After throwing 39 touchdowns (17 to uber-stud Rob Gronkowski), Bill Belichick brought back offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels was the coordinator behind 2007’s record-setting offense.
To go along with McDaniels, Brandon Lloyd enters the fray as someone who can stretch the field and provide another option to complement Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, and Gronkowski.
Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth will compete with Deion Branch for the final wide receiver spots.
New England should be fine going with a running back committee of Ridley/Vereen/Woodhead, throwing in Olympic sprinter/Florida Gator Jeff Demps to spice things up. While some of Brady’s options - namely, Welker and Gronkowski - may see a dip in production, expect Brady to be the fantasy leader by season’s end.
Last season's fantasy points leader, Rodgers returns to the Gold and Green healthy and with the same cast as last season. For leagues that take away points for interceptions, Rodgers' 45 touchdowns to just six picks last season, was pure gravy.
Cedric Benson should be a healthy upgrade over Ryan Grant, but it’s the trio of Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley that continue to terrorize defensive coordinators in their sleep.
The Packers' 35 points per game led the NFL, and with a relatively easy schedule (they match up with the NFC West and AFC South), expect Rodgers’ ascension into the hearts of Cheeseheads to continue.
A testament to the level of play and the way the game has changed, Brees slides in as the No.3 ranked player, but could easily be chosen first. Often overlooked after Brady and Rodgers, as well as the turmoil that has surrounded the Saints, Brees’ 5,476 passing yards last season was an NFL record.
New Orleans remains a balanced attack, however.
The Saints ranked sixth in rush yards per game (133), behind teams like the Broncos, Panthers, and Eagles, which sported running quarterbacks. Robert Meachem’s departure allows Brees' favorite, Lance Moore, to step into a more consistent role.
The diminutive thunder bug, Darren Sproles, returns as the all-around threat that accumulated a league-leading 2,696 all-purpose yards last season. Athletic freak Jimmy Graham enters just his third season.
When Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson both went down last season, Houston switched identities, going from a pass-happy offense to a ground and pound defensive team. Leading the way rushing, despite missing three games, were Foster and his 1,841 combined rushing and receiving yards. Some may point to the emergence of Ben Tate as a red-flag.
Keep in mind that outside of Andre Johnson (who hasn’t played in a full season since 2009) the Texans lack skilled receivers. Schaub also hasn’t been a staple of good health, and has consistently looked average as a starting quarterback. Entering his fourth year in the league (third as a starter), Foster is in line for an elite-level season as the premier running back.
Stafford somehow fell under the radar in 2011 despite throwing for 41 touchdowns and more than 5,000 yards. Detroit failed to produce much of a running attack last year, and with Jahvid Best likely on the PUP list, and oft-injured Kevin Smith penciled in as the starter, expect Stafford to air the pigskin out a lot.
Stafford’s 663 pass attempts last season are third on the all-time single-season record list. With all of those attempts coming, someone has to catch them for Detroit to succeed. Enter “Megatron”. Finishing first among receivers and 11th
overall in fantasy points, Calvin Johnson’s 6’5" frame provides the ultimate security blanket. Detroit also plays inside comfy confines of a dome.
ranked fantasy player from 2011 remains under the radar this season, and it’s somewhat easy to recognize why. The Falcons, expected to take a step forward, went 10-6. Ryan, anticipated to compete as a top-tier quarterback, produced similar numbers to the previous season.
With Roddy White and Julio Jones poised to become one of the top receiving tandems in the league, Tony Gonzalez still as one of the top tight ends in the league, and Harry Douglas and Jacquizz Rodgers expected to take on bigger roles this season, the Falcons may have one of the league's best offenses.
Perhaps Ryan’s performance in Atlanta’s playoff game against the Giants has him ranked as the 11th
best fantasy quarterback. Consider “Matty Ice” to be a great value pick.