The answers to the 2009 fantasy season will finally start coming our way, en masse, on Sunday afternoon. In the meantime we're staring at a bunch of questions that hold our attention. Here's a look at some of the puzzles I'm eager to figure out this year, starting with Week 1's slate.
Miami at Atlanta: How much responsibility will the Falcons give Matt Ryan(notes) in his second year? Remember this was Michael Turner's(notes) offense, no two ways about it, last season. How much will being traded to a contender pump up Tony Gonzalez(notes) game? Can Chad Pennington(notes) stay healthy for another four months, or will the Chad Henne(notes) era begin later this season? Is this the year Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) turns some long receptions into touchdowns? He's found his way onto a bunch of my teams.
Kansas City at Baltimore: Can Larry Johnson(notes) find a fit in the Kansas City offense? Remember the Cardinals didn't run the ball for beans in Todd Haley's scheme last year. Have the Chiefs made some improvements with their rushing defense, or was the preseason just a tease (3.1 YPC)? Does Derrick Mason(notes) have another 80-catch season in him? Can Ray Rice(notes) handle the workload of a starting back, and will he find a way to score 7-8 times? Is Todd Heap(notes) still on campus?
Philadelphia at Carolina: How quickly can Donovan McNabb(notes) get his mojo back? This offense didn't look sharp in the summer and the Michael Vick(notes) signing has to be at least some sort of a distraction. Is DeSean Jackson(notes) a legitimate No. 1 receiver, someone who will command the ball in all situations? Will Brent Celek's(notes) monster postseason carry over to 2009? Which DeAngelo Williams(notes) are we going to see, the solid player from the first half of 2008, or the overlord who single-handedly decided fantasy titles in the second half? Is Jake Delhomme(notes) going to worry half of Carolina into an ulcer?
Minnesota at Cleveland: Who does Eric Mangini think he's fooling with this quarterback secret of his? Can Brady Quinn(notes) get the ball deep to Braylon Edwards(notes), and will Edwards maybe catch a few this year? Will Jamal Lewis(notes) have a job past September? He's not going anywhere this week, and Baltimore waits in Week 3. Will Brad Childress and company be able to use Percy Harvin(notes) correctly? Will the Vikings be 4-1 or 5-0 after they complete their easy early-season schedule?
Denver at Cincinnati: Is it too late for Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to hit reset? Maybe having Mike Shanahan and Jay Cutler(notes) around wasn't so bad after all. How soon will Knowshon Moreno(notes) be ready for prime time? What time can we expect the next Brandon Marshall(notes) meltdown? Did Bill Simmons really pick the Broncos to win 10 ballgames? How good are those Polaroids that Marvin Lewis is holding? Does Chad Ochocinco(notes) have one year left as an every-week fantasy receiver? Can the Bengals keep Carson Palmer(notes) standing for 16 games?
New York Jets at Houston: Is this the year the Jets get serious about utilizing Leon Washington(notes)? Keep in mind they didn't switch offensive coordinators; they retained Brian Schottenheimer. Can we get excited about Mark Sanchez's(notes) preseason (111.0 QB rating), or do we wipe it away, muttering about small sample sizes and vanilla defenses? Is all the buzz tied to the Houston offense justified? Is Chris Brown really capable of being a dedicated goal-line back? Can Matt Schaub(notes) stay hale for 16 games or are we going to be forced to watch Rex Grossman(notes) again?
Jacksonville at Indianapolis: Will David Garrard(notes) rebound now that he's got better help around him, or was the 2008 collapse more his fault than most realize? Have the Jaguars adequately repaired their offensive line? Is Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) capable of being a lead back who plays in all situations? Is Troy Williamson(notes) really starting for an NFL club? How much work will Donald Brown(notes) command right away? Is there anyone who doesn't expect 1,000 yards from Anthony Gonzalez(notes) this year?
Detroit at New Orleans: Is Kevin Smith(notes) capable of being a star back, someone we use every week? I generally don't like runners from losing clubs but Smith is someone I happily invested in this year. Is Calvin Johnson(notes) going to be held back by rookie QB Matthew Stafford(notes)? After last year, I can't see how anyone would bet against Calvin. Is Jeremy Shockey(notes) serious about resurrecting his career? Is there a 10-TD wide receiver on the Saints? Is Mike Bell(notes) going to steal carries even when Pierre Thomas(notes) and Reggie Bush(notes) are healthy?
Dallas at Tampa Bay: Is Tony Romo(notes) consistent enough to be the foundation of an offense, or are the Cowboys prepared to push their scheme through the running of Marion Barber(notes) and Felix Jones(notes)? Does Roy Williams have the skill set of a No. 1 receiver? How can we trust a Tampa Bay offense that has Byron Leftwich(notes) at quarterback, Cadillac Williams at running back and a fresh new offensive coordinator, two weeks old? How are those throwback Tampa uniforms going to look in HD?
San Francisco at Arizona: Will Frank Gore(notes) return to stardom now that he has his blocking back (Moran Norris(notes)) in the fold? Is Josh Morgan(notes) capable of being a No. 1 target? Does Michael Crabtree(notes) realize the rotten advice he's receiving? Can Kurt Warner(notes) stay healthy for 16 games at age 38, and if not, how much juice does this offense retain with Matt Leinart(notes)? How long will it take for Beanie Wells(notes) to push Tim Hightower(notes) out of the way?
Washington at New York Giants: Will the Redskins let Jason Campbell(notes) take more downfield shots this year? The West Coast offense simply doesn't fit his skill set. Will Chris Cooley(notes) get some love in the end zone this year after going ignored in 2008? Is anyone capable of emerging from the New York receiver group? Is Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) polished and sturdy enough to handle a major role as a No. 2 back?
St. Louis at Seattle: Can Steven Jackson take a sad song and make it better? Will we get any significant fantasy mileage from Donnie Avery(notes) and Laurent Robinson(notes)? Can T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes) be an exception to the rule regarding free agent wide receivers? Can Matt Hasselbeck(notes) put up big numbers in the post-Holmgren era?
Chicago at Green Bay: Was the Packers offense too good to be true during a scintillating preseason? Does Aaron Rodgers(notes) belong in the first tier of quarterbacks, along with Brees, Brady and Manning? Will Ryan Grant(notes) get the hang of short-yardage and goal-line running? Can Jay Cutler make some stars out of his ordinary receiving group? Can the Bears hide the offensive-line weaknesses that showed in August?
Buffalo at New England: Does the stumbling Bills offense have a chance against the mind of Bill Belichick, or is the Patriots defense more vulnerable than people realize? Is Fred Jackson(notes) really any worse than Marshawn Lynch(notes)? Is Randy Moss(notes) capable of another 15-20 scores now that Tom Brady(notes) has returned? Do you have the nerve to play running back roulette with the New England backfield?
San Diego at Oakland: Do the Chargers have the league's best offense on paper, or will this be another case of Norv Turner getting 9-7 returns from 12-4 talent? Does LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) have another 12-plus touchdowns in him? I wasn't afraid to grab him anywhere from No. 6 on. Will Vincent Jackson(notes) see enough looks to be a fantasy star? Can Darren McFadden(notes) make a living running inside or is he merely a satellite player miscast as a lead back? I don't think I drafted him once in August. Will every JaMarcus Russell(notes) downfield pass be in the direction of Zach Miller? He's done well against the Bolts in recent meetings.
That's enough from my clipboard, what's on your scouting hit list for Week 1?