Preseason Situations To Monitor - NFC
By Jeff Tefertiller
August 21st, 2011

It is hard to believe that the NFL preseason is already upon us and fantasy drafts are starting. With the training camps in full swing, and games starting, there are several situations for fantasy owners to monitor. We will look at the questions that fantasy owners need answers in order to draft the best team possible. As you watch the preseason games, keep a close eye on these teams and players listed below. This article will only include the situations capable of making a fantasy impact for the teams in the NFC. There will be another article addressing the AFC teams.

  • Philadelphia Eagles
    While the Eagles have loads of talent on both sides of the ball, there are several key situations to watch. How will Ronnie Brown perform in the backup role behind LeSean McCoy? Rookie Dion Lewis is the only other option so there is much pressure on Brown's shoulders. McCoy only carried the ball a little over 200 times last season so the team needs to develop a viable reserve. Also, keep an eye on the timeline for newly signed receiver Steve Smith's return. Will he start the season on the PuP (Physically unable to Perform) list? With the good news that Jeremy Maclin has been cleared to practice, when will he be able to get back onto the field? Maclin has not worked out since January and will need weeks, even months, to get back into playing shape. Outside of DeSean Jackson, it might be best to pass on Smith and Maclin, unless VERY cheap, until we know more about when each will be able to see game action.

  • Dallas Cowboys
    Dallas let veterans Marion Barber and Roy Williams walk to the Chicago Bears in free agency. The Cowboys may struggle replacing the pair of overpriced players. Without Barber to rely upon, who will be asked to pick up the tough yards on short yardage and to close out games? The backups (DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice) behind Felix Jones have been injured all preseason, leaving the team in a precarious position. At the wide receiver position, is Dez Bryant ready to take that huge step into living up to expectations? Has he matured? The club has no other options so Miles Austin and Jason Witten might see loads of pass targets once again if Bryant struggles with consistency or injuries.

  • New York Giants
    The Giants will be looking to replace two cogs in the passing game who left in free agency. As stated above, Steve Smith signed with the Eagles. He was a clutch receiver for Eli Manning to target. New York is left with Victor Cruz and Derek Hagan vying to fill the void. Cruz played great last preseason and could surprise. Underrated Kevin Boss signed with the Oakland Raiders, spurning the Giants. Only young and injury-prone Travis Beckum is in line to start at tight end of New York. For Manning to have a big season, he will need both of these situations to work themselves out quickly. Brandon Jacobs is sliding way down draft boards, can he regain his old form that led to fantasy relevance?

  • Washington Redskins
    Washington has more questions than answers on the offensive side of the ball. John Beck leads the competition at quarterback over Rex Grossman. Neither is particularly interesting for fantasy owners, but Grossman could help the receivers put up better numbers. At the running back position, can Tim Hightower cure his fumbling problem? Will Ryan Torain be able to get, and stay, healthy? Will Roy Helu see the field before midseason with any regularity? The lead rusher could be a solid flex player in many leagues. Lastly, what is the status of Chris Cooley's knee? He is still having issues many months after surgery. His injury status is a huge situation for fantasy owners. If Cooley is unable to begin the season in the lineup, Fred Davis makes a very intriguing proposition late in fantasy drafts.

  • New Orleans Saints
    The Saints have fewer open situations than other teams. But, the running back position should be interesting to watch during the preseason games. Can rookie Mark Ingram get the carries, and perform, like a primary ball carrier? Also, what will be the roles of Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles? Can Sproles step into the "Reggie Bush role" and perform better than the former Heisman winner? With Drew Brees under center, there is little to worry about in the passing game, but he does have two pass catchers to monitor. Can young tight end Jimmy Graham be consistent enough to be worth his fantasy Average Draft Position? Graham is an athletic marvel but might struggle as he is only a recent basketball convert. At the wide receiver position, can superstar Marques Colston get his balky knee back to full strength? Brees' fantasy success will rely on both of these big targets.

  • Atlanta Falcons
    Matt Ryan played much better last season. He now gets rookie Julio Jones as a very strong WR2 across from Roddy White. What an upgrade over Michael Jenkins. The running game in Atlanta gets little credit as many see the offense as "the Matty Ice show". But, the health and durability of Michael Turner may decide the fate of the Falcons this year. His pounding up the middle of defenses opens up passes down the field.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
    Tampa Bay will need to sort out its RB2 role in order to progress as an offense. While LeGarrette Blount had a strong rookie year, can the team really gamble on not having a decent backup? The offensive line is passable so this is a situation to keep an eye on in deeper leagues. In the passing game, will Arrelious Benn return to full health or will sleeper Dezmon Briscoe emerge as the starter opposite Mike Williams?

