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Games to Watch – Week 1

Hello fellow Sharks! From now until Week 17, we’ll be giving our insight as to which games are the ‘games to watch’ each week. This is a heavy burden, as we know a lot of you have Sunday Ticket, too much free time, and an addiction to premium brews like Natty Lite or Yuengling. A lot of you know us from our weekly podcast on this site (the Week in Review podcast), our new “Sine Lines” sport-toon (every Mon, Wed, Fri), or maybe one of our posts in the Tank. We’re just like you, though. We love a good football game, no matter who’s playing.

All times Eastern:

 

 

Brace yourselves ‘Sharks… ‘Games to Watch’ is back and better than ever! (At least that’s what Braun’s mother says.)

  Opening weekend is here, and for your reading pleasure we pick the three best games to watch – saving you valuable time that you can now spend frying the wings, deciding if you want meatball or sausage on your pizza, and quaffing your beverage choice of the week.

  (We like to show our parents that those college years were well spent by throwing in words like ‘quaffing’ once in a while.)

 

 

We took great pride in our 47-1 record (at least in our eyes) last year in picking the best games to watch each and every week, with the Dolphins / Giants game in London being the only bust…..Damn ‘Limeys’.

   Enough about that though, let’s get to the Week 1 games and let all the NFL junkies out there get their fix.

 

 

Washington

@ New York Giants – Thursday 9/4,

7:00pm

 

The 2008 season kicks off with a game between division rivals that looks like the Riddler’s jumpsuit on the old Batman TV show – lots of question marks.

  Are the Giants good enough to repeat?

 Are the Redskins a playoff team that can get back to the post-season this year?

 Is Eli Manning the one who threw a record amount of picks to the Vikings or is he the MVP the NFL (and NY Giants fans) seem desperate to convince everyone he is?

  How many wacky outfits is Clinton Portis good for this year?

  And finally, the most intriguing question for most of the wives and girlfriends forced to watch this Thursday night game – will Usher or Keith Urban get a larger round of applause in the pre-game concert?!?

 

Some critics have accused the Giants of simply peaking at the right time in last year’s playoffs, but let’s face it – good defense wins championships, and they certainly had that.

  That being said, in 2008 the Giants aren’t even Sport Illustrated’s favorite to win the NFC East, mainly because of their losses of some key personnel, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

  The Giants have an offense with a leader who has proved he was ready to take his team to the win in big show last year – and win the MVP to boot. Eli Manning proved to fantasy bashers that he was worth of a starting fantasy spot on many teams, even on a team that was only ranked 21st in passing in the NFL, as evidenced by his 3,336 yards passing (12th in the NFL) and his 23 TDs (11th in the NFL).

  Now if only he could stop throwing interceptions (20 last year, tied for the worst in the NFL). The running game is lead by Brandon Jacobs who just topped the 1,000 yard mark last season, but should he stumble, his prime competition Derrick Ward will be ready to step into his shoes. Don’t forget about WR Plaxico Burress (tied for 4th in the NFL last year with 12 receiving TDs), who just might be the Giant’s best offensive weapon this year.

  He has the ability to out-reach just about every DB in the league, allowing him the potential to score some major points – especially in the red zone.

  The loss of TE Jeremy Shockey doesn’t worry the Giants too much, especially since Kevin Boss filled in nicely for him and has stepped into the starting spot this year. On the defensive side of the ball, this years absence of Michael Strahan (retired) and Osi Umenyiora (injury) downgrades last year’s masterful pass rush, but the boys in blue should be out to prove that their team still has what it took to take down Goliath in last year’s Super Bowl.

 

It may have been forgotten to many outside the Capital Beltway that the Redskins actually made the playoffs last year. And no one seems to be super high on the ‘Skins repeating that feat in 2008.

  But give credit where credit is due; the Redskins have talent in their arsenal that teams may have trouble game planning against.

 

Washington

is one of the few teams that essentially returns every 2007 starter minus two. QB Jason Campbell (2700 yds passing / 12 TDs / 11 Int) has been in a new offensive system three of the last four years, but has proven to be a fairly safe and reliable decision maker for the ‘Skins.

  Imagine what he could do if he were given a chance to get comfortable in an offense. 😉

 RB Clinton Portis (6th in rushing last year, 4th in rushing TDs) rebounded strongly last year, and would like nothing more than a win in his first game to open the season as a late birthday present to himself (this past Monday). The receiving corps is led by WR Santana Moss (61 catches / 808 yards in 14 games last year) who we think will benefit in new coach Jim Zorn’s West Coast offense – IF he can stay healthy, and that’s no easy feat for a guy who has only played all 16 games twice in his seven year career.

