Wondering whether or not to start Aaron Rodgers and Chris Johnson, or to bench Jake Delhomme and Brian Finneran? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with real starting lineup conundrums, read on.
Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 1 of the 2010 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Jay Cutler, QB, Bears vs. Lions. I have serious doubts about Cutler’s long-term outlook, but not this week. He tossed 4 TDs and no interceptions against Detroit in last season’s finale, and you can bet Mike Martz will be aiming for a similar start this year.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Browns at Buccaneers. He rushed for 561 yards and five TDs in the last three games of the 2009 season. Running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league against last year’s worst run defense, Harrison’s streak of impressive performances should continue.
Tim Hightower, RB, Cardinals at Rams. Hightower opens the season as the team’s starting tailback. Beanie Wells should play, but he’s nursing a gimpy knee. Derek Anderson is at the helm. And they’re playing St. Louis’ porous run defense. What more do you need?
Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers at Chiefs. It’s anyone’s guess how long Floyd will be Philip Rivers’ go-to wideout, but he should start off that way in this favorable matchup. Floyd is an imposing red-zone target, and San Diego should be frequent visitors to that area Sunday.
Jabar Gaffney, WR, Broncos at Jaguars. Kyle Orton has been stellar this preseason, while Gaffney has emerged as his favorite target. With concerns about the health of their top rusher, Knowshon Moreno, Denver will seek to exploit the soft Jaguars secondary. Gaffney is in the best position to prosper.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Kyle Orton, Alex Smith; RBs Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, C.J. Spiller, Matt Forte, Arian Foster; WRs Devin Hester, Pierre Garcon, Jacoby Jones, Terrell Owens, Hakeem Nicks, Braylon Edwards, Mike Williams (TB).
Roll ‘em back
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens at Jets. Everyone’s favorite breakout star (present company excepted) could get off to a rough start against the most stifling defense in the league. While Darrelle Revis may not be completely ready for primetime, he’ll have plenty of help in grounding Baltimore’s upgraded passing attack as the Jets christen their new digs.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Eagles vs. Packers. It’s always hard to bench one of your top backs; but in this case, facing 2009’s best rush defense, it’s your safest call. McCoy has tons of upside this season, but not in this tough matchup.
Justin Forsett, RB, Seahawks vs. 49ers. Seattle’s offense is a wreck, while the 49ers boast a stout run defense. Though Forsett has shown promise, and he will be the starter, Leon Washington will get plenty of carries, too. Neither is a good bet.
Mike Sims-Walker, WR, Jaguars vs. Broncos. Denver brings one of the NFL’s stingiest secondaries into this contest. Champ Bailey will be locked onto Sims-Walker from the outset, so don’t be surprised if the boom-or-bust receiver begins the season with another bust.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins vs. Cowboys. He has a history of torching the Cowboys, but they haven’t allowed him into the end zone since 2007. Dallas has shut down Donovan McNabb in three consecutive games, and Pro Bowl CB Mike Jenkins will be glued to Moss all night.
More thumbs down: QBs Kevin Kolb, Donovan McNabb, Matt Hasselbeck; RBs Joseph Addai, Felix Jones, Clinton Portis, Darren McFadden, all Patriots; WRs Hines Ward, Derrick Mason, all Seahawks.
TAKING A FLIER
Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets vs. Ravens. He had a rough preseason and his best receiver (Santonio Holmes) is suspended, but I still like his chances. The Jets may have trouble running against Baltimore’s solid defensive line, but the Ravens’ secondary is in a shambles. Sanchez will likely be forced to throw often, and the opportunities will be abundant.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO hesitates to start Maurice Jones-Drew this week. There’s been a lot of Internet chatter suggesting that the Jaguars’ best player is hiding the severity of his sore knee, but don’t buy into it. He may not be 100 percent, but he’s better than any other back on your roster and he’s facing one of the league’s worst run defenses from 2009.
Ladd Biro is a syndicated fantasy football columnist and host of Sporting News Radio’s weekly Fantasy Files show (Saturdays, 9-10 am ET). Follow his daily fantasy advice at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com) and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).