Winning Fantasy Calls for Week 1
Forget about the obvious starts and sits. Our Dave Richard goes through every game for Week 1 and addresses all of the players owners are on the fence about.
Editor's note: Each week our Dave Richard will share his take on all of the players that you are on the fence about each week. He'll look at each matchup to help you maximize your lineups.
Minnesota at Detroit, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Both defenses were given an overhaul this offseason: The Lions upgraded at safety and have a healthy defensive line, the Vikings got deeper at cornerback and defensive tackle. The Lions' biggest addition, however, tilts the scales in their favor. Reggie Bush should eat up the Vikings on screens and dump-off passes.
No-brainers: Adrian Peterson ; Matthew Stafford , Reggie Bush , Calvin Johnson
, WR, Vikings: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Expect the Vikings to test Lions rookie cornerback Darius Slay , who was picked on by Tom Brady in the preseason. Jennings' veteran smarts could be enough to give him a decent outing.
Flow chart: Mike Williams > Greg Jennings > Mike Wallace > Steve Smith
, TE, Vikings: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Detroit had trouble covering tight ends last year, including a 64-yard, one-score game for Rudolph in its last meeting. It wouldn't be a shock to see him score in Week 1.
I'd start him over: Tyler Eifert , Greg Olsen
, WR, Lions: My Projection: 5 FPTS
A desperate Fantasy owner could take a flier on Burleson, who for the time being looks like the Lions' sure-fire No. 2 receiver.
I'd start him over: Markus Wheaton , Robert Woods
, WR, Lions: My Projection: 4 FPTS
There isn't a definitive word as to why Broyles had a lot of second-team work in the preseason. His knees have bugged him but he still should be a contributor on Sundays. Maybe back off of him until his playing time is solid.
I'd rather start: Jeremy Kerley , Rod Streater
, TE, Lions: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The matchup says Pettigrew is a must-start. He's had at least 6 Fantasy points in each of his last four vs. Minnesota and has scored in two of his last three.
I'd start him over: Martellus Bennett , Brent Celek
Oakland at Indianapolis, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Colts pick up the best matchup of the week: The Raiders' pass rush is weak, the linebackers are good but not great, and the defensive secondary is a combination of worn-out cornerbacks and an aging safety in Charles Woodson . While the Colts should have their way, there might not be a ton of pass attempts for Andrew Luck .
No-brainers: Darren McFadden ; Andrew Luck , Reggie Wayne
, RB, Colts: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Vick Ballard , RB, Colts: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The matchup is too juicy to ignore either guy. Assuming Bradshaw is OK after practicing and is active, he might be effective on limited reps. If the game gets lopsided in the Colts' favor then Ballard will have a ton of numbers in garbage time.
I'd start Bradshaw over: Frank Gore , Darren Sproles
I'd start Ballard over: Mark Ingram , Giovani Bernard
, WR, Colts: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Expect Hilton's wheels to be in overdrive against the slower defensive backs of the Raiders. Remember, the more time Luck has to throw, the better chance Hilton hauls in a long pass. There's so much upside here.
I'd start him over: Jordy Nelson , Kenbrell Thompkins
, WR, Colts: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Obvious motivation factor for DHB going up against his old team. He's never had a big Week 1 game and only has one career touchdown in September. He's also never caught passes from a quarterback like Luck before. He tops out as a sleeper Flex play in PPR leagues.
I'd start him over: Emmanuel Sanders , Vincent Brown
, TE, Colts: My Projection: 2 FPTS
Dwayne Allen , TE, Colts: My Projection: 2 FPTS
Under normal circumstances these guys would be juicy Fantasy candidates but both are banged up and might not see a full workload. Plus they could end up covered by Charles Woodson , who is healthy and should be at least effective.
I'd rather start: Brandon Myers , Owen Daniels
Colts DST: My Projection: 11 FPTS
They're the DST of the week as they have enough talent to slow down Darren McFadden in the box and along the edges while also feasting on Terrelle Pryor . Considering the Raiders O-line, five sacks is not out of the question.
