The hype is real.
After days of wondering what the 2013 season would look like, we finally have a general idea, and boy am I excited about a bunch of different players and teams. Week 1 is in the books and fantasy owners have already seen a fair share of injuries, and whether they are minor or major, they still are worth monitoring. And as always, there are certain matchups that may scare fantasy owners off and have them looking elsewhere. Well, since this column has already been introduced, let’s get right to my Starts/Sits of the week.
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Terrelle Pryor vs Jacksonville Jaguars: I’ll say it again, folks. The hype is real. Pryor has been one of the most talked about fantasy options over the course of the first week, strictly because of the intriguing running ability. On Sunday, Pryor showcased those legs, setting a franchise record for rushing yards from a signal caller with 112 yards. Before the Monday night games, Pryor was actually the league leader in rushing. Anyway, Pryor carried the ball 13 times, while passing 29 times, so you know he wants to take off and run, especially since the lack of receiving options. The Ohio State product showed some flashes as a passer, but is still both known and targeted for his legs. He also has the size (6’4″, 233 lbs) to stay upright over the course of the season, which is something fantasy owners always want to see with rushing quarterbacks. The matchup this week is a good one against the Jaguars, a team that has a very suspect secondary, so perhaps Pryor can provide some fantasy value with both his arm and legs this week. Call me crazy, but I have Pryor inside my top-15 this week.
Jay Cutler vs Minnesota Vikings: I have been very excited about Cutler and the Marc Trestman effect, and after one week of play, I continue to get excited. In Week 1, Cutler threw for 242 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against a very, very good Bengals defense. More importantly, Cutler stayed upright over the course of this game, failing to be sacked and only being hurried on nine dropbacks. Cutler was also 8-of-10 for 94 yards and a score when the Bengals brought at least five rushers. Keep in mind that was against arguably the best defensive front in all of football. The offense looked pretty sharp, and Cutler’s arm matched that description. The velocity is still one of the best in the league, and against a very pedestrian Minnesota secondary this week, he has the opportunity to finish as a top-12 fantasy signal caller. Over his last five games against the Vikings, Cutler has thrown a strong 10 touchdowns. In Week 1, the Lions destroyed Minnesota with the short-passing game, whether it was to Reggie Bush, Brandon Pettigrew, whoever. Chicago, meanwhile, will also implement an intermediate passing game under Trestman, and they showed it on Sunday. Cutler should pick this secondary apart on Sunday.
Matt Schaub vs Tennessee Titans: Schaub went gangbusters on Monday night, tossing for 346 yards and three scores. He brought the Texans back from a 28-7 deficit, but obviously, the fact that he was trailing benefited his fantasy production. Still, Schaub looked strong, and with that, so did Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels and rookie DeAndre Hopkins. This week, Schaub gets a Titans secondary that hasn’t had much success against him over the past. During his last eight starts against Tennessee, Schaub is averaging 269 yards per contest with 17 touchdowns and just one interception. Let’s just hope they don’t ridiculously pound the rock.
Josh Freeman vs New Orleans Saints: You see that matchup against the Saints, and usually, you are all in for fantasy purposes. However, I am finding it harder and harder to trust the inconsistency of Freeman these days. Week 1 was just the beginning, as Freeman completed 15-of-31 passes, and at times, looked like he didn’t even know where he was throwing. Sure, the matchup looks good on paper this week, but Freeman was very up-and-down in the two games against New Orleans last season. Surprise, surprise. During the first game, Freeman went off for 420 yards and three scores, but in the second meeting, he threw for 279 yards and four interceptions. The Saints defense looks much, much better this year, and I just can’t trust Freeman.
Ben Roethlisberger @ Cincinnati Bengals: Don’t even think about putting Big Ben in your lineup. The Steelers watched star center Maurkice Pouncey leave the game with a torn ACL and MCL, so now an already atrocious offensive line becomes even worse. Combine that with absolutely no running game and a Bengals defensive front that was among the leaders in sacks last season. Roethlisberger will be running for his life on Monday night, and in his last two games against the Bengals, he is averaging just 249 passing yards and has scored just twice.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
DeAngelo Williams @ Buffalo Bills: Don’t look now, but Williams actually looked strong on Sunday… against the Seahawks. He averaged 5.1 yards per clip, and surprisingly, he got the majority of the work, carrying the ball 17 times and hauling in three passes as well. It was very encouraging for folks like me who have yet to give up on the 30-year old back. This week, I am 100 percent starting Williams if I own him against a Buffalo defense that was just gashed by Shane Vereen for 100 yards. Start Williams while you can, because sooner or later, Jonathan Stewart will return to action, creating yet another ugly backfield situation.
