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Week 1 Passing Matchups

[ARI] [ATL] [BAL] [BUF] [CAR] [CHI] [CIN] [CLE] [DAL] [DEN] [DET] [GB] [HOU] [IND] [JAX] [KC] [MIA] [MIN] [NE] [NO] [NYG] [NYJ] [OAK] [PHI] [PIT] [SD] [SEA] [SF] [STL] [TB] [TEN] [WAS]


PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT replace the Cheatsheet ranking. The Cheatsheet rankings are the final say on where we see a player for that week. The Matchup Breakdowns are simply one more tool in the box when it comes to helping choose your lineup.

Also note, just because a player has a "bad" matchup, it does NOT mean he's not a starter in your league. If Peyton Manning is playing the toughest pass defense in the league, that just means he's got a tough matchup that week. He's also your starter unless you're loaded at QB. In the same way, if the worst QB on your roster has a "great" matchup that week, it doesn't necessarily mean he's your starter. It means we think he'll fare better than normal that week.

Bottom line is that the cheatsheets are the final say.


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Cardinal's passing offense is stacked. They have an All-Pro, Super-Bowl champion starting in Kurt Warner, and a great-looking prospect backing him up in Matt Leinart. Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are both outstanding talents, giving the team 2 starting receivers with #1 WR skills. The offense looked crisp and powerful vs. Chicago in week 3 of the pre-season (when starters play deeper into the game than other weeks of pre-season), racking up a total of 23/32 for 217 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions in the passing game. This offense is set to take off for the season opener.

The San Francisco defense was dead last in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 391.2 total yards per game, and allowed an average of 276.7 passing yards per game in '05 (32nd in the NFL). During their third pre-season game vs. Dallas, the 49'ers coughed up 21/31 for 311 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception, so there hasn't been much in the way of improvement that we can see.

This is a really great matchup for owners of Cardinals.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Kurt Warner was a fantasy madman last year when he got his chance, posting enough fantasy points to land at #9 in fantasy points per game during 2007. With the starting gig his now, expect Warner to be very focused and efficient with the football. During his career he's completed 65.1% of his passes, which illustrates his skills (last year, he completed 62.3% of his throws, with 282/452 for 3409 yards, 27 TDs and 17 interceptions). Providing Warner with targets is no problem on this team - Larry Fitzgerald (101/1412/10) was the 5th best fantasy WR in points per game last year, and Anquan Boldin (71/853/9 over 12 games) was 10th. Boldin has been agitating for a new contract throughout training camp, though, and is very disaffected - we'll see how that impacts his focus on game day this week. The #3 WR position goes to Steve Breaston, who has looked vastly improved over 2007 during preseason. Leonard Pope is the presumptive starter at TE entering week 1.

The 49er's pass defense was towards the bottom of the NFL last year, averaging 227.7 yards allowed per game (22nd in the NFL) with 24 passing scores surrendered (20th). San Fran was in the middle of the NFL pack with 31 sacks generated, but the Cardinals' OL is pretty decent at pass blocking (only 24 sacks given up last year) - there isn't a lot here to scare Warner and company, frankly. Kyle Orton and Caleb Hanie carved the 49ers up for 3 TDs and 13/24 for 198 yards during the week 3 preseason tilt at Soldier field - and nobody confuses the Bears' attack for a high-octane aerial assault.

Warner and company have a pretty appealing match-up this week.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Carson Palmer missed the majority of the 2014 season due to a torn ACL in his knee (six games played last year, going 141/224 for 1,626 yards passing, 11 TDs and three interceptions thrown) but his recovery from the knee injury has gone very well. He enters 2015 back on top of the depth chart in Arizona, and though the Cardinals did struggle in the third preseason game, Palmer has looked poised and back on top of his game for the most part during 2015 preseason. The interesting question going into 2015 is how the Cardinals' receivers will split up the work - John Brown (102 targets for 48/696/5 receiving last season) has the look of an up-and-coming talent while Larry Fitzgerald (103 for 63/784/2) seems to be nearing the end of his stellar career as we enter the 2015 season. Michael Floyd (99 targets for 47/841/6 receiving last season) has missed the bulk of preseason/training camp due to dislocated fingers that required surgery - Floyd (fingers) has a chance to play Week 1, according to comments from head coach Bruce Arians on September 4. The pecking order between these top three Cardinals' receivers isn't determined entering Week One of regular season. Pay attention to Floyd's practice availability this week. Floyd (fingers) will practice Wednesday, September 9, according to head coach Bruce Arians, but the extent of his involvement is unclear as of press time for this article.

The Saints' pass D finished 2014 ranked 25th in the NFL averaging 251.2 net passing yards allowed per game, with 26 TDs surrendered vs. just 12 interceptions (tied for 21st in the NFL) and 34 sacks (25th) to their credit. During preseason, the team has averaged 256.8 net yards allowed per game (29th) with twice as many TDs allowed (eight) as interceptions generated (four). This is one of the most suspect passing defenses in the NFL right now, friends.

Advantage, Arizona.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Matt Ryan (415/628 for 4,694 yards passing, 28 TDs and 14 interceptions thrown last season) has performed well for most of training camp and preseason, although he was harassed by the Miami defense in the third exhibition game (a game, however, that Julio Jones skipped to celebrate his new contract, and Roddy White was out of due to an elbow surgery). When Ryan and Jones (163 targets for 104/1,593/6 receiving last year) have been on the field together, they have shown a strong chemistry that should extend into Week One. The Kyle Shanahan offense feeds the ball to the team's top receiver (Jones) and that should continue now that the games count. White did return to practices on Tuesday, September 8 which is a positive sign that he'll be ready for the season opener. Leonard Hankerson (late of Washington) has played well in training camp and preseason and figures to be the third wide receiver for the Falcons. Tight end is a bit of a mess entering regular season - Jacob Tamme suffered a back injury during the final preseason game Thursday, September 3, and Levine Toilolo is more involved as a blocker than as a receiver. Ryan and Jones look like the guys to own from Atlanta entering regular season.

The Eagles' pass D ranked 31st in the NFL (just ahead of Atlanta's 32nd-ranked unit) last season averaging 264.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with a whopping 30 TDs allowed vs. just 12 interceptions generated (tied for 21st in the NFL). During preseason, the Eagles averaged 260.5 passing yards allowed over four games (31st in the NFL), with seven passing scores given up vs. seven interceptions generated. There hasn't been much improvement from a statistical perspective, friends.

Advantage, Atlanta. Also, given their unsettled ground game and poor run blocking exhibited so far by the offensive line, the Falcons will likely need to throw a lot to stay in this shootout with Sam Bradford and company.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Steve McNair has played for a full year in this offense, and his familiarity with the attack is reportedly leading to more latitude for the veteran signal caller. He posted 295/468 for 3050 yards, 16 TDs and 12 interceptions last year, and returns to a veteran stable of receivers headlined by Pro-Bowler TE Todd Heap, WR Mark Clayton and his old friend Derrick Mason. On Monday night, we'll see how much McNair has gained with his experience in this system - our experts project him somewhere between 2994 yards, 19 TDs and 13 interceptions (David Dodds) to 3335 Yards, 20 TDs and 11 interceptions (Jason Wood).

Cincinnati was very soft vs. the pass last year, tied for last in the league averaging 238.6 yards allowed per game (with 24 pass TDs given away). Joey Harrington and company managed 22/32 for 233 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Bengals during week 3 of the preseason. Madieu Williams, Deltha O'Neal and Dexter Jackson are all high-profile DBs, but they haven't been shut-down players for the Bengals during the preseason (or last year).

This looks like a great matchup for McNair and company.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Joe Flacco (257/428 for 2971 yards, 14 TDs and 12 interceptions in his rookie campaign) has a reputation for being unflappable. He certainly weathered some stormy waters this preseason, as his top WR, Derrick Mason, abruptly semi-retired after Steve McNair's unfortunate death, then rejoined the team. Injuries took out Mark Clayton for a big chunk of the preseason due to a seriously injured hamstring; and new TE L.J. Smith is also ailing from a hamstring injury. Through it all, Flacco has remained steady, posting 23/28 for 247 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions (a 115.3 QB rating) vs. Carolina in week three of preseason. Derrick Macon is back to 100% healthy entering the year, though the WR corps is thin (the team only kept 4 on the active roster -Mason, Clayton, Demetrius Williams and Kelley Washington). There is some good personnel news though - Todd Heap appears to have recovered his top form and looks like he's ready to play some football during 2009. The Ravens were 15th in the NFL last year, handing over 33 sacks to their opponents during regular season - Flacco shouldn't get too beat up playing behind that line.

The Chiefs D was awful last year, averaging 234.3 passing yards allowed per game (28th in the NFL), with 21 passing TDs given away (the team averaged 27.5 points allowed per game, 29th in the NFL). They generated 13 interceptions (t-17th in the NFL) and a league-low 10 sacks - like we said, they were awful last year. The new DC Clancy Pendergast joins Haley from Arizona, where Pendergast served as defensive coordinator during 2008 until being fired after the Super Bowl. His defenses in Arizona had been bottom-tier for several years, so it is unclear if his 3-4 front and new scheme will help improve a shaky unit. Against Seattle in the third preseason game, the Seahawks hung 28/39 for 294 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception on the Chiefs - not an encouraging outcome for the K.C. faithful.

Flacco has been solid in preseason and, though he has a spare cupboard at WR, he should enjoy a good outing vs. the bottom-of-the-barrel Chiefs on Sunday.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Mike Martz is the new offensive coordinator in Chicago, but despite his reputation as a passing-offense genius, we haven't seen much in the way of fireworks from Chicago's Jay Cutler during 2010 so far. He managed just one TD pass during three preseason games, while taking 10 sacks for -62 yards (Martz offenses are notorious for the pounding that the QB receives on a yearly basis). So far, Cutler has been completing right at 50% of his passes (19/37 for 275 yards, one TD and 2 interceptions during three preseason games). The Bears have scored more than 10 points just once, and were beaten 9-14 during the third preseason 'tune-up' game vs. Arizona, in which Cutler threw for 10/20 yielding 129 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions (with four sacks taken). The starting WR corps of Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu (the Bears consider all three starters) may be the least impressive cadre in the NFL, and TE Greg Olsen has been rumored to be on the trading block throughout preseason as he isn't a good blocker which is the tight end's primary task in a Martz offense. We'll see how this team has jelled in week one now that the offense will be fully articulated and game-planned for Detroit.

The good news for Cutler owners is that Detroit is on the menu week one - the team that ranked dead last in pass D last year, averaging 265.6 net passing yards allowed per game, with a league-worst 35 passing TDs given away and a 30th-place finish with just nine interceptions generated during the year. They were 29th in the NFL with 26 sacks. Now, the Lions added instant-starter DT Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska in the draft and also put Kyle Vanden Bosch into play at DE, so this group is more talented than last year's bunch - but there is a long mountain to climb for the Lions before their D becomes average.

Cutler hasn't lit up the sky during preseason, but he certainly has an attractive matchup for the season opener - advantage, Chicago.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Carson Palmer made it all look easy in his return to the field vs. Green Bay, tossing 9/14 for 140 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions during a week 3 exhibition game. He'll wear a brace to protect his healing knee, but there's no question that his arm is ready for the regular season. T.J. Houshmandzadeh showed off his chemistry with Palmer in the Green Bay game, snagging 5/96/1, and he's an outstanding complement to Chad Johnson - this passing attack could blow away the field this season. They are among the NFL's elite, and will cause nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators.

Kansas City's pass defense was horrid last season, averaging 229.9 passing yards allowed per game (30th in the NFL) and giving up 25 passing scores (29th in the NFL). We'll see if Patrick Surtain, Ty Law and Greg Wesley can turn it around this year, but don't hold your breath - St. Louis tossed 18/31 for 213 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against the Chiefs during week 3 of pre-season.

This is a great matchup for the Bengals.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Bengals were the third-worst pass blocking team last year, handing over 51 sacks to their opposition with Ryan Fitzpatrick calling the shots while Carson Palmer mostly stood on the sidelines and nursed his elbow injury. Now that Palmer is back, this number should moderate. Palmer suffered a high ankle sprain during the preseason, so we haven't seen him in game-time situations much entering regular season (he missed the third and fourth preseason games) - the elbow that bothered him last year is said to be 100% and he has been practicing leading into the season opener, which is good news for the Bengals. Chad Ochocinco seems to have rededicated himself to playing football this year, and Chris Henry appears to have cleaned up his act - Laveranues Coles will add to the tandem and try to help replace the departed T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The team lost TEs Reggie Kelly and Ben Utecht to IR before the season began, so third-year player Dan Coats and rookie Chase Coffman are going to be pressed into service at the TE position during 2009.

Denver's pass D was very poor last season, ranking 26th in the NFL while allowing 228.5 yards a game. The team generated only 6 interceptions all year long (31st in the NFL) and only 26 sacks (26th in the NFL). DC Mike Nolan was brought in to right the ship, and the team switched to a 3-4 defensive front, but it remains to be seen how the new scheme may improve the secondary. The Broncos were 30th in the NFL last season in terms of points allowed per game, averaging four TDs given up each contest (28 points per game). Denver handed over 21/32 for 243 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to Jay Cutler and company in the third preseason game - we're still waiting on signs of improvement.

Palmer has a reloaded stable of WRs to work with, and a cupcake D to exploit this week - this is a great matchup for the home team.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Tony Romo has been on target (for the most part) throughout training camp, and appears ready to pick up where he left off in 2007 - Romo was the 2nd ranked fantasy QB in points per game last year. Against the Texans in week 3 of the preseason, Romo tossed 15/19 for 166 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception, working mostly with his WRs Terrell Owens (4/43/0) and Patrick Crayton (3/39/1). Jason Witten snagged 2/18/0 during the game - Romo and company look ready to rock entering week 1, friends.

The Browns' pass D was among the bottom 10 units during 2007, allowing an average of 230.1 yards per game, with 29 passing TDs given up (29th in the NFL). They tied for 26th in the NFL with a mere 28 QB sacks to their credit - there just wasn't much that this pass D did well last year. The D gave up 4 scores in the first half of the week 3 preseason game vs. Detroit, and backup QB Dan Orlovsky carved them up for 13/27 for 167 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception after Jon Kitna was done shredding the starting lineup (9/11 for 98 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions). The Browns' pass defense has a long way to go before they are even "average", folks.

Advantage, Dallas.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Jake Plummer can feel Jay Cutler breathing down his neck, but for this season at least Plummer remains atop the depth chart. He's got fantastic targets in Rod Smith and Javon Walker at WR, and rookie TE Tony Scheffler is providing an injection of talent at his position. Walker appears to be recovered from the ACL injury that wrecked his 2005 season, and is looking forward to playing for a spot in the Super Bowl come January "Obviously, we have a chance to be a Super Bowl team.", he said recently. Plummer should be able to break back into the top 10 at his position again this year after finishing as the 11th best fantasy QB last year (277/456 for 3366 yards, 18 TDs and 7 interceptions through the air).

St. Louis is in the midst of overhauling their defense, as they finished 30th in the NFL last season with 350.1 total yards allowed per game on average. They were 23rd vs. the pass with 214 yards surrendered per outing and 26 passing scores surrendered (30th in the NFL). Rookie CB Tye Hill and free agent import SS Corey Chavous will try and put the team on a better footing in this department.

Indoors, on turf, against a reconstituted defensive unit, we think the Broncos have a great opportunity to get off to a strong start this season.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Peyton Manning cruised into regular season after torching the Texans for 21/27 yielding 243 yards passing, two TDs and one interception thrown (with one sack taken for -6 yards) during the third exhibition game. Though Wes Welker (six targets for 4/42/0 receiving) was concussed early on in the contest, the next man up, Emmanuel Sanders (who has himself been nursing a quadriceps injury in recent weeks) handled both the TDs for Manning with eight targets for 5/128/2 receiving during the game. Keep an eye on Sanders' practice participation/injury report status as the weekend draws nearer, before inserting him into your starting lineup. Demaryius Thomas (one target for zero receptions) and Julius Thomas (four targets for 4/32/0 vs. Houston) are both going to figure heavily in the mix this week as well. Manning has an embarassment of riches surrounding him, even with the news that Welker has now been suspended for the first four games due to a failed drug test for performance-enhancing substances. Rookie Cody Latimer, who has wowed in training camp, is now reportedly in line for 'premium snaps' in Welkers' place - Latimer's NFL opportunity has arrived, friends. Watch and see what happens next.

The Colts coughed up 9/15 for 128 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions with zero sacks of Drew Brees during the third exhibition game (his quarterback rating was 127.2 when he left the action). The Colts' pass D averaged 232 net passing yards allowed per game last year (13th in the NFL), while compiling 15 interceptions (tied for 17th in the NFL) and 42 sacks (tied for 11th). In most ways this is a mediocre pass defense, as you can see, and the Colts aren't looking a whole lot stouter as of Week One, regular season.

The elite Broncos' passing attack should give the Colts' defenders' big trouble on Sunday - advantage, Denver.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Jon Kitna isn't playing for Mike Martz anymore - but that may be a good thing, considering Lion QBs took 54 sacks in the Martz system last year. During the preseason Kitna has looked really strong, with only a handful of incomplete passes during his short cameo appearances. In week 3, vs. Cleveland, Kitna tossed 9/11 for 98 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions, hooking up with Calvin Johnson (2/16/0) and Roy Williams (3/61/0) with apparent ease before taking a seat. Johnson has come on strong in his second NFL season, with 3/76/1 against the Bengals in week 2 of preseason and solid play throughout training camp. Coach Marinelli knows his team strength is in the aerial phase, saying after the Cleveland game "We have a good passing offense. We have four really good receivers on this team and we have a quarterback I like, a veteran quarterback and we're developing another one. So that part, I think we're going to be fine." Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey proved veteran depth behind Johnson and Williams.

The Falcons were in the bottom tier of NFL pass defenses last year, averaging 228.4 passing yards allowed per game (23rd) and coughing up 27 passing scores (tied for 26th in the NFL). Despite having John Abraham (10 sacks) all season last year, the team's pass rush never got off the ground (25 sacks, 30th in the NFL). The secondary was remade over the off season with results still to be determined. Rookie CB Chevis Jackson has played fairly well during preseason and snagged an interception during the 3rd preseason game vs. Tennessee - Abraham looked good in the same game, with 4 tackles and a sack. Now that the games count and first team offenses play all 60 minutes, we'll see how far the Falcons' pass D has come.

The Lions have one of the elite WR corps in the NFL, and they are visiting a very suspect, young team in transition that will be starting a rookie QB in his first pro game - the defense may be on the field an awful lot this week. Advantage, Detroit.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Matthew Stafford has thrown for over 10,000 yards over the past two seasons, and has notched 61 TDs vs. 33 interceptions thrown during that two-year window. While 2012 was not as explosive as 2011, Stafford still finished ninth among fantasy signal callers with 435/727 for 4,965 yards, 20 TDs and 17 interceptions thrown, with 35/128/4 rushing to his credit last year. Stafford enjoys the top wide receiver in the league, Calvin Johnson (204 targets for 122/1,964 yards receiving/5 TDs caught) as his top target and receiver, while waiting on someone to develop into a solid #2 threat across from Johnson. Ryan Broyles may fill the need for a legitimate #2 wide receiver during 2013 - though to start the season it appears that veteran Nate Burleson will be the starter across from Johnson. In the third preseason game, Burleson had three targets for 1/6/0 receiving while Broyles saw two passes for 2/32/0 receiving. Tony Scheffler, part of the duo of pass catchers at tight end, snagged 1/9/1 receiving out of five targets while Brandon Pettigrew saw four targets and converted 3/29/0 vs. New England. Entering regular season, Stafford has a wide array of targets waiting for him, including new Lion Reggie Bush, who saw seven targets for 5/103/0 receiving out of the backfield vs. New England.

The Vikings' pass D was ranked 24th in the NFL last year averaging 244.2 net yards allowed per game, with 28 passing TDs given up vs. just 10 interceptions (tied for 27th in the NFL) and 44 sacks (tied for fifth in the NFL) generated. The defensive front supplied plenty of pass pressure last year, but the secondary didn't perform well at all. During the third preseason game in San Francisco, the 49ers amassed 22/33 for 231 yards passing, one TD and one interception thrown, just slightly below last season's sub-par pace of 244.2 net passing yards allowed per game. There is a lot of room for improvement on the part of Minnesota's pass D.

Stafford has a great matchup at home in Ford Field this week.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Aaron Rodgers had an outstanding year after replacing Brett Favre in the lineup, throwing for 341/536 for 4038 yards, 28 TDs and 13 interceptions (with 56/207/4 rushing as a sweetener for his fantasy owners). The team returns a stacked receiving corps to the field this year, led by Greg Jennings (80/1292/9 receiving last year) and Donald Driver (74/1012/5), backed up by James Jones and Jordy Nelson (both now healthy, unlike last season). At TE Jermichael Finley is emerging as a legitimate weapon and plays across from steady veteran TE Donald Lee. Rodgers and company have been very impressive during preseason (Rodgers hit 14/19 for 258 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Cardinals in week 3 of the preseason) - this offense looks ready to pick up the pace even considering how well Rodgers performed last year. The Packers were in the middle of the NFL last year, with 34 sacks allowed during 16 contests - Rodgers' increasing familiarity with the offense and more latitude to audible this year should help out in this area.

Chicago's pass D was soft last year, ranking 30th in the NFL while allowing 241.2 yards per game on average, with 21 passing TDs handed over to their opponents (and averaging 21.9 points allowed per game as a defensive unit (16th in the NFL)). The team did perform fairly well against the in-flux Broncos during week 3 of preseason, holding Kyle Orton and company to 20/28 for 204 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception - we'll see if the Bears can keep on improving now that the games count.

Rodgers and his team mates are hot entering September, and they have home field advantage at their back - against the suspect Bears, this looks like a great matchup.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Texans' passing attack has fired on all cylinders during training camp and preseason according to all reports. Tight end Owen Daniels is healthy and productive again (he posted 6/57/1 receiving out of seven targets at San Francisco in the third exhibition game), and Andre Johnson has overcome his dislocated finger from early in camp to play well, too (six targets for 4/57/0 at San Francisco). Matt Schaub completed 16/24 for 180 yards, one TD and one interception in the 'tune up to regular season' at the 49ers. It looks like all systems are go for last year's eighth-ranked fantasy QB (Schaub threw for 365/574 yielding 4,369 yards, 24 TDs and 12 interceptions last year).

The Colts' pass D wasn't impressive during 2010, ranking 13th in net yards allowed per game (214.6) while handing over 22 passing scores vs. a mere 10 interceptions (30th in the NFL) and just 30 sacks generated (tied for 23rd). In keeping with their so-so ways from 2010, Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay QBs ripped Indianapolis for 35/50 yielding 300 net passing yards, two TDs and one interception in the third exhibition game. While it's not a perfect measuring stick to say how tough or soft the Colts' pass defense is, it is worth noting that the Footballguys.com staff consensus ranking of the Indianapolis team defense is 19th overall, while David Dodds' individual rankings slots them at 22nd. This is not a shut-down type of defense most of the time, folks.

Schaub has a great group of receivers around him and a very live arm to thrown them the football, and will also enjoy home field advantage over a likely-Peyton-Manning-less Indianapolis team that sports a sub-par pass defense on Sunday. This looks like a great matchup for the home team to us.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

As usual, the Colts didn't allow many sacks last year (14, third-best in the NFL) - Peyton Manning rarely gets hit with the ball in his hands. Manning posted another 4,000+ passing yards season (barely), throwing 371/555 for 4002 yards, 27 TDs and 12 interceptions. Manning has a string of three 4,000+ passing yards seasons in a row going and has done so nine of the last 10 years. This year, he'll do without Marvin Harrison who is out of football at the start of the season, with Reggie Wayne captaining the receiving corps (82/1145/6 receiving last year), joined by Anthony Gonzalez (57/664/4) and Dallas Clark at the TE position (77/848/6 receiving last year). Pierre Garcon and rookie Austin Collie will likely share the team's #3 receiver role this season, making neither particularly attractive as a fantasy option.

The Jacksonville secondary wasn't very good last year, ranking 24th in the NFL averaging 224.1 passing yards allowed per game, with 25 pass TDs handed over. Overall, the defense was 21st in the NFL allowing an average of 22.9 points per game. The team generated 13 interceptions and 29 sacks last year, in the middle of the NFL in both statistical categories. The unit wasn't awful, but they were sub-par in most ways. The team imported a new DC this offseason, Mel Tucker, who joins the Jaguars staff from Cleveland, where he served as defensive coordinator last season and coached defensive backs from 2005-2007. We'll see if his backround coaching DBs can help reform the Jags' pass D. It didn't help much against the Eagles in week three of the preseason as philly threw for 35/58 for 365 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception during the contest. The Jags may be in for a rocky start to the season if they don't clamp down and improve quickly.

One of the best passers/attacks in all of football faces a weak secondary this Sunday - advantage Indy.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Andrew Luck comes into regular season on a roll, having thrown 16/25 for 164 yards, two TDs and one interception during his time on the field in week three of preseason. Reggie Wayne led the team in receiving during that "tune-up for regular season game" seeing 11 targets for 7/79/0 receiving. Darrius Heyward-Bey converted three targets into 3/33/0 receiving, while T.Y. Hilton managed 2/17/1 receiving out of four targets vs. Chicago. Dwayne Allen (foot injury) was full-go in the practice session on Monday, September 2 and so did Coby Fleener, so it looks like Luck will have all the weapons in his arsenal on the field for the season opener.

The Raiders' pass D was 20th in passing yards allowed per game last year, averaging 235.9, but they coughed up a hefty 28 passing scores vs. just 11 interceptions and 25 sacks generated (tied for 23rd and 31st in the NFL, respectively). During preseason week three, the Raiders had zero sacks of Jay Cutler and friends, allowing 12/25 for 142 yards passing and one TD to Cutler during his time on the field. This is not a good pass D, friends.

Advantage, Indianapolis.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Andrew Luck enters 2014 with a reloaded lineup of pass catchers - Reggie Wayne is back and healthy to start acrosss from T.Y. Hilton, while Dwayne Allen is also back in the fold and healthy to play across from Coby Fleener. Hakeem Nicks provides a veteran third option at wide receiver. However, even given all these weapons, Luck was mediocre in the third preseason contest against New Orleans, throwing 10/18 for 103 yards, one TD and one interception, with one sack taken for -7 yards. After the game, Luck commented: 'Not a very good game. We never got in rhythm, missing throws that I would like to make and turning the ball over' Though the Colts struggled against New Orleans, David Dodds believes that Luck and company will play better against the suspect Denver secondary - Luck is Dodds' fifth-ranked fantasy quarterback for the first week of regular season, with a projection of 22/37 for 261 yards passing, 1.8 TDs and .9 interceptions.

Denver was 27th in the NFL last season averaging 254 net passing yards allowed per game, with 29 passing scores surrendered over 16 games. The Broncos generated 17 interceptions and 41 sacks last year, tied for 12th and 13th in the league, respectively. Houston's starters working with Ryan Fitzpatrick managed just 10/17 for 80 yards passing at Denver in the third preseason game, while all told the Houston passers managed 26/41 for 215 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions. The Texans aren't an elite passing attack by any measuring stick, but the improvement by the Denver first-team secondary was encouraging none-the-less.

Luck has a lot of weapons to utilize, and the Broncos' pass D is suspect - advantage, Indianapolis. Also, the Colts' rushing attack is anemic so they'll have to rely on Luck's passing arm if they are to compete in this game.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Trent Green is an outstanding fantasy QB, who simply delivers fantasy points year in and year out. He ranked 8th, 4th, 3rd, and 8th in fantasy points at his position over the past 4 years. Eddie Kennison returns at WR, Samie Parker is emerging as a bona-fide #2, and Tony Gonzalez is all-world (Larry Johnson snagged 33/343/1 receiving last year, too) - Green should be able to maintain a solid level of production with that array of weapons, starting this week against the Bengals. He posted 8/12 for 100 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the third pre-season tune-up game (he only played for two series, resulting in a Johnson TD rush and a field goal), and looks ready to rock come regular season.

The Bengals' 2005 defense ranked 28th in total yards allowed, surrendering an average of 338.7 yards per game, and were 26th against the pass, with an average of 223.1 passing yards handed over per game. They did have 31 interceptions last year (to lead the NFL), though, and have continued to generate big plays on defense during 2006 pre-season, so there were some positives to their squad last year. Sacking was not one of these positives, though, as the Bengals ranked 28th in the league with only 28 sacks over 16 games (1st place Seattle had 50, by way of contrast). The Chiefs were in the middle of the NFL pack last year, with 32 sacks allowed (tie 16th). Brett Favre managed 12/25 for 162 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against the Bengals during the 3rd pre-season game.

At home to kick off the season, Green and company have a great matchup in the Bengals.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Tom Brady has a wealth of weapons to throw at (Deion Branch, David Givens, Daniel Graham, to name only three) - They may not be big names, but Brady's got as many quality targets as almost any QB in the league. With 288/474 for 3690 yards, 28 TDs and 14 interceptions to his credit last year, he's looking solid again. The big question will be how much they miss departed OC Charlie Weis. The company line is that it'll be business as usual so we'll have to see. If there's a team that can handle change, our money is on New England.

Oakland was horrible at defending the pass last year, ranking 30th in the NFL while allowing 245.3 yards per game in this phase (they also gave up 30 passing TDs during the year). Kurt Warner threw for 11/18 for 118 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during a partial game in the week 3 preseason contest vs. the Raiders. They aren't considered a top secondary heading into the season.

The NFL released an early injury report for Oakland/New England. WR Andre Davis (foot), WR David Givens (chest), and WR Bethel Johnson (thigh) are questionable for Thursday. Tom Brady (right shoulder) is probable. The forecast for Gillette stadium calls for a high of 85F and a low of 59F with a 20% chance of precipitation. It should be a great evening to play some football.

The Patriots are quite good in this phase of the game, while the Raiders are rebuilding a shattered pass D. Advantage, New England.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Deion Branch sideshow is stretching on and on, with no resolution to report as of the eve of the regular season. One thing is clear: there are a lot of hard feelings on both sides, and the Patriots have decided to dig in and be very stubborn. They even traded for a receiver, Doug Gabriel, late in pre-season to fill the void that Branch leaves if he's out for week 1 (and beyond).

Aside from the contractual showdown with Branch, Tom Brady just keeps being Tom Brady. He spreads the ball around to the available targets, and keeps the offense humming (he tossed 334/530 for 4110 yards, 26 TDs and 14 interceptions last season without a single 1000+ yards receiver - Branch had 998). The team brought in Reche Caldwell to replace the departed David Givens, and he figures to be one of the WR starters week 1. TE Ben Watson and Daniel Graham figure to play a lot in 2 TE sets this year, as well. During the week 3 pre-season lambasting of Washington (41-0) Brady tossed 17/30 for 231 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions before taking a seat on the bench. He's in mid-season form to open things up.

The Bills defense was awful in 2005, and is in a big rebuilding mode. They were 29th in total yards allowed per game (343.5) and 19th vs. the pass (205.7 allowed per game), although they did rank 13th in the league with 38 sacks. They don't figure to be a top- or second-tier defense this season, though, as the new coaching staff works to remake the unit. Buffalo 19/29 for 193 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions to the Browns in the third exhibition game of the season - there is still a lot of room for improvement.

This is a great matchup for Brady and whoever else steps on the field with him on Sunday.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Julian Edelman was not listed on the first official injury report of regular season - hopefully that means his extended rest in training camp has resulted in a positive health outcome for Edelman, though the Patriots' coaching staff is noted for playing games with the injury report. Tom Brady would love to have him for this 'DeflateGate' redemption game, as it is certain that Brandon LaFell is out until at least Week Eight (PUP) - oft-injured Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson are next up in LaFell's place. Of course, the Brady-to-Gronkowski connection is still alive and well and will likely be a major part of this contest (as usual).

The Steelers' pass D was ranked 27th in the NFL last year, averaging 253.1 net passing yards allowed per game, with 30 TDs given up vs. just 11 interceptions (tied for 25th in the league ) and 33 sacks generated (26th in the NFL). In the third preseason game Buffalo racked up 30/33 for 386 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown - and nobody mistakes the tandem of Tyrod Taylor, Matt Cassel and E.J. Manuel as the second coming for Phil Simms/Jeff Hostetler. This is still a very suspect secondary, friends.

Brady is on a mission here in Week One, and the Steelers are bumbling on defense in this phase of the game. Advantage, New England. Also, with LeGarrette Blount on suspension, this looks like a week when New England will need to lean on Brady's throwing arm to win the game.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Drew Brees torched the Raiders in his extended game time during the third preseason contest (14/17 for 179 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions - a 149.8 QB rating) and appears ready to pick up where he left off last year, which was within spitting distance of setting a new NFL record for the best season passing the football, with 413/635 for 5069 yards, 34 TDs and 17 interceptions. The Saints were the second-best pass blocking team in the nation last year, with only 13 sacks of Drew Brees allowed all year, which helped with his monster showing (although he hasn't thrown for less than 4,400 yards in any of his seasons in New Orleans). His receiving stable is now healthy and back near full strength, with standouts Marques Colston (47/760/5 over 11 games last year) and Lance Moore (79/928/10) anchoring the WR corps (Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson provide quality depth/options in 3- and 4-wide sets). Jeremy Shockey has a full training camp in the team's system now and is determined to redeem himself after a down year during 2008 (50/483/0 receiving), and Reggie Bush provides another lethal pass catcher to Brees (when he is healthy). This offense looks as explosive as ever entering regular season.

The Lions' defense was awful last year - they were 32nd in the NFL with an average of 32.3 points given up per contest. Vs. opposing passers, the defense ranked 27th in the NFL, averaging 232.2 yards allowed per game, with 25 passing TDs handed over - the Lions were league-worst in producing interceptions, with a mere 4, while tying for 16th in the league in sacks, with 30. New DC Gunther Cunningham intends to install an aggressive, blitzing defense - we'll see if he can generate more turnovers with increased pressure on the passer. The unit snagged three interceptions in the final two preseason games, but those interceptions came from the likes of Curtis Painter (IND) and Brooks Bollinger (DET) - Peyton Manning hit 12/15 for 123 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Lions while on thei field in the third preseason game.

Best attack against worst defense - sounds like a great matchup is on tap for the Saints and fantasy owners of the Saints' receivers.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Drew Brees nursed a sore oblique muscle for most of training camp, but in the third preseason game he reminded us of why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, with 9/15 for 128 yards passing, two TDs and zero interceptions, with zero sacks taken at Indianapolis. Old stalwart wide receiver Marques Colston (four targets for 2/25/1) handled one of the scores on a 13-yard TD reception, while fullback Austin Johnson had a rare TD on the other scoring play. Colston stayed healthy throughout training camp and seems to finally be past the nagging foot injury which has dogged him for much of the last two years. Jimmy Graham scored several TDs during preseason games and in practice sessions during training camp, and is reported to be in top form entering Week One. Brandin Cooks, a rookie sensation that lit up training camp during August, is penciled in as the second wide receiver across from Colston, while Kenny Stills works to get his injured quadriceps healed up - he aggravated the quadriceps during the third preseason game and is questionable to play in Week One. Brees and running back Pierre Thomas (five targets for 4/66/0 receiving in the third preseason game) are also on the same page entering Week One.

The Falcons' first-team defense wasn’t sharp during the third preseason game, giving up 10 points and 207 yards on 29 plays (7.1 yards allowed per play on average) to the Tennessee offense. CB Desmond Trufant in particular allowed a 63-yard TD reception to Nate Washington en route to the 17-24 loss to the Titans. Last season, the Falcons ranked 20th in the NFL averaging 244 net passing yards allowed per game, with a mere 10 interceptions (tied for 29th) and only 32 sacks generated (also 29th in the NFL). This is not a defense that scares opposing quarterbacks, folks.

The Saints have one of the elite passing attacks in the NFL, while the Falcons have one of the worst pass defenses - advantage, New Orleans.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Drew Brees finished 2014 with 456/659 for 4,952 yards passing, 33 pass TDs and just 17 interceptions - he took all the available passing attempts during the 2014 season. However, the team has reshuffled both the receiving corps (letting Jimmy Graham go to Seattle and Kenny Stills exit to Miami during the offseason) and offensive philosophy (planning on leaning on the running game more this year) since the end of 2014. Marques Colston is still around (100 targets for 59/902/5 receiving last year), and he's being teamed up with Brandin Cooks (69 targets for 53/550/3 receiving last year) as the starting tandem, with a heavy dose of Brandon Coleman mixed in (three targets for 1/27/0 during the third exhibition game this preseason). Ben Watson and Josh Hill will team up to try and replace Jimmy Graham at the tight end position, with Watson apparently slated for the every-down work and Hill coming in for sub-packages and red-zone situations. There is a lot of changes being worked through in New Orleans entering Week One of 2015 as you can see.

The Cardinals' pass D finished 2014 ranked 29th in the NFL averaging 259.5 net passing yards allowed per game, with 22 passing scores given up vs. 18 interceptions generated (tied for seventh in the NFL). They notched 35 sacks last season (24th in the league). During preseason this year, the Cardinals gave up an average of 236.5 net passing yards per contest (27th in the NFL) with six passing scores handed out vs. four interceptions. This secondary is the weakness of the Arizona defense, friends.

Advantage, Brees and company - but remember, the Saints are going to a more balanced offense so Brees may not have the same volume of passes this year that you saw during 2014.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Eli Manning owned the Cowboys last year, tossing 51/80 for 746 yards, five TDs and one interception during two contests with Dallas. Hakeem Nicks saw 16 targets for 12/230/1 receiving (gaining 10 first downs), and Victor Cruz enjoyed 20 targets for 13/261/1 receiving (also gaining 10 first downs). Nicks has missed most of the 2012 training camp due to a broken foot, but he resumed practicing at the end of August and appeared in the preseason finale (two targets in two series of work for 1/6/0 receiving) August 30. 'It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to give me an idea of where I was at,' Nicks said after the game. 'It was all good.' Nicks did acknowledge that he's playing in pain as of September 1, but added 'It's not going to feel great, I know that, but it's a matter of me having the desire and want-to get through it... I don't think I'll adjust my game any.' Initially, the team was concerned with new tight end Martellus Bennett's weight when he joined the team, but he's worked his way into good graces during preseason (7/49/0 receiving during three exhibition games) and seems set to play a significant role as the Giants' new starting tight end as of week one, regular season. Running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson both look good catching the football out of the backfield - Manning's surrounding cast is impressive entering 2012.

Dallas' pass D ranked 23rd in the NFL last year averaging 244.1 net yards allowed per game, with 24 passing TDs given up over 16 games. The team was 17th in the NFL with 15 interceptions and tied for seventh with 42 sacks generated (the Giants were seventh with 28 sacks allowed during 2011). Sam Bradford and the sorry Rams' first team offense scraped up just 6/17 for 64 yards passing at Dallas in the third preseason game, due to the shambles of an offense that they field in St. Louis. We'll see if the Cowboys' 2012 version of defense is improved starting Wednesday night.

Manning and company tore up the Cowboys last year, and this looks like a great matchup for the home team's passing attack to open 2012.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

This is a classic AFC West rivalry that will be fought with great intensity on Monday Night Football during opening weekend. We can't wait for this second MNF game to cap the opening week of pro football.

Oakland has finally settled on a starting QB for more than one season - Jason Campbell enters his second year as a Raider QB after playing 13 games in 2010 (194/329 for 2,387 yards, 13 TDs with eight interceptions, and 47/222/1 rushing). He's firmly atop the QB depth chart (being backed up by Kyle Boller and Trent Edwards), and has an intriguing set of young receivers to throw to this year. Denarius Moore has starred in training camp and preseason games (he saw five targets for 3/23/0 receiving in the third exhibition game); Jacoby Ford is a starter this season after posting 54 targets for 25/470/2 receiving last season; and speedy Darrius Heyward-Bey remains penciled in as a starter as of week one. Ex-Giant Derek Hagan made a strong statement in the third preseason game while snagging 6/121/1 receiving out of six targets and made the team (right now he's fourth on the depth chart but could move up). Unfortunately for Campbell, TE Zach Miller was allowed to slip away to Seattle during free agency, but the team hopes the another ex-Giant, Kevin Boss, can fill in for Miller during 2011. There is a lot of talent and speed around Campbell - now we'll see if he can deliver the ball to the receivers on a consistent basis in his second year with the team.

The Broncos' pass D was not good last year, allowing an average of 236.2 net passing yards per game to opposing QBs, with 26 passing TDs given up vs. just 10 interceptions (tied for 30th in the NFL) and a mere 23 sacks generated (dead last in the NFL). The team hired head coach John Fox (a defensively-minded head coach) and he brought in Dennis Allen from New Orleans to be the new defensive coordinator (Allen coached the New Orleans secondary from 2008-2010). The front office is doing what they can with the coaching staff to fix the broken secondary. The anemic Seattle Seahawks were held to 18/30 for 125 net yards, one TD and zero interceptions during the third preseason game, but nobody is afraid of the Seattle QBs. There is a lot of hard work to do on this unit, and that is reflected in the overall team defense rankings at Footballguys.com - the staff consensus ranking of Denver's team defense is 31st, as is David Dodds' individual ranking (31st).

Campbell has a wide array of weapons to deploy against Denver, and they have a very suspect secondary to bring to this fight - advantage, Oakland.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Donovan McNabb has put his sports hernia injury and the conflict with Terrell Owens in the rear-view mirror. He has a reloaded WR stable thanks to a trade with New Orleans (yielding potential #1 WR Donte Stallworth) and new rookies Hank Baskett and Jason Avant. Reggie Brown and Stallworth figure to start - McNabb also has steady TE L.J. Smith to target, and RB Brian Westbrook caught 61 balls in 12 games last season (61/616/4) - there's plenty of targets for McNabb to work with. McNabb was 23/31 for 283 yards and a TD with no interceptions this pre-season (a 74% completion rate). He looks like a man on a mission now that T.O. is Drew Bledsoe's team-mate.

The Texans were dreadful in pass defense categories last year, giving up an average of 220.1 passing yards per game (24th in the NFL) with 24 passing scores surrendered (27th in the league). We'll see if the new coaching staff can motivate the secondary to play better during 2006 - they did hold the Broncos to 15/31 for 165 yards during week 3 of the pre-season (10/22 for 96 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions for Jake Plummer) - there are signs of improvement early in the season.

McNabb is on fire coming into this matchup, and the Texans don't have very many top talents on their roster - this is a great matchup for the Eagles to exploit.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Nick Foles picked up in preseason 2014 where he left off in 2013 (but throwing the ball even more), with 19/29 for 179 yards passing, one TD and one interception thrown vs Pittsburgh in the third preseason game. He targeted Jeremy Maclin eight times for 6/43/0 receiving during the contest, and was effective moving the team into scoring position - the Eagles won 31-21. Though DeSean Jackson is no longer with the team, the Eagles are proceeding apace. Riley Cooper remains the No. two wideout and grabbed 3/25/0 on five targets - LeSean McCoy handled the TD pass with two targets for 2/26/1.

The Jaguars enter 2014 after being ranked 25th (tied) in the NFL averaging 248 net passing yards allowed per game, with 29 TDs surrrendered vs. a mere 11 sacks (tied for 26th in the NFL) and only 31 sacks (tied for dead last) generated. During the third preseason game starter Matthew Stafford had a quiet night vs. Jacksonville throwing 10/16 for 98 yards, zero TDs and one interception (but the Lions had 27/178/2 rushing that night, so they didn't need to throw the ball much, either). The Jacksonville D is among the leagues' worst.

Advantage, Eagles.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Sam Bradford didn't play a ton during preseason, but he was impressive in the third preseason contest against Green Bay slinging 10/10 for 121 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown. He hit Darren Sproles for one of the scores, and Brent Celek for the third (backup tight end Trey Burton snagged the other Bradford TD pass). We'll see how his chemistry is with his young starting wide receivers, Jordan Matthews (103 targets for 67/872/8 receiving last season without Bradford) and rookie Nelson Agholor. We're also waiting to see if starting tight end Zach Ertz (groin surgery) can play in Week One - as of September 3 he was still unsure of his status for the opener. Reports on September 8 indicated he has been cleared to attempt practice, but he still hasn't done team drills as of Tuesday. Stay tuned to the Eagles' practice reports later in the week if you have Ertz on a fantasy roster, and be ready with other options if he falters in practice.

The Falcons had the worst pass D in the NFL last year, averaging 279.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with 20 passing scores given out vs. 16 interceptions (tied for 12th in the NFL) generated. They tied for next-to-last in the NFL with 22 sacks during the 2014 season. During exhibition season, they still bled passing yards at an alarming rate (28th in the NFL averaging 244.5 net passing yards allowed per game, with five passing scores given out vs. three interceptions generated) but did show better in the pass-rushing department with nine sacks over four meaningless games.

This looks like a great matchup for the Eagles' passing attack.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Philip Rivers has cruised through his preseason appearances, posting 31/48 for 354 yards, two TDs and one interception, including a nice 16/27 for 167 yards, one TD and zero interception appearance at New Orleans in week three of the preseason. Though Vincent Jackson appears to be in the Chargers' past as a player, Malcom Floyd has played well with 7/98/1 receiving in two preseason appearances, and looks poised to step in as the Chargers' new #1 WR. Legedu Naanee will man the other starting spot, and all-world tight end Antonio Gates figures to be heavily involved in the passing attack this year (he set a career high in receiving yardage last season with 79/1,157 yards and eight TD catches). Rivers still has plenty of targets, Jackson or no Jackson.

The Chiefs were 22nd in the NFL in average passing yards allowed per game (231.7), 31st in sacks generated (22), 20th in passing TDs allowed (25) and 16th in interceptions generated (15). During the third preseason game, Kevin Kolb and company posted 21/39 for 165 net yards, one TD and one interception, but they were far from being shut down. The Chiefs' defense has a long ways to go before they are considered an average unit.

This looks like an attractive matchup for Rivers and company.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Seattle is transitioning from Mike Holmgren to Jim Mora Jr. this year, but it was a planned transition with Mora Jr. serving as a sort of co-head coach last season. Greg Knapp was Mora's OC in Atlanta and will serve in that capacity here, too. The return of Matt Hasselbeck to health and his solid play during the preseason makes fans in Seattle hopeful that an offensive rennaissance is around the corner - the addition of T.J. Houshmandzadeh (5/60/1 receiving in the third preseason game vs. K.C.) and the return to health of Nate Burleson (torn knee ligament early in September last year) gives the Seahawks a lot more fire-power to work with. John Carlson is an excellent young TE who did well in tough circumstances last year (55/627/5 receiving last year - he led the team in week three of the preseason with 5/68/1). Hopefully, with Hasselbeck back under center the OL will be able to cut down on the number of sacks allowed (36 given up last year, 13th-worst in the NFL), but the injury to LT Walter Jones has made a shaky situation very tenuous indeed - he's missed a lot of time with a knee injury and there are rumblings that Jones may not play this year at all.

The Rams were 31st in the NFL last year averaging 29.1 total points allowed per game (only Detroit was worse during 2008). HC Steve Spagnuolo and DC Ken Flajole are expected to turn up the heat with the Rams' blitzing schemes during 2009, but there is a long way to go before the Rams are above average in this phase of the game. The team ended 2008 ranked 19th in the NFL in terms of passing yards allowed (217.2), while giving up only 12 passing TDs (but they handed over 26 rushing TDs last year - teams simply preferred to run the ball into the end zone when playing St. Louis since it was so easy). The Rams tied for 21st in the NFL with 12 interceptions to their credit, while managing 30 sacks (t - 16th in the NFL). Cincinnati's reserves passed for 12/19 for 171 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. the Rams in the third preseason game (Carson Palmer was out with an ankle injury).

Hasselbeck has a restocked arsenal and a suspect, divisional rival in front of him at home this week - advantage, Seattle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Leinart and Anquan Boldin were on fire during their week 3 preseason performance, with 10/16 for 196 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to Leinart's credit (2/4/0 rushing) and 5/143/1 receiving for Boldin, including a nice 80 yard TD reception against the Chargers. Larry Fitzgerald chipped in 3/38/0 during the game. Both Leinart and Boldin believe that the time has come for the Cardinals to step up their game to the next level. On September 2nd, Leinart stated ""The expectations are higher, and we've placed them upon ourselves. But lip service is lip service. It doesn't matter what we say; we've got to go out there and act upon it. That's something we're anxious to do and anxious to see how we are. The question is still out on us, obviously. If we play how we practice and we compete, I think we're going to be a tough team, but until that happens, we'll see what happens." Boldin added "I think it's a critical year, period, not only for the fans but for ourselves. I think everything is in place now. We have the coaches that we wanted. I think we have the players in place. Everybody is tired of the Arizona Cardinals being looked down upon around the league." TE Ben Patrick (7th round draft pick) was released this week, which helped cement the starting TE slot for Leonard Pope. Pope had 1/4/0 during the week 3 preseason contest, and was in the starting lineup.

The 49ers were the league's worst defense in points allowed last year (412 points given up), and ranked 27th in passing yards allowed (3817) and 29th in passing TDs given up (25). Although they did make a huge addition in CB Nate Clements. The Bears managed 16/25 for 205 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception during their week 3 preseason contest (when the starters play deepest into the game) - and nobody mistakes the Bears for a top passing unit. The 49ers were in the bottom half of the NFL last year with 34 sacks (tied - 19th in the NFL).

This looks like a good matchup for the Cards.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The starting QB role in Arizona is tenuous at best, with ex-Cardinal Matt Leinart giving way (and then getting cut by the team) to Derek Anderson as the starting QB during the third preseason game - yet coach Ken Whisenhunt declined to name either the starter after the contest. Neither guy stood out during the preseason as the clear-cut winner of the derby, so Anderson, who ends up getting the nod as the starter during week one of regular season, is likely to be on a short leash. During the third preseason game, Anderson threw for 7/12 for 94 yards, one TD and zero interceptions. Both QBs were hampered by the absence of Larry Fitzgerald from the lineup during the bulk of preseason (he suffered an MCL sprain during week one of the preseason and hasn't played in live action since). Given the absence of Fitzgerald from the preseason games, it is difficult to get a handle on whether Anderson is simpatico with the team's primary play-maker. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet man the second and third wide receiver posts as of the first week of regular season, with Steven Spach looking like the starting TE for opening day.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they open the season against the woeful Rams, who allowed 18/22 for 273 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions to Tom Brady during week three of preseason (the Patriots posted 19/25 for 260 net yards and four TD passes with zero interceptions during the entire game). Last year, the Rams were 25th in the NFL allowing 3,764 net passing yards, with 22 TDs given up (14th in the NFL) and a paltry eight interceptions generated. We haven't seen much improvement from the Rams in this phase of the game during preseason - they've allowed four passing TDs twice during the first three preseason games, and gave up two to the lowly Browns in their 'best' showing of the season (18/31 for 187 yards, two TDs and two interceptions allowed). 10 TDs allowed during preseason (with net yardage totals of 336, 187, and 260 yards allowed weeks 1-3) doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in the Rams' 2010 unit.

Despite the shaky play of the Cardinals' quarter backs and the team's passing attack during preseason, this has to be considered a good matchup for them in week one.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Carson Palmer sputtered during the third exhibition game while facing the outstanding Cincinnati defense, throwing less than 50% completions with 7/19 for 92 yards, zero TDs and one interception, with zero sacks taken. Palmer missed two TD opportunities with Michael Floyd, and then forced a pass to Larry Fitzgerald, which resulted in the interception. Though Palmer had looked solid earlier in the exhibition games, he definitely stumbled during the tune-up for regular season. In his first season with Arizona last year, Palmer completed 362/572 for 4,274 yards passing, 24 TDs and 22 interceptions to land at 17th fantasy quarterback overall - he has been and up-and-down passer during his time in Arizona. Rookie sensation John Brown had a 30-yard TD reception from backup quarterback Drew Stanton and finished the third exhibition with eight targets for 4/56/1 - he provides a nice third option at wide receiver for Arizona as we enter the slate of games that count.

San Diego limited Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers' first offensive team to 6/12 for 59 yards, zero TDs and interceptions thrown, with one sack taken for -12 yards and a fumble lost during the third exhibition game on August 24. Anquan Boldin (2/19/0 receiving) and Michael Crabtree (1/10/0) combined for 29 yards receiving against the Chargers, who did a fine job of bottling up the vanilla preseason San Francisco passing attack. However, last season the Chargers were 29th in the league allowing an average of 259 yards passing per game, with only 11 interceptions (tied for 26th in the NFL) and 35 sacks (tied for 23rd) generated. It remains to be seen how this secondary will play against a full-blown, game-planned regular season attack.

The Cardinals have a formidable array of wide receivers to throw at the Chargers, who looked stouter than last year vs. the 49ers' passing attack but still remain a suspect unit. Advantage, Arizona.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Ryan has looked very comfortable throwing the ball throughout preseason, with 14/20 for 140 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in the third exhibition tilt vs. San Diego. Tony Gonzalez and he have developed a good understanding so far, and with Roddy White (88/1382/7 last year) happy with a fat new contract, it appears that the team is on the verge of becoming an offensive juggernaut. Michael Jenkins has been a steadily reliable possession receiver during preseason and is a great compliment to White and Gonzalez. Brian Finneran and Marty Booker are quality, veteran depth in this stable. Ryan did miss practice on Monday due to illness, but he should be healthy and ready to go by Sunday.

Miami's pass D was 25th in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed, with an average of 227.8 per game, but they did limit their opponents to 18 passing scores. Overall, they were ninth in the NFL averaging 19.8 points allowed per game - the team was of the bend-but-don't-break mold during 2008. The Dolphins generated 18 interceptions (8th in the NFL) and had 40 sacks (8th) - that's a pretty respectable unit, overall, as you can see. Tampa Bay was held to 20/44 for 160 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the third preseason game, and the Dolphins' reserves held the Saints' reserves without a TD pass in the fourth exhibition. It looks like the Dolphins will sport a solid pass D entering week 1 of the regular season.

The Falcons have a high-octane passing attack these days, but the Dolphins won't just roll over for them. At home in the Georgia Dome, we give the Falcons a slight edge in this first contest.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Ryan ended preseason play with 45/60 (75 percent completion percentage) for 549 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a quarterback rating of 111. He's been very simpatico with Julio Jones (102 targets for 54/959/8 receiving last year) and Roddy White (191 targets for 100/1,296/8 receiving last year) throughout preseason - we expect to see Jones' targets and receptions to spike this year as Ryan will be passing more in the new offense - Harry Douglas (64 targets for 39/498/1 receiving last year) has also become more involved during 2012 as the Falcons are using a three-wide set as one of their base offensive formations during 2012. The entire passing attack has looked very explosive during preseason - Kansas City's secondary will be sorely tested this week.

Speaking of Kansas City, they finished 2011 ranked sixth in the NFL averaging 201.3 net passing yards allowed per game. However, they coughed up 23 passing passing TDs last year (tied for 18th in the NFL) while generating 20 interceptions (sixth in the NFL) and 29 sacks (27th). Atlanta was sixth in the NFL with just 26 sacks allowed during 2011. Rookie Russell Wilson torched the Chiefs for 13/19 yielding 185 passing yards and two passing scores with zero interceptions in the third preseason game - there is clearly still work to be done on this unit. The return of starting CB Brandon Flowers from a painful heel injury would be a boost for the secondary if he can go - coach Romeo Crennel said on September 1 that he was 'hopeful' Flowers will play week one.

Ryan and company come into the regular season opener firing on all cylinders, while the Chiefs have not yet hit their stride - advantage, Atlanta.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Ryan has added a new target to his arsenal of receivers this season - Steven Jackson has caught 406 passes for 3,316 yards and eight receiving TDs over his career, and has at least 38 receptions in each season stretching back eight years. As the Falcons managed to cajole Tony Gonzalez out of retiring for one more run at the Lombardi trophy, Ryan enjoys top-shelf receivers at all the skill positions entering regular season. The only worry here is that Roddy White has been nursing a sprained ankle since the second preseason game, but he is expected to practice and play as usual in the season opener across from the surging talent Julio Jones. The Atlanta passing attack looks very dangerous indeed entering the season opener in New Orleans.

Speaking of New Orleans, the Saints field a struggling defense entering week one of the regular season. They allowed 496 net yards to the Houston Texans in the third exhibition game, including 15/26 for 213 passing yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions to starter Matt Schaub while the first team D was on the field. Last season, the Saints ranked dead last in rush D and 31st in the NFL in pass D, allowing an average of 292.6 net passing yards per game, with 31 passing scores handed over vs. 15 interceptions and 30 sacks generated. It looks like Saints fans are in for more high-scoring track meets again this year as the D has faltered throughout preseason.

Advantage, Atlanta.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Ravens' QB depth chart is still unsettled as of September 1st. Kyle Boller has a serious shoulder injury and appears out of the running; Troy Smith was hospitalized last Thursday due to his ongoing infection in the tonsils (but he hasn't had them removed) and has reportedly lost 15 pounds (and has not practiced in 2 weeks); Joe Flacco is a raw rookie who has started the last 2 preseason games. The team is vigorously pursuing a veteran backup QB (Joey Harrington's name features prominently) which may indicate that Boller's injury has knocked him out for the season. Coach John Harbaugh said on August 31st: "We're confident we can win with whoever we put back there. Whoever lines up back there, we expect him to win." That may be the case, but with Willis McGahee very shaky to play in the opener (the latest news on his recovery from arthroscopic left knee surgery is that he practiced on Monday but didn't look 100%) the Ravens' offense is a shambles. Flacco says he wants to start under center, and the team decided to grant his wish on Tuesday, naming him the week 1 starter. Hopefully, he won't suffer the sort of implosion that Kyle Boller did in similar circumstances. There isn't much reason to be optimistic about Derrick Mason or Todd Heap (or any Ravens' receiver) under these conditions, folks.

However, the Bengals handed over 313 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception to the Saints in the 3rd preseason game, allowing 14/22 for 199 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to Drew Brees and the first team. Cincy was a bottom-tier pass D last year, giving up an average of 230.4 passing yards per contest (26th in the NFL) with 29 passing TDs allowed (29th in the NFL). The Bengals generated only 22 sacks last year - dead last in the NFL. It looks like the 2008 club is picking up right were the 2007 club sputtered out - which is not good news for Cincinnati fans.

As ugly as things are for the Ravens right now, they have a decent match-up against one of the NFL's softest pass defenses on tap. The question is, will the Flacco be able to exploit this opportunity? Stay tuned...

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jake Delhomme enjoyed a top ten fantasy season last year, with 310/533 for 3886 yards, 29 TDs and 15 interceptions. He hooked up with Muhsin Muhammad many times during the second half of the season. However, 2005 has arrived and Muhsin Muhammad is catching balls for Kyle Orton in Chicago. Is Steve Smith back at 100%? He seems to be, grabbing 3/59/1 during the week 3 preseason tune-up game. With Keary Colbert, Rod Gardner and Ricky Proehl in the mix, Delhomme enters 2005 with a solid stable of WRs.

The Saints are in a tough situation - they've been evacuated from their home town, and will understandably struggle to keep up intensity in the face of the disaster that has devastated their home town and fans. On the flip side, players like Joe Horn have stated the disaster has sparked the team with a desire to give the affected people something positive to hold onto.

The game goes on and it is a fact that the Saints field a suspect pass D. They were the 27th ranked secondary last year, giving up an average of 243 passing yards per game, with 24 TDs surrendered in 16 games. The woeful Ravens managed to rack up 17/28 for 140 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against this squad.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Bank of America Stadium calls for a high of 86F and a low of 69F with a 0% chance of rain -- it should be a great day to play some football.

Delhomme and company are in good shape, while the Saints are still trying to find their rhythm with a weak pass defense in the face of a natural disaster and the resulting dislocation. Advantage, Carolina.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith are one of the premier pass-and-catch combinations in the NFL (262/435 for 3421 yards, 24 TDs and 16 interceptions last season for Delhomme; 103/1563/12 for Smith last season). Smith's monster season was compiled without a credible threat lining up across the field - and this year the team added Keyshawn Johnson to be the #2. Also, last year's #2, Keary Colbert, has recovered from some nagging foot/ankle issues that dogged him during 2005, and he has played well during pre-season, including a 2/45/0 game vs. Jacksonville and generally outstanding play throughout training camp. The Panthers' receiving stable looks pretty impressive entering the season, as long as Smith can shake off the rust caused by little pre-season action (he had surgery to correct an ingrown toe-nail). In an interesting move, the team has kept only 2 QB's on the active squad, making Kris Mangum, a TE, the emergency 3rd QB in a game situation. "I think Mangy could probably get up under center," Fox said of his emergency plan. "I'm not sure what our two-minute drill would look like." For the record, Mangum has not played QB, even as far back as high school.

The Falcons' pass D was 14th in the NFL last season, yielding an average of 196.1 passing yards per game to opponents. They added Lawyer Milloy and Chris Crocker at safety entering 2006, hoping to improve a mediocre unit. During the week 3 pre-season game, the Falcons surrendered 21/33 for 239 yards to the Titans, but allowed 0 TDs and generated an interception. They look like they are at about the same place going into the opener as they were last year from where we sit.

In Charlotte, we think the Panthers' squad has the edge over Atlanta's reconstituted secondary.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Moore has been less-than-stellar in his 2010 preseason performances. He has thrown 0 TDs during preseason (his best showing was in week three vs. Tennessee, with 18/33 for 190 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions), but Moore has played the entire slate of preseason games without WR Steve Smith, who broke his arm playing flag football just prior to training camp (June 20th - the break required corrective surgery). Smith did start practicing Monday, August 30th and is expected back to headline the attack for the regular season opener. Smith practiced on Wednesday, September eighth. Behind Smith is an unproven/lackluster slate of wide receivers - Dwayne Jarrett has never excited fantasy owners, and the rest of the slate is made up of rookies Brandon LaFell, Armanti Edwards and David Gettis, with second-year man Charly Martin slated for mostly special-teams duty. Gary Barnidge, Dante Rosario and Jeff King are all in a tight-end-by-committee situation, making all three unattractive as fantasy options.

The Giants' pass D was among the most-generous units in the NFL last year, handing over 31 passing TDs (30th in the NFL), while generating 13 interceptions (22nd). They were 18th in the NFL with 32 sacks generated. During the third preseason game, the Ravens tore up the Giants' secondary for 32/49 yielding 313 net yards, three TDs and one interception - obviously, new coordinator Perry Fewell has his plate full for 2010.

Though the Panthers have failed to excite us so far this year, they get their top receiver back for the opener and they face a very suspect unit up in New Meadowlands Stadium - advantage, Carolina.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Cam Newton scored 35 TDs last year, throwing for 21 of them in his rookie campaign (310/517 for 4,051 yards passing, 21 TDs and 17 interceptions thrown). He enters his sophomore season with the main cogs of last year's attack still in place for Carolina - Steve Smith (129 targets for 79/1,394/7 receiving), Brandon LaFell (56 for 36/613/3), Jonathan Stewart (60 targets for 47/413/1 receiving), and Greg Olsen (89 for 45/540/5 receiving) are all back, and a second pass-catching tight end that the coaching staff likes, Gary Barnidge, rejoins the lineup healthy after missing 2011 due to a broken ankle. All the tools are in place for Newton to build upon his stellar rookie campaign, and now he'll have the benefit of a full suite of offseason OTAs and coaching sessions - unlike 2011, which had a compressed preseason due to the labor strife last year. Smith, who had been nursing a foot infection during the last week of training camp, practiced Sunday, September 2 and is expected to play as usual week one.

The Buccaneers' rush defense was horrid last year (dead last in the NFL), but teams still found plenty of reasons to throw the ball against the Buccaneers as well - Tampa Bay averaged 238.4 net passing yards allowed per game (21st in the NFL) and was tied for 29th in the NFL with 30 passing TDs surrendered. All told, the Buccaneers gave up 56 touchdowns to their opponents last year, 3.5 TDs per game on average! Yikes!

The Panthers should be able to move the ball well in either phase of the game against the rebuilding Tampa Bay defense. Advantage, Carolina.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Rex Grossman is the starter, insists head coach Lovie Smith. We'll see how long his stay atop the depth charts is, given that Brian Griese has consistently been the best QB during pre-season. Grossman has been up and down and hasn't developed a strong chemistry with any of the Bears' motley crew of receivers. Muhshin Muhammad is the clear #1, but beyond that is a cast of question-marks. Rashied Davis, Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley - any one of them could be the #2, but Berrian and Bradley have been dinged up during pre-season and haven't really shown us much. Veteran Desmond Clark provides a reliable presence at TE. Vs. Arizona, Grossman was 13/21 for 117 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception, while Griese was 10/14 for 131, a TD and no interceptions that game (week 3 of the pre-season). Grossman was booed; Griese was cheered lustily...

