Disclaimer ... Before you start reading, please understand that we are not in the business of stating the obvious and wasting your time (or ours), so you won't be reading here why you need to start Aaron Rodgers, Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson or any other top-tier players. We're here to help you make a decision on players you are on the fence about.
Consider yourself lucky if you drafted DeAngelo Williams this season. He has a great situation for Week 1 at Tampa Bay, and he could help your Fantasy team get off to a good start in 2012.
Williams, who was drafted on average in Round 8 for CBSSports.com leagues, gets the luxury of facing last year's worst run defense in the NFL as a solo act. His backfield partner, Jonathan Stewart, is dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered in the third preseason game, and Stewart will either be out or extremely limited.
This should allow Williams to thrive, and he's someone you can start with confidence as either a No. 2 running back or flex option. You should find a way to get him into your lineup at all costs.
|Michael Turner||at KC|
|Fred Jackson||at NYJ|
|Steven Jackson||at DET|
|Trent Richardson||vs. PHI|
|Frank Gore||at GB|
The Buccaneers allowed the most touchdowns to opposing running backs in 2011 with 25, and 15 running backs reached double digits in Fantasy points against Tampa Bay. Williams had seven carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns against the Bucs in Week 16, and he and Stewart combined for 273 rushing yards and three touchdowns in both meetings against Tampa Bay last year.
With Stewart likely out of the picture, we're expecting a big performance from Williams. Of course, Cam Newton will have a quality outing, and Williams could lose some touches to Mike Tolbert, who was added this offseason as a fullback.
But the opportunity to get the majority of touches with Stewart hurt makes Williams attractive for this matchup. This is a great week to count on him as a must-start Fantasy running back.
Tony Romo (at NYG): I'm not confident in Romo this week based on Dallas having a porous offensive line against the Giants pass rush, Jason Witten (spleen) likely out and Miles Austin (hamstring) having missed most of the preseason. But history suggests Romo should do fine, and he will likely be throwing a lot in this matchup. Romo has averaged 281 passing yards, three touchdowns and one interception in his past seven full games against the Giants, who are dealing with issues in their secondary.
Philip Rivers (at OAK): Rivers is another quarterback with a good history against his opponent. In his past eight games against the Raiders, Rivers has averaged 274 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. In two games against Oakland last year, Rivers combined for 584 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Now, there are some concerns about Rivers' receiving corps without Vincent Jackson, and his offensive line is banged up. But without a healthy Ryan Mathews (shoulder), Rivers might have to carry the offensive load.
Matt Schaub (vs. MIA): Schaub will look to pick up where he finished last season when a foot injury cut 2011 short in Week 10. Prior to going down, Schaub had at least 19 Fantasy points in three of his final four games. He also has a good history against the Dolphins with an average of 297 passing yards with five touchdowns and four interceptions in his past four meetings. Schaub is a quality low-end starter in deeper leagues.
Jay Cutler (vs. IND): Chuck Pagano will have success improving the defense for the Colts, and teams will likely attack their run defense as much as their secondary. But the Bears have a new passing attack this year, and Cutler should have some chances to make plays downfield to Brandon Marshall and Co. You have to assume that even though Matt Forte and Michael Bush can carry the offense this week, the Bears will unveil some of the new wrinkles in their passing game.
Robert Griffin III (at NO): Griffin had an inconsistent preseason. He looked comfortable and poised against Buffalo, harassed against Chicago and solid against the Colts. He should be ready for his first NFL start even in a hostile environment at the Saints. New Orleans will look to prove its defense can overcome the suspensions from the bounty scandal, but Griffin will likely be asked to make plays all game in what should be a comeback effort. He might not win his first start, but he should be useful as a low-end starting option for Fantasy owners in this matchup.
|Jake Locker||(vs. NE)||The Patriots allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year.|
|Russell Wilson||(at ARI)||He played well in the preseason and could be a decent option in two-QB leagues.|
|Alex Smith||(at GB)||The Packers were No. 2 in Fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs last year.|
Ben Roethlisberger (at DEN): Roethlisberger returns to the site of his last game in 2011, which was a playoff loss against the Broncos. He finished that matchup with 289 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception while getting sacked five times. His offensive line is banged up again, and Roethlisberger was miserable on the road last season. He averaged 275 passing yards in eight road games, but he had just seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions over that span. He had just one game with multiple touchdowns on the road, which was Week 7 at Arizona. Roethlisberger looks like more of a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback this week.
