Welcome to the first edition of what will be a weekly post here at Midwest Sports Fans throughout the NFL season: start ‘em–sit ‘em lineup advice for your fantasy football rosters.
We all know how important overall position rankings are for valuing players on draft day. Typically there are pretty clear tiers of players at each position. Making sure that you get players in certain tiers at appropriate draft positions is a key to maximizing value.
But—and it’s an important but—as you go through the season, weekly values can fluctuate based on a player’s injury, a teammate’s injury, and the opponent for that week.
For a guy like Drew Brees, or most guys picked in the first two or three rounds, it will rarely matter. You lock these guys into your starting lineups and count on them to anchor your team.
For mid and late-round guys, however, the players who may fill out your No. 2 RB / WR positions or your flex spot, keeping an eye on fluctuations in expected value on a week-by-week basis is important.
That’s the goal of this post and will be the goal every week.
I won’t tell you to start Drew Brees; you know that. And if you don’t know that, there is a good chance that you are wasting your time doing research because your team is doomed with your Kotite-level leadership.
On the other hand, maybe you waited to get a QB and your choices are Joe Flacco and Eli Manning. Neither is a clear-cut weekly starter, but will have particular matchups throughout the year that you will want to leverage or avoid.
Please take note: Just because a guy is a “start ‘em” doesn’t mean he should necessarily start for your team. If I say that David Garrard is worthy of a start, it does not mean he should play over Tom Brady or Philip Rivers. And just because I say that Matt Schaub may struggle, it doesn’t mean you should start Shaun Hill over him. Everything is relative and dependent on your roster.
We’re all looking for an edge that can help us on weekly basis. I have eight teams this year and obviously want to win with every one of them every single week. This post is my way of using the research I’ve done to help you out as well.
So without further adieu, let’s get right to it: a start ‘em–sit ‘em highlight at each position other than kicker. And obviously we can’t get to every player in this post, so feel free to ask follow-up questions in the comments. I’ll respond as quickly as I’m able all the way up until Sunday morning.
Week 1 Start ‘Em–Sit ‘Em: Quarterbacks
Start ‘em: David Garrard, Jacksonville (@ Indianapolis)
David Garrard was a major disappointment last year. He threw for only 15 TDs against 13 INTs coming off of his breakout 2007 season during which his QB rating was the third best in the NFL (102.2). I think we may have seen Garrard’s ceiling in 2007, but that does not mean he is not a capable starter in certain spots.
This week is a great matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, primarily because the most important component of the Colts’ D, Bob Sanders, will be unavailable.
I am not a big believer in the Jacksonville receivers, although I do think that Torry Holt will have sneaky good rebound season as the No. 1 option.
Still, despite the Jags’ deficiencies on the outside, Garrard completed 64 percent of his pass attempts in the preseason, and has rumbling bowling ball Maurice Jones-Drew ready to catch five or six passes out of the backfield.
I think the Colts will score a lot of points on Sunday and I think the Jags, led by Garrard, will score a bunch too. I don’t think Jacksonville goes into Indianapolis and wins the game, but I do think Garrard is capable of two TDs (rushing or passing) and 200+ passing yards. Indy’s D just isn’t that good and Garrard should be able to take advantage and get off to a good start in 2009.
Other guys I like: Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle (vs. St. Louis); Joe Flacco, Baltimore (vs Kansas City); Shaun Hill, San Francisco (@ Arizona)
Sit ‘em: Matt Schaub, Houston (vs New York Jets)
I really like Matt Schaub this year, if he stays healthy. (It is required by law that anyone writing about liking Matt Schaub include the health caveat.) However, I’m not a huge fan of his for this week.
Why? I think the New York Jets’ defense has a chance to be among the top handful of defenses in the NFL with Rex Ryan at the helm.
Certainly we know that the Jets' D will attack Schaub with a variety of blitzes all game long. This will be a good test as to whether Houston’s offensive line will be up to the task of keeping Schaub upright consistently. If they can, Schaub has a strong enough rapport with Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter to make any defense pay.
I am honestly a little worried though that Schaub will get banged around by the Jets and this could turn into a lower scoring game.
I think Schaub will get a TD somewhere along the line to Andre Johnson, but that might be it. If you have an alternative, this might be a good week to do a little wait-and-see with Houston and Schaub.
Other guys I don’t like: Whoever is starting for Kansas City (@ Baltimore); Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (vs Tennessee)
Week 1 Start ‘Em–Sit ‘Em: Running Backs
Start ‘em: Willie Parker, Pittsburgh (vs Tennessee)
I chronicled in my Titans-Steelers preview the success that Willie Parker has had coming off of long layoffs either due to the offseason or injury. Parker did not have a good year overall last season, but did start out strong and also played well for a few games after coming back from a midseason injury.
