Another football season is upon us, which means another chance for fantasy football prominence for you in your office/ family/ buddy league. In several of my leagues, for the first time, there are just as many women as there are men, and I love that dynamic. I think there are so many women who are football savvy, and who love to be competitive as well, so in the league where I am commissioner I went and actively recruited some of the smartest women I know. Now I hope they don’t beat me.
If you are as football savvy as these women I just mentioned, then you know one of the worst feelings in the world is right after you’ve set your lineup for the week. It’s the time when you start second-guessing yourself, and the decisions you’ve plotted into the roster slots don’t seem so automatic anymore. Suddenly players who seemed like sure things now look like goat candidates. You even think about picking up Kirk Cousins off the waiver wire (don’t do it). You wonder what would happen if you could just be satisfied.
Now you can, because with the return of football also comes the return of Setting Your Lineup, the guide to making those tough decisions in your lineup. No, this isn’t the place to read about whether to start DeMarco Murray or C.J. Anderson. You’re starting both, and you’re lucky to have both. It’s all about those players who might be matchup-dependent, who are second or third options on their own teams, or who have had lackluster games in the past but who are due to break out. In other words, it’s about the guys you love to second-guess.
In this space I will tell you 3 players from each position you should start this week, and 1 that you should avoid at all costs.
Here’s to the inaugural edition of the 2015 season’s Setting Your Lineup:
QBs to PLAY
Ryan Tannehill @ Washington. He’s facing the Redskins. That should be enough to let you know it’s time to play the matchups with Tannehill. Many experts are predicting a massive season from him, and it’s possible, but I’m still playing the matchups until he’s shown me he’s matchup proof. This one is not even a question. Expect 300 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Jay Cutler vs. Green Bay. All signs point toward Cutler having a rough night against a team that has routinely given him fits. This game is supposed to belong to Matt Forte, and it very well might, but with Alshon Jeffery banged up, and probably playing from behind, I think Cutler comes out firing. He still has Martellus Bennett, and if you’ve forgotten, Forte is a great receiver out of the backfield. Count on over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Eli Manning @ Dallas. Forget about last year. Eli loves to play in Dallas, and he has exploded for some of his biggest games against the Cowboys. If you’ve forgotten, he routinely carves up that defense, and it should be similar now that he has Odell Beckham at his disposal. This one should be a shootout, and both he and Romo will post great stats, but if you have Romo you were starting him anyway. Eli owners, get him active, and expect 350 yards and 3 touchdowns.
QB to AVOID
Cam Newton @ Jacksonville. Forget that this is Jacksonville, and tell me who exactly Newton can rely on when throwing the football? I’m still waiting. There really is no one except for Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart, and guess who will be getting double coverage in this one? That’s right — Olsen. Stewart will have his yards on the ground, but that Jacksonville front will limit what Cam can do. Don’t count on a passing touchdown for him. He might get one on the ground, but avoid him in this one.
RBs to PLAY
Rashad Jennings @ Dallas. Remember what I said about Eli’s numbers taking a jump against the Cowboys? Rashad Jennings also likes facing the team from Dallas. He’s fully healthy now, and he gets to take on the same defense Eli does. Forget about Shane Vereen and that other guy. This is Jennings’ show, and he will get the bulk of the carries. He will also go over 100 yards, and score at least one touchdown.
Jonathan Stewart @ Jacksonville. At the risk of repeating myself — again — as much as I think Cam Newton will struggle in this one, I think the one bright and shining light for the Panthers will be the man formerly known as DeAngelo’s running mate. I really like Stewart to have a big game in this one, rushing for over 100 yards and a score.
Doug Martin vs. Tennessee. Yes, I’m buying into the hype surrounding Doug Martin this year — at least for now. No, I didn’t draft him in any of my leagues, but that’s only because he was going higher than I was willing to wager, but if I did own him I would get him active this week against a Tennessee team that doesn’t inspire fear. I also like him because he’s got a rookie quarterback, and they often lean on their running game by design.
RB to AVOID
Ameer Abdullah @ San Diego. He’s basically in a timeshare with a relatively healthy Joique Bell, and I don’t like either of them for this matchup against a San Diego defense, that while not great, does limit what a running game can do. Since Abdullah won’t be getting all the touches, and Detroit may be playing from behind on the road, I don’t like him at all.
