Fantasy Football Week 1: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

Eric Mack@@EricMackFantasyFantasy Football Lead WriterSeptember 7, 2013

Fantasy Football Week 1: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

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    It is a staple of fantasy football content: the "Start 'Em, Sit 'Em" article. Bleacher Report brings you the freshest edition every week of the NFL season, publishing ours every Saturday.

    Compiled after all the practices have concluded, the injury report has been hashed out and all that is left is the wait for kickoff.

    We break down the matchups, both good and bad, for the starts and the sits by position in this slideshow. We guarantee it will be a must-read every weekend before your final lineup deadline.

Quarterbacks: Start Ben Roethlisberger, Sit Andy Dalton

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    Top Five Matchups to Exploit

    These teams allowed the most points to opposing fantasy quarterbacks last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. New Orleans Saints (vs. Matt Ryan)
    2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Geno Smith)
    3. New England Patriots (vs. EJ Manuel)
    4. Washington Redskins (vs. Michael Vick)
    5. Minnesota Vikings (vs. Matthew Stafford)

    Start 'Em

    Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

    With Le'Veon Bell (foot) out and Felix Jones still getting ingrained into the offense, the Steelers are a bit short at running back. Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards against the Titans last season, and will need to air it out again without an established running game.

    It was the most yards passing the Titans allowed in a season where they also faced the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck (twice). That's some company there.

    Offensive coordinator Todd Haley will use a "dink-and-dunk" offense to attack a suspect Titans defense, so Big Ben is headed for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout. Those are starter-quality numbers for a quarterback who fell way too far in drafts.

    Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

    The Redskins allowed the fourth-most points to fantasy quarterbacks a year ago, and Vick didn't get to start either game against them. We get a Robert Griffin III-Vick shootout this year.

    The Redskins started particularly slowly against the pass a year ago, allowing 300-yard passers in six of their first seven games. Chip Kelly's uptempo attack should light a fire under the Eagles offense, and RG3 should help the game get loose.

    Vick is going to be a threat passing (two touchdowns) and running, particularly since the Redskins will take away LeSean McCoy early with their top-five run defense from a year ago.

    Eli Manning, New York Giants

    David Wilson looks like a potential fantasy star, but we cannot be sure of the Giants running game, especially with their offensive line woes. What we do know is that Manning has a healthy set of receivers in Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle and Brandon Myers.

    The famed Tampa Bay Cover 2 is now in Dallas, and Manning should be able to pick at it by spreading it out and throwing for 250 yards and three touchdowns.

    You drafted Manning as a backup fantasy quarterback in a standard league, but you might consider him a starter option if you don't like your No. 1 quarterback's matchup.

    Other QBs to Start: Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Tony Romo

    Top Five Matchups to Avoid

    These teams allowed the fewest points to opposing fantasy quarterbacks last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Jake Locker)
    2. Seattle Seahawks (vs. Cam Newton)
    3. Arizona Cardinals (vs. Sam Bradford)
    4. Chicago Bears (vs. Andy Dalton)
    5. New York Jets (vs. Josh Freeman)

    Sit 'Em

    Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals

    The Bears have an offensive guru as their head coach now, Marc Trestman, but Charles Tillman and Co. still figure to be a tough matchup for opposing passers. The Bears allowed just three 300-yard games a year ago (Andrew Luck, Tony Romo and Cam Newton) and just four games of multiple touchdown passes (Aaron Rodgers, Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford and Russell Wilson).

    Note that they didn't allow 300 yards and multiple touchdowns to the same QB, mind you.

    Dalton is a steady NFL and fantasy quarterback, but he isn't in the class of any of those guys. He won't be good for 250 yards or more than one passing touchdown here. You need more than that out of the position in Week 1.

    Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

    There is a sleeper cell of Palmer lovers in fantasy. No one truly loves him as an NFL quarterback, but fantasy owners like him because he is a gunslinger, and Bruce Arians helped make Luck a productive fantasy quarterback in Indy last year.

    Jeff Fisher's Rams have the most underrated defense in football right now, and they are playing at home. After Week 8 a year ago, the Rams didn't allow a multiple-touchdown passer. They allowed two 300-yard passers (Ryan Lindley and Josh Freeman, but they both threw four interceptions in their respective games).

