Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season is underway, and as it begins so does another exciting year of fantasy football, as teams across the land vie for trophies, bragging rights and with any luck, a little bit of extra spending money.
All these teams will be trying to get off on the right foot with an opening week win, and while everyone will be starting their stud players, many teams are forced to look a bit deeper for viable Week 1 starters.
Many times those starters can be found by playing the matchup game, so here's a look at some running backs who have the sort of matchup that should lead to a favorable fantasy outing, as well as a couple that should likely be on the "10-foot pole" list.
As in don't touch them with one.
The sprained ankle suffered by Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart in the preseason appears to be lingering, and with Stewart still not at practice on Thursday, it's looking more and more like the fifth-year pro won't be available for the team's season opener.
That should be music to the ears of fantasy owners of DeAngelo Williams.
Not only is the seventh-year veteran a more than capable running back in his own right, with two 1,000-yard seasons under his belt, but fantasy matchups don't get a whole lot better than this.
No team in the National Football League allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing running backs than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Williams set to receive the lion's share of touches in the Panthers' backfield Sunday, he's an excellent start this week.
In the span of less than a month, running back Cedric Benson went from a player without a team to the opening day starter of one of the NFL's best offenses in the Green Bay Packers.
Benson has also found his way onto many fantasy football teams this year, but the only place he should be in Week 1 is glued to the bench.
The 49ers were incredibly stingy against the run last year, allowing less than 80 yards a game on the ground and surrendering the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing ball carriers.
It's highly unlikely that a plodder like Benson will break that trend, so explore other options.
If the matchups are to be believed, then there's going to be some yardage gained on the ground in Florida on Sunday.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded back into the first round of April's NFL draft to select running back Doug Martin, and new head coach Greg Schiano saw enough from the rookie over the summer to anoint the former Boise State star the starter when the Bucs face the Carolina Panthers this week.
The Panthers struggled mightily against the run last year, ranking 25th in the NFL and allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
That sets the stage for Martin's debut to be a big one.
Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush had a career year in 2011, setting a personal best in total yardage while topping 1,000 rushing yards for the first time.
The seventh-year veteran has stated a goal of leading the NFL in rushing this year, but that goal is apt to get off to something of a rocky start this week when the Dolphins travel to face the Houston Texans.
Granted, Bush will certainly receive plenty of touches this week, at least until the game is out of reach and the Dolphins are forced to abandon the run and try to play catchup.
However, Bush will be trying to make hay against a Houston defense that was fourth in the National Football League against the run in 2011 and who were the second-stingiest fantasy matchup for opposing backs.
Those ingredients do not generally come together to form a bowl of successful stew.
More like fantasy flopcakes.
With the Detroit Lions running game once again in disarray, the team has been forced to turn to Kevin Smith, who was cut by the team before the 2011 season, brought back, played well, got hurt, came back, got hurt and now enters the season as the team's starting tailback.
Although he's slightly hurt.
No, I'm not kidding.
Assuming that Smith's balky ankle isn't too bad, the fifth-year pro could easily be in for a big day against the St. Louis Rams Sunday.
Not only were the Rams the NFL's 31st-ranked run defense in 2011, but they also surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points per game to running backs a season ago. With the Lions likely to be staked to a big lead at home, the team could turn to Smith to grind out the clock.
That's a winning combination right there.