Week 1 Start 'Em and Sit 'Em
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The start of the 2014 season is here, and now you get to set your lineup with all those amazing picks you made on Draft Day. But is it really that simple?
Sure, you can just plug in the first running backs and receivers you drafted into their respective spots, and you might only have one quarterback and tight end to consider. Or you can look at the matchups, even for Week 1.
There are some games this week where Fantasy owners can benefit, like San Francisco at Dallas, New Orleans at Atlanta and Indianapolis at Denver. You probably want to find starting options in those games because the scoreboard operator should be busy.
Then there are games where scoring could be hard to come by, and we're looking at Cleveland at Pittsburgh, Cincinnati at Baltimore and Carolina at Tampa Bay. Ugly is the key word here.
You never want to consider benching someone you drafted as a starter, especially with an early-round pick, but we're here to point out the matchups and help you with the tough decisions. For this week, the big one could be the first game with the Packers at Seahawks.
Should you bench Aaron Rodgers against the Legion of Boom? Would you even consider it? And who would you start in his place? You'll have to read more to find out, as well as the sleepers we like and the other players to sit.
The season is finally here. Good luck in Week 1.
Start of the Week: Frank Gore , RB, 49ers
Frank Gore career is coming to an end, and this might be his final season-opener with his Week 1 matchup at Dallas. It could be the last time we recommend him as a starting option, let alone the Start of the Week.
We're not sure if Gore, 31, can hold up all season based on his career mileage (more than 2,500 career total touches), and the 49ers have said they want to scale back his workload, which is why we're excited for rookie Carlos Hyde . But Gore is ready for this game, and Fantasy owners should start him with confidence.
The Cowboys allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing running backs last year, and things likely won't improve much with standout middle linebacker Sean Lee (knee) out for the season. Gore has also scored at least 12 Fantasy points in a standard league in each of his past two season openers, and he had 12 Fantasy points the last time he played the Cowboys in 2011, which also happened to be in Dallas.
Gore was drafted as a fringe starter/flex in the majority of leagues, but this is a good week to use him. He's healthy and the matchup is great.
I'm starting Gore over: Doug Martin (vs. CAR), Giovani Bernard (at BAL), Ryan Mathews (at ARI), Rashad Jennings (at DET), Ben Tate (at PIT)
Colin Kaepernick (at DAL): Kaepernick and the 49ers offense were miserable in the preseason, as he completed just 55 percent of his passes for just over 5 yards a completion and no touchdowns. But he should get going in Week 1 against Dallas because -- surprise! -- the Cowboys defense should be awful. Kaepernick was great in Week 1 last year against Green Bay with 412 passing yards and three touchdowns, and he should once again have a solid Week 1 in 2014.
Tony Romo (vs. SF): Romo is one of my favorite quarterbacks this season, and I like his matchup in Week 1 against a battered 49ers defense. Romo held up just fine in the preseason coming off back surgery, and he should continue to play well at home. He had at least 20 Fantasy points in a standard league in five of seven games in Dallas last year, including Week 1 against the Giants. This game has the potential for plenty of Fantasy production, so look for Romo to do his part in keeping up with Kaepernick.
Jay Cutler (vs. BUF): Cutler is going to make a lot of Fantasy owners happy if they waited for him on Draft Day as one of the last upper-echelon quarterbacks off the board. His quest for a Top 10 finish starts in Week 1 against the Bills, who allowed nine quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns against them in 2013, including five on the road. Cutler was great at home last season with at least 20 Fantasy points in his first four outings in Chicago, including Week 1 against Cincinnati. The Bills will struggle to defend Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery , so look for Cutler to come out firing in what could be a career season.
Nick Foles (vs. JAC): I'm not expecting a Top 10 finish for Foles this season, but it's hard to find fault with his matchup in Week 1 against the Jaguars. Even with a revamped receiving corps (DeSean Jackson is out and Jeremy Maclin , Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles are in) and a suspect preseason (two touchdowns, three interceptions), Foles should still shine against this Jaguars defense, which allowed nine quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns against them, including five on the road. Foles also closed last season with at least 20 Fantasy points in eight consecutive games, and he should extend that streak to nine this week.