    The Rams can get after the quarterback, and Arizona's offensive line is sketchy. This is a bad week for Palmer and the Cardinals. He is no better than 250 yards, one touchdown and a few interceptions.

    Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

    If you drafted Newton (you shouldn't have), you are not planning to sit him at any point this season. You picked him among the top five fantasy quarterbacks to play him every week without thinking twice.

    But this is one week you should sit him if you have one of the "starts" above, though. The Seahawks defense is just too tough of a matchup.

    The Panthers have a sleeper defense under Ron Rivera, but that offense is still a work in progress, particularly the running game. They won't find any room on the ground or much space in the passing game. This looks like a game that will turn a bit ugly for fantasy owners, unless you have the kickers.

    Fringe QBs: Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman

Running Backs: Start Daryl Richardson, Sit Eddie Lacy

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    Top Five Matchups to Exploit

    These teams allowed the most points to opposing fantasy running backs last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. New Orleans Saints (vs. Steven Jackson)
    2. Buffalo Bills (vs. Stevan Ridley)
    3. Tennessee Titans (vs. Isaac Redman)
    4. Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Jamaal Charles)
    5. Dallas Cowboys (vs. David Wilson)

    Start 'Em

    Daryl Richardson, St. Louis Rams

    The Cardinals were fifth worst overall against the run and allowed the second-most rushing yards to opposing running backs in fantasy.

    Jackson rushed for 139 yards in the last Rams game against this defense, while Richardson combined for 16 carries for 67 yards in two games (4.2 YPC) as Jackson's backup. The Rams added plenty of weapons in the offseason, but against the Cardinals in Week 1, it will be a lot of defense and running.

    Also, Isaiah Pead is on a one-game suspension, and fifth-round draft pick Zac Stacy has fallen behind unheralded reserve back Benjamin Cunningham in some eyes. This is Richardson's team right now, and he will show it here, to the tune of 130 combined yards and a touchdown.

    Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders

    We hated McFadden's risk and draft position this summer, but he qualifies as a must-start against a Colts run defense that allowed the sixth-most points to fantasy running backs a year ago.

    Terrelle Pryor is the Raiders starting quarterback, and while the offense should be bad, Run DMC is the one thing it has going for it right now. The Colts should get a heavy dose of the run, particularly because McFadden is healthy.

    If you have McFadden on your roster, you have to use him now. 

    Shane Vereen, New England Patriots

    You have to love Stevan Ridley against the Bills' second-worst run defense in the NFL from a year ago, but there will be enough fantasy points from the backs here to start some Pats backups.

    In Buffalo last September, Ridley rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, while Brandon Bolden added 137 and one score. In the second meeting, both Ridley and Danny Woodhead (twice) found the end zone.

    It is no wonder the Bills gave up the second-most points to fantasy running backs last year. A lot of them came against the Pats, and Vereen is the new Woodhead/Bolden backup to Ridley.

    Vereen will mostly be used as a pass receiver in the Pats' screen-heavy attack, and the Bills gave up the second-most receiving touchdowns to running backs last year. Vereen might rush for a mere 40 yards, but he can catch five passes for 50 and a touchdown.

    Other RBs to Start: DeMarco Murray, David Wilson

    Sleeper Options: Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard

    Top Five Matchups to Avoid

    These teams allowed the fewest points to opposing fantasy running backs last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Houston Texans (vs. Ryan Mathews)
    2. Denver Broncos (already played vs. Ray Rice)
    3. San Francisco 49ers (vs. Eddie Lacy)
    4. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Chris Johnson)
    5. Chicago Bears (vs. BenJarvus Green-Ellis/Giovani Bernard) 

    Sit 'Em

    Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers

    We understand the excitement of a talent like Lacy in a potent offense like the Packers, but this is the roughest matchup in football: the 49ers run defense. Only the Broncos allowed fewer rushing touchdowns to fantasy backs a year ago, and only the Bucs allowed fewer rushing yards in the NFC.

    Oh, and the Packers still are an Aaron Rodgers-led, pass-first team.

    If you like 15 carries for 45 yards and no scores in your fantasy starting lineup, go with Lacy. It won't get any better than that; in fact, he might even be considerably worse.

