What a weekend, folks. The NFL’s kick off to its 2014 season was chock full of surprises, comebacks, upsets and fantasy football let downs. The Wild Card standings in the MLB shifted once again as the Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates are making their push. College football had an overall soft week as less than a handful of significant games were played. And it was all overshadowed by Ray Rice and the complete ineptitude of Roger Goodell.
It’s here, IT’S here, IT’S HERE! When the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers kick off that pigskin at 8:30 Thursday night, millions of fantasy geeks will release an orgasmic sigh of pure ecstasy. The next 13 weeks will be spent endlessly researching the right players to bench and to get into your line-up so you can play some December Fantasy Football in weeks 14, 15 and 16. Well, folks, we’re here to help.
Each week, you will get a few Starts of the Week and Sits of the Week from the Wayniac Nation fantasy experts (if you forgotten who they are, get familiar with them here). We’re not going to waste your time like some so called experts telling you that Peyton Manning and Dez Bryant are good starts. Nor are we going to sit here and tell you to bench the likes of Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers because of the defenses they are playing. Let me give you a little hint: unless they are injured or on a bye, if you invested a first, second or third round pick on a player… you start them. How simple is that?
Not everyone is a Top 35 player though, and that’s where we come in. So, take out your lineups, open up those waiver wires and get ready for:
WEEK ONE STARTS AND SITS:
Start of the Week:
C.J. Spiller– Some of the shine has come off of Spiller after last year’s injury-plagued season, but he is an elite talent going up against a weak Bears defense. This will definitely help validate those owners that took a 3rd or 4th round chance on him.
Sit of the Week:
49ers Defense – Hard to come up with a sit for week one, since you should be starting your studs even with bad matchups. The 49ers though aren’t the 49ers without NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith, and Dallas has a ton of offensive weapons. Those fantasy owners that made SF the 2nd defense off the board will regret it starting in week 1.
Start of the Week: Nick Foles or Jay Cutler. Both have a lot to prove and should have great Week 1 starts against mediocre defenses.
Sit of the Week: Mike Wallace. He shouldn’t be a starter on most fantasy teams in the first place, but if you drafted him as one, you probably have a crappy team anyway. Don’t make it worse by starting him against Revis Island and the revamped Patriots defense.
So, what does The Wayniac think?
Starts of the Week:
QB: Tom Brady. He had a rough season last year for Brady standards, But, at least for Week 1, he has a healthy Danny Amendola, Shane Vereen and Rob Gronkowski for the first time in a while. Throw in the fact that Miami has a bottom five defense and over the past three seasons, Brady has performed remarkably well in Miami (1119 yards passing, 7 touchdowns and just three interceptions) it’s a perfect set-up for a repeat 2011 Brady performance. That day, when the Pats opened the season in Miami, Brady went off for 517 yards and four touchdowns.
RB: Frank Gore. Nuts, right? But here is the way you need to look at it. The Dallas Cowboys defense will vie with the 2012 New Orleans Saints for one of the worst of all-time. Frank Gore will most likely be hurt or replaced by Carlos Hyde in a few weeks. Why not take advantage of Gore’s one big matchup and then bench him for the remainder of the year?
WR: Jeremy Maclin. The Eagles are playing the Jaguars at home. The Jaguars offense may be on the field for ten total minutes and Chip Kelly doesn’t believe in stepping on the brakes. Maclin will probably see about ten targets.
TE: Antonio Gates. That’s right. Frank Gore and Gates are both starts for me this week. Arizona’s secondary is silly good and they are going to do their best to take Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd and Eddie Royal out of this game (which in reality isn’t all that difficult, I mean when was the last time Eddie Royal had a fantasy relevant game?). Philip Rivers will have to check down to his backs and find Gates in the middle of the field. He may be old and lost a step, but he’s still good a getting open.
Defense: Basically, I will pick this team each week the same way I do my survivor pool: whoever is playing the Jaguars. Until Blake Bortles takes over, I can’t see this team hanging with any team true playoff contender. Start the Eagles all day.
Sits of the Week:
QB: Cam Newton. The Bucs may have lost Darrelle Revis Island, but they are still pretty stout. I don’t like a mobile quarterback with a shoddy rib against a Top Ten defense, especially when Tampa is at home and starting the new Lovie Smith Era.
