In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench. However, owners should tailor their own lineup strategy to their roster constraints, league rules and other relevant factors.
Here’s our Week One rundown:
Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe — Yes, the Falcons’ secondary is improved, but Bowe is just about a must-start in the bulk of fantasy formats. Considering the club’s sometimes-shaky QB play in 2011, his numbers (81 catches, 1,159 yards, five TDs) were quite impressive and speak to his skill. If you believe the underdog Chiefs could fall behind in this game, Bowe is all the more attractive to you.
Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson — The Panthers surrendered more yards per pass play than any other club a season ago. There’s some sentiment that Jackson’s upside in Tampa Bay might not be what it was in San Diego, but he’s a skilled, clear-cut go-to receiver, and I believe he can start the 2012 campaign in fine fashion.
Lions RB Kevin Smith — If nothing else, he’s a slam-dunk “flex” option for fantasy owners in Week One, and I would have no qualms starting him in traditional two-RB formats, either. There’s a lot to like about Smith, who’s clearly the Lions’ top back with Mikel Leshoure (suspension) missing the first two games. Smith has a wonderful matchup, and he can contribute on passing downs, too.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith — The Bengals’ CB corps has some injury concerns, and Smith, who racked up a personal season-best 165 receiving yards (and one TD) in the first meeting vs. Cincinnati in 2011, could cause some problems for Cincinnati. Smith’s preseason play (11 catches in 14 targets) suggests he could be ready to take a step forward in his second NFL season.
Eagles QB Michael Vick — I like him as a rushing threat in the opener at Cleveland. For starters, the Browns are short-handed at linebacker. What’s more, the speed of Eagles WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin could pull Browns CBs Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown downfield in man coverage, opening some room to roll outside.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton — In two-QB formats, Dalton is a reasonable play, but in traditional one-QB formats, I would look elsewhere. Fantasy owners might be best advised to take a week to study how the Bengals’ offense looks in the opener. Cincinnati has multiple concerns on that side of the ball, with a revamped O-line one area to closely watch.
Broncos RB Willis McGahee — The Steelers’ run defense showed a few more cracks last season than usual, but rushing against Pittsburgh is still easier said than done. The Steelers held McGahee to 61 yards on 19 carries in the wild-card playoff game between the teams last January.
Cardinals running backs — For starters, it’s not a good matchup for either Beanie Wells or Ryan Williams. The Seahawks allowed the fourth-fewest yards per carry (3.8) in 2011. What’s more, though Wells will start, Williams will get some work. If you have to start either back, you are banking on Arizona emphasizing the run no matter what, considering its shaky passing game.
Steelers running backs — There’s no clear-cut starter, with Isaac Redman, Jonathan Dwyer and perhaps even Rashard Mendenhall having chances to be the first-string back at Denver. Mendenhall, coming off ACL surgery, is the biggest long shot of the group, and he’s not a recommended play. Dwyer has had a good summer, while Redman has battled injuries. Overall, it’s a situation worth staying away from until there’s more clarity.