If you play fantasy football, Thursday's 2010 season opener between the Vikings and Saints has a little bit of everything. From marquee QB's to elite WR's and game changing RB's, we rate the players most likely to be somewhere in your fantasy lineup come Thursday night.
1. Drew Brees, QB (NO) - Think the Vikings are the only ones to have this match-up circled on their calendar? Think again. Remember that Brees threw for just 197 yards in the '09 NFC title game and that the Saints were held to just 73 yards on six full drives in the second half! The Vikings will also be without the services of rookie Chris Cook and Cedric Griffin in the secondary, so expect Brees to take advantage early and often against the weakest link in the Minnesota Defense
Projections: 340 passing yards, 4 pass TD's
2. Adrian Peterson, RB (Min) - No player left more on the field in last years NFC Championship than AP. Of course we're referring to ball handling issues (2 fumbles and a botched handoff from Brett Favre) that kept the Vikings from defeating the Saints. AP gained 136 total yards and scored 3 TDs in that contest, so it's not like he has struggled against the Saints front seven. With QB Brett Favre fresh out of retirement, expect the Vikings to lean on their workhorse back--including short passes and third down work that went to the departed Chester Taylor last season-to help reduce the chance of injury to Favre. The news that Saints LB and leading tackler Jonathan Vilma is questionable only helps Peterson's cause.
Projections: 125 rush yards, 2 rush TD, 4 receptions, 30 rec yards
3. Marques Colston, WR (NO) - Colston was a model of inconsistency last season, including 7 games with 6 catches or more and 7 games with 3 receptions or less. Last years' NFC championship game was one of his worst as Colston caught just 2 passes for 22 yards. It's hard to project what direction the balls will be thrown from week to week, but know that NFL signal callers tend to go to their most trusted targets in the first weeks of the season. Colston has all the tools to put up an elite Week 1 performance and the news that he goes up against Lito Sheppard has us thinking that this will be one of the biggest weeks for Colston owners this season.
Projections: 8 receptions, 130 yards, 2 TD
4. Brett Favre, QB (Min) - The loss of Sidney Rice isn't the only reason we've trimmed Favre's numbers in this game. While many expect #4 to come back firing, expect the Vikings to ease him back into the rigors of the NFL season. When he does throw, look for Favre to work short to intermediate routes, in an attempt to get the ball out of his hands quickly. Notably absent from this matchup is Saints ball-hawk Darren Sharper, which is good news for the salt and pepper slinger. If you own Favre don't be afraid to explore other starting options for this week as the Vikings ease him back into action.
Projections: 240 yards, 2 pass TD, 1 INT
5. Percy Harvin, WR (Min) - The second year pro is poised for a breakout season starting with this week's game. His blend of speed and elusiveness make him a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. The loss of Sidney Rice to hip surgery for half the year makes Harvin Favre's defacto top target. Expect the Vikings to utilize Harvin in a variety of sets and formations to confuse the blitzing defense of New Orleans and keep pressure off of Brett Favre.
Projections: 6 receptions, 80 yards, 35 rushing yards, 1 rush TD
6. Reggie Bush, RB (NO) - Ranking Bush ahead of teammate Pierre Thomas seems like sacrilege until you consider that Bush will dominate in the receiving game and that he has a chance to impact on special teams. Last year Reggie caught 2 passes for 33 yards and a TD against the Vikings in the playoffs. While Thomas will certainly be leaned on to run the football we think that will be an exercise in keeping the Vikings honest. Meanwhile, Bush will continue his strong 2009 second half by creating space on the outside using sweeps and short receptions and could even be responsible for a game changing punt return.
Projections: 18 yards rushing, 6 receptions, 65 yards, 1 rec TD
7. Visanthe Shiancoe, TE (Min) - The return of Favre coupled with the loss of Sidney Rice are of greatest consequence to the value of the Vikings tight end. While Shiancoe will be relied upon to protect Favre, he will also serve as his QB's security blanket. Sidney Rice's absence from action will mean that Favre will look often to Shiancoe in the red zone. Expect Favre and his most trusted option to be in midseason form this Thursday.
Projections: 5 receptions, 50 yards, 1 rec TD
8. Robert Meachem, WR (NO) - Like Colston, Meachem caught just 2 passes in the championship game against Minnesota. But Meachem was on his way to a breakout performance as he totaled 6 TD's between weeks 9 and 13, and 9 touchdowns on a mere 45 receptions. Meacham is also a trusted target for Brees, he didn't record a single drop in all of last season. The Vikings injuries in the secondary (see above) could be exploited by Meachem's straight line speed.
Projections: 3 receptions, 70 yards, 1 rec TD
9. Bernard Berrian, WR (Min) - We believe that Berrian, an oft forgotten man in Minnesota, will have a nice 2010 campaign as Brett Favre's top deep threat. Berrian is just 29 and still possesses good initial quickness and deep route running ability. The only thing holding him back from a solid Week 1 performance is the lack of timing likely between he and QB Brett Favre. The Vikings will require a few weeks before they are clicking as an offense, and the most likely casualty of such growing pains is the deep ball. Look for Favre to target (and miss) Berrian a few times on Thursday, leading to a stat line that belies what will be from Berrian in 2010.
Projections: 4 rec, 40 yards
10. Pierre Thomas, RB (NO) - Thomas had a good game the last time these two teams met with both a rushing and receiving score. It's tough to predict similar output for a couple of reasons--namely, the Vikings Pat and Kevin Williams. The DT duo do more to disrupt opposing teams run game more than any other tandem in the NFL. The Saints will counter by throwing often and may use the rushing attack headed by Thomas merely to keep the defense honest. While Thomas is always a threat to score, the presence of a strong Viking front will translate into modest Week 1 totals.
Projections: 55 rushing yards, 3 receptions, 20 yards.
11. Jeremy Shockey, TE (NO) - Shockey had an interesting offseason in which he found himself hospitalized for undisclosed reasons. While we think that the Big Easy TE position will again post solid totals in 2010, Shockey's injury and the presence of backups David Thomas and rookie sensation Jimmy Graham have us tempering expectations for the veteran. Shockey is still a legitimate red zone threat and can be counted on to post serviceable TE1 numbers in the early weeks.
Projections: 5 receptions, 50 yards