RB: Le’Veon Bell. Cleveland was already an up and coming defense and now they have Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner (or is it Hitner?). Throw in LeGarrette Blount as one of the league’s premiere touchdown vultures, and this doesn’t look good.
WR: Kendall Wright. I think Wright has a huge season on the horizon in 2014. But it will start in Week 2 against the Cowboys. The Chiefs defense, led by Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, is going to fluster Jake Locker all day and their secondary will be too much for the new look Titans. Whisenhunt will get this offense flying, but don’t expect it to start in Week 1.
TE: Martellus Bennett. The Bills secondary may be questionable but their front line is pretty stout. Bennett may have to stay in more often than usual to keep Super Mario Williams and Marcell Dareus off of Cutler, who is going to look to shred that Bills secondary going to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery all day.
Defense: The Baltimore Ravens. I’m not sure how these guys are still fantasy relevant and in the Top Ten on several charts. It has to be name recognition, I guess. The Ravens do thrive at home, but Andy Dalton has a huge chip on his shoulder as the entire world is still confused as to how this guy is making the money he gets. Ravens may win the game, but it won’t be because of their defense. A.J. Green is going to have a fun opening day.
Kickoff is so close. I have all three of my rosters drafted and ready to roll and by now, most of you should as well. We have already discussed MVPs, breakouts, busts and top rookies to keep an eye on, but what else can we look forward to in the 2014 Fantasy Football Season? Today, The Wayniac Nation Fantasy Report explores FIVE BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR THE 2014 FANTASY SEASON.
5. The Oakland Raiders will produce FIVE fantasy relevant players in 2014.
I know what you’re saying. The Wayniac must have been out for a joyride with Le’Veon Bell. Well, I wasn’t. The Raiders have been virtually fantasy irrelevant since their 2002 Super Bowl season where the were led by former Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hen Rich Gannon. In fact, they haven’t had a winning season in the 11 years since then. This season, they have made some big changes. The Raiders have been led by these award winning quarterbacks over the last 11 years: Kerry Collins, Carson Palmer, Andrew Walter, Daunte Culpepper, JaMarcus Russell, Jason Campbell, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. Over that same amount of time Darren McFadden and Marcel Reese have the best passer rating out of that whole bunch. Derek Carr is already a huge improvement. This team got bigger and faster in the offseason. Maurice Jones-Drew is a rumbling back who loves the end zone. Now that he doesn’t need to be relied on for every play of the offense like he was on the Jaguars, he and McFadden will have lesser loads and more potent seasons than they have in a long time. Newly acquired James Jones is fast and can spread the field. Now he won’t have Aaron Rodgers chucking him the ball, but he has certainly proved an affinity for the end zone over the past few years. And you can never rule out Sebastian Janikowski. This guy can get you 15 points in a game with three 58-yard field goals. I’m not implying this is a playoff ready team or has elite week-to-week fantasy players on it, but they are vastly improved from last season. Keep them on your radar.
4. Philip Rivers will prove to be the biggest steal of the draft.
No, that doesn’t mean he will be the 2014 Fantasy Football MVP, nor does it mean he will necessarily finish in the Top 5. Looking at the overall average of where most experts have Rivers ranked, he is about the 15th best quarterback. His average draft position is about the 99th pick. This is a steal and if you can lock him down in the eighth to tenth round, you’ve probably built an offensive power house and now have a pretty reliable guy at QB. Rivers has one season in the past five that he has thrown below 4,200 yards. His lowest touchdown total over that same time frame is 26. He has a five-year average of 4,334 yards passing and 29 touchdowns. I’ll take that all day from my ninth round pick. I think Rivers outperforms Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Tony Romo and possibly Nick Foles this season. All of those names have a reasonably higher ADP than Rivers. Yes, Whisenhunt is gone, but Frank Reich takes over as OC. He has a ton of weapons, including the speedy Keenan Allen, three good receiving threats out of the backfield in Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown, and has two monster targets in the red zone in Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green. Rivers is ready for another solid fantasy year.