I'd start them over: 49ers DST, Ravens DST
, QB, Raiders: My Projection: 15 FPTS
The Colts' secondary isn't anything to write home about, but neither is Pryor's receivers (or his arm). There will be games this season where Pryor picks up a ton of rushing yardage and some passing totals thanks to garbage time. This might be one of them.
I'd start him over: Josh Freeman , Philip Rivers
, WR, Raiders: My Projection: 5 FPTS
He should end up being Pryor's top target. Streater has the surest hands of any Raider and might pick up a few first downs in the second half. Cornerbacks Greg Toler and Vontae Davis aren't overwhelmingly tough matchups for him.
I'd start him over: Jacoby Jones , Leonard Hankerson
New England at Buffalo, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Don't count out the Bills' offense being sneaky here and going with the Wildcat or the wishbone. That's not to say it'll be wildly effective. C.J. Spiller has one career touchdown against the Pats (receiving, not rushing) and one 100-total-yard game (it came in Week 9 last year). The Patriots DST is definitely worth a start.
No-brainers: Tom Brady , Stevan Ridley , Danny Amendola , Patriots DST; C.J. Spiller
, RB, Patriots: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The only risk in starting Vereen is getting enough work out of him. It was a little disappointing to see him get most of his preseason carries with the second-string. In potential blowouts like this there's no promise of him being great for Fantasy.
Flow chart: Darren Sproles > Lamar Miller > Shane Vereen > Vick Ballard > Mark Ingram
, WR, Patriots: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The jump from undrafted rookie to Fantasy sensation should complete itself in this game. Buffalo's starting cornerbacks are vulnerable and with its pass rush not superior, Brady could find Thompkins a worthy target. He's worth a gamble.
I'd start him over: Mike Wallace , Steve Smith
, TE, Patriots: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Buffalo native Rob Gronkowski routinely scorches the Bills for huge stats. Sudfeld isn't quite as devastating to defenses as Gronk, but if the Patriots stick to their typical plan then he'll be worth using.
I'd start him over: Tyler Eifert , Martellus Bennett
, RB, Bills: My Projection: 3 FPTS
How many reps is he realistically going to get? Ten? Hard to trust him when it's expected the Patriots will have a huge lead and Spiller will hog carries.
I'd rather start: Christine Michael , Ronnie Hillman
, WR, Bills: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Stevie has delivered 10 Fantasy points or less in three straight against the Pats and will catch passes from a rookie quarterback. Not exactly a great situation for him. Johnson is squarely a Flex candidate.
I'd rather start: Golden Tate , DeAndre Hopkins
Kansas City at Jacksonville, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Only matchup of the week with two new coaches with their respective teams. Alex Smith has a pretty easy first matchup: Jacksonville's secondary has a target on its back and its pass rush is unproven. Establishing Jamaal Charles and using play action to beat the Jags deep is probably in the cards.
No-brainers: Jamaal Charles , Dwayne Bowe ; Maurice Jones-Drew
, WR, Jaguars: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Shorts is a tough call. While he's the unquestioned No. 1 receiver for Jacksonville, he's also been nicked up through most of August. The Chiefs' secondary bulked up this offseason and should be able to at least contain Shorts for much of the game. Though it's possible he breaks free on a big play, he's best left in the Flex conversation.
Flow chart: Eric Decker > Kenny Britt > Cecil Shorts > T.Y. Hilton > Jordy Nelson
, WR, Jaguars: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Sanders is one to watch, not necessarily start. He's small and speedy. Training camp opened the door for him to get on the field, now he'll have to prove he's worth being a part of a three-receiver set when Justin Blackmon comes back.
I'd rather start: Davone Bess , Jeremy Kerley
Cincinnati at Chicago, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Both quarterbacks figure to be under siege here, but Andy Dalton should end up faring better. He has the better offensive line and the more dynamic receiving corps. If the Bears remain true to Cover-2 principles then the Bengals' tight ends could be effective.
