Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Last-Minute Advice for NFL Fantasy Football Owners
The meat of the fantasy football week is here as a full platter of NFL action is mere hours away.
Last week I gave you a head start on start/sit advice for fantasy football owners. A lot has happened even since then, but much of that still applies for Sunday's games.
Here is some last-minute start/sit advice for anyone on the fence about some of these players.
Start: Jake Locker
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Jake Locker gets a tough test as the newly minted starter for the Titans.
New England is bound to put Tennessee in a hole early, meaning Locker will eventually be forced to drop back more often than not. Considering he scored 0.65 points per dropback last season—albeit in a highly limited sample size—he could be in for a nice fantasy day.
The Patriots also gave up a ton of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last season, though they hope to have remedied that this offseason.
Sit: Joe Flacco
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Joe Flacco's best career finish was 11th in fantasy scoring. He is a middling fantasy player despite some of the weapons he has had at his disposal in recent years.
Torrey Smith is coming into his own as a serious receiving threat for Flacco and the Ravens, but his ascendancy is coming amid Anquan Boldin's decline.
Not to mention that Ray Rice has run amok against the Bengals, so the Ravens might not be passing much anyway.
Start: Stevan Ridley
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Never trust a Bill Belichick running back.
That is, of course, unless his main competition for playing time is out with an injury and Belichick looks ready to put a big workload on him, right?
Stevan Ridley's biggest obstacle this week will be himself—if he fumbles early, fantasy owners could be looking at a big goose egg with Danny Woodhead exploding for 25 points.
Risk aside, Ridley looks like he will garner the bulk of the playing time in an explosive offense.
Think 2011 BenJarvus Green-Ellis, only with upside.
Sit: Trent Richardson
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The third overall pick in the draft got off to a rocky start in Cleveland, requiring knee surgery before he really got going.
He has recovered from arthroscopic surgery and looks ready to go in Week 1, but how much playing time he will get is anybody's guess. His effectiveness is a bigger question, as the Philadelphia Eagles feature an improved front seven.
The Browns could be playing from behind early as well, which will further mitigate Trent Richardson's presence. If you have better options at RB2, play them.
Start: Brent Celek
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Would you be interested in starting the fourth-best fantasy tight end over the final 11 weeks of the 2011 regular season?
That man is Brent Celek, who has gained Michael Vick's trust and is his favorite red-zone target. With defenses focused on Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, Celek is a good bet to see some throws go his way.
Sit: Jermichael Finley
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If you have no comparable backup, Jermichael Finley is your starter. If you drafted a guy like, say, Brent Celek, you might want to consider benching Finley for Week 1.
The big tight end faces a good San Francisco defense this week, and he has never been a consistent producer.
Start: Donald Brown
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True, Indianapolis will be running into the teeth of a Bears defense that gave up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs last season.
But Chicago will be without a fully healthy Brian Urlacher, and Donald Brown will be the horse on the Colts for the foreseeable future.
Even though Andrew Luck has not looked like a rookie, the Colts might game plan to protect him by running the ball early and often. Of course, once the Bears take a big lead, all bets are off.
As RB3s go, however, Brown is not a bad choice.
Sit: Marshawn Lynch
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Marshawn Lynch has been bothered by back spasms for almost two weeks now, and his status going into Sunday was unclear until late in the week.
He looks to be on track to play, but there is no telling how much he will be able to give. With Robert Turbin ready to roll, Lynch's workload could be compromised for multiple reasons.
Normally, he is a must-start, but it would be wise to wait and see if you have comparable options.
Start: Vincent Jackson
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His former San Diego teammate Philip Rivers isn't throwing him the football anymore, but Vincent Jackson is now the man at receiver for the Buccaneers.
He might not be putting up WR1 numbers this season, but he is still serviceable as a WR2 or flex play, despite Tampa Bay's penchant for running the football.
Sit: Steve Johnson
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The Bills' star receiver has been battling a groin injury, landing him on the "questionable" list heading into the weekend.
He should be fine, but not his fantasy output.
For some reason, there is a notion that Steve Johnson has escaped Revis Island. Considering he has averaged just 47.2 yards per game against the stud cornerback, it is safe to say that one good game last season was more aberration than liberation.
Start: Ronnie Brown
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Ryan Mathews was unsurprisingly declared out of Monday's matchup with the Raiders just weeks after breaking his clavicle.
That means Ronnie Brown should carry the load for the Chargers, at least until Mathews' return or Brown's ineffectiveness finally prompts a change.
The reality is that Brown should have decent RB3 numbers at the very least, though Curtis Brinkley could get in the way at the goal line. His plodding nature taken into consideration, Brown is a better fantasy starter in Week 1 than...