3. Devonta Freeman will be the top scoring rookie.
I love Mike Evans and in The WN MVP, Breakthrough, Busts and Rookies article, I picked the standout wide receiver from Texas A & M as the top rookie. The more I think about it, and the more I watch his explosiveness, the fourth rounder Devonta Freeman has a huge chance to put up big numbers. The Falcons beefed up their offensive line and Julio Jones and Roddy White are healthy. Steven Jackson is not, and most likely never will be again. Jacquizz Rodgers can not carry the load of a full time back, so that leaves Freeman as the Falcons lead back. This offense is one year removed from being an explosive dynamo. Freeman can be a pretty big cog in that offense if the Falcons return to those heights.
2. Eddie Lacy will finish a Top Three back in fantasy.
Eddie Lacy will do so well this season that you are going to have a hard time not picking him number one overall in 2015. Last year, Aaron Rodgers played a total of nine games. Lacy, without the services of one of the elite QBs in the NFL, still had nearly 1,200 yards on the ground as a rookie while gaining almost 300 more through the air. Rodgers return doesn’t take away from what Lacy can do, it adds to it. Rodgers has never had a premier running back to take the pressure off him and has still always produced. Lacy hasn’t had the chance to have defenses focus on much other than him in his short NFL career and he succeeded in lieu of it. Lacy is going to gain close to 2,00 total yards this season and score 12 to 15 touchdowns. He will enter elite status and, as I said, be a consideration for top overall pick next year.
1. Matthew Stafford is the number one QB in fantasy football in 2014.
Is it crazy talk to put Stafford over Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and quite possibly the all-time greatest quarterback ever, Peyton Manning? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Manning lost Eric Decker and now, molly-loving, concussion-prone Wes Welker is gone for at least four games pending he doesn’t go off on a Walter White binge. Knowshon Moreno is gone to Miami, leaving an unproven Montee Ball in the backfield. He has great weapons in Julius Thomas and Demaryius Thomas, but this is going to be way more of a control offense than last season. Matthew Stafford has all of the pieces in place. Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the Milky Way. People hate to admit it, but when healthy, Reggie Bush is one of the best receiving backs the NFL has ever seen. When he isn’t healthy Joique Bell is not much of a downgrade. Eric Ebron with no NFL experience at all is already a better option at tight end than Stafford has ever had and Golden Tate is unquestionably the best wing man Megatron has ever seen. Gone also is Jim Schwartz who could have easily been the worst head coach in the NFL. Pass happy head coach Jim Caldwell and new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi won’t show any hesitation in putting the Lions’ season in Stafford’s arm. This is a guy who already has a 5,000 yard season under his belt and has a guaranteed 1,500 yards passing to Megatron. The sky’s the limit for Stafford, and if you have him, you may be carrying home that trophy at season’s end.
We are a few days away from the start of the greatest six months of the year. We tolerated a Stanley Cup Final, managed to get through the NBA Finals and are just about through with the marathon that baseball season is, and our ultimate reward is the beauty of NFL football. It all gets underway this Thursday at 8:30 PM when the Green Bay Packers travel to Seattle for a bout with the defending World Champs. One of the premiere defenses in football takes on The Discount Double Check and one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. It’s like football porn.
If we learned one thing from me and my group of NFL prediction makers (more endearingly known as The Thread), it’s that we aren’t very good at predictions. So, instead of trying to predict what the future holds five months from now, Wayniac Nation is going with a simpler approach… or at least one that makes us look less like a group of monkeys making uneducated guesses, which would, in fact, be one hell of a blog in itself, but that’s for another time. But I digress. Without further ado:
THE TOP THREE THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN WEEK ONE OF THE NFL SEASON:
3. The Post Ralph Wilson Era of Buffalo Bills football begins in Chicago.
When the NFL opens its season Thursday, it will be the first time since the AFL/NFL merger that Ralph Wilson won’t be a part of it. Since 1959, Wilson and the Bills were synonymous with AFC football and now the new era begins. The team is in flux as there is a battle over who the new ownership will be. Will the Bills move to Canada? Will feather-haired, denim-wearing, 80s pop icon, Jon Bon Jovi by the team and give it a shot (WHOOOOOAAAA he’s halfway there)? No one knows for sure, but here’s what we do know. The Bills, on paper, look like a terrible team. EJ Manuel may be the worst starting quarterback in football. The majority of this team, like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, are much like their coaching staff: young and inexperienced in the NFL. Teams have rallied around disasters before (see the Boston Red Sox) and with the passing of the man who bares the name of their own home field, the Bills may be poised to make some noise this season. Starting things off right against a highly touted Chicago Bears team would be a great start.