Green Bay's defensive statistics from last year are anomalous, as they were the top-ranked pass D in terms of yards allowed per game (167.5), but 23rd in the number of passing TDs surrendered (22). They were 23rd in rush defense, giving up an average of 125.6 yards per game on the ground, but 8th in defending against rushing scores (10 allowed). Basically, once teams got into the red-zone, they passed to score. Part of the strangeness is due to a lot of short fields being awarded to the opposition (Favre threw a horrible 29 interceptions, and the rushing offense was literally down to the last man standing by the end of the season, with Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and then finally Samkon Gado all sidelined by injury). CB Charles Woodson arrives from Oakland - he got a big contract, but got torched bigtime vs. the Bengals in week 3 of pre-season, by WR's T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Tab Perry. It remains to be seen if Woodson can help staunch the TD bleeding in the red-zone.

This looks like a good matchup for even the pedestrian Bears, although it is a divisional game at Lambeau Field. If it were played in Chicago, this would be a great matchup.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jay Cutler is reunited with his old favorite target from Cutler's Denver days, Brandon Marshall. They have been seeking to recreate the magic from those bygone days, with Cutler slinging Marshall 10 passes at the New York Giants during the third preseason game (5/51/1 receiving for Marshall). Marshall is the clear #1 wide receiver here since arriving from Miami, but the #2 wide receiver slot is something of a jumble with veteran underachiever Devin Hester (56 targets for 26/369/1 receiving last year) challenged by rookie Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett (43 targets for 24/381/1) receiving last year. A big problem for this whole team is the leaky offensive line - they were 27th in the NFL last year with 49 sacks allowed, and it remains to be seen if they can protect Cutler better during 2012.

The rebuilding Colts' D was pretty awful last year, averaging 227.0 net passing yards per game (15th in the NFL) while coughing up 25 passing scores (20th in the league) vs. a mere eight interceptions (tied for last in the NFL) and only 29 sacks (tied for 27th). During the third preseason game at Washington, Robert Griffin III and Rex Grossman combined for 19/25 for 201 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown - the Colts enter regular season stone cold in this phase of the game.

Cutler and company have issues up front, but the Colts' defense is not in a position to exploit them - advantage, Chicago.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jay Cutler and now-departed Josh McCown combined to propel the Bears to fifth place in passing yards (4,281) and passing TDs scored (32) during the 2013 season. For his part, Cutler threw 225/356 for 2,619 yards, 19 TDs and 12 interceptions over 11 games played. In our preview of the regular season, the third exhibition game, Cutler and company drew the tough Seattle defense. Cutler was able to move the ball but could not finish against the Seahawks. He had a short touchdown pass wiped out due to a questionable penalty, and followed that up with an interception right at the goal line, and eventually ended the game with a stat line of 12/20 for 157 yards, zero TDs and one interception, with two sacks taken for -15 yards. Alshon Jeffery (eight targets for 4/45/0 receiving at Seattle) and Brandon Marshall (seven for 4/37/0) remain his preferred pass-catchers. Martellus Bennett saw just one pass but made it count for 22 yards receiving.

The Bills continued a preseason theme in the third preseason game vs. Tampa Bay, showing weakness defending against the passing game. Josh McCown and Mike Glennon combined to complete 18 of 23 attempts, with McCown throwing a TD to rookie Mike Evans in the second quarter to run the score up to 24-0 before the half. The Bills did manage an interception and two sacks for -24 yards so not all was negative, but there is definitely room for improvement here. Last season the Bills were fourth in the NFL averaging 204 net passing yards allowed per game, BUT they gave up 28 passing scores over 16 games. Part of the reason for the low average passing yards allowed was that their rush defense was porous last year so teams elected to run the ball against Buffalo quite a lot. Buffalo did garner 23 interceptions (second in the NFL) and 57 sacks (second in the NFL), so they do some things quite well, but the gambling nature of the defense also led to a large number of TDs surrendered to opposing passing attacks.

Cutler and company form a formidable pass attack - against the so-so Bills, this looks like a good matchup for the home-team Bears.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Carson Palmer has not worked extensively with either of his star receivers during preseason - T.J. Houshmandzadeh has nursed a sore hamstring for most of training camp, and Chad Ocho Cinco Johnson partially tore his labrum in the 3rd preseason contest (which will require him to wear a harness for the coming slate of games). The OL has been degraded through injury woes (long time RT Willie Anderson couldn't get healthy and was released, and the unit is in flux), increasing worries about pass protection. The Bengals gave up only 17 sacks last year, but Palmer had his nose broken by the Saints in week 3 of the preseason while taking 3 sacks during the contest. TE Ben Utecht has been a bright spot for the team, handling a lot of targets (4/49/0 receiving vs. New Orleans) and he looks like Palmer's safety-blanket option entering week 1.

The Ravens' pass D was nothing special last season, with 27 TDs allowed (tied for 26th in the NFL) and an average of 222.3 yards given up per game (20th in the league). They were in the middle of the league with 32 QB sacks. Injuries have kept the secondary in turmoil this year - SS Ed Reed has a nerve problem in his shoulder "Hopefully, I can get back, but health is more important right now," Reed said on August 29th. "It's a long season and I feel like the team is going to need me more down the line than earlier and having to get hurt and can't play again." Reed hasn't played in any preseason game and has yet to take serious contact on the shoulder. CB Derrick Martin has been suspended one game for violating the league's substance-abuse policy and CB Fabian Washington was already suspended for one game for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy, further degrading the Raven's secondary for the season opener. The secondary is not a team strength entering the season.

The Bengals have a good matchup to exploit this week, if they can field their full compliment of receivers and keep Carson Palmer sheltered from pass rushers.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Andy Dalton (363/586 for 4,296 yards passing, 33 TDs and 20 interceptions) was signed to a long-term contract during training camp and is clearly the franchise leader going into 2014. He's got a solid corps of receivers entering Week One in All-Pro A.J. Green (98/1,426/11 receiving last season), and there are nice complimentary pieces in Mohamed Sanu (47/455/2 last year), tight ends Jermaine Gresham (46/461/4) and Tyler Eifert (39/445/2), and running back Giovani Bernard (56/514/3 receiving last season). Dalton had a respectable outing in the vanilla preseason offense during the third preseason game at a tough Arizona opponent, posting 13/21 for 157 yards passing, with zero TDs, interceptions, or sacks taken. Sanu (seven targets for 5/70/0 receiving) and Green (eight for 5/53/0) led the team in receiving during that tune-up for regular season. All cylinders are firing for Dalton and company entering the first regular-season game.

Robert Griffin III had a nightmare game against the Ravens' defense during the third preseason game (5/8 for 20 yards passing, zero TDs with one interception thrown and a fumble; with three sacks taken for -15 yards). When it was all said and done for the Washington starter he'd netted five yards passing, though his struggles learning a new offense contributed to the Ravens' strong showing. Baltimore was 12th in the NFL averaging 230 net passing yards allowed per game last season, with 25 TDs given up over 16 games played. They generated 16 interceptions (tied for 15th in the NFL) and 40 sacks (tied for 16th) - in most ways, the Ravens were a mediocre pass D last season.

Despite the strong showing against a transitioning Washington team, we think the Ravens are just so-so in this phase entering 2014 - meanwhile, Cincinnati has a top-five quarterback slinging the ball for them. Advantage, Cincinnati.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Andy Dalton struggled last year, but he lost his #2 wide receiver (Marvin Jones) to a foot injury, had his #1 wide receiver, A.J. Green, fighting through nagging injuries, and his #1 tight end, Tyler Eifert, had shoulder and elbow issues wreck his season. No wonder the Bengals' passing game was lack-luster last year.

Dalton had a minor neck injury in the third preseason game but was held out due to precautionary reasons, so we really haven't seen much more than a glimpse of the Bengals' first-team passing attack this preseason. Jones has rounded back into form - after practice on August 19, Bengals OC Hue Jackson said Jones is 'starting to look like Marvin Jones again.' Jones caught two passes for 35 yards and a touchdown in the Bengals' third preseason game. He, Eifert and Green form a formidable cast of receivers for Dalton, and running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are also capable pass-catchers.

The Raiders' pass D was awful last season - they were second-to-last in sacks (22) and 27th in the league in terms of interceptions generated (nine). For the season they averaged 238.1 net passing yards allowed per game (16th in the league) but also surrendered 29 passing scores. The team allowed a lot of short fields which is why the average pass yards allowed looked kind of respectable, but really this is a rebuilding defense that hasn't impressed in regular season for some time.

Advantage, Cincinnati.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Colt McCoy played in eight games last season, and led the Browns to some wins while learning on the job (135/222 for 1,576 yards, six TDs and nine interceptions passing, and he added 28/136/1 scrambling). His play was solid enough to earn the starting job from day one of the 2011 training camp (Jake Delhomme was released after just one unsuccessful year with the club). Like McCoy, the receiving corps is very young, with no clear number one starter as of September sixth - Mohamed Massoquoi, Josh Cribbs and Brian Robiskie are holdovers from 2010, while Greg Little joined the team via the NFL Draft (round two pick). Veteran Ben Watson leads the tight end depth chart but is injured (hip injury) as the season begins, leaving speedster Evan Moore (he of the 20.1 yards per reception average last year with 26 targets for 16/322/1 receiving) as the current starter at tight end. Watson will try to practice on Wednesday September seventh, so he may be available by the time Sunday rolls around. The Browns' third exhibition game was played in Philadelphia, and Colt McCoy had a tough time with their blitzing schemes, putting up 9/18 for 89 yards, zero TDs and one interception during his time on the field. Brian Robiskie (four targets for 3/23/0) and Greg Little (four for 3/23/0) were the top wide receivers on the afternoon, while reserve TE Jordan Cameron had 1/25/0 receiving to lead the tight ends that day.

Cincinnati was 14th in the NFL last year averaging 216.8 net passing yards allowed per game. However, this week, the team will have a rookie QB, Andy Dalton, going through his first live NFL game - the time of possession in this contest is very likely to favor Cleveland due to the Bengals' growing pains on offense. When an offense struggles, the defense wears down - both the Footballguys.com staffers (who rank the Bengals 28th overall among the NFL team defenses) and David Dodds (he has them at 29th) are pessimistic about the Bengals' likely defensive performance under the teams' current circumstances. Carolina's young duo of Cam Newton (6/19 for 75 yards, zero TDs or interceptions) and Jimmy Clausen (4/7 for 35 yards, zero TDs or interceptions) didn't do much against the Bengals in week three of preseason, but that was more about the Panthers' youthful starters than it was a sudden dominance by Cincinnati.

This is a divisional grudge match, but the Bengals are on the road this week with a suspect offensive unit in addition to a so-so pass D. Advantage, Cleveland, though realize that it is likely the Browns lean on Hillis and the running game - don't expect a sudden explosion of fantasy points from Colt McCoy and then you won't be disappointed.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Drew Bledsoe has looked pretty good during the preseason. He tossed 11/18 for 113 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the preseason week 3 tune-up - he's been very poised in the pocket this year. With Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Jason Witten to shag his passes, Bledsoe should enjoy a renaissance season during 2005. Recently added Peerless Price will help as well, although how soon depends on how quickly he picks up the system.

San Diego's pass D was among the league's worst last year, coughing up 253.3 passing yards per contest (they did make things tougher in the red-zone, with 19 TDs surrendered over 16 games). Not a whole lot has changed since last year - San Diego allowed 22/32 for 309 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions to the Vikings during their game week 3 of the preseason. The Chargers remain a work in progress in this phase of the game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

San Diego is noted for it's mild climate, and this Sunday is no different. Qualcomm Stadium should have a high of 78F and a low of 62F with a 10% chance of rain. Both teams will benefit from playing in such mild conditions.

The Chargers are not strong in this phase of the game, while the Cowboys seem to be jelling. Advantage, Dallas.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tony Romo is in charge of this attack, after taking over for Drew Bledsoe during week 7 last year (Romo ended up with 220/337 for 2903 yards, 19 TDs and 13 interceptions last year, including the playoff game vs. Seattle). There are some concerns with WR Terry Glenn, who had an arthroscopic knee surgery early during training camp - he may or may not start week 1. That leaves Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton and Jason Witten as the main targets on opening day (assuming that Glenn can't go) - not a bad set of receivers to rely on, is it? Romo managed 14/22 for 197 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. Houston week 3 of the preseason before taking a seat on the bench - Jason Witten (3/47/1) and Terrell Owens (1/35/1) handled the TD passes.

The Giants were 28th in the NFL last year, averaging 228.1 passing yards allowed per game (with a healthy 21 TDs surrendered in this phase of the game). The Jets managed 13/24 for 194 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during the week 3 preseason game (the "Subway Series" of 2007). The Giants tied for 23rd in the NFL with 32 sacks - hopefully, a motivated Michael Strahan could help elevate those numbers. We'll see if Sam Madison, Gibril Wilson and company can hold down Owens, Witten and Crayton.

This looks like a good matchup from where we sit.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tony Romo comes into the season opener with two premier targets, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, but there are question marks at WR #2 and there is no depth behind Witten at TE due to injuries. We haven't seen much of rookie Dez Bryant - Bryant reportedly felt better after a full practice Tuesday, Aug. 31, in which he ran at full speed and made cuts on his right ankle (high ankle sprain). 'I thought he did some good things,' wide receivers coach Ray Sherman said. 'He went through special teams. He went through drills with me. Then he came out and ran some plays with the offense. I thought he looked very good. He's ready to go.' If Bryant is ready to play ball from a health standpoint, he still missed a lot of reps in training camp/preseason and may not be mentally prepared for the speed of the regular-season game. Roy Williams remains the likely WR #2 while Bryant gets back up to speed. In the third preseason game, running a very simplified, vanilla offense against the Texans (the Cowboys play Houston again later during regular season), Romo posted 13/18 for 146 yards, zero TDs and one interception. We still expect him to enjoy a solid game against his hated divisional rival, the Redskins.

Speaking of Washington, the Redskins have a new defensive coordinator in Jim Haslett. They did a decent job against a less-than-stellar Jets' offense in week three of the preseason, allowing 14/24 for 127 net yards, one TD and one interception. Last year, the Redskins were tied for eighth in the NFL vs. opposing pass attacks, allowing an average of 207.2 net yards per game, with 19 TDs surrendered vs. 11 interceptions and 40 sacks generated. The pass defense was adequate, but they aren't a shut-down type unit. Also, due to the acrimony with Albert Haynesworth, the teams' transition to a 3-4 front hasn't gone well, so the team's ability to deliver a strong pass rush this year is up in the air entering September.

Romo has enough weapons at his disposal to take advantage of the turmoil on the Washington unit - advantage, Dallas.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Cowboys' receiving corps is banged up entering week one - Miles Austin is battling a sore hamstring, Dez Bryant has patellar tendinitis in his knee, and it looks fairly certain that Jason Witten misses week one as he continues to recover from a spleen injury. All of this means that Tony Romo will have to rely heavily on backup tight end John Phillips (18 targets for 15/101/1 receiving during 2011) and he may well have wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (26 targets for 15/164/0 last year) in the starting lineup during week one. Fantasy owners invested in the Cowboys' passing attack will want to watch the news on Wednesday carefully before setting their fantasy lineups as any or all of Austin, Bryant, and Witten (if he's green-lighted by the doctors to try and play, which is not a sure thing) could have an injury flare up during practices or even pregame warmups. Reports from Dallas on August 31 indicated that the team is 'scouring' the waiver wire and may well pick up a veteran wide receiver to bolster depth before the Wednesday opener. Austin and Bryant reportedly fully participated in practice Sunday, September 2, an encouraging sign for them and Romo. As you can see, this situation is in flux for Romo and company (and their fantasy owners) heading into the season opener.

The Giants' pass defense ranked 29th in the NFL last year, averaging 255.1 net yards allowed per game, and they have been ravaged by injuries at cornerback already this year - projected starter Terrell Thomas has already landed on IR due to aggravating the ACL injury that cost him the entire 2011 season, while the other projected starter, Prince Amukamara, suffered a high ankle sprain during the exhibition season and he is expected to miss the opener (he's said to currently be targeting a return to action in week two). Cornerbacks Corey Webster and Justin Tryon will try to hold down the opposition until Amukamara can get back in the action. Though the secondary struggled to slow down opposing passers during regular season last year, the team did tie for sixth in the NFL with 20 interceptions and were third in the league with 48 sacks - Dallas coughed up 39 sacks during 2011 (18th in the NFL).

Romo will need to look out for the Giants' cadre of pass rushers in this one, as the Giants will need to bring pressure to compensate for the sad state of their cornerback position. This looks like a good, but not great, matchup for Romo as his line was just average at pass protection last year and he'll be working with at least one backup receiver in the hostile environs of the Meadowlands.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

NFC East divisional games are always hard-fought affairs, and the Giants/Cowboys rivalry is no exception to this general statement. This time around, the Cowboys will enjoy home field advantage, and Tony Romo comes into the contest with all his main targets healthy and ready to play - Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten are set for prime-time on Sunday Night Football. In the third preseason game, Romo tore up the Bengals for 13/18 yielding 137 yards passing, two TDs an zero interceptions, hitting both Austin (six for 4/59/1 receiving, led the team) and Bryant (seven for 6/54/1) for TD passes on the way to a 24-18 win. The Cowboys' attack is in fine form as regular season kicks off.

The Giants' pass D was ranked 28th in the NFL last year, averaging 254.2 net passing yards allowed per game, with 26 passing TDs offset by 21 interceptions (tied for third in the NFL) and 33 sacks (22nd in the league). They've lost their top safety, Stevie Brown, to IR already and S Tyler Sash is also on IR. During the third exhibition game, the Jets' rookie starter Geno Smith managed 16/30 for 199 yards passing, one TD and three interceptions vs. the Giants, and they gave up a total of 27/46 for 381 yards, two TDs and three interceptions during the game. Obviously, the Giants still have work to do in this phase of the game.

Romo has all his weapons for this divisional showdown, and the Giants' pass D isn't among the league's best. Advantage, Dallas.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tony Romo has been the healthiest he's been in a long time for the Cowboys this preseason - on August 31, Dallas quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said Romo is "light years ahead" of where he was at this point last season. With good news at quarterback, the team also solidified the receiving corps by re-signing Dez Bryant to a multi-year deal, and retains Jason Witten as the lead tight end. Veterans Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley round out a murderer's row of talent for the Cowboys in this phase of the game. Given the uncertainty at the team's running back position, it would be no surprise to see Dallas lean on Romo and his cadre of receivers in the season opener.

The Giants' pass D finished 2014 ranked 18th in the NFL averaging 240.6 net passing yards allowed per game, with 25 passing scores given up vs. 17 interceptions (11th in the NFL last year) and 47 sacks generated (fourth). However, the sacks department was degraded when Jason Pierre-Paul lost a finger due to a fireworks accident - and he's missed the entirety of preseason rehabbing the injury. Also, his contract negotiations have turned ugly as of September 8 - it is unclear if he'll be available for this contest. The Giants' defensive unit is unsettled entering this season opener.

The advantage flows to the home-team Cowboys.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Kyle Orton fought through the uncertainty that the drafting of Tim Tebow brought to Denver, and earned a new contract extension with his play. Orton is the clear starter entering regular season - Tebow (though he sells a lot of jerseys) will be holding a clip board for the foreseeable future. During preseason Orton completed 2/3rds of his passes for 379 yards, four TDs and two interceptions, including his 9/14 for 80 yards, zero TDs and one interception showing against the Steelers in week three of the preseason. Veterans Jabar Gaffney (10/143/0 during preseason), Eddie Royal (6/63/1) and Brandon Lloyd (9/84/1) are the starting trio in Denver, followed by rookies Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas (foot injury, limited in training camp/preseason).

The Jaguars' pass D ranked dead last in the NFL last year in sacks generated, with a paltry 14, and were 27th in net passing yards allowed per game (235.9), with a 26th-place finish in TDs allowed (28) vs. landing at 16th in interceptions generated (15). This is not a strong group, folks - they did limit Tampa Bay's backups to 13/27 for 149 yards, one TD and one interception during week three of the preseason, but starter Josh Freeman was out with a fractured thumb on his throwing hand.

Orton has played pretty well during preseason, and despite traveling to Jacksonville (one of the least-well-attended venues in the NFL), he has a sizable edge over the home team. Advantage, Denver. Also, given all the problems at RB the Broncos will likely need to throw the ball quite a bit in the opener.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

This is a classic AFC West rivalry that will be fought with great intensity on Monday Night Footballd during opening weekend. We can't wait for this second MNF game to cap the opening week of pro football.

Kyle Orton outplayed Tim Tebow, and then Brady Quinn did it too, so that entering regular season Orton is firmly entrenched as the Broncos' starter, while Tebow will likely hold the clipboard for most of the games this year. Over 13 games last year Orton played very well, throwing 293/498 for 3,652 yards, 20 TDs and just nine interceptions (with 22/98/0 rushing). He and Brandon Lloyd (153 targets for 77/1,448/11 receiving) found a great chemistry during 2010 and according to all reports out of training camp and preseason the two are still very much on the same page. It appears that this passing attack has explosive potential again during 2011, although Demaryius Thomas is going to be out for several weeks to start the season as he continues to rehabilitate his torn Achilles. Eddie Royal and Eric Decker are the #2 and #3 wideouts for the attack this year, and Daniel Fells arrived from St. Louis during free agency and finds himself starting for the Broncos after posting 41/391/2 receiving out of 65 targets for the Rams last year. Rookie Julius Thomas is also in the mix at tight end - he led the team in receiving during the third preseason game, posting 4/70/0 out of four chances, followed by Royal (five for 4/62/0), Decker (four for 4/45/1) and Lloyd (six for 2/32/0). Orton finished the starter's portion of the contest with 16/23 for 236 yards, one TD and one interception, and then Tebow cleaned up in relief with 6/11 for 93 yards, with zero TDs or interceptions. The Broncos' passing game is humming along nicely as of week one. Kyle Orton is projected to be a top-ten fantasy QB this week by David Dodds, going over 250 yards passing with a shot at two TDs, and Lloyd checks in at #6 on the WR projections with close to 100 yards receiving and perhaps a TD this week.

The Raiders' secondary took a massive loss when CB Nnamdi Asomugha was allowed to leave via free agency to Philadelphia. Rookie Demarcus Van Dyke has struggled to step into Asomugha's shoes during preseason and the CB position in the secondary has been shaky as a result. Drew Brees and company ripped the Raiders for 25/43 yielding 388 net yards, two TDs and zero interceptions during the third preseason game - not too good, folks. It's not a perfect measure of how tough the pass defense is, but the Footballguys.com staff considers the overall Oakland team D to be 20th in the NFL, while David Dodds slots them at 18th - nobody thinks this is a top-tier, shut-down group of defenders (New Orleans had 40 points by the end of the game on August 28th).

Denver has a capable set of players in this phase of the game, while the Raiders are struggling to make adjustments after their losses in free agency. Advantage, Denver.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Peyton Manning was a fantasy monster in his first season with the Broncos, pitching 400/583 for 4,659 yards passing, 37 TDs and just 11 interceptions. Since then, the Broncos added wide receiver Wes Welker (118/1,354/6 receiving in New England last year) to the receivers' stable, and during the 2013 preseason tight end Julius Thomas has emerged as the team's top pass-catching tight end (12/123/0 receiving during preseason). Manning has just gotten richer in terms of receiving targets. Welker rounds out a starting trio of wide receivers who all had over 1,000 yards receiving last year - Eric Decker (85/1,064/13) and Demaryius Thomas (94/1,434/10) accomplished the feat last year with Manning throwing to them. This is an intimidating array of offensive weapons for any defense to face.

The Ravens come into Denver a defensive unit in transition. MLB Ray Lewis has retired, and his replacement Jameel McClain is out for the foreseeable future with a spinal cord contusion, leaving 24-year old Josh Bynes (a 2011 undrafted free agent) and 31-year old Daryl Smith (signed to a one year deal in Baltimore after nine seasons in Jacksonville) to hold down the middle of the Baltimore D. FS Ed Reed hangs his cleats in Houston now - it's fair to say that the Ravens are rebuilding their defense this year. Last year, the Ravens were 17th in the NFL averaging 228.1 net passing yards allowed per game, but they were stingy with TDs giving up just 15. Baltimore was 19th in the NFL with 13 interceptions, and recorded 37 sacks (tied for 15th in the NFL). In most ways, the Ravens' D was mediocre at pass D last year. During the third preseason game vs. Carolina, Cam Newton was held to 10/19 for 99 yards passing, with zero TDs or interceptions and was sacked three times for -21 yards - so far the Ravens' new-look unit is holding it's own in this phase of the game.

Baltimore's D faces a stout test week one - we think that Mile High Stadium home-field advantage swings the balance in favor of Manning and company.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Peyton Manning (395/597 for 4,727 yards passing, 39 TDs and 15 interceptions thrown during 2014) retained the services of his top wide receivers over the offseason - DeMaryius Thomas (184 targets for 111/1,619/11 receiving) and Emmanuel Sanders (141 for 10/1,404/9 receiving) return at wide receiver. Julius Thomas did leave town for Jacksonville and a big payday, but hurt a finger tendon and had to have a surgical repair. Owen Daniels replaces Thomas in the starting lineup and Daniels brings 433/5,144/33 receiving over 115 games played along with him - this is a veteran group ready to rock in front of the partisans at Mile High on Sunday afternoon.

The Ravens ranked 23rd in the NFL last season, averaging 248.7 net passing yards allowed per game, with 22 passing scores given up vs 11 interceptions (tied for 25th in the NFL) and 49 sacks (tied for second in the NFL) generated. So far this year they average 218.2 net passing yards allowed per game (20th in the NFL during exhibition season) with six passing scores allowed vs. one interception generated. There just hasn't been much of an improvement so far during 2015. We'll see if the first team can elevate their play now that the coaches are game-planning for real.

Advantage, Denver. Also, the Ravens' rush D is fearsome, so the Broncos may need to throw the ball quite a bit this week in order to keep the chains moving.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Well, one thing is for sure - Lions fans are hoping that Joey Harrington doesn't get injured now that Jeff Garcia is sidelined for 8 weeks (or more). Harrington is the clear-cut starter now, and he has an impressive array of talent to throw at (Roy Williams, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams). Harrington hasn't been overwhelming during preseason (he threw 9/18 for 106 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. St. Louis on Monday Night Football), but he hasn't been awful either. Now we'll get to see how much he has progressed since 2004.

Green Bay was horrible in this department last year, allowing 33 passing scores (the most in the league) and an average of 228.9 passing yards per game (25th in the NFL). The team drafted Nick Collins in the second round this year, and he is set to start at FS for the Packers - hopefully, he'll help shore up the shaky secondary. Tom Brady tossed 14/21 for 127 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions against this group during week 3 of the preseason - it appears that the Packers might have improved in this area. Time will tell.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in Ford Field's dome, so weather won't be a factor.

Harrington has home field advantage at his back - while the Packers continue to integrate youngsters into their secondary. Advantage, Detroit.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Detroit's Matthew Stafford enters 2010 fully recovered from the shoulder and knee injuries that derailed his rookie season (10 games for 201/377 yielding 2,267 yards, 13 TDs and 20 interceptions, with 21/108/2 rushing). His offense has been vastly improved over the 2009 edition with free agents - WR Nate Burleson, TE Tony Scheffler - and a great-looking rookie RB (Jahvid Best). Calvin Johnson is fully recovered from the nagging injuries that impacted him during 2009 - in short, Stafford will enter 2010 playing with a full arsenal of weapons and also benefit from a year of NFL experience. Stafford threw for one TD in three of the four preseason games (and only attempted six passes in the final game before an early exit with zero TDs). He completed over 70% of his attempts in the first three preseason games, and had 13/17 for 141 yards, one TD and zero interceptions in the key third preseason contest against Cleveland. Stafford and company appear to be jelling nicely entering the 2010 regular season.

The Bears' pass D was so-so last year, ranking 13th in the NFL averaging 211.4 net yards allowed per game, but they coughed up 29 pass TDs (28th in the NFL) with just 13 interceptions (22nd). The team did have 35 sacks, 13th in the NFL - but this unit wasn't one of the leagues' best as you can see. Even the up-and-down Arizona Cardinals' QBs managed to hang 21/31 for 252 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions on the Bears' D during the third preseason game. It looks like stormy conditions are ahead for the Bears' pass D entering 2010.

Stafford and his crew are on the rise, while the Bears are a unit heading in the opposite direction. Advantage, Detroit, despite the partisan crowd in Soldier Field.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matthew Stafford enters 2012 with his cupboard of receiving targets fully stocked - Calvin Johnson remains the top wide receiver in pro football; Nate Burleson has reportedly looked renewed during training camp this year; Brandon Pettigrew is one of the top young tight ends in the game; and Kevin Smith will open the season as the starter at running back (he caught 66.6% of the footballs thrown his way last year with 33 targets for 22/179/3 receiving over just seven games played). No wonder Stafford posted a phenomenal 421/663 for 5,038 yards passing, 41 TDs and 16 interceptions over a full 16 games played last year - there is an embarrassment of riches in Detroit, with youngsters Titus Young and Ryan Broyles providing depth behind Johnson and Burleson. Stafford looks poised to soar over the opposition again this year with one of the most potent flying circuses in the NFL.

The Rams' pass D was not challenged a lot last year due to their horrid rush defense (which averaged 151.7 rushing yards allowed per game) - all told the Rams' pass defense ended 2011 ranked seventh in the NFL averaging 206.7 net yards allowed per game. The Rams handed over 21 passing TDs (ninth in the NFL) while generating 12 interceptions (23rd in the NFL) and 39 sacks (15th). Tony Romo sliced them up for 9/13 for 198 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions in the third preseason game (and he only played for about a half) - Romo was not sacked in his time on the field. The Rams' pass defense is sputtering as we open regular season.

Stafford and company should blow away the Rams with ease this week.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matthew Stafford threw 371/634 yielding 4,650 yards passing, 29 TDs and 19 interceptions last season - without Golden Tate, without Eric Ebron and without Ryan Broyles for most of the season (Broyles appeared in six games) - this year, he has all of the above weapons to team up with Calvin Johnson, Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Brandon Pettigrew, and Joseph Fauria. In other words, Detroits' offense is stacked with playmakers around Stafford entering 2014, friends. Broyles (three targets for 3/44/0 receiving), Tate (four for 3/36/0) and Ebron (two for 2/27/0) were three of the top four receivers vs. Jacksonville during the third exhibition game, along with Johnson (three for 2/27/0). Stafford has an embarrassment of riches in this phase of the game, friends.

The Giants' pass D was tenth in the NFL last season, averaging 223 net passing yards allowed per game, with 21 passing scores given up over 16 games. They were tied for 12th in the NFL with 17 interceptions, but ranked 25th (tie) in generating only 34 sacks last season. All three of the Jets' quarterbacks threw for TDs against the Giants in the third exhibition game, with Geno Smith posting 9/14 for 137 yards, one TD and zero interceptions thrown with zero sacks taken during the time the first team offense was on the field (the Jets' quarterbacks eventually combined to produce 22/33 for 259 yards passing, three TDs with zero interceptions, and three sacks taken for -19 yards). Things haven't looked bright for the Giants during preseason, and the third exhibition game was no exception.

Advantage, Detroit.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matthew Stafford has a very talented surrounding cast of receivers - Calvin Johnson (128 targets for 71/1,077/8 receiving over 13 games played last year) and Golden Tate (144 targets for 99/1,331/4 receiving during 2014) are the envies of many teams, and the Lions hope sophomore tight end Eric Ebron will join the cadre of elite receivers here in 2015. The coaching staff has been open about the fact that they are encouraging Stafford to go deep more often to Johnson and Tate - Tate hauled in a nice 62-yard TD pass in line with that philosophy in the third preseason game and finished the exhibitions with 169 yards receiving and two receptions for TDs. All systems look green for the Lions entering Week One.

The Chargers' pass D was fourth in the NFL last season in terms of passing yards allowed per game (214.2), but they gave up over three times as many TDs (24) as interceptions generated (seven, tied for next-to-last in the NFL). They were 29th in the NFL with 26 sacks - this is not a feared pass D, friends. This unit checked in at eighth in the NFL during exhibition season (168.8 net passing yards allowed per game), but the proof will be in the pudding now that the games count.

Advantage, Detroit despite being on the road in San Diego.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Aaron Rodgers survived the turmoil early in training camp and emerged as the new face of Green Bay's passing attack when the drama was over. He's been steady at the helm since taking over, utilizing his well-stocked cupboard of receivers very well during his game time appearances. During the 3rd exhibition game, considered the "dress rehearsal" for regular season, Rodgers threw 18/22 for 193 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. Denver. Donald Driver caught the TD (2/33/1) and Greg Jennings led the team with 4/42/0 receiving during the contest. James Jones is injured to start the year, leaving rookie Jordy Nelson as the 3rd WR while Jones heals his injured knee. Donald Lee is the starting TE and figures to get quite a few looks. The Packers appear to have moved on into the Rodgers era fairly well.

The Vikings' pass D was the opposite of their rush D last year, which means they were last in the NFL in pass yards allowed per game (264.1), while running in the middle of the NFL pack with 22 passing TDs given up (15th in the NFL). They were in the top 10 last year with 38 QB sacks (the Packers were 3rd-best at pass protection, though, with only 19 sacks allowed in 2007). Pittsburgh's starter Ben Roethlisberger suffered 2 sacks in the week 3 exhibition game (and could only connect for 10/17 for 65 yards as he dodged a lot of pass pressure). The Vikings will try and keep the heat on Rodgers this week as he starts his first Monday Night Football game as the Packers' new leader.

Rodgers has quality personnel surrounding him, and a good line defending him from the Vikings' pass rush. At home in Lambeau field, he should enjoy an advantage over his divisional rivals in the first Monday Night Football game of the year.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Aaron Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, but he felt the blow when Jordy Nelson was lost for the season - Rodgers told Fox after the injury 'He does things that you just can't teach out there... You can't replace him with one guy. It's just not possible. You just have to have everyone else lift their level of play and try and make up for the loss, if that's possible. But you don't get better losing a guy like Jordy Nelson. You just try to get back to where you were when you had him.' Randall Cobb banged up a shoulder in the third preseason game and is trying to get back for Week One despite a sprained A/C joint. The Packers have re-signed James Jones (93 targets for 59/817/3 receiving in his last season with Green Bay, back in 2013) and have youngsters Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis lined up to run routes at wide receiver, but if Cobb is also out Week One then Rodgers' performance will probably suffer significantly (if for no other reason the game plan will likely focus on the running game if Cobb is out). Stay tuned to the late-week practice and injury reports if Rodgers and/or Cobb are in consideration for your fantasy teams during Week One.

The Bears' pass D ranked 30th in the NFL last season averaging 264.4 net passig yards allowed per game, and they were next-to-last in passing scores given up. with 34 total handed over. They did much better statistically speaking during exhibitions this year, averaging 156.5 net passing yards allowed per game, with just two passing scores given up - but as we've stated before, preseason games are not game-planned by the defensive staff and always feature 'vanilla' schemes so as not to tip the defensive coordinator's hand to the others outside the organization.

This looks like a good matchup for Rodgers and company, but downgrade it to neutral if Cobb is out for Week One.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Schaub finally played a full slate of 16 games for the Texans in his third season as the starter, and he absolutely exploded now that he is fully acclimated to the team and offensive scheme. When all was said and done, Schuab was the fourth-best fantasy QB in the land with an astronomical 396/583 for 4,770 yards, 29 passing TDs and 15 interceptions. Andre Johnson claimed the top spot on the fantasy WR board, with 101/1,569 yards/9 TDs and looks poised to continue his dominance this year, too. The only concern for the team right now is at TE, where Owen Daniels is coming back from a serious knee injury that was complicated during the offseason/preseason by a cracked knee cap that set back his rehabilitation. He's had just a handful of practices entering regular season. Though he has been medically cleared to resume his football career, Daniels' conditioning may not be up to 'football shape' by this Sunday. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are dueling for the second WR job as of the first week of regular season, and Jones has looked impressive during preseason (12/131/1 receiving over three contests, vs. Walter's 3/65/0).

The Colts' pass D was in the middle of the NFL pack in most categories last season, with 212.7 net yards allowed (14th in the NFL), 19 passing TDs given up (10th in the NFL), 16 interceptions and 34 sacks generated (15th and 16th, respectively). They were blown away in their third preseason game by the Packers, allowing 59 total points and 33/47 for 337 net yards, five TDs and zero interceptions to Aaron Rodgers and company.

Schaub and company enjoy a good matchup for week one - it certainly appears a fun, high scoring game is on the horizon.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Schaub has looked great during preseason, showing no lingering ill effects from the Lisfranc injury that cut short his 2011 campaign. Schaub has thrown 29/38 (76.3 completion percentage) for 374 yards passing, two touchdowns, and one interception during the exhibition season, and looks on top of his game entering week one of regular season. The team has better depth at wide receiver this year behind starters Andre Johnson (seven games played last year with 75 targets for 33/492/2 receiving) and Kevin Walter (15 games played with 69 targets with 39/474/3 receiving) - Lestar Jean and rookie Keshawn Martin have both played well in preseason and can step into relieve Johnson or Walter if the injury bug bites. Tight end Owen Daniels has also looked good in preseason - compounded by Arian Foster's pass catching skills out of the backfield (80 targets for 53/617/2 receiving last year) Schaub is loaded for bear entering the 2012 regular season.

The Dolphins' pass defense ended 2011 ranked 25th in the NFL averaging 249.5 net yards allowed per game, with 24 passing TDs (16th in the NFL) given up vs. 16 interceptions (16th in the NFL) and 41 sacks (10th in the league) generated. During the third preseason contest vs. Atlanta, the Dolphins' secondary was porous, allowing 18/26 for 220 passing yards, one TD and zero interceptions to Matt Ryan and company (they did manage to sack Ryan twice for -16 yards). There is a lot of room for the Dolphins to improve in this phase of the game.

The Texans are a run-first offense, but Schaub should find windows to throw into when necessary against the sorry Miami pass defense.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Peyton Manning has looked like he's in mid-season form in his cameos during pre-season, tossing 14/25 for 165 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in the first team's tune-up game vs. the Saints during week 3 of pre-season. Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark have all had their moments to shine, and the team expects Brandon Stokley back at #3 WR for the opener. They are locked and loaded. The running game hasn't been scaring anyone during pre-season, so look for the Colts to lean on Manning's arm more this year than last - he's fine with that role.

The Giants were the 27th ranked pass defense last year, giving up 224 passing yards per game, with 20 passing scores allowed (20th in the NFL). They did generate 41 sacks last year (tied for 9th in the NFL), but it is difficult to bring pressure onto Peyton Manning (the Colts allowed the fewest sacks in the NFL again last year, with only 20 allowed). CB Sam Madison and S Will Demps were brought in to address the problems in the secondary, and they both figure to start in the new-look secondary. They held the Jets' starter Chad Pennington to 11/20 for 125 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception in the week 3 pre-season game - it appears things are heading in the right direction for this unit.

Manning, Harrison, Wayne, and Clark are enough to give any defense fits - the Giants have to prove they have improved on the field, but the Colts won't be an easy first hurdle to clear. Advantage, Indianapolis.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Peyton Manning has missed all of training camp due to surgery to remove an infected bursa sac from his left knee, but the team appears confident he's ready to go for week 1. They released both of their candidates for #3 QB, Jared Lorenzen and Quinn Gray, leaving only Jim Sorgi on the roster as backup QB. Manning expects to play, and stated on August 30th: "I'd be surprised if I wasn't out there starting (next) Sunday night." Marvin Harrison has been back in the mix during preseason while Manning recuperated (he posted 1/5/0 receiving vs. Buffalo in week 3 of preseason), and Reggie Wayne remains the #1 WR (1/11/0 vs. Buffalo). As long as Manning's knee is back to health, the passing attack looks restored to full strength entering 2008.

The Bear's battered secondary didn't do well last year, ranking 27th in the NFL averaging 232.3 pass yards allowed per game, with 19 passing TDs allowed (tied for 8th in the NFL). They were 6th in the league with 41 sacks, though - a concern for the Colts this week as their offensive line is depleted due to injury. C Jeff Saturday (right knee injury) is out for several weeks at least, and LG Ryan Lilja (offseason knee surgery) hasn't participated in a practice yet this year. With Manning coming off knee problems of his own, look for the Bears to try and bring pass rush pressure to bear. However, Chicago wasn't very effective defensing the pass vs. San Francisco during week 3 of the preseason, giving up 19/32 for 265 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions to the 49ers' less-than-impressive stable of QBs.

Manning and company form one of the leagues' best passing attacks, but health issues and lack of practice time leave some question marks entering week 1. Fortunately for Colts' fans, the Bears have plenty of question marks of their own - advantage, Indianapolis.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Peyton Manning has been a top-ten fantasy QB every single year he's played in the NFL. Manning has a string of four 4,000+ yards passing seasons going currently (he threw for 393/571 for 4,500 yards, 33 TDs and 16 interceptions last year), and has surpassed 4,000 yards passing in all but two of his 12 NFL campaigns. Reggie Wayne has finished in the top six at his position over three of the past four years; Dallas Clark has been in the top five at his position for three straight seasons. There is also youthful talent on the squad in up-and-comers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, and Joseph Addai is one of the finest dual-threat backs in the NFL today (51/336/3 receiving last season). You can't stop the Colts' offense, you can only try to slow them down. Just ask Green Bay, who gave up 15/26 for 214 yards, two TDs and one interception to Manning in week three of the preseason. Start your Colts with confidence, people.

The Texans were 18th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 217.9 net passing yards per game, with 19 TDs given up (10th in the NFL) vs. 14 interceptions generated (20th). The team was 25th in the NFL with 30 sacks last year - this is a pretty mediocre bunch of pass defenders, friends. Dallas didn't try very hard in their week three preseason matchup and still posted 24/34 for 226 net yards, one TD and one interception.

Even though Manning and company will be in the hostile confines of Reliant Stadium, they are outstanding enough to exploit the suspect Texans in the first of their two matchups this year. Advantage, Indianapolis.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Andrew Luck showed a lot of tenacity and improvisational skills during preseason as he worked to overcome mediocre pass blocking up front - Luck finished preseason with 40/64 (62.5 completion percentage) for 514 yards passing, three touchdowns and two interceptions to his credit, and also created one rushing score with 4/18/1 rushing. The Colts created a lot of points during preseason while Luck was on the field, and he found a variety of his receivers in each contest - week three at Washington, it was T.Y. Hilton's turn to score (4/54/1 receiving that night). Entering regular season, it appears that veterans Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie (coming off a concussion) are set as the starters, with Donnie Avery, LaVon Brazil, and Hilton all in a scrum for the third wide receiver slot on the team. Rookie tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen will be the guys in for two-TE sets, with Fleener apparently in the lead to be the starting tight end. This is a very young team, but Luck has made a lot of good things happen against vanilla preseason defenses. Now, we'll see how he does against a first team defense that has been a game-schemed to thwart Luck.

The defense in question is the Bears' unit - they ranked 28th in the NFL last season averaging 254.1 net passing yards allowed per game, with 22 passing scores allowed (13th in the NFL) vs. 20 interceptions (tied for sixth in the NFL) and 33 sacks (19th) generated. During the third preseason game, Eli Manning and the Giants had a fairly easy time passing on the Bears, with 17/21 for 148 yards, one TD and zero interceptions posted by Manning. The Bears are picking up 2012 where they left off 2011 - and that's a bad thing.

Luck has been dynamic so far during his tenure as the Colts' new franchise QB - the Bears are soft enough that we consider this a good matchup for the rookie, even though it'll be his first 'full speed' NFL game.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

David Garrard waited patiently for his chance to start in the NFL, and now it is here. Last year, in relief of Byron Leftwich, Garrard tossed 145/241 for 1735 yards, 10 TDs and 9 interceptions with 47/250/0 rushing to his credit over 11 appearances. Given his tendencies last year, it looks like Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones may benefit from the roster move, while Dennis Northcutt remains a wild card (having joined the team just this year). As of midweek, we think Wilford and Northcutt are the starters, with Jones at #3. Wilford is our top pick among Jacksonville receivers, at #51 on the WR board during week 1. That means we think you should look elsewhere for your starting WRs as of week 1 in a typical 12 team league, at least for this week while we get a handle on who Garrard is going to lean on this year.

Tennessee was the 27th ranked pass D last year (allowing an average of 225.1 yards per game, with 24 passing TDs given up), and they are going without CB Adam Jones this year - this isn't a pretty picture. Buffalo lit them up for 20/37 for 305 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during preseason action week 3 - it doesn't look like the Titans' D has moved in the right direction in this phase of the game.

Advantage, Jacksonville.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Blaine Gabbert has improved during the 2012 preseason, pitching 36/59 (a 61.0 completion percentage) for 355 yards and three touchdowns through four preseason games - he has stood in the pocket better so far this year and delivered the ball with improved accuracy. New wide receiver Justin Blackmon has posted 10 receptions for 136 yards during preseason, and is providing Gabbert with the #1 wide receiver that Gabbert so desperately needed during his disappointing rookie campaign in Jacksonville. Marcedes Lewis starts at tight end (though he hasn't lived up to the expectations his breakout 2010 season generated, Lewis posted 85 targets for 39/460/0 receiving during Gabbert's dismal rookie season - there is hope that Lewis can do better with an improved Gabbert under center this year. Once Maurice Jones-Drew is up to speed in the offense, he'll be another valuable target for Gabbert, but we don't expect to see much of Jones-Drew in the season opener a he plays catchup after a fruitless 38-day holdout.

The Vikings' pass D was ranked 26th in the NFL at the end of last season, averaging 251.2 net yards allowed per game. They handed over a league-worst 34 passing TDs during 2011, with just eight interceptions generated (tied for last in the NFL). The Vikings can put on pass pressure - they had 50 sacks last year, tying the Eagles for first in the NFL - but their secondary breaks down all too often. The Chargers held Philip Rivers out of the third preseason game in Minnesota - the Vikings only gave up 13/30 for 124 net yards passing to the Chargers' backups (with six sacks for -39 yards to Minnesota's credit).

Gabbert has improved, and the Vikings' pass defense is pretty suspect - this looks like a good matchup for the young Jaguars, even though they visit the noisy Mall of America Field this week.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Blaine Gabbert missed the final half of preseason games due to a hairline fracture in his throwing-arm thumb, but was named the starter despite his injury - as of September 2, he was doing light throwing but still had discomfort in the hand: "It's uncomfortable but at the same time, it's just something you can't worry about," Gabbert said. "It's about pain tolerance and having confidence in your throws." If Gabbert can't go on Sunday, backup Chad Henne will step in - neither guy is a top-shelf NFL starter. Another issue that the Jaguars will contend with is that their most productive receiver of the preseason, starter Justin Blackmon, is suspended for the first four games of the season, leaving a thin group led by Cecil Shorts III (55/979/7 receiving last year) - rookies Ace Sanders and Mike Brown are the nest two wide receivers on the depth chart with Blackmon out. Marcedes Lewis is a better blocker than receiver at this point in his career, though his backup at tight end Allen Reisner has shown some potential during preseason. The bottom line here is that Jacksonville has sub-par potential starting quarterbacks and a very young and inexperienced receiving corps.

The Chiefs' pass D managed five sacks of the Steelers' signal callers during the third preseason game, but they still handed over 21/36 for 252 net passing yards, two TDs and zero interceptions during the OT contest. Their rush D was so soft last year that teams didn't throw for much yardage against KC (220.8 net yards per game on average), but the opposition easily scored on KC in this phase of the game with 29 passing scores given up vs. a mere seven interceptions (tied for last in the league) and just 27 sacks (tied for 29th) generated last year. The Chiefs' D is not intimidating, folks.

The Jaguars have a limited passing attack, but this is a good opportunity for whichever quarterback gets the nod on Sunday.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Chad Henne has been very modest (as usual) during preseason, managing the game for the Jaguars while they work on grooming Blake Bortles to step in at some point in the future. Henne posted a workmanlike 9/14 for 70 yards passing, zero TDs and zero interceptions, with two sacks taken for -18 yards at Detroit during the third preseason game - he's working with the likes of lone veteran Cecil Shorts III (two targets for zero catches at Detroit) and three rookies on his wide receiver depth chart. Marqise Lee (8/94/2 receiving during the preseason) is his other starter, while Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns are the primary backups this year. With such a young group of receivers, growing pains are a certainty.

The Eagles were ranked dead last in the NFL last year allowing a whopping 290 net passing yards per game, with 25 passing scores given out over 16 games. They did generate 19 interceptions (tied for eighth in the NFL) and had 37 sacks (20th in the league). Ben Roethlisberger threw 15/24 for 157 yards, one TD and one interception at Philadelphia during the third preseason game, with two sacks taken for -11 yards. All told, the Eagles allowed 23/35 for 251 yards, three TDs and one interception to the Steelers during that contest.

Henne has a modest attack at his fingertips, but against the very suspect Eagles' secondary he has a good matchup this week - just don't expect miracles from this very youthful unit and then you won't be disappointed.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Chiefs expect Trent Green to start as usual, which is good news for owners of the Chiefs' primary receivers. Green has been excellent over the past few seasons, with 369/556 for 4589 yards, 27 TDs and 17 interceptions to his credit last year. Tony Gonzalez (102/1258/7 during 2004)and Eddie Kennison (62/1086/8) figure to be his top targets again this year.

The Jets were mediocre in this phase of the game last year, coughing up 207 passing yards per game (14th in the NFL) while surrendering 21 passing TDs during the season. The Giants (sans Eli Manning, sidelined by an elbow injury), managed 16/29 for 169 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception during the week 3 preseason game. It looks like Ty Law and company are clamping down on the pass this year.

Trent Green had a "minor" surgery to improve circulation in his leg last week. The Chiefs have downplayed his surgery and he is expected to play on Sunday, but any time a player is operated on, we'll caution his owners to check the latest injury report possible before starting the player. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Arrowhead Stadium calls for a high of 87F and a low of 64F with a 0% chance of precipitation. You couldn't ask for better weather on opening day.

The Jets are an improving pass D, but the Chiefs are an outstanding offense and they have home-field advantage.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Brodie Croyle was given every opportunity to win the starting job in Kansas City, and Damon Huard helped Croyle's odds with a chronically sore right calf - but Croyle just couldn't close the deal. So, Huard is the starter for the season opener and it looks like the job is his to lose. Eddie Kennison and Tony Gonzalez are his top receiving targets entering the season, with #2 WR Samie Parker looking to make his mark in his 4th NFL season. Huard didn't play during week 3 of preseason, due to his injury. Last year, he passed for 148/244 for 1878 yards, 11 TDs and only 1 interception in relief of the injured Trent Green.

The Texans were in the bottom third of the NFL last year, allowing an average of 215.3 passing yards and 22 passing scores over 16 games. They didn't put much pressure on opposing passers, either, with only 28 sacks (27th in the NFL). We'll see if the recent trade for S Michael Boulware will help shore up a weak unit - Dunta Robinson is an outstanding CB, but he's only one guy.

This looks like a good matchup for Huard and company, despite the hostile stadium.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Cassel (262/450 for 3,116 yards passing, 27 TDs and seven interceptions during 2010, 14th fantasy QB in the land) got beat up in the final preseason game, and will have to play through tender (cracked) ribs in the season opener. He'll also do without his top tight end for the rest of the year as Tony Moeaki blew out an ACL in his knee during the meaningless fourth exhibition game. However, the loss of Moeaki will likely mean more passes to top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, lead back Jamaal Charles, and number two wideout Jerheme Urban. There is still a decent talent level surrounding Cassel if he can power through his pain and deliver the football to his receivers. Journeyman Leonard Pope will step in as the starting tight end for the Chiefs as of week one. If Cassel can't play, Tyler Palko would likely step in to hold Cassel's place in week one, but the early word on Cassel is that he'll try to go. Cassel practiced Monday, September fifth, and declared himself ready after the session. 'I'm good,' Cassel said. 'I'm ready to roll.' Head coach Todd Haley was more guarded. 'I won't talk about any of those things,' Haley said. 'I'm assuming. He was out there at practice. He was moving around. I thought he did a good job.'

The Buffalo pass D didn't get tested a lot during 2010 because of their league-worst rush D that averaged 169.6 rushing yards allowed per game. Though Buffalo's opponents had less than 200 yards passing from week to week on average (the team was third in the NFL with 192 net passing yards allowed on average through regular season), the Bills still surrendered a hefty 28 passing TDs and generated just 11 interceptions (tied for 28th in the NFL) and a mere 27 sacks (tied for 27th). The defensive front didn't generate much pass pressure, and the secondary didn't break on many passes last year, friends. This is not an elite unit despite the deceptively low net passing yards allowed per game last year - the suspect Bill's defense is the consensus 29th-ranked team defense by Footballguys.com's staff, and they check in at 28th on David Dodd's individual team defense rankings.

The Chiefs enjoy home field advantage and a weak opposing defense this week - it should be a good week to have Chiefs' players on your fantasy squad, even though the extreme weakness of the Bills rush D may slant the game plan more towards running the football than passing it. David Dodds ranks Dwayne Bowe as the second-best fantasy WR entering week one of the preseason (as of Tuesday), with an expectation of at least one receiving TD and well over 70 yards receiving vs. Buffalo.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Alex Smith begins his time as the Chiefs' starter at Jacksonville on Sunday - he'll be handing off the football to Jamaal Charles a lot this year (and throwing to Charles a good bit, too), which means that we probably won't see many spectacular days from Smith as a passer. Of course, we haven't come to expect Aaron Rodgers-like numbers from Smith who is a solid, steady veteran but one who plays within his (somewhat limited) skill set. For week one, Footballguys.com's David Dodds ranks Smith as the 20th fantasy quarterback in the league, projecting 22/34 for 226 yards, 1.4 TDs and 0.9 interceptions thrown. Veterans Dwayne Bowe (59/801/3 receiving last year), Donnie Avery (60/781/3 last season with Indianapolis), and Anthony Fasano (41/332/5 during 2012 with Miami) will handle the bulk of Smith's throws when he isn't targeting or handing off to Charles.

Jacksonville's pass D was 22nd in the NFL last year averaging 239.5 net passing yards allowed per game, with 21 pass TDs given up vs. 12 interceptions and 20 sacks generated (tied for 20th and dead last in the NFL, respectively). During the third preseason game vs. Philadelphia, Jacksonville allowed 25/34 for 280 net yards passing, one TD and one interception to Michael Vick and Nick Foles.

The Jaguars' D doesn't scare folks at this level, so look for Smith to do some good things throwing the football when he is asked to on Sunday.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Alex Smith has looked very good in preseason, showing a nice chemistry with new #1 wide receiver Jeremy Maclin (7/65/1 in the third preseason game vs. Tennessee, for example) as well as a continuing rapport with tight end Travis Kelce (87 targets for 67/862/5 receiving last year in 11 starts and 16 appearances with the Chiefs) and all-world soft-handed running back Jamaal Charles (59 targets for 40/291/5 receiving last season for K.C.). The Chiefs' offense looks stronger than past years entering 2015.

The Texans' secondary averaged 243.1 net passing yards allowed during 2014, with 28 TDs given up vs. 20 interceptions generated (and 38 sacks - ranked third and 19th in the NFL last season, respectively). They had nine sacks during preseason and averaged 176.2 net passing yards allowed in the exhibitions - not a strong indicator for regular season, but improvement is always nice to see. We'll find out if the apparent progress was for real in the home opener on Sunday.

This looks like a good matchup for the Chiefs' passing attack, despite being on the road in thunderous NRG Stadium.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Chad Pennington was resurgent last year after relocating to Miami (321/476 for 3653 yards, 19 TDs and only 7 interceptions, with 30/62/1 rushing), and enjoys decent pass protection to boot - the Dolphins held their opponents to 29 sacks last year (10th-best in the league). Pennington also has a respectable receiving corps headlined by WR Ted Ginn Jr. (56/790/2 last year) and TE Anthony Fasano (34/454/7 during 2008). At WR #2 there is something of a mystery going on as Davone Bess is listed as the guy there but Greg Camarillo has been taking a lot of snaps in that position with the first team in the week leading up to regular season. It looks like the team intends to use Bess and Camarillo situationally and rotate them freely throughout each game. All four players caught one pass in the third preseason game - Camarillo's led the group with 1/52/0 on his grab. Pennington has an adequate stable of receivers to work with entering regular season, although the loss of TE David Martin this week hurts depth at the TE position.

Atlanta averaged 220.4 passing yards allowed per game last year (21st in the NFL), with 20 passing TDs given up. They generated only 10 interceptions (27th in the league) and 34 sacks (11th ranking). Overall, the defense surrendered an average of 20.3 points per game (11th-best in the NFL). The team is in flux in the secondary entering regular season - their draft picks CB Chris Owens and S William More have both struggled with injuries during preseason, leaving Chris Houston and Brent Grimes as the starting CBs with Erik Coleman and Thomas DeCoud as the starting S's. During the third preseason game (the tune-up to regular season), Philip Rivers and company torched the Falcons for 21/32 yielding 320 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions - there is a lot of work to be done by the Atlanta squad.

Pennington isn't flashy, but he's got a good matchup to work with this week, despite the hostile stadium.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ryan Tannehill has shown veteran poise and decision making during preseason, and looks very simpatico with his cadre of receivers entering regular season. He is projected to be the 11th-best fantasy quarterback in the land with 22/24 for 257 yards passing, 1.7 TDs and 0.8 interceptions thrown at Washington, according to Footballguys.com's David Dodds. Jarvis Landry (112 targets for 84/758/5 receiving last year from Tannehill) figures to be the featured receiver opening day, with Kenny Stills (late of New Orleans) and Greg Jennings (imported from Minnesota) as solid supporting cast. We may also get a glimpse of rookie DeVante Parker (on September 7 offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said it is unclear how many snaps he will play, but Parker will be involved to some extent). And remember, ex-Brown Jordan Cameron is lurking at tight end to handle short-and-middle range passes from Tannehill. This offense is loaded for Bear entering Week One.

The Washington pass D was not good last year - 24th in the NFL averaging 249.4 net passing yards per game, and dead last in the league with 35 TD passes surrendered vs. a mere seven interceptions generated (tied for next-to-last in the NFL). They are reshuffling the secondary due to cornerback Bashaud Breeland's suspension (one game) and a MCL injury that will keep him out for a few weeks in any case. The Washington offense is also in a turmoil, which may result in the defense being out on the field for a majority of the game.

Advantage, Miami.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Brad Johnson has played very well during pre-season, despite the loss of his presumed #1 WR Koren Robinson (cut by the team after a DUI arrest while on probation for a similar offense in Washington). Troy Williamson and Travis Taylor are the starters at WR now, and Jermaine Wiggins is a very skilled pass-catching tight end. Johnson finished the preseason with a 75.6 completion %, 34/45 for 333 yards, two TD's and no interceptions. Williamson was productive in the week 3 pre-season game, grabbing 3/43/0, and led the team in receiving during a brief week 4 appearance (1/40/0).

The Redskins' pass defense ranked 10th last season allowing an average of 192.6 passing yards per game, and were 5th in the league with only 15 passing scores allowed. Their pass rush lagged at 20th (35 sacks), but veteran DE Andre Carter was brought in to help in that department. However, during the week 3 exhibition game, Tom Brady shredded their secondary tossing 17/30 for 231 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in a partial game. Not too good, folks - the Redskins have some work to do before Monday.

The Vikings' QB is in a groove coming into the regular season, while the Redskins are reeling - Advantage, Vikings.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tarvaris Jackson has been unexciting during the preseason contests. He tossed 8/11 for 83 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions passing during week 1 (2/25/0 rushing). 2/4 for 12 yards passing, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during week 2 (0 rushing). 9/18 for 117 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during week 3 (1/0/0 rushing). 1/5 for 13 yards passing, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during week 4 (0 rushing). 0 TDs during the course of 4 preseason appearances doesn't exactly set fantasy owners' hearts to racing. It looks like Bobby Wade and Troy Williamson are set to start for the Vikes at WR, while Visanthe Shiancoe is set to start at TE, but given the lack of production during the preseason it is hard to get excited about any of the above mentioned players.

Atlanta was very porous vs. the pass last year (they ranked 29th in the league, averaging 229.3 yards allowed per game to opposing signal callers) and gave up 20 pass TDs during the course of the season. With 20/33 for 213 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception allowed to the Bengals during the "test-drive" game week 3 of the preseason, it looks like the Falcons' secondary is a worry again this year. DeAngelo Hall was embarrassed by Chad Johnson during the Cincy contest (5/83/1 receiving for Johnson) - it looks like Mike Zimmer hasn't moved the secondary in a positive direction entering 2007.

This is a good matchup for Jackson and the Vikings, but don't get too excited about Minnesota's prospects. Jackson has a lot to prove entering week 1, 2007.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Cassel (153/254 for 1,807 yards passing, 11 TDs and nine interceptions thrown over eight games last year) is the starting quarterback here in Week One - he's simpatico with Greg Jennings (106 targets for 68/804/4 receiving last season), and has a rising star in Cordarrelle Patterson (77 targets for 45/469/4 receiving last season) at wide receivers, with a solid Kyle Rudolph (46 for 30/313/3) at tight end to target, while All-World Adrian Peterson (40 for 29/171/1) is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield as well. All figure to benefit from playing in a Norv Turner offense this year - though Cassel is keeping the seat warm for rookie Teddy Bridgewater, there may be some decent games left to Cassel before the switch is made.

This week, Cassel and company face the blitzing, sacking St. Louis pass D that posted 53 sacks during 2013 (third in the NFL) - expect Cassel to feel the heat in this game, folks. The Rams averaged 242 net passing yards allowed per game last season (19th in the NFL) and had 21 TDs surrendered balanced by 14 interceptions generated (tied for 20th in the NFL). Despite the ferocious defensive front, St. Louis' pass D has room to improve, and they are going without starting CB Trumaine Johnson due to a sprained MCL suffered August 24.

Cassel and company will have to get the ball out quickly to avoid taking a bunch of sacks, but he should be able to do some good things against the suspect St. Louis secondary.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tom Brady remains at the top of his game - regardless of who is on the receiving end of the passes, he just cranks out production week after week. During the week 3 preseason game vs. Carolina, Brady tossed 17/22 for 167 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions - without Randy Moss in the lineup. In fact, Moss has been sidelined due to a hamstring complaint throughout training camp. On September 3rd, Moss commented on the regular season opener: "I guess nobody is telling you anything, so I'll just hold it a question mark too. My thing is that I want to play. Will I play? I don't know. We'll just leave it at that." If Moss can't play, Donte' Stallworth and Wes Welker would be the go to guys on the 9th vs. the Jets.

During week 3 of the preseason, the Jets had a hard time handling Eli Manning and the Giants starters (Manning posted 17/25 for 146 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in his time on the field). Last year, the Jets were 14th in the NFL allowing an average of 201.4 yards per game, with 19 passing TDs allowed. They tied for 15th in the league with 35 sacks to their credit - this unit is pretty mediocre.

Brady finds ways to deliver the ball no matter who is on the field - the Jets are only middle-of-the-road vs. the pass. This looks like a good matchup for the Patriots, despite the Jets' home field advantage.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Patriots' QBs got pancaked quite a bit last year, as the team gave up 48 sacks to opposing teams (fifth-most in the NFL) - of course, Tom Brady wasn't under center. Brady looked fantastic in the first preseason game as he returned to action after his knee reconstruction, throwing 2 TDs and generally wowing most viewers. He connected on 4/8 for 57 yards in the second preseason game and took some shots without getting injured. However, Brady injured his right shoulder during the preseason week 3 contest, and didn't return to play after his shoulder was driven into the turf. He's said to be on course to play during week 1, but Brady owners will want to keep an eye on the practice reports as the week goes by. Another key piece of the offense is hurting - Wes Welker has been missing practices and preseason games due to an undisclosed injury. The word out of New England is that he should be ready for the season opener, but this is definitely a situation to keep your eye on if you invested in this passing attack. The Brady/Randy Moss connection looks alive and well - the two blasted Washington for 2 TD passes in the third preseason game (6/90/2 for Moss), and the team seems to have settled on ex-Jet Chris Baker as their preferred TE.

The Bill's pass D was 13th in the NFL last season, averaging 204.4 yards given up per game, with 14 passing scores handed over (the team allowed an average of 21.4 points per game last year). However, they were 27th in the NFL with just 10 interceptions and 28th in the league with 24 sacks generated. The defense needs to make more big plays, obviously. During the third preseason game, the pass D kept Ben Roethlisberger and company out of the end zone (25/31 for 278 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions), but they still lost the game 17-0.

The Patriots have an incredible passing attack and face a mediocre defense at home - advantage, New England.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

This is a fierce divisional rivalry that is always hard-fought regardless of the individual team's record - it should be an exciting opening day for the Dolphins and Patriots (and their fans).

