The Arizona Cardinals open up Week 1 of the NFL season within the familiar confines of University of Phoenix Stadium as they host number-one draft pick Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon. With the help of our good friends over at numberFire.com, we've analyzed the Cardinals primary fantasy football options leading into the big game. Larry Fitzgerald remains a chief fantasy contributor, but the rest of the Redbirds offer some daunting decisions for owners still pondering who to sit and who to start.
numberFire.com Projections: 5.17 receptions, 68.85 yards, 0.47 touchdowns, 9.69 fantasy points
Analysis: After a down year in 2010, Fitzgerald appears poised and ready to reclaim his title as a top-5 fantasy receiver in the NFL. With a competent quarterback finally at the helm, the All-Pro is primed for a bounce-back season, and it all begins against Carolina.
Fitz has dominated the Panthers throughout his time in the league, collecting 44 receptions, 631 yards, and two touchdowns in just six games against the franchise. Last year Fitzgerald had one of his best games of the season in Carolina, exploding for 125 yards on nine receptions. You don't really need me to tell you to start him, do you?
numberFire.com Projections: 10.49 rushes, 39.33 yards, 0.37 touchdowns, 1.13 receptions, 7.75 receiving yards, 0.07 receiving touchdowns, 7.30 fantasy points
Analysis: If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times. This is Beanie Wells' year. With the starting job finally in hand, and no competent threat breathing down his neck, Wells strolls into the season as one of the NFL's lone featured backs. That isn't a point that can be understated. The guarantee of 20 carries a game is a fantasy goldmine in this age of backfield-by-committee.
For his part, Wells has done all he can to prove that he deserves the trust of the coaching staff, piling up a string of excellent performances in the preseason. Now he'll get his shot on the big stage, against one of last year's worst rushing defenses. Do big things Beanie.
numberFire.com Projections: 19.34 points allowed, 1.67 sacks, 1.41 turnovers, .11 touchdowns, 6.17 fantasy points
Analysis: Last year, despite all their shortcomings, the Cardinals' defense ended the season as a top-6 fantasy unit. How? They were opportunistic to a fault, collecting a league-high seven touchdowns throughout the sixteen game campaign.
Now they get a treat in week 1, as struggling rookie Cam Newton travels into town for the first start of his NFL career. Who's to say that the Redbirds can't lure the number-one pick into a sloppy turnover or two?
numberFire.com Projections: 156.78 passing yards, 0.80 touchdowns, 0.80 interceptions, 7.39 rushing yards, 8.81 fantasy points
Analysis: Kevin Kolb's time will come, just not yet. Historically quarterbacks in their first game with a franchise tend to play poorly, whether it's because of personnel unfamiliarity or the inherent pressure of the moment. Expect the same from Kolb early, especially because the team missed so much valuable offseason acclimation time. He could still play decently on Sunday, but the numbers won't show it. Go with a different option if you have one.
numberFire.com Projections: 2.66 receptions, 35.40 yards, .23 touchdowns, 4.94 fantasy points
Analysis: Andre Roberts could be a massive sleeper this season. Or he could be a gigantic bust. That's the thing, nobody can know for sure. At this point he's just too big of a gamble to wager a precious starting spot on. Give it a few weeks so we can see what kind of role he develops within the offense, and then we'll have this conversation.
numberFire.com Projections: 3.30 receptions, 40.29 yards, .36 touchdowns, 6.22 fantasy points
Analysis: Todd Heap falls into the exact same category as Roberts. At this point, nobody can know for sure what to expect out of the former-Sun Devil. The Cardinals have traditionally shied away from a tight end orientated attack, although it's fair to say that they've never really had a tight end like Heap. Give it some time so we can see how the big man fits into this offense, then give him a look.
numberFire.com Projections: 1.04/1.24 field goal attempts, 1.44 extra points, 4.98 fantasy points
Analysis: The Cardinals' offensive reservations hold true to Jay Feely as well. This early in the season it's difficult to gauge how well this unit can really work together, and kickers depend on explosive offenses that can put up points in bunches. For all we know the Cardinals could possess one, but allow a test run first before you rely on the real thing.