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Don't be scared of Kenny Britt in Week 1
Week 1 of the 2011 NFL season is upon us, which means it is time to start setting your fantasy football lineups. Athlon Sports will try to help you do that each week with its Start or Sit suggestions. Keep in mind that these are suggestions and you are the owner of your fantasy team, and setting your lineup comes down to what you think is right.
Check back each week for Start or Sit and see who we are giving our thumbs up or thumbs down to and whether we had success or failure the week prior.
Sneaky Start of the Week
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee at Jacksonville
He has battled off-the-field trouble and hamstring trouble, but Titans coach Mike Munchak said Kenny Britt will be "turned loose" against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the opening game.
He closed the 2010 season strong (26 catches 566 yards and five scores in the final six games) and now faces a team who just sacked its starting quarterback in David Garrard and possesses the 28th-ranked pass defense from a year ago. The focus will be on stopping Chris Johnson, leaving Britt to run wild for Matt Hasselbeck to find him.
Unexpected Sit of the Week
Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
We love Ray Rice to be one of the top backs for the 2011 season. His one problem, that he faces twice a year, is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Don't believe the hype that if you drafted a player in the first round that he always plays. (Chris Johnson, coming off a 2,000-yard season in 2009, was held to 53 total yards, five catches and a fumble by these Steelers in Week 1 last year).
In three meetings against the Steelers last season, Rice totaled 84 yards on the ground, 59 yards in the air off 10 catches, one score and one fumble. That's an average of 4.1 points per game in non-PPR, 5.8 in half-PPR, and 7.5 in full-PPR formats.
If you're in a non-PPR league, bench him. If you're in a half-PPR league, bench him. If you're in a full PPR league, he may be worth a shot. But knowing going in that recent history against a very familiar opponent may only yield my top RB spot 4 to 8 points to start the season, no thanks. I will take my chances elsewhere.
It's still a game of matchups, and it's no different whether it's Ray Rice with a top-three pick or Willis McGahee with an eighth-round pick.
Kyle Orton (DEN) vs. Oakland — The Raiders, despite the presence of shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha last year, were still seventh-worst against fantasy QBs last season at 19.7 points per game. Asomugha is gone, and all the talk of John Fox being a run-first coach makes it sounds as if the Broncos are scrapping the forward pass altogether. The Raiders were also 10th-worst against the RBs (22.9 PPG), meaning the Broncos should be able to be balanced. The Orton-to-Brandon Lloyd connection was solid last year and looked good in the preseason, and the Broncos should be able to score more than the 23 and 14 points they put up against their AFC West rivals last season. Plus, Denver the worst defense against fantasy RBs last season (29 PPG), so there could be plenty of points had in this one.
Matthew Stafford (DET) at Tampa Bay — Everyone's healthy for the Lions, so take advantage while you can. Stafford was averaging 20.2 fantasy points through three games before landing on IR.
Mark Sanchez (NYJ) vs. Dallas — Sanchez doesn't scream fantasy starter, but against the Cowboys, in the season opener, he's certainly a worth candidate. Dallas was second-to-last against fantasy QBs at 21.4 points per game, and might go into this game without cornerback Mike Jenkins in addition to the already sidelined Terence Newman.
Tony Romo (DAL) at New York Jets — Two starting offensive linemen are gone (one released, one injured). Darrelle Revis is on the other side to cover either the injured Miles Austin or the coming-off-injury Dez Bryant.
Sam Bradford (STL) vs. Phildaelphia — Bradford has a bevy of receivers to choose from, but none that really standout, and certainly none that should have the advantage over the Eagles' standout corners, including the recently acquired Nnamdi Asomugha. This will be Game 1 for Bradford under new OC Josh McDaniels and it will be Game 1 for the Eagles' defense under new DC Juan Castillo. If defenses are usually ahead of offenses in the early weeks, give the edge to Philly in this one.
Kerry Collins (IND) at Houston — It would seem fairly obvious, but there is the allure of running an offense with all of those weapons around Collins. However, Collins did not look good under pressure last season with a better offensive line in Tennessee, and expect the Texans to do everything they can to disrupt a 39-year-old player that has been with the team less than three weeks.