Russell Wilson (vs. GB): It's hard to find a quarterback hotter than Wilson coming into the season. Not only did he win the Super Bowl last year, but he was dominant in the preseason with three passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns in limited action. The last time Wilson faced the Packers was the famous Hail Mary -- Green Bay fans call it Fail Mary -- in 2012 when he connected on a controversial last-second touchdown pass. That gave him 18 Fantasy points in a standard league, but we're expecting slightly better production this time around. He's a low-end starting option in the majority of leagues this week.
(vs. SD): The Chargers will struggle to
contain this passing attack.
Robert Griffin III (vs. HOU): Expect a big game if he can avoid the pass rush.
Jake Locker (at KC): Locker could expose a suspect Chiefs defense this week.
Cam Newton (at TB): Newton has owned the Buccaneers in his career with at least 20 Fantasy points in four of his past five meetings, including at least 30 points in both games last year. But that was with a better offensive line and without a rib injury, and Tampa Bay's defense should be improved this year with Lovie Smith at the helm. Carolina coach Ron Rivera said the offense won't change even though Newton is hurt, but the Panthers went 3-1 down the stretch last season with Newton having three games with fewer than 185 passing yards and five total touchdowns. You can start Newton if you drafted him as your No. 1 option, but the safe route might be to give him a week to see how he does with his ribs.
Andy Dalton (at BAL): Forget about the talk of Dalton throwing less and the Bengals running more. That's a footnote to this matchup for Dalton and the Ravens. He has a miserable history against Baltimore with five touchdowns and eight interceptions in his past five meetings. In two games last year, Dalton had four touchdowns and seven interceptions against the Ravens combined. Now, he did average more than 20 Fantasy points in those meetings, but it's not worth the risk to trust Dalton this week based on that terrible touchdown-to-interception ratio. Then, when you factor in a potential run-based game plan, it could lead to Dalton looking more like a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback than a starting option in standard leagues.
Philip Rivers (at ARI): Rivers has the chance for a good game this week against a Cardinals defense in transition with the offseason losses of Daryl Washington , Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett , and he was great in Week 1 last year against Houston with 30 Fantasy points at home. But we saw Rivers tail off down the stretch last season with just three games of at least 20-plus Fantasy points in his final eight outings. If that quarterback shows up again -- and the reason was mostly a run-heavy attack -- he'll leave you disappointed in this matchup. The key for Rivers will be his tight end play, and if Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green shine then Rivers will likely have a big outing. We're just lowering our expectations, which is why he's a No. 2 option in standard formats.
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. CLE): Roethlisberger likely won't have a down game, but I'm not expecting him to finish in the Top 12, which is why he's listed here. He did have a quiet game against the Browns at home last season in Week 17 with nine Fantasy points, but we're expecting a better performance this week. Now, don't overlook the Browns defense. Under coach Mike Pettine, this unit should surprise Fantasy owners, and even though you're not sitting Antonio Brown , he could have a tough time with cornerback Joe Haden . Since many of you drafted Roethlisberger as a No. 2 Fantasy option, he should remain on your bench to open the season. Trust me, his time will come.
Ryan Tannehill (vs. NE): This is for Fantasy owners in two-quarterback leagues since Tannehill was likely drafted as a starter in these formats. But you might want another option this week -- Locker and Josh McCown for example -- since Tannehill comes into this game without his best offensive lineman in center Mike Pouncey (hip) and his No. 1 receiver in Mike Wallace will likely see a lot of Darrelle Revis . Tannehill did have his best game of 2013 against the Patriots at home in Week 15 with 30 Fantasy points, but that was against a beaten down New England defense. The unit is healthy and improved this year, and Tannehill is a low-end option at best in two-quarterback formats in this matchup.
