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QB: Cam Newton, Andy Dalton
RB: C.J. Spiller, Matt Forte, Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas
WR: Demaryius Thomas, Hakeem Nicks, Tavon Austin, Josh Gordon
TE: Kyle Rudolph, Jermaine Gresham
PK: Justin Tucker
TD: New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans

Overview:

We think you're looking good at quarterback and running back. Your squad is therefore easy for us to like despite a bit of weakness at the receiver position. But as weaknesses go, this is one is survivable. It's usually relatively easy to find fill-in guys on a weekly basis until a better player emerges during the season. As long as you stay on top of things inseason, you should be a legitimate contender.

Players we particularly like on this team include Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Spiller, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, and Justin Tucker. We have all these guys ranked ahead of where they are typically being drafted.

Bottom line:
  • With great inseason management, we think you have about a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs.
  • With good inseason management, we think you have about a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs.
  • With average inseason management, we think you have a 44 percent chance of making the playoffs.

In any event, we wish you the best of luck. Here's hoping all your weeks are like week 2 of 2012:

Reggie Bush vs. OAK: 197 combined yards, 2 TD
C.J. Spiller vs. KC: 170 combined yards, 2 TD
Hakeem Nicks vs. TB: 199 receiving yards, 1 TD
Cam Newton vs. NO: 253 passing yards, 71 rushing yards, 2 TD
Andy Dalton vs. CLE: 318 passing yards, 3 TD

QB Summary:

We expect Cam Newton to be a solid starter. According to our projections, he's the #4 QB, so you should be better off than most teams in the starting quarterback slot.

Andy Dalton, who we have rated as the #13 QB, is a nice backup and could conceivably emerge as either a starter for your team or, if Newton plays as expected, some tempting trade bait for teams with quarterback troubles.

Incidentally, Dalton has what we project as a neutral matchup (CLE) during Newton's bye.

RB Summary:

Nice work here. We like both your starting running backs, as our projections indicate that they give you a combined 1.6 point-per-game advantage over an average opponent in this league. Our projections have C.J. Spiller ranked at #4 and Matt Forte ranked 11th.

Your bench also looks good. Reggie Bush looks great as a third running back.

Pierre Thomas is a solid depth pick.

WR Summary:

We like Demaryius Thomas as a top WR, but we consider your starting receivers, as a group, to be a little below par. Thomas is our fourth ranked WR, Hakeem Nicks is #28, and we have Tavon Austin 40th.

Josh Gordon is a little below average as a fourth receiver.

We might suggest adding a bit more depth here. See the end of the report for some suggestions on who to pick up.

TE Summary:

Kyle Rudolph is viable but below average as a starting tight end (we have him ranked #8). We're also not too fired up about Jermaine Gresham as a backup.

Kicker Summary:

With Justin Tucker, you should be above average at the position.

Defense Summary:

When you don't have an elite defense, one option is a committee approach. That is, try to get two cheap defenses whose schedules fit well together. Here are a few teams who we think may be available and whose schedules fit best with the Patriots', along with the combined schedule that each would create:

Patriots   +   Buccaneers   =   NYJ | NYJ | TB | ARI | CIN | PHI | NYJ | MIA | PIT | MIA | CAR | DET | CAR | BUF | MIA | BAL
Patriots   +   Steelers   =   TEN | NYJ | CHI | ATL | CIN | NYJ | NYJ | MIA | PIT | BUF | DET | CLE | BAL | MIA | MIA | BAL
Patriots   +   Chargers   =   BUF | NYJ | TEN | DAL | CIN | IND | NYJ | MIA | PIT | DEN | MIA | KC | CIN | CLE | MIA | OAK


Is this a dynasty team? Click here to find out how it might look for 2014 season.


Schedule Analysis

Green means GO (good matchup), red means STOP (bad matchup). Main starters highlighted

At the bottom of the table, the Relative Strength row shows you how strong we project your team to be, relative to your usual strength, in that week. This accounts for byes and matchups.

