Eric Mack
Wednesday September 7th, 2011

Kickoff Weekend is always the easiest one to set your lineup. After all, we are like children on Christmas morning finally getting to play with our new toys.

Week 1 is about starting the players you drafted to lead your team this season. The tough decisions are at a minimum -- enjoy that short-lived respite. There are no bye weeks, injuries are minimal -- save for Peyton Manning being a fantasy pain in the neck -- and we aren't yet led astray by the one-week waiver-wire wonders.

There are bound to be some surprises (Eli Manning, Kenny Britt, Beanie Wells and Colt McCoy) and disappointments (Felix Jones, Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower), as always. Also, some of the players this writer was a little down on (Jamaal Charles, Darren McFadden and DeAngelo Williams) will star, while some we were excited about (Sam Bradford and Jay Cutler) will struggle this one week.

Here is SI.com's Start 'em and Sit 'em, which will be broken down game-by-game every Wednesday of the season:

Start

James Starks has earned at least a share of the touches with starter Ryan Grant, which makes both suggested starts against a Saints defense that was middle of the pack against the run. The Packers even went so far to say the split is going to be 50-50. Grant is the slightly better play, but Starks should be productive enough to use as a flex player.

If there was any one area in which the Packers D/ST struggled last season, it was against the tight end. The Pack gave up the eighth-most points in fantasy against TEs. That is enough to consider 2010 breakthrough candidate Jimmy Graham a starter in Week 1 lineups.

Sit

Naturally, most everyone's No. 1 quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is assigned to face the No. 1 team in fantasy against QBs and RBs last season, the Saints. And they still have a very good secondary, which makes the secondary targets in the Packers offense sits: James Jones, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson. Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley are the only advisable starts.

The Packers are one of the top run defenses in the NFL, so going with rookie Mark Ingram, or the Saints' actual starting RB Pierre Thomas, is not advisable. The uncertainty of whom is getting the majority of the goal-line touches makes them tough to go with outside of the flex spot. You should have an option on your roster with a much better matchup.

The Saints offense isn't scary enough to sit the Packers D/ST. This was an elite unit against QBs and WRs, too, so you should probably sit the likes of Robert Meachem and Lance Moore.

Start

After two elite offenses face each other in the opener, this is a matchup of two elite D/STs. Both should remain active, even if both teams are good at avoiding turnovers. This division game tends to be played very close to the vest.

Despite the matchup of top-three run defenses, that shouldn't have you sitting first-round backs Ray Rice or Rashard Mendenhall ...

Sit

... but their backups -- Ricky Williams and Isaac Redman -- will clearly be bad plays this week.

The same goes for the particulars in each respective passing game. Mike Wallace and Anquan Boldin start, while the secondary options -- like Lee Evans, Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller -- sit. The QBs don't have a good matchup, but they are good enough to still use if you didn't draft a backup with a favorable matchup.

Or cut 'em ... You drafted these kickers because they are on teams that will rely on field goals, but you failed to notice the Week 1 schedule, in which the field goals are going to be fewer and farther between. Billy Cundiff and Shaun Suisham are disposable this week.

Start

LeGarrette Blount has one of the best matchups of Week 1. The Lions, although they should be improved against the run this offseason, were still abused by RBs a year ago. Jahvid Best's matchup is also favorable here.

You might not have picked Josh Freeman as your starting QB; he could be your second option. But if you cannot trust him at home against the Lions, who do you anticipate using him against? The same goes for the Lions' tight ends -- Brandon Pettigrew over Tony Scheffler -- if you need a fringe option at the position.

Sit

The Bucs allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards last season, which should be enough to sit Matthew Stafford in one-quarterback leagues. The Bucs aren't the scariest of opponents Stafford will face this season, but you should have drafted Stafford as your backup QB regardless.

Start

If there is one area the elite cornerbacks won't directly help the Eagles, it will be against tight ends. That mostly falls on the linebackers and safeties. Rookie Lance Kendricks is coming off a big preseason and is facing the team that was the worst in fantasy against tight ends a year ago, allowing a league-high 11 TDs.

Somehow the Eagles look like they will have Jeremy Maclin (illness) and Steve Smith (knee). Maclin is fine to start, while Smith isn't. He will be worked into the system very slowly out of the gate.

Sit

Sam Bradford should be in the same boat as the Lions' Stafford. You shouldn't have picked him as your lone option at the position. This is a good week to avoid him. That Eagles secondary should be plenty improved from a year ago, when it was sixth-worst against QBs in fantasy. They should be a top-10 team to avoid quarterbacks against now with the addition of Nnamdi Asomugha.

