Wondering whether or not to start Andrew Luck and Adrian Peterson, or to bench Brian Hoyer and Tavon Austin? 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 2015 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Carson Palmer, QB, Cardinals vs. Saints. This contest sets up as a shootout, though Palmer may be slinging it without starting wideout Michael Floyd (fingers). Despite the favorable rushing matchup, Palmer will have to carry a big load to keep pace with Drew Brees & Co. Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown will do their parts.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers at Jaguars. I have plenty of concerns about J-Stew’s durability for the season, but at least he’s healthy heading into the opener. And given the sorry state of Carolina’s receiver corps, and the soft underbelly of the Jacksonville defense, Stewart should find plenty of room to roam on Sunday.
Chris Ivory, RB, Jets vs. Browns. Here’s another RB that I had no intention of drafting, yet he’s poised for great success against the worst run defense in the league in 2014. Ivory has no real competition for carries, and there are plenty of concerns about the Jets’ passing game. For one week at least, Ivory should shine.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints at Cardinals. Brandin Cooks has already been anointed the new leading man in New Orleans, but the veteran still retains an important role in the Saints’ high-powered passing attack. Arizona’s secondary was its bugaboo in 2014, so look for more aerial fireworks on Sunday.
Davante Adams, WR, Packers at Bears. I’m not convinced Randall Cobb can take a hit to his shoulder, which could keep him from prowling the between the hashes. Aaron Rodgers will have to look Adams’ way early and often, and we all know Chicago’s secondary is a sieve.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, Eli Manning; RBs Andre Ellington, Latavius Murray, Alfred Morris, Joique Bell, Alfred Blue, Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde; WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Jordan Matthews, Emmanuel Sanders, Golden Tate, Jarvis Landry, Vincent Jackson, Anquan Boldin, DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith.
Roll ‘em back
Phillip Rivers, QB, Chargers vs. Lions. Antonio Gates is suspended, Ladarius Green is in the concussion protocol and his rookie running back has struggled during the preseason. Rivers will need to connect regularly with Keenan Allen and new wideout Stevie Johnson to excel in this one. Despite Detroit’s so-so secondary, I have my doubts Rivers will get off to a strong start.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons vs. Eagles. The rookie has been named the starter, seemingly by default, but Devonta Freeman will get his share of the carries as well. More concerning is that both backs saw minimal work during the preseason due to hamstring injuries, and Atlanta’s offensive line is highly suspect. Stay away from this backfield on Monday night, and until further notice.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers vs. Lions. Detroit was the toughest team to run against in 2014, but that was with new Dolphin Ndamukong Suh anchoring the middle of the defensive line. Still, the Lions should be stout and Gordon has done little in camp to suggest he’s in line for a stellar debut. He’ll likely come out on third downs in favor of Danny Woodhead, so consider other options for your Week 1 lineup.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans vs. Chiefs. I feel for the folks who invested a premium pick in Hopkins, who seems destined to struggle due to mediocrity at the quarterback position. Facing a solid Kansas City secondary that has been fortified by the return of safety Eric Berry, all bets are off with Houston’s passing game.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Jets vs. Browns. It’s bad enough that Marshall will be stretching out for passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he’ll be doing so with Joe Haden blanketing him. Marshall has the size to outleap the shutdown corner in the end zone, but I wouldn’t count on it.
More thumbs down: QBs Cam Newton, Nick Foles, Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick, Kirk Cousins, Joe Flacco; RBs Ryan Mathews, Ameer Abdullah, Bishop Sankey, Benny Cunningham; WRs Kendall Wright, Allen Robinson, Torrey Smith, Pierre Garcon, Mike Wallace, Dwayne Bowe, Eddie Royal, Eric Decker.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Eagles at Falcons. A rookie wideout playing in his first career game? Yeah, that’s the very definition of a flier. But Agholor looked sharp in the preseason, as did Sam Bradford. Going up against the worst pass defense in the league from 2014, Agholor’s debut could be a memorable one.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…ignores the inactive reports. I say it every year, yet it bears repeating. Every week, including the opener, several star players will be game-time decisions, and some will either be inactive or put on a play count. I tweet out the inactives and other late-breaking news as it happens (@ladd_biro), so follow me or find another reliable source. Just don’t set your lineup on Thursday and forget about it!