With the 2014 NFL regular season mere hours away, fantasy football owners are running out of time to put the finishing touches on their starting lineups for Week 1.
Waiting until the last minute is generally a terrible strategy to take, but when it comes to the fantasy realm, it's the way to go. This allows you to get as much information as possible before making your final decision.
Heading into the opening round of games, you should consider the fantasy value of the eight players listed below.
Start 'Em: Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer is the epitome of a matchup guy in fantasy football. You'd never want him to be the best quarterback on your roster because he's way too inconsistent. However, Palmer will have those games where he throws for 300 yards and three touchdowns. It's all about trying to pinpoint when you'll get the good Palmer.
The San Diego Chargers were 31st against the pass last season, according to Football Outsiders. The secondary will improve after the additions of cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers, but don't expect any kind of massive jump. San Diego will continue to struggle against the pass.
That opens the door for Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals, who have a very talented group of receivers, to ravage the Chargers through the air.
Palmer's likely to shoot himself in the foot once in a big way, but he should otherwise be reliable this weekend.
Sit 'Em: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan should be a steady fantasy QB this year, but this is one of those times you might be better off keeping him on the bench.
The New Orleans Saints had a top-10 pass defense last year that only improved with the addition of safety Jairus Byrd. ESPN.com's Mike Triplett thinks the Saints secondary may be one of the best in the league:
Over the past two years, New Orleans has undergone a radical makeover in the secondary, which now looks like the NFL's most formidable unit east of Seattle. Last year, free-agent cornerback Keenan Lewis and rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro were two of the biggest reasons for the Saints' remarkable turnaround under new coordinator Rob Ryan. Then they added Byrd and future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey in free agency this offseason, followed by the addition of a big Richard Sherman clone in the second round of the draft in Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
The Falcons offensive line is also an area of concern. Losing tackle Sam Baker for the season could have a seriously deleterious effect on that unit's performance this season. When these teams met in Week 1 last season, New Orleans had constant pressure on Ryan, sacking him three times.
Too many signs point to trouble for Ryan on Sunday.
Start 'Em: Knowshon Moreno, Miami Dolphins
Last year, the New England Patriots gave up an average of 134.1 rushing yards a game, which ranked 30th in the league. Part of the problem was defensive tackle Vince Wilfork's injury. Losing a player like that inside really hurt New England.
Now he's back, though, and the Miami Dolphins are well aware of his importance.
"I know he's coming off an injury, so I know he's going to be motivated to be back on the field plus he's back in Miami, because he's from here," said Miami center Samson Satele, per ESPN.com's James Walker. "It's going to be his first game back, but I will be ready. I'm going to do what I know from this offense and work on my technique."
Having Wilfork back will help, but the Patriots won't be a demonstrably better team against the run, which should allow the Dolphins to be consistently successful on the ground. But which Miami running back will have the better day?
How many owners have been burned by Lamar Miller in the past? Don't put too much trust in him until he proves himself reliable.
Knowshon Moreno, on the other hand, is a much more dependable back. Even better, he returned to full practice on Wednesday, per Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Omar Kelly @OmarKelly
The Dolphins announced Knowshon Moreno (knee) practiced fully during today's padded practice. That means he's close to fully recovered.9/3/2014, 9:31:39 PM
Don't count on Moreno having a huge game, but something along the lines of 80 yards rushing and a touchdown should be within reach.
Sit 'Em: Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars
Toby Gerhart is one of the more trendy running backs this year, and rightfully so. Now that he's in Jacksonville, he has a chance to truly shine. Gerhart's much more athletic than many give him credit for, and with the Jaguars' less-than-stable quarterback situation, he should get plenty of carries.
When it comes to Week 1, though, he might be better off on the bench.
The Jaguars head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in what is one of the more one-sided matchups of the opening weekend, at least on paper.
While the Eagles had a porous pass defense last year, they only allowed 104.3 yards a game on the ground, 10th in the league. If Philly doesn't have to respect the Jacksonville passing game as much, then it can focus more on the running game.
Gerhart could be in for a rough opener.
Start 'Em: Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos
With Wes Welker suspended for the first four games of the regular season, Emmanuel Sanders' role in the Denver Broncos offense should only grow. Wideout Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas should get more targets as well, but plenty will be left over to make Sanders a nice WR2 or flex option.
Michael Fabiano of NFL.com thinks that owners don't have any other choice:
Michael Fabiano @Michael_Fabiano
With Wes Welker being suspended for the first 4 games of 2014, Emmanuel Sanders becomes almost a must-start WR2/3 in fantasy.9/2/2014, 10:57:14 PM
If you've got Sanders on your roster, it should be a pretty easy decision to start him this weekend. And if you're so loaded at the position that you don't have a place for him, then consider trading him since his value is so high at the moment.
Sit 'Em: Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
As mentioned before, the Falcons passing game could be in trouble this weekend against the Saints. It would take some major courage to not start Julio Jones, but Roddy White isn't on such solid ground.
After cracking 1,000 receiving yards six seasons in a row between 2007 and 2012, his numbers fell quite a bit in 2013. His 63 receptions and 711 yards were third on the team behind Jones and Tony Gonzalez. At 32 years old, age is becoming a serious factor.
With Gonzalez gone, White should be getting more attention, but that's not going to matter in Week 1 if Ryan's struggling to move the ball.
Start 'Em: Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
With Dwayne Bowe suspended, somebody's going to have to pick up the slack in the Kansas City Chiefs passing game. Since the Chiefs lack that one guy who can shoulder all of the burden, quarterback Alex Smith will likely be sharing the wealth.
Travis Kelce is one of the more fashionable sleeper picks at tight end, a point which he addressed after being prompted by Terez A. Paylor of The Kansas City Star.
"I'm living the dream, but I don't live in a fantasy world," Kelce said. "Hopefully I won't be a sleeper for too long, you know."
If you're in need of an emergency tight end, the 24-year-old is your guy. His ceiling is a bit limited, but he could do enough to help you win in Week 1.
Sit 'Em: Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers
All you have to do is think back to Julius Thomas' emergence last year to understand why Ladarius Green is getting so much hype this offseason. His combination of strength and athleticism could make him a matchup nightmare for defensive coordinators.
In Week 1, however, the San Diego Chargers face off against a tough Arizona Cardinals secondary. As a whole, the Cardinals are a very underrated team. If they had a better quarterback, they'd be considered Super Bowl contenders.
Add that to the fact that Antonio Gates is still the top banana at tight end, and Green isn't going to be getting much attention from quarterback Philip Rivers this early into the season.
Green should still be viewed as a breakout candidate this year, but it may take a few weeks before he finds his footing.
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