Fantasy football Week 4 preview

Fantasy owners already know who their must-start players are, but everyone has a few decisions to make when it comes to setting a lineup. We’re here to help with those tough decisions.

Each week this space will be dedicated to whom you should start or sit for your coming fantasy matchups.

Starts

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins — The Browns have given up at least 270 yards passing, 80 yards rushing and 25 points in every game this season. Cousins has had two good games in a row and should keep it rolling Sunday.

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers — He failed to throw a touchdown pass last weekend, but he gets to face the Saints’ woeful defense. In fact, Rivers should be good to go for two straight weeks since he faces the Raiders in Week 5.

San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Theo Riddick and/or Dwayne Washington, RB, Lions — They’ll face a Bears defense that gave up 140 yards to Ezekiel Elliott and three rushing touchdowns to three other Cowboys on Sunday night. There’s running room enough for both Lions to be productive.

Mark Ingram, RB, Saints — Owners breathed a sigh of relief last weekend when he finally found the end zone. He faces the Chargers’ defense, which is 26th-worst in points allowed to running backs.

Christine Michael, RB, Seahawks — Though he faces a tough matchup in the Jets, he’s the main man right now, with Thomas Rawls out because of an injury. Volume of carries alone could make him worth the start.

Seattle Seahawks' Christine Michael carries against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
Seattle Seahawks’ Christine Michael carries against the San Francisco 49ers in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs — You’ll have to keep an eye on this one before kickoff. Jamaal Charles is listed as questionable, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that Charles was expected to make his debut Sunday night. If he’s out or limited, Ware gets to face a Steelers defense that is 28th in points allowed to running backs.

T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts — He’s likely to continue to play well against a Jaguars defense that has given up six touchdown passes and ranks 21st in points allowed to wideouts.

Travis Benjamin, WR, Chargers — He and Rivers should connect well against the Saints, who are 24th in points allowed to wide receivers.

Terrelle Pryor, WR, Browns — He’s been doing it all for Cleveland, and he should continue to make an impact against the Redskins, who struggle against wideouts.

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) runs the ball during an NFL football gamea, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) runs the ball during an NFL football gamea, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Zach Miller, TE, Bears — He had good numbers in a losing effort last week, and he gets to face the Lions, who are last in points allowed to tight ends.

Sits

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Jets — The Jets’ play-caller was spectacularly bad last week against the Chiefs, throwing six picks. Facing the Seahawks is not going to help him get back into a groove.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants — He faces a Vikings defense that has five interceptions, 15 sacks and five forced fumbles this season. Minnesota’s great against the run, and if the Giants’ offense is one-dimensional, then Manning will suffer for it.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) and Washington Redskins' Chris Baker (92) react after Manning threw an interception during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) and Washington Redskins’ Chris Baker (92) react after Manning threw an interception during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders — Unfortunately he’s not the workhorse owners were thinking he’d be, as some carries go to Jalen Richard or DeAndre Washington. Will he score a TD for a fourth straight week? Probably not.

Quincy Enunwa, WR, Jets — With Eric Decker out, he’s the No. 2 wideout on the team, but he faces a tough Seahawks pass defense.

DeAngelo Williams, RB, Steelers — Don’t be asleep at the wheel. Le’Veon Bell is back, so put Williams on your bench.

Tajae Sharpe, WR, Titans — He let me down last week in a good matchup, despite getting plenty of targets, so he’ll have to earn my trust again. He probably won’t do that this week against the Texans.

Fantasy football Week 3 recap and waiver wire suggestions

For many fantasy owners this week was a return to expected results from some of the most widely-owned players. The week wasn’t without surprises, however.

Aaron Rodgers got back in the saddle, after a mediocre two weeks, throwing four touchdowns in the first half against the Lions. The only problem was he had just 205 yards passing as the Packers took a big early lead and didn’t need to continue to throw.

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The game script allowed Eddie Lacy, who was expected to be improved from last season, to rush for 103 yards as the Packers nursed a big lead.

Todd Gurley, who many ranked as the top running back before the season started, rushed for 85 yards and two touchdowns. He had just 98 yards rushing in the first two weeks combined before returning to form.

Another highly rated running back coming into the season, though only a rookie, was Ezekiel Elliott and he finally lived up to high expections. It was thought Elliott would be a workhorse for the Cowboys and Sunday night he filled that role effectively, rushing 30 times for 140 yards. He failed to get into the end zone, but his rushing total was the second highest so far this season.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) leaps over a tackle attempt by Chicago Bears' Chris Prosinski (31) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) leaps over a tackle attempt by Chicago Bears’ Chris Prosinski (31) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

While some players met expectations, there were plenty of surprises, good and bad, this week.

