Kyle Orton vs. OAK
Orton came into the preseason expected to either be traded to Miami or potentially backing up second-year quarterback Tim Tebow. Neither happened and Orton should get off to a good start this week against the Raiders. The Raiders allowed the seventh most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season even with Pro-Bowler Nnamdi Asomugha. Despite the run-first philosophy of new coach John Fox, Orton should be able to move the ball up-and-down the field in this matchup. While Orton is not an every week starter, he should be a good value this week, especially for owners with marginal fantasy starters in Week 1.
DeAngelo Williams vs. ARI
A rookie quarterbacks’ best friend is a strong running game and Cam Newton’s best friend in Week 1 likely will be Williams. The Cardinals gave up the most rushing yards to running backs last season and the second most fantasy points. Williams appears to be healthy after playing in just six games last season. He has been drafted as an RB2 in most fantasy drafts but has the talent to be an elite fantasy runner as evidenced by his performances in both 2008 and 2009 even though Jonathan Stewart will steal carries. Look for Williams to get off to a fast start and have an excellent opening week for the Panthers.
Reggie Bush vs. NE
While Bush is far from an every down back, he should five his owners in PPR leagues a strong start this week against the Patriots. The Patriots gave up the second most catches (100) to running backs last season, and the Dolphins defense struggled mightily against the Patriots, allowing 79 points in two games last season. Expect the Dolphins to be in a lot of passing situations, so while Daniel Thomas may emerge later in the season, Bush is the Dolphins back more likely to produce in Week 1.
Santonio Holmes vs. DAL
Many fantasy owners remember the historically bad Houston Texans pass defense of 2010, but it may surprise that the Cowboys were in fact the friendliest pass defense to wide receivers in the NFL last season. The Cowboys won the Triple Crown in the category finishing last in receptions, yards and touchdowns allowed. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has yet to find the magic with the Cowboys, while Holmes and Mark Sanchez connected for two touchdowns in very limited action in the preseason. Look for Holmes to make some big plays in the Sunday night opener and be a solid starter in your lineup Week 1.
Cleveland DEF vs. CIN
While no one would compare the Browns defense with their AFC North counterparts in Pittsburgh or Baltimore, it might be able to put up similar numbers to those defenses in this matchup. The Browns play the in-state rival Bengals, who are starting a rookie quarterback on the road, lost their two best wide receivers from last season and whose starting running back was just released from jail. Couple this with the Browns allowing just 39 points in two games against the Bengals with Carson Palmer, Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, and the Browns could be a nice Week 1 pickup for owners with bad defensive matchups this week.
Matthew Stafford vs. TB
Stafford had a wildly successful preseason fueling speculation this finally will be the year he stays healthy and lives up to his hype and talent. While Stafford might have the most upside of any young quarterback in the NFL, he could find Week 1 to be a challenge against the Buccaneers. The Buccaneers allowed the seventh fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks last season and fewer than 200 yards a game in the air. With rookies Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers expected to improve the pass rush, and the Buccaneers struggling against the run (fifth most yards on the ground last season) look for Stafford to have modest numbers in his Week 1 matchup.
Felix Jones vs. NYJ
With the departure of Marion Barber, Jones has finally ascended into the lead back role in Dallas. For many fantasy owners he has been a popular upside pick who could potentially break out. However, Jones has perhaps the toughest matchup of the week facing a Jets defense that surrendered the second fewest fantasy points to running backs last season. Owners of Jones in PPR leagues should also be aware that the Jets had by far the best defense against running backs in receiving roles last season, winning the Triple Crown by allowing the fewest receptions, yards and touchdowns. While Jones may be a breakout star in coming weeks, expect him to struggle Week 1.
Mark Ingram vs. GB
Ingram was the highest drafted rookie in most fantasy drafts this season and is expected to get enough carries to warrant RB2 or flex considerations on most weeks. Ingram’s best place in Week 1 might be on your bench as he has an extremely tough matchup against the world champion Packers. The Packers gave up the third fewest fantasy points to running backs last season and allowed just five rushing touchdowns (second fewest in the league). Ingram will have some big games this season, but Week 1 doesn’t project to be one of those weeks.
Percy Harvin vs. SD
With Sidney Rice gone, Harvin has become the main receiving target in Minnesota and is in line to have his best season as a pro. However, Harvin has one of his more difficult matchups in Week 1 against a Chargers secondary that surrendered the fourth fewest catches, third fewest touchdowns and second fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in 2010. Without Rice, the Chargers can rotate coverage toward Harvin, as he is by far their best receiving option, forcing Donovan McNabb to use other options in the passing game. Harvin should have a lot of good weeks for fantasy owners in 2011, but Week 1 probably won’t be one of them.
Miami DEF vs. NE
Statistically, the Dolphins were not bad defensively in 2010, giving up fewer than 21 points a game while finishing the season 10th in the league in sacks. The Dolphins’ major Achilles’ heel last season was the Patriots offense. In two games last season the Dolphins gave up 79 points, had just three sacks and forced just one turnover while being routed twice by New England. While the Patriots may not put up 40 points on Monday night, nothing indicates the Dolphins defense will have a good night.