No-brainers: A.J. Green , Bengals DST; Matt Forte , Brandon Marshall , Bears DST
, QB, Bengals: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Only 25 percent of the quarterbacks that played against the Bears last year produced multiple touchdowns. Dalton will play without left tackle Andre Whitworth, likely putting him under some pressure. That might not be so good. To his credit, Dalton began 2012 red hot, scoring 25-plus Fantasy points in 7 of his first 11 games.
I'd rather start: Sam Bradford , Russell Wilson
, RB, Bengals: My Projection: 8 FPTS
BenJarvus Green-Ellis , RB, Bengals: My Projection: 4 FPTS
Not the best matchup for these guys as the Bears are still expected to be strong against the run. We'll get an idea of just how much the Bengals plan to use Bernard -- if they're playing from behind we could see him quite a bit.
I'd start Bernard over: Rashard Mendenhall , Eddie Lacy
I'd rather start over Green-Ellis: Chris Ivory , Isaac Redman
, WR, Bengals: My Projection: 6 FPTS
When Sanu started to get playing time last year his numbers really popped. Bengals might try to get him lined up on a nickel back in the red zone for a couple of looks.
Flow chart: Brian Hartline > Darrius Heyward-Bey > Mohamed Sanu > Vincent Brown > Kendall Wright
, TE, Bengals: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Major sleeper. His wrist should be fine and his size makes him a major mismatch for the Bears' safeties and linebackers.
I'd start him over: Greg Olsen , Fred Davis
, QB, Bears: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Cutler has thrown for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in each of his last three Week 1 games. This one is going to be different as the Bengals' pass rush and secondary will be a major challenge. If Cutler's preseason had gone smoother he'd be safer.
I'd rather start: Joe Flacco , Matt Schaub
, WR, Bears: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Jeffery is a candidate to make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 but I wouldn't chance it in this matchup. Cincy's veteran cornerbacks could make things challenging even if its defense is tilted toward Brandon Marshall .
I'd rather start: Andre Roberts , Anquan Boldin
, TE, Bears: My Projection: 6 FPTS
The Bears might look for Bennett in single coverage against unproven safety George Iloka . That should work out for them but not necessarily in the red zone where Bennett can be covered up in zone coverage.
I'd rather start: Tyler Eifert , Brandon Pettigrew
Tennessee at Pittsburgh, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Chris Johnson matchup isn't as bad as you might think. He's posted 10-plus Fantasy points in three of five career games against the Steelers and heads into this matchup with an incredible offensive line that crushed defenses this preseason. Should be a great matchup with at least modest results.
No-brainers: Chris Johnson ; Steelers DST
, WR, Titans: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Britt finished last year pretty strong with four games with 10-plus Fantasy points in his last six. Has at least four catches in each of three career games against the Steelers, including a 4-62-1 line last season.
I'd start him over: Hakeem Nicks , Golden Tate
, WR, Titans: My Projection: 6 FPTS
In time, Wright will be a reliable PPR Flex option in Fantasy. For now, he's a risk considering his balky knee. In his favor is the likelihood that Tennessee will pass a lot.
I'd rather start: Santana Moss , Marlon Moore
, QB, Steelers: My Projection: 19 FPTS
The problem isn't that Big Ben has a bad matchup, the problem is that you probably have someone better to start. Tennessee's defense isn't all bad but Roethlisberger should be able to put up some numbers.
I'd start him over: Russell Wilson , Andy Dalton
, RB, Steelers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
The Titans' run defense ranked a weak 24th last year but they have a big D-line now along with experienced safeties and a good enough trio of linebackers. Redman will split carries and probably churn his way to a decent day.
Flow chart: Eddie Lacy > Ryan Mathews > Isaac Redman > Montee Ball > DeAngelo Williams
, WR, Steelers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Brown's got an awful track record against the Titans (6 rec., 43 yards in two games) but Mike Wallace had over 80 yards and a touchdown in each of those games. Kind of have to like Brown in that No. 1 receiver's role.
I'd start him over: Eric Decker , Vincent Jackson
Atlanta at New Orleans, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The last meeting was the first time in four matchups the two teams didn't combine for at least 49 points. Neither defense packs a powerful pass rush or has a debilitating secondary, so really you should expect to see some serious numbers put up.
