Fantasy Savvy 2012: Fantasy Five, Week 1

By: Kevin Lewis

Bills at Jets

Steve Johnson, Buffalo Bills

Synopsis: Let me preface this by saying that I like Stevie Johnson in fantasy this year. He’s a WR2 who you can get at bargain basement prices. That being said, I don’t expect him to do much of anything this week. With the talk of his overplayed success being popular all week, I expect Darrelle Revis to send him a clear message on Sunday. He’s a “Do Not Start” for me.

I actually think both these QBs are being unfairly discarded from a fantasy standpoint. I’ve never seen a QB account for 32 touchdowns and not get drafted the following year, but that is where we are with Mark Sanchez. I think folks are brainwashed by the potential of Tebow, who is awful, taking over. But if you’ve watched both of them play QB, it’s quite obvious that Sanchez is much better. I get that Tebow will slice into a lot of work inside the 10, but Sanchez should be at worst, a good bye week substitution.

While I’m not a big fan of Ryan Fitzpatrick from a reality standpoint, last year he was doing well fantasy wise before he hurt his ribs. Buffalo plans on spreading it out, and Fitzpatrick has a decent mix of weapons at his disposal including two running backs that are pass catching threats.

Speaking of backs, I expect Fred Jackson to show this season the same things he showed before he broke his leg last season. I fully expect that he will be a top 7-8 fantasy back and be a steal with where he’s going in drafts (I’ve never seen him go before round 3). Even with a relatively strong performance last season, I’m not buying CJ Spiller being a significant factor out of the backfield for Buffalo this season. I think folks are overthinking in that regard and I think folks forgot what Jackson was doing before he got hurt last season. That being said, I like Spiller as a decent flex option with potential for more with a Jackson injury. I actually don’t like either this week as I think the Jets defense is out to send a message but Jackson may get a TD. Spiller may cause damage out of the backfield, especially with three and four WR’s on the field. The Jets don’t have anyone to contend with him really.

Prediction: Jets 24 Bills 14

Atlanta Falcons @ Kansas City Chiefs

Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs

Synopsis:  Matt Ryan, Jamaal Charles, Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, Dwayne Bowe, Julio Jones, Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers. There are a lot of prominent fantasy names featured in this contest.

Many are high on Matt Ryan this season. I have even seen a few people pick him to win NFL MVP. From a reality standpoint, I think he’s immensely overrated but from a fantasy standpoint I can see a little uptick in his numbers. First of all, I think Julio Jones will be the second best WR in fantasy this year (second only to Megatron). Second of all, the consistently productive Roddy White and steady Tony Gonzalez surround Jones. Possibly the biggest reason for a potential breakout for Matt Ryan is the fact that Michael Turner is declining and there might be a need for a more heavy reliance on Ryan. That is also why I like Jacquizz Rodgers. Atlanta should pass the ball more, and Rodgers is more useful in that setting. I have Ryan in the second tier of QBs with guys like Tony Romo, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers.

It will be interesting to see what Jamaal Charles does after missing an entire season with an ACL tear. He relies heavily on lateral quickness. The positive is that, unlike Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall, he’s had plenty of time to recover. The Chiefs run blocking is pretty good, and Charles had a robust 6.1 YPC in 2009/2010 on 420 carries. If he’s healthy, he should be incredibly productive. Only downside is that he will never score a lot of touchdowns but he did score 16 touchdowns in 2009/2010 and that is more than enough not to sap his value. Peyton Hillis may have some value as a flex because Kansas City should be running the ball plenty. Dwayne Bowe, for all his shortcomings, had 1100 yards and 5 touchdowns catching the ball from Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton the last two months. He should have a big year.

Last note, Dexter McCluster may have some use as a flex option in deeper leagues, because he may get plenty of touches as a safety valve of sorts. Prediction: Atlanta 27 Kansas City 20

Washington @ New Orleans

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Synopsis: Reality speaking, I really think the Saints will blow the Redskins out. Onto the fantasy side, there are interesting subplots at RB here on both sides. With Washington, you have the maddening tendency of Mike Shanahan to play Russian Roulette with his running backs. And with New Orleans, you have the conundrum that is Mark Ingram.