Tom Brady took apart Tampa Bay in the second preseason game, tossing 11/19 for 118 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions during his time one the field. Wes Welker saw eight targets during the game and hauled in 5/56/0, while Aaron Hernandez and Chad Ochocinco caught the TD passes. The Patriots looked like they were in mid-season form. But then came the buzz-saw known as Detroit. The Lions sacked Brady and company twice, with seven hits on the quarterback, and swarmed him in the offensive backfield constantly. Brady still managed to throw for a score (12/22 for 145 yards, one TD and one interception), but New England lost to Detroit 10-34 that day. The beating was bad enough that Brady started and played in the final preseason game (5/9 for 116 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions). As of the start of regular season, Brady, Welker, and Hernandez are on the same page, but Chad Ochocinco is still struggling to learn the Patriots' system, and Rob Gronkowski has missed a lot of reps due to a nagging ankle issue. The Patriots have room for improvement here this year even though Brady threw for 36 TDs and just four interceptions during 2010. It's a new season, folks.

Miami's pass D was eighth in the NFL last year, averaging 209.2 net yards allowed per game, with 22 TDs handed over vs. only 11 interceptions (tied for 29th) and 39 sacks generated (tied for 10th in the NFL). There were strong points and weak points for this unit, as you can see. This preseason, Tampa Bay posted 21/42 for 267 net yards, one TD and zero interceptions against the Dolphins during the third exhibition game. The unit hasn't been playing top-ten type pass D during preseason - we'll see if they get back to what works for them during week one.

Brady is an elite QB that is facing a so-so defensive unit, but also realize that the Patriots are on the road to Miami this week. On balance, this looks like a good matchup for the visiting Patriots.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tom Brady has had issues with a leaky offensive line during preseason, and has taken several bruising hits on sacks due to the issues. During the third preseason game at Tampa Bay, Brady fired off 13/20 for 127 yards, one TD and one interception, but was also sacked twice for -19 yards. Brady commented on the sacks allowed by the offensive line on August 27, saying 'When the offensive line's expecting me to get the ball out quick and I hold on to the ball and I get sacked, then people may blame the offensive line, but really it's the quarterback's fault... From a quarterback standpoint, we've got plenty of time to throw the ball and find the right guy. We have to do a better job of doing our job, which is getting the ball out when we need to get it out, get it to the open receiver and let our guys do something with it.' The Patriots are going with a thin set of receivers for week one - Wesley Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman, newly-arrived ex-Ram Greg Salas, and Matt Slater round out the five wideouts currently on the roster - Welker and Lloyd figure to be the most-targeted players among that group this year. Of course, the knockout 1-2 punches of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez at tight end will be a featured part of the passing attack this year. We'll see how much improvement Brady shows in week one now that the full playbook and an actual gameplan will be involved in the Patriots' practices/game.

The Titans' pass defense was in the middle of the NFL pack last year, averaging 226.8 net yards allowed per game (14th in the NFL), with 21 passing scores given up vs. 11 interceptions (24th in the NFL) and 28 sacks (31st) generated. The Titans held Arizona's starter John Skelton to 4/10 for 41 yards, zero TDs and one interception during the third preseason game this year - so far, so good for the Titans' defense.

Brady and company have yet to shine this year, but they'll try to win this week - against the so-so Tennessee pass defense this looks like a nice matchup for Brady and company.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Now that the Patriots' offseason and preseason of tribulation is past, we'll see how the reconstituted passing attack will function when the games count. Unfortunately, it appears that Rob Gronkowski will miss the first few games of the season - he just started practicing in pads again as of September 1, and was said to be going about half-speed during that padded practice. It would be a shock to see him on the field. With Wes Welker now hanging his cleats in Denver, Danny Woodhead in San Diego, and Aaron Hernandez jailed awaiting a trial for first-degree murder, the Patriots will field Zach Sudfeld as their starting tight end, with Danny Amendola and the unpoven Kenbrell Thompkins the #1 and #2 wide receivers. Third-year running back Shane Vereen figures to also handle a lot of flares from Brady in the Woodhead mode - he posted 8/149/1 receiving last year in a part-time role for the Patriots. It will be interesting to see how productive Tom Brady can be with such a new cast of receivers - he didn't have too much trouble in the third preseason game, tossing 16/24 for 185 yards passing, with zero TDs and one interception, but he didn't look as dominant at Detroit against their first-team D as he had earlier in the preseason. The New England passing attack is definitely in transition entering the first game of regular season.

Buffalo's pass D was so-so last year, ranking 10th in the NFL averaging 217.1 net passing yards allowed per game, but they coughed up a healthy 25 passing TDs to their opponents, with just 12 interceptions generated (tied for 20th in the NFL). The Bills were 18th in the NFL with 36 sacks to their credit. Rex Grossman (Washington's third-string quarterback) led the Redskins to 11/21 for 171 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions during part of the third preseason game, highlighting the shaky nature of the Bills' pass D. The Bills also lost their top cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, for six-to-eight weeks in the third preseason game due to a broken wrist, further hampering their secondary.

Brady has a lot of new faces around him, but against the suspect Buffalo pass D he's got a good chance to start off 2013 on a high note.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The NFL schedule makers set up a barn-burner for the special Thursday night opener, rematching the Saints and the Vikings (who met in the NFC Championship last year and took it to overtime). Drew Brees is picking up 2010 right were he left off 2009, with outstanding success as a passer. He threw for 32/50 yielding 331 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions in three preseason appearances, including an 18/27 for 240 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions showing vs. the Chargers in the third preseason game. He has four outstanding receivers in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, and Robert Meachem, and two solid tight ends in Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas (and the team added a third solid TE in Jimmy Graham via the draft) - also, both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas are excellent receivers out of the backfield. This offense is loaded for bear, folks.

The Vikings' pass D ended 2009 ranked 19th in the NFL allowing an average of 218.4 net yards per game, with 26 passing TDs given up (23rd) and only 11 interceptions generated (26th). Though they led the league in sacks with 48, the pass pressure up front didn't result in a lot of success in the secondary/back end of the defense. Drew Brees tore this group up in January, with 17/31 for 197 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown in the 31-28 OT victory that led to the Saints' Super Bowl berth. During the preseason week three game vs. Seattle, the Seahawks posted 21/43 for 242 net yards, zero TDs and one interception.

This is a good matchup for Brees and company.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Drew Brees looks ready to rock in regular season after four exhibition games (32/47 (68.1 completion percentage) for 357 yards passing , three touchdowns, and zero interceptions thrown. He's had a chance to get comfortable with Jimmy Graham again (six targets for 3/48/1 receiving) after Graham got over a sore back that bothered him early in training camp. Though the team's draftees didn't work out this year (Nick Toon and Chris Givens both landed on IR due to preseason injuries), Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and Lance Moore all return to help power the Saints' attack again his year. Brees should be vying for a top-five finish among fantasy quarterbacks again this year, and it all begins vs Washington on Sunday.

The Redskins' pass D was mediocre during 2011, ranking 12th in the league averaging 222.1 net passing yards allowed per game, and they gave up 22 passing scores (13th in the NFL) vs. 13 interceptions (22nd in the NFL) and 41 sacks (tied for 10th) generated. Andrew Luck put up 14/23 for 151 yards, one TD and zero interceptions at Washington in the third preseason game - they are still a so-so pass defense entering regular season 2012.

Brees is in mid-season form, while the Redskins are middle of the road in this phase of the game - advantage, New Orleans.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Drew Brees tuned up for the Falcons at Houston in the third week of preseason, throwing 4/6 for 104 yards, one TD and zero interceptions during a brief appearance. It only took him four passes to amass 104 yards, friends, including a nice 51-yard TD reception by Pierre Thomas. As Brees said after the game: "It's always nice when you can throw a pass three yards and it turns into a touchdown.". Marques Colston nursed a foot injury (plantar fasciitis) through training camp but is expected to practice and play as usual in week one. While Colston sat out of training camp, Kenny Stills and Nick Toon got to show what they could do for the team, trading off big games from week to week during the exhibitions. Both Stills and Toon are available for three receiver sets going into regular season, while Colston and Lance Moore remain the starters at the top of the depth chart. Jimmy Graham is healthy and ready to go again this year - in short, Brees is loaded for bear in this passing attack.

The Falcons travel to New Orleans sporting a pass D that averaged 242.4 net passing yards allowed per game (23rd in the NFL) - but they only allowed a stingy 14 passing scores vs. 20 interceptions generated (tied for fifth in the NFL in interceptions). Atlanta had only 29 sacks last year (28th in the NFL) but are using Kroy Biermann as a hybrid DE/OLB in an attempt to generate more pass pressure during 2013. Biermann posted seven tackles (five solo), two sacks, two tackles for a loss and two quarterback hits in the third preseason game at Tennessee, showing that the plan to increase pass pressure is working so far. However, even with the pressure starter Jake Locker threw 11/13 for 133 yards, one TD and zero interceptions during a partial game - the Falcons are not dominant in this phase of the game entering regular season.

Brees is an elite talent on an outstanding attack, while the Falcons are so-so at defending against the pass. The home-team Saints have the edge in this matchup.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Giants' passing attack has been missing several players throughout the preseason (Plaxico Burress started practicing again on August 25th after a long absence), and Jeremy Shockey is long gone. We'll see how Eli Manning and company respond now that the games count - in the week 3 preseason tune up, Manning tossed 10/17 for 133 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions against the Jets - backups Domenik Hixon (3/51/0) and Mario Manningham (3/41/0) led the team that night while Burress sat out and fellow starter Amani Toomer grabbed 1/13/0. As things stand before week 1, Hixon backs up Burress and Manningham is behind Sinorice Moss (who backs up Steve Smith, who backs up Toomer). Manning was the 19th ranked fantasy QB in points per game last season - we'll see if he moves up or down that chart starting on Thursday. One item to watch is the pass protection - the Giants were horrid vs. the Jets, allowing 8 sacks during the contest, a situation that needs to be corrected in a hurry.

Washington's pass D was in the mid range of the NFL last year, amassing 33 sacks and averaging 214 passing yards allowed per game (16th). They handed over 20 passing TDs (tied for 11th in the league). S Laron Landry has missed a lot of time in training camp due to a hamstring injury, but the team is hopeful he'll be able to go in week 1. Without Landry, the team gave up 11/19 for 159 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception to Panthers' starter Jake Delhomme in a part-time appearance during week 3 of the preseason - the Redskins' defense looks very vulnerable right now.

The Giants and the Redskins are both battling through injury/personnel issues entering regular season - with the home field at their back on Thursday night, we thing the Giants have a slight edge in this contest.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

To open the season we get to watch the Giants and the Redskins renew their traditional NFC East rivalry - this is always an entertaining and hard-fought game. Enjoy!

Eli Manning enters 2011 with an adjusted roster of receivers to work with - Steve Smith is now an Eagle and Kevin Boss is a Raider - but the key receivers from last year Hakeem Nicks (79/1,052/11) and Mario Manningham (60/944/9) are still the #1 and #2 wideouts entering 2011. The new starting tight end Travis Beckum played in all 16 games last season with 13/116/2 receiving as Boss's understudy, so the Giants have a veteran of their system stepping into the starting lineup (as opposed to a free agent import). In fact, across the starting lineup from Manning to Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants return players already steeped in their system (which could be a significant advantage in the lockout-shortened environment of the 2011 season). We'll see if Manning can cut down on the bad decisions with his passes this season as his comfort level with all his targets should be good (Manning threw 25 interceptions last year en route to his seventh-place finish as a fantasy QB, with 339/539 for 4,002 passing yards, 31 TDs in addition to the picks). The results from the third exhibition game against the Jets are worrisome in this regard, though, as Manning tossed two interceptions and zero TDs in the contest (15/30 for 200 yards for a 50% completion rate). He's not one of our favorite fantasy QBs for week one, appearing at 17th on our midweek QB rankings.

The Redskins ended up 2010 with the league's 31st-ranked pass D - the team averaged 261.7 net yards allowed per game, with 23 TDs allowed vs. 14 interceptions (tied for 19th) and 29 sacks (tied for 25th) generated. Joe Flacco and company lit up the Redskins for 28/45 yielding 314 net yards, three TDs and one interception in the third exhibition game. Though it isn't specific to the strength of the Redskins' pass D in particular, both the Footballguys.com staff and David Dodds rank Washington's overall team defense as 27th in the NFL on the eve of regular season.

The Redskins' weak rush D will likely slant the Giants' game-plan towards rushing the football, and Manning still has turnover issues to conquer. When the Giants do decide to throw the football, Manning should enjoy some success, but don't expect a 300-yard performance in the season opener and then you won't be disappointed.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Eli Manning (379/601 for 4,410 yards passing, 30 TDs and 14 interceptions thrown last season) has fine talent surrounding him entering the second year of offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system in Odell Beckham Jr. (130 targets for 91/1,305/12 receiving last year), Rueben Randle (127 for 71/927/3) and Larry Donnell (93 for 63/623/6) - however, there are health issues plaguing Victor Cruz (calf injury just after he finished rehabbing a knee surgery), a player the Giants hoped would come back during 2015, so the depth for Manning is not quite as good as it might have been entering Week One. However, given that the team is now comfortable with the offensive system that generated 4,410 yards passing last year, things look rosy for Eli Manning and crew entering 2015.

The Cowboys are down a key defensive end (Greg Hardy) and their starting middle linebacker (Rolando McClain) to open the 2015 season. Dallas was 26th in the NFL last year averaging 251.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with 22 TDs given out vs. 18 interceptions (seventh in the NFL) and 28 sacks (28th) generated - this is not a top defensive unit. They averaged just 112 passing yards allowed per game during preseason, yes, but rarely do preseason numbers hold up to the onslaught of number one offenses once the games start to count.

This looks like a good matchup for Manning and company despite being on the road on Sunday Night Football.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Jets are hoping and praying that Chad Pennington's shoulder will hold up under the strain of a complete game. With Laveranues Coles and Justin McCariens to run routes, the Jets would appear to be set in the passing game - but we've only seen Pennington throw 3 passes for 27 yards during preseason.

Kansas City was dismally bad in this phase of the game last year, allowing a league-worst 262.7 passing yards per game with 32 passing scores allowed (tied for second-worst in the NFL). The retooled secondary features ex-Dolphin Patrick Surtain (a hard-hitting CB) -- they allowed a 36 yard TD to Darrell Jackson during the week 3 game of pre-season, with a total of 30/45 for 358 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions given away to Matt Hasselbeck (22/33 for 254 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions) and Seneca Wallace. Regardless of Surtain's addition, this group looks pretty suspect as of the week 1 regular season matchups.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Arrowhead Stadium calls for a high of 87F and a low of 64F with a 0% chance of precipitation. You couldn't ask for better weather on opening day.

Pennington and the Jets field a better unit than the Kansas City secondary does. Advantage, Jets.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Chad Pennington and his repaired shoulder are back atop the depth chart in New York. We'll see how long his arm holds out this year, but Pennington's fantasy owners should definitely have a plan B for his slot should trouble arise. Justin McCareins had a rough training camp with the new head coach, and is a shaky #2 on the depth chart, being pushed by Jerricho Cotchery, and #1 WR Laveranues Coles has been the subject of trade speculation in recent days, which arose after Coles called new head coach Eric Mangini's training camp "brutal" and stated "Mentally and physically, I'm just a little tired right now. It is what it is. You deal with it, day-in, day-out." Clearly, the teams' personnel are struggling to adjust to the new program coming into regular season.

The Titans were middle-of-the-road defending the pass last year in yards allowed, averaging 201 passing yards per contest. However, they were down-right lousy in the red-zone, giving up a league worst 33 passing scores to their competitors. Veteran CB Samari Rolle left in free agency, leaving a corps of youngsters in the secondary headlined by the troubled Pacman Jones. It's a rebuilding unit.

The Jets have an opportunity to make good things happen against this group, if they can pull together as an offense...

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Jets have stretched the field by bringing in Brett Favre to captain their offense. With the presumptive first-ballot Hall of Famer under center, Jerricho Cotchery has been explosive during preseason (he grabbed 1/30/0 in a part-time appearance vs. the Giants during week 3) and has shown good rapport with Favre so far. Dustin Keller saw 3/43/0 from Favre in the 3rd exhibition contest and looks like a favorite target entering week 1. Laveranues Coles, who was close to Chad Pennington, hasn't worked with Favre in a game yet and we're just not sure how the chemistry between Coles and Favre stands as of week 1.

The Dolphins were 4th among NFL pass defenses last year in yards allowed per game (188.7), but ranked 28th in passing TDs given up (with 28 handed over). They were also among the weakest teams in pass rushing, with only 30 sacks to their credit during 2007. In short, this wasn't a very good unit last year. A lot of changes have been made by the new coaching staff, and against the sputtering Brodie Croyle and company the secondary did just fine, limiting KC to 16/33 for 99 yards, 0 TDs and 3 interceptions (with 5 sacks to their credit). However, good against the awful Chiefs is one thing - good against the rest of the league is another thing entirely. However, pitching a shutout in Arrowhead was a good way to warm up for the regular season, without a doubt.

Favre will bring a much sterner test to the Dolphins' revamped defense than Croyle did - we think the Jets hold an edge in this week 1 matchup.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

This game should be a fun contest to watch as Jets' head coach Rex Ryan grapples with his brother Rob Ryan's defensive scheme for Dallas (and vice versa). You know that both teams will be pumped up for this opener with the added spice of a brotherly spat going on.

The Jets brought in Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason to help bolster Santonio Holmes at wide receiver this year - but the results for starting QB Mark Sanchez have been mixed at best. Sanchez completed eight of his 16 pass attempts for 64 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions on Monday, August 29th, against the New York Giants. Over seven possessions, Sanchez led the first-team offense to five punts, he lost a fumble, and the team scored on a 17-yard pass to WR Santonio Holmes. Clearly, Sanchez needs to complete more than 50% of his passes if the Jets are going to build on his 2010 season (278/507 for 3,291 passing yards, 17 TDs and 13 interceptions), but the chemistry between Sanchez and his new receivers needs to develop rapidly (for example, Burress was targeted four times vs. his old team but had zero receptions vs. the Giants). There is a lot of work to be done on this part of the Jets' offense, folks.

The Cowboy's pass D was ranked 26th in the NFL at the end of 2010, averaging 243.2 net passing yards allowed per game. They were tied for dead last with the Texans while allowing 33 passing TDs last season. Dallas did generate 20 interceptions and had 36 sacks, so they had good pressure up front and in the secondary, but they allowed way too many passing scores. This season, Rob Ryan was brought in to retool the unit in the wake of Wade Phillips' departure at the 2010 mid-season. If the results from the third preseason game in Minnesota are any indication (the Vikings threw down 19/33 for 267 net yards, one TD and one interception during the game, with starter Donovan McNabb throwing 12/18 for 164 yards, one TD and one interception with the first team), the Dallas D has a long way to go yet this year, folks. Though it isn't a perfect measuring stick for the pass D, the overall Dallas team defense is considered middle-of-the-pack by both the Footballguys.com staff consensus ranking (13th) and by David Dodds (he slots them at 14th) - but the pass D is definitely the weak link for Dallas entering week one.

Two struggling units that are working through issues with their personnel meet in this contest - at home in the New Meadowlands we give the Jets a slight edge, but Sanchez is still projected to be well out of the top 12 starters this week despite the relatively easy matchup he draws in week one.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Geno Smith outplayed Michael Vick during preseason and sealed his starting job in the third preseason game with a steady showing - Smith completed 9/14 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for 17 yards as well. Smith reportedly looked comfortable in the pocket, made consistently good decisions, and overall he led the offense with a good rhythm and moved the chains efficiently. Smith is still working with his timing/chemistry with Eric Decker (five targets for 3/34/1 - Decker caught his TD from Vick), but was dialed in with rookie tight end Jace Amaro (four targets for 4/37/1 receiving), hitting the rookie in the back corner of the endzone for a nice 1-yard TD pass. David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley are the other wide receivers that will be on the field a good bit in Week One.

The Raiders' offense will labor with a rookie under center for his first real-live NFL game, so Oakland's defense is likely to be on the field a good bit in this game. Last year, they allowed an average of 256 net yards passing per game, ranking 28th in the NFL, with a whopping 33 pass TDs surrendered. Meanwhile, Oakland had an anemic nine interceptions (next-to-last in the league) and 38 sacks (tied for 18th in the NFL). Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers torched the Raiders for 9/20 yielding 139 yards and two TDs with zero interceptions in the third exhibition game this preseason.

The Raiders are doomed to watching their rookie quarterback get baptised by fire in New York's MetLife Stadium this week, so this looks like a good matchup for the Jets' offense in general and their passing attack in particular.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Aaron Brooks has come along as the pre-season has passed by, and now looks pretty comfortable running the Raider passing game. He put up 9/15 for 187 yards and 2 TDs with 0 interceptions against the Lions (3/102/2 to Randy Moss) and has found Ron Curry (his new #2 in the wake of the Gabriel trade to New England and Jerry Porter's demotion to #3) once (1/7/0 week 3 of pre-season) - as is usual, Brooks put in a mere cameo week 4, with 2/3 for 17 yards before taking a seat on the bench. The best news for Brooks and Moss owners is that they seem to have a good working relationship heading into regular season.

The Chargers were weak at defending the pass last season, giving up 224.9 yards per game (28th in the NFL) and 20 passing scores (17th in the league). They were tied for 5th with 46 sacks, though, so the D is doing some things right. The team hopes first round draft pick CB Antoine Cromartie can help out/push starters Quentin Jammer and Drayton Florence. The team surrendered only 14/31 for 122 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception to the Seahawks during the third pre-season game (and held starter Matt Hasselbeck to 9/17 for 61 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception) which is a hopeful sign.

This should be a good matchup for Brooks and company.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Coach Lane Kiffin refuses to name a starter at QB until right before game time on Sunday, but Adam Schefter of the NFL Network was reporting Wednesday that Kiffin will call out Josh McCown as the starter. Others feel Daunte Culpepper will start. Either guy should be good for around 200 yards, a TD and an interception in his debut - we'll see how Jerry Porter, Ron Curry and Zach Miller mesh with the starter come game time.

Indy posted a mere 19/48/0 rushing vs. this unit during week 3 of the preseason, but the Colts tossed 39/50 for 360 yards, 5 TDs and 0 interceptions in that contest - Joe Barry is having some troubles installing his Cover-2 scheme during preseason. The Lions had only 30 sacks a year ago (25th in the NFL) and ranked 25th vs. the pass (with an average of 220 passing yards allowed per game; they gave up 22 passing scores last season). It looks like the Lions have a lot of room for improvement entering 2007.

This is a good matchup for the Raiders, but given the lack of continuity at QB this year it is hard to get very excited about their chances week 1.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Raiders allowed 39 sacks last year as JaMarcus Russell got on-the-job training (he played in 15 games after only four starts in his rookie season, throwing 198/368 for 2423 yards, 13 TDs and 8 interceptions). The team brought in burner Darius Heyward-Bey to give Russell a deep threat and Louis Murphy out of Florida has developed nicely in his rookie training camp, too - these two figure to start until Chaz Schilens, who is very simpatico with Russell, gets back into the lineup in week two or three after his broken fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot heals. Javon Walker has been a non-factor to date, with a surprise knee surgery that kept him out of most of the preseason, although he is reportedly catching up to the field rapidly entering regular season.

The Chargers were 31st in the NFL with an average of 247.4 passing yards allowed per game, and they gave up 25 pass TDs last year. Overall, the Chargers were 15th in the NFL allowing 21.7 points per game last year. The defense generated 15 interceptions (t-11th) and 28 sacks last year (in the absence of Shawne Merriman). They promoted Ron Rivera to take Ted Cottrell's place when Cottrell was fired last October - Rivera is expected to vary the defense's looks between 3-4 and 4-3 fronts as he has extensive experience calling either defense and with the return of Shawne Merriman the flexibility to do so. Unfortunately, Merriman was involved in a domestic altercation over the Labor Day weekend and we have yet to see what the fall-out from that situation will be - no charges have been filed so far.

JaMarcus Russell is part of a very young offense, but they have a bottom-tier pass D in front of them this week - it's a good matchup for Russell to face in the first game of the season, at home in the Coliseum.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jason Campbell has been acclimating himself to his new team and team mates this preseason, while leading the Raiders to two wins over the three games in which he appeared. He compiled 23/41 for 312 yards, zero TDs and one interception during his time on the field, and had 4/14/1 rushing as well. The wide receiver corps is in flux entering 2010, with Chaz Schilens undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery late in the preseason, and Darrius Heyward-Bey nursing a mysterious ailment (conjectured to be a sore hamstring) during the final weeks. Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy figure to be the starters in week one, with super-solid tight end Zach Miller also heavily in the mix.

The Titans' pass D was awful during 2009, with an average of 258.7 net yards allowed per game (31st in the league), and 31 passing TDs allowed (30th). They did force turnovers (20 interceptions for eighth in the league) and they tied for 11th in sacks with 37, but teams scored enough to offset the big plays on defense. Carolina threw for 269 yards and zero TDs with zero interceptions vs. Tennessee in week three of preseason, and the Steve-Smith-less Panthers don't scare anybody as a passing attack.

Campbell and company have a good matchup to work with this week.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Donovan McNabb and estranged receiver Terrell Owens put on quite a show during week 3 of the pre-season (McNabb threw for 14/23 for 256 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions ; Owens caught 5/131/1) vs. Cincinnati. They may not go to dinner after the game, but they looked impressive in their appearance together. Coach Reid, at least for now, seems to have diffused this situation. That's a good thing for Eagles fans, as the rest of the WR stable is undistinguished. Greg Lewis, the starter across from Owens, has all of 23/278/0 to his credit during his 2-year career.

Atlanta sported a sub-par pass D last year, giving away an average of 220.4 passing yards per game (22nd in the NFL) and a total of 19 passing scores. Not much has changed for this group since last year. They allowed 20/40 for 287 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception to the Jaguars during the week 3 preseason tune up. The squad plays the pass in a bend-but-don't break mode.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The weather inside the Georgia Dome is expected to be perfect. No weather concerns during this matchup, folks.

McNabb and Owens should have a lot of fun playing pitch-and-catch vs. the Falcons mediocre pass D. Advantage, Philadelphia.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Donovan McNabb has looked outstanding during preseason, overcoming the loss of Kevin Curtis by adjusting to the available receivers (he threw for 13/17 for 180 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions against the Patriots in week 3 of the preseason). DeSean Jackson is living up to advance billing and provides a nice complimentary weapon to Reggie Brown, L.J. Smith and Hank Baskett (nominally the #2 WR in week 1). After finishing as the 11th best fantasy QB in points per game last season, McNabb may challenge for top-5 status this season if all continues to go well.

The Rams field one of the weaker pass D's in the land, averaging 225.8 net passing yards allowed per game (21st in the NFL); which handed out 25 passing scores last year (tied for 22nd in the NFL). They generated 31 sacks last year, towards the bottom of the NFL range from 22-53. In week 3 of the preseason, the Rams handed over 18/37 for 152 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to a rookie, Joe Flacco, in his first-ever NFL game (they did sack him twice).

At home in Lincoln Financial Field, McNabb should enjoy a solid outing against the suspect Rams.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Donovan McNabb will start out the season without needing to break his rhythm, as Mike Vick can't play until week three. With L.J. Smith now in Baltimore, he'll rely on Brent Celek at TE, and throw to DeSean Jackson (62/912/2 receiving last year, with 17/96/1 rushing) and Kevin Curtis (33/390/2 in just 9 games last year due to a sports hernia) as the starting WR tandem. Of course, Brian Westbrook is always in the mix as a receiver out of the back-field. McNabb looked great last year with 34/571 for 3916 yards, 23 TDs and 11 interceptions during the season. He's thrown the ball well during preseason, with 21/36 for 244 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against the Jaguars in week three of the preseason. As usual, he spreads the passes out to multiple different players on a week-to-week basis. The Eagles were in the top 10 in pass blocking last year, allowing just 23 sacks of McNabb over 16 games.

The Panthers were 16th in the NFL last year averaging 211.7 passing yards given away per game, with 12 interceptions (21st) and 37 sacks (9th) generated. Carolina was 12th in the NFL last year averaging 20.6 points allowed per game. During the preseason week 3 contest vs. Baltimore, the team handed over 421 yards of offense to the Ravens and CB Chris Gamble in particular struggled to cover opposing receivers (Joe Flacco and company punished the Panthers for 31/39 yielding 303 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception in the third preseason game). The situation is not yet desperate for Carolina, but they need to make improvements quickly. New DC Ron Meeks is facing a lot of issues as he installs his own system in Carolina.

McNabb and company bring a solid group of receivers to bear on Carolina - Carolina's DBs look suspect as far as we can tell at this early stage of the season. Advantage, Philly.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Kevin Kolb hasn't looked good during preseason, with just one game over 55% in completion percentage and a total of 28/53 for 324 yards, zero TDs and one interception to his credit as the new starting QB. He's working with a talented but young cadre of starting wide receivers in DeSean Jackson (63/1,167/9 receiving last year) and Jeremy Maclin (55/764/4), and Kolb has a top-ten tight end to lean on in Brent Celek (76/971/8). Though the Eagles' starting receivers are solid across the board, Kolb needs to get better at hitting those players, something he hasn't done with regularity during preseason this year (though he did look pretty solid in limited work during 2009, with 62/96 for 741 yards, four TDs and three interceptions).

The Packers' pass D was solid in most departments last year, with an average of 201.1 net yards allowed per game (fifth in the NFL), and they generated 30 interceptions and 37 sacks (first and 11th in the NFL, respectively). However, the Packers did give up 29 TDs (28th in the NFL) as teams were forced to try and catch up to the fast-scoring Packer offense through the air last year. The Packers allowed 15/26 for 214 yards, two TDs and one interception to Peyton Manning on August 26th, and handed over 21/37 for 308 net yards, two TDs and two interceptions all told during the third preseason game.

Kolb hasn't wowed us during the preseason, but we like his chances against a defense that may be vulnerable to giving up TDs again.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Eagles re-signed Michael Vick to a six-year, $100 million deal with $40 million in guaranteed money - for better or worse, Philadelphia is Vick's team now. We think it'll start off for the better, as Vick is our number one fantasy QB on the early midweek rankings for week one. The team expects the usual starting lineup of receivers, DeSean Jackson (95 targets for 47/1,056/6 receiving last season) and Jeremy Maclin (113 for 70/964/10) for the season opener. Maclin stated on Tuesday, August 30th 'I feel fine. I feel ready.' The team and Maclin's doctors are confident that his illness/symptoms will not return. Brent Celek (79 targets for 42/511/4) and LeSean McCoy (90 for 78/592/2) are also prominent receivers in this attack, and they are good to go as well. All systems appear to be on go for the Eagles as of week one.

QB Vince Young underwent an MRI on his injured hamstring (pulled in the preseason finale) on September second and it revealed a strain. He was considered day-to-day at that point in time and should be ready to hold the clip-board for Vick in the Edward Jones Dome by Sunday.

The Rams' pass D was in the bottom half of the NFL last year with an average of 223.6 net yards allowed per game (19th in the NFL), while allowing 21 TDs vs. 14 interceptions (tied for 19th in the NFL) and 43 sacks (seventh in the league) generated. The team lost key safety Oshiomogho Atogwe to Washington in the offseason, and then replaced him with Quintin Mikell (formerly of Philadelphia). During the third 'tune up' game in the preseason, St. Louis held starter Matt Cassel to 6/13 for 59 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions, but eventually gave up 21/39 for 251 net yards, one TD and zero interceptions on the day. This isn't a shut-down type pass defense as of week one regular season, folks.

Vick has struggled under pressure at points during preseason, but now that the games count and the Eagles are game-planning for St. Louis, we expect to see his game improve. In a dome environment against a so-so pass D, this looks like a good matchup for Vick and company.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Michael Vick sat out of the third preseason game against these same Browns due to sore ribs - he's since returned to practices and will wear a longer, more protective kevlar 'flak jacket' to preserve his tender midsection when these teams meet for the game that counts towards post-season. Nick Foles (12/19 for 146 yards passing, two TDs and one interception) had no problems slicing up the Browns' vanilla preseason defense in Vicks' stead two weeks ago. Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek all return as the starters surrounding Vick again this year - as long as Vick's sore ribs have healed up well he'll spread the ball around to each of them and also star running back LeSean McCoy on Sunday.

The Browns were pretty stout, statistically speaking, against opposing defenders last year - they ranked second in the NFL in net passing yards allowed per game, with 184.9 given up on average, and only gave away 16 passing scores last year. However, they generated a mere nine interceptions and just 32 sacks (tied for 28th and 23rd in the NFL respectively). John Norton, Footballguys.com's defensive players expert notes: 'The Browns sported the league's number two pass defense last season, but it was a mirage caused by their thirtieth ranked run defense. Opponents simply didn't have to pass as much. Cleveland is not without talent in the secondary and should be very respectable against the pass, but I see them finishing in the middle of the pack this year.' As we saw in the first game vs. Philadelphia, the Browns' secondary looks less impressive starting out 2012.

Vick and company are very explosive, while the Browns' unit is just so-so entering this year - advantage, Philadelphia. Realize that the rushing matchup is very favorable for the Eagles, though - Vick may not need to pass much this week, a cautionary note for fantasy owners invested in the Eagles' passing attack.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Eagles bring new head coach Chip Kelly's uptempo attack to bear on their divisional rivals Washington in week one - Michael Vick beat Nick Foles out and is the starter for this contest. Vick posted 15/23 for 184 yards passing, one TD and one interception thrown in the third preseason game, giving us an extended glimpse of his potential in this new scheme. He'll do without Jeremy Maclin this season (lost to IR during preseason), leaving DeSean Jackson as the clear-cut #1 wide receiver for 2013. Across from Jackson will be some mix of the in-disgrace Riley Cooper, veteran Jason Avant, and Damaris Johnson. Brent Celek (57/684/1 receiving last year) will handle the starting tight end duties, and also led the Eagles in receiving during the third preseason tilt with seven targets for 4/54/0 receiving.

The Redskins' pass D ranked 30th in the NFL in terms of yards allowed per game last year (281.9), and they gave up a hefty 31 passing TDS (tied for second-most allowed last year behind Philadelphia's 33 given up). Undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel was forced into action during the third preseason game after Kevin Kolb was concussed early on, so it was no surprise to see the Bills' passing game falter (12/21 for 63 net yards, zero TDs or interceptions). We'll see how improved this unit really is as they get tested by the Eagles' fast-paced attack on Monday Night Football.

This looks like a good matchup for Vick despite being on the road at FedEx Field.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger hasn't been very good during preseason. His passes have been off target (high, most of the time) and his mechanics look sloppy. Now that Hines Ward has his new contract, one source of distraction has been taken out of the equation. However, it's up to Roethlisberger to deliver a catchable ball to Ward, Randel-El and company. We'll see if Roethlisberger can settle down and do that this week.

Tennessee's defense was gutted by salary cap constraints and enters 2005 youthful and inexperienced. Pacman Jones starts at one corner, and there is little in the way of depth behind him and Andre Woolfolk (or behind the starting S's Lamont Thompson and Tank Williams). Tim Rattay of the 49ers managed 13/25 for 132 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions against this group - and nobody mistakes Brandon Lloyd for Hines Ward.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Heinz Field is forecast to have a 0% chance for rain, a high of 80F and a low of 65F on Sunday -- practically perfect football weather, in our opinion.

Pittsburgh has struggled this summer but we feel they have the advantage over a reeling Tennessee defense.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger has apparently shaken off his nightmare off season from 2006 - he hasn't looked lost during games during preseason - but his exhibition season was mixed. He tossed 13/25 for 247 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception during the week 3 preseason game vs. Philly, but was fairly unimpressive during the earlier games. We think he'll do well once the "vanilla" preseason scheme is history - our experts project Roethlisberger and company to rack up anywhere from 3519 yards, 24 TDs and 20 interceptions (Maurile Tremblay) to 3650 yards, 23 TDs and 17 interceptions (Jason Wood). Hines Ward enters regular season coming off a nose surgery (to repair his broken nose), so there is some concern about the #1 WR this week, but coach Tomlin seems sure that Ward will play "Hines is Hines. I wouldn't count Hines out," Tomlin said on August 28th. WR Santonio Holmes enters 2007 with high expectations at his back: we expect him to burst through the 1,000 yards receiving barrier and to score 7 TDs this season.

Cleveland ran in the middle of the NFL pack last season averaging 202.6 passing yards allowed per game (15th in the NFL) with 20 passing TDs given up. They were tied with the Texans at 27th in the league notching only 28 sacks all year during 2006. Denver tossed 18/31 for 193 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions during the week 3 preseason contest - not stellar, but not too shabby, either. The Browns did throw down 3 sacks during the game.

It looks like Pittsburgh has the upper hand here - this is a good matchup for Roethlisberger and company.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger was the 5th-best fantasy QB in points per game last year, posting 265/405 for 3158 yards, 32 TDs and 11 interceptions (with 35/204/2 rushing as well). His top targets - Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller - all return for another season with the Steelers. Pittsburgh looks poised to continue their strong presence in this phase of the game during 2008. Against the Vikings' squad during week 3 of the preseason, however, Roethlisberger threw for a mere 10/17 for 65 yards, with 0 TDs and 0 interceptions. His OL leaked pass rushers like a sieve and Roethlisberger took 2 sacks during the game (with several other pressures). Hopefully, the team will be able to improve the pass blocking by Sunday. They weren't very good last year, with 47 sacks allowed - there is a weakness here for opposing teams to exploit.

The Texans amassed only 31 sacks last year (among the bottom 10 units in the NFL), but they hope that DE Mario Williams will help elevate those numbers in his second NFL campaign. The team added ex-Panther Stanley McClover to the DL mix after cut-down day to add depth at the position. The Texans were 24th in the NFL last year in passing yards allowed per game (230.1) and coughed up 25 pass TDs (tied for 22nd in the NFL). Against the Cowboys during the 3rd preseason game, Tony Romo and Brad Johnson combined for 24/32 for 273 net yards, 1 TD and 1 interception - the Texans still have a long way to go in this phase of the game.

Roethlisberger and company have a good matchup to exploit this week in the home opener.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger missed four games last year due to suspension and he still threw for more than 3,000 yards, with 240/389 for 3,200 yards, 17 TDs and just five interceptions over 12 games (he added 33/176/2 rushing to his totals as well). Mike Wallace emerged as the new #1 wideout in Pittsburgh last year on the strength of his 60/1,257/10 performance (ninth-best fantasy WR in the PPR paradigm), and he's back in the cat-bird seat for Pittsburgh entering 2011. Antonio Brown made a statement vs. Atlanta in week three of the preseason, snagging 4/137/2 receiving from Roethlisberger, while Hines Ward posted 3/29/0 on the day (Wallace had just one reception for six yards). Emmanuel Sanders and newly-acquired Jerricho Cotchery are also in the mix for the Steelers, as is steady TE Heath Miller. The Pittsburgh passing attack is stacked with a deep array of talent at the wide receiver position entering 2011.

The Ravens and the Steelers have one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL entering the 2011 regular season. Pittsburgh has ended Baltimore's playoff aspirations during two of the last three seasons. Players from both sides of the fence have been taking jabs at one another throughout the off- and preseason, adding even more drama than usual to this AFC North battle.

Baltimore's pass D ended 2010 ranked 21st among all NFL teams averaging 224.9 net yards allowed per game. They coughed up 22 passing TDs while generating 19 interceptions (tied for eighth in the NFL) and 27 sacks (tied for 27th in the NFL). Though they are a consensus top-ten team defense according to Footballguys' expert rankings, there is no question that the weakness of Baltimore's unit is in the passing phase of the game. They need to generate more pass rush pressure to complement the secondary's ball-hawking, attacking mentality. Washington's QBs were able to move the ball fairly well at M and T Bank Stadium during the third preseason game, with 18/33 for 238 net yards, two TDs and two interceptions to their credit. There is still a long ways for the Ravens' pass D to go before they can be numbered among the league's elite units.

Roethlisberger has a wealth of talented receivers and he's looked outstanding during preseason - meanwhile, the Ravens allowed 31 points to lowly Washington in the preseason 'dress rehearsal' for week one. On balance, this looks like an inviting matchup for Roethlisberger and company despite the hostile crowd awaiting them in Baltimore. Also, given the Ravens' stout rush D, Roethlisberger and company are likely to keep the ball in the air a good bit during week one, increasing opportunities for fantasy production. Roethlisberger is among David Dodds' projected top-ten fantasy QBs for week one due to the favorable combination of talent and opportunity in play for Pittsburgh's passing attack this week.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger rehabbed a number of injuries over the offseason, including a partial tear of the labrum in his throwing-arm shoulder. During preseason the injury hasn't seemed to bother him much - Roethlisberger threw 7/8 for 49 yards passing at Philadelphia to open preseason, and posted 5/9 for 81 yards, one TD and one interception vs. Indianapolis Sunday, August 19. Roethlisberger tossed 17/24 for 169 yards and one TD in the third preseason game at Buffalo. Roethlisberger did all that without last year's #1 wide receiver, Mike Wallace, who finally reported to the team on August 28 after missing all practice sessions, OTAs, coaching sessions and training camp (while new offensive coordinator Todd Haley's offense was installed). Wallace returned to full-team practice and ran some plays with the starters for the first time on Monday, September 3. Antonio Brown reported for all team functions, got a fat contract extension, and is now the Steelers' lead wideout. As usual, Heath Miller is the lead tight end for this team. With the running back corps already thinned due to injury issues, the offense will flow through Roethlisberger's arm more often than not.

The Broncos' pass D was in the middle of the NFL pack when it came to average net yards allowed (ranking 18th while giving up 231.5 net yards per game) - they gave up way more passing TDs (24, 16th in the NFL) than they generated interceptions (9, tied for second-least in the league last year), but the team did have a respectable 41 sacks (tied for 10th in the NFL). Pittsburgh tied for 23rd in the NFL with 42 sacks allowed last year - Roethlisberger is likely to feel some heat while under the deafening cheers of the Denver faithful on Sunday Night Football this week.

Roethlisberger wants to avenge the 29-23 wild-card round playoff loss to Denver last year this week - he's got a good shot at moving the football on the so-so Denver pass D.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Steelers installed an actual game plan for the third exhibition vs. Kansas City, and Ben Roethlisberger played well in the tune-up, with 13/19 for 166 yards, one TD and zero interceptions thrown (two sacks taken for -18 yards). Antonio Brown led the team in receiving with 3/61/0 out of four targets during the game, while Emmanuel Sanders struggled to produce with four targets but only 1/24/0 receiving to show for it. Entering regular season, the Steelers are down Le'Veon Bell (mid-foot sprain) and will ask former third-stringer Isaac Redman to handle the ball carrying duties until Bell is back - the strength of the team while Bell is out is centered in Roethlisberger and the passing attack. Until starting tight end Heath Miller is ready to play, David Paulson will start at tight end (he saw three targets for 2/10/0 vs. K.C.).

The Titans' pass D was ranked 26th in the NFL last year averaging 247.8 net yards allowed per game, and they coughed up the second-most passing scores with 31 surrendered, vs. 19 interceptions (seventh in the NFL) and 39 sacks (tied for ninth in the NFL) generated. The Titans' pass D plays for turnovers and sacks, but can be stung when their attacking style fails to rattle opposing passers. Matt Ryan got rattled at Tennessee in the third preseason game, taking five sacks for -34 yards, and Ryan could only manage 17/24 for 138 yards passing, zero TDs or interceptions during the 16-27 loss. So far, the Titans' pass D looks improved over last year's unit.

Roethlisberger has home field advantage at his back and a set of respectable weapons to deploy vs. Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Titans bring in an improving unit that lurked at the bottom of the league in pass D last season. On balance, we give Roethlisberger and company a slight edge in this matchup.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Drew Brees surprised us all last year with 262/400 for 3159 yards, 27 TDs and 7 interceptions passing. This year, he'll have the benefit of spending a training camp with Keenan McCardell, and Eric Parker/Reche Caldwell as his #2A and #2B receivers. Brees and McCardell hooked up for a score during the preseason week 3 game vs. Minnesota, and it looks like that's only the beginning for the Chargers. Oh yeah, after this week a guy named Antonio Gates gets into the mix...

Dallas was unexpectedly porous last year in this phase of the game, giving up an average of 220.1 passing yards per game (21st in the NFL) along with a total of 31 passing scores over the 16 game slate. However, the Texans found the going rough against their instate rivals during week 3 of the pre-season, managing a mere 15/37 for 145 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions during the game. If the Cowboys can continue to play at that level, they will be greatly improved during 2005.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

San Diego is noted for it's great weather, and this Sunday is no different. Qualcomm Stadium should have a high of 78F and a low of 62F with a 10% chance of rain. Both teams will benefit from playing in such mild conditions.

Brees has plenty of talent at the WR position, and he proved his quality as a starting QB last year. The Cowboys were not good last year, and need to prove themselves before we count them among the league's upper echelon. Advantage, San Diego.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Philip Rivers was stupendous during 2010, posting 357/541 for 4,710 passing yards, 30 TDs and 13 interceptions (he finished the year as the fourth-ranked fantasy QB in the land). Rivers has been consistently strong during training camp and preseason, and he posted 18/28 for 198 yards, two TDs and one interception in the third preseason 'tune up' game at Arizona. One of the biggest concerns about the Chargers' passing attack, the health of tight end Antonio Gates' injured feet, hasn't been fully alleviated during training camp, however. Gates missed a lot of practices and played sparingly during the preseason, but he did participate in the third preseason game and converted four targets into 2/18/1 receiving, reminding all of us what a red zone force he can be when healthy. After his lead role in the acrimonious lockout/players' lawsuit against the NFL (and his 2010 holdout), Vincent Jackson has returned to the fold with San Diego this year, and he led the team in receiving during the third preseason tilt at Arizona with seven targets for 5/78/0. Malcolm Floyd, the #2 wideout, handled eight targets for 5/52/1 during the game - it appears that the Chargers' offense is ready to roll as of week one. Rivers is among our top-five fantasy QBs as of our midweek rankings for week one regular season - he and the other key Chargers' receivers should be in your fantasy lineups this week.

The Vikings' pass D was in the middle of the NFL pack last year, averaging 210.4 net yards allowed per game (10th in the NFL) while handing over 25 passing TDs. The team generated 15 interceptions (tied for 17th in the NFL) and 31 sacks (tied for 20th) to fall in the middle of the NFL range in those two categories. During the third exhibition game, Dallas starter Tony Romo threw 15/20 for 141 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions (completing 75% of his passes), and the entire roster of Cowboys' QBs managed 21/30 for 227 net yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions. The Vikings aren't a dominant defense in this phase of the game, but they aren't pushovers, either.

Rivers is an elite talent on a team loaded with talent, while the Vikings' D fields a so-so pass defense entering the regular season. Advantage, San Diego.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Hasselbeck is on the cusp of becoming a top ten fantasy QB this year. Last year, he wound up 12th in fantasy points per game (279/474 3382 passing yards, with 22 TDs and 15 interceptions (27/96/1 rushing)). His #1 target is definitely Darrell Jackson (Jackson grabbed 7/99/1 during the week 3 preseason tune-up), and now that Koren Robinson is out of the picture, perhaps Bobby Engram, newly signed Peter Warrick or Joe Jurevicius can haul in some TDs for Hasselbeck during 2005.

Jacksonville ran in the middle of the NFL pack last year in this phase, giving up an average of 209.8 passing yards per game (16th in the league) and 18 total passing scores over 16 weeks. They come into 2005 with some strikes against the secondary - the Falcons tossed a 13/24 for 78 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception performance against the Jags during week 3 of the preseason. Michael Vick and backup Matt Schaub both found pay-dirt through the air in that game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Alltel Stadium calls for a high of 91F with a low of 77F and a 30% chance of rain. The heat and humidity may take a toll on the players, and if the rain comes down heavily at game time, the field could become treacherous.

Hasselbeck is a top-tier QB challenging for elite status, while the Jaguars are a mediocre group in this phase. Advantage, Seattle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Hasselbeck has been doing without Darrell Jackson this pre-season, and he's also lost starting TE Jerramy Stevens (out for a few more weeks due to a knee injury) and #2 TE Itula Mili to injury, so he hasn't exactly been playing with a full slate of targets to date. The good news is that coach Holmgren expects Jackson to play at least part of the season opener vs. Detroit, and for Mili to start. Stevens is the only member of the offense who won't be able to go. Hasselbeck tossed 294/449 for 3455 yards, 24 TDs and 9 interceptions last year, to rank 5th among fantasy signal callers, and he's been in the top 5 fantasy points producers at his position 2 out of the last 3 years. These guys can get it done. Newcomer Nate Burleson will serve as the #2 WR, with Bobby Engram in reserve in case Jackson fails to do well in his return to the field. The Seahawks should be good to go week 1.

The Lions were 13th in the NFL last year giving up an average of 194.9 passing yards per game, with 19 passing scores surrendered (15th in the NFL) - they were a middle-of-the-road group last year. New head coach Rod Marinelli has been installing his cover-2 schemes on defense this year - against Oakland during the 3rd pre-season game, Raider starter Aaron Brooks hit 9/15 for 187 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions before he grabbed some bench. The Lions are still working to perfect their approach as we head into regular season.

Hasselbeck and company are pretty formidable, while the Lions are merely adequate. Advantage, Seattle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Hasselbeck has spent the preseason getting back into top shape after an offseason surgery on his left (non throwing arm) shoulder. He saw limited duty during preseason as the coaching staff elected to hold him out of meaningless games for precautionary reasons. During week 3 of the preseason he did see extended duty (12/17 for 129 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception) in order to keep him from getting too rusty. Given the limited game time during preseason it is tough to say how he is meshing with new TE Marcus Pollard or how far his comfort level has increased with Deion Branch (his new #1 WR now that Darrell Jackson is a 49er). We're in a wait-and-see mode with Hasselbeck entering week 1, although we think he'll have strong game this week vs. the visiting Bucs.

Tampa Bay was 30th in the NFL last year with 25 sacks, and ranked 19th vs opposing passers, giving up an average of 209.6 yards per game (with 26 passing scores allowed). During the crucial week 3 preseason game, Miami's unit posted 26/45 for 264 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception (although starter Trent Green contributed 7/11 for 42 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception). The bottom line here is that the Bucs field a mediocre pass defense entering regular season 2007.

This is a good matchup for the Seahawks' passing attack.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Hasselbeck missed a lot of time during training camp/preseason due to a gimpy back. Reports are that he's recovered from the problem and is ready to play in the opener, but the team has more injury woes than just Hasselbeck's back. Starting WRs Bobby Engram (broken shoulder) and Deion Branch (knee surgery, ACL) won't play on opening day, and the youngster who was supposed to start across from now-#1 WR Nate Burleson, Ben Obomanu, broke his clavicle and landed on IR. It looks like the team will go with Burleson and Courtney Taylor in week 1, with rookie TE John Carlson as the 3rd option. The cupboard is pretty bare in Seattle right now, friends.

Buffalo's pass D was subpar last year, averaging 238.4 yards allowed per game (29th in the NFL) while limiting pass TDs to 19 (tied for 8th in the league). They were 29th in the NFL with 26 sacks - the team has lots of ways to improve during 2008. Chris Kelsay generated a sack vs. Indianapolis in the 3rd preseason game - hopefully he can turn up the heat on opposing QBs this year. The CB positions have been hotly contested during preseason and new blood is rising to the top - rookie CB Leodis McKelvin (1st round, 11th pick) may be poised to crack the starting lineup across from Terrence McGee.

Hasselbeck and company have a good matchup to exploit, but have few healthy targets to deploy. We'll see what they can do on the road, on the East coast, this year (not a strong suit for the Seahawks in years past).

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Russell Wilson finished 2013 with 257/407 for 3,357 yards passing, 26 TDs and nine interceptions thrown, with 96/539/1 rushing to his credit. He had five more completions than his rookie season, and rushed the football two more times. In other words, Wilson has been consistently throwing the football ~ four out of every five snaps, and rushing the football ~20% of the time so far during his career. He looked in mid-season form against the Bears, slinging 15/20 for 202 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions with one sack taken for -9 yards, and rushing the football four times for 23 yards and a TD. Jermaine Kearse (five targets for 4/63/1 receiving) and Christine Michael (three for 3/36/1) handled the TDs for Wilson in the third preseason game, while Percy Harvin saw three targets for 3/61/0 receiving during the contest. The Seahawks' quarterback is playing up to his usual level entering the regular season.

The Packers' pass D ranked 22nd (tied) in the NFL averaging 247 net passing yards allowed per game last year, with 30 passing scores given up over 16 games, vs. 11 interceptions (tied for 26th) and 44 sacks (tied for eighth) generated. Against Oakland in the third preseason game, they held then-starter Matt Schaub to 13/27 for 110 yards passing, zero TDs or interceptions, and sacked him twice for -23 yards - the Packers' first team defense got the job done. An interesting battle at free safety has gone on all camp long between veteran FS Micah Hyde and rookie Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix - as of Week One it looks to us as if Hyde has won the starting job, but Clinton-Dix will be mixed into the defensive schemes liberally.

Wilson is a steadily productive player who should do good things against the sub-par Green Bay secondary - advantage, Seattle.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

After naming J.T. O'Sullivan the starter in San Francisco, Coach Mike Nolan announced the move to the Bay Area press as follows: "J.T. O'Sullvan will be our starter going into the season. He has good command of our offense. He's played well in all three preseason games. And now it's time to get ready for the season." O'Sullivan worked with OC Mike Martz in Detroit during 2007 and he was ahead of the other 49er's QBs in Martz's system due to his experience - and in this case, experience carried the day. Now, the question is who besides Isaac Bruce (another player familiar with and comfortable in Mike Martz's system) is going to catch O'Sullivan's passes? Bryant Johnson is penciled in as the #2 WR, but he's missed a lot of time since arriving from Arizona due to hamstring problems. Vernon Davis is expected to play a big role in the offense due to his obvious athletic talents - in the 3rd preseason game he only garnered a single catch, but that pass went for a 40-yard gain. Right now, it looks like Bruce and Davis will be O'Sullivan's workhorses until Josh Morgan, Bryant Johnson and Arnaz Battle sort out the rest of the depth chart.

The Cardinals were in the middle of the NFL pack last season when it came to QB sacks, generating 36 - the reason that matters this week is that the 49ers were the worst pass blockers in the NFL last season handing over 55 sacks in 16 games (and Mike Martz's old team, the Lions, were 2nd-worst with 54 allowed). A hallmark of Martz's attack is a tendency to allow QB sacks, which should feed IDP owners of Cardinals' defenders some fantasy points this week. However, the Cardinals were 28th in the NFL last year averaging 232.8 passing yards allowed per game, while ranking 25th in the league with 26 passing scores handed over. Against the Raiders' weak pass attack during week 3 of the preseason, the Cardinals only handed over 111 net passing yards with 3 sacks registered, but on the other hand the Raiders' pass attack isn't much of a test. The jury is still out as to whether the Cardinals' 2008 pass D has progressed or not.

O'Sullivan plays in an explosive passing attack, and has a couple of decent targets to deploy (plus an excellent pass catching RB in Frank Gore). With the weak Cardinals at Walsh Field this week, we like O'Sullivan's chances to post respectable fantasy totals, despite the pass-protection worries mentioned above.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

With Mike Martz at the helm as OC during 2008, the 49ers led the league in sacks allowed (55) - now that Jimmy Raye is in town, the team will play a more ball-control oriented offense that should help minimize the number of times Shaun Hill (181/288 for 2046 yards, 13 TDs and 8 interceptions last year in 9 games)ends up looking at the sky this year. Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce and Arnaz Battle figure to handle most of the receiving load from the WR position this year, with Battle challenging Morgan for a starting slot as of week 1. Draft pick Michael Crabtree remains unsigned as of this writing. Bruce has reportedly looked the best of all the WRs in camp - he notched 60/833/7 receiving on 107 targets last year and may lead the team in receiving again this year if he stays healthy. Vernon Davis (31/358/2 last year, a regression from 2007) remains the lead TE in San Francisco - we'll see if he starts 2009 out with a bang vs. divisional rival Arizona.

Arizona's pass D allowed 221.3 yards per game to their opponents during 2008 (22nd in the NFL), while racking up 13 interceptions (17th in the NFL) and 31 sacks (14th in the NFL). They were 28th in the NFL in points allowed per game (26.6) - this unit was average to sub-par, depending on the week. Aaron Rodgers and Brian Brohm spanked the Cards in week 3 of the preseason, with 18/24 for 285 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions (Rodgers threw for 258 yards and all 3 TDs in an extended appearance). There is still a long way for the Cardinals to go even though they have a new coordinator in Bill Davis (promoted from within, he was the LB's coach last year). Hill has an adequate group of receivers to work with and a relatively soft defense on the docket - this looks like a good matchup for the visitors.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Alex Smith has been reliable (but not exciting) during preseason, with 21 completions on 37 attempts for 238 yards, one TD and one interception over three appearances. He threw the most TDs of his 49ers tenure last season (18 over a set of 11 games), with only 12 interceptions thrown. Smith also surpassed a 60% completion percentage for the first time in his career (225/372 for 2,350 yards). The 49ers elected to not play Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree for the bulk of preseason, leaving Smith to work with the teams' backup talent during exhibition season. When the games count, he'll have Davis and Crabtree in the mix along with Frank Gore (an excellent receiver out of the backfield) and also Josh Morgan at the other WR spot, with Delanie Walker in reserve at tight end. The 49ers have a good level of talent on the team across the starting lineup.

The Seahawks' pass D was pathetic during 2009 - that's part of the reason they have a new head coach, Pete Carroll - but he elected to retain last year's defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Bradley has his hands full correcting a unit that ranked 30th in average pass yardage allowed per game (245.4), 24th in pass TDs allowed (27) and 22nd in interceptions generated (13). Seattle was also 26th in the NFL with 28 sacks last year. Brett Favre and the Vikings posted 23/36 for 246 yards, two TDs and two interceptions vs. Seattle during the week three preseason game.

Smith will get an infusion of talent to his offensive lineup on Sunday, and he has a very suspect unit to attack. This looks like a good matchup for Smith and the 49ers, though Frank Gore also enjoys a great matchup and he may thus be the leader of the 49ers' attack on Sunday.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

In division contests are always hotly contested, but this game has the added interest of seeing Seattle and San Francisco's quarterbacks duel for 'worst QB corps in the NFC West'. Seriously, though, we're concerned about both these passing attacks for good reason as neither club has jelled during preseason - both look like hazardous situations for fantasy owners as of the regular season opener.

How bad are things for the 49ers' quarterbacks? Well, Alex Smith wound up the week three preseason game vs. Houston with 2/6 for 17 yards passing, only four more yards passing than he lost taking two sacks. 'Obviously we took our lumps tonight,' Smith said after the debacle. 'It was rough for all of us. We have to find a way to get something going and get right.' Good luck with that, Mr. Smith. We've heard this song from you many times before. The team did catch a break when Braylon Edwards avoided a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy (he was fined $50,000.00 though). Edwards and Josh Morgan are the team's starting wide receivers as Michael Crabtree continues to nurse his surgically-repaired foot. Vernon Davis will try to make a silk purse out of the sow's-ear material the 49ers are providing at QB, and he looks like the best fantasy bet as a receiver from San Francisco this week (Davis is ranked #1 on our midweek TE board for week one, while Edwards is 30th on the WR board).

The Seahawks' pass D ended 2010 ranked 27th in the league, averaging 249.6 net yards allowed per game, with 31 passing TDs given up vs. 12 interceptions (tied for 25th) and 37 sacks generated (13th in the NFL). Though the defensive front got after opposing passers, the defensive backs didn't do a good job covering opposing receivers. Denver crammed 22/34 for 302 net yards, one TD and one interception down the Seahawks' throats in the third preseason game, with starter Kyle Orton cruising to 16/23 for 236 yards, one TD and one interception in his time on the field - it looks like Seattle will have trouble with their pass D again this year.

This matchup is good enough that even Smith should be able to find Vernon Davis for several completions, although we don't recommend starting Smith at QB (he's 18th on our QB board for week one). Also, the Seattle weakness playing rush D should ensure Frank Gore is really busy carrying the ball - the team may not need to ask Smith to air it out much.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The 49ers' passing attack didn't show us much during the preseason, with Michael Crabtree sidelined due to a hamstring injury for most of the camp (so was backup Brandon Lloyd). During the third preseason game vs. San Diego, the offensive line allowed a lot of pressure into Colin Kaepernick's face (6/12 for 59 yards passing, with zero TDs or interceptions thrown, and one sack taken for-12 yards). 'It’s football,' Kaepernick said. 'You're going to get hit.' Kaepernick was hit four times in three offensive series, and lost a fumble to the Chargers as well. 'We've got to work on that. We've got to be good in that area,' head coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game. Now that the vanilla preseason scheme is a thing of the past, we'll see how Kaepernick is able to connect with a now-healthy Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and the rest of the 49ers' offense. Footballguys.com's David Dodds expects Kaepernick to be among the top-ten fantasy quarterbacks in week one with a projection of 22/35 for 246 yards passing and 1.6 touchdowns, with 5/31/.2 rushing (sixth-best fantasy quarterback in the league).

Let's start here: the Cowboys are the consensus worst team defense according to Footballguys.com's panel of experts, with nine rankings of 32nd out of 32 to their 'credit' as of September 2. Last year, the Cowboys were 30th in the NFL averaging 287 net passing yards allowed per game, with over two TDs per game allowed (33 over 16 games) on average. Dallas was tied at 17th in the league with 15 interceptions generated, and tied at 25th in the NFL with 34 sacks generated. They've lost their starting MLB Sean Lee for the whole season already, and have two defensive backs (starting CB Orlando Scandrick and backup FS Jakar Hamilton) suspended for the start of the season. Dolphins' starter Ryan Tannehill threw 13/21 for 119 yards, zero TDs and one interception vs. Dallas in the third exhibition game, but that was with a vanilla preseason scheme.

This looks like a good week for the 49ers to break out of their preseason funk, against the hapless Cowboy's defense.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce (with Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson catching dump-offs and flares) - what's not to like? Bulger was the 4th best fantasy QB in the land last year, averaging 21.1 fantasy points per game (321/485 for 3964 yards, 21 TDs and 14 interceptions with 19/89/3 rushing). The Ram's offense actually looks stronger coming into 2005 than it did last year - start your Rams if you were smart enough to draft them.

San Francisco was sub-par in this phase last year, allowing an average of 217.9 passing yards per game (19th in the league) with 27 passing scores given up over 16 games. Not a lot has changed since then - Tennessee rang up 26/38 for 236 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against the 49ers during their preseason week 3 contest. It's more of the same out by the Bay, we're afraid.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for San Francisco boils down to: perfect football weather. 69F for a high, 56 F for a low, with a 10% chance for rain on Sunday.

If RB Steven Jackson doesn't hoard all the TDs for himself, Bulger and company should have a solid game on Sunday. Advantage, St. Louis.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marc Bulger will once again team up with Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce to power the Rams' passing attack. However, Holt injured his chest (sternum) near the end of pre-season and Bruce has been nursing a nagging hamstring, so neither one has enjoyed a lot of practice repetitions with Bulger in recent days. Neither guy played in week 3 or week 4 of the pre-season, so there may be a little rust that needs to be knocked off on Sunday. However, all 3 of the players are veterans and should be able to crank it up once the regular season starts. One other concern cropped up during pre-season - the first team offense failed to score a TD. Normally that wouldn't be a huge concern as exhibition game plans are simpler than regular season schemes, but in this case the Rams have been working on installing a new offense, so the lack of success in the red-zone is something to consider looking forward to your week 1 roster decisions.

Denver was horrid vs. opposing passers last year, surrendering 227.7 passing yards per game (29th in the NFL) and 20 passing scores (20th in the NFL). They also tied for 28th in the league with a mere 28 sacks - not too good, folks. They faced a lot of passes last year due to playing from in front most weeks, but the secondary could not be characterized as a shut-down type of defensive unit. They have made no changes to the starting personnel this season, either.

The Rams have home-field advantage, and a mediocre defense to sharpen their new schemes against. There have been issues for St. Louis to date, though - we call this one a good matchup.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marc Bulger has soldiered on during preseason despite the in-and-out presence of WR Torry Holt (knee surgery to repair meniscus cartilage in his right knee hasn't healed yet after 7 months and counting). The latest news out of St. Louis on September 4th is that Holt "looked 100 percent" to coach Linehan during practices Tuesday, but otherwise the reports out of St. Louis have characterized the knee as behind schedule and flaring up unpredictably. Isaac Bruce pulled in 4/77/0 during the week 3 preseason game in Holt's absence, and he would be the #1 WR if Holt can't go week 1. Drew Bennett and Dante Hall are depth at WR - TE Randy McMichael has been pretty quiet during preseason, with 0 catches during week 3 of preseason. We're in wait-and-see mode with Holt entering week 1 of regular season - Holt, Bruce and Bulger owners should keep an eye on Holts' practice participation later this week.

