Snap, Crackle & Pop Snap, Crackle and Pop is a weekly column that reviews the major injuries (Snap) and then projects both busts (Crackle) and sleepers (Pop) for the coming week.
I still have baseball on the brain, so give me a moment to get back into pigskin-mode. I might as well get this off my chest: kicking off an NFL season on a Thursday night is un-American. Thursday night openers feel like exhibition games, much like games in London or other sites inappropriate for gridiron. Also many fantasy leagues are still drafting, which is another reason to eradicate the Thursday night travesty. Doesn't the Roger Goodell know what's bad for fantasy is bad for football?
Carolina's running-back-by-committee is looking more and more like it will be a one-man show this Sunday. James Stewart's Achilles injury held him out of practice again. The Panthers even picked up a castoff RB from the Packers -- adding RB depth at this point is a bad sign for Stewart owners. DeAngelo Williams won't have to share on Sunday, which makes him a great play against even a good run defense like Philadelphia's. I like the Williams and his terrific offensive line against nearly any defense.
A dislocated knuckle doesn't sound too bad. However when it pokes through the skin it's kind of gross. That's what happened to Denver QB Kyle Orton's right (throwing) hand in a preseason game. He's been practicing with it, throwing and handing off without incident. So he should be good to go in Cincinnati. Tough guy.
Another digital problem: Rams QB Marc Bulger's broken pinkie could keep him out of Sunday's game in Seattle. If Bulger gives it a try he may have trouble handing off -- which will be bad for RB Steven Jackson, the only Rams player who is fantasy relevant.
Colts SS Bob Sanders will miss Sunday's game against the Jaguars and possibly well beyond that (five weeks) with a knee injury. Sanders is a top IDP performer when he plays, which is not often enough.
Patriots WR Wes Welker barely played in the preseason and is not practicing. The Patriots, as is their custom, are blowing smoke about Welker's undisclosed injury. Watch for the Friday practice news to see if Welker participates.
Saints RB Pierre Thomas finished the 2008 season with 9 TD in the last six weeks of the season. Thomas was over 100 total yards in five of those six games. I expect big things from Thomas in 2009, but not until Week 2, at the earliest. It looks like his MCL sprain will cost Thomas a game against the Lions. Yes, the 0-16 Lions.
Don't be afraid of the RBBC. Last year there were several committees with two fantasy-worthy running backs. Tennessee's duo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White was one of the best and most weeks you would do well to start either one of them. Overall I expect that to be the case again this season, but not this week. They draw the world champions on opening night. The Pittsburgh defense returns intact from last season when they were the top-ranked unit in football. Both Johnson and White will be closer to 50 yards rushing than they will be to 100 yards against the Steelers.
Three teams fired the offensive coordinators very late in the preseason: Buffalo, Tampa Bay and Kansas City. That can't be good for this week's game plan. Downgrade the fantasy talent on all three teams as they try to regroup for week 1.
Normally I would love Terrell Owens and Lee Evans against the New England secondary. I would even go for Trent Edwards as a sleeper. However, I can't imagine that the Bills offensive scheme will click only a few days after firing the guy (Turk Schonert) that installed it.
Chiefs RB Larry Johnson can bounce back big-time this season, but not until Week 2. This week against the Ravens is another story. The Ravens' stellar defense will make the quarterback try to beat them, whether that's Matt Cassel (questionable -- knee) or Brodie Croyle. Johnson will face a wall of black and purple every time he touches the ball.
Saints RB Mike Bell will get the start for Thomas against the Lions. Detroit had the worst run defense in the NFL last season; so grab Bell off your waiver wire if he's still there. By the way, Detroit also had the worst pass defense last year -- that's a difficult combination to achieve. Saints WR Lance Moore nursed a shoulder injury for much of the preseason, but should be fine now. He's an attractive choice against Detroit.
The Titans will miss DT Albert Haynesworth about as much as a team can miss a defensive player. Haynesworth, the cornerstone of the defense, signed with Washington as a free agent. Steelers RB Willie Parker is the play against the Haynesworth-less defense. Rashard Mendenhall will not get enough touches to be a factor.
Just about everything went wrong for Seattle last year, so I think things will tend to even out for them this season. Matt Hasselbeck is only two years removed from a 28 TD and 3,966 yard season. Seattle is full of sleeper candidates, including Julius Jones and Nate Burleson. Jones could repeat his 140-yard performance against the Rams in Week 3 of last season.
John Rakowski is a senior writer for SportsGrumblings.com, a fantasy sports portal. John is a 2007 winner of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for journalistic excellence, for his "Snap, Crackle and Pop" column. Please visit Sports Grumblings for all your fantasy football needs, so you can DOMINATE your league this season!