Andrew Luck (at CHI): Luck threw a touchdown pass in his first NFL action in the preseason opener against the Rams. We'll find out if he'll have similar success against the Bears. Chicago was tough on opposing quarterbacks at home last year, limiting Matt Ryan and Matthew Stafford to a combined one touchdown and five interceptions, with each passing for more than 300 yards. We can see Luck throwing for a lot of yards in what could be a comeback effort, but he might not have success scoring.
Carson Palmer (vs. SD): Palmer has not looked good in the preseason with no touchdowns and four interceptions on 56 attempts. He didn't have his full complement of weapons with Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Jacoby Ford (foot) banged up, and hopefully both can return this week. Palmer had success against the Chargers last year with 716 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions in two games, but that was with Darren McFadden (foot) out. Now that McFadden is back, you can expect the Raiders to lean on him and not worry about Palmer throwing all over the place.
Andy Dalton (at BAL): Dalton injured his throwing hand in the final preseason game against the Colts, but he's expected to be fine for this matchup. He likely won't do a great job, and he should not be started in the majority of leagues. Dalton struggled in two meetings with the Ravens last year, combining for 27 Fantasy points on one touchdown and three interceptions. The Bengals have plenty of issues on their offensive line, and this could be a long game for Dalton, especially on the road.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (at NYJ): Fitzpatrick was a star the last time the Bills played the Jets in New York with 31 Fantasy points in Week 11, but we're counting on the Jets to use that game as motivation. Fitzpatrick had just 191 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the other matchup against the Jets last year in Week 9, and that's a better indication of what to expect this week. The Jets added to their defense with LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Quinton Coples, and they should suffocate Buffalo's passing game.
Bust alert: Peyton Manning (vs. PIT): Manning ended the preseason on a high note with a quality outing against the 49ers in the third game, going 10 of 12 passing for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He has the chance to play well in his season debut for the Broncos, but I'd approach this matchup with caution. The Steelers allowed the fewest Fantasy points against opposing quarterbacks last season with only four quarterbacks passing for multiple touchdowns (Joe Flacco, Kevin Kolb, Tom Brady and Dalton), and Flacco was the only quarterback to pass for 300 yards. If Manning has time he should be able to exploit some of Pittsburgh's blitz packages, but the Steelers should be ready to test Manning in his first real game since 2010. Most owners who drafted Manning plan to play him in Week 1, which is fine, but if you can wait a week to see how he does in a difficult matchup that might be the better route with your lineup.
Rashad Jennings (at MIN): I have no confidence in Maurice Jones-Drew this week even if he suits up, and Jennings should dominate the workload following a solid preseason (47 carries for 209 yards). He will eventually lose his role as the featured rusher once Jones-Drew gets back in the flow following his holdout, but Jennings has earned this start against the Vikings. Jennings had 142 total yards and a touchdown in his last start in Week 17 in 2010.
Kevin Smith (vs. STL): Smith has a two-game audition to prove he should be the primary running back for the Lions this year, and this is the first showing against the Rams. Mikel Leshoure is suspended, and Jahvid Best (concussion) is on the PUP list. Smith is dealing with an ankle injury, but he's expected to be fine for this matchup. He showed last year that he can be a quality Fantasy option with three games with double digits in Fantasy points in his final six outings.
Toby Gerhart (vs. JAC): This game will be the battle of the backup running backs as Gerhart should get the majority of touches whether Adrian Peterson (knee) suits up or not. Gerhart did a nice job filling in for Peterson last year with five games with double digits in Fantasy points in his final six outings. Like Jennings, he might not be long for the starting job, so look for him to take advantage of this opportunity.
Peyton Hillis (vs. ATL): Hillis is going to share touches with Jamaal Charles, but Hillis should still be able to have success in this matchup. He will show his versatility as a rusher and receiver, and he should have the chance to work at the goal line and catch passes. He could have a similar performance this week like he did in his last meeting with the Falcons in 2010. Hillis, then with the Browns, had 10 carries for 28 yards and four catches for 49 yards and a touchdown. He looks like an excellent flex option in standard leagues or a potential starter in deeper formats.
