Fantasy Football Start Em Sit Em: Best and Worst Week 1 QB Matchups
After a summer of contract holdouts, training camps, preseason and most importantly, fantasy drafts, go time is here!
On a side note, I'm still angry that the New York Jets weren't featured on "Hard Knocks". You just don't get those sorts of opportunities back.
My bitterness aside, it's time to get down to the business of setting fantasy lineups for the season's first week. Here's a look at some signal-callers with the sort of matchups that make for solid production, as well as a few for whom opening day may not be so kind.
And no, there will be no mention of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton here. If you need me to tell you to start those players then you may want to consider a new hobby.
Bowling's fun, especially if you like funny shoes.
Terrific Matchup: Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (at OAK)
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San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers struggled through a disappointing 2011 season, throwing a career-high 20 interceptions behind a patchwork offensive line as San Diego lurched to an 8-8 record and missed the playoffs.
However, even in a "down" year, Rivers threw for over 4,600 yards and finished the season as a top 10 fantasy option.
There's ample to reason to believe that the 30-year-old could be in for a bounce-back of sorts this year, and that will likely begin Monday night against the Oakland Raiders.
The Oakland pass defense ranked 27th in the NFL last year and was the third-friendliest fantasy matchup for opposing quarterbacks; if anything, their cornerback situation has gotten worse.
Rivers exploited that defense last year for over 290 yards a game with five scores in two meetings, and there's little reason to think he can't match those numbers in Week 1's final game.
Horrible Matchup: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (vs. PIT)
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I know, I know, but before the pitchforks and torches come out, hear me out.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning may well be one of the best to ever play the position, but after over a year on the shelf, the scheduling gods weren't overly kind to the four-time NFL MVP.
The 36-year-old will play his first game that counts since January 2nd, 2011 on Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team that was first in the NFL in both total defense and passing defense in 2011.
The Steelers also allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks last year, and given all those facts and Manning's long layoff, expectations for Peyton Manning's debut with the Broncos need to be tempered.
And then some.
Solid Matchup: Matt Schaub, Houston Texans (vs. MIA)
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Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub has looked very sharp in the preseason, and the 31-year-old has shown no ill effects from the Lisfranc injury that cut his 2011 season short after 10 games.
Schaub gets to start the 2012 campaign with a very nice matchup, as the Texans open the season at home against a Miami Dolphins squad that ranked 25th in the NFL against the pass last year and was a top 10 fantasy matchup for opposing signal callers.
The Miami defense hasn't looked a bit better this season, and if there's anything that takes a bit of the shine off this one, it's the fact that Houston could go up big early and take their foot off the gas.
Bad Matchup: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo Bills (at NYJ)
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In the first half of the 2011 season, Ryan Fitzpatrick was on a tear, and the Buffalo Bills thought well enough of the eight-year pro's play to reward him with a lucrative contract extension.
However, the 29-year-old's play tailed off badly towards the end of the season, with nine interceptions versus only four touchdowns over the last four games of the year.
That leaves Fitzpatrick under significant pressure to perform well early in the season, and that won't be easy to do against cornerback Darrelle Revis and the New York Jets' fifth-ranked pass defense, especially if No. 1 wide receiver Steve Johnson's groin injury sidelines him Sunday.
Terrific Matchup: Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Quarterback Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars was somewhere between bad and horrific as a rookie, posting a quarterback ranking of well under 70 and placing dead last among the NFL's 32 starting quarterbacks in yards per attempt.
With that said, Gabbert has shown marked improvement so far this season under new head coach Mike Mularkey, and the 22-year-old appears to have developed an instant rapport with rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but fantasy owners in deep or two QB leagues could do much worse than considering Gabbert against a Minnesota Vikings defense that allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2011.