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2013 Fantasy Basement: Week 1
The Fantasy Basement is a weekly piece that provides fantasy advice on lineup calls, sleepers, waiver-wire moves and rookie spotlights, along with the occasional ramble or two. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes arrested development. Um…how does that have negative connotation? After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done?…Anyway, enjoy!
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
The only redeeming quality on Tennessee’s secondary is the 43 percent chance Bernard Pollard cheap-shots the opposition to the sidelines. Michael Griffin might be a two-time Pro Bowler, but the veteran safety is extremely vulnerable against the play-action and is repeatedly lost in coverage. In short, we shouldn’t be worried about Big Ben facing a defense that surrendered nearly 248 yards per game last season, third-worst in the AFC. Pittsburgh’s receiving corps looks depleted at the moment thanks to the exodus of Mike Wallace and knee issues to Heath Miller, but Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Markus Wheaton and David Paulson are solid enough to give Big Ben suitable targets. Throw in the battered status of the Pittsburgh backfield, forcing the Steelers to attack from the sky, and it should translate to dividends for Roethlisberger owners in Week 1.
Other starts: Michael Vick, Ryan Tannehill
RB: Darren McFadden, Raiders
Conviction in McFadden from the fantasy community is at an all-time low. Understandable; not only has the Raiders running back missed 13 games the past two seasons, but when he was on the gridiron, McFadden posted a career-low 3.3 yards per attempt in 2012. (More like “WALK DMC, am I right?!?!)
Though McFadden is not the brightest star in the sky, there’s still radiance left in that orb. Oakland travels to Indianapolis, where the Colts did little in the offseason to shore up a rush defense that allowed the fourth-most yards (137.5 yards per contest) in the league last season. McFadden has been nursing a shoulder ailment, and Oakland’s line, quarterback and overall franchise state is a mess (more on this in a moment). However, as a RB2 or Flex option, McFadden has the potential for a big day in the Hoosier State this Sunday.
Other starts: DeMarco Murray, Ben Tate
WR: Golden Tate, Seahawks
As a man who appreciates a good maple bar, Tate has been in my good graces for years. While I’m not necessarily behind his elevated season ranking, I do think the Notre Dame product has a chance to shine against a feeble Panthers secondary (the Carolina defense’s 91.7 QB rating last season ranked 23rd). Make no mistake, Seattle is a run-first offense, and Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin will garner their share of targets. Conversely, Tate’s positive reviews from training camp cannot be ignored, and with the unfailing effect of the contract-year incentive hanging in his corner, look for the 25-year-old to start 2013 with a bang.
Other starts: Mike Wallace, Kenbrell Thompkins
TE: Zach Sudfeld, Patriots
Owned in just 30 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, Sudfeld is a must-start the next few weeks until Rob Gronkowski returns from injury. An undrafted rookie, Sudfeld was one of the bright spots in Patriots camp, quickly building a rapport with Tom Brady. The connection was so strong that many around New England view Sudfeld filling in a similar role to Aaron Hernandez when Gronk does come back. Buffalo was right in the middle of the pack for fantasy points allowed to tight ends last year, and along with Danny Amendola and Kenbrell Thompkins, Sudfeld should see a healthy dose of balls in his direction against the Bills. If he’s still available in your league, snag him.
Other starts: Fred Davis, Brent Celek
DEF: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You saw that Geno Smith was starting, right?
Other starts: Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs
QB: Matt Schaub, Texans
The Chargers didn’t put forth much of a fight against passing attacks last year, and with Arian Foster and DeAndre Hopkins cleared to play, the Texans offense should be at full flight. Alas, as mentioned in our preseason analysis, Schaub was slyly underwhelming last year. Subtract two brilliant performances against the Broncos and lowly Jags and his efforts were pedestrian in the other 14 contests (228 yards per game, 13 touchdowns, nine picks). Moreover, San Diego does have some playmakers in Eric Weddle, Dwight Freeney and Corey Liuget on its resistance. Better options exist at quarterback this week than Schaub.
Other sits: Andy Dalton, Sam Bradford
RB: DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
I think Williams is in for a career rejuvenation this fall, as Jonathan Stewart’s ankle issues will result in an amplified workload for the former All-Pro. Unfortunately, that revival will have to wait a week, for the Seahawks allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs last year. Worse, the case can be made that Seattle noticeably improved its defense, one which allowed a league-low 15.3 points per game. In deeper leagues, Williams is not a terrible flex option, yet in standard formats, keep him on your bench.
