For fantasy football purposes, while several players will be highlighted below that could have good games this week, some of these players may not be able to be used in fantasy football due to injury, their game status being questionable. As these are the Sunday afternoon, Sunday Night, and Monday Night games, fantasy footballers may not want to start a player that could become inactive by these games’ kickoffs without that player’s back-up on the roster or without another player who has a 4:25 p.m. game, the Sunday Night game, or the Monday Night games to insert into your active line-up.
As you know, in the weekly “Choices” articles, The Fantasy Greek will tell you, in part, who to consider playing or who to consider not playing, as well as what to look for in each of the six games you will see beginning Sunday afternoon, and culminating in the two Monday night games. The goal this week is to look for how teams are playing and how certain players are playing so you cant start to get a feel for which players on your roster are your starters and which players on your roster are more than likely, match-up or bye-week plays. Put another way, evaluate each game’s “story line” and see how it plays out.
As to who to play this week, The Fantasy Greek would not blame anyone for starting the starting roster they drafted just days ago, or even a week or so ago. In many instances, it is very difficult to tell how players will play this week because there is no real history, besides last season, to gauge a player’s and team’s future performance. Frankly, teams are also different from last season based on their roster turnover as well as the mere passage of time. Nonetheless, there is no reason not to consider the match-up and how things could or should play out. If this means you feel more comfortable playing one player over another, by all means, go right ahead.
The goal in “Fantasy Football Choices” is to provide you, the fantasy football player, with enough information to make sensible and reasonable choices in setting your line-up this week by reviewing the weekly match-ups and identifying which players are “On the Gridiron,” a “Coach’s Decision,” or “On the Pine.” For many of you, the information provided simply provides affirmation to the decisions you have already made. If you like, skip the fluff, and find your player’s match-up for analysis. We also provide a down & dirtly listing of players listed in each category within the Quick Hits (coming out by each Wednesday; see links above). If you are looking for a waiver wire pick-up, then look for those players still on your waiver wire, and you can read that analysis too.
ON THE GRIDIRON: Identifies players you should play because of their match-up or because of their role on their team’s offense.
COACH’S DECISION: Identifies players who you normally would play but whose match-up this week is not very good; identifies players who you normally would not play but whose match-up this week is good; or identifies players who are injured that you, the fantasy coach, will need to make the call on whether or not to play.
ON THE PINE: Identifies players who you should likely avoid unless there is no one else on your roster or on the waiver wire that can help your team win.
Onto the fantasy match-up and your choices!
Sunday, September 9, 2012
4:25 p.m. EST
PANTHERS v. BUCCANEERS
Panthers Story Line: What a difference drafting a game-changing quarterback like Cam Newton makes. While The Fantasy Greek does not feel that Newton will have a characteristic sophomore slump, contrary to what some are saying, The Fantasy Greek feels that Newton will be more of a pocket passer in his second season. Given this, one would think that DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could have a bigger role in the offense. With Stewart recently signing a long term contract, it could be Williams who is motivated to play big time this season. WR Brandon LaFell is entering his third season as a pro receiver, a season many receivers typically break out. The Panthers DST struggled at rush defense in 2011, but took steps to try to make the unit better. Let’s see if it works.
Buccaneers Story Line: QB Josh Freeman needs to play better than he did last season, and the Buccaneers signed an all-pro guard (Carl Nicks) and an all-pro wide receiver (Vincent Jackson) to help him do this. The Buccaneers defense was awful, the worst in 2011. This week, any semblance of a defense that can contain Cam Newton or shut down some aspect of the Panthers offense would be a plus.
