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Ah, Week 1 of the NFL. Fall has arrived, or it's right around the corner (depending on your area of the country). The kids are back at school, and it’s time for another exciting fantasy football season. Everything is right in the world. Well, that is unless you own Ryan Mathews, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew or any of the other highly drafted players that you’re not sure will be seeing the playing field this weekend. Week 1 is always the easiest to submit your starting lineup. You just go through your draft picks from the first round to the last round, and drop your highest drafted players into your starting lineup until all your spots are full. No sense in starting that deep sleeper you drafted in the 12th round until you know whether or not he’s still napping on his bunk bed at training camp.
Well, it may not be that easy if you drafted one of the guys I named above, or some other guys with injuries/suspensions to deal with. Cough...cough, Kenny Britt, cough...cough, Jerome Simpson, cough...cough. Week 1 also means it’s tough for me to tell you who is a good call and who is a bad call to put into your starting lineup because we haven’t seen any real game action since February. Now, if you’re in a deeper league with some flex spots that need to be filled, or you have an injured player you need to sit, or you’re playing the two quarterback strategy because you didn’t get one of the top ones, here are some options for you.
Take a chance on Philip Rivers this week. The Oakland Raiders had the 30th-best defense against quarterbacks last year. So even though Rivers doesn’t have the same wide receiving core he had last year, he does have a healthy Antonio Gates, and no one knows which receiver to cover besides Robert Meachem. Rivers had a nice game to wrap up the season last year in Oakland, where he threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns. I don’t see any reason why he would have a big dropoff from those numbers to open this year. Rives is a 'good call' this week.
If you’re really weak at quarterback, or in a two quarterback league, and need someone to start, how about Alex Smith? Smith plays the Packers in Green Bay. For anyone who wasn’t paying attention last year, Green Bay gave up the most passing yards in the history of the NFL (4,796). Charles Woodson is getting older and has been moved to safety this year. With the Green Bay passing attack more than likely to put up some huge numbers, odds are San Francisco will be playing catchup and passing a lot as well. Smith might put up his highest passing total of the whole season right here in Week 1. I’d say he’s a 'good call' if you’ve got nothing better.
If you’ve got Matt Ryan, I’d temper your expectations this week. The Chiefs were the sixth best team in terms of passing yards allowed. This year they get Eric Berry back, and should be able to run the ball more with Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis. More running for the Chiefs means more time of possession for Kansas City, which means less time for Matt Ryan to pass the ball. You’ve got to start him if you have him, but don’t expect a huge week. Next week’s home matchup with Denver looks to be ripe for the picking though.
Matt Schaub is a guy you’ll probably want to keep on your bench this week. Schaub is playing in his first game back from his Lis Franc surgery, and I’d like to see how mobile he is before I throw him in my starting lineup. Schaub hasn’t thrown for more than two touchdowns since Week 3 of last season. Plus when you’ve got running backs like Arian Foster and Ben Tate on your team, you’re a running team no matter how good your quarterback may be. Schaub says he’s healthy, but I’d like to check-and-see before I can tell you he’s a 'good call' to start.
You know who had the worst defense against the run last year? Tampa Bay. You know who gets to play Tampa Bay to start the season? DeAngelo Williams. Combine the Buccaneers’ horrible rush defense with a limited Jonathan Stewart, and Williams will make a good flex play for you this week. Williams had double-digit points in six of his last seven games to finish the season last year, and should be able to pick up right where he left off. Williams would be a 'good call' to be in your lineup this week.
Rashad Jennings will be handling the first and second down duties, while Maurice Jones-Drew handles the third down duties to start the season. That doesn’t matter to me. Jennings looked great in the preseason, and Minnesota isn’t the rush defense it has been in past years (and this is coming from a Vikings fan). We all saw what happened to Chris Johnson when he held out of training camp last year. No way is Jones-Drew ready for heavy game action. Jennings will be the man for the Jaguars this week, and I’d have no problem starting him if I were you. (I actually am starting him in one of my three leagues). Starting Jennings would be a 'good call' this week.
If you spent a high draft pick, or high auction dollars (auctions are the way to go, by the way) on Adrian Peterson, you might want to keep him on your bench this week. The Minnesota Vikings are in a huge rebuilding year, and they’re not going to risk their best player to start the season. They’re going to bring him along slowly for the first few weeks. Jacksonville was a Top 5 defense in yards allowed per attempt last year, so they’re no slouch when it comes to rush defense. Starting Peterson would be a 'bad call' this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets a new home this year, and should have his best season to date. Unfortunately, his first game is a road one with the third-best rush defense, the Baltimore Ravens. Green-Ellis will probably get you his normal one touchdown, but don’t expect much in the way of yards. The Baltimore defense allowed just 3.5 yards per rush attempt last year. If you’ve got another option I’d take it, and wait for next week’s matchup with Cleveland, who allowed 147.4 yards per game on the ground last year. Starting Green-Ellis would be a 'bad call' this week.
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