We’re getting to that stage of the week where you have to start seriously considering your line-ups for the opening set of games in the 2012 NFL season.
And as the numbers never lie, here are some interesting statistics that caught our eye this week. Hopefully, they can turn your team from also-rans into a powerhouse and get your name in that draw for the trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.
305 and 6... His receivers might be a bit banged up this time around but Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo ($3 million) put up very nice numbers in two games against the New York Giants in 2011. Romo averaged 305 passing yards per game and threw 6 touchdowns. Can he have his way with an injury-hit Giants secondary.
197-2,494-13... Quarterback Jay Cutler ($3 million) is reunited with his favourite receiver in Brandon Marshall ($3 million) and while it could pay dividends for the Chicago Bears, the duo may also help your fantasy team, particularly against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. In their final two years together in Denver, Cutler and Marshall combined for 197 completions for 2,494 yards and 13 touchdowns.
13-10... Matt Ryan ($3 million) has enjoyed a strong preseason with the Atlanta Falcons but you might want to be careful about grabbing him as your opening weekend quarterback given he is playing on the road against the Kansas City Chiefs. Ryan has a 13-10 record in outdoor games and a passer rating of 82.3. In games played inside a dome, he has a 30-9 record and a QB rating of 92.6.
50... You might want to take a look at the Philadelphia Eagles ($1 million) as your Week 1 defense, given that they are playing against a Cleveland Browns club that have lost their last seven season openers. The Eagles led the NFL with 50 sacks a year ago and rampaging pass-rushers such as Jason Babin and Trent Cole may prove too much for Browns’ rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
8... I mentioned this statistic in my By the Numbers column earlier this week but it bears repeating. Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ($4 million) loves playing against his Week 1 opponents, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newton accounted for 35 Carolina touchdowns in his rookie season and 8 of those came against the Bucs (4 passing, 4 rushing).
11-159-1... You will rarely find a moment when we recommend a wide receiver playing against Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets, but it might be worth investing in Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson ($3 million) in Week 1. He is one of the few receivers in the NFL to find consistent success on Revis Island. In 2011, Johnson caught 11 passes for 159 yards and 1 touchdown against the Jets.
2,166 and 14... You could reduce your worries about one running back eating into another’s carries by selecting both Houston Texans backs – Arian Foster ($4 million) and Ben Tate ($3 million) as they take on the Miami Dolphins. In 2011, the pair combined to rush for 2,166 yards and 14 touchdowns. That kind of production is not to be sniffed at!
344 and 2... If power runners are your thing, Steven Jackson ($4 million) could be your man in Week 1 as his Wembley-bound St. Louis Rams take on the Detroit Lions. The Lions had trouble stopping the run with their Wide-9 defense in 2011 and Jackson is going to be the focal point of the Rams attack. In three career games against the Lions, Jackson has rushed for 344 yards and 2 touchdowns.
2-4... Given their poor performances in 2011, it would be understandable if you steered clear of the New England Patriots defense ($1 million). But they might just turn in a dominant performance against a Tennessee Titans team handing Jake Locker his first start. Quarterbacks making their first start against a Bill Belichick-coached defense have a 2-4 record, throwing 11 interceptions and posting a QB rating of just 71.5. As a head coach, Belichick has never lost to a QB making his first start (4-0).
104.6... With the Seattle Seahawks breaking in rookie passer Russell Wilson, they may lean even more than ever on Marshawn Lynch ($4 million) in their opener against the Arizona Cardinals. And if Lynch goes into ‘Beast Mode’ that could be great news for your team. Lynch posted six 100-yard rushing games in the final nine weeks of the 2011 campaign. During that spell, he averaged 104.6 rushing yards per outing.