2. Jay Gruden takes over the Washington Politically Incorrects.
Mike Shanahan’s tenure in the Capitol City ends with a whimper on the heels of a 3-13 season. Shanahan, who’s four year reign in DC ended with a 24-40 overall record, did nothing to change my mind that he is one of the most over rated coaches in the history of the NFL. Shanahan was heralded as the architect who finally brought Denver their long awaited Lombardi Trophy, but the reality was is he was surrounded by Hall of Fame talent. John Elway and Shannon Sharpe were two of the best ever at their positions and Terrell Davis was the best running back in the game at the time. Shanahan and his power happy, run heavy offensive schemes didn’t seem like the right fight for a player as dynamic as Robert Griffin III. Maybe that’s why he kept playing him on a torn ACL? Anyway, now the one time Arena Football League MVP (no lie) Jay Gruden is at the helms. Considering this is the guy that just made Andy Dalton a multi-gazillionaire, I think what he can pull off with RGIII and his bevy of talented receivers that are all finally healthy or on new contracts will be exciting to watch. Unfortunately, they kick things off against my beloved Texans, and while I think they will win, I sure hope they don’t.
1. Peyton gets some Luck on the first Sunday Night Football matchup of the year.
Andrew Luck is fourteen years younger than Peyton Manning, but they will be forever linked. Manning, arguably the greatest Colt to ever suit up (sorry Johnny U), and his heir apparent go head to head for the second time this coming Sunday. Last season, Peyton Manning got his Denver Broncos out to a 6-0 start by amassing 265 points over their first six games. This guy threw SEVEN touchdowns in a game and heading into Week 7 of the season, Manning had 22 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Right when everyone was saying this team was unstoppable, right when the undefeated talks really started to pick up steam, the Colts “next Peyton” Andrew Luck wanted nothing to do with it. Luck went out and amassed four total touchdowns and the Colts defense did just enough to hold off Denver’s fourth quarter run for the victory. With the bitter taste from his Super Bowl loss last season, and revenge on the mind against his one-time Colts, we can only imagine what Peyton has in store. Last year, he had seven touchdowns on opening night. What can he and Luck give us from the Mile High City this year?
Game of the Week: Thursday’s matchup between Aaron Rodgers and his Packers and Russell Wilson and his Seahawks will certainly be exciting. As I just mentioned, any time that Luck and Manning face off will always be highly anticipated and full of action. The Wayniac Nation Game of the Week for week one has bigger implications than those two games, however. Fresh off their acting debuts on Hard Knocks, Matt Ryan, Roddy White and Julio Jones are armed and ready to prove last season was a fluke and that they are in fact way less boring of a team than they portrayed on Hard Knocks. Drew Brees has some new toys to play with, but he has his biggest and best one (Jimmy Graham) ready to go and earn even more money than he just got paid. This isn’t simply a marquee matchup of two good teams. This game can lay the foundation of how the NFC South will be won.
Survivor Pool Pick of the Week: Every year I enter the infamous Beat The Pooch survivor pool and every year I seem to go home empty handed by week three. That being said, there are two ways to approach a survivor pool. One way is to just take the best matchup and not care about saving the good teams for later on in the season. The other approach is to gamble and take a team that no one else will pick, leaving you all of the good teams for an end run. So, if you want to play it safe, the San Francisco 49ers against that horrid Dallas defense should be a lock for week one, even giving up the five points. But if you got a little gamble in you, I really like the Vikings covering on the road against the Rams. If Bradford was there it would be another story, but I don’t see Shaun Hill keeping this team on the field long enough to keep Adrian Peterson off of it.
Alrighty, folks. That’s week one in a nutshell. So, rest up and get ready. Kickoff is just days away!