Peyton Hillis (CLE) vs. Cincinnati — Hillis had 102 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting last season against the Bengals and went 14 for 59 yards (4.2 ypc) in the second meeting. Expect the Browns to lean on their big back, and get all you can out of Hillis before the Madden Curse strikes.
Cedric Benson (CIN) at Cleveland — Second verse, same as the first. The Bengals are going to run the wheels off Benson this season. He averaged at least four yards per carry in two meetings last season, including a 31-150 and a score in Week 15 last season against Cleveland.
DeAngelo Williams (CAR) at Arizona — The Cardinals were second-worst against fantasy RBs last year (26.5 PPG). Jonathan Stewart went for 137 yards on 27 carries in a Week 15 game against the Cards last season. The Panthers will use the run game and the tight ends to offset rookie QB Cam Newton making his first start.
Michael Turner (ATL) at Chicago — The Bears were second in NFL rush defense and seventh in fantasy points allowed to RBs last year (17.1 PPG). I am expecting the Falcons to show off new toy Julio Jones and see what rewards Roddy White reaps from his presence. The Bears should stand tall on their home field and see if the Falcon passing game can beat their experienced secondary.
Felix Jones (DAL) at New York Jets — Same rules as for Romo: The Cowboys are without two offensive linemen they went into camp with, one receiver is banged up, the other may draw Revis and the Jets surrendered a second-best 14 points per game to fantasy RBs last season.
Marshawn Lynch (SEA) at San Francisco — The quarterback situation is beyond bad. Sidney Rice is ailing. That combination will fail to stretch the field and open up running room for Lynch against a 49ers defense that allowed an 11th-best 18.8 points per game to RBs. Oh, and Lynch has missed a majority of the preseason battling an ankle injury.
Santonio Holmes (NYJ) vs. Dallas — One of the reasons Sanchez is a start is this player. He was one of the top fantasy scorers in the last half of 2010 and expect him to excel this week against a suspect Cowboys secondary.
Mario Manningham (NYG) at Washington — The Redskins allowed 20 fantasy points per game to QBs and 29.9 points to receivers. I am expecting a throwing showcase from both teams. The Giants' banged up defense should have trouble shutting down Rex Grossman (another sneaky QB play) and the Redskins' passing game, and New York will have to counter through the air as well. Hakeem Nicks and Manningham are the only proven targets, and they will face a secondary that may be without LaRon Landry and a banged O.J. Atogwe.
Lee Evans (BAL) vs. Pittsburgh — This is purely a flex play. I am not a fan of the old Lee Evans, but I am going to try and give him a clean slate in Baltimore. The Ravens are going to have to take their shots downfield to try and give the running game some breathing room and Evans, who quickly developed a rapport with QB Joe Flacco upon his arrival in Baltimore, will be there to perhaps give you a quick 10-12-point, long-TD score. And you should be happy with 10-12 points in a flex spot.
Reggie Wayne (IND) vs. Houston — I am wary of all Colts until I see how Kerry Collins operates in this offense and with this offensive line. The Texans will counter Wayne with cornerback Jonathan Joseph, acquired in the offseason from Cincinnati. The last time the two met was in Week 10 last season, and Wayne was limited to three catches for 34 yards.
Jeremy Maclin (PHI) at St. Louis — It's just a bad vibes call. He had the health scare and was not able to get on the practice field from the time the 2010 season ended up until just a couple of weeks ago. The Eagles' offense has not looked stellar in the preseason and the Rams have more than enough on the defensive line to disrupt Michael Vick to where he may not have enough time to find Maclin.
Miles Austin (DAL) at New York Jets — Lingering hamstring injury. Possibility of going up against Revis or Antonio Cromartie. How much time will his QB have to throw with two offensive linemen that were there when camp began are no longer in the lineup? Live to play another day with Austin, namely next week against the 49ers.
Brandon Pettigrew (DET) at Tampa Bay — This might be a homer pick because we like Pettigrew (ranked sixth at the position in the preseason) a lot this year and would like to see him prove us right from the jump.
Marcedes Lewis (JAC) vs. Tennessee — New starting QB. Tight ends are their best friend. He was slated to be one of the top targets already. Plus, Tennessee has not necessarily been the best defense against the tight end in recent memory, including last year when the Titans were seventh-worst at 10.7 points per game allowed to the position.