Other sits: Eddie Lacy, Montee Ball/Ronnie Hillman
WR: Torrey Smith, Ravens
The Baltimore wideout failed to build off a strong rookie season, with his 2012 stat line almost mirroring his output from 2011. He won’t have a sound platform to get 2013 started on the right foot either, considering the Broncos yielded the eighth-fewest points to receivers last season. Without Anquan Boldin or Dennis Pitta in the fold, Smith will be looked at as the primary man for the Ravens, a role I’m not sure is up his alley. Also, and this might be one of those personal annoyances or simply conjecture, but Smith was a little too visible in the offseason for someone who wasn’t necessarily a star on last year’s championship team. It would be like Mark Ruffalo taking credit for the success of The Avengers, you know? Opposing defenders might feel the same way.
Other sits: Chris Givens, Brian Hartline
TE: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
The arrival of Tyler Eifert puts the kibosh on any aspirations of Gresham as a No. 1 fantasy TE option. You can’t totally discount his merit, as Gresham did haul in 64 receptions for 737 yards and five scores last year, and could see some looks inside the 20 and in two-tight end packages. Also worth keeping in mind: although the Bengals plan on utilizing these sets, Gresham will likely be inserted as a blocking end. Account for the Bears’ stringent attitude toward adversarial tight ends (second-fewest points allowed among NFC teams in 2012) and it’s an ominous forecast for Gresham.
Other sits: Jared Cook, Antonio Gates
DEF: Minnesota Vikings
They have a nice core, but the loss of Antoine Winfield will have a bigger impact than believed. And even if the Lions are not a finished product, they still have the capability to light up the scoreboard.
Other sits: Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers
Waiver Wire Watch: E.J. Manuel, Bills
Dang. I was really looking forward to placing mone, er, “watching” Jeff Tuel against the Patriots, too.
His mobility will probably be shackled to some extent, given that Manuel has missed the last few weeks recovering from a meniscus cleanup, and a rookie couldn’t ask for a worse opponent to debut against than Bill Belichick’s club. Yet, as blasphemous as this may seem, I see shades of Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton in Manuel. In truth, he actually has better weapons at his disposal than Newton did in his freshman campaign (or now, for that matter), and the Buffalo offensive line isn’t as beleaguered as it’s made out to be. New England did relinquish the third-most yards to quarterbacks in 2012, and it’s easy to envision Manuel racking up a few scores in garbage time. At worst, Manuel is a good roster stash thanks to his high ceiling.
Email of the Week
This week’s winner comes from Tiff R. from Erie, Pennsylvania who writes:
Have Romo and Stafford. Which do I start in Week 1? Cookies for your thoughts!
This person has been promising me dessert for three years and has yet to pay up. Listen Tiff in Erie, if that’s your real name, if I’ve learned anything from awful action movies, and I haven’t, it’s that I can easily access your IP address, cross reference it with every known fact about your life and have a team of mercenaries at your doorstep within minutes. So you better pay up with these sugar delights you keep promising, or ELSE.
Oh, and although I really like both quarterbacks this year, Stafford is the safe bet in Week 1.
Fantasy Flyer: Julius Thomas, Broncos
WHO? Thomas, a fourth-round pick out of mighty Portland State in 2011, has been bestowed starter status for the Broncos in Week 1, as Joel Dreessen is on the sidelines with injury and Jacob Tamme has been demoted to third string. Thomas has all of one reception in his pro career, and sits on the bottom of the Broncos pecking order. All the same, Thomas could see action in his direction, and with Denver’s problems in the running game, could come in handy in the red zone. In standard leagues, Thomas doesn’t warrant a start right now, but keep him on your radar.
This Week in
It pains me to say this, but the Pride of Ypsilanti will be irrelevant this season, with K-Money shelved on Tennessee’s PUP list. We’ve been preaching the Gospel of Walter for three years, and I think the word has been taken to the streets. It’s time to step down from the pulpit and let the man’s legend marinate. Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
However, we need to place a new idol on the altar. Have a suggestion for an interesting/bad man that deserves this recognition? Send us an email, Tweet or comment listing your nomination. Our new candidate will be chosen next week. If you write in Brady Quinn, you WILL be blocked.
Personal Foul on: Oakland Raiders
The Silver and Black pictured Tyler Wilson as a future foundation for the team. Instead, Wilson failed to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster, as Oakland selected undrafted Matt McGloin as its third-stringer over the former All-SEC signal caller. Worse, not a single franchise placed a claim on Wilson, which speaks volumes given the current landscape at the quarterback position. (For real, Brady Quinn was signed this week.) With continued drops in the Draft, Oakland is years away from regaining relevancy in the NFL. Sad too, because with those sweet unis, things always seem a little more interesting when the Raiders are involved.
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Alex Smith, Chiefs
One of the better performers at this position the past two years, Smith was never appreciated in San Francisco, as his success was viewed more as an extension of Jim Harbaugh rather than his own accord. Now setting up shop in Kansas City, Smith has a chance to turn the Chiefs into a playoff contender this year. Here’s to hoping the man gets his due.
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