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First Month’s Predictions: Part 2

As September begins and the regular season gets even closer, most owners have already drafted their teams. In the week leading up to the season, owners at first feel confident, but as the days go by, doubts start to creep in. Will your team be as good as you think it is? Did you really draft a sleeper or is the player just another overrated bust?

Here comes ‘Part 2’ of my first month predictions. I’m looking at the entire first month of the season and I’m making fearless predictions for the whole league. Let’s start the show on a positive note. I’m talking about the teams that will not only be unbeaten but the teams that will have the best fantasy football players, which will lead their owners to the top of the standings.

A ‘Ridonkulously’ Long List of Unbeaten Teams

After the first two weeks of the season, there will be eight unbeaten teams. After Week 3, the surprising Cleveland Browns will fall to the Baltimore Ravens, trimming the list down to a gang of seven. Finally, after an amazing start, the 3-0 Carolina Panthers will lose to the unbeaten New Orleans Saints and the list will be down to six.

The Green Bay Packers, Saints, New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens will all have a perfect September. We’ve already talked about how Ray Rice will have a disappointing September and the same might be said for Anquan Boldin as he faces tough matchups against the New York Jets and the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Darrelle Revis holdout ends before the season starts, get ready for some pretty disgruntled Boldin owners after their week 1 matchup with the Jets.

Receivers in crowded offenses like the Saints and Colts might have issues with consistent production, but, hopefully, owners knew that this would be the norm when they drafted them. Everybody else should be golden. Aaron Rodgers owners will be vindicated for making a bold first-round pick and the Patriots’ owners will have flashbacks to Tom Brady’s record breaking year a couple seasons ago.

Make no mistake about it, this is an angry Patriots squad with a chip on its shoulders after being obliterated in the playoffs by the Ravens last year. And, for quarterbacks and receivers, coach Bill Belichick is a fantasy football owner’s dream. He just won’t stop pouring it on if he gets the chance. He’s the anti-Jim Caldwell, the gutless coach of the Colts. I think Brady, Randy Moss and even Wes Welker owners are going to be very happy with the results they get after the first month.

The Patriots’ first four games are against the Cincinnati Bengals, Jets, Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. The Jets have a good defense, but let’s not forget what happened the last time these two teams played each other. Brady had more than 300 passing yards and Welker somehow had close to 200 receiving yards in a 35-10 massacre. How bitter do you think the Patriots are with all the attention the Jets have been getting? Bitter enough that they’ll be the No. 1 team for fantasy football players in the opening month of the season.

The Biggest Paper Tiger of the Season

Wikipedia defines a ‘paper tiger’ as “something that seems as threatening as a tiger, but is really harmless.” For the 2010 NFL season, no team better describes a paper tiger than the

San Francisco
49ers. This is a team that will dominate its division and somehow go 11-5 when it’s all said and done.

The first half of the season will be a little difficult for the 49ers as they actually play good teams like the Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Panthers and my beloved Atlanta Falcons. When they enter the bye week at Week 9, they’ll be 4-4 but watch out for that second half. They could go 7-1 in that stretch, playing against the garbage of the league like the Arizona Cardinals (twice!), the Buccaneers, the St. Louis Rams (twice! Oh my gosh!) and the

Seattle
Seahawks.

The weird thing about the owners of 49ers players is that they’re not necessarily going to reap the benefits. The most important thing to remember about the 49ers offense is that it is ultra-conservative, unimaginative and massively predictable. We’re talking about a team that only passes when it has to, like on 3rd-and-12, and would be more than content running it every play.

That being said, players like Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Alex Smith are only going to give you big days when the 49ers are playing from behind, and with the easiest schedule in the universe, that won’t be often. On the other hand, if Frank Gore can stay healthy, and that’s a huge if, he should be the only offensive player on the 49ers to give consistent stats for his owners.

For those of us that didn’t spend an early pick on a running back, the best fantasy player to have will be the 49ers defense, who will remain good all season long, including the fantasy playoffs. Unfortunately, their great defense will give coach Mike Singletary even more incentive to play it safe and not be aggressive on offense.

Sorry, 49ers owners. It’s going to be a long and frustrating year for you. There will be occasional peaks, just be ready for the valleys that are coming in the second half of the season. The final destiny of this 11-5 team will be to win the NFC West and then promptly get eliminated in the first round of the NFL playoffs. By that time, some bitter 49ers owners will be cheering for whichever team gets the chance to send Singletary’s team packing.

The Most Disappointing Rookie of the First Month of the Season

Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie sensation Mike Williams has had a phenomenal preseason and has already been anointed the starter on that squad. He’s a player with exceptional talent but impatient owners might drop him too soon due to a weak opening month performance.

Williams starts the season off against the Cleveland Browns and he might have a good game there, but after that, the next two matchups are brutal. Williams will face the tough defenses of the Panthers and the Steelers, who will relish the opportunity of beating up on a rookie. Since Williams is now the No. 1 receiver on a squad with few other options, defenses will focus on him and he can expect constant double teams.

Williams’ stats in these two games could be putrid enough for owners to drop or trade him when he reaches his early week 4 bye week. This would be a huge mistake. Williams is a sleeper, not a starter. There’s a difference. Let him sleep on the bench for a while. Only put him in when both of you are ready.

I have Williams on one of my teams. I’m hoping he’s ready to enter the lineup in week 7 when my No. 1 receiver Calvin Johnson has a bye. Williams will be playing the Rams in week 7, so I think he’ll be ready at that point to give me a good score. I might even put him in a little earlier in week 5, when my other receiver, Brandon Marshall, has a bye. We’ll see how it goes. All I know is that I’m not rushing him and you shouldn’t either.

Don’t make the mistake of dropping Williams because of a slow start to the season. The upside on this player is huge and owners will regret it later in the season when Williams puts a string of good games together and becomes a reliable fantasy starter.

The Final Fate of Larry Fitzgerald

The way that Fitzgerald’s been sliding in drafts lately, to the bottom of the second round and even deep into the third round, he may become a fantasy value as a No. 2 receiver.

Arizona
’s opening slate of games is against teams with questionable defenses like the Rams, Falcons, Raiders and Chargers.

I refuse to believe that Fitzgerald won’t put up decent stats against these teams. I understand how poopy Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson have looked. I get it. All of the Cardinals’ players have gone down in value since their poo-poo preseason started. It doesn’t change the fact that their schedule is mind-blowingly easy from a fantasy perspective.

Fitzgerald will put up some points, especially in points per reception leagues. Whoever ends up being the quarterback for the Cardinals will be desperate for Fitzgerald’s help and will feed him the ball, basically, to keep their jobs. Fitzgerald is easily the biggest star on this offense, on the entire team. They will find ways to get him involved. This is a case of the talent being too huge to deny.

He’s not going to produce like he did when Kurt Warner was his quarterback, but I don’t think anybody is expecting him to. For owners in later drafts, who drafted him as a No. 2 receiver, he will be a good addition to your team and will show flashes of greatness from earlier seasons every now and then.

Preview of Part 3

In next week’s column, we’ll talk about the most disappointing team in the NFL as well who this year’s Steve Smith will be and a revival of one of the league’s worst teams.

Good Hunting!

Ed Bonfanti

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