Stud – Cam Newton (CAR): It’s only appropriate after I take the amount of flack I have for placing Newton at No. 2 in our season rankings here at GSI that I stand behind him right out of the gate. In two December bouts with the Bucs as a rookie Newton passed for four scores and ran for four more. Expect at least 300 total yards and three more touchdowns in this trip to Tampa too.
Dud – Carson Palmer (OAK): Palmer led a banged up Raiders’ offense to one touchdown in 17 preseason possessions while throwing four picks and 0 TD passes on 56 attempts. The team is starting to get healthy around him, but I going to give the Raiders’ passing game a week or two to gel before giving them much lineup consideration.
Sleeper – Russell Wilson (SEA): After sparkling in the preseason and beating out big money free agent Matt Flynn for the Seahawks’ starting job, Wilson is a very appealing option in two quarterback leagues or deeper formats in a matchup with the Cardinals in what I expect to be a high-scoring affair.
Stud – Chris Johnson (TEN) – Count me on the bandwagon for CJ bounce-back performance in 2012. He worked harder this offseason than any other in his career and is out prove his doubters wrong. With Jake Locker under center the Patriots are going to have to protect against him running, opening holes for Johnson. New England allowed RB’s double digit fantasy points in 13 of their 16 contests a year ago.
Dud – Cedric Benson (GB) – The Packers signed free agent Cedric Benson late in training camp and are expected him to start in Week 1 vs. the 49ers. After watching his yards per carry dip for the second straight year last season, the Bengals said no thanks on resigning him. Given the 49ers only allowed three rushing TD’s all of last year and the Packers lack of consistency in running the football he should stay benched here.
Sleeper – Kevin Smith (DET) – With Mikel Leshoure suspended and few healthy options in the running game look for the Lions to lean heavily on Smith out of the backfield in there Week 1 tilt with the Rams. St. Louis was brutal against the run a year ago and though I expect improvement, Smith should still be in line for 80-100 yards or more a score.
Stud – Brandon Marshall (CHI) – Expect big things out of the Bears’ passing attack right out of the gate and with Marshall reuniting with Jay Cutler it could be a trend. The Colts allowed 17 touchdowns and 20.8 fantasy points per weeks to receivers last season and the defense isn’t expected to be that much better this time around.
Dud – Santonio Holmes (NYJ): Despite scoring in each game against Buffalo a year ago, it’s hard for me to get behind Holmes this week even as a WR3 of flex option. He missed most of the preseason with injuries and the Jets’ offense is a mess right now. He’s going to have to earn my confidence before I can endorse him as a weekly lineup option.
Sleeper – Justin Blackmon (JAX): I normally don’t endorse a rookie wideout right out of the gate, but Blackmon looked good in the preseason and so did Blaine Gabbert. With questions surrounding the running game look for the Jaguars to try to air it out a bit against a Vikings secondary that ceded the third most points to fantasy wideouts a year ago.
Stud – Antonio Gates (SD): After being banged up the past two years, Gates enters 2012 at full strength. With Vincent Jackson out of the picture and Antonio Brown out for the first part of the year, Gates is going to be Phillip Rivers most reliable and trusted target. The veteran caught 10 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown last year in two games against his division foes and has scored 10 times in 18 all-time meetings.
Dud – Jermaine Gresham (CIN): The Bengals tight end is on my list of breakout players for 2012, but after suffering an injury in Week 1 of the preseason he’s a bit rusty. Add to it a matchup with the Ravens’ tenacious defense, a unit he managed nine total fantasy points in two games with last year, and I am finding a better play this time around.
Sleeper – Kyle Rudolph (MIN): Sticking with my preseason guns, I put the Vikings tight end on the list. Look for him to start a monster season by taking advantage of a Jaguars’ defense that allowed the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends in 2011.