12345678910111213141516
Andy DaltonCHIPITGBCLENEBUFDETNYJMIABALCLESDINDPITMIN
Cam NewtonSEABUFNYGARIMINSTLTBATLSFNEMIATBNONYJNO
 
Reggie BushMINARIWASCHIGBCLECINDALCHIPITTBGBPHIBALNYG
Matt ForteCINMINPITDETNONYGWASGBDETBALSTLMINDALCLEPHI
C.J. SpillerNECARNYJBALCLECINMIANOKCPITNYJATLTBJAXMIA
Pierre ThomasATLTBARIMIACHINEBUFNYJDALSFATLSEACARSTLCAR
 
Tavon AustinARIATLDALSFJAXHOUCARSEATENINDCHISFARINOTB
Josh GordonMIABALMINCINBUFDETGBKCBALCINPITJAXNECHINYJ
Hakeem NicksOAKMIASFJAXSEASDDENHOUSTLTENARITENCINHOUKC
Demaryius ThomasBALNYGOAKPHIDALJAXINDWASSDKCNEKCTENSDHOU
 
Jermaine GreshamCHIPITGBCLENEBUFDETNYJMIABALCLESDINDPITMIN
Kyle RudolphDETCHICLEPITCARNYGGBDALWASSEAGBCHIBALPHICIN
 
Justin TuckerDENCLEHOUBUFMIAGBPITCLECINCHINYJPITMINDETNE
 
New England PatriotsBUFNYJTBATLCINNONYJMIAPITCARDENHOUCLEMIABAL
Tennessee TitansPITHOUSDNYJKCSEASFSTLJAXINDOAKINDDENARIJAX
 
Relative Strength9910098991031051029910110010199100100101101

Schedule and Matchup Notes:

  • Please note that the Relative strength numbers above account for both byes and matchups.
  • Remember that you might have starters on bye in a given week, but still have a high relative strength. This could occur because of favorable matchups, or it might be because you are projected to be missing less production than an average opponent will (your opponents have to deal with byes too).
  • Week 8 presents moderate bye week issues: Matt Forte, Hakeem Nicks, Justin Tucker, and Tennessee Titans are not playing.
  • Tavon Austin is out in week 11, but your opponent will likely have comparable issues with byes.
  • Reggie Bush and Demaryius Thomas are out in week 9, but your opponent will likely have comparable issues with byes.
  • In weeks 4, 5, 6, 7, and 10 you'll probably be better off than your opponent, as far as byes are concerned.


Potential Free Agents

Listed in order of preference. We don't know exactly who is available in your league, but here is a list of players who might be available and could be upgrades over some of your depth players, listed in order of preference. Your players are listed in red for comparison. Players who might not mesh well with the bye weeks of your key players are grayed out.


QB: we don't necessarily recommend any roster moves here.

RB: Daryl Richardson (11), Ahmad Bradshaw (8), Rashard Mendenhall (9), Chris Ivory (10), LeVeon Bell (5), Shane Vereen (10), Mark Ingram (7), Montee Ball (9), Ben Tate (10), Ronnie Hillman (9), Danny Woodhead (8), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (12), Bernard Pierce (8), Pierre Thomas (7).

WR: DeAndre Hopkins (8), Alshon Jeffery (8), Denarius Moore (7), Greg Little (10), Brandon LaFell (10), Nate Washington (8), Stephen Hill (10), Kenbrell Thompkins (10), Rueben Randle (9), Rod Streater (7), Andre Roberts (5), Kendall Wright (8), Malcom Floyd (8), Ryan Broyles (9), Markus Wheaton (5), Jeremy Kerley (10).

TE: Greg Olsen (4), Kyle Rudolph (5), Jared Cook (11), Owen Daniels (8), Antonio Gates (8), Jordan Cameron (10), Fred Davis (5), Dwayne Allen (8), Martellus Bennett (8), Brandon Myers (5), Jermaine Gresham (12).

PK: we don't necessarily recommend any roster moves here.

TD: Pittsburgh Steelers (5), Green Bay Packers (4), Denver Broncos (9), New England Patriots (10), New York Jets (10), St. Louis Rams (11), San Diego Chargers (8), Miami Dolphins (6), Arizona Cardinals (9), Cleveland Browns (10), Atlanta Falcons (6), New York Giants (9), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5), Philadelphia Eagles (12), Minnesota Vikings (5), Dallas Cowboys (11). We have all these players rated ahead of Tennessee Titans.