Week 3’s top passer isn’t owned in a lot of leagues and he’s had a slow start in his attempt to replace a legend. Trevor Siemian had his best game as a professional, throwing four touchdowns to go along with 312 yards. Look for him on the waiver wire.

Another surprise performance came from Marvin Jones, who has solidified his role as the top wideout for the Lions. He gained 205 yards on just six catches to go along with two touchdowns. Nobody predicted that he would join Calvin Johnson as the only Lions to have a game in which they gained 200 yards and caught two TD passes.

Marvin Jones #11 of the Detroit Lions makes a touchdown catch past Micah Hyde #33 of the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Marvin Jones #11 of the Detroit Lions makes a touchdown catch past Micah Hyde #33 of the Green Bay Packers in the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Terrelle Pryor helped the Browns nearly upset the Dolphins as his performance was reminiscent of Kordell Stewart AKA Slash, a former Steeler best known for the many roles he played. Pryor had 35 yards passing, rushed for 21 yards and a touchdown and caught 8 passes for 144 yards.

On the negative side of surprising performances, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Carson Palmer, Eric Decker, Randall Cobb and C.J. Anderson all had weekends to forget.

Fitzpatrick threw six interceptions to a Chiefs defense that forced 8 turnovers and scored two touchdowns while allowing just three points.

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson intercepts a pass intended for New York Jets running back Matt Forte in the fourth quarter before running it back for a touchdown during Sunday's football game on Sept. 25, 2016 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 24-3. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson intercepts a pass intended for New York Jets running back Matt Forte in the fourth quarter before running it back for a touchdown during Sunday’s football game on Sept. 25, 2016 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs won 24-3. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

This week also offered up some quality performances from players who bounced back from a poor second week. Jameis Winston threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, improving on his performance from Week 1 in which he tossed four interceptions. Carlos Hyde rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns to follow up 34 yards rushing in Week 2. Doug Baldwin had 164 yards receiving and a touchdown, which was vastly better than his 20 yards in the second week.

All three started the season on a great note so owners should be encouraged that they rebounded well.

Owners unsatisfied with their teams can look to the waiver wire:

Quarterbacks
Trevor Siemian, Broncos

Running backs
Jordan Howard, Bears (13 touches-92 yards)
Wendell Smallwood, Eagles (17-79, TD)

Wide receivers
Terrelle Pryor, Browns
Jamison Crowder, Redskins (4-78, TD)
Adam Humphries, Buccaneers (9-100)
Cole Beasley, Cowboys (7-73)
Josh Gordon, Browns (if he’s somehow not owned, pick him up for his return in Week 5)

Tight ends
Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (5 catches, 46 yards, 2TDs)

Fantasy football Week 3 preview

Fantasy owners already know who their must-start players are, but everyone has a few decisions to make when it comes to setting a lineup. We’re here to help with those tough decisions.

Each week this space will be dedicated to whom you should start or sit in your upcoming fantasy matchups.

Starts

Ryan Tannehill, QB, Dolphins — He gets to face the Cleveland Browns’ defense and actually put up great numbers against New England last weekend (387 yards, two TDs). The biggest fear here is that Miami will get too far ahead and stop throwing.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill celebrates a touchdown during a NFL football game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill celebrates a touchdown during a NFL football game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (Winslow Townson/AP Images for Panini)

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans — He was a pretty decent start in his past two games, but he should be very good against the Oakland Raiders, who are worst in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

Charles Sims, RB, Buccaneers — With Doug Martin sidelined for about three weeks, Sims could really shine. His pass-catching ability makes him a decent start against the Rams, a team in the bottom half in points allowed to running backs.

Tajae Sharpe, WR, Titans — Facing the Raiders, the team ranked last in points allowed to wide receivers, Sharpe should have success. He’s been targeted at least seven times in each game so far.

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (19) is chased by Detroit Lions linebacker Antwione Williams (52) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Tajae Sharpe (19) is chased by Detroit Lions linebacker Antwione Williams (52) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)

Theo Riddick, RB, Lions — Riddick looks to be the top choice to take over for an injured Ameer Abdullah. He was already competing for playing time and is better at catching the ball than the bigger rookie Dwayne Washington.

Jacob Tamme, TE, Falcons — He’s facing a bad defense that happens to defend tight ends well, but the number of targets he gets (eight per game) is encouraging.