Bust alert: Aaron Rodgers (at SEA): You didn't draft Rodgers to bench him in Week 1. Let's get that out of the way. And there aren't many backup quarterbacks you paired with Rodgers on Draft Day worth starting over him -- Cutler and Wilson are likely the only candidates. But you have to consider how dominant the Seahawks have been at home, and there's a chance Rodgers could struggle. In the past two years, only one quarterback has passed for 200 yards and multiple touchdowns in the same game at Seattle, which was Tom Brady in 2012, including Drew Brees , Romo and Kaepernick twice – along with Rodgers. He failed to do so in 2012 when he was 26-of-39 passing for 223 yards and no touchdowns. Now, Rodgers has looked sharp this preseason with 61 percent completions and three touchdowns in limited action, and he's played well in hostile environments plenty in his career. Use caution if you consider benching him, but you should only do it if your other quarterback has the potential for a higher ceiling this week. Otherwise ride it out with Rodgers and hope for a big game.
Chris Johnson (vs. OAK): This might be one of the few times we recommend Johnson as a starting option, but the matchup with the Raiders is too tempting. Oakland allowed 13 running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points last season, including one in each of the final five games of the year. There are two things to note about that streak: 1) Johnson was the last starting running back who failed to reach double digits in Fantasy points in Week 12 when he was with the Titans. He had 20 carries for 73 yards and three catches for 8 yards. And 2) Chris Ivory had 18 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown in Week 14 as the starter for the Jets. Ivory could easily take a touchdown away from Johnson this week, and he's a solid flex option in deeper leagues. But we'd start Johnson, who ran well in the preseason and should have the chance to shine in his first home game in New York.
Toby Gerhart (at PHI): Gerhart was uninspiring in the preseason with 16 carries for 51 yards and one catch for 8 yards, and he battled a hip injury in training camp. You're either starting him on hope or out of necessity this week, but either way I expect him to grind his way to a quality performance. Here's what I like about Gerhart: He's had double digits in carries nine times in his career, and he's finished with double digits in Fantasy points in six of those outings. That's a good ratio of success, and we expect the Jaguars to lean on him. He's worth starting as a No. 2 running back this week.
Joique Bell (vs. NYG): The last time Bell faced the Giants was last year when he completely dominated them in Week 16. We're hoping for a similar outing in the rematch. Bell had 20 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown and 10 catches for 63 yards. By comparison, Reggie Bush had 12 carries for 34 yards and two catches for 10 yards with a lost fumble. Don't be surprised if the carry differential favors Bell again, and the Giants could be in trouble if Jon Beason (foot) is less than 100 percent. We're excited about Bell this season, and he should start off with a strong game in Week 1.
Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram (at ATL): Let's start with Thomas. There's something about Atlanta that obviously appeals to him since he's had at least 89 total yards in four of his past five visits. In three of those games, Thomas has at least five catches, including last year when he had 10 carries for 73 yards and five catches for 57 yards. It's optimistic to expect a repeat performance, but we'd start Thomas as a flex in standard leagues and a No. 2 running back in PPR. Ingram is coming off a solid preseason with 22 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown, including two 20-plus yard runs, and he even caught a 23-yard touchdown. If the Saints lean on Ingram for their ground game he could reach double digits in Fantasy points in this matchup.
Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley (at MIA): Vereen may end up being the do-it all running back for the Patriots this week and even this season, and he should have the chance for 100 total yards and a touchdown. He closed last year with double digits in Fantasy points in three of his final five games, and he had 75 total yards and two touchdowns in the third preseason game against Carolina, so he's ready to go. Ridley, on the other hand, will take more of a leap of faith to consider starting him. But as long as he doesn't fumble he should have a good enough game to make him a flex option in standard leagues. He has four touchdowns in his past four meetings with the Dolphins, including at least 71 rushing yards in three of those outings. If Bill Belichick gives Ridley double digits in carries he should reward Fantasy owners who still believe in him.