Stevan Ridley (at TEN): Ridley is coming off a quality preseason (34 carries for 152 yards and a touchdown), and he should see the majority of carries if Shane Vereen (foot) is out or limited. Ridley steps into BenJarvus Green-Ellis' role from last year, so look for him to work at the goal line and also see plenty of carries. He is worth starting in all leagues this week as either a No. 2 running back or flex.
|Mark Ingram||(vs. WAS)||Ingram is healthy and faces the 'Skins, who allowed 15 rushing TDs last year.|
|Michael Bush||(vs. IND)||Forte will do most of the work this week, but there should be enough for Bush.|
|Ronnie Brown||(at OAK)||Mathews is out, which should allow Brown to get the majority of carries.|
|Ben Tate||(vs. MIA)||Tate had 13 Fantasy points vs. MIA in '11 with Arian Foster (hamstring) out..|
|Robert Turbin||(at ARI)||If Lynch (back) is out, he gets a shot to carry the load in a favorable matchup.|
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (at BAL): The Bengals offensive line is banged up, and Green-Ellis missed most of the preseason with a foot injury. He's expected to be fine, but this is a difficult matchup. Green-Ellis is great at finding the end zone with 24 touchdowns the past two years in New England, but this is a new offense for him that should have fewer rushing lanes. The last time he faced the Ravens was 2010 when he had 20 rushing yards and a touchdown. I'd say eight Fantasy points is the ceiling for Green-Ellis this week.
Reggie Bush (at HOU): It was early in the 2011 season, before Bush took off in his career year, but he struggled against the Texans in Week 2 with just 21 total yards. He should do better than that in the rematch, but Bush struggled in the preseason with 12 carries for 36 yards and two catches for 9 yards. The Dolphins need Bush to be a dominant force again based on their lack of playmakers, but he could struggle against the Texans since Houston was No. 2 behind San Francisco in fewest Fantasy points allowed to running backs last season.
Willis McGahee (vs. PIT): McGahee had 19 carries for 61 yards in the playoff matchup with the Steelers last year, and he could have a similar performance in the rematch. Pittsburgh's run defense should again be stout, and the Steelers were No. 4 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs in 2011. He could also struggle if the Broncos start to get pass happy with Manning.
Cedric Benson (vs. SF): Benson gives the Packers their best running back since 2009 before Ryan Grant got hurt. He played well enough in the preseason to solidify the starting job, but this isn't a good week to trust him as even a flex option. The 49ers allowed the fewest touchdowns to opposing running backs last year with just three, and Marshawn Lynch was the only running back to run for 100 yards. It's no guarantee the Packers will rely on Benson in the red zone, and with his yardage likely limited, his Fantasy production should be minimal.
Beanie Wells (vs. SEA): Wells ran for more than 1,000 yards and scored 10 touchdowns last year despite missing two games -- both against the Seahawks. Ryan Williams should share playing time with Wells this week, and the Seahawks defense should be able to focus on Arizona's running game with the passing game in shambles because of poor quarterback play. Wells also is still not 100 percent following his offseason knee surgery, and we would rather use Williams this week since he has more upside.
Bust alert: Donald Brown (at CHI): Brown is someone I'm counting on for a big season, and he was drafted in Round 6 as the No. 26 running back based on Average Draft Position. He scored two touchdowns in the preseason, and he should prove to be a good flex option or spot starter in the majority of leagues. This week, however, it might be difficult to trust him against the Bears, who are expected to get Brian Urlacher (knee) back. Brown will make plays running and passing this year, but it will be difficult for him to succeed in this matchup on the road against the Bears.
Torrey Smith (vs. CIN): Smith was excellent at home against the Bengals last year with six catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. He has high expectations for himself this year, and he should get started on a high note right away in Week 1 against a Bengals defense dealing with some injuries. We like him as a high-end No. 2 receiver this week.
Pierre Garcon (at NO): Garcon looked like Griffin's No. 1 target in the preseason, and he finished with eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown. The coaching staff in Washington has talked up Garcon all offseason, and he has a good matchup to start the year. The Saints were among the worst teams in Fantasy points allowed against opposing receivers in 2011, and Garcon should be considered a solid starting option in all leagues.
Justin Blackmon (at MIN): The Vikings allowed the most touchdowns to opposing receivers last year with 22, and this should be a good start for Blackmon, who played well in the preseason with 10 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars could lean on their passing game a little more with Jones-Drew out, and Blaine Gabbert actually played well in the preseason. We would use Blackmon as a starter this week based on the matchup, and he should play well in his rookie campaign.