No-brainers: Matt Ryan , Steven Jackson , Julio Jones , Roddy White , Tony Gonzalez ; Drew Brees , Darren Sproles , Marques Colston , Jimmy Graham
, RB, Saints: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Pierre Thomas , RB, Saints: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Atlanta's defense remains mostly unchanged up front (Osi Umenyiora is new on the defensive line). That's not necessarily a good thing considering the Falcons' 21st rank vs. the run last year. In fact, New Orleans' traditional rushers have averaged 5.0 yards per carry in each of their last three against the Falcons with a score in each. Put your money on Ingram to be a usable Flex.
I'd start Ingram over: Giovani Bernard , Ryan Mathews
I'd start Thomas over: Jets RBs, Bernard Pierce
, WR, Saints: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Moore tore up the Falcons with a pair of seven-catch games, one for 91 yards and one with 123 yards. The game figures to be a shootout and Moore is one of Drew Brees trusted targets.
I'd start him over: Tavon Austin , Mike Wallace
Tampa Bay at New York Jets, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Jets shocked the world last year with a Week 1 thrashing of the Bills before falling in line with expectations. Maybe they can harass Josh Freeman into a couple of turnovers and pull off an upset again, but their offense is so iffy and matches up poorly with what the Bucs can do, particularly with Darrelle Revis at cornerback.
No-brainers: Doug Martin , Vincent Jackson
, QB, Buccaneers: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Even without Darrelle Revis last year the Jets allowed just five multi-touchdown passers over 13 games. The Jets defense isn't entirely bad and Freeman needs good protection in front of him to be capable.
I'd rather start: EJ Manuel , Terrelle Pryor
, WR, Buccaneers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Whether the Jets stick Antonio Cromartie on Vincent Jackson or just keep Cromartie on the right side of the field, Williams will get his fair share of targets in coverage against Jets rookie Dee Milliner . That could breed some success. Think Flex.
I'd start him over: Greg Jennings , Steve Smith
Buccaneers DST: My Projection: 16 FPTS
Geno Smith making his NFL debut with one of the worst receiving corps in football and a hot-and-cold offensive line should prove to be beneficial to a Bucs defense that was tops in the league vs. the run last year and added ex-Jet Revis this offseason.
I'd start them over: Every DST in Fantasy
, RB, Jets: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Chris Ivory , RB, Jets: My Projection: 5 FPTS
The only decent parts of the Jets offense at this juncture are at tailback. Ivory is healthy, so the Jets might as well use him while they can. Powell needs to impress over the next four weeks to keep his lot before Mike Goodson comes back. Tough start for them.
I'd rather start: Isaac Redman , Montee Ball
Miami at Cleveland, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
For the Dolphins to win Lamar Miller will have to get moving on all cylinders. If he can create a rushing threat then Ryan Tannehill can take advantage on deep pass attempts via play-action. The Browns can do the same, with an exception: Trent Richardson already is an established rushing threat.
No-brainers: Trent Richardson
, QB, Dolphins: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Tannehill never tossed two touchdowns on the road last year, though he didn't have as good of a receiving corps as he has now. The Browns' pass rush should do well against inexperienced left tackle Jonathan Martin , making Tannehill's day tougher.
I'd rather start: Jake Locker , Blaine Gabbert
, RB, Dolphins: My Projection: 9 FPTS
Miller should be the main guy for Miami's run game presuming he doesn't turn the ball over. The Browns ranked 19th vs. the run last year and while they did improve their pass rush and pass coverage, their run defense remains the same. Miller has a chance.
I'd start him over: Shane Vereen , Darren McFadden
, WR, Dolphins: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Wallace's recent track record against Browns cornerback Joe Haden is not good: After torching Haden as a rookie he's had six grabs for 77 yards and no scores in three games. That was with Ben Roethlisberger as his quarterback, not Ryan Tannehill .
I'd rather start: Lance Moore , Greg Jennings
, QB, Browns: My Projection: 15 FPTS
Now's not the time to get excited about Weeden since he's playing this game and his next without potential superstar Josh Gordon . The Dolphins might start ex-Browns cornerback Dimitri Patterson , and if so Weeden will go after him repeatedly. Should be fun to watch.
