For all that was made of Philip Rivers and the Chargers' disappointing passing game last year, the team's pass defense was just as guilty of letting down the franchise. It allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 62.6 percent of their passes and gain 7.9 yards per attempt, and only four defenses allowed more passing scores.
A big reason San Diego struggled last season was its absent pass rush, which generated just 32 sacks. An otherwise talented secondary was forced to shadow targets too long.
With roughly the same unit intact, the Chargers open 2012 against divisional foe Oakland, which torched San Diego's secondary in both contests last season.
• Number to know: 6.07 -- The percentage of touchdown passes opposing teams threw against San Diego last year compared to the number of attempts, third-highest in the league.
• Expect a big day from: Fantasy owners may find success with Carson Palmer in the lineup. He averaged 358 yards passing in his two meetings against the Chargers last year. Darrius Heyward-Bey is also worth consideration in this contest. He is the only healthy Raiders receiver heading into the weekend.
These matchups suggest success is around the corner for a number of suspect fantasy starters...
New Orleans' rushing attack vs. Washington's defense:
This game could get ugly fast. Drew Brees and the Saints' offense will take out their offseason frustrations on a Redskins team that is both young and full of holes. Washington ranked in the bottom half of the league last year in rushing yards allowed, and gave up 15 rushing scores (tied for 23rd). After the Saints put this game out of reach, they will turn to their developing ground attack to finish up.
• Number to know: 18 -- The Redskins' rank last year for rushing attempts, yards and yards per carry allowed, signaling a slightly below average unit across the board.
• Expect a big day from: Mark Ingram will have the breakout performance fantasy owners have been waiting for, and possibly his first career 100-yard game. Ingram carried the ball 15 or more times in just two games last season, but should reach that mark this week.
San Francisco's passing attack vs. Green Bay's defense:
• The Packers are not the same unit that ranked dead last in pass defense last year. The team added pass rush help and more beef up front. It also lost its best cover linebacker (Desmond Bishop) and failed to adequately replace Nick Collins in the secondary. In the biggest game of the weekend, Green Bay will have its hands full trying to contain a rebuilt 49ers passing attack, equipped with more capable pass receivers than the Packers can keep track of.
• Number to know: 293.6 -- The average number of passing yards the Packers allowed in eight road games last year (including big games for Christian Ponder and Kyle Orton).
• Expect a big day from: Michael Crabtree lives on the fringe of fantasy relevance. For most, he's a No. 3 receiver who is more valuable in PPR leagues than traditional leagues. But on Sunday he'll be a nightmare for Green Bay when working the middle of the field.
These fantasy stars might need a rest this week due to an unfavorable matchup on the horizon...
Buffalo's rushing attack vs. New York Jets' defense:
The Jets were one of eight NFL teams to hold opposing backs to less than 4.0 yards per carry last year, and only a few backs reached the 100-yard mark. New York upgraded at the safety position this offseason, and its young frontline is among the best in the AFC. The Bills will try to establish a running game, but by halftime may turn to the passing attack full time.
• Number to know: 7 -- Number of games since a Buffalo back last rushed for 100 yards against the Jets (Marshawn Lynch).
• Who to bench: Fred Jackson gained 120 yards from scrimmage (82 rushing, 38 receiving) against New York last year, but it was actually one of his worst fantasy performances. In the two teams' other meeting, sans Jackson, Buffalo averaged just 3.1 yards per carry. It might be best to let Jackson sit this one out.
Denver's passing attack vs. Pittsburgh's defense:
I know, I know ... "But it's Peyton Manning's debut, and the game is in Denver." Look, Manning will have big days for Denver; fans will just have to wait. The Steelers mix their pressure packages and coverages as well as any pass defense in football, and their linebacking corps -- though aging -- is still one that opposing quarterbacks must fear. Plus, Denver's offense hasn't exactly clicked yet with Manning in the saddle; believe it or not, even Manning needs time to adjust.
• Number to know: 5.6 -- Number of yards Pittsburgh allowed per passing attempt last year, more than a half-yard better than any other defense in the league.
• Player to bench: Manning and Pittsburgh playoff-killer Demaryius Thomas, who had a relatively quiet preseason. Thomas had a career game against the Steelers in January, but there will be no encore for the Broncos receiver this week.
Minnesota's rushing attack vs. Jacksonville's defense:
Adrian Peterson has been cleared to play Week 1, hooray! OK, now temper the excitement, find someone else to fill your lineup with, and don't think of going with his backup, Toby Gerhart -- he'll do you no good this week, either. The Vikings face a ferocious Jaguars frontline that limited opposing backs to just 3.8 yards per carry last year, and shut down many of the league's top backs in the process (Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, Michael Turner).
• Number to know: 24 -- Yards Jacksonville held Tennessee's Chris Johnson to in the 2011 season opener.
• Player to bench: Peterson and Gerhart. Chances are the coaching staff will ease Peterson into action, if he does get the green light, and the two backs will split the workload.