Nate Washington (vs. NE): Jake Locker has eyes for Washington, who is the No. 1 target for the Titans with Kenny Britt (suspension) out. In the third preseason game against the Cardinals, Locker targeted Washington six times, and he finished with three catches for 39 yards and a touchdown. He has all kinds of potential this week with Britt out against the Patriots, who were No. 1 last year in Fantasy points allowed to opposing receivers. Washington should be used as a starter in all leagues, and hopefully he and Locker continue to hook up on a regular basis.
Malcom Floyd (at OAK): Floyd could assume the No. 1 receiver role with Jackson gone, and he had seven catches for 127 yards and a touchdown last year at Oakland. In fact, in his past two games against the Raiders, Floyd has 15 catches for 340 yards and two touchdowns, all in Oakland. We like the upside for Floyd, and he could shine again in this matchup, especially with Mathews not expected to play.
|Brandon LaFell||(at TB)||Steve Smith (foot) will play, but LaFell could get a few extra targets.|
|Michael Crabtree||(at GB)||The 49ers might get pass happy in this matchup playing from behind.|
|Titus Young||(vs. STL)||Hopefully he picks up where 2011 ended: four TDs in his final four.|
|Darrius Heyward-Bey||(vs. SD)||DHB was a stud in Week 17 vs. SD: nine catches for 130 yards and a TD.|
|Danny Amendola||(at DET)||Bradford's favorite WR could see plenty of targets with STL chasing points.|
Dwayne Bowe (vs. ATL): Bowe's holdout put him a little behind in learning the new offense under coordinator Brian Daboll, and he was limited in the preseason with two catches for 18 yards. He will likely see a lot of Asante Samuel in coverage, and we're not confident in Kansas City's passing game. I'd like to see Bowe prove himself first before starting him in all leagues.
Reggie Wayne (at CHI): Wayne has the chance to be this year's Steve Smith as a veteran receiver who is rejuvenated by a rookie passer. But he might not get off to a great start. Charles Tillman will present problems in coverage, and Wayne might not have much help opposite him if Austin Collie (concussion) is out or limited. Wayne might be more of a No. 3 receiver in this matchup.
Greg Little (vs. PHI): Expectations are high for Little this year after a decent rookie campaign and the addition of new quarterback Brandon Weeden. But Little faces a solid secondary in this matchup with the Eagles, and he's not worth the risk of starting in all formats. Little was drafted to be a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in most leagues, but this week he can stay on your bench with a potential matchup against Nnamdi Asomugha.
Steve Johnson (at NYJ): Johnson is one of the few receivers to go to Revis Island and come back with a smile. In two meeting against the Jets last year, Johnson had 11 catches for 159 yards and a touchdown. We're expecting Darrelle Revis to take this matchup personally, and Johnson is still not 100 percent with his offseason groin problem. Start him if you believe he can beat Revis again, but we're expecting Revis to make this matchup difficult for Johnson.
Santonio Holmes (vs. BUF): Holmes had two interesting performances against the Bills last year. He combined for only five catches for 41 yards in both games, but he scored in each matchup. The Jets offense was a mess this preseason, and Holmes struggled with injuries to his ribs, back and hamstring. Holmes has the potential to be a quality No. 3 Fantasy receiver this year, but this is not a week to consider him a starter in most formats.
Bust alert: Larry Fitzgerald (vs. SEA): The likelihood of most owners benching Fitzgerald is slim. You drafted him as your No. 1 receiver in Round 2 to be a weekly fixture in your lineup. But keep your expectations in check, especially early in the year, because he could struggle. John Skelton was bad this preseason, but Kevin Kolb was worse, which is why Skelton won the starting job. Skelton was better for Fitzgerald last year (42 catches for 753 yards and six touchdowns) compared to Kolb (38 catches for 658 yards and two touchdowns). But the Seahawks will focus on limiting Fitzgerald, especially since he had 14 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown in two meetings in 2011. Seattle has a quality secondary, and Fitzgerald could see plenty of extra coverage. Start him as planned, but just expect him to take some lumps as the Cardinals and this passing game figure out what they're doing.
Greg Olsen (at TB): Olsen got off to a good start last season with three touchdowns in his first five games and at least seven Fantasy points in four of those outings. He struggled against the Bucs with one catch for 21 yards in two meetings, but Tampa Bay allowed seven touchdowns to opposing tight ends last year, with nine reaching at least seven Fantasy points. Jeremy Shockey also scored against the Bucs last year in Week 16, and with Shockey now gone from the Panthers, Olsen should see a bump in targets, which will help his outlook this year and this week.
