Football is back, baby! The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick off their 2011 campaign at home this Sunday, as they take on the Detroit Lions looking to enact a little revenge for last season's overtime heartbreaker.
We have previewed the game from all different angles, but now it's time to take a look at the game from the most important angle of all: Fantasy Football Impact! (Duh.)
Who to start? Who to sit? Let SBNation Tampa Bay break it all down for you. (Don't forget to send us a cut of the winnings as you dominate your league this season.)
QB Matthew Stafford: Avg. Position Rank*: 10
Stafford made only two starts for the Lions in 2010, but played well in those appearances totaling 452 yards and 6 touchdowns. Detroit has high hopes for this young QB but his health has been a consistent problem for him, but it's week one and Stafford is finally healthy. Expect Stafford too look for dynamic wideout Calvin Johnson early and often, a strategy that worked well for Detroit in last years week 15 victory. The Buccaneers were without shutdown corner Aqib Talib during last seasons matchup, so the results may not be as successful the second time around, especially if head coach and defensive coordinator Raheem Morris knows its coming. In fact, Tampa Bay had the 8th best defense vs. passers last year, with opponent QB's averaging just 15.2 fantasy points. For week one, Stafford is an average play at best.
Projection: 15 points. Verdict: Sit
QB Josh Freeman: Avg. Position Rank: 7
Third year quarterback Josh Freeman made massive strides in 2010 both on the field and in the Fantasy world. Freeman finished the season as the 8th most productive quarterback in the entire league in terms of total points. While he never truly dazzles or lights up the scoreboard, he also rarely turns the ball over making him a safe start week in and week out. The Lions defense has been markedly improved in recent years but they still struggle to defend the pass, ranking 24th against opponent QB's in 2010. Freeman posted 18 points against the Lions in last years week 15 matchup, throwing for 252 yards and a touchdown. Freeman is a safe play in any league.
Projection: 20 points. Verdict: Start him.
RB Jahvid Best: Avg. Position Rank: 21
Best is projected to get the majority of the carries for the Lions this season, but a preseason concussion may hurt his early season value. Like most other teams, Detroit had little problem moving the ball on the ground against the Buccaneers last year, as Maurice Morris lead the team to a 132-yard day with a touchdown. The Buccaneers hope they have improved their play against the run by adding two talented defensive ends in this years draft but we may have to wait to believe that when we see it. That brings us back to Best's concussion; on any other day Best would be a strong play, but lingering injury concerns may suggest going with other options this week.
Projection: 15 points. Verdict: Start.
RB LeGarrette Blount: Avg. Position Rank: 17
After his breakout rookie campaign, not many people are overlooking Blount this year, and with good reason. Blount should have no trouble building upon his 1,000-yard rookie season as he has little competition in the Buccaneer backfield. Blount had a field day against the Lions in 2010, rushing for 110-yards and a touchdown on one of the leagues worst defenses against opposing runningbacks. Blount is also expected to see more action in the passing game, a trend that will only help his value, particularly in PPR leagues. Blount is a must start this week.
Projection: 18 points. Verdict: Start!
WR Calvin Johnson: Avg. Position Rank: 2
Johnson absolutely dominated the Buccaneers secondary in last seasons matchup, albeit without Aqib Talib covering him, but even with Talib returning I see little reason to believe he wont have a monster game this time around. Johnson is a transcendent receiver capable of winning fantasy matchups single-handedly and there is almost never a reason to sit him, especially against a team he exploited so easily in the past. Absolutely a must start.
Projection: 22 points. Verdict: Start!
WR Mike Williams: Avg. Position Rank: 11
Williams is the unchallenged go-to receiver in a young Buccaneers stable and he turned a lot of heads in 2010, setting a Bucs record for touchdowns in a single seasons with 11. Unfortunately, he wont manage to go unnoticed again and opposing defenses should be rolling coverage his way in 2011. Williams is a big, strong receiver and should be able to maintain his production despite added attention, but until a second receiver (Benn, Briscoe, etc) steps up and proves himself a threat Williams should see double coverages for some time that will hurt his fantasy value. Williams hauled in 6 passes for 96 yards and a TD against a depleted Lions secondary last season and should be a solid play at receiver this week as well.
Projection: 15 points. Verdict: Start
*Average Position Ranks courtesy of ESPN Fantasy Football.