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Week 1 Passing Matchups

by Mark Wimer and Joe Bryant, Exclusive to Footballguys.com

[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 San Francisco 49ers 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.

Weather: The forecast for Walsh Field calls for a high of 79F with a low of 59F and a 0% chance for rain - great weather is in the offing for this NFC West contest.

ARI Injuries: none
SF Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns 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.

Weather: Cleveland Browns Stadium expects a high of 74F with a low of 63F on Sunday, and has a 0% chance for rain - beautiful autumnal weather is on tap for Browns' fans this week.

DAL Injuries: none
CLE Injuries: none


Detroit Lions Passing Offense at Atlanta Falcons 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.

Weather: Inside the Georgia Dome, weather won't be a concern for Matt Ryan or Jon Kitna (or their team mates).

DET Injuries: none
ATL Injuries: none


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals 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...

Weather: M and T Bank Stadium expects a high of 83F on Sunday, with a 0% chance for rain (65F for a low that evening). Weather conditions won't be much of a factor for either the Ravens or the Bengals.

BAL Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: none


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens 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.

Weather: M and T Bank Stadium expects a high of 83F on Sunday, with a 0% chance for rain (65F for a low that evening). Weather conditions won't be much of a factor for either the Ravens or the Bengals.

CIN Injuries: none
BAL Injuries: none


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense vs Minnesota Vikings 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.

Weather: Lambeau Field expects a high of 74F and a low of 52F with a 20% chance for rain on Monday night. The weather shouldn't be much of a factor for the first Monday Night Football game during 2008.

GB Injuries: none
MIN Injuries: none


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears 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.

Weather: The first regular season game in Lucas Oil Stadium will enjoy fine weather, according to the weather service - the low on Sunday evening is supposed to be around 55F (if the team feels that is too cold, they'll close the retractable roof) with a 0% chance of rain forecast. Weather shouldn't be a big factor for either the Colts or the Bears.

IND Injuries: none
CHI Injuries: none


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Washington Redskins 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.

Weather: The forecast for the NFL season opener on Thursday evening is calling for mild weather, with a low around 67F and a 10% chance for precipitation. Weather shouldn't be a big factor in this contest.

NYG Injuries: none
WAS Injuries: none


New York Jets Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins 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.

Weather: Dolphin Stadium expects a high of 89F with a low of 79F and a 30% chance of rain - the sultry conditions will test the conditioning of all the Jets' and Dolphins' athletes. They'll battle for 60 minutes in high heat and humidity - proper hydration will be a must in order to avoid problems with cramps.

NYJ Injuries: none
MIA Injuries: none


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense vs St. Louis Rams 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.

Weather: Lincoln Financial Field expects a high of 83F on Sunday, with a low of 61F and a 10% chance for rain - it should be a great day to open the 2008 season.

PHI Injuries: none
STL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense vs Houston Texans 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.

Weather: Heinz Field expects a high of 76F with a low of 59F on Sunday - with 0% chance for rain. The Steelers' fans should have a great day ahead for tailgating and watching their beloved team take the field on opening day.

PIT Injuries: none
HOU Injuries: none


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Buffalo Bills 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).

Weather: With a high of 70F and a low of 55F forecast (0% chance of rain), the Bills' fans will enjoy a mild fall afternoon as the setting for this contest.

SEA Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals 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.

Weather: The forecast for Walsh Field calls for a high of 79F with a low of 59F and a 0% chance for rain - great weather is in the offing for this NFC West contest.

SF Injuries: none
ARI Injuries: none


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense vs Detroit Lions 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.

Weather: Inside the Georgia Dome, weather won't be a concern for Matt Ryan or Jon Kitna (or their team mates).

ATL Injuries: none
DET Injuries: none


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys 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.

Weather: Cleveland Browns Stadium expects a high of 74F with a low of 63F on Sunday, and has a 0% chance for rain - beautiful autumnal weather is on tap for Browns' fans this week.

CLE Injuries: none
DAL Injuries: none


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs New York Jets 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.

Weather: Dolphin Stadium expects a high of 89F with a low of 79F and a 30% chance of rain - the sultry conditions will test the conditioning of all the Jets' and Dolphins' athletes. They'll battle for 60 minutes in high heat and humidity - proper hydration will be a must in order to avoid problems with cramps.

