Fantasy Football 2012: Cautionary Week 1 Fantasy Starters
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
We have done it! We have endured an extremely long offseason full of injuries and arrests and have finally made it to the start of the NFL season. Our fantasy teams are drafted and are ready to roll. The bickering and arguing that one fantasy team is better than the rest has finally ceased, and we are now ready to prove it on the field. It is officially time to start figuring out who your Week 1 starters are. With the Giants-Cowboys game kicking off the NFL season tonight in New Jersey, you are officially on the clock.
So who should you start Week 1? Well there are a few guys I have predicted to have poor showings their opening game, so you might want to keep them on your bench.
Now before you come firing back to me next week saying, “Hey Danny, thanks for making me start John Skelton over Peyton Manning this week. You cost me Game 1, and I will never forgive you for this,” apply these predictions with caution. This is your warning and my insurance.
I am not saying that every one of these players will have horrible games and that you should pick up players who do not deserve to be on fantasy rosters to replace them. This is just a list of players who are playing tough defenses or have other extenuating circumstances that may cause them to not perform at the level they are known to or have the ability to play at.
Indianapolis Colt's quarterback Andrew Luck set to throw in the Colts preseason game on Aug. 30.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Much like when Peyton Manning struggled in the early goings of his transition to the NFL in 1998, Andrew Luck may have some difficulty early in his first season.
The departures of Garcon, Clark and Tamme as well as the injury concerns to Austin Collie could prove detrimental to the Colts' season.
While the upgrade from Curtis Painter to Andrew Luck is tremendous, if you don’t have the offensive line to protect you or the proven wide receiver tools to bail you out, you are being set up to fail.
Outside of the proven, yet aging Reggie Wayne, Luck will have to rely on rookies T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener for much of the season.
As much as I believe that Luck has all the potential in the world to be the league’s next best pocket passer, I just don’t see him doing it in this young offense this season.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning calling out defenses at the line of their Aug. 26 preseason game in Denver.
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images
After missing an entire season due to neck surgery, Peyton Manning is back and ready to take the field. The only problem is Peyton will have to face the Pittsburgh Steelers, who finished with the NFL’s best overall defense in 2011.
The Steelers return a number of veterans to their legendary defense this year, including Polamalu, Woodley, Keisel and Timmons. While some guys are aging or face injury problems, the core still remains with possibly the NFL’s best D-coordinator, Dick LeBeau, still calling the shots and causing confusion for quarterbacks.
I am not saying to sit Peyton Manning this game, in fact, I would start him. However the injury risk remains, and James Harrison, dealing with knee issues, may still play.
While Peyton Manning is obviously the focal point of the Broncos offense, the skill-position guys will take off much of the pressure he faces.
Willis McGahee has become one of the league’s most dangerous running backs and will keep defenses honest. Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and previous teammate Jacob Tamme are all sound route runners who will be able to make plays when needed.
Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart cutting in this Aug. 26 preseason game against the Jets.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Even though Tampa Bay did give up the most rushing yards per game last year (156.1) and most total points against (494), Carolina added goal line running back Mike Tolbert in the offseason and has both Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams to steal away carries.
Jonathan Stewart suffered an ankle sprain in Carolina's third preseason game against the Jets while receiving a handoff in the first half of the game. X-Rays were negative, but he has not practiced since.
However, some remain very confident in Stewart this week as SI.com reports a recent quote by Carolina Head Coach Ron Rivera:
Although he was held out of practice, Rivera says Stewart "moved around very nicely" during a private workout Monday. Rivera says that's a "very encouraging sign" and he's hopeful Stewart will return to practice Wednesday when the team continues this week's game preparation in Bradenton, Fla.
Cleveland running back Trent Richardson during Brown's Minicamp.
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Trent Richardson practiced for the first time since August 9 on Monday after left knee surgery kept him out of most of training camp.
This was his second knee surgery since winning the 2011 BCS National Championship last year.
Regardless of this, I would not count on Richardson for the first week. His health issues and lack of practice will take a toll on his reps and production.
While he did take reps with the first team and looked good, Head Coach Pat Shurmur would not say when the decision will be made on Richardson.
“Each person is different when they come back from injury,” Shurmur commented. “We’ll see as we go. All along I’ve been hopeful that he’d be there."
Newest Green Bay running back Cedric Benson avoiding tackles in his Aug. 30 preseason debut in Cincinnati.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
While adding Benson will prove extremely beneficial to the Packers offense, Green Bay throws over 65 percent of the time.
Facing a San Francisco defense that allowed the fewest yards per game to running backs (77.3) and fewest rushing touchdowns (3), I don’t expect the Packers to put the ball on the ground too often.
Sporting the best DE in the league in Justin Smith and arguably best linebacker as well, Patrick Willis, the San Francisco 49ers did not allow a rushing touchdown last season until a fourth quarter Week 15 run by Marshawn Lynch.
Plain and simple, Benson should have plenty of holes to run through this year with the help of the Packers' air attack, just probably not in this game.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew breaking a tackle in their Dec. 24 game game against Tennessee.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Isn’t it obvious?
After holding out for 38 days, MJD came back to camp this week without a new contract.
As recently explained by Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey, MJD will rotate in on third down carries and “get a series” in place of Rashad Jennings, but that is just about it.
I don’t know about you guys, but “get a series” is not worthy of a fantasy start to me to me.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson after going down in a Dec. 24 game with an ACL tear.
Patrick Smith/Getty Images
While Adrian Peterson has clearly stated numerous times that he will be back for the September 9 opener against Jacksonville, Head Coach Leslie Frazier is not as sure.
As reported by 1500 ESPN Twin Cities’ Tom Pelissero, Joe Frazier expects Adrian to play a limited role this weekend.
We recognize if he's able to get in this first ball game, it'll be with limited exposure. We'll talk about it as the week goes on and see how he's doing and if it's even a valuable option to let him play.
While Peterson is still a relatively viable No. 1 running back option on any fantasy team while healthy, he still could use some more time to recover from his late season-ending ACL injury.
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch showing his elusiveness in a Dec. 24 game against San Francisco.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
The decision by Roger Goodell and the NFL to hand Kenny Britt only a one-game suspension was good news for Lynch, who will most likely get off the hook with just a fine after his DUI arrest in Oakland this past July.
However, recent back spasms might end up keeping Lynch out of his first game or two.
Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll has kept Lynch out of practice since their second preseason game. This is the second time his back has flared up this year, and back issues were also a recurring problem that caused Lynch to miss time last season.
When healthy, I have Lynch as a top-10 fantasy running back. He is explosive, powerful and extremely difficult to take down.
I am throwing in the white flag for Lynch in Game 1 though, as I do not think he will be healthy enough to make your starting roster.
The back-up running back in Seattle, Robert Turbin, could be a great flex pickup if Lynch can’t go.
New York Jets tight end Dustin Keller celebrating a touchdown in Miami on Jan.1.
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
The New York Jets' offensive situation right now is a complete joke. Both Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow struggled mightily in the preseason and were not able to get the ball into the end zone at any point.
These offensive woes will carry into the regular season and cast a heavy toll on the Jets' receivers and tight ends.
Keller also faces a team with one of the best young defenses in the league, the Buffalo Bills.
The additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson at DE alongside Marcell Dareus will turn the league’s 24th-ranked defense into a top-10 squad.
Boasting a new 4-3 scheme along with a few of the league's most prolific pass rushers, the Bills defense is now worthy of recognition and could effectively shut down the Jets' quarterbacks, essentially shutting down Dustin Keller.
Follow Danny on Twitter for all the latest fantasy football news @dpass18