Projections and Player Summaries

PlayerCmpAttYDY/ATDINTRshYDTDFPTRank
Cam Newton28949035927.320141256937297.04
Andy Dalton33051837147.22716451352244.113

Andy Dalton - In starting every game of his two-year NFL career, Dalton has shown signs of being a highly-productive quarterback. His statistical ceiling has been limited, though, by a well-balanced and somewhat conservative offense and a lack of playmakers not named A.J. Green. With veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis getting older and the two backup running backs being rookies, more of the offensive burden may be pushed to Dalton. The team drafted multiple receives last year, including projected starter Mohamed Sanu - a very nice intermediate and red zone target. They also drafted an excellent receiving tight end in Tyler Eifert in this year's draft. Dalton and his perimeter playmakers could be the key to this offense in 2013.

Cam Newton - Though Cam Newton didn't fulfill the lofty expectations of many fantasy owners during 2012, he still finished as the fourth-best fantasy quarterback in the NFL due to his combination of passing (280/425 for 3,869 yards, 19 TDs and 12 interceptions) and rushing (127/741/8) abilities, edging out Peyton Manning for fourth by nine fantasy points during 2012. He was strong down the stretch, with six multiple-TD games during the final eight contests of the regular season (two passing TDs week 10; two passing TDs, two rushing TDs week 12; three passing TDs week 13; two passing TDs, one rushing TD week 14; two passing TDs week 15; and one passing TD, with one rushing TD during week 16). New offensive coordinator Mike Shula was Newton's quarterback coach last year, and Newton credits Shula with helping create his strong finish during 2012. 'I think a lot of credit goes to him with me honing in to a lot of things that he's been coaching me up to do.' Newton noted on February 1, 2013. Newton has been a top-ten fantasy quarterback in both of his NFL seasons, and should be a fantasy force again during 2013.

PlayerRshYDY/RshTDRecYDTDFPTRank
C.J. Spiller24512595.18504153229.44
Matt Forte25811484.47554622211.011
Reggie Bush1857864.26665213180.717
Pierre Thomas1004434.4330255193.840

Reggie Bush - After two years in Miami, where he finished just outside the top 12 for fantasy running backs, Reggie Bush will now be lining up for the Detroit Lions. Although he's entering his eighth NFL season, Bush still has plenty of gas in the tank. He's a good fit for the Lions, who have not had a consistent running game for the last few seasons. The fact that Bush catches the ball well out of the backfield certainly helps when your offense is throwing the ball more than 725 times a season like the Lions did last year either. Look for Bush to put up more solid RB2 numbers with big upside in PPR leagues, and flirt with the top 12 again this season.

Matt Forte - The Bears spend this summer looking to upgrade their offensive line and there's a good chance that there will be four new or relocated starters. Given how terrible the line has been for the last two season, this should be a significant upgrade to both the running and passing game. With opposing defenses focused on the passing game, Forte will face fewer seven and eight man fronts, and should have bigger holes to run through this year. If he can stay healthy, we should see more of the big plays that made him a solid fantasy player from two seasons ago. However, Michael Bush will continue to vulture short yardage carries, and could limit Forte's upside when it comes to reaching the end zone.

C.J. Spiller - With Fred Jackson injured in 2012, Spiller exploded. The 1,244 yards was impressive, as was the 459 yards receiving. But more impressive was the 6.0 yards per carry that Spiller had on 207 carries when he was virtually the only offensive threat 99% of the time. Teams knew he was coming and it didn't matter. Expect Spiller to get a heavier load this year, as Fred Jackson will likely find himself being eased further back. With an offense looking to be up-tempo, Spiller could see a lot of receiving yards again as well. The opportunities in this offense fit his speed and athleticism really well so while Spiller may not quite keep the high YPC average he had in 2012, ultimately he's going to continue to grow with the offense.

Pierre Thomas - Pierre Thomas was one of only two undrafted rookie free agents in 2007 to make the Saints' roster and is entering his seventh year with the team in 2013. Thomas has rushed for 2,973 yards, caught 207 passes for another 1,718 yards and scored 32 TDs. He consistently makes big plays in critical spots. He always runs hard, rarely goes down on first contact and averages 4.8 ypc over his career. His per game opportunities have been somewhat reduced since Ingram joined the team in 2011, but he might garner a few more carries with Ivory gone. Thomas has only 27 games out of the 78 he has played, where he has had double digit rushes.