The Panthers were 4th in the NFL last year vs. the pass (average 187.5 yards given up per game) with 22 passing scores handed over during regular season. They had 41 sacks (6th in the NFL) - this unit used to make life tough on opposing QBs. The retirement of S Mike Minter during preseason jumbled the secondary mix, though - Nate Salley and Chris Harris look like the starters now-a-days. During the week 3 preseason game, Tom Brady had little trouble picking apart the secondary (17/22 for 167 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions) - the Panthers' unit is in flux entering 2007.

At home in the Edward Jones Dome, we give the nod to Bulger and company - but if Holt has a setback later in the week this becomes a neutral matchup.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Rams allowed 45 sacks last season (6th-most in the NFL), and they replaced LT Orlando Pace with a rookie, Jason Smith, who has looked like a rookie during preseason. Bulger, who hasn't played a full slate of 16 games in two years, hopes that Smith learns quickly and well. Bulger has been throwing more and more as the days pass leading up to the regular season opener - it looks like his broken pinkie finger on his throwing hand will be rehabbed enough to allow him to play in the season opener. Donnie Avery, who missed much of preseason with a stress fracture in his foot, did play in the preseason finale although he didn't catch any balls - he looks set to team up with free agent acquisition Laurent Robinson as the starting duo at WR, with Randy McMichael back from last year's broken leg to man the TE position. There isn't much depth behind Avery and Burton (just two other receivers, Keenan Burton and Derek Stanley - Stanley is rehabbing a torn ACL from last December and hasn't looked impressive during training camp). Bulger needs to bounce back in a big way from his last two seasons (27th- and 22nd- ranked fantasy QB during 2008 and 2007), but will Avery and Robinson give him a credible enough tandem, especially given the lack of repetitions since Bulger was injured? We'll find out starting Sunday.

The Seahawks have a new DC in Gus Bradley (a Tampa-Two discliple of Monte Kiffin), who should keep the scheme fairly close to what the Seahawks were doing last year. Hopefully, he'll get better results with his scheme as Seattle was 32nd in the NFL last year in passing yards allowed per game (259.3) and they coughed up 25 passing scores over 16 games. The team averaged a hefty 24.5 total points allowed per game (25th in the NFL), while generating just 9 interceptions (29th) and 35 sacks (10th in the NFL). One of their top cornerbacks, Marcus Trufant, was placed on the PUP list due to a bad back just prior to regular season - he'll be out for six weeks at the minimum as a result. Ken Lucas and Josh Wilson will hold down the starting spots at CB while Trufant tries to rehab his back injury. The secondary is largely an unknown quantity entering the regular season. Matt Cassel was out of the lineup in week three of the preseason so we haven't seen this unit tested much yet this year.

We can't get too excited about the Rams here but this does look like a pretty good matchup for them.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

St. Louis lost Sam Bradford for the season (again) to a torn left ACL, but having Shaun Hill step in to run the passing attack may be a blessing as he has extensive NFL experience (eight seasons) with starts in San Francisco and Detroit on his resume - for his career Hill has thrown 591/954 for 6,381 yards passing (a 61.9 completion percentage) and 41 TDs vs. 23 interceptions - he also can scramble when necessary with 72/316/3 rushing over the years. Those are quality, NFL-starter caliber numbers, friends.

Kenny Britt is making the most of his second chance at starting in the NFL, locking down a starting wide receiver gig with the Rams this year after underperforming in Tennessee for years; Brian Quick and Tavon Austin are also quality prospects, and the tight end depth chart of Jared Cook and Lance Kendricks is respectable as well. Hill has the building blocks for a respectable passing attack here. It'll be interesting to watch Hill build a chemistry with his bevy of receivers.

The Vikings' pass D ranked 30th in the NFL last season (tied with Dallas), averaging 287 net passing yards allowed per game. They gave away a league-worst 37 passing scores during 2013, vs. 12 interceptions (tied for 24th in the NFL) and 41 sacks (tied for 13th) generated. They played much better than the above at Kansas City during the third preseason game, holding Alex Smith to 14/24 for 140 yards passing, zero TDs and two interceptions thrown, with three sacks taken for -19 yards. New defensive coordinator George Edwards seems to have the Vikins pass D moving in the correct direction entering 2014. We'll see how they perform when the games count.

Hill and company have a suspect defense arriving in the Edward Jones Dome this week - we think the Rams have the edge in this game.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

On Tuesday, September seventh Josh Freeman (159/291 for 1,857 yards, 10 TDs and 18 interceptions in 10 games last season) tested the health of his recently-fractured thumb by fully participating in practice. Head coach Raheem Morris said afterwards that Freeman took all of the snaps that the starting QB normally would in a practice, so early indications are that Freeman should be able to go in the season opener, unless he suffers a setback as the thumb's reaction to the action sets in. Keep an eye on Freeman's practice participation later in the week to make sure he's staying healthy. Freeman enters regular season with rookie Mike Williams penciled in as a starting WR across from veteran Sammie Stroughter - Kellen Winslow and Jerramy Stevens form a veteran cadre of receivers at the TE position. If Freeman has trouble with his healing thumb and can't go, veteran Josh Johnson is the backup - he started five games for the Buccaneers last year and is up to speed in the team's offense. Head coach Raheem Morris said QB Josh Freeman's thumb was indeed sore Wednesday, September eighth, but the plan is for him not to throw passes during practice. Stay tuned to Footballguys.com's players in the news if you are considering Freeman for week one - his status is still dicey as of Wednesday.

Cleveland's pass D was among the league's worst last year, averaging 244.7 net passing yards allowed per game (29th in the NFL), while allowing 22 passing TDs vs. just 10 interceptions generated (14th and 29th in the NFL respectively). The team did generate 40 sacks, tied for eighth in the league, but the secondary didn't convert the pressure up front into much of anything. Detroit was limited to 19/27 for 193 yards and one TD in the third preseason game, but they didn't need to throw much due to posting 26/154/3 rushing vs. the Browns.

Freeman has a relatively easy test in front of him during week one of the regular season, but the ease with which teams rush the ball on Cleveland tends to limit the fantasy production of opposing QBs. We rate this a good matchup even with that caveat, though.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jameis Winston has been up and down in training camp/preseason, as you'd expect from a rookie, but he's built a good rapport with Vincent Jackson during exhibition games (Mike Evans has been sidelined due to an ongoing hamstring issue - he re-injured the hamstring again during Monday Night Football on August 24, and subsequently missed the rest of preseason. He also sat out the third contest as expected. He missed practice on Monday, September 7. Fantasy owners invested in Evans should monitor his practice participation later in the week. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has worked to establish connection with Winston as well - we'll see if he did well when game-time roles around.

The Titans looked awful in their third preseason game against the Chiefs, giving up 16/18 for 171 net yards passing, two TDs and zero interceptions to Alex Smith, and eventually coughing up 31/38 for 317 net passing yards, four TDs and one interception. Last year, Tennessee ranked 15th in the NFL averaging 235.8 net passing yards allowed per game, with 28 TDs given up vs. 12 interceptions generated (tied for 21st in the NFL), and 39 sacks to their credit (tied-16th). This secondary is porous and is really missing starting cornerback Jason McCourty (out for two-to-three regular season games due to groin surgery).

Advantage, Tampa.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Hasselbeck is doing the best he can with what receivers are available in Tennessee. Unsurprisingly, Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said on August 10th that Hasselbeck was having problems picking up the offense at that point in time but was improving each day. The learning process will continue into regular season as Hasselbeck builds rapport with his team mates (the key one of whom, Chris Johnson, just got back into the fold on September first). There are bound to be bumps in the road as Johnson and Hasselbeck learn to work together on the fly. During the third preseason game (before Johnson signed), Hasselbeck threw 12/22 for 135 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions, primarily finding wide receiver Nate Washington (six targets for 4/66/0 on the day). After the game Hasselbeck said, 'This has been a quick learning curve because of (the lockout). But I feel like we're making a lot of progress and I'm getting in sync with the guys out there. This is a good team...we have a good group of guys on our side of the ball and we're starting to come together.' Washington has been the bright spot of the receiving corps while everyone waits for Kenny Britt to get his hamstring healthy. As of the first regular season game, the Titans' offense is still in the process of settling in under their new coordinator with their new personnel finding their fits in the mix.

The Jaguars' pass D was among the league's worst last year, averaging 250.2 net yards allowed per game, with 28 TD passes allowed vs. 13 interception (tied for 23rd) and a mere 26 sacks (tied for 30th) generated. They don't look much better on the eve of regular season, either - Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed a perfect 158.3 QB rating against the Jaguars with 11/12 for 165 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions as his team went en route to a 26/46 for 290 net yards, three TDs and two interception outing in the third exhibition game. Yuck, Jaguars' fans.

Hasselbeck and company have been working through a series of challenges and will continue to do so, but they draw a flaccid defense to exploit in the season opener - advantage, Tennessee.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jake Locker has come on during the 2014 preseason - he had another strong outing as he led the Titans to a 24 - 17 victory over Atlanta in the third preseason game. Locker threw 12/17 for 188 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta pressured him with pass rushers but Locker reportedly stood strong in the pocket and made some impressive throws under the pressure. So far, so good for Locker in his quest to retain his starting job in Tennessee after this season. So far his NFL career has been marred by unfortunate injuries, but he looks like a veteran passer now. Nate Washington had five targets for 3/94/1 receiving (the long was a truly beautiful 63-yard TD pass from Locker) to lead the Titans in receiving at Atlanta - Kendall Wright (three targets for 1/18/0 receiving at Atlanta) and Delanie Walker (four for 4/35/0) figure to be the other starting wide receiver and starting tight end in Week One, respectively. Justin Hunter (three for3/48/0) is penciled in at third wide receiver and could challenge to start at some point this year. Locker has a nice collection of targets to throw at this year.

The Chiefs' pass D ranked 25th in the NFL last year averaging 248 net yards allowed per game, with 25 passing scores given up during the season. They also had 21 interceptions, though (tied for third in the NFL) and 47 sacks (tied for sixth) - the Chiefs pressure opposing passers up front and in the secondary. Minnesota starter Matt Cassel managed 9/17 for 152 yards, one TD and one interception thrown at Kansas City in the third preseason game, while being sacked three times for -17 yards.

Locker is looking strong, while the high-risk, high-pressure Kansas City defense is playing up to form as of Week One. On balance this looks like a good week to take a look at Lockers' passing arm, though in leagues were interceptions are penalized heavily he might not be as attractive.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Marcus Mariota played well during preseason (21/30 for 326 yards (10.86 YPA), one touchdown and one interception in his time on the field). He seems to have good chemistry with Harry Douglas (he threw Douglas a pretty 59-yard TD pass in the third preseason game). Mariota may be on his way to a solid 2015, but we have yet to see him tested by a full-blown NFL defense. He'll face that test this week at Tampa Bay while trying to also find Kendall Wright (93 targets for 57/716/6 for the Titans last year) and Delanie Walker (103 for 63/890/4 receiving for Tennessee last year). Mariota has enough talent around him to be productive when the matchup is good.

The Buccaneers' pass D ranked 28th in the NFL last year, averaging 255.2 net passing yards per game allowed,with 28 passing scores given up vs 14 interceptions (tied for 14th in the NFL) and 36 sacks (tied-21st in the NFL). They were hit for 17/23 for 117 yards passing, for two TDs and zero interceptions by Josh McCown and company in the third preseason game. This is looking like another shaky secondary despite all the changes made to the team's roster in the offseason.

Advantage, Tennessee.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Mark Brunell is that starter for week 1, backed up by Todd Collins. Santana Moss, coming off his sky-high 2005 season (84/1483/9) will start across from free-agent import Brandon Lloyd, with Antwaan Randle El coming in on 3-wide sets (which we expect to see fairly often). Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers are also quality targets - Brunell has no shortage of weapons this season. In the week 3 preseason game vs. New England, Brunell eked out 7/16 for 51 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions - not exactly a momentum-builder heading into regular season.

The Vikings are switching to a cover-2 defense this year to better utilize their impressive secondary talent (CB Fred Smoot ran back a 70 yard interception for a TD against the Ravens in week 3 of the pre-season). With top-shelf guys like CB Antoine Winfield and S's Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith, an aggressive, attacking scheme makes sense. Last year they gave up an average of 208.3 passing yards per game (22nd in the NFL) and 23 TDs (24th in the NFL) - there is room for improvement here. It'll be interesting to watch the first team defense executing against the Redskins on Monday Night Football.

The Redskins have talent on their offense, and the home-field edge - we give them the edge in this contest, but it's not a huge one.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Robert Griffin III has displayed his rocket arm during preseason, overthrowing Pierre Garcon on more than one occasion - he ended exhibitions throwing 20/31 (64.5 completion percentage) for 193 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions. In the third 'dress rehearsal for regular season' exhibition game Griffin threw 11/17 for 74 yards and hit Santana Moss for one TD. While Griffin hasn't put together an outstanding effort yet, he seems to have good rapport with starters Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, and Fred Davis - there is upside potential here for fantasy owners invested in the Redskins' passing attack.

New Orleans gave up 15/18 for 194 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions to Matt Schaub during the third preseason game. This continued the sub-par play we saw from the Saints during 2011, when New Orleans averaged 259.8 net passing yards allowed per game (30th in the NFL), with 24 passing TDs allowed (16th in the NFL) vs. just nine interceptions (28th) and 33 sacks (19th) generated. Teams often have to chase Brees and company from behind, but their pass defense also enables opponents to stay in the chase.

Griffin is a rookie and will have his ups and downs, but he's got a good matchup to start the year (despite having to play in the deafening Mercedes-Benz Superdome in week one).

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Now it's time to see to what extent Kurt Warner can exploit the vast potential of his top 3 WRs. Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald combine to form a formidable stable. How much magic is left in Warner's throwing arm? He was steady but unspectacular vs. Oakland during week 3 of the preseason (11/18 for 118 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception). He should put up better numbers than that during a complete game, given the supporting cast around him. A huge factor will be his offensive line. You know that Warner isn't a mobile guy and if he doesn't have time to throw, it'll be ugly.

The Giants were mediocre in this department last year (they had a lot of injuries to work through in the secondary - entering this year both CBs Will Allen and William Peterson are healthy), averaging 189.4 passing yards allowed per game (8th in the NFL) while surrendering 28 passing scores over the season (near the bottom of the league - Green Bay gave up the most passing scores last year with 33 allowed). The Jets eked out 8/20 for 63 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions vs. this unit in week 3 of the preseason, but Chad Pennington did not play in the contest.

Anquan Boldin seems to have overcome his broken nose and should be good to go on Sunday. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Giants' Stadium is forecast to be a great place to play a football game on Sunday -- 85F for a high, 70F for a low, with a 0% chance for rain.

Warner is a crafty veteran with a stellar cast of receivers, while the Giants bring a healthy and talented secondary to the table. With home field advantage behind the defense, we call this one an even matchup.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cardinals protected Kurt Warner fairly well last season, with just 28 sacks allowed during the year. With ex-OC Todd Haley moving on to coach in K.C., the team will rely on Russ Grimm and Mike Miller to game plan, with head coach Ken Whisenhunt calling plays on game day this year. One injury situation to keep a close eye on - Anquan Boldin has been nursing a sore hamstring during the latter stages of training camp/preseason, and his status for the game is uncertain - 'We'll see,' Whisenhunt said on Monday. 'I know it's going to be tough to keep Anquan out of this game.'. If Boldin can't go, Jerheme Urban may handle the #2 duties (Steve Breaston is nursing a sore PCL in his right knee - he has practiced recently, though, unlike Early Doucet who has injured ribs and will be out for a few weeks). TE Ben Patrick will start serving a four-game suspension for a banned substance this week. As you can see, aside from Larry Fitzgerald there is a lot of question marks regarding the Cardinal's receiving corps - and Warner has a sore hip that was operated on in the off-season as well. Also, Warner hasn't been sharp during the preseason, with 0 TDs thrown and interceptions a-plenty (2/7 for 48 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception last week; 10/16 for 139 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception two weeks ago). Backup Matt Leinart has a sore throwing arm shoulder and could only muster 1/4 for 4 yards and an interception in the preseason finale - as of Tuesday, things look a little grim for the Cardinal's passing attack entering week 1 of regular season, regardless of how fabulous Warner and company were during 2007. If you are invested in this passing attack, check out the practice and injury reports out of Arizona carefully this week.

Greg Manusky and Mike Singletary plan to stick with the 3-4 front they installed after Mike Nolan left town last year. The D as a whole averaged 23.8 total points allowed (23rd in the NFL) last year, but it tightened up significantly once the team simplified the playbook last year in Singletary's first months at the helm. Last season, the 49ers were 20th vs. opposing passers, allowing an average of 219.2 yards per game, with 22 passing TDs handed over vs. 12 interceptions (t-21st) and 30 sacks generated (t-16th). There is plenty of room for improvement on this unit, as you can see. CB Shawntae Spencer will start at cornerback for the team opposite CB Nate Clements in Week 1. Spencer beat out CBs Dre' Bly and Tarell Brown for the job - we'll see if he plays well enough to hang onto the job.

The Cardinals field a top-flight offense most of the time, but they have looming personnel issues this week and a QB that appears out-of-synch. The 49ers weren't very good a year ago, but improved under coach Singletary as the year wore on - if Boldin is out for this game, consider it a neutral matchup (we're afraid he'll be out). If he is in, then upgrade it to a good matchup for the home-team Cardinals.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cardinals' passing game was a train-wreck last season in the wake of Kurt Warner's retirement - even Larry Fitzgerald couldn't maintain a top-ten finish with the likes of Max Hall, John Skelton and Derek Anderson throwing him the football (Fitzgerald finished 12th in the PPR paradigm last season with 90/1,137/6 receiving to his credit).

However, the team knew that the primary problem was at quarterback, and they made a blockbuster trade with Philadelphia happen to get the services of Kevin Kolb. Kolb had just one TD during the 2011 preseason as he learned the Cardinals' system on the job, but it came in the third preseason game, when the starters generally play the longest - he hooked up with Larry Fitzgerald for 3/108/1 including an 80-yard TD play. Kolb ended the 'dress rehearsal' with a respectable 11/20 for 205 yards, one TD and zero interceptions. Across from the recently-re-signed Fitzgerald (eight years, $120 million) there is a new starter as Steve Breaston has moved on to Kansas City - second-year Cardinals' WR Andre Roberts enters 2011 as the starter (he posted 49 targets for 24/307/2 receiving as a rookie last year), followed by the oft-injured Early Doucet (10 games last year, 59 targets for 26/291/1 receiving). The Cardinals signed Todd Heap after the Ravens released Heap in a salary-cap move, giving the Cardinals another new piece to the passing game puzzle for 2011 - Heap ended 2010 with 13 games played for Baltimore with 40/599/5 receiving (he brings career numbers of 467/5,492/41 along with him from his Baltimore days). Heap caught two passes for 27 yards in the third preseason game. We'll soon see how well all the new players are jelling for Arizona.

Despite the Panthers' lowly 2-14 record during 2010, their pass D was actually not horrible last year, finishing at 11th in the league averaging 212.1 net yards allowed per game. They handed over 19 passing TDs but generated 17 interceptions (tie-11th in the NFL) and had 31 sacks (tie-20th in the NFL). However, their first pick in the draft went to Cam Newton and the team didn't draft a defensive back until the fourth round (Brandon Hogan - currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list to open 2011), so not a lot of new talent has been injected into the secondary. During the third preseason game at Cincinnati, the Bengals' rookie starter Andy Dalton posted a solid-but-unspectacular 11/17 for 130 yards, one TD and zero interceptions during his time on the field with the starters. The Panthers enter 2011 ranked 26th as a team defense by the Footballguys.com staff, with David Dodds placing them at 23rd on his individual team defense board, though their weak rush D is the unit's primary flaw.

Kolb and company face a respectable pass D this week, and given the Panthers' weakness defending against the run, Chris Wells may see a lot of footballs this week. Without much of a track record for Kolb with Arizona to go on, we're calling this a a fairly even matchup due in part to the Cardinals' home field advantage week one.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Joey Harrington has made the best of a tough situation. He's rallied the Falcons during preseason, and capped his exhibition season with 13/21 for 164 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Bengals during week 3 of the preseason. It looks like Roddy White is going to be thrown to often (30/506/0 last year) - he's been targeted by Harrington often and on deep routes during preseason. Joe Horn, Alge Crumpler, and rookie Laurent Robinson are key parts of the attack, too - the jury is still out on Michael Jenkins, whose only decent showing came during the week 3 preseason game (he pulled down 4/45/0 that day). We're in wait-and-see mode with Harrington and Atlanta entering regular season - they have a lot to prove once the games start counting.

Minnesota was tied with the Bengals for dead last in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 238.6 passing yards per game (they coughed up only 15 pass TDs, in the middle of the NFL pack). When Mike Tomlin departed for Pittsburgh, Leslie Frazier was brought in to continue the cover-2 scheme in Minnesota. We'll see if his starting secondary (all 4 starters were on last season's squad) can elevate their game - it is up to CBs Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin and SS Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith to improve. They gave up 17/24 for 204 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during week 3 of preseason. That's a move in the right direction, at least.

The Vikings were porous vs. the pass last year, while the Falcons bring a revamped lineup and new scheme to the table in week 1. In the deafening Metrodome, we think this looks like a neutral match up.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

After a disastrous 2007 season led by Joey Harrington and others (Harrington was cut at the close of preseason this year), the Falcons will attempt to put the Michael Vick debacle well into the rear view mirror with a new 1st round QB, Matt Ryan. Ryan proved himself able to absorb the Falcons' offense during preseason and has seized the starting role from the get-go entering 2008. Ryan threw for 15/21 for 102 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in the preseason week 3 tune-up game vs. Tennessee. He has a solid #1 WR in Roddy White, but behind White there are a lot of question marks - Laurent Robinson has missed time in training camp due to injury, but did manage a nice 27 yard reception during the game vs. Tennessee. Brian Finneran appears to have stuck with the team after 2 consecutive injury marred campaigns (5/53/0 vs. Tennessee), while Michael Jenkins has battled back to start the year at #2 WR across from White (5/44/0 vs the Titans). Ben Hartsock is mostly a run blocker at TE, garnering an occasional look from Ryan during preseason.

The Lions' pass D was awful during 2007, averaging 258.2 yards allowed per game (31st in the NFL) and tied for dead last in the league with 32 passing scores allowed. They can bring a pass rush to bear, notching 37 sacks last year (in the middle of the NFL pack), which is something you can bet the Lions will do against the green Ryan in this upcoming game. Expect the Lions to blitz Ryan early and often - unless and until he proves he can handle the heat. During the week 3 preseason contest vs. Cleveland the Lions forced the Browns' first team offense off the field in 3 downs during 3 consecutive series to open the game - and Cleveland's pass attack is nothing to snort at. We'll see how the momentum translates now that the games count, but at the least the Cleveland game gives Lions' fans some reasons to hope the team can actually do O.K. without Shaun Rogers.

Two rebuilding teams lock claws in this contest - neither unit appears to have an edge over the other this week.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Kyle Boller is facing the proverbial "make or break" season as it's time for him to live up to expectations. He's continued to struggle through the preseason. In a 21-6 victory over the Saints during preseason week 3, Boller managed 5/11 for 53 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception - and that was the highpoint of his preseason appearances (he did have 10/15 for 88 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions vs. Philadelphia, but the interceptions offset his close call on reaching 100 yards passing).

The Colts were bottom feeders in this phase of the game last year, ranking 28th in the league (allowing 243.3 passing yards per game) and surrendering 26 passing scores in the course of 16 games. Key S Mike Doss is suspended for 2 games, and fellow S Bob Sanders has battled a leg injury for much of the preseason. Denver hit 13/22 for 193 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions on these guys during their week 3 preseason showdown - there isn't much improvement visible among the Colts' pass defenders right now.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in near-perfect conditions: the forecast calls for a high of 84F and a low of 72F -- this is the Sunday night game, so the temperature will be in the low 70's -- with a 0% chance for rain. Weather won't be a factor in this matchup unless things change quickly.

The key will be how Kyle Boller handles the pressure. We'll see on Sunday night as he faces off against a sub-par pass defense. It's hard to give the Colts defense an edge, so we call this one an even matchup.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Joe Flacco enters the regular season off a stellar Super Bowl run (he was the MVP), with a big new contract - and a diminished array of targets, thanks to the departure of Anquan Boldin to San Francisco and the hip injury to top tight end Dennis Pitta. Tight end Ed Dickson returns to action in week one after rehabbing a hamstring injury - "He's running well, he's catching the ball well, he looks just as explosive as he did a few weeks ago before he was injured," offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said of Dickson on August 26. Torrey Smith (49/855/8 receiving last year) is now the unquestioned #1 wide receiver for the team, followed by Jacoby Jones (30/406/1 during 2012). Brandon Stokley has returned to man the slot for the Ravens this season, and undrafted rookie Marlon Brown also has a shot at meaningful numbers if a shoot-out develops between the Broncos and the Ravens - both teams have lost key defenders due to either retirement (for example, Baltimore's MLB Ray Lewis) or suspension (Denver's OLB Von Miller) so it may be that this game in Mile High Stadium will be a high-scoring affair. During the week three preseason "tune-up" game vs. Carolina, Flacco posted 18/24 for 169 yards passing, with a TD but Flacco also had two interceptions thrown. Brown stood out in the contest with 4/59/1 receiving, and he enters the regular season going strong.

The Broncos' pass D was ferocious during 2012, with a league-leading 52 sacks to their credit, while averaging 199.6 net passing yards allowed per game (third-least in the NFL last year). The Broncos were 13th in the NFL with 16 interceptions last season. However, the Broncos' defense is in flux entering regular season as Miller serves a six-game suspension to start the season. During the third preseason game vs. St. Louis, the Bronco's D struggled to cover tight end Jared Cook (six targets for 4/50/1 receiving) and allowed 9/16 for 110 yards, one TD and zero interceptions to starting quarterback Sam Bradford while he was on the field. The Broncos did sack Bradford twice, but this unit seems to be less dominant than usual on the eve of regular season.

Two squads in transition clash in this game - neither one seems to have a clear edge over the other entering week one, even though the Broncos will enjoy a raucous home-field advantage this week.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

J.P. Losman hasn't wowed the faithful in Buffalo this year (11/19 for 88 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. Indianapolis being his strongest outing of the preseason). So far, he looks exactly like a new starter usually does when playing for the first time in the NFL: Not too good.

Houston's pass D was very poor last year, giving up the second-most passing TDs in the league (32 TDs in 16 games) and ranking 24th in the league in yards allowed per game (225.9). The Cowboys ran the ball at will during week 3 of the preseason on this squad, but the Texans still contrived to give up 16/26 for 176 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in this phase of the game. The Texans do not field a feared defense at this point of the season.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Ralph Wilson Stadium is ideal -- 78F for a high, 60F for a low on Sunday, with a 0% chance for rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this matchup.

With an inexperienced QB under center, we figure that the Bills will rely on Willis McGahee a lot. That won't add up to big fantasy points for Losman, Eric Moulds and company. Against the Texans, though, there will be room for Losman to grow. We think this matchup will be pretty even.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

J.P. Losman is the Bill's starter, and they have their fingers crossed that he'll progress this year, rather than pull a repeat of 2005. Lee Evans, Josh Reed and again-Bill Peerless Price represent some quality targets for the young signal caller - he threw for 15/22 for 184 yards, 1 TD (a 54 yarder to Price)and 1 interception during the third pre-season game vs. Cleveland. Evans pulled down 5/70/0 in that game, providing a steady-and-sure target for Losman to rely on. If the Bills can get their running game cranked up like they envision, Losman will be hopefully find more time to deliver the ball during 2006.

The New England secondary is not among the feared units in the NFL, ranking 31st in passing yards allowed last year (3703, an average of 231.4 per game), and they were 28th with 25 passing scores coughed up during 2005. The team hopes that having a healthy Rodney Harrison in at SS helps solidify a shaky unit - we'll see what he can do to help out. The Redskins were held to 16/33 for 138 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the 3rd pre-season game, so it appears the Patriots are at least heading in the right direction as they get ready to open the season at home.

Losman has a good opportunity here to start off the season right - we think this matchup looks pretty even.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

J.P. Losman tossed 9/20 for 180 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. the Tennessee D during their week 3 preseason tilt. He's still throwing the ball to stalwart Lee Evans, with Peerless Price at the #2 slot and Roscoe Parrish at the #3 hole in the rotation. Evans was a monster vs. Tennessee with 5/100/1 receiving (a long of 64 yards) and appears to be in sync with his QB entering week 1 of the regular season.

Denver was in the bottom half of the NFL last year, giving up 213.1 passing yards per game (21st) and 13 passing scores. They ran in the middle of the NFL pack with 35 sacks (t-15th in the NFL) - the Bills were tied at 7th-worst with 47 sacks allowed during the season. CB Champ Bailey and FS John Lynch are stalwarts, but we have yet to see how Dre Bly will blend into the secondary once the games start counting. We especially worry about Bailey latching onto Lee Evans and holding him down.

Buffalo has home-field advantage in the opener, which levels the playing field for Losman and company. This looks like a neutral matchup to us.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Trent Edwards enters his fourth NFL season off an injury-marred 2009 campaign in which he appeared in eight games with 110/183 for 1,169 yards, six TDs and seven interceptions to his credit (34th-ranked fantasy QB last season). He has managed to stake his claim to the top job in Buffalo again this year never-the-less, but he'll go into the season without Terrell Owens (now a Bengal), and be asked by new head coach Chan Gailey to utilize a stable of receivers led by Lee Evans, Steve Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, and TE Jonathan Stupar (except for Evans, most of the guys on this squad are far from household names). Edwards did have a solid outing vs. Cincinnati during the third preseason game (a 35-20 Buffalo victory), with 13/17 for 153 yards, one TD and zero interceptions to his credit. Roscoe Parrish claimed the TD throw from Edwards that day.

The Dolphins were sub-par pass defenders last year, averaging 234.6 net yards allowed per game (24th in the NFL), with 23 TDs given up vs. 16 TDs. They do get after the opposing QB though, with 44 sacks to their credit last season (tie-3rd in the NFL). The Buffalo OL was not good at protecting their QBs last year (46 sacks allowed, which was 28th in the NFL) - the Dolphins' pass rushing prowess is a big concern for Edwards and company this week.

Edwards isn't a fantasy headliner, and the Dolphins' pass rush is a potential problem for the Bills. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup with neither team holding a big edge over the other.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ryan Fitzpatrick (13 games in 2010 with 255/441 yielding 2,992 yards, 23 TDs and 15 interceptions) played brilliantly against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third exhibition game - the 'tune up' for regular season - throwing 11/12 for 165 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions for a perfect 158.3 passer rating. Steve Johnson hauled in a pretty 52-yard TD and Marcus Easley also found the end zone at the end of an 11-yard Fitzpatrick pass during the contest. As of week one, the depth chart from number one to five at receiver reads Johnson, David Jones, Roscoe Parrish, David Nelson, and Easley - the number two job is still in contention, though, as many think Jones will be supplanted by one of the other receivers fighting for playing time. Well-traveled TE Scott Chandler is penciled in as the starting TE - none of the guys lining up at TE for the Bills is a household name, though. David Dodds projects Johnson to be the most valuable fantasy receiver out of Buffalo this week, giving him a 50% chance for a TD and expecting around 73 yards receiving on six catches. We'll see if Fitzpatrick can maintain his lofty completion percentage/rating now that the games count.

The Chiefs' pass D finished 2010 in the middle of the NFL range, averaging 219.9 net passing yards allowed per contest (17th in the NFL), with 23 TDs surrendered vs. 14 interceptions (tied-19th in the NFL) and 39 sacks (tied-10th) generated. During the third preseason contest starting QB Sam Bradford managed 9/16 for 95 yards, two TDs and one interception passing against Kansas City (all told, they gave up 17/31 for 151 net yards, two TDs and two interceptions in the contest). The Chiefs had one sack and four hits on the QB during the third exhibition game. While it isn't a perfect translation to how tough a defense is against the pass, the consensus ranking of the Kansas City team D by the Footballguys.com staff is 16th, while David Dodd's individual board has them pegged at 25th - nobody considers the Chiefs' D as a top-ten unit entering 2011.

The Chiefs have a significant home field advantage at their backs this week, but Fitzpatrick comes into this contest looking pretty sharp - on balance, we think this is a fairly even matchup.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Even though E.J. Manuel had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee just a couple weeks ago, he is practicing with the first team as of Sunday, September 1 and continued to do so on Monday, September 2. As long as the repaired knee holds up (reportedly, loose bodies were removed from the left knee and the meniscus cartilage was repaired), Manuel looks like he'll get the first start of his NFL career on Sunday - the team confirmed this plan on September 4. However, if something happens between now and then, undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel will get the starting nod. In either case, a rookie quarterback will be starting for Buffalo against divisional rival New England - a situation that will encourage the Bills to lean on their excellent tandem of running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson with the rushing attack front-and-center in week one. Stevie Johnson has rehabbed his injured hamstring and led the Bills in receiving during the third preseason contest with 4/28/0 to his credit - hopefully he'll be able to get more than seven yards per catch during regular season. Johnson talked trash about the Patriots' D on Tuesday, September 3 saying "I don't think they have anybody to stop me. For real. I think we have guys in the receiver room that are as good as I am, if not better. I just have that confidence in my teammates and in myself." We haven't seen starting tight end Scott Chandler yet this year, so look for Spiller and Jackson to see their share of short dump-offs from whichever rookie is under center week one. Rookie Robert Woods is penciled in as the #2 wide receiver for the Bills, but he's facing the same learning curve that Manuel and/or Tuel will undergo in week one.

The Patriots' pass D was awful to begin the 2012 season, and finished ranked 29th in the NFL averaging 271.4 net passing yards allowed per game - they coughed up a hefty 27 passing scores last year, vs. 20 interceptions generated (tied for fifth in the NFL). New England was 15th in the NFL with 37 sacks generated last year, while Buffalo was 10th with 30 sacks allowed. In the third preseason game, it looked like last year's secondary woes are extending into 2013, with 12/25 for 166 yards, one TD and zero interceptions given up to Matthew Stafford (and he was playing without Calvin Johnson!). All told, the Patriots surrendered 40 points and 23/39 for 331 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions to Detroit in the third exhibition.

This is a hard-fought divisional rivalry, but even with a rookie quarterback under center we cannot say that New England's shaky pass D has the edge - on balance, this looks like a neutral matchup for the green starter in Buffalo. However, it still looks uninviting from a fantasy owners' perspective, especially in leagues that penalize interceptions heavily, as the Patriots are ball-hawks and rookie starting quarterbacks are generally notorious for throwing picks early in the season.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

First of off, the good news for the Bills is that Sammy Watkins is back at practices as of September 1. He suffered a rib injury prior to the third preseason game, and didn't play in that contest. He resumed practicing, tried to go in the preseason finale, and suffered an aggravation of his ribs injury. Fantasy owners need to monitor Watkins' practice participation as the week goes along to note if he suffers another aggravation of the injury. If Watkins can't play, Mike Williams and Robert Woods would be the starting tandem during Week One. Williams led the team in receiving during the third preseason game, with four targets for 3/46/1 receiving, and has made a good transition from Tampa Bay into the Bills' organization - he is listed as the starter across from Watkins. Woods is a respectable third wide receiver who handled five targets for 2/39/0 in the third preseason game while Watkins was sidelined. Scott Chandler is the starting tight end and he is effective if unspectacular - he handled four targets for 3/40/0 in the third preseason contest.

EJ Manuel had an up-and-down preseason/training camp, and that phrase described his performance in the third preseason game vs. Tampa Bay as well, eventually posting 19/28 for 198 yards, one TD and one interception, but taking four sacks for -17 yards during the contest. During the first half the Bills' offense misfired with eight drives; three ended on turnovers, four on punts, and one as time expired at the end of the half. After the halftime, Manuel put together two scoring drives and connected with Williams for his TD pass, but the improved play came against the Tampa Bay second string defense. Entering regular season, there are a lot of question marks about the Buffalo passing attack. We'll see how they look against a full-bore, game-planned defense at Soldier Field this week.

Speaking of the defense, Chicago's defensive front was porous last season, allowing a league-worst 161.4 yards per game on the ground, so teams didn't test the secondary all that often during 2013. When they did throw the ball against the Bears, Chicago averaged 233 passing yards allowed per game (tied for 14th in the NFL), with 19 interceptions (tied for eighth in the NFL) and 31 sacks (tied for last in the NFL) generated by the defense. The defensive backs were ball-hawks, but the defensive front didn't generate much pass pressure. In order to address this situation up front, the Bears signed Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to become their new defensive ends, and both figure to start in Week One. However, the Bears defense had no answers for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks during the third preseason game. They allowed touchdowns on each of the first four possessions (the second two TDs were passing scores to Jermaine Kearse and Christine Michael), and also gave up seven straight third-down conversions to Seattle. The score was 0-31 in favor of Seattle by the start of halftime. Not too good, folks.

Two mediocre-to-sub-par units face off in this phase of the game - that sounds about even to us. Also, the Bills' running backs have an attractive matchup in this game so Buffalo may rely on their rushing attack heavily here in Week One.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Cam Newton had a rough game at New England in the third exhibition, throwing 8/12 for 88 yards but getting sacked three times for -19 yards. He also had three rushes for 12 yards and took a ribs injury on one of the tackles. The early word this week is that Newton expects to play in the opener at Tampa Bay as always, but he's not going to be 100% healthy with banged-up ribs that include a hairline fracture in the bargain. Newton asserted on August 27 that 'There's no doubt in my mind,' he would play - it remains to be seen how effective he'll be with a less-than-100% ankle and sore ribs, though. The Panthers kept Newton in a limited offense for almost all of preseason in an attempt to shield him from contact to his healing ankle, so they may play in a conservative role this weekend, too - which would likely mean a lot of handoffs to Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

The good news in Carolina this year has come from rookie sensation Kelvin Benjamin, who has been very productive throughout camp and preseason games, and who is reportedly bonding tightly with Newton both on and off the field. Benjamin led the team in receiving at New England (six targets for 5/47/0 receiving) and has snagged numerous TDs in practice sessions and hauled in a total of 12/173/1 during preseason (nine of his catches went for first downs, by the way). Benjamin will team up with steady veteran Jerricho Cotchery (46/602/10 receiving for Pittsburgh last season) and reliable tight end Greg Olsen (73/816/6 receiving last season) to form the main pass-catchers for Newton, though rookie Brenton Bersin had 7/116/1 receiving during preseason and all seven of his catches went for first downs - Bersin could mix in for some important grabs as well.

Tampa Bay was 17th in the NFL last season averaging 238 net passing yards allowed per game, with 30 passing scores handed out over 16 games. They were tied for third in the league with 21 interceptions generated, but only had 35 sacks (tied for 23rd in the league). EJ Manuel and the Bills struggled vs. Tampa in the third exhibition game, with 19/28 for 198 yards, one TD and one interception thrown, while Manuel took four sacks for -17 yards during the contest. During the first half the Bills' offense misfired with eight drives; three ended on turnovers, four on punts, and one as time expired at the end of the half. After the halftime, Manuel put together two scoring drives and connected with Williams for his TD pass, but the improved play came against the Tampa Bay second string defense. The Buccaneers looked stout against a mediocre Buffalo attack (that went without Sammy Watkins due to his injured ribs).

On balance, this looks like a clash between two so-so units - neither side has a clear edge in this phase of the game.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jay Cutler has taken the reins in Chicago and is working to make his new team 'his own'. He outplayed Kyle Orton during the week 3 clash between the Bears and the Broncos (15/21 for 144 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions for Cutler). Cutler is also reportedly very tight with TE Greg Olsen, who led the team in receiving vs. Denver (3/47/0). It appears as of week 1 that Cutler's starters at WR will be Devin Hester and Earl Bennett (an old college teammate of Cutler's). The Bears' OL allowed 29 sacks last season, a fairly decent showing when it comes to pass-blocking (in the middle of the NFL range).

Green Bay landed at 12th in the NFL at the end of the season averaging 202.8 pass yards allowed per game, with 22 passing TDs surrendered. The Packers were 23rd in the NFL last year allowing an average of 23.8 points per game, while generating 22 interceptions (3rd-best in the NFL) with 27 sacks (25th in the NFL). Overall, the team was mediocre in this phase of the game. During the preseason, the unit has been chastened by the Cardinals during week three (34/54 for 455 yards, 3 TDs and 2 interceptions) and the Titan's backups (12/23 for 164 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions) during week 4. It is apparent that the Packers D isn't out of the woods yet, despite new DC Dom Caper's best efforts.

The Packers will have home-field advantage in this contest, which boosts their chances from a whisper of a hope to a fairly even matchup.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jay Cutler (261/432 for 3.274 yards, 23 TDs and 16 interceptions last year, ending as the 15th-ranked fantasy QB) endured a lot of scrutiny after getting knocked out of the NFC Championship game due to a torn MCL in his left knee. However, all accounts out of Chicago during the lockout-spawned players-only workouts and his performances during preseason indicate that Cutler is completely recovered from the injury as of September 2011.

At Tennessee during week three of the preseason, Cutler posted 13/21 for 170 yards, zero TDs and one interception while favoring old college team mate Earl Bennett with seven targets for 6/89/0 receiving on the day. As of the start of regular season, it appears that Roy Williams (reunited with Martz after a stay in Dallas), Devin Hester, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox are the top four wideouts in the pass-happy Mike Martz offense - Williams posted 2/33/0 receiving out of four targets at Tennessee, Hester had 2/31/0 on four tries, and Knox managed 1/21/0 out of three looks that day. TE Greg Olsen was sent to Carolina for a third-round draft choice leaving Kellen Davis (10/94/4 receiving over three seasons in Chicago) as the new starter there entering week one of the 2011 season. In Martz's system, the wide receivers are the predominant targets, followed by the running back(s). Davis is a good fit for that view of tight ends.

The Falcons sported the league's 22nd ranked pass D last year, averaging 226.6 net yards allowed per game, with 23 pass TDs allowed - however, they were fourth in the league with 22 interceptions generated and tied for 20th with 31 sacks. The team brought in free agent DE Ray Edwards to boost the pass pressure up front, and he's expected to team with John Abraham in bringing a lot of heat onto opposing QBs. The Bears' offensive line was among the worst in the NFL last year at protecting the QB (though they improved somewhat during the course of the season and were better in the second half than the first half of the season), eventually allowing a total of 56 sacks last year (32nd in the NFL). Edwards and Abraham must be excited to see Cutler and the Bears on their opening day target list. At Pittsburgh in week three of the preseason, Atlanta allowed 224 net passing yards and two TDs with zero interceptions, but they generated two sacks during the contest. We'll see if Edwards can impact the front seven as expected starting Sunday in Chicago. Atlanta is seen as a middle-of-the-pack defense by the Footballguys.com staff, who rank them 14th on the eve of regular season, and David Dodds has them slotted just outside the top ten at 11th among team defenses for 2011.

Cutler has a respectable set of wide receivers to throw at, but his suspect line makes life rough for him at times. The Falcons like to play a ball-hawking style of defense and they'll look to hit Cutler a lot in this game, but they allow a lot of passing yards most weeks - on balance, this looks like a neutral matchup from where we're sitting.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Carson Palmer has been erratic during the preseason. At times, he's looked good (12/24 for 152 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. Washington), while at other times he's been stifled (13/25 for 136 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. Philadelphia). The quality of his starting receivers is unquestionable (Chad Johnson and T. J. Houshmandzadeh are among the league's best starting duos) - this is a situation that Palmer needs to work through.

Cleveland ranked 5th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 181.3 passing yards per game, but this statistic is somewhat misleading -- the Browns were the league's worst rush defense, so teams didn't need to throw the ball a ton. The team's management retooled the defense during the off-season, so it'll be interesting to see how the 2005 edition plays vs. the pass and the run.

Cornerbacks Daylon McCutcheon (migraines), Gary Baxter (concussion) and Mike Lehan (hamstring injury) have all been injured for stretches of the preseason -the Browns' starting secondary hasn't been on the field together very much. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Brown's Stadium expects near-perfect weather on Sunday -- 80F for a high, 64F for a low, with a 0% chance of rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this contest.

Palmer comes into this game unsettled, while the Browns have suffered from injury woes and don't have a lot of reps together in the secondary. This one looks like an even matchup from where we sit.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Carson Palmer has a top-flight tandem of receivers at his disposal this year as 'Batman and Robin' Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco will strive to co-exist as they bring their diva duo act to regular season. Also exciting Bengals fans is rookie TE Jermaine Gresham, who has been a force during the preseason (grabbing 12 passes for 131 yards and one TD over four appearances). With a steady ground-pounder in Cedric Benson to keep defenses honest, and a revitalized stable of receivers, Palmer will work to rebound from last year's disappointing 282/466 for 3,094 yards, 21 TDs and 13 interceptions showing (18th fantasy QB in the land).

The Patriots fielded the league's 12th-ranked passing attack during 2009, allowing an average of 208.7 net passing yards per game, with 25 TDs allowed and 18 interceptions (20th and 11th in the NFL, respectively). Their total of 31 sacks was tied for 23rd in the NFL. If the third preseason game is any indication of the Patriots' condition entering regular season, they may be in trouble - lowly St. Louis managed 29/41 for 326 yards, three TDs and just one interception during their game on August 26th. Don't read too much into the result, but realize that the Patriots gave up 15/22 for 189 yards and two TDs to rookie starter Sam Bradford in the course of that game.

Cincinnati is working to put together a lot of new pieces, but it remains to be seen if Owens and Palmer can get on the same page (Owens has 12/143/0 receiving so far). The Patriots were solid last year but a red flag went up in the St. Louis game - we think this looks like a fairly even matchup on balance.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Trent Dilfer has a solid stable of receivers in Cleveland (Antonio Bryant, Braylon Edwards, Dennis Northcutt) and a suspect running game. The Browns need to be able to throw the ball. How well Dilfer can accomplish this task remains to be seen - he tossed 15/23 for 168 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception vs. the Panthers during the week 3 preseason contest. Dilfer has a Super-Bowl ring on his hand, so don't count him out - but be realistic with your expectations -- he is entering his 12th year in the league.

Cincinnati was mediocre vs. the pass last year (they averaged 206.4 passing yards allowed per game, 13th in the NFL), and during the week 3 preseason game vs. Philadelphia Donovan McNabb embarrassed them with 14/23 for 256 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions in only part of a game. It appears that the Bengals aren't a top unit once again this year - time will tell.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Brown's Stadium expects near-perfect weather on Sunday -- 80F for a high, 64F for a low, with a 0% chance of rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this contest.

Dilfer and company hope to notch a win on Sunday -- they'll have an even chance at doing so vs. their division rivals.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Charlie Frye continues to be a work-in-progress, tossing 12/16 for 76 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Saints during the 3rd pre-season game. Vs. the Lions, he tossed 8-of-11 for 41 yards with a TD and an interception. Obviously, Frye hasn't been "airing it out" much during the pre-season. We'll see what he can do with Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow II and Joe Jurevicius in the lineup for a whole game, rather than just small chunks of a game, this week. Frye played in only the final 7 games last year so he's still learning how to play at this level.

New Orleans was 3rd in the NFL last year allowing an average of 178.1 passing yards per game, but ranked 18th in TDs allowed in this phase with 20 given up. Teams simply didn't need to throw against the Saints as the rushing defense and offense were so anemic that passing became an afterthought. New Orleans faced the fewest pass attempts (418) and completions (242) in the league last season, but swallowed 503 rushing attempts at a clip of 4.26 rushing yards allowed per attempt (26th worst in yards allowed per rush last year). Peyton Manning, Shaun King and the Colts had no trouble shredding their secondary during the week 3 pre-season "tune-up" for regular season, compiling 23/41 for 306 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception.

Frye is not the strongest QB in the league, but the Saints aren't exactly dominant on defense, either. This one looks pretty even to us.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Derek Anderson practiced on Monday, a significant step in his recovery from a concussion suffered during preseason. Coach Romeo Crennel commented on Anderson's presence, saying: "We'll see what he can do today. If he can handle himself today I think the possibility (he'll play) is greater. I hope he can use this week to get in sync with the receivers and feel good about how he's going to run this offense. The doctors need to see he can handle the sunlight and we need to see how he can handle the verbiage of the offense, handle the checks. If he can do that and doesn't have any headaches afterwards, it will be a positive step." Braylon Edwards, who missed the final 2 weeks of the preseason due to a freak cleating incident (he had a deep cut on his heel), was also back in practices on Monday. Hopefully, the team will be able to deploy all the members of their top-10 passing attack (Anderson was #5 among fantasy QBs in total points last season) on Sunday when Dallas comes to town. Keep an eye on Anderson and Edwards' progress as the week goes along and the official injury reports/practice status is released.

The Cowboys' pass D was so-so last year, averaging 213.1 pass yards per game (13th in the NFL), while allowing 19 pass TDs (8th in the NFL). They were 3rd in the NFL with 46 sacks during 2007, but the Browns' pass blocking was very good during the same time, with only 19 sacks allowed (4th-best in the league). In the game vs. Houston in week 3 of the preseason, the Cowboys handed over 19/35 for 195 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions. They didn't have a sack in the contest, either. It appears that the Cowboys haven't jelled as a defensive unit yet this year.

Cleveland's unit hasn't had a lot of repetitions as a unit of late, while the Cowboys' defense continues to tinker with personnel packages and haven't been impressive so far. This looks like a fairly even matchup with both teams seeking to get on the right track in week 1.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jake Delhomme has completed a minimum of 75% of his passes in the three preseason games in which he appeared, and has thrown two TDs (one in each of the second and third preseason games). Against the Lions in week three of the preseason, Delhomme hit 20/25 for 152 yards, one TD and zero interceptions. Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi are the starting WRs this year, and TE Ben Watson is the starter at that position. Jerome Harrison was a handy receiver out of the backfield last year (34/220/2), and his backup Peyton Hillis led the team in receptions through August 31st - there are quality short-to-intermediate range targets on the field for Delhomme to dink-and-dunk to as he becomes comfortable in the Browns' attack.

Tampa Bay was 10th in the NFL in passing yards allowed last year (207.4 per game on average), partly due to their 32nd-ranked rush D. They coughed up 28 passing TDs over 16 games (26th in the NFL), but did generate 19 interceptions (ninth) and 28 sacks (tied-26th). The pass defense was opportunistic in the turnover department, but failed to brake opponents' scoring or to generate much pass rush pressure. Jacksonville put up 33/45 for 287 yards, one TD and two interceptions vs. this group during the third preseason game on August 28th.

Delhomme had a horrid 2009, but all signs point to a modest rebound on his part for the 2010 season. Tampa was a mediocre-to-sub-par pass D depending on the category, and doesn't look measurably improved so far this year. We think this is a fairly even matchup, but given the weakness of the Tampa run D, don't expect Cleveland to air the ball out a whole lot in week one.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Brandon Weeden looked solid in the first two preseason games, but faltered in the third contest vs. Indianapolis, with a less-than-.500 completion percentage (12/25 for 105 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions) - even so, Weeden has proven enough to be the clear-cut starting quarterback in Cleveland. Because he is 29, Weeden has more maturity than most second-year NFL quarterbacks - now we'll see if he can improve on mediocre rookie numbers (297/517 for 3,385 yards, 14 TDs and 17 interceptions thrown, with 27/111/0 rushing). Weeden will do without Josh Gordon for the first two games of the season so for now Greg Little and Travis Benjamin will be the starting wide receivers, with third-year breakout candidate Jordan Cameron at staring tight end (and Trent Richardson to catch dump-offs out of the backfield). Weeden has the building blocks for a solid season - now it is up to him to flourish in Norv Turner's offense.

The Dolphins' pass D was 27th in the NFL last year averaging 248.8 net yards allowed per game, with 18 passing scores given away vs. 10 interceptions (tied for 27th in the NFL) and 42 sacks (seventh in the NFL) generated. However, this season the Dolphins' pass D is playing well entering regular season - Josh Freeman was limited to 6/16 for 59 yards passing, with zero TDs or interceptions while taking five sacks for -24 yards during the third exhibition game - all told, the Buccaneers only scraped up 9/25 for 70 net yards passing, with one TD and zero interceptions (and six sacks taken for -33 yards) during that game. Miami's strong pass rush will be a concern for Weeden, who plays behind an offensive line that allowed 36 sacks last season (tied for 15th in the NFL).

Weeden is still developing as a quarterback, but the suspect Miami secondary may allow him some breaks this weekend if his offensive line can ward off the Miami pass rushers. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup with neither side having a huge edge over the other.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The latest word from Drew Bledsoe about his apparent concussion to close pre-season was text-messaged to the Mac Engel of the Star-Telegram on 9/1/06. Bledsoe stated "Feeling OK. Sore neck. Nothing serious. Ready to go." Heading into the first week of the season, it also appears that Terrell Owens will be in the lineup at Jacksonville - he's practiced consistently this week and claims that his hamstring is holding up fine to the increased work. Bledsoe threw 300/499 for 3639 yards, 23 TDs and 17 interceptions last year without Owens, so it'll be fun to see how his production fares with Terry Glenn (who has looked outstanding all pre-season while Owens nursed his sore hamstring), Owens and Jason Witten in the pass patterns. One thing is for sure, Bledsoe is not lacking quality targets. If Bledsoe gets knocked out of the picture again, Tony Romo has played well during pre-season and looks like a solid option for Parcells and company.

Jacksonville was 6th in the NFL in total yards allowed per game last year, averaging 290.9 total yards in each contest. They were 7th vs. the pass, averaging 184.1 passing yards given up each week, but were 22nd in passing scores allowed (22). Part of the reason for this mixed statistical picture is because the rush defense was so dominant at the goal-line (only 4 rushing TDs surrendered) that teams opted to test the pass defense when in range of the goal-line. In any case, this team is one of the premier overall defenses in the NFL entering 2006.

How good is the chemistry between Bledsoe, Owens, Glenn and Witten now that all the principals have been practicing together? The answer to that question will start to become apparent in Jacksonville this week. We think this looks like a fairly even matchup, on balance.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tony Romo has been eased back into the action while his back healed from an offseason surgery - he posted 10/18 for 87 yards passing, zero TDs or interceptions and took three sacks for -19 yards while chipping the rust off his throwing arm in the third exhibition game. He practiced during the week prior to the preseason finale but didn't play in the game as is usual for starters - all signs point to Romo starting in Week One and playing as usual. He'll rely heavily on Dez Bryant (93/1,233/13 receiving last season) and Jason Witten (73/851/8 last year) while Terrance Williams (44/736/5 during 2013) gets used to being a starting wide receiver at this level.

Philip Rivers completed his first five passes against the 49ers' first team defense and finished 9/10 for 85 yards and a touchdown, with zero interceptions or sacks taken. Between Rivers and Peyton Manning, the 49ers secondary allowed the two starters to complete 21 of 24 passes for 187 yards and passer ratings of 120 or better against them - there are warning signs here that all is not well with the 49ers' defensive backs, folks. Last year, the 49ers were ranked seventh in the NFL averaging 221 net passing yards allowed per game, with 19 passing scores handed out over 16 games. They had 18 interceptions (tied for 10th in the NFL) and 38 sacks (tied for 18th) to their credit by year's end.

In Cowboys'/AT&T Stadium, we think Romo and company have a neutral matchup against a 49ers' squad that is trying to find their stride here early in the season.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jake Plummer and Ashley Lelie are on the same page. During their preseason week 3 grudge match vs. Indianapolis, Lelie snagged 5/104/1, including a beautiful 40 yard TD reception. With fellow WR Rob Smith and TEs Stephen Alexander and Jeb Putzier also in the mix, Plummer has multiple weapons to throw at - this team looks scary good coming into regular season.

Miami ranked second in the NFL last season, allowing 162 passing yards per game -- but they have reshuffled their defense coming into 2005. Patrick Surtain is knocking people silly for K.C. this year, and his anticipated replacement Will Poole is on the PUP list to start the season. The new cast performed well during week 3 of the pre-season, holding Tampa to 16/28 for 171 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception - the Dolphins may be picking up 2005 where they left off.

Both squads come into this game in decent shape, with no injuries of note aside from Poole's. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Dolphin's Stadium calls for a high of 91F and low of 79F with a 30% chance of precipitation. That forecast translates into "hot and muggy, with possibly poor field conditions". Weather could adversely affect both squads, especially if the rain comes down hard around game time. Keep an eye on the weather if you are planning on starting a Bronco or Dolphin.

Plummer and company should be up to the challenge that Miami poses, but it probably won't be easy to walk away with a win.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jay Cutler has a revamped stable of receivers to work with (Javon Walker is a hold-over, but Rod Smith is out due to a hip surgery and TE Tony Scheffler missed most of training camp due to a foot injury) - WR Brandon Stokley came over from Indianapolis and has looked good, while starting TE Daniel Graham is an import from New England. Brandon Marshall has climbed the depth chart and figures to be a big factor at WR this year, as well. Cutler tossed 9/15 for 116 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions during week 3 of the preseason - he's been consistently solid during the time he's played during the exhibition season.

Buffalo gave up 19/30 for 261 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions to the Titans during week 3 of the preseason - not a strong beginning to the 2007 campaign. They were 7th in the NFL vs. the pass last year, averaging 188.7 yards allowed per game (18 passing scores handed over), with 40 QB sacks to their credit (tied for 8th in the league). But that was with CB Nate Clements who is now in San Francisco.

Cutler begins his second campaign in the hostile confines of Ralph Wilson Stadium - but with the Bills missing Nate Clements, this one looks like a neutral matchup from where we sit.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Matthew Stafford closed preseason fairly strongly with 13/19 for 160 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception vs. the tough Colts' pass D in week three, and followed up with 5/9 for 81 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. He was good enough to win the starting job (Daunte Culpepper cut his toe and had to have stiches, missing the preseason finale as a result). One of the reasons cited for Stafford's ascension is that he has a good rapport with the Lions lone returning WR held over from last season - Calvin Johnson (151 targets for 78/1331/12 receiving last year). Behind Johnson are a group of NFL retreads, with Bryant Johnson penciled in as the other starter, followed by Dennis Northcutt in the #3 slot. Fellow rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew figures to be a favorite target for Stafford this year - he caught 2/24/0 vs. Indy while Johnson hauled in 4/67/0. Derrick Williams is also in the mix at WR, with 4/63/0 to his credit in the third preseason contest.

The Saints' pass D ranked 23rd in the NFL last season, averaging 224.1 yards allowed per game, with 21 passing scores given up. Overall, New Orleans was 26th in the NFL averaging 24.6 total points given up per game. They did generate 15 interceptions (t-11th) and had 28 sacks (t-22nd). Their pass D was less-than-impressive last year, for sure. New DC Gregg Williams aims to bring a most aggressive, zone-blitzing scheme to life down in the bayou, but it remains to be seen if the Saints' personnel can execute his schemes. The injury-riddled Oakland Raiders managed to pass for 21/33 for 237 yards and one TD in their blowout loss to the Saints in the third exhibition (45-7) - despite the big win the secondary didn't shine in the tune-up to regular season.

Stafford is a rookie working with a lean crew of receivers, but against the giving Saints he has an even shot at getting out of the gates without a disaster.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Matthew Stafford completed 24 of 31 passes for 356 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions through the first three preseason games. During that three game period, he compiled a quarterback rating of 154.0 before closing the exhibition season in a brief cameo at Buffalo (1/2 for 39 yards passing, zero TDs and zero interceptions). In short, Stafford has looked as hot as any fantasy quarterback in the land during August, 2011. The one pass he completed at Buffalo went to Calvin Johnson, who figures to be a fantasy monster this year with Stafford playing so red-hot - we expect Johnson to catch at least five passes in week one and collect ~70 yards receiving and perhaps a score (according to David Dodds' early week one projections released on Tuesday, September sixth). Nate Burleson and TE Brandon Pettigrew also figure to be big cogs in this improving attack - the Lions are going to make some noise in the NFC this season, friends.

The Buccaneers' pass D was so-so last season, doing fairly well at containing opposing passers (the team was 7th in the NFL averaging 201.0 net yards allowed per game), but they did give away 23 passing TDs vs. 19 interceptions (tied for eighth in the NFL) and just 26 sacks (tied for 30th) generated. The defensive front has made a point of getting after opposing QBs during preseason, but it remains to be seen if they can generate more pressure when the games start to count. Chad Henne and Matt Moore combined for 18/29 yielding 225 net yards, one TD and zero interceptions against Tampa during the third preseason game. Though it isn't a perfect tool for judging the strength of the pass D in particular, it is worth noting that both the Footballguys.com consensus staff ranking and David Dodds' individual team defense ranking slots Tampa Bay at 15th as an overall team defense. There is still room for improvement on this squad (especially in the rush D department, but also in aspects of the passing defense).

Stafford and company travel to hostile Raymond James Stadium this week, but they will face a mediocre pass D on the field - this one looks pretty even to us at mid-week.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Brett Favre throwing to Javon Walker and Donald Driver. That sounds like an awesome trio, but the reality during preseason hasn't been so rosy. Favre managed 9/21 for 69 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions vs. the World Champion Patriots in week 3 of preseason, and he followed that performance up with 4/8 for 49 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions during the final week of preseason.

Detroit's pass D was sub-par during 2004, allowing an average of 219.6 passing yards per game (20th in the NFL) and 29 passing scores. The Rams tore up this defense during week 3 of the preseason, to the tune of 19/25 for 286 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception. The Lions did not look ready for prime time, to say the least.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in Ford Field's dome, so weather won't be a factor.

Two struggling squads hook up in this game - this one looks even to us before the fact.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Brett Favre tossed 14/20 for 130 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Jaguars during week 3 of preseason. However, there are a number of issues hovering over his receiving corps: Donald Driver is nursing a foot injury; Greg Jennings hasn't been very productive during preseason; Donald Lee and Bubba Franks have battled to an inconclusive status as of week 1 regular season. OC Joe Philbin commented on the TE situation on Tuesday, 9/4: "I feel good about both of them. I think Bubba is moving better than he has the last couple of years, there's no question about that. He's had a very good camp. Donald Lee has been solid, too. I think with those guys, the days of Bubba playing 70 plays and the second tight end playing 15 are over. I don't think Donald is going to play 50 and Bubba plays 10. It probably will be more balanced between those two guys." James Jones is pushing Jennings for playing time - a lot remains to be resolved in the early weeks of 2007. We'll see if Favre can stay among the most productive NFL QBs soon enough - starting this week.

The Eagles were 9th in the NFL vs. the pass last year, with an average of 191.7 yards allowed per game (17 passing TDs surrendered). They love to bring pressure on opposing QBs - 40 sacks last year landed them at 8th in the NFL (tie). Green Bay only allowed 24 sacks last year, though (5th best in the NFL). During week 3 of preseason, the Eagles allowed 18/32 for 322 yards to the Steelers, but didn't give up a TD and had 2 interceptions to their credit. They are one of the highest pressure defenses in the NFL, and it looks like they'll keep the heat on during 2007.

The Pack has Lambeau Field at their back this week, but the Eagles are never easy to deal with - this one looks like a neutral matchup to us, with neither team holding a clear edge over the other.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Aaron Rodgers (357/553 for 4,180 yards, 30 TDs and eight interceptions last year) and company have been in midseason form throughout the preseason - Rodgers has completed more than 70% of his passes in all three preseason games in which he played, and has notched six TD passes vs. zero interceptions during that time frame. Against the Colts during week three of the preseason, Rodgers completed 21 of 29 attempts for 195 yards and three TDs, while backup Mike Flynn threw 8/13 for 80 yards and two scores - all told, the Packers threw down for 33/47 for 337 yards, five TDs and zero interceptions - Jermichael Finley led the team in receiving that day (6/85/1) followed by Donald Driver (5/35/1), James Jones (4/30/1) and Jordy Nelson (4/30/0). Greg Jennings sat out of the game as a precaution due to back spasms, but will hopefully be ready for the season opener - keep an eye on the injury report at midweek to see what his status is for Sunday's game. The Packers sport one of the league's most powerful passing attacks, friends.

The Eagles were 17th in the NFL last year while averaging 216.4 net yards allowed per game. They handed out 27 TDs (24th) but also generated 25 interceptions (fourth) and 44 sacks (tied for third in the NFL). The Eagles play an aggressive, attacking style of defense but they also allow a generous number of scoring passes and yards in each contest. During the third preseason game, the Eagles limited Matt Cassel and company to 16/28 for 128 net yards, one TD and one interception - but Kansas City's passing attack is far less potent than Green Bay's. However, Green Bay led the league in sacks allowed last season, with 51 given up, which is not a comforting thought for Rodgers heading into the hostile confines of Lincoln Financial Field.