  The Washington D (#8 in total defense last year, and #11 in scoring D) is no slouch, either, with guys like CB Shawn Springs and LB London Fletcher (100 solo tackles last year) anchoring this squad.

 

Questions, questions, questions; and while not every single one of those questions will be answered in week one, we’ll have a damn good picture of what these two teams can do, and just how that impacts the competitive NFC East.

 

 

Dallas

@

Cleveland

– Sunday 9/7,

4:15pm

 

We could have easily picked one of the other division rivalries going on this weekend instead of this game to make our top 3 games to watch, but if we did so, can you imagine the offensive show you might miss?!?

 

We think

Dallas

vs.

Cleveland

has all the makings of an Olympic Sporting Event.

  Oh, it might not be a nail-biting finish like a Men’s 4×100 swimming relay.

  It probably won’t be a dominating performance by either team like Misty May-Trainer and Carrie Walsh laid down on the rest of the women’s beach volleyball field.

  Heck, since it’s week 1 and players will be a little rusty, don’t even expect the grace of the women’s gymnastics all-around.

  Nope, this game promises to be a lot more like one of those strange sports we only see every four years when the Olympics rolls around – Team Handball.

  Expect both teams to be running up and down the field, expect a lot of points on the board, and expect both teams to be hitting each other in the mouth on the way to the score.

How can you NOT think Dallas is going to be showing us some offensive production with guys like QB Tony Romo, who passed for a whopping 4,211 yards last season (#3 in the league) along with 36 TD passes (#2 in the league)?!?

  Of course, maybe it’s easy for Romo with guys like WR Terrell Owens on his team.

  T.O. caught 1,355 yards on 81 grabs, and chipped in with 15 of Romo’s 36 TDs.

  TE Jason Witten was better than most WRs in the league with 1,145 yards on an amazing 96 catches! (Ranking him in the top 15 in yardage and top 10 in receptions)

  And while Patrick Crayton isn’t going to put up numbers like those two, his workman-like performance won’t hurt the Cowboys.

  RB Marion Barber puts up great numbers for a RB that was splitting carries (975 yards and a very nice 10 TDs rushing / 2 TDs receiving), and we don’t expect his numbers to diminish this season.

  Sure Dallas will still try and keep Barber’s workload light but utilizing a change-of-pace back, with rookie Felix Jones stepping into the Julius Jones vacancy, but Barber is one of the ‘big 4’ in this offense for sure.

 

Cleveland

is no slouch on the offensive production side of the equation, either.

  In fact, when you see just how their offense is constructed, it’s gonna’ remind you a whole heck of a lot of the Cowboys.

  QB Derek Anderson was a VERY pleasant surprise to many in the league last year, not least of all the Brown’s faithful.

 

Anderson

managed to toss nearly 3,800 passing yards all while finding pay-dirt 29 times (top 10 and top 5 in the league, respectively).

  The drafting of Brady Quinn was a slight head-scratcher for some, but

Cleveland

was just trying to ensure that their offense has a quality young player at the helm for the next several years.

  WR Braylon Edwards was only a few yards behind his opponent T.O. last year with just one less catch, but topped him in TDs (16) – expect him to only look better this year.

  Like

Dallas

, their #2 receiving threat isn’t their #2 WR, but a TE that plays more like a WR – Kellen Winslow.

  Winslow’s 82 catches and 1,106 yards put him just behind

Witten

, in the stratosphere of the TE ranks.

  But the Brownies even *upgrade* their WR corps this year with the dangerous Donte` Stallworth.

  If Stallworth can stay relatively healthy, this offense could go through the roof this year.

  Hey, don’t forget about RB Jamal Lewis, who had a bit of a rebirth in 2007. He punched back into the top 5 among RBs in rushing yardage, with 1,304 yards – his best total since he cracked the 2k mark way back in 2003.

  His yards per carry are back on track, too, after two down years prior to last year.

  Now if only Lewis could seem to hang onto the ball a little better, and he’d be even more of a threat.

 

WOW!

  That gives us two absolutely amazing offenses, which seem to be near mirror images of each other.

  Well, that certainly leads us to believe that our first two conjectures were right (running up and down the field, and scoring a lot), but what makes us think these two will be hitting each other in the mouth on the way to the score?

  Maybe it’s the fact that Dallas was a top-ten ranked defense in overall yardage, and held opponents to under 100 running yards a game.

