Some bold fantasy predictions as Week 1 arrives

Updated 9/6/2013 7:02 AM
  • JOE LEWNARD/  Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws a second-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth while being pursued by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jared Allen at Soldier Field Sunday.

    JOE LEWNARD/ Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws a second-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Matt Spaeth while being pursued by Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Jared Allen at Soldier Field Sunday.

Adrian Peterson is everybody's No. 1 fantasy football tailback.

Drew Brees is everybody's top QB and Calvin Johnson the top wideout.

Look at anybody's top 5 or 10 players at any position and there's not a lot of difference in the rankings.


Following the crowd is really no fun, so with Week 1 upon us, I thought I'd throw out my preseason Surprises and Busts at each position. These are bold and may even fly in the face of some of my rankings from just two weeks ago, but after some time to consider more information, let's see how close I can come to hitting these on the head.

Surprise QB: Jay Cutler. With an offense he feels extremely comfortable in, a top-5 WR in Brandon Marshall, an up-and-coming player like Alshon Jeffery and a solid TE in Martellus Bennett, Cutler has a chance to approach career-high numbers. I'm thinking 28 total TDs and 4,200 passing yards.

Surprise RB: DeMarco Murray. It says here the Cowboys' workhorse stays healthy and racks up 1,400 yards from scrimmage with 10 TDs.

Surprise WR: Golden Tate. In a contract year, the Seahawks' wideout finishes in the top 20 among fantasy WRs with 1,050 receiving yards and 8 TDs.

Surprise defense: St. Louis. The Rams, a top 12 fantasy D last season with 51 sacks, added return stud Tavon Austin with the eighth pick of the draft. He'll return 3-4 kicks for scores and make this a top-6 unit.

Surprise kicker: Greg Zuerlein. He must improve on his accuracy (23 of 31 last year), and if he does, Zuerlein and his cannon of a leg will be worth playing every week.

Bust QB: Tom Brady. I could eat serious crow with this prediction. But my gut says Brady throws "only" 32 TDs with 4,400 yards to finish out of the top 6 among QBs.

Bust RB: Adrian Peterson. Running backs never follow up 2,000-yard seasons with another spectacular campaign. Never. AP will hit 1,350 yards and 11 TDs. Nice numbers, but not what you were hoping for with the No. 1 pick.

Bust WR: Vincent Jackson. He'll be OK but won't live up to his draft position. Think 1,100 yards and 6-7 TDs.

Bust defense: Bears. No team came close to matching the production of this unit last year. Coach Lovie Smith's team had 41 sacks, 24 INTs, 20 fumble recoveries and 9 TDs. They'll still be solid, but won't finish in the top 5 in fantasy points.

Bust kicker: Sebastian Janikowski. Oakland's going to fall behind 14-0 and 21-0 so often that Janikowski will be completely worthless. Be worried if you took him.

Boys will be boys:

Kudos to one of my friends who set up a draft for our kids for the second straight season. It's a great way for them to be introduced to our game and build on their friendships through good-old fashioned smack talk.

A couple of funny tidbits:

• The name of their league is -- what else? -- Packers Stink. So who does my son draft? James Jones AND the Packers defense.

• At the draft, any kid who called out a name of a player already taken had to do 10 push-ups. So how long did that take, you ask? How about until the fourth pick -- and immediately after they instituted the rule! A room of boys never laughed so hard. Seven of the 10 kids ended up doing push-ups, with one doing an estimated 60!

• Overall, they seemed to know what they were doing. A few surprises included Aaron Rodgers going before Drew Brees, Peyton Manning going with the 16th overall pick and Bengals RB Giovani Bernard lasting until the 14th round.

My teams:

When we leave our drafts, most of us believe we have playoff-caliber teams. Then by Week 3, reality sometimes sets in.

I'm pretty confident about my squads right now, but who knows what's coming. Here's the lowdown on my main players:

Regular league: QBs are Cam Newton and Tony Romo; RBs are Maurice Jones-Drew, Arian Foster and Le'Veon Bell; WRs are Andre Johnson, James Jones, Eric Decker and Golden Tate; TE is Tony Gonzalez.

Auction league: QB is Romo; RBs are Alfred Morris, Matt Forte and Stevan Ridley; WR/TEs are Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Mike Wallace and Golden Tate (we don't split out WRs and TEs).

Don't overthink it:

Week 1 is here. Don't give yourself an aneurysm trying to figure out your lineup. Stick with your most talented players and if there is a toss-up somewhere, then yes, take the matchup into consideration.

With this being the 15th year of my good bets and bad bets, you should all know the drill by now. But for the newbies, I'm taking chances here, trying to pick the fringe players who I believe will outperform your expectations, and the studs who will disappoint.

To start the year, I'm going with two players at each position. Just be forewarned, I'm taking a few big chances early on.

Good bets

• Cowboys QB Tony Romo vs. New York Giants. Romo loves playing the Giants. In the last four games against his division rival, Romo has 11 total TDs and averages a whopping 339 passing yards.

• Eagles QB Michael Vick at Washington. Facing a bad pass defense, watch Vick throw for 250 yards, run for 40-50 and end up with 2-3 TDs.

• Patriots RB Stevan Ridley vs. Buffalo. Few matchups are sweeter than this one. Ridley figures to salt the game away in the fourth quarter. He'll score twice and go over 100 yards on the ground.

• Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Oakland. A great flex play, Bradshaw will be the first of many running backs to shred the sickly Raiders D.

•Niners WR Anquan Boldin vs. Green Bay. A forgotten man during many fantasy drafts, Boldin will open your eyes in Week 1 with 8 catches for 115 yards and a score.

• Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Tennessee. Like Boldin above, Brown didn't get much love from fantasy owners. He should have a big day against a Titans D that tied for the most passing scores allowed last season at 31.

Bad bets

• Panthers QB Cam Newton vs. Seattle. This could come back to bite me if Newton runs for 80 yards and a TD, but the Seahawks' ferocious defense should be able to bottle up Carolina's so-so offense.

• Patriots QB Tom Brady at Buffalo. Crazy thought here? Perhaps, and I'm still guessing Brady ends up with 250 yards and 2 TDs, but I don't see a huge explosion game. Watch for the defense to score and RB Stevan Ridley to have a monster game.

• Bears RB Matt Forte vs. Cincinnati. Remember, we're talking underperforming expectations here. Forte will get about 70 yards rushing and 35 receiving, but he won't find the end zone against a stingy Bengals defense.

• Chargers RB Ryan Mathews vs. Houston. The run-oriented Texans figure to hold the ball for 34-36 minutes, severely limiting Mathews' chances.

• Panthers WR Steve Smith vs. Seattle. It'll be a quiet opener for the mouthy Smith.

• Vikings WR Greg Jennings at Detroit. Christian Ponder will kill Jennings' value all season, but especially in an opener on the road against a stout Lions front.

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