    BenJarvus Green Ellis and Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals

    Not only is this one of the more frustrating running back timeshares in fantasy, but it will be facing a Bears defense that allowed just seven touchdowns to backs a year ago. The Bears were fifth best against fantasy running backs, and each of these guys will split carries 50-50.

    This looks like a game that will leave the fantasy total of both backs under 10 combined, and that is including Bernard as a potential pass receiver out of the backfield.

    Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory, New York Jets

    Despite boasting the No. 1 rush defense in the NFL, the Buccaneers did allow 13 touchdowns on the ground a year ago. That doesn't mean you should expect either of these Jets backs to reach the end zone.

    A bad quarterback and a tough run defense spells trouble for an already weak Jets offense in Week 1.

    Powell and Ivory are the best weapons the Jets have in a limited arsenal, but they are starting a rookie quarterback in Geno Smith who only won the job out of training camp by default. Mark Sanchez was too injured to truly compete, and Smith threw three interceptions in the dress rehearsal Week 3 preseason game.

    Fringe RBs: DeAngelo Williams, Rashard Mendenhall

    Bad Matchups You Can Sit: Chris Johnson, Ryan Mathews

    Handcuffs Not Useful as Flex Options This Week: Ben Tate, Bryce Brown

Wide Receivers: Start Antonio Brown, Sit Steve Smith

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    Top Five Matchups to Exploit

    These teams allowed the most points to opposing fantasy wide receivers last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. New Orleans Saints (vs. Julio Jones and Roddy White)
    2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley)
    3. Washington Redskins (vs. DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper and Jason Avant)
    4. New York Giants (vs. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin)
    5. Cleveland Brown (vs. Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline)

    Start 'Em

    Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers

    We already said Ben Roethlisberger is a start against a suspect Titans defense, so you have to consider his No. 1 target a start too. Brown is clearly the best option for Big Ben down the field, but Emmanuel Sanders is a nice fringe play as well in deeper leagues.

    Brown was quiet against the Titans a year ago (four catches for 20 yards), but he drew a team-high 10 targets. Also, the departed Mike Wallace made a long reception, finishing with two catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown won't go to the Steelers' lackluster tight ends filling in for Heath Miller (knee).

    Brown has the makings of a potential monster fantasy game, to the tune of eight catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. 

    DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles

    You probably didn't draft Jackson as a surefire fantasy starter, but he is one, particularly against a Redskins defense that was third worst against the pass last season. We already said you start Michael Vick, so you have to start his leading receiver too.

    Jackson is that now with Jeremy Maclin (knee) out for the year and Riley Cooper and Jason Avant mere possession guys. You can start Cooper and Avant if you completely blew it at receiver in your draft, but Jackson is going to be a star here.

    Ignore the fact he had just two catches for five yards against the Redskins a season ago. Jackson is going for 100-plus yards here in this Vick-Robert Griffin III shootout.

    Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints

    The Falcons defense allowed the fewest receiving touchdowns to receivers a year ago (just seven), and Moore wasn't one of them. Moore did go for seven catches for 91 yards and seven for 123 in his two games against the Falcons.

    Atlanta quietly takes away the No. 1 receiver better than any team in fantasy, but Moore should fly under the radar and prove to be a productive fantasy starter in the shootout in New Orleans this week. Even six catches for 80 yards will be solid enough production for where you drafted him in fantasy.

    Other WRs to Start: Pierre Garcon, Dwayne Bowe, Hakeem Nicks, Reggie Wayne, Miles Austin

    Fringe Options: T.Y. Hilton, Stevie Johnson, Kenbrell Thompkins

    Top Five Matchups to Avoid

    These teams allowed the fewest points to opposing fantasy wide receivers last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. New York Jets (vs. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams)
    2. Seattle Seahawks (vs. Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell)
    3. Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery)
    4. San Francisco 49ers (vs. Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones)
    5. Denver Broncos (already played vs. Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley)

    Sit 'Em

    Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers

    This is the sit of the week. You shouldn't have drafted Smith as a fantasy starter anyway. Next to Reggie Wayne, he is the second-oldest receiver on fantasy rosters. Age 34 isn't kind to receivers, a position meant for youngsters.

