The Fantasy Corner – Week 1

FANTASY FOOTBALL, New York, September 4

BY: Andrew Wroblewski

Drawing by Arielle Dollinger; Designed by Andrew Wroblewski
Drawing by Arielle Dollinger; Designed by Andrew Wroblewski

Football is back. Let that sink in for a moment. After seven months of absence: Football is officially back.

The players we love to love – and love to hate – hit training camp earlier this summer to prepare for this week’s onslaught of opening day games. Yet while the players took to the field, you and I took to the magazines; we took to the computers; and we took to the television.

Why? For fantasy football, of course. Everybody’s favorite game where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter – OK, the rules are actually quite strict and every point “matters” – is back in full swing.

I myself have drafted my team and am prepared for another year of success – but more likely than not, heartbreak.

Despite that, I’ll be here to offer my advice for each and every week of regular season football just so you’ll be able to utter these fateful words to all of your friends on gameday: “I told you he was going to be great tonight,” you’ll say – and you can credit me for it.

So, without further ado, here are Coach RowBlessKey’s start ’ems and sit ’ems for week 1 of the ’14-’15 fantasy football season.

Start ‘Em

QB Geno Smith (NYJ) vs OAK

The only thing that tells me the New York Jets’ second-year QB Geno Smith is a bad start this week comes from personal fandom, and admittedly that’s not a good enough reason. I love the Miami Dolphins, so it hurts to say this, but I believe Smith is a top-5 QB this week. Going against an ailing Oakland Raiders’ secondary – which allowed the third-most fantasy points per week to opposing QBs in 2013 – and running a Jets’ offense that seems poised to make some noise, means Smith is in prime position to shine.

WR Marques Colston (NO) at ATL

The Saints’ WR Marques Colston saw a drop-off in production last season, but most of that can be attributed to a nagging foot injury slowing him down and a New Orleans’ offense overflowing with talent. This year, Colston could return as QB Drew Brees’ No. 1 target while defenses pay more and more attention to pro-bowl TE Jimmy Graham. Going against an Atlanta secondary that lacks experience – and which allowed more than 20 fantasy pts/g to opposing wide receivers in 2013 – makes Colston a solid start.

RB Shane Vereen (NE) at MIA

It’s no secret that the Miami Dolphins struggled against the run in 2013. In 2014, the Dolphins upgraded at defensive tackle, but with a linebacking corps that needs work the run could, once again, be an Achilles’ heel. With that, RB Shane Vereen is the Patriots’ go-to man on the ground and will see significant receiving work too.

TE Antonio Gates (SD) at ARI

Everyone is sleeping on TE Antonio Gates and I can’t quite figure out why. Sure, TE Ladarius Green is an up-and-coming player for San Diego, but he’s not the No. 1 tight end there just yet. Gates was a top-10 tight end last year and will be going against an Arizona Cardinals defense that allowed the most weekly points to opposing tight ends last year (13.61).

K Josh Brown (NYG) at DET

K Josh Brown had some big games for the Giants in 2013, but lacked the consistency to make him an everyday fantasy kicker. This year, with an offense that was less than impressive this preseason under QB Eli Manning, Brown could be called upon early and often when the Giants can’t get into the end zone in Monday night’s Detroit showdown.

D/ST Houston Texans vs WAS

No matter what you make of the Texans’ 2013 showing, one thing is certain: Houston’s defense is scary. Mix that in with the fact that Washington QB Robert Griffin III looked absolutely lost this preseason and you have a recipe for success. The Texans are still available in most leagues too, so they could be the perfect fit for a team streaming defenses.

Sit ‘Em

QB Robert Griffin III (WAS) at HOU

Did I tell you that the Houston Texans have a scary defense? I did, and in the same way you should start them, you should sit Washington QB Robert Griffin III. Yes, the Redskins have the potential to be an explosive offense – what with arguably two No. 1 receivers in WR DeSean Jackson and WR Pierre Garçon – but I’m not convinced that’ll happen with Griffin under center. With pro-bowl Houston DE J. J. Watt looming, Griffin should be riding the bench this week.

WR Michael Crabtree (SF) at DAL

Just like Washington, San Francisco’s first-team has shown trouble scoring throughout the preseason. QB Colin Kaepernick draws questions as to whether he can be an effective downfield passer despite the heaps of talent San Francisco has catching the ball. WR Michael Crabtree is one of those talented receivers, but coming off a major injury and sitting in an offense more inclined to run the ball could make Crabtree a detriment, make him a wait and see prospect.

RB Doug Martin (TB) vs CAR

Carolina’s defense was top-notch against the run last season (13.19 fantasy pp/g allowed to opposing RBs). Tampa Bay did revamp its offense in the offseason, but put the emphasis on receiver – rookie WR Mike Evans and veteran TE Brandon Myers were both added – leaving RB Doug Martin’s role in question. Let him sit for a week – if only because Carolina is built to stop the run – and look for a running back elsewhere.

TE Jordan Cameron (CLE) at PIT

Pittsburgh’s secondary only got younger this off-season, and that could help the unit that was middle-of-the-pack against opposing tight ends last season make the jump to elite. That being said, TE Jordan Cameron proved to be a surprise for most fantasy owners early on last season, but was kept mostly quiet later on in the year. Coming into a hostile Heinz Field environment with an unproven QB Brian Hoyer make Cameron a week-1 benchwarmer.

K Blair Walsh (MIN) at STL

Last year St. Louis allowed the second-least points per game to opposing kickers (6.13). While that might not mean much, the Rams’ defense hasn’t changed in 2014 and still boasts an intimidating front line with big names like DE Robert Quinn and DT Kendall Langford. These guys can stop an offense in its tracks, meaning veteran QB Matt Cassel will have to be perfect in order to get things moving downfield. Of course, he still has RB Adrian Peterson to share the load, but if – and a there’s a big emphasis on “if” there – he stalls, then Minnesota K Blair Walsh could have limited opportunities to make himself fantasy relevant.

D/ST New England Patriots at MIA

When the Dolphins’ offense clicks, it has the potential to be frightening. WR Mike Wallace is a once-in-a-generation speed threat and forces a deep safety to his side of the field each and every play. This opens up the field to other Miami receivers like WR Brian Hartline, WR Brandon Gibson and rookie WR Jarvis Landry to work in wide-open spaces with loose coverage. Along with that, Miami added 2013’s No. 5 overall fantasy running back in RB Knowshon Moreno this offseason. This game could turn into a shootout so stay away from New England this week.

Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record (Thursday, September 4, 2014;  A22)

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