DeMarco Murray @ Kansas City Chiefs: Murray is another guy I refuse to give up on because the talent is outstanding. I often consider Murray a very poor man’s Adrian Peterson, as he runs just like him. A punishing runner who can also breakaway, Murray’s workload in Week 1 was very encouraging. He carried the ball 20 times for 86 yards, but also caught an impressive eight passes. The Cowboys want to run the football a lot more than they did last season, and as long as Murray stays healthy, that’s exactly what they’re going to do. Head coach Jason Garrett stated after Week 1 that he wants to offense to be more balanced (51 passes, 23 rushes), so Murray could be in line for a strong workload in 2013. If he can play a full 16 games, which is something he vowed to do before the season, Murray can easily finish inside the top-10 among fantasy runners. He’s that good. This week, I love him against a Chiefs defense that is better, but still allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs a season ago.
Reggie Bush @ Arizona Cardinals: Bush was what fantasy owners were hoping for in his debut with the Lions… and then some. He carried the ball a very healthy 21 times for 90 yards, and of course, was a force catching the ball, hauling in four balls for 101 yards and a long score. The Detroit Free Press also reported that the Lions will not limit Bush’s touches, so the sky is the limit for the 28-year old this year. Sure, Joique Bell will be in the mix at times, but Bush is still the main option in that backfield. This week, we could very well see a shootout in the desert, as both teams have their issues on the defense end, but more importantly, both offenses want to throw the ball a lot. Bush should benefit from a potential shootout, and is a top-15 option whether your are in a PPR league or not.
Ahmad Bradshaw vs Miami Dolphins: Bradshaw had an awesome matchup during the first week of the season, but because of an ailing foot injury, he wasn’t even remotely close to the featured back. The newest member of the Colts, who was expected to be the starting back, saw just seven carries for 26 yards, while Vick Ballard carried the ball 13 times. Sure doesn’t look like the Colts want to run the football, and because of the uncertainty of when Bradshaw will emerge into the lead back, I’d feel most comfortable with him on my bench until further notice.
Ryan Mathews @ Philadelphia Eagles: I hate to put Mathews in the Thumbs Down section again (not really), but despite scoring a touchdown on Monday night, it was a very discouraging outing from Mathews. Why? Well, let’s see. It was Ronnie Brown, not Mathews, who led the running backs in snaps on Monday night. After his beautiful receiving touchdown, Mathews averaged a measly 2.5 yards per carry for the rest of the game, and we could be looking at a committee approach very soon. Stay away, folks. It’s not worth it.
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
Jordy Nelson vs Washington Redskins: What offseason surgery? Nelson looked fantastic on Sunday afternoon, catching seven of 10 targets for 130 yards and a score. He looked great, slipping past defenders, breaking tackles and making very difficult catches look stupid simple. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers loves to spread the ball around, but it won’t matter, as Nelson has the speed and pedigree with Rodgers to see upwards to 10 targets per contest. His matchup in Week 2 is stellar against a Redskins secondary that was torched by the Eagles on Monday night, allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to a quarterback in the season’s first week. The Packers will throw the ball, and Nelson will reap the benefits.
Julian Edelman vs New York Jets: Of course, when everyone was excited about guys like Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld, the forgotten Edelman emerges into the most productive New England receiver on Sunday. Edelman caught seven balls on nine targets for 79 yards and two scores. Tom Brady targeted him before anyone else when in the red zone, and now, with Danny Amendola likely to be sidelined for Thursday night’s contest (that took long), Edelman is a must-add, and a strong start in fantasy. On Sunday, Edelman played on 83-of-94 snaps and lined up all over the place. Brady and the Patriots love this guy, and if you recall, he started over Wes Welker for a certain period of time last season. The Patriots will throw the football, and remember, Edelman’s last game against the Jets, he caught three balls for 64 yards and a score, while returning a punt back for a score as well.
