Figuring out the best fantasy football quarterbacks from week to week is a little easier than doing so for running backs or wide receivers, but it is by no means simple.
With tough matchups, new offensive schemes and one rather large anticipated return, Week 1 is certainly no walk in the park.
That's why those of us in the fantasy industry put together these lists for you.
With that, here are the weekend's quarterback rankings, along with detailed analysis on the top-12 guys for Week 1.
24. John Skelton (vs. Sea)
23. Sam Bradford (@ Det)
22. Matt Cassel (vs. Atl)
21. Christian Ponder (vs. Jax)
20. Alex Smith (@ GB)
19. Josh Freeman (vs. Car)
18. Russell Wilson (@ Ari)
17. Carson Palmer (vs. SD, Monday Night)
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16. Andrew Luck (@ Chi)
15. Jay Cutler (vs. Ind)
14. Peyton Manning (vs. Pit, Sunday Night)
13. Michael Vick (@ Cle)
The Top QB1 Plays in 12-Team Leagues
12. Matt Schaub (vs. Mia)
First and foremost, Andre Johnson is healthy, so feel free to use Schaub in starting fantasy lineups if needed.
That will always be the main question when it comes to the potential of Schaub each week...is Johnson healthy? Schaub has the talent to be in the top 10, but if Johnson isn’t healthy and dominant, he’d be depending on Lestar Jean, rookies Keshawn Martin and Devier Posey, and the incumbent Kevin Walter to get him points.
Whatever the case, Houston should pass the ball a bit this weekend, with the Dolphins' rush defense better than its pass defense, though I don’t expect any aspect of the Texans' offense to be stopped much this Sunday.
With Houston’s defense likely to shut down Dolphins rookie QB Ryan Tannehill, look for this game to turn into the Arian Foster-Ben Tate show in the second half.
11. Ben Roethlisberger (@ Den, Sunday Night)
When Big Ben delivers, he can carry a fantasy week as well as anyone you could have on your team. With guys like Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller as targets, the big guy has it a little easier than some other QBs.
When he’s off, however, you wish you had started your other QB.
This Sunday night against the Broncos could be a game in which Roethlisberger comes through for a couple of reasons.
First, Denver allowed six 300-yard games and seven multi-TD games (four with three or more) to opposing QBs last season.
Second, with Rashard Mendenhall not likely to be active and Isaac Redman banged up, the Steelers will likely lean on the passing game in this one.
Basically, Roethlisberger is a great QB to fall back on this week.
10. Jake Locker (vs. NE)
I absolutely love this kid’s potential. My only problem with him is his experience at the position, which at this point is a whopping 66 NFL passes.
However, how many quarterbacks can say they threw for 542 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions while running for 56 yards and another touchdown…all within their first 31 minutes of play? Not many, I would suppose.
What I’m saying here is that if you’re going to take a chance on somebody this week, Locker is your guy.
The Titans will have to pass the ball this weekend if they want to keep up with the high-flying Patriots. Luckily for them, they’ll be able to do it. The Pats gave up the most fantasy points to QBs in the league last season.
Kenny Britt won’t be in the game, but electric rookie Kendall Wright, should be able to take up the slack, along with Nate Washington, Jared Cook and Damian Williams.
9. Robert Griffin III (@ NO)
The kid has everything you could possibly want out of franchise QB, and most of it could turn him into a fantasy darling as early as Week 1. His arm is incredible; his field awareness is highly advanced for his age; his running ability is off the chart; his work ethic is fable-worthy and his leadership skills are off the charts.
How that all translates to on-the-field fantasy success will be seen against the Saints this Sunday as Robert Griffin and the Redskins try to keep up with the NFLs second-highest scoring offense last season (first in point differential).
However, the Saints also allowed seven 300-yard games and didn’t get any better this offseason (for many reasons). So I’m expecting the future top-10 fantasy QB to be off and running right out of the gate in 2012.
8. Joe Flacco (vs. Cin, Monday Night)
Like the Falcons and Matt Ryan, the Ravens are moving to a new up-tempo, no-huddle offense under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Watching it in the preseason, I’m almost equally intrigued to see it in action under Flacco’s control as I am with Ryan.
Historically, Flacco has been pretty weak on Monday nights, but I expect that to change this season with him finally growing into his role as a '‘team leader.''
Cincinnati’s defense is better than average, but I’m not sure the Bengals will be ready to face this new offensive scheme the Ravens will be running.
If you feel like shaking things up a bit and starting Flacco over, say, Peyton Manning against the Steelers, I’d say you’d be making a good, bold Week 1 call.
Will Joe Flacco finally emerge as a Top-10 fantasy QB?
