Week One of the NFL season is finally here! Months and months of drafting and prepping your fantasy football teams has reached it’s end. Invite your friends over, get some charcoal for the grill, and stock your fridge full of your tastiest beverages, ‘cuz it’s gonna be a helluva ride the rest of the way.
As always, I will bring you my “Ambulance Chasers” articles each and every Wednesday during the entirety of the football season. So, while you’re sipping on a cold one, let’s go over some fantasy football players that may or may not be “on ice” this week, starting with New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski. [Jay’s Note: Because of course.]
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots: Everyone knows the legendary frat boy-esque tales of Rob Gronkowski — and his constant injury concerns are just as public. The Pats’ big tight end had off-season ACL surgery, and until yesterday, had not been cleared for Week 1. But just because he’s been deemed physically fit for the start of the season, doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to play. Gronkowski says he’s “ready to go”, but in the end, it’s the mysterious and evil coach Bill Belichick that will have the final say. I do expect Gronk to play, but it’s possible his snaps could be limited. The 6-foot-6, 265-pounder missed the Patriots’ first six games last year, and when he did return, he was on the field for only 60 percent of the plays during his first three weeks back in action. It’s not easy to bench what was likely your second, third or fourth-round pick, but I don’t consider Gronkowski an automatic start in Week 1 if you have a suitable replacement.
Cam Newton, Panthers: Carolina’s franchise QB suffered a hairline fracture in one of his ribs during the team’s third preseason game, but all signs point to him starting Week 1 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coach Ron Rivera says he’s “pretty confident” Newton will play, and I’ll take his word for it — the Panthers’ QB hasn’t missed a single game in his three-year NFL career. Owners should feel free to start Newton as usual against a Bucs’ D that ranked 17th in total defense last year. Because of the rib injury, you may not see the usual rushing stats we’ve grown accustomed to with Newton, but it also means that he should be airing it out a little bit more.
Other injured players to keep tabs on:
Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals: Last year’s third-round draft pick was off to a great rookie season when he tore his ACL and MCL in Week 14. He’s made rapid progress and coach Bruce Arians said he’d play in Week 1 as long as he got in some full practices. Mathieu is listed as the starting free safety on the Cards’ official depth chart, so it looks like he’ll be in the lineup Monday night vs. the Chargers. As long as he’s playing, “Honey Badger” is a must-start in all IDP leagues.
Steven Jackson, Falcons: The seemingly ageless (or is he aging?) Jackson didn’t even play during the preseason due to a hamstring injury, but he’ll be all-systems go for Sunday’s matchup vs. the Saints. SJ39 had his worst season last year, rushing for a career-low 543 yards over 12 games, and while that could improve a little, I don’t expect much out of the 10-year vet. The electric Devonta Freeman needs to be stashed in all formats, as the changing of the guard at running back could happen sooner rather than later in Atlanta.
Wes Welker, Broncos: Welker suffered another scary head injury this preseason, his third concussion in just 10 months, but that won’t keep him from suiting up for the Broncos matchup with the Colts — it will be his four-game suspension. Welker tested positive for MDMA, which is essentially ecstasy, and the NFL handed down a suspension that will keep him out until Week 6 vs. the Jets (they have a bye in Week 4). With all this negativity surrounding the Broncos’ newly-crowned party boy, even when he does come back, it may be best to sit Welker on your bench until you see him play a game all the way through. With Matt Prater‘s suspension, and now Welker’s, one must wonder what they are putting in the water in Denver.
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