Posted: Wednesday September 5, 2012 8:36AM ; Updated: Thursday September 6, 2012 3:12PM
Eric Mack

NFL Week 1 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

Story Highlights

Matt Schaub could have big game against Dolphins defense minus Vontae Davis

Doug Martin may feast on Carolina's D, which allowed 14 rushing TDs in 2011

Santana Moss appears likely to be limited to slot duty in three-receiver sets

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Jay Cutler will get to test his rekindled rapport with Brandon Marshall against a rebuliding Colts defense in Week 1.
Jay Cutler will get to test his rekindled rapport with Brandon Marshall against a rebuliding Colts defense in Week 1.

As easy as it seems to set your lineup in Week 1, it is as difficult to advise you how to set that lineup. The minutiae just isn't there to analyze -- and, frankly, overanalyze.

You really should just run all your healthy players you drafted to start out there. That is why you picked them. Don't get caught up in the matchups so much right now.

Just look to last year as a reason for that last point. The Texans looked weak in the secondary after their awful 2010, but they wound up being one of the elite defenses in the NFL under new coordinator Wade Phillips in 2011.

What you believe to be a good matchup, might not be at all anymore. We have some things to learn together in the early going every season.

What we do know is the injury report will make some of the decisions for us. Regardless of what that injury report says, you shouldn't be starting the likes of Trent Richardson (knee), Adrian Peterson (knee), Maurice Jones-Drew (late reporting holdout), Rashard Mendenhall (knee) or Ryan Mathews (shoulder). Even if they play, they will be too limited to perform up to your early round draft pick expectations.

Meanwhile, Marshawn Lynch (back spasms) is a game-time decision. Start him if he plays, and sit him if he doesn't.

For those of you still without a roster because you haven't drafted yet, we have some inspiration for you. Check out this spectacularly produced music video by @TimCrispy. You will be sure to dominate your draft after listening and watching that.

As for the Week 1 Start 'em/Sit 'em, let's get this all kicked off:


Three starts

Jay Cutler, Bears -- He is debuting a new toy (Brandon Marshall) and he gets to do it against the worst team in football a year ago. Granted, Andrew Luck is going to give the Colts a lift, but that will merely force Cutler to push the pace a little. If you need a sleeper at wide receiver, you might consider his secondary options in Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, perhaps. Rookie Alshon Jeffery, Marshall's mini-me, might not quite be ready to impact fantasy, though. Cutler figures to go for 275 yards and at least a pair of TDs, production that makes him a top-12 QB this week.

Peyton Manning, Broncos -- You should be a bit worried about Manning after he missed a year and returned against a Steelers defense that was No. 1 against QBs last season. The Steelers will be without safety Ryan Clark again because of his sickle-cell trait, but it won't matter either way. This is still Manning -- even a fraction of his former self -- in prime time. You should expect 250 yards and a pair of TDs as a baseline. He is motivated to make a big splash in his return and you will want him active for this.

Matt Schaub, Texans -- He returns from injury and has a healthy Andre Johnson to make his return a valiant one. The only worry with using Schaub in this matchup is the potential the Texans blow it out early and just sit on the ball with the running game in the second half. Still, Schaub will pick apart a Dolphins secondary early that is now without their best corner in Vontae Davis, who is with the Colts now. Think 240 yards and a pair of scores for a QB you probably didn't think you would use until the bye weeks.

Three sits

Robert Griffin III, Redskins -- Sure, the Saints were a bottom 10 team in fantasy against QBs a year ago and only the Colts and Vikings intercepted more passes, but you shouldn't have complete trust in RGIII as a fantasy starter until the Redskins open up the playbook and show something. The Saints are a tough customer at home in the SuperDome, and while you should expect some garbage-time numbers, you also had to draft a decent backup for RGIII in case he went bust. This is a week to evaluate, and not start, the talented rookie and his questionable supporting cast.

Andy Dalton, Bengals -- The sophomore can be a fantasy starter in many weeks this season, but he shouldn't be trusted against the Ravens defense. They might be older and without Terrell Suggs (Achilles') but they were second-best in fantasy against QBs a year ago. Dalton threw three interceptions at Baltimore a year ago and had his fourth-lowest fantasy score (10 points) in his other meeting against the Ravens (Week 17).

Russell Wilson, Seahawks -- He was a phenomenon in the preseason and an intriguing sleeper this season, but you're going to be better off going with your drafted starter and letting Wilson get his feet under him. The Cardinals might not be an elite defense, but they have a solid secondary, were in the top half of fantasy against QBs a year ago and only four teams allowed fewer TD passes a year ago. Granted, that latter stat is a function of playing in the worst division for QBs in the NFL, but the Seahawks aren't yet a top-flight QB team with Wilson in his first NFL start.

