Fantasy is a speculative game. Predict the future, and you look like a genius. Don't, and you're painfully human. Gazing into the crystal ball, here's our view on 10 intriguing over/unders for the upcoming season.
Gio Bernard, who the Cincinnati Enquirer speculates will receive a 'good share' of goal-line looks and accumulate roughly 300 total touches, touchdowns this fall (9.5)
Andy – UNDER, but not by much. Ten scores wouldn't be much of a surprise, but 8-9 seems like the safer bet. Cincinnati isn't dumb enough to use a single player as an exclusive inside-the-5 specialist, so I'm confident Jeremy Hill won't be the only guy taking carries at the goal line.
Brad – OVER. Hill is a young, talented interior runner who will overtake the BenJarvus Green-Ellis role as a short-yardage, goal-line rusher. However, Gio, who actually logged four more touches than BJGE inside the red-zone (31 to 27), is a highly explosive, versatile rusher who's isn't a home run-only RB. I fully expect him to reach the 10 TD mark this fall.
Scott – UNDER. I'd love to be all-in on Bernard, but the drafting of Hill makes you nervous. And the Bengals probably realize a "less is more" approach is best with their super soph – which likely means limited work close to the goal line.
Johnny Manziel, who showcased his running ability against Lions backups in his first preseason action, rushing yards this season (599.5)
Brad – OVER. How "Money Phone' performs Monday night will ultimately decide his Week 1 fate, but I fully expect him to overtake Brian Hoyer in short order and use his improvisational skills to move the chains and accumulate QB1 worthy yardage. In Kyle Shanahan's run-first, zone-read styled offense, it's not inconceivable he flirts with 700 rush yards.
Scott – UNDER. I know the buzz is at a deafening level, but Johnny Football scares me. The size is an issue - can he withstand all those NFL kill shots? And do the Browns want him starting Week 1? Unless the buy-in is on the cheap side (and I doubt it will be), I don't expect to have any Manziel shares this year. I just want to win; I don't care if it's with ordinary players.
Brandon – UNDER. Not a single QB topped this mark last season, and I think it would take almost a full slate of games for Manziel to go over the mark this season. I'm not sure I'm willing to write off Hoyer just yet. And if Manziel is running this much (at a pace to eclipse this mark), then you can't discount the injury risk. I'm guessing 12-13 games for Johnny Football, and that will keep him shy of 600 rushing yards.
Kelvin Benjamin, whose stock is quickly rising based on the buzz emerging from Panthers HQ, receiving touchdowns as Cam Newton's possible main red-zone man (8.5)
Scott – UNDER. Benjamin is slower than dial-up internet, and Cam Newton is no star-maker at quarterback. I'm interested in Greg Olsen and Jerricho Cotchery here. You can beat me to Benjamin if you want.
Brandon – UNDER. I wanted to take the over, but I just couldn't do it. That's a lot for any receiver, especially one with as little overall football experience as Benjamin. But I have him pegged for 7-8 touchdowns, because his size (6-foot-5) and catch radius (35-inch arms, about 1.5 inches longer than Calvin Johnson), are going to make him a featured attraction in the red zone.
Dalton – UNDER. Benjamin should be Carolina's leading wide receiver this year but expecting nine touchdowns as a rookie is a bit much. Steve Smith is obviously much shorter and hardly the same red-zone target, but as the Panthers' leader in targets over the past three seasons, he totaled just 15 touchdowns. The 6-5 Olsen totaled a modest 16 TDs over that span as well.
C.J. Spiller, off a horrendous, ankle-plagued 2013, final fantasy rank among RBs (19.5)
Brandon – OVER. Sorry, but nothing has changed in the Buffalo backfield from last year, when Spiller finished 27th among RBs. So long as Fred Jackson is there to steal goal-line carries and 40-plus receptions, I think it will continue to stymie Spiller's ability to break the top 20.
Dalton – UNDER. I have him ranked as my No. 15 running back right now. Spiller is coming off a disappointing season, and there's hardly any guarantee he can avoid injury in 2014, but when healthy, he's clearly one of the most explosive backs in the NFL, and Fred Jackson is 33 years old, which means the odds are overwhelmingly against him. Especially in today's RBBC heavy NFL, I can't see predicting 20 other backs finishing ahead of Spiller.
Andy – Oh, UNDER. Well under, in fact. I think "horrendous" is a strong word for a season in which a player averaged 4.6 yards per carry and gained over 1,100 scrimmage yards. The problem, obviously, was Spiller's first-round price. Let's not forget that Buffalo led the league in rush attempts last season, so your committee fears shouldn't be too great.
Emmanuel Sanders receiving yards in his new Broncos digs (1,049.5)
Dalton – UNDER. Sanders' career high in receiving yards is 740, which came last year while seeing 112 targets. I like him as a WR4 this season while playing for a Denver offense that is the favorite to score the most points in the league, but he's entering the year as the No. 4 option in the Broncos' passing attack at best, even with Eric Decker's departure. I'd expect Sanders to score eight touchdowns more so than him reaching 1,050 receiving yards.
Andy – Gimme. Yes. OVER. Sanders is having a nice camp, plus he's joining the most prolific passing offense in the history of life on Earth. I like his chances to add 350-or-so yards to last year's total.
Brad – UNDER. By a hair. WR2s playing alongside Peyton Manning have averaged 946.7 yards per game over the past decade. Sanders has shined in training camp, but with Denver's numerous weapons and expected run-heavier scheme I don't see him cranking out anywhere close to what Eric Decker accomplished a season ago. Mark me down for 1,025 yards and a handful of scores.