    The Seahawks corners are just too tough, and Smith was a slow starter a year ago, falling to catch a touchdown pass in the first eight weeks of the season.

    He won't catch one here, and he might not get more than 50 yards against the likes of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. 

    Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans

    Not only were the Steelers the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL last season, you also cannot have confidence in Jake Locker. The Steelers were the seventh-best team in fantasy against receivers a year ago too.

    Britt did go for four catches, 62 yards and a touchdown against the Steelers in last year's meeting, but Troy Polamalu is healthy to start the year, and Ike Taylor is going to match up on Britt and take him away.

    This is a better Steelers defense than anyone thinks, and Britt wasn't drafted to be a surefire starter for you anyway.

    Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams

    We hated drafting Austin as a fantasy starter this summer. That is nothing against Austin as a talent, but he is a mere slot receiver for a quarterback, Sam Bradford, who has been mediocre over his three-year pro career.

    Austin also faces a Cardinals defense that was fifth best in the NFL against the pass a year ago. Expect this to be a slow start for the raw rookie who was the first skill-position player off the board this April.

    Fringe WR Combos You Might Sit This Week: Jordy Nelson and James Jones, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams

Tight Ends: Start Zach Sudfeld, Sit Greg Olsen

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    Top Five Matchups to Exploit

    These teams allowed the most points to opposing fantasy tight ends last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Tennessee Titans (vs. David Paulson)
    2. Washington Redskins (vs. Brent Celek and Zach Ertz)
    3. Denver Broncos (already played vs. Dallas Clark and Ed Dickson)
    4. Houston Texans (vs. Antonio Gates)
    5. New England Patriots (vs. Scott Chandler)

    Start 'Em

    Zach Sudfeld, New England Patriots

    The Pats love to use their tight ends, and that doesn't figure to change, at least in the red zone. With Rob Gronkowski (back) out and Michael Hoomanawanui the only other tight end on the roster, Sudfeld should be good for a touchdown here.

    Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

    He was on the board a long time in drafts, mostly because of his age and injury risk, but Gates is healthy. That is a tough Texans defense, but it is also one that allowed an NFL-high 11 touchdowns to tight ends last year. Gates should be good for at least one score.

    Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota Vikings

    The Lions were 10th worst against tight ends in fantasy last year, and Rudolph had the best day against them with seven catches for 64 yards and a touchdown in his most recent meeting (Week 10). Christian Ponder and the Vikings might have to play catch-up in this one, and Rudolph is going to reel in a late score.

    Sleeper TEs to Start: Brandon Pettigrew, Brandon Myers, Coby Fleener

    Top Five Matchups to Avoid

    These teams allowed the fewest points to opposing fantasy tight ends last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Baltimore Ravens (already played vs. Julius Thomas)
    2. Seattle Seahawks (vs. Greg Olsen)
    3. Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Delanie Walker)
    4. Cleveland Browns (vs. Charles Clay, Dion Sims and Michael Agnew)
    5. Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Fred Davis)

    Sit 'Em

    Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers

    You shouldn't have drafted a backup tight end because the deep nature of the reserves at the position makes the waiver wire your bench. You are better off going with one of those above Olsen, who will face that impenetrable Seahawks secondary.

    Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

    A lot was made about how Finley is going to be more involved in the Packers passing game this year, particularly in the red zone. Ignore that talk here. The 49ers allowed a league-low 613 yards to tight ends last year.

    Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns

    Cameron became a fantasy darling after his two-touchdown performance in the preseason, but he was banged up since (groin) and faces a Dolphins defense that allowed the second-fewest touchdowns to tight ends (three) last year.

    TEs to Avoid If You Have a Viable Backup: Martellus Bennett, Jared Cook, Fred Davis, Jermaine Gresham, Tyler Eifert

Defensive/Special Teams: Start New England Patriots, Sit Atlanta Falcons

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    Top Five Matchups to Exploit

    These teams allowed the most points to opposing fantasy defensive/special teams last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Arizona Cardinals (at St. Louis Rams)
    2. Philadelphia Eagles (at Washington Redskins)
    3. Detroit Lions (vs. Minnesota Vikings)
    4. New York Jets (vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
    5. Kansas City Chiefs (at Jacksonville Jaguars)

    Start 'Em

    New England Patriots

    The Patriots have a suspect secondary, allowing the fourth-most passing yards in the NFL last season, but they have an improving, young defense that can stuff the run and limit the opposition's scoring (top 10 last year). They were a stout fantasy unit because of defensive scores, and they should get some against the Bills and a rookie quarterback (EJ Manuel) playing at less than 100 percent because of his knee.

