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It's that time of year again, everybody! Things are about to be so awesome and I can hardly contain my excitement! Not only do we get NFL football and our beloved Washington Redskins back, but we also get to play fantasy football! When the Redskins start sputtering around week four, it's that one thing that gives us all the joy in the world for the remainder of the beloved NFL season. You can play the standard, traditional, season-long fantasy leagues or you can play one-week leagues (we highly recommend FanDuel). You can play standard format or PPR. You can go with 10 teams or 12. It's so customizable that you can be in multiple leagues and none of them operate the same way. There's the draft, the shit-talking, frantically checking injury statuses Sunday morning, remembering an important game comes on Thursday this week, trophies, more shit-talking, and an all-around good time to be had. You have a rooting interest in just about every game and something to keep you occupied when you're bored at work. Yes, fantasy football is one of the greatest things we have in this world and it just so happens to be something that I enjoy immensely.
In addition to the weekly advice dispensed in this column as to who may have more or less favorable situations, I'll also give you a little insight into how I'm doing in my own leagues. This year I'm in three leagues. One is a 12-team standard league, another is a 10-team standard league, and the third one, our annual Hogs Haven Writers League (of which I am the reigning champion) is a 14-team PPR league this year. I've had all the drafts for each league and always think it's interesting to see which guys I end up with on multiple teams. I guess this is a little insight on a few guys that I may value a little more highly than most other fantasy comrades. Here are the guys I own on at least two teams:
- Colin Kaepernick
- Emmanuel Sanders
- Larry Donnell
- Cam Newton
- Jordan Cameron
- A.J. Green
- Delanie Walker
- C.J. Spiller
I didn't have any one player on all three teams, but you can pretty much tell that either I like the guys listed above or others are criminally undervaluing them.
The NFL season kicks off tonight with the Pittsburgh Steelers visiting the New England Patriots. Don't forget to have any players you have on either of those two teams set before KO and remember to do that each week (as there's always a Thursday night game).
Before continuing on to the Start 'Em/Sit 'Em section, I want to post a disclaimer. This article isn't meant to literally tell you to always start who I list under "Start 'Em" or always sit who I list under "Sit 'Em." If I say to start Matt Ryan but you also have Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck, the right choice more times than not is going to be to start Rodgers/Luck. If I say to sit Big Ben but you're only other QB is Brandon Weeden, the right move is probably still going to be to start Big Ben. All I'm saying in this article is that these are guys in my opinion who will perform better (Start 'Em) or worse (Sit 'Em) than what's typically expected of them. You won't typically see the Rodgers and Lucks of the league because they're match-up-proof and should be started pretty much every week.
So without further ado... here are my week one starts and sits:
Tom Brady, NE (vs Pittsburgh Steelers) - You don't think Tom Brady is a little fire in his belly after everything that's happened surrounding him and "Deflategate" this off-season, do you? Brady's back for week one when a lot of people weren't expecting him and I'd imagine he's pretty pumped. I'd also imagine that all the guys he'll be throwing to are pretty pumped, too. The Steelers defense isn't what it used to be and this game is happening in Foxboro where Brady and the Patriots almost always perform well. He always gets up for the Steelers, though he probably didn't need the extra motivation this week. 300+ yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
Matt Ryan, ATL (vs Philadelphia Eagles) - This is likely to be a running theme again this year. You've got a guy playing against the EAGLES! Games involving Philly are almost always high scoring. Opponents almost always have to throw a lot. Add in the fact that this game is in Atlanta and you have a great match-up for one Matt Ryan. He's going to throw... a lot. The Eagles usually surrender a pretty good amount of points and I don't think they have any answer for Julio Jones. Ryan has a history of performing well against this team, too. 320+ yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs
Colin Kaepernick, SF (vs Minnesota Vikings) - I'm telling you, people are sleeping on Kaep and the 49ers this year. They just completed arguably the worst off-season ever and nobody is expecting anything. But let's not forget, Kaep has fantasy potential largely because of his added value as a runner. He finished last season strong and the team added guys like Reggie Bush and Torrey Smith. Carlos Hyde adds some youth in the backfield and Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin are both healthy and still good. The Vikings are a trendy pick this year with their improvements, but I think people are undervaluing the 49ers offense, especially at home. 260+ passing yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 50+ rushing yards