WRs to PLAY
Nelson Agholor @ Atlanta. This will be a coming out party for the rookie against an Atlanta defense that has all sorts of troubles — still — against a potent offense. Considering this will probably be a shootout, and we’ve already seen how quickly the Eagles can score, I like the speedy Agholor in all formats.
John Brown vs. New Orleans. It’s not a stretch to say that outside of Andre Ellington, John Brown is the most dangerous player on the offensive side of the ball for Arizona. He has sure hands and big play ability, and he’s playing against a team defense that is prone to giving up the big play. I like Brown a lot this year, and especially right out of the gate against the Saints.
Sammy Watkins vs. Indianapolis. While most other experts are looking at the negatives with Watkins, I like what I see from him coming into this season. With Tyrod Taylor at quarterback he has a better chance of breaking loose than with any of the other two quarterbacks on the Buffalo roster. And Indianapolis hasn’t suddenly morphed into a dynamic defense. They give up plays, and Watkins is a playmaker. He (and Taylor) will surprise everyone.
WR to AVOID
Marques Colston @ Arizona. Sure, Jimmy Graham is out of the Big Easy, but that does not mean a resurgence for a downward trending Colston. Indeed, with the emergence of Brandin Cooks I think Colston will again play second fiddle, and Arizona is no slouch when it comes to defense. If you have Colston on your roster you should sit him and not think twice about it this week.
TEs to PLAY
Martellus Bennett vs. Green Bay. As I said above, don’t count out the Bears in this one, and even if Jeffery is on the field I think Bennett plays a large role in keeping this one close. He’s the safety valve for Cutler, and I like his value all season long, but particularly in this divisional rivalry.
Delanie Walker @ Tampa Bay. I think Mariota will play relatively well in this one, but when he’s pressured I can see him getting the ball out early and often to his tight end. Walker has done well against poor defenses in the past, and Tampa Bay does not boast a scary defensive unit. I’ll take the upside on Walker this week.
Jordan Cameron @ Washington. He’s playing against Washington. I have nothing else to add. Seriously, though, it’s the same old adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The air game against the Redskins worked very well last season, and nothing really happened in the offseason that should change that. So Tannehill will throw it early and often against that porous defense. Cameron is an awfully big target.
TE to AVOID
Vernon Davis vs. Minnesota. I don’t care what happened in the preseason. What I care about is what happened last season, which was a regression across the board for Davis, and until I see him re-emerge from the ashes of who he used to be, I’m not playing him, much less putting him on my roster. San Francisco has a lot to prove this year, and it’s not a good time to be betting the farm on who Davis used to be.
FLEX to PLAY
Lamar Miller @ Washington. Sure, you can throw against the Redskins, but once you’re up big someone has to mop up in garbage time. Enter Miller.
Latavius Murray vs. Cincinnati. Yes, you can run on the Bengals, a team that has never won in Oakland. Ever. Murray has a quickness and agility that is often overlooked, but I think he has success against that Bengals defensive unit.
Darren McFadden vs. NY Giants. Don’t let the hype tell you that Joseph Randle has the job locked up, because he doesn’t. If he did the Cowboys wouldn’t have gone out and picked up Christine Michael from the Seahawks. I see it as a timeshare until someone shows me differently.
FLEX to AVOID
Keenan Allen vs. Detroit. Do I think Philip Rivers will have a good game in this one? Yes. Do I think Allen will benefit from it? No. He regressed more toward the mean last season, and I see him settling in as a third-tier receiver this season until he shows me something different. Avoid him against a Detroit secondary that isn’t bad.
K to PLAY
Justin Tucker @ Denver.
Brandon McManus vs. Baltimore.
Dan Bailey vs. NY Giants.
K to AVOID
Phil Dawson vs. Minnesota.
D/ST to PLAY
Jacksonville D/ST vs. Carolina.
Kansas City D/ST vs. Houston.
Cleveland D/ST vs. NY Jets.
D/ST to AVOID
Atlanta D/ST vs. Philadelphia.