You've had your draft. You've got your guys. You feel good about your team...or at least you're acting like you do.
But how many games have you lost by starting the wrong guy? How often has your bench nearly outscored your starters? How many times have you given serious thought to turning the TV off and (gasp) spending more time with your family due to lineup regret?
What you need is someone who'll study the weekly matchups for you, crunch the numbers, look at the trends and history, and give you an edge in the grudge match with your arch-rival.
Search no more. Here are the best "Play 'Em" and "Sit 'Em" fantasy players for Week 1 of the 2012 season. You're welcome.
For some reason, the Giants just don’t kick a lot of field goals. The Super Bowl champs only attempted 24 last year, and Tynes made 19 of them. That’s not enough scoring from your kicker. Contrast Tynes with his Wednesday night counterpart, Dan Bailey: the Cowboys’ kicker outscored him by 35 points in 2011.
In 2011, LaFell caught six balls for a whopping 167 yards and a score against the Bucs. He’s one of Cam Newton’s go-to receivers, and if your team is weak at wide receiver but you’ve got LaFell on the roster, he’s a solid opening day play.
Josh Scobee scored just 32 points away from Jacksonville last year.
Of Scobee's 93 points last year for a woeful Jacksonville offense, only 32 came away from home. That’s four points a game, folks. He was more than a full field goal better at home. He’ll be kicking against the Vikings, and in a dome, so that’s something. But without Maurice Jones-Drew to move the ball into field-goal range, I’m going to the free agent wire for an opening day kicker.
I’m a tad cautious about listing Schaub, but Miami’s run defense is salty (fourth in 2011). That might temper a big day from running back Arian Foster and force the Texans to throw more.
That’s where the Dolphins are weak, ranking in the bottom 25 percent of the league. Also, I’m betting on Schaub wanting to come out and immediately make last year’s Lisfranc injury a distant memory. The Dolphins are awful offensively, the Texans are one of the best defensively, so there should be some turnovers and short-field opportunities.
When your star wide receiver sulks over his contract, admits he didn’t give his all during the season, gets deactivated for his conduct, and then gets a big contract, it’s a recipe for a bitter harvest. Jackson will be going up against a Browns pass defense in Week 1 that ranked a surprising second, and with quarterback Michael Vick already hurting from preseason hits, expect the Eagles to grind it out on the ground rather than the air.
Why Benson remained unsigned as long as he did is a mystery, but the Packers are happy to have him. Benson has broken the 1,000-yard plateau each of the last three years, and with defenses focusing on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, expect a lot of big days from this Renaissance man, starting against the 49ers.
A tough first game in stripes for the Law Firm, who’ll be trying to move the chains on the road against the No. 2-ranked run defense. Green-Ellis averages one 100-yard game a season, and is a short-yardage guy that I’d feel better starting against anybody but the Ravens in Baltimore.
If the Raiders are the foe, Malcom Floyd is your man at receiver.
Twenty receptions, 412 yards, two touchdowns. That’s Floyd’s body of work against Oakland’s secondary in the last three meetings. He also caught four of his five touchdowns in 2011 on the road. To make a larger point, the Chargers-Raiders history means points, and a lot of them. Start as many of them as you can. Except the defenses.
Don’t get cute and try to outsmart yourself with your starting lineup. This guy has had as much camp as you have. If you think you’re putting up a number in Week 1 in the Mile High air, you’re kidding yourself. Even if he starts strong in the first quarter, it’s just adrenaline and it’ll wear off. Antonio Brown is a superior Steelers wide receiver play to Wallace in Week 1.
Turner will feast on the Chiefs' soft run defense.
The conventional wisdom says Turner is in the twilight of his career, and that might be true. But in Week 1, he’ll be going against a porous Chiefs run defense that allowed 132 yards a game. If “Sit ‘Em” candidate Matt Ryan continues to struggle outdoors passing the ball, this could wind up being a grind-it-out game. If that happens, Turner’s still among the best at it.
Guess how many touchdown passes Alex Smith threw on the road last year? Five. That’s it. If that doesn’t scare you away from starting Davis at Green Bay Sunday, then I’m just not going to reach you. It should also make you wary of starting any 49ers receiver, too.
Victor Cruz caught 12 passes for 252 yards and one touchdown vs. Dallas a season ago, part of his breakout 1,536-yard, nine-TD season. It’s a bit of a statistical oddity that he’d only have one score with an 18.7 yards per catch average, but one that won’t stand the law of averages much longer. If you’re eating Mexican next Wednesday night, hold the salsa. Cruz will bring it to you personally.
Murray has two career NFL touchdowns. Two. None on the road.
For all the hype and elite draft pick status Murray has enjoyed this month, he has two touchdowns. Not two against the Giants last year; two period. For his career. In total. He may score in the NFL’s kickoff game next week, but start him on the road knowing he’s only broken the plane of the end zone twice, and never away from Cowboys Stadium.
No defense scored as many actual NFL points a year ago than the Lions (44). Detroit registered 41 sacks, 21 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and scored seven times. Now factor in that they’re playing the Rams at home.
The 36-year-old Manning may even hear James Harrison's footsteps inside the stadium.
It’s Manning's comeback debut game. He’s at home against the Steelers. But it’s the Steelers—the top defense in the league. He threw two touchdowns and three interceptions in the preseason, so it’s clear he’s still working off the rust. It’s been roughly 600 days since Manning last faced live ammunition, and you hear the footsteps of linebacker James Harrison a lot more clearly at 36 than you did at 26.
Though Manning has got a pair of Super Bowl rings, he can be an iffy fantasy play on a given game day. But not this one. Manning threw for nearly 750 yards against Dallas in two meetings in 2011 with five touchdowns and a single interception. He was picked off 16 times last year in 14 games if you don’t count the Cowboys. Factor in the secondary issues (Mike Jenkins, Morris Claiborne), and Eli’s a no-brainer. Your fantasy team might actually be on cruise control by Thursday morning.
Move Matt Ryan outdoors, and he's a different player.
Ryan played just five games outdoors last year, and was mostly pedestrian. If you take out a four-touchdown, zero-interception game at Carolina, he threw only three scores, and four total in the other four games. Even with the one superior game, Ryan barely threw one touchdown per game, and the Chiefs were a top-six pass defense unit in 2011. If I have another solid quarterback play on my roster, I’d go that direction.
For some reason, Gates rises up when facing the Silver and Black. In the last four games against Oakland, the San Diego stud has 21 catches for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are getting all the tight end love in fantasy drafts, but Gates might be the strongest play at the position in Week 1.
Fred Jackson is a historically lousy play against the Jets.
In 10 career games vs. the Jets, Jackson has scored just once, and never rushed for more than 82 yards. He’s also rebounding from a broken right leg that prematurely ended his 2011 season, and Buffalo has dropped seven of its last eight to the Jets.
Newton totaled eight TDs against the Bucs in two games in 2011.
Newton tallied eight touchdowns in two meetings against the Bucs last season—four rushing, four passing and put 86 Panthers points on the scoreboard in the process. The Bucs' defense allowed a whopping 61 touchdowns in 2011 and is starting over with a new coaching staff. Newton should put up jailbreak numbers.