Marvin Jones, WR, Lions — He’s taken over as the main receiver in Detroit, having been targeted at least 10 times in each of the first two games. He faces a Packers defense that allowed Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ pass attack to have some success.

Dolphins defense/special teams — They’re facing a Browns offense that’s starting Cody Kessler. Enough said.

Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso, right, hits New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) after he threw a pass during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. Garoppolo was injured on the play and did not return to the game. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso, right, hits New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) after he threw a pass during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. Garoppolo was injured on the play and did not return to the game. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)

Sits

Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers — He’s getting comfortable in this section as this is the second week in a row I’ve had him sitting. Last week he had just 52 total yards, and this week he faces a Seattle defense that is third in points allowed to running backs.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles — Mathews rushed just nine times for 32 yards Monday night, but two short touchdowns saved his week. With Carson Wentz doing well through the air, the Eagles aren’t relying on the running game as much.

Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals — He hasn’t carried the ball more than 11 times in a game this year and has to face the Broncos’ defense this week.

Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers defeat the Bengals 24-16. (Doug Kapustin/AP Images for Panini)
Cincinnati Bengals running back Jeremy Hill (32) is tackled by Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons (94) during an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Pittsburgh. The Steelers defeat the Bengals 24-16. (Doug Kapustin/AP Images for Panini)

Golden Tate, WR, Lions — He’s clearly behind Jones in the pecking order, and Eric Ebron is even finding some success at the tight end spot. Give Tate a seat until he proves he can be productive.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Bills —If he’s cleared to play, be aware that he won’t be at full strength because of a foot injury. He hasn’t been good so far this year, and he will be facing Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals’ secondary. I’d sit him.

Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns — Things were looking up when Josh McCown was set to play quarterback, but with his injury I’d wait and see on Barnidge.

Allen Hurns, WR, Jaguars — He led the Jags in targets in a blowout loss last weekend. The Jags won’t get blown out by the Ravens, and the defense Hurns faces is fifth-best in limiting WR production.

Thursday night fantasy football preview: Texans at Patriots

It’s Thursday night and that means the NFL week has started. Here’s a quick look at the Texans at Patriots matchup.

Will Fuller has had at least 100 yards receiving in his first two games. If he can pull that off on Thursday night he’d be the first rookie in NFL history to have at least 100 yards receiving in his first three games. Fuller has earned his way into your starting lineup but I would consider him a low-end flex player for the game against the Patriots.

Will Fuller #15 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Will Fuller #15 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Of course you’ll start DeAndre Hopkins, and Lamar Miller is getting too many touches to sit. Brock Osweiler is a tougher call for me this week. I don’t hate the play, but I would like a better option.

Bill Belichick is a football genius, but can he pull off a win with a rookie quarterback against a stout defense?

You won’t start Jacoby Brissett, but it looks like Rob Gronkowski is finally going to play so that could help things for the Patriots. Even if Gronk isn’t 100% healthy you’ll want to start him.

LeGarrette Blount is another player you’ll want to start as the Patriots have leaned on him during their quarterback troubles.

Fantasy football Week 2 recap and waiver wire suggestions

The early fantasy football season continues to offer up surprises to go along with some depressing news for fantasy owners.

Here’s a look at Week 2’s notable developments.

If you thought Travis Benjamin, Stefon Diggs and Corey Coleman would be the top fantasy receivers in Week 2 then you deserve to be congratulated. Benjamin filled the void left by Keenan Allen, catching six passes for 115 yards and two scores for the Chargers. Diggs continued to solidify himself as the no. 1 receiver in Minnesota as he hauled in nine passes for 182 yards and a touchdown. The rookie Coleman caught five balls for 104 yards and two touchdowns for the Browns.

Minnesota Vikings Stefon Diggs catches a touchdown pass from Sam Bradford in the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. (Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)
Minnesota Vikings Stefon Diggs catches a touchdown pass from Sam Bradford in the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn. (Brian Peterson/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

In addition to those somewhat surprising results, there were quite a few bounce-back performances in Week 2.

Dez Bryant caught seven passes for 102 yards to make up for a terrible start to the season. Brandon Marshall also eclipsed 100 yards receiving on Thursday night after a bad first week.

Though Cam Newton did fine in Week 1, his performance in Week 2 reminded us of how great he was last year. He threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns while adding 37 rushing yards.

Another quarterback who flashed some signs from last season was Tyrod Taylor, who had 297 yards passing, three touchdowns and 25 yards rushing.