PlayerRshYDTDRecYDY/RecTDFPTRank
Demaryius Thomas00088131114.911197.14
Hakeem Nicks0007190912.87132.928
Tavon Austin159616374311.85117.940
Josh Gordon0006087614.65117.641

Tavon Austin - Tavon Austin is a multi-dimensional weapon in a St.Louis offense seeking a new identity after the departure of Danny Amendola and Steven Jackson in this offseason. Austin has intriguing speed and agility in the open field. He will see a variety a use from rushes to slot receiver snaps to kick returns. The total volume of his use will be the biggest question mark as there have been few players his size to see full-time work on offense.

Josh Gordon - After blossoming into Brandon Weeden's favorite option and the team's leader in receiving yards, it will be exciting to see how Josh Gordon can further develop with a full offseason of training and practices. The team has a new offensive scheme this season with new Head Coach Rob Chudzinski and new Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, but Gordon showed his ability to grasp an offense quickly last season when he contributed throughout the year after being selected in July's Supplemental NFL Draft. At 6'4" and with above average speed, Gordon has all the tools. However, Gordon will be out of action for the first two games due to a suspension for violating the NFL substance abuse policy by taking prescribed codeine cough medicine (according to Gordon). If Gordon and Weeden can grow together in camp and grasp their new offense, Gordon should still enjoy a nice season after his Week 3 return.

Hakeem Nicks - What a difference a season makes. This time last year, there were more questions about Victor Cruz and whether Cruz' breakout 2011 season was a harbinger of things to come than there were questions about Hakeem Nicks' reputation as a young, dominant WR1. Yet, another season of injuries (and another stellar year from Cruz) now has NFL observers wondering if Nicks has a future as one of the Giants centerpieces. Let's be clear, there is NOTHING to criticize from an ability standpoint. Hicks has great size, good enough speed, runs sharp routes, is aggressive at the point of attack, knows how to use his body to gain position on defenders, and can break ankles in the open field. The only question Nicks has to answer is whether he can stay on the field, at or near 100%. Last year a foot injury robbed Nicks of his explosiveness, and it showed (53 receptions for 692 yards and 3 touchdowns), but he swears a minor cleanup procedure over the offseason changed his fates for the better. As though Nicks needed more incentive to bounce back, he's entering his free agency year - if healthy, the sky is the limit.

Demaryius Thomas - Demaryius Thomas had a career year in 2012 catching passes from Peyton Manning. He should once again be the most featured receiver on the Broncos offense. The team added Wes Welker in free agency but he shouldn't cut into the downfield targets that Thomas is most known for. Thomas has the speed to get on top of the defense in a hurry and showed last year that his concentration can improve. Because of his size/strength combination Thomas also makes for a great target in the red zone. He finished last year as the 5th best wide receiver in fantasy football and will have a good chance to duplicate those numbers. 2012 was the first season Thomas played through the entire year so he does come with some durability risk other top five wide receivers don't.

PlayerRecYDY/RecTDFPTRank
Kyle Rudolph615989.87101.88
Jermaine Gresham5053510.7477.517

Jermaine Gresham - While Jermaine Gresham is a very athletic former first-round pick, Cincinnati decided to invest another first-rounder in Tyler Eifert. Gresham should begin the season as the top tight end and net more snaps than Eifert, but coaches have already been singing the rookie's praises this offseason. Gresham has the inside track because of his experience and blocking ability that go along with his pass-catching skill set, but his production (which was already middle-of-the-road with career highs of 64 catches and 737 yards) could be dissolved into by Eifert.

Kyle Rudolph - Rudolph emerged as a legitimate NFL and fantasy tight end last season, posting almost 500 yards receiving and nine receiving touchdowns. Even more impressive was the fact that the Vikings only had 18 passing TDS as a team. Rudolph was the safety blanket that Christian Ponder looked to when he needed a big play, especially after Percy Harvin was lost for the season. Rudolph worked the flats and the sidelines like a ten-year pro, and showed nice soft hands when it counted the most - in the end zone.