MIA Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: none


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Kansas City Chiefs 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.

Weather: Gillette Stadium expects a high of 74F with a low of 52F and a 20% chance of rain. As long as the skies don't open up, weather shouldn't be a big factor in the game between the Chiefs and the Patriots.

NE Injuries: none
KC Injuries: none


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers 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.

Weather: With the after-effects of Hurricane Gustav still being felt...

NO Injuries: none
TB Injuries: none


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense vs Denver Broncos 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.

Weather: The forecast for the Bay area calls for a high of 71F with a low of 59F and a 0% chance for precipitation - sounds like a mild evening is on tap for the Broncos and the Raiders as they renew their AFC West rivalry in 2008.

OAK Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: none


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers 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.

Weather: San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium expects typical, pleasant and mild Southern California weather - a high of 82F with a low of 62F and a 0% chance for rain. Conditions shouldn't be a big factor in this game.

CAR Injuries: none
SD Injuries: none


Denver Broncos Passing Offense at Oakland Raiders 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.

Weather: The forecast for the Bay area calls for a high of 71F with a low of 59F and a 0% chance for precipitation - sounds like a mild evening is on tap for the Broncos and the Raiders as they renew their AFC West rivalry in 2008.

DEN Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: none


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Pittsburgh Steelers 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.

Weather: Heinz Field expects a high of 76F with a low of 59F on Sunday - with 0% chance for rain. The Steelers' fans should have a great day ahead for tailgating and watching their beloved team take the field on opening day.

HOU Injuries: none
PIT Injuries: none


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense at Tennessee Titans 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.

Weather: LP Field expects a high of 84F on Sunday, with a 30% chance for rain. If the sky opens up during the contest, both teams could have trouble with footing and ball-handling.

JAX Injuries: none
TEN Injuries: none


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense at Green Bay Packers 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.

Weather: Lambeau Field expects a high of 74F and a low of 52F with a 20% chance for rain on Monday night. The weather shouldn't be much of a factor for the first Monday Night Football game during 2008.

MIN Injuries: none
GB Injuries: none


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs Carolina Panthers 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.

Weather: San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium expects typical, pleasant and mild Southern California weather - a high of 82F with a low of 62F and a 0% chance for rain. Conditions shouldn't be a big factor in this game.

SD Injuries: none
CAR Injuries: none


St. Louis Rams Passing Offense at Philadelphia Eagles 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.

Weather: Lincoln Financial Field expects a high of 83F on Sunday, with a low of 61F and a 10% chance for rain - it should be a great day to open the 2008 season.

STL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: none


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense at New Orleans Saints 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.

Weather: With the after-effects of Hurricane Gustav still being felt...

TB Injuries: none
NO Injuries: none


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars 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.

Weather: LP Field expects a high of 84F on Sunday, with a 30% chance for rain. If the sky opens up during the contest, both teams could have trouble with footing and ball-handling.

TEN Injuries: none
JAX Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Passing Offense at New York Giants 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.

Weather: The forecast for the NFL season opener on Thursday evening is calling for mild weather, with a low around 67F and a 10% chance for precipitation. Weather shouldn't be a big factor in this contest.

WAS Injuries: none
NYG Injuries: none


Buffalo Bills Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks 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.

Weather: With a high of 70F and a low of 55F forecast (0% chance of rain), the Bills' fans will enjoy a mild fall afternoon as the setting for this contest.

BUF Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: none


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at Indianapolis Colts 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.

Weather: The first regular season game in Lucas Oil Stadium will enjoy fine weather, according to the weather service - the low on Sunday evening is supposed to be around 55F (if the team feels that is too cold, they'll close the retractable roof) with a 0% chance of rain forecast. Weather shouldn't be a big factor for either the Colts or the Bears.

CHI Injuries: none
IND Injuries: none


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense at New England Patriots 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.

Weather: Gillette Stadium expects a high of 74F with a low of 52F and a 20% chance of rain. As long as the skies don't open up, weather shouldn't be a big factor in the game between the Chiefs and the Patriots.

KC Injuries: none
NE Injuries: none