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Every Tuesday during the NFL season, WhatIfSports.com will release its fantasy projections for the upcoming week. The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically-based player rankings. In addition to our computer forecasts, WhatIfSports.com will also offer a "creative" perspective at its fantasy football coverage in a weekly feature called "Fantasy Fever." Enjoy.
QB: Michael Vick, Eagles. Let me preface this proposal: at the time of this article's composition (Tuesday afternoon), Vick is projected to start over Kevin Kolb. Back in his Falcon prime, Vick earned the reputation as a "tease" amongst the fantasy community. One week he'd deliver 225 yards through the air, 85 on the ground, and 3 touchdowns; the following Sunday, #7 would accumulate less than 180 total yards with 2 turnovers. Despite making his first start since 2006, Vick has some upside this week, as the Detroit defense surrendered 375 yards to Jay Cutler in Week 1. Additionally, Vick has historically been productive against non-divisional opponents. If your regular QB faces a formidable opponent this weekend, Vick will serve as an ample fill-in.
RB: Ryan Mathews, Chargers. The highly touted rookie running back had a fairly impressive debut, rushing for 75 yards in the sludge of rain-soaked Arrowhead Stadium. The Jaguars were pedestrian against the run in 2009, allowing 116.4 yards a contest. With Mathews projected to receive 25 touches this weekend, the former Fresno State Bulldog is a must-start in Week 2.
WR: Steve Breaston, Cardinals. Breaston proved he's more than ready to fill Anquan Boldin's shoes, snagging 7 catches for 132 yards in Arizona's Week 1 win. Atlanta ranked 28th in pass defense in 2009 and didn't fare much better against Pittsburgh last week, yielding 9.1 yards per pass attempt (2nd worst in the NFL). Running back Beanie Wells should return this weekend, but the Cardinal ground game is still questionable, equating to more projected passing.
TE: Todd Heap, Raves. With the addition of two rookie tight ends, expectations on Heap were tempered heading into the season. Yet after grabbing 6 catches for 72 yards, as well as targeted a team-high 11 times, Heap showed that he's still a viable fantasy option. Although Heap is dealing with a shoulder injury, the Raven TE is expected to play against a weak Cincinnati LB corps.
DEF: New England Patriots. The 24 points relinquished to the Bengals was deceiving, as New England had raced out to a 31-3 advantage in the 3rd quarter. Bill Belichick and company should make life miserable for Jets signal-caller Mark Sanchez, who had a less than stellar Week 1 performance (QB rating: 56.4).
QB: Brett Favre, Vikings. Fav-rah didn't wow anyone against a Darren Sharper-less Saints squad, going 15-of-27 for 171 yards with a touchdown and interception. Worse, Favre and the Viking offense looked out of sync and discombobulated. Just spitballin', but it probably didn't help that the ole' gunslinger spent August practicing with a high school team rather than Minnesota. While the Vikings do host Miami at home, the Dolphins held Buffalo to just 139 yards passing last week.
Dazed and Confused"This passing thing was a lot easier in the Wrangler commercials."
RB: Cedric Benson, Bengals. At first glance, this matchup should prove opportunistic for Benson, as the Bengal back busted up Baltimore for 250 yards and 2 scores in 2009. However, with a weakened Raven secondary, look for Cincinnati to attack through the air rather than the ground this Sunday. Furthermore, it appears that the Cincinnati brass is intent on reducing Benson's workload this season, as Benson totaled just 16 touches against New England compared to 9 opportunities for backup Bernard Scott.
WR: Michael Crabtree, 49ers. After a disastrous showing in Seattle, Crabtree is best suited for the bench unless proven otherwise. Like Favre, Crabtree is showing the residual effects of missing the entire preseason, a notion that did not sit well with fellow 49er teammates. However, don't be quick to cut the former 1st-rounder, as Crabtree possesses #1 starter-potential for the 2010 season.