Jared Cook (TEN) at Jacksonville — Cook was one of the expected top receiving targets that was in camp with new QB Matt Hasselbeck from the get-go. New OC Chris Palmer loves him and he can have success against the third-worst team against fantasy TEs (11.5 PPG) while the Titans bring Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt back into the fold.
Tony Gonzalez (ATL) at Chicago — Where does he fit in the passing tree/target pecking order now? Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas all have potential to have good games. We are relatively down on Gonzo this year, and would like to see the first game before we know how he will be used. Chicago will be a good test for that, but in the meantime, find your TE elsewhere in Week 1.
Dustin Keller (NYJ) vs. Dallas — The perennial sleeper. This is the year for Dustin Keller. If it sounds familiar it should because it's been said before. He was good for Sanchez prior to Holmes' four-game suspension last season and then fell off. With Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Shonn Greene and LT all in the mix at the goal line, I'd feel comfortable looking for a TE somewhere outside of New York.
Greg Olsen (CAR) at Arizona — Beware of the preseason hype. He still has Jeremy Shockey to contend with in what will be a TE-friendly offense. We know he was a solid TE a few years ago when he was utilized, but we are going to pull back a bit on the preseason love and see how it works in Week 1 before we place him in the starting lineup.
Houston vs. Indianapolis — Maybe it's wishful thinking because we already loved Houston's new defense under Wade Phillips, but when we hear Kerry Collins gets the start we can't get the Texans in the lineup fast enough. Their secondary is solid with Joseph and Danieal Manning and that should allow the front seven to tee off on the statue that is a 39-year old QB who was out of football three weeks ago.
Cleveland vs. Cincinnati — Should be a low-scoring affair. The Browns get to welcome a rookie QB with a weak arm to the league in Andy Dalton and there's always Josh Cribbs in the return game.
San Francisco vs. Seattle — Until the Seahawks show they can be a competent offense with Tarvaris at the QB spot, you start almost any defense against them. I just see Jackson throwing up prayers to big receivers Mike Williams and Sidney Rice (if he plays) and the 49ers' defense just waiting under them to pick them off and go the other way. Plus,. Kendall Hunter and Ted Ginn as return men aren't too shabby for San Francisco.
New York Giants at Washington — Rex Grossman may actually be a good play against a banged up, depleted Giants back seven, and if the Skins can protect Grossman I don't see where the Giants are going to get their fantasy points from.
Dallas at New York Jets — Both Sanchez and the running game should be in for a solid day, and unless the Cowboys get a special teams return for a score, it's hard to see where they score for you this week as a fantasy DST.
Atlanta at Chicago — The last time we saw the Atlanta defense they were getting torched by the Packers to the tune of 48 points, 366 yards passing and three scores from Aaron Rodgers, just two sacks registered, five QB hits and one pass defended. Eric Weems' 102-yard TD kickoff return was the lone bright spot. So to go up against another passing team, at its place to open the season, we are going to pump the brakes on the Falcons' defense for the first week.
Neil Rackers (HOU) vs. Indianapolis — Whether its PATs or field goals, the Texans should have a field day.
Alex Henery (PHI) at St. Louis — Last year's No. 1 fantasy kicker, David Akers, was let go in favor of this rookie. Might as well see what he's got when the Nebraska product makes his NFL debut back in the Midwest and in a dome no less.
Nick Folk (NYJ) vs. Dallas — Should have plenty of PAT opportunities, or if the Jets' offense falters the man who attempted the third most field goals in the league last year and hit 30 of them, will get his chances.
David Akers (SF) vs. Seattle — It's doubtful that you would play him, but just in case you remembered the name, thought he was still the top dog in Philadelphia and would pick up where he left off, leave him on the waiver wire for now.
David Buehler (DAL) at New York Jets — If it seems like I'm picking on the Cowboys, well, I am. And this is coming from a player who has Dez in two leagues, Miles in another and Romo in another. I just don't see much offense generated by the 'Boys in Week 1.
Billy Cundiff (BAL) vs. Pittsburgh — He was a six-point scorer when these two teams met in the postseason last January. And that took the Ravens scoring 24 points for him to be a part of six of them. It's doubtful the Ravens are scoring 24 points this time, so let Cundiff ride the pine in Week 1.
- Corby A. Yarbrough @AthlonCorby on Twitter