Tom Lorenzo, Senior Editor RotoExperts.com
There’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to setting your Fantasy lineup in Week 1, and it’s as follows: Don’t over-think it. It’s too early to start worrying about favorable and unfavorable matchups. To waste time wondering whether or not you start Colt McCoy (vs. Cincinnati) over Ben Roethlisberger (vs. Baltimore) based on the matchup is nothing more than, well, a waste of time. That said, there are certain instances where you can scratch your head and wonder which gun-slinger to roll with this week. If you’re choosing between quarterbacks of equal value, such as Kevin Kolb and Sam Bradford, naturally you lean toward Kolb because of his matchup against Carolina as opposed to Bradford who lines up against the Eagles.
With that in mind, the truth is we all didn’t have a perfect draft, and with injuries, timeshares and confusion abound, it wouldn’t be crazy to opt for these somewhat “less-than-desireable” options where needed. They may all not be start-worthy options in standard 12-team leagues, but I do have to make sure you’re covered in non-standard formats where you can start a “flex” player. I also wanted to give a nod to those in deep leagues, plus throw in a sleeper defense for good measure. Hey, it’s Week 1. Let’s not over-think things!
Kerry Collins (@ Houston) – It’s official, the Colts are without Peyton Manning for upwards of three weeks, possibly longer. This means the quarterback duties now fall into Kerry Collins’ hands. While he may not be an ideal start, if you’re a Manning owner scrambling for help at QB, Collins is more than suitable in the short term. Unlike the Cam Newtons and Andy Daltons of the world, Collins has been around the block quite a few times. He’s not going to get rattled in Week 1, like the aforementioned rookies. Add in the weapons he has at his disposal (Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie) with the fact that the Texans, while improved, still have yet to show they’re a secondary to be messed with, and Collins looks like a viable option for owners in need.
Kyle Orton (vs. Oakland) – The Broncos seem more married to the run than the passing game this season, but that’s not to say they aren’t going to let Orton air it out. Considering the Raiders secondary is weaker today than it was this time last season, with Nnamdi Asomugha now in Philadelphia, look for Orton to team up with Brandon Lloyd for a touchdown or two.
Tim Hightower (vs. New York Giants) – I’m no Hightower fan, but if there’s a week to start your running back against the Giants, this may be it. Considering that they’re without Terrell Thomas and Jonathan Goff for the year and Osi Umenyiora and rookie Prince Amukamara to start the season, they’ll likely struggle to get into much of a rhythm because of the number of personnel changes they’ve gone through. That is, as long as Hightower can curb his fumbling issues.
Brandon Jacobs (@ Washington) – Jacobs is on my radar as a nice “flex” option this week, and to be honest it has a lot to do with the matchup. Ahmad Bradshaw is the lead running back, but with the Giants lining up against the Redskins and their inability to stop the run, I expect the Giants to lean heavily on the running game. That means Jacobs should get enough touches to make an impact. Including, more importantly, the goal-line carries.
Delone Carter (@ Houston) – A few thoughts here on Carter. First, this piece of advice is probably for those owners in deep leagues. He’s still only the No. 2 running back on his own team and unlike with the Giants running back tandem, this situation isn’t quite a timeshare. I do, however, think he might have some sneaky value, though, as the team’s goal-line back. You also might see the Colts run the ball more this week, which is the natural result of Manning being out of the lineup. If you play in a 16-team league or need to start more three or more running backs, consider Carter a nice option this week.
Ben Tate (vs. Indianapolis) – Tate is going to be one of those last-minute starts, if you use him at all. Already we’re hearing that Arian Foster’s role will be limited this week, but remember that there’s still plenty of time for his status to change. If it falls even further into the negative column, with Foster completely sitting out against the Colts, you want to immediately step in and get Tate into your lineup where necessary.
Plaxico Burress (vs. Dallas) – This isn’t your mother’s Plaxico Burress, but as a third option this week you could certainly do worse. The Cowboys do have an improved defense, but they’re still weak in the secondary. They also happen to be small, which plays into Burress’ strengths big time. As my colleague Jake Ciely points out in his column this week, the Cowboys don’t have a single cornerback who stands taller than 5-foot-11, which is a matchup nightmare when trying to pick jump balls in the end zone against the 6-foot, 5-inch Burress.
Mike Thomas (vs. Tennessee) – The Jaguars made a bit of a splash this week by cutting starting quarterback David Garrard and naming his replacement; the highly underwhelming Luke McCown. Sure that doesn’t sound like a glowing endorsement for the Jacksonville passing game, but there are a few things to consider here. First, Thomas is a highly skilled wide receiver. Second, there’s an old saying that “someone has to get the targets.” Well, that someone is going to be Thomas. Finally, the matchup against the Titans and their weak secondary helps make the case for Thomas. I have him pegged to score at least one touchdown this week.
Braylon Edwards (vs. Seattle) – Michael Crabtree planning to play this weekend only helps Edwards’ case. Now, the Seattle defense, which ranks among one of the worst in the league against the pass, will have to not only key in on Edwards and stud tight end Vernon Davis, but they’ll also have Crabtree to keep in their sights. This should open up more single coverage opportunities for Edwards, allowing for him to at the very least get a few targets in the end zone.
Jared Cook (vs. Jacksonville) – I’ve been a Jared Cook advocate throughout the pre-season, in some cases even taking him as my TE1 in deeper leagues. With Matt Hasselbeck now in Tennessee, Cook should see plenty of balls come his way, as Hasselbeck is a veteran QB who knows how to use his tight ends to move the chains. The matchup, the QB situation and the skill set Cook brings to the table all point toward a nice value week for the TE who went un-drafted in most standard leagues.
San Francisco 49ers (vs. Seattle) – The 49ers, if you recall, are just one year removed from being the top overall team defense. Against the Seahawks this week, there’s a chance they’ll once again look like a dominant team defense. The Seahawks do have an improved offensive line this season, but their passing game is a complete mess, especially with Sidney Rice looking like he’ll sit out on Sunday. Couple that with the train-wreck of a quarterback that is Tavaris Jackson and the 49ers have Top 10 team defense value this weekend.
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