Welcome back, everyone! The 2012 season is here and all is right in the world again. This season I decided to cut out all the extra leagues that I really don’t have time to manage. You know how it is, you have your league with people you work with, then you join a league with friends and family. Maybe you get a promo code to join a league for free that has a chance to win $5,000 or the guys you play basketball with on Tuesday nights decide to put a league together. Before you know it, you are playing in 15 leagues and have to scramble every week just to keep up with submitting lineups.
The strain of spreading yourself too thin over so many leagues prevents you from being able to focus on working trades or the waiver wire effectively. Not to mention the possibility that you will end up playing against the same player you need to have a big game on Monday night. I restricted myself this season to my money leagues and my Shark League. Last season, I didn’t have the time during the week to effectively go through all the waiver wires in each leagues and I missed out on guys like Victor Cruz or Laurent Robinson. I still did well in my money leagues, but my other leagues finished poorly. So this season I have cut back the number of leagues and I enjoyed the offseason more because I was able to prepare for each one as if it was the only draft I had.
My advice for Week 1 is not to overreact to the first week of games. Things will be different than what you saw in the preseason. A ton of teams ran vanilla defenses and players were going at 80 percent of game speed. Don’t overreact to players that have big games in the first week. Last year a player like Chad Henne had a 40-point fantasy game as he threw for 416 yards, had two passing touchdowns and added 59 yards on the ground with another rushing touchdown. The next week he laid an egg by passing for 170 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Then there are players that have a bad week one such as Dwayne Bowe with two catches for 17 yards or Jeremy Maclin, who had one catch for 20 yards.
The first week of the season produces a number of one-week wonders that owners rush to the waiver wires to pick up and sometimes drop players they drafted in the middle rounds to get them. In one league I played in an owner dropped DeMarco Murray in order to pick up Derrick Ward, who rushed for 39 yards and scored a touchdown. I picked up Murray after he dropped him. Derrick Ward rushed for just seven yards from Weeks 2-8.
Pay attention to roster cuts and signings. Did you have Kellen Winslow as your backup tight end? Hopefully he was not your staring tight end.
This season there are NFL games every Thursday. Players who are injured on Sunday may have a tough time getting back on the field if they play four days later. This will be helpful when looking at waiver pickups or players you need to start from your bench.
Good Quarterback Matchups This Week:
Cam Newton against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Newton faced the Buccaneers later in the season last year and he torched them for eight total touchdowns in two games. The passing numbers were not there as he put up 204 passing yards in the first meeting but only 171 passing yards in the second. However, he posted three passing touchdowns in that second game. Newton will start this season the same way, beating up on the Buccaneers in the air and on the ground and will post the best quarterback fantasy numbers this week.
Michael Vick against the Cleveland Browns. The Browns will be without Chris Gocong (for the season), Scott Fujita and Joe Haden depending on his appeal of a suspension to start the season. The Browns managed just one sack all preseason. Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles will have plenty of time to move the ball down the field and will put up a ton of points in this game. Start all your Eagles this week.
Sleeper Pick of the Week:Peyton Manning against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I never thought I would be picking Manning as a sleeper pick before, but here in Week 1 he’s been rated pretty low on several rankings. The Steelers defense has always been a top-ranked defense but last season they were horrible when it came to creating turnovers. The Steelers were 29th during the preseason in pass defense. Look for No. 18 to start the season well.
Good Running Back Matchups This Week:
Michael Turner against the Kansas City Chiefs. Many view Jacquizz Rodgers as the running back that will emerge as the lead back in Atlanta, but until Turner is injured or demoted, Rodgers will be used as a complement. Turner will get his opportunity to produce early and then it will be time for you as an owner to trade him away after a few good weeks. Last season the Chiefs were 26th against the run and haven’t looked much better in the preseason. While the focus will be to stop Roddy White and Julio Jones, Turner will eat up some big yards and get in the end zone once or twice.
Fred Jackson against the New York Jets. Jackson has always been an underrated fantasy running back, and for those owners that were able to get him in the middle rounds, you will like the production you get from him. The Jets are a team that is in disarray. They finished the preseason with just one touchdown. The defense last year was disappointing and I think the Buffalo Bills will go into MetLife Stadium and put big points on the board.
Sleeper Pick of the Week: Toby Gerhart against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Play Gerhart as much as you can until Adrian Peterson comes back. Gerhart will have the opportunity to carry the full load in this game, and the matchup is superb. The Jaguars were awful this preseason defending the run, as they gave up 12 touchdowns on the ground compared to the 14 rushing touchdowns they gave up all last season. They also allowed 8.5 yards a carry during the preseason.
Bad Quarterback Matchups This Week:
Joe Flacco against the Cincinnati Bengals. This game will be a defensive low-scoring game. The Bengals have a Top 10 passing defense, and these teams will fight over field position all day. Last season Flacco averaged 200 yards passing with three touchdowns in the two games he faced Cincinnati. Tough game for anyone pretty much not named Ray Rice.
Ben Roethlisberger against the Denver Broncos. Roethlisberger is starting the season with banged up running backs, a shaky offensive line and his No. 1 receiver, Mike Wallace, just starting to practice. Not a combination you want in your first game. The Broncos defense played well last season and should keep Roethlisberger in check with no real run threat to keep the defense off balance.
Andrew Luck against the Chicago Bears. Luck has looked good in the preseason, and I believe he will be a top quarterback someday in this league, but playing on the road against the Bears in a full live game will be a challenge for Luck. Now I am not saying that he’s going to have a horrible first game, but you might want to wait a few games before you count on him as your starter. Bad Running Back Matchups This Week:
Cedric Benson against the San Francisco 49ers. I’ve seen Benson go a lot higher in drafts that were held last weekend than he was when the team first signed him. I don’t think he is a running back that you will be able to start weekly, as the Green Bay Packers are still a pass-first offense. Benson was brought in to help move the chains on third down and short and to help eat up clock late in games. People are drafting him as if he is going to get 25-30 touches a game. Not going to happen in this offense. This week he will face a very tough 49ers run defense that was the best last year against the run, allowing just three rushing scores all season.
Roy Helu/Evan Royster/Alfred Morris against the New Orleans Saints. I have stayed away from the Washington rushing attack because it is a situation that will give everyone headaches. These three backs have a chance to start, see little to no carries, or share, or have a three-headed running back by committee situation. The risk of playing the wrong running back this week is too great. If you have other options, use them. The Saints were 12th last season against the run and will look to crowd the line of scrimmage against Robert Griffin III.
Trent Richardson/Montario Hardesty/Brandon Jackson against the Philadelphia Eagles. Richardson has just started practicing, so it is expected that in the first game he will be very limited. Hardesty and Jackson have not done much this preseason to win the backup job and so they will end up splitting what little carries they will get. The Eagles will be ahead early and will play tough defense, preventing the Browns’ run game from flourishing.
Week 1: Pay attention to the short week and play your best lineup.
Good luck to everyone in Week 1. Follow @BrewCrewCorner