There were a few surprising performances in the first week of the season, but Week 2 proved that a few of those players were no frauds.

Will Fuller continues to impress for the Texans as he’s the first first-round pick to have 100 yards receiving in each of his first two NFL games. Another rookie that continued to put up good numbers was the Giants’ Sterling Shepard who caught 8 passes on 8 targets for 117 yards.

Will Fuller #15 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Will Fuller #15 of the Houston Texans runs with the ball in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at NRG Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

On the running back front, doubters of Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray were shut up for the second week in a row. Forte scored three touchdowns and gained 100 yards on Thursday for the Jets while Murray gained 145 total yards for the Titans. Melvin Gordon paid off again as he rushed for 102 yards and scored a touchdown.

I was high on Derek Carr as the season started and he’s proving to be a top-8 quarterback so far this season. He had 299 yards passing and 3 touchdowns in Week 2.

Despite the continued success of some Week 1 heroes, Week 2 was a nightmare for a lot of fantasy owners. If you got through the weekend unscathed consider yourself lucky.

Seven fantasy running back starters were injured in Week 2. The biggest of them all was Adrian Peterson, who left the Sunday night contest with an apparent knee injury. He left the game having rushed for just 19 yards on 12 carries.

Another big blow came earlier in the day when Danny Woodhead was carted off the field in the Chargers game against the Jaguars in the first quarter. He’d already gained 27 yards on three carries as he was expected to play a bigger role in the passing game with top wideout Allen out for an extended period.

San Diego Chargers' Danny Woodhead is helped off the field by Mike McCoy and James Collins in the first quarter after getting injured on a play against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 in San Diego, Calif. (K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)
San Diego Chargers’ Danny Woodhead is helped off the field by Mike McCoy and James Collins in the first quarter after getting injured on a play against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 in San Diego, Calif. (K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Thomas Rawls, Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin, Ameer Abdullah and (big surprise) Arian Foster all went out with injuries on Sunday.

Here’s a look to the waiver wire for some help:

Running backs
Dwayne Washington, Lions (4 touches-31 yards)
Jerick McKinnon, Vikings (3-1)
Charles Sims, Tampa Bay (12-28)
Fozzy Whittaker, Panthers (19-131)
Chris Johnson, Cardinals (16-54, TD)
Kenyon Drake, Dolphins (4-18, TD)

Quarterbacks
Sam Bradford, Vikings (286 yards, 2 TDs)

Wide receivers
Greg Salas, Bills (4 catches-89 yards, TD)
Mike Wallace, Ravens (4-41, 2TDs)
Jaron Brown, Cardinals (2-78, TD)
Tyrell Williams, Chargers (3-61, TD)

Fantasy football Week 2 preview

Fantasy owners already know who their must-start players are, but everyone has a few decisions to make when it comes to setting a lineup. We’re here to help with those tough decisions.

Each week this space will be dedicated to whom you should start or sit in your upcoming fantasy matchups.

Starts

Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks — Seahawks-Rams likely will be a low-scoring affair as neither offense has looked great. The Seahawks will try to control the clock with their running game, especially with Russell Wilson dealing with an ankle injury. Rawls had nearly as many touches as Christine Michael last week and was named the starter for Week 2.

Rashad Jennings, RB, Giants — He had 19 touches last weekend in the win over the Cowboys and finished with 78 total yards. This week, he gets to face a Saints defense that is second worst in points allowed to running backs. I bet he gets into the end zone.

New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings (23) breaks a tackle attempt by Dallas Cowboys' Sean Lee (50) to gain extra yardage on a run as defensive tackle Terrell McClain (97) gives chase in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday Sept. 11, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings (23) breaks a tackle attempt by Dallas Cowboys’ Sean Lee (50) to gain extra yardage on a run as defensive tackle Terrell McClain (97) gives chase in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday Sept. 11, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles — The play of Carson Wentz last week against the Browns made Matthews a top-six receiver in fantasy scoring. They’ll face the Bears, who are 23rd in points allowed to receivers.

Danny Woodhead, RB, Chargers — Melvin Gordon scored twice last week? Well, Woodhead had more touches and more yards from scrimmage in addition to one score. Last year without Keenan Allen, Woodhead led the Chargers in receptions.

San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) runs under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson (20) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead (39) runs under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson (20) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Gary Barnidge, TE, Browns — He had a breakout season last year, but his dismal start last week might have you ready to cut ties. Don’t be so hasty, though. He had Robert Griffin III at the helm in the opener, but with Josh McCown now starting, Barnidge may have new life. They have a solid rapport going back to last year.

