Game on, everybody.
We're all finished with preseason hype, finally. Every stat counts from this moment on. Soon, someone will actually be winning your opening week fantasy match-up.
Every Thursday throughout the season, we'll recommend one or two lightly owned fantasy assets who have a shot to post useful numbers in the week's first game. Often these players will be unfamiliar to casual fans ... but not this week. Today, our recommended fliers will look like the middle rounds of a 2011 fantasy draft:
With Le'Veon Bell suspended for two games, the rushing workload in Pittsburgh's offense should belong almost entirely to Williams. No one is going to argue that DeAngelo, at 32, can deliver a passable impression of Bell. But there's simply no one else on the Steelers' depth chart at running back who figures to play anything more than a cameo role — not the undersized Dri Archer, not fullback Will Johnson. Feel free to drop Williams after next week's home match-up with the Niners, but he belongs on someone's roster for the time being. It's worth noting that playing conditions could be sloppy on Thursday night, perhaps favoring the ground game and short-range pass attempts. Williams is in line for something like 18-20 touches in the opener, which could easily yield 80-90 yards and a spike.
Just in case you'd somehow missed the news: Tom Brady beat the rap, you guys. He's playing. Un-suspended. No need to fret about any of the primary receivers in New England's passing attack. With Brandon LaFell opening the season on the PUP list, Amendola won't lack for targets. He's was terrific in the postseason for the Pats (11-137-3), and there's no reason to think he won't continue to click with Brady. When healthy, Amendola is a tough cover. His ownership level is curiously low in Yahoo fantasy leagues, considering the favorable set-up. It's not tough to imagine a 6-for-70 fantasy line from Amendola, with a decent shot at an end-zone visit.
Remember, LeGarrette Blount is out for a week (suspension), and the Pats will replace him with a sketchy collection of similar runners (Bolden, Lewis, White, Cadet). Brady should have a busy night against Pittsburgh's leaky defense.