(at CHI): We'll find out quickly if the Bears
fixed their terrible run defense.
Bernard Pierce (vs. CIN): No Ray Rice makes Pierce a quality flex option.
Danny Woodhead (at ARI): If the Chargers are playing catch up then Woodhead shines.
Shonn Greene (at KC): He's starting for now so consider him a flex in standard leagues.
Knowshon Moreno (vs. NE): He'll play more than Lamar Miller once Miami is trailing.
Maurice Jones-Drew (at NYJ): The Jets faced the Raiders last season, and Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden were hurt. In their place, Marcel Reece dominated with 19 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 38 yards. The Jets likely remember that performance and will likely key in on Jones-Drew, especially with a rookie quarterback in Derek Carr making his first NFL start. Jones-Drew has a good history against Rex Ryan with at least 100 total yards in both meetings since 2009 when he was with the Jaguars. But that was a younger Jones-Drew, and we're not sure what role McFadden will have in this game. Jones-Drew did have a nice 40-yard touchdown run in the preseason against the Packers, but without that run he had 10 carries for 27 yards in limited action. If you own Jones-Drew, let him prove himself first before starting him in most formats.
Rashad Jennings (at DET): The good news for Jennings is he appears to be slated for every-down work as rookie running back Andre Williams is being deemed as "too raw," according to reports. We still expect Williams to get goal-line work, which could hurt Jennings if he doesn't get enough total yards. He looks ready to go after a strong preseason, which ended with13 carries for 67 yards against the Jets in the tune-up game. But the Lions should be tough against the run, and they allowed only LeSean McCoy in the snow last year and Matt Asiata in Week 17 to run for 100 yards. Jennings has flex potential for this week, but we wouldn't consider him a must-start option based on the matchup.
Steven Jackson (vs. NO): Two of Jackson's best games last year came against the Saints. He had 11 carries for 77 yards and five catches for 45 yards in Week 1 at New Orleans, and he had 16 carries for 63 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 16 yards at home in Week 12. He could obviously continue that success this week, but Jackson was absent this preseason with a hamstring injury. He's expected to be fine in this matchup, but there's no reason to risk him as a starting option. We'll find out if he can regain the momentum he had to end last year when he had at least nine Fantasy points in five of his final six games, but let him prove himself first.
Lamar Miller (vs. NE): As we said with Moreno in the running back sleepers, once the Dolphins are down against the Patriots, he should get more work over Miller. That might happen any way since Moreno, when healthy, is a better fit for this offense because of his receiving skills. It's worth stashing Miller because it's unlikely Moreno stays healthy all season, but this week keep Miller on your bench. Miller did well against New England last year with 18 carries for 89 yards and three catches for 23 yards in Week 8 and 15 carries for 61 yards in Week 15, but it would be a surprise if Miller got that much work this week. See how Miami's running situation plays out, but Miller isn't even a flex option compared to Moreno if both are active.
Trent Richardson (at DEN): I'm still holding out hope for Richardson to come around this year, but no one can start him this week. He struggled in the preseason with 20 carries for 51 yards and one catch for 4 yards, and he'll likely be limited if the Colts fall behind. He played the Broncos last year and had 14 carries for 37 yards and a lost fumble. Richardson also had nine carries for 53 yards and three catches for 15 yards at Denver in 2012 when he was with the Browns. I hope I'm wrong on Richardson this week, but the evidence is mounting against him that he's a bust. There's no scenario where he should be started this week in standard 12-team leagues.
Bust alert: Ben Tate (at PIT): The arrow is pointing up for Tate. He played well this preseason with 22 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown, and rookie Terrance West has struggled mightily. The Browns plan to give Tate every-down work, and if he can stay healthy this season he could emerge as a Top 20 running back. But he should only be considered a flex option this week, depending on your roster. The Steelers are going to stack the line of scrimmage and force Brian Hoyer to make plays with a suspect receiving corps, and Tate won't have much running room. This is a likely game plan against the Browns all season, and we'll find out if the Steelers can execute it. Use caution if you start Tate in this matchup.
