The Complete Fantasy Football Guide to NFL Week 1

Chet Gresham@Chet_GFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2012

Deangelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
Deangelo Williams, Carolina PanthersStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

Each week, check out this handy guide where you'll find all the info you will ever need to rule the fake football world! That is until all the news changes tomorrow! This will be a primer for the week of fantasy football gnashing of teeth and turning of screws to come.



First, let's look at some nice matchups:

Jake Locker: The Patriots pass defense was poor last season. Of course its struggles were compounded by the fact that the opposing team always played from behind and had to throw the ball in the second half. But that fact isn't going to change that much this season, and Jake Locker will get to use his arm plenty on Sunday.

Doug Martin: Martin didn't put up big numbers during preseason, but he looked like the real deal. Even when there was no room to run, he managed to wiggle for a couple yards, and in comparison to LeGarrette Blount, he looked like Barry Sanders' and Walter Payton's illegitimate child.

Martin gets to face the Panthers' run defense, which almost gave up as many fantasy points to running backs as their opponent, the Tampa Buccaneers, did.

DeAngelo Williams: Yes, the Buccaneers gave up the most fantasy points to running backs last season, and I don't see a ton of improvement coming this season. Williams is a great play as long as it looks like Jonathan Stewart will be limited or not play, so keep an eye on his status.

Kevin Smith: All signs are pointing to Smith being healthy to face the St. Louis Rams. The Rams have trouble stopping the run and Mikel LeShoure is suspended for the first two games of the season, so Smith will get the bulk of the work. Smith is risky because he might injure himself getting out of bed Sunday morning, but his upside is too high to not be started.

Pierre Garcon: Robert Griffin III has liked him some Pierre Garcon this preseason, targeting him 14 times compared to five targets for Leonard Hankerson. And New Orleans' pass defense, like the other teams with high powered passing offenses, does not put up good numbers.

Nate Washington: With Kenny Britt suspended and the Patriots most likely leading in this game, Washington should see plenty of targets. The same can be said for Kendall Wright.

Kyle Rudolph: The Jacksonville Jaguars were the only team to give up more than 90 receptions to tight ends last season, and they never played the Patriots! Rudolph is poised for a nice season as the No. 2 target for Christian Ponder.

Aaron Hernandez: The Tennessee Titans were one of five teams to give up 1,000 yards to tight ends last season. Hernandez is in no way a sleeper, but I love him this season and would play him over most tight ends this week.



Now for some not-so-good matchups:

Cedric Benson: The San Francisco 49ers dominated running backs last year and there's no reason that won't be the norm once again this season.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis: The Ravens run defense is one of the best in the league and The Law Firm is one of the least talented starting running backs in the league. I'm staying away this week.

Donald Brown: I may be jumping the gun here, but I like Vick Ballard more than Brown, and I don't think it will take much for Brown to lose carries to him, especially in hostile Soldier Field.

Jacob Tamme: All the talk about Tamme being Peyton Manning's guy has gone away and it looks like Joel Dreessen will be splitting time with him. One of the two may take the lead and be worth starting, but I'd hold off until we have a better idea and they aren't playing the Steelers.




Trent Richardson: He practiced on Monday and is starting to look like he will play against the Eagles on Sunday unless he has a setback. This situation needs to be monitored throughout the week.

Jonathan Stewart: He has yet to practice after his ankle injury, so there isn't much information yet. If he practices on Wednesday his chances of playing go way up.

Adrian Peterson: He is currently a game-time decision. And if he does play it will be on a limited basis. I'm staying away from him unless I'm desperate.

Denarius Moore: He missed practice on Monday, but looks like he might practice later in the week. If he doesn't go, Rod Streater will get the start against the Chargers. Whoever starts is a risky play—but with upside.

Ryan Mathews: He is out for Week 1 and has yet to be cleared for contact. Week 3 seems to be the goal us fake footballers should shoot for.

Hakeem Nicks: He didn't practice Sunday or Monday, but continues to say he'll line up for a full complement of plays on Wednesday night. It does seem like the rest is just precautionary. Keep him in your lineups unless news gets worse.

Miles Austin: He's practiced the last three days in a row and seems healthy and ready to play fully on Wednesday night. If you drafted him, you have to play him in a game that should be high scoring.

Kevin Smith: He's practicing fully and it looks like his ankle injury must have been very minor. He has a great matchup against the Rams and doesn't have to fight Mikel LeShoure for touches.

