We are hours away from the start of the 2013 NFL season as the Baltimore Ravens open the season on the road against the Denver Broncos. It’s also the kickoff for the fantasy football season. Here’s a look at some players that should be in your lineups tonight.
Peyton Manning should absolutely be in your fantasy lineup. Last year he had 4,659 yards and 37 touchdowns. The Broncos added Wes Welker, who along with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, gives the Broncos one of the league’s best receiving groups.
Manning had 204 yards and a touchdown in the regular-season meeting with Baltimore last year. He had 290 yards, three touchdowns and two picks in the playoff rematch. He’ll have better games this year, but it’s nearly impossible not to pencil Manning into your Week 1 lineup.
Joe Flacco had an unbelievable playoff run that included 331 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Denver. In the regular-season meeting he had 254 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
He won’t have to contend with Von Miller or Champ Bailey in this one, but he still lands outside of QB1 territory for most fantasy teams.
Ray Rice is also a must-start. He was held to 41 total yards during the regular-season loss, but he was limited to 12 carries because the Ravens got down big early. In the playoff game he had 131 yards and a touchdown.
Bernard Pierce should see some touches, but he’s not a good play.
Denver is employing a committee at running back, which puts a damper on the fantasy prospects of Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman and Knowshon Moreno.
This game should shed some light on the roles of each back, but it’s a risky play to blindly insert any of them into your fantasy lineup this week. If I had to play one, it would be Ball.
Demaryius Thomas should be penciled into every fantasy lineup coming off a 1,434-yard, 10-touchdown season. He’s 6’3″ with 4.38 speed and a ton of athleticism. He’s a big-play threat, but he also has the size to muscle his way in the red zone.
Eric Decker and Wes Welker are both quality fantasy options, but they both took a step back from last year (Thomas as well) simply because Manning had three quality options at his disposal.
Torrey Smith was a solid option even before Champ Bailey was ruled out. Smith struggled in the regular-season game against Denver but exploded for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the playoff game. With Anquan Boldin moving on and Dennis Pitta out, Smith should see additional targets.
None of the other Ravens receivers are quality fantasy options this week. Marlon Brown had a good preseason, but I wouldn’t dare plug him in just yet.
With Dennis Pitta out, there is no meaningful fantasy option in this game. Ed Dickson just isn’t a difference-maker and Dallas Clark doesn’t bring much to the table at this stage of his career.
Julius Thomas has gained a lot of steam, but he is a risky play in the opener considering the three receivers he has to contend with for touches. His biggest contributions should come in the red zone, but if he doesn’t score, you could be off to a slow start.
Neither defense is a top-10 option this week simply because the opposing offenses are so potent. To make matters worse for the Broncos, they will be playing without Miller or Bailey.
While I don’t like either defense for fantasy purposes this week, I do think both kickers have a chance to be highly productive in Denver’s thin air. The offenses should put points on the board and long field goals should be in play.
Also check out Lester's Legends Week 1 Fantasy Football Rankings.