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What to Watch For: Week 1 Part 2



Cincinnati – 1:00 CBS

The Kyle Orton project officially begins and who knows if the Broncos will even put Brandon Marshall on the field seeing as he knows very little (if any) of the new playbook. Orton has been on the hot seat for most of the preseason and has done nothing to convince this writer that he has what it takes to replace Jay Cutler. He will have his hands full with a

Cincinnati defense that ranked in the Top 15 overall last year.

Carson Palmer has been battling injuries throughout the preseason, but has sworn that he will be ready for Week 1. Many think that Chad Ochocinco will return to top form in 2009 and even Chris Henry and Cedric Benson seem to have new leases on their football careers. It will be imperative to watch and see how this entire offensive unit gels because if they find a rhythm, they have the potential to be a Top 10 offense this season.



Cleveland – 1:00 FOX

I think everyone’s eyes will be on No. 4 on Sunday, but I’m going to tell you to watch elsewhere. The Vikings’ passing game has been relatively stagnant over the past couple years, but the combination of Favre and Bernard Berrian could become one of the best in the league. Berrian has been knocking on the 1,000-yard door for quite some time now and will be a Top 10 WR in 2009; that all starts on Sunday when I expect him to outshine even Adrian Peterson on the field.

Just as much as everyone is interested in seeing how Brady Quinn does as the Browns starter (let’s all admit that Mangini will name him the guy) I am more intrigued by the situation behind him. It was rumored on cut day that Jamal Lewis might not even make the squad, which shows me the faith that the organization has in him. Rookie James Davis will be pushing Lewis for playing time and, if given the opportunities, will be one of the top rookie rushers in 2009. He is owned in just 17 percent of Yahoo leagues and would be an ultimate steal in the final round of any drafts you still have or a solid waiver wire pickup.

Washington @ New York Giants – 4:15 FOX

This will be Jason Campbell’s second year in an offense for the first time since college and that can only mean good things for him as he enters his contract season. It’s also the second year for WR Devin Thomas and let’s not forget that

Campbell is surrounded with talent in Santana Moss, Clinton Portis and Chris Cooley. I’m buying low on

Campbell in late fantasy drafts and while the Giants are a tough test in Week 1, it’ll give us a chance to see if

Campbell has what it takes to succeed early on in the season.

The big question facing

New York going into 2009 has been their wide receivers now that Plaxico Burress is gone. Eli Manning had awful numbers with Burress out of the lineup last year, and many are wondering if the combination of Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham, Steve Smith and rookie Hakeem Nicks will get the job done. I will be watching to find out who Manning’s preferred target at WR is and would not be surprised if Nicks is the early favorite.

San Francisco


Arizona – 4:15 FOX

Frank Gore has only played in a full 16 games once in his career, but he continues to be the guy who carries this team on his back.

San Francisco invested a third round pick in Glen Coffee in this year’s draft and he will be the ultimate complement to Gore. Keep an eye on how head coach Mike Singletary and new offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye chooses to sub these guys in and out of the game because if they find a steady rhythm, this RB duo will open up the

San Francisco offense for the first time in years.

Kurt Warner has proven to be an ageless wonder. He led

St. Louis to prominent success, floundered in

New York with the Giants and last year led the Cardinals on an improbable run to the Super Bowl. However, in the preseason he had a completion percentage barely over 50 percent, didn’t throw a single touchdown to three interceptions and had a passer rating of 47.4. Because of this, Matt Leinart is knocking louder on the door than most people think. Were his preseason numbers merely Warner knocking off the early season rust or is his career finally fading? If he can’t get it done against a

San Francisco defense that ranked near the bottom of the league in pass defense last year, I think we will have our answer.

St. Louis @ Seattle – 4:15 FOX

The team was lucky to get Donnie Avery back so quickly and now that their offensive line isn’t decimated by injuries, there will not be any more excuses if the St. Louis offense doesn’t put up decent numbers. Marc Bulger broke a finger a couple of weeks ago which threw Kyle Boller into the starting spot for the team’s final two preseason games, but he should be back for Week 1. Steven Jackson cannot carry all of the weight on his shoulders so it will be imperative for Bulger and Avery to hook up early and often in 2009.