I'd rather start: Joe Flacco , Jay Cutler
, WR, Browns: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Davone Bess , WR, Browns: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Miami's secondary isn't anything special once you get past cornerback Brent Grimes . Bess can play the motivation card after the Dolphins traded him away. Both of these guys are PPR sleepers given their targets should be up with Gordon suspended.
Flow chart: Alshon Jeffery > Greg Little > Mohamed Sanu > Rod Streater > Davone Bess
, TE, Browns: My Projection: 8 FPTS
The Dolphins were excellent against tight ends last year, allowing just three scores to the position on the season. Free safety Chris Clemons gives up some size to Cameron -- if there's single coverage there the Browns could take some shots.
I'd start him over: Kyle Rudolph , Tyler Eifert
Seattle at Carolina, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Don't overestimate this matchup for the Seahawks: The Panthers added a pair of huge defensive tackles in the draft and played outstanding preseason ball, creating 14 turnovers. They actually might be a tough defense to run against, though no one would question Marshawn Lynch chances to put up some stats.
No-brainers: Marshawn Lynch , Seahawks DST
, QB, Seahawks: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Wilson is a bit of a risk. Carolina's defensive front should make things a little tough for him and his receiving corps isn't exactly sparkling. It'll take a leap of faith to start him. He threw just one score at Carolina last year.
I'd rather start: Ben Roethlisberger , Sam Bradford
, WR, Seahawks: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The most reliable of Seattle's receivers, Tate caught the team's only touchdown pass at Carolina last year. He's going to get chances regardless of which cornerback the Panthers stick on him.
I'd start him over: DeSean Jackson , Steve Johnson
, TE, Seahawks: My Projection: 6 FPTS
This is a sneaky matchup to consider: The Panthers allowed seven scores to tight ends last year while Miller finished 2012 with three touchdowns in his final six games and at least three catches in four of his last five.
I'd start him over: Brandon Myers , Owen Daniels
, QB, Panthers: My Projection: 19 FPTS
You probably don't have many other choices to go with so just keep expectations cool for Cam. Newton was held without a touchdown three times last year, once against the Seahawks. This figures to be one of just a few tough matchups for Newton this year.
I'd rather start: Colin Kaepernick , Michael Vick
, RB, Panthers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Hopefully you drafted Williams to be a part-time Flex. This is a good week to avoid him. Seattle's run defense was in mid-season form during the preseason and Carolina's offensive line isn't great. Next week will be better for Williams.
I'd rather start: Ryan Mathews , Isaac Redman
, WR, Panthers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner will be focused on corralling Smith, and they'll even get some help from Seattle's safeties. Smith had 40 yards on four catches last year against Seattle and could come up about as small again.
I'd rather start: Greg Jennings , Andre Roberts
, TE, Panthers Projection: 5 FPTS
Olsen didn't do well against the Seahawks last year but he was targeted just three times. Maybe that's because the Panthers knew how efficient the Seahawks were against tight ends. Olsen has never scored in a Week 1 game.
I'd rather start: Julius Thomas , Fred Davis
Arizona at St. Louis, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
The new-and-improved Cardinals offense debuts against one of the most underrated defenses in football. Carson Palmer figures to be under fire from the jump and the Cortland Finnegan - Larry Fitzgerald matchup will be a dandy. Fitzy didn't score on the Rams last year, though quarterback issues played a role.
No-brainers: Larry Fitzgerald
, QB, Cardinals: My Projection: 17 FPTS
Pencil in Palmer for 35-plus attempts pretty much every week. His offensive line is an issue, especially with guard Jonathan Cooper out, which means there will be some turnovers. The Rams tied for the NFL lead in sacks last year with 52, 11 against the Cardinals.
Flow chart: Sam Bradford > Russell Wilson > Carson Palmer > Eli Manning
, RB, Cardinals: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Risky. Not only might Mendenhall struggle between the tackles against the Rams' monstrous defensive front, but the Cardinals could easily go into pass-happy mode, taking him out of the equation.
