The best way to enjoy Sunday afternoons loaded with NFL action is to know what to look for as you head into the weekend. Sure, everyone knows to watch guys like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, but not everyone knows to watch elsewhere to see why those guys are successful.
What are the best match ups to watch in week one? Which rookies will be putting on a show Sunday afternoon? And which players will give you bragging rights for a week in your fantasy league? Let's find out.
Match-ups of the Week Green Bay LT Marshall Newhouse vs. San Francisco LB Aldon Smith The kickoff special for the season may have been Dallas’ Wednesday night visit to New York, but there’s no question that the premier game of the week features the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. The match up between the league’s top offense and defense will create lots of talk of the prowess of guys like Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Willis, but the outcome of the game will revolve around a much lesser known player. To put it simply, Packers’ left tackle Marshall Newhouse was the weak link in Green Bay’s offense in 2011. His 2012 campaign starts off with the tough assignment of keeping 49er’s pass rushing phenom Aldon Smith away from Rodgers. Smith hit, hurried, or sacked the quarterback 77 times last season, and unless Newhouse’s game has improved he’ll likely be spending a lot of time in the Packers’ backfield on Sunday. Buffalo WR Steve Johnson vs. New York CB Darrelle Revis There’s really no question that Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is the best in the business. There’s a seemingly endless list of top tier wide receivers that he’s shut down during his career. But for whatever reason, he hasn’t been able to stop Buffalo’s young wide out, Steve Johnson. In their last four match ups, Johnson has racked up 262 receiving yards and has scored two touchdowns. Johnson’s touchdown in their last game was the only score Revis allowed all year. The Bills took an interesting approach to dealing with the shut-down corner: instead of relying on route combinations designed to get Johnson open with the help of his team mates, Buffalo instead used plays designed to isolate Johnson and Revis. It’s a
dangerous strategy, but it’s worked well so far. Will they try that again? Will is result in a win for Buffalo this time around? New England’s Interior OL vs. Tennessee’s Interior DL At first glance, the match up of New England’s offense versus the Tennessee defense is one that should be won pretty handily by the Patriots. The Titans’ stable of young defensive tackles may have something to say about that, however. Second year defensive tackle Karl Klug is rapidly becoming an elite pass rushing lineman, and fellow 2011 draftee Jurrell Casey has already become an every down player. These two, along with the resurgent Sen’Derrick Marks and the surprising UDFA Da’John Harris have caused chaos throughout the preseason, and will be the key to any success Tennessee’s defense has on Sunday.
Rookies to Watch: QB Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks Andrew Luck was the most coveted draft prospect leading up to the 2012 draft, and Robert Griffin III has been the one featured on countless commercials pre and post draft. It’s come as quite a surprise then that the rookie that most people will be watching week one isn’t Luck or RGIII, but instead Seattle’s Russell Wilson. It’s not entirely a surprise that Wilson won the starting job in Seattle. It was thought that Wilson’s play making ability on the field and work ethic off would help him earn that role eventually. But hardly anyone expected that Wilson would play so well in his first camp that he’d be the starter in week one. His match up against the Arizona Cardinals isn’t an easy one. Arizona has plenty of problems, of course, but most of them of on the offensive side of the ball. Their defense isn’t nearly as bad, and their 3-4 alignment can be confusing to young quarterbacks. With that being said, this is a very winnable game for Wilson and the Seahawks. It’s probably unfair to label a week one match up as a must win for a rookie, but it’s pretty close to one. This is a match up that the Seahawks need to take advantage of if they want to challenge San Francisco for the NFC West title. WR Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans A short contract dispute kept Kendall Wright out of the first few days of Tennessee’s training camp, but that hasn’t hurt his chemistry with quarterback Jake Locker. In Locker’s playing time during the preseason, he targeted Wright a total of 14 times, five more than the Titan’s next leading receiver. More importantly, whenever Locker started to scramble, it was Wright that Locker immediately began to look for. As Locker and Wright make their first start, it would appear as though the match up is favorable for Wright to have a big game. The Patriots’ defense was second to last in the league last year, and they didn’t make too many improvements to that unit during the offseason. Their strategy on defense will be to try to confuse Tennessee’s young QB, and Locker’s shown in the preseason that Wright is his first option when he’s under duress. LB Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers Luke Kuechly has a knock for getting to the ball carrier in his time at Boston College, and his performance during the preseason made it clear that his talent has translated to the NFL as well. His ten tackle performance against the Jets was his best moment, but through out the summer he showed he’s ready to make a big impact in the NFL. Kuechly was brought to Carolina in large part to help improve the Panthers’ 25th ranked run defense, and Sunday will provide a great first test for the linebacker. He’ll be facing a Tampa Bay team that has made it clear their intentions are to run the ball with Doug Martin and Legarrette Blount, meaning that Kuechly is likely to rack up some big tackle numbers. Will those stats help translate to an improved defense? Fantasy Football Quick Hits
- Roddy White and Julio Jones are two pieces of an elite passing offense – but will Matt Ryan hold up his end of the bargain? Kansas City provides a good match up with a banged up secondary, and the Falcons’ passing offense is likely to put up some big time numbers in week one.
- Washington tight end Fred Davis should be ready for a big season. He’s a playmaking tight end in an offense that will be led by a rookie quarterback. That’s typically a recipe for major success, but Davis only received two targets during the preseason. Davis should still figure to be a safe play at TE for now, but it’s a situation that needs to be watched closely.
- Marshawn Lynch’s back is already causing him problems, and he’s questionable for Sunday’s game against Arizona. If he’s not able to play Robert Turbin will fill in and would figure to be an excellent flex play in most leagues. The Seahawks will be running the ball heavily regardless of who the starting RB is, and Turbin should be able to take advantage of any opportunity he’s given.
- In the Carolina vs Tampa Bay game, most fantasy football players will be focused on Cam Newton. Will he be able to repeat his outstanding rookie season? That will have a lot to do with how Brandon LaFell performs now that he’s claimed a starting spot opposite of Steve Smith. LaFell hasn’t been great early in his career, but at the very least he’ll benefit from being in the potentially explosive Panthers offense.