Marques Colston (at ATL): Colston might be joining the ranks of the older receivers in the NFL now that he's 31, but he feels rejuvenated this year with his nagging foot problem apparently behind him. While he's healthy, it's a good idea to start him, and this is a favorable matchup. Colston has a good history against the Falcons with three touchdowns in his past five meetings. He scored against the Falcons in Week 1 last year with five catches for 68 yards, and Atlanta allowed 17 receivers to reach double digits in Fantasy points in 2013.
Eric Decker (vs. OAK): Decker gets to face a familiar foe in his first game with the Jets. He has owned the Raiders during his tenure with the Broncos with four touchdowns in his past five meetings and at least eight Fantasy points in every game over that span. Now, there's a serious difference between most of those meetings and this one – no Peyton Manning . Geno Smith has looked semi-competent in the preseason, and he should be able to help Decker play well in his first home game in New York. We might not like Decker much over the course of the season, but this is a great matchup to trust him as a starting option.
Jeremy Maclin (vs. JAC): Maclin is looking to keep his touchdown streak alive with his first game since tearing his ACL prior to last season. He had scored in the final two games in 2012, and he could make it three in a row against a Jaguars defense that allowed 19 touchdowns to receivers last year and should struggle again. Maclin is now Foles' No. 1 option, and as long as he's healthy there's plenty to like about his potential this season. While Maclin won't be DeSean Jackson , he should be the favorite for Jackson's production from last year, which was 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns on 126 targets. Look for Maclin's rebound campaign to begin this week.
Cordarrelle Patterson (vs. STL): We're expecting the momentum Patterson built up to close last season will carry over into this year, and this should be the start of his breakout campaign. He reached double digits in Fantasy points in each of his final four games, and the addition of offensive coordinator Norv Turner should help maximize his potential. For this week, Patterson will likely see a lot of Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins , but he didn't really slow down a lot of No. 1 options last year, as 12 of 16 either scored a touchdown or had 100 receiving yards. Patterson should follow suit, and he's a definite starting option in Week 1 in all formats.
Michael Floyd (vs. SD): The Chargers secondary should be improved with the addition of Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett , but they will be challenged in the opening week with the Cardinals duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Floyd. I'm excited for Floyd this season as he enters his third year, and he could become a star in this offense. The Chargers, while they are different in the secondary, did allow the fourth-most Fantasy points to opposing receivers in 2013. The Cardinals should have plenty of success throwing in this matchup, with Floyd a focal point of their attack.
(at DEN): His knee is ready for the revenge
game against Denver.
Terrance Williams (vs. SF): Williams will benefit from a heavy pass attack in Week 1.
Brandin Cooks (at ATL): The Saints could unveil their new toy in a favorable matchup.
Justin Hunter (at KC): Hunter could be a sneaky No. 3 receiver this week at the Chiefs.
Cody Latimer (vs. IND): Wes Welker suspension means increased playing time in Week 1.
Mike Wallace (vs. NE): Wallace played well against the Patriots at home last season in Week 15 with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown on nine targets, but there's a big difference between then and now – Revis. Wallace will likely struggle to escape Revis if he lines up against him, and it's been a rough preseason for Wallace and Tannehill to get on the same page. We hope Wallace will improve this season with the addition of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, but this isn't a week to start Wallace in the majority of leagues.
T.Y. Hilton (at DEN): We're playing the trends here with Hilton since he's been miserable outdoors in his two-year career. Last year, Hilton had five Fantasy points or less in six games outdoors. In 2012, Hilton had six catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns at New England, but otherwise he had three Fantasy points or less in four games outdoors. With Wayne healthy and Hakeem Nicks in the mix, we could see Hilton lose targets and production, and the Broncos could also use Aqib Talib on him to make things difficult. It's a risk to bench someone of Hilton's caliber because he could boost your Fantasy production with one play, but his struggles outdoors should make you think twice about starting him in most formats.
