Wondering whether or not Bell is must start material in shallow leagues or what other sleepers Brad/Andy are obssessing over this week? Submit your questions for Friday night's "Fantasy Freak Show" on The Score at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each week the Noise highlights eight somewhat obscure, unobvious names who he believes are destined for flame madness or lame sadness. Being an accountability advocate, he will tally his hits and misses and post the results, whether genius or moronic, each week using the scoring system posted here.
More Noise: Kevin Smith Rising
Matchup: vs. KC
The buildup to Flacco's projected breakthrough season has a similar sound to Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight." Quiet and creeping in the preseason, his percussion-heavy crescendo could be reached immediately. One of the worst defensive units in tackle football a season ago, KC, under the guidance of Todd Haley, made only minor improvements over the offseason. Last year, the Chiefs surrendered 237.9 passing yards and 1.5 air strikes per game, equal to the 11th-most fantasy points allowed to QBs. Flacco was noticeably sharp in preseason action, completing over 65 percent of his attempts. Though Clancy Pendergast will throw variable stunts and twists at the young signal caller, which he is concerned about, the Ravens' offensive line and suitable dump-off weapons should prove devastating. Flacco's been waiting for this moment all his life, oh lord...
Fearless Forecast: 21-31, 227 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 17 rushing yards, 20 fantasy points
Matchup: vs. Det
With Pierre Thomas(notes) limited to pedaling on a stationary bike Wednesday, it appears the Week 1 star of '06 could recapture the magic he briefly flashed under Lucifer Shanahan. In our riveting conversation with Thomas last Friday, the PT Bruiser, whose soothing voice could comfort the Noise during a nuclear firestorm, spoke highly of his teammate's preseason progression. His praise is understandable. A trimmed down, recommitted Bell compiled an otherworldly 7.7 yards per carry mark, gaining the respect of Sean Payton. Detroit should show some improvement on defense this year, but collectively the unit is still a sieve. Recall a year ago the loathsome Lions conceded 5.4 yards per carry, 189.8 total yards and 1.8 TDs per contest to rushers equal to the most fantasy points allowed. The former Bronco will split touches with Bush, but his pounding interior style will earn him sizable red zone touches. Exploit the matchup.
Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 83 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 11 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15 fantasy points
Matchup: at Hou
Leon the Leprechaun could be rookie Mark Sanchez's(notes) "Lucky Charm" of sorts this season. Quick, nimble, explosive and ultra-versatile, the lethal weapon's skill set immediately captured the attention of new head coach Rex Ryan in training camp. Expected to tote the rock more this season, Washington should net roughly 15 touches in his ‘09 debut. Because of the Jets' stout offensive line and Houston's willingness to surrender big plays, he's must start material even in shallow formats. Last season, the Texans allowed 148.6 total yards and 1.2 touchdowns per contest to RBs equal to the eighth most fantasy points conceded. Marshall Faulk(notes) said recently Washington's elusiveness and burst was comparable to Barry Sanders'. Given the matchup and situation, the miniature back may indeed emulate the Sandman.
Fearless Forecast: 13 carries, 72 rushing yards, 5 receptions, 53 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 18 fantasy points
Matchup: at Oak
Even with minimal touches, San Diego's ball of lightning will singe the few remaining hairs on Al Davis' head. Considering LaDainian Tomlinson's(notes) advanced age, Norv Turner will turn to Sproles approximately 10-12 times per contest to ease the burden. Because the Raiders' 4-3 unit has performed pathetically against the run in recent seasons - they allowed 172.7 total yards and 1.7 scores to rushers last year - the Pocket Rocket's chances of breaking a long play via ground or air are favorable. In '08, Sproles averaged 40.5 total yards per contest and splashed pay-dirt twice in two appearances against the Silver and Black. Slide him into the flex spot in deeper leagues.