Sits

Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers — The “slimmed-down” talk ended after it appeared that he had trouble getting a lot going against the Jaguars last week. He had just 15 touches and will face a Vikings defense that allowed only 45 yards rushing in the opener.

Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers — Last year, he killed the Vikings to open the season. This year, he scored twice against what was thought to be a solid Rams defense. I’m not a believer yet, and he faces a Panthers defense that looks to bounce back after giving up a great game to C.J. Anderson.

Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Dominique Easley, top, and defensive tackle Cam Thomas (92) tackle San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Dominique Easley, top, and defensive tackle Cam Thomas (92) tackle San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs — I wouldn’t count on him having 363 yards passing and three touchdowns against the Texans, who are eighth best in points allowed to quarterbacks.

Gio Bernard, RB, Bengals — He faces a good Steelers run defense and hasn’t fared well against it in the past. Jeremy Hill probably has more of an opportunity to score should the Bengals get into a goal-line situation.

Any receiver facing the Ravens, Seahawks or Panthers — Got a Browns wideout? Leave him on the bench. Tavon Austin owner? Maybe next time, pal. Hopeful for points from Torrey Smith? Give it up.

No man’s land

Todd Gurley, RB, Rams — There’s no way you can sit Gurley, but you really wish you could, given that his team’s one-dimensional offense has to face the Seahawks. If the passing attack doesn’t take the pressure off of him, it could be a long day.

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Mike Purcell (64) and safety Eric Reid (35) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) is tackled by San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Mike Purcell (64) and safety Eric Reid (35) during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys — You probably used a first or early second-round pick on him and, as a result, have to start him. Dak Prescott makes no bones about hitting the check-down receiver instead of taking chances on his biggest playmaker so you’ll just have to cross your fingers.

Fantasy football: To tinker or not to tinker?

Full disclosure, I went 0-2 in my leagues this week. It’s not the kind of start you want to see out of your trusted fantasy guru. In fantasy football there is the right play and there’s the winning play. They’re not always one and the same.

In one league I faced Drew Brees and Spencer Ware. Brees was the second-highest scoring quarterback, behind Andrew Luck, while Ware was the second highest scoring running back in Week 1.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown with 1:03 remaining against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)
Kansas City Chiefs running back Spencer Ware celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown with 1:03 remaining against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS)

In another league, the Office Football League here at the Statesman, I went up against DeAngelo Williams, the highest scoring running back in Week 1, in addition to Brandin Cooks and Antonio Brown. Cooks was the highest scoring receiver of the week while Brown was third best. Congratulations to Kirk Bohls on his near record-setting performance (191 points!) in the OFL.

Losing both of these games had me originally thinking about making some pickups or changing my lineup. Call me crazy, but I don’t think I’m going to touch a thing in one of these leagues.

Here’s my lineup from Week 1 in the OFL (standard + 6-points for TD passes, one point per two receptions):

QB: Jameis Winston
RB: David Johnson
RB: Ryan Mathews
WR: Mike Evans
WR: Brandon Marshall
TE: Antonio Gates
Flex: Demaryius Thomas
K: Dan Bailey
DST: Chiefs

Bench: Philip Rivers, DeMarco Murray, Darren Sproles, Laquon Treadwell, Tyler Boyd, Tajae Sharpe, Michael Thomas, Tyler Eifert.

There’s a lot of youth on my bench in this keeper league, but I don’t see replacing what I’ve got in my lineup. Maybe I could go with DeMarco Murray instead of Thomas at my flex, but is the top receiver in Denver really going to be held to 48 yards again? Benching Marshall seems like a bad move as well since he was targeted a decent amount of times (8) on his way to just 32 yards receiving.

New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) runs past Cincinnati Bengals' Karlos Dansby (56) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)
New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) runs past Cincinnati Bengals’ Karlos Dansby (56) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

In the other league I’m in I may actually end up tinkering a little bit.

Here’s that league’s lineup (standard + 6-points for TD passes):

QB: Derek Carr
RB: David Johnson
RB: Mark Ingram
WR: Dez Bryant
WR: Jordy Nelson
WR: Jeremy Maclin
Flex: Christine Michael
K: Chris Boswell
DST: Chiefs

Bench: Melvin Gordon, Ben Roethlisberger, Tyler Lockett, Sterling Shepard.