The same goes for all of the hodgepodge Rams receivers. Pick one, if you did on draft day, and sit 'em.

Start

Everyone. There isn't a compelling reason to sit anyone you might have drafted to start from these teams, including Thomas Jones. Jones is more than merely Jamaal Charles' touchdown vulture in this one. The Bills were easily the worst rushing defense in the NFL last season. It should be a great week for the Chiefs backs, especially since Matt Cassel will be protecting a cracked rib.

Sit

Cassel is another QB that is good enough to start in some weeks, and this looks like a great matchup for him if he was healthy, but a cracked rib is enough to sit him in this one. Go with the QB you drafted to start for you. If Cassel's your only option, he should do enough to hold serve.

Start

Kenny Britt has dodged suspension and a hamstring ailment in time for arguably his best matchup of the season. The Jags were one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. He should develop an instant rapport with Matt Hasselbeck. Use Hasselbeck, too, if you're looking for a fringe QB. He is going to get off to a good start.

You should obviously keep Chris Johnson in your starting lineup sight unseen this preseason, but Javon Ringer is also a viable play this week, too. The Jags were bottom five against RBs, too, and Johnson won't be asked to go over 20 carries. It should be a busy day for both running games in this one.

Sit

Don't sit Marcedes Lewis because of it, but the switch to Luke McCown as the starting QB after David Garrard's sudden release make the Jags' receiving options less intriguing out of the gate. It really only applies to sitting Mike Thomas right now.

Sit

Everyone was hoping Manning wouldn't be a pain in the neck out of the gate, because this matchup had 300 yards and four touchdowns written all over it. Instead, Kerry Collins is going to throw for about 200 yards and two scores; he's about half as good as Manning. It isn't quite enough to start Collins here.

Austin Collie (foot) has been just too banged up. The Colts QB situation isn't as discouraging as Collie's health right now.

Start

Everyone else. There just isn't enough defense here, even the secondary options make decent starts.

Start

You could not have guessed the Bengals D/ST was third in fantasy against QBs last season. Colt McCoy and the Browns are going to throw the ball well this season. McCoy can be the surprise player of the week.

D/STs against rookie quarterbacks are gold for fantasy owners, especially rookies making their first start. You can like Andy Dalton long term as much as you want, but you should be liking the D/STs facing him this season far more. The Browns are a nice sleeper start this week, say if you have the Saints D/ST facing the Packers, the Bears D/ST facing the Falcons, Dolphins D/ST facing the Patriots or the Vikings D/ST facing the Chargers.

Sit

You drafted Cedric Benson, so you shouldn't actually sit him here, but only the Steelers, Packers and Ravens gave up fewer rushing touchdowns last season. You made a mistake drafting Benson and you're not going to like what you see in one of his few seemingly promising matchups of the season.

Start

The Falcons D/ST doesn't get enough love in fantasy. They are a viable regular start for owners, yet might be available in some leagues. A road game against a team that was one good drive away from the NFC title and the Super Bowl might seem like a bad time to use a fringy option like the Falcons, but Jay Cutler is error-prone and the Bears were the fourth-worst in fantasy against D/STs last season.

Sit

These are two of the best run defenses in the NFL. That is not enough to sit Michael Turner or Matt Forte, but you should definitely avoid their backups Jason Snelling, Marion Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers.

On the exact opposite side of the ledger, the Falcons were one of the most careful teams with the ball last year. The Bears won't get turnovers in this one and only a Manning was sacked fewer times than Matt Ryan a season ago. The Falcons did give up a kick return last season, but they are a top contender that pays attention to detail. Devin Hester isn't going to be allowed to impact this game with a return.

Start

Like all the teams in the quarterback-heavy NFC East, the Redskins were bad against QBs in fantasy year ago. Only the Texans and Cowboys were worse. So, welcome back to fantasy's good graces -- if only for a week -- Eli Manning. Everyone hates him for his turnovers and injury-riddled supporting cast. Everyone forgets Manning tends to surprise us. He had two of his worst games against the Redskins last season, but LaRon Landry (Achilles' and hamstring) is going to be inactive.

The Giants D/ST likely was drafted as a fringe starter. This is a good week to use them. The pass rush is still there and whomever starts at QB for the Redskins is going to make some mistakes against a defense forces a lot of turnovers, especially in the way of sack-fumbles.

