Breakdown: Giants versus Redskins
This is the seventh Thursday opener in recent NFL history, and the fifth in which the previous year's Super Bowl champion was the ceremonial host. In the four previous such games, the scores went like this:
2004: at Patriots 27, Colts 24
2005: at Patriots 30, Raiders 20
2006: at Steelers 28, Dolphins 17
2007: at Colts 41, Saints 10
In other words, expect some offensive fireworks from the home team amid what will be, no doubt, some actual fireworks.
Fantasy Up: Brandon Jacobs owners, rejoice! This is the healthiest the 6-foot-4, 264-pound ball of injured fury will be all year. Oh, sure, I'd rather own Clinton Portis, even in this game. But while Washington's offensive line is injury-prone and marked by the upheaval of Jon Jansen getting replaced at right tackle by Stephon Heyer, the Giants' unit is one of my favorites in the NFL coming into '08. Santana Moss gets called "injury-plagued," and he gets called "Smurf-like," but let's realize that he's probably a better receiver than Jim Zorn's quarterbacks had in Seattle (Darrell Jackson? Koren Robinson? Bobby Engram? Deion Branch?), and the West Coast offense loves fast receivers who run good routes. Moss is one of those. Start him. There's no question the Giants are a different team on defense, and the loss of Osi Umenyiora is painful. Note that four other starters from last year's championship team (LB Kawika Mitchell, S Gibril Wilson, LB Reggie Torbor and DE Michael Strahan) are also gone. I'm not a big Danny Clark guy, but Gerris Wilkinson can play at weak-side linebacker. Bottom line is, here at the season's outset, I expect this unit to be startable, fantasy-wise. But they simply don't have the kind of depth they did last year, which means we'll have to check back in as folks start getting hurt.
Fantasy Down: Eli Manning will probably have a pretty good night, but I'm still not thrilled about using him against a deep Redskins secondary. He'll connect deep a few times, but as per the rest of his career before his magical playoff run, he'll probably also throw a couple picks. I have him ranked 16th among signal-callers for Week 1. No Jason Taylor (probably) helps, though. I'm even less sold on Jason Campbell. It's oversimplifying things big-time to simply write, "It's a new offense, and Campbell hasn't mastered the West Coast playbook." Skill-set-wise, though, it really doesn't look like a great fit. Campbell absolutely has the football mind to be Zorn's guy. I just don't know about how quick his release is, and I've believed his best weapon was the size of his arm, something that won't get exploited as often under Zorn. Without Taylor at defensive end, don't expect a big pass rush from the Redskins defense. I know: duh. But this isn't a great front seven. Cornelius Griffin has seen better days, Marcus Washington is no longer a tackle machine and Rocky McIntosh needs to stay healthy. I'm benching this unit. Rookie receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly aren't to be used in fantasy leagues any time soon. Kelly's knee is hurt and he's out this week, while Thomas can't learn the playbook. Antwaan Randle El's starting spot is secure, but he's got a broken hand. Don't use him, either.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.