One of the more popular pastimes for NFL fans is fantasy football. It is estimated that as many as 33 MILLION people play each season, including a large percentage of our own BTB community. Here now is my attempt to prognosticate what will benefit fantasy owners the most over the coming weekend.
It goes beyond saying that if you have an Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Peyton Manning on your team, that guy is the guy you want going for you. Unfortunately we don't all have that luxury. For those of us who do not have a future Hall of Fame passer, there are still some good match ups that can play into out favor. Here are some guys who just might steal the day thanks to who they face on opening weekend.
Colin Kaepernick (San Francisco @ Dallas)
Let's face it; the 2013 Dallas defense was not just bad, they have been referred to as historically (and hysterically) bad and some experts say this year's edition could be even worse. Kaepernick may not be the elite passer that you want at the helm each week, but part of being a good fantasy owner is taking advantage of opportunities when they stare you in the face. This one is not blinking at all.
Nick Foles (Philadelphia @ Jacksonville)
Like his counterpart in San Francisco, Foles is not a guy I would go to every week, but if you have him on your roster you might as well cash in. The Eagles face a Jags squad that surrendered fantasy points in bunches last season, and they have done little to improve their standing for 2014. Even without DeSean Jackson to throw to, Foles should put up some good numbers in week 1, and besides he was the top (fantasy) scoring passer during the second half of last season. Ride the wave if you can.
Some weeks the match ups just don't bode so well, especially for second tier players. They face some of the best defenders the game has to offer and because of that maybe you should consider giving these guys the benefit of a week off.
Cam Newton (Carolina @ Tampa Bay)
Newton, who gains most of his points with his feet, is dealing with cracked ribs. This should keep him from taking off at will. Add in a top notch defensive mind like Lovie Smith calling the shots for the Bucs, and things don't add up well. Hold Cam over for another day.
Ryan Tannehill (Miami @ New England)
The Pats brought in a pair of hired guns to add to a young and improving pass defense, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. These additions should give pause to any passer they face. The tea leaves say that young Tannehill is going to have a rough first week of the season.
To pound the rock, it is time to go with the old steady running backs. Consistency (and the benefit of good match ups as well) should score plenty of points for you
Frank Gore (San Francisco @ Dallas)
Not to keep beating a dead horse, but Dallas was terrible (27th) against the run in 2013. Now they are without DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Sean Lee. I expect Gore to run at will. I hope not, but fantasy owners cannot afford to play with their heart. If you have Gore, give him the rock.
Arian Foster (Houston vs Washington)
Jacksonville, as mentioned earlier, was generous through the air in 2013. Washington was just as giving on the ground. Add in an explosive back like Foster and you have a recipe for putting up some serious points. Arian is back from injury and he is ready to run
It is not always the back's fault but there are a few teams that just don't surrender yardage on the ground. A couple pretty good ball carriers will find themselves in that situation this week.
Doug Martin (Tampa Bay vs Carolina)
It is not that there is an issue with Martin, he is consistently good for a solid points day, it is just that the Carolina D is stingy to running backs. This is a week where I see Martin having a slow start to his season.
Maurice Jones-Drew (Oakland vs New York Jets)
Again, nothing against the back, it is a credit (one of the few) to Rex Ryan's defense. If there is one thing Ryan's teams do well, it is that they limit opposing backs. The NY front trio are run stopping beasts so hold off on MJD until week 2.
Here again if you have either an Optimus Dez or a Megatron then by all means you should get that kind of talent into the game. Most of us are not that well blessed so it is time to look at some match ups where we might gain an advantage.
Julian Edelman ( New England vs Miami)
You know Tom Brady is going to toss the seed around. Somebody is going to have to catch it. With Gronk either out, or more likely on a limited "pitch count" that means that Edelman should get plenty of looks from the master. He torched the Miami secondary late last season and conditions indicate that he is back for round two.
Marques Coleston ( New Orleans vs Atlanta)
Coleston will be matched up against Rob Alford for the Falcons, and what a mismatch that is going to be. Alford is 6 inches shorter, 40 pounds lighter, and he is giving up a ton of experience. Add in the Brees factor and this is a great opportunity for fantasy owners to cash in.
Sometime receivers are in a situation where the odds are stacked against them. These two guys are in that situation right now.
Mike Wallace (Miami vs New England)
Mike Wallace will find himself on Revis Island this weekend. If Ryan Tannehill is smart, he will assume that this game is ten on ten because Wallace is not going to be there for him.
Pierre Garcon (Washington vs Houston)
This is another one of those "not a knock on the player" situations. Ordinarily I would have no qualms starting Garcon, but his quarterback, Robert Griffin, III is still learning to be a pocket quarterback in Jay Gruden's system. Expect a slow start for the Skins, and Garcon's performance will suffer for it.
I know, you love Jason Witten, but there is only one of him to go around, and you probably don't have him on your roster. That means it is time to look elsewhere.
Zach Ertz (Philadelphia vs Jacksonville)
The Jags were vulnerable to a good pass catching tight end in 2013 and not much has changed. Look for Nick Foles to dump the ball to Ertz similar to how Tony Romo does with the Senator. All signs point to this being a lethal combination for Chip Kelly's charges on Sunday.
Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota vs St Louis)
As vulnerable as the Jags are to the TE, St. Louis is quite the opposite. Norv Turner will get his tight ends involved often and effectively with the Vikes, but that will not start this week. The Rams are too stingy.
As far as defenses and special teams go, I am not going to look at any match ups this early on other than to admit, as much as I hate to, that I would not start the Cowboys defense.
There you have it folks, a quick look at a few of the players who have match ups that either favor a good output or a weekend off. Best of luck to everyone this season, and have fun with your fantasy leagues. Let us know how you did this weekend; after all, what is the fun in playing if you can't talk a little trash?
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,000,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $25 to join and first place wins $100,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.