September 11, 2009

The RotoExperts Staff looks ahead to Week One, with lineup recommendations for every game.

This game will be a fantasy footballer's dream. When it's in the books, these teams could combine for over 1,000 yards and 10 scores. Suffice to say that the only players who were drafted in standards leagues that shouldn't be starting for your teams are the ones who are injured -- namely Saints RB Pierre Thomas. Although I expect great things from the Matt Stafford-Calvin Johnson connection, Stafford isn't likely to be found on fantasy rosters unless it's a two-QB format, in which case I'd say to take as shot. As for "Megatron" and second-year back Kevin Smith -- go for it. There aren't too many NFL defenses that simply lay down once their offense gets a 20-point lead, but the Saints are one of them -- mainly because their greedy offense is clamoring to get back on the field. Don't over think this one, just roll the dice with as many starters as possible and don't look back. -- Antonio D'Arcangelis

STANDOUT STARTS: Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Mike Bell, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Kevin Smith

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Matt Stafford, Pierre Thomas (INJ) and both defenses

Last year, it was a tale of two performances for QB Peyton Manning against the AFC South rival Jaguars. In the first matchup, he was held to 216 yards passing with two INTs and just one score. But by Week 16, Manning was in his groove, slinging three TD passes to go with 364 yards through the air. David Garrard's numbers in the first matchup were similarly brutal, but he came around for two scores and over 300 yards passing in the second go-round. I think we're going to see a switcheroo this time, with Manning and the Colts offense ditching the run and focusing on an aerial assault, and the Jags playing catch-up. I'm not sure who the better play is right now for Indy at RB, so forego both for better options. Surely Maurice Jones-Drew will be involved for Jacksonville, but his impact will be felt through a combination of run and pass. Don't worry about his lack of preseason action. Garrard's prospects in '09 are good with veteran WR Torry Holt in his arsenal. -- AD

STANDOUT STARTS: David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew, Torry Holt, Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez, Dallas Clark

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Colts DEF, Jags DEF

Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's new 3-4 (and recently announced plans of an occasional 4-6, the defense his dad, Buddy, made famous in Chicago) has fans in Cleveland mildly giddy. The inconsistencies in the unit's personnel should be easily exploited, however, by Minnesota's powerful running game and explosive new passing attack. Despite Brett Favre's claims that he's not 100 percent and won't play out the season, start him and reap the benefits of this matchup. It should be a field day for Favre, RB Adrian Peterson, WR Bernard Berrian and even TE Visanthe Shiancoe. I'd like a glance or two at rookie WR Percy Harvin in real-game action before I plug him into the lineup, and I'm just not sure how many targets will be left for Sidney Rice. As for the Browns -- who just announced that Brady Quinn will be their starting QB -- the viable fantasy options are limited to WR Braylon Edwards, who could find some space in garbage time. Don't buy into rookie RB James Davis until he officially supplants Jamal Lewis and faces an easier wall to penetrate. -- AD

STANDOUT STARTS: All Minnesota offensive starters except Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice, Vikings DEF

BANISH TO THE BENCH: All Cleveland offensive starters except Braylon Edwards, Browns DEF

Matt Cassel is pushing to return from a strained MCL, but his status is still in doubt. If he's unable to go, Brodie Croyle would get the nod over Tyler Thigpen. Neither should be anywhere near a starting lineup in their Week 1 matchup against the Ravens. The uncertainty on offense coupled with the unappealing matchup, pretty much renders everyone on the Chiefs useless. Dwayne Bowe can still be used as a WR2, and Larry Johnson could have Flex value if he accidentally stumbles into the end zone, but other than that, there's nobody of relevance. The Ravens, on the other hand, are facing a Chiefs unit that finished 31st in total defense last season, and are in the process of learning a new system. Joe Flacco was a lower tier fantasy backup last season, but has gained some serious sleeper buzz. He's a reasonable starting option this week, as is his favorite target Derrick Mason. The RB situation is a bit murky, but it's expected that Ray Rice will get a majority of touches. He's a nice RB2 play, especially in PPR leagues, while Willis McGahee and LeRonMcClain will be virtually unusable as secondary options. -- Chris Ryan