Sit: Adrian Peterson
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All Day will get lucky to get in on a few plays this weekend.
He has had a remarkable recovery, and his determination to be ready for Week 1 is admirable. His goal and reality do not entirely mesh, however.
Consider Rashard Mendenhall, who had a less severe knee injury just one week after Adrian Peterson shredded his MCL and ACL on Christmas Eve in 2011. Mendenhall, too, is practicing, but Pittsburgh is wisely holding him out this weekend.
(Mendy is officially "doubtful," but we all know what that means.)
The Vikings would be foolish to let Peterson on the field at all, but he could talk his way into a few plays. He is not worth the risk until he proves he can handle more than a few snaps.
Start: Russell Wilson
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He is not going to have a Cam Newton-like debut, but Russell Wilson is one of those fantasy gambles worth taking in Week 1.
Wilson's ability to score points with his legs will be on full display in Week 1. He might not get into the end zone, but the rookie has fantastic athleticism and escapability—he should break a few good runs to go with his passing statistics.
Granted, you should not start him over, say, Jay Cutler, but he should be in your lineup over...
Sit: Andrew Luck
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Andrew Luck gets dropped into a hot zone to start his career, opening up against a good Chicago defense on the road. He will have to contend with a ferocious defensive line led by Julius Peppers and a raucous crowd.
He may have looked the part of a No. 1 overall pick in the preseason, but his first regular-season test could prove too difficult for him to pass from a fantasy standpoint.
Start: Nate Washington
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Kenny Britt exploded onto the fantasy scene last season, posting fantastic numbers in his first two games. Then he tore his knee up in Week 3, opening the door for Nate Washington to perform.
He did not quite post fantasy scores like Britt's, but Washington was quietly the 15th-best fantasy receiver over the final 14 games of the season.
Britt is out via suspension this week, opening up that door one more time for Washington.
Sit: Santonio Holmes
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Santonio Holmes might be the Jets' only offensive weapon—you know, unless you consider Tim Tebow's 10 percent participation—but that does not mean he will be a good fantasy option.
The mercurial receiver was just 31st in fantasy scoring last season in a similar situation, and the Jets offense might be going backward.
Start: Michael Crabtree
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This one is for deep-leaguers.
Michael Crabtree has been a disappointment for the 49ers since he diva'd his way into the league. He has never lived up to his first-round status, failing to reach his potential with Alex Smith at the helm.
Now that San Francisco has Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, will Crabtree be better off? The bet here is "yes," as Moss will take the top off defenses, which will also have to contend with the likes of Vernon Davis.
Plus, the 49ers might be playing catch-up against the Packers, and Crabtree will be a big part of that.
Sit: Randy Moss
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By all accounts, Randy Moss, 35, has not lost much of his speed. But have his skills deteriorated with age?
Indeed, Moss will be starting in Week 1, but his fantasy value is nebulous until he can prove he's still got it. After all, the last time we saw Moss, he was bouncing around the league looking like a washed-up veteran.
Start: DeAngelo Williams
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Jonathan Stewart is ailing, officially questionable this Sunday against Tampa Bay with a balky ankle. If the Panthers are wise, they will let Stewart rest as much as possible to get him fully healthy.
That is good news for DeAngelo Williams' fantasy value.
Even though Cam Newton and Mike Tolbert are the big threats to take goal-line work, D-Will should see a good workload. The Bucs did not exactly excel at stopping the run last season, but that may not matter with a new regime in town.
Sit: Beanie Wells
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Beanie Wells spent all offseason recovering from relatively minor knee surgery, then he injured his hamstring in practice at the end of the preseason.
The Cardinals expect Wells to start on Sunday, but he has Ryan Williams nipping at his heels. Arizona plays a good Seattle defense as well.
At this point, neither back is really a strong starter until one establishes himself. Wells has battled injuries throughout his career, and Williams has yet to prove himself at this level after a major injury of his own.
Start at your own risk.
Start: Brandon Pettigrew
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The Rams have a tough test against the Lions at home this week, and they will likely try to scheme against Calvin Johnson, starting with some off-the-field gamesmanship (per The Detroit News).
They know they can't stop Megatron—they can only hope to slow him down—but on those occasional plays where the defense takes Johnson away, Brandon Pettigrew will be there to clean up.
He is also a big red-zone target for Stafford.
Start with confidence.
Sit: Tony Gonzalez
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It's not that Tony Gonzalez is a bad fantasy option—if he is your No. 1 tight end without a comparable No. 2, he should be in your lineup—but the 36-year-old could have a tough time against Eric Berry and the Kansas City defense.
Julio Jones and Roddy White are also taking targets away from the grizzled veteran.