Preseason Burning Questions: NFC
With training camps starting to open, I'm laying out one fantasy question for each team heading into the season. Here are the NFC questions. Click here for the AFC questions.
Dallas: Can Tony Romo keep it up for a full season? Romo's career started off with a bang, throwing 12 TDs and averaging 270 yards a game in his first six starts. But then he threw six TDs with eight picks in his final five games. Now with the job full-time, he'll need to shine with a new coach in Wade Phillips. He's got good veteran targets in Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, and he really needs to get tight end Jason Witten involved in the offense more this year as well.
New York Giants: How will Brandon Jacobs fill Tiki Barber's shoes? Jacobs had 16 TDs in two seasons backing up Barber, but now he wants to prove he's not just a goal-line back. Despite his 6-foot-4, 264-pound frame, Jacobs has shown some receiving skills, although he's not at Barber's level. While Jacobs should carry most of the load, veteran Reuben Droughns can contribute enough to limit any wear and tear as the season progresses.
Philadelphia: Is Donovan McNabb still a top fantasy option? McNabb doesn't have the injury-prone label, but he has missed 20 games over the past five seasons, and the start of this year is up in the air because of his torn ACL. When he's in, he's electric (16 TDs, 5 INTs in his first seven games last year), no matter who his weapons are. With rookie Kevin Kolb poised to take his job in the future, McNabb could be more inspired to shine, but only if he stays healthy.
Washington: How will Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts function together? While Portis nursed a bunch of injuries, Betts ran for 1,154 yards, including five straight 100-yard games late in the season. But with Portis back healthy, he will remain the primary starter with Betts serving as a backup. There is no committee system in place here, but having a solid backup like Betts is crucial for both real and fantasy teams for cases like season.
Chicago: Which Rex Grossman will show up this year? Grossman had three games with at least three TDs last year but also five games with at least three picks. Since you don't know what you'll get each week, it's hard to think of him as anything but a backup and hope to get lucky on the right week. His Super Bowl didn't help matters, so it's hard to think he'll get over his turnover ways quickly.
Detroit: Who's carrying the load at running back? Kevin Jones was having a solid all-purpose season before suffering a serious foot injury late last season. If healthy, he probably is the best guy to have. However, Tatum Bell rushed for 1,025 yards in Denver last year and is a speedy, home run-type running back. How they'll mesh remains to be seen. And then there's T.J. Duckett, who could steal goal-line carries, hurting both backs.
Green Bay: Who starts at running back? Vernand Morency averaged 4.5 yards per carry as Ahman Green's backup last year, while rookie Brandon Jackson ran for 989 yards last season in his junior year at Nebraska. Morency seems to be better in short bursts (although he had 26 carries for 99 yards in one start last year), while Jackson was just starting to develop as a top-flight back last year. Oddly, a lack of college carries may benefit Jackson in the long run as he doesn't have the excess wear and tear of other featured backs from college.
Minnesota: When does Adrian Peterson become the full-time back? Chester Taylor was solid last season before injuries slowed him down in the second half and he's the one who's healthy coming into camp, while Peterson still nurses a shoulder injury. Because of the health issues, don't be surprised to see Peterson get worked into the offense slowly, like Joseph Addai last year, before breaking through in midseason. Both backs have value now, but Taylor's might wane as the year goes on.
Atlanta: Are you ready to draft Joey Harrington? With Michael Vick's status up in the air, you have to stay away from him. That leaves Harrington as the Falcons' next option. Harrington had 12 TDs and 15 INTs as well as a 400-yard game last year for the Dolphins before losing his job to Cleo Lemon. While Harrington is shaky based on past experience, the addition of Bobby Petrino and his innovative offensive schemes and maybe veteran wideout Joe Horn could help his game out.
Carolina: Is this DeAngelo Williams' year to shine? Williams couldn't beat out DeShaun Foster for the starting job and finished with a disappointing 501 yards and two total TDs in his rookie year. However, Foster wasn't much more impressive with 897 yards and three scores. His health also makes him a big risk. A strong camp should play in Williams' favor, and the Panthers probably will run more with the receiving game unsettled behind Steve Smith.
New Orleans: What does Reggie Bush do for an encore? Bush only averaged 3.6 yards per carry last year, but in December, the number went up to 5.1, including five of his six rushing TDs. He's still a beast in the passing game (88 catches), but if he's healthy all year, he'll get increased carries and more chances to hit a home run anytime he's got the ball. He still might not run for 1,000 yards, but he'll get close, and if you add his receiving yards, he'll be a fantasy stud.
Tampa Bay: Does it matter who's at quarterback? Jeff Garcia has the lead over Chris Simms, and there are rumblings that the Bucs may sign Daunte Culpepper, but when your top target is the veteran Joey Galloway and you have no idea what to expect from major bust Michael Clayton, the whole exercise seems irrelevant. The only other dependable target is running back Michael Pittman, and he's tailed off in recent years.
Arizona: Which Edgerrin James will we see this year? The move to the desert didn't help the Edge, who ran for 1,159 yards but averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and scored six TDs last year. His 36-carry, 55-yard (1.5 ypc) game against the Bears really stuck in many minds. But James did have three 100-yard games in December, setting the stage for better things this year, especially if Matt Leinart can develop further as a quarterback, opening more running lanes.
St. Louis: Where does Drew Bennett fit in the offense? Torry Holt could be the first receiver drafted, and Isaac Bruce rebounded with 1,098 yards (but three TDs) last year. Meanwhile, Bennett only racked up 737 yards and three scores as the Titans' No. 1 guy last year. While there will be more balls to go around in St. Louis, don't be surprised if he only matches his 2006 stats, especially if Bruce continues to defy the aging process.
San Francisco: Is this Vernon Davis' year to make the leap to fantasy star status? A broken leg slowed down Davis in his rookie year, but he had 14 catches for 217 yards and two scores in December to set himself up for a solid second season. Alex Smith is developing into a solid NFL QB, and having good safety valves like Davis and running back Frank Gore help everyone out. Davis seems to be on the same track as Kellen Winslow Jr., where an injury just delays great play by a season or two.
Seattle: Can Shaun Alexander return to prominence? A fractured foot, plus the departure of Steve Hutchinson led to an 896-yard, 7-TD effort in 2006, not what you want from a top-three pick. The 3.6 ypc is definitely a cause for concern, but a healthy Alexander this year should help the stats a little. He still has the knack for a big performance as he went for 201 and 140 yards after returning from his foot injury, so there's still hope for a few more big outings this year.