There are few things better than being a Bengals fan and seeing Week 1 of the season on the horizon. The only exception perhaps being a fantasy football nut like myself and getting to finally set your Week 1 line-up after weeks of waiting following the fantasy draft!
The Bengals already had one of the best WRs in the NFL in A.J. Green, but now they also have one of the best RBs in Jeremy Hill. Plus they have a great pass-catching back in Giovani Bernard. And if all goes as planned, next year we will be talking about one of the best young TEs in the game when we mention Tyler Eifert's name. Oh, and let's not forget the captain of the ship in Andy Dalton.
The Bengals have fantasy options not only on the offensive side of the ball, but on the defensive side as well. Carlos Dunlap is a top 3-5 Defensive Lineman in IDP formats and Reggie Nelson is a DB option in deeper IDP formats. If you are in an IDP league, don't ignore those defensive players!
Eli Manning – Giants: If Victor Cruz can be what he once was, or close to it, Eli Manning has one of the best 1-2-3 punches at WR in the NFL this season. Add in Shane Vereen coming out of the backfield and Larry Donnell at TE, and you have the makings of a QB1 in fantasy football all season long. Playing the Cowboys doesn't hurt when you take into account their lack of confidence in their own backfield, and propensity to throw to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: With a 98.4 percent ownership on NFL.com, and a 95 percent on Yahoo, it is clear people are no longer wondering if Tannehill is a QB worth owning. However, his 41 percent starting number on Yahoo and 72.9 percent on NFL.com (10-team leagues vs. Yahoo's 12-team standard) tells me people view him as a QB2 rather than a true starter. If you drafted guys like Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, or Cam Newton as your starter, with Tannehill as your back-up, I'd give some serious consideration to swapping them for Week 1 as the Dolphins face a Redskins defense that is anything but scary on either side of the ball.
Frank Gore – Colts: The Bills have a tough defense, which makes people wonder if Gore is worth playing right out of the gate this season. My answer is yes. Andrew Luck is arguably the best QB in the NFL, and Gore is workhorse that will pull the Colts wagon barring injury. I am looking for Gore's receptions and redzone touches to spike this season, and have no problems sticking him in my starting line-up week in and week out.
Chris Ivory – Jets: The Jets brought in Brandon Marshall to be the big WR threat so Eric Decker can go back to being the possession receiver he really is. That is a good thing for Ivory as now teams can no longer stack 8-men in the box and leave the secondary to plan man coverage. The Jets face the Browns in Week 1, and while the Browns defense is solid, their team is nothing short of a mess. I'm looking for Ivory to flirt with RB1 numbers this week, and finish the season as a high-end RB2.
Devante Adams – Packers: With Jordy Nelson done of the season (ACL), the Packers will look to Adams to fill his old spot in the offense. Add to that the lack of playmakers in the Bears secondary and you have a recipe for a great WR2 option you probably got at the end of the 8th round. With the news surrounding the Packers signing James Jones, and Adams being held without a catch in their last pre-season game, now might not be a bad time to send a feeler out and see what his trade value is.
Allen Robinson – Jaguars: We all know the Jaguars get no love outside of Jacksonville, but that can also be a good thing to savvy fantasy owners. Robinson is No. 1 on the depth chart, and my bet is the presence of Yeldon in the backfield will open up the passing game and allow Blake Bortles to make a leap forward this year. I already traded for Robinson in a few leagues and suggest you do the same, especially in PPR formats.
Tyler Eifert – Bengals: Eifert is easily atop my TE sleepers list this season, and nobody from the big-box websites seems to even know who he is. Tight End is an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, so whenever you can find a hidden gem you have to pounce on it. Eifert looks to be the #2 option in the passing game behind Green, and should have a huge role in the redzone. I'm playing Eifert as a TE1 this week against a weak Raiders defense.
New York Jets defense: With all the problems the Jets have on the offensive side of the ball, their defense is one that I really like this season. The Browns have as many problems on offense as any team in the NFL, and I am looking for the Jets to finish Week 1 as a top-5 fantasy defense despite being owned in just 38 percent of Yahoo leagues, and 19.2 percent of NFL.com leagues.
Cincinnati Bengals defense: The Raiders are a young team that could make some noise in the future with Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Latavius Murray. The bad news for Raider Nation is the future won't start this week! The Bengals defense is a top-10 option in fantasy terms, and I would give some serious consideration to using them over the Ravens, Broncos, Steelers, and the Patriots to open the season.
