The Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints are two teams heading in opposite directions. The Saints have their head coach back, are teaming with fantasy weapons and are looking to get back in the playoffs. The Raiders are just trying to avoid the basement, but they have a long rebuild ahead of them.
The Saints' offense, as always, runs through Drew Brees. Brees led the league in passing yards and touchdowns, reaching 5,000 yards for the third time in his career. Don't expect to see much of him on Friday, though.
The running back competition is still raging on. Mark Ingram got the start in the first preseason game while Pierre Thomas nurses a sore leg. He rushed for 12 yards on three carries and is considered the favorite to be the Saints' main running back. Darren Sproles is back and should continue being a lethal weapon in PPR leagues.
Marques Colston and Lance Moore are locked in as the starting receivers, but the No. 3 spot is wide open after Joseph Morgan tore his ACL. Nick Toon made a good case for himself with four catches for 66 yards last week, but he's currently behind rookie Kenny Stills. Steve Breaston could also be in the mix. Brees has plenty of pass targets to spread around, so these guys are worth monitoring from a fantasy perspective. By now, you should all be familiar with Jimmy Graham.
The Raiders are in a completely different situation. Darren McFadden is by far the best fantasy option on the offense, but is he worth trusting after yet another disappointing season? The Raiders are switching back to a power-blocking scheme, but the offensive line has so little talent it may not make a difference. McFadden is a huge fantasy gamble this year.
Speaking of the offensive line, they lost their best player, left tackle Jared Veldheer, to a torn tricep, so Alex Barron will be manning the blind side. Yes, that Alex Barron--the penalty machine who hasn't played since 2010. It's a nightmare scenario for starting quarterback Matt Flynn, who is still unproven and might be thrown to the wolves.
None of this bodes well for the receivers, either. Rod Streater has some intriguing upside, but he's a No. 3 receiver being thrown into a No. 1 role. Denarius Moore is an okay deep threat, but is going to be limited with Flynn's weak arm.
The defense is so bad that the Raiders will be playing from behind a lot this year, so Flynn and company might put up some decent counting stats--Carson Palmer did manage to throw for 4,018 yards with mostly the same supporting cast--but this team has by far the least fantasy upside. If you're not willing to roll the dice on McFadden, then stay far away.