Kelvin Benjamin (at TB): Fantasy owners should be excited about Benjamin's potential, but this week could be a tough spot for him to have a good outing. Netwon is hurt with the rib injury, and the Buccaneers pass rush should make things tough on Carolina's offensive line. Along with that, Benjamin will likely be matched up with Tampa Bay's top cornerback in Alterraun Verner , who was a solid cover guy in Tennessee and should continue to thrive with the Bucs. The good news is you likely didn't draft Benjamin as a starting option, so keep him reserved for when he has a better matchup and Newton is healthy.
Sammy Watkins (at CHI): Similar to Benjamin, you don't need to worry about starting Watkins this week, even in three-receiver leagues. He's dealing with a rib injury, and the Bills could have a quarterback issue with Kyle Orton signing this week to challenge the inept EJ Manuel . The Bears also should be able to contain Watkins with Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman , and Buffalo's offense should rely on the ground game to attack this Chicago defense. Watkins will definitely have his moments this season, but this isn't the week to use him in the majority of leagues.
Torrey Smith (vs. CIN): Smith has the chance for a big season this year playing the Andre Johnson role in Gary Kubiak's offense, but you should only use him as a No. 3 receiver this week at best. He has a bad history against the Bengals with one touchdown in his past five meetings and no games over 60 receiving yards over that span. Leon Hall is back from last year's Achilles injury, making the Cincinnati secondary even better, and this game should be the usual AFC North slugfest. I'd give Smith a week before starting him based on the matchup.
Bust alert: Keenan Allen (at ARI): Allen was one of the best breakout players in 2013, and he emerged as the No. 1 target for Rivers heading into this season. He was drafted as a Top 20 receiver in the majority of leagues, but he should struggle this week in a matchup with Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson . He wants to prove he's the best cornerback in the NFL, and this is a good test since Allen reportedly had a good offseason and is looking to build off last year's success. Most Fantasy owners can't afford to bench Allen in Week 1, but don't be surprised if he struggles since Peterson is that good.
Zach Ertz (vs. JAC): Ertz was one of the standout players this preseason when he had eight catches for 110 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. He gets to carry that momentum into Week 1 against a Jaguars defense that struggled with tight ends last year. Jacksonville was one of four teams to allow over 1,000 yards to tight ends during the season and one of eight teams to allow at least nine touchdowns to the position. They will likely improve in this area this year, but Ertz should challenge this defense as Foles makes a concerted effort to get him the ball.
Jordan Reed (at HOU): If Griffin is going to snap out of his preseason funk then he'll need Reed to play a major role. Reed was quiet in the preseason with three catches for 27 yards, but this is a good matchup for him with the Texans being suspect against tight ends last year. Reed had at least seven Fantasy points in three of the five road games he appeared in last season, and the Redskins should have success throwing the ball if Griffin can get time with his protection.
Antonio Gates (at ARI): Gates might be near the end of his career, and Green is obviously a tight end on the rise. But for this week, Gates should be the better Fantasy option. Green was used sparingly with Rivers in the preseason compared to Gates when both were active, and Gates is still the security blanket for Rivers. Last year, Gates started the season strong with double digits in Fantasy points in three of the first four games, and he has a great matchup against the Cardinals, who allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing tight ends last season. Look for Rivers to rely on Gates in this matchup.
(vs. TEN): Dwayne Bowe's absence could make
Kelce the No. 1 target.
Dwayne Allen (at DEN): Allen is a red-zone threat for the Colts this year.
Martellus Bennett (vs. BUF): He's scored in each of his past two Week 1 games.
Charles Clay (vs. NE): One team Clay didn't torment in 2013 was the Patriots. He had six catches for 43 yards combined in two meetings last season, and the Patriots will likely try to take away Clay from the game plan again this week. New England only allowed six touchdowns to opposing tight ends last season but only four teams had a tight end score against the Patriots as Tony Gonzalez scored twice in Week 4 and the Browns had two tight ends score in Week 14. Clay will have some big moments as the season goes on, especially in Lazor's offense, but this isn't a good week to start him in the majority of leagues.