This team is my pick to win the NFC West because of their stellar passing game which now includes T.J. Houshmandzadeh to go along with Nate Burleson and Deion Branch, who will be moving to the slot position on the team which is where he excelled in

New England. The big question will be if Julius Jones can handle the load as the team’s No. 1 RB and if he can keep recently signed Edgerrin James on the bench. Jones has been mediocre throughout his career and is being given one last chance in




Green Bay – 8:20 NBC

Jay Cutler looked pretty lackluster for most of the preseason, but turned it on against his former team in his third game when he went 15-for-21 with 144 yards and a touchdown. Many are saying that he lacks the weapons that he had in

Denver, but his gunslinger mentality could bring out the best in Devin Hester, former college teammate Earl Bennett and breakout TE Greg Olsen. Let’s not forget about Matt Forte either, who is one of the best pass-catching RBs in football. Cutler will face a tough test against Green Bay’s new 3-4 defense in front of a national audience on Sunday Night Football.

Aaron Rodgers has been a hot commodity as of late to the point where he is the fourth QB taken off the board in many fantasy leagues. I think we all know what Rodgers has to offer, so a bigger question surrounds RB Ryan Grant. Despite rushing for over 1,200 yards in 2008, Grant found the endzone only three times on the ground last season. If he can become the running threat that the Packers’ front office thought they signed when they rewarded him with a big contract prior to last year,

Green Bay’s redzone offense could be a huge concern to opposing defenses.

Chicago always sports one of the top defenses in the league and will give Grant the opportunity to shut up any critics.

Buffalo @ New England – Monday 7:00 ESPN

Terrell Owens might be the big story of the night for

Buffalo, but I am going to ignore him and focus in on Lee Evans instead. Evans has big-play potential, but unfortunately was zeroed in on by secondaries in recent years due to

Buffalo’s lack of receivers to complement him. Owens will now draw much of the attention, which should open up the field for Evans and allow him to make defenders miss with his blazing speed.

Buffalo’s offense has a chance to be a force in the AFC this year and contrary to popular belief, Evans will be the main reason why.

Everyone is in love with the fact that Tom Brady is back from his knee injury and I have no doubts that Brady will pick up right where he left off. Therefore, I am going to turn my attention to the

New England backfield. Bill Belichick has never been one to use one elite back in his offense and has found success by deploying committees headlined mostly by Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, and more recently, Sammy Morris. In the offseason though, Fred Taylor was brought in and while he currently sits as the second back on the depth chart, he could quickly become the go to guy in the Patriots offense. Keep an eye on how Belichick uses his ridiculously deep stable of backs, particularly

Taylor against

Buffalo’s rush defense which ranked 22nd in 2008.

San Diego @ Oakland – Monday 10:15 ESPN

Philip Rivers signed a huge contract extension in the offseason, LaDainian Tomlinson is back and Darren Sproles has become one of the most electric players in football. All of the time in the spotlight for these three guys has left one man lurking in the shadows: Vincent Jackson.

Jackson logged his first 1,000-yard season in 2008 and averaged over 18 yards per catch along with seven receiving touchdowns. He stands at a monstrous 6-foot-5 and weighs in at 230 pounds, easily making him one of the most dangerous red zone receivers in the AFC. Big things are expected from Rivers this season, and that’s because

Jackson finally gives him the target at wide receiver that

San Diego has been missing for so long.

Darren McFadden is back at full strength now and ready to prove to the world that he is one of the best backs in football. In limited action last year, McFadden carried the ball only 113 times. However, he managed to put up 499 yards on the ground as well as 285 yards as a receiver on 29 catches. His role in the

Oakland offense will increase dramatically this year, and I expect that he will quickly establish his role as leader of the Raiders’ young offense. His big-play potential is unquestioned and when you combine that with his size and speed, he will be open a lot of eyes in Week 1.

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