On the Redskins side, Roy Helu had a productive rookie season once he was inserted into the lineup, but now is second on the depth chart to the apparently less talented Evan Royster. In addition to that, rumblings about Alfred Morris became louder as camp progressed on. This situation is frustrating for me as a fantasy owner because I have Helu on three different teams as a late flier. In my eyes he is clearly the best back on the team but the Shanahan’s play around with the depth chart too much. The potential is there but the return likely won’t be because of circumstances Helu can’t control.

On the Saints side, you know what Darren Sproles is going to give you. He’s difficult to cover out of the backfield, and the short passes to him are like an extended running game for the Saints. The interesting player here is Mark Ingram. He struggled with injuries and had a general lack of productivity last year but he does have talent and he is setup to be a goalline back on arguably the most potent offense in football.  I think he is a good value where he is going because he can probably be a #2 back on your team and you’re getting him for #3 back/flex prices.

Who will start opposite Pierre Garcon for the Redskins? Who will fill Robert Meachem’s shoes? How will Jimmy Graham follow up his historic season last year? Who ends up being next in line behind Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston? What does Robert Griffin put forth in his rookie campaign? Prediction:  New Orleans 45 Washington 21

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

San Francisco @ Green Bay

Synopsis: I think Jermichael Finley is in for a breakout season this year. I think he’ll go for 1000+ yards. Why? I don’t really know. I’m not a huge fan of his mental makeup but the guy’s talent is so tantalizing, and you’d think more attention will be paid to Jordy Nelson who was second in the NFL in touchdowns last season. I like Finley as a top five tight end this year. Obviously, this is a tough matchup for him and the rest of the Packer offense.

Randall Cobb is a super sleeper for me, especially in leagues that keep track of return yards. Rodgers took kindly to him whenever he was on the field at wide receiver last year. With Driver being phased out a bit because of his decline, maybe Cobb’s workload increases. He’s shifty and runs good routes, and plays with the best QB in the sport. I see good things on the horizon.

On the 49ers side, Frank Gore is getting up there in “running back age”, and has quite a few miles on his tires. He had a rough second half of last year as he averaged less than four yards per carry and scored three touchdowns. The 49ers responded to that by signing Brandon Jacobs, and drafting LaMichael James to go with camp standout. Given a decline in the second half last year, and a conservative offense where his catches are practically eliminated because of being a consistent blocker, it’s not hard to see a scenario where Gore is no longer a RB1 caliber player. Kendall Hunter is a good late flier too as he’s impressed in camp, and Gore as mentioned is older and injury prone.

We’ll see if the 49ers continue to use Vernon Davis like they did in the playoffs where he had standout games against the Giants and Saints. If he does, he can be a top three TE. If not he’ll be what he was last year, an inconsistent player with a big game every now and again. Prediction: Packers 24 49ers 20

Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Synopsis: Pittsburgh’s running back situation is loaded with question marks. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer are pretty unremarkable talents and Rashard Mendenhall is fresh off an ACL injury and nobody knows when he’s coming back.

Todd Haley likes to throw the ball, and Ben Roethlisberger has a full arsenal of weapons. The line is spotty, but that’s never deterred Roethlisberger before. If Mike Wallace isn’t bitten by the typical post holdout lack of production, Roethlisberger could turn out to be a steal in the later rounds.

I also believe Antonio Brown will be the best fantasy WR on the Steelers and will end up top 10 overall in PPR formats. He’s in for a monster year.

On the Broncos, the most interesting developments will be the Eric Decker/DeMaryius Thomas dynamic and what McGahee will do now that the offense isn’t as run heavy. Without Tebow, and the defenses focusing to stop him in the game how will McGahee do? Who will be the more productive WR? DeMaryius or Decker? Will Peyton Manning’s neck hold up?

What will Jacob Tamme do? Unsurprisingly all of this hinges on Manning and just how healthy/productive he is. As far as this week, I’m not sure I like Manning in his first game against a defense that has given him trouble in the past. Long term though, I love the value with him.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 27 Denver 21

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