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The Genius’ Week 1 Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em
Tony Romo (Cowboys): I’ll never understand the disdain many have for Romo. Remember, in Fantasy Sports we want statistics. Wins and performing in the clutch don’t matter unless it impacts stats. Romo passed for 307 yards with three TDs and threw for 427 yards with one TD, four INTs and a rushing TD in two games against the Giants last season. The Giants defense is shaky, too. With an array of weapons, including Dez Bryant, who looked unstoppable in the preseason, Romo is in your lineup.
Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers): The Steelers running game hasn’t been very good the last few seasons and there are questions marks going into Week 1 with Isaac Redman getting the start. Redman didn’t play in the preseason due to a neck injury. Look for the Steelers to rely on the pass against the Titans, who struggled defending the pass last season. If you missed out on the elite QBs and are going with alternating lesser starters, Roethlisberger gets a good matchup here.
Michael Vick (Eagles): When Vick is healthy, most times you will play him, and how long he remains healthy is dicey. He’s not a must-start in 12-team leagues, but in most 14-team leagues or more he’s a good start. He didn’t look as good in the third preseason game, as some of the flaws that have plagued him in recent years were apparent, including poor pocket awareness. Overall, he completed almost 74 percent of his passes in the preseason. The Eagles didn’t reveal all of their offense in exhibition play, so it will be interesting to see the Chip Kelly offense in a real game against the Redskins, who had a terrible secondary last season.
Andy Dalton (Bengals): Many believe Dalton will take a step up this season with more weapons added to the offense. It won’t happen this week in a tough matchup against the Bears on the road. The Bears defense was stout last season and projects to be very good again.
Jay Cutler (Bears): There is excitement for the new-look Bears offense under first-year coach Marc Trestman. There’s a lot of buzz with the improvement of Alshon Jeffery, addition of Martellus Bennett and the dominant Brandon Marshall. Expect Cutler to be better this season, but not this week against an excellent Bengals defense.
Josh Freeman (Buccaneers): Freeman started off strong last season before suffering a steep decline. He wasn’t impressive in the preseason either. The Jets defense is still solid, especially in the secondary. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie was one of the best last season. The Buccaneers will rely on Doug Martin in this matchup.
Ben Tate (Texans): Despite missing the preseason with back and calf injuries, Arian Foster is slated to start against the Chargers. At least early on, the Texans have indicated the two will split touches. Tate averaged 5.7 yards per carry in the preseason and if the Texans build a huge lead against an inferior Chargers team, Tate could get carries to kill the clock in the second half.
Ahmad Bradshaw (Colts): There might be some trepidation to insert Bradshaw in the lineup since he didn’t play in the preseason and the amount of touches he will get against a porous Raiders team is unclear. The good news is Bradshaw practiced fully on Wednesday. He’s good enough to flex in a tasty matchup. Just check reports before game time to make sure Bradshaw is playing and his role won’t be limited.
Shane Vereen (Patriots): Vereen is going to be a big part of the Patriots offense. The Bills defense isn’t that good. They will be without cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Jairus Byrd could be out with plantar fasciitis. Danny Woodhead scored three TDs against the Bills last season and the Patriots had five rushing TDs against them.
Broncos running backs: One day Ronnie Hillman is the starter, then it could be Knowshon Moreno and tomorrow it might be Montee Ball. It is going to be a running back by committee for now and there’s way too much risk to use any of them until we get more clarity.
DeAngelo Williams (Panthers): Williams will benefit with Jonathan Stewart on injured reserve to begin the season. Unfortunately, it won’t happen this week. The Panthers running attack was shut down by the Seahawks last season and their defense looks impressive again.
Rashard Mendenhall (Cardinals): He is expected to play despite a knee sprain. The Rams defense is very good and the Cardinals, who will be a passing team this season, could abandon the run quickly in this one.
Pierre Garçon (Redskins): Garçon is healthy and has immense potential with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. He is the No. 1 target and showed how good he can be last season when he was on the field. The Eagles secondary struggled last season and doesn’t appear to be much better.