Jameis Winston, TB (vs Tennessee Titans) - Hopefully you're not relying on Winston as your starting QB anyway, but if you are, you might be in for some tough sledding. Jameis is a rookie QB in his first NFL regular season start. Most rookie QBs don't go out and put up a lot of fantasy points in their NFL debuts. The Buccanneers were terrible last year. Mike Evans is hurt and may not even play. Vincent Jackson is 32 years old and declining. Who is their TE? I don't know that Tennessee will have some great defense, but I wouldn't expect a ton of points, or throws for Winston in this one. 220 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Joe Flacco, BAL (@ Denver Broncos) - The Ravens get to travel west to Mile High to take on Peyton Manning and the Broncos. If you were in Mile High against Peyton Manning, what would your strategy be? Mine would be to run the ball a lot and try to keep Peyton sitting over on the sidelines. I expect that the Ravens will try that a lot, too. Flacco is notoriously worse on the road and I honestly think that altitude can mess with QBs when throwing the long ball. 240 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Alex Smith, KC (@ Houston Texans) - The Texans have a very good defense and are at home. The Chiefs OL is OK at best and have to contain J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. The Texans defense managed 20 INTs last season and was a consistently bad match-up from a fantasy perspective for opposing QBs. 200 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Matt Forte, CHI (vs Green Bay Packers) - Look up and read what I wrote next to Joe Flacco. The same thing applies here. The Bears are facing Aaron Rodgers. They need to keep him sitting on the sidelines. They have one of the better backs in the league. It makes way too much sense to run Matt Forte... a lot. Let's not forget who the new Bears HC is. None other than John Fox. The man absolutely loves to be boring and run the football. Brandon Marshall is gone this year too, so I'd expect Forte to see plenty of looks as a receiver, as well. 80+ rushing yards, 1 TD, 50 receiving yards
Jeremy Hill, CIN (@ Oakland Raiders) - The Raiders are always a favorable match-up. I could just leave it at that... but I won't. The Bengals OC, Hue Jackson, was their RB coach during Jay Gruden's last year as OC there (he's also a former Redskins RB Coach). Jeremy Hill is poised to break-out this year and who better to do that against than the hapless Oakland Raiders. Their defense is atrocious. 100+ yards, 1-2 TDs
Doug Martin, TB (vs Tennessee Titans) - Doug Martin used to be incredible when he was a rookie. Then he got hurt and was horrible. So we've seen the highs and the lows. What should we expect now? Well, let's look at what we can. Doug Martin absolutely owned the preseason. I know, I know. It's preseason. But the kid looked great. I told you to sit Jameis Winston in large part because he's a rookie in his first start. Well what better way to ease the kid into his new role in the league than by leaning heavily on the running game? The Titans defense isn't something to write home about and I really think Doug Martin could have some success. If he gets back to anywhere close to where he was as a rookie, and he's on your fantasy team, you may have found the steal of the draft. 90+ total yards, 1 TD
Frank Gore, IND (@ Buffalo Bills) - Anyone happen to see what the Bills did with Marcell Dareus today? They made him crazy rich! There's a reason for that. Because he's an excellent player in his prime and he eats RBs for lunch. The Bills defense should be pretty ferocious, especially against the run. They have Rex Ryan in charge now and the guy knows defense. Additionally, this game is in Buffalo and the Colts have Andrew Luck. He's really good. Like really good. They're going to throw the ball a ton and always have with Luck. Why should that change now that they got 32-year-old Frank Gore. Oh yeah, he's 32... 50 total yards
Ameer Abdullah, DET (@ San Diego Chargers) - Everyone is super pumped on the rookie RB up in Detroit. He looked very good during the preseason. I'm cautioning you to pump your brakes. Joique Bell is the RB1 there until further notice and didn't play much in the preseason. He appears to be getting healthy at the right time and he'll receive the majority of the touches in the Detroit backfield. Sure, Abdullah will have a role, but Bell is established and not losing his spot due to some preseason hype from a rookie. Remember when everyone thought Reggie Bush was going to take over the Lions backfield? Bell is underrated. Wait and see before deploying Abdullah. 50 total yards
T.J. Yeldon, JAX (vs Carolina Panthers) - Another rookie. This is the year of the rookie RB. They're everywhere. Still, this is week one and rookies typically need a little time. Want a tough test in your opener? Try the Panthers defense. Luke Kuechly is going to be all up on that. Yeldon may very well turn out to be a good RB, but right now he's a rookie on the Jaguars. The JAGUARS! Blake Bortles hasn't proven that he's to be respected yet and there are other RBs on the Jags roster that are going to get some PT. Denard Robinson? Toby Gerhart? Bernard Pierce? It's crowded. Stay away. 40 yards
DeSean Jackson, WAS (vs Miami Dolphins) - There he is! Can anybody cover DeSean Jackson? I don't think so. And as good as Brent Grimes is, he's 32 years old right now and plays in a pretty porous secondary. I don't think there are many 32-year-olds on the planet that can run with D-Jax. And we all know what the Dolphins will be expecting. They'll be expecting us to run the ball (because of Suh and that DL). They'll be expecting quick, short passes (because of Suh and that DL). And they'll be right. The Redskins should run the ball a lot and make a lot of quick passes. But we all know what that leads to. It comes a couple of times each game. DeSean Jackson will catch a bomb or two. Mark my words. And with the length of those throws, it only takes one or two to make for a successful fantasy stat line. 80+ yards, 1 TD