Wes Welker @ New York Giants: It doesn’t matter what uniform he is wearing. All Wes Welker knows how to do is get open. In his debut with the Broncos, Welker was as reliable as they come, catching nine balls on 11 targets for 67 yards and two scores. Despite all of the weapons at Peyton Manning’s disposal, Welker will still be a PPR stud, and against a shaky secondary like the Giants, Welker is flirting with a top-10 spot in my rankings. Manning loves to complete those short intermediate passes for first downs, an area where Welker excels at. The Giants will be running all over the place to try and contain all of these Denver receivers, and Welker’s style of play should continue to allow him to see targets. Oh, by the way, the Broncos have no running game whatsoever, so you know Manning will be dropping back to pass quite a bit.
Roddy White vs St. Louis Rams: I wasn’t too worried about White’s ankle on Sunday morning… until I saw him play. First of all, he only played on 37 of the Falcons’ 56 offensive snaps, and when he was on the field, he looked like he couldn’t do the things he wanted to do. His routes weren’t nearly as crisp, which might be why Matt Ryan only targeted him twice. Was White simply a decoy for the Saints offense? Perhaps, but whatever it was, I didn’t like it. I’m not planning on starting him this week against a very good Rams secondary, and it doesn’t look like White is close to 100 percent just yet. I mean, heck. The guy even tweeted out that fantasy owners shouldn’t start him if he doesn’t practice a ton this week. Yikes.
Antonio Brown @ Cincinnati Bengals: I love Brown in 2013, but in Week 2, I’m looking elsewhere. It’s not a knock on his talent at all, but more of a praise for the Bengals stellar defensive unit. The Bengals pass rush will make it difficult for Brown to fully run his routes because Roethlisberger will be hurried and pressured all night long. When he does catch the ball, however, he can make things happen after the catch. Still, that Pittsburgh offensive line is scaring me away, at least for this week.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Jordan Cameron @ Baltimore Ravens: Remember the hype that was associated with Cameron throughout the entire offseason? Yeah, it was necessary. Cameron was stellar in Week 1, catching nine balls for 108 yards and a score, a beautiful one at that. He showcased the athleticism that many folks would dream of, and without Josh Gordon in the lineup, Cameron was targeted a very healthy 13 times. That volume won’t change, even when Gordon returns from his suspension. You’d be hard-pressed to find another tight end with the red zone capability of Cameron, which makes him extremely intriguing. This week, he gets the Ravens, who were torched by a similar tight end in Julius Thomas. Cameron has top-five upside for this week, and top-10 for the rest of the season.
Brandon Myers vs Denver Broncos: Myers hasn’t changed. In 2012 with the Raiders, he was a major garbage time proponent, which helped him finish inside the top-10 among tight ends. On Sunday night, there was no difference, as Myers caught a very late touchdown and finished the game with seven grabs for 66 yards on nine targets. Last season, the Broncos allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and would have surrendered a strong fantasy outing from Dallas Clark last week if he hadn’t dropped a wide open touchdown pass. The Giants will have to throw to keep up with the likes of Manning and company, so expect a strong possibility of more garbage time from Myers in Week 2.
Jermaine Gresham vs Pittsburgh Steelers: While the Steelers offense isn’t very intriguing, their defense is still very strong, which doesn’t bode well for Gresham’s fantasy prospects this week. This unit is very tough on opposing tight ends, and in two games against Pittsburgh last season, Gresham was held to six catches for 57 yards and no scores.
Kyle Rudolph @ Chicago Bears: I’ve never been a big Rudolph fan, and after a less than exciting Week 1 stat line (2 catches, 27 yards), I’m not high on him this week either. The Bears defense is still one of the most dominant in all of football, and this unit has held him to less than 23 yards per contest and just one score in four career meetings. I’m also not a fan of anyone on this offense to move down the field, outside of Adrian Peterson, of course.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Ravens defense vs Cleveland Browns: Baltimore’s defensive unit should be much better this week against a Browns offense led by Brandon Weeden, who is coming off of a three-interception performance on Sunday. During these two team’s last four meetings, the Browns have scored 14, 10, 15 and 16 points respectively. The Ravens defense will give up some field goals, at most in this contest, and I’d expect Weeden to turn the ball over some more in this one.
Rams defense @ Atlanta Falcons: The Rams defense has been a sleeper unit for many this season, and are certainly on the rise. A very strong pass rush, good linebackers and a continuously improving secondary, there is a lot to like. Everything, that is, but this week’s matchup against one of the most high-powered offenses in football in the Falcons. You should be able to find a better alternative option for this week, as there should be a good amount of points scored in this one.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.