Jay Cutler, the apple of many fanalysts' eye, touchdowns thrown this year (32.5)
Andy – OVER. C'mon. This is a layup. Fantasy analysts have made way too much of Jay's injury potential. He's never been as well-protected in his Bears career as he is right now, and it's not as if he has any recurring issues. His primary receivers are uncoverable giants, perfect fits for a see-it, throw-it gunner like Jay. Finally, the Bears offense has year-to-year continuity, a competent O-line, and elite talent at the skill spots. Cutler is a filthy steal in drafts, falling outside the top-10 QBs. (And have you seen the way illegal contact and defensive holding are getting called? Marshall and Alshon will be unfair this season. Unfair.)
Brad – UNDER. There's no disputing the setup. Marc Trestman's system is pass happy and he has arguably the best receiving corps in the league. Cutler, though, has never exceeded even 30 touchdowns in a season and continually finds new, spectacular ways, whether by injury or ineptitude, of letting Bears, and fantasy fans, down. Don't bank on a career year from the eternal underachiever.
Scott – OVER. All Cutler really needs to do to make that number is stay healthy. Too many weapons here, and that includes the mind of brilliant head coach Trestman.
Brad – OVER. Stated and restated this preseason, I staunchly believe Pierce is an ideal fit for Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme. He played in a similar system in college, drawing comps to Arian Foster from scouts in the 2012 NFL draft. His one-cut ability and high yards-after-contact yield offer considerable encouragement. Ray Rice's best days, long in the past, do too. Look for him to crush it in his audition for the full season gig Weeks 1 and 2 versus Pittsburgh and Cincy.
Scott – OVER. He's a better fit for the Kubiak package, and I can't get Rice's sluggish 2013 out of my mind.
Brandon – UNDER. The whole idea that Pierce is a better fit for Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme is ridiculous. What people really mean is that Pierce has experience in the system. I'm sorry, but running back is probably the easiest position in the NFL to get up to speed at. Rice is very similar in size/style to Steve Slaton, who put up 1,600 yards from scrimmage and 10 TDs in Kubiak's system in '08. Rice is a better all-around back than Pierce, he's in great shape and, frankly, he's got a lot more on the line than Pierce given his domestic altercation. I expect Rice to assimilate just fine to Kubiak's system, and I expect him to be back in the lead role in the backfield before the end of September.
Frank Gore, who many are predicting will succumb to the ill-effects of old age, games missed this year (4.5)
Scott – Has to be UNDER. Look, I'm jostling for space on the Carlos Hyde bandwagon, too. I've seen the tape. I want him on my teams, too. But Gore has gamely played through most physical problems through the years. He hasn't missed a game in three seasons, and he's played 14 or more games in eight of nine campaigns. Could Hyde take the job and run with it? Sure. That doesn't mean Gore is going to crumble before our eyes.
Brandon – UNDER. Gore has only missed more than two games in a season just once in his career, and he hasn't missed a single game over the past three years. Plus, the 49ers sound like they are going to drop Gore's workload to ease the old man's burden. If the O/U mark was 2.5, I'd take the over. But I think five games is a little strong for a warrior like Gore. That would take something more serious than the typical soft tissue injuries you worry about.
Dalton – OVER. I'm a 49ers fan and hope I'm wrong (Pro Football Focus graded Gore as by far the best blocking RB last season), but he's totaled a whopping 956 carries over the past three seasons (including the playoffs), is approaching 2,200 career rushing attempts and is now 31 years old. He missed an average of three games per year from 2008-2010 before missing none during his last three campaigns, but gravity is against Gore and owners betting on him.
Ryan Mathews, who will once again be involved in a RBBC, total touchdowns in San Diego (7.5)
Brandon - UNDER. Mathews was fourth in the league in carries last season, but he ranked just 29th among RBs in goal-line rushes (7). The team likes to use Danny Woodhead at the goal line – he had one less goal-line rush than Mathews and he was also second among RBs in goal line targets (5). Factor in Mathews' ball security issues, and I think there's a good chance we could also see Donald Brown factor into the point-blank mix as well.
Dalton – OVER. Mathews fumbled at the goal line during his last preseason game, but he had fumbled just twice over his past 25 regular season games, and head coach Mike McCoy has since backed him as the team's GL back. Mathews has disappointed before, but he led all backs in fantasy points per snap last season and is primed for a breakout after totaling 898 yards and five touchdowns over last year's final eight games.
Andy – UNDER. I can see him crossing the goal line maybe eight or nine times, but he'll only maintain possession of the ball on six of those carries, tops.
Percy Harvin, expected to be the vertical centerpiece in Seattle's conservative offense, receptions this fall (89.5)
Dalton – UNDER. When healthy, Harvin might be one of the 10 most valuable players in the NFL who isn't a quarterback, but his proneness to injury can't be ignored. Expecting 90 catches sure seems like a stretch given his health history.
Andy – UNDER. I wish I was convinced this team would actually put the ball in the air, say, 480 times. This is a tough number to reach in Seattle's offense. I'd take the over on 79.5, but I can't see Percy reaching 90.
Brad – OVER. For some sick, delusional reason, I believe Harvin, who hopefully was popping Boniva during the offseason, will play a full season. Assuming he keeps the injury imp at bay, he will eclipse the proposed total finishing in the 92-95 catch range. I realize Seattle's O will be largely conservative yet again, but Harvin's versatility will be showcased often.
Scott - If you can find this number somewhere, empty the bank account on the UNDER. The Seahawks are a spread-it-out offense and everyone knows about Harvin's health concerns. If Harvin gets past 70 catches, his owners should feel fortunate. Mercy, Harvin.
Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out "The Noise' along with colleagues Andy Behrens and Brandon Funston for another season of 'Fantasy Football Live' every Tuesday-Thursday at 6:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network.
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