T.G.I.F.S. Thank God, it’s football season. We’ve got you covered for fantasy football, if you’re trying to make those last-minute decisions to get off on the right track for Week 1. It isn’t always easy. We promise not to waste your time with the obvious (start Tom Brady, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson, etc.). We’ll try and mine some gems who might be on the waiver wire, who just happen to be heading into a prime matchup.
We’ll also try and help you to avoid some pitfalls based on difficult matchups, injuries at other positions which might affect your starter, etc.
Surprise start of the week – Alex Smith, San Francisco (at GB) – The Packers ranked dead-last against the pass last season, allowing 299.8 yards per game through the air. That’s a bit misleading, as it also had to do with the fact the Packers were ahead early and often, and the opposition would take to the air frequently to get back into the game. This weekend should be no different, as the 49ers loaded up at the receiver position during the offseason, and they’ll be slinging it frequently, especially in the second half when they’ll likely be behind. Is Smith a must-start fantasy option? Certainly, by no means. However, he is a sneaky low-end No. 1 option this week, and a must-play in leagues which require two starting QBs.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Robert Griffin III, Washington (at NO), Jake Locker, Tennessee (vs. NE), Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (at CHI)
Sit of the week – Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (at BAL) – Sure, Dalton threw for 373 yards in his first meeting with the Ravens in Baltimore last season, but that also came with three interceptions, two sacks and a fumble, although that was recovered. In the second meeting, Dalton managed just 232 yards with no TDs. The Ravens are never a team you like to see your fantasy players facing, especially in Week 1. While they have a couple of notable injuries (i.e. LB Terrell Suggs), they will be still be stout. It is a good idea to use an alternative rather than rolling with Dalton.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (at NYJ), Christian Ponder, Minnesota (vs. JAC), Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (vs. PHI)
Surprise start of the week – Doug Martin, Tampa Bay (vs. CAR) – The Panthers had a difficult time slowing the run last season, as they were decimated in the middle by injuries. It appears that LB Jon Beason (knee) will be ready for this game, and rookie LB Luke Kuechly will help the Cats improve against the run. However, the Panthers are still guilty until proven innocent in trying to stop the opposing rushing attack. The only thing to watch with Martin is head coach Greg Schiano’s philosophy. There are reports that Martin might be used as the go-to back early on, with LeGarrette Blount coming on as a “closer”, ragging the clock and breaking down the defense while protecting the lead.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Rashad Jennings, Jacksonville (at MIN), Stevan Ridley, NE (at TEN), Michael Turner, Atlanta (at KC)
Sit of the week – Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (at MIN) – Yes, he is back after a 38-day holdout. But he missed the entire training camp and preseason, and no matter how good of shape he is in, shape and game-shape are two different things. Oh yeah, the Jaguars have a brand new offense that head coach Mike Mularkey brought to Jacksonville, which MoJo must conquer in the matter of a week. Jones-Drew is a physical specimen, so his conditioning will not be a problem. However, the team has said they will start Rashad Jennings in Week 1, and it is expected Jones-Drew will see 10, maybe 15, touches if he is active at all. He is just too risky to use with so many unknowns.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Cedric Benson, Green Bay (at SF), Reggie Bush, Miami (at HOU), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Cincinnati (at BAL)
Surprise start of the week – Pierre Garcon, Washington (at NO) – Garcon was expected to be the focus of the Washington offense in the preseason, but WRs Leonard Hankerson and Santana Moss are also healthy and looking for the ball. Then there is TE Fred Davis who also wants a piece of the action. However, the Washington passing attack will be much better this season with QB Robert Griffin III under center, and there is enough ball to go around to placate everyone. Garcon is a solid WR2 in most fantasy leagues for the first game, and the Redskins are likely to be behind early in the second half, meaning inflated passing and receiving totals all around.
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Danny Amendola, St. Louis (at DET), Robert Meachem, San Diego (at OAK), Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (at CHI)
Sit of the week - Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (at N.Y. Jets) – The last time we saw Johnson in this stadium, he was pretending to shoot himself in the leg during a TD celebration, making fun of then-Jets WR Plaxico Burress for his off-field behavior. The Jets won’t let him in the end zone again. Antonio Cromartie, Darrelle Revis and company will have it on lock down, trying to make anyone else on the Buffalo offense beat them.
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Justin Blackmon, Jacksonville (at MIN), Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland (vs. SD), Greg Little, Cleveland (vs. PHI)
Surprise start of the week - Jared Cook, Tennessee (vs. NE)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Coby Fleener, Indianapolis (at CHI), Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville (at MIN)
Sit of the week - Jacob Tamme, Denver (vs. PIT)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Brent Celek, Philadelphia (at CLE), Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati (at BAL)
Surprise start of the week – Justin Medlock, Carolina (at TB)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy play: Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis (at DET)
Sit of the week – Mike Nugent, Cincinnati (at BAL)
Other who should be riding the fantasy pine: Alex Henery, Philadelphia (at CLE)
Surprise start of the week – Bills DST
Other solid, less- than-obvious fantasy plays: Lions DST, Vikings DST
Sit of the week – Titans DST
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Buccaneers DST, Redskins DST