Sit

And because everyone thinks they know everything after the preseason -- Eli is terrible and Tim Hightower is the greatest back since John Riggins -- we are going to go ahead and tell you to sit Hightower. The Giants gave up the fourth-fewest rushing yards a season ago. Sure, the defense is banged up with injury, but that defensive line is still stout. Hightower figures to disappoint you this week, and this season in general.

Start

Bad quarterback play in this one makes both D/ST viable sleepers if you want to use a waiver option in Week 1. Go with the home team over the road one, but both should be productive enough to use if you didn't draft an elite D/ST.

Sit

Michael Crabtree and Sidney Rice are two of the most talented receivers in the league, potentially. They are also two of the most banged up and play in offenses with two of the worst starting quarterbacks. Sit Crabtree and Rice. Heck, you might need to count on doing that for weeks, for more than just injury questions.

Sit

Marshawn Lynch is one of the more unheralded starting backs in fantasy, but he shouldn't be starting for you this week. The 49ers were top five against the run and top 10 against RBs in fantasy last season. Lynch has a bad QB and an unfavorable first matchup.

Start

The Vikings were the second-worst team in fantasy against D/ST -- mostly due to Brett Favre. Donovan McNabb will limit the turnovers more, but the Chargers D/ST is still too promising to sit.

Sit

The Vikings defense is better than it looked last season but it is going to be a terrible play against the Chargers offense, obviously. On the flip side ...

The Chargers were also second to the Saints against QBs and WRs a year ago. You can start Percy Harvin as a matter of form, but McNabb and the rest of the Vikings features in the passing game have to be avoided.

Start

Beanie Wells and DeAngelo Williams weren't the top of anyone's wish lists this preseason, but they are both going to be among the leaders in fantasy scoring at their positions. The Cardinals were second-worst and the Panthers the sixth-worst in fantasy against RBs. It is enough to start Jonathan Stewart as a flex, too.

Again, D/STs against rookie starting QBs are goldmines. The Cardinals just happened to be one of the best fantasy units a season ago because of all the bad QBs they faced. They get a raw Cam Newton here, making their D/ST a viable start in a standard league.

The Panthers figure to use the tight end frequently, and the Cardinals were a bottom-10 team against them. Greg Olsen is a solid play here.

Sit

Steve Smith showed so little last season, he is no longer an every week start. He might even be a no-week starter with the new QB.

Start

QB Mark Sanchez should do well against a Cowboys defense that gave up the second-most fantasy points to opposing QBs last season.

Sit

So much for Felix Jones being a breakout player of the year. He could be a breakdown player of Week 1. The Jets defense beats up running backs. Sit Jones.

The Cowboy defense gets way more credit than it deserves annually. It is worse now with Rob Ryan as the coordinator. The hype exceeds the production. Sit the Cowboys D/ST against the error-cautious Jets.

Start

Chad Henne might not be exciting, but a semi-rebuilt Pats secondary offers a good chance to try out Davone Bess -- particularly in PPR leagues. The Pats are going to be a fast-break offense, and the Dolphins are going to be throwing from behind in this one. Brandon Marshall, Bess, Anthony Fasano and maybe even Henne will have productive enough days to be useful in any league. This all won't be enough to sit the Pats D/ST, though. You should still expect sacks and turnovers.

Sit

The Dolphins D/ST has promise, but you don't want to mess with this Pats offense. Tom Brady, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are going to be active in almost all leagues for good reasons.

Daniel Thomas is going to be the ground-pounder, but we figure the Dolphins' success in this one will come via the air. Reggie Bush can remain active as a receiver out of the backfield.

Start

The Broncos were the worst team in fantasy against RBs, mostly because of how the Raiders gashed them with Darren McFadden last year. It makes Michael Bush a decent flex option this week.

Knowshon Moreno didn't get much love early in drafts, but he should have a nice first game here. The Raiders were bottom-10 in fantasy against RBs last season and the Broncos figure to focus their efforts more on the ground this year under John Fox.

Sit

The Raiders no longer have Asomugha, but Kyle Orton no longer plays under Josh McDaniels. Trusting Orton out of the gate is a bit sketchy. He won't get off to the torrid start he was off to last year.

Eric Mack writes the Start 'em, Sit 'em every week for SI.com and will also outline all the news and nuggets game-by-game of the NFL season in his Fantasy Football Fast Forward. If you need a further clarification on lineups this week hit him up on Twitter. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.