2010 Fantasy Football Week 1: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: The Running Backs

Dave StringerCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2010

CLEVELAND - JANUARY 03:  Jerome Harrison #35 of the Cleveland Browns runs by Gerald Alexander #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Week 1 of the regular season is upon us and we can expect the unexpected. With head coaches using vanilla offenses and disguising their opening day game plans with their words and their actions, nobody can really know which players are going to surprise or disappoint in Week 1.

We’re not going to state the obvious and tell you to start Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson or Ray Rice, or to sit the marginal talents at the position. Just sticking to less than obvious starts and sits.

Start ‘Em

Tim Hightower, Cardinals at Rams

This one needs to be monitored but it appears that there is a solid chance that Beanie Wells will not be a go in Week 1 due to a knee injury. Wells hasn’t practiced and if he doesn’t play, Hightower will get plenty of touches against a Rams defense that hasn’t stopped the run since 1980s (or so it seems).

With Derek Anderson at quarterback, the plan is for the Cardinals to run plenty in 2010 and there’s absolutely no reason for that plan to change against the sad sack Rams.

Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, Dolphins at Bills

There’s plenty of yards and touchdowns to be had against the Bills pathetic run defense for Brown and Williams to be fantasy-relevant in Week 1. With the Bills adjusting to the 3-4 defense and without either Kyle Williams or rookie second-round pick Torrell Troup, a proven run-stuffer at defensive tackle, there’s little reason to think the Bills will stop the run early in 2010.

Not to mention that with starting outside linebackers Reggie Torbor likely out, the Bills will rely heavily on converted defensive ends Chris Kelsay, Aaron Maybin and Chris Ellis at the position.

Matt Forte, Bears vs. Lions

The Lions defense was atrocious in 2009 and, while they have added some decent talent to the unit, it’s likely they will struggle at least early on in 2010. Look for Forte to benefit in Week 1 as he gets a solid matchup against a Lions defense that gave up the sixth-most fantasy points per game in 2009.

Forte needs a hot start in 2010 to solidify his starting position over Chester Taylor so he will be plenty motivated and he gets a great defense to exploit on opening day.

Jerome Harrison, Browns at Bucs

With Montario Hardesty out for the year, Harrison is the undisputed starter for a Cleveland team that will feature an offense that is heavily run-based.

The Bucs had the second worst run defense in the league in 2009 and their defensive tackle rotation will feature a pair of rookies in Gerald McCoy and Brian Price. While McCoy and Price are decent prospects, rookie defensive tackles often get chewed up in the running game.

Cadillac Williams, Bucs vs. Browns

I guess you’ve figured out that I think the Bucs and Browns game will feature a lot of running. Williams gets a matchup against a Browns team that ranked 28th against the run last season and didn’t do much to upgrade its front seven.

With quarterback Josh Freeman coming back from a thumb injury, the Bucs will likely play it safe and run often.

Sit ‘Em

Michael Turner, Falcons at Steelers

While Turner is a stud and the solid bets are on him having a bounce-back fantasy season in 2010, he gets a tough road matchup on opening day against the Steelers.

In 2009, the Steelers gave up the lowest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, yielding 1,139 rushing yards and 497 receiving yards and just eight total touchdowns. The odds are heavily stacked against Turner bucking that trend in Week 1.

LeSean McCoy, Eagles vs. Packers

I get a lot of flak from Eagles fans for this opinion but I wasn’t that impressed by McCoy last year. In Week 1, he faces a tough Packers run defense that ranked second in fantasy points allowed in 2009.

If the Packers get ahead early, McCoy may be an afterthought in this one. And even if that doesn’t happen, I still expect him to get few touches in the running game.

Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, Jets vs. Ravens

There’s plenty to like about the Jets revised duo of stud running backs, from their individual talents to the team’s dominant offensive line and reliance on the running game. However, the plot may be revised a bit in Week 1.

The Ravens pass defense is in shambles but its front seven looks as dominant as ever and they are clearly stoked for a Monday night matchup against their former defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan. And that doesn’t bode well for Greene or Tomlinson.

Justin Forsett, Seahawks vs. 49ers

Forsett looked like a quality sleeper prospect heading into training camp and he did nothing to dispel that during the preseason, beating out Leon Washington and Julius Jones to earn the starting nod.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks released T.J. Houshmandzadeh, their top receiver from 2009, leaving precious little proven talent at the position. They are also banged up along the offensive line and will likely start at left tackle this week with rookie first-round pick Russell Okung out.

Add it all up and Forsett has lost some of his lustre, especially against a 49ers defense led by dominating inside linebacker Patrick Willis that gave up the seventh fewest yards on the ground in 2009.

For more detailed projections, go to FFToday's 2010 Week 1 running back projections and rankings.

Dave Stringer is a staff writer at FFToday.com, home of the popular Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy custom cheatsheet and draft tracking software.