The strengths of the Packers' offense and the strengths of the Philadelphia defense hit the flaws in each others' games. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup for the visiting Packers.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Aaron Rodgers was the top fantasy QB in the land during 2010, with 312/475 for 3,922 yards, 28 TDs and 11 interceptions passing, along with 64/356/4 rushing to his credit. Drew Brees threw for over 4,600 yards last year, and had 33 passing TDs - do you think that this game will feature a lot of passing plays? We do - Rodgers is our #2 fantasy QB for week one as of Tuesday, September sixth, and we anticipate him coming close to 300 yards passing with probably two passing TDs to his credit at the end of the game. Greg Jennings is ninth on our WR projections for week one, and Jermichael Finley checks in at #5 on the TE list for week one. We think the Packers will throw the ball early and often in this game, friends.

The Saints fielded one of the top pass defenses in the NFL last year, ranking fourth in the league while averaging 193.9 net yards allowed per contest. They gave up just 13 passing scores all year, but they were also dead last in interceptions with a paltry nine, and landed at 18th in the NFL with 33 sacks generated. If you can't rush the passer well and don't break on the ball in the secondary successfully, Rodgers and company will give you a hard time, friends. The Oakland Raiders' QBs threw for 23/34 yielding 253 net yards, one TD and one interception during the third preseason 'tune up' game. It looks like the Saints' pass D has backslid since the end of the 2010 season.

Two NFC powerhouses clash in this contest - we think that the home-field advantage that Green Bay enjoys makes this a fairly even contest on Thursday night.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Matt Schaub escaped the backup role in Atlanta and is now established as the starter in Houston. He's been on a steep learning curve, but 12/16 for 109 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. Dallas during preseason week 3 helped calm the jitters of many a Houston fan (and fantasy owners of Schaub). Kevin Walters and Jacoby Jones provide some nice options across from Andre Johnson, and the team has high hopes for TE Owen Daniels this year. Quietly, the Texans have put together a solid stable of receivers for Schaub.

The Chiefs coughed up 29/34 for 282 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception to the Saints during preseason week 3 - they didn't look very strong on D, losing 30-7. Starter Drew Brees had 2 incompletions all day long (17/19 for 182 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions). Last year, K.C. was 18th in the NFL averaging 208.4 yards allowed with 18 pass TDs surrendered. They notched 32 sacks (23rd in the NFL) - the Texans were 9th worst in the NFL with 43 sacks given up.

Schaub has home field advantage at his back, but until we see the OL play for real we're tempering our enthusiasm - this looks like a neutral matchup from where we sit with the potential to be a good matchup.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Texans gave up 23 sacks last year, tied for 16th in the NFL - they have moved beyond the bad-old-days with David Carr getting creamed every other drop-back. The team needs to protect Matt Schaub, who's had numerous injury issues since joining the team (most recently he sprained a right ankle running out of bounds). Schaub took half the snaps in practice on Tuesday, September 8, and he is listed as day-to-day. Head Gary Kubiak sounded optimistic about Schaub's chances of starting the season opener vs. the Jets, but would not commit to Schaub as the starter. "He took a big step forward [Tuesday]," Kubiak said. "He's progressing toward getting ready to go, so it's a positive move forward for him." If Schaub can't play, Rex Grossman would likely get the nod to start week 1. Surrounding Schaub (251/380 for 3043 yards, 15 TDs and 10 interceptions over 11 games last season - he pitched 10/14 for 108 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception vs. the Vikings in the third exhibition game) is a very capable set of receivers, led by all-world talent Andre Johnson (3/61/0 receiving vs. Minnesota - he caught 115/1575/8 last year) and a great TE in Owen Daniels (70/862/2 receiving last year). Kevin Walter is the other starting WR (60/899/8), while Andre Davis and David Anderson are the depth players at WR. However, Walter has a hamstring injury and hasn't practiced yet this week as of September 9th, so Davis and Anderson may be more involved in the game this week. The Texans have the ability to move the ball through the air (they had 4267 passing yards as a team last year, the other 1000+ coming from Sage Rosenfels who has moved on to the Vikings).

This year, under new HC Rex Ryan and new DC Mike Pettine, the Jets will meld free agent importees LB Bart Scott, S Jim Leonhard and CB Lito Sheppard with the quality talent already on the roster (like OLB Calvin Pace, though he is currently on suspension) to attack, attack, attack the opposition in a style similar to the Baltimore Ravens (from whence Ryan and Pettine came to New York). The Jets allowed an average of 234.5 passing yards per game last year, with 23 passing TDs handed over to their opponents. The defense landed in the middle of the NFL field in terms of total points allowed per game, with 22.3 given up per contest on average (18th in the league). New York generated 14 interceptions (t-15th) and 41 sacks last year (7th in the NFL). However, with OLB Calvin Pace suspended for four games to open the season (Pace had a career-best 7 sacks last year, and 5.5 in Arizona the year before), the Jets may have less luck notching sacks to begin the season. The Jets' starters frustrated Eli Manning during week three in the preseason, holding him to 9/21 for 91 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception, but the reserves allowed David Carr to pretty up the stat line with 12/17 for 181 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions.

Schaub appears set to play in the season opener - although we could see Grossman instead - and it should be quite a brawl when two quality units clash in Reliant Stadium. This matchup looks fairly even to us.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

DeAndre Hopkins passed the NFL-mandated concussion protocols and will be active for the season opener at San Diego. He is expected to start across from Andre Johnson and could be in for a big role in the Houston passing attack. Matt Schaub has been efficient during preseason, pitching 15/26 for 213 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions vs. New Orleans in the third exhibition game - Andre Johnson dominated the Saints with eight targets for 7/131/0 receiving while tight end Owen Daniels put up nine for 4/47/0 during the game. With Hopkins back in the mix (and Arian Foster finally practicing, too - he's a accomplished receiver out of the backfield with 40/217/2 receiving last season), the Texans have all the knives in their drawer to bring out at San Diego.

The Chargers promoted linebackers coach John Pagano to defensive coordinator when they restructured the coaching staff over the offseason. His team did well in the third preseason game, holding Carson Palmer to 12/23 for 122 yards, one TD and zero interceptions (the Chargers gave up only the one passing TD during the game). All told, the Chargers had four sacks of Arizona quarterbacks for -50 yards, and held Arizona to 22/38 for 153 net yards passing, with one TD and one interception. So far, so good for the made-over San Diego D. Last year, the Chargers were 18th in the NFL averaging 230.1 net passing yards allowed per game, but they surrendered 28 TDs vs. just 14 interceptions and 38 sacks generated (tied for 16th- and 11th-ranked in the NFL respectively).

Schaub and company can move the ball through the air when they need to - against the so-so Chargers we think this is a neutral matchup for the visiting team.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Ryan Fitzpatrick era in Houston has been an up-and-down rollercoaster ride (as is usual for teams led by Fitzpatrick) - during preseason he created three scoring drives going a combined 25/43 for 232 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions thrown, including his 10/17 for 80 yards, zero TDs or interceptions, thrown during the third preseason game at Denver. That game is important because it was Fitzpatrick's first chance to work with Andre Johnson who missed much of preseason due to an injured hamstring. Fitzpatrick targeted Johnson five times for 3/18/0 during the contest. As Arian Foster is reported to be in 'wonderful' physical shape for Week One, this game will be the first occassion on which Fitzpatrick gets to play with a full array of weapons. It will be interesting to see how the Houston offense operates together with so few preseason reps as a team.

The Washington pass defense was ranked 20th in the NFL averaging 244 net passing yards allowed per game last year, while surrendering 29 passing scores over 16 games. The team did have 16 interceptions (tied for 15th in the NFL) and 36 sacks (tied for 21st in the league) during regular season. Joe Flacco had little trouble moving the ball on the defense, with 16/23 for 180 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions thrown during the third preseason game (Flacco was sacked twice for -18 yards during the contest).

Washington has a sub-par pass D by most measuring sticks, while the Texans have a suspect, but largely unknown, first team offense entering week one. This looks like a neutral matchup to us, with neither team having a big edge over the other.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne - and now the team has replaced Brandon Stokley with Anthony Gonzalez, who seems to be a good fit at #3 WR. Did we mention Dallas Clark and Ben Utecht at TE, or Joseph Addai at RB?

This team is loaded on offense, folks. The rich just get richer. During preseason week 3, Manning and company dismantled Detroit 37-10, with Manning putting up 23/27 for 233 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions during a part-time appearance. Heck, Jim Sorgi tossed 16/23 for 171 yards and 2 TDs in relief of Manning. These guys are scary good.

Last year, the Saints were 3rd in the NFL vs. opposing passers, giving up 178.4 yards per game on average (they did hand over 26 passing scores, though, tied for dead last in the NFL). New Orleans had 38 sacks a year ago, tied for 12th in the NFL, but Indianapolis hasn't been vulnerable to pass rushers in the past (15 sacks given up last year - #1 in the NFL). The retirement of LT Tarik Glenn will test the units' resiliency this year (Tony Ugoh, a rookie from Arkansas, has a lot to prove now that the games count and he has Manning's blind side).

The Saints didn't hand over a ton of passing yards last year, but were suspect in the red zone - this looks like a neutral matchup for the Colts on Thursday night.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

There is a lot of angst in Indianapolis about their $90 million quarterback Peyton Manning - the 'minor surgical procedure' on his neck performed during the offseason hasn't come around as expected and it is looking very likely that Manning will miss at least part of September due to the lagging recovery. Footballguys.com's own Dr. Jene Bramel delved into this situation at depth in his recent 'Medical Red Flags' columnn which I highly recommend (http://subscribers.footballguys.com/2011/11bramel_2ndopinion.php). Recent news has indicated that Manning's recovery has hit some snags and is getting additional medical opinions about his condition. Colts' vice chairman Bill Polian put it this way when he said he could not issue a target date for Manning's return as of September sixth. 'It's positive (outlook) ... He is going to be back at some point,' Polian said. 'What we don't know right now is what the results of the diagnostic tests are, what is the prognosis going forward. This is uncharted territory, but we do know that the nerve regeneration takes time and it just hasn't healed yet. It will.'

Suffice it to say, it looks like the Colts are preparing for Kerry Collins to start the regular season opener in Houston on Sunday. Collins has played 17 seasons in the NFL, with 3440 completions out of 6163 attempts (55.8% completion percentage), yielding 40,439 passing yards with 206 TDs and 195 interceptions thrown to date. In his last season (10 games appeared in for Tennessee during 2010), Collins threw 160/278 for 1,823 yards, 14 TDs and eight interceptions. It's fair to say, however, that Collins has never been blessed with as many talented receivers as he now is surrounded by in Indianapolis. Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme and Joseph Addai are all veteran guys who should help Collins look good while Manning is sidelined - for week one, our projections have Collins in the middle of the QB 2 tier in production (not too bad for a guy who hasn't been with the team for more than two weeks). Collins has been forced to be a quick study in the team's offensive system; however, Collins said on September sixth that he feels comfortable within the scheme. 'I feel like I've come a long way in a short time since I've been here,' Collins said. 'But as far as my comfort level, it's pretty high.'

The Texans field s very suspect pass D - they were dead last in the NFL last year averaging 267.5 net yards allowed per game, and the team coughed up 33 passing TDs (tied for most TDs allowed with Dallas) vs. just 13 interceptions (tied for 23rd in the league) and 30 sacks (tied for 23rd in the NFL) generated. Danieal Manning was brought in from Chicago to try and fill the void in the middle of the secondary, and converted CB Glover Quin over to S as another step towards addressing the weakness at the back of their secondary, but we have yet to see how those moves have panned out. Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith stunk up the joint vs. Houston in the third exhibition game (50 net yards passing and zero TDs with two interceptions), but that is more about how weak the 49ers pass offense is than it is about a sudden surge in competence by the Texans. The Footballguys.com staff thinks the Houston team D is 23rd overall while David Dodds is even more pessimistic about the entire unit, ranking them 30th among the NFL teams - there isn't much this defense does right in either phase of the game.

Collins is a savvy veteran but he's been rushed into a very complex offense. Despite the cupcake Houston secondary, we're calling this a neutral matchup for the Manning-less Colts.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Byron Leftwich completed 2004 as the 21st ranked fantasy QB in points per game (15.96 points per game, 267/441 for 2941 yards, 15 TDs, 10 interceptions with 39/148/2 rushing). This year, he's throwing at essentially the same cast of characters with mediocre results. During the preseason week 3 clash with Atlanta, Leftwich managed 11/20 for 179 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions. He clearly has the potential for excellence, but he's not wowing anyone entering the regular season.

Seattle fielded a sub-par pass D last year, coughing up an average of 224.4 passing yards per game (23rd in the NFL) with 24 passing scores given up during 16 regular season games. The Chiefs managed 17/30 for 211 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. this squad during the week 3 preseason game. Things haven't changed much since last year. Defensive Coordinator Ray Rhodes was hospitalized on Monday, which won't help things any come Sunday.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Alltel Stadium calls for a high of 91F with a low of 77F and a 30% chance of rain. The heat and humidity may take a toll on the players, and if the rain comes down heavily at game time, the field could become treacherous.

Jacksonville's attack is mediocre, and so is Seattle's defense. That sounds about even to us.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Blake Bortles was terrible last season, finishing 24th among all fantasy quarterbacks in season points. He had only 11 passing scores and 17 interceptions thrown during his rookie campaign (280/475 for 2,907 yards passing). However, things they are a-changing down in Jacksonville.

First of all, Bortles worked hard on his throwing mechanics during the offseason, and has by all accounts improved the speed of his release and other basic and necessary skills to survive as a pro quarterback. The improvements led to a 65 percent completion rate and only two sacks taken over the three preseason games he appeared in, a vast improvement in the sacks department over 2014 when he went down early and often behind a line that allowed a mind-boggling 71 sacks last year. He has showed chemistry with Allen Hurns (97 targets for 57/677/6 receiving last year) and Allen Robinson (81 for 48/548/2) at different points during the exhibition season, but Bortles will enter the 2015 campaign without tight end Julius Thomas (finger-tendon surgery, still out rehabbing). We'll see how Bortles fares now that the defensive coordinators are actually putting together full game plans for their starters.

Speaking of defense, Carolina was ranked 11th in the NFL last season, averaging 227.8 net passing yards allowed per game, with 25 TDs given out vs. 14 interceptions (tied for 14th in the league) and 40 sacks (tied-13th) generated. During the exhibitions they've averaged 187 net passing yards allowed (13th in the NFL) with six TDs handed out vs. five interceptions generated. They appear to be in the middlin' range of the league entering 2015, much as they finished 2014.

An improving Bortles (and company) have a neutral matchup to work against when Carolina rolls into Jacksonville over the weekend.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

QB Matt Cassel didn't enjoy the same level of success in his new surroundings last year as he did in his one year as the New England starter, and ended up the 21st ranked fantasy QB last year with 272/494 for 2,924 yards, 16 TDs and 16 interceptions, with 50/196/0 rushing to his credit. The team went through growing pains/transitional difficulties in Todd Haley's first season, with Larry Johnson released after six games and Dwayne Bowe in and out of the coaches' doghouse (and the lineup) - the team didn't manage to find a replacement for Tony Gonzalez at tight end, either. Entering 2010 the Chiefs are starting venerable Chris Chambers at WR along with Bowe, and have Leonard Pope penciled in as the new starter at tight end. So far during preseason, the passing game has sputtered with 38/59 for 293 yards, three TDs and two interceptions to Cassel's credit (he did hit Bowe for a four-yard TD in the third preseason game vs. Philadelphia while compiling 14/23 for 85 yards, one TD and one interception). We'll see if Cassel and company can turn up their performance a notch now that the games count.

The Chargers are divisional rivals of the Chiefs, and will bring their 11th-ranked (2009) pass D to Arrowhead on Monday Night Football - they averaged 209.2 passing yards allowed per game last year, with 23 pass TDs given up (18th) and 14 interceptions generated (20th). San Diego tied for 13th in the NFL with 35 sacks last year (K.C. was 27th in the league with 45 sacks allowed).

The Chargers' pass D was mediocre last year, but they are skilled at putting pressure on the passer, while the Chiefs proved to be very vulnerable to the pass rush in Cassel's first season. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup for the Chiefs' home opener.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Matt Cassel (nine games played with 160/269 for 1,713 yards, 10 TDs and nine interceptions passing last year) had a pedestrian outing vs. the Seattle defense in the third preseason 'dress rehearsal for regular season' game, pitching 19/34 for 168 yards, one TD and one interception while being sacked three times for 18 yards. Last year, the Chiefs were 14th in the NFL with 34 sacks allowed - they don't seem to have improved their pass protection much since last year. The Chiefs' number one wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe, missed OTAs and mini-camps while K.C. installed their new Brian Daboll offense, not reporting to the team until just before the third preseason game, and his rust showed in that third preseason game vs. Seattle (four targets for 1/9/0 receiving). Bowe (142 targets for 81/1,159/5 receiving last year) begins regular season way behind as far as his knowledge of the new offense is concerned. Veteran Steve Breaston (98 targets for 61/785/2 receiving last year) figures to start regular season as the #2 wide receiver, while free agent import Kevin Boss (28/368/3 receiving in Oakland last year) will team with Tony Moeaki (who missed last season with a torn ACL suffered September 1, 2011) as the teams' lead tight ends.

Atlanta's pass D was in the middle tier of the NFL last year, ranking 20th in net passing yards allowed per game (236.6 per game), 10th in interceptions (19) and 19th in sacks (33) generated during regular season. Rookie starting quaterback Ryan Tannehill posted 11/27 for 112 yards, zero TDs and one interception against the Falcons in the third preseason game - but the Miami pass attack isn't among the league's most potent, and Tannehill is, after all, a very raw rookie with minimal starts as a quarterback under his belt. The Falcons should have been able to handle him. Also, as Footballguys.com's defensive player expert John Norton points out: 'I believe the Falcons will miss MLB Curtis Lofton a lot more than they expected this year. Not only was he the centerpiece of the run defense, Lofton was their leader. He was also the team's nickel and dime package linebacker. Akeem Dent will try to replace Lofton's run stopping while Stephen Nicholas will take over the nickel snaps. I see this as a downgrade on both ends. There is also the fact that Atlanta did nothing to boost the sagging pass rush. The only threat in the front seven is 34 year old John Abraham.' The Falcons' pass defense has multiple challenges entering the 2012 season, especially among the front seven.

The Chiefs' offense is new (especially to Bowe), and the Falcons are in transition on defense after losing Lofton during offseason. This looks like a neutral matchup between units that are still rounding into regular-season form, friends. Also, expect the Chiefs to run the football a lot, handing off to Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis early and often - a spectacular aerial attack isn't likely from this offense during week one.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Trent Green went through a tough learning curve after joining Miami, with a couple of early stinkers followed by 7/11 for 42 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during week 3 of the preseason. He hasn't set the world on fire, but he has visibly gotten more comfortable in the Dolphins' attack as the exhibition season went along. Ted Ginn Jr is reportedly being fast-tracked into the offense as the #3 WR behind Chris Chambers and Marty Booker - much like Green's years in Kansas City, he's going to have to make do with the guys currently on the roster (this year, at least).

The Redskins were 23rd in the NFL last year in passing yards allowed per game (218.2) and dead last in passing scores given up (30). The team hopes draftee Laron Landry will help shore up the situation this year, but the jury is still out on whether the 2007 Redskins are better or worse than their 2006 incarnation. Baltimore only managed 14/21 for 98 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against Washington in the week 3 preseason contest - that is a step in the right direction.

Green is still settling into his new team, while the Redskins hope to improve on a poor showing from last year. That sounds like a neutral matchup to us.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Chad Pennington has done a workmanlike job since arriving in Miami, tossing 11/15 for 94 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Chiefs in week 3 of the preseason, and he followed up that performance with 2/4 for 27 yards and 0 TDs with 0 interceptions in a brief cameo during the preseason finale vs. New Orleans. Speedy Ted Ginn (3/29/0 vs K.C.), Derek Hagan (1/16/0) and TE Anthony Fasano (3/30/1) figure to be Pennington's main pass-catchers during the coming season. He hasn't had long to adjust to the Dolphins scheme and personnel, but so far Pennington has looked better than any of the other alternatives. Josh McCown was released and is now in Carolina, further cementing Pennington's position entering regular season.

The Jets' pass D was pretty decent last year, averaging 197.1 net yards allowed per game (9th in the NFL), with only 18 passing TDs allowed all year long (tied for 6th in the league). They didn't generate a lot of sacks last year, with only 29 all season long (among the bottom 10 performances in this category last year). However, with an infusion of talent at NT (Kris Jenkins) and LB (free agent Calvin Pace has bolstered the OLB position), the team has become much more successful so far in 2008. The Jets had 8 sacks against the Giants in their week 3 preseason game. The team has 2nd year man Darrelle Revis (a first round pick one year ago) and rookie Dwight Lowery (2008 4th round selection) manning the CB positions - the team has substantially altered their defensive unit. The Giants could only muster 15/27 for 115 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception against the team in the above mentioned preseason game.

Pennington has done a good job of taking over the helm in Miami, but he'll face a stern test from the revamped Jets on Sunday.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

This is a fierce divisional rivalry that is always hard-fought regardless of the individual team's record - it should be an exciting opening day for the Dolphins and Patriots (and their fans).

Chad Henne has held off Matt Moore and remains the starting QB in Miami as of week one of the regular season. Henne threw for 10/13 for 175 passing yards and one TD in the preseason game Saturday, August 27th, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He completed 25 of his 37 passes for 369 yards over the second and third preseason games, and then capped his exhibition season with a deserved rest during the fourth game. Matt Moore led the team in passing in the preseason finale with 9/11 for 142 yards, one TD an zero interceptions, and thereby cemented his hold as Henne's top backup for the coming year. For better or worse, Henne is the top guy in Miami again this season. We'll see if he can improve on last year's numbers (302/491 for 3,298 yards, 15 TDs and 18 interceptions - he finished as the 22nd-ranked fantasy QB last year) while building needed rapport with his top wide receiver Brandon Marshall (who revealed during the preseason that he is being treated for borderline personality disorder, a mental illness). Holdover Dolphins Brian Hartline and Davone Bess are battling for the second wideout spot, and Anthony Fasano returns as the starter at tight end for 2011.

New England's pass D was not strong during 2010, allowing an average of 258.5 net yards per game with 25 TDs given away. However, the secondary did generate a league-best 25 interceptions during 2010, and the defensive front created 36 sacks (tied for 14th in the league). The turnovers helped to balance out the giving nature of the Patriots' secondary last year. A red flag or two went up during the third preseason game, though, when Matthew Stafford and company threw 26/38 for 354 net yards, four TDs and one interception against the Patriots - the 34-10 final put New England on notice that they weren't as good as they thought they were after the first two preseason games. After cut-down day, the Patriots had let go safties Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders, leaving Patrick Chung as the starting free safety, but creating a vacancy at the starting strong safety position. Sergio Brown, Josh Barrett, and James Ihedigbo are locked in a three-way battle for that starting job as of week one, regular season. The Patriots are still working on fixing their secondary's problems, as you can see.

Henne was steadily productive during preseason, but he'll need to be careful with the football against the ball-hawking Patriots (which was a problem for Henne last year). On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup with neither team in a position to dominate the other.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

During the week three preseason "tune-up" game, second-year starter Ryan Tannehill played adequately during one half of action, posting 17/27 for 150 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions while taking one sack for -8 yards. He enters 2013 with a new (expensive free agent) target in Mike Wallace, and Wallace started to get on the same page with Tannehill in that third exhibition, pulling in 3/31/0 receiving out of four targets, while Brandon Gibson (eight for 5/43/1) and Brian Hartline (five for 4/40/0 receiving) also helped Tannehill move the team across the field. The Dolphins lost tight end Dustin Keller to a severe knee injury in the third exhibition game, leaving a void that Charles Clay (33 targets for 18/212/2 receiving last season for Miami) will have to try and fill. The Dolphins are integrating rookie running back Lamar Miller into the offense this year as well, so it remains to be seen how this reformed unit will function now that the games count.

The Browns' pass D ranked 25th in the NFL last year averaging 245.2 net yards allowed per game, with 27 TDs surrendered vs. 17 interceptions (tied for 11th in the league) and 38 sacks (also tied for 11th in this category) generated. During the third preseason contest the Browns' D allowed 17 points to the Colts' first-string offense, including two Andrew Luck TD passes (he finished the afternoon with 16/25 for 164 yards passing, two TDs and one interception thrown, with one sack taken for -3 yards). It appears that the Browns' secondary still has work to do in the red zone, as both of Lucks' TD passes came from less than 10 yards out from the endzone stripe.

Two teams with less-than-spectacular units face off in this matchup - neither team appears to have a clear edge over the other from where we're sitting.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Miami/New England is one of the great rivalries of the AFC East, and is always a hard-fought game regardless of when the contest occurs.

Ryan Tannehill (355/588 for 3,913 yards passing, with 24 TDs and 17 interceptions) will lead essentially the same lineup of receivers that we saw last year (but they were not under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor back then) - Mike Wallace (141 targets for 73/930/5 receiving last season), Brian Hartline (134 for 76/1,016/4), and Brandon Gibson (43 for 30/326/3 over seven games played) start at wide receivers No.'s one-three, while Charles Clay (102 targets for 69/759/6 receiving last season) is expected to start at tight end (he's nursed a knee injury for much of training camp). We'll see how the group has adjusted to the new scheme starting this Sunday at 1 PM Eastern.

The Patriots' pass D was ranked 18th in the NFL last season, averaging 239 net passing yards allowed per game, with 25 passing scores given up over 16 games. The Patriots generated 17 interceptions (tied for 12th in the NFL) and 48 sacks (fifth in the NFL) last season - they brought pressure to bear on opposing passers at all levels of the defense, but allowed a healthy amount of scoring as well. Cam Newton was harrassed by the Patriots in week three of the preseason, only managing 8/12 for 88 yards while taking three sacks for -19 yards.

Tannehill and company have home field advantage, and will face a so-so Patriots D that comes into regular season going strong - this looks about even to us.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

They're without Randy Moss, but Minnesota has plenty of WRs, with Nate Burleson, Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson ready to chase down Daunte Culpepper's bombs. The Vikings' signal caller tossed 379/549 for 4717 yards, with 39 TDs and 11 interceptions (89/406/2 rushing) last year, and he's looking forward to matching those numbers during 2005. Whether he can do it without Moss is one of the more interesting questions this season.

Tampa Bay led the league in pass yards allowed per game last season, averaging 161.2 yards surrendered per game in this phase. However, they gave up 21 passing TDs, which placed them in the middle of the pack in this category. The unimpressive Miami tandem of Gus Frerotte and A.J. Feely threw for a combined 17/39 for 193 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against this squad during week 3 of the pre-season...what will Daunte Culpepper and company do?

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in the Metrodome, so weather won't be a factor.

Minnesota has home-field advantage, which should help them overcome a stiff Tampa D. This one looks pretty even to us.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

In case you live in a cave or have been on the far side of the world, we'll mention once again that Brett Favre has become a Minnesota Viking. We saw his diminished skills at the end of the season last year in New York, but there was a biceps injury involved in his decline that appears to be fully healed now. Unfortunately, Favre dodged almost all of training camp before signing with the team - he hasn't had much opportunity to develop a rapport with Bernard Berrian (48/964/7 receiving last year), Sidney Rice (15/141/4), or Vishanthe Shiancoe (42/596/7) yet. In the second preseason game Favre played but briefly, while he saw more extensive action during week three of the preseason (13/18 for 142 yards, 1 TD). 'He did some really good things as far as putting the ball where it needed to be,' head coach Brad Childress said. 'He will be the first to tell you that he missed a few reads. He made a couple of nice plays with his feet and he had enough of the pocket presence to move around when he had to and still get the football where it needed to be.' The Vikings' OL gave up 43 sacks last year with Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte under center, but this year the king of quick release, Brett Favre, is slinging the pigskin so look for that number to head south somewhat just based on Favre's ability.

Cleveland's pass D was in the middle of the NFL pack last year, averaging 204.6 yards allowed per game (14th in the league), while handing over 19 passing TDs in 16 contests. The team generated 23 interceptions, the second-most in the NFL last year, while only managing 17 sacks (30th). On balance, the pass D is mediocre but with the ability to make big plays. They were tied for 16th in the NFL with an average of 21.9 points allowed per game as a unit. Under new HC Eric Mangini and new DC Rob Ryan, look for a very smart usage of what players the roster has to offer - Ryan is great at motivating his defenders. They didn't look too great vs. Tennessee in the week three preseason 'tune-up' for regular season, though, handing over 28/38 for 272 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception to the combo of Vince Young and Kerry Collins. There is still a lot of work to do up in Cleveland, folks.

Favre is still getting acclimated, but against the mediocre Browns he'll have a even chance at posting some respectable statistics this week.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Christian Ponder struggled to move the football vs. San Diego during the third preseason game, posting 9/16 for 115 yards, zero TDs and one interception during the game. Over the first three preseason games, Ponder threw 23/38 (60.5 completion percentage) for 331 yards one touchdown, and one interception - he's not been terrible, but the lack of scoring continues a theme we saw last year as Ponder led the Vikings' passing attack to just 13 TDs over 11 games that he played in (158/291 for 1853 yards, 13 TDs and 13 interceptions thrown during 2011). He does have some wheels when he scrambles - Ponder added 28/219/0 as a ball carrier during his inaugural NFL season. Wideout Percy Harvin (120 targets for 87/967/6 receiving last year) and tight end Kyle Rudolf (39 targets for 26/249/3 receiving) figure to be the main targets early in the season until Jerome Simpson returns from suspension - right now veteran Michael Jenkins is the #2 wide receiver for the club. We don't expect to see much of Adrian Peterson this week, so Toby Gerhart will catch dump-offs out of the backfield in week one.

The Jaguars were ranked eighth in the NFL last year, averaging 208.8 net passing yards allowed per game, with 21 passing scores (ninth in the NFL) given up, vs. 17 interceptions (13th in the NFL) and 31 sacks (25th) generated during the season. The Jacksonville defense wasn't the issue last year as you can see. The team allowed a whopping 27/36 for 266 yards, two TDs and one interception to Joe Flacco in the third preseason game this year, though, and coughed up five passing TDs to the Ravens' quarterbacks that day all told. This unit is starting off 2012 cold, friends.

Two so-so units face off in this game - that sounds about even to us.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tom Brady hasn't played a down in preseason, but after his record-setting 2007 campaign, we're not too worried about his chances in week 1. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are still waiting to catch his passes, and Jabar Gaffney is filling the hole left by Donte Stallworth's departure. For his part, Brady is feeling confident about starting week 1 "If it's up to me, there's no question" Brady said on Monday. "I've been getting progressively better over the past couple of weeks. I'm excited. I'm excited to start the year." Hopefully, he won't suffer a setback with his mysterious foot ailment.

The Chiefs were 5th in the NFL vs. opposing passers last year (averaging 188.9 yards allowed per game), partly due to their soft rush D that encouraged teams to pound the ball against K.C. However, it was tough to throw scores against this group as well (the Chiefs only allowed 17 pass TDs last year, 4th-best in the NFL) - if the cellar-dwelling Chiefs can be said to have a team strength, this is it. Miami's QBs could only muster 13/22 for 108 net passing yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against the Chiefs in the 3rd exhibition game.

The Patriots may need a quarter or two to get in rhythm after missing Brady throughout the preseason schedule - the visiting Chiefs aren't going to make things easy for the defending AFC Champs, though. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup for the Patriots, who have to get reacquainted with Brady on Sunday.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tom Brady and company dismantled the Rams in week three of the preseason (Brady notched 18/22 for 273 yards and three TDs before letting Brian Hoyer take over late in the game) - rookie TE Rob Gronkowski scored twice with 3/66/2 receiving to his credit, while Randy Moss (most recently heard pouting over making 'only' $6.4 million this year) hauled in 3/74/1 during the contest. The TE tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez looks very powerful entering the season - Gronkowski has posted 8/109/4 during preseason and Hernandez has 7/72/1 to his credit so far. The Patriots may play a lot of snaps out of the two-TE set this year. Wes Welker is back (5/75/0 during preseason), and the number three and four receivers, Brandon Tate and Julian Edelman, are also looking good so far. Brady has an embarrassment of riches regarding targets for his passes (though not a budget-busting contract extension, yet).

The Bengals' pass D was sixth in the NFL last year averaging 203.1 net yards allowed per game, while giving up 18 TDs vs. 19 interceptions and 34 sacks generated (eighth, ninth, and 16th in the NFL respectively). They checked in close to last year's average during the third preseason game, with 19/27 for 217 yards allowed to the Bills, but the team did cough up two TDs vs. zero interceptions during the game. We'll see how they look once the full compliment of schemes is unveiled for the regular season.

Brady looks solid so far this year, and he'll have the home-field advantage at his back. However, the Bengals were a top-ten unit last year and they are thinking playoffs during 2010 - on balance, this looks like a fairly even matchup to us.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tom Brady had one of his most modest seasons as a passer over the past five years during 2013, with 380/628 for 4,343 yards passing, 25 TDs and 11 interceptions thrown (he finished as the 13th-ranked fantasy quarterback in the land), and is entering 2014 in a situation similar to what went down in 2013. Rob Gronkowski is coming back from a catastrophic knee injury and has missed preseason contests, and is looking iffy to play in Week One (there have been conflicting reports about his readiness in the run-up to Week One), while Brady is still stuck with a mediocre cadre of receivers. The receivers are led by Julian Edelman (151 targets for 105/1,056/6 receiving last season), and then there is a mass competing for No. two wide receiver - Danny Amendola (83 for 54/633/2), Aaron Dobson (72 for 37/519/4), Kenbrell Thompkins (69 for 32/466/4) and new-comer via Carolina, Brandon LaFell (89 for 49/627/5 for the Panthers last season). There simply isn't much in the way of 'star power' among the receivers behind Gronkowski, folks.

The Dolphins' pass D ranked 16th in the NFL last season averaging 235 net passing yards allowed per game, but they had more interceptions (18, ranked 10th in the NFL) than TDs allowed last year (17), and the team generated a respectable 42 sacks (tied for 11th in the NFL). This is a solid pass D, folks, that bottled up Tony Romo in the third preseason game (10/18 for 87 yards passing, zero TDs and zero interceptions thrown, with three sacks taken for -19 yards).

Brady is one of the all-time greats but he faces a serious matchup on the road in Miami here in Week One, 2014. Also, the Patriots backs have a good matchup so Brady may not need to throw the ball all that much this week.

NE Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Drew Brees had a rough time with the Colts week 3 of the pre-season, tossing 19/29 for 189 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions during his appearance. The team's WR stable is in turmoil, with Donte Stallworth being shipped off to Philadelphia. A rookie WR, Marques Colston, may be in the starting lineup on Sunday according to reports (either he or 3rd-year man Devery Henderson), leaving veterans Joe Horn and TE Ernie Conwell as the only experienced targets for Brees in the secondary. Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister will snag some flares from the back-field, but the cupboard looks a little bare at WR. We'll see how Brees' chemistry with his starters has progressed on Sunday when they play a full game together for the first time.

The Browns were 4th vs. the pass last season, holding teams to 179.2 passing yards per game, on average. They were 16th vs. opposing passers in the red zone, allowing 19 pass TDs over 16 games. They were dead last in sacks, though, generating only 23 - but the DL and LB corps has been remade and the team hopes to up that total dramatically. We'll see if they have generated team chemistry on Sunday. They gave up 23/36 for 310 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions to the Bills during week 3 of the pre-season, so the direction of the team in this phase is somewhat unclear entering regular season.

Brees and the Saints are in the process of remaking the New Orleans offense, while the Browns are undergoing a similar process on their side of the ball. It looks like this is a fairly even matchup from where we sit.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Drew Brees has been automatic during preseason - he threw for 17/19 for 182 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions without his #1 or #2 wide receivers during the third exhibition contest. The good news entering 2007 is that Marques Colston and Devery Henderson returned to practices on August 27th and neither has been reported with a setback as they get up to full strength for the regular season. Terrance Copper, David Patten and Lance Moore provide depth at the WR position. Eric Johnson looks like the top TE at this point - we'll see how productive he can be shortly.

The Colts averaged 159.3 passing yards allowed per game last year (2nd in the NFL), with 16 thrown TDs surrendered. However, the yards-per-game average is deceptive in that Indy sported the worst rush D in the league last year - part of the average reflects that teams simply elected to run the ball against the Colts last year. Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea are solid players at S, but the CB position is unsettled, with Marlin Jackson set at RCB, but Kelvin Hayden is only penciled in at LCB to start 2007.

In the RCA Dome, this looks like a neutral matchup to us.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Drew Brees has lit up the league since arriving in New Orleans back in 2006, and though Tampa Bay has a fearsome reputation on defense, he's been very effective against this divisional rival during that time period. During 2006 Brees threw for 45/65 for 485 yards, 4 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Bucs; during 2007 he posted 43/67 for 439 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception. He probably isn't going to throw for over 300 yards against Tampa, but he's got a good shot at multiple TDs and hasn't turned over the ball much against these guys, as you can see.

It looks like Brees will have another weapon to deploy against the Bucs in the home opener: "I can't call it 100 percent yet, because if he was 100 percent I would have played him [in the final preseason game]," HC Sean Payton said in reference to free agent acquisition Jeremy Shockey. "But I think by Monday he's going to be 100 percent, and I feel like we're getting enough work from him during the work week with the quarterback." With Shockey in the mix along with last year's 8th overall fantasy WR (Marques Colston, 98/1202/11 receiving) and the rest of the talent at WR (Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, David Patten), Brees has plenty of talented targets to maintain his successful streak against Tampa.

The Bucs were in the middle of the NFL last year with 33 sacks generated, but the Saints do a great job of protecting Brees (they were #1 in the NFL last year with only 16 QB sacks allowed). Tampa did rank #1 in passing yards allowed per game (170.5) and were 6th in the league with only 18 passing TDs given up - the secondary is definitely a team strength in Tampa, despite Brees good results against the club. In the 3rd preseason contest, Tampa held David Garrard and company to 19/28 for 164 yards, but they gave up 2 TDs vs 1 interception.

Brees is a fantasy superstar, but he won't have an easy time attacking the top-shelf Buccaneer defense. This looks like an even matchup between great teams from our vantage point.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Eli Manning is going to practice as if he had never hurt his throwing arm elbow this week - which is an encouraging sign. However, we won't know until later in the week how his arm is responding to the required 70+ passes per day - Manning owners will want to watch the official NFL injury reports closely.

Due to his injury, we didn't get to look at Manning during the 3rd week of preseason (when most teams play their starters for a half and change) - the best we can do is to say that he has looked steadier and surer in his early chances during 2005, although the Panthers roughed him up somewhat (6/8 for 53 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. Cleveland; 3/9 for 150 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. Carolina). How his chemistry is developing with Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey will become apparent during the game on Sunday.

Arizona played top-ten pass D last year (averaging 189.8 passing yards allowed per game, 9th in the league, with 18 passing scores surrendered during the year). They didn't fare well against Kerry Collins and the Raiders' starters in week 3 of the preseason (Collins racked up 17/25 for 189 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions) - it remains to be seen if the Cards are a top-tier pass D again this year.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Giants' Stadium is forecast to be a great place to play a football game on Sunday - 85Ffor a high, 70F for a low, with a 0% chance for rain.

The Cardinals' defense was good last year, but hasn't been particularly sharp to date. New York will come into the game with high hopes for a QB who is shaking off the rust - that sounds about even to us.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Eli Manning had a phenomenal season last year, tossing 294/557 for 3762 yards, 24 TDs and 17 interceptions in his second shot at the league, and his core group of receivers Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer and Jeremy Shockey (along with RB Tiki Barber) all return again this year. The Giants have knocked off the off-season rust during limited playing time in the pre-season, and now they are ready to rock. Manning commented in the last week of August "We've added some new plays, but haven't changed that much. So the more you run certain plays and see different coverages - you really grow within your offense." He'll get to test his ceiling in the first game of the season, vs. his family-rival Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts were 15th in the NFL vs. the pass last year, allowing an average of 196.9 passing yards per game to the opposition, and ranked 7th in the NFL with 17 passing scores allowed. They were tied for 5th in the NFL with 46 sacks, too - these guys come at opposing passers in a lot of ways. During the pre-season game week 3, they intercepted the Saint's passers 3 times vs. allowing 1 TD (25/38 for 264) - this group looks ready to play some football coming into the regular season.

The Giants have home-field advantage, but the Colts defense is no push-over - this looks like a pretty even matchup for the home team.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

What is Eli Manning supposed to do? Plaxico Burress has battled a variety of ailments during preseason (bad ankle, sore back), resulting in very brief appearances during training camp, and Jeremy Shockey has only participated part-time (hamstring injury during training camp). So, Manning is left with the aging Amani Toomer (who is now himself again coming off a knee injury that ended his 2006 campaign), and two sometimes-practicing starters. There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about this attack entering week 1.

Dallas' squad isn't exactly the best friends of division-rival New York, and they would love to squelch the Giants in Texas Stadium opening day. Wade Phillips and DC Brian Stewart (formerly San Diego's DB coach) are both focused on improving the Cowboy's pass D, which was 24th in the NFL last year (219.1 yards allowed per game) with 25 passing TDs given up. The secondary is still a work in progress as the Texans showed during week 3 of the preseason (20/29 for 164 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions thrown by Houston QBs).

Manning and the Giants' offense is in flux entering week 1, while the Cowboys' pass D is suspect. That sounds like a neutral matchup to us.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Eli Manning (289/479 for 3238 yards, 21 TDs and 10 interceptions last year) is facing a completely revamped starting lineup during 2009 - Plaxico Burress is headed to jail and Amani Toomer departed the team, leaving Domenik Hixon (43/596/2 last year) and Steve Smith (57/574/1) as the starting wide-outs as we enter the regular season. Youngsters Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Sinorice Moss, and Ramses Barden are all in the mix for touches this year as well - Moss was having a solid training camp until being sidelined for a long stretch by a pulled hamstring. Kevin Boss (33/384/6) returns as a trusted red-zone target from the TE position. We'll see how Manning and company mesh now that the games count. The Giants were in the middle of the NFL last year allowing 28 sacks of Eli Manning - not bad, but not great, either.

The Redskins were the seventh-best pass D last year, averaging 193.4 yards allowed per game, with 16 passing TDs given up during the year. They generated 13 interceptions (17th in the NFL), but only 24 sacks (tied for 28th). The team ended up sixth in points allowed per game, with 18.5 allowed each week on average. Hopefully, the arrival of DT Albert Haynesworth (8.5 sacks last year with Tennessee, 6 during 2007) has augmented the Redskins' pass rushing capabilities - he should be able to help pump up the deflated sack total from 2008. DE Andre Carter hopes to bounce back from his very sub-par '08 campaign (24 tackles, 13 assists, 4 sacks and 2 passes defensed) to come closer to his '07 levels (43 tackles, 12 assists, 10.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 passes defensed). In the week three preseason tilt vs. New England, the 'Skins held the Patriots to 15/29 for 167 yards and 2 TDs with 2 interceptions, but Tom Brady posted 12/19 for 150 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions in his time on the field - the starters need to elevate their game for regular season.

Manning has to accommodate his new-look offense, while the Redskins strive to find a more effective pass rush - in Giants Stadium, this matchup looks about even from where we sit.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Eli Manning had a stellar 2009 campaign, with 317/509 for 4,021 yards, 27 TDs and 14 interceptions - he set career highs in passing yards and pass TDs during the past season. This year, he'll work with a returning, young-but-seasoned crew of receivers, with Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks starting at WR and quality depth in Mario Manningham, and then also have the ability to dump off passes to TE Kevin Boss and RB Ahmad Bradshaw in the short-to-intermediate region of the field. Manning has worked with all these guys for an extended period as of week one, 2010 regular season. The future appears bright for this unit, though we saw relatively little of Manning in preseason thanks to a nasty gash he took to his forehead that required stitches.

Carolina's pass D is stout - last year they averaged just 191 net yards allowed per game (fourth in the NFL), with a mere 14 passing TDs allowed vs. 22 interceptions generated (second and fifth in the league, respectively). The team had a respectable 31 sacks last year, and they've been on fire during preseason with 18 sacks over the first three contests - four of their linemen have recorded multiple-sack games during the exhibition season. It looks like the Panthers will really get after opposing passers this year, which is a concern for the Giants, who gave up 32 sacks last year (in the second tier of the league at 12th).

Manning had a fine season during 2009, but against the stout Panthers we think this is a fairly even matchup for the Giants' home opener.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Mark Sanchez posted a typical rookie QB campaign during 2009, with 196/363 for 2,444 yards, 12 TDs and 20 interceptions thrown - he was the #24 fantasy QB by the end of the year after appearing in 15-of-16 games. Though he started off the preseason with some strong showings, he fizzled in the important third preseason 'tune-up' game, with 13/21 for 139 yards, one TD and one interception vs. Washington. There is still a lot of work ahead of the youngster before he becomes a consistent fantasy option. However, he will enjoy continuity with his receiving corps, as Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards and Dustin Keller all return as starters and LaDainian Tomlinson, an offseason free agent acquisition, is a fine receiver out of the backfield. Sanchez has the weapons in place to take some strides in his production - we'll see if he is ready to do so starting on Monday night.

The Ravens' pass D has been shredded by injuries during the offseason and preseason - CBs Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb aren't healthy, and Dominique Foxworth is on IR. FS Ed Reed is on the PUP to start the season, and Haruki Nakamura is also injured - there isn't much depth on the back end of the Ravens' D, which means those players that are healthy will have a lot of reps each game. Last year, the Ravens tied for eighth in the NFL averaging 207.2 pass yards allowed per game, with 17 passing TDs given up vs. 22 interceptions generated (and they posted 32 sacks as a unit). However, given how banged up the secondary is entering September, the unit looks suspect for the season opener in New York.

Sanchez is a work in progress, while the Ravens' secondary is a patchwork affair right now - this looks like a fairly even matchup from where we sit in the bleachers.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Jets' Mark Sanchez put up his best season yet last year (308/542 for 3,474 yards passing, 26 TDs with 18 interceptions) but the Jets missed the playoffs - acrimony between Sanchez and 'team captain' Santonio Holmes (100 targets for 51/654/8 receiving) contributed to the team's slump out of playoff contention in the second half of 2011. Plaxico Burress (96 targets for 45/612/8 receiving) was not brought back to bookend with Holmes, leaving rookie Stephen Hill and second-year man Jeremy Kerley (47 targets for 29/314/1 receiving) vying for the #2 wide receiver job entering regular season this year. Oh, and in case you missed it, Tim Tebow was brought in to create competition for Sanchez - but Tebow has been abysmal as a passer during preseason, with 13/36 (36.1 completion percentage) for 151 yards passing, zero touchdowns, and two interceptions. Tebow will be in the mix as a wildcat/running option this year, but the Jets are in trouble if he is needed to sling the football around. Key tight end Dustin Keller (115 targets for 65/815/5 last year) hurt his hamstring in the third preseason game - he is expected back for the season opener, but hamstring injuries often flare up so keep an eye on his practice participation this week before inserting Keller into your fantasy lineups this week.

The Bills' pass D was unimpressive during 2011, averaging 232.1 net yards allowed per game (19th in the NFL) with an enormous total of 30 passing TDs given up last season (tied for 29th in the NFL). The secondary did generate 20 interceptions (tied for sixth-most in the NFL) while the big guys up front posted 29 sacks (tied for 27th in the NFL). In most ways, this unit was sub-par last year, as you can see. However, things are looking up this year. Footballguys.com defensive players expert John Norton notes: 'I don't think anyone has improved more defensively than the Buffalo Bills. They have built an outstanding front four with two of the premier tackles in Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams to stop the run, and added free agent gem defensive end Mario Williams along with Mark Anderson to rush the passer. The linebackers are solid if unspectacular and the secondary is much improved with the return of Aaron Williams who missed much of last season, and the addition of 10th overall pick Stephon Gilmore on the corners.' We'll see if the solidified secondary can stem the bleeding in the passing phase of the game this year.

Sanchez and Tebow have failed to impress passing the ball so far this year, and they have a thin corps of inexperienced wide receivers entering week one - the Bills look like a better defense overall this season, in contrast. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup with neither team holding a big edge over the other.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Mark Sanchez injured his throwing-arm shoulder during the preseason, and the word is that he'll be inactive for at least week one of the regular season (some speculate he'll be out far longer, but no official word on that has come down from the team). What all of the above means is that the Jets have decided to move on to rookie Geno Smith (a second-round pick out of West Virginia) as their starter - for at least week one. Smith hasn't wowed observers during preseason, and he looked pretty bad in the third exhibition game in which he tossed three interceptions vs. one touchdown (16/30 for 199 passing yards). Here's how desperate the situation is - undrafted free agent Matt Simms is Smith's backup while Seattle, Kansas City and Cleveland cast-off Brady Quinn is learning the Jets' offense after being picked up on September 2 after cut-down weekend. The Jets are hoping that Smith can play more steadily during regular season, but he'll be learning on the job as a rookie, which is a tough situation to face. Santonio Holmes continues to baby his injured foot and it is anybody's guess how well he'll be able to play this season, although he was at practice on September 2, which is an improvement over his non-participation during preseason. Stephen Hill (47 targets for 21/252/3 receiving last year) and Jeremy Kerley (95 targets for 56/827/2 receiving last season) are the other main wide receivers, while Jeff Cumberland will try to fill the hole left when Dustin Keller bolted for Miami during the offseason. There is a lot of youth and inexperience among the Jets' starting offense this year, folks.

Tampa Bay hired Darrelle Revis away from the Jets this year, and although he hasn't participated in preseason while rehabbing his torn ACL, he is said to be healthy and ready for week one against his former team. The other CB position will be manned by rookie Johnthan Banks, while FS will feature Dashon Goldson, brought in from San Francisco during the offseason. SS Mark Barron is the lone holdover from the 2012 starting lineup in the secondary (which was dead last in the NFL averaging 297.4 net yards allowed per game, with 30 passing scores given up). Now that Revis will take his place in the lineup, we'll see how much all the new players have improved the secondary over last year's dreadful lineup. Goldson said during preseason that the new group aspires to be the leagues' top pass defense, but this group hasn't had much time to work together as a starting unit during preseason. The secondary will start proving itself this weekend.

Two squads in transition meet in this matchup. Smith will enjoy home-field advantage, which helps him as he starts his first game at the NFL level - on balance, this looks like a neutral matchup due to the largely unknown chemistry of the Buccaneers' pass D (but not one that is very attractive from a fantasy perspective - Smith is our 31st-ranked quarterback for week one according to David Dodds' first cut of projections).

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Kerry Collins is now the commander and chief of the Raiders' offense. He entered preseason as the unquestioned #1 QB (unlike last year) and has quickly built up a synergy with free agent import Randy Moss. While Jerry Porter has been slowed by a nagging hamstring, Collins and Moss have hooked up for a 40 yard TD pass during week 3 of the preseason, and a 27 yard TD during week 4. They made it look pretty easy, too.

Last year, with a wounded and limping secondary, the Patriots ranked 17th in the league allowing 212.5 passing yards per game, with 18 thrown TDs surrendered in 16 games. During the preseason week 3 "shakedown", though, Brett Favre was held to 9/21 for 69 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions -- Aaron Rodgers added a third interception to the talley in his chances. It appears that the Patriots are set with Asante Samuel and Randall Gay at the corners, with Rodney Harrison and Eugene Wilson manning the center of the secondary.

The NFL released an early injury report for Oakland/New England. WR Doug Gabriel is out due to his thumb injury, while Jerry Porter is questionable for the Raiders. The Patriots list S James Sanders (ankle); CB Duane Starks (thigh) as questionable.

The forecast for Gillette stadium calls for a high of 85F and a low of 59F with a 20% chance of precipitation. It should be a great evening to play some football.

Collins and Moss look like they are in tune with each other, while the Patriots appear to have reloaded in the secondary after last year's struggles. We call this an even matchup.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

JaMarcus Russell hasn't had much to work with during preseason - Javon Walker has been injured and struggled with motivation throughout camp before finally showing up for week 3 vs. Arizona (4/60/0). Ron Curry missed much of the spring sessions recovering from foot surgery, but has played enough to start across from Walker in week 1. Behind those 2 receivers is not much - the team is so desperate for WR help they just signed perennial under-achiever Ashley Lelie off the waiver wire, which tells you how thin they are at the position. Zach Miller looks like Russell's best target as of week 1 - the TE will be a key pass catcher for Russell as he continues his maturation process. He was sacked 4 times in the 3rd preseason game on his way to 14/28 for 140 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception, illustrating the type of usual rookie growing pains Russell owners can expect this season.

The Broncos' pass D was so-so last year, ranking 7th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (193.4), but 22nd in the league with 25 passing scores handed over. They were in the middle of the pack with 33 sacks generated - in short, the unit is nothing special, but it isn't a glaring team weakness (unlike the rush D). Aaron Rodgers threw for 18/22 for 193 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions against the Bronco's starters during the week 3 preseason game (he only played in 5 series though). Denver is about where they were last year, fielding a mediocre pass defense.

Russell is green and doesn't have many solid options to target - Denver is only so-so in this phase of the game. At home in McAfee Coliseum, we think Oakland is more-or-less even with their opponents this week.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Raiders look set to start Terrelle Pryor in the season opener - he's a raw passer but can be creative with his legs (he posted 7/9 for 93 yards, one TD and zero interceptions, with 4/37/1 rushing to his credit vs. Chicago in the third exhibition game). Matt Flynn appears to have played his way out of the starting job during that third preseason game, with 3/6 for 19 yards passing, zero TDs with two interceptions thrown, and one sack taken for -7 yards. Pryor will rely on Denarius Moore and Rod Streater as his starting wideouts, while Jeron Mastrud will hold down the fort at tight end until David Ausberry is ready to get back in action. Streater managed 1/19/0 receiving in the third exhibition game, while fellow starter Moore turned two targets into 1/9/0 receiving. As you can see, there isn't much to be excited about among the Raiders' corps of receivers. Pryor is going to be learning on the job early this season - he has appeared in just five games for the Raiders so far during this three-year career, so he's got little experience to draw upon in week one.

The Colts' pass D was 21st in the NFL last year averaging 236.8 net yards allowed per game, with 23 passing scores allowed vs. 12 interceptions (tied for 20th in the NFL) and 32 sacks (tied for 23rd) generated. During the third preseason game, Cleveland starter Brandon Weeden was limited to 12/25 for 105 yards passing, with zero TDs or interceptions. So far, so good for the Colts' pass D.

Pryor is inexperienced and will be pressured heavily by the Colts' pass rushers this week - this looks like a neutral matchup but don't be too excited about Pryor's chances this week - David Dodds ranks him as the 27th-place fantasy quarterback in the land for opening weekend.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Derek Carr seems to be rounding into form as a second-year pro quarterback - he completed 18/34 for 213 yards and an interception during he Raiders' third preseason game, leading to five field goals over nine drives. Rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper saw nine targets for 4/62/0 receiving in the game, and provided us of a preview of how Carr will lean on Cooper in this phase of the game going forwards. Michael Crabtree, late of San Francisco, will provide veteran leadership to Cooper and Mychal Rivera/Clive Walford are a competent tandem at tight end - Carr has many more weapons around him entering 2015 compared to his rookie campaign. We'll see how he holds up now that the games count.

The Bengals were ranked 20th in the NFL last year averaging 243.0 net passing yards allowed per game, BUT they are ball-hawks with 20 interceptions generated last year (tied for third in the NFL) vs. 18 passing scores given up. The team was near last in the league in sacks (20), which is good news for the Oakland passing attack. During preseason, the Bengals averaged 154 passing yards allowed per game (fourth in the league) with just one TD pass given up vs. three interceptions generated. It appears that Cincinnati may be on the way up in this phase of the game, but we'll see what happens now that the games count.

At home in Oakland, we think Carr has a neutral matchup to work with here.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Donovan McNabb has overcome an ACL surgery to excel again entering 2007 regular season - he's looked sharp during his time on the field in the exhibition games. We haven't seen a lot of scrambling, but his arm looks just fine - Kevin Kolb isn't going to be needed right away this season. McNabb commented on his rehab at the end of August (the 29th) stating "I probably won't be at 100 percent for about a year. But it's steadily improving. I'm excited about my progression to where I am right now. The way that we've been attacking this deal, of warming it up and being able to do different things before practice, has helped in so many ways. We're going to continue to do that. Hopefully, maybe by midseason, I can say that I'm fully healthy and ready to roll." One big question mark for the team is the status of TE L.J. Smith, who had off-season groin surgery and then suffered an (unrelated) groin injury during training camp. It is unclear if he'll be ready to roll week 1, as he indicated on 9/4: "It's going to be four quarters of tough football. Can I hold up? That's the big question. By the end of the week we'll see if my body is reacting well to practice." Matt Schobel would step in if Smith can't go Sunday. Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis look set at WR #1 and #2.

Green Bay coughed up 206.8 passing yards a game last year (17th in the NFL), with 25 passing scores allowed. The Jaguars hit them for 15/28 for 208 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions during week 3 of the preseason, while they still had Byron Leftwich on the roster. One thing the Pack did do right last year was rush the opposing passer, with 46 sacks during 2006 (4th in the NFL). Philly's OL wasn't too porous last year, though, with only 28 sacks allowed during their season.

McNabb has been good during preseason, but he may be without L.J. Smith and the Eagles are facing a hostile Green Bay crowd this week - that sounds like a neutral matchup to us.

PHI Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger is out for week 1 due to an emergency appendectomy. Charlie Batch has been on the Steelers for several years, only took a handful of snaps last year, notably going 13/19 for 150 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. Cleveland in week 10, with 3/16/1 rushing. He was 23/36 for 246 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during 2005. Expect to see him in a similar, low-intensity role in this game as Pittsburgh leans on the rushing game and defense to grind out wins routinely. Hines Ward has been hobbled by a bad hamstring for some time, and it remains to be seen if he'll go - keep an eye on the official NFL injury reports and breaking news updates if you are a Ward owner. Cedrick Wilson will be the other starting WR, and could have a lot of balls come his way if Ward is hobbled on Thursday.

The Dolphins sported the 20th ranked pass defense last year in terms of yards allowed per game (206.7), and were 25th in passing scores allowed with 23 surrendered. It remains to be seen if CB Will Allen (formerly a Giants' starter) can step in and help clamp down on opposing receivers. Jake Delhomme couldn't do a thing against the Dolphins in the week 3 exhibition game, going 6/15 for 58 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions - that appears like a step in the right direction for Miami.

The injury riddled Steelers are going to have a tough time mustering much of a passing game, but the Dolphins have yet to prove they are an improving unit in a game that counts. This one looks about even from where we sit.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Steelers are having lousy luck with their starting quarterbacks to open 2010. Ben Roethlisberger is suspended for four games and Byron Leftwich, who was the front runner to be Roethlisberger's replacement during September, suffered an MCL injury during the preseason finale and is out for two-to-four weeks. Given a choice between Dennis Dixon and the venerable Charlie Batch (who was lost last season to a broken wrist), head coach Mike Tomlin has elected to start Dixon during week one.

Dixon, a third year pro out of the Oregon program, threw 26 passes during the 2009 regular season, with 12/26 for 145 yards, one TD and one interception to show for his efforts. He also posted 3/27/1 rushing in his time on the field. He is much more mobile and elusive than Leftwich or Batch, but has a lot to prove as a passer at this level. In the preseason finale vs. Carolina, he attempted one pass for 1/23/1, scoring the only TD of the day for Pittsburgh. However, he suffered usual growing pains for young QBs during the third preseason contest vs. Denver, with a line as follows: 9/16 for 94 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions, with two sacks suffered. Coach Tomlin's verdict on Dixon's most extended performance of the preseason: 'He didn't play well,' Tomlin said. 'And a lot of guys didn't.' A familiar cast of veterans will try and help Dixon weather the storm in week one, with Hines Ward and Antwaan Randle-El in the mix at WR (with youngster Mike Wallace penciled in as the #2 WR), and the solid Heath Miller starting at TE.

Atlanta's pass defense wasn't very good last year (28th in yards allowed, with 3,871 given up, and 20th in TDs handed over (25)). The Falcons were mediocre=to-subpar when it came to pass pressure during 2009, with only 28 sacks (26th in the NFL) and 15 interceptions (16th in the NFL). The team attempted to address their problems with the back end of the defense by bringing in free agent CB Dunta Robinson, but he was dinged up for virtually all of training camp (hamstring injury) and his impact on the DB unit is still an unknown factor on the eve of regular season. "It's one of the many concerns you have as a coach," the Falcons' Mike Smith said. "Believe me, you're going through all types of scenarios and that's one of them." Robinson says he'll be ready to play against the Steelers. "No it's not a concern," Robinson said on Monday, August sixth. "Eventually I have to play. It's a situation I can't really think about."

Two units fighting through multiple issues face off in this contest - this looks about even from where we're sitting.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger had an ugly game vs. Philadelphia in the third preseason game - Mike Tomlin left his offensive starters in the game well into the third quarter, and 85 of Roethlisberger’s passing yards plus his only touchdown came on that third quarter drive – against Philadelphia’s second unit. Don't be overly impressed by the 15/24 for 157 yards, one TD and one interception thrown box score for Roethlisberger from that contest. Starters Antonio Brown (five targets for 3/59/0 vs Philadelphia) and Markus Wheaton (four for 2/24/0) were limited by Roethlisbergers' struggles. Steady-Eddie Heath Miller handled six targets for 5/53/1 receiving during the game, including the TD pass from Roethlisberger.

Cleveland held starter Sam Bradford to 4/9 for 77 yards passing during the third exhibition game, so their first-team defense did their job to open the regular season preview. Last year, Cleveland averaged 221 net passing yards allowed per game, tied for seventh in the NFL, but they gave away a hefty 29 passing scores over 16 games, while generating 14 interceptions (tied for 20th in the NFL) and 40 sacks (tied for 16th). The Browns are in the middle of the league when it comes to defending against the pass.

Roethlisberger and company have room to improve as we embark on the regular season, and the same can be said for the Browns' pass D - this looks like a neutral matchup between divisional rivals.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger has to do without Martavis Bryant for the first four games of this season, and without Le'Veon Bell for two games, so he is going into this battle with the Super Bowl champs with just one boot on. Antonio Brown (181 targets for 129/1,698/13 receiving last season), Markus Wheaton (86 for 53/644/2) and Heath Miller (91 for 66/761/3) will have to pick up the slack for their missing teammates. DeAngelo Williams can catch a few balls out of the backfield, but he's a downgrade from Le'Veon Bell at this late stage in his NFL career. We'll see how the Steelers adapt to missing key players at New England.

Speaking of the Patriots, they ranked 17th in the NFL last year averaging 239.8 net passing yards allowed per game, with 24 TDs surrendered vs. 16 interceptions (tied for 12th in the NFL) and 40 sacks (tied for 13th) generated. Cam Newton managed 17/28 for 160 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions vs New England in the third preseason game - they look like a good but not great unit again entering 2015.

A personnel-starved offense faces a so-so defense in this one - we'll call it a neutral matchup for the visiting Steelers. With Bell out though, Roethlisberger may need to sling the ball a bunch to keep Pittsburgh competitive in this game.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

How's Philip Rivers doing with his bruised shoulder? He reports that it is sore, but improving and he should have no problem playing on the 11th. He tossed 6/11 for 89 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions in the week 3 exhibition game, and seems to be on track for his debut as the starting QB in San Diego. We'll see how his chemistry with Antonio Gates, Keenan McCardell and Eric Parker has progressed (Parker has missed a lot of reps with a sprained thumb ligament during training camp). Rivers has the targets to work with - the question is, can he deliver the ball to them?

The Raiders were 18th in the NFL vs. the pass last year, allowing an average of 202.7 passing yards per game, and they gave up 18 passing scores during the year (9th in the NFL). They were decent, but not outstanding. This young and rebuilding squad saw CB Charles Woodson depart for the Packers after an injury-shortened campaign in 2005 - he was more of a distraction than anything else last year, though.

Rivers has to deal with the crazed Oakland crowd and his own lack of game-time experience makes this an even matchup from where we sit.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Philip Rivers has been up and down during preseason, and lost starter Eric Parker to a broken bone in his foot (a cracked sesamoid bone near his right big toe) which required a surgical repair. However, Craig Davis is settling in as the Charger's number 2 WR in Parker's absence across from Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd will also be a factor. Of course, all-world TE Antonio Gates is ready to rumble entering regular season. Oh, and the Chargers have this great pass-catching RB you might have heard of - LaDainian Tomlinson? Rivers has a well-stocked stable of receivers to throw at entering 2007.