I'd rather start: Vick Ballard , Daryl Richardson
, WR, Cardinals: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Have to like Floyd in the Flex conversation for this week. Matchup against the likes of Janoris Jenkins will be tough, but the Cards will pass plenty.
I'd start him over: Steve Johnson , Tavon Austin
, WR, Cardinals: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Sneaky PPR sleeper this week. Coach Bruce Arians will lean heavily on his three- and four-receiver sets which puts Roberts on the field a lot. Easy target underneath if he's covered by cornerback Brandon McGee .
I'd start him over: Steve Smith , Anquan Boldin
, QB, Rams: My Projection: 18 FPTS
Arizona's defense has plenty of talent but Bradford did well against them last year: he connected for two scores in each of his matchups vs. 'Zona last year. That's before all the receiving upgrades the Rams made. He's a sleeper.
I'd start him over: Russell Wilson , Eli Manning
, RB, Rams: My Projection: 9 FPTS
He'll lead the Rams rushers in touches, especially this week with Isaiah Pead suspended. That makes him a good Flex candidate for sure.
I'd start him over: Rashard Mendenhall , Eddie Lacy
, WR, Rams: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The combination of his track record vs. Arizona (touchdowns in each game last year) and his experience working with Bradford gives him an early-season leg-up on the rest of his teammates.
I'd start him over: Kenbrell Thompkins , Hakeem Nicks
, WR, Rams: My Projection: 8 FPTS
It's a gamble to start Austin in his first NFL game but he'll be fun to watch. The Cardinals have some athletic defensive backs that can keep up with him.
Flow chart: Mike Williams > Lance Moore > Tavon Austin > Greg Jennings > Mike Wallace
, TE, Rams: My Projection: 12 FPTS
Rams tight end Lance Kendricks scored in both games against the Cardinals last year. Cook's a better player who will be featured more prominently in the passing game. He has major potential.
I'd start him over: Any tight end not named Graham or Gonzalez
Green Bay at San Francisco, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET
Don't be surprised to see this break into a shootout. You'd expect that from Aaron Rodgers & Co., but Colin Kaepernick has showed that he's a very good passer. As for his rushing skills, the Packers geared up all offseason to slow him down after his record-setting 181 yards on the ground in the divisional playoffs. Kap's going to have to use his arm to win -- and he will.
No-brainers: Aaron Rodgers , Randall Cobb , Jermichael Finley ; Colin Kaepernick , Frank Gore , Vernon Davis
, RB, Packers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Packers running backs totaled 20 carries over two games against San Fran last year. Doesn't suggest a lot of work for Lacy. He's going to have some amazing games but the Packers' lack of run game and the pedigree of the Niners run defense suggests he's going to get off to a cold start.
I'd rather start: Giovani Bernard , Rashard Mendenhall
, WR, Packers: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Jordy Nelson , WR, Packers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Of course, if the Packers aren't going to run it then it means they're going to throw it. Nelson seems back at 100 percent and both he and Jones should do well. Jones specifically had at least 80 yards and a touchdown in both games vs. the Niners last year. This year he might see a lot of Nnamdi Asomugha in coverage. That's money.
I'd start them over: Hakeem Nicks , Steve Smith
, WR, 49ers: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Boldin should get his fair share of work, but it's not going to be enough to confidently start him. Most people drafted him to be a quality reserve anyway.
I'd rather start: Greg Jennings , Andre Roberts
49ers DST: My Projection: 9 FPTS
The Packers scored 53 points (at least 22 per game) over two meetings last year and are reconfigured to be even tougher this season. It helps the Niners that Green Bay's O-line is already sub par, but it's tough to expect a monster game from them.
I'd rather start: Patriots DST, Steelers DST, Colts DST
New York Giants at Dallas, Sun., 8:30 p.m. ET
This should be a high scoring game. Dallas' offense is healthy everywhere except at the guard spots and should attack the Giants secondary early and often. The Giants defense has a lot to prove -- will Jason Pierre-Paul be effective? Who will step up in the secondary? Dallas should be able to move the ball fairly easily.