Tennessee has a very good defense, but the Titans are now without Albert Haynesworth.
This is a guy who dominated the middle last year while playing for a new contract and it may take the Titans a little while to shore up their front line without him. The Titans are, however, very good against the pass, forcing two INTs of Ben Roethlisberger in their meeting last year.
I think Pittsburgh and coach Mike Tomlin will want to establish their running game early in the 2009 season and will take advantage of Parker’s fresh legs to do so. You may want to think about trading Fast Willie after Week 3 or 4, because he tends to wind down, but this is a week to take advantage of having him on your roster.
Others I like: Julius Jones, Seattle (@ St. Louis Rams); Felix Jones, Dallas (@ Tampa Bay); Beanie Wells, Arizona (@ San Francisco)
Sit ‘em: Chris Johnson and LenDale White, Tennessee (@ Pittsburgh)
I like both of these guys a lot for the season, just not playing at the NFL’s No. 1 run defense in their home field on the first night of their title defense.
I touched on the Steelers-Titans game yesterday and discussed the game these two teams played in Week 16 last year. Johnson actually scored a TD and the two combined for a 3.8 yard per carry average, which was 0.5 better than Pittsburgh allowed on the season. That game, however, was in Tennessee. Thursday night’s game is at Heinz Field.
Johnson was probably an early round pick for you, and if so, you may have no choice but to start him. For comparison purposes however, I would seriously consider starting a guy like Felix Jones this week because of the matchup. If you can’t stomach sitting such a high draft pick, I understand. But at least take a look at your options.
Chris Johnson and LenDale White will have 15 weeks to offer value against teams other than the Steelers. They might get a TD between them, but who will get it? There won’t be much to go around Thursday night and it will probably be split between them. Stay away if you can.
Others I don’t like: Pierre Thomas, New Orleans (vs Detroit…check his injury status leading up to the game and remember that the Saints have lots of options on offense, so they won’t force it to him if he’s not ready); Steve Slaton, Houston (vs New York Jets); All Cleveland running backs (vs Minnesota)
Week 1 Start ‘Em–Sit ‘Em: Wide Receivers
Start ‘em: Braylon Edwards, Cleveland (vs Minnesota)
I know that I am often harsh of Braylon on this site, mainly because he killed the Browns and numerous fantasy teams on so many occasions last year. However, while I don’t think Braylon will equal his sterling 2007 stats, I do expect him to rebound in 2009.
This week’s matchup is a good one for Braylon in particular because the Browns are going to struggle mightily to run the ball against the Vikings’ Williams Wall (both are playing) and will obviously have trouble keeping Adrian Peterson in check. The Vikings just are not a good matchup for Cleveland as a team because they are proficient in the areas where Cleveland is weak: running and stopping the run.
I expect the Vikings to get up early and force the Browns, who will most likely have Brady Quinn at the helm, to throw a lot. Braylon Edwards is clearly the No. 1 option in the Browns passing game, and may be the first and second option until another WR or a TE steps up.
He may not catch a high percentage of the balls thrown his way, but I think Braylon will lead the league in targets on Sunday and might even pick up a TD. Braylon will be up and down this season, but the big play capability is always there. In games where the Browns cannot run he is going to see passes early and often.
Others I like: Desean Jackson, Philadelphia (@ Carolina); Torry Holt, Jacksonville (@ Indianapolis); Derrick Mason, Baltimore (vs Kansas City); Ted Ginn Jr, Miami (@ Atlanta)
Sit ‘em: Roy Williams, Dallas (@ Tampa Bay)
I guess you could call this a case of wanting to see it before I believe it.
As the season goes along, I do think that Tony Romo and Roy Williams will develop a rapport and that Williams can become a decent No. 2 WR or flex play, but I see Week 1 being much more about Dallas trying to establish an identity as a running team. Plus, with all of the two-tight end sets we’ve heard talked about for this season, I think Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett get their fair share of balls.
Williams has dealt with some injuries this preseason that have hindered his ability to work with Romo. Add to that his extreme struggles last year once he got to Dallas, and I’m just not buying in until I see it.
Williams is the Cowboys’ No. 1 option outside, so he will get targets and could have a decent to solid day. But if you have guys like Braylon Edwards, Chad Ochocinco, Hines Ward, Santana Moss, or others at or right below their class, I would start them and wait for Romo and Williams to prove that they will be the connection everyone thinks they can be.
