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 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.

Brock Osweiler: New Sheriff in Town?

With Peyton Manning making it official on Monday that he’s finished playing football, it’s time to talk about Brock Osweiler and his possible fantasy value as the Broncos’ new starting quarterback.

Osweiler just finished his fourth year in the NFL, but he hadn’t had much playing time until Manning got benched for the last half of the season. Before the 2015 season, Osweiler had thrown just 30 passes, completing 17 of them for 159 yards. When Manning was playing ineffectively the Broncos gave Osweiler a shot and he completed 170 passes for 1,967 yards and ten touchdowns. He completed 61.8% of his passes and threw six interceptions and lost two fumbles.

Osweiler performed pretty well for seven games before Manning took his starting job back in the season finale on a comeback win over the Chargers. Manning continued to start during the playoffs and the rest is history.

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 3: Quarterback Brock Osweiler #17 of the Denver Broncos passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 3: Quarterback Brock Osweiler #17 of the Denver Broncos passes against the San Diego Chargers during the first half of a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

We think Osweiler’s prospects are pretty good, given that he played pretty well in relief and has had four seasons playing behind a Hall of Fame quarterback. Also, Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos’ top receiver, was having an uncharacteristic second half of the season with drops and lower than expected production.

We’re not going to attempt to defend Osweiler’s new contract of $45 million over three years, but the last time we saw a naturally talented quarterback sit behind a Hall of Famer for a few years we ended up with Aaron Rodgers. Not comparing the two, obviously, just pointing out a similar situation where the outcome was a positive one.

Osweiler will have a good receiving corps to work with, if Thomas gets back to feeling like himself and Emmanuel Sanders keeps trending in the right direction. After the top two wideouts, the Broncos have some maneuvering to do. Andre Caldwell and Jordan Norwood are both free agents but if they are lost there are plenty of options to go after.

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 3: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos runs clear of the San Diego Chargers defense for a 72-yard first quarter touchdown reception during a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 3: Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos runs clear of the San Diego Chargers defense for a 72-yard first quarter touchdown reception during a game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 3, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

An interesting addition to the Broncos’ receiving corps could be Travis Benjamin, who could play well in the slot if he comes over from Cleveland. Other options on the free agent market are Marvin Jones, Rueben Randle and Anquan Boldin. Suffice to say, the Broncos will likely have three, possibly more, solid options in the passing game to help with Osweiler’s production.

Don’t go crazy with drafting him in early rounds, but if you want to go strong with running backs and wide receivers early, Osweiler could end up being a solid quarterback in mid to late rounds.