Jay Cutler vs. IND
In most leagues Cutler has been drafted as a high-end backup quarterback, but this week he has the matchup to perform as a top-10 quarterback. The Colts pass defense was 26th in yards per attempt last season (7.4) and gave up 25 touchdown passes to just eight interceptions. With Brandon Marshall reuniting with Cutler to give him a top-notch target, and the Colts transitioning from a 4-3 to 3-4 defense, look for Cutler to have the type of game that might even put a smile on his face.
Jake Locker vs.NE
Locker enters the season as a mid-level fantasy backup but could put up top-12 numbers in this week's matchup against the Patriots. The Patriots continue to have a high-flying offense that will put points on the board, which should result in Locker playing from behind and having to air it out. The Patriots enter the year after having given up the second most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season while finishing 28th in yards per attempt (7.5). Even with Kenny Britt suspended, the Titans have a solid core of pass catchers in running back Chris Johnson, wide receivers Nate Washington, rookie Kendall Wright and up-and-coming tight end Jared Cook. The result should be a nice opening game for Locker.
Doug Martin vs. CAR
Martin was the Buccaneers first-round pick in 2012 and after beating out LeGarrette Blount in the preseason figures to be a solid No. 2 fantasy back this season, at least. Martin should exceed those expectations and give his owners something to smile about in his Week 1 matchup against Carolina. The Panthers were 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2011 and 26th in yards per attempt allowed (4.6). Look for Martin to begin his NFL career on a high in this very good matchup.
Malcom Floyd vs. OAK
Floyd was one of the most efficient receivers in 2011, averaging 12.2 yards per target last season. Expect his targets to increase with the departure of Vincent Jackson, the injury to Vincent Brown (ankle) and the lack of connection between quarterback Philip Rivers and newly acquired wide receiver Robert Meachem. Furthermore, the Raiders are one of the friendlier pass defenses in the NFL, allowing the second most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2011. Look for Floyd to put up the type of numbers that should make him produce like a fantasy starter in Week 1.
Brent Celek vs. CLE
It is unclear whether the Browns best defensive player CB Joe Haden will be suspended for Week 1, which would make this an even better matchup for Celek. While the Browns were 13th in the league last season in fantasy points allowed to tight ends in standard scoring leagues (6.8), Cleveland faced only one elite tight end all season in the 49ers' Vernon Davis. Celek is not being drafted as an elite tight end, but his numbers suggest he should be. During the last 11 games of 2011, Celek caught 53 passes for 738 yards and five touchdowns. Projected for a full 16 games, those numbers surpass all tight ends with the exception of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. Look for Celek to be a big weapon for the Eagles this week and potentially be one of the more productive fantasy tight ends available.
Andy Dalton vs. BAL
Dalton is being drafted as a mid-tier backup or second quarterback in two quarterback leagues, but he could struggle this week to even be fantasy relevant in those leagues as he faces the mighty Ravens pass defense. While the Ravens defense is a year older, it is still formidable in fantasy terms, allowing the fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks last season (8.7) in standard leagues and giving up just 11 passing touchdowns. Dalton threw just one touchdown against three interceptions in his two games against the Ravens last season and might be in for a similar fate in Week 1.
Reggie Bush vs. HOU
Bush is the only fantasy relevant player on what could be the worst fantasy offense in the NFL. Bush is being drafted as a mid-level No. 2 running back that is most valuable in PPR leagues. This week, however, Bush could struggle to be fantasy relevant in any format in his matchup against the Texans. The Texans come into 2012 off an impressive 2011 defensive performance. The Texans allowed the second fewest fantasy points to running backs in standard scoring leagues last season while surrendering the fifth fewest catches to running backs (58) and no receiving touchdowns. This wee,k Bush might be no better than a flex option, For deep teams, Bush might need to take a seat on your bench.
Donald Brown vs. CHI
Brown finally rewarded fantasy owners toward the end of the 2011 season and is firmly entrenched as the top running back option entgering the 2012 season. While Brown might have some fine games this season, it is unlikely that one of those will be this Sunday against the Bears. The Bears were solid against running backs in 2011, allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to running backs in standard scoring leagues, while ranking 10th in yards per attempt allowed (4.0) and seventh in fewest rushing touchdowns allowed (7). This might finally be the year that Brown lives up to his first-round draft status, but expect him to get off to rough start in 2012.
Demaryius Thomas vs. PIT
Thomas' stock has skyrocketed for a player that in 21 regular games has caught only 54 passes for 834 yards and six touchdowns. Part of it is due to the upgrade at quarterback with the signing of Peyton Manning, while perhaps a bigger reason is the breakout playoff performance against these same Steelers where he caught four passes for more than 200 yards and the game-winning 80-yard touchdown in overtime. The Steelers have had nearly eight months to prepare for the rematch and bring a defense that has led the NFL each of the last two seasons in yards per target allowed to wide receivers. Last season it gave up the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in standard scoring leagues. Thomas is probably too good not to have in your lineup, but expect the Steelers to pay special attention to Thomas and limit his production.
San Francisco DEF vs. GB
The 49ers are being drafted as the top fantasy defense in most leagues but face a daunting task in the high-flying Packers offense in Week 1. The Packers had just 14 turnovers and scored more than 24 points in all but one game in 2011, finishing second in the league in scoring. Furthermore, they led the league in points per play and yards per point thus establishing themselves as the NFL's most efficient offense. The Packers do give up some sacks (23rd in the league in 2011), but overall this appears to be a very tough matchup for what is expected to be one of the NFL's better defenses.