7. Philip Rivers (@ Oak, Monday Night)
Rivers is one of those guys who can toss up four TDs and win you a fantasy game by himself. However, he can also fizzle out just as quickly while killing your whole team with a three-interception goose egg.
He’s undoubtedly one of the more erratic QBs in the league, but had two nice fantasy games against these Raiders last season, averaging 292 yards, 2.5 TDs and one interception in those games.
With RB Ryan Mathews unlikely to suit up, Norv Turner will ask Rivers to throw the Chargers to a victory. That could mean big things for fantasy owners this Monday night.
6. Cam Newton (@ TB)
Being in the same division, the Panthers and Bucs hooked up twice last season, with each game pretty much mirroring the other. The Panthers won both by a large margin and Cam Newton pretty much dominated each game.
In fact, he put up his two largest fantasy days during those two weeks, combining to rush and pass for four TDs in each one.
However, I’m pretty sure numbers like that won’t happen again. Carolina can use DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and Jonathan Stewart (questionable to play) to run all day on this horrible Tampa rushing defense.
Supposedly, Newton has been given the go-ahead to run whenever necessary, but I think he’ll be smart about choosing his times to do so this season, especially against a team the Panthers should own like the Bucs.
Of course, two or three passing TDs and a rushing TD is certainly a possibility.
5. Matt Ryan (@ KC)
There may be no other team and offense I’m more excited to see this opening weekend than the Atlanta Falcons. Moving to this wide-open, up-tempo, no-huddle attack with Matt Ryan tossing the ball to Roddy White and Julio Jones, the Falcons' superstar in the making, couldn’t be more highly anticipated.
The Kansas City Chiefs pass defense was pretty darn good last season, allowing only one 300-yard game to an opposing QB. But with OLB Tamba Hali suspended, FS Kendrick Lewis banged up and stud CB Brandon Flowers extremely iffy to play, Ryan should be able to have as much fun as he wants.
If new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is allowed to open up he offense from the get-go, Ryan could easily end up with top 3-5 fantasy stats this weekend.
4. Matthew Stafford (vs. StL)
The St. Louis Rams defense was so porous against the rush last season that teams didn’t feel much of a need to throw. This, of course, led the Rams to allow the seventh-fewest fantasy points to QBs, but that in no way means that you can't pass on them.
You most certainly can, just as Joe Flacco and Aaron Rodgers decided to do, tossing for a combined 705 yards and six TDs in their two games against them.
The beautiful thing for fantasy owners here is that the Lions possess a relatively weak running game (though that could change), so Stafford is likely to throw at least 30 passes, a number he eclipsed on 14 occasions last season.
This should be enough to generate the fantasy points you’re looking for in a QB1, especially when you consider the most important factor of them all—he has Calvin Johnson.
3. Aaron Rodgers (vs. SF)
Aaron Rodgers is as close to a fantasy machine as you’ll see in today’s game. As long as he has a full bevy of receivers, which he will this weekend, no team on the planet has much of a chance of stopping him.
Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Donald Driver, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley are all healthy and ready to do their part in making this a record-breaking year for Rodgers, but this San Francisco defense, though known more for its play against the run than the pass, is a large first obstacle for Rodgers to overcome.
The last time he faced the 49ers was at home in Week 12 of 2010. He threw for 298 yards and three TDs in that game, numbers that could be bested this Sunday. Last year's 49ers allowed an average of 339 yards passing and 1.6 TDs per game to the likes of Tony Romo, Mike Vick, Matt Stafford, Eli Manning and Big Ben.
2. Drew Brees (vs. Was)
Brees has typically done far better at home than on the road, so he has that in the plus column right off the bat.
He also seems to start off strong, averaging 339.25 yards and 3.25 TDs in Week 1 over the last four seasons. So that’s another check in the plus column.
Washington's pass defense would normally be right in the middle of the pack, but the Redskins definitely took a hit with starting SS Brandon Meriweather now out for the next 2-4 weeks. So Brees also has that tidbit going for him.
Other than that, this is Brees we’re talking about here…like you weren’t going to start him?
1. Tom Brady (@ Ten)
Historically, Brady comes out of the gates strong and I see no reason why 2012 would be any different.
Last season’s 517-yard, four-TD effort in the opener isn’t the most likely scenario. But if Tennessee keeps up offensively with the Patriots like the Dolphins did a year ago, I’m not putting it past him.
With Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, along with Stevan Ridley coming out of the backfield and Brandon Lloyd running routes on the outside, you know Brady will want to hit the throttle right away to see just what he has to play with this season.
With Tennessee’s pass defense best described as “decent,” there’s simply no way the Titans will be able to stop New England and the Stetson Man.
Click here to see the Rankings for RBs, WRs and TEs.
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