Throughout the season I will focus on what I deem as trustworthy starts and pepper in a few sits for your PPR leagues. I will also offer weekly waiver wire plays, but since this is only week 1, those won’t be in the lead off column for the season. You’ll also very likely see some FPPRR updates make it into the post as we continue to build a larger sample size to work from. For week 1, we’ll focus strictly on guys to start/sit.
Mike Vick and Brent Celek @ WAS
Our XN Sports’ 2QB general, Salvatore Stefanile, recently covered the pros and cons of owning Vick in 2013, and how he may win or lose you leagues this year. Coming off of an impressive preseason (28 of 38 for 383 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) he gets a tasty matchup to begin the season at Washington on Monday night.
The Redskins are coming off a season where the defense 31 passing touchdowns (31st in the league behind Philadelphia), 4,511 yards (30th) and 7.4 yards per attempt to attempt (22nd) while allowing the fifth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. That defense is relatively unchanged besides the return outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and the addition of sixth-round free safety Baccari Rambo.
A key reason Washington struggled to thwart opposing aerial attacks is they also failed to contain the tight end position. They finished last season allowing the most receiving yardage to tight ends in 2012 (65.4 yards per game), while also surrendering 10 touchdowns to the position.
No linebacker allowed more receptions (67) in his coverage than the now 38-year-old London Fletcher. He was also victimized for five scores last season, three of which to tight ends.
That bodes well for Celek (who has an exploitable early schedule) who is coming off a strong preseason, catching seven of nine targets for 74 yards. The best years of his career have come with Vick playing the majority of snaps, and in his past two games versus Washington with Vick (Nick Foles played in both contests in 2012), Celek tallied 10 receptions for 128 yards and two spikes.
Frank Gore vs GB
Forget for a moment that Green Bay had no clue how to defend the zone read in the Divisional round of the playoffs last season (as evidence of Colin Kaepernick’s record setting 181 yards on the ground), they also were manhandled by the mauling Niners offensive line in week one at home.
In those two games, Gore carried 39 times for 231 yards (5.9 YPC) and two touchdowns. With LaMichael James sidelined with a knee injury and Kendall Hunter seeing his first action just last week coming off a partially torn Achilles, a fresh Gore should be leaned on to start the season. Gore should provide RB1 numbers as your RB2 in week one.
Matt Forte vs CIN
This immediately looks to be an extremely unfavorable week for Forte as the inept Bears offensive line faces arguably the league’s best defensive front, led by Geno Atkins. After their week 8 bye in 2012 (excluding week 17 when Cincinnati rested their starters), the most yards the Bengals allowed on the ground to an opposing running back was 87 to Jamaal Charles in week 11. In those eight contests, the only allowed two team rushing totals to reach 100 yards on the ground, holding four teams under 60 yards rushing.
While that’s a terrible cocktail for Forte’s prospects carrying the football on Sunday, this is a perfect matchup to see how Marc Trestman plans to use his superior pass catching ability.
While that Cincinnati front is stout versus the run, their linebacking corps is one of the least athletic in space. James Harrison won’t find himself out in coverage too often as he takes over for Manny Lawson on the edge, but the other starts will have their hands full. Per Pro Football Focus, Rey Maualuga allowed the second most receptions (62) and the second most yardage (654 yards) out of all inside linebackers in coverage in 2012. Fellow starter on the outside, Vontaze Burfict, allowed 54 receptions (seventh most for outside linebackers) and 493 yards(ninth highest).
While you can anticipate middling rushing totals, six to eight grabs from Forte are well within reason this weekend and in a PPR league, can make up for depending on those touchdowns and rushing yards.
Miles Austin vs NYG
Everyone is the Dallas passing game is in play this week with the Giants secondary in dire straits after losing starting safety Stevie Brown. Austin has an especially long history of torching the Giants, averaging 13.9 points per game versus them since 2009. Even better, he’s averaged 19.8 points in his two contests against them last season in route to 13 receptions, 206 yards and a touchdown.
That’s a huge problem for New York and their banged up corners, as the 5-foot-10-inch, 178 pound Jayron Hosely could be forced to handle Austin in that scenario. In their last matchup, he abused Hosley in the slot. In that game, Austin beat Hosley five times for 90 yards on his way to totaling nine grabs for 133 (six for 94 coming in the slot).
Lance Moore vs ATL
Moore is another player who you likely have rostered as your wide receiver three or four who has an extremely favorable matchup to kick off 2013.
In week 10 of 2012, Moore posted a PPR special, notching seven grabs for 91 yards versus Atlanta. He followed that game up three weeks later with another seven catches for 123 yards. Even though he failed to score in either game, those are exactly the kind of performances (16 plus points per) that sway PPR games coming from your deeper wide receivers.
Atlanta is another team in big time trouble with its cornerback situation to start the year. While Dunta Robinson never lived up to the contract that he was given as a free agent leaving the Texans, he was a veteran, and now the Falcons will have rookie Desmond Trufant and third year corner Robert McClain on the field often against Drew Brees.
Mike Wallace @ CLE
The Dolphins new $60 million man has an extremely tough draw to begin his tenure with Miami. No stranger to playing in Cleveland from his Steeler days, Wallace has a poor track history versus the Browns.
In his past three games (he missed week 17 2012 due to injury) against the Browns, Wallace has totaled a miniscule six catches for 77 yards. That in large is due to the fact that cornerback Joe Haden has nearly completely negated him, allowing only one reception for 10 yards in those games guarding Wallace.
Take this Newton downgrade with a grain of salt. It’s very unlikely you have a backup quarterback I have ranked higher than him this week on your roster, if you even have a backup rostered at all. You’re playing him regardless, and his legs give him the opportunity to trump this extremely brutal matchup.
New offensive coordinator Mike Shula hasn’t called plays since 1999 for the Buccaneers, and it’s shown this preseason. The Panthers first team offense mustered all of 13 total points in its limited time on the field, and Newton himself struggled. Newton completed only 50 percent (21-42) of his passes for a 5.4 yards per attempt. While Cam himself has shrugged off poor preseasons in the prior two years, there’s still reason to caution his effectives versus arguably the game’s best defense coming into town.
The Seahawks allowed the second fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2012 (12.2 points per game), trailing only Pittsburgh. They surrendered the second fewest touchdown passes (15), ranked fifth in yardage per game (218.6) and were third best in yards per attempt (6.2). Including a 12-29, 141 yard performance from Newton himself (seven rushes for 42 yards) where he was sacked four times and threw zero scores.
They also only gave up multiple touchdown passes in only three games, to Tom Brady, Matt Stafford and Jay Cutler. In Brady’s game with two touchdowns he attempted 58 passes, and in Stafford’s three touchdown game, he threw the ball 49 times. It’s hard to see a scenario where Carolina just wings it all over the field on Sunday.
This also poses a big problem for Smith, as the Seattle secondary allowed only five receivers to top 70 yards through the air last season. Those five guys were Wes Welker, Stevie Johnson, Davone Bess, Titus Young and Brandon Marshall.
Do you see the trend there?
Those guys did massive damage from the slot to gain the success they had. Playing inside isn’t something Smith doesn’t do often either. Smith ran just 50 of his 527 routes (9.5 percent) from the slot in 2012, accounting for only seven of his 73 receptions. He will be outside locking horns with Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner all game and will be working extremely hard for everything he gets. While I like Newton and Smith to have season long success, I’d avoid them week one if I have an adequate backup.