Fearless Forecast: 10 carries, 51 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 33 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14 fantasy points
Matchup: vs. Det
Sir Lance-a-Lot and his roundtable knights are poised to slue the Hello Kitties Week 1. Recovering from offseason shoulder surgery during most of training camp, last season's surprise wire sensation was constantly overlooked in drafts. Back at full-strength, Moore worked tirelessly with Drew Brees(notes) on slants and hooks after practice in August determined to prove '08 wasn't a fluke. That established rapport will be deadly against a Detroit secondary that yielded ten 90-yard receivers a season ago. Marques Colston(notes) is option No. 1, but Brees' secondary choice is poised to pick up where he left off.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 77 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13 fantasy points
Matchup: at Ari
With Michael Crabtree(notes) feeding Benjamins to his pet goat, Morgan is primed to steal the spotlight many thought would be reserved for San Fran's top draft choice. An incredibly gifted athlete with the necessary tools to be a dependable asset, the second-year receiver is on the precipice of stardom. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye still feels Morgan is a "developing player," but emphasized if he makes the proper mental preparations, Niners fans and the fantasy community will see a "flourishing, good player." During the regular season last year, Arizona's secondary was several steps below atrocious. In total, the vulnerable unit allowed 24 touchdowns to wideouts, the most in the league. Because shootouts are common in the desert, the emerging Morgan is a commodity to trust opening week.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 68 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 12 fantasy points
Matchup: vs. Chi
According to numerous reports and observations, the 34-year-old Driver is in the best shape of his career. The chiseled wideout, who is motivated by the almighty dollar, wants to maintain an image of consistency. Matched against a Bears secondary which could be without the services of Charles Tillman(notes), the veteran could once again cage his arch NFC North foe. Last season in two contests against the Black and Blue, he snagged 10 passes for 123 yards. With Aaron Rodgers(notes) peaking, Driver's role cemented within Green Bay's dynamite spread system and Chicago's sketchy secondary; he has excellent odds of posting standout Week 1 numbers. Keep in mind the Bears allowed the third-most fantasy points to WRs in '08.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 74 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13 fantasy points
Matchup: at Cle
The NFL's most notorious locker-room flasher will expose more than his undercarriage against the Browns Week 1. Cleveland was one of the league's premiere defenses against tight ends a season ago conceding just one touchdown. But the instant chemistry forged between Shiancoe and Brett Favre(notes) cannot be underestimated. Within Brad Childress' West Coast scheme, the short-field will be dominated by the veteran weapon. Based on his marked athleticism, speed and strength, the breakthrough candidate will prove difficult to contain for any defense. Start Shiancoe with confidence in all formats.
Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 61 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 12 fantasy points
Matchup: at TB
Not falling under the "Always start your studs" axiom, Romo is a pine-worthy prospect this week. For the first time in over a decade, the Buccs plan to stray away from the Dungy-implemented Cover 2, installing a more diverse, complicated and aggressive scheme. As Raheem Morris discussed Wednesday, applying copious pressure on the pocket will be a critical part of Tampa's gameplan. Historically tough at home, Ronde Barber(notes) and company allowed just three multi-TD passers in eight contests at the Ray. If the Buccs were comprised of gorgeous blondes, Romo would have a field day, but with Roy Williams dinged and given the QB's rollercoaster preseason, he's untrustworthy on the road.
Fearless Forecast: 21-34, 244 passing yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, 8 rushing yards
Matchup: at NYG
"Life, liberty and the pursuit of crapiness," has always been this Washington representative's motto against the G-Men. In two clashes with his divisional rival a season ago, Portis tallied a lowly 3.1 yards per carry, 50.5 total yards per game and zero touchdowns. More discouraging, in his nine-year career, he's averaged a mere 4.0 yards per carry and 78 rushing yards per game against New York. The Drag Queen of Mean has spoken highly of the ‘Skins' offensive line, but the Giants' D-lineman should be able to puncture the backfield often, severely hindering his points scoring potential.
Fearless Forecast: 21 carries, 69 rushing yards, 1 reception, 7 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Chris Johnson, Ten, RB (Noise Rank: 24, Bench: 8-10 team leagues)
Matchup: at Pit
Captain Quick is unmistakably the AFC's preeminent home-run hitter. But piercing Pittsburgh's stifling 3-4 defense is normally a fruitless endeavor, especially at Heinz Field. Last year, the Steelers yielded zero 100-yard rushers, 3.4 yards per carry and the second-fewest fantasy points to RBs. Johnson was moderately successful against Steely McBeam in his lone effort a season ago, totaling 70 yards and a score. However, the underwhelming performance of the Titans' offensive line during the preseason combined with the Steelers' unbendable frontline is worrisome. Benching your first-round pick may seem absurd, but the paper matchup is definitely unattractive.
