NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS at BUFFALO BILLS: The “Patriot Way” rests on the shoulders of some very young and inexperienced players. Tom Brady and his offense have looked schizophrenic in the preseason to say the least. Other than four year receiver Danny Amendola, who is already banged up, and injured star tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady will be throwing passes to rookie wide outs Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson and undrafted rookie tight end Zac Sudfeld. Thompkins looks the part catching everything thrown his way and ripping off big chunks of yardage doing it. Fortunately for all of these players, Brady will be the quarterback throwing those passes. The running game hasn’t established itself during preseason behind what has been a pretty good offensive line, but against the Bills defensive front, that should improve. Starting running back Steven Ridley will get on track week one and will rush for 80 yards and a score. Brady will continue to elevate those around him and receivers Amendola, Thompkins and Dobson will rise to the occasion, with Thompkins scoring a touchdown over the Bills mediocre secondary. The Patriot offense revolves around its tight ends and Sudfeld will most likely see his shard of targets and a possible score. Backup running back Shane Vereen who has been a sleeper sweetheart in drafts this year needs to take care of the football to see the field more and it’s yet to be determined how much he will be used.
Rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel was impressive during preseason until a minor knee issue sidelined him, but the hope is that he will be ready week one. If he’s not available Kevin Kolb will get the start which means C.J. Spiller will be used till he “throws up”. Good plan, he is by far the most potent weapon the Bills have. Unfortunately for Spiller the Patriots will sell out to stop him and let Kolb try to beat them through the air which will be difficult against a good Patriot defense. If E.J. Manuel plays, receivers Steve Johnson and rookie Robert Woods will fair better, but this is a wait and see situation at this point. If you need him tight end Scott Chandler could be the beneficiary of increased targets if Kolb starts. Backup running back Fred Jackson looks to be in a much slower gear than Spiller and other than getting a handful of carries he shouldn’t be counted on right now. Plan on lots of Spiller in this game, it’s what you drafted him for right?
Editor’s note: Kevin Kolb is done for the season (concussion) and EJ Manuel has been named the starter for Week 1.
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Patriots 31 Bills 20
MIAMI DOLPHINS at CLEVELAND BROWNS: The fantasy landscape in Miami looks much better than it has for some time. The addition of receiver Mike Wallace will not only accelerate quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s progress, but also give running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas some room to roam. Tannehill isn’t someone you want to count on for your fantasy team right now but you may want to monitor him as the season progresses. Wallace has the speed to stretch a defense, even a good one, and Tannehill will take his shots downfield. Much has been made of the battle between Thomas and Miller, but Miller should win handily starting week one, he is by far the more talented and versatile of the two. The Browns defense has improved immensely against the run and in general, so it won’t be easy for Miller and company, but he should see a decent stat line on the day and score a rushing touchdown. The loss of tight end Dustin Keller to an ACL injury means more targets for Wallace and receiver Brian Hartline who will see more short to medium passes come his way, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Hartline was the most targeted receiver of the two, with the possibility of a touchdown reception.
Dolphins 27 Browns 10
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS at NEW YORK JETS: The J-e-t-s Jets, Jets, Jets are in trouble, trouble, trouble. Mining fantasy points from the Jets week one will be a battle in futility. The Bucs defense is mediocre at best, but they will shut down the Jets offense and score a touchdown of their own in the process. Quarterback Mark Sanchez isn’t the answer for the Jets or your fantasy team, so don’t even think about. There is a slim chance the running game will contribute, a little, so Chris Ivory, and Bilal Powell may be viable as a flex play if you need them. Powell seems more suited for this offense at this time and there is always the chance he could score a short touchdown. The Jets number one receiver depends upon who’s depth chart you trust the most, but either way Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill or head case Santonio Holmes haven’t shown they’re capable of carrying that responsibility through a full season. If you have to start or worse yet, choose to start any of three your draft must have been horrendous. If there is a Jets touchdown reception this week it will come by way of tight end Jeff Cumberland who flashes some on field savvy and good hands, but doubt count on it. If I sound cynical about the Jets offense helping your fantasy team this week my job here is complete.
Jets 0 Bucs 17
Editor’s note: Mark Sanchez has been ruled out for Week 1, throwing rookie QB Geno Smith into the fire.