Running back Melvin Gordon #28 of the San Diego Chargers rushes the ball on his way to his second touchdown of the game during the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter G Aiken/Getty Images)
Running back Melvin Gordon #28 of the San Diego Chargers rushes the ball on his way to his second touchdown of the game during the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Peter G Aiken/Getty Images)

I went with Michael in response to him getting the start over a recovering Thomas Rawls. Rawls did end up playing, however, and had just two fewer touches than Michael. I had to see Gordon produce well before I started him in my lineup. He did great in Week 1, though he had fewer touches than Danny Woodhead, so I’ll probably give him a shot in Week 2. I also like Sterling Shepard’s matchup with the Saints so I may sit Maclin this week.

Dez Bryant had a week to forget, but you’d think the coaching staff would make sure he gets a lot more targets in Week 2.

Let me know what you think @AAS_Cat. Would you tinker with either lineup?

Fantasy football Week 1 recap and waiver wire suggestions

The fantasy football season opened up the throttle on Sunday, and there were definitely some high-octane performances.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

Andrew Luck started his attempt at a bounce-back year with a stellar performance; he threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns without committing a turnover. Drew Brees might have been the top scorer of the week had he not lost a fumble. He threw for 423 yards and four touchdowns, including a 98-yard score to Brandin Cooks. And A.J. Green had a brilliant start, catching 12 of his 13 targets for 180 yards and a 54-yard touchdown.

A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown over Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a touchdown over Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The best performance by a running back came from the waiver wire pickup of the week, Spencer Ware. Once word got out that Jamaal Charles wasn’t quite ready, owners rushed to pick up his main backup before the season kicked off.
Ware didn’t disappoint as he rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown while catching seven passes for an additional 129 yards.

At the tight end spot, both of the Colts’ ends found paydirt. Dwayne Allen caught four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown while Jack Doyle had three catches for 35 yards and two scores.

The top defense of the week started slow but turned it on in the second half. Minnesota allowed 16 points to the Titans but forced three turnovers and added two sacks in addition to scoring two touchdowns.

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter celebrates as he scores a touchdown on a 24-yard run after a fumble recovery against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Vikings won 25-16. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter celebrates as he scores a touchdown on a 24-yard run after a fumble recovery against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. The Vikings won 25-16. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)

It wasn’t all positive in the fantasy world. Quite a few players had some games to forget:
At the top of that list has to be Dez Bryant, who caught just one pass for 8 yards in the Cowboys’ loss to the Giants. He had a touchdown called back when it was reviewed and determined that he didn’t control the ball before touching out of bounds in the end zone.

Brandon Marshall, the top option for the Jets, had just three catches for 32 yards despite being targeted eight times.

Sammy Watkins also disappointed as he caught four passes for 43 yards. Additionally, Tyler Lockett, who was expected to break out for the Seahawks, had just three catches for 17 yards.

At running back, we saw Devonta Freeman produce just 40 total yards as Tevin Coleman gained 117 yards on 13 touches for the Falcons.

In Tennessee, Adrian Peterson rushed for just 31 yards as the Titans were able to key on the run with Shaun Hill starting at quarterback for the Vikings.

A striking theme from Sunday was the great performances from second-year players. Jameis Winston, David Johnson, Melvin Gordon, Donte Moncrief and Stefon Diggs all produced well to start their sophomore seasons.

Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolls out of the pocket agains the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rolls out of the pocket agains the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on September 11, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Cooks, also in his second season, had 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Unfortunately we saw Keenan Allen go down with a torn ACL after catching six passes for 63 yards. And word broke on Monday that Robert Griffin III could be done for the season with a shoulder fracture. Russell Wilson also has a sprained ankle to be monitored.

With that, look to the waiver wire:

Quarterbacks
Alex Smith, Chiefs (363 passing yards, 3 total TDs)
Carson Wentz, Eagles (278, TD)
Jimmy Garoppolo, Patriots (264, TD)
Dak Prescott, Cowboys (227, 0 turnovers)

Wide receivers
Will Fuller, Texans (5 catches, 107 yards, TD)
Mike Wallace, Ravens (6-91, TD)
Chris Hogan, Patriots (60, TD)
Nelson Agholor, Eagles (57, TD)
Sterling Shepard, Giants (43, TD)
Victor Cruz, Giants (34, TD)
Tajae Sharpe, Titans (7-76)
Michael Thomas, Saints (6-58)

Running backs
Tevin Coleman, Falcons (117 total yards, 13 touches)
Jalen Richard, Raiders (95, TD, 5 touches)
Shane Vereen, Giants (61, 9 touches)

Fantasy football Week 1 preview

It’s finally here.

