2013 NFL Kickoff: Opening Night Preview – Ravens at Broncos
The NFL is back, and opening night is here! The season kicks off with defending champions, the Baltimore Ravens, visiting Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Here is a special opening night preview for the game and the fantasy factors for both teams broken down by position. At the end of the piece you’ll see my player to scoop up off of your free agent list as well. Enjoy!
Quarterbacks: Joe Flacco may have gotten paid after his big Super Bowl win, but if you want to get paid in your fantasy league, he should not be your QB. Long story short, Flacco was middle of the pack for fantasy QBs in 2012, finishing 15th in points. For week one he is projected below Alex Smith in points in most leagues. He may have won the Lombardi, but Flacco’s track record of year to year inconsistency doesn’t make him a serious viable fantasy quarterback and wont lead you to the promise land to win your league trophy.
Peyton Manning is the exact opposite. Manning may go down as the greatest regular season quarter back in NFL history. Peyton finished in the top 5 in overall player fantasy points last season and there is no reason to think he can’t at the very least repeat that this year. In addition to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, Manning has targets in newly named TE starter Julius Thomas, and an old Tom Brady favorite, Wes Welker. Manning is primed for another monster season and fantasy owners will reap the benefits. I expect him to perform well on Thursday night, giving fantasy owners a nice chunk of points with a lot of completions, yards, and multiple touchdowns. I literally could have just written “Peyton Manning” and that would have been enough.
Runningbacks: Ray Rice will take most of the carries for the Ravens. In addition to that he will also see his share of targets for you PPR league owners. The Broncos had the 3rd best rushing defense in football last year, but Ray Rice is a first round elite talent. He is a no brainer must start in week one tomorrow night.
The Broncos officially named Ronnie Hillman their “starting” running back for week 1, however that can change after one series. Hillman owners should be careful about a start here because if that does change, that can crush your matchup. Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno are right there in the mix to take some carries. As of now I see this as a three-headed monster, so starting any of these three is a big gamble for week one.
Receivers/Tight Ends: Although the Ravens no longer have Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta, they have brought back an old favorite in Brandon Stokley, and have Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones. Broncos corner back Champ Bailey will be a game time decision which affects their secondary strength. With no Von Miller (suspended) and Elvis Dumervil now playing for the enemy, Flacco may have a decent amount of time to find open targets. These three key player factors make the Ravens’ receivers very appealing for starts on your fantasy squad.
As mentioned in the QB section, the Broncos targets for receivers are very solid. With Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and newly named starter Julius Thomas at tight end, Manning will spread the ball all over the field as he always does. Read up on Thomas in the final section at the bottom of the article, or just go add him right now and come back! You better come back. All Broncos receivers should be considered week 1 starters, and starters throughout the season, barring some unforeseen incident.
Defense: Although Baltimore has carried the reputation of having a tough defense, they finished 14th in fantasy points in yahoo leagues last season. The Ray Lewis era has come to an end, and Baltimore’s defense goes into week one projected as the 15th best defense, facing Peyton Manning and his plethora of targets. There are certainly better options to run out there for your fantasy defense in week 1.
Denver’s defense finished 3rd overall in fantasy points last season and was 4th in the NFL in points allowed at 18.1. This could also be attributed to the Broncos having the 4th best time of possession in the NFL, keeping the other team’s offense off the field as much as possible. However, the reigning champs should not be taken lightly and Denver’s defense goes into week 1 projected to finish as the 13th best in points.
FANTASY FREE AGENT WATCH: Julius Thomas, owned in just 24% of Yahoo! Leagues was recently named the starting Tight End for the Broncos. Knowing Peyton Manning’s style of moving the ball with short, effective target passing, Thomas’ value just received a significant boost. He is certainly worth a look for your TE or FLEX slot for this week and going forward.
There you have it gang, the fantasy breakdown for opening night of the NFL! Good luck on your week one matchups and check in with my weekly Monday Night Football preview pieces!