Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Rob Gronkowski, or to bench Ryan Tannehill and Kenny Britt? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 1 of the 2012 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons at Chiefs. He and his elite receivers have been locked-in all preseason. Kansas City may be playing without its best corner, Brandon Flowers (foot); but regardless, the Chiefs defense will be no match for this explosive air attack.
DeAngelo Williams, RB, Panthers at Buccaneers. Normally, I avoid this backfield like the plague. But Jonathan Stewart (ankle) could very well be out, leaving Cam Newton as Williams’ primary competition for carries and rushing scores. Tampa Bay’s putrid run defense makes the decision easier.
Kevin Smith, RB, Lions vs. Rams. His preseason ankle injury appears to have subsided, though it’s only a matter of time before Smith’s next nagging injury. Better start him now while Mikel Leshoure is serving the front end of his two-game suspension and Jahvid Best (concussion) is on the PUP list. The Rams’ porous run defense makes Smith a delicious flex play.
Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers at Broncos. Uncertainty in the backfield and Mike Wallace’s extended holdout should conspire to make Brown the busiest man on the field Sunday night. Already a favorite of Big Ben’s, Brown will stake his claim to the lead receiver role in Pittsburgh.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts at Bears. Chicago’s pass defense was their Achilles’ heel in 2011, and the Colts’ rushing “attack” won’t pose much of a threat to the Bears’ front four. Andrew Luck and Company will likely be playing from behind in this game, making Wayne a good prospect for trash-time production, at worst.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Schaub, Jay Cutler; RBs Michael Turner, Stevan Ridley, Doug Martin, Rashad Jennings; WRs Torrey Smith, Brandon Lloyd, Lance Moore, Pierre Garcon, Malcom Floyd, Nate Washington.
Roll ‘em back
Peyton Manning, QB, Broncos vs. Steelers. He’ll probably make me look like an idiot for doubting him, but I would be very reluctant to start Manning in his first “real” game action against the mighty Pittsburgh defense. There are lingering concerns about the nerves in his right (throwing) arm, and he’s yet to show he can consistently fling the ball deep. The Steelers know this, and they will be relentless in their pursuit of the immobile passer all Sunday night.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals at Ravens. I have high expectations for the Law Firm in Cincinnati, but the matchup in Baltimore worries me. Green-Ellis should get the bulk of the carries, and Terrell Suggs’ absence from the Ravens’ front four will help. But the Bengals’ best chance for success will rest in the passing game.
Cedric Benson, RB, Packers vs. 49ers. One of the safest start/bench calls last season was whichever RB was playing the Niners. There’s little reason to think that will change now, especially when Benson is starting his first game in Green Bay’s pass-first offense. I like the veteran’s potential this year; just not out of the gate.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens vs. Bengals. The torch is being passed in Baltimore from the veteran Boldin to the upstart Torrey Smith. Against the solid Cincinnati secondary, Boldin is unlikely to see much daylight.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers vs. Panthers. Josh Freeman struggled throughout the preseason, not to mention most of 2011, and the Bucs’ new offensive scheme is centered on the running game. Jackson has looked good in camp, but the jury is still out on the chemistry with his QB. He’s a risky start in their regular season debut.
More thumbs down: QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick, Russell Wilson, Carson Palmer, Josh Freeman, Robert Griffin III; RBs Adrian Peterson, Donald Brown, Willie McGahee, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, Beanie Wells, Montario Hardesty, Evan Royster, Rashard Mendenhall, Trent Richardson, Jonathan Stewart, LeGarrette Blount, Peyton Hillis; WRs Santonio Holmes, Sidney Rice, Greg Little, Denarius Moore, Kendall Wright.
Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Steelers at Broncos. The Steelers tailback has had an impressive preseason, and could even draw the Week 1 start, thanks to a slew of nagging injuries to presumptive starter Isaac Redman. Rashard Mendenhall (knee) is highly unlikely to suit up, leaving Dwyer in a great position to soar against Denver’s mediocre run defense.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…fails to follow the late-breaking news, including game-day inactives, prior to Sunday’s games. With several top fantasy studs likely to be game-time decisions, ignoring last-minute updates can leave you with a big fat zero in your starting lineup. I’ll be tweeting all day Sunday (www.twitter.com/ladd_biro), making sure you don’t miss a beat.