No-brainers: David Wilson , Victor Cruz , Hakeem Nicks ; Tony Romo , DeMarco Murray , Dez Bryant , Jason Witten
, QB, Giants: My Projection: 16 FPTS
Manning struggled against the Cowboys last year (one touchdown in two games), and that was when their defense stunk! Hakeem Nicks wasn't the same guy then, but neither was the Dallas defense. The scheme change should help them. Manning has some multi-score potential but he's not as enticing as he might normally be.
I'd rather start: Sam Bradford , Russell Wilson
, TE, Giants: My Projection: 4 FPTS
One of the ways to attack a Cover-2 defense is over the middle to the tight end. Myers could end up catching a decent amount of passes, but he's not explosive enough to expect a huge game.
I'd rather start: Jeff Cumberland , Greg Olsen
, WR, Cowboys: My Projection: 11 FPTS
He's healthy and the Giants' defensive backs aren't great. Sounds like a good recipe for Austin to get off to another quality early-season start. Austin has scored in Week 1 for four straight years.
I'd start him over: Reggie Wayne , Antonio Brown , Vincent Jackson
Philadelphia at Washington, Mon., 6:55 p.m. ET
All eyes will be on Robert Griffin III . Why is he a good start? He's healthy, as evidenced by his full participation in training camp and in practice during the preseason. Though he hasn't gone up against foreign competition, Griffin's experienced enough to handle blitzes and the like. Things like his timing and his instincts shouldn't be affected because of the diligent work he's put in. Also, the matchup is great: Philadelphia's secondary has been rebuilt, but it's not scary. RG3 threw for six touchdowns over 29 pass attempts in two games against Philly last year.
No-brainers: LeSean McCoy ; Robert Griffin III , Alfred Morris , Pierre Garcon
, QB, Eagles: My Projection: 20 FPTS
Vick's fast-break offense will need some big plays against a healthy Redskins defense in order for his stats to be respectable. It's possible. Redskins allowed multiple scores to quarterbacks in 10 of 16 games.
I'd start him over: Cam Newton , Russell Wilson
, WR, Eagles: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Redskins cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are beatable. Be it on a screen or a bomb, Jackson's going to need a big play to be great for Fantasy pretty much every week.
Flow chart: DeAndre Hopkins > DeSean Jackson > Steve Johnson > Steve Smith
, TE, Eagles Projection: 6 FPTS
Redskins were downright horrible against tight ends last year but Celek never cashed in. He should play the most of any Eagles tight end and should be a decent sleeper.
I'd start him over: Fred Davis , Owen Daniels
, TE, Redskins: My Projection: 5 FPTS
Matchup is favorable as the Eagles safeties aren't exactly stellar against the pass. Griffin has never leaned on his tight ends but did start throwing to Davis (22 targets, 20 catches in his final five games last year).
I'd start him over: Greg Olsen , Owen Daniels
Houston at San Diego, Mon., 10:20 p.m. ET
This is a tough test for the Chargers on both sides of the ball. Defensively they're taking on a Houston offense that could be at its best in franchise history (it depends on just how good Arian Foster feels). Offensively they'll have to be effective passing in order to have a chance to keep up on the scoreboard, a problem considering the relative lack of experience at wide receiver.
No-brainers: Arian Foster , Andre Johnson , Texans DST
, QB, Texans: My Projection: 16 FPTS
This is among the best matchups Schaub will have this season but he might not be needed. The Texans could wind up running just as well as passing, leaving Schaub to have an efficient but not exceedingly huge stat line.
Flow chart: Eli Manning > Joe Flacco > Matt Schaub > Jay Cutler
, RB, Texans: My Projection: 10 FPTS
You have to figure the Texans will limit Foster's workload and let Tate get a fair amount of carries. Against a defense already hit by injuries like the Bolts, that's good news. Tate had 86 yards on 15 preseason carries with a touchdown.
I'd start him over: Darren Sproles , Lamar Miller
, WR, Texans: My Projection: 8 FPTS
His numbers will solely come down to just how ready he is for the NFL. The Chargers' cornerbacks can't compete with Hopkins and their focus will be on Andre Johnson first and foremost. Hopkins could have a nice game.