Jason Witten: He has yet to practice and the season opener is fast approaching. I wouldn't count on him playing, and if he does, he most likely will be limited.

Austin Collie: After yet another concussion it looked likely that he would be out a prolonged time, but he's back at practice and was not limited. He is definitely an injury risk, but as long as he's playing, he's the No. 2 receiver on a team that should pass a bunch.

Sidney Rice: He finally is ready to go after shoulder and concussion issues. He's no doubt risky, but his upside is great.



Waiver Wire

Russell Wilson: I'm all on board the Russell Wilson hype train. He may not put up Cam Newton rookie numbers, but he has the ability to be a top-12 quarterback. I'd drop players like Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, etc... for him.

Jonathan Dwyer: Dwyer outplayed Isaac Redman this preseason and speculation in Pittsburgh is that he might start over him against the Broncos. If he's on your waiver wire, it's worth the risk to grab him in case he runs away with the job.

Ronnie Brown: I think he'll be the lead back for the Chargers while Ryan Mathews is out and in PPR leagues will have plenty of value since the Chargers love throwing to their running backs.

Vick Ballard: I just love his upside and am not a fan of Donald Brown. He's worth a stash in most leagues.

Kyle Rudolph: I was amazed to see Rudolph is only owned in 34 percent of leagues. Rudolph is a top of the line talent and should be owned in every league for his upside alone.



Streaming Defenses

If you went ahead and drafted the San Francisco 49ers defense early this year, you get to match them up against the Green Bay Packers! Lucky you. So don't do that again. But if you did, you might want to check your waiver wire for a defense to spot start this week, because no defense scored over five fantasy points against the Packers all last season.  Compare that to every defense against the Rams scoring at least six fantasy points. So streaming defenses can be productive if you plan in advance. 

The first week of the season is usually the toughest because we just don't know how bad some offenses are going to be. But we can always guess!

Philadelphia Eagles: They are most likely owned, but I put them in here because I think we'll be streaming against the Cleveland Browns a lot with Weeden at the helm. The Cincinnati Bengals get them next week.

Buffalo Bills: The Jets are coming into the season on a low point because their starters didn't score a touchdown this preseason. Last season the Jets were the third easiest team for fantasy defenses to score against.

Seattle Seahawks: They may be owned, but if not, you have to grab them to face the John Skelton-led Arizona Cardinals.

New England Patriots: I like Jake Locker and the receivers to put up some decent numbers against the Patriots, but I also think they will end up turning the ball over plenty in their attempt to come from behind.



Streaming Kickers

As we go along in the season, this will get easier, but I've had luck with it in the past. Some teams are just poor defensively, but rally in the red zone.  Each year you can find some trends and run kickers out against these teams. And of course, games in domes or Mile High, coupled with a good matchup, are even nicer.

Last year the best six teams to start kickers against were the Vikings, Colts, Redskins, Broncos, Rams, and Cardinals.

Garrett Hartley: I'm not sure why, but he's only owned in 50% of Yahoo leagues. He has won the Saints kicking job, which makes him a must own in all leagues.

Steven Hauschka: The desert air is a good place to kick, and the Cardinals have been good at allowing kickers to kick there over the last two seasons.

Shaun Suisham: Mile High is one of the best places to kick in the league, and if you get extra points for longer kicks, it's an especially nice place to stream a kicker.


Over/Under the Weather

I always like to check out the Vegas lines to see who the oddsmakers believe will score a lot each week. Then I also like to see what kind of weather we have to deal with. Wind is usually the toughest for kickers and quarterbacks, so that's what I try to figure out. Of course, wind is harder to predict than most things, so be sure to check Sunday morning if you are trying to choose between two similar players.

Don't feel bad about stacking up players in the Dallas/NY Giants, New Orleans/Washington, New England/Tennessee, and Carolina/Tampa Bay games. There should be enough scoring to go around.

You can also worry about running backs in games that look to be lopsided. The Redskins, Dolphins and Rams all will have a tough time staying in running situations. Reggie Bush, Steven Jackson and some guy Shanahan pulls out of the crowd will all most likely need to get their work through the air.

Right now the weather looks like it will be okay for most of the games. But forecasts, of course, aren't always that accurate so far in advance. So it's always worth keeping an eye on closer to game time.

Good luck all and may your fake team rule the fake universe!


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