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Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. We’ve braved the brutal cold of winter. We’ve weathered the wet spring and early summer. And now that September is upon us, we find ourselves on the eve of yet another NFL season.
And for you fantasy football freaks, this week marks the first of many where you’ll find yourself spending more time contemplating who your starting running backs will be, rather than thinking about whether or not you fed your dog, or kids for that matter. The next four months, your mind will be engulfed with lineup questions. Hopefully, for answers to those questions, you turn to your friends here at SportsofBoston.com.
Today I kick off a weekly series of articles, simply titled, “High Five/Low Five.” As the great Professor Belichick says, “it is what it is.” Five players I’m high on each week, and five that’ll stink up the joint. At least in my mind. Now this isn’t aimed at being an article written by Captain Obvious. If you’re relying on me to tell you to start Adrian Peterson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Tom Brady every single week, then pay your league fees now and sleep for the next 17 weeks, because fantasy football is way over your head. Instead, I’m focusing more on those fringe players, guys you may have drafted towards the middle of your draft. The guys you’ll flip-flop on each week saying, “Do I start this bum or that bum?” Let’s drop some knowledge…
After an injury plagued 2008 season, the Seattle veteran comes back to a new WR toy to play with, T.J. Houshmandzadeh. With a Week 1 matchup against the division rival Rams, there’s no reason why Hasselbeck won’t get off to a hot start against the putrid St. Louis defense. If you drafted him, start him…I promise you.
I know, he’s up against the beloved Patriots. How dare I think highly of an opponent! But let’s face it, the New England defense isn’t what it once was, and if you drafted Fred Jackson, the only time to start him is now, while Marshawn Lynch is sidelined with a 3-game suspension to start the year off. No Dominic Rhodes to split carries with either, as he was cut this past weekend. Hop on the Fred Jackson bandwagon, you’ll be glad you did.
With Brandon Marshall out of the lineup for much of the preseason, I see new Denver QB Kyle Orton developing a nice rapport with Mr. Royal this season, and this week’s matchup with Cincinnati will prove to be the beginning of what will be a breakout year for the second year wideout.
The “Williams Wall” will stand tall this week in the Vikes’ opener at Cleveland on Sunday, as Kevin and Pat Williams will play regardless of what happens with their court case this week. Both players are challenging the four-game suspensions they were handed for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Couple their presence with the fact that they are facing arguably the worst team in the league this week, as the Browns look as talentless as ever, it all adds up to the Vikings being a must-start in the fantasy world.
You may see the Saints’ D beginning this season undrafted in your fantasy league, but if there’s a week to use them, it’s this one. Any time a team is facing a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut, you have to give them a look. And when the team that rookie QB is playing for is the lowly Detroit Lions, you’d be silly not to love the Saints this week. As a matter of fact, start all of your Saints: Brees, Colston, Thomas, their defense. Heck, start Saint Nicholas, Saint Patrick, and Saint Bonaventure becausethey are playing the Lions!!!
While New York has won six of their last eight games vs. Washington, it hasn’t been thanks to the weighty stats of QB Eli Manning. In the last five of those games against the ‘Skins, Eli has put a very mediocre 4 TDs and 4 INTs. Beyond that, his two favorite targets from a year ago, Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer, have bid farewell. He doesn’t even have David Tyree any more either! Look for Eli to struggle this week. And look for me to rejoice over it, for my hatred of all things Manning is at an all-time high after that no-talent hick scored himself that crazy $97 million contract.
I wasn’t as high on Chris Johnson in my preseason rankings as many other fantasy gurus have been, but this week’s opening matchup vs. Pittsburgh’s #1 rushing defense is a matchup that doesn’t favor Johnson in the least. A year ago, he did manage to put up 69 yards on the ground against the Steelers in Week 16, along with a touchdown, so there is a glimmer of hope for Johnson owners, but don’t count on him running wild at Heinz Field Thursday night.
A lot of the things I just said about Chris Johnson could be copied and pasted here for his unrelated brother from another mother, Larry. LJ was pretty low on my preseason running back rankings, and like CJ, he opens up against a top defense in Baltimore against the Ravens. Taper down your expectations for Johnson this week, as I see the Chiefs falling behind early and needing to rely on the air attack to play catch up.
I love Steve Slaton’s fantasy potential long term, but short term, like looking at his Week 1 matchup with the Jets for instance, my outlook is gloomy for the second-year back. The Jets rush defense was strong last season, and now under new head coach Rex Ryan, they look to improve even further on stuffing the run. If you have another option at the RB position, you may sit Slaton this week in favor of a better option.
Yes, he survived the final cut last weekend. Yes, he’s the solid #1 guy in Cleveland’s back field. And yes, you probably drafted him in the 5th or 6th round, thinking, “hey, he’s been good in the past, he’s got no competition for the job, why not take him, right?” Well all that may be true, but Jamal Lewis should prepare to take a beating this weekend against arguably the toughest defensive front in the NFL, the Minnesota Vikings.
In my mind, the only way you’d want to start Lewis this week, is if you drafted Bo Jackson, Shaun Alexander, and O.J. Simpson as your other running backs. And even then, I think Bo could do a better job this weekend than Lewis. “Bo Knows Everything,” and don’t you forget that.