The Talented Mr. Roto: Love/Hate for Week 1
Hello, old friend. It's been awhile.
That was the way I felt as the new "90210" came on the TV Tuesday night. Like a comfy, weathered old glove, or Shannen Doherty's face, there was something warm and welcoming. Was it terrible? Absolutely, just like the original. Will I watch every episode? Absolutely, just like I did with the original. Unless they send one of the kids to another high school where she starts dating some annoying guy that is so horrific to watch that you actually cheer when they kill the guy off, which is why I stopped watching "The O.C."
At the end of the day, it was good to see the West Beverly gang, even if it was slightly different. Which is how I feel about "Love/Hate." By far the most popular thing I do (although "You Heard Me" is catching up fast), I've written a version of this column for seven years now, and getting back into it feels like snuggling into a great, beat-up pair of shoes. Or Shannen Doherty's face.
It's basically my list of sleepers and busts for the week. Or my version of a start 'em, sit 'em column. Last year, we tinkered with a bunch of different ways to do this: based on projections for the week, based on statistical benchmarks, based on our rankings.
This year? None of that. Too many different scoring systems, lineup possibilities, etc. The idea was to have some gauge that would help us keep track of how I scored. But then it got too nebulous. If I predicted a backup would gain 100 yards and he got only 85 ... what's that? A wrong prediction, I guess, but if he was averaging only 30 previously and he was the best guy on your bench to start, that works, right?
Last year, I won the Fantasy Sports Magazine Experts Draft, with literally all the biggest names in the industry from all the major sports. Do you care? Because I don't. Nice to win, but that means nothing in terms of helping you win your league. Do you take my picks more seriously now that I've told you that? Exactly.
You'll read this piece, our Week 1 rankings and everything else out there and then ultimately decide for yourself what to do with your team. And if you don't, you should. You know your team, your league, your rules better than I do. Or anyone else does, for that matter.
So here you go. Players I love are guys who might be on the bubble for you but who I feel will have a good game this week, or star players who I think are the best bet not to disappoint, for those of you in shallow leagues or playing the free Gridiron Challenge. Players I hate are normal starts or bubble guys that I don't feel should be started. If I don't mention a player, it means I think he will do about what he is expected to and is not an extremely good (or poor) play.
I tend to have more "love" players than "hate" players because we're basically dealing with flex players. And if they were truly every-week start guys, they wouldn't be flex players, now would they? So it's more likely to find a bubble guy who has a good matchup or who I like this week than to say "here's a bubble guy who should not be in your lineup." Because it's like ... well, of course they shouldn't be in my lineup. If they should be, they're not flex players, now are they? Too many obvious non-plays would get into the column if I just do all the bubble guys who don't have good matchups.
Sometimes I offer research to back my point up, sometimes it's just a joke, but trust I've done the research on all of these. So just like that Ethan "I'm the new Dylan" brooding guy and, well, I assume eventually every character in the show, let's get it on.
Clinton Portis, RB, Redskins: Expect coach Jim Zorn to take pressure off QB Jason Campbell in a big road game by handing off to Clinton. And this year, I think Portis should have themes for his wacky press conference characters. I nominate "One-hit wonder rappers from the early '90s." First up, Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Chris Cooley, TE, Redskins: Last year, Campbell threw more touchdowns to Chris Cooley than to everyone else combined.
Cincinnati D: Oh, the good ol' Bengals defense. Last year, I recommended them against Cleveland in Week 2. That did not work out so good. Sigh. But it's a new season and, unlike with Shannen Doherty, I'm willing to give them a fresh look. With a banged-up run game and overmatched rookie Joe Flacco starting at quarterback, I could see the Bengals doing all right here for those of you in deeper leagues.
Ricky Williams, RB, Dolphins: Here's what I said about Ricky on the Field Pass segment of "SportsCenter": Look, Eric Mangini knows exactly how to stop Chad Pennington, so I expect Miami to try to keep Brett and Co. off the field with a strong run game. Expect to see Ricky smoke a Jets defense that gave up the fourth-most rushing yards per game last season.