Brent Celek (at CLE): Celek closed the season with three touchdowns in his final three games, and the Ohio native should enjoy this return trip to his home state. With Michael Vick (ribs) back at 100 percent, all the Eagles receiving targets should have the chance to do well in this game with the Browns.
Owen Daniels (vs. MIA): Daniels is glad to have Schaub back at 100 percent. He was playing well with Schaub last year, but he struggled to close the season once Schaub was injured. Daniels is also happy to be facing the Dolphins. He scored against Miami last year and has 13 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown in his past three meetings. He should have success against Miami once again.
|Dustin Keller||(vs. BUF)||Keller has a two-TD game in each of the past two years against the Bills.|
|Kyle Rudolph||(vs. JAC)||Jags were one of five teams to allow 1,000 rec. yds. to opposing TEs in '11.|
|Martellus Bennett||(vs. DAL)||Facing his former team, we could see Bennett find the end zone.|
Jermaine Gresham (at BAL): Gresham is one of my favorite players coming into the season, but he dealt with a knee injury in the preseason and has a tough matchup this week. He had nine Fantasy points combined against the Ravens last year in two games, and Baltimore was second in fewest Fantasy points allowed to tight ends in 2011. If Gresham was 100 percent healthy we'd be more inclined to start him, but this is a good week to keep him reserved in most formats.
Jacob Tamme (vs. PIT): Tamme struggled with drops in the preseason and finished with the exact same production as No. 2 tight end Joel Dreessen (four catches for 43 yards). We're expecting Tamme to play well this year, but this could be a tough matchup for him against the Steelers. Look for Tamme to post modest stats at best in this matchup, and he should be considered a reserve in the majority of leagues.
Coby Fleener (at CHI): Fleener was one of the bigger disappointments in the preseason with five catches for 46 yards, and he struggled to separate himself from No. 2 tight end Dwayne Allen (three catches for 41 yards) despite having a rapport with Luck from their days at Stanford. We need to see Fleener prove himself first before starting him in most formats.
Bust alert: Brandon Pettigrew (vs. STL): Pettigrew scored all five of his touchdowns at home last year, and he appears poised for a breakout campaign. The Lions are a pass-happy team, and he was second in receptions in 2011 with 83 for 777 yards. But the Rams did one thing well on defense last year, which was limit tight ends. St. Louis allowed the fewest Fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and only Witten scored against the Rams in 2011. We like Pettigrew this season, but we're a little down on him in this meeting.
Lions (vs. STL): The owners who drafted a DST with Week 1 in mind should love this matchup with the Rams. St. Louis struggled in the preseason when faced with a good opposing defense, and the Rams scored more than 17 points just three times last season. Yes, this is a new era under coach Jeff Fisher, and a healthy Sam Bradford will make things smoother on offense. But the Lions defense should be able to contain the Rams and present a solid starting DST option in the season opener.
49ers (at GB): Based on ADP, the 49ers DST was the first one taken, coming off the board in Round 6. While it's hard to bench the No. 1 DST, you might consider it given the opponent. The Packers don't create a lot of turnovers -- Aaron Rodgers had six interceptions in 2011 – and Green Bay is obviously a difficult place to play. Some other DST options you could consider in Week 1 that might be free agents include Atlanta, Seattle and Buffalo. All have a better outlook than the 49ers in this matchup.
|Shayne Graham||vs. MIA|
|Nate Kaeding||at OAK|
|Steven Hauschka||at ARI|
Robbie Gould (vs. IND): Gould likes kicking in the early part of the season, probably before the weather turns bad in Chicago. He is 29 of 33 on field goals in September for the past five years. Last year he was 6 of 6 on field goals to open the season, including 3 of 3 against Atlanta at home in Week 1, when he finished with 12 Fantasy points. The Colts also were among the league leaders in 2011 with 29 field goals allowed and second to Tampa Bay (59) with 49 extra points allowed.
Mike Nugent (at BAL): Nugent did well the last time he faced the Ravens in Week 17 last year with three field goals and an extra point for 10 Fantasy points. But the last time he visited Baltimore in Week 11 he had a quiet game with just six Fantasy points on one field goal. Only two kickers had multiple field goals in Baltimore last year -- David Akers and Jay Feely -- and neither reached double digits in Fantasy points. The Bengals offense worries me this week, and I wouldn't start any of their primary players aside from A.J. Green.