The NFL season starts Thursday night as the Carolina Panthers take on the Denver Broncos in a Super Bowl rematch. With that kickoff, another fantasy football season gets underway.

Even if you’re not a fan of either team, it’s likely you’ll still be watching closely as a fantasy football owner.

If you drafted Cam Newton, you’ll be a Panthers fan for at least this season. And you’ll be rooting for the Broncos if you picked up Demaryius Thomas, Denver’s top wideout.

The opener represents a tough matchup for both of those players. Newton will have to withstand solid pressure from the Broncos’ pass rush while Thomas will have to help break in a new quarterback while also getting over last year’s case of the drops.

Regardless, both players have to be considered must-starts, alongside Greg Olsen and both defenses.

Moving on to Sunday’s action, one of the best matchups will pit Derek Carr against the Saints pass defense. The game is indoors, and Carr has Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree and Latavius Murray at his disposal. The third-year quarterback finished just outside the top-12 in standard leagues last season, and I expect him to enter that QB1 status this season.

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Another great situation this week could be the Chiefs’ Spencer Ware facing the San Diego run defense. The Chargers were 29th in points allowed to running backs last season, and Ware is getting the start for Jamaal Charles, who continues to recover from a torn ACL.

Switching to wide receivers, there’s no doubt that Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins will be must-starts all season, but don’t forget about Dez Bryant just because his starting quarterback is sidelined. Bryant is a proud competitor and desperately wants to show the NFL that he’s still a top-tier wideout.

He faces a Giants pass defense that was 26th in points allowed to wide receivers last season. And rookie quarterbacks like Dak Prescott tend to rely on their star players whereas veterans like Tony Romo will try to get the ball to the open receiver. Prescott may do well to just give Bryant chances to make plays.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) warms up before taking on the Houston Texans in a preseason NFL football game, Thursday Sept. 1, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) warms up before taking on the Houston Texans in a preseason NFL football game, Thursday Sept. 1, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

On the other side of the coin, Alshon Jeffery will face a tough defense this week. I’m not sold on him returning to previous form after an injury-plagued 2015 season. The Texans were fifth best in slowing receivers in fantasy scoring last year.

One running back I’d avoid starting this week would be Jeremy Hill. He’ll definitely split time with Gio Bernard and he’s facing the Jets, who were third best in points allowed to running backs last season. I do expect him to deliver more even output this season, not just one reliant on goal-line plays, but this is a bad matchup for him.

Finally, you may have to sit a typically solid fantasy quarterback if you’re a Philip Rivers owner. He’s not projected to do well against a good Chiefs defense that was fifth best in points allowed to quarterbacks last season. The Chiefs will be without Justin Houston, who is out with a knee injury, but if you have another QB with a better matchup, make that play instead.

Fantasy football position rankings heading into final weekend of drafts

It’s the final weekend before the fantasy football season kicks off. Here’s a look at my position rankings for the upcoming season. For quarterbacks I’ve listed two deep for a 12-team league. I’ve listed three deep for running backs and four deep for wide receivers. I’ve also listed the top 12 tight ends and defense/special teams.

Quarterbacks

1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
2. Cam Newton, Panthers—I don’t think he’ll be quite as productive as he was last year, which is why I have him behind Aaron Rodgers.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) looks to pass during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
4. Andrew Luck, Colts
5. Drew Brees, Saints
6. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
7. Tom Brady, Patriots
8. Blake Bortles, Jaguars
9. Carson Palmer, Cardinals—I’ve dropped him a couple of spots from the last time out because he hasn’t looked great in preseason. Plus there’s always the fear of him getting hurt. If he stays healthy, he’s got the weapons to end up as a top-5 quarterback.

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) throws prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

10. Eli Manning, Giants
11. Philip Rivers, Chargers
12. Derek Carr, Raiders
13. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jets
14. Tyrod Taylor, Bills
15. Kirk Cousins, Redskins
16. Jameis Winston, Buccaneers
17. Matthew Stafford, Lions
18. Andy Dalton, Bengals
19. Marcus Mariota, Titans
20. Matt Ryan, Falcons
21. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
22. Alex Smith, Chiefs
23. Jay Cutler, Bears
24. Brock Osweiler, Texans

Running backs

1. David Johnson, Cardinals—I think he has the potential to be the best back in the league. That said, he will probably not be the first running back taken in your draft. If not, make sure you don’t pass him up.

