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In just one week, 30 NFL teams will kick off the 2013 season after the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens give us a taste on Thursday night. Are you ready?
The 53-man rosters are mostly set after Saturday's cutdown, and most fantasy leagues' rosters are set as well save for the few last-minute drafters out there.
If you are still looking for some guidance, here are some notes, observations predictions and tips heading into the start of season.
- Dr. James Andrews, the most famous M.D. in America, has cleared Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III for Week 1, but coach Mike Shanahan said Andrews still has "a couple concerns." RGIII has cleared every hurdle in his recovery from torn knee ligaments and appears to be fully confident in his health. Fantasy owners should be as well.
- New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's ADP sagged earlier this summer due to concerns about his supporting cast, but then training camp and the preseason got rolling and fantasy owners remembered this is Tom Brady. Brady's fantasyfootballcalculator.com ADP in 12-team standard leagues has risen from Round 5 Pick 5 to Round 4 Pick 9 since the start of August after Brady completed 77.3 percent of his passes this preseason. I still don't advocate taking a quarterback in the first five rounds, but Brady is as steady a choice as ever before if you are going to do pick one.
- With plenty of passing options, a competent running game and former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton calling plays, Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck will take a major statistical leap in his sophomore season. In former OC Bruce Arians' system that emphasized vertical passing, Luck only completed 54.1 percent of his passes. That should increase to well over 60 percent this year.
- Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte is easily going to catch 70 passes in Marc Trestman's offense if he stays healthy. Trestman served as an NFL offensive coordinator in 1995-96 with the San Francisco 49ers, 1998-00 with the Arizona Cardinals and 2001-03 with the Oakland Raiders. In those seasons, Trestman's running backs and fullbacks combined to catch an average of 110 passes per season.
- Rookie Eddie Lacy put more than a stiff arm's length of distance between himself and the competition for Green Bay's starting running back job. Fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin has struggled, Alex Green was cut Saturday, James Starks has bumbled every chance he has had an major playing time and DuJuan Harris, a Mike McCarthy favorite and the only guy who might have challenged Lacy for carries, was placed on injured reserve. In his four healthy games last season, Cedric Benson averaged 19 touches per game. Lacy's best feature: he's not Cedric Benson.
- Montee Ball will begin the season behind Ronnie Hillman in the Denver Broncos' running back rotation even though Hillman fumbled three times during the preseason. With Knowshon Moreno handling third downs, Ball's carries early this season will be limited. I still think he'll lead the Broncos in carries this season, but at this point he cannot be counted on to get consistent playing time. Use Hillman's rookie season as a guide -- he struggled in pass protection and had just 85 carries even though starter Willis McGahee suffered a broken leg in mid-November.
- The Bills led the NFL in preseason rushes with 141, and Jeff Tuel will start at quarterback in Week 1. Prediction: C.J. Spiller will have more touches in Week 1 than he did in any game last season.
- Texans running back Arian Foster missed most of training camp with calf and back injuries but he is all set to play Week 1. Coach Gary Kubiak indicated that Foster won't receive a full workload in the opener, saying "obviously I don't think Arian's going to be a 30-carry guy on opening night," according to ESPN's Tania Ganguli, but that is actually good news. The only reason fantasy owners have concerns about Foster is because he has been worked into the ground the last three seasons. We don't need 30 carries out of Foster in Week 1 or in any week. If he gets 20 carries and all the goal-line work in Week 1 as I expect, he'll easily post RB1 numbers.
- Looks like the Miami Dolphins were faking everyone out with the running back "competition" between Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas just to keep Miller motivated. It makes sense actually; Thomas is so average that Miller would have been able to coast through preseason and still win the job. Coach Joe Philbin wanted to prevent Miller from taking it easy.
- Jonathan Dwyer was surprisingly released Saturday as the Steelers were tired of his "lack of dedication," according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette. Isaac Redman will start Week 1, but that doesn't mean he should be in any fantasy lineups. Redman had multiple chances to impress last season and failed.
- New York Giants RB David Wilson could actually post RB1 numbers while Andre Brown is out with a fractured leg. He'll get all the goal-line work for a team that scored 18 rushing touchdowns last season.
- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall admitted this week that he still isn't comfortable with his conditioning after undergoing a third hip surgery this offseason but I'm not worried. Jay Cutler would still force the ball to Marshall if the receiver had one leg and no arms.
- Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon could be a sneaky WR1 this season with a WR2 pricetag. In his seven healthy games last year, Garcon averaged 83.4 yards per game and had four touchdowns. The receiver seems to be fully healthy during training camp after being plagued by a ligament tear in his foot for most of last season.
- Despite thoroughly outplaying Darrius Heyward-Bey this preseason, Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton remains the third receiver on a team that uses two tight ends in its base offense. I still like the 23-year-old though. He managed to produce 861 yards and eight scores (one return) on just 91 targets last season. I doubt DHB will prevent him from seeing more this season, especially with tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen having trouble staying healthy.
- Seahawks receiver Golden Tate's ADP has plateaued in the late eighth round over the last three weeks, but that still is too low for the third-year player. True, Seattle doesn't throw the ball all that much, but Tate was a trusted red- zone weapon for Russell Wilson last season and scored seven times (six if you ask Green Bay Packers fans). With Percy Harvin out and Sidney Rice dealing with chronic knee pain, Tate will be Wilson's No. 1 target between the 20s as well.
- The New England Patriots will carry Rob Gronkowski on the active roster to start the season, meaning he won't have to miss the first six weeks on the PUP list. Even if Gronk misses four games, he'll still finish as a top-three tight end due to his touchdown production.
- New Browns OC Norv Turner has had pretty good success with super-athletic tight ends who played basketball in college. Jordan Cameron played basketball for BYU. This seems like a good match.
- St. Louis Rams tight end Jared Cook was a perennial fantasy disappointment in Tennessee, but he averaged just 5.3 targets per game over the last two seasons. As one of the men who will replace Danny Amendola and his 9.2 targets per game in the slot, Cook will lead the Rams in looks from Sam Bradford this season.
- The Broncos announced Julius Thomas as their starting tight end Saturday, but I just don't think he'll see enough targets to be a consistent fantasy option. Peyton Manning only targeted his tight ends 149 times last season, and Wes Welker will absorb most of the targets that don't go to Demaryius Thomas or Eric Decker, leaving only about 200 targets to be spread around to the tight ends, running backs and fourth and fifth receivers.
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