Inside Fantasy Sports

September 10, 2009 8:46 PM

Bringin' the Juice!

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Seeing as how the NFL season begins today (remember that the Steelers host the Titans tonight, but please do not put Kerry Collins into your starting lineup because he's playing a prime time game), most drafts have already taken place. The decision-making is not over, however. The most important decisions you'll make from now until the season's end is who to start from week to week. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is more frustrating in fantasy football than benching a guy that goes off for a monster game while the guy you started in his place puts up a dud. Of course, it's nice to see your players do well, but successful fantasy owners ensure that they're getting the best players in their starting lineups on a weekly basis.
Assuming that my competitors (you know who you're going down, suckas!) are following this blog, I could use this as a medium to obtain a competitive advantage by sharing information that may sway them to start the wrong players, but that wouldn't be the correct use of this space and, let's face it, my team is too good to be beaten by any of their feeble squadrons, anyway. So I will keep my integrity in tact and share my opinions regarding the juiciest week to week matchups, telling you which players I believe make for good starts. I won't waste your time in this series telling you to start your studs (you should be starting AP every week, regardless of the matchup, as long as he's healthy). Instead, this series will focus on players that are likely to be on your lineup bubble.

Before I get started, I want to enhance my credibility by noting that, in order to get in a truly juicy mood, I'll be rockin' out to music by my friend, The Juice, as I compose each entry for this series. In case you've never heard the jams of which I speak, type "Skeletummy" into your iTunes store search bar and prepare to be blown away.

Without further ado, here are my juicy matchups for week 1, broken down by position and ranked according to juiciness. I've decided to ignore kickers and defenses this week since they're nearly impossible to predict at the start of the season. Good luck to all (except Kevin Joyce) on this opening weekend!


1. Carson Palmer (Cin) vs. Denver: I expect this one to be a pretty high scoring game since both defenses have huge issues. Denver's lack of a run defense will make them especially susceptible to play-action. Sure, Champ Bailey versus Chad OchoCinco should be a battle, but I expect 8 5 to have the upper hand. In addition, the Broncos have no one to stop Chris Henry and Laveranues Coles. As long as he can stay upright (which he should since the only unit worse than his offensive line is the Broncos defensive line), look for Palmer to have a monster opener at home.
2. Joe Flacco (Bal) vs. Kansas City: To put it lightly, the Chiefs have no chance in this one. Baltimore is going to be able to move the ball at will, with Flacco picking apart the secondary and Rice, McGahee, and McClain shredding through enormous gaps in the line. I see Flacco throwing for several touchdowns in front of what's sure to be a sold out home crowd in Baltimore.

3. Matt Schaub (Hou) vs. New York Jets: The Jets should be an improved defense since last year, but it may take a few more weeks for them to all get on the same page (new defensive minded head coach and several new players). That should mean a few blown coverages, which you never want to do against the Texans potent attack. WR Kevin Walter may not see much action due to injury, but Schaub's got Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Steve Slaton. That's all he needs, really. Look for a big game from mister Schaub.

4. Matt Hasselbeck (Sea) vs. St. Louis: This matchup often yields close, high-scoring games, which is what I expect it to be on Sunday. The Hasselbeck to Housmandzadeh connection looked good in preseason, but I don't think we've even seen the half of it. Look for Housh to be showcased in front of the home crowd and Hasselbeck to put up big numbers against a defense that is just awful.

Running Backs:

1. Ray Rice (Bal) vs. Kansas City: As I wrote in the previous section, the Chiefs won't be able to find a way to stop the Ravens, which means great things are in store for Flacco and Rice. Flacco will get the Ravens a nice lead and Rice will preserve that lead by moving the chains and eating up the clock. Especially in PPR leagues, this matchup is just too juicy for Ray Ray to be sitting on the bench.

2. Cedric Benson (Cin) vs. Denver: One of these teams is going to score 30+ points and I think I know which (you should too after reading the last section). Denver has one of the worst front sevens in the league, so even the Bengals O-line should handle them with ease, creating large holes for Benson to run through. Look for Cedric to entertain his owners that start him on Sunday. I'm thinking 100+ yards and a score.

