Fantasy Football High/Low: Week 1
It is easy to look at your lineup and say, “This guy is better than that guy, so he should start.” But that’s not the recipe for fantasy success. Fantasy champions carefully adjust their lineups each week based on several mitigating factors. Bye weeks, match-ups and pure gut-feelings all play a factor in their decision to start or sit a player. It’s that type of careful analysis that leads a person to start rookie QB, Russell Wilson in Week 15 against the Bills (40 points) over his/her proven starter, Matt Ryan (27 points); giving him/her a narrow playoff upset. It’s not easy to pull the trigger on the road less traveled, starting or sitting guys you normally might not. But sometimes, in fantasy, it is necessary.
Over the years I’ve been pretty successful making these tough weekly decisions. Given my pedigree of fantasy championships, I think I’ve earned the right to say I’ve got a knack for it. As a result, I wanted to start a column where I could share my weekly beliefs and hunches with our valued readers. Giving you an inside track to the players I’m feeling really good about this week (the “highs”) and the players I’m feeling not so good about this week (the “lows”). I’m not saying you have to start T.Y. Hilton because I’m high on him and sit Calvin Johnson because I’m low on him. Sometimes a player’s low is still better than another player’s high. Jody Smith’s rankings should help with those decisions. But I am hoping this article makes you aware of the players you might want to get in or out of your lineups each week. At the very least, I hope it offers a nice escape from your work week and helps bring some fantasy success your way on Sundays.
Just to clarify, by saying I’m “high” on a player, I’m expecting him to outperform his typical expectations. Furthermore, by saying I’m “low” on a player, I simply believe that on this given Sunday, you might be disappointed in his performance. The final stats won’t meet the projections you see on your fantasy website.
Alright, here goes.
Andrew Luck, Colts (vs. Raiders)
I don’t love Andrew Luck for 2013, but I do love him for Week 1 against the Raiders. The silver and black gave up the seventh most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season. Expect Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and even Darrius Heyward-Bey (against his old team), to dominate a weak Raiders secondary. The Raiders anemic offense should give Indianapolis a ton of chances to score as well.
Tony Romo, Cowboys (vs. Giants)
Romo might be the most underrated fantasy QB entering 2013. With an ADP outside the Top 10, its clear people are undervaluing this guy. He’s been a top-10 fantasy player every year he’s started at least 13 games and is coming off a year in which he finished 7th at the position. With Miles Austin and Jason Witten healthy, and Dez Bryant playing out of his mind, Romo is poised for an even better year. This week, Romo draws the Giants. Over his last five full games against New York, Romo is averaging 350 yards passing, 3 TDs and only 1 INT. Romo typically torches the Giants. Facing a banged-up Giants secondary, this week should prove no different.
Matt Ryan, Falcons (@ Saints)
In his last trip to the Super Dome, Matt Ryan threw for 411 yards and 3 TDs. Sean Payton is back. This game stands to be an old western shootout. Expect both teams to score into the 30s and Matt Ryan to show his 2012 numbers were far from a fluke.
Cam Newton, Panthers (vs. Seahawks)
I’m sitting Cam this week to make way for Tony Romo. The Seahawks are for real and that defense is no joke. Newton hasn’t responded well to his GM’s criticisms. He was very inaccurate throughout the preseason and still carries the same red flags that have thwarted him in the past. I think Cam has the skill-set to turn it around and have another big year, but I wouldn’t expect much against Seattle’s vaunted defense.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks (@ Panthers)
On the other side of the coin, I don’t love Russell Wilson this week either. Led by Luke Kuechly, the Panthers defense is sneaky good. A strong defense, special teams and rushing attack gives the Hawks a nod in this one, but I think Russell Wilson struggles, potentially coughing up the ball a few times against a very underrated defense.
Robert Griffin III, Redskins (vs. Eagles)
He’s seeing his first real action since January. He’s wearing a knee brace that’s clearly affecting his mechanics. He’s going to be extremely jacked up on Monday night having been held back for nine months. I think Griffin’s emotions get the best of him. I think a few balls sail on him. And I think he tries to do too much. RGIII will be himself again, but not in Week 1.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots (@ Bills)
Buffalo gave up the second most points to fantasy running backs in 2012. New England averaged 137 yards per game on the ground last season. Ridley ran for 106 yards and 2 TDs and 98 yards and a TD in two meetings versus Buffalo last season. Expect a Gronkowski-, Hernandez- and Welker-less Pats team to run the ball down Buffalo’s throats and expect Ridley to be the biggest benefactor.
Steven Jackson, Falcons (@ Saints)
The only team worse than Buffalo against the run last year was the New Orleans Saints. Fantasy backs dominated the Saints in 2012. The Falcons actually chose not to ground and pound it against the Saints last season, but my gut tells me the Falcons are going to want to show off their new asset against their heated, division rival. The Saints have all kinds of problems on the defensive side of the ball. Rob Ryan won’t change that in one training camp. The Falcons will pile up points a plenty. Jackson will get his fair share. At least one TD. Guaranteed.
David Wilson, Giants (@ Cowboys)
I’ll be the first to admit Dallas’ defense looks much improved in the new 4-3 scheme. In fact, the Cowboys are my surprise division winner this year. But it’s hard to imagine David Wilson won’t find daylight at least a few times against a defensive front adjusting to a new scheme in the regular season for the first time. On Arlington’s fast track, I could see Wilson breaking at least one TD run. As a Giants fan, I hope I’m right.
Giovani Bernard, Bengals (@ Bears)
Gio has a bright future with the Bengals offense, but expect them to ease him into the mix. He’ll see some touches, but they’ll be limited. Urlacher may be gone, but the Bears still have a very strong defensive squad. Chicago ranked #1 against the run from a fantasy perspective in 2012. Bernard may break out at some point, but not this soon.