Heath Miller (vs. CLE): Miller is one of my favorite sleepers this season now that he's fully healthy from his torn ACL in 2012. I expect him to return as a starting-caliber Fantasy option, but I'm skeptical this week. He has a bad history against the Browns with four Fantasy points or less in four of his past five meetings and no touchdowns over that span. Pettine's defenses have also done well against tight ends in his history as a defensive coordinator, and Miller is more of a No. 2 Fantasy option this week than a starting option.
Kyle Rudolph (at STL): Rudolph is one of my favorite tight ends this season because of the addition of Turner, but he could get off to a slow start this year against the Rams, who have a good track record against tight ends. Over the past two seasons, only three tight ends have reached double digits in Fantasy points, which are Rob Gronkowski , Bennett and Vernon Davis . Rudolph faced the Rams in 2012, and he finished with three catches for 22 yards on four targets. Things have dramatically changed for his outlook with Turner, and Rudolph should have plenty of standout performances this season. But if you start Rudolph this week just lower your expectations based on how the Rams have defended tight ends the past two years.
Bust alert: Jordan Cameron (at PIT): Cameron appears to have the goods to be an elite tight end, and he might prove me wrong this season as a Top 5 Fantasy option. But what I wrote about Tate getting plenty of attention applies to Cameron as well, and the Steelers already know what to expect. In two meetings with Pittsburgh last year, Cameron had 10 targets in Week 12 and finished with three catches for 32 yards, and he had seven targets in Week 17 and finished with five catches for 69 yards. Now, you can argue that neither game against Pittsburgh was with Hoyer, and Cameron excelled with Hoyer last season. But the volume of targets was there, and Cameron struggled. The same could happen again this week.
Steelers (vs. CLE): In two meetings with the Browns last year, the Steelers gave up a combined 18 points. And that was with Josh Gordon , who is now suspended for the season. Pittsburgh's defense should be improved this year, and the Browns should be predictable, especially if the Steelers shut down Tate and the ground game and spend extra attention of Cameron. We'll find out if Cleveland's offensive woes in the preseason were a mirage, but we'll gamble on the Steelers DST for this matchup at home.
Lions (vs. NYG): Eli Manning and the Giants looked lost in the preseason. Jets (vs. OAK): A long road trip and a rookie quarterback should be good for the NYJ. Bears (vs. BUF): Manuel should be good for a turnover or two.
49ers (at DAL): The 49ers DST could be great this season, but it might not happen until the middle of the year when NaVorro Bowman (knee) is healthy and Aldon Smith (suspension) is active. Defensive lineman Ray McDonald was also arrested this past weekend, leaving his status in doubt. We know the Cowboys don't have much on defense, but they should be dominant offensively. It's not ideal to carry two DST options, but you might consider it this week with the 49ers DST battered and facing a top offensive opponent.
Robbie Gould (vs. BUF): The Bears offense should have success in this matchup, and Gould owners should benefit. He closed last season with at least two field goals in four of his final five home games with 10 field goals and 14 extra points over that span. The Bills also allowed the third-most Fantasy points to opposing kickers last year, so there's a good chance Gould should start 2014 on the right foot.
(vs. NYG): The new kicker for the Lions has the
chance for a strong Week 1.
Brandon McManus (vs. IND): He gets to show off while Matt Prater (suspension) is out.
Cody Parkey (vs. JAC): His first game in Philly should be filled with plenty of points.
Sebastian Janikowski (at NYJ): Janikowski was once considered among the best Fantasy kickers, and maybe he can return to that level this year. But we need to see it first. Last year, Janikowski finished No. 27 in Fantasy points among kickers, and he was miserable on the road with only eight field goals in eight games. We'll find out if Oakland's changes on offense help Janikowski this week at the Jets, but we're skeptical of starting him in Week 1.