STANDOUT STARTS: Joe Flacco, Derrick Mason, Ray Rice


Brandon Marshall has been on his best behavior since being reactivated, and he'll team with Eddie Royal to form a startable duo against the Bengals. Assuming, that is, there's a Denver QB healthy enough to get them the ball. Kyle Orton has been practicing with a glove to protect his dislocated finger, and his backup, Chris Simms, is hobbled by a high ankle sprain. Neither should be considered a starter this week. Correll Buckhalter, not the ailing Knowshon Moreno, will be the primary runner in the Broncos backfield, while Peyton Hillis will be deployed in a variety of ways. Both could make for a good RB3 play against the subpar Bengals defense. As long as Carson Palmer -- a must start this week -- is healthy, Chad Ochocinco should have no trouble putting up WR1 numbers, and Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry are fine options in any league that deviates from standard roster sizes. Based on his strong finish and lack of a complimentary back, Cedric Benson has earned the right to be called an RB2, and should be treated as such by fantasy owners. -- CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Brandon Marshall, Carson Palmer, Chad Ochocinco


With the ongoing Achilles injury to Jonathan Stewart (he'll play, but not enough to warrant a starting nod), and the overall ineffectiveness of Jake Delhomme, the Panthers have but two worthy fantasy options heading into Week One; DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith. Of course, both are no-brainer starts who should have no trouble living up to their draft status. The Eagles are a bit more complicated. Brian Westbrook enters the game as healthy as he'll ever be, preventing LeSean McCoy from establishing himself on the scene, but ensuring that Westbrook is a Top 10 back this week. DeSean Jackson leads an intriguing group of wideouts that includes Kevin Curtis and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson is a nice high-yardage guy to consider as a WR2, and Curtis has the makings of being a sleeper candidate in the flex role. Make Maclin show you something before plugging him into your lineup. No matter who ends up catching the passes -- don't forget about Brent Celek -- Donovan McNabb is sure to end as one of the week's most fantasy productive QB's. -- CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Brian Westbrook, Donovan McNabb, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy

Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker are fully healthy, meaning the trio that set the league on fire two seasons ago is back. No matter how you slice it, Moss is a bonafide top-tier wide receiver, and if you get points for receptions, so is Welker. I wouldn't trust any of the other receiving options just yet, but both Benjamin Watson and Joey Galloway could factor heavily on the fantasy landscape this season. At running back, it looks as if Fred Taylor is the starter, but count on Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris (if he's healthy) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis to at least get a sampling of touches. None are worthy of your lust this week. Until Trent Edwards proves he can properly utilize Terrell Owens and Lee Evans, he shouldn't be counted on. As for Owens and Evans, this first week will tell a lot about how the Bills plan on using them, but in the meantime, consider Owens a high-end WR2, and Evans a high-end WR3. With the release of Dominic Rhodes and suspension of Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson will be the lone man in the backfield for the Bills. His value will be higher in PPR leagues, but owners in all formats should consider giving Jackson a spot-start if they're hurting at the position. -- CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Fred Jackson

BANISH TO THE BENCH: All New England running backs, Joey Galloway, Trent Edwards

Matt Ryan threw a 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on his first pass in his professional opening game. Don't expect that to happen, especially with Miami having the third-best pass defense this preseason. Ryan will have an average day, because Atlanta will dose out a heavy serving of Michael Turner as the Falcons had the second-best rushing attack last year. We'll figure conservatively on a 100-yard day and a touchdown. The only reason why Turner might not have a big game is because the Atlanta defense looked horrible this preseason and finished 27th during the "summer season". Start Ronnie Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., and Chad Pennington with confidence, as each should contribute some kind of touchdown. Granted, I would start Tony Gonzalez any week, but I'd feel really good about it this week as Gonzalez scored a touchdown against Miami last year as well. -- Mark Strausberg

