Let's get this party started! It's week 1 in fantasy football, and it's time to pinpoint matchups beyond the obvious ones (yeah, probably a good idea to start Adrian Peterson) that can push you over the top this week. Here's Military.com's Fantasy Football Forecast's picks for players and defenses that should step up this week:
San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick – Last time the Niners played the Packers in the 2012 playoffs, Kaepernick eviscerated the Pack D with his arm and feet. The Packers have vowed to contain him this time around, but in MFFF's view, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers' zone-blitz style is simply ill-equipped to deal with a multiple threat like Kaepernick. While he probably won't pile up close to 200 yards rushing like he did last time, Kaepernick and the Niner offense are as locked in as any unit for the start of 2013, and we expect some eye-opening stats in Week 1.
Washington RB Alfred Morris – In an earlier column we expressed our doubts over whether Morris can repeat or outdo his fantastic 2012 rookie season, but the new-look Philadelphia Eagles have a same-old look when it comes to defensive efficiency (lousy, that is), and you can bet that coach Mike Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, will do all they can to protect QB Robert Griffin III in his first start since tearing his ACL in January. That means a steady diet of Morris all night long.
St. Louis RB Daryl Richardson – The Rams showed promise last year, and as Jeff Fisher enters his second year as head coach with the team, it's time to demonstrate that they can make a playoff run. That starts with Sunday's tilt against Arizona, which is an intriguing matchup with QB Carson Palmer and former Colts interim coach Bruce Arians running the show. The Cards' run D was atrocious last year, and until it proves otherwise, it should be an inviting target, especially for Richardson, who may not be the guy who can replace the departed Stephen Jackson, but will get the bulk of the carries thanks to fellow RB Isiah Pead's suspension.
Dallas WR Miles Austin – While Dez Bryant grabs all the headlines, Austin is healthier now than he's been in a while, and he has a history of plus performances against the Giants. Bryant will see plenty of coverage from improving CB Prince Amukamara Sunday night, and Austin gets to go against the aging Corey Webster and Aaron Ross. He should be on target to get close to 100 yards and a TD.
Denver WR Eric Decker – The Broncos look to atone for last year's playoff loss at home against the Ravens as they open the 2013 season with a rematch at Mile High. The big news of the offseason was Denver signing Tom Brady's favorite receiver, WR Wes Welker, and while Welker will no doubt contribute, don't overlook Decker, who gained over 200 yards in two games against these very same Ravens last season.
Indianapolis WR T.Y. Hilton – If you're the Raiders' defense this week, pick your poison: death by a thousand cuts, as Colts WR Reggie Wayne works his patented intermediate game, or death by howitzer to the head, as Hilton breaks off spectacular long-gainers. Given the inexperience and mediocrity of the Raider secondary, we're going to guess that the Raiders will concentrate on defending the short game, leaving Hilton room to run wild downfield.
Tampa Bay Defense vs. New York Jets – It's becoming a familiar refrain: Pick the team that's going against the Jets offense. It worked in 2012, and it should work in 2013. Tampa Bay isn't on anyone's list when it comes to superior defense, but the Bucs have two major factors in their favor this time around: 1. The debut of CB Darelle Revis, who should help shut down an already anemic Jets passing attack, and 2. Tampa Bay's stout rush defense, which ranked best in the league last year and should have no issues halting a Jets attack that relies heavily on the run.
New England defense vs. Buffalo Bills – Believe it or not, under former head coach Chan Gailey the Buffalo offense gave the New England defense some fits over the years (59 points in two games last season). Now Gailey is gone and the Bills are starting a QB named Tuel (yes, it's pronounced “Tool,” which is about as bad an omen as you can get) this week, which means the Patriots' improved D should be salivating.
Keep Your Finger on the Button:
Below are players who aren't getting much love in fantasy drafts but could see their stock rise dramatically later this year. If you can afford to take a flyer on one of these players, it may pay dividends down the road.
San Diego RB Danny Woodhead – The very definition of a high-motor guy, Woodhead has been a dependable if unspectacular player for the Patriots, and now he'll share RB duties with Shane Mathews in San Diego's offense. With QB Philip Rivers, master of the check-down pass, Woodhead should see plenty of catches, which makes him valuable in PPR leagues. The Chargers's schedule also features some lightweight defenses to start the season, so he'll have a chance to make an impact early.
San Francisco RB Kendall Hunter – He's coming off an ACL and will probably be phased in slowly. Still, Frank Gore is approaching that dreaded 2,000-carry mark after which many RBs fall off, and speedy LaMichael James may not be ready for a full load, which leaves Hunter as a logical fall-back if Gore shows signs of slowing.
Pittsburgh RB Isaac Redman – No, he won't make all your troubles magically disappear, but until rookie RB Le'Veon Bell recovers from his injured foot, he's been designated as the primary ballcarrier in Pittsburgh, and apart from a Week 2 matchup against Cincinnati, he'll be going against suspect defenses over the next month.
San Francisco WR Marlon Moore – Currently listed as a starter, Moore is in a precarious position considering former first-rounder Jon Baldwin is breathing down his neck on the depth chart, but a breakout game or two will solidify his position (and his deserving place on your roster).
Arizona WR Andre Roberts – It's been pretty much the Larry Fitzgerald show in Arizona over the past decade, but even with execrable quarterbacking last year, Roberts still piled up 759 yards and 5 TDs. Now with pass-happy Bruce Arians calling the shots as head coach, Roberts should see plenty of targets, especially since the team's other intermediate threat, TE Rob Housler, has been struggling in the new offense.
Denver TE Julius Thomas – Yeah, he's probably only #4 or #5 on Peyton Manning's list of receivers, but he got steady work in the preseason and has the athleticism to be the Jimmy Graham-Rob Gronkowski threat in Denver's offense.