TE: Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars. Lewis was this week's hot commodity after scoring twice against the Broncos. But pump the breaks on the Jacksonville TE for now, as Lewis has only 7 career TDs in four seasons prior to last weekend.
DEF: Pittsburgh Steelers. While this unit is one of the league's best, I don't know if anyone can stop Chris Johnson. (Rant: Is there anyway we can get Johnson a nickname? Wikipedia states that Johnson bestowed himself with "Every Coach's Dream," which is so idiotic that I cringed typing it. It seems irreverent that such a dominant figure is stuck with such a humdrum handle. How about "The Tennessee Tornado?" Any email suggestions are welcomed.)
Fantasy Flashback Performance: Tony Romo began the 2007 campaign on fire, throwing for 11 touchdowns and averaging 300 yards a contest through the first four Dallas games. With an upcoming matchup against the hapless 1-3 Bills on Monday night, fantasy owners projected Romo to continue his aerial accomplishments. Unfortunately, the Buffalo D had other intentions, as the Bills forced six turnovers, all at the expense of the Cowboy QB (5 interceptions, fumble). Romo still managed to throw for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Dallas eked out a 25-24 victory thanks to a last-second Nick Folk field goal.
Waiver Wire Watch: Most owners will be tripping over each other to gain the services of Brandon Jackson and the Mike Williams duo. Lost in the shuffle are Rams WR Mark Clayton and Cardinal QB Derek Anderson. Clayton (owned in less than 20% of leagues) caught 10 passes for 119 yards while Anderson (22%) threw for 297 yards and a score. Clayton projects as Sam Bradford's main target for 2010. Considering the Rams will likely be behind in most games (correlating to more pass attempts), Clayton could conceivably haul in 75-80 balls this year. And while Anderson won't transform into Kurt Warner 2.0, he should make for a suitable backup and occasional spot-starter.
This Week in Kevin Walter: The hoopla out of Houston surrounds the breakout performance from Arian Foster, who torched Indianapolis for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns. Yet the real focus should be on K-Walt, who after Sunday's game is now on pace for a 16-touchdown season. Andre Johnson is widely considered the best wideout in the NFL, but after Week 1, the jury's out if Johnson's even the top receiver on his team.
Walter's 2010 stats: 2 receptions, 29 yards, 1 touchdown.
Walter's 2010 CBC (Cornerback Body Count): 2.
Rookie Review: Dexter McCluster, Chiefs. Not a bad debut, young man. McCluster set a Kansas City record with a 94-yard punt return TD on Monday night, helping the Chiefs upset the Chargers 21-14. The running back-turned-receiver from Ole Miss also had 2 receptions. Although not targeted enough to warrant selection yet, monitor McCluster's production for the next month to serve as a possible midseason injury replacement on your team.
Gatorade Shower Goes To: David Garrard, Jaguars. Many Jacksonville fans were clamoring for the team to select Tim Tebow in this year's draft, in part due to frustration with Garrard's lackluster play. With Tebow on the opposing sideline in Week 1, the Jaguar QB responded with 3 touchdowns in leading Jacksonville over the Denver Broncos 24-17.
Personal Foul On: The asinine rule that rendered Calvin Johnson's game-winning touchdown incomplete. Poor Detroit just can't catch a break.
Varsity Blues Quote of the Week: This segment will highlight the proverbs and wisdom from the greatest football movie in the history of cinema. No, not Brian's Song. We aren't talking about The Longest Yard either. I'm referring to Varsity Blues, the epic tale of teen angst and high school football, featuring the immortal James Van Der Beek's portrayal of Jonathon "Mox" Moxon, an Ivy League-bound quarterback who stands in defiance of a tyrant coach and fanatical town. With help from his blundering but big-hearted friends, Van Der Beek and company set out to prove that their lives aren't defined by their actions on the field, but off it. This week's quote:
Billy Bob: I sure do love that dog. Mox: I think it's a pig. Billy Bob: Oh...yeah.
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