Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:
New Orleans’ defense will look like the Steelers of the 1970s. There’s been a lot of hype about new coordinator Gregg Williams and all the new defensive personnel. We’ve seen glimpses of a new aggressive attitude in the preseason. But we really haven’t seen anything yet. This unit will be spectacular Sunday and that’s naturally going to raise hopes. But keep this one in perspective. The Saints are playing the Detroit Lions and rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford. Williams will go after him and you’re going to see sacks and turnovers -- things that were rare for this defense in the past -- and that’s great. But the Saints have to build from this game and show that this defense can dominate against teams that have won a game sometime in recent memory.
Josh Freeman’s only an injury away. The Bucs made a lot of offseason noise about how they don’t want rookie quarterback Josh Freeman playing right away. Probably not a bad concept when you look at the Lions and realize the Saints could turn Stafford into the next Joey Harrington. But the Bucs, who’ve done a lot of things that defy logic recently, kind of contradicted themselves when they traded Luke McCown to Jacksonville. Sure, they’ve got veteran Byron Leftwich as the starter and they want him to lead this team through a brutal early schedule. But Leftwich doesn’t have a track record for durability and he’s the only insulation between Freeman and the playing field. With DeMarcus Ware lining up across the way, Bucs fans could be seeing Freeman long before they want to.
If I’m Andy Reid, I’m turning into Joe Paterno: Yeah, I know the Eagles aren’t what anybody would call a power-running team. Brian Westbrook does most of his damage on the fringes and that’s been working nicely for almost a generation. But, if Reid takes a look at the middle of Carolina’s defensive line, he’s got to consider scrapping all that for a day. With Maake Kemoeatu lost for the season, the Panthers likely will start Damione Lewis, who isn’t a run stuffer, and Nick Hayden, who shouldn’t be an NFL starter. They’ll be backed up by two guys who just joined the roster this week. John Fox and Kris Jenkins despised one another when they were together in Carolina. But I’m thinking Fox would gladly swallow his pride and welcome back Jenkins, and all his antics, right about now.
Is Atlanta’s defense really that bad? There was panic in the preseason because the Falcons looked horrible on defense. Yes, there are reasons to be concerned, but don’t freak out about what you see in the preseason because it doesn’t show you the whole picture. The Falcons were cautious with veteran defensive end John Abraham, but they won’t hold him back in the regular season. Yes, they’ve got five new starters on defense and there may be some growing pains. But did you really think the aging Keith Brooking, Lawyer Milloy and Grady Jackson were that vital to a defense that wasn’t exactly great last season? There was a reason the Falcons let them go.
Fantasy advice: We’ve got other people on our site who specialize in this and take their word before mine. But I’ve got some random thoughts this week. If you’ve got a Saint -- any Saint -- start him. If you’ve got Drew Brees or Marques Colston, you’ve already won. Be careful if you’ve got a Tampa Bay running back -- Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward and Earnest Graham are going to be splitting carries. With the possible exception of Brees, DeAngelo Williams is going to be the most solid fantasy player in the NFC South each week. Don’t let all the Tony Gonzalez and Jerious Norwood hype steer you away from Michael Turner.