Miles Austin (Cowboys): Austin was one of the better values in drafts. When he’s healthy, the numbers are there and Austin looked terrific in the preseason. Austin had no issues with his hamstring in the preseason. Dez Bryant will draw a lot of attention and Austin will benefit with 1-on-1 coverage. In two games against the Giants last season, Austin had 13 catches for 206 yards with a TD and the Giants secondary is hurting.
T.Y. Hilton (Colts): Some are worried since Hilton is not starting and mainly playing when the team employs three-wide receiver sets. That was the same scenario most of last year when Hilton had a big second half. He’s explosive and it doesn’t take many targets for Hilton to produce. Hilton scored three TDs in the preseason and the Colts will get him the ball against the Raiders.
Mike Wallace (Dolphins): Wallace gets a tough matchup in his Dolphins debut with Browns cornerback Joe Haden. Wallace has not scored a TD in his last three games against the Browns, including a game last season in which he had one catch for nine yards.
Denarius Moore (Raiders): There might be some sentiment that the Raiders will trail often, leading to a lot of passing and garbage time production for Moore against the Colts. Terrelle Pryor needs a lot of work on his passing and it could be a rough game for the Raiders offense.
Steve Johnson (Bills): The good news is EJ Manuel will start at quarterback instead of Jeff Tuel. Still, Manuel, who is coming off knee surgery, is a rookie going against a Bill Belichick defense. Johnson will be the focal point of the Patriots defense in the passing game. Johnson had just eight catches for 109 yards in two games against New England last season.
Jordan Cameron (Browns): Cameron is one of the players that saw his stock increase tremendously in the preseason. In early drafts he was going as a TE2, and over the last few weeks he consistently went in rounds 8-10. If there ever was a good week to use Cameron, this is it. Josh Gordon is suspended for the first two games and Cameron should see a lot of targets.
Zach Sudfeld (Patriots): Rob Gronkowski is close to a return, but this week Sudfeld will be the featured tight end. At 6-foot-7, Sudfeld is a good threat in the red zone. If you missed out on the elite tight ends and are playing the matchups at the position, Sudfeld is a good start against the Bills.
Coby Fleener (Colts): There was a lot of talk about Fleener emerging this season. It could still happen, but Fleener missed time at the end of the preseason with a knee sprain and the game against the Raiders could turn into a blowout quickly.
Tyler Eifert (Bengals): I drafted Eifert as a TE2 in many leagues because he has a lot of upside and should be incorporated into the offense. He didn’t do much in the preseason and with a tough matchup against the Bears, it is best to sit him.
Matt Bryant (Falcons): This game projects to be a shootout and Bryant was one of the top kickers last season.
Rob Bironas (Titans): The Titans offense could struggled and Heinz Field has been a place where kickers can struggle.
Defense/special team notes: One of the best plays of the week has to be the Colts against the Raiders. Terrelle Pryor will start and is prone to taking sacks and making bad decisions. The Buccaneers have a good matchup against an inept Jets offense with rookie Geno Smith making the start at quarterback. Despite many losses, the Ravens defense will be better than most think. Against the Broncos, though, it is best to reserve them. The Packers defense was shredded by the 49ers in the postseason last year. It is best to avoid them in Week 1.
Ronis’ Bonus Tips: In Week 1, playing your studs is usually the way to go. There are some that you should always insert in the lineup that have some tough matchups. I’m not saying to sit them, but in shallow leagues where lineups are stacked, consider it or temper expectations. Cam Newton has a difficult matchup against the Seahawks. He passed for 141 yards with no TDs and rushed for 42 yards in this game last year. It’s not crazy to bench him in a 10-team league if you have another top QB…Eddie Lacy looked terrific in the preseason and will get the bulk of the carries for the Packers, but the 49ers are a stingy run defense…Vincent Jackson will likely be matched up against Antonio Cromartie. Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Wes Welker were among the wide receivers Cromartie held in check last season.
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