September 11, 2009

With the first game of the 2009 NFL season already in the books (I really hate Thursday night games to start the season), it's time for the Sports Grumblings supercomputer, Mighty Max, to turn his attention to the business of picking the top plays for the week's contests. No more long-term trend analysis, no more hidden keys to success. Just tell us who the strong plays of the week will be!

Always eager to please, Max has already churned through the available data, taking into account all the relevant information to provide the top plays at every position. Bear in mind, this doesn't mean that players absent from these lists are bad plays -- it's simply that the players listed below possess the strongest probability of success.

A note on the scoring system: the rankings assume a WCOFF system, and the FFRS (Fantasy Forecast Ranking System) is a number that Mighty Max uses to sort the players -- it does not represent any type of projected scoring for the game.

The QBs on this list are all top names, so there are no surprises here. Perhaps the interesting note is the strong matchups for the strong signal-callers.

Keep an Eye On: David Garrard, Jax (vs. Ind) -- Garrard has flown under the radar of most fantasy owners this season, and I don't really know why. I've heard things like "Well, he has no real game-breaking receivers" and "The Jags are built on running and defense"; both those statements may be true in 2009. But they were true in 2008 and Garrard posted outstanding numbers anyway; this season, he has an upgrade at receiver in the form of Torry Holt, who despite advanced age is a far better target than anything Garrard had at his disposal last season.

Jones-Drew begins his quest to become "the man" for the Jags -- and the fantasy experts who have predicted a top three finish for him. Tomlinson is trying to debunk the myth of the RB Wall and Mighty Max has assured me that LT2 will be successful at doing so. Williams benefits from the injury to Jonathan Stewart, so he'll get the bulk of the carries for the run-oriented Panthers. Gore and Barber are simply well-rounded runners whose teams simply need them to run in order to win.

Keep an Eye On: Steven Jackson, STL (vs. Sea) -- Jackson is a top runner in the NFL, no doubt about it. He has slipped in the eyes of many owners due to his inability to stay healthy (he's missed four games in both 2007 and 2008). That is a legitimate concern for fantasy owners -- but if Jackson is on your roster, he has a good shot at posting some strong numbers against the Seahawks, especially with the Rams committing themselves to the running game.

Keep an Eye On: Calvin Johnson, Det (vs. NO) -- There's a huge dichotomy of expectations when it comes to Megatron. On the one hand, he is one of the top five wide receivers in the NFL right now; on the other hand, he is playing with a rookie QB (Matthew Stafford) on a generally bad team. Which of the two factors will win out? I'm not quite sure, but the Saints' questionable secondary presents an opportunity for Stafford to get the ball to Johnson.

Tony Gonzalez begins the final chapter of his Hall of Fame career in Atlanta, where he should quickly become Matt Ryan's best friend. Witten is simply the best receiving TE in the NFL at this point, Owen Daniels has been a successful sleeper for the past two seasons for Sports Grumblings subscribers, but now he is on everyone's radar -- and will continue to be successful. Cooley seems to always come up big against the Giants.

Keep an Eye On: Vishanthe Shiancoe, Min (vs. Cle) -- Shiancoe is often the forgotten man in the Vikings' offense, and with good reason. All eyes are on Adrian Peterson and newly-acquired QB Brett Favre, and the potential play-making of rookie WR Percy Harvin. But Shiancoe is a sneaky-talented TE, and Favre has always been good about throwing to his TEs -- think Mark Chmura, Bubba Franks and Dustin Keller. In a short, controlled passing game that the Vikings are likely to feature, Shiancoe becomes a solid fantasy play.

The art of selecting kickers is always a dicey situation for Mighty Max. Of all the positions on a fantasy roster, kickers are the most influenced by the intangible factors that supercomputers hate. The kicker rankings are therefore mainly based on team scoring opportunities combined with their injury status and historical accuracy.

Keep an Eye On: Trick question. Nobody should ever keep their eye on a kicker.

John T. Georgopoulos is the publisher of Sports Grumblings, a fantasy sports portal providing strategy, articles and online tools to help you DOMINATE your leagues. John's Fantasy Forecast series won the prestigious Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for Best Series. Visit Sports Grumblings today and get on the path to DOMINATING your fantasy football league!

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