Cam Newton – Panthers: Cam I Am was dealt a bad hand to start the season when WR Kelvin Benjamin went down with a torn ACL in training camp. That leaves the Panthers featuring Corey Brown and Ted Ginn, with rookie Devin Funchess in the No. 3 spot. Funchess made some noise in the pre-season, but rookie WRs are hard to count on both in fantasy and reality. Newton's main target is going to be TE Greg Olsen, which means Olsen is likely to be blanketed at all times.
Jay Cutler – Bears: When the Bears said they were "optimistic" Alshon Jeffery will play in Week 1 on Wednesday, that told me he is somewhere between 75-90 percent healthy. It's hard to imagine Cutler having a ton of success with a less than 100 percent Jeffery and Eddie Royal when he's had a hard enough time keeping his job when he had a healthy Brandon Marshall and Jeffery to throw to last season. I suspect the Bears gameplan is to use Matt Forte as a check-down option early and often, and Cutler has middle of the road QB stats this week.
Joseph Randle – Cowboys: The Cowboys have one of the nastiest offensive lines in the NFL, which made a stud out of DeMarco Murray last season. Their problem this season is the team has a group of running backs who don't have the coaching staff's trust enough to seize the starting role. Speaking purely in fantasy terms, when you have a committee of running backs, you don't have ONE running back. The Cowboys RB situation is one to avoid until someone emerges as the clear starter.
Tevin Coleman – Falcons: The Falcons listed Coleman as their starting RB on their depth chart, which is good news for people who snagged him in at the end of the 11th round. The problem he has this weekend is the Eagles have one of the best front seven in the NFL. Coleman is at best a flex option this weekend, and one that I would personally try to avoid if at all possible.
Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals: At 32-years-old, Fitzgerald has more name value than true fantasy value. He hasn't topped 1,000 yards receiving since 2011. Add in how high the Cardinals coaching staff is on WR John Brown, and you have all the makings for a disappointing fantasy season once again. Even if Brown were to go down, they still have Michael Floyd to take over the playmaking role ahead of Fitzgerald. The reality is Fitzgerald is little more than depth on fantasy benches at this stage of his career.
Devin Funchess – Panthers: When Benjamin went down, many were thinking that Funchess would step right into his role and become this year's sleeper WR. But, as I said with Newton, Funchess has failed to take control of a starting spot. The truth is Funchess is probably the most talented WR on the roster at this point, but not many rookies make enough of an impact to truly be worth playing in fantasy leagues. And given the Panthers problems on offense, I wouldn't bet on Funchess being worth much until he separates himself from Ginn and Brown.
Josh Hill – Saints: There was a lot of hype in the off-season about Hill taking over the Jimmy Graham role for the Saints, but that's all it was. As we got into the pre-season it became evident that Hill's role was to be that of a redzone threat that is either a boom-or-bust fantasy play. Hill isn't likely to see enough targets to make him worth playing even in the deepest formats, meaning the 40 percent of Yahoo fantasy players who own Hill are going to be frustrated.
Baltimore Ravens defense: The Ravens always have a strong defense worth owning in any fantasy format. With that said, opening the season against the Broncos won't do their fantasy owners any favors in Week 1. Peyton Manning is dangerous early in the season because he is as close to 100 percent healthy as you can get in the NFL, and the Ravens secondary isn't exactly one of the best in the NFL. The Ravens are well worth owning this season, just not starting to open the season.
Question of the week
Q: Ok James, could you give me an initial sanity check who to start?
My draft picks in a 10 team PPR league include:
QBs Sam Bradford and Matt Stafford (any leaning as to who to play this week?)
WRsO'Dell Beckham, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Terrance Williams and Allen Hurns. (Play Beckham, Thomas and Decker?)
TE - G Olsen and T Eifert (could play them both but figure on just Olsen for now)
RBs - Lamar Miller, Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory and A Abdullah (play Miller/Ingram and which other RB James)? (From - Marty Zimmerman)
A: I'd go Bradford at QB. People lost their minds during the draft when they kept taking Calvin Johnson as their WR1. The guy is on the decline.
Yes at WR. Hurns value is going to take a hit when Julius Thomas gets back... so be ready.
I like both TEs this season... but Olsen more this week since Cam has nobody to throw to other than him.
Miller, Ingram, and Ivory. Let's see how the Lions REALLY use Abdullah before we start sticking him in the flex.