Running backs

Five starts

DeAngelo Williams, Panthers -- There are a number of variables that help make Williams a Week 1 starter for you. First, you likely have one of those names above that need to be filled in for, also Williams will be carrying more of the load with Jonathan Stewart (ankle) banged up. Williams has been doing more pass receiving in training camp and is healthier than he has been in years. Against the Bucs defense, which gave up a league-high 25 TDs (20 rushing, five receiving) and a league-worst 2,211 rushing yards a year ago, Williams figures to go over 100 yards, with at least one score.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers -- Across the field from Williams will be another strong Week 1 start at RB, Martin. The Panthers were second-worst in fantasy against RBs a year ago, giving the second-most TDs (14 rushing and a league-high eight receiving). Martin has proven to be a multi-dimensional rookie back this preseason and figures to get plenty of time in the passing game, particularly since QB Josh Freeman likes to check down and throw underneath. Martin's big rookie year figures to give off to a busy and productive start.

Ben Tate, Texans -- You might not realize this, but the Dolphins were the third-best team in fantasy against RBs a year ago, but that shouldn't keep you from starting Arian Foster's backup. The Texans figure to put a huge beat-down on the overmatched Dolphins in all phases and Tate will be busy running out the clock in a blowout. The Texans also figure to be planning to play deep into January and they will only do that if they limit the wear and tear on Foster early in easy victories. Sure, you can be wary of the Dolphins run defense, we suppose, but know this: Tate went over 100 yards against them a year ago. They will be weaker this season.

Shonn Greene, Jets -- Hate on the Jets offense all you want. They didn't show a thing this preseason and that figures to mean a heavy, heavy dose of Greene until the QB play catches up. Against the Bills -- fourth-worst in fantasy against RBs a year ago -- Greene will be the Jets best, and perhaps only, weapon. Think a smashing week of 25 carries, 120 yards and a pair of scores.

Michael Bush and Matt Forte, Bears -- The latter of this combo is probably obvious to you, but he shouldn't necessarily be week-to-week, because Bush is taking over as his TD vulture. That will cut into Forte's production this season. Against the Colts run defense, though (third-worst in fantasy last season), both Forte and Bush figure to be productive enough as fantasy starters. Forte will combine for over 100 yards (perhaps five receptions) and Bush will help slow the tempo later in the game and find the end zone at least once, if not twice.

Five(-plus) sits

Trent Richardson (knee), Browns/Adrian Peterson (knee), Vikings/Ryan Mathews (shoulder), Chargers -- They have returned to practice, but on a limited basis. Even if they are active, they figure to be too limited to help fantasy owners. You had to draft viable replacements for them, so use those options instead and hope your early round injury risks prove healthy for the future. Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson should see more work this week than others, but neither is anything more than a low-end flex against the Eagles' defensive front. Toby Gerhart should be busy and a viable start against the Jags, while Ronnie Brown is merely a flex option in deeper leagues.

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars -- Do all the back flips you want now that he reported before the start of the season, but leave him on your bench in Week 1. MJD just hasn't had enough time to practice or learn Mike Mularkey's new system to be viable as a fantasy option this week. Rashad Jennings is a decent start as a No. 2 back.

Alfred Morris and Roy Helu, Redskins -- Clearly, the Redskins mess has to be avoided. Evan Royster is atop the depth chart, but Helu was the gem going into camp and Morris was seemingly the gem coming out of it. None figure to be productive enough in a three-way timeshare to start in fantasy right now.

Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers -- He was supposed to be the feature back with Rashard Mendenhall expected to be inactive for the first month of the season. Instead, Redman (ankle, hip) has been banged up and is now giving Dwyer some looks as a fantasy sleeper. Heck, even Mendenhall has an outside shot at playing Sunday night. Against the Broncos' rugged run defense -- just the 49ers gave up fewer rushing TDs a year ago -- neither Redman nor Dwyer should be active for fantasy owners.

Cedric Benson, Packers -- Benson was a nice sleeper in drafts because he figures to add a dimension of clock-killing to an uptempo Packers offense that sorely needed one a year ago. Against the 49ers' run defense, easily the best in the NFL, he is an awful start, though. The 49ers defense was the best in fantasy in just about every aspect against backs. Benson is the easiest healthy sit of the week.
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