Fantasy Preview: Week 1

Posted Sep 6, 2013

Football is back, fantasy football is back and overthinking Week 1 fantasy lineup decisions is back --  forget the Masters, this is the real tradition unlike any other.

It's always tough to get a read on Week 1 matchups. Last year's stats are a good starting point, but we all know that offseason personnel changes, both on the field and on the sideline, will have a big effect on what happens this year.

Thus, it's usually wise just to start your best players – or the guys you drafted first at each position because you think they'll be your best players -- and not get too cute with trying to play matchups or outsmart your opponents. Keeping things simple usually works the best, and it always causes less headaches.

But for those who want some stats to chew on when making their decisions this week, we're here to help. Here are some key numbers to know about every game, plus a stud, sleeper, stumbler or injury concern to watch out for with a brief explanation why. Note that the “studs” are guys who are either better than most owners realize or established stars who owners might be foolishly thinking about sitting.

Cardinals at Rams

Stat to know: In two games against Arizona last year, Chris Givens recorded 166 yards and two TDs. Patrick Peterson will likely alternate between covering him and Tavon Austin in the slot, and Givens can definitely burn CB Jerraud Powers and force safety help. That should lead to both Givens and Austin -- and possibly Jared Cook -- having solid games.

Stumbler: QB Carson Palmer (St. Louis sacked Arizona quarterbacks 11 times and recorded five INTs last year.)

Patriots at Bills

Stat to know: Buffalo allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to running backs last year (22.9), but with starting corner Stephon Gilmore (wrist) and starting safety Jairus Byrd (foot) expected to miss this game, New England should have no problem attacking them through the air, too. Virtually all Patriots, including backup RB Shane Vereen, rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins and rookie TE Zach Sudfeld, are starting options.

Injury: TE Rob Gronkowski, back (Expected to miss at least one game.)

Titans at Steelers

Stat to know: The Titans allowed 127.2 rushing yards per game last year (ninth most), and Isaac Redman actually posted 105 receiving yards against them when these teams met in Week 6. He won't repeat that feat, but he should do enough to be a serviceable flex-back, as Pittsburgh's backup RBs are the uninspiring LaRod Stephens-Howling and the recently acquired Felix Jones.

Stumbler: WR Kenny Britt (Recently experienced knee swelling; Pittsburgh's physical defense will make it tough for him to get open.)

Falcons at Saints

Stat to know: Surprisingly, Julio Jones only had 123 receiving yards in two games against New Orleans last year, so it seems like he's due for a big performance this week. Last season's second-worst pass defense can't keep Jones down for long – and it won't keep down Roddy White or Tony Gonzalez either.

Sleeper: WR Lance Moore (At least 91 yards in both games against Atlanta last year.)

Buccaneers at Jets

Stat to know: The Bucs ranked first in run defense (82.5 yards allowed per game) and dead last in pass defense (297.4) last year. They didn't suffer any significant losses along the defensive line, but they added CB Darrelle Revis and S Dashon Goldson to their secondary. It's going to be a long day for the Jets offense, with RB Chris Ivory serving as their only player worth fantasy consideration.

Sleeper: WR Mike Williams (Will likely be squaring off against rookie Dee Milliner, who was banged up in the preseason with shoulder and calf injuries.)

Chiefs at Jaguars

Stat to Know: The Jaguars are without Justin Blackmon (suspension), and QB Blaine Gabbert (thumb) might miss Sunday's game. Neither issue should affect WR Cecil Shorts, though. In seven of his final nine games last year, Shorts scored at least 10.1 fantasy points. Even with Kansas City adding physical corner Sean Smith in the offseason, Shorts is a solid WR3 option.

Sleeper: WR Ace Sanders in return-yard leagues (Slated to start opposite Shorts and return punts.)

Seahawks at Panthers

Stat to know: DeAngelo Williams had -1.4 fantasy points when these teams met in Week 5 last year after gaining just six yards and losing a fumble. He figures to be the lead back with Jonathan Stewart (ankles) out, but Seattle's defense remains strong. Pass-rushers Bruce Irvin (suspension) and Cliff Avril (hamstring) might not play, but that shouldn't affect Seattle's stellar run defense.