The Bottom Line: The Panthers look like the all-around better team right now. The Fantasy Greek thinks that between a strong rushing game and strong passing game, the Panthers should be able to hold onto this game for the win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Buccaneers may have done some things to help improve the defense, but to move up from third-most fantasy points allowed to the quarterback position and fourteenth-most fantasy points allowed to wide receiver position is a lot to ask. As such, QB Cam Newton and WR Steve Smith should be good to go this week as top fantasy football options. Similarly, the Buccaneers were the worst defending the rush in all of fantasy football last season. This weekend, RB DeAngelo Williams is worthy of RB2 consideration especially since RB Jonathan Stewart may very well miss this game. Should Stewart play, they can both be inserted into line-ups as flex-plays. For the Buccaneers, this is rookie RB Doug Martin opportunity to shine against a Panthers rush defense that had its share of problems in 2011. There is no reason WR Vincent Jackson shouldn’t be on fantasy football gridirons given his immense talent.
COACH’S DECISION: If you drafted Josh Freeman, you likely did so as a QB2. While there is no reason to start him this week, he is listed as a Coach’s Decision only because we expect him to have a decent game this. TE Dallas Clark is an option this week against a defense that was top-ten in most fantasy points allowed to the position last season. The Fantasy Greek had WR Brandon LaFell as a potential break out candidate this season due to the fact he is entering his third-year as a wide receiver and has looked good. LaFell is an option this week even though he likely will not see the fantasy football gridiron. While TE Greg Olsen could do something this week, you should consider your other options.
ON THE PINE: Neither RB Mike Tolbert, nor the Panthers’ other WRs Louis Murphy Armanti Edwards, and David Gettis have done much in the pre-season. Avoid RB LaGarrette Blount as the Bucs claimed formers Giants RB DJ Ware off waivers and it is ware who could end up spelling Martin and getting the third down work. While there is nothing about the match-up that is too intimidating, this is a good week to avoid Bucs wide receivers Mike Williams, Arrelious Benn, Preston Parker, and (TE) Luke Stocker. This is a week to avoid both the Panthers DST and the Buccaneers DST too.
FORTY-NINERS v. PACKERS
Forty-Niners’ Story Line: Based on how well Alex Smith played to close out the season, as well as the playoffs, it remains to be seen whether the 49ers will open up the passing offense especially with Randy Moss and Mario Manningham in the fold. Even though having at least three other good running backs on the roster, Frank Gore still looks like the lead back for the 49ers so it will be interesting to see how limited his role will be in the offense, if at all.
Packers Story Line: What do you get a team like the Packers that seems to have everything — a pass defense and a premier running back. Well, the Packers landed RB Cedric Benson once the pre-season got under way, so this weekend will be about seeing how he does in the offense. In terms of the pass defense, this will be the first true test the Packers DST secondary has against what could be a fairly formidable passing offense.
The Bottom Line: One of these two great teams has to lose in Week 1. The Fantasy Greek just cannot fathom the Packers losing at home against a 49ers team whose weakness (pass defense) is the Packers strength (pass offense). In a close game, Packers win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Packers rush defense wasn’t much to speak of last season either. Whatever the case, there are enough issues related to it that RB Frank Gore can be active as an RB2 this weekend. Gore is most familiar with the 49ers rush offense and can be expected to have at least, a decent game. TE Vernon Davis is a must-start against a Packers defense that allowed the second most fantasy points to the position last season, a position they have not historically defended well. Even though the Forty-Niners have one of the league’s top rush defenses, their pass defense is more average like most other NFL teams. As such, have no hesitation starting QB Aaron Rogers and wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson.
COACH’S DECISION: If you have QB Alex Smith on your roster, it is likely as a QB2. While it is likely that your QB1 will get the start this weekend, monitor Smith because he is primed for a good game against a defense that had a difficult time defending the pass. Indeed, Smith is an option for fantasy footballers this weekend, albeit maybe not the best option. At a minimum, The Fantasy Greek expects Smith to have a good game against a team that will require him to pass the ball. Similarly, wide receivers Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss could be huge surprises this weekend and make for low-end WR3 plays. The hesitation in starting either is much the same as it is with Smith — not sure what we’re getting yet. While you would likely never bench the 49ers DST under normal circumstances, the Packers allowed the second least fantasy points to opposing defenses last season. Also, consider avoiding the Packers DST as the 49ers allowed the fifth least fantasy points to opposing defenses last season. Packers TE Jermichael Finley is a candidate for the pine because the Packers were No. 1 defending tight-ends in 2011.