The Bears tied for 8th in the NFL with 40 sacks last year (the Chargers only gave up 28, though, among the best pass protection in the league), and were 11th in the NFL averaging 194.8 passing yards allowed per game, with 18 pass TDs handed over during 16 games. During week 3 of the preseason, vs. San Francisco, the Bears handed over 13/20 for 139 yards, 2 TDs and O interceptions - not up to their usual standards where scoring is concerned.

This looks like a neutral matchup on the Chargers' home turf.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Philip Rivers (366/582 for 4,624 passing yards with 27 TDs and 20 interceptions thrown last season) comes into 2012 with a healthy Antonio Gates (88 targets for 64/77/7 receiving last year), but without his favorite wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, who departed to Tampa Bay in free agency, and without Vincent Brown (fractured ankle) who was reportedly slated to be a featured part of the passing attack. The team brought in Robert Meachem from New Orleans and he is slated to be the new #1 wide receiver now, and oft-injured Malcom Floyd slides into the #2 slot in the place of Brown. This is a unit in transition as of the first week of regular season, with several new pieces added to the puzzle and some important players subtracted.

However, there is good news for Rivers and company. Footballguys.com defensive players expert John Norton is concerned about the Raiders' pass defense: 'While the Oakland run defense is on the rise, their pass defense may be headed in the other direction. They are pretty solid at safety but have resorted to bubble gum and duct tape at the corner positions. Former Rams starter Ronald Bartell is a good but not great player who has battled injuries over the past couple of years. He missed last season with a neck injury and has been fighting a hamstring issue much of the summer. Opposite Bartell is San Francisco castoff Shawntae Spencer who also brings injury baggage and question marks. Last year's third round pick Demarcus Van Dyke is the third corner and the Raiders have very little behind the top three. They are shaky at best on the corners and an injury at the position could be devastating.' Matthew Stafford hit 8/10 for 68 yards at Oakland in the third preseason game before taking a seat. Last year, the Raiders were ranked 27th in the league with an average of 251.4 net passing yards allowed per game, and they coughed up 31 passing scores during the year (31st in the NFL), while generating 18 interceptions (12th in the NFL) and 39 sacks (15th).

Rivers is getting acquainted with new players and will do without his star running back, putting pressure on the passing attack this week, while the Raiders lurk in partisan Oakland-Alameda County Stadium (AKA the Black Hole) ready to pounce on their divisional rivals - this one looks about even to us on balance.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Philip Rivers' supporting cast of receivers is undergoing renovations as regular season opens. Disappointment Robert Meachem was let go and returned to New Orleans on September 3. Danario Alexander landed on IR during preseason, so he isn't available, leaving Malcom Floyd as one starter and some mix of Eddie Royal (returned to practices September 2 after a preseason concussion/bruised lung injury episode) and Vincent Brown as the other starters. Rookie Keenan Allen may be able to work his way up the depth chart considering the lack of production from Brown and Royal in recent seasons, but it's fair to say that the Chargers have one of the least exciting wide receiver corps in the NFL right now. Ancient Antonio Gates will start at tight end, leaving Rivers with few good options to throw at this season. We'll see if the new lineup can jell but Rivers 10/18 for 71 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception thrown at Arizona during the third exhibition game tempers expectations, at least early in the regular season.

The Texans locked down ILB Brian Cushing through 2019 on September 3, solidifying their defensive scheme for years to come. Last season Cushing missed most of the season and the Texans' D suffered from his lack - this year he's back in the middle of things, though. Houston (like many other defensive teams) had a hard time with the Saints in the third exhibition game, allowing 104 yards passing and a TD to Drew Brees on only four completions, and eventually coughing up 22/33 for 302 net yards passing, four TDs and zero interceptions. There is work to be done here if Houston is going to improve on last year's mediocre showing (15th in the NFL averaging 225.8 net passing yards allowed per game, with 29 TDs handed over vs. 15 interceptions and 44 sacks generated).

Rivers' squad is in transition and lacks top-shelf talent - he's facing a neutral matchup on Monday Night Football, but our David Dodds has Rivers down as the 21st-ranked fantasy quarterback prospect for week one.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Philip Rivers finished 13/19 for 140 yards passing in the third preseason game against the Seahawks. He showed good chemistry with Keenan Allen (121 targets for 77/783/4 receiving with San Diego last year) and new teammate Stevie Johnson (4/63/0 receiving for San Diego vs. Seattle) has settled in comfortably at the #2 wideout position. While Antonio Gates is on suspension Johnson may play a key role in the 2015 attack (and perhaps beyond), and of course all fantasy owners' eyes will be on presumed heir-apparent at tight end Ladarius Green (25 targets for 19/226/0 receiving) as he auditions to be the #1 tight end for the Chargers. There are several developing situations to be worked out in San Diego during the first month of the season.

The Lions' pass D was ranked 13th in the NFL last year averaging 231.6 net yards receiving per game, with 23 TDs allowed and 20 interceptions generated (tied for third in the NFL). The Lions had 42 sacks last year as well, but the reworking of their defensive line during the offseason (and the departure of Ndamukong Suh to Miami) has us in wait-and-see mode about the new mix on defense. During preseason the Lions averaged 180 net passing yards allowed per game (eighth in the NFL), which was a decent showing with the vanilla preseason schemes.

This looks like a neutral matchup for the home team as both squads are still re-balancing their adjusted lineups entering 2015.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

In division contests are always hotly contested, but this game has the added interest of seeing Seattle and San Francisco's quarterbacks duel for 'worst QB corps in the NFC West'. Seriously, though, we're concerned about both these passing attacks for good reason as neither club has jelled during preseason - both look like hazardous situations for fantasy owners as of the regular season opener. Tarvaris Jackson arrived from Minnesota in free agency and was immediately anointed the starter for Seattle (despite the presence of Charlie Whitehurst on the team, he of the very costly trade with San Diego dating from 2010). Jackson has repaid the trust of coach Pete Carroll with lack-luster outings. In the third preseason game Jackson threw 13/22 for 93 yards, one TD and zero interceptions during a 20-23 loss to Denver, and he followed up with 5/7 for 88 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception vs. Oakland in the preseason finale. Whitehurst hasn't been much better, with 5/8 for 53 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions at Denver and 9/15 for 140 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions vs. Oakland. Given the dearth of production at the QB position, we advise avoiding Seattle receivers in week one - even TE Zach Miller and #1 WR Mike Williams are well below starting range on our preliminary week one projections.

The 49ers pass D was sup-par during 2010, averaging 231.1 net yards allowed per game (24th in the NFL), with 25 TDs given up vs. 15 interceptions (tied for 17th) and 36 sacks generated (tied for 14th). Houston rocked the secondary for 24/35 yielding 245 yards, one TD and one interception in their 30-7 victory in the third exhibition game, a contest in which the 49ers offense held the ball for 19:24 out of 60 minutes - any defense burdened with such an ineffective offensive counterpart is in serious trouble, friends.

The 49ers' team is struggling, but so is the Seattle passing offense. This is a very ugly but neutral matchup in our books - but we advise staying away from the Seahawks in this phase of the game.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Russell Wilson fizzled in the third preseason game vs. Green Bay, throwing 11/17 for 126 yards passing, zero TDs and two interceptions, while taking three sacks for -27 yards. He's going to be operating without top wide receiver Percy Harvin for much if not all of this year, and Sidney Rice has spent time during training camp getting exotic European treatments on his balky knee, leaving Golden Tate (45/688/7 receiving last year in his third NFL season) as the presumptive #1 wide receiver in the stable. TE Zach Miller is returning from a foot injury - aside from Tate, there aren't a lot of truly 100% healthy options for Wilson entering regular season. We'll see how effective this lineup can be starting this week. Footballguys.com's David Dodds has Wilson as the 13th-best fantasy quarterback for week one - just on the cusp of starting fantasy QB territory.

The Panthers' pass D was very disruptive against Baltimore in the third preseason game, generating three interceptions of which two were returned for TDs (there was also a fumble returned for a score during the game) - Joe Flacco was limited to 18/24 for 169 yards, one TD and two interceptions while the starters were on the field. Last year, the Panthers were a mediocre pass D averaging 223 net passing yards allowed per game (13th in the NFL), with 11 interceptions and 39 sacks generated (tied for 23rd and ninth in the NFL, respectively). This unit has started off 2013 playing well.

Wilson has a limited cast of characters around him entering regular season, and has to start the season on the road. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup with neither squad holding an edge over the other.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Russell Wilson has a new weapon to menace opposing defenses with - Jimmy Graham (386/4,752/51 receiving during his five-year stint in New Orleans) will provide Wilson with a dangerous new element in the red zone. Veterans Doug Baldwin (98 targets for 66/825/3 receiving last year) and Jermaine Kearse (69 for 37/538/1 receiving during regular season) return to work with Wilson again this year - he is surrounded by quality talent, including a fine pass-catching running back in Marshawn Lynch (48 for 37/367/4 receiving last year). Wilson is also coming into this season off a $70+ Million contract renewal, so he'll likely be asked to stay in the pocket and pass more often during 2015 (the ownership won't want to risk his health unnecessarily by having more scrambles from Wilson).

The Rams' pass D was ranked 19th in the NFL last season, averaging 241.3 net passing yards allowed per game, with 18 TDs surrendered vs. 13 interceptions (tied for 18th in the league) and 40 sacks (tied for 12th) generated. Starter Andrew Luck hit this unit with 12/21 for 161 net yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions generated during the third preseason game.

A so-so defense faces an improving offense in this contest - that sounds about even to us.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Tim Rattay held off Alex Smith and has now earned his starting job at QB. At least for now. 13/25 for 132 yards, 0 TDS and 0 interceptions may not sound like much, but it was enough to help Rattay gain his old job back after week 3 of the preseason. Rattay had a rough season last year (in 9 games for 198/325 2169 passing yards, 10 TDs and 10 interceptions), but appears to be the best option in San Francisco despite high-dollar rookie Alex Smith. Arnaz Battle and Brandon Lloyd figure to headline the receiving corps.

St. Louis lurked just outside the top ten in this phase of the game last year (ranking 11th in the NFL allowing an average of 198.4 passing yards per game, with 24 TDs surrendered during the season). They looked impressive during their lambasting of Detroit on Monday Night Football during preseason week 3, holding the Lions to 17/36 for 191 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions (9/18 for 106 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions for starter Joey Harrington).

The Rams suffered a huge blow during preseason when CB Jerametrius Butler went down to a season-ending knee injury. The 49ers are unsure if starting TE Eric Johnson will be able to play in the season opener due to a foot injury. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for San Francisco boils down to: perfect football weather. 69 F for a high, 56 F for a low, with a 10% chance for rain on Sunday.

Both squads are mediocre, and both teams have injury issues. This one looks pretty even to us.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Alex Smith has a problem. His top WR, Darrell Jackson, has been in and out of the lineup throughout the pre-season, due to a series of injury woes (turf toe entering camp, a strained hamstring at the end of camp). Ashley Lelie is a question mark entering regular season, and is (at least) behind Arnaz Battle. Smith has thrown down 2 bad games to end preseason, with 3/8 for 23 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception during the preseason finale, and 4/8 for 47 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the key week 3 exhibition tilt vs. Chicago. Color us unimpressed.

The Cards gave up a ton of pass yardage last year, with 3932 yards allowed (30th in the NFL), while also surrendering 21 passing scores (19th in the NFL). They were in the middle of the NFL pack with 38 sacks last year (12th), but lost key DE/LB Chike Okeafor during preseason due to a torn left biceps tendon. The team is in transition at CB, with Antrel Rolle being demoted to 3rd string and Rod Hood coming up to take his place, we'll see if Hood can improve the porous secondary. The 29/45 for 400 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions allowed to the Chargers' Philip Rivers and Billy Volek during week 3 of preseason doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, though.

The Cards haven't been stout in this phase of the game, but neither have the 49ers. Both teams are in flux coming into the regular season - sounds like a neutral matchup to us.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Alex Smith has spent the preseason in the same conservative role that we saw him operate in last year. While he's thrown deep balls at Randy Moss occasionally, he never really got in synch with his new receiver during preseason (3/24/0 receiving for Moss over three preseason contests). It remains to be seen if Moss, Mario Manningham or rookie A.J. Jenkins will emerge as the #2 wideout across from Michael Crabtree - whoever gets the start there in week one won't necessarily be the #2 guy going forwards. Vernon Davis (who snagged a nice 44-yard TD pass from Smith in Denver during the third preseason game, comprising the bulk of Smith's 5/7 for 69 yards passing, with one TD during the game) remains a key cog to the 49ers' aerial attack.

The Packers' pass defense plays with river-boat gambling style, giving up a lot of long plays but also manufacturing the league's highest total of interceptions last year (31). During 2011 the Packers were dead last in average net passing yards allowed per game (299.8) and also allowed a hefty 29 passing scores (tied for 27th most in the NFL). Footballguys.com defensive players expert John Norton notes: 'Everyone keeps pointing to the passing yardage Green Bay surrendered last season. While it is true that they were last in the league in yards allowed, they led the league in takeaways. This is a big play defense by design and the Packers will continue to place great emphasis on creating turnovers. However, they have made several additions and adjustments that should improve the pass defense as a whole. The pass rush gets a big boost with the addition of rookie linebacker Nick Perry, they added talent at corner in rookie Casey Hayward and moved Charles Woodson to strong safety in the base defense. The Packers will never be a top 10 pass defense from the yardage perspective, but I look for them to be middle of the pack this year.'

Smith runs a conservative attack while the Packers field an attacking secondary that also allows big plays from time to time - this looks like a fairly even matchup to us.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

This is a rematch of the divisional playoff game that San Francisco won 45-31 last January - Colin Kaepernick tore up the Packers' D with 17/31 for 263 yards, two TDs and one interception passing and 16/181/2 rushing during that contest. This is the reason that Green Bay's defensive coordinator Dom Capers spent a portion of every practice during training camp on defensing the read-option offense. "We've been working on it," DE Ryan Pickett said early on during training camp. "Not just for the 49ers, but we play Washington (and Robert Griffin III), too. A lot of people are going to this read-option. It's like the Wildcat back in the day. You just have to be prepared for it. You have to be pretty disciplined." Green Bay's D has spent a lot of time and effort getting ready for the season opener in San Francisco, folks, something to keep in mind when we assess Kaepernick and company's prospects for week one. Seattle's Russell Wilson, a mobile young quarterback, was held to 11/17 for 126 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions during the third exhibition game, showing the signs of Green Bay's preparations during training camp.

Kaepernick comes into the season opener without his number one receiver, Michael Crabtree, who is sidelined indefinitely due to a torn Achilles tendon - crabtree joins Mario Manningham on the PUP list to start the season. Anquan Boldin, hired away from Super Bowl foe Baltimore, is the new #1 wide receiver for Kaepernick entering week one, and he'll have unheralded Marlon Moore and rookie Quinton Patton in the mix across from him. Behind Boldin the 49ers have little in the way of veteran depth. Kyle Williams didn't practice or play during preseason due to knee and hamstring issues, and Jonathan Baldwin just arrived from Kansas City via a trade and is still learning the playbook. Vernon Davis remains a key presence and may well be the #2 target for Kaepernick if Moore or Patton don't play well now that the games count. The 49ers' passing attack is in transition coming into regular season due to the injury losses. Vs. Minnesota in the third preseason game, Kaepernick warmed up his passing arm with 7/13 for 72 yards, one TD and zero interceptions before giving way to his backups.

The 49ers' attack is thin and inexperienced at the receiving position, and the Packers have made a special study of their offense this year. On balance this looks like a neutral matchup for Kaepernick and company.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Sam Bradford has played well in training camp and preseason games according to all accounts, and he's got a great number of potential playmakers at the skill positions entering week one of regular season. Brandon Gibson, Danny Amendola, Mike Sims-Walker, Danario Alexander and Greg Salas are the first five receivers on the depth chart, and Lance Kendricks should do well from the tight end postion. All three running backs on the roster (Steven Jackson, Cadillac Williams, Jerious Norwood) are accomplished receivers out of the backfield. During the week three preseason contest Bradford pitched two TDs, a six-yard strike to Mike Sims-Walker and then a 11-yard score to Lance Kendricks, on the way to 9/16 for 95 yards, two TDs and one interception. Bradford may bring back the term 'Greatest Show on Turf' to St. Louis if all goes well for him during 2011. The potential for a big year is definitely apparent.

The Eagles totally remade their secondary during free agency, trading for CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with Arizona (in the Kevin Kolb deal), and then signing ex-Raider Nnamdi Asomugha in free agency. The also picked up Jarrad Page (late of New England) to start at strong safety and also promoted second-year guy Kurt Coleman to the starting free safety job. Did we mention that there is a new defensive coordinator in the saddle, Juan Castillo, who switched from long-time offensive line coach for Philadelphia (the past 13 years)? As we enter regular season, many fantasy fanatics are watching to see how well all this roster-juggling will work out for the Eagles, who were 14th in the NFL last year averaging 216.8 net yards allowed per week in this phase of the game, with 31 passing scores given up. The team has moved way past last year's squad, though. It's a brand-new unit entering 2011.

Bradford has the weapons to challenge the Eagles' new pass D - we think he'll do O.K. but not spectacularly and have him at 14th on our midweek QB rankings. Given all the talented players who are still getting comfortable with each other in Philadelphia, we call this a neutral matchup.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Sam Bradford finally found his groove in the preseason finale at Baltimore, tossing 11/16 for 175 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions during the 31-17 romp over the Ravens' backups and reserves. It was good to see Bradford throwing the ball well, but remember that he wasn't facing first-team talent in the game. In the three previous outings Bradford had just two TD passes - there is still a lot of room for improvement on this unit entering regular season. It looks like Danny Amendola (who only played in one game last year due to injury) and Steve Smith (working his way back from a surgically repaired knee) have emerged to be the starting wide receivers for this attack. Smith has reportedly caught everything thrown his way during training camp and has been a bright spot in camp. Head coach Jeff Fisher said on August 20 that Smith hasn't had any problems with his surgically repaired knee and they haven't had to tone back his work at all. The Rams move forward with a lot of unfulfilled potential playing at the starting wide receiver spots - we'll see if Amendola and Smith can stand up to the stresses of playing in live game action. Lance Kendricks (57 targets for 28/352/0 receiving last year) returns as the starting tight end for the Rams again this year.

The Lions fielded the league's 22nd-ranked pass defense last year, averaging 239.4 net passing yards allowed per game. Detroit coughed up 26 passing TDs last year (22nd in the NFL) vs. 21 interceptions (fifth-best in the league) and 41 sacks (tied for 10th) generated. St. Louis was dead last in the NFL during 2011 with 55 sacks allowed, by the way. Carson Palmer tossed two interceptions and zero TDs vs. Detroit in the third preseason game (17/26 for 181 yards passing) - the Lions look ready for regular season competition.

Bradford didn't really hit his stride until the preseason finale (which makes the performance suspect) - against the so-so Lions, he's got an even shot at building some momentum here in regular season (if his pass blockers can contrive to keep him upright).

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Brian Griese hasn't lit the world on fire during preseason (he tossed 7/11 for 48 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during week 3), but he hasn't been bad. Michael Clayton (80/1193/7 during 2004) and Joey Galloway (33/416/5) are his top options in the passing phase this year -- we'll see how everything works out for the Bucs soon enough.

Minnesota coughed up an average of 243.5 passing yards per game last season - 29th in the NFL - (with 30 passing scores surrendered). During the off-season, 2 starting DBs were added -- Fred Smoot migrated from Washington, and Darren Sharper defected from Green Bay. With 22/36 for 219 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions allowed to San Diego during week 3 of the preseason, there hasn't yet been a big improvement in this area, though.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in the Metrodome, so weather won't be a factor.

Tampa has some quality receivers, while the Vikings appear to still be in the process of jelling. With home field behind the defense, we call this an even matchup.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jeff Garcia is in the drivers' seat in Tampa now, but he hasn't shown much in the way of production during preseason. He tossed 4/10 for 54 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. Miami in week 3, and hasn't lit up the field in his other games to date. Garcia only attempted 20 passes during preseason though, so it's hard to get a read on his comfort level in this offense entering week 1 of the regular season. We'll know soon enough. It looks like the Bucs will add some shotgun formations to the attack in 2007 - coach Gruden commented on September 5th "You try to do some things that your quarterback likes and does really well. And right now we have some players who have allowed us to change our offensive mentality. And with that, well, here's the shotgun." Seattle allowed 16/30 for 167 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions vs. Minnesota in preseason week 3 (but they were picking on Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger, so don't read too much into those stats). Last year, Seattle was 16th in the NFL averaging 203.5 passing yards allowed per game, with 23 TDs handed over - and they posted 41 sacks (tied for 6th in the NFL). They are a respectable, but not top-tier, pass D at this juncture.

In Seattle's house, we think this looks like a neutral matchup for the new Buccaneer QB.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Josh Freeman completed his exhibition season in week three vs. Miami, and posted a respectable 12/23 for 149 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions. He worked throughout preseason largely without the benefit of his #2 wide receiver, Arrelious Benn, though Benn did grab one catch for 12 yards vs. Miami and also had an 11 yard reverse. One advantage of Benn's absence (he was concentrating on rehabbing his surgically-repaired ACL) was that Freeman and Dezmon Briscoe got a lot of reps during training camp and preseason, and by all accounts Briscoe impressed his team mates and the coaching staff, so now the Buccaneers have better depth at wide receiver with a solid #3 guy behind Mike Williams and Benn. Kellen Winslow remains the lead tight end on the squad, though he played and practiced sparingly during preseason by design (the team wanted to take it easy on his chronically sore knee). We'll soon see if Freeman can continue to build on his successful second season as the starter in Tampa Bay (291/474 for 3,451 yards, 25 TDs and just six interceptions, with 68/364/0 rushing as a sweetener). He's got abundant talent at the key skill positions around him and most Footballguys expect to see continued success from Freeman. In fact, Freeman is among the top-ten fantasy QBs for week one according to David Dodds' early Tuesday projections - Freeman is poised to come out of the gates quickly.

The Lions' pass D was so-so during 2010, with an average of 218.6 net yards allowed per game (16th in the NFL), while surrendering 23 pass TDs vs. 14 interceptions (tied for 19th) and 44 sacks (sixth in the NFL) generated. The front seven got after opposing QBs last year, but the secondary didn't generate a lot of turnovers in concert with the strong rush. Tampa Bay was tenth in the NFL last year with 30 sacks surrendered - they do a decent job of shielding Freeman from opposing rushers. However, New England's Tom Brady certainly felt a lot of heat from Tampa in the third preseason game, when the Lions racked up two sacks and seven hits on the QB during the game - Brady had Lions in the offensive backfield with regularity during the game. Freeman's blockers will need to look out for him on Sunday.

Freeman had an outstanding season last year, and with home field advantage at his back we think he's got an even chance to start out 2011 strong, despite the improving Lions' squad that will arrive in Tampa this weekend.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Josh Freeman regressed during his third season at the helm, going from 291/474 for 3,451 passing yards, 25 TDs and six interceptions thrown in 2010 to 346/551 for 3,592 passing yards, 16 TDs and 22 interceptions thrown during 2011. To help bolster the attack, Tampa Bay brought in high-octane free agent Vincent Jackson (60/1,106/9 receiving in San Diego last year) to pair with Mike Williams (125 targets from Freeman last year for 65/771/3 receiving). The team also parted ways with Kellen Winslow when he clashed with the new coaching staff, and replaced him with tight end Dallas Clark, who relocated from rebuilding Indianapolis. In the third preseason game vs. New England, Freeman put up 10/19 for 102 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions. He has yet to really rack up a big game in the new Tampa Bay offense - we'll see if he can get on-track at home vs. divisional rival Carolina.

The Panthers' pass D wasn't good last year, averaging 246.8 net yards allowed per game (24th in the league), with 28 passing TDs given up (25th in the NFL), vs. 14 interceptions and 31 sacks generated - they were 20th and 25th in those departments, respectively. Mark Sanchez only managed 11/18 for 123 yards, zero TDs and one interception vs. the Panthers in the third preseason game, but nobody considers the Jets' passing attack very impressive this year.

Freeman struggled last year and has yet to turn the corner in Tampa's new offense - the Panthers struggled last year and have a lot of improving to do as well. That sounds about even to us. Also, the Buccaneers' offensive philosophy this year is a run-first scheme, and they have the running back stable to support such an attack - don't look for Freeman to put up the ball a lot vs. Carolina and then you won't be disappointed.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jake Locker beat out Matt Hasselbeck for the starting quarterback job, and looked great after pitching 11/20 for 134 yards and two touchdowns vs. Arizona in the third preseason contest. However, he didn't dazzle in the preseason finale (9/16 for 81 yards passing), and finished preseason with 31/60 (51.7 completion percentage) for 316 yards passing, adding 6/57/0 rushing. He's a young player who had limited snaps in his rookie campaign (34/66 for 542 yards passing, four TDs and zero interceptions) - some more time with up-and-down play as he develops is to be expected. This week, Locker will do without the suspended Kenny Britt, making Nate Washington (121 targets for 74/1,023/7 receiving last season) and rookie Kendall Wright the starters at wide receiver. Craig Stevens (14 targets for 9/166/1 receiving last year) and Jared Cook (81 targets for 49/759/3 receiving) will be in the mix at tight end for the Titans in week one - Footballguys.com has Stevens listed as the starter right now.

New England held Tampa's Josh Freeman to 10/19 for 102 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions in the third preseason game, playing much better than last season's 31st-ranked pass defense that averaged 293.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with 26 passing TDs given up (tied for 22nd in the NFL). However, the team tied for second in the NFL with 23 interceptions and had 40 sacks (14th in the NFL), so there was some bright spots for New England last year. Footballguys.com's defensive players expert John Norton notes: 'The Patriots are another team that should show great improvement against both the pass and run. After finishing 31st in total defense last season there is really no place to go but up. The pass rush is going to get a boost from rookie defensive end Chandler Jones who is already playing like a seasoned veteran, and the secondary is finally at full strength after suffering several injuries last season.' The showing against Freeman outlined above is a good start for an improving unit.

Locker can look outstanding at times, but he's not yet consistent at this level - the improving Patriots should give him a solid challenge in this contest. We think the matchup between the two squads is just about even.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Redskins have settled on Patrick Ramsey to run their 2005 offense. He threw down 169/272 for 1665 passing yards, 10 TDs and 11 interceptions last year after taking over for the ineffective Mark Brunell. Now it's Ramsey's turn on the hot-seat. Free agent imports Santana Moss and David Patten are his top two WRs, with Chris Cooley playing the hybrid TE/HB position. Ramsey threw 12/19 for 141 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during the preseason game vs. Pittsburgh (Moss had 2/68/0, Patten snagged 4/37/0) - he looks like he's comfortable with the new receivers heading into regular season.

The Bears' secondary is set to go with the "Mikes" at safety (Mike Brown, Mike Green) and Charles Tillman/Jerry Azumah at corner back in the starting lineup. It's a veteran bunch, which allowed 21/34 for 201 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions to the Bills during week 3 of the preseason. Last year, the Bears sported a mediocre secondary (minus Brown, who suffered an early Achilles injury during 2004, and lacking Tillman and Azumah for a majority of the year), giving up 208.8 passing yards per game with 23 total TDs surrendered -- they weren't getting much help from the offense during 2004, and were banged up in a big way, so a mediocre 2004 finish was pretty good, all things considered.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Fed Ex Field expects a high of 83F and a low of 68F with a 0% chance of precipitation on Sunday -- perfect football weather appears to be on tap.

Washington is still finding their rhythm, while the Bears are recovering from last year's implosion. This looks like a fairly even matchup to us.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Donovan McNabb lost the last two games of the preseason due to an ankle injury, but he insists he'll be under center for the season opener.'Yes, I will be starting this weekend,' McNabb stated on Tuesday, September seventh. 'And I look forward to it.' McNabb also acknowledged during the interview that his ankle wasn't 100% healthy. While McNabb has nursed his ankle, the wide receiver stable has struggled to produce much - Santana Moss managed 2/42/0 in the third preseason game, but had six targets during the contest (a 33% reception percentage). Devin Thomas has apparently flamed out again, and Malcolm Kelly landed on IR before the start of the season, leaving the depth chart behind Moss looking like this: Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstrong, Roydell Williams, Devin Thomas. Ouch. The team does boast two solid TEs in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis, but there isn't much outside of those two and Moss. It'll be interesting to see who McNabb has chemistry with now that he's able to take the field again.

The Cowboys' pass D was 20th in the NFL last year, averaging 225.4 net yards allowed per game, with 19 TDs allowed (10th in the NFL) and 11 interceptions generated (26th). They were seventh in the league with 42 sacks - as you can see, the Cowboys were a mixed bag in this phase of the game last year. Houston managed 21/33 for 208 yards, one TD and zero interceptions against Dallas in week three of the preseason.

The Redskins are rebuilding/retooling their offense (again) this year, while the Cowboys bring a so-so defense to this dance at FedEx Field. On balance, this looks like a fairly even matchup to us.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Rex Grossman finally put the Redskins' extended QB battle to rest by outlasting John Beck in preseason (Beck played poorly in the preseason finale, tipping the balance to Grossman for week one). In six appearances for the Redskins last year, Grossman put up 74/133 for 884 passing yards, seven TDs and four interceptions. He's been consistently O.K. during preseason, with 8/15 for 112 yards, one TD and zero interceptions vs. Baltimore in the week three preseason 'dress rehearsal' for regular season. Beck flopped in week four vs. Tampa Bay (10/21 for 108 yards, zero TDs and one interception) and as a result head coach Mike Shanahan said on Tuesday, September sixth that it is Grossman's job to lose all season. The fact that Grossman studied an offense under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was an advantage in the quarterback competition with QB John Beck, according to Shanahan's comments. 'He's familiar with the system. I thought he was pretty automatic with a lot of his reads, and hopefully he plays accordingly.' Tim Hightower is a good pass-catching RB, and the Redskins field a veteran starting cast of receivers with Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney at WR, and Fred Davis currently starting at TE while Chris Cooley nurses his injured knee. There are some sharp knives in Grossman's drawer, but will 'Good Rex' or 'Bad Rex' show up on Sundays? If Grossman can play consistently, he might do well in his latest chance as a starter. Time will tell. We're cautious about his chances entering the season opener, and have Grossman slotted at 24th on our initial week one QB rankings.

Last year, the Giants were ranked ninth in the NFL averaging 209.5 net passing yards allowed per game, with 24 pass TDs given up vs. 16 interceptions and 46 sacks generated. However, looking back to last year is misleading in this instance because the Giants' defensive team has suffered a barrage of injuries during the 2011 preseason. They've recently lost MLB Jonathan Goff to IR, and also have seen OLB Clint Sintim go to IR, lead CB Terrell Thomas go to IR, and they enter week one without DE Osi Umenyiora (knee injury) or rookie CB Prince Amukamara (broken foot). The team is scrambling to find a replacement for Goff at MLB as of Wednesday September seventh (they are looking at Lofa Tatupu, Keith Bulluck and Dhani Jones according to local reports), and may start rookie MLB Greg Jones in the opener due to Goff's injury and the lack of time for any free agent to get up to speed in time for Sunday. Let's just say that the starting lineup of the Giants' D is in turmoil as of week one. Players like Terrell Thomas and Jonathan Goff aren't easily replaced on short notice - the loss of Thomas was an especially damaging blow to the Giants' pass D.

The Redskins host the Giants in a situation where the Giants' D is injury-depleted and in turmoil. Even given the drawn-out QB battle and our lack of enthusiasm for Grossman, this has to be seen as a neutral matchup for the Redskins due to the Giants' injury woes entering week one.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Perhaps the most-anticipated return to action for fantasy owners is the 2013 debut of Robert Griffin III after having his knee reconstucted January 9, 2013. His progress during training camp was watching in minute detail, and he has been medically cleared as of August 29. On September 3 head coach Mike Shanahan said that Griffin is full-go for regular season. "If that's sprinting out, if it's running the option, if it's drop back, he can do all those things because he proved it to us in practice,". Pierre Garcon said on Monday, September 2 the toe that slowed him down through most of the 2012 season is completely healed. "Foot's good. Hundred percent,". With Garcon and Griffin healthy entering regular season, the Redskins once again have the passing tandem that excited fantasy owners so much prior to the 2012 season. Josh Morgan will start at the other wide receiver position, and Fred Davis is back from the Achilles tendon injury that cut short his 2012 campaign. The Redskins' starters are set for this NFC East clash on Monday Night Football.

The Eagles have a new defense run by defensive Coordinator Bill Davis - substantial housecleaning was done on this side of the ball after last year's debacle (the Eagles led the NFL with 33 passing TDs allowed during 2012). In extended action against the Jaguars, the Eagles' pass D was agressive and successful with seven sacks and one interception recorded in Jacksonville. All told, the Jaguars eked out 19/32 for 144 yards passing, two TDs and one interception on the night (starter Blaine Gabbert was sidelined with a broken thumb, but he's not much better than Chad Henne who led the Jaguars' first team during the third exhibition).

Griffin and company are back from an injury-marred 2012 - we'll see how their reconstituted offense does against the remade Philadelphia defense. On balance, we think this is a neutral matchup as we haven't been able to see Griffin in action at NFL speeds yet this year.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Robert Griffin III has not looked comfortable in the new offensive sysem installed in Washington this year. He's only found DeSean Jackson for 2/34/0 during preseason, and Griffin had a horrendous showing in the third preseason game tossing 5/8 for 20 yards, zero TDs and one interception, with one sack for -15 yards during his time on the field. Over the first three preseason games, the first team offense failed to score a TD. It's hard to be excited about Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed with Griffin so deeply sunk in a funk entering the first game of regular season.

The Texans' pass D was stung for 21/27 yielding 243 passing yards, two TDs and one interception thrown by Peyton Manning on August 23rd (he took only one sack for -6 yards). Last season the Texans averaged just 195 passing yards allowed per game (third in the NFL), but they gave up a hefty 29 passing scores, and had a league-worst mark in interceptions (just seven) and they were second-to-last in sacks generated with just 32. Though the return of MLB Brian Cushing to the lineup and the drafting of OLB Jadeveon Clowney should help shore up the pass rush, the Texans need their defense to take some steps forward this year.

Two mediocre-to-sub-par units face off in this matchup - on balance this looks like an ugly but fairly even matchup.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

John Skelton had five more completions and two more TDs than Kevin Kolb last year, while Kolb threw for 42 more yards than Skelton did: Skelton 151/275 for 1,913 yards, 11 TDs and 14 interceptions; Kolb 146/253 for 1,955 yards, nine passing TDs and eight interceptions. Neither guy distinguished himself during preseason (Skelton only managed four completions for 41 yards and an interception during the third preseason game when he started, while Kolb pitched 17/22 for 156 yards, one TD and two interceptions in his time at Tennessee), but the team eventually decided on August 31 to name Skelton the starter for week one of regular season. As both guys effectively split last season right down the middle, it wouldn't be a shock to see Skelton get the quick hook vs. Seattle. About the only sure thing about this game is that Larry Fitzgerald will pull in the lions' share of available receptions - last year, he had 153 targets for 80/1,411/8 receiving, while the next-most-targeted guy was Andre Roberts with 98 targets for 51/586/2 receiving. Fitzgerald and Roberts look like the starters for week one, with Early Doucet (97 targets for 54/689/5) and rookie Michael Floyd in the third and fourth positions on the depth chart to open the season. Tight end is currently a jumble with Rob Housler in a slight lead over aging Todd Heap for the lead pass-catching tight end job (Jeff King is also in the mix). Unless you have Fitzgerald rostered (26 targets for 14/213/1 receiving vs. Seattle last year), we suggest you look elsewhere for your skill position fantasy players in week one of the regular season. Skelton played in one of the two games vs. Seattle last year, with 22/40 for 271 yards, one TD and one interception to his credit.

The Seahawks' pass D ended 2011 ranked 11th in the NFL averaging 219.8 net passing yards allowed per game, with 18 passing TDs surrendered but 22 interceptions (fourth in the NFL) and 33 sacks generated (tied for 19th in the NFL). Arizona gave up 54 sacks last year, second-most in the NFL, and they've already lost LT Levi Brown due to injury this year. Kansas City's Matt Cassel managed 19/34 for 168 yards, one TD and one interception while taking three sack vs. Seattle in the third exhibition game.

Seattle has a solid, aggressive pass D while the Cardinals have dithered throughout preseason and their wavering has limited Skelton's reps with the first team offense - this looks like a tough matchup for the Cardinals' on-again starter.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Michael Vick has a new weapon in Ashley Lelie, and his favorite target, Alge Crumpler, appears recovered from off-season surgeries on his knee and shoulder surgeries. Starting wide-outs Roddy White and Michael Jenkins worked extensively with Vick during the off- and pre-season while Crumpler healed - the team hopes that the reps have improved the rapport between Vick and his young cadre of receivers. We're about to find out how far the passing offense has progressed. Vick tossed 7/14 for 48 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Titans in week 3 of pre-season, and comes into the game after a 2005 campaign throwing for 214/387 for 2412 yards, 15 TDs and 13 interceptions. Vick's completion percentage regressed last year to 55.3%, down from 56.4% during the 2004 season.

Carolina won't make it easy on Vick. They were 7th in the NFL last year with 45 sacks, (the Falcons were in the middle of the NFL pack allowing 39 sacks last season), and ranked 9th in the league in terms of passing yards allowed per game (191.1 per contest, 3rd in total yards allowed at 282.6 per game). Their defensive front has been stalwart throughout pre-season, putting pressure on opposing QBs to make things happen through the air. During the third pre-season game, Miami managed 29/44 for 264 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions.

This opener is a tough matchup for Vick and his receivers - they'll be in a hostile stadium, and the division rivalry is intense.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Matt Ryan and the Falcons' offense has struggled to generate TDs during preseason, but Ryan and his backup Chris Redman both managed to throw scores in the third preseason game (Ryan went 13/26 for 103 yards, one TD and one interception, while Redman threw 5/8 for 56 yards, one TD and zero interceptions). Roddy White saw 12 targets in the third preseason game while the first team was on the field, snagging 6/47/1 receiving and narrowly missing a second long-yardage TD. Michael Jenkins has missed the second half of training camp and preseason due to a shoulder injury suffered 8/6/10 - he may be back for the regular season opener, but that remains up in the air as of mid-week. Jenkins missed practice on Wednesday due to soreness in the shoulder. Harry Douglas has returned to active duty after losing 2009 to a serious knee injury - he posted 4/41/0 in the third preseason contest vs. Miami and figures to be the team's #2 WR if Jenkins can't play. Veteran Brian Finneran has been heavily involved in the offense during preseason, and caught a TD in the third preseason game (1/5%2

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Matt Ryan and company capped a successful 2010 campaign with a 13-3 record (second-best in the NFL) and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Matt Ryan made huge strides in his third NFL season, ending the year as the 10th-ranked fantasy QB with 357/571 for 3,705 yards, 28 TDs and 9 interceptions (with 46/122/0 rushing). Roddy White was the top fantasy wide receiver (PPR paradigm) with 115/1,389/10 receiving to his credit, and Tony Gonzalez finished sixth in the NFL with 70/656/6 receiving. The Falcons added fuel to the offense during the NFL draft, making a mega-deal to move up and snatch WR Julio Jones at round one, pick six, and then they added RB Jacquizz Rodgers in the fifth round to replace oft-injured Jerious Norwood as the pass-catching, third-down/change-of-pace running back. During preseason, Jones has posted 10/157/0 receiving and he dropped a long TD chance during week three or he'd be even higher up the preseason list (he finished tied for 12th among all receivers during the exhibition series), while Rodgers led the team in rushing at tough Pittsburgh during the third preseason game with 7/38/0 rushing (5.4 yards per carry) and 2/12/0 receiving. The Falcons' offense had 42 passing attempts by Ryan (22/42 for 220 yards, one TD and one interception) in week three of the preseason while they ran their no-huddle offense extensively, and were led in receiving by White (8/101/1), Jones (5/59/0) and a resurgent Harry Douglas (3/31/0) who has played very strongly during preseason in his second year past a 2009 reconstructive knee surgery (9/176/2 receiving during preseason). In short, the Falcons' passing attack looks more aggressive, explosive, and talented than ever, folks, especially at the wide receiver position.

The Chicago Bears lurk in their den at Soldier Field awaiting the Falcons' landing on Sunday - last year, the Bears averaged 224.2 net passing yards allowed per game (20th in the NFL), but their bend-but-don't-break secondary was second in the NFL with just 14 passing TDs given up, vs. 21 interceptions (tied for fifth) and 34 sacks (17th in the NFL) generated. During week three of the preseason, Chicago allowed just 14/26 for 139 net yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions to the Tennessee Titans, with one sack and three hits on the opposing QB. Chicago checks in at eighth among all team defenses on the Footballguys.com staff rankings on the eve of regular season, and are placed at 10th on David Dodd's team D rankings. They are one of the toughest units in the NFL, friends.

In the frenzied atmosphere of Soldier Field on opening day, the Falcons face a tough challenge from the solid Chicago pass D.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Matt Ryan looked back in synch with Julio Jones (five targets for 2/63/1 receiving) and Roddy White (four for 3/34/0 receiving) during the third preseason game (the tune-up for regular season). Even more encouragingly, both Jones and White got through preseason without any injuries of note - they are both healthy for this key NFC South showdown here in Week One. Devin Hester (five targets for 4/56/1 receiving) and Harry Douglas (two for 2/23/0) also played well in that tilt and are vying for touches in the third wide receiver slot - we'll see who gets more reps at third wide out during the first regular season game. Levine Toilolo has seen some targets from tight end during preseason, but didn't get any during the third preseason game - the tight end position looks like it will be de-emphasized in the passing attack with Tony Gonzalez now in retirement.

The Saints' pass defense was outstanding during the 2013 season, ranking second in the NFL averaging just 194 passing yards allowed per game, with 20 passing scores given up over 16 games vs. 12 interceptions (tied for 24th in the NFL) and 49 sacks (fourth in the league) generated by the defense. This unit thrives on bringing pass rush pressure to bear, which could be a problem for the Falcons. Atlanta's offensive line lost two tackles during preseason including starting LT Sam Baker, and the Falcons will be juggling their offensive line personnel coming into this first regular season contest. During the third preseason game the Saints had one sack for -7 yards on Andrew Luck (he finished his time on the field with 10/18 for 103 yards passing, one TD and one interception thrown), and three sacks for -19 yards during the game as a whole. This defensive unit is strong against opposing passers.

Ryan and company have a tough matchup to face during Week One.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Joe Flacco has a new-look roster of targets at WR, with new #1 WR Anquan Boldin headlining the corps and recent arrival T.J. Houshmandzadeh stepping into the #3 WR role behind veteran Derrick Mason. Though the team drafted Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta at TE last April, Todd Heap has enjoyed a solid training camp/preseason and remains the starting TE as of week one, regular season. Flacco tore up the Giants in week three of the preseason, tossing 21/34 for 229 yards, two TDs and one interception, hitting both Boldin and Heap for scores (Heap led the team with 6/69/1 receiving, while Boldin added 4/52/1 and Derrick Mason managed 5/35/0). It remains to be seen how quickly Houshmandzadeh can integrate into the Baltimore attack, but the coaching staff is optimistic he'll do well - Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said on Monday September sixth that Houshmandzadeh will play during week one because he has played in the team's offense system before.

The Jets finally got CB Darrelle Revis back on duty by agreeing to a contract extension over the Labor Day holiday weekend - that's outstanding news for the league's number one pass D. The Jets allowed only eight pass TDs last year with 17 interceptions generated (first and 13th in the NFL, respectively), and they were first in passing yards allowed last year (only 2.459 all year, an average of 153.7 passing yards allowed per game). We'll soon know if Revis kept himself in top condition during his lengthy holdout, or if he's out of 'football shape'.

Anytime you face the Jets' current pass D, it's going to be a tough matchup (at the minimum). Advantage, New York.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Joe Flacco (306/489 for 3,622 passing yards, 25 TDs and 10 interceptions during 2010, finished 12th among all fantasy QBs) enters the 2011 season with a completely made-over receiving corps. Old favorites Derrick Mason and Todd Heap hit the road during free agency, leaving the Ravens' team much younger (and much less experienced). Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta will try to fill Heap's role at tight end - Anquan Boldin hopes that ex-Buffalo Bill Lee Evans and rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss can provide enough of a threat across the formation to loosen up opposing pass defenses. This is a team in transition entering week one, folks. The first team looked solid in week three of the preseason, with starters Boldin (5/73/1 receiving) and Evans (3/60/1) both scoring on receptions from Flacco (17/27 for 219 yards, two TDs and one interception). The team is relying on Flacco more than ever as they are currently only carrying two QBs, and backup Tyrod Taylor is nursing a sore shoulder and he missed practice on Friday, September second. The Ravens are 'all-in' on Flacco carrying his team in this phase of the game.

This is a divisional grudge match - the Ravens and the Steelers have one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL entering the 2011 regular season. Pittsburgh has ended Baltimore's playoff aspirations during two of the last three seasons. Players from both sides of the fence have been taking jabs at one another throughout the off- and preseason, adding even more drama than usual to this AFC North battle. Flacco in particular has traded barbs with the Steelers - back in June, Flacco was angered when told by a friend about Pittsburgh Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley's comment that Flacco and the Ravens wouldn't win a Super Bowl in this lifetime. '(Woodley) obviously doesn't know what he's talking about,' Flacco said during a radio interview. 'At some level I don't care (what Woodley says) because what does that really mean? But there is another level where it does kind of piss you off a little bit.'

The Steelers' pass D finished 2010 ranked 12th in the NFL averaging 214.1 net yards allowed per game, but they only gave up 15 passing TDs vs. 21 interceptions (tied for fifth in the NFL) and 48 sacks generated (first in the NFL). The Steelers are a consensus top-five team defense according to the Footballguys staff entering regular season, for good reason. They are tough to score on, tough to move the ball on (especially in the rushing phase of the game) and they generate a lot of pass pressure and turnovers. Even though the Falcons threw the ball 60 times during week three of the preseason, the Steelers held Matt Ryan and company to one TD vs. two interceptions, while giving up 299 net yards passing (Pittsburgh had three sacks and four QB hits during the contest).

Flacco and company are working through a lot of transitions on offense, and they have to face one of the premier defensive units in the NFL week one - advantage, Pittsburgh.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Joe Flacco put together an impressive training camp as he adapts to a more up-tempo passing attack for 2012. All told, Flacco put up 43/60 for 433 passing yards and three touchdowns over the three preseason games in which he appeared, going without his top two tight ends (Ed Dickson hurt first an eye and then his shoulder, and Dennis Pitta broke his hand) and top wide receiver Torrey Smith (ankle sprain) for much of the preseason. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is aiming to amp up the passing attack this year -'...I would say I'm excited about this offense and what we're doing... We know what the expectation is. We know what we're capable of doing. And I'd like to think that the other night (against Jacksonville, a 48-17 victory for Baltimore in which Flacco threw 27/36 for 266 yards, two TDs and one interception) was just a glimpse of what you're going to see here heading through the season.' Smith exploded for 8/103/0 receiving out of 11 targets during the Jacksonville game - his ankle seems to be just fine entering regular season. Anquan Boldin, the other starting wide receiver, hauled in 3/39/1 out of four targets during the same contest. It's all good for Baltimore in this phase of the game entering week one regular season.

The Bengals' pass D was ninth in the NFL last year averaging 211.6 net passing yards allowed per game, with 21 passing TDs surrendered vs. 10 interceptions (tied for 26th in the NFL) and 45 sacks (fifth) generated. Baltimore tied for 12th in the league with 33 sacks allowed during 2011. During the third preseason game, Aaron Rodgers was held to 12/22 for 154 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception thrown. This is a stout pass defense, folks, despite the relatively low number of interceptions Cincinnati put up during 2011.

Flacco has looked great during preseason, but he's got a divisional rival with a top-ten pass D arriving in Baltimore on Monday Night Football (and Ray Rice owned these guys in the rushing phase of the game last year). This looks like a tough matchup for Flacco and company.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

During the third preseason game, Washington loaded up the box to stop the Ravens' running backs - this led to an aerial attack by Joe Flacco and company. Flacco looked sharp in completing 16 of 23 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown (with zero interceptions but two sacks taken for -18 yards). He found free agent signee Steve Smith frequently (seven targets for 6/80/1 receiving) and it is apparent that the two players have developed a strong chemistry during the preseason. 'We're getting on the same page,' Flacco said about Smith afer the game. 'Every day we're getting better and better.' Dennis Pitta chipped in with four targets for 2/16/0 receiving, while Torrey Smith saw five targets for 4/41/0 receiving - the Ravens' passing attack was running smoothly during the tune-up for regular season.

The Bengals aren't going to make life easy for their divisional rivals in Week One, though - Cincinnati ranked fifth in the NFL averaging 209 net passing yards allowed per game, last season, with 20 interceptions (tied for fifth in the NFL) and 43 sacks (tenth in the league) generated. They held starter Carson Palmer to 7/19 for 92 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception during the third preseason game, demonstrating some more of the ball-hawking ways that this secondary has displayed in recent years.

Flacco and company appear to have rejuvenated the passing attack this preseason, but they face a top-shelf pass defense this week when the Bengals come calling at M and T Bank Stadium.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Joe Flacco (344/554 for 3.986 yards passing, 27 TDs and 12 interceptions thrown last season) has some established veterans to lean on entering 2015 - Steve Smith Sr. (134 targets for 79/1,065/6 receiving last year) and Kamar Aiken (34 targets for 24/267/3) are his starters at wide receiver, while Crockett Gillmore (15 targets for 10/121/1 receiving as a rookie last season) has staved off rookie Maxx Williams to claim the top job at tight end. Justin Forsett (59 targets for 44/263/0 receiving) provides reliable hands out of the backfield as well. Unfortunately, rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman (knee injury/rehab) is not expected to play Week One against the Denver Broncos after missing practice Tuesday, September 8. Perriman has been recovering from a knee injury he suffered in late July and missed almost all of preseason/training camp.

The Broncos' pass D ranked ninth in the NFL last season, averaging 225.4 net passing yards allowed per game. However, they gave up a hefty 29 passing scores last year, vs. 18 interceptions (tied for seventh in the NFL) and 41 sacks (tied for ninth) generated. This team had 20 sacks in just four exhibition games this preseason! Denver ranked second in the NFL during preseason with an average of 142.2 net passing yards given up per game, with three TDs allowed vs. zero interceptions generated. Entering 2015 the Broncos' pass D looks as strong as ever.

This game goes down in front of the howling faithful at Mile High - advantage, Denver.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Bills abruptly fired OC Turk Schonert last week (largely due to a moribund offense that has struggled to produce any results during the preseason). QB Trent Edwards (14 games played last season, 245/374 for 2699 yards, 11TDs and 10 interceptions, with 36/117/3 rushing - 23rd best fantasy QB in the land) addressed the change on Monday, September 7th saying 'We had voiced some things with what direction it was going and where it needed to go, and Coach Jauron made the decision on how he felt and what he felt the offense needed best,' Edwards said. 'And that's the decision he made and that's something he decided to go with and that's something I need to respect.' QB coach Alex Van Pelt takes over as OC, but has precious little time to make changes with the no-huddle offense that has so far failed to make waves during preseason. For his part, Schonert fired some darts at HC Dick Jauron - 'He wants a 'Pop Warner' offense,' Schonert said in a phone interview with WIVB [a local TV station]. 'He limited me in formations, and limited me in plays. He's been on my back all offseason. 'He (Jauron) told me the offense wasn't simple enough for him. We had too many formations, too many plays. I didn't simplify it to his liking.' Schonert's cause was not helped by the prolonged absence of Terrell Owens, who is said to be 'focused' on playing in the season opener (despite his sore toe). Essentially, Buffalo's offense is a mess entering week 1, and they'll likely have to lean on the passing attack as Marshawn Lynch is on suspension this week, and #2 RB Fred Jackson has a sore thumb and wrist to fight through.

The Patriot's pass D was not top-tier last year, allowing an average of 201.4 yards per game (11th in the league), while handing over a high 27 passing TDs to opponents. Overall, the Patriots were 8th in the NFL allowing only 19.3 points per game during the season, on average, but that was mostly due to a stubborn rush D that only allowed 8 rushing scores. The Patriots had 14 interceptions (t-15th) and 31 sacks (t-15th). They fielded a solid-but-unspectacular secondary, as you can see. The starting unit held Washington's Jason Campbell scoreless during week three of the preseason (13/22 for 209 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions), so there may have been some progress with the number of passing TDs surrendered (so far this year, at any rate). However, the Giants hung 17/35 for 356 yards, 3 TDs (all three thrown by either Eli Manning or David Carr, neither of whom were intercepted) and 2 interceptions in the preseason finale.

The Bills offense is not functioning well, and they haven't had time to integrate Terrell Owens due to his injury - advantage, New England.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Ryan Fitzpatrick started off the 2011 campaign with nine TD passes in the first three games vs. just three interceptions thrown, and blew up for 27/40 for 369 yards passing, two TDs and two interceptions in week three during that initial month. However, as the year went along and injuries mounted among the wide receivers, Fitzpatrick bumbled along from weeks four through 11 without any really strong games, before finishing the season with some nice outings week 12 (26/39 for 264 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions), week 15 (31/47 for 316 yards passing, two TDs and three interceptions) and week 17 (29/46 for 307 yards passing, two TDs and four interceptions). All told, Fitzpatrick pitched 353/569 for 3,832 yards passing, 24 TDs with 23 interceptions, and he added 56/208/0 rushing to his totals. Steve Johnson was his lead receiver last year (134 targets for 76/1,004/7) and Scott Chandler - a guy singled out as training camp MVP this year - led the tight ends during 2011 with 46 targets for 38/389/6 receiving. David Nelson and Donald Jones are vying to be the #2 wide receiver this year, with Jones in the early lead to fill that role. We'll see if Fitzpatrick can put together a more consistent performance during 2012 - he also needs to cut down on the interceptions.

The Jets' pass D was among the top ten teams in interceptions generated last year (19), and they tied for 17th in sacks, with 35 to their credit. On average, opposing teams threw for 201 net passing yards vs. the Jets (they were fifth-best at passing yards allowed per game last year). During the third preseason game, Cam Newton was held to 6/15 for 60 yards passing and one passing touchdown - the Jets' pass D is still a tough nut to crack this year.

Fitzpatrick threw for 455 yards, four TDs and two interceptions against the Jets last year - an average of 227.5 pass yards per contest. He's got a tough divisional matchup at New York here in week one 2012.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Bills made a change at starting quarterback during preseason, going with youth and vigor (Tyrod Taylor) over declining veteran Matt Cassel (now re-signed by the Bills after they cut him at the end of training camp - he took the veteran minimum to re-sign, down from $4.15 million). EJ Manuel was a distant third behind Taylor and Cassel in training camp, and doesn't have much prospect of regaining his starting job. The book on Taylor is that he's able to move well/scramble and throws a good deep ball, but has accuracy issues. "It all comes down to the explosiveness Tyrod brings to us," according to head coach Rex Ryan. Look for Sammy Watkins to go deep often with Taylor under center (Taylor will probably scramble around a good bit, as well). Watkins reported on Tuesday, September 8 that he is ready to play despite his previous glute injury: 'For the most part it's just about getting mentally and physically prepared for this game and enduring some physical battles,' Watkins said. 'So I think I'm in shape. I'm ready to go.' Percy Harvin hasn't practiced much with the team due to his ongoing hip issue so it looks like Robert Woods (104 targets for 65/699/5 receiving last season under the old coaching regime) will remain the #2 across from Watkins (128 for 65/982/6 receiving last season). Tight end Charles Clay (84 targets for 58/605/3) will provide an outlet receiver for Taylor as he learns to be a starting NFL quarterback on the job going forwards.

The Colts' pass D did a respectable job last year, ranking 12th in the NFL averaging 229.3 net passing yards allowed per game, with 27 TDs given out vs. 12 interceptions generated. They had 41 sacks as a unit last year (tied for ninth in the NFL). Given the unsettled situation at running back it would be no surprise to see the Colts' defenders blitzing Taylor a good bit on Sunday. So far during exhibitions Indianapolis has recorded 11 sacks over four games - they'll try to rattle the Bills' new signal caller.

This looks like a tough matchup for the Bills' latest starting quarterback.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jake Delhomme was stout during week 3 of the preseason (11/18 for 162 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions) and appears to have held off David Carr in the duel for top gun in Carolina during preseason (Carr is battling a broken little toe at the moment, further cementing Delhomme's position at the top of the depth chart). Aside from #1 WR Steve Smith and TE Jeff King the remaining roles in the passing offense are unsettled entering week 1 - Keary Colbert, Drew Carter and Dwyane Jarrett are all in the mix to become the #2 WR - right now, we think it'll be Colbert, but things could change fast if he doesn't perform.

St. Louis was 8th in the NFL last year averaging 189.7 yards allowed per game in this phase, but coughed up 21 TDs and had a mere 34 sacks (tied for 19th in the NFL). Tye Hill, Ronald Barthill (in for the suspended Fakhir Brown) are the CBs with SS Corey Chavous and FS Oshiomogho Atogwe playing at FS this year. During week 3 of the preseason, the Rams handed over 13/23 for 187 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to the Raiders' array of QBs - right on pace from last year.

Given the unsettled situation at WR and the home-field advantage flowing to St. Louis, we think this is a tough matchup for the Panthers on opening day.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jake Delhomme has been very sharp during training camp/preseason, and has shown no lingering effects from last year's Tommy John surgery. However, he'll be without Steve Smith this week and next, leaving the receiving duties in the hands of Muhsin Muhammad, D.J. Hackett, Dwayne Jarrett and Jeff King. Muhammad (ribs) and Hackett (toe) have both missed time at the end of preseason due to their injuries, although the team expects both back in practice on Wednesday. When he's been on the field, Muhammad and Delhomme have appeared in synch, picking up where they left off before Muhammad departed for Chicago. Now that first team DBs will face off with Muhammad each down, we'll have a better gauge on how much gas he has left in the tank after 3 long years in Chicago.

San Diego's secondary had problems limiting the Seahawks' backup QBs during week 3 of preseason, handing over 21/33 for 230 net yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception during the contest. Last season, the team was mediocre defending the pass, averaging 213.3 yards allowed per game (14th in the NFL) and tied for 11th in the league by giving up 20 passing TDs. However, they are very good at rushing the passer, notching 42 sacks last season (5th in the NFL) - however, the injury to SLB Shawne Merriman may put a damper on some of the pass pressure, though he's trying to play through his torn knee ligaments.

Delhomme has appeared 100% during preseason - now we'll see how he looks going all out for 60 minutes at a stretch. In San Diego, and without Steve Smith in the lineup, we think this looks like a tough match-up for the Panthers' first game of 2008.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Carolina offense suffered from injuries during preseason - Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad both missed practice and playing time - but both players are expected to be 100% for the start of regular season. Kenneth Moore looks to have sewn up the #3 WR position over Dwayne Jarrett - if either of Smith or Muhammad suffer from a flare-up of their injuries, Moore would be the guy to step into the game. Jake Delhomme (246/414 for 3288 yards, 15 TDs and 12 interceptions over 16 games last year - 19th-best fantasy QB) has been adequate but not overwhelming during preseason, throwing for 11/16 for 180 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the mighty Ravens in the third preseason game. He had a cameo 2/4 for 19 yards passing against the Steelers in the preseason finale. The Panthers' line is one of the best in football, and allowed just 20 sacks last year - Delhomme should have time to survey the field. Jeff King appears to have beaten off the preseason challenge of Gary Barnidge for the #1 TE job, so he'll join Smith and Muhammad as the primary pass-catchers for Delhomme this side of the running back stable.

The Eagles were third in the NFL vs. the pass last season, with an average of 182.1 yards allowed per game, while giving up 19 passing TDs during the year. They were also fourth in the NFL averaging just 18.1 points allowed per game. The team generated 15 interceptions (t-11th in the NFL), and had 48 sacks to their credit (3rd) - the Eagles were tough to face last year. Unfortunately, the NFL lost one of it's premier defensive coordinators over the summer when Jim Johnson lost his fight with cancer. However, according to Footballguy and Eagles fanatic Jason Wood: 'Sean McDermott will take over the job, and if things go according to plan, nothing will change. McDermott has been groomed as Johnson's replacement and was going to have a heavy hand in running the defense this year anyway. Despite being only 35, McDermott was one of the longest-tenured assistant coaches in Philadelphia, and he has experience coaching both the secondary and the linebackers.' Results during the preseason have been high-scoring affairs, with Philly defeating Jacksonville 33-32 in the third 'tune-up for regular season' game (17/31 for 166 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions for the Jags, though starter David Garrard was held to 8/14 for 93 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception in the game) and then a 38-27 loss to the Jets (Philly's backup D crumbled vs. the Jets, allowing 15/24 for 207 passing yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception to the Jets' QB's). The starting lineup is playing well for the Eagles, so far.

The Panthers are gearing up for regular season, but it is never pleasant to see the Eagles across the line of scrimmage - this looks like a tough matchup for Carolina from where we're sitting.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Cam Newton has been pedestrian during preseason this year, generating just one TD for his offense through three exhibition contests. Though his team won in Baltimore in the third week of preseason, it wasn't due to the offense's efforts - all the TDs were either special teams or defensive scores. Newton threw 10/19 for 99 yards, zero TDs or interceptions, with two rushes for 20 yards, and the Carolina offense had only 24:15 time of possession during the game. Brandon LaFell was out of synch in Baltimore, dropping catchable balls and ending the day with four targets for 1/11/0, while Steve Smith turned three targets into 2/18/0. Greg Olsen caught less than half the passes that came his way (seven for 3/44/0 receiving). In short, the Panthers' entire offense is struggling entering the first week of regular season.

It isn't likely that Carolina's offensive woes end this week, as the Seattle D is one of the best in the NFL this year. They limited Aaron Rodgers to 4/7 for 41 yards passing in the third preseason game (giving up just 18/34 for 126 net passing yards, one TD and zero interceptions to the Packers during the entire game). Last year, the Seahawks had more interceptions (18) than TDs allowed (15) and generated 36 sacks as well. This is a well-rounded defense that is strong in both phases of the game.

Newton and company face a tough matchup in week one, friends.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Panthers have a problem - besides Greg Olsen (128 targets for 84/1,008/6 receiving last season) there is no proven receiver on the team. Ted Ginn Jr. is a veteran, yes, who has flashed some receiving skills as he's bounced around the league, but Ginn is primarily a returner - he's across from Corey 'Butterfingers' Brown who has been a drop machine since Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season to a torn ACL. Jerricho Cotchery provides some veteran steadiness but not much explosion at this stage of his career, while rookie Devin Funchess has missed large chunks of training camp/preseason due to a hamstring injury. Outside of Olsen, there isn't much for Cam Newton to throw at right now.

Speaking of Newton (262/448 for 3,127 yards passing, 18 TDs and 12 interceptions thrown, with 103/539/5 rushing last season), he isn't going to do more read-option this season according to head coach Ron Rivera. Newton will have to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear position from this sorry situation. Just don't expect miracles from him as a passer here in Week 13.

The Jaguars' pass D did have 45 sacks last season, and given the difficulties on the Panthers' offense they will likely pin their ears back in front of the home crowd and try to bring the lumber to bear on Newton. Despite the good pass rush, the Jaguars were tied for least interceptions over the last season (six) and averaged 243.7 net passing yards allowed per game (22nd in the NFL) with an enormous 24 passing scores handed out last sesaon.

The personnel situation at receiver is pretty dire for the Panthers, and they are on the road in this one - advantage, Jacksonville.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Kyle Orton comes into this game as green as the grass. He beat out Chad Hutchinson for the starting job in Chicago, true, but that doesn't mean he deserves to start for your fantasy squad. Rookie QBs rarely have great success in the NFL, regardless of who is the #1 wide receiver (sorry Muhsin Muhammad owners). When the games start to count, the gloves come off and that is usually a problem for youngsters like Orton. Still, we all have enough fresh memories of Ben Roethlisberger last season to have hope.

Washington was a top-ten pass D last year (7th, to be precise) allowing a mere 186.1 passing yards per game with only 17 passing scores given up during the 16 regular season games. However, they lost Fred Smoot to free agency (Minnesota) during the off-season, and the secondary has been injury-ravaged during the preseason (CB Carlos Rogers missed almost all of the reps during camp; Matt Bowen the starting SS was also injured). The bottom line here is that the 'Skins' starting lineup has very little experience working together entering regular season.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Fed Ex Field expects a high of 83F and a low of 68F with a 0% chance of precipitation on Sunday -- perfect football weather appears to be on tap.