Stumbler: WR Sidney Rice (Slowed by a knee injury in the preseason; Carolina has a top-tier pass rush, which could force Russell Wilson to scramble more.)

Bengals at Bears

Stat to know: The Bears allowed the eighth-most sacks last year (44), and the Bengals finished third in QB takedowns (51). Adding LT Jermon Bushrod and RG Kyle Long in the offseason should help the Bears' O-line, but the Bengals D/ST is still in line for a big day. Jay Cutler will likely be pressured into a few turnovers.

Stumbler: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Bears allowed just six rushing TDs last year; Giovani Bernard will steal touches.)

Dolphins at Browns

Stat to know: The Dolphins have been non-committal about whether Lamar Miller or Daniel Thomas will get more touches, with recent reports suggesting an even split. The Browns allowed a middle-of-the-road 4.2 yards per carry last year, but they upgraded their D-line with run-stuffer Desmond Bryant and added linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Paul Kruger. Miller is a risky play.

Sleeper: WR Brian Hartline in PPR leagues (CB Joe Haden will be shadowing Mike Wallace, which should mean more targets for Hartline.)

Vikings at Lions

Stat to know: Brandon Pettigrew had at least 6.7 fantasy points and nine targets in both games against Minnesota last year. The Lions are unsettled at the second wide receiver spot, as both Nate Burleson (leg) and Ryan Broyles (knee) are coming back from injuries and rookie Patrick Edwards has no regular season experience. Pettigrew should see a lot of targets again.

Stud: TE Kyle Rudolph (Detroit allowed eight FPPG to TEs last year and made no significant upgrades to its LB corps.)

Raiders at Colts

Stat to know: The Raiders finished 31st in sacks last year (25), and they didn't make any major upgrades in the offseason. Andrew Luck, who took 41 sacks last season (fourth most), should have all day to hang in the pocket, which is great news for deep threats Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton. All of Indianapolis' receivers are legit starting options.

Injury: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, feet (Expected to play but not start; will likely have fewer carries than Vick Ballard.)

Packers at 49ers

Stat to know: The 49ers beat the Packers twice last year, but Aaron Rodgers still averaged 24.8 fantasy points. You never know which Packers receiver will have a big game, but it's likely that at least two will. Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson are the best bets. At the very least, you know Rodgers will show up.

Stumbler: RB Eddie Lacy (Packers RBs averaged 35.5 yards in two games against San Francisco last year.)

Giants at Cowboys

Stat to know: Eli Manning scored fewer than 15 fantasy points in both games against the Cowboys last year. On the flip side, Tony Romo had at least 21.5 points in both games against the Giants. Manning and his receivers should do better this year, but Romo and his receivers are near-locks to do well, especially with pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul nursing a back injury.

Stud: RB DeMarco Murray (Went for 131 rushing yards in last year's season opener against the Giants -- a reminder of what he can do when healthy.)

Eagles at Redskins

Stat to know: It's unclear if Robert Griffin III will be close to 100 percent, and it's also unclear how exactly the Redskins will use him. The good news for Griffin is that he completed 30-of-39 passes in two games against Philadelphia last year, and the Eagles seemingly got weaker in the secondary in the offseason. Griffin should be able to produce decent passing numbers even if he isn't as dangerous with his legs.

Sleeper: TE Fred Davis (Could see more targets if Griffin is forced to stay in the pocket more.)

Texans at Chargers

Stat to know: San Diego looks like it will have one of the worst offensive lines in the league; Houston finished tied for fifth in sacks (44) last year. Not only does this make the Texans D/ST a great play, but it also hurts the value of Chargers receivers, especially deep threat Malcom Floyd. Philip Rivers won't have long to hang in the pocket.

Stud: RB Arian Foster (Likely fewer carries, but in the four games last year when he received 16 or fewer rushing attempts, he averaged 11.2 fantasy points.)