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    The Steelers were a bad fantasy defense last year, despite being the No. 1 in the NFL overall in yards against, No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 against the run. The turnovers come against Jake Locker here, and they will get in the end zone at least once.

    St. Louis Rams

    The Cardinals have a better quarterback in Carson Palmer, but he is one who tends to force the issue. That will be bad against a top-notch Rams pass rush. The Rams might get multiple touchdowns from their defense in this one.

    Sleepers to Start: Cincinnati Bengals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions

    Top Five Matchups to Avoid

    These teams allowed the fewest points to opposing fantasy defense/special teams last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Washington Redskins (vs. Philadelphia Eagles)
    2. New England Patriots (at Buffalo Bills)
    3. Atlanta Falcons (at New Orleans Saints)
    4. New York Giants (at Dallas Cowboys)
    5. Denver Broncos (already played against Baltimore Ravens)

    Sit 'Em

    Atlanta Falcons

    This one has to be rather obvious against the Saints in the Superdome. The Falcons are a sleeper streaming defense, but you cannot use them in an unfavorable matchup like this one this season.

    San Diego Chargers

    This unit scored a lot of fantasy points on turnovers and touchdowns, but those are hard to come by against an elite contender like the Houston Texans. The Chargers might be the worst defensive play of the week, even worse than the Falcons.

    Carolina Panthers

    This defense gets too much love in fantasy. It will be a terrible play against a Seahawks offense that doesn't turn the ball over, runs as well as anyone and can put up big points because of their own defensive play. Frankly, you shouldn't have drafted the Panthers defense. Undo that mistake by cutting it for a streaming option above.

    Fringe Teams You Shouldn't Consider This Week: New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, Washington Redskins

Kickers: Start Steven Hauschka, Sit Mason Crosby

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    Top Five Matchups to Exploit

    These teams allowed the most points to opposing fantasy kickers last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. Ryan Succop)
    2. Oakland Raiders (vs. Adam Vinatieri)
    3. Detroit Lions (vs. Blair Walsh)
    4. Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Josh Scobee)
    5. New Orleans Saints (vs. Matt Bryant)

    Start 'Em

    Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks

    We don't know why he wasn't drafted. The Seahawks can move the ball on anyone, and they don't have the receivers to really do damage in the red zone, no matter what you think of Russell Wilson. This should be a bountiful year, and week, for Hauschka.

    Garrett Hartley, New Orleans Saints

    He had a down year because the Saints struggled defensively and had to go for touchdowns more than settle for field goals. The Falcons-Saints game should be a shootout, and the Falcons are one of the rare defenses that limits passing touchdowns. Expect multiple Hartley field goals.

    Sleeper Kickers to Start Because of Expected Shootouts: Dan Bailey, Kai Forbath, Alex Henery, Josh Brown

    Top Five Matchups to Avoid

    These teams allowed the fewest points to opposing fantasy kickers last year (Week 1 opponent):

    1. Denver Broncos (already played vs. Justin Tucker)
    2. Chicago Bears (vs. Mike Nugent)
    3. San Diego Chargers (Randy Bullock)
    4. Seattle Seahawks (Graham Gano)
    5. San Francisco 49ers (Mason Crosby)

    Sit 'Em

    Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers

    Not only did he miss a lot of big field goals last year, but he was drafted late in fantasy. You should consider him a streaming kicker instead of an elite one, and this is a bad matchup for him. He was held to just two extra points against the 49ers last year in the season opener.

    Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders

    I don't care how strong his leg is or how much fantasy owners love him. His Raiders are a candidate to get shut out in any given week this season. The Colts are going to blow this one out.

    Mike Nugent, Cincinnati Bengals 

    The Bears were the second-best team in fantasy against kickers. Nugent might be limited to a couple of extra points this week.

    Fringe Kickers You Shouldn't Consider: Randy Bullock, Graham Gano, Nick Novak

    Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.