The UCornn Huskers finished an amazing 11-2 last season and ran away with a division that many thought would be dominated by the Chickens and Beans. YFFL.com senior writer Bobby Sansone thinks another dark horse will lead the way this season: the 1-win Memphis Brothers. After making a splash trading for Reggie Wayne and hoping for a bounceback season from Carson Palmer and breakthrough season for Darren McFadden, it doesn't sound so far-fetched.
One of the league's worst teams this decade has one final shot to turn things around. Decimated by injuries each of the past two seasons, Brian Davidson and the Memphis Brothers are finally healthy once again. Carson Palmer is poised to return to his top 5 fantasy QB status with weapons like Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry. The backfield is deep, led by former No. 1 overall pick Darren McFadden. A blockbuster draft day trade (which I predicted by saying Brian is going to do something crazy with the No. 2 pick) now gives the Brothers arguably the best WR duo in the league with Steve Smith and Reggie Wayne. If the Brothers aren't on your playoff radar, they should be now. The team has a balance of young fantasy studs and dependable veterans. The Brothers will take advantage of their last-place schedule, start out 3-0 and won't look back.
Projected Record: 9-4
This is likely the last hurrah for the team of the decade that never was. The QB position remains stable, as does the deepest RB roster in the league, but an injury to either of two very injury–prone WRs in Owens or Boldin could be catastrophic. The Chickens desperately need to deal one of their two tight ends, so Nick will be praying both Gates and Witten play to their full potential to increase trade value. I like a Gates for Brandon Marshall trade to go down sometime in the first 5 weeks. Nick has high hopes on Tomlinson returning to 2007 form but his career is eerily similar to Marshall Faulk. Remember how fast Faulk fell off the fantasy radar? Don't be surprised if it happens to Tomlinson too. The Chickens should sneak into the playoffs but this aging team won't have enough fire power by seasons end to keep up with the Mallards or Brothers in the playoffs.
Projected Record: 8-5
The Huskers still feature the trio of Peyton Manning, Brandon Jacobs and Brandon Marshall, but it's very bleak after that. Too many years of drafting from 11 to 16th pick eventually catches up to you. The Huskers will play the first 6 or 7 weeks by ear and if they aren't within striking distance of the Brothers or Chickens, will look to trade Manning for a first round draft pick. The WR cast is deep, so that could attract some buyers as well, but Kevin and the Huskers desparately need a second feature RB, something that usually only comes if you own a top 6 pick. Look for the Huskers to unload some veteran talent this season with an eye on 2010.
Projected Record: 5-8
Mexican Humping Beans
After 2 straight over-achieving seasons in which both finished with amazing victories over their dreaded rival the Chickens, the Beans were hit hard by the loss of Burress, the mileage on Portis and drop in production from Braylon Edwards. Sansone made a difficult decision and chose to turn over his roster as quickly as possible even if it meant the 2009 season would likely go up in smoke. The Beans, still pissed Hakeem Nicks went No. 8 overall, chose to draft 3 RBs in the first round in hopes at least 2 of them will turn into fantasy starters. The WRs are a hodge-podge of journeymen that may or may not pan out. Cutler is the only QB on the roster and likely the only hope for the Beans to steal 3 or 4 victories this season. Still, the future remains bright especially if the trio of Greene, Davis and McCoy live up to their hype. Look for Sansone to continue his wheeling and dealing in hopes of being competitive again in 2010
Projected Record: 3-10
Anquan Boldin, Chickens
Look for Boldin to come out with a chip on his shoulder and put up another record-setting season. He wants a big contract and is tired of everyone wanting to makeout with Larry Fitzgerald. I actually think the Madden curse (Fitzgerald is on the cover) will play into Boldin's hands. He'll stay healthy and be the go-to guy once Fitzgerald succumbs to the dreaded curse. Look for Boldin to top 100 points and lead all WRs in scoring for the second year in a row.
Carson Palmer, Brothers
In the three seasons before Palmer was hurt, he averaged a quiet 153 points per season. He's healthy again and there's no reason he can't put up that kind of season or even top it this year. Palmer is only 29 and entering the prime of his career with a trio of great veteran WRs to throw to. I won't be surprised if Palmer is starting for the NFC in this year's Pro Bowl.
Terrell Owens, Chickens
I have a funny feeling that time is finally catching up with T.O. Look for him to battle injuries all season long, cause trouble up in Buffalo and get frustrated when the Bills are 3-6 and already out of the playoff picture. T.O. stories never end with a happy-ending. Neither will this one.
Darren McFadden, Brothers
I love, love, love McFadden. Did I mention I love McFadden? I love how he is completely flying under the radar in all fantasy drafts. If you pick him, people look at you like you have two heads! He was the No. 1 overall pick a year ago and battled turf toe, the worst injury for a RB to battle, all season long. He is healthy now and the Raiders are starting to get their shit together...well, at least the running game. Look for McFadden to be a top 5 fantasy RB this season. Other notables: Joe Flacco, Felix Jones, James Davis
All Division Team