was still burning bridges with the New York Jets. Rice had 15 receptions for 141 yards and four touchdowns. It’s not to say that the Rice injury isn’t a big deal, because it’s always a big deal when you lose your No. 1 receiver. It’s just to say that Rice certainly wasn’t an established star before Favre came around and Favre’s influence on Rice cannot be taken for granted.

Last year, Favre made stars out of nobodies like Rice and Visanthe Shiancoe, and who’s to say he won’t do the exact same thing this year? Stepping into Rice’s place will be a healthy Bernard Berrian, whose had some fantasy success in the past playing with ‘turds’ like ‘Sexy Rexy Grossman.’ How good do you think he’ll do now that he has Favre throwing bullets at him?  

Berrian had an off-year last season because he was bothered by injuries all year long, but he had over 900 receiving yards the previous two seasons. Berrian was somehow able to flourish even with Tavaris Jackson throwing him the football, something Rice was unable to do in his rookie year. I have a lot of faith that Berrian will be an exceptional substitute and Favre’s value doesn’t take that much of a hit with Rice gone.

Since we’re all getting hopeful and excited about the Vikings again, how about the good news with Percy Harvin? He’s practicing again and it looks like he might even play in a preseason game. Team doctors actually believe that when he passed out in practice last week it had nothing to do with his migraines, so I guess that’s encouraging. The point is that he’s making a comeback and Favre will have one of his favorite targets back.

But, am I saying you should still target Harvin in drafts? I don’t know if I’d go that far. He’s a great talent and he had an amazing year last season. I still think this migraine issue will pop up again later in the year, though. He’ll miss a couple games, just like he did last year. It’s a problem that’s been affecting him his whole life.  

It’s hard for me to draft players, who I know are a lock to miss some time. That’s why I stay away from drafting McNabb. Even without Harvin though, you still have four solid fantasy players on the Vikings: Favre, Peterson, Shiancoe and now Berrian. The overall doom and gloom surrounding the Vikings will help you draft three out of those four players at a better price than you probably bargained for.  

Furthermore, the Vikings’ opening schedule looks ripe with fantasy possibilities.   After what will surely be a high-scoring game against the New Orleans Saints in the season opener, they then go on to play the Miami Dolphins and the Detroit Lions. That’s right, the Lions, my friends. So, the stage is set for a

Minnesota
revival in the first month of the season and I look for them to be 2-1 heading into the bye week in Week 4. Sorry, Vikings fans. No way you’re beating the Super Bowl champs on Opening Night. You can’t have everything.

Ray Rice will be Fantasy Football’s Biggest Disappointment



Baltimore

’s schedule in the opening month includes the defenses of the New York Jets, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Pittsburgh Steelers. All three of those teams are in the top tier in defenses, and Rice will have a rough go of it to start things off. Rice did have success against the Bengals last year, though.  And, he also gets to play against the Browns in week 3, so it won’t all be bad for Rice owners.

When you draft a player in the top four, you expect him to be better than having only two good performances in that crucial first month. Rice owners should not worry, though, and definitely not even think of trading him. He’s a superior talent and he’ll return to form a little later in the season when the schedule gets a lot easier.  

What will be more interesting for Rice owners to see will be the impact that Anquan Boldin and Donte’ Stallworth have on the offense. If the Ravens become more of a passing team and Rice starts losing touches, then that starts to be a concern for Rice owners. I’m in the camp that a revived passing game will actually help Rice and force defenses not to stack the line. Don’t worry Rice owners, everything’s going to be fine. You’ll just need a little extra Tylenol than usual to get you through that first month.

The Most Surprising Team of the First Month

The Carolina Panthers will go into their crucial Week 4 matchup with the New Orleans Saints with an undefeated record after beating the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals. Let’s not forget in the last month of the 2009 season, Matt Moore led the Panthers to victories over the Buccaneers (16-6), the Giants (41-9) and even the Vikings (26-7).  

There’s no other team in the NFL that’s currently flying under the radar more than the Panthers. Panthers runningbacks DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are going to be primed for success and Steve Smith will return to the elite status he once had when Jake Delhomme was still a serviceable quarterback.  

Nearly every Panther player worth having on your fantasy team can be had for a good price. Williams will be a steal for owners drafting with knuckleheads who pick unproven guys like Shonn Greene and Rashard Mendenhall before Williams. Stewart can be had in the fifth round and maybe later and we’re talking about a 1,000-yard back last year. Smith is going as late as the fourth round and we’re talking about a guy with the potential to be a No. 1 receiver again.  

Jump on the Panthers’ bandwagon before it’s too late. None of these players will be this cheap once the season starts. No team ended the season as hot as the Panthers and nearly everyone in that locker room is playing for something. Coach John Fox is playing for his job. Moore has to be good to prevent being overtaken by Jimmy Claussen. Williams is in a contract year. Stewart is trying to prove to the Panthers that he can be their guy if they choose not to resign Williams. Smith wants to prove that his underwhelming stats the past couple years were more Delhomme’s fault than his. This might be the hungriest team in the NFL.  


Preview of Next Week’s First Month’s Predictions: Part 2

In next week’s column, we’ll talk about the large number of teams that will be undefeated, the biggest ‘Paper Tigers’ in the NFL, which rookie sleeper will be dropped in many leagues, the final fate of Larry Fitzgerald and a whole lot more.  

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti  

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