Thank goodness for church on Saturday! I will begin attending Saturday service this weekend with Week 1 beginning this Sunday, except for Thursday’s opener. Alas, the NFL is back, which means that “The Dive” will begin a triumphant sophomore season. After a busy off-season that included writing for baseballsharks.com, tying the knot, and honeymooning with my beautiful wife in French Polynesia, I am ready to kick off the NFL season.
In case you missed “The Dive” last season, let me welcome you to my column. I will research a player at each position (quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end) and a defense to provide a forecast for the upcoming week. Matchup data, common trends, performance history, weather issues, health status, share of workload, and other variables will be analyzed so that you can decide who to start, sit, or snatch from the waiver wire.
Matt Hasselbeck- With Peyton Manning out, Matt Cassell hurt, and David Garrard released, some owners have officially hit the panic button in Week 1 as they desperately search for a low cost alternative to fill their quarterback slot. If you did not draft a second quarterback and are beginning to worry, then check your waiver wire for seasoned veteran Matt Hasselbeck. The new Titans’ quarterback has looked relatively solid despite the learning curve of leading a brand new offense. Although Hasselbeck has not battled the Jags since 2009, he was able to toss an impressive 249 yards and four touchdowns. Jacksonville ranked 28th in pass defense last season and appears to have digressed even further this preseason by ranking last in pass yards allowed including giving up a league worse six pass plays over 40 yards.
Projection- 250 yards and two passing touchdowns
Beanie Wells- It is time for Beanie to prove his worth. Arizona’s Coach Whisenhunt publicly admitted being impressed with his preseason performance and insured Wells’ position as the primary back. With Kevin Kolb still adjusting to Arizona’s offense, look for Wells to receive a large share of carries and several drop-off passes from the new QB. In addition, Carolina struggled against the run last season and is ranked as the worst rush defender of the preseason.
Projection- 150 total yards and a touchdown.
Lance Kendricks- Some managers decided to hold back on drafting an elite tight end like Antonio Gates, Dallas Clark, or Jermichael Finley. It may have been a blessing in disguise for Clark owners that will be Manning-less in Week 1 or even longer. If you are searching for a potential sleeper tight end on the waiver wire or buy low in a trade, check out rookie Rams rookie Lance Kendricks. He had a strong preseason with the most touchdowns at this position and appears to have quickly built rapport with Sam Bradford. Although he plays a tough Philadelphia defense, the Eagles were actually the second worst at guarding tight ends in 2010. In fact, opposing tight ends received the most targets and second highest touchdown total last season versus Philly.
Projection- 60 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Kenny Britt- You may already have Kenny Britt inserted in your starting lineup, but here’s evidence to support your decision. Jacksonville’s pass defense was among the league’s worst in 2010, and has ranked in the cellar this preseason by allowing the most pass yards, most touchdowns, and have sacked opposing quarterbacks the least. Britt did not light up the Jags in 2010, but I see a different story playing out this Sunday with Matt “I’m Bringing Hasselbeck” and Britt connecting on a few bombs. With Jacksonville’s offense likely struggling after releasing David Garrard, look for Tennessee’s offense to stay on the field most of this game.
Projection- 100 receiving yards and a touchdown
Houston Texans Defense- Don’t dismiss my recommendation yet. I am fully aware that the Texans’ pass defense was the laughing stock of the NFL last season. Their 32nd rated pass defense resulted in a total defense rating of 30th and never warranted a start. With Wade Phillips called upon to manage the defense and signs of improvement already showing in the preseason, Houston may be worth a spot start if your other defensive options have a difficult matchup. Still not sold? Then consider newly acquired 38 year old veteran Kerry Collins or Curtis Painter who has not thrown a regular season pass since January 3rd, 2010. Truthfully, Indianapolis’ offense may be in better hands with Peyton Manning throwing darts with a neck brace in a wheelchair. With Manning sitting for Week 1, the improved Houston defense has a very attractive matchup at home and may be worthy of a spot start.
Projected points- 15
Good luck this week. Start your season off with a “W”.