Orton faces one of the better NFL defenses in this game, and he's a rookie. Advantage, Washington.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Rex Grossman went to the Super Bowl last year (262/480 for 3193 yards, 23 TDs and 20 interceptions during the complete campaign), but he was inconsistent throughout the year, see-sawing from 0 TD 4 interception games (week 6) to 3 TD, 0 interception games (week 8). This year, Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian and Desmond Clark all return - Grossman should have a good comfort level with his core receivers. Draftee TE Greg Olsen is iffy this week due to a sprained knee, leaving the Bears with the usual suspects at the skill positions. Grossman tossed 13/20 for 211 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. San Francisco during the 3rd preseason game (dress rehearsal for the regular season).

San Diego went through a major upheaval in the coaching staff during offseason, and brought in Ted Cottrell to headline the defense. They coughed up 20/30 for 311 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions to Arizona during week 3 of the preseason, which was pretty far from good - the unit is still in transition. The Chargers ran in the middle of the NFL last year, ranking 13th vs. the pass (200.8 yards allowed per game) with 19 TDs given up. They led the league with 61 QB sacks (Chicago was tied for 6th among the NFL teams last year with only 25 sacks allowed, though).

This is a tough matchup for Grossman and company, visiting the Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium week 1.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jay Cutler has a new offense to play in, and he's getting more comfortable as the year goes along. Cutler led the Bears on five scoring drives in the first half of the third exhibition game vs. Oakland as the Bears took a 27-3 lead into halftime. After being criticized for locking onto his favorite receiver Brandon Marshall during the second preseason game, Cutler (12/21 for 142 yards, one TD and zero interceptions during his time on the field) looked much more comfortable spreading the ball around and targeted six different receivers in the first quarter at Oakland. Last year's second round pick Alshon Jeffery was heavily involved in the contest, leading the team in receiving with eight targets for 7/77/0 to his credit. Free agent import tight end Martellus Bennett had three targets for 1/16/0 receiving. If the exhibition is any indication, Cutler is heating up just as week one rolls around. With Matt Forte to catch passes out of the backfield, Cutler is finally surrounded with a good supporting cast of receivers at the starting positions.

The Bengals' pass D got shredded by Dallas' starters in the third preseason game, allowing 13/18 for 137 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions to Tony Romo and company (Romo was sacked twice, though). The Bengals were third in the NFL last year with 51 sacks, so look for Cutler to be under pressure on Sunday - Chicago was 25th in the NFL with 44 sacks allowed last season (and also gave up 87 quarterback hits). The Bengals were 16th in the NFL with 14 interceptions during 2012, while averaging 212.5 net passing yards allowed per game (seventh in the league). Despite their poor showing in Dallas, the Bengals' D is a quality pass D.

Cutler has a lot going for him in Chicago this year, but the Bengals' D is no joke - this looks like a tough matchup for Cutler and company.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Bears' wide receiving corps is banged up entering regular season: Kevin White is out with a fractured shin; Alshon Jeffery has been dealing with a calf injury and is banned from discussion with the media this week by his tight-lipped coaches; and Marquess Wilson describes his health as 'a work in progress' as he tries to rehab a hamstring injury. Eddie Royal nursed a minor hip injury at the end of preseason, but practiced fully on Monday, September 7 and appears to be on track to start for the Bears, something that it will be hard for Jeffery to do from inside the trainers room. This is a fluid situation at midweek, but Jeffery is looking pretty iffy - pay attention to the late-week practice reports/injury report to try and determine Jeffery's likelihood of playing in the opener. It may well be the Matt Forte/Martellus Bennett/Eddie Royal show for Jay Cutler here in Week One. We'll see if offensive coordinator Adam Gase has been able to curb Cutler's prima-donna ways as the regular season goes by.

The Packers' pass D finished 2014 averaging 226.4 net passing yards allowed per game, with 26 passing TDs given up vs. 18 interceptions generated (tied for seventh in the NFL) - the Packers also had 41 sacks last season (tied for ninth), while the Bears allowed 41 sacks last year (14th-most in the NFL). Through exhibition season this year, Green Bay averaged 225.2 net passing yards allowed per game, in line with last year's top-ten average.

Cutler has few healthy guys around him right now, and a solid all-around pass defense is rolling into Chicago on Sunday - advantage, Green Bay. They may bring the heat early and often in this one, especially if Jeffery can't go for the Bears.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Carson Palmer was the 5th best fantasy QB last year (and the #1 during 2005), despite overcoming off-season knee surgery (ACL). He's got Chad Johnson (87/1369/7 receiving last year) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (90/1081/9) to throw the ball to right now, along with a strong running game and a serviceable OL (36 sacks allowed last year, in the middle of the NFL range). Palmer tossed 15/22 for 136 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Falcons during week 3 of the preseason, and it appeared he's back in sync with Ocho-Cinco (Johnson pulled in 5/83/1 during the game) to enter 2007. The Bengals' passing attack is scary-good.

The Ravens were 6th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 188.2 passing yards per game, with 16 passing scores given up. They held the Washington backups to 8/17 for 88 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during their week 3 preseason tilt. Last year, the Ravens were second in the NFL with 60 QB sacks. This is a tough D, any way you look at it.

This is a tough matchup for the Bengals, despite their home-field advantage.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Andy Dalton had a decent outing at Dallas during the third exhibition game, tossing 12/16 for 113 yards, zero TDs and one interception with zero sacks taken - playing into the first series of the third quarter, he led a nice up-tempo attack that resulted in a field goal, and then took a seat for the balance of the game. A.J. Green played in the contest and led the team in receiving with five targets for 3/42/0 receiving, followed by Marvin Jones (two targets for 2/20/0). As of September 1, it looks like Dalton will have Green and some mix of Mohamed Sanu and Jones as his starting wide receivers, with Jermaine Gresham holding off Tyler Eifert (for now) to start at tight end. Dalton enters his third professional campaign with good surrounding talent and he has improved his numbers each of his first two seasons - now the team wants to take the next step and start winnning playoff games. Time will tell if Dalton can elevate his performance to match the front office's championship aspirations.

The Bears D is reconstituting itself after MLB Brian Urlacher retired - during the third exhibition game, the first string defense continued their strong preseason play against the Raiders as they held starting QB Matt Flynn to just three of six passing for 19 yards with a pair of interceptions (by CBs Tim Jennings and Isaiah Frey). The Raiders were 0 for 6 on 3rd downs in the first half while the Bears' top unit dominated the hapless Oakland squad. Last year, the Bears ranked eighth in the NFL averaging 213.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with 19 TDs given up vs. 24 interceptions generated (first in the league in interceptions) - they had 41 sacks to land at eighth in the NFL in that category. This is a stout pass D, folks.

Dalton and company have a tough matchup to face up in the Windy City.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Brady Quinn era isn't here yet, as coach Crennel named Charlie Frye the week 1 starter on September 3rd, saying "I think that gives us the best chance to win." So, Kellen Winslow (89/875/3 last year) and Braylon Edwards (61/884/6) will take the field snagging passes from Frye this week. Frye managed 252/392 for 2454 yards, 10 TDs and 17 interceptions last year (47/215/3 rushing helped him land at 23rd in the NFL on the QB board at year's end) - he's not an elite NFL QB, at least so far during his career. But for this week he's the Browns' starter.

Pittsburgh's pass D was fairly suspect last year, allowing an average of 212.1 passing yards per game (20th in the NFL) with 21 passing scores allowed. When Mike Tomlin stepped into Bill Cowher's shoes, DC Dick LeBeau was retained - there should be some continuity on this unit (whether that is bad or good remains to be seen). Pittsburgh did pull down 20 interceptions last year (7th in the NFL), and ranked 11th in the league with 39 sacks - they bring pressure to bear on opposing offenses. Philly did a number on the Steelers during week 3 of the preseason, with 31/48 for 279 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions (4 sacks allowed, though) - there is room for improvement entering regular season.

Given Frye's past performance (more interceptions than TDs last year) and the high-pressure defense he'll face week 1, this looks like a tough matchup from where we sit.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Browns played coy about who will start for the franchise in week 1 - but Eric Mangini has decided to name Brady Quinn the starter over Derek Anderson. During the course of the preseason, neither player distinguished himself with outstanding play - Quinn throws a lot of dink-and-dunk short passes, but is accurate, while Anderson has a better arm but isn't as accurate. Quinn will start behind an OL that gave up just 24 sacks last season (among the top-10 pass blocking teams), but will have to work with a reduced stable of weapons with TE Kellen Winslow now in Tampa Bay and WR Donte Stallworth suspended for the entire season. WR Braylon Edwards has continued to drop passes during preseason (after dropping a TD in the preseason opener he said 'It's just part of football. I felt good in the game for the most part. Just making sure I felt good and felt healthy, that was the biggest thing I was concerned about. That felt good. That said, I feel good about this game and the rest of the season.'), although he did haul in 3/51/1 during the third preseason game (the TD pass was from Brady Quinn). The #2 WR position is unsettled entering week 1, with Mike Furrey, Josh Cribbs, Brian Robiskie, and Mohamed Massoquoi all in the mix for touches.

The Vikings' incredible rush defense forces teams to attack them through the air - as a result, the Vikings gave up an average of 215.6 passing yards per game last year (18th in the NFL), with 15 passing TDs given up during the year. The Vikings were 13th in the NFL in terms of total points allowed per game last year, with 20.8 handed over per contest. They generated 12 interceptions last year (in the middle of the league), but were very aggressive pass rushers - the Vikes had 45 sacks last year (4th in the NFL). Teams can move the ball on this unit through the air, but it isn't an easy task for opposing QBs. The Texans could only generate 61 yards rushing vs. the Vikings in the third exhibition game, but threw for 19/30 yielding 207 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions. The Vikings' blueprint on defense looks intact entering regular season.

Cleveland has a tough road ahead in week 1.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Brian Hoyer outlasted rookie Johnny Manziel during preseason, and starts Week One for the Browns. Hoyer had some nice moments while starting for the Browns last season (before a knee injury derailed his season), throwing 57/96 for 615 yards, five TDs and three interceptions over three games. However, this year he'll do without Josh Gordon, and instead has Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin as his starting wide receivers. Jordan Cameron is probably his best weapon in the passing game, but with Gordon out Cameron will draw a lot of attention from opposing defenses - we'll see if Hoyer can make the passing game work with Hawkins (12/199/0 in eight games for Cincinnati last season) and Austin (24/244/0 receiving last year in 11 games for Dallas) when Cameron is too blanketed. Reports on September 3 indicated that head coach Mike Pettine has assured Hoyer that 'it's not going to be a quick hook.'. during Hoyer's gig as starting quarterback. We'll see how things play out in reality.

The Steelers' defense was ranked ninth in the NFL last year, averaging 222 net yards passing allowed per game, with 21 passing scores given away. They didn't pressure opposing passers much, with a 29th-ranked total of 10 interceptions generated and only 34 sacks to their credit (25th in the NFL). The Steelers were torched by Nick Foles and the Eagles during the third exhibition game, with 19/29 for 179 yards, one TD and one interception thrown by Foles (he wasn't sacked at all during his time on the field). Entering regular season, the Steelers' pass defense looks much like the unit we saw last year - perhaps even a little more vulnerable.

Hoyer and company have a lot to prove, and so do the Steelers - on balance this looks like a tough matchup for Cleveland.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Josh McCown managed 29/8 for 207 yards passing, three TDs and two interceptions while guiding the Browns' first team offense during preseason. He had a bad experience in Tampa Bay last year (184/327 for 2,206 yards passing, 11 TDs and 14 interceptions during his time on the field), but another NFL opportunity has come his way. Johnny Manziel is the backup entering regular season, but is still working on developing pro-level skills. McCown will be the guy in this game, and how he plays will determine whether or not Manziel gets a shot at redemption.

However, McCown is burdened with less-than attractive options at wide receiver this season - #1 wide receiver Dwayne Bowe didn't snag a TD last year in Kansas City (95 targets for 60/754/0 receiving), while starting tight end Gary Barnidge is a cast-off of the Panthers who has never gone over 160 yards receiving for the Browns over two years with the organization. Brian Hartline, who had two 1,000+ yards receiving campaigns during 2012 and 2013 is the other starter at wide receiver. As you can see, there isn't a lot for McCown to work with here.

The Jets' pass D ranked 14th in the NFL last year, averaging 234.1 net yards allowed per game, with a whopping 31 TDs surrendered vs a mere six interceptions generated (last in the NFL). They did have 45 sacks last year, tied for sixth in the NFL, and we look for the Jets to apply a lot of pressure to McCown in this game.

Advantage, New York.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Dallas' Tony Romo was the ninth best fantasy QB in the land last year (he played in only 13 games, sliding him down the board after finishing second in the league two years ago) - however, times are a-changing in Dallas with Terrell Owens now playing for the Bills and Romo faced with a WR depth chart that reads Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Sam Hurd, and Miles Austin at the top four receiver positions. Romo still has Jason Witten (121 targets for 81/952/4 receiving last year) to rely on, but Williams hasn't been impressive during preseason when he's been on the field (he's nursing a bruised shoulder entering regular season, though he's supposedly over that and ready to play). Romo threw for 11/17 for 125 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception vs. San Francisco in the third preseason contest without Williams on the field. We'll get a better feel for how well Williams has learned the offense in his first full training camp with the team, but many are skeptical about his ability to anchor this WR corps. The Cowboys were in the middle of the NFL last year in terms of sacks allowed, with 31 given up over 16 games - Romo hopes they can do better this season so he can stay healthy.

Tampa ended 2008 4th-ranked vs. opposing passers, with an average of 187.3 yards allowed per game. They allowed 23 passing TDs, though - the unit wasn't the shut-down type defense that we're used to seeing from the Bucs. They did generate 22 interceptions last season (t - 3rd in the NFL), and generated 29 sacks (t -20th in the NFL) The team was 10th in the NFL averaging 20.2 points allowed per game last year. We'll see how well HC Raheem Morris and DC Jim Bates work together as the season goes along - the defense is in a retooling mode entering 2009 after Monte Kiffen departed for the University of Tennessee to work with his son (the new head coach of the Vols). Miami was held to 11/24 for 173 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception in the Bucs' third exhibition game - so far, so good.

Romo and the Cowboys are trying to work out the kinks in their new lineup, while the Bucs are settling in under a new coaching regime - with the 11th man at Tampa's back in Raymond James Stadium we give a slight edge to the home team in this matchup.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This game should be a fun contest to watch as Jets' head coach Rex Ryan grapples with his brother Rob Ryan's defensive scheme for Dallas (and vice versa). You know that both teams will be pumped up for this opener with the added spice of a brotherly spat going on.

The Cowboys are once again able to field Tony Romo as their starting QB (he's fully recovered from the broken clavicle that derailed his 2010 season), and he's looked very sharp during training camp and preseason according to all reports out of Dallas. At Minnesota during the third exhibition game - the 'tune up' for regular season - Romo pitched 15/20 for 141 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions, completing 75% of his attempted throws. One worry for fantasy owners to watch this week is Miles Austin's practice participation - he's been nursing a sore hamstring during preseason and may be rusty to start out week one. Austin reportedly went through some resistance training Monday, September fifth, and he took part in a portion of practice. 'I think Miles will be fine,' QB Tony Romo said after the workout. 'Miles works real hard, cares about the game. He has a great head on his shoulder and has a great feel for the game. I suspect he'll be ready to roll come Sunday night.' One thing to watch on the offensive line this week - longtime C Andre Gurode was let go on cut-down day, so second-year center Phil Costa and rookie Kevin Kowalski are a very young, shallow portion of the Cowboy's offensive line opening the season. The Jets will likely test the center of the O-line during week one given the new personnel there.

The Jets' pass D was sixth in the NFL last year, with an average of 200.6 net passing yards allowed per game, but they did cough up 24 passing TDs vs. generating just 12 interceptions (tied for 25th in the NFL). The team managed 40 sacks (tied for eighth in the NFL), so they still get after opposing passers, but the secondary didn't translate that pressure up front into very many turnovers. The Giants' Eli Manning threw two interceptions during the third exhibition game on August 29th - all told, the Jets gave up 20/42 for 222 net yards, zero TDs and two interceptions that night. The Jets' D is starting out September on the right foot in this phase of the game. The overall team defense is solid in both phases of the game, which is why the Jets are the Footballguys.com staffs' consensus #3 team defense, and they land at #5 on David Dodds' individual team defense rankings.

Romo has gotten back in the saddle for Dallas, but in New Meadowlands on Sunday Night Football he'll have his hands full facing the Jets' outstanding unit.

DAL Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jay Cutler has been very solid during training camp/preseason, and looked set to go for regular season vs. Green Bay in the 3rd exhibition contest, tossing 6/13 for 115 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions. However, he'll have to do without his #1 WR, Brandon Marshall, this week (Marshall is serving a one-game personal conduct related suspension). Marshall's absence means that rookie Eddie Royal, a training camp sensation, and venerable Darrell Jackson figure to get starting nods for the season opener. Brandon Stokley and Keary Colbert will provide depth this week, while Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham man the TE posts.

The Raiders' defense was so soft against the run last year that most teams didn't pass on them very much, and that shows in their 8th ranking in terms of pass yardage allowed last year (an average of 195.8 yards per contest allowed). Oakland tied with Kansas City at 4th in the league giving up just 17 passing scores in 16 games - when opposing teams face this defense, they don't tend to light up the scoreboard through the air. Arizona threw 3 interceptions and 1 TD when they tested Oakland's secondary (13/25 for 158 yards) - the pass D is probably Oakland's team strength entering 2008.

Cutler has looked good during the preseason, but this week he's got a tough game in noisy McAfee Coliseum on Monday Night Football - without his best wide receiver to rely upon. Advantage, Oakland.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

In case you missed the preseason drama in Denver, Jay Cutler is now a Bear and Kyle Orton is the Broncos' starting QB. Or, Orton might be the starter on opening day, depending on how the open dislocation on his index finger on his throwing hand has healed up over the last two weeks - the last time we saw Orton, he had thrown for 12/16 for 96 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. his old team the Bears. Orton's backup Chris Simms has a high ankle sprain and likely isn't available to play, meaning that if Orton can't go, Tom Brandstater would be the guy under center. In other news, Brandon Marshall was taken off the suspension that ended his preseason of turmoil, and is reportedly practicing with the team (and trying, unlike the infamous episode that got him suspended). However, Marshall has had very few reps in the new Josh McDaniels/Mike McCoy offense and is well behind the learning curve. Eddie Royal has been handling a lot of the receiving duties while Marshall was out and looks like the lynchpin here, at least until Marshall gets up to speed in the attack. Jabar Gaffney suffered a fractured thumb during practice Friday, Aug. 28. Gaffney will be out for several weeks while his hand heals, leaving Brandon Stokley as the veteran depth at #3 WR. Daniel Graham and Tony Scheffler provide veteran options at TE. Denver's OL did a great job last year, keeping Jay Cutler upright and only allowing 12 sacks during the course of the season - Orton hopes they keep up the good work.

The Bengals ranked 15th in the NFL last year averaging 205.4 passing yards allowed per game, with 12 interceptions (21st in the league) and 17 sacks generated (tied for 30th in the NFL). The defense as a whole was 19th in the league, averaging 22.8 points allowed per game - it just isn't too hard to throw the ball against this crowd. The Rams (without starter Marc Bulger) only managed 17/29 for 141 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Bengals in week three of the preseason, but that was more about the Rams injury-riddled attack than the Bengals suddenly becoming excellent pass defenders.

There are a lot of question marks about the Denver attack at mid-week - with so much up in the air (Orton may be rusty after his forced layoff if he gets in the game) and the team on the road, we think this looks like a potentially rough week for the Broncos.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Peyton Manning took a big step forward in the third preseason game vs. San Francisco, slinging 10/12 for 122 yards passing, two TDs and zero interceptions. Even though it's been a long road back from his multiple neck/nerve procedures, Manning looks like he's getting back to the top of his game (though there has been a good deal of 'rust' knocked off his passing arm during preseason as he's worked his way back into 'football shape'). Eric Decker snarfed up both of Manning's TD passes vs. San Francisco (seven targets for 4/38/2) and looks like a red-zone favorite entering week one. Demaryius Thomas also caught everything Manning threw him in the third preseason game (2/25/0) and appears to be on the way to a solid rapport with his quarterback. Jacob Tamme and Joel Dreesen appear to be Manning's preferred targets out of the Denver cadre of tight ends. Now, we'll see how up-to-speed the Denver passing attack is against one of the top pass defenses in the league.

Pittsburgh led the NFL last year averaging 171.9 net yards allowed per game, and gave up 15 passing scores last year (tied for second-least in the NFL) vs. 11 interceptions (24th) and 35 sacks (17th) generated. There may be a regression coming according to Footballguy John Norton: 'The Steelers are perennially among best in the league, but they are now the NFL's oldest defense and may be starting to show signs of wear. In 2011 they were stingy when it came to yards allowed but recorded only 15 turnovers. Sack master James Harrison seems to constantly be battling injuries and his anticipated replacement (Jason Worilds) has yet to prove he is ready. Long time leader James Farrior is gone so Lawrence Timmons moves into the leadership position. The problem is, the rest of the guys who are supposed to take the next step up the ladder at inside backer have either not done so or have been injured. Pittsburgh can be pretty solid so long as everyone stays healthy, but they are very thin at a lot of positions, especially in the secondary.' The Bills struggled to pass on Pittsburgh in week three of preseason, with just 7/18 for 89 yards passing credited to Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Manning is a lock for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame, but he's got a tough test ahead in the 2012 season opener.

DEN Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jon Kitna is in, Charles Rogers is gone. Roy Williams and Marcus Pollard figure to be his main targets, along with Kevin Jones, as the #2 WR in Detroit right now is Corey Bradford. Mike Williams is buried on the depth chart. Said Kitna recently (in mid-August) "It feels like this offense is breaking chains off of me. He's taking the foot off the brake and putting it on the gas pedal, that's the best way I can explain it. He wants you to cut it loose. Trust your eyes. Trust the offense. I've already made downfield throws I wouldn't have made before. Even when our receiver is neck and neck with the defensive back, his philosophy is, throw that ball and our guy will go get it." Kitna is certainly enthused and confident entering regular season, which is a big plus for the Lions. He's played deep into the pre-season games learning this offense, and should be ready to test his skills against the Seahawks week 1.

Seattle's pass defense was 25th in the NFL last year, allowing an average of 222.4 passing yards per game, with 18 passing scores allowed (10th). However, they were #1 in the NFL with 50 sacks, and spent a lot of time in opponents' backfields (QB pressures, etc). This is a very tough defense, who fight tenaciously in the red-zone.

Kitna and company look like they will have their hands full on Sunday.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jon Kitna has a full year in Mike Martz's offense, and expectations for the unit are high entering 2007 (Kitna has predicted 10 wins several times during preseason). He struggled with back spasms at the end of training camp, but returned to practice at the end of August. With the addition of Calvin Johnson via the draft to supplement Roy Williams, and the presence of last year's surprise WR Mike Furrey (Furrey has struggled with a sore knee at the end of preseason), the passing attack looks like it is loaded for bear if everyone can stay healthy.

The Oakland defense surrendered 21/44 for 236 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to the Rams during week 3 of preseason action. Last year, Oakland was #1 in the NFL vs. opposing passers, averaging 150.8 yards allowed per game (the Raiders tied for 19th in the NFL with 34 sacks). Part of their low yards-allowed average was due to a lowly rush D (25th in the NFL, averaging 134 yards surrendered per game), but Oakland does have a solid core of young defenders in the secondary (CBs Nnamdi Asomugha and Fabian Washington with safeties Stuart Schweigert (FS) and Michael Huff (SS)). This is one of the better secondaries in the NFL.

Kitna and company will have their work cut out for them this week at McAfee Coliseum against a very tough Raider pass defense.

DET Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Brett Favre would love to forget last year's debacle of a 4-12 season: he threw for 372/607 for 3881 yards, 20 TDs and 29 interceptions as one after another after another key offensive players fell to injury, starting with #1 WR Javon Walker who held out for an extended period and then promptly blew out his right knee (ACL) in the first game of the season. Walker is in Denver now, and Favre's starting tandem of WRs includes rookie sensation Greg Jennings and steady veteran Donald Driver. Bubba Franks returns to start after rehabbing a neck injury - and Ahman Green returns to the lineup this year too (he's an important pass-catcher out of the back field). Favre has a lot more viable targets entering 2006 than he exited 2005 with - we'll see how he performs starting Sunday vs. division rival Chicago.

The Bears were #2 last season in total yards allowed (281.8), and ranked 5th vs. the pass giving up 179.5 yards per game in this phase. They were incredibly hard to score TDs on last season, giving up a mere 10 passing scores in 16 games (1st in the NFL), and 1st in the league with only 12.6 points allowed per game on average. Even with a bottom-of-the-barrel passing game, the Bears were 11-5. Their secondary is deep and talented, headlined by CB Charles Tillman and SS Mike Brown.

Favre has weapons again this year, but the Bears won't make the season opener easy. This is a tough matchup for the Packers.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Aaron Rodgers handled the only two offensive TDs scored vs. Cincinnati in the third preseason game, with 12/22 for 154 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception, while rushing for 6/52/2 at the Bengals' house. He enters 2012 with one of the deepest, most explosive wide receiver stables in the NFL - Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson headline the group, but second-year receiver Randall Cobb is also making a case for playing time as the unit's third wide receiver - James Jones and Donald Driver are also in the mix for touches here in Green Bay. The one position that looks shaky as of opening day is tight end - almost all the players at the position have been banged up during preseason, with Jermichael Finley sidelined for much of it due to a quad injury and a concussion issue (he also missed the third preseason game for the birth of his child). There are rumbles out of Green Bay that Finley could lose some touches on the football to D.J. Williams, who has fought through a sore ankle to put together a solid training camp.

The 49ers' pass D was 16th in the NFL last year averaging 230.9 net passing yards allowed per game, while giving up 20 passing scores (eighth in the NFL) vs. 23 interceptions (tied for second in the NFL) and 42 sacks (tied for seventh) generated. As you can see, this unit puts relentless pressure on opposing quarterbacks both up front with the pass rushers and also by breaking on balls in the secondary. However, Peyton Manning made short work of this unit during the third preseason game, with 10/12 for 122 yards passing, two TDs and zero interceptions. The 49ers will have to play better than that if they want to be in the mix for post-season play this season.

Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but the 49ers have a stout defense that can slow down even the best players - advantage San Francisco.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This is a rematch of the divisional playoff game that San Francisco won 45-31 last January - Aaron Rodgers was held to 26/39 for 257 yards passing, two TDs and one interception during the loss - he wasn't horrible, but the Packers couldn't muster enough offense to keep up with Colin Kaepernicks' outburst of 444 yards of total offense.

This year, the Packers enter week one with a cast of receivers that are slowly returning to health - Jordy Nelson had an operation during training camp to try and address a nerve issue in his leg, but he's been back at practice about a week and was medically cleared for week one on September 3. Randall Cobb had a biceps tendon injury and was out for a couple of weeks during preseason - he resumed practicing on August 25 and is expected back for the season opener. We'll see if Aaron Rodgers can pick up where he left off with Nelson and Cobb now that they are both getting reps again. Jermichael Finley and Rodgers seemed to rediscover their chemistry in preseason while Nelson and Cobb were absent - Finley had six targets for 2/28/0 receiving to lead the team against Seattle in the third exhibition game, and James Jones remains in the mix at wide receiver again this year as well. The Packers are stacked with talent at the skill positions rolling into regular season.

The 49ers' D is a very tough nut to crack, averaging 200.2 net passing yards allowed per game last season (fourth in the NFL), with 19 passing scores given up vs. 14 interceptions (tied for 16th in the NFL) and 38 sacks (tie-11th) generated. Christian Ponder managed 17/23 for 116 yards passing, two TDs and one interception at San Francisco during the third exhibition game, but that was against a vanilla preseason scheme. The 49ers will hold nothing back for this key NFC contest that most likely has playoff implications for 2013.

Rodgers and company form an elite NFL attack, but they do face a tough challenge in week one.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Aaron Rodgers has been his usual stellar self during training camp/preseason, working with his wealth of surrounding targets. Though Jermicheal Finley is gone, rookie Richard Rodgers has acquitted himself well during preseason and is now the top tight end in Green Bay (Rodgers snagged 2/40/0 on three targets during the third preseason game vs. Oakland). Jordy Nelson (three targets for 2/19/1 receiving vs. Oakland) has been a beast throughout training camp and preseason, and looks poised for another huge season as Rodgers' No. one wide receiver, while Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin provide adequate surrounding talent at the other wide receiver positions. Eddie Lacy is grabbing almost every ball thrown to him so far this year and provides another threat for Aaron Rodgers to menace opposing defenses with - the Packers can attack you at so many levels that defensing them is very difficult. We learned on Wednesday, September 3 that Brandon Bostick is officially out for the first game of the regular season (fractured fibula).

However, the Seahawks' top-ranked pass defense may be up to the challenge of containing Aaron Rodgers. They averaged a mere 172 net passing yards allowed per game last season (first in the NFL), and balanced the 16 TDs they allowed with almost twice as many interceptions - 28, first in the NFL - while also generating 44 sacks (tied for eighth in the NFL with Green Bay). Chicago's starter Jay Cutler was limited to 12/20 for 157 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception thrown, with two sacks taken for -15 yards during the third preseason contest. It isn't easy to move the football on the Seahawks in either phase of the game, friends.

Rodgers and company face a steep hill to climb at CenturyLink Field on Thursday Night Football - advantage, Seattle.

GB Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

David Carr was sacked 68 times last year, and has been the most-sacked QB in 3 out of the past 4 seasons. Yes, the team added Eric Moulds to give Carr another viable target at WR to go with Andre Johnson. But, if Carr doesn't spend more time vertical than on his back again this year, nothing else will matter. The offensive line has to give him better protection/more time to throw the ball. We'll see if they can accomplish something approaching respectability against the Eagles this week.

The Eagles were 21st vs. opposing passers last year, giving away 207.7 passing yards per contest on average. Not too good - they also coughed up 24 passing scores, which was 26th in the NFL. It was a big drop off for a unit that had 3 members of the secondary in the Pro Bowl during 2004 (Brian Dawkins, Michael Lewis, Lito Sheppard). Those Pro Bowlers return for another season starting in the secondary - will they be the 2004 version, or the 2005 version (only Dawkins went to the Pro Bowl last year)? During week 3 of the pre-season, the Eagles allowed only 9/14 for 52 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception to starter Ben Roethlisberger - it looks like they are on the right track (the Steelers did end up with 29/44 for 222 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions).

Carr can expect the Eagles (11th in sacks last year with 42) to come after him full-bore on Sunday - will his OL hold up or not? This is going to be a stern test of the Texans on opening day.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Matt Schaub has returned in top form during 2008 after an injury-marred first season at the helm for Houston. He hasn't gotten a lot of work with Andre Johnson during training camp, though, as Johnson has been battling a tweaked groin. Schaub tossed 15/27 for 166 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. Dallas in the 3rd exhibition game, hitting Kevin Walter (6/61/1) for the TD. Johnson and Walter will make up the starters during week 1 (assuming Johnson's groin doesn't flare up), with Andre Davis as the #3 WR - Owen Daniels is the top TE on the team and a viable fantasy TE (he was 8th in total FP at his position last year).

Pittsburgh's pass D ranked 3rd in the NFL last year, averaging 176.5 yards allowed per game, with 22 passing TDs given up (15th in the NFL). The team was in the middle of the NFL pack with 36 sacks generated (Houston had one of the better pass blocking lines last year, with only 22 sacks allowed over 16 games). During the 3rd preseason game, Pittsburgh limited the Vikings to 17/24 for 131 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. They appear to be near the top of their game entering regular season (and they haven't had Troy Polamalu on the field during preseason - he is expected back for the start of regular season, though).

Schaub has played good football during the preseason, but going into Heinz field for the opener isn't going to be easy - this looks like a tough matchup for the Texans' first game of the season.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Peyton Manning. 336/497 for 4557 yards passing, 49 TDs and 10 interceptions last year. Marvin Harrison (86/1113/15), Reggie Wayne (77/1210/12) and Brandon Stokley (68/1077/10) were all among the top 15 fantasy WR's last year. Manning threw for 18/25 for 206 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions in the teeth of a hard-charging Bronco defense during week 3 of the preseason. Do we need to say more? Start your Colts.

Baltimore fields one of the upper-echelon defenses in the NFL. They were 10th in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (195.1) but tied for first in passing scores allowed (14 TDs in 16 games). It's just hard to score on Baltimore, period. CB Chris McAlister and S Ed Reed are two of the best in the business right now.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

This game will be played in near-perfect conditions: the forecast calls for a high of 84F and a low of 72F -- this is the Sunday night game, so the temperature will be in the low 70's -- with a 0% chance for rain. Weather won't be a factor in this matchup unless things change quickly.

The Colts have to face a hostile crowd week 1, and the Ravens are very solid in the passing phase of the game. It's tough to ever sit your Colts, but this is a tough matchup.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Andrew Luck has a new, improved, pass-catching running back in Frank Gore (342/2,883/11 receiving so far in Gore's career). T.Y. Hilton should be back in action for Week One after recovering from a concussion - and Andre Johnson has arrived from Houston to provide veteran savvy and scoring ability. Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener provide a nice 1-2 punch at the tight end position, and the Colts have some intriguing young prospects in Phillip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief. This passing attack is loaded for Bear - and Luck was already fantasy QB #1 last year with 380/616 for 4,761 yards passing, 40 TDs and just 16 interceptions thrown. The rich got richer in Indianapolis this offseason, friends.

The Bills' pass D relies on high pressure (54 sacks last year, number one in the NFL) but Luck was only dumped 27 times last year - his quick release helps mitigate a strong pass rush. During 2014 the Bills averaged just 205.8 net yards passing allowed, and had more interceptions (19, sixth in the NFL) than TDs allowed (16). They will get after Luck in this game.

Buffalo has a fearsome home crowd and an attacking defense - this looks like a tough matchup, even for the top quarterback in the NFL.

IND Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jacksonville enters 2006 with a very young WR corps composed of Matt Jones, Ernest Wilford and Reggie Williams. Jones and Wilford have earned the starting jobs, and many expect great things from Jones this year - but none of them has ever exceeded 1000 yards receiving in a season yet. We'll see how well they have bonded with Byron Leftwich (appeared in 11 2005 games with 175/302 for 2123 yards, 15 TDs and 5 interceptions through the air)during training camp.

Dallas was 11th vs. the pass last season, allowing an average of 192.7 yards per game with 18 passing scores given up (13th in the NFL). They held the 49ers to 12/19 for 123 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during the week 3 pre-season tune-up game. S Roy Williams is the anchor of the secondary and we expect the Cowboys to field a solid unit again this season.

Jacksonville's youngsters will have a tough fight on their hands come Sunday.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

David Garrard earned a new contract and established himself as a hot fantasy prospect with last year's performance (208/325 for 2509 passing yards, 18 TDs and 3 interceptions, with 50/182/1 rushing during 12 games), landing at #13 in fantasy points per game during 2007. The team believes he'll continue to develop during 2008, but a rash of injuries have hampered Garrard's rapport with Reggie Williams (the guy who caught 10 TDs last year) and new #1 Jerry Porter (out throughout training camp due to a torn hamstring tendon that was surgically reattached). Right now, it appears that Williams (just returned to the lineup from arthroscopic knee surgery), Matt Jones and Dennis Northcutt will be the top 3 receivers to begin the season, with TE Marcedes Lewis being a favorite of Garrard's entering his second year at the helm (Garrard said he believes Lewis could be the next elite NFL TE early on i training camp - they appear to be tight entering 2008). We'll see how well Garrard can operate with limited reps between himself and Williams so far this year.

The Titans fielded a top-tier pass D last year, averaging 199.2 yards given up per contest (10th in the NFL), and allowed just 21 passing scores during the season. They were in the top 10 units in QB sacks, ringing up 41 last year - meanwhile, the Jags coughed up 31 sacks, in the middle of the 2007 NFL range from 18-55. During week 3 of the preseason, Tennessee limited rookie Matt Ryan and company to 24/32 for 175 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions - but it was Ryan's first ever NFL start.

Garrard and company look like a team on the rise, but they'll be tested by the solid Titans on Sunday. Advantage, Tennessee.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Jags gave up the eighth-most sacks last year (their OL was decimated by injuries in the preseason last year), handing over 42 sacks to the opposition. This year, they enter regular season with better health along the line, though, which should help improve David Garrard's pass protection. Speaking of Garrard (335/535 for 3620 yards, 15 TDs and 13 interceptions last year), he has an upgraded WR corps to work with this year with free agent signee Torry Holt coming over from St. Louis and Troy Williamson suddenly catching on to the scheme during preseason in his second year with the Jags. Marcedes Lewis (41/489/2 receiving last year) is a capable TE and Maurice Jones-Drew has excellent hands out o fthe backfield (62/565/2 receiving last year). Mike Sims-Walker may be able to stay healthy this year - if he can, he'll be a solid #3 WR for Garrard. Given better play on the OL and better receivers, Garrard is in a good position to succeed during 2009.

The Colts' pass D was a shut-down unit last year, allowing just six pass TDs through 16 games, while ranking sixth in the league averaging 188.1 yards allowed per contest.They generated 15 interceptions, tied for 11th in the league, and 30 sacks (t-16th). The team was 7th overall in the NFL in points allowed, with an average of 18.6 given up per game, due mostly to their outstanding pass defense. It isn't easy to move the ball through the air when you face Indy. However, the team got some bad news this week as it appears that SS Bob Sanders won't be ready to play for several weeks yet. 'The biggest thing was that we felt he [Sanders] was going to be back inside that five- or six-week window,' head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday, September 7th. 'He's making progress, he's coming along.' Melvin Bullitt will be the starter at SS with Sanders sidelined. This year during week 3 of the preseason (when the starters play the longest), the Colts gave up 13/19 for 160 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception to youngster Matthew Stafford, and ended up allowing 24/37 for 261 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception to the Lions as a team. Of course, preseason schemes are vanilla but the team didn't look sharp at all. New DC Larry Coyer needs to light a fire under the defense entering week 1 of regular season.

Garrard will have to be on fire to keep up with Peyton Manning, and that won't be an easy task against the Colts' defense and fans on opening weekend - advantage Indianapolis.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The shocking news that David Garrard has been released by Jacksonville general manager Gene Smith just five days before the season opener has understandably introduced an element of chaos to this week one matchup. 'We were hoping for some sign of life, for him to pick it up and get it going,' Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said on Tuesday, September sixth. 'And we went to the 11th hour in hopes of having that happen, and it just became very obvious that it wasn’t going to happen.' New starter Luke McCown didn’t play with the first-team offense until the fourth preseason game, which he entered second after Garrard started. McCown managed 4/9 for 47 yards, with one TD and zero interceptions before giving way to Blaine Gabbert (9/18 for 132 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions in the final preseason contest). McCown suffered an ACL injury to his right knee on Monday, September 20th, 2010 and was placed on IR Tuesday, September 21st, 2010. He had a second reconstructive surgery to the knee shortly after the injury and has spent the 2011 offseason rehabilitating the knee after signing a one-year deal on Monday, February 28th. However, he did have a full training camp in 2010 before the knee injury and some reports indicate he was outplaying Garrard during that preseason, too. Now the Jaguars will ask this veteran to power through four seasons of rust (McCown last started a series of games while with Tampa Bay back in 2007). He's had 154/260 for 1,739 yards, nine TDs and 10 interceptions passing during his five seasons in the NFL (2004 with Cleveland, then 2007-2008 with Tampa before arriving in Jacksonville during 2009). McCown is being handed a golden opportunity to start once again at the pro level. It'll be interesting to see how he responds (and how team mates Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcedes Lewis, Jason Hill and Mike Thomas jell with their new starter, who was #3 on the depth chart until September sixth). 'It’s definitely not a step down,' Lewis said by phone after the news. 'Luke is a great quarterback. That just means everybody else is going to have to rally around him and find a way to be a little bit better and make Luke’s job a little easier.' Lewis is likely to see a lot of quick passes from McCown has he settles in and gets comfortable as the starter over the early part of the season.

'[McCown] had the best camp. Out of our three quarterbacks he had the best camp,' Del Rio said Tuesday. 'He’s earned this opportunity.'

Meanwhile, the Titans have been working through new defensive coordinator Jerry Grays' system during preseason. Last year, the club averaged 252 net passing yards allowed per game (29th in the NFL) with 23 passing scores handed over vs. 17 interceptions and 40 sacks generated (tied for 11th- and eighth-place in the NFL, respectively). The Titans brought pressure to bear on opposing passers, but their DBs didn't keep the lid on the oppositions' receivers. The pattern was seen vs. Chicago in the third preseason game, too, with 22/39 for 268 net yards handed over to the Bears, but two interceptions also generated by the DBs, too. Though it isn't a perfect measuring stick for how tough the Tennessee pass defense is, the Footballguys.com staff (20th ranking) and David Dodds (17th ranking) all agree that the Titans' overall team defense is in the bottom half of the NFL entering regular season. There is a lot of room for improvement among this secondary.

Though the Titans' pass D is suspect, they have an opponent in turmoil to face on Sunday - we give the edge to Tennessee, who have at least had the full preseason to work out the kinks with their current lineup.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Alex Smith got his contract extension during preseason (four years, $68 million extension), and is set to lead the explosive Kansas City offense for the foreseeable future. He doesn't have much in the way of wide receivers in week one, though, with Dwayne Bowe out on suspension. Donnie Avery and rookie Frankie Hammond will be the starters in week one, while Travis Kelce and Jamaal Charles are likely to get a steady diet of short passes as well. Don't look for aerial fireworks from Smith this week and then you won't be disappointed. Smith is ranked 17th at quarterback this week according to David Dodds' initial projections, with 23/34 for 226 yards, 1.4 TDs and .8 interceptions projected (along with 4/22/.2 rushing).

The Titans' pass D was pretty solid last year, ranking 11th in the NFL averaging 226 net yards allowed per game, with 15 passing scores allowed vs. 13 interceptions (tied for 22nd) and 36 sacks (tied for 21st in the NFL) to their credit. Matt Ryan had no trouble with the Titans' secondary, though, throwing 18/23 for 224 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions with one sacks taken for -5 yards in the third preseason game. But Ryan has Julio Jones and Roddy White at his disposal, not Avery and Hammond.

This looks like a tough matchup for Smith because of the lack of Bowe and the fact that Jamaal Charles has a great matchup in the other phase of the game (meaning Smith likely won't have to throw the football much in Week One).

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Gus Frerotte and A.J. Feeley have been disappointments so far - Feeley so much so that he is now 3rd string behind Sage Rosenfels. Frankly, Frerotte has been so erratic that you'll want to think twice before starting Chris Chambers or Randy McMichael this week - give yourself a week to evaluate the situation in Miami at QB. Can Frerotte deliver the ball on target vs. a full speed NFL defense? We'll find out on Sunday.

Denver fielded a top-ten secondary last year, averaging 184.2 passing yards allowed per game (6th in the NFL) while surrendering only 17 passing scores over 16 games. They now have John Lynch to police the middle of the field, which will make some AFC West players ache. However, Peyton Manning still tore them up for 18/25 for 206 yards and 2 TDs in part of a game during the week 3 preseason game - the Broncos are still a work in progress in this phase of the game.

Denver traded away Clinton Portis to get Champ Bailey, but they haven't seen much of him during preseason due to a hamstring injury that has kept him on the sidelines. His availability for this week's opener is unclear. The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Dolphin's Stadium calls for a high of 91F and low of 79F with a 30% chance of precipitation. That forecast translates into "hot and muggy, with possibly poor field conditions". Weather could adversely affect both squads, especially if the rain comes down hard around game time. Keep an eye on the weather if you are planning on starting a Bronco or Dolphin.

Frerotte has a lot to prove. Unless you're just bare at quarterback, we'd suggest starting another QB while we see if Frerotte has "it" or not during a game that counts.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Daunte Culpepper appears to have made a full recovery from his catastrophic knee injury (ACL, MCL, and PCL's were torn in his right knee). He's had increasing practice and playing time throughout the pre-season and tossed 14/19 for 130 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions against the ultra-tough Panthers in the third exhibition game of the season. He has Chris Chambers (82/1118/11 receiving last year) to headline the receiving corps, and Chambers is thrilled to be playing with a QB the caliber of Culpepper "It's a great opportunity for us all." he stated early in the pre-season. Randy McMichael and Marty Booker round out the starting slate at TE and WR, respectively, and Ronnie Brown is a competent pass catcher out of the backfield (32/232/1 receiving last year) - all the pieces are in place for Culpepper to do well during 2006.

This week, though, the Dolphins face the reigning world champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the season's kickoff game on Thursday night. So intensity is going to be high on both sides of the ball. The Steelers weren't particularly strong vs. opposing passers last season as far as yards allowed per game (ranking 16th while allowing 198 passing yards per game on average), but they were very tough in the red-zone, limiting opposing passers to 15 TDs in 16 games (2nd in the NFL). They also tied for 3rd in the NFL with 47 sacks - Pittsburgh returns almost all of their starters again this year, too.

Culpepper and his crew have a tough, uphill battle before them visiting Heinz Field on Thursday night.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Chad Henne was the 23rd-ranked fantasy QB last season - he played in 14 games and posted 274/451 for 2,878 yards, 12 TDs and 14 interceptions (with 16/32/1 rushing) after taking over for Chad Pennington. He enters his third NFL season with an exciting new weapon in free-agent acquisition Brandon Marshall (who posted 3/51/0 receiving to lead the team in the third preseason game vs. Atlanta) - Marshall appears to be settling into his new situation after rehabbing a 'surprise' hip surgery for much of the offseason. Youngsters Brian Hartline (entering his second NFL season) and Davone Bess (entering his third) are the other main WRs, while Anthony Fasano provides a steady outlet receiver for Henne - he had the most targets of his career last year (54), but his fantasy production dropped off due to a dearth of TDs (only two - 31/339/2). We'll soon see if the addition of the mercurial Marshall will help Henne move his game to the next level.

The Bills rush D was so awful last year that most teams didn't try to throw the ball at them much - but when teams did try to pass, they didn't enjoy a lot of success. Buffalo was second in the NFL averaging just 184.2 net pass yards allowed per game, and they feasted on opposing passers with 26 interceptions vs. just 14 passing TDs allowed. The team had a middling 32 sacks generated during the season. On balance, the Bills field a very solid pass D, though Carson Palmer and company punished them for 25/36 yielding 276 yards, two TDs and one interception during week three of the preseason.

Henne is a veteran presence now, but he didn't draw an easy season opener traveling to Buffalo and facing the Bills' top-tier unit. This is a tough matchup for the Dolphins - also, given the weakness of the Bills' defensive front, Henne and company may not be called upon to pass very often in week one.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tarvaris Jackson has missed the final 3 preseason games due to a sprained MCL, and his key WRs, Sidney Rice (stomach virus problems during preseason) and Bernard Berrian (turf toe injury during the 2nd half of preseason) haven't worked with him very much as a result of his, and their, health woes during August. Jackson was far from a world-beater in his second NFL season (171/294 for 1911 yards, 9 TDs and 12 interceptions, with 54/260/3 rushing through 12 games), and would have benefited greatly from all the repetitions he's missed with Berrian (who just joined the team this spring after starting his career in Chicago). In short, with a dominant rushing attack at Jackson's back and a solid defense to lean on, it would be no surprise to see him come out of the gates slowly in week 1 while he gets back in the saddle as the starting QB. If Jackson suffers a setback, his backup Gus Frerotte would get the call (13/19 for 133 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception vs. Pittsburgh in week 3 of the preseason).

Green Bay ranked 12th in the NFL last year, averaging 210.4 passing yards allowed per game, with 23 passing TDs given up (tied for 18th in the NFL). They generated 36 sacks during the season, right in the middle of the NFL range from 22-53(Minnesota allowed 38 sacks last year, also in the middle of the league range). Denver cranked out 18/33 for 190 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception in their exhibition game with Green Bay (week 3). The Packers were not overwhelming, but they weren't awful last year either. This squad looks respectable entering 2008.

The vocal home field crowd will help boost the Packers this week against their despised divisional rivals - advantage, Green Bay.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The NFL schedule makers set up a barn-burner for the special Thursday night opener, rematching the Saints and the Vikings (who met in the NFC Championship last year and took it to overtime). However, this isn't last year's Minnesota pass offense as playmaker Sidney Rice is out for at least six weeks, and Percy Harvin has struggled with severe migraines during preseason, resulting in very few reps for him so far this year. The team brought in Greg Camarillo from Miami to help provide a third receiver while Rice is out - Bernard Berrian (55/618/4 during 2009) figures to fill Rice's role while Rice is on the PUP. Berrian is just one season removed from his 48/964/7 showing during 2008 (a 20.1 yards per catch average) - we'll see if he can recapture the magic again during 2010. Visanthe Shiancoe remains one of Favres' favorite targets and is in for this year's campaign. However, another worrisome factor in this equation is that Brett Favre's ankle isn't 100% healthy and isn't likely to become 100% during the season - opposing NFL teams will target the joint to attack when they sack Favre.

The New Orleans pass D allowed a lot of yards last year (3,769, 26th in the NFL), but they were extremely tough to score on with just 15 TDs allowed (fifth in the NFL) - and they generated 26 interceptions (third) and had 35 sacks (tied for 13th in the NFL). Teams were forced to skew their offenses towards the passing game as they chased the Saints' powerful offense, but when the field was compressed around the end zone, the Saints' D got very tough. San Diego could only manage 25/48 for 255 yards, one TD and two interceptions vs. the Saints during the third preseason game.

The Vikings are working to get their attack back on track after a shortened series of practices with Favre, while the Saints bring an aggressive, stingy pass D to their home opener in the very loud Louisiana Superdome. Advantage, New Orleans.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Donovan McNabb has done a workmanlike job settling in with his new team. He and Bernard Berrian have developed a good rapport during preseason - as evidenced by the 49-yard TD pass the Berrian snagged against the Cowboys in the third preseason game. 'Bernard Berrian is really the guy we like to see be able to do that for us. Michael Jenkins has that kind of capability as well but we're counting on Bernard to be able to make the type of plays he made on that first drive. If that does happen for us, we have a chance to be an explosive offense,' head coach Leslie Frazier said after the game. All told, McNabb posted 12/18 for 164 yards, one TD and one interception with the first team offense vs. Dallas. Free agent import Michael Jenkins posted 3/48/0 receiving out of four chances in the third exhibition, while Percy Harvin handled five targets for 4/29/0 receiving. It appears that these three guys will be the main cogs in the passing attack, while tight ends Visanthe Shiancoe (who has unfortunately nursed a sore hamstring during preseason since August eighth and hasn't had many reps with McNabb) and Kyle Rudolph chip in from time to time. We'll see how 'explosive' the Vikings are when they visit the Chargers on Sunday.

Unfortunately for McNabb and his fantasy owners, the Chargers field one of the top pass defenses in the NFL. Last year they were first in the league averaging 177.8 net yards allowed per game, with 18 passing scores allowed vs. 16 interceptions (tied for 14th in the NFL) and 47 sacks generated (tied for second). The Vikings allowed 37 sacks last year (17th in the NFL), so it is likely that McNabb will feel pressure early and often in this contest. While it isn't a perfect measuring stick to evaluate how tough the Chargers' pass defense is, the Footballguys.com staff ranks the overall defensive team as the seventh best team defense on the eve of regular season, while David Dodds' individual board slots them at 12th. This is a competent team that plays well in both phases of the game, and they are especially tough on opposing passers.

The Vikings' passing attack has a tough challenge in front of them this week - we'd look elsewhere for your starting QB as McNabb is projected well outside of the top 24 fantasy QBs this week.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Christian Ponder stunk up the preseason for the Vikings, earning a passer rating of 28.3 in the first two exhibitions, before redeeming himself somewhat in the third preseason game at San Francisco with 17/23 for 116 yards passing, two TDs and one interception thrown. His team still lost 14-34, but Ponder was at least credible as a passer during the third exhibition. Greg Jennings (five targets for 2/24/0 receiving) and Jerome Simpson (two for 2/24/0) are the starting wide receivers entering week one, while Kyle Rudolph will be the main pass-catching tight end again this year (he posted 53/493/9 receiving for the Vikings last season). Ponder has done little to inspire confidence in this attack, an unhappy circumstance highlighted by his week one projection to land at 26th among starting quarterbacks once the games are over.

The Lions' pass D was 14th in the NFL last season, averaging 223.1 net yards given up per game, with 26 TDs surrendered vs. 11 interceptions (tied for 23rd in the NFL) and 34 sacks (tied for 20th in the league) generated. During the third preseason game the unit looked improved, intercepting Tom Brady once while not allowing an offensive TD until 32 seconds were left in the game (Brady ended the night with 16/24 for 185 yards passing, on the wrong end of a 9-40 loss to the Lions).

Ponder has been shaky throughout preseason and was a poor starter last year, while the Lions' D looks better than their mediocre 2012 numbers would indicate - advantage, Detroit.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Teddy Bridgewater has a year of seasoning under his belt, and the Vikings have upgraded the receiving talent around him by adding Mike Wallace to the mix (Wallace had 10 TDs for Miami last year seeing 115 targets for 67/862/10 receiving last season). Youngsters Charles Johnson (59 targets for 31/475/2), Jarius Wright (62 for 42/588/2) and Cordarelle Patterson (67 for 33/384/1) have all worked with Bridgewater for a year plus the 2015 training camp and each has the potential to build on last year's numbers. This rebuilding unit is bursting with youthful potential now leavened with Wallace's veteran savvy. Kyle Rudolph (34 for 24/231/2) only managed half-a-season last year but is a reliable outlet receiver for Bridgewater entering the 2015 campaign.

The 49ers pass D was ranked fifth in the NFL last year averaging 220.7 net passing yards allowed, and generated a league-high 23 interceptions vs. 29 passing scores allowed. Their 36 sacks was tied for 21st in the NFL last season. However, as noted in the rushing matchup, this unit has been hit by defections in free agency and also lost talent due to scandal (Ex-49er Ray McDonald may go to jail for rape if convicted) so this team is not as impressive as the one fielded during 2014. How much the unit has been degraded has yet to be tested by regular season action, but we'll have a clearer idea come Tuesday morning.

This looks like a tougher-than-usual matchup for the Vikings' passing attack, though it isn't as scary as it would have been last year.

MIN Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Aaron Brooks was a top ten fantasy QB in points per game last year (309/542 for 3810 yards, 21 passing scores and 16 interceptions, with 57/199/4 rushing), and Joe Horn was 5th in the league in fantasy points per game (94/1399/11). They have played together for years, and are very instinctive together. However, we haven't seen explosiveness from this duo during preseason (Brooks tossed 10/20 for 139 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the week 3 preseason game, and Horn hauled in 5/63/0 during the contest).

The Saints are in a tough situation - they've been evacuated from their home town, and will understandably struggle to keep up intensity in the face of the disaster that has devastated their home town and fans. On the flip side, players like Joe Horn have stated the disaster has sparked the team with a desire to give the affected people something positive to hold onto.

Carolina played poorly to open 2004, and played very well to close the season. Their 2004 statistics reflect this in the passing phase -- Carolina was 18th in the NFL due to allowing an average of 217.4 passing yards per game ( with 18 passing TDs given up over the 16 week season). Trent Dilfer and company didn't fare too well vs. this secondary during week 3 of the preseason, managing only 20/36 for 211 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception in the game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Bank of America Stadium calls for a high of 86F and a low of 69F with a 0% chance of rain -- it should be a great day to play some football.

Carolina has a very tough and aggressive defense that is looking to redeem itself after last year's tough times - meanwhile, the Saints are still adjusting to post-Katrina reality. Advantage, Panthers.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense at Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Drew Brees and company bring their high-flying passing attack into a scary place on Thursday night - the current NFL champs have a daunting home-field advantage and also a intimidating, ball-hawking pass D that is among the league's best.

However, Brees is a guy who rises to challenges - he threw 448/658 for 4,620 passing yards, with 33 TDs and 22 interceptions during 2010, and ended the year as the sixth-ranked fantasy QB. The Saints have a wide array of talented receivers surrounding Brees, from Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas out of the backfield to new starting TE Jimmy Graham and the usual suspects at wide receiver (Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem). Brees has an embarrassment of riches on this team, folks. Colston seems to have come through his latest knee surgery fairly well and is rounding into form as of the season opener (he had 3/28/0 receiving in the third exhibition game); and Graham has been outstanding during training camp and preseason as Jeremy Shockey's replacement - Graham put up 5/73/0 receiving at Oakland in the third preseason game, routinely making the Raiders' DBs look bad. All told five guys were over 40 yards receiving at Oakland (backup RB Joique Bell, Graham, Meachem, Adrian Arrington, and Devery Henderson) as the Saints marched to 25/43 for 388 net passing yards, two TDs and zero interceptions on the way to a 40-20 victory.

However, the Packers' excellence as a team defense in both phases of the game are why they are the consensus #1 team defense according to the Footballguys.com staff, and they are also #1 on David Dodds' individual list. Last year, the Packers were fifth in the NFL averaging 194.2 net passing yards allowed per game, and they balanced 16 passing scores allowed with 24 interceptions (second-most in the NFL last year) while generating 47 sacks (also second-most in the NFL). The Packers bring heat to bear on opposing attacks all over the field, friends. Though the Colts managed two passing TDs against the first team D in week three of preseason, the Packers limited Indianapolis to 179 net yards passing with four sacks and six hits on the QBs recorded.

Brees is a phenomenal NFL QB, but even he will have a hard time excelling against this defensive team in their own house in a nationally televised season opener that will likely upstage a Presidential joint address of the US Congress. Advantage, Green Bay.

NO Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

NFC East divisional games are always hard-fought affairs, and the Giants/Cowboys rivalry is no exception to this general statement. Eli Manning (321/536 for 3,948 yards passing, 26 TDs and 15 interceptions thrown last year) comes into this game hoping that Victor Cruz (heel injury) and Hakeem Nicks (various nagging injuries over the years) can stay healthy for this showdown in Dallas. Nicks wasn't on the first Giants injury report, a good sign, while Cruz was in practice on Wednesday, September 4 and was declared "full speed ahead" by head coach Tom Coughlin. Brandon Myers (a free agent import from Oakland) is ready to start at the tight end position, so Manning has all his receiving positions manned by first-team starters heading down to Dallas.

The Cowboys' field a retooled defense this year, led by famed "Tampa Two" defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin - in the third preseason game Dallas held Cincinnati's starter Andy Dalton to 12/16 for 113 yards, zero TDs and one interception during Daltons' time on the field - the unit looks improved over last year's 19th-ranked squad that averaged 230.2 net passing yards allowed per game, with 22 passing scores given away vs. just seven interceptions generated (tied for last in the NFL). We'll see how the Cowboys' starters perform for Kiffin now that the games count.

Manning has all his weapons available for week one, but it is always tough to travel to Dallas' Cowboys Stadium.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Bad. That word describes Eli Manning's play for most of the preseason (he had 1/4 passing for zero yards in the preseason finale, and 1/7 for six yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions, with one sack for -6 yards in the second exhibition). He did manage a half-decent outing vs. the Jets in the third preseason game (12/21 for 139 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions with two sacks taken for -22 yards). but there has been little reason for optimism among the Giants' faithful this preseason. Fantasy owners of Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle sincerely hope that Manning pulls it together now that the games count. Unfortunately, on Wednesday September 3 the Giants placed G Geoff Schwartz (toe injury) on injured reserve with a designation to returnh- he'll be out until week nine (or after). This means the Giants' offensive line will be in transition just in time to face Ndamukong Suh and company.

Detroit was 23rd in the NFL averaging 247 net passing yards allowed per game, with 24 passing scores coughed up over 16 games played. They ended up tied for 17th in interceptions generated (15) and were 28th in the NFL with just 33 sacks to their credit. Jaguars' starting quarterback Chad Henne managed 9/14 for 70 yards passing, with zero TDs or interceptions thrown, and was sacked twice for -18 yards. One good showing against a mediocre Jaguars' offense does not a season make. However, the chaos on the Giants' offensive line affords and opportunity for the Lions to press forward with their pass rush.

The Lions' pass D looked stronger than usual against the Jaguars, but Jacksonville is not one of the offensive juggernauts in the NFL - we'll see how Detroit looks in this phase now that the games count. On balance this appears to be a tough matchup for the struggling Manning and company.

NYG Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Chad Pennington racked up 313/485 for 3352 yards, 17 TDs and 16 interceptions last year - he returns to a team stocked with familiar targets like Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery and Chris Baker, while the team upgraded their RB corps with the addition of Thomas Jones (who is not a slouch receiving the football, having pulled down at least 26 passes in each of his past 3 seasons while with the Bears - 36/154/0 last year). During the week 3 preseason tilt vs. their cross-town rivals the Giants, Pennington tossed 5/11 for 89 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions (Leon Washington pulled in the 79 yard scoring strike). We'll see how explosive they look at home vs. the Patriots.

The Pats were 12th in the league last year averaging 200.2 passing yards allowed per game, but were first in the NFL with only 10 passing TDs given up. They racked up 44 sacks (5th in the NFL) and generally made opposing QBs lives miserable on Sundays. During week 3 of preseason, New England limited the Panthers to 23/36 for 222 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception while notching 2 sacks. This is one tough unit, folks.

The Jets have their work cut out for them when the Patriots come to call on Sunday.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Jets' OL gave up 30 sacks last year, which is not excessive, but wasn't top-tier, either. This year, they'll have a rookie QB sheltering behind the big guys up front - that usually means that a team will give up more sacks than usual as the youngster Mark Sanchez learns on the job. Sanchez has done well in his time on the field during preseason, with 13/20 for 149 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Giants in week three, and 5/5 for 67 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in a cameo appearance vs. the Eagles in week four. Jerricho Cotchery is the #1 WR, with Chansi Stuckey winning the contest in training camp to be #2 - TE Dustin Keller is a promising young talent that rounds out the starting receivers nicely. Behind Stuckey is David Clowney and Brad Smith at the depth positions.

Houston's pass D was 17th in the league last year, averaging 213.9 yards allowed per game, with 24 passing TDs given up. The Texans handed over 24.6 points per game on average, landing at 27th in the league in that category, while generating 12 interceptions (21st in the NFL) and 25 sacks (27th-ranked). As you can see, they were not very impressive last year, which got DC Richard Smith fired. Frank Bush coached the defensive line the last two seasons and, as the new defensive coordinator, plans on using more deception, and running a lot of different blitzes out of the base 4-3 formation. The team drafted Brian Cushing to be a starting OLB, but unfortunately he injured a knee during preseason and missed the final two preseason games, but reported on Sunday September 6th that 'I feel good. I'm ready to go. I'm 100 percent now.' Cushing projects to start across from Zac Diles, with MLB DeMeco Ryans manning the middle of the LB corps. If Cushing pans out this LB corps could make some serious noise during 2009.

The Jets have a talented but inexperienced youngster under center in his first regular-season start, while the Texans field a rebuilding pass D - home field advantage tilts the scales to Houston in this one.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Geno Smith got his jaw broken in a locker-room brawl, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick as the last viable option on the roster for new head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey (Gailey and Fitzpatrick worked together before to mutual benefit when Fitzpatrick was a Bill, and he wound up with a career-best 353/569 for 3,832 yards passing, 24 TDs and 23 interceptions thrown back in 2011 and 306/505 for 3,400 yards passing, 24 TDs and 16 interceptions thrown during 2012). Brandon Marshall (106 targets for 61/721/8 receiving with Chicago last year) and Eric Decker (115 targets for 74/965/5 receiving for the Jets last year) form a solid 1-2 tandem at wide receiver. Jeff Cumberland (47 targets for 23/247/3 receiving) is the top tight end now that Jace Amaro has gone to IR. Fitzpatrick has some knives in his block entering Week One.

The Browns' pass D was ranked eighth in the NFL last year averaging 224.5 net passing yards allowed per game, with 22 passing scores given up vs. 21 interceptions generated (second in the league last year) but only 31 sacks to their credit (27th in the league). Cleveland was third in the league during preseason averaging 152.2 net passing yards allowed per game - they seem to be in decent shape entering Week One.

Advantage, Cleveland.

NYJ Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Carson Palmer has struggled during preseason, as evidenced by his 17/26 for 181 yards passing, zero TDs and two interception outing vs. Detroit in the third preseason game. Part of the problem has been a rash of injuries among the lead Oakland receivers (Jacoby Ford has a painful foot injury and didn't play in the third or fourth preseason games; Denarius Moore suffered a hamstring injury and then aggravated the injury again during training camp and has missed a majority of sessions in August; Darrius Heyward-Bey injured his shoulder and missed some time in the middle of camp, though he returned in time to catch 2/55/0 vs. Detroit in the third preseason game). The bottom line here is that Palmer didn't get many opportunities to synch up with his wideouts during August, and the passing attack looks rough starting September as a result.