Others I don’t like: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City (@ Baltimore); Lee Evans, Buffalo (@ New England); Bernard Berrian, Minnesota (@ Cleveland)
Week 1 Start ‘Em–Sit ‘Em: Tight Ends
Start ‘em: Vernon Davis, San Francisco (@ Arizona)
I am really high on Vernon Davis this year, for a number of reasons:
- Not unlike myself, he is freakishly athletic.
- He seems to have bought into what Mike Singletary is selling.
- The 49ers new offensive coordinator has pledged to get Davis more involved in the offense after Davis never saw eye-to-eye with previous OC Mike Martz, for whom he never became a prominent part of the gameplan.
Additionally, I am not a real big fan of Arizona’s defense. Remember, the Cardinals did not have that great of a defense in the regular season last year. They are also primed to become the NFL’s annual victim of the Super Bowl-loss hangover.
I think the 49ers will run the ball a lot and try to establish a short, ball-control passing game with the underrated Shaun Hill at QB. With Michael Crabtree still being a douchy holdout, and Josh Morgan / Isaac Bruce barely being decent, I think the 49ers have to get the ball into the hands of their most talented, game-breaking receiver. That is Davis, and I would honestly not be surprised to see him sneak into the top five tight ends this year.
Others I like: Kevin Boss, New York Giants (vs Washington); Anthony Fasano, Miami (@ Atlanta); John Carlson, Seattle (vs St. Louis); Jeremy Shockey, New Orelans (vs Detroit)
Sit ‘em: Kellen Winslow, Tampa Bay (vs Dallas)
Call it a hunch, or even call it sour grapes after how Winslow’s tenure in Cleveland ended. Either way, I call it a bad matchup against the Cowboys on Sunday.
Byron Leftwich will be starting at QB, and he scares no one. The Buccaneers brought in Derrick Ward in the offseason, have Cadillac Williams back from injury, and still have incumbent RB Earnest Graham on the roster. I think the Bucs try to run early and often, and when they don’t run I think Leftwich looks to Antonio Bryant much more than he looks to Winslow.
The weakness in the Cowboys’ defense is at the corner spot opposite Terrence Newman and the safeties. If Leftwich is going to have success throwing, I think it will be to the outside. Bradie James leads a decent LB corps that should be able to contain Kellen.
Again, I’d make sure you have a solid replacement before benching Winslow. Just don’t be surprised if he struggles.
Others I don’t like: Zack Miller, Oakland (vs San Diego); Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota (@ Cleveland)
Week 1 Start ‘Em–Sit ‘Em: Defenses
Start ‘em: New England (vs Buffalo)
Much has been made about the demise of the impending Patriots defense with the losses of stalwarts Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison, and Tedy Bruschi.
Certainly this amount of veteran leadership will be missed, but the Patriots have done a good job of bringing in young guys like Jerod Mayo and Brandon Meriweather whose time to step up is nigh.
In reality though, I don’t consider the Patriots a top 10 D anymore. They are a spot-start this season based on matchups, with a great matchup coming in Week 1.
Buffalo is without Marshawn Lynch, T.O. has been dealing with an injured toe all preseason, and the Bills fired their offensive coordinator less than two weeks before the start of the regular season. Add all of that up, plus mix in the brilliance of Bill Belichick, and the Patriots make for a solid start on Sunday.
Others I like: Dallas (@ Tampa Bay); San Diego (@ Oakland); New Orleans (vs Detroit…because playing against rookie QBs making their first start is often a recipe for turnovers and TDs); Houston (vs New York Jets…same reason as New Orleans)
Sit ‘em: Miami Dolphins (@ Atlanta) & Atlanta Falcons (vs Miami)
Yes, I know that the Fins have Jason Taylor back, but I am worried about the Dolphins being able to stop Michael Turner and Matt Ryan at the same time. I think this game turns into a shootout on the fast track of the Georgia Dome and I would want no part of either defense.
For the record, I am also worried about the Bears D playing at Green Bay, which appears to be developing an offensive juggernaut. The only thing that kept me from listing them here is the ubiquitous threat of Devin Hester in the return game. We know that the early weeks in a football season are replete with big plays on special teams. If you aren’t confident in Hester taking one to the house though, I’d sit Chicago too.
Others I don’t like: Tampa Bay (vs Dallas)
So there you have it, the Week 1 Start ‘em-Sit ‘em. Hopefully this has assisted you with some of your lineup decisions, and remember to chime in with a question below if you have a specific decision you need help with.
Best of luck in Week 1 everybody!
* – David Garrard photo credit: Reuters / Mark Wallheister via the San Francisco Chronicle
* – James Harrison / Chris Johnson photo credit: Getty images via ESPN.com
* – Braylon Edwards v Cincy photo credit: SortsOfSports.com