Fearless Forecast: 16 carries, 58 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 10 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns (ACTUAL:15 carries, 57 rushing yards, 1 reception, 11 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns)
Matchup: at TB
The Barbarian will wield a sock puppet rather than his customary battleaxe this week in Tampa. With a steady diet of "relentless pressure" on the menu, Barber's best bet for posting admirable numbers will likely be through the air. Last season, visiting rushers averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and 80.5 rushing yards at the Ray. Michael Bush(notes) and Pierre Thomas were the only plowshares who scored. More damaging, Jason Garrett recently suggested Felix Jones(notes), who performed laudably during exhibition play in the red zone, could wrest away touches in between-the-tackles situations. For owners who sank a second-round pick in the Dallas starter, Week 1 is only the beginning of what could be the Year of the Felix.
Fearless Forecast: 17 carries, 63 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 18 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Steve Smith, Car, WR (Noise Rank: 19, No Bench)
Every tumultuous training camp, Smith seems to emerge from the turmoil unscathed. But with the hard-hitting Eagles defense on the docket, he could be poised for a letdown this go-round. Led by Quintin Mikell(notes) and exorbitant acquisition Asante Samuel(notes), Philly's secondary is one of the finest corps in the NFC. Because Smith is slippery and very dangerous in space, look for defensive coordinator Sean McDermott to stress press coverage. Though largely consistent, Smith will occasionally vanish at times like he did in Weeks 10 and 16 last year. Based on the matchup, he very easily could be a source of marginality.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 65 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Matchup: at NE
To the Buffalo Bills, 3-4 defenses remain giant, unsolvable Sudoku puzzles. Struggling immensely against the Packers and Steelers in preseason action, the offense has often looked discombobulated and lethargic, which explains why Turk Schonert was canned. Unsurprisingly, the vocal Owens has already expressed his disdain for the no huddle scheme. If Jim Kelly was his QB, he might think otherwise. The Patriots secondary was vertically challenged at times last season, yielding the sixth-most fantasy points to wideouts. However, no Bills receiver eclipsed 65 yards against Beezlechick's bunch. Due to Buffalo's offensive woes against the 3-4 (Note: The Pats have switched primarily to a 4-3 scheme, but they will surely turn back the clock to frustrate the Bills) the popcorn won't be poppin' in Foxboro for the Orville Redenbacher of receivers.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 45 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Matchup: at Bal
Following Brandon Marshall's(notes) Handbook on Explosive Temper Tantrums word-for-word throughout the preseason, Bowe's egomaniacal attitude was not fondly received by new head coach Todd Haley. Demoted at one time to the scout team, the cumbersome receiver at first responded negatively to Haley's tough-love approach. But, as the coach divulged earlier this week, the former LSU standout has "made very good progress; he's starting to get it." Though Bowe's "come to Jesus" moment is encouraging, his matchup in Baltimore is everything but. Only eight receivers surpassed the 70-yard mark last season against the suffocating Ravens. With Matt Cassel's(notes) status undetermined and the KC offensive line a squalid mess, the Chiefs offense will likely flounder in every facet of the game. Chris Henry (vs. Den), Earl Bennett(notes) (at GB) and Chris Chambers(notes) (at Oak) are more reliable options.
Fearless Forecast: 3 receptions, 36 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
Matchup: vs. Mia
Gonzalez is arguably the greatest tight end in NFL history. However, in his Falcons debut, his iconic image could be tarnished. Though the dependable target isn't worried about his expected looks decline, the fantasy community certainly is. He'll still be one of the position's most targeted weapons, but sharing the sugar with Roddy White(notes) and Michael Jenkins(notes) will prove problematic at times. More worrisome, Atlanta's dedication to feeding The Burner inside the red zone could limit Gonzalez's TD prowess. The future HOFer was the only tight end to score against Miami last year. But the Fins' familiarity with him squashes the element of surprise. Undoubtedly, Joey Porter(notes) will have the oversized target lined up in the crosshairs.
Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 51 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns
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