In contrast, the San Diego pass defense has held together well during preseason and stifled Minnesota's Christian Ponder in week three of the preseason, holding him to 9/16 for 115 yards passing, with zero TDs and one interception thrown. Last season the Chargers were 13th in terms of net passing yards allowed (224.4) but they gave up a hefty 29 passing scores last year (tied for 27th in the NFL) while generating 17 interceptions (13th in the NFL) and 32 sacks (23rd). The Chargers look like an improved unit entering the games that count.

Palmer and company are out of rhythm entering 2012 - the Chargers' D looks solid. Advantage, San Diego.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

It's unusual to see a Super Bowl winner rank among the top-5 teams in sacks allowed, but the Steelers did it last year with 49 sacks of Ben Roethlisberger in 16 games (over 3 per contest!). They're going to have to do better if they want to keep Roethlisberger's head screwed on straight, but the team did little in the way of free agent acquisitions on the line, preferring to build through the draft/promoting backups. Roethlisberger threw for 281/469 for 3301 yards, 17 TDs and 15 interceptions behind his leaky line. Santonio Holmes (55/821/5), Hines Ward (81/1043/7), and Heath Miller (48/514/3) return to the lineup to form the core of Pittsburgh's receivers' stable. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said on September 8th that both Limas Sweed and rookie Mike Wallace will serve as the No. 3 wideout at times. "There are different packages for both those guys so there's not really a third guy; it depends on the package that they're in right now," Arians said. "It gives us some flexibility that way."

The Titans averaged 199.8 passing yards allowed per game last year, with only 12 passing TDs given up over the season. They were second in the league in points allowed per game, with only 14.6 handed over - this unit is stout in both phases of the game. Tennessee had 20 interceptions generated (t - 6th in the NFL) and 44 sacks to their credit (5th in the league). However, the departure of DT Albert Haynesworth (8.5 sacks last year with Tennessee, 6 during 2007) has changed the complexion of the interior line. Tony Brown had 4 sacks last year, a career high, and he'll team with Jovan Haye (over from Tampa Bay) - Haye had 0 sacks last year but 6 during 2007. Perhaps these two will be able to fill the hole left by Haynesworth, but that remains to be seen. New DC Chuck Cecil was promoted from within the organization and should keep the defensive scheme very similar to what's been working in the past. Brady Quinn did O.K. vs. the Titans in week three of the preseason, tossing 11/15 for 128 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in his time on the field - Derek Anderson also moved the ball, with 7/11 for 77 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions.

The Steelers have an effective attack, but they have to deal with the Titans' very tough D on Thursday night - advantage, Tennessee.

PIT Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Philip Rivers enters this week with a number of pressing questions surrounding the aerial attack. How healthy is Antonio Gates (will he play)? How much will Chris Chambers have improved now that he's been with the team for a training camps worth of reps, and can Vincent Jackson command enough targets to be a fantasy-worthy option as WR #2? Late last week, Gates commented on his recovery from a serious foot injury as follows: "It could be a hindrance this season. I'm going to play and it is going to be OK. But it could bother me. I've practiced and it's been OK. But let's face it, nothing compares to game day. Game day will be the key for me." Rivers has been efficient but not outstanding with Gates (last year he was the 23rd-ranked fantasy QB in points per game) - we may get to see how well he can do without Gates during week 1, although that remains to be seen as of midweek.

The Panthers' pass rush whimpered and curled up in a ball last year (the team was 31st in the NFL with only 23 sacks to their credit), but they have improved dramatically this preseason after shuffling their lineup and watching Julius Peppers reassert himself as an elite DE. The DL posted 4 sacks vs. Washington during the preseason tune up game in week 3, one each by Peppers, Damione Lewis, Charles Johnson and Tyler Brayton. The Redskins could only muster 21/37 for 129 passing yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions in the face of the intense pressure. Last year, the Panthers were 17th in the NFL averaging 214.1 pass yards allowed per game, but this unit looks significantly improved over last years. San Diego is pretty good at pass blocking, ranking in the top 1/3 of the league last year with only 24 sacks allowed, but they will be tested this week.

San Diego's passing attack has a lot of unanswered questions entering week 1, while the Panthers have spent the preseason forging an improved unit and a lot of confidence. Rivers will have his hands full on Sunday when the Panthers come calling in Qualcomm Stadium.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Chargers only allowed 25 sacks of Phillip Rivers last year (among the top-10 in the NFL), while he rolled to a career season (312/478 for 4009 yards, 34 TDs and 11 interceptions). Antonio Gates (60/704/8 receiving last year) is said to be recovered from his painful foot/toe injury that plagued him last year (although he's been held out of the last two preseason games for 'general soreness'), and Vincent Jackson emerged last year to become a clear #1 WR for this offense (59/1098/7 receiving last year). With LaDainian Tomlinson reportedly 100% healthy, all the pieces are back in place for Rivers to have another banner season. Against Atlanta in the third preseason game Rivers looked sharp, with 10/15 for 185 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions during his time on the field.

The Raiders' pass D is quite good, allowing on average 201.3 yards last season (10th in the NFL), while giving up 20 passing TDs. Overall, the team was 24th in the NFL with 24.3 total points handed over per game, but that was largely due to an ineffective defensive front. New DC Jim Marshall, a longtime NFL coordinator, will try to reinvigorate a group that has lost it's gritty 'Oakland' luster in recent years. The team generated a respectable 16 interceptions (10th in the NFL) and 32 sacks (13th in the NFL) last year - as we said, the pass D wasn't the problem on this unit last year. However, Drew Brees didn't have much trouble moving the ball during the third preseason game (14/17 for 179 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions) as the Saints cruised to a 45-7 victory over Oakland. The team needs to get on top of their game entering regular season. Rivers and the Chargers have a stalwart opponent to face in the D's house this week - this looks like a tough matchup to us.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Philip Rivers looked outstanding at San Francisco on August 24, hitting 9/10 for 85 yards passing, one TD with zero interceptions, and taking zero sacks - he ended the day with a QB rating of 135.4 during the tune-up for regular season. Antonio Gates saw three targets for 3/28/1 receiving during the contest, hauling in Rivers' TD pass, and Ryan Mathews was also heavily involved with two targets for 2/26/0 receiving. A 25-yard TD pass to Mathews was nullified due to penalty shortly before Gates caught his TD score. The Chargers' first team receivers didn't see much action in the game as Rivers relied on his tight ends and running backs almost exclusively while on the field. Keenan Allen caught a 15-yard flare, but otherwise Malcom Floyd and Eddie Royal didn't get an opportunity to make a grab. Nevertheless, it is apparent that Rivers is in fine form entering the 2014 regular season.

Arizona's defense held the Cincinnati offense to field goals in the third exhibition game - the only TD scored was on an interception return by the Bengals' defense. Andy Dalton threw 13/21 for 157 yards, with zero TDs or interceptions thrown with the first team in Arizona - the Cardinals' D was tough to move against in both phases of the game. Arizona was tied for 14th in the NFL last season averaging 233 passing yards allowed per game, with 20 interceptions (tied for fifth) and 47 sacks (tied for sixth) over 16 games. This is a hard-nose, ball-hawking unit, friends.

Rivers is going strong entering 2014, but he's got a tough draw here in week one.

SD Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Alex Smith was awful during 2005. He is praying that the addition of go-to receiver Antonio Bryant will help out in this department, and all reports out of San Francisco indicate that their chemistry is growing with each passing day. However, another new weapon, TE Vernon Davis, has not been able to consistently link up with Smith during the pre-season, so it looks like Eric Johnson will need to contribute while the team works on developing Davis. WR Arnaz Battle is the team's #2 WR - he has struggled to stay healthy in years past. During week 3 of the pre-season, Dallas held Smith to 9/14 for 93 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception, although Smith did hook up for a TD with Davis (1/15/1) and hit Bryant twice (2/24/0). We'll see how far Smith has come in the opener.

The defense that faces off against the 49ers this week is divisional foe Arizona. The 8th ranked defense in total yards last year, averaging 295.6 given up per contest, the Cardinals ranked 12th vs. the pass, giving up 193.6 yards per game. They surrendered 23/35 for 248 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. the Bears during their third pre-season game. One obvious weakness in San Francisco that the Cardinals will look to exploit is their pass-blocking - the 49ers were 5th-worst in the NFL allowing 48 sacks last season.

Smith and company have a lot to prove against the Cardinals, but it won't be easy for them. This looks like a tough matchup for the 49'ers' reconstituted squad.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Marc Bulger escaped the preseason game against the Ravens without taking a sack, and given ample time to pass tossed 18/25 for 182 yards, 2 TDs and 0 inteceptions. However, this week he'll face the blitz-happy Eagles' defense, which generated 37 sacks last year (among the top 10 in the league) behind an offensive line that surrendered 48 sacks (6th-worst in the NFL last year). Bulger will throw to favorite Torry Holt (last year's 13th-best fantasy WR in total points) a ton, with Steven Jackson and Randy McMichael in line for short and intermediate routes. Drew Bennett is the other starting wide receiver entering week 1. Bulger has the skills to deliver good numbers when protected, but injury woes have degraded the OL at center (the most critical position on the OL for a QB) to the point that youngster Nick Leckey is going to start in week 1 (Brett Romberg broke his hand early in training camp and still can't snap a ball, while Mark Setterstrom was lost for the season to a knee injury on August 16th).

The Eagles were 18th in the NFL last year in terms of passing yards allowed (215.6), but second in the league with only 16 passing TDs given up. S Brian Dawkins demonstrated part of the reason why it is so hard to score on the Eagles in the preseason game vs. Carolina, when he hit Muhsin Muhammad so hard in the endzone that Muhammad dropped the ball, suffering rib injuries and having his bell rung on the play. Once a team is in the redzone and the field in constricted, the Eagles' defenders really make things tough on receivers. Matt Cassel, the starter for New England in week 3 of the preseason, could only manage 8/14 for 60 yards and 0 TDs with 0 interceptions in his time with the first team. Eventually his backup tossed 2 TDs in the 4th quarter, but when the starters were on the field, the Eagles dominated the situation.

The Rams have a tough game on their hands, playing in hostile Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The top two QBs on St. Louis' roster have spent the preseason battling for the number one job, and although A.J. Feeley has outplayed Sam Bradford for most of that time, Bradford managed a solid performance during week three of the preseason (15/22 for 189 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions) while Feeley was out due to thumb and elbow injuries inflicted on his throwing arm during the second preseason game. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo delayed making a call on which player will start for the team until after the final preseason game vs. Baltimore, when (unsurprisingly) Bradford was chosen to go into the breach for St. Louis this year. The passing attack suffered a big loss during preseason when last year's top receiver, Donnie Avery, was lost for the season due to a knee injury - Laurent Robinson and Danny Amendola are currently the starters at WR for the Rams, though ex-Raven Mark Clayton will try to get up to speed in his new setting for the season opener. Robinson had 13/167/1 for the Rams last year before going out for the season due to injury after three games; Amendola managed 43/326/1 receiving during his rookie campaign with the team.

Arizona has one of the top safeties in the game, Adrian Wilson, but their pass D was pretty mediocre during 2009, with 3,729 net yards allowed (23rd in the NFL) and 22 pass TDs given away (14th). However, the squad is very opportunistic when it comes to generating turnovers, notching 21 interceptions last year (seventh in the NFL) - Bradford will need to be very careful with his passes on Sunday (rookie QBs are often interception-prone during their first season in the league). The Cardinals held the Jay Cutler/Mike Martz offense of Chicago to 20/32 for 210 net yards, one TD and two interceptions during week three of preseason (Cutler and the starters only managed 10/20 for 129 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions). The unit looks pretty solid entering 2010.

The Rams are fielding inexperienced wide receivers/new free agent acquisition Clayton and the rookie Bradford as their starting QB. St. Louis faces the Cardinals' veteran defense, and we think Arizona has the edge in this matchup.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Sam Bradford opens the 2013 season with a hopeful outlook - he has a young, talented group of receivers to throw to led by veterans Chris Givens (80 targets for 42/698/3 receiving last season) and Austin Pettis (48 for 30/261/4 receiving during 2012), a good-looking rookie receiver in Tavon Austin, and a good free-agent import at tight end in Jared Cook. Cook led the team in receiving during week three of the preseason (six targets for 4/50/1 receiving, catching the TD from Bradford) while Bradford posted 9/16 for 110 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions during a partial game. Bradford may be on his way up into the ranks of 4,000+ yards passers this season.

The Cardinals' pass D was solid during 2012, averaging 200.8 net yards allowed per game (fifth in the NFL) with 20 passing scores given up vs. 22 interceptions (second in the NFL) and 38 sacks (tied for 11th) generated. Philip Rivers was held to 10/18 for 71 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception at Arizona in the third preseason game, and the Chargers had just 17/32 for 183 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception as a whole during the game.

Bradford has a lot of buzz entering 2013, but in week one he faces a tough challenge from the visiting Cardinals.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Chris Simms has solidified his grasp on the starting job in Tampa, and is blessed with some very skilled targets to throw to in Joey Galloway, Michael Clayton, and Alex Smith. However, he is having one consistent problem during pre-season that has carried over from last year - a lot of his passes are being swatted down/tipped at the line of scrimmage by defenders. Last year, he had 5.1% of his passes (reported in the St. Petersburg times), which was the most of any NFL player. His offensive linemen need to do a better job of keeping defenders out of the box (Tampa was in the middle of the league last year with 41 sacks allowed). Of course, he went through the pre-season almost entirely without his starting running back, Cadillac Williams, so teams could concentrate more on pass defense when Simms was under center. We'll see if the problems continue as we enter the season opener.

The Ravens sported the 8th ranked pass defense last year in yards allowed (2964 passing yards allowed) and were 11th in passing scores surrendered with 18 handed over. They will have a new starting SS - Dawan Landry, a rookie - this season, and hope that Ed Reed can avoid the injury bug this season. During the week 3 pre-season game, Minnesota managed 15/27 for 228 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions, so they were off their 2005 average of 185.3 passing yards allowed per game that day.

Simms has strong prospects this season, but the first hurdle in the form of Baltimore looks like a high one. We think this is a tough matchup for the Buc's offense.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jeff Garcia missed a lot of time in training camp due to a calf injury and watched as the team pursued Brett Favre as his replacement. However, he's survived both threats to lead an NFL team for another campaign - right now, there are some big question marks around this unit, though. Garcia managed to play in the 3rd preseason game but was obviously rusty (11/18 for 79 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions). Joey Galloway nursed a groin injury throughout training camp and preseason, allowing Antonio Bryant to make a case for sticking with the team. For now, Galloway remains the #1 WR (though he hasn't worked with Garcia much at all). Michael Clayton has a tenuous hold on the #2 WR position, with Bryant waiting in the wings. Alex Smith is the #1 TE - Ben Troupe hasn't made a move to earn playing time since landing with the team.

The Saints were 30th in the league last year in passing yards allowed per game (an average of 245.3), and gave up 32 passing TDs last year (dead last). They were middlin' when it came to generating sacks, with 32 to their credit as a team (Tampa handed over 36 sacks last season, also in the middle of the NFL range in that category). Carson Palmer felt the heat in the 3rd exhibition game, though, taking 3 of 4 sacks generated by the Saints (he got his nose broken in the game) as Cincy was shut out on the scoreboard and only tossed 21/32 for 127 net yards passing (and 1 interception). Entering 2008, the Saints appear to have improved their pass D.

Tampa is working through some issues entering week 1, while their division rivals look like they are in mid-season form. The additional advantage of playing in the Superdome tilts this game in favor of New Orleans.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Byron Leftwich won the top job in Tampa, and Luke McCown was shipped off to Jacksonville, leaving rookie Josh Freeman and second-year man Josh Johnson as the wet-behind-the-ears depth on the squad. Lead WR Antonio Bryant has spent the preseason rehabbing a knee after a surgical procedure to repair it - Bryant isn't concerned about not having rapport with Leftwich, though, saying 'Most of the spectacular catches I made last year were bad timing,' earlier this week. On September 9th, Bryant reported, 'I feel good. I don't have any pain [in the knee]. I think along with a couple of other things and adrenaline, I won't think about the knee too much.' Michael Clayton, the #2 WR has missed time at the end of training camp with a sore hamstring but is expected to play in the season opener. As you can see, Leftwich has had little time/repetitions with his wideouts. New TE Kellen Winslow Jr. leads the TE stable that also includes Jerramy Stevens. There are weapons available to Leftwich, but it remains to be seen how comfortable he is delivering the ball to them with such scant acquaintance.

Dallas was 5th in the NFL last year in passing yards allowed per game (187.7), but they gave up 19 passing TDs - this isn't a shut-down unit like the Colts boast. The secondary only generated 8 interceptions all year - one of only four teams with single-digit interceptions last year - yet the big guys up front piled up a league-leading 59 sacks during 2008. On balance, the pass D is credible but not elite. The Dallas D was 20th in the NFL overall averaging 22.8 points given up each game last year. In the third preseason game the defense shut out the 49ers QBs/receivers from the end zone (21/36 for 218 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions), which is a hopeful sign for the unit entering regular season.

The Buccaneers are rebuilding their passing attack, but it is far from a well-oiled machine entering week 1. In situations like this, the opposing defense usually has the upper hand - advantage, Dallas.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Josh Freeman is making Tampa Bay fans nervous this year, with lackluster play during preseason. This was especially evident in the third "preview of regular season" exhibition in which Freeman was harried by the Dolphins' pass rush, taking five sacks for -24 yards, while tossing just 6/16 for 59 yards passing, zero TDs and zero interceptions thrown. It is true that starting running back Doug Martin was held out of that preseason tilt for precautionary reasons, making it easier for the Dolphins to pin their ears back and get after the passer, but Freeman looked bad, as did starting wide receivers Vincent Jackson (four targets for 1/13/0 receiving) and Mike Williams (seven targets for 2/33/0 receiving). "It was an uphill battle," Freeman said afterwards. "We really weren't in sync like we'd like to be. There were a number of things that we have to get cleaned up." Head coach Greg Schiano was not pleased, either: "The quarterback play was not what I wanted it to be. The good thing is that we have two weeks before the season starts, because we're going to need every day of it." There is a lot of room for improvement for this squad entering week one of the regular season.

The Jets' pass D frustrated Eli Manning during the third preseason contest, limiting him to 8/20 for 83 yards passing, with zero TDs or interceptions thrown. Manning was sacked just once, for -7 yards, but the Jets' D did their job on August 24. Last year, the Jets averaged 189.8 net passing yards allowed per game (second-best in the NFL) while handing over 20 TDs vs. 11 interceptions (tied for 23rd) and generating 30 sacks (tied for 25th). Part of the reason for the strong finish in passing yards allowed was due to the poor rush D New York fielded, but the bottom line is that teams don't tend to pass the ball a lot when they face the Jets.

Freeman and company are hoping to get off on the right foot opening weekend, but the Jets' solid secondary and their 12th man at MetLife Stadium will make things tough for the Buccaneers.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Buccaneers went out and got Josh McCown from the Bears during the offseason after McCown wowed the football world subbing for an injured Jay Cutler last season, when McCown threw 149/224 for 1,829 yards, 13 TDs and one interception over eight appearances for the Bears. McCown has created chemistry with Vincent Jackson (7/68/1 receiving this past preseason) and rookie Mike Evans (5/96/1 receiving during exhibition games) during preseason/training camp - both players have caught a lot of TDs from McCown during practice sessions and Evans had another long score in a preseason game nullified due to a goal-line fumble that went through the end-zone. McCown and company look like they are on the same page entering Week One, regular season.

Carolina was sixth in the NFL last year averaging just 214 yards passing allowed per game, with 20 interceptions (tied for fifth in the NFL) and 60 sacks (first in the league) generated by the defense. Anyway you slice it, this is a top-notch defensive unit, folks. Tom Brady did team up with Shane Vereen for two passing scores during the third preseason game, ending the day with 17/21 for 204 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions thrown, so the Carolina first team stumbled with a vanilla preseason scheme. We'll see if they can return to top form now that the games count and the full array of defensive schemes will be brought to bear on the Panthers' divisional rivals.

McCown and company have a tough matchup here in Week One.

TB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

What a mess. The team lets long-time starter Steve McNair walk due to a pricey contract, awards the top job to Billy Volek, and then drafts a QB of the future in Vince Young. So far, so good. But then, almost at the end of the pre-season, the Titans bring in Kerry Collins and hopelessly muddling the depth chart at the most important offensive position on the field. The best guess for week 1 is Collins starting, backed up by Young and then Volek dropping to 3rd on the depth chart. David Givens has been hobbled by a bad hamstring almost all of pre-season, so the #2 WR across from Drew Bennett hasn't seen many reps. TE Erron Kinney is also iffy. At least the Titans still have Ben Troupe at TE. This is an passing offense you might want to avoid until the QB situation shakes itself out (if it ever does).

The Jets were fairly proficient vs. the pass during 2005 (partly because their rush defense was so bad teams didn't need to pass very much), allowing an average of 172.2 passing yards per game (2nd in the NFL) and 17 passing TDs (8th in the NFL). The team has a new head coach in former Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini, but their secondary is not stocked with star power now that Ty Law has moved on. We'll see how they fare this year.

The Jets aren't a flashy bunch of defenders, but the confused situation in Tennessee gives them a leg up in this game. Advantage, Jets.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

What will Vince Young do vs. the Jaguars' formidable defense? They were 4th in the NFL last year vs. opposing ball carriers (91.3 rushing yards allowed per game during 2006, with 14 rushing scores handed over), and ranked 10th vs. opposing passers (192.4 yards allowed per game, with 12 passing scores surrendered). With only 274 points allowed all season (4th in the NFL), the Jaguars' D made many a team offense look miserable.

Young tossed 15/36 for 153 yards, 1 TD and 3 interceptions vs the Jags in week 11 last year (4/14/0 rushing) and followed up with 8/15 for 85 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during week 15 (4/4/0 rushing). He has a largely untried group at WR, with Brandon Jones, Roydell Williams, and Eric Moulds at the head of an unexciting stable. TE Ben Troupe hasn't played much during preseason, and Bo Scaife isn't Antonio Gates. Nashville, we have a problem here...

This one looks like a tough matchup for Young and company.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tennessee went out and landed a young QB's best friend (a competent pass-catching TE) - in this case, a guy named Alge Crumpler, who is used to leading a team in receiving dating back to his Atlanta days. However, the problem for Vince Young and Crumpler is that the WR corps has been shredded by injury woes and lackluster play during preseason. Roydell Williams' ankle didn't come around and he's off the team, leaving Justin Gage and Justin McCareins as the starters with Brandon Jones as the #3. Gage snagged 2/32/0 receiving vs. Atlanta and McCareins posted 2/17/0 in the 3rd preseason game. Gage's best season was last year in Tennessee, with 55/750/2, while McCareins had his best year with the Titans back in 2003 (47/813/7) before his 4-year sojourn in New York City (he didn't get along with Jets' coach Eric Mangini and was used sparingly in '06 and '07). One good thing about McCareins - he's played in 16 games for 4 straight seasons, so hopefully he'll be a consistent presence for Young and the Titans this year.

The Jaguars tried to turn up the heat on opposing QBs by drafting Derrick Harvey this year, but his extended holdout during training camp has postponed that plan until later this season (if at all this year). Jacksonville was in the top 1/3 of the league with 37 sacks generated last year (the Titans were in the middle of the NFL pack with 30 allowed), but they wanted to do more in that arena. Jacksonville ranked 15th in the league averaging 213.5 pass yards given up per game, with 20 passing scores handed over (tied for 11th in the NFL). During their week 3 preseason game vs. Tampa, the team allowed 29/48 for 247 yards and 2 TDs, but they also generated 3 interceptions (2 of starter Jeff Garcia). On balance, this is a good but not great pass defense entering '08.

Young was 28th among all fantasy QBs in points per game last year, so he has ample room to improve - at home, against the solid Jaguars, he faces a tough stretch of road to begin his new season.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Vince Young appeared in all four preseason games, and posted 24/35 for 278 yards, one TD and one interception while leading the Titans to two wins. The current depth chart has Justin Gage and Nate Washington as the starting wide receivers, but Gage has missed a lot of time due to a thumb injury and his starting spot has landed in Kenny Britt's lap, at least for week one. If Britt can get his attitude straight and play hard, he could keep the starting job. At tight end, Bo Scaife and Jared Cook give Young some nice options, and of course Chris Johnson is a fine receiver out of the backfield. Young threw for more TDs (10) than interceptions (seven) last year, and managed 152/259 for 1,879 yards passing over 12 games (with 55/281/2 rushing as a sweetener). We'll see if Young can continue to build on his improved passing during 2010, but he is at least firmly in the catbird seat as the starter since getting over the strange drama/demotion that occurred during 2008.

Oakland's pass D was among the league's top-ten last year, allowing an average of 206.4 net yards per game (seventh in the NFL), with only 16 passing scores surrendered (sixth). The team didn't generate much in the way of turnovers, with only eight interceptions (31st in the NFL), but they tied for 11th in the NFL with 37 sacks. Overall, the Raiders field a very respectable pass D. Alex Smith and the 49ers could only manage 16/32 for 167 yards, one TD and zero interceptions vs. the Raiders during their week three preseason 'Battle of the Bay'.

Young has some weapons to throw at the Raiders, but this looks like a tough matchup for him to start the year with, traveling to hostile LP Field on Sunday. Also, the Raiders rush D is so sad that the team may hand off the ball to Chris Johnson all day long and pass just a few times to keep the defense backed off the line of scrimmage.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jason Campbell missed time during training camp/preseason due to a bruised knee - his #1 WR Santana Moss has suffered from a variety of ailments during the exhibitions, as well. Campbell did take the field during the final week of preseason and looked very capable, with 5/5 for 54 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions before he sat down on the bench. Moss managed 1 catch for 4 yards. Of the 2 players, Moss is the more worrisome as his injuries are causing a cascade of problems: according to a story in the Washington Post on August 1st: "He feels like he's compensating a little bit on his leg, so he's got a soreness in his groin instead of the hip flexor/abdominal area (which he hurt this offseason," [Director of Sports Medicine Bubba] Tyer said. When asked specifically if Moss had been compensating for discomfort in his hamstring - a problem with him going back several years - Tyer said that Moss was compensating for "his leg in general." Antoine Randle-El and and Brandon Lloyd are the #2 and #3 WRs entering 2007 - Randle-El pulled in a TD (1/23/1) during the final preseason game.

Miami averaged 187.9 passing yards allowed per game last year (5th in the NFL), but coughed up 22 passing TDs. They were 3rd in the NFL with 47 sacks - this defense gets in the face of opposing signal callers. During week 3 of the preseason, the Dolphins had 3 QB sacks vs. Tampa Bay, but allowed 13/37 for 201 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception during the course of the game. Washington gave up only 19 sacks last year (they are good at pass-blocking), which was 3rd in the NFL.

Campbell has looked strong in brief appearances, but the Dolphins are not pushovers in this phase of the game - this looks like a tough matchup to us.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jason Campbell has looked pretty good in the new offense installed by the coaching staff under Jim Zorn, with wins over Indianapolis, Buffalo and the New York Jets to open preseason. However, the team hit a bump against the resurgent Panthers in their 4th preseason game (week 3, the "dress rehearsal" for regular season). Campbell managed to complete 6/10 passes, but only gained 39 yards for his efforts - Washington couldn't score a TD and only mustered one field goal during the 47-3 shellacking. Coach Zorn explained the bad loss as follows: "To me, it was the pass protection and it was the way Carolina played very good, tight man coverage. We had to have good protection so our quarterbacks could hone in and focus on the tight man coverage. We didn't do that and we didn't get [that protection]". As usual, Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El (recovering from a broken bone in his left hand - "It's doing good," said Randle El on September 1. "We're going to protect it as much as we can in practice, but it's nothing that's going to hold me out.") and Chris Cooley will be Campbell's main targets - rookies Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas have made a negligible impact with the squad during preseason and aren't looking like the next coming of Randy Moss (or Calvin Johnson) as of week 1. We'll see how the team rebounds against the Giants.

Speaking of the world champs, New York is working through personnel issues entering this contest due to the loss of Osi Umenyiora to a season-ending knee injury. With the retirement of Michael Strahan for the broadcasting booth and Umenyiora's injury, a big chunk of last years' league leading 53 sacks are now gone from the lineup. Mathias Kiwanuka will try and replace Umenyiora, but its fair to say that the pass rush has been degraded due to the losses. During the week 3 preseason game, the Giants managed 2 sacks of the Jets (while giving up 20/28 for 214 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception). During 2007, the team averaged 207.3 passing yards allowed per game (11th in the NFL), with 24 passing scores given up (tied for 20th in the league).

Both teams enter Thursday's kickoff spectacular a little discombobulated - we give a slight edge to the Giants due to their home field advantage as the New York fans greet their world champs back to the field.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Jason Campbell survived numerous rumors of various deals that the Redskins were trying to make with other teams around the league - it's fair to say that he is on the hot seat this season before it even begins. He threw for 315/506 yielding 3245 yards, 13 TDs and 6 interceptions last year, but aside from Santana Moss and Chris Cooley didn't have many knives in his drawer. This year, youngsters Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas are starting to catch on to the speed of the NFL game, and may provide Campbell with some more weapons to utilize. We'll see how they look when the games start counting. The Redskins tied for 10th-most sacks allowed per game last year (38), which is not a category in which you like to see your team finish top-10.

The Giants' defense was very good last year despite some key injuries (DE Osi Umenyiora, for example, missed the entirety of the season) - the team averaged just 196.2 passing yards allowed per game, with 17 passing TDs handed over in 16 contests. Overall, the Giants were 5th in the NFL averaging 18.4 points allowed per game - this is one tough unit to score on, friends. The Giants were ninth in the league with 17 interceptions and sixth in the league with 42 sacks - and they enter 2009 with better, healthier personnel than they ended up with last year. This is one scary unit, folks. Mark Sanchez handled the pressure well in the third preseason game (13/20 for 149 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions in his time on the field), but now that the games count expect new DC Bill Sheridan to turn up the heat with his outstanding defensive front.

Campbell needs to come up big this season, but he has a really tough matchup in front of him, on the road in Giants' stadium during week one.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Entering regular season, head coach Jay Gruden said on August 31 that Kirk Cousins 'is the best quarterback on our roster' and that he will be the starter for all of 2015. Of course, that remains to be seen as the Washington coaching staff has been very fickle with this key position since Gruden took over from Mike Shanahan. Cousins threw 126/204 for 1,710 yards passing over five starts last year, and hooked up for 10 TDs with his receivers while throwing nine interceptions to the opposition (in contrast, Robert Griffin threw 147/214 for 1,694 yards passing, four TDs and six interceptions over seven starts last year). Cousins may have a problem as DeSean Jackson is nursing a sore shoulder dating back to the middle of training camp, but Jackson is expected to give it a go here in Week One - we'll see if the shoulder hampers him. Lead tight end Jordan Reed played in the third preseason game after rehabbing a pulled hamstring (he had 2/21/0 receiving in the game). Washington has a number of moving parts that haven't had a lot of reps together during preseason due to injury and lineup changes/demotions.

The Dolphins' pass D was ranked sixth in the NFL last year averaging 222.3 net passing yards allowed per game, with 27 passing scores given up vs. 14 interceptions (tied for 14th in the NFL) and 39 sacks generated (tied for 16th). They did better during exhibition season (199.8 net passing yards allowed per game), but we take that number with a large grain of salt. In short, the Miami pass D looks solid once again entering regular season.

This is a tough assignment for Cousins, who has to try and build/rebuild rapport with a high-pressure pass rush bearing down on him Sunday.

WAS Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The big question mark around the Cardinals' offense was whether or not the line can protect Carson Palmer from opposing pass rushers - last year the line was dead last in the NFL with 58 sacks allowed, and they also gave up 97 quarterback hits. Unfortunately, first round pick Jonathan Cooper broke his leg in preseason and landed on IR, damaging the renovation of this personnel group. During the third preseason game, San Diego posted four sacks for -50 yards on Arizona quarterbacks, an ominous sign, though Palmer only took one for -9 yards while passing for 12/23 yielding 122 yards and one TD. It remains to be seen if Palmer will get the time he needs to throw the football during 2013. Larry Fitzgerald (six targets for 4/34/0 receiving in the third exhibition), Andre Roberts (three for 2/42/0), and Michael Floyd (four for 2/21/1) hope that Palmer does get improved offensive line play. We'll know more once we see this unit in a game that counts on Sunday.

The Rams' pass rush is among the best in the league, with 52 sacks recorded a year ago (tied for first in the NFL), though they didn't manage to get to Peyton Manning in the third exhibion contest (allowing 25/34 for 234 yards, one TD and one interception to Manning). Last season the Rams had more interceptions (17) than TDs allowed (16) while averaging 225.1 net passing yards allowed per game (15th in the NFL).

Palmer and company could be in for a long day at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday - the Rams' strength at pass rushing plays to a glaring weakness of the Cardinals' offense. Footballguys.com's David Dodds has Palmer down as the 28th-ranked fantasy quarterback for week one - you may wish to look elsewhere for your starting quarterback in week one, friends.

ARI Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Michael Vick generates as much hype as any QB in the game. He is a phenomenon. At times, he shows an incredible arm, and he obviously can elude the rush like no one else. He'll also contribute with his legs running the ball. However, he just doesn't have much proven talent at wide receiver. No Falcon WR has ever had a 1,000 yard season. Michael Jenkins, one of the starters this year, has all of 7/119/0 on his pro resume. When the Falcons beat the Jags 23-7 during week 3 of the preseason, they threw 13/24 for 78 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception as a team (Vick had 5/10 for 44 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions), while rushing the ball 31 times for 176 yards - the team averaged 3.3 yards per pass attempt, and 5.7 yards per rush. Which phase of the game do you think the coaching staff will favor?

Philadelphia played solid pass D last year, giving up an average of 200.8 passing yards per game (12th in the league) while surrendering only 16 passing scores (Pittsburgh and Baltimore led the league with 14 scores allowed). They held Carson Palmer to 13/25 for 136 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the first part of the week 3 preseason game. Philadelphia looks like they are going to be very tough in this phase of the game again in 2005.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The weather inside the Georgia Dome is expected to be perfect. No weather concerns during this matchup, folks.

Philadelphia brings an experienced, elite pass D to the table. The Falcons have an unproven crowd at WR. We saw in the playoffs last year what can happen when the Eagles force Vick to throw the ball. Philly has a solid edge despite the hostile environs.

ATL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Steve McNair didn't score a ton of points during his appearances as the Raven's starting QB, throwing for just one TD, but he finished the exhibitions having completed 76% of his passes (35/46) while getting acclimated to the new offense. That's some pretty impressive quarterbacking, folks. With Derrick Mason and Todd Heap to throw at, McNair should be able to do good things this season with the Ravens.

However, this week McNair has a tough mountain to climb. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were 1st in total defense last season, allowing a mere 277.8 yards per game, and they were also 6th vs. opposing passers, surrendering only 183.1 passing yards per contest, and 15 passing TDs in 16 games (4th least TDs allowed). Tampa's first defense held the Jags' starters scoreless in the third pre-season game of the year - they are very hard to move the ball on, and very hard to score on.

McNair makes the Ravens' passing attack much more credible, but this matchup is going to make for a stern test, especially as the Ravens are playing in Tampa's house.

BAL Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Coach Dick Jauron took no chances with Trent Edwards in the preseason finale, holding him out of the game and playing Gibran Hamdan throughout - Edwards has been coming back from a deep bruise on his thigh - "It's late in the preseason and we have to be careful with what we do from here on in. We have to get our guys ready for the opening game (Sept. 7 against Seattle)." Jauron commented. We haven't seen much of Edwards due to the injury - backup J.P. Losman led the team in week 3 of the preseason (13/19 for 108 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions). Rookie James Hardy missed a lot of time in camp/preseason due to a hamstring problem and Roscoe Parrish has struggled with a knee injury - the passing offense hasn't worked together much entering regular season. Edwards was the 41st ranked fantasy QB in points per game last year, and the team relies heavily on running the ball/playing good defense. Right now, Lee Evans is probably the fantasy-worthy player on the unit (38th fantasy WR in points per game last year with 55/849/5). It would be no surprise to see Edwards start the season slowly with so few reps during preseason.

The Seahawks held Philip Rivers to 11/21 for 143 yards during their preseason contest in week 3 (but Rivers didn't have LaDainian Tomlinson or Antonio Gates on the field with him). The secondary did a better job in that contest than the front seven fared against the Chargers' rushing attack. Last year, the Seahawks were 19th in the NFL averaging 219.1 passing yards allowed per game, with only 15 passing TDs given up (1st in the NFL) - they were 4th in the NFL with 45 sacks to their credit as well. It simply isn't easy to score on CB Marcus Trufant and company. DB Jordan Babineaux was suspended by the league for next week's season opener at Buffalo due to a substance abuse violation, thinning the team's depth for week 1.

Edwards is likely to be rusty and hasn't been a world-beater when fully up to speed - against the Seahawks he's in for a rough first game.

BUF Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Cam Newton hasn't wowed us as a passer during the four preseason contests, with a grand total of 24/57 for 300 net passing yards, one TD and zero interceptions (that's a 42.1% completion rate, folks - not good). He did post 4/49/1 rushing at Cincinnati in week three of preseason (while throwing for 6/19 for 75 yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions) in the 'dress rehearsal' for regular season, but there is clearly a lot of room for improvement from Newton as a passer - and he'll have to learn on the job this year as he is the team's starter from week one forwards. The new TE tandem of Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey gives Newton a steady pair of veteran TEs to utilize, and Steve Smith was persuaded to stay with the team as the lead wide receiver after the lockout was over. However, the team lost David Gettis to a torn ACL during preseason and nobody else on the squad has claimed the #2 wide receiver role across from Smith during preseason. Legedu Naanee hasn't impressed, so the Panthers brought in another ex-Charger after cut-down day when they signed Seyi Ajirotutu (23 targets for 13/262/2 receiving as a rookie in San Diego last year) to try and find some spark across from Smith. With so many new players on the roster and a raw rookie learning to throw the football at this level, there isn't a lot of optimism about the Panthers' passing attack to start off 2011. Newton hasn't been able to find his wide receivers very much at all so far as a pro, and the team has struggled to convert third-down situations, which was very much a challenge for the Panthers' offense last year as well. Last year's starter Jimmy Clausen has fell to third on the depth chart, and ex-Cardinal-flop Derek Anderson is the team's current number two QB, leaving the Panthers with Newton as their best option entering week one of the regular season.

The Cardinals' pass D was 23rd in the NFL last season averaging 228.4 net yards allowed per game, with 22 passing TDs surrendered vs. 17 interceptions (tie-11th) and 33 sacks (tie-18th) generated. The team did draft a new CB in the first round this year, Patrick Peterson, and he is slated to start for Arizona, and the team picked up Richard Marshall from Carolina in free agency to bolster the CB corps. However, Chargers' starter Philip Rivers still rocked this unit for 18/28 yielding 198 passing yards, two TDs and one interception during the third preseason game, showing that the Cardinals' secondary still has a lot of work to do ahead of them this year. It doesn't look like the Arizona pass D has improved much yet - they are ranked at #24 as a team D by the Footballguys.com board of experts entering 2011, and are pegged at 19th among the 32 defenses on David Dodd's individual team D board.

Newton is a raw rookie and he'll be in a hostile NFL stadium for his first full-speed confrontation with an NFL-caliber defense that has game-planned to match him. This is always a very tough game for a rookie starter, folks - we rank this a bad matchup for the Panthers' passing attack despite the Cardinals' flaws in this department. Also, the Cardinals' weakness in the rushing phase of the game invites the Panthers to run the ball right down their throats this week, lessening the need to throw the ball in order to win this game.

CAR Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Kyle Orton outdueled Rex Grossman during training camp, and is the new starting QB for the Bears. He seems to favor Greg Olsen (1/18/0 vs. San Francisco - Desmond Clark was injured during training camp (sprained knee) and didn't play in the 3rd preseason game) and Rashied Davis (4/58/2 vs. San Francisco) as targets so far, though the team has worked hard at integrating Devin Hester into the passing game during preseason. "Rashied's a great receiver and he's getting better every week," Orton said after the 3rd preseason game. "He cares about it and he works hard. He puts the time and effort in, and he's seeing the benefits now. He can run some great routes and he's always in the right spot and he catches the ball." Brandon Lloyd will begin the season as the #2 WR, but we haven't seen much reason to get excited about his play so far.

The Colts were dominant pass defenders last year, holding teams to an average of 172.8 yards per game (2nd in the NFL) and they gave up a paltry 16 pass TDs last year (2nd in the NFL). They didn't manage many sacks (only 28, towards the bottom of the league), but the return of Dwight Freeney to the lineup (he's finished rehabbing his foot injury) should help turn up the heat on opposing signal callers. During week 3 of the preseason, Indianapolis held the Bills to 20/29 for 157 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions - it looks like they are picking up with stout defense right where they left off in 2007.

Orton and company are working on becoming a cohesive unit, but they have a tough challenge ahead of them in hostile Lucas Oil Stadium. This looks like a very tough challenge for Orton and company.

CHI Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Andy Dalton is leading the Bengals' offense into a new era. Chad Ochocinco is a Patriot, and Terrell Owens is out of the league right now (goodbye 'Batman and Robin'), and Carson Palmer has refused to play ball for Mike Brown anymore. Youngsters A.J. Green (a rookie) and Jerome Simpson (a 25-year old fourth-year pro, who had more than one reception for the first time in his career last season with 24 targets for 20/277/3 for Cincinnati over five games played) are the starting wide receivers, and second-year pro Jermaine Gresham is the lead tight end. Gresham has the most NFL receptions of the three, with 81 targets for 52/471/4 receiving in his first NFL campaign last year. This is a very young and inexperienced squad, folks. Dalton did play well in the third preseason 'dress rehearsal' game, with 11/17 for 130 yards, one TD and zero interceptions to his credit vs. Carolina. But this week Dalton will get baptized in fire at his in-state and in-divisional rival's house up in Cleveland.

Speaking of the Browns, Cleveland ranked 18th in the NFL last year in net passing yards allowed per game, with 220.7 on average, while allowing 26 TDs vs. 19 interceptions (tied for eighth in the league) and 29 sacks (tied for 25th) generated. Though the unit creates turnovers, they aren't what you'd call a shut-down type of secondary. Mike Vick and Vince Young eked out 19/30 for 135 net yards, zero TDs and zero interceptions vs. Cleveland in the third exhibition game, which is an encouraging sign, but this unit still has a lot to prove to everyone - even though it isn't a perfect measure of how tough their pass defense is, Cleveland is ranked in the bottom tier of the NFL team defenses by the Footballguys.com staff consensus (30th) and on David Dodds' individual board (26th). Nobody is scared to face this defensive squad as of September 2011.

Dalton is a rookie NFL quarterback in his first regular-season start. This is always a very challenging game for a rookie, especially in such a hostile stadium as the Browns' home field while starting for the Bengals. Cleveland's pass D isn't an elite unit, but they will give Dalton all he can handle on Sunday.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Andy Dalton did very well as a rookie last year (300/516 for 3,398 net passing yards, 20 TDs and 13 interceptions, with 37/152/1 rushing to boot). A.J. Green returns as his lead wide receiver (127 targets for 65/1,057/7 receiving last year) and the team is hopeful that starting tight end Jermaine Gresham (98 targets for 56/596/6 receiving last year) can play in week one despite a knee sprain that cost him the latter portion of training camp - the team confirmed on Sunday, 8/26 that Gresham would sit out the final preseason game, but also indicated that he was expected to be ready for the start of regular season. The problem this year is that the #2 wide receiver spot is unsettled (Jerome Simpson and Jordan Shipley have both departed the team) and the players vying for the #2 spot are mainly youngsters. Armon Binns (practice squad player during 2011 until week 17), rookies Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones, and the perennially under-performing Brandon Tate. There is little in the way of veteran experience on this very young aerial attack.

The Ravens, on the other hand, have a wealth of NFL experience on their defensive unit - last year, the Ravens were fourth in the NFL averaging just 196.2 net passing yards allowed per game. They coughed up a mere 11 passing scores (least in the NFL last year), while notching 15 interceptions (tied for 17th in the NFL) and a whopping 48 sacks (tied for third in the NFL). Cincinnati does a good job of protecting Dalton, though, with just 25 sacks allowed last season (tied for fourth-least in the NFL). Dalton struggled to score on Baltimore last year, with 46/89 for 605 yards passing, one TD and three interceptions thrown vs. the Ravens.

This looks like a bad matchup for the youthful Bengals.

CIN Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Brandon Weeden had little success against the Eagles on August 24, 2012, tossing 9/20 for 117 yards passing and zero TDs with zero interceptions, while taking three sacks for -25 yards. Through the three preseason games he appeared in, Weeden tossed 24/49 (49.0 completion percentage) for 297 yards with zero TDs and one interception. The Browns have surprisingly kept Colt McCoy as Weeden's backup - many expected McCoy to be dealt in a trade but that didn't materialize during preseason. Entering regular season Greg Little is the clear #1 wide receiver with Mohamed Massoquoi and rookie Josh Gordon vying for the #2 slot - veteran Benjamin Watson has been challenged by Jordan Cameron during preseason for the starting tight end spot and it remains to be seen who will emerge there. As you can see, this is a young team during a time of flux entering regular season.

The Eagles' pass D ended 2011 ranked 10th in terms of net yards allowed per game (212.3), but they coughed up a hefty 27 passing scores last season (24th in the NFL) while racking up 15 interceptions (tied for 17th in the NFL) and a whopping 50 sacks (tied for first). As we've already seen this year, Weeden is susceptible to the Eagles' pass pressure and failed to move the ball much vs. Philadelphia the first time around.

The Eagles were running a vanilla preseason defense two weeks ago and still sacked Weeden three times in only half of a game - this looks like a horrid matchup for the new Cleveland quarterback.

CLE Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Houston's Carr has been less than stellar during preseason. He came up small vs. the Cowboys in week 3 (7/19 for 52 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions) and was abysmal during week 4 vs. Tampa Bay ( 1/5 for 4 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions). He was the 18th ranked fantasy QB during 2004 (286/467 for 3539 passing yards, 16 TDs and 14 interceptions, with 72/303/0 rushing), but he looks like he is regressing rather than progressing during 2005. That's bad news for Andre Johnson owners.

Buffalo fields one of the premier defenses in the league. They ranked 3rd in the NFL last year in this phase, allowing 164 passing yards per game (with 20 passing scores allowed over 16 games). During week 3 the Bears' motley crew of journeymen/rookie QB's eked out 14/33 for 157 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions against this group. It looks like Buffalo is picking up 2005 where it ended 2004 in this phase - on top of their game.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

The forecast for Ralph Wilson Stadium is ideal -- 78F for a high, 60F for a low on Sunday, with a 0% chance for rain. Weather shouldn't be a factor in this matchup.

Buffalo has a top-tier pass D, while the Texans are struggling to find a rhythm. Advantage, Buffalo.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Brian Hoyer won the competition to start for the Texans - now what? Arian Foster is out injured so the rushing attack isn't to be feared, and Kansas City has very capable pass rushers - Hoyer may well be pressured severely this weekend. He may find it hard to find DeAndre Hopkins (127 for 76/1,210/6 receiving for Houston last year), or the other wideouts on the team - veterans Nate Washington and Cecil Shorts, or rookie Jaelen Strong. Footballguys.com's David Dodds has Hoyer down as the 31st-ranked fantasy quarterback in his Week One first-cut projections, with 19/33 for 209 yards passing, 1.2 TDs and 0.9 interceptions likely in this first start for Hoyer as a Texan. This looks like a situation to avoid, unless you want to roll the dice on Hopkins snagging enough balls to warrant a fantasy start.

The Chiefs' pass D got a boost when S Eric Berry returned from his bout with cancer this preseason, so his presence should help fortify the secondary. The Chiefs were second in the NFL last year averaging 203.2 net passing yards allowed per game, with 22 passing scores given up vs. six interceptions generated (last in the NFL) - they had 46 sacks as a unit (fifth-best in the NFL). We'll see if the Chiefs can generate some more turnovers here in this game, as that was the one flaw in their pass D last season.

Advantage, Kansas City.

HOU Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

David Garrard will work with a young set of starting wide receivers this year in Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas, and he has two capable tight ends in Marcedes Lewis and Zach Miller. Garrard knows that this year is his 'make-or-break' campaign as the Jaguars' starter, and he'll have the advantage of having worked with Sims-Walker and Thomas for two consecutive training camps/seasons. So far, Garrard has looked decent in preseason action, with 24/31 for 211 yards, zero TDs and one interception vs. Tampa Bay in the preseason week three game, and he's posted a total of 325 passing yards, one TD and one interception during preseason, with a 71.4 completion percentage. Now that the games count, it will be fun to see how his chemistry with the receivers develops during September.

The Denver pass D was strong across the board last year, ranking third in pass yards allowed (186.3), with 16 pass TDs given up vs. 17 interceptions generated (eighth and 13th in the NFL, respectively). Denver also posted 39 sacks to rank 10th in the league. The Steelers' QBs were tortured by Denver in week three of the preseason to the tune of 16/30 for 180 net yards, one TD and three interceptions, with three sacks and eight hits on the QB generated. These guys are tough pass defenders, folks.

Garrard has a good start on 2010, but the Broncos' pass D will make the home opener a challenge - advantage, Denver. Also, the weak Denver defensive front may tilt the run-pass ratio heavily towards the running game this week.

JAX Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Brodie Croyle was running for his life during the week 3 exhibition contest vs. Miami - the Dolphins sacked him 5 times and harassed him into a fumble and an interception on the way to 12/21 for 110 yards and 0 TDs. "I think these guys are embarrassed about the way they played," Kansas City coach Herman Edwards said after the debacle. "Why it happened I don't know." Croyle has looked pretty sorry throughout preseason after his 2007 finish as the 54th fantasy QB in points per game. Dwayne Bowe and Tony Gonzalez owners are hoping that he'll be at least mediocre now that the games count, but the OL problems are very scary entering week 1. KC was tied for worst in the NFL last year giving up 55 QB sacks, and they are on pace to "better" that mark in 2008.

The Patriots bring one of the league's best pass rushes to the table, with 47 sacks to their credit last year (2nd in the NFL). They were 6th in the league averaging 190.1 passing yards allowed per game, and gave up 23 passing scores last year (18th in the league). During their week 3 preseason tune up to regular season, the defense allowed 13/17 for 180 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to Donovan McNabb (with only 1 sack during the game). The pass D enters 2008 off their usual pace, as you can see.

The Patriots weren't impressive during preseason, but now that the games count look for them to elevate their game. Considering the woeful K.C. signal caller, the Patriots have a big edge over the visiting Chiefs this week.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Chiefs allowed the 12th-most sacks in the league last year (37), and they haven't been doing a good job of protecting Matt Cassel during preseason this year. Cassel appeared on Kansas City's practice field Monday September 7th for the first time since injuring his left knee on Aug. 29, but his status for Sunday's opener at Baltimore isn't currently known. Coach Todd Haley stated 'I think that as the week goes on, we'll know a little bit more. We'll know a little bit more with Matt for sure. But it was good that he was out there. He was able to get through some things. As the week goes on a little further, we'll know a little more as far as where he's at.' If Cassel can't go, the Chiefs are likely to start Brodie Croyle in his stead (welcome back to the starting lineup, Croyle, now go face the Ravens' defense - nice, huh?). WR Dwayne Bowe and TE Sean Ryan are the top receivers in the patterns so far this year - Mark Bradley, Bobby Engram, and Terrance Copper are battling for playing time entering week 1 of the regular season. As of Wednesday, reports out of K.C. were optimistic that Cassel would be able to play in the season opener.

The Ravens were second in the NFL during 2008 in pass yards allowed per game, with 179.7, and they were first in the NFL with 26 interceptions during the year. The team was 15th in the NFL with 34 sacks generated. The defensive unit as a whole was third in the NFL averaging only 15.3 points allowed per game - it is very hard to rack up multiple TDs vs. the Ravens. The Ravens blanked Jake Delhomme and Josh McCown on August 29th (13/20 for 203 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions) - it looks like they are ready to be a stubborn unit again during 2009.

K.C. is in transition this year, while Baltimore is rock-solid and brings a lot of crazed fans into this situation, too - advantage, Baltimore.

KC Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Ryan Tannehill beat out Matt Moore and David Garrard for the starting job in Miami, and his reward is to travel to Houston and face the league's third-ranked pass defense. Houston allowed an average of 189.7 net passing yards per game last year, while giving up just 18 passing TDs (sixth-least in the NFL). The team generated 17 interceptions (tied for 13th in the NFL) and 44 sacks (sixth) - meanwhile, the Dolphins handed over 52 sacks during 2011 (third-most in the NFL last year). This looks like an ugly matchup for Tannehill just on the face of it.

But it gets worse - Tannehill didn't start getting meaningful quarterback reps until half way through his junior year at Texas A&M - and he has perhaps the league's most undistinguished starting tandem at wide receiver in Davon Bess (85 targets for 51/537/3 receiving last year) and Legedu Naanee (75 targets for 44/467/1 receiving in Carolina last year). Anthony Fasano is a serviceable tight end (54 targets for 32/451/5 receiving during 2011), but nothing special. Tannehill will try to make something happen despite his leaky offensive line, but let's face it - the Texans will bring pressure early and often and Tannehill is going to take some wicked shots in his first pro start down there in the deafening Reliant Stadium.

Look elsewhere for your week one starting lineup, folks. The Dolphins are in for a rough season opener.

MIA Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Rookie Derek Carr missed much of training camp due to sore ribs, losing valuable reps with the veterans around him, but did finally play in the fourth exhibition game, against the Seattle reserve defenders. Lo and behold, he threw 11/13 for 143 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions against guys who were probably cut by the Seahawks on cut-down day. This performance combined with Matt Schaub's sore throwing elbow and lack-luster performances during preseason combined to catapult Carr into the starting job Week One. In New York, against the Jets' hard-charging defense.

Good luck with that, Derek Carr - very soon you'll be able to empathize with what older brother David went through in Houston years back. Our David Dodds has Carr down as the 28th-ranked fantasy quarterback this week, with 21/35 for 228 yards, 1.3 TDs and .9 interceptions thrown in this situation. It could easily be uglier than this modest stat line, friends.

The Jets had 41 sacks a year ago, tied for 13th in the NFL, and will get off to a great start to exceed that total this year when Carr and the Raiders face Gang Green. The Jets were 22nd in the NFL a year ago, averaging 247 yards passing allowed per game, with 26 TDs given up vs. 13 interceptions generated.

Look at other options before tabbing Oakland receivers for your starting lineup this week.

OAK Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Matt Hasselbeck survived the arrival of Charlie Whitehurst in Seattle (a trade arranged by new head coach Pete Carroll and the front office staff), though Hasselbeck wasn't stellar during preseason (4/10 for 26 yards in the preseason opener, then 11/15 for 127 yards and one TD in the second game, followed by 9/17 for 126 yards in the third contest at Minnesota). The Seahawks juggled their starting lineup at the end of camp when they released T.J. Houshmandzadeh and elected to go with Deion Branch and Mike Williams as the starters (yes, that Mike Williams, the former USC star who was a draft bust for Detroit - he's been out of the league since 2007), followed by Deon Butler and rookie Golden Tate. John Carlson remains an outstanding option at tight end, and both Justin Forsett and Leon Washington are reliable receivers out of the backfield. We'll see if Hasselbeck can stay healthy and productive during 2010 (something he couldn't do during 2009).

The 49ers averaged 229.4 net passing yards allowed per game last year (21st in the NFL), but they only allowed 14 passing scores (second in the NFL) vs 18 interceptions generated (11th). The team also tied for third in the league with 44 sacks - overall this is a very good pass D that bends at points, but doesn't often break. Oakland's starter, Jason Campbell, was held to 6/8 for 93 yards in the third preseason game, but the reserves let Oakland's total climb to 20/30 for 276 net yards, two TDs and zero interceptions by the end of that game.

Seattle struggled to move the football last season (in 14 games Hasselbeck managed 293/488 for 3,029 yards, 17 TDs and 17 interceptions to check in at 20th among all fantasy starters), and they have done little to upgrade at the wide receiver position beyond drafting Golden Tate. Advantage, San Francisco.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Russell Wilson outplayed Matt Flynn during preseason with 35/52 (67.3 completion percentage) for 464 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception over three preseason games. Wilson added 150 rushing yards and a one rushing score on 10 scrambles during his time on the field - now, though, the rookie faces his first-ever NFL regular season start. The speed of the pro game kicks up several notches from preseason to the 'real thing' - expect some hard times for Wilson during September as he faces the steep rookie QB learning curve vs. first-team NFL defenders. Wilson didn't get a lot of reps with starting wideout Sidney Rice as Rice spent most of training camp rehabbing from two offseason shoulder surgeries, and Doug Baldwin has also missed time due to an injured hamstring that required a surgical procedure to drain blood pooled next to the injured muscle. Braylon Edwards and Golden Tate are also in the mix here as of week one of regular season - the #2-#4 slots in the wide receiver stable aren't settled behind Rice just yet. At tight end, Kellen Winslow was waived so Zach Miller is the starter again - for now. The team just signed Evan Moore (recently a Cleveland Brown). This unit is in flux entering regular season.

Arizona's secondary ranked 17th in the NFL last year, averaging 231 net yards allowed per game, with 17 passing scores given up vs. 10 interceptions (26th in the NFL) and 42 sacks (seventh) generated. Seattle was 29th in the NFL allowing a whopping 50 sacks last year - it looks like Wilson will be scrambling around quite a bit in the hostile University of Phoenix Stadium this week. Second-year starter Jake Locker pitched 11/20 for 134 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions with zero sacks taken vs. Arizona in week three of the preseason - the lack of interceptions generated is typical for this defensive unit.

The Cardinals were pretty soft against the pass last year, but they have a good pass rush and the Seattle line was weak in pass protection last year. This looks like a bad matchup for a first-time NFL starter - Wilson will have a lot of rushers in his face this week, most likely. Advantage, Arizona.

SEA Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Colin Kaepernick has been bad during preseason - there is no other way to say it. Kaepernick continued his poor performances with 2/5 for 13 yards passing, while taking two sacks for -13 yards (one of which resulted in a safety), netting zero passing yards at Denver in the third exhibition. He did run three times for 53 yards, giving his fantasy owners a glimmer of hope ("Always feels good to be in the open field," Kaepernick said. "I feel that’s where I have the ability to make some plays."), but Kaepernick is not inspiring confidence entering regular season. In fact, Kaepernick hasn’t completed more than two passes in any of the 49ers’ exhibition games he appeared in. He's been sacked a lot, and took a safety in the third game at Denver as noted above. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith may not see many accurate passes until the offensive line starts to play better (if they do). Things look bleak for this unit entering Week One.

The Vikings' pass D ranked seventh in the NFL last year averaging 223.2 net passing yards allowed per game, with 26 passing scores allowed vs. 13 interceptions (tied for 18th in the NFL) and 41 sacks (tied-ninth) generated. However, Tony Romo and the Dallas ones ripped of 5/8 for 88 yards passing, two TDs and zero interceptions against the group in the third preseason game, and ominous sign for Minnesota fans. We'll see if they can right the ship with a real game plan against the struggling 49ers.

Advantage, Minnesota.

SF Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Nick Foles come over to St. Louis as Sam Bradford went to Philadelphia - two starting quarterback trades are rare in the NFL but it happened this season. Foles completed 10-of-11 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in the third preseason game against the Colts, which may be a good sign for his receivers - but exhibition games rarely tell us the whole story because the starters only participate part of the time. Brian Quick has missed a lot of reps with Foles due to his ongoing recovery from rotator cuff surgery - he was cleared for contact on August 24 and as of August 25 Quick is expected to appear in the third preseason game - he practiced fully on August 25. Quick did appear in the third game, but wasn't targeted in his time on the field. Kenny Britt (84 targets for 48/743/3 receiving last year) and Tavon Austin (44 for 31/242/0) round out the suspect receiving corps for Foles. Jared Cook is competent as the #1 fantasy tight, having notched 99 targets for 52/634/3 receiving last season.

The Seahawks' pass D ranked first in the NFL last year averaging 185.6 net passing yards, with 17 passing scores allowed vs. 13 interceptions (tied for 13th in the NFL) and 37 sacks (20th in the NFL) generated last year. This is a top-notch unit.

This looks like a bad matchup for Foles and company.

STL Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Tennessee has a great QB in Steve McNair and an excellent backup QB in Billy Volek. WR Drew Bennett is talented - but after these 3 players, the question marks start to add up quickly. Is Tyrone Calico back to 100% after reconstructive knee surgery? (he snagged 3/29/0 in the preseason finale) Will TE Ben Troupe play anytime soon? (left foot injury). Even McNair needs targets to hit in order to excel.

Pittsburgh boasted the 4th ranked pass D in the land last year, averaging 177.2 passing yards allowed per game. They also allowed a league-low of 14 passing TDs during the season. It's not easy to move the ball on this Pittsburgh squad. Washington's cadre of QBs managed 18/28 for 201 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception during the week 3 preseason contest - the Steelers enter 2005 looking as tough as ever.

The official NFL injury report will not be available until after our deadline to post the week 1 matchups. Please refer to the week 1 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.

Heinz Field is forecast to have a 0% chance for rain, a high of 80F and a low of 65F on Sunday -- practically perfect football weather, in our opinion.

McNair's supporting cast is thin and inexperienced - the Steelers are hard nosed and veteran. Advantage, Pittsburgh.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Kerry Collins returns as the Titans' starter (242/415 for 2676 yards, 12 TDs and 7 interceptions last year), but his receiving corps is injury-challenged to begin the season. Nate Washington, brought in by the team to be the teams lead receiver, has been fighting a serious hamstring pull for weeks and is a game time decision for the contest on Thursday as of September 8th (he partially participated in practice). Due to Washington's injury, the team is likely to start Justin Gage and rookie Kenny Britt at WR on Thursday night (Britt has played with the first team in Washington's absence from practices). Bo Scaife, Jared Cook and Alge Crumpler provide a deep TE corps to draw on, but the passing attack of the Titans doesn't scare many teams. Last year, the Titans' OL protected Kerry Collins exceptionally well, tying for first in the NFL with only 12 sacks allowed all year.

The Steelers were tops in the NFL last year vs. opposing passers, with an average of only 156.9 yards allowed per game, and a mere 12 passing TDs given up over the course of the season. They were #1 in the NFL last year averaging just 13.9 points allowed per game - this is one hard-nosed unit, folks. The team also collected 20 interceptions (6th in the NFL) and 51 sacks (2nd in the NFL). Buffalo crawled to 14/24 for 86 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception vs. the Steelers in their week three preseason game (the Steelers won 17-0). Kerry Collins is in for a long night on Thursday, friends.

This is a bad matchup for the visiting Titans and their thin receiving corps.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Jake Locker has slowly worked his way back into top shape during preseason after struggling in weeks 15-17 to close out last year's games (he separated his non-throwing arm shoulder which hampered his effectiveness, and had off-season corrective surgery on the joint). Locker notched a 'W' in the third exhibition game while throwing his first TD pass of preseason (11/13 for 133 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions thrown while taking three sacks for -19 yards). Veteran Nate Washington handled the TD pass from Locker and ended the day with four targets for 4/70/1 receiving to lead the Titans. Kenny Britt converted four targets into 3/42/0 receiving as the Titans eventually defeated the Falcons 27-16. "Preseason or not, at least we won one that the guys played into the third quarter on both sides, so you kind of got a real feel of where we're at,"said Titan head coach Mike Munchak. "Still a lot different than the regular season. We know that. But again, you want to be ready to go out and play." For the season opener, Kendall Wright is expected back in action after going down to a knee sprain in the second preseason game, which will give Locker his full compliment of receivers when the team decides to go three wide. Delanie Walker is also reported to be going full speed in practices before the season opener, and Walker is the top tight end on the depth chart - the Titans are getting healthy in time for week one, but how much chemistry Walker and Wright will have with Locker after extended absences is an open question.

The Steelers' pass D was ranked first in the NFL last year, averaging 185.2 net yards allowed per game, with 19 TDs given up vs. 10 interceptions (tied for 27th in the NFL) and 37 sacks (tied for 15th) generated. During the week three preseason game, Alex Smith pitched 17/24 for 158 yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions at Pittsburgh - the pass D wasn't as dominant as usual while running the vanilla preseason schemes.

Locker and company have a lot of work to do in order to develop chemistry, while the home-team Steelers field a top-ranked pass D - advantage, Pittsburgh.

TEN Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none




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