Nothing is worse in fantasy than one of your stars facing a brutal matchup. Nobody likes to bench a star, after all, even in the face of proof that said player may be in for a rough game in the coming week.
But sometimes you have to face the facts, and I'm here to present them as the bearer of bad news. If you have one of the four players listed below, you might be wise to bench them if you have a viable alternative.
And if you don't, well, here's hoping you can manage your expectations and they can at least manage enough points to keep you competitive.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
Yes, I know that Cam Newton scored 15 or more fantasy points 10 times in ESPN standard leagues a year ago. Yes, I know given his ability as a runner he is generally one of the more consistent fantasy producers at the quarterback position.
But no, I don't like him this week.
For one thing, he faces a Seattle Seahawks defense that gave up just 10.2 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per week (in ESPN standard leagues), stingiest in the NFL. For another, Newton managed just seven points against this defense a year ago.
Newton may not have to play the Seahawks in Seattle—where one of the league's rowdiest crowds would have screamed at him for 60 minutes—but a tenacious 'Hawks defense will keep him in check and ensure that Newton's fantasy owners are frustrated.
Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans
While the Titans signed guard Andy Levitre and drafted guard Chance Warmack—and yes, I expect those additions will catapult Johnson back into the top-10 for fantasy running backs this year—don't expect him to start the season strong against a tough Pittsburgh Steelers run game.
Although Johnson rushed for 91 yards against the Steelers a season ago, the Pittsburgh defense held opposing running backs to less than that amount in eight games. Plus, the Steelers gave up just 12.4 fantasy points to opposing running backs per week (in ESPN leagues), and Shonn Green could easily vulture some of those points near the goal-line.
Johnson should have a great year, but don't expect him to start with a bang.
Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about Mike Wallace in this game, notably the fact that he didn't seem to have a great camp. But the real reason I hate this matchup for Wallace is because he'll be shadowed by Joe Haden.
According to Dave Richard of CBS, Wallace has just six grabs for 77 yards and no scores in his last three games against Haden. According to ESPN Stats and Information, "Since being drafted by the Browns in 2010, Haden has broken up 39 passes, more than any other player in the league."
And Haden is Pro Football Focus' eighth-ranked cornerback overall in the past five years (minimum of three years in the league). In that article, Khaled Elsayed notes:
Playing the kind of man-to-man coverage he excels in, interceptions are always going be more limited, and instead it’s worth noting that he’s broken up 38 passes in three years and has a 53.4% receptions-allowed percentage over that time. He’s top tier already.
Ignoring the fact that ESPN and Pro Football Focus disagree on his number of broken-up passes, the point is this—Haden will likely be covering Wallace all game long, which is very bad news for Wallace's fantasy owners.
Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
There are two reasons I don't love Davis this week.
First, the Green Bay Packers were surprisingly good against the position last season, giving up just 5.4 fantasy points per week to opposing tight ends, second-best in the NFL (in ESPN standard leagues). They also only allowed 668 yards (second-fewest in the NFL) and five touchdowns to tight ends a season ago.
But the other factor is that I simply don't know which Davis we'll get. Will we get the player who had just six catches in the final six games of the regular season with Colin Kaepernick under center? Or will we get the guy who had 12 catches for 244 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs?
For the season, I think we'll see the latter. But in Week 1, I'm leaning closer to the former. He's a risky play this week for sure.