STANDOUT STARTS: Tony Gonzalez, Ted Ginn Jr. Ronnie Brown, Chad Pennington


Yes, the Rams have tasted defeat the last eight times these two teams met. That is no reason to sit Steven Jackson. He should have at least 80 yards and a touchdown. When these two teams last tussled, Marc Bulger completed 19-of-32 passes for 207 yards and a TD. Expect about the same. Laurent Robinson is coming off an excellent preseason where he averaged nearly a first down per catch. Expect his momentum to continue, especially if Donnie Avery is out. Even if Avery does play, it's doubtful he'll be at full strength. Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck begins his Comeback Player of the Year tour for 2009. Look for "Hass" to prove his skeptics wrong as he tosses two touchdowns and nearly hits the 300 yard mark. John Carlson should also have a strong game, having caught five passes for 76 yards last time he faced the Rams. Julius Jones also owned the Rams the last time he saw them in Seattle. Jones rushed for 140 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown, but in their most recent game, he managed just 18 yards on four carries. When Jones gets carries at least 22 times, he averages 108.6 per game. Edgerrin James will steal any goal-line carries, but expect Jones to top 100 yards. - MS

STANDOUT START: Laurent Robinson, John Carlson


John Fox loves to grind it out on the ground and Andy Reid loves to go aerial. Expect both coaches to start off in character. The Philadelphia defense is coming off a lackluster preseason though, so expect a strong game from DeAngelo Williams, as Fox tries to keep the ball out of Donovan McNabb's hands. Expect Philly to be in catch-up mode, so I'd be surprised to see DeSean Jackson with fewer than 60 yards. Brian Westbrook will have his share of catches, but he'll have fewer than 100 yards rushing. Jake Delhomme will have far fewer interceptions than he did in his last game that mattered (remember last year's divisional playoff game where Jake was handing out interceptions like it was candy on Halloween?). But I would still keep my expectations low, as it will be the ground game keeping the Eagles down. -- MS

STANDOUT START: DeAngelo Williams


Every year I predict this game will be a "desert shoot-out" with a combined score around 70, and every time I'm wrong. Rather than predict what will happen, I'll let you make the decisions based on what has happened. I'll start with probably the most surprising of them all -- Vernon Davis catches touchdowns against the Cardinals. In his only game against the Cardinals last year, Shaun Hill completed just 19 of his 40 attempts, including two interceptions, but also had two touchdown passes. He was outplayed by his veteran counterpart, as Kurt Warner threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns. Tim Hightower had only 35 total rushing yards and 84 combined yards in his two matchups against San Francisco, but did have one of his ten touchdowns against them. Meanwhile, Frank Gore had nearly 100 yards rushing in each of his games against the Cardinals last year. It's a waste of time to discuss what San Francisco's wideouts did in last year's battles with their division opponents, but Steve Breaston had seven catches for 124 yards last time these teams met and Anquan Boldin had nearly 100 yards and two touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald did score however in the first game against San Francisco, but only had 31 receiving yards. -- MS

STANDOUT STARTS: Anquan Boldin, Kurt Warner, Steve Breaston


The Bucs have a respectable secondary, but that won't stop from firing footballs all over Raymond James Stadium. In an effort to prove he doesn't need Terrell Owens, Romo will attempt at least 30 passes, winding up with two touchdowns and 300 yards. Roy Williams slides into the No. 1 wide receiver role and will be Romo's top target. He was limited in the preseason, so temper expectation in this matchup. Expect at least 75 yards, but don't count on a touchdown. Patrick Crayton gets another chance to prove himself and will start the season in prime form, catching five catches for 80 yards and a score. Romo will waste no time finding Jason Witten, as he tops 90 yards and a touchdown. Marion Barber starts the season healthy, so count on 100 total yards and a score. Felix Jones will spell Barber often, accumulating 75 total yards. Simply put, Byron Leftwich will struggle. He is one-week into a new offensive coordinator and hasn't started a game since Week 11 of the 2007-08 season. Anything more than 200 yards and a touchdown would be a surprise. This leaves Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton as questionable plays. Both have been injured during the preseason, so 75 yards from each is reasonable. Kellen Winslow will sneak in a red zone score and 50 yards. The running-back-by-committee approach in Tampa forces fantasy owners to reconsider starting Cadillac Williams, Derrick Ward, or Earnest Graham. Williams may get a goal-line score, but none will top 60 yards. -- Brad Rysz

STANDOUT STARTS: Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Kellen Winslow

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Antonio Bryant, Derrick Ward