3. Ronnie Brown (Mia) at Atlanta: Brown is likely your RB2 so there shouldn't be any doubts about starting him this week, but just in case you were on the fence I thought I'd include him here. Atlanta's a great team, but they're known for their offense. While improved since 2008, the Falcon defense isn't anything to run and hide from. If the Fins will have any chance of keeping up with the birds, they're going to have to utilize Brown to the fullest.

4. Darren McFadden (Oak) vs. San Diego: Regardless of who Cable starts at RB (he'll announce it later today), DMC is going to get upwards of 25 touches on Monday night. With WR Chaz Schilens sidelined until week 2 at the earliest, McFadden will be the go-to guy for the Raiders and I expect big things from the 2nd year playmaker.

Wide Receivers:

1. Eddie Royal (Den) at Cincinnati: I don't mean to beat this matchup into the ground, but it's tough to ignore. It looks as though Broncos WR Brandon Marshall will play on Sunday and, despite his antics this preseason, the Bengals have no choice but to focus much of their attention on him. That means Royal is in store for a big day since the Bengals are not the deepest of teams on the defensive side of the ball. He started last season off with a bang and I expect him to do the same to start off his 2009 campaign.

2. Jerricho Cotchery (NYJ) at Houston: Texans CB Dunta Robinson recently ended a holdout that kept him out of training camp and the preseason. While he's a talented player, missing that type of time will have its consequences and Cotchery will be the biggest beneficiary. The Jets will probably ease rookie QB Mark Sanchez into the game with a heavy dose of running and quick, easy passes, but you can't do that all game long and expect to compete with an explosive offense like the Texans. At some point he'll be forced to showcase his big arm and I like Cotchery's chances in this matchup. Start him.

3. Anthony Gonzalez (Ind) vs. Jacksonville: Prior to last season, the Jags had been known for their smashmouth style of defense, but their level of play fell off bigtime in 2008. I doubt they'll be as bad as they were, but it may take a while for them to get that swagger back. Peyton Manning is the smartest QB in the league and I foresee him tearing the Jags secondary to shreds on Sunday. With so much attention on WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark, Gonzo will find plenty of space to get open and you have to believe that Manning knows it and will find him.

4. Lee Evans (Buf) at New England: The Pats don't have many weaknesses, but their secondary is surely one of them. They simply were not the same after losing CB Asante Samuel to the Eagles. With Brady back under center, the Pats offense should be firing on all cylinders, meaning the Bills will be airing it out quite a bit as they'll be playing from behind for most, if not all, of the game. You have to start T.O., but Evans should see plenty of looks as well. I like this matchup for him.

Tight Ends:

1. Zach Miller (Oak) vs. San Diego: There are many reasons why I like Miller this week, but the main one is that San Diego was awful at guarding tight ends last season. With Schilens out, QB JaMarcus Russell is going to be looking Miller's way an awful lot on Monday night and Miller is one of the more sure-handed tight ends in the league. He'll lead the Raiders in receptions and should be able to find the end zone as the Raiders will probably be forced to pass more than they'd like to.

2. Greg Olsen (Chi) at Green Bay: Aside from RB Matt Forte, Greg Olsen is probably QB Jay Cutler's most reliable receiver. The Packers corners (Charles Woodson and Al Harris) will likely shutdown the Bears WRs, making Olsen ever more important to the success of the Bears offense. I think he'll be open often and should lead the team in receiving on Sunday night.

2. Dustin Keller (NYJ) at Houston: I've been saying it about Keller since I've started writing this blog: he's going to be Mark Sanchez's best friend in the passing game (rookie QBs tend to favor their tight ends). Sanchez has proved to be a capable QB in the preseason, so I'm not too concerned about him being able to get the ball to Keller. Look for a good game from the speedy TE against the Texans on Sunday.

3. John Carlson (Sea) vs. St. Louis: I'm not quite sold on him yet, but I think Carlson could be a solid producer for the Seahawks this season. The Rams are terrible defensively making just about any Seahawk player an attractive option this week. Don't start Carlson over any of the higher ranking tight ends, but if it's between him and a guy like Visanthe Shiancoe, Kevin Boss, or Vernon Davis I'd go with Carlson.

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