The 2013 NFL regular season started with a bang, as the Denver Broncos defeated the Baltimore Ravens 49-27 in an offensive clinic. While fantasy football owners were inevitably pleased with the high scoring output, the remaining games aren't guaranteed to provide those same results.
The question is, which of the NFL's polarizing players should you be starting?
There are countless big-name players who have built up a reputation as inconsistent fantasy football options. Even if their season totals impress, the balance is close to nonexistent, as big games shape their season and letdowns seem to happen all too often.
Fortunately for fantasy football owners, some of those mercurial figures are primed to have an outstanding season opener.
Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
Position: Running Back
2012 Season Statistics: rushing—227 ATT, 986 YDS, 6 TD; receiving—35 REC, 292 YDS, 2 TD
During the 2012 NFL regular season, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford attempted a league-high 727 passes—57 more than second-place Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. The Lions as a team, meanwhile, ranked 25th in the league in rushing attempts.
After Detroit went 4-12 with that approach, don't think for a second that the Lions will hesitate to use Reggie Bush.
Bush ran for 986 yards on 227 attempts in 2012 and tallied 35 receptions for 292 yards. This was the second consecutive season that Bush accounted for at least 1,200 yards of total offense, which is quite impressive considering he's played without a consistent quarterback.
With Stafford and Calvin Johnson serving as the stars in Detroit, it's hard to imagine Bush having much trouble finding openings in opposing defenses.
During Week 1, the Lions will play a Minnesota Vikings team that is without defensive tackle Kevin Williams, per ESPN. That's a major void up the gut that Bush should be able to expose as a runner.
If you play in a point-per-reception league, that makes Bush the ultimate upside start.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Opponent: Pittsburgh Steelers
Position: Running Back
2012 Season Statistics: rushing—276 ATT, 1,243 YDS, 6 TD; receiving—36 REC, 232 YDS
At the beginning of the 2012 NFL regular season, the Tennessee Titans running back ran for 45 yards and no touchdowns during his first three weeks. During Week 5, CJ2K proceeded to pick up 24 yards on 15 carries and thus eliminate his fantasy football value.
Or did he?
Johnson may have started slow, but he ran for 1,033 yards and six touchdowns during his final 11 games. In that time, Johnson averaged 5.1 yards per carry and returned to the ranks of the NFL's elite running backs.
Even if fans were too upset with his first five weeks to realize it.
Johnson opens up the 2013 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which in past seasons would have suggested he should be benched. With that being said, the Titans have a dramatically improved offensive line, and Pittsburgh's defense has too many question marks up front to count.
There is inevitable risk, but Johnson is worth a start in standard and PPR leagues—his big-play ability is too much to ignore.
Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills
Opponent: New England Patriots
Position: Wide Receiver
2012 Season Statistics: 79 REC, 1,046 YDS, 6 TD
Steve Johnson is one of the most mercurial players in the NFL, due to a combination of immature antics and perceived inconsistency. In 2012, however, Johnson quietly put together his third consecutive season with at least 75 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving.
Not too bad for a guy who was catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Johnson will open the season against the New England Patriots, which suggests that the pass coverage will be manageable. New England was 29th in passing yards allowed and 21st in passing touchdowns allowed, meaning Johnson could have his way.
The key to a breakout game for Johnson is Buffalo's rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.
Manuel will be making his first career regular-season start, which may persuade some that he and his receivers will struggle. With that being said, Manuel is going to go with what and whom he can trust, and it stands to reason that the veteran Johnson will be Manuel's go-to guy.
Buffalo may be inclined to run the football with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, but against New England, they will most likely be playing from behind and will need to air it out.
Start Johnson if you want to reap the benefits.
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