Jason Campbell has a lot to prove this season, but will have a tough time against the Giants defense. Last season, Campbell threw for only one touchdown in two games against the Giants, and averaged only 182.5 yards per game. He should be a bit more comfortable with the offense, so 200 yards and a touchdown is a solid expectation. Santana Moss is a quick starter, so expect a majority of that action to go his way. Moss makes a great WR2 start as he will go for 100 and a score. It's still unclear who will emerge between Antwaan Randle El, Devin Thomas, and Malcolm Kelly, so all three should be on fantasy benches. Chris Cooley will continue to be a reliable tight end, catching five passes for 60 yards. Clinton Portis failed to top 100 yards against the Giants both times in '08, and this year should be no different. Portis will get 20 carries, so 80 yards and a score is realistic. Eli Manning has to figure out who his reliable wide receivers will be, which should lead to an inconsistent performance. He'll get his yards (200-plus yards), but a touchdown and a few interceptions are in the cards. Domenik Hixon will get the first chance, and makes for a sleeper start this week. He will find the end zone and catch five passes for 60 yards. Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith will also gain at least 50 yards receiving, though neither should be started, even in three-wide receiver leagues. Kevin Boss will maintain his status as Manning's last-ditch option, catching four passes for 40 yards. Brandon Jacobs will wear down the Redskins line, rushing for 100 yards and a score. Ahmad Bradshaw will fill in routinely and accumulate 60 total yards. -- BR

STANDOUT STARTS: Santana Moss, Domenik Hixon


Jay Cutler's first start as a Bear comes in the hostile environment of Lambeau Field. The Packers secondary is very aggressive, leading to many big plays and a handful of turnovers. Cutler will throw for 230 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He's a low-end fantasy starter in standard leagues. Devin Hester finally gets a strong-armed quarterback and will be a legitimate WR2 play against the Packers. He will catch a long score and finish with 100 yards. Earl Bennett is a WR3 in PPR leagues, catching six passes for 60 yards. Cutler's favorite target will be Greg Olsen, who will catch a touchdown in addition to five passes and 70 yards. Matt Forte's sophomore season will start with a bang as he reaches 130 total yards and a score against an inconsistent Packers front line. Aaron Rodgers was one of the preseason's top performers, and it will continue against a Bears' secondary that is raw and inexperienced. He will carve them up for 300 yards and two scores. One of those touchdowns will go to his favorite target, Greg Jennings. Jennings will also exceed the 100-yard mark. Donald Driver is an old reliable and will catch four passes for 65 yards and a score. Consider Driver a WR3. James Jones has upside, but it will be a few weeks before his role is determined. Keep him on the bench this week. Jermichael Finley will prove he is worth the hype and catch four passes for 60 yards. Ryan Grant couldn't find the end zone last season, but that will change this year. The Bears defense will limit him to 80 yards on the ground, but he's a good candidate for a goal-line score. -- BR

STANDOUT STARTS: Greg Olsen, Devin Hester, Ryan Grant


Philip Rivers joined the fantasy elite during the '08-'09 season and he gets one of the NFL's worst defenses to start the '09-'10 campaign. Rivers will throw for 300 yards and two touchdowns before the Chargers start running the clock out. Vincent Jackson will take another step forward, catching seven passes for 115 yards and a score. VJax is a high-end WR2 this week. Chris Chambers is in a contract year, so you can count on some production from him. It'll start this week with 75 yards and a score. Chambers is a solid sleeper option in three-wide out leagues. Antonio Gates is healthy and ready to put last season behind him. Gates will top 70 yards this week, but fail to find the end zone as the Raiders focus on shutting him down. LaDainian Tomlinson has a lot to prove, and has a nice opportunity against the Raiders. LT will go for 110 total yards and two scores. Darren Sproles will also get his, totaling 65 yards and a score. The JaMarcus Russell experiment continues in Oakland and it won't be pretty in Week 1. The Chargers will bring intense pressure and force Russell to count on his rookie wide receivers. The result will be 185 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bay get their first NFL action, going for 60 yards apiece. Zach Miller has been Russell's favorite target and will continue that trend. Count on 50 yards from Miller. Darren McFadden is likely to get the majority of the carries for the Raiders and will show his pre-NFL speed and quickness, rushing for 85 yards and a score. McFadden is a borderline RB2 this week. Michael Bush will see a handful of carries and total 35 yards. -- BR

STANDOUT STARTS: Chris Chambers, Darren Sproles


For more lineup advice in your fantasy playoffs, consult the Ask the Experts section in the RotoExperts forums.

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