LeSean McCoy, Eagles (@ Redskins)
This might be my boldest low of the week, but I’m standing by it. The Redskins defense was quietly one of the strongest in the league last year. In my opinion, it’s ultimately what gave them the edge in the NFC East. The Skins were ninth in fantasy against the run in 2012. Against Shady McCoy, they were even better; limiting him to just 45 yards on the ground twice. McCoy did eclipse the century mark in total yards with two, 67+ yard performances in the passing game, but he never found the end zone and did lose a fumble in one of the contests. I think the Redskins keep him at bay once again.
Reggie Wayne & T.Y. Hilton, Colts (vs. Raiders)
For all the reasons I’m high on Andrew Luck at quarterback this week, the same holds true for Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton. I get the feeling the Raiders are going to be a punching bag all season long.
Dez Bryant & Miles Austin, Cowboys (vs. Giants)
Austin has caught for at least 100 yards or scored a TD in 5 of the last 7 games against the G-Men. When healthy, he always seems to give the Giants problems. Dez, on the other hand, is playing out of his mind right now. His seven week fantasy stretch to close out 2012 was one of the more impressive runs I can ever remember seeing from a fantasy WR. This preseason, he looks just as lethal. The Giants secondary is in rough shape. I think both of these guys light them up.
Julio Jones, Falcons (@ Saints)
See Ryan, Matt above.
Andre Johnson, Texans (@ Chargers)
Johnson is too difficult a match-up for an average Chargers secondary. He too was dominant down the stretch of 2012 and I expect that to carry over into 2013. Don’t be surprised to see a classic Andre Johnson performance of 150+ yards and 0 scores.
Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers (@ Jets)
I feel like the Jets might pull one of those “nobody believes in us”-type games out of their ass on Sunday. We love to knock on them, but Rex Ryan always produces a top-10 defensive squad. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think the Jets could walk away with a 14-13 victory in this one. Antonio Cromartie really stepped up when Darrelle Revis went down last season. Cromartie’s length, physicality and speed could encourage a difficult outing for Vincent Jackson in Week 1.
Steve Smith, Panthers (@ Seahawks)
Seattle boasts one of the strongest secondaries in the NFL. In fact, they gave up the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in 2012. With Newton looking inaccurate and out of sync in the preseason, there’s cause for much concern about Steve Smith in Week 1.
Tavon Austin, Rams (@ Cardinals)
The Cardinals were a top-10 defense against wide receivers in fantasy last season. Patrick Peterson has quickly emerged as one of the top defensive backs in all of the game. Early reports out of Arizona suggest Tyrann Mathieu has a bright future ahead of himself as well. With these guys locking down Rams receivers, don’t expect the “greatest show on turf” to be reincarnated in St. Louis just yet.
Jason Witten, Cowboys (vs. Giants)
I’m pouring on the Cowboy love right now, but it needs to be done. Jason Witten had 18 catches for 167 yards the last time these teams met. You heard me right. 18 catches for 167 yards…in one game. The Giants have never had an answer for Witten. With their weak linebacker core and hobbled secondary that remains true this week.
Zach Sudfeld, Patriots (@ Bills)
Sudfeld is expected to have a major role in the Pats offense while Gronkowski is sidelined. There’s no reason to think Tom won’t keep him involved against a weak Bills defense. This contest has rout written all over it. Make this guy a part of your lineup while Gronk is still gone.
Jared Cook, Rams (vs. Cardinals)
I’m just not sold on Jared Cook yet. Everyone was quick to jump on his bandwagon after he made the move to St. Louis, but I still think he’s got something to prove. As I mentioned before, Arizona is solid against the pass. Until he really wows me, I don’t really love this guy.
Jermichael Finley, Packers (@ 49ers)
Green Bay has praised Finley’s efforts this offseason, but he too has a lot to prove. For years we’ve seen him underachieve. His heart has been questioned, his hands have been shaky. I’ll believe he’s much improved when I see it. San Francisco’s stout defense will make sure I don’t see it in Week 1.
New England Patriots (@ Buffalo)
The Bills currently carry two QBs on their roster: Jeff Tuel and E.J. Manuel. Either way the Patriots are matched up against a rookie quarterback in his first career NFL start. New England has its fair share of playmakers on defense. Expect them to dominate the turnover battle and win this one going away.
Indianapolis Colts (vs. Oakland)
Whether Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor starts, the Raiders are in trouble. Indianapolis’ defense is mediocre, but the Oakland offensive line is atrocious. Expect the Colts to get after the quarterback in a hurry. If they can pile up the sacks and force a few turnovers along the way, they’ll have a huge fantasy day.
Baltimore Ravens (@ Denver)
I like the retooled Ravens defense, but I don’t love the matchup. The Ravens are going to be kicking the Orioles for preventing them from defending their title at home, because the Broncos are ready for their revenge at Mile High. Expect the Broncos to pour on the points in a shootout.
Atlanta Falcons (@ New Orleans)
Atlanta’s defense is underrated, but they’re running into an elite offense on the road, getting its brilliant play-caller back. I see both teams eclipsing 27 points. Stay away from the Falcons defense in Week 1.
Don’t forget to check out Jody Smith’s rankings before you submit your lineups on Sunday. Just because I’m high on a guy or low on a guy, doesn’t mean you should start them or sit them. See where they land in Jody’s rankings for the final word on game day.
Best of luck to all this year.
Follow me on Twitter: @TalbotTalks
Bob, a Quinnipiac grad, is an avid sports fan and fantasy enthusiast. Currently resides in the professional sport-less state of Connecticut, but will never forget his roots in the great state of New Jersey.