ON THE PINE: Outside of Frank Gore, all other Forty-Niners RBs should be avoided until their roles become better defined. The same can be said of the other receiving options on the Forty-Niners, especially Mario Manningham. While RB Cedric Benson appears to have secured the starters role for the Packers, this is no time to play him against the No. 1 rush defense in the league. As for other Packers wide receivers, let them battle it out as to who might be the third best option on the team.
SEAHAWKS v. CARDINALS
Seahawks Story Line: With rookie quarterback Russell Wilson named the starter for the Seahawks, the biggest story line will be how he performs against what is a pretty good Cardinals defense and which Seahawks’ receivers perform the best in the offense. WR Golden Tate has already been ruled out.
Cardinals Story Line: Quarterback John Skelton was named the Cardinals starter and the challenge here is to start and finish the game behind a Cardinals O-line that has been porous at times. There is a chance RB Beanie Wells (hamstring) does not play which means RB Ryan Williams either makes his first start or gets to have a large role in the offense.
The Bottom Line: The Seahawks are a team on the rise while the Cardinals are sputtering along trying to get some semblance of an offense going on the field. The Seahawks will start the 2012 season off with a win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: RB Marshawn Lynch (back spasms) is generally a must-start regardless of the opponent. However, Lynch is listed as questionable and we know he practiced Friday. While the Cardinals can defend the pass, they can be burned by it too. Due to his immense talent, WR Sidney Rice is an option as a low-end WR3. Because of the protection problems and turnover problems of the Cardinals, the Seahawks DST is a must-start. For the Cardinals, RB Beanie Wells looks like decent option as a low-end RB2 or flex-play. However, note that Wells (hamstring) is also listed as questionable. Regardless of who is under center for the Cardinals, WR Larry Fitzgerald is a must-start as the Cardinals main playmaker.
COACH’S DECISION: While the Cardinals defense is pretty good, so is rookie QB Russell Wilson. Wilson should only be a consideration if your QB1 has an awful match-up. Otherwise, Wilson is listed as a Coach’s decision because The Fantasy Greek expects him to have a good game. If RB Marshawn Lynch is unable to go in the game, RB Robert Turbin should be on fantasy football gridirons. If RB Beanie Wells cannot go this week, Ryan Williams can be on fantasy football gridirons as a low-end RB2 or flex-play.
ON THE PINE: Even though QB John Skelton was the Cardinals starter, he is a long way from being a starter for fantasy football purposes. With WR Golden Tate having been ruled out of the game, it will be interesting to see who between WR Braylon Edwards, WR Ben Obomanu, and WR Doug Baldwin steps up in his place. No other player on either team is worth fantasy football consideration including the Cardinals DST.
Sunday, September 9, 2012
8:20 p.m. EST
STEELERS v. BRONCOS
Steelers Story Line: The biggest change the Steelers had in the off-season was the hiring of new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, former head coach of the Chiefs. With Haley on board, fans are looking to see what kind of offense the Steelers will roll out this season especially now that the Steelers lost top draft pick David DeCastro to a season ending knee injury. Besides seeing the new offense, it will be interesting to see how Mike Wallace adapts since holding out.
Broncos Story Line: Peyton Manning. Since his second NFL season, and excluding 2005, Manning has consistently passed for 4,100-plus yards per season, tossing 4,700 yards in his last full season in 2010. Manning has largely been a top-five quarterback most of his career. Manning has thrown no less than 26 touchdowns, and more than 30 touchdowns in four of the last five seasons he has played in. Manning is on the verge of setting several NFL records this season including most touchdowns passed (career); second most pass completions (career); and, most 300-yard games (career).
