Standard fantasy article intro/disclaimer: Just because a player is listed as a “Start” doesn’t mean you should necessarily play them over a player listed as a “Sit”. Sit/Start is written to supplement the weekly rankings (and to undermine Doc’s fantasy expertness by sort of disagreeing with him occasionally!), so that noteworthy players aren’t just lost in the middle of the weekly rankings. I’ll try to hit 2 or 3 in each category, but as always, feel free to ask questions about players not covered here.
Matt Ryan @ PIT — OK, test case #1. I like Matt Ryan a lot. I didn’t love him last year, but I can see him making a jump this year. Doc has him ranked #10, and I don’t really disagree with that — so why list him as a Sit? Because I don’t think this is a great matchup for him. Pittsburgh’s defensive rankings from 2009 are somewhat misleading because of injuries. Take a look at their defensive numbers when Polamalu is healthy, and suddenly this looks like a tougher nut to crack.
Joe Flacco @ NYJ — Just in case your significant other Tivo’d over Hard Knocks with her favorite Work That Room with Christopher Lowell episode (I don’t even know if that’s how Tivo works, I still own a VCR), Darrelle Revis is back. Yes, Flacco has a whole new unkindness of Ravens (look it up) to throw to, but this is Week 1 — and the operative word when discussing new, talented receivers is “new”. Uncertain chemistry + the world’s greatest defensive back = A slow start for Flacco.
Chad Henne @ BUF — No, I’m not convinced Buffalo is great is stopping the pass. But they are so terrible at stopping the run, I don’t see any reason why Henne will need to throw much at all.
Jay Cutler vs. DET — Speculation on Cutler is running wild in all directions, but regardless of his actual NFL success this year, the bottom line is that Detroit should still be a bad pass defense (Suh’s presence may add a little pressure, but he can’t cover the WR’s), and Mike Martz can still design an offense that churns out plenty of passing yards.
Kyle Orton @ JAX — Brady Quinn, Tim Tebow, who cares. Orton’s looked in-sync and decisive in the preseason, and unless Denver’s defense is markedly (and inexplicably) better than it was last year, they’ll need to pass early and often to keep up with the Jaguars.
Matt Cassel vs. SD — Okay, like Orton, not a starter in most leagues. But maybe you snagged Roethlisberger late and need a fill-in for a few weeks. SD took steps to improve their defense but there should still be plenty of yards to go around, and Cassel could benefit from some yards-after-catch from dump-offs and screens to Charles and McCluster.
Cedric Benson @ NE — Reputations are hard to escape, and the Patriots defense has long been considered an old, crafty, “bend-but-don’t-break” unit. The reality is that they have used the last couple of drafts to get much younger and faster in the middle of the field. Benson should be fresher than he was as the end of the 2009 season, but carries may be limited as the Bengals try out their revamped passing offense.
Shonn Greene vs. BAL — I like Greene, but the Ravens run D should remain fairly stout, and the Jets may be inclined to give Tomlinson more carries than he deserves.
Justin Forsett vs. SF — Julius Jones was released. Forsett was named the starter. Yay! Jones was re-signed. Carroll said Forsett was named the starter because someone has to run on the field for the first play, and carries may still be evenly split. Boo! Carroll’s making a play to surpass Kubiak as the most hated fantasy coach before the season starts. Toss in Patrick Willis and a tough SF defense and this is a shaky situation.
Jamaal Charles vs. SD — Go re-read what I wrote about Cassel, and just replace the “passing” words with “running” words. Err, and ignore the part about Roethlisberger. And McCluster. Just focus on the part that says the SD defense is probably still pretty bad.
Ricky Williams @ BUF — Nobody needs to be told to start Ronnie Brown, but I think Sticky Ricky is a worthy flex play in most non-PPR formats. The Dolphins will want to keep Brown as healthy as possible for as long as possible, so I expect Williams to get more carries early in the season, and that’s a good thing against Buffalo’s run D.
Anquan Boldin @ NYJ — Everyone hates Boldin and I’m a sheep. Doesn’t have Fitzgerald drawing coverage, doesn’t have Kurt Warner’s gloved fingers delivering bread-basket spirals, <Sportscenter voice> and-oh-by-the-way </Sportscenter voice> there’s that guy named Revis. Start Boldin and enjoy your 4 catches for 46 yards.
Brandon Marshall @ BUF — Yes, you should still start him over just about over any WR on your bench, and you can’t argue with his annual production. But Miami remains a run-first team, and they’re facing a terrible run defense. Keep expectations low.
Santana Moss vs. DAL — I think McNabb could do wonders for Moss’s numbers. Jason Campbell was serviceable but his strength was short throws to TE’s and RB’s…not hitting speedy WR’s in stride in open space downfield. If McNabb can stay upright, look for some big connections.
Malcolm Floyd @ KC — Gates can’t catch everything, right? And they probably don’t want to run a rookie RB 25 or 30 times in his first game, right? I can write this whole blurb in rhetorical questions, right? I would play Floyd over bigger name guys like Ochocinco. (Damn.)
Hines Ward vs. ATL — Mike Wallace is the big play guy, but I expect Ward to get more looks with Dixon under center.
Owen Daniels vs. IND — Health. Who knows if this is the real Owen Daniels? If you’ve invested heavily, you may be stuck with him, but I consider him a big risk in Week 1.
Chris Cooley vs. DAL — What was I going to write about Cooley? ARRGH. So frustrating. I had it ready, I could see the sentence in my head, and then I decided to write about Owen Daniels and his uncertain health and possible loss of skill after losing significant time last year and this past offseason and how you may not want to rely on him in Week 1. Oh well, I’ll think of it eventually.
Heath Miller vs. ATL — What Hines Ward doesn’t catch, Heath Miller will. Good hands, safe option for Dixon.
K(eep on scrolling, because no one needs kicker advice)
No, really. Nobody needs kicker advice every week. My guidelines: I want a guy on a league-average or better offense, facing anything but a Top 5 defense. Why? I want enough offense to avoid getting shut out entirely, and as long as it’s an average or better offense, any particular defense doesn’t really scare me (FG’s instead of XP’s? I’ll take it!) unless it’s a really studly Top 5 or better defense that could really clamp down on any scoring opportunities.
CIN Bengals @ NE — The Bengals should be a pretty reliable defense, but it may not look great in Week 1 against the Patriots. Brady is entering his second year after knee surgery, Welker is back, and Moss is possibly angry and motivated (unless he’s angry and sullen).
SD Chargers @ KC — Have you picked on my hints that I’m not terribly high on the Chargers defense?
TEN Titans vs. OAK — The Raiders are getting a lot of buzz, but let’s be honest: Jason Campbell is not a tall cool glass of Purple Drank like Jamarcus Russell, but nobody was scared of starting a defense against the Redskins last year either. Oakland’s not about to start dropping 40 points on anyone, least of all the Titans.