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Dolphins: Chad wants to win this game bad. And Ginn gives him the best shot with Ricky keeping the defense honest.
All your Patriots: You know who is not so good? The Chiefs are not so good.
Willie Parker, RB, Steelers: The Texans gave up 4.4 yards per carry last year, 27th-worst in the NFL. They're on the road and will have their hands full trying to stop the Steelers' aerial attack.
Jon Kitna, Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, Lions: Can't tell you how many drafts I have been in where Calvin Johnson goes super early. Love him this year but don't own him in any leagues because everyone knows I love him and he goes too early. Anyways, you're not gonna be able to trade for him after this game.
Earnest Graham, RB, Buccaneers: Hey Earnest Graham, that touchdown looks good on you, Earnest Graham. Earnest Graham.
Joey Galloway, WR, Buccaneers: In his past six games against the Saints, Galloway has 614 yards and eight touchdowns.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams: Not worried about the layoff.
Donovan McNabb, QB, Eagles: Fantasy Kryptonite, thy name is Donovan McNabb.
Patrick Crayton, WR, Cowboys: New bumper sticker: Don't be hatin' on Crayton! Rejected slogan: I wanna be datin' Crayton!
All your Cardinals: Even Leonard Pope in deep "man's leagues." In Kurt we trust. In the 49ers we, er, don't.
Isaac Bruce, WR, 49ers: If you're in a points-per-reception league, I could see him not being terrible.
Joseph Addai, RB, Colts: Not that you'd ever bench him, but with Peyton Manning rusty and having missed all of preseason, just wanted to point out they'll probably feature Addai even more than normal.
Aaron Rogers and Donald Driver, Packers: Welcome to prime time, kid. Welcome to prime time.
Selvin Young and Andre Hall, RB, Broncos: I like Selvin to break the century mark in total yards here and Hall to get a goal-line carry since the Broncos are on the road, playing without Brandon Marshall, and coach Mike Shanahan is a wily ol' veteran when it comes to making completely random running back choices.
Darren McFadden, RB, Raiders: Yes, he's not the "starter." But one thing Darren McFadden is, is special. And a national audience is going to see that on "Monday Night Football." Only eight teams in the NFL gave up more rushing touchdowns last year than the Denver Broncos. And if you wanted Justin Fargas to be your flex player this week, I'm good with that.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants: Yeah, yeah, he won the Super Bowl, great story, but I'm not starting him. Last year, Washington was 11th-best in terms of passing touchdowns allowed. And in two games against the Redskins last year, Eli had only two touchdowns total along with four turnovers. Add to that a now-healthy Washington secondary and Eli's well-documented inconsistency at home, and I suggest you look elsewhere for your Week 1 QB.
Every single Raven: I think Willis McGahee plays just enough to hurt Ray Rice. Think Ray Rice doesn't get enough work because of McGahee. Think Joe Flacco brings down the value of the passing game. Think Anne Hathaway looks really, really good in red. Think whatever your political leanings, you have to admit the video of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin doing bad sports on local Alaska television is hilarious. Think the Rays will sadly choke away the AL East, but ultimately it does not matter because my Angels are going to the World Series. Think Thursday night might be rough for my Redskins but I am hopeful regardless. Think this paragraph has gone on long enough.
Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins: What can Brown do for you ... on the sidelines?
Chad Pennington, QB, Dolphins: Chad wants to show his old team up. Wanting to do something and actually doing something are two entirely different things. Please see Berry, Matthew, attempted pro wrestling career.
Larry Johnson, RB, Chiefs: Man, I hate Larry Johnson. In fantasy terms, of course. I'm sure he's a lovely. Or not. I don't care. What I do care about is that Johnson started slow last year, and he averaged only 3.3 yards per carry in the preseason. And then you consider he's going on the road against a Patriots defense that gave up only seven rushing touchdowns all of last season. And the fact that the Chiefs are likely going to be behind big and early, having to abandon the run. And hope. And their dignity.