PlayerFGMFGAXPMXPAFPTRank
Justin Tucker30364141131.04

Justin Tucker - Although the other rookie kickers seem to have gotten more publicity last year, Tucker was right there atop the standings. He made most of his field goals and all of his extra points. He missed only three attempts all year - from 47, 41 and 45 yards. Everything remains in place for a strong second year. Punter Sam Koch will again handle holding on placekicks. Long snapper Morgan Cox was re-signed to keep the specialist trio intact. The key coaching staff members are back again this year. The Ravens have been in and out of the top ten in attempted kicker scoring in recent years. Last year they just missed, landing in 11th place. Things appear to be in place for a return to the top ten this year.

PlayerSackFRINTTDYd/GPt/GFPTRank
New England Patriots381418435020.089.910
Tennessee Titans351015436325.630.227

New England Patriots - It wasn't that long ago when the Patriots were loaded with stud defenders like Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour, and Lawyer Milloy. Those guys are long gone, but the Patriots have been able to restock the cupboard with the likes of Chandler Jones, Jerod Mayo, Donta Hightower, Devin McCourty, and Aqib Talib. After a couple of seasons of mediocrity, look for all of this young talent to come together for a solid 2013 campaign. They should be a decent starting option most weeks.

Tennessee Titans - In what is clearly a do-or-die season for head coach Mike Munchak, the Titans seemed to focus on revamping the offensive talent. Sure, there are new bodies on defense, but the overall talent level just isn't there. Expect the Titans defense to be below average in yards allowed, points allowed, turnovers forced, and sacks. That means they'll be a bad fantasy defense.


Player News (last 7 days)

"Our view" written by footballguys.com's Cecil Lammey and Sigmund Bloom. Click here for all the news around the NFL, updated constantly.

Vikings | Kyle Rudolph update - Minnesota Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (foot) said he has been running since mid-February and has experienced no foot problems. Tue Apr 15, 10:36 AM     [Link to story]

Footballguys view: Good news for the Vikings and Rudolph here. In order for the offense to run on all cylinders, the team needs Rudolph to be healthy and out on the field. He's an effective playmaker who will give the quarterback a security blanket. Rudolph is also a quality target in the red zone.

Eagles | Tried to land C.J. Spiller - The Philadelphia Eagles tried to land Buffalo Bills RB C.J. Spiller before they traded for RB Darren Sproles this offseason, according to two league sources familiar with the situation. However, the Bills weren't interested in trading their running back. Mon Apr 14, 01:08 PM     [Link to story]

Footballguys view: The Bills kept their best playmaker, and the Eagles were able to find someone who can fit what they want in Sproles. It will be interesting to see how Chip Kelly uses a weapon like Sproles as a receiver in his innovative offense.

Lions | Reggie Bush to see smaller load - Detroit Lions RB Reggie Bush said he is fine with a potentially smaller workload in 2014. RB Joique Bell is expected to cut into Bush's workload more this season. Thu Apr 10, 10:33 AM     [Link to story]

Footballguys view: Bell has been very effective and keeping Bush's body intact will be a big help down the stretch. Bell is a solid runner with some pop to his carries and is a nice counter to Bush, but also able to stand on his own.

Bengals | OC believes Andy Dalton will take next step - Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson thinks QB Andy Dalton is close to becoming a great quarterback in the NFL. 'The guy has the makeup to do it. What I've got to do is just continue to push, prod, pull, motivate, support him and the rest of this offensive unit, and then we've got to pick up the pieces everywhere else to give him a chance to do his job. If we do that, this young man will be right where he needs to be,' Jackson said. Jackson has already vowed to focus more on a running attack to take some of the pressure off Dalton's arm. Wed Apr 9, 11:59 AM     [Link to story]

Footballguys view: Dalton has more touchdowns in the first three years of his pro career than any other quarterback in NFL history except for Dan Marino and Peyton Manning. His regular-season success is well documented, but so are his postseason struggles. Dalton needs to prove himself in big games to advance his team in the playoffs. That is his "next step."

Broncos | Demaryius Thomas out of workouts - Denver Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas (shoulder) is not taking part in workouts with QB Peyton Manning and teammates at Duke University because of the shoulder injury he suffered in the Super Bowl. WRs Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker and Andre Caldwell are present with TE Julius Thomas. Wed Apr 9, 08:47 AM     [Link to story]

Footballguys view: No surprise here. Thomas already has outstanding chemistry with Manning, and he doesn't need to risk further injury. He's in a contract season in 2014, and Thomas could break the bank this upcoming offseason with another monster year.