The Bottom Line: Manning showed a glimpse in the third pre-season game that he is still, to some degree, the Manning of old. Playing at home Sunday night football should help. Broncos win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: RB Isaac Redman should get the start for the Steelers and makes for a solid RB2 in fantasy football against a rush defense that allowed the twelfth most fantasy points to running backs last season. The Steelers were one of the toughest against the pass last season. Still, when has that mattered for Peyton Manning. With the Steelers down one of their top corners, we expect Manning to make an impact in this game. You just can’t sit Manning this week.
COACH’S DECISION: QB Ben Roethlisberger is listed as a Coach’s Decision only because if you drafted him, it was likely as a QB2. There is nothing about the match-up that requires you ignore Roethlisberger. If you need Big Ben, play him in fantasy football. Likewise, this is a good week to get both WR Mike Wallace and WR Antonio Brown into fantasy football line-ups, even though The Fantasy Greek must caution that the Broncos pass defense looks to have improved and Mike Wallace should see a lot of Champ Bailey. Even though this game is about the return of Peyton Manning, it would be difficult to ignore the Steelers DST. However, note, that this may not be a great game for them as The Fantasy Greek does not expect the Broncos to turn the ball over or allow any sacks. Many fantasy footballers drafted RB Willis McGahee this season as an RB2 strictly based on last season’s performance which rejuvenated his career. While the Steelers rush defense slid a bit last season, they remained top-ten in the league. If there is a week to consider benching McGahee, this is it. Obviously, with Peyton Manning under center, WR Demaryius Thomas, WR Eric Decker, and TE Jacob Tamme are all options this weekend. However, again, the Steelers were top-five against opposing wide receivers, and top-twelve against opposing tight-ends. Fantasy footballers would be hard-pressed to bench Thomas or Decker this week. Consider both low-end WR2s. Tamme is a player you could bench this week if you have a better option.
ON THE PINE: Until The Fantasy Greek sees RBs Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Raney, and Rashard Mendenhall in the offense, they should be avoided for now. The Steelers have improved in their protection of the ball such that the Broncos DST should be on the pine this week. The Fantasy Greek does not feel that any of the othr potential playmakers on either team are worth fantasy football consideration at this time.
Monday, September 10, 2012
7:00 p.m. EST
BENGALS v. RAVENS
Bengals Story Line: After a wildly successful 2011 season, which saw both some upheaval, as well as some surprise, the Bengals look to see if they can ride the lightning of last season in the sophomore seasons of QB Andy Dalton and WR AJ Green. To add to this, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets a fresh start as the team’s premier running back after being second fiddle to a Patriots pass offense that dominated the time of offensive possession.
Ravens Story Line: The biggest change since last season has been the Ravens new up-tempo, no huddle offense which was show cased in the pre-season. This new offense not only appears wildly successful but has elevated the play of Joe Flacco and all of the Ravens wide receivers. It will be interesting to see the offense at work against a good Bengals defense.
The Bottom Line: Based on what we have seen so far, this should be a tough offense for the Bengals to defend against. And while not taking anything away from the Bengals offense, the Ravens continue to look fierce even though missing some key personnel. Ravens win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: If anyone seemed to take the Bengals offense into their own hands it was WR A.J. Green who, for the most part, looked unbenchable in fantasy football play last season. Ravens RB Ray Rice was one of the top-three running backs taken in fantasy football drafts due, in part, to his versatility in rushing and pass catching the football. Rice remains a must-start in fantasy football.
