Welcome back to the Brew Crew Corner. This is the 10th season of this article and time has flown by. I thank each and every one of you who have taken the time to read it. OK, back to the real celebration and that is football is back! I have been knee deep in football research ever since drafting in leagues.
The most important thing you need to do is look over your rosters and decide how you are going to construct your lineup for week one. I urge everyone to not over react to what happens in Week 1. There are always one week wonders that people go out of their way to add for Week 2 and are left with a dud.
The news over the past few weeks has been flowing and you really need to pay attention to it. Justin Forsett has been cut and re-signed, Jamaal Charles does not look ready for Week 1 and the Eagles traded Sam Bradford to the Vikings and will start Carson Wentz. All these factor into your lineup decisions for players on your roster or for your opponent in Week 1. In one league I was able to stash Spencer Ware on my bench as the owner I face has Jamaal Charles. This is a good strategy move so that he is unable to pick him up and start him against me leaving him with lesser options at the position. Even kickers are not safe as we saw Robbie Gould and Kai Forbath lose their jobs.
As mentioned, the news is very important leading up to kickoff. There are new reports that Thomas Rawls and Jordy Nelson will be limited in the first game. You need to make a decision whether these players, in a limited roll, are worth starting over someone else you could use just for Week 1. Another way to look at these situations is if you do not own these players but have another player on the same team. Would Nelson’s limited role mean more opportunity for Randall Cobb? Will Christine Michael carry the ball more now that he is listed ahead of Rawls? Pay close attention to these reports as making one small move could be the difference between winning or losing your first game.
Good Quarterback Matchups This Week:
Russell Wilson against the Dolphins. The Seahawks enter the season as 8-to-1 odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl this year so they are expected to do big things. They enter Week 1 with the largest spread of any team with -10.5 over the Dolphins. I really like Wilson to shred this Miami defense who has not looked good in the preseason.
Drew Brees against the Raiders. Brees finished last season as the 5th overall quarterback even though he missed one game and the Saints had a down season. The Saints defense is still bad which means Brees will have the throw the football often. Good news for Week 1 as he faces Raiders team that ranked in the bottom 10 of the league in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. This game is implied to score 51 total points and I think it could exceed that.
Sleeper Pick of the Week: Derek Carr against the Saints. I just wrote how the Saints defense will be bad this season and Vegas has this game with a 51-point total. Well Carr will be on the other end of this shootout trading scores back and forth. I expect Carr to step up and play even better than he did last season when he finished 16th among quarterbacks.
Good Running Back Matchups This Week:
Todd Gurley against the 49ers. Gurley is entering his second year and I am expecting him to be the top running back this week. He faces a bad 49ers team that gave up a ton of points to the running back position last year as they ranked 2nd in fantasy points allowed to the position with 21.4. Gurley faced the 49ers in just one of the two meetings they had but ran for 133 yards and a touchdown. Case Keenum averages just 188 passing yards per game in his career so expect the Rams to depend on Gurley for all of their offense.
Devonta Freeman against the Buccaneers. Freeman gets the Rodney Dangerfield award for 2016 drafts (no respect, Google him if you don’t know who Dangerfield is) Freeman finished the 2015 season as the top running back and yet he was drafted in the second round behind Lamar Miller, Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy in some drafts. I may be in the minority, but I really think Lamar Miller will be a bust. Don’t think he can hold up for 20+ carries a game. He ran for 20 or more carries in a game just once all last season. He does have a streak of 3 consecutive seasons with 8 touchdowns on the ground and is good at securing the football (1 fumble last season) but I think he will miss some time. Back to Freeman who was held without a touchdown last season in his two games against the Buccaneers but still managed to produce 22 and 21 fantasy points in the two games. The hype during the preseason was that Tevin Coleman would take over for Freeman. Looking at the snap count from the preseason game against the Dolphins, Freeman had more snaps 15 to 13. I know he faded down the stretch late last year but he still averaged 20.2 fantasy points the final 5 games.
Sleeper Pick of the Week: Spencer Ware against the Chargers. A big part of winning fantasy games is finding players with opportunity to perform. Ware was drafted late or picked up off waivers but now has the opportunity to start this game. Even if Jamaal Charles gives it a go, I can’t see him getting a ton of touches. Ware last year put up 92 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Chargers in Week 11. Last season the Chargers gave up the 4th most fantasy points to running backs with 19.9 per game with 14 touchdowns allowed.
Bad Quarterback Matchups This Week:
Philip Rivers against the Chiefs. Last season Rivers came out the gates hot with 404 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was inconsistent all year after losing Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson. This season, Johnson is already lost for the season. Allen is back but we are unsure if he can return to his old form and Antonio Gates is still going to be Rivers’ go-to guy but how much does he have left in the tank? This game has a very low Vegas implied total at 44.5 points with the Chiefs favored by a touchdown. The Chiefs defense finished the season on a sold note but have lost players during the offseason and Tamba Hali is expected to play but could also be limited.
Ryan Tannehill against the Seahawks. Last year I was on the Tannehill hype train. I drafted him in every league I could as my QB2 and in some deeper leagues, my QB1. Well that move did not payoff as he failed to take advantage of some really good matchups. He finished 17th overall among quarterbacks but he wasn’t winning anyone any leagues. The Seahawks enter the season with a top ranked defense that allowed just 14 passing touchdowns last season and held fantasy quarterbacks to 12 points per game.
Andy Dalton against the Jets. I was surprised this draft season of how late Dalton was drafted. He went on average in the 11th round. Dalton missed the final 3 games of the season with a hand injury but still averaged 19.9 fantasy points per game which puts him right outside the top-10 quarterbacks. Dalton isn’t a play this week but he will have times this season where he will have good matchups. He faces a Jets defense that allowed 23 passing touchdowns last season while holding fantasy quarterbacks to 14.6 points per game.
Bad Running Back Matchups This Week:
DeMarco Murray against the Vikings. Murray has looked good this preseason and I expect him to have big games even with Derrick Henry sharing the backfield. Week one I will be avoiding him because the Vikings were really tough against the run last year. They gave up 5 touchdowns all season and held opposing starting running backs to less than 100 yards and zero scores over the final 4 games of the year.
Jeremy Hill against the Jets. This is going to be a split analysis for the Bengals running back situation. We have Jeremy Hill the runner and Giovani Bernard the 3rd-down back. Hill will have a tough matchup while Bernard could have a great game catching passes out of the backfield. Let me explain. The Jets last season gave up just 1 rushing touchdown and that happened back in Week 3. However, they allowed 43.6 receiving yards per game to running backs and 5 touchdowns receiving. That leads us to a game plan of using Bernard more out of the backfield which will limit Hill’s touches as well as the difficult matchup running the ball.
Ravens Running Backs against the Bills. The Ravens backfield situation is going to give owners nightmares this year trying to decided which running back is worth starting or even keeping on the roster. We’ve seen the team cut Forsett only to re-sign him. The team has been using Terrance West and Javorius Allen with Kenneth Dixon sitting out. We don’t know how the game plan will shake out so I would avoid the situation. Especially in Week 1 against the Bills defense who have a decent front 7. Even though they gave up a ton of yards on the ground towards the end of the season, they still held running backs to 1 touchdown over the final 5 games.