David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball against the Houston Texans in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals runs with the ball against the Houston Texans in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

2. Todd Gurley, Rams
3. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys
5. Lamar Miller, Texans
6. Le’Veon Bell, Steelers
7. Eddie Lacy, Packers
8. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
9. Mark Ingram, Saints
10. LeSean McCoy, Bills
11. Devonta Freeman, Falcons
12. Doug Martin, Buccaneers
13. C.J. Anderson, Broncos
14. Latavius Murray, Raiders
15. Thomas Rawls, Seahawks
16. Jeremy Hill, Bengals
17. Matt Forte, Jets
18. DeMarco Murray, Titans
19. Carlos Hyde, 49ers
20. Jeremy Langford, Bears
21. Melvin Gordon, Chargers
22. Jonathan Stewart, Panthers
23. Ryan Mathews, Eagles
24. Frank Gore, Colts
25. DeAngelo Williams, Steelers
26. Arian Foster, Dolphins
27. Matt Jones, Redskins
28. Chris Ivory, Jaguars
29. Gio Bernard, Bengals
30. Derrick Henry, Titans
31. Rashad Jennings, Giants
32. Duke Johnson, Browns
33. Danny Woodhead, Chargers
34. Ameer Abdullah, Lions
35. Isaiah Crowell, Browns
36. Christine Michael, Seahawks

Wide receivers

1. Antonio Brown, Steelers
2. Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
3. Julio Jones, Falcons
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Texans—Really excited to see what he can do with Will Fuller, Jaelen Strong and Braxton Miller spreading the defense thin.

DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans looks for room after a reception against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans looks for room after a reception against the Arizona Cardinals in the first quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

5. A.J. Green, Bengals
6. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
7. Allen Robinson, Jaguars
8. Brandon Marshall, Jets
9. Jordy Nelson, Packers
10. Mike Evans, Buccaneers
11. Keenan Allen, Chargers
12. Amari Cooper, Raiders
13. Alshon Jeffery, Bears
14. Sammy Watkins, Bills
15. Brandin Cooks, Saints
16. T.Y. Hilton, Colts
17. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
18. Randall Cobb, Packers
19. Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs
20. Donte Moncrief, Colts
21. Eric Decker, Jets
22. Jarvis Landry, Dolphins
23. Kelvin Benjamin, Panthers
24. Doug Baldwin, Seahawks
25. Michael Floyd, Cardinals
26. Julian Edelman, Patriots
27. Josh Gordon, Browns
28. Marvin Jones, Lions
29. Golden Tate, Lions
30. Allen Hurns, Jaguars
31. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
32. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks
33. John Brown, Cardinals
34. Emmanuel Sanders, Broncos
35. Jordan Matthews, Eagles
36. DeSean Jackson, Redskins
37. Sterling Shepard, Giants
38. Michael Crabtree, Raiders
39. Kevin White, Bears
40. Willie Snead, Saints
41. Corey Coleman, Browns
42. Stefon Diggs, Vikings
43. Torrey Smith, 49ers
44. Tavon Austin, Rams
45. Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers
46. Travis Benjamin, Chargers
47. Laquon Treadwell, Vikings
48. Michael Thomas, Saints

Tight ends

1. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
2. Jordan Reed, Redskins
3. Greg Olsen, Panthers
4. Travis Kelce, Chiefs
5. Delanie Walker, Titans
6. Coby Fleener, Saints
7. Gary Barnidge, Browns—He may not duplicate last year’s numbers, but Robert Griffin III could use him as a security blanket.

Tight end Gary Barnidge #82 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown pass during the first half of the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Tight end Gary Barnidge #82 of the Cleveland Browns catches a touchdown pass during the first half of the preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at FirstEnergy Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

8. Tyler Eifert, Bengals
9. Julius Thomas, Jaguars
10. Antonio Gates, Chargers
11. Zach Ertz, Eagles
12. Jimmy Graham, Seahawks

Defense/special teams

1. Broncos
2. Seahawks
3. Cardinals
4. Panthers
5. Texans—They’ve got a Week 1 matchup against a hurting Bears offense and J.J. Watt may be healthy enough to play by then.

Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans, John Simon #51 and Whitney Mercilus #59 in the first quarter durting a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints is sacked by Jadeveon Clowney #90 of the Houston Texans, John Simon #51 and Whitney Mercilus #59 in the first quarter durting a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 20, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

6. Vikings
7. Rams
8. Chiefs
9. Patriots
10. Bengals
11. Jets
12. Raiders