  And Cleveland was equally as… um… well, they were solid in… err… ok, their defense pretty much stinks – but we bet they at least TRY and hit the Cowboys in the mouth a few times. 😉

 

 

Minnesota

@

Green Bay

– Monday 9/8,

7:00pm

 

You remember that fishing trip you took this past summer?

  No – not the trip to the Vegas when you told you wife you were going fishing with the guys, but the ACTUAL fishing trip you took.

  Remember how that minnow that your good buddy caught got bigger and bigger every time he told the story?

  And even better is that ‘one that got away’ story every fisherman has in his bragging arsenal.

  Well, the Green Bay Packer fans (and almost every other NFL fan) are talking about the big fish the Pack let get away – the elusive and (sometimes) deadly Favre.

 

Come on….you can admit it.

  It’s going to be weird talking about the Pack and not bringing up Favre.

  It’s like talking about tailgating and not mentioning beer or like talking about the Rat Pack without mentioning Sinatra.

  Heck – it’s like talking about Santa Claus and not bringing up his hot young wife (wait – maybe that’s just at Dolfi’s house)… anyway, it IS weird. But that is what makes this game so intriguing.

  Many critics (not us of course), think the Packers without Favre make the division seem completely up for grabs between all four teams; but let’s face it – the Pack and the Vikes are still the class of this division.

  And you gotta’ love a divisional rivalry (not to mention a neighboring-state rivalry) this early in the season.

 

The Packers soundly whipped the Vikings the last time they met in November of last year by a score of 34-0.

  Sorry to remind you of that, Adrian Peterson fantasy owners, but that was with Favre in the captain’s chair.

  The new skipper for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers, makes his first start as an NFL quarterback. The pressure is ‘on’, as Rodgers performance will be over-scrutinized by many – which almost makes us feel bad until we realize that a one-game check for him could buy each of us a house.

  RB Ryan Grant has established himself as the number one back in GB after a few years of injuries and committee play in the offensive backfield.

  And once he took over last year in week 8, it was clear the Packers offense had a major weapon – averaging over 92 yards a game as the starter and notching 8 TDs in the final 9 games.

  But Grant isn’t the only big fish in

Green Bay

– the Pack sports one of the best duos in the league in WRs Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.

  Sure, they aren’t Johnson and Houshmandzadeh, but anytime 2 receivers total just under 2,000 yards receiving on 135 catches between them, you have to think Aaron Rodgers is in good hands – literally.

 

For the Vikings, Tavaris Jackson’s time has come to sink or swim. If he can do it in this first game at Lambeau, he might be in for a great season leading a great team. Thankfully for him, he won’t be facing the scrutiny that his opponent Rodgers will see, because the Vikings are now officially on the back of RB Adrian Peterson.

  It goes without saying that last year’s 1st round pick by the Vikings is paying off mega dividends and has potential to be a consistent top 5 RB over the next several years if he can escape the injuries that plague many of the NFL’s ball carriers these days. Peterson was amazing last year, racking up 1341 yards rushing and 12 rushing TDs (13 total TDs) ranking him #2 in the league in both categories, behind only LT.

  Don’t forget his amazing 5.6 ypc average either.

  At WR, Bernard Berrian will be counted on heavily after being wooed away from another NFC North rival, Chicago.

 Soon we will find out if Berrian can help

Jackson

, or if he’ll suffer like he did the previous year in

Chicago

with lack of a complementary quarterback.

   All this and maybe a $72 million investment in the Vikings pass rush involving Jared Allen make the Vikings a team of intrigue in the NFC North.

 

 

If for no other reason to watch this game….this could be a VERY bitter grudge match – even beyond the normal rivalry. The Pack fans don’t like the fact that the Vikes have supposedly ‘tampered’ with Favre and other members of the

Green Bay

family. (Are we the only ones who noticed the Vikings picked up two players and a coach from

Green Bay

?). The Vikes are out get payback from their embarrassing meeting last year. Listen, T.O. can say what he wants about his game this week… but get your popcorn ready for THIS game. Let’s all sit back and watch a great game that should tell us in week one who is the big fish in the little NFC North pond.

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FantasySharks.com began in 2003, disseminating fantasy football content on the web for free. It is, or has been, home to some of the most talented and best known fantasy writers on the planet. Owned and operated by Tony Holm (5 time Fantasy Sports Writer Association Hall-of-Fame nominee,) Tony started writing fantasy content in 1993 for the only three fantasy football web sites in existence at the time.