So how nice is that feeling? Knowing that the regular season has finally begun. And now that we have watched the Cowboys and Giants kick off what is destined to be another memorable year, we are rapidly approaching our first full slate of action on Sunday. For the true fantasy fanatic, it has been an excruciating wait. But now, all is right with the world.
Part of what we should observe this week, will be quarterbacks accumulating massive amounts of yardage and TDs, while the best among them seize command of the fantasy point leader boards. Which is why this column will be here for you, starting this week. Maybe you drafted one of the elite QBs and need more insight into his next matchup. Or you waited until the middle rounds to make your selection, and now want to avoid sitting at your computer at 2:43 a.m. wondering whether to start Jay Cutler or Ben Roethlisberger. Either way this column will help you every week, by examining the matchups, and ranking the top 20.
And that might require some clarification. The five QBs discussed immediately below have the best matchups this week. It does not necessarily mean that they are the top five signal callers from a ranking standpoint, although in this particular week, Matthew Stafford does happen to reside in both categories. With that, here are the five most enticing matchups, followed by the top 20 rankings for week 1.
For a comprehensive look at this week's RB rankings from my colleague Greg Brosh, click here: https://fantasyknuckleheads.com/2012-week-one-running-back-rankings-keep-maurice-jones-drew-on-the-bench-2/ Or for an in-depth look at the WR rankings from my colleague Ray Tannock, click here: https://fantasyknuckleheads.com/week-1-wr-rankings-calvin-johnson-or-larry-fitzgerald-at-1/ My colleague Pete Karagianis has also provided a very thorough analysis of this week's top 75 flex plays: https://fantasyknuckleheads.com/week-1-top-75-fantasy-football-flex-rankings/
5 BEST MATCHUPS
Matthew Stafford vs. St. Louis
Jeff Fisher will eventually transform the Rams into a far more formidable opponent. But that won’t occur before Sunday. And right now, St. Louis is not proficient at preventing the pass. Or much of anything else defensively. There will be multiple new starters on a unit that ranked 22nd last season in yardage allowed (206.3) and a woeful 26th in points allowed (25.4). But improvement will take place slowly. They ranked dead last during the preseason, allowing 271 YPG and eight TDs. If you own Stafford, sit back and enjoy.
Cam Newton vs. Tampa Bay
Newton has the opportunity to open up the year versus a defense that surrendered the second highest number of points in franchise history (427) last season. While Greg Schiano will become more aggressive in the strategic approach toward pressuring opposing signal callers, the Bucs also have a long way to go in this area, after ranking dead last in sacks last season (23). Newton should supply fantasy owners will excellent numbers to kick off the year.
Jay Cutler vs. Indianapolis
For those who drafted Cutler specifically as a matchup play, this is definitely one of those weeks to start him. The Colts yielded 227 YPG through the air last season, along with 25 TDs, and only managed 8 INTs. Over time, HC Chuck Pagano will reconfigure Indy's defense, and mold it into a sturdy force. But Sunday, Cutler should begin his reunion tour with Brandon Marshall by connecting for a sizable number of yards. He should also find Matt Forte and Michael Bush with enough regularity to satisfy fantasy owners.
Robert Griffin III vs. New Orleans
RGIII avoids beginning his NFL career against one of the league’s elite defenses. Instead, he will attempt to exploit the Saints, who ranked just 30th versus the pass last season, while permitting 260 YPG. Former Ram HC Steve Spagnuolo now assumes the task of improving that unit, and should employ more zone coverages, to reduce the number of big plays that are surrendered. The Saints are also not expected to blitz quite as often, but that will actually benefit RGIII.
Matt Schaub vs. Miami
The Dolphins ranked third versus the run last season, while allowing just 95.6 YPG. But against the pass? Not so impressive, ranking 25th. Their struggles have continued during the preseason, as has their ranking of 25th. Worse, their secondary became weaker when Vontae Davis was jettisoned, with no reasonable replacement in place. While the Texans love to run, this matchup is too enticing to ignore. Add the fact that Miami's offense will have extreme difficulty staying on the field, and Schaub becomes a very good play against a vulnerable, overworked defense.
TOP 20 RANKINGS
1. Matthew Stafford (vs. Rams)
Owners could not ask for a better matchup.
2. Drew Brees (vs. Redskins)
Brees resumes his weekly torture of opposing defenses by dissecting Washington.
3. Tom Brady (vs. Titans)
Brady’s first opportunity to employ his new arsenal of weapons.
4. Aaron Rodgers (vs. 49ers)
Peyton Manning provided Rodgers with a blueprint on how to attack the 49ers during the preseason.
5. Cam Newton (vs. Buccaneers)
Newton should find great success both rushing and passing against an overmatched defensive unit.
6. Matt Ryan (vs. Chiefs)
Kansas City has several playmakers in the secondary, but are also dealing with injuries. And the Falcon
offense is still too explosive for them to contain.
7. Jay Cutler (vs. Colts)
Cutler will be working within a much friendlier offensive scheme, along with his favorite WR target.
Blend in his other options and the result is a huge game.
8. Michael Vick (vs. Browns)
Joe Haden spearheads a stout Cleveland pass defense. But the Browns have too many deficiencies in
other areas to avoid a blowout. If Haden is unable to play, Vick becomes an even better option, and his
numbers will soar.
9. Eli Manning (vs. Cowboys)
Eli's ranking is predicated on Nicks playing extensively. Either way, he can utilize his RBs,
who will improve his numbers with reasonable YAC totals.
10. Peyton Manning (vs. Steelers)
Manning should have a reasonably successful return, although the Pittsburgh secondary wants to
atone for their last performance against Denver.
11. Tony Romo (vs. Giants)
His ranking will fall even lower if any combination of Bryant, Austin, and Witten become unavailable.
12. Robert Griffin III (vs. Saints)
He should flourish in his debut, against a Saints unit that will surrender sizable yardage.
13. Philip Rivers (vs. Raiders)
Rivers will be without Ryan Mathews, or will have him strictly on a limited basis.
Plus, his normal starting LT (Jared Gaither) is sidelined. Otherwise he would rank higher against
an improving but still vulnerable Oakland defense.
14. Ben Roethlisberger (vs. Broncos)
Wallace’s return will not help significantly on opening day. Roethlisberger will deliver adequate, but
not overly impressive numbers.
15. Matt Schaub (vs. Dolphins)
Miami has far too many shortcomings, for Schaub not to amass solid numbers.
16. Joe Flacco (vs. Bengals)
Cincinnati’s pass defense will provide a challenge, but Flacco is capable of producing satisfactory
17. Andy Dalton (vs. Ravens)
We will discover if Baltimore’s preseason struggles against the pass (ranked 26th, 239 YPG,) are an
18. Andrew Luck (vs. Bears)
The Colts will be trailing, and have difficulty running against the Bears. Which will force Luck to throw.
However, that will enable him to accumulate yardage against last season's 28th ranked pass defense.
19. Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. Jets)
Fantasy owners should only expect moderate production against last year’s fifth best pass defense.
20. Carson Palmer (vs. Chargers)
He has been very shaky in OC Greg Knapp’s new offense, and needs to prove that he can succeed
before being ranked any higher.