The NFL’s Opening Night has come and gone, but fantasy owners are foaming at the mouth to get the full show rolling. It’s way too early to start my annual complaining about how much I hate Thursday games, and with that there’s really no need to go into what I think about a Wednesday game (unless you are trying to decide whether or not to pick up Kevin Ogletree). The president trumps football, really? (Just a joke, y’all.)
However, the vast majority, if not all, of your starters have yet to take the field. And as I plan to do every Thursday, I’ll give you some thoughts on who I love and hate for the upcoming week. I’ll do my best to keep the Tom Bradys and the Arian Fosters of the world out of the “Love” list, as only a serious gambler (or a complete buffoon) would ever take first- and second-round studs out of their lineups. Same (or conversely, depending on how you look at it) goes for the “Hate” list.
Now enough with the introductions. Let’s get right to Week 1.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins at Saints
Let’s get things stirrin’ right off the bat. First, I expect an up-and-down season from the rookie, but overall, I love RG III’s chances to make a serious impact. What better defense to face in Week 1 than one that faces more adversity than maybe any other NFL defense in history in an opening week, including some early season injuries? Gonna be a shootout, so just because the Redskins should (OK, will) lose, that doesn’t mean this stud should be on the bench.
Really like: Philip Rivers, Chargers at Raiders (Bolts shun traditional slow start); Matt Schaub, Texans vs. Dolphins (could be most underrated QB)
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers at Bucs; Doug Martin, Bucs vs. Panthers
Even if Jonathan Stewart is in uniform Sunday, his bum ankle will keep him off the field for the most part. If he gets 25 carries, Williams could easily go for 100 yards and two scores against a defense that was last against the run in 2011. … With the home crowd fired up (at least for the first half) and cannons blasting, Martin – the starter over LeGarrette Blount – should have a nice debut against one of the league’s weaker run defenses.
Really like: Shonn Greene, Jets vs. Bills (yeah, yeah, I know); Kevin Smith, Lions at Rams (keep an eye on his injury status, however); Toby Gerhart, Vikings vs. Jaguars (you just can’t play A.P. this week)
Antonio Brown, Steelers at Broncos; Titus Young, Lions at Rams
Despite the re-signing of Mike Wallace, Brown will seize an opportunity to become not just Big Ben’s top target, but one of the NFL’s elite receivers. If you’re in a league that rewards big plays, Brown could be a top-five receiver by season’s end. … Can’t decide between four or five options at WR 2 or even flex? Look for Detroit to light it up, and when it’s not Megatron, it’ll be big-play Young, despite him not playing much in the preseason.
Really like: Justin Blackmon, Jaguars at Vikings (a beast, no matter who’s throwing to him); Nate Washington, Titans vs. Patriots (give Locker a chance); Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders vs. Chargers (shoulder no issue this week)
Brent Celek, Eagles at Browns
While going deep might not be best option for Michael Vick on Sunday, the short routes should be there for him. Vick’s favorite target in close after LeSean McCoy has often been Celek.
Really like: Fred Davis, Redskins at Saints (could be Griffin’s go-to guy); Kyle Rudolph, Vikings vs. Jaguars (big sleeper at TE this year)
KICKERS: Shayne Graham, Texans vs. Dolphins (could be available on your waiver wire); Rob Bironas, Titans vs. Patriots (Old Reliable)
Peyton Manning, Broncos vs. Steelers
Why is everyone in love with this guy? He’s 36 years old, and he hasn’t thrown a pass in an NFL regular-season game in about 20 months. His O-line is suspect, and the Broncos’ running game is average at best. All of you people predicting a Super Bowl run in Denver (and I have heard quite a few) need to rethink a bit. And those who picked Manning as your starter … I hope you drafted a quality backup.
Also don’t like: Matt Ryan, Falcons at Chiefs (defense tougher than you think); Joe Flacco, Ravens vs. Bengals (Inconsistent Joe starts slow)
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks at Cardinals; Trent Richardson, Browns vs. Eagles
Already, there’s noise that Robert Turbin will see “significant playing time” not just this week but throughout the season. As hard a runner as Lynch is, he’ll need some rest. That especially is in order this week, as he’s dealing with back spasms. The news seems to get worse every day. Certainly, you’ll need to follow it, but as of now, I have reserved him in both my leagues. … As for Richardson, the Browns say he’s ready to go, but I can’t see them letting him go for more than 15 or so carries in Week 1 even if he is deemed to be OK.
Also don’t like: Cedric Benson, Packers vs. 49ers (pass, pass, pass); Reggie Bush, Dolphins at Texans (Which game will he go for 200, 2TDs? Not this one); Jamaal Charles, Chiefs vs. Falcons (forget hype – Hillis steals show)
A.J. Green, Bengals at Ravens; Steve Johnson, Bills at Jets
I’m not necessarily advocating sitting Green if you don’t have anyone else near his caliber. But beware this is going to be one of the toughest matchups he’ll face all year against an aging, albeit solid pass defense who is opening up at home on a Monday night. … So maybe I’m pointing out the obvious on this one, but no way I’m starting Johnson in this spot even if he had the best TD celebration of the year last season against the Jets.
Also don’t like: DeSean Jackson, Eagles at Browns (deep passes might be tough); Steve Smith, Panthers at Bucs (shocker: he’s hurt)
Aaron Hernandez, Patriots at Titans
The New England offense is a lot like the Saints, and even moreso than usual this year. I was surprised at how high Hernandez went in most drafts, where I still think Rob Gronkowski is the man at the position. Nothing wrong with Hernandez, but there are second-tier guys I still like better such as Jermaine Gresham and maybe even Kyle Rudolph and Jared Cook.
Also don’t like: Jacob Tamme, Broncos vs. Steelers (way overhyped)
KICKER: Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders vs. Chargers (sore groin ay minimum limits distance)
MY WEEK 1 LINEUPS (as of Thursday)
FINKS FOOTBALL LEAGUE (touchdown-heavy scoring, 3 pts passing TD, no PPR, 20-team keeper league with two separate conferences – which have separate drafts — of 10 teams)
Starters: MVick, ABradshaw, LMcCoy, CalJohnson, JNelson, PHarvin (flex), JFinley, Akers
Bench: CPalmer, CPonder, MLynch, RJennings, BTate, BWells, RMoss, MWallace, JGresham, NFolk
WHO DAT LEAGUE (mostly standard scoring, 6 pts passing TD, no PPR, 12-team keeper league)
Starters: MStafford, RJennings, KSmith, VCruz, ABrown, RMoss (flex), JFinley, Lions Def, GHartley
Bench: PRivers, MLynch, TRichardson, KBritt, MWilliams (TB), BWells, JCook, Saints def (don’t judge me)