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No offense to Christmas but the beginning of a new football season may just be the most wonderful time of the year. Today, we begin the traditional Sunday slate of games for the 2011-2012 NFL season. What could possibly make this moment any better? How about the first full week of fantasy football. With the draft in the past and rosters set, you need to make sure that you hit the ground running and put out your best possible lineup. That's where we come in. With a comprehensive look at every match-up where we highlight what Texans running back you want if Arian Foster is out to which Cowboys you should start against the much-hyped Jets' D, we bring you Start Or Sit? Fantasy Football Advice (Week 1).
Atlanta Falcons @ Chicago Bears (1:00pm ET)
START: Michael Turner, Roddy White, Matt Ryan
SIT: Jay Cutler, Bears DEF
With many expecting last season to be an offensive career revival with Mike Martz, Jay Cutler proved that he is the same underperforming quarterback he has always been. With receivers like Devin Hester, Roy Williams and Johnny Knox (are any of these names actually standing out?) going against a solid Atlanta defense, Cutler doesn’t look like he will offer up much fantasy value in Week 1.
If there’s one golden rule in fantasy football, it is that you always start your star players. So, if you have Michael Turner and Roddy White on your team, they should be in your lineup. After posting the best offensive numbers of his young career, Matt Ryan proved he can be relied upon nearly every week as your starting QB. While the Bears defense playing in Soldier Field ought to be a feared tandem for any quarterback, it is too hard to ignore Ryan and the receiving corps that the Falcons will be rolling out this season. Take your chances, start Matty Ice.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans (1:00pm ET)
START: Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Arian Foster
Let’s just keep it short and sweet: The Colts are just not the same without Peyton Manning. But c’mon, you knew that already. With a quarterback like Kerry Collins at the helm, you have to expect the Colts to throw a lot of dump passes and try his hardest to keep the Colts’ number one receiver happy. Starting Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark seem to be the smartest choices.
The Colts have a horrible run defense. In the first game of the 2010 season, Arian Foster proved just how bad they can be by racking up 231 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Now the biggest question isn’t whether Foster will replicate his amazing performance (because he would), it is whether or not he will even suit up for the game. If Arian is not a go on Sunday, there are plenty of rushing yards to be had…but who will benefit most: Derrick Ward or Ben Tate? We suggest you take Ben Tate. Dude has proven himself to be the more explosive back, so if he pulls off the long touchdown run, you can thank us later.
Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs (1:00pm ET)
START: Jamaal Charles
You know who we like on the Buffalo Bills this week? Nobody. If you need to take a chance on somebody, go with Steve Johnson. He could get a nice garbage touchdown when the Bills are getting blown out, as usual.
There is always that one player that single-handedly beats another person’s fantasy team, and that guy could very well be the Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles. Against a poor rush defense like the Bills, Charles could break a long run once, or even twice. Even Thomas Jones is worth a look at the flex spot since the Chiefs will probably be looking to run out the clock for the majority of the second half.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns (1:00pm ET)
START: Peyton Hillis
Similar to the Buffalo Bills situation, there is nothing to like about the Bengals. At best, Cedric Benson and A.J. Green are worth a flex start. But major disappointment could be on the horizon.
Of course we would suggest the Madden 12 cover guy Peyton Hillis. Why wouldn’t we? The guy was a beast last season. But even though Hillis showed signs of fatigue towards the end of the year, this is 2012. It’s a new season, so for the time being, we expect the old Peyton Hillis to come through big against Cincy.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens (1:00pm ET)
START: Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger is a sneaky good fantasy quarterback. By that, we mean Big Ben won’t put up numbers comparable to Brees or Rodgers, but he’s still a good QB to start on a weekly basis. In their two meetings last season, the Ravens held Rashard Mendenhall to 2.8 yards per carry average, which means that the Steelers running back will not put up RB1 numbers, but as we said before, you always start your stars.
You know you have to start Ray Rice. There's no way around it. Just don’t expect him to put up the usual Ray Rice-type numbers. In his two games against Pittsburgh last season, Rice had 52 rushing yards. That’s not a typo. Expect more of the same. If you have no better option at QB than Joe Flacco, then you start him...with low expectations. You know, those same expections you had trying to get the Nike MAG shoes on eBay with a $1,000 bid.
Philadelphia Eagles @ St. Louis Rams (1:00pm ET)
START: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Lance Kendricks
This match-up has all the makings of a lesser version of the shootout earlier in the week between Green Bay and New Orleans. Fresh off of signing his new $100 million contract, Michael Vick is poised to show that he’s worth the investment, so we expect a big game from Vick & Co. That means LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should all be in your lineup.
