Start Em Sit Em Week 1: Essential Advice for Your Fantasy Football Lineup
It's hard to believe, but Week 1 of the NFL's regular season is nearly upon us, which means that fantasy football owners everywhere can't help but obsess about their lineups. While it may seem like late-season fantasy games are the most important, a win in Week 1 counts the same as any other win, so getting off to a great start is paramount.
Every owner has at least one or two mind-bending decisions to make as well, and they're even tougher to make at the start of the season. Things should sort themselves out as the year progresses since certain players will separate themselves from others, but it is impossible to predict with 100 percent certainty how players will perform without having had a chance to see every team in a true game situation.
Here is a closer look at a handful of borderline starters heading into Week 1, complete with advice in regards to whether you should start them or sit them as the fantasy football season commences.
Start 'Em: RB Daren McFadden (OAK)
Few running backs in the NFL are more hated in fantasy circles than Darren McFadden of the Oakland Raiders. Run DMC may be one of the most talented players in the entire league, and he has flashed his skills on occasion, but he has never been able to put it all together. McFadden was a prime breakout candidate after a strong 2010 season, however, injuries derailed his 2011 campaign.
Injuries hampered McFadden once again last year, but he was ineffective even when he was on the field, rushing for 707 yards in 12 games and averaging a measly 3.3 yards per carry. McFadden simply hasn't been able to stay healthy over the course of his career, and injuries were a concern in training camp as well, but he will be fine to start in Week 1, according to Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Dennis Allen was asked if RB Darren McFadden (shoulder) will play in the season-opener. "Absolutely." How about Thursday? "Don't know yet."— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) August 27, 2013
Since McFadden is healthy for now, owners might as well get him in the lineup. He also happens to have a solid matchup, as the Indianapolis Colts were fourth worst in the league against the run last season, giving up 137.5 yards per game. Also, with the Raiders' quarterback situation in flux, look for McFadden to be heavily involved in the passing game, which will make him even more valuable in point-per-reception leagues.
Prediction: 84 rushing yards, five catches for 40 yards, one touchdown
Sit 'Em: RB Ryan Mathews (SD)
Much like McFadden, San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has driven fantasy owners crazy in recent years. Mathews was expected to produce huge numbers straight out of college a few years ago, but injuries have plagued him as he has missed eight games over the course of his career. Mathews did manage to break 1,000 yards and score seven touchdowns in 2011, but he dropped to 707 yards last year, and there is plenty of pessimism surrounding him.
With that said, Mathews is coming cheaper than ever in fantasy leagues due to the failure to live up to his potential, so he figures to be a popular flex play. Mathews has looked very good during the preseason as is usually the case, and he is healthy for now, but NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah seems to sum up fantasy owners' feelings about Mathews pretty well.
Ryan Mathews needs to stay healthy. He is a gifted dude. #ThingsISayEveryAugust— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 25, 2013
If you have other flex options at your disposal, you would be best off going in a different direction during Week 1. The Chargers will face the Houston Texans and their stingy run defense on Monday night, so Mathews' statistical ceiling is capped. Houston was seventh in the league last year in terms of rushing yards allowed, and he tied for first in touchdowns allowed and gave up just five. Add in the possibility of San Diego playing from behind, and it's a less-than-ideal situation for Mathews.
Prediction: 52 rushing yards, three catches for 17 yards, no touchdowns
Start 'Em: WR Antonio Brown (PIT)
A lot of pundits seem to be down on the Pittsburgh Steelers this year as they are getting older as a team, but there is still plenty of talent to get excited about. Wide receiver Antonio Brown tops that list as he has a chance to become a go-to guy in 2013. Brown has had to operate in the shadows of Mike Wallace over the past few seasons, but with Wallace now in Miami, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to look in Brown's direction early and often.
Brown is pretty much the only game in town right now, and the Steelers have a lot of questions at running back with rookie Le'Veon Bell on the shelf. Despite that, Brown isn't yet viewed as a surefire fantasy starter. Most seem to be looking at him as a low-end No. 2 or high-end No. 3 at this point, but Sports Illustrated fantasy expert Michael Beller believes that he has the upside necessary to be a top-12 fantasy receiver this year.
As long as Big Ben remains healthy, that seems like a definite possibility. Brown eclipsed 1,000 yards two years ago and his touchdown total went up to five last season, so his growth is apparent. The Steelers will face the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, who were seventh worst against the pass last year and yielded 31 touchdowns through the air. Since Pittsburgh will be unable to count on its running game, Brown will be the beneficiary.
Prediction: Seven catches for 125 yards and one touchdown
Sit 'Em: WR Mike Williams (TB)
Since entering the league as a fourth-round pick in 2010, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams has established himself as one of the best touchdown guys at the receiver position. Williams has yet to rack up a 1,000-yard season, but he has 23 touchdowns in three years including nine last season and 11 in 2010. He also has 63 catches in each of his three seasons, so most fantasy owners view Williams as a fairly low-risk player to put in their lineups.
Which player will struggle most in Week 1?
While that may be true, there is cause for concern in Week 1. It's unlikely that many owners have Williams as their No. 2 receiver, but he is a very solid No. 3 and a good flex play on most weeks. That won't be the case in Week 1, though, as Williams doesn't have an ideal matchup. The New York Jets have become a punchline over the past couple of seasons, but one thing that they still excel at is defending the pass.
Even without Darrelle Revis—who now plays for the Bucs—for the bulk of last season, the Jets were second in the league against the pass as they allowed less than 190 yards per game. They also happened to be awful against the run, so look for Tampa to pound Doug Martin for much of the game, especially if it takes an early lead. Williams should be a valuable fantasy player this season, but he won't do much in Week 1.
Prediction: Three catches for 33 yards and no touchdowns
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