Each week in this spot, I’ll give you a player I’m high on and a player I’m, well, not-so-high on, at each fantasy position.
IN: Josh Freeman, Bucs
Many expect the young pivot to continue his rapid rise up the QB ranks in his second full NFL season, and Freeman will get his chance to show us what he’s got in Week 1 in a favorable matchup against Detroit. Yes, the Lions D is greatly improved (especially the pass rush, which could cause issues for Freeman) but the secondary is still inexperienced and the Bucs quarterback has the weapons to take advantage. With the likes of Mike Williams, Kellen Winslow and Arrelious Benn at his disposal, Freeman could put up some big numbers against Detroit.
OUT: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
You can expect a tough, physical and low-scoring game whenever the Ravens and Steelers square off. Roethlisberger hasn’t fared too poorly against Baltimore (averaging around 250 yards with four touchdowns in his last three starts against the division rivals) but I think there are better options out there this week. The Steelers will need to establish the run to help the passing game produce, and that will prove difficult against the stingy Baltimore D.
IN: Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Wells is coming off a terrific preseason which saw him average 4.8 yards per carry, and there are no signs that he’ll slow down in Week 1 versus Carolina. The Panthers were horrible against the run last season, giving up almost 123 yards per game, and that unit didn’t improve all that much in the offseason. Wells has been running with speed, power and confidence lately, and those three facets will be on display for the Cardinals on Sunday.
OUT: Felix Jones, Cowboys
This has bad matchup written all over it. Jones is the undisputed starter in Dallas this season, but the odds are stacked against the young running back on Sunday. The Jets didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher at home last season — in fact they were the third stingiest unit overall against the run, giving up just 91 rushing yards per game. Jones will have plenty of good games this season, but this won’t be one of them.
IN: Kenny Britt, Titans
There are concerns about Britt’s conditioning since he missed the majority of the preseason with a hamstring injury, but that shouldn’t hamper the wideout on Sunday. New head coach Mike Munchak says the team is preparing to turn Britt loose against the lowly Jaguars this week — a team that gave up the seventh most fantasy points to receivers last year. Matt Hasselbeck will look to the talented receiver to make the big plays, and he should be open for most of the afternoon.
OUT: Percy Harvin, Vikings
The newly-formed tandem of Donovan McNabb and Harvin needs more time to gel, and unfortunately the Vikings have a tough test in Week 1 on the road against the Chargers. San Diego was tops in the league against the pass last season, allowing just shy of 178 yards through the air per game, and that aggressive unit will make things tough on McNabb and his receivers.
IN: Dallas Clark, Colts
This is a curious inclusion to the “IN” list, but hear me out. Of course Clark’s fantasy value took a major hit with no Peyton Manning under center, but there are worse options than Kerry Collins. The 38-year-old QB has experience playing against the Texans (when he was with Tennessee) and he will be looking to the sure-handed Clark to move the chains, especially in the red zone. Don’t forget: Houston had the worst pass D in the league last year, so Clark could take advantage.
OUT: Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars
Lewis and fellow tight end Dallas Clark are in similar situations this week: both are missing their “normal” quarterbacks. But Luke McCown (just seven starts in his seven NFL seasons) is no Kerry Collins. With the release of David Garrard, McCown takes over under center, and consequently the fantasy value for most Jags players takes a steep dip. This offense needs more time to work together, and while Lewis is a reliable tight end (700 yards and 10 touchdowns last year), the risk is too great to play him this week.
IN: Josh Brown, Rams
Two hard-hitting defenses will be on display in St. Louis on Sunday, so points may be hard to come by. But that puts an even greater importance on the kickers, so Brown should get plenty of opportunity to show off his strong leg. Weather won’t be an issue inside the dome on Sunday, and Sam Bradford and company have the ability to move the football, setting Brown up to tack some points on the board.
OUT: David Akers, 49ers
Akers still has the skills to be a consistent kicker in the league, but he’s not in Philadelphia anymore. The winds swirl in the Bay Area, adding another level of uncertainty to Akers’ value this week. His saving grace? San Fran is taking on lowly Seattle, but I’m still not sold on the 49ers offense (namely Alex Smith). If you must play Akers in Week 1, do so with caution.
IN: Cleveland Browns
This selection is more a testament to how horrible the Bengals offense looks and not how dominating the Browns D will be. Cincinnati has a rookie QB (Andy Dalton) and receiver (A.J. Green) in the starting lineup, plus an aging running back who has been dealing with off-field issues this preseason (Cedric Benson). The Bengals will have major issues moving the football on Sunday and the Dawg Pound won’t make things any easier for the visitors.
OUT: Chicago Bears
Any other week the Bears D is a must start, but this matchup is hardly favorable for Chicago. I’m not knocking the Bears, but am instead giving credit to the Falcons’ offense. Atlanta scored almost 26 points per game last season, and the team has a lot of ways to put a lot of points on the board. And while Chicago is a force to be reckoned with, the D was much stronger against the run than the pass in 2010 — something Matt Ryan will look to exploit.