With Josh McDaniels calling the offensive for St. Louis, we like the prospect of Sam Bradford turning into a solid fantasy QB this season. This game against the Eagles will be a difficult one but not impossible. It’s hard to predict who shutdown cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will be covering in the game, but we foresee it being Danny Amendola. You know what that means, right? Throughout the preseason, Bradford started building a strong bond with rookie tight end Lance Kendricks. If you’re in need of a decent TE with a lot of upside, Kendricks is your guy. No need for us to repeat the old adage, but if you were wondering, you’re starting Steven Jackson.
Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1:00pm ET)
START: Calvin Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Kellen Winslow
Even though the Buccaneers improved their defense over the brief offseason, they still have room for improvement. Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford will expose those lacking areas, so they are must starts. Jahvid Best is coming off a concussion during the preseason, so as long as the cobwebs are all cleared out, he should be in your lineup as well.
The same theory that we applied for the Bucs goes to the Lions as well. Start all the stars: Josh Freeman, LeGarrette Blount and Mike Williams. Hell, give Kellen Winslow a shot too.
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1:00pm ET)
START: Chris Johnson
SIT: Maurice Jones-Drew
People may have concerns over Chris Johnson and his lack of time in the preseason. We’re not one of them. Start CJ and enjoy watching the numbers pile up. Usually, we would say that a match-up this favorable would make a number one receiver like Kenny Britt an automatic start, but with a quarterback like Matt Hasselbeck trying to feed him the ball, we have our doubts. We’ll just throw caution to the wind and suggest you start Britt and hope for the best.
It’s a good match-up for Maurice Jones-Drew. He should expose the lacking Titans' D quite easily, but with question marks at QB, the Titans may just play for the run and force Luke McCown to beat them. If that is the game plan, the numbers may not be as high as MJD owners may hope for.
Minnesota Vikings @ San Diego Chargers (4:15pm ET)
START: Percy Harvin, anybody in a Chargers uniform
Aside from Adrian Peterson, in our opinion the best fantasy choice in the NFL right now, Percy Harvin looks like an excellent option this year. Sidney Rice, Minnesota’s main target last year, and those pesky migraines, Harvin’s biggest restriction the last two years, are both gone. Game on!
All systems go for the Chargers. Antonio Gates, Phillip Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert should all be in starting lineups one way or another. The high-octane offense hasn’t changed much, and against the Vikings, it should be an offensive onslaught.
Carolina Panthers @ Arizona Cardinals (4:15pm ET)
START: Beanie Wells
SIT: Anybody in a Panthers uniform
QB Kevin Kolb could possibly be the most hyped player and biggest question mark in the league going into the first week of the season. The small sample size we have seen from him lead us to believe he is capable of big things, especially with WR Larry Fitzgerald by his side. However, in 10 or 12-team leagues, he’s just not a proven starter yet. Knowing that Carolina is horrible against the run, make sure Beanie Wells is in at your No. 2 or flex RB spot.
New York Giants @ Washington Redskins (4:15pm ET)
During the lockout Redskins RB Tim Hightower could have been considered a deep sleeper, but after a solid preseason and permission to run the starting job, many are high on him. We warn you to be careful with him in Week 1, though. It’s his first start with his new team, he is still known to fumble a lot, and a Giants defense will be gunning for him. In other news, Rex Grossman still should never start in any circumstance.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers (4:15pm ET)
San Francisco TE Vernon Davis and RB Frank Gore should be started in all formats. Against the Seahawks last year, Davis caught 15 passes for 143 yards and a score. As far as the 49er receivers, we say use Braylon Edwards as a flex only. Michael Crabtree just got off the Physically Unable to Perform list, so he is not a great choice right now. Besides, the offense-crippling plague that is Alex Smith will still be throwing to them.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Jets (8:20pm ET)
Due to an injury that put him out for the season after just six games last year, Dallas QB Tony Romo seems to have been lost in the shuffle a little bit. If you were able to grab him a little late in the draft, good for you, he’s still a great value. Witten, Bryant and Austin make for a great core, even against the Jets secondary. Be weary with Austin this week, however, due to his nagging hammy injury.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins (MON, 7:00pm ET)
RB Reggie Bush and WR Brandon Marshall are owned in 100% of ESPN leagues, but that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to produce at a high level, especially with Chad Henne at the helm against a Patriots D. Bush will get the majority of the load to start the season, so he is worthy of a second RB or flex start.
Oakland Raiders @ Denver Broncos (MON, 10:15 ET)
As far as Denver’s offense goes, there is still a lot to be seen due to a few changes. With a run-heavy John Fox as head coach, a healthy Knowshon Moreno should improve upon his 14-carry per game average and finally prove that he can be a reliable back. Two worries, however, are that Tim Tebow and Willis McGahee will steal touches and points in goalline situations and Moreno’s notoriety for injuries. Denver’s other two weapons, QB Kyle Orton and WR Brandon Lloyd are extremely underappreciated. As the No. 1 receiver in the league last year, Lloyd is always a must-start, but at this point in time, Orton should be considered a backup with attractive upside in 10-team leagues.