Brandin Cooks, NO (@ Arizona Cardinals) - Cooks gets catches. With the departure of Kenny Stills and Marques Colston one year older, I'm expecting Cooks to be that featured guy in New Orleans. When you think of the Cardinals defense, you think of Patrick Peterson, but he typically stays on the outside. Cooks typically works from the slot. Cha-ching! Also, I think they'll be throwing to C.J. Spiller a lot in that Darren Sproles/Pierre Thomas role. But Spiller's not playing this week! More targets for Cooks. 90+ yards, 1 TD
Julian Edelman, NE (vs Pittsburgh Steelers) - The Patriots are a team shrouded in mystery when it comes to injuries. He had an ankle injury and missed the entire preseason. People are forgetting about him. Everyone though he must be hurt since he hasn't been playing. Everyone was wrong. Edelman wasn't even so much as listed on the Patriots injury report yesterday and is the #1 target for Tom Brady. He gets tons of catches. Again, the Steelers defense isn't what it used to be, and if I'm telling you to start Brady, I'm telling you to start Edelman. Please tell me you have him in a PPR league... 80+ yards, 1 TD
Davante Adams, GB (@ Chicago Bears) - Jordy Nelson goes down and everyone is all over Davante Adams. And why shouldn't they be? He has arguably the best QB in the world throwing him the ball in a loaded offense. Hold on there. I get that Aaron Rodgers could make me look like an NFL wide-out, but Davante Adams is not Jordy Nelson. Sure, his PT will go up, but don't forget that they just brought back James Jones. Would they have done that if Adams was some stud? And Jones knows the offense. He can play and contribute right away. He has chemistry with Rodgers and has for years. I'm not saying Adams isn't going to be a good fantasy player this year; I'm saying let's all slow our role on the guy. 40 yards
Devin Funchess, CAR (@ Jacksonville Jaguars) - Read what I wrote about Adams. Funchess is in the same boat. Kelvin Benjamin goes down, no one's heard of starter Corey Brown and no one is excited about starter Ted Ginn, so they assume that the mammoth rookie will somehow fill Benjamin's void. I don't think so. He couldn't beat out either of those guys for a starting job and people love the unknown of rookies. They almost always overestimate them early. 10-20 yards
Brandon Marshall, NYJ (vs Cleveland Browns) - When considering whether to start Brandon Marshall or not, think about two people: Joe Haden and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Do you need more than that? How about the fact that Marshall is 31 now and about to be a part of an anemic offense with no good RB and a backup QB. And Joe Haden. 50 yards
Martellus Bennett, CHI (vs Green Bay Packers) - If you'll recall, I owned Bennett on a couple of teams last year. He was pretty great. In fact, he was top five. And here's an interesting stat: Bennett gets TDs in September. He has 10 of them in his last 12 September games. Roll the dice. 60 yards, 1 TD
Heath Miller, PIT (@ New England Patriots) - This is just a gut instinct for me. The Pats aren't great at defending TEs and Antonio Brown warps the middle of the field. He has good chemistry with Big Ben. 60 yards and probably 1 TD
Jordan Reed, WAS (vs Miami Dolphins) - He's going to play a ton this game! He's healthy! Rejoice! The Dolphins have squat for LBs and their starting FS is gone for the year. We need quick throws and a security blanket. Enter the uncoverable Jordan Reed. The other TEs are newbies to the team and Tom Compton may not play. Opportunity is everything in fantasy and Jordan has a huge one this week. Kirk Cousins is going to need him. 50 yards and probably 1 TD
Zach Ertz, PHI (@ Atlanta Falcons) - First of all, he's not healthy. In fact, he always seems to be banged up. Everyone wants to get excited for his potential because he's supposedly some good pass catcher and he's in a dynamic offense with tons of passing, opportunities, and points. But he can't beat out Brent Celek and he's not healthy. Also, Atlanta is good against TEs and the game is at their place. 10-20 yards
Kyle Rudolph, MIN (@ San Francisco 49ers) - He's a huge disappointment. Everyone talks about how Norv Turner loves throwing to TEs, but I haven't seen it with Rudolph. The 49ers defense is being underrated due to their off-season and Rudolph's on the road. 20-30 yards
Eric Ebron, DET (@ San Diego Chargers) - Everyone expects big things, but he hasn't produced, yet. He'll be sharing time with Brandon Pettigrew and the Chargers are traditionally very good against opposing TEs. He's also on the road and Pettigrew gets a lot of red-zone looks. Oh, and he's not fully healthy. 20 yards
Please leave any fantasy related questions you might have in the comments section and I'll try to answer as many and as quickly as I can. It's fun to get everyone's perspectives on this week's matchups floating around down there and I'm always interested to see what kind of decisions different fantasy players have to make. These are just general ideas for standard leagues, but we can all give and receive advice for unique situations as they come up. Good luck and be sure to check out SB Nation's FanDuel league here!