  • Carolina Panthers
    It is a foregone conclusion that Cam Newton will be the Panthers' starter as long as he can remain healthy. With the Gettis injury, who will be the WR2 ... or will it matter? Steve Smith is a star and most fantasy owners want to know if Newton will be enough of an upgrade for the veteran receiver to rebound at a steal of a price. Also, how active will newcomer Greg Olsen be in the passing game? Further, most fantasy owners are dumbfounded by the re-signing of DeAngelo Williams to keep the crowded backfield with Jonathan Stewart intact. How will that play out? Plus, will the coaching change have a negative impact on the strength of the ground attack?

  • Green Bay Packers
    Green Bay has the deepest wide receiving corps of any team in the NFL. The addition of rookie Randall Cobb will only add to the crowded situation. Will any of the receivers, other than Greg Jennings, be startable on a weekly basis? That is the huge question. Can Jermichael Finley live up to expectations and remain healthy? If so, he could put up monster numbers with his athleticism in that prolific offense. Can Ryan Grant regain his pre-injury form? While the Packers are a high-powered offense, there are plenty of unanswered questions ... and the preseason games should help sort some of it out.

  • Chicago Bears
    How will the two ex-Cowboys respond to the change of scenery? Now that they are re-united, can Roy Williams return to the production level he had in Detroit under the direction of Mike Martz? The other Bear receivers have disappointed the past few years and are really not worth drafting in most leagues. At this point, Williams is the only pass catcher with upside. The addition of the hard-running Marion Barber will help the Chicago running game. Will he garner the short-yardage role? Will it help Matt Forte to have someone to split the load? Lastly, and most importantly, can Jay Cutler establish consistency? This is an offense that will rely on Cutler to be productive in order to put up points.

  • Minnesota Vikings
    How will Donovan McNabb perform on his third team in as many seasons? His play has declined the past few years. With Sidney Rice now a Seattle Seahawk, the Vikings desperately need a receiver not named Percy Harvin to step up and produce. There is no way Minnesota can have a strong offense when the only weapons are Adrian Peterson and Harvin. The team cannot be competitive with defenses stacked to stop Peterson, making McNabb pick up yards and first downs. Can he prove me, and the other doubters wrong? We shall see in preseason.

  • Detroit Lions
    The Lions will miss the hard-running style of Mikel Leshoure after his Achilles injury wipes out his rookie campaign. Is Jahvid Best able to touch the ball 250 times and remain healthy? Detroit will need he and quarterback Matthew Stafford to remain in the lineup in order to be competitive. In such a tough division, the Lions will need to be able to run the ball. Can newly signed Jerome Harrison be effective as a complement to Best? How about Mike Bell. Keep an eye on both in preseason.

  • St. Louis Rams
    Sam Bradford is the key to the St. Louis offense. He has a cast of injury-prone receivers to target. Can any stay healthy? Former Jaguar Mike Sims-Walker should step into the WR1 role which was severely missed last year after Mark Clayton was lost for the season. In terms of the pass offense, what will be the impact of new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on the run-pass ratio? Will the play of running back Steven Jackson continue to decline under the commutative heavy workloads of years gone by?

  • San Francisco 49ers
    The 49er offense will continue to go through Frank Gore as long as he is healthy. He is one sure thing in a shaky offense. The big question for fantasy owners will revolve around the quarterback position. How much negative impact will the weak-armed Alex Smith have on the San Francisco wide receivers. Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards will be severely overvalued as long as Smith is still under center. He, and his noodle arm, will target tight end Vernon Davis often ... just like in the past.

  • Arizona Cardinals
    The Arizona Cardinal have one of the biggest questions to answer in all of football. Can Kevin Kolb come in and been effective? Was he worth the high price the Cardinals paid? No matter how he plays, Kolb is a huge upgrade over Derek Anderson. This should have a positive impact on superstar Larry Fitzgerald. Can Andre Roberts emerge into the WR2 role across from Fitzgerald? New acquisition Todd Heap should also help the passing game. Arizona also has a muddy situation at the running back position. Rookie Ryan Williams was drafted to push or overtake Beanie Wells, but the newcomer has been lost for the season with an injury. To his credit, Wells has played well in training camp before Williams was lost.

  • Seattle Seahawks
    Seattle added wideout Sidney Rice and tight end Zach Miller this offseason. Both should be great long-term additions for the Seahawk offense. The issue is that the quarterback position went the other way. Only Tarvaris Jackson was added to compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job. The position will hold back what could be a good team. Running back Marshawn Lynch will look to rekindle his "beast mode" on the NFC West. Will it be enough to carry the offense?

  • With the offseason now in effect, please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any suggestions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there. I will also be active in the "wannabee" thread in the assistant coach forum.

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