Tom Brady looks healthy. T.O. has a TV show. Oh, and did you hear? Brett Favre is back. (Wait, hold on a second ... OK, we're good. He hasn't changed his mind yet today.) It's been a wild ride this preseason, but soon we'll be watching games that count. Here's a look ahead to the best fantasy matchups in September.-- By Jeff Ritter, SI.com
Easy Road Ahead
Tough Road Ahead
Adrian Peterson, RB, MIN You can't ask for a better opponent than the Charmin-soft defenses of the Browns and Lions. Most pundits already project Peterson as this season's No. 1 player, and a quick start will only cement that status. Expect huge numbers.Next four games: @CLE, @DET, SF, GNB
Matt Schaub, QB, HOU Schaub is a trendy sleeper pick heading into the season, but the opening month looks ominous for the sixth-year quarterback. The Jets and Titans both love to put heat on opposing QBs. Couple that with Schaub's propensity for getting injured, and he becomes tough to recommend until October.Next four games: NYJ, @TEN, JAC, OAK
Eddie Royal, WR, DEN After leading rookie WRs in receptions last season, the sure-handed Royal presents an ideal target for Kyle Orton. A showdown with the rival Raiders in Week 3 means Nnamdi Asomugha -- arguably the NFL's best cornerback -- will be draped on Broncos' top threat Brandon Marshall, making Royal an appealing option.Next four games: @CIN, CLE, @OAK, DAL
Matt Cassel, QB, KC One-year wonder or star in the making? Cassel drew rave reviews and a $63 million contract from K.C. for his season in relief of Tom Brady. But the jury is out on whether Cassel was simply a product of the Patriots' system. You can't ask for a much tougher opening stretch, so it wouldn't be surprising to see Cassel struggle early. Expectations for WR Dwayne Bowe should be lowered also.Next four games: @BAL, OAK, @PHI, NYG
Joe Flacco, QB, BAL Flacco led the Ravens to the AFC title game during his rookie season, but his paltry stats made him a borderline fantasy option at best. The Ravens are still a run-first offense, but a look at their opening stretch for 2009 reveals a big opportunity. Flacco will have his chance right out of the gate.Next four games: KC, @SD, CLE, @NE
Chris Johnson, RB, TEN Anytime the words "at Pittsburgh" appear on a team's schedule, feel free to treat it as an immediate red flag. Each of the Titans' following three opponents should also be improved on the defensive side compared to '08. Add it all up, and it probably means fewer explosive plays from the lightning-fast second-year running back until the leaves turn brown.Next four games: @PIT, HOU, @NYJ, @JAC
Chris Cooley, TE, WAS Opening at the Giants will be a tall order, but after that we see some promising matchups for one of the NFL's most talented tight ends. Cooley is coming off an 83-catch, 849-yard season, and he will remain quarterback Jason Campbell's most reliable target in 2009.Next four games: @NYG, STL, @DET, TB
Antonio Bryant, WR, TAM Bryant was one of the league's breakout talents in '08 but looks primed for a regression. He had knee surgery in August. The Bucs' regular-season opening slate is daunting, and their starting QB will come from a pool of Byron Leftwich, Luke McCown and rookie Josh Freeman -- you don't want to swim in that pool.Next four games: DAL, @BUF, NYG, @WAS
Who's Hot? Tom Brady looked polished in preseason, and the knee held up just fine after a few big hits. ... Kurt Warner stayed healthy for the full 16 games for the first time since 2001. He had offseason hip surgery but appears fully recovered. ... The Rams got good news this week when Donnie Avery returned to practice several weeks ahead of schedule after suffering a stress fracture in his foot. If healthy, he is the Rams' only proven WR. ... 49ers RB Glen Coffee is a bona fide sleeper. The hard-charging rookie from Alabama turned heads with a 16-carry, 129-yard gashing of Oakland.
Who's Not? Ben Roethlisberger was injured halfway through the preseason when one of his lineman stepped on his foot. While his rehab is progressing and he appears on track to take the field in Week 1, Roethlisberger will be rusty at best, and still sore at worst. ... Carolina's Steve Smith injured his shoulder early in training camp, and has yet to play in the preseason. Smith may not hit his stride until after the bye in Week 4. ... Terrell Owens might be more injured than we're being led to believe. Sounds an awful lot like turf toe, which can linger for months. ... Arizona's Chris "Beanie" Wells has a rep for being injury-prone, and sure enough, he suffered an ankle injury early in camp that has sidelined him for most of the preseason.