That cheer you hear emanating throughout the land is fantasy football owners rejoicing as at long last the 2015 NFL regular season kicks off this week. As Bill Belichick is so fond of saying it’s time to “Do your job.” That job is setting the best possible lineup to bring home an opening week victory and set off on a path to the playoffs.
With that in mind, I am privileged to once again be penning the weekly Start/Bench article here at Fantasy Sharks. What’s that old saying? “The third times a charm?” This is indeed my third year writing this particular piece and I couldn’t be happier. Ok, if I had won the Power Ball last week I suppose I could be a little happier but you get the idea.
If this is your first time checking out this article then let me offer a hearty hello and thanks for joining the fun! If you are a returning reader then you pretty much know how this thing lays out and your patronage is greatly appreciated.
For the newbies I will offer the obligatory explanation as to how we roll here on a weekly basis. We will be offering advice as to which players are primed for big weeks and should be started that week for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. No, we will not be offering up kicker advice. Not here anyway. There will also be players listed that we advise find their way onto the bench for that given week.
At the top of each position evaluation will be a list of ‘Studs.’ These are players that I consider weekly starters that are to be plugged into lineups no explanation needed. These are the Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Adrian Peterson, Rob Gronkowski–type players. The easy way out would be to include these players as ‘starts’ on a weekly basis and old Uncle Waldo never takes the easy way out.
The ‘Studs’ list is a fluid one and will be altered as the season unfolds but it will take more than one bad game for a ‘stud’ to be removed from the list. For example, Tom Brady was a stud to start the season in 2014 and by week four was removed from that list after tossing only four touchdowns. Yes, he made his way back on to the list later on as his game and statistics improved. So as I said, it is not a set-in-stone situation and will be reevaluated on a weekly basis.
One last thing to keep in mind as you peruse this weekly feature is that there will be times when a player I write about as a ‘start’ for a particular week is actually ranked higher in my weekly rankings (which go up on Tuesday) than a ‘Stud.’ The reason I won’t move that particular player to the ‘Stud list’ is that I do not feel that he is a weekly must-start. The matchup that week is just so juicy that I may elevate them above some ‘studs’ but that’s only for that given week.
Ok, that’s it for the house cleaning and let’s gets this party started!
Sam Bradford, PHILADELPHIA at Atlanta: Chip Kelly wanted Bradford to lead his high-powered up-tempo offense and it’s time for fantasy owners to reap the benefits. In very limited preseason action, Bradford went 13-of-15 for 156 yards and three touchdowns. More importantly, he stayed healthy. The Atlanta secondary will be hard pressed to cover all of Sam’s receiving options. Ride Bradford as long as he continues to stay healthy and upright.
Ryan Tannehill, MIAMI vs. Washington: Tannehill is on the brink of becoming an elite fantasy option (or maybe even a Stud) and gets to start the year off against a Washington defense that allowed 35 touchdowns through the air last season. Furthermore, Washington managed to only intercept seven passes and was tied for 21st in sacks with 36. Tannehill will have the time to deliver the ball to his shiny new toys that include Jordan Cameron at tight end along with wideouts Kenny Stills and possibly even rookie DeVante Parker. Tannehill starts 2015 with a bang at home.
Philip Rivers, SAN DIEGO vs. Detroit: While Rivers will be without All World tight end Antonio Gates for this game, the Detroit defense will be without defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The return of Danny Woodhead to the lineup will give Rivers plenty of weapons to attack a defense that will struggle to generate pressure. In their only trip west last season, Detroit allowed Drew Stanton to put up 306 passing yards and two touchdowns in an Arizona victory. Rivers will have his way with Detroit this week.
Eli Manning, NEW YORK GIANTS, at Dallas: Despite Eli’s shaky preseason, sometimes it is all about the matchup. In his first season in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s system last year, Manning threw for 586 yards with six touchdowns and a single pick in two tilts versus the Cowboys. Both of those performances were good enough for a top ten weekly finish. Manning should have little trouble carving up a Cowboys secondary that recently lost Orlando Scandrick for the season.
Cam Newton, CAROLINA vs. Jacksonville: Sorry to kick off your 2015 campaign this way Panthers’ fans and Newton owners, but I simply don’t see a big debut here. Let’s take a quick look at the receiving corps that Cam has heading into week one. An unproven rookie in Devin Funchess and then the clown car of Corey Brown, Jerricho Cotchery and Tedd Ginn Jr. The Jaguars racked up 10 sacks in the preseason and will be getting after Newton all game long and only need worry about Greg Olsen in the passing game. Until Carolina shows they can generate offense through the air, defenses are going to hammer poor Cam and it starts this week at home.
Jay Cutler, CHICAGO vs. Green Bay: The Bears are going to run the ball more this season under new head coach John Fox. Just like the Geico commercials states, “It’s just what he does.” Combine that with the fact that top wide receiving option Alshon Jeffery has missed nearly all of training camp with a calf issue and things get a little rough for Cutler. In the pass happy Marc Trestman offense last season, Cutler failed to post top-15 weekly numbers in the two games against Green Bay. Don’t look for that trend to change as the 2015 campaign gets underway.
Andy Dalton, CINCINNATI at Oakland: While we don’t like to read too much into preseason games, Dalton has looked erratic even by Dalton standards. He tossed a pair of picks on only 22 attempts and averaged merely 5.9 yards per completion. Let’s also not forget the fact that Dalton will be crossing the country to play an Oakland defense that appears much improved under new head coach Jack Del Rio. In their third preseason game, the Raiders sacked Carson Palmer three times and intercepted him twice. Let’s wait until Andy gets back home to consider starting him for fantasy purposes.
Teddy Bridgewater, MINNESOTA at San Francisco: Don’t get me wrong folks, I do like Teddy over the course of the season to continue his ascension up the fantasy ladder. It’s just the timing of this matchup and crossing the time zones that have us looking elsewhere for a starting quarterback this week. While this is not the 49ers defense that has excelled for years due to all the losses it has suffered, it is still a west coast team opening up at home. Add in the fact that Adrian Peterson returns to the Vikings lineup and I see “All Day” getting a boatload of carries. Bridgewater may play well (he has yet to play on the coast) but I just don’t see enough opportunities for a big fantasy week from the youngster.