Fantasy Football Week 1 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Who Are the Smart Matchup Plays?
The preseason is over, the final cuts have been made, fantasy football drafts are in the books and now it's time to get down to business and kick off the 2011 fantasy football season. That means it's also time for team owners across the land to set their Week 1 fantasy lineups.
For the most part it's not generally a good idea to over-think things out of the gate. You didn't draft running back Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs in the first round to bench him out of the gate, so don't. (especially this week against Buffalo, as matchups don't get much juicier than that.)
However, if you have comparable options it can be very advantageous to examine those players' matchups, as a team's opponent can go a long way towards helping (or hindering) you in making the sorts of close calls that can be the difference between a win and a loss.
With that in mind here are some players who have Week 1 matchups that bode well for their fantasy football fortunes this week. If you have one (or more) of them on your roster give serious consideration to rolling them out there in Week 1, then just sit back and enjoy the results.
1. Eli Manning: QB, New York Giants (at WAS)
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The other Manning has stumbled through an up-and-down preseason in which he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, tossed two interceptions and failed to throw a touchdown pass.
However, with a matchup on tap in the nation's capital against a Washington Redskins defense that allowed the fourth most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2010, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning should come out of the gate strong.
2. Matt Ryan: QB, Atlanta Falcons (at CHI)
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The Atlanta Falcons opened up their offensive playbook in the 2011 preseason, with quarterback Matt Ryan attempting 42 passes in their third exhibition game in what may well be a preview of a change in Atlanta's offensive philosophy.
Ryan and the Falcons travel to Chicago to square off against a Chicago Bears defense that was 20th in the NFL against the pass year ago, so there's a better than average chance that "Matty Ice" will post a strong 2011 fantasy debut.
3. Jahvid Best: RB, Detroit Lions (at TB)
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The Detroit Lions are a popular choice as the NFL's most improved team in 2011, and a lot of their potential for success on the gridiron this season will depend on the health and rushing of second-year running back Jahvid Best.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Detroit's Week 1 foe, were a dismal 28th in the NFL against the run last year and will pay dearly if they attempt to stack the line of scrimmage (think wide receiver Calvin Johnson, open, a lot), so Jahvid Best should easily be capable of posting fantasy RB2 numbers in Week 1.
4. Darren McFadden: RB, Oakland Raiders (at DEN)
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Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden suffered a fractured orbital bone in training camp, but McFadden, who racked up over 1,150 rushing yards in 2010, should be all systems go for Oakland's Monday night opener against the rival Broncos.
No team in the NFL gave up more fantasy points to opposing running backs last year than the Broncos, who will be without leading tackler D.J. Williams after he dislocated his elbow in the preseason. If that's not a recipe for fantasy football success, I don't know what it is, so make sure you have Darren McFadden on your menu in Week 1.
5. Chris Wells: RB, Arizona Cardinals (vs. CAR)
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It's put up or shut up time for third year pro Chris Wells, as the Cardinals running back is now the unquestioned starter in the Arizona backfield and will try to erase the stink of a disappointing 2010 campaign.
You can't ask for a much better matchup for Wells out of the gate than against the woeful Panthers, who surrendered the fourth most points to fantasy ball carriers last year. The Cards will likely cruise to victory, meaning plenty of second half "grind it out" carries for "Beanie" and a very good chance at a top 15 first week of the season.
6. Santonio Holmes: WR, New York Jets (vs. DAL)
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I can't repeat the sorts of colorful invectives that New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan might use to help motivate wide receiver Santonio Holmes leading up to their Sunday night tilt with the Dallas Cowboys, but suffice it to say the 27-year-old Holmes should be pumped.
Fantasy owners of Santonio Holmes should be plenty pumped as well, as this is a matchup that could feature quite a bit of scoring, and the Cowboys allowed the most fantasy points in the NFL to opposing wideouts in 2010.
7. Mario Manningham: WR, New York Giants (at WAS)
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Since I already recommended New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning it stands to reason that the folks catching his passes should also be in line for decent outings, and wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham are both solid starts heading into Week 1.
Nicks is an every week must-start but if you're waffling a bit about inserting Manningham as your fantasy WR2 this week, don't, as the Redskins were a moribund 31st in the NFL against the pass in 2010.
8. Mike Thomas: WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. TEN)
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Mike Thomas of the Jacksonville Jaguars will be looking to build on his breakout 2010 season, when the third-year pro set career highs in yards and receptions and emerged as the top option at wideout in the Jacksonville passing game.
Thomas' fantasy owners couldn't have asked for a much better Week 1 matchup than the Tennessee Titans, who finished 2010 a pitiful 29th in the NFL against the pass. Thomas may not have a huge day, but it's a real possibility that Thomas will post WR2 numbers this weekend from most fantasy teams' WR3 slot.
9. Vernon Davis: TE, San Francisco 49ers (vs. SEA)
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While tight end Vernon Davis backslid a bit statistically in 2010 after his monster 2009 season, it's hard to get too busted up about a year in which the 27-year-old Davis topped 900 receiving yards, scored seven times and finished the year as the second ranked player at his position.
It's also hard to find fault with a Week 1 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, who ranked a not-so-hot 27th in the NFL in pass defense a season ago. Davis is the unquestioned top option in the San Francisco passing game, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Vernon Davis post the best stats of anyone at his position in the season's first week.
10. Lance Kendricks: TE, St. Louis Rams (vs. PHI)
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No tight end in the NFL built up more fantasy momentum in the preseason than rookie Lance Kendricks of the St. Louis Rams, who has already apparently become a favored target of quarterback Sam Bradford (especially in the red zone) and has vaulted up fantasy cheat sheets.
Kendricks will have every opportunity to build on that momentum in an opening week tussle with the Philadelphia Eagles, who gave up the second most fantasy points to tight ends in the NFL in 2010 and enter 2011 with question marks at both linebacker and safety. If Lance Kendricks was drafted as your TE2 and your starter isn't named Antonio Gates or Jason Witten you'd be well served to consider rolling the dice with Kendricks in his NFL debut, as it could easily be a memorable one.