COACH’S DECISION: With all the excitement surrounding RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis coming to the Bengals, this could be a good week to avoid him in fantasy football if you can as he goes against a Ravens rush defense that allowed the fourth least amount of fantasy points to opposing running backs last season. However, because Green-Ellis will likely get the lion’s share of touches in the game, he still has some appeal as a low-end RB2 or flex-play. After what has looked like a very solid pre-season, QB Joe Flacco suddenly has some renewed appeal in fantasy football. While this is hardly the week to consider starting Flacco, it is a week where you could start him if you absolutely had to. The Bengals pass defense was pretty good last season, and looks to have improved. Still, in the new offense, both WR Anquan Boldin and WR Torrey Smith have looked good. Consider both decent WR3s this week. If you have the Ravens DST on your fantasy football roster, you will likely be playing them this week. Note, however, the Bengals allowed the seventh least fantasy points to opposing defenses last season.
ON THE PINE: For all the hype surrounding QB Andy Dalton, avoid him in fantasy football this week against the No. 1 defense against quarterbacks last year. While the Bengals hope another wide receiver will step up to form a formidable duo with AJ Greene among Brandon Tate, Armon Binns, or Mohamed Sanu, each should be avoided in fantasy football for now. The Fantasy Greek really likes TE Germaine Gresham but not this week against the No. 2 defense against tight-ends. Keep the Bengals DST on fantasy football pines until we see how they handle the Ravens offense. The Ravens split tight-end duties between Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta and this week they face a defense which allowed the seventh least fantasy football points to opposing tight-ends.
Monday, September 10, 2012
10:15 p.m. EST
CHARGERS v. RAIDERS
Chargers Story Line: In 2011, the Chargers struggled on the road at 3-5, and against their own division as their 3-3 divisional record reflects. In Week 1, the Chargers get to address this weakness against the division rival Raiders in Oakland. With Ryan Mathews expected to miss the game, Ronnie Brown should have an excellent opportunity to show-off some of the abilities that made him wildly popular in his hey-day with the Dolphins. QB Phillip Rivers rolls out the Chargers passing offense with (presumably) a healthy Antonio Gates and additional wide receiver help in Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. The Chargers DST is expected to be improved this season.
Raiders Story Line: 2011 was a roller coaster season for the Raiders. Besides the loss of owner Al Davis, the Raiders were the victim of a series of key injuries to key players like Jason Campbell and Darren McFadden. Carson Palmer was also peeled off a couch just before mid-season and traded to the team. Had Palmer played all season, he was on pace for 4,800-plus yards passing and twenty-three touchdowns While there would have been a bunch of interceptions attached to the stat line, this was not bad considering Palmer had not played with the team but for nine games. The expectation is that Palmer should excel this season with some of the most talented young wide receivers in the league, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore.
The Bottom Line: The Fantasy Greek expects a high scoring game to close out Week 1 of the fantasy football season. While the Raiders should be able to stay in the game, the Chargers look to have too much more going in their favor. The Chargers should win this game.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Raiders pass defense was one of the worst in the league last season. So, QB Phillip Rivers, TE Antonio Gates, WR Malcolm Floyd (WR3), and WR Robert Meachem (low-end WR3) are all must-starts this week. As of now, it appears that RB Ryan Mathews (broken collar bone) will miss this game and that RB Ronnie Brown will start in Mathews stead. As Brown should be good for roughly 20 touches, and the Raiders have also had a tough time defending the rush, Brown makes for a solid RB2 or flex-play this week. As the Raiders main offenseive weapon, RB Darren McFadden is, as usual, a must-start.
COACH’S DECISION: Because the Chargers have also had their share of problems defending the pass, QB Carson Palmer is an option this week in fantasy football. However, The Fantasy Greek hesitates recommending Palmer for the fantasy gridiron because he hasn’t looked very good in the pre-season. That said, The Fantasy Greek feels a little bit better recommending WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and WR Denarius Moore as WR3s, but not by much.
ON THE PINE: As there should be a bit of offense in the game, both the Chargers DST and the Raiders DST can be on fantasy football pines. WR Jacoby Ford could make it back from injury this week. This would be a week to monitor how he does. Otherwise, while there is plenty of talent on both teams, there are no other players worth considering in fantasy football right now unless things change.
Good luck this week!