Matt Schaub, QB, Texans: I like Schaub a lot this year. But this week, Pittsburgh plays Stump the Schaub (pause). What do you want from me? It's been a whole offseason. Gimme some time to get back into shape.
Any Texans running back: The Steelers allowed fewer than 90 rushing yards per game and only six rushing touchdowns all of last season. No one on the Texans is gonna buck that trend in Week 1.
David Garrard, QB, Jaguars: I'm putting him here not because I'm not crazy about him. I am. I just wanted to explain that the reason I have him relatively low this week compared to where I ranked him all preseason has to do with the fact that this game is on the road and at Tennessee, and I really like the Titans D.
Vince Young, QB, Titans: On this list until further notice.
Roddy White, WR, Falcons: I like Roddy, but Matt Ryan really makes me nervous.
Lee Evans, WR, Bills: No team gave up fewer touchdown passes than the Seattle Seahawks last season. Last year, no wide receiver was a bigger fantasy bust than Lee Evans. Last year, I was losing my hair. A lot can happen in a year. A lot can stay the same.
Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Deuce McAllister, Saints: This is a reflection of the Saints' slow start last year and a real belief in the Buccaneers defense, which most people continue to underrate. If you have Brees, you gotta play him, but lower your expectations for this week.
Derek Anderson, QB, Browns: Couple of things to consider here ... Derek Anderson has been banged up in the preseason, missing the final two games. Last year, only five teams had more interceptions than the Dallas Cowboys. And they just added Pacman Jones. I'm still calling him Pacman, OK? Now consider that Anderson had 12 turnovers in his final eight games and five interceptions in his last two games. Add all that up, and if you have a solid option other than Anderson, I'd use him.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers: The question isn't "can Carolina run the ball?" It's "who is going to run the ball?" Either way, I want no part of these guys on Sunday. Look, there's no Steve Smith to keep the Chargers from stacking the line, we don't know how the carries will be distributed and, by the way, last year when the San Diego Chargers were at home, they gave up only one, count it, one rushing touchdown all season. And yes, the game is at San Diego.
Jake Delhomme, QB, Panthers: I'm not all fired up about Jake either.
Phillip Rivers, QB, Chargers: In eight home games last year, he had eight touchdowns and six interceptions. And his tight end is banged up.
Peyton Manning, QB, Colts: OK, obviously, if you have him you are playing him. But I wouldn't use him in a salary-cap game. The rust and the new center could mean a fumble or two, the Bears defense is pretty good ... lotsa reasons to see a performance that won't be amazing here.
Ryan Grant, RB, Packers: Again, you probably don't have better options, but the Vikings run defense is awesome and they're gonna take their chance with Aaron Rogers beating them, not Grant.
Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos: No Brandon Marshall, game is at Oakland and the Raiders have a very underrated secondary.
JaMarcus Russell, QB, Raiders: He's not as good as Jay Cutler.
Ronald Curry, WR, Raiders: Because I am really hungry right now and his last name is making me think of food. That's not cool.
OK kids, that's all we got. A reminder to sign up to play against me and the rest of the of the fantasy gang here by signing up to play Pigskin Pick 'Em, Eliminator and Gridiron Challenge. And we're giving away $1 million dollars for free in our Streak for the Cash game. I'll see you guys Sunday on "NFL Sunday Countdown" on ESPN -- and remember, to get all the latest injury news and ranking updates, be sure to watch the Emmy Award-winning "Fantasy Football Now" on Sunday morning, one hour before kickoff, only on ESPN.com.
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He is also the creator of RotoPass.com, a Web site that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off. Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his cyberfriend
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Harris: Day 1 free-agency roundup
- Cockcroft: Punting batting average strategy
- Carpenter: Filling category gaps
- Stock Watch: Wood up; Davis down