I'd start him over: DeSean Jackson , Greg Jennings
, TE, Texans: My Projection: 3 FPTS
There's a legitimate concern that Daniels' stats fall flat because of not only Hopkins but fellow tight end Garrett Graham taking work away from him. That could start this week.
I'd rather start: Jeff Cumberland , Brandon Myers
, QB, Chargers: My Projection: 13 FPTS
Rivers will have some good weeks but it's tough to see this as one of them. Houston's defense struggled down the stretch last year but is at full strength now, including in the pass rush department, where Rivers is bound to be scrambling most of the game.
I'd rather start: Brandon Weeden , Terrelle Pryor
, RB, Chargers: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Two things are working against Mathews here: A tough matchup against a strong run defense and the likelihood that the Bolts will have to play from behind. That will make the going hard for Mathews, who isn't promised passing downs work so long as Danny Woodhead is around.
I'd rather start: Mark Ingram , Eddie Lacy
, WR, Chargers: My Projection: 6 FPTS
Brown's one to watch. He's never had the chance to play regularly in the offense but does have some solid potential. He'll get covered up a good amount here but with the Chargers throwing a ton he could get some numbers. He's just hard to trust.
I'd rather start: Marlon Moore , Mohamed Sanu
, TE, Chargers: My Projection: 10 FPTS
I like Gates to have a decent game. He's easily Rivers' most reliable target, he's healthy and the Texans might have a hard time lining up against him.
I'd start him over: Jason Witten , Jermichael Finley
Baltimore at Denver, Thu., 8 p.m. ET
It's trial by fire for the rebuilt Ravens defense as Peyton Manning will test both the linebackers and safeties with his improved offense. Wes Welker had over 110 yards in two meetings against the Ravens last year and could carve up Baltimore's fairly inexperienced defensive middle. Tight end Julius Thomas might also have a nice first game.
No-brainers: Ray Rice ; Peyton Manning , Demaryius Thomas , Wes Welker
, QB, Ravens: My Projection: 16 FPTS
All three of Flacco's postseason scores at Denver were long passes (30-plus yards). Expect the Broncos to work hard at eliminating those plays, imposing more of a dink-and-dunk approach for the Ravens' Boldin-less passing game.
I'd rather start: Carson Palmer , Eli Manning
, WR, Ravens: My Projection: 11 FPTS
Smith had four career touchdowns outdoors on grass last year before scoring twice to help Baltimore beat Denver in the playoffs. There will be a focus on limiting him but he steps up in big games and the Broncos defense isn't at full strength.
I'd start him over: Reggie Wayne , Vincent Jackson
, WR, Ravens: My Projection: 6 FPTS
His ascension in the Ravens pass game is warranted and he seems like he has a better head on his shoulders now compared to his last go-round as a starter, but he's just too risky to use right off the bat.
I'd rather start: Mohamed Sanu , Brian Hartline
, RB, Broncos: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Ronnie Hillman , RB, Broncos: My Projection: 4 FPTS
Knowshon Moreno , RB, Broncos: My Projection: 3 FPTS
Hillman is listed first on the depth chart but Ball's been the one who hasn't coughed up the ball and Moreno's the one who can block the best. None of these guys are reliable starters so long as they take carries away from each other. Plus the Ravens' run defense might still be pretty darn good.
I'd rather start: Vick Ballard , Ryan Mathews
, WR, Broncos: My Projection: 10 FPTS
Decker totaled 14 grabs for 217 yards and a touchdown over two games against the Ravens last year, and that was without Wes Welker drawing attention. Anytime he's in single coverage you can bet Peyton will fire at him.
I'd start him over: Vincent Jackson , T.Y. Hilton
Broncos DST: My Projection: 8 FPTS
Ravens DST: My Projection: 7 FPTS
Baltimore's unit isn't safe against Peyton Manning arm, Denver's unit is ravaged by injuries and a Von Miller suspension. Take your lumps with them this week since you likely drafted both.
I'd rather start: Buccaneers DST, Colts DST
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