After agonizing over drafts and research, it’s now time for owners to plough through arguably the most difficult part of the fantasy season.
Everyone hopes that each ball will bounce their way, every opponent saves their worst performance of the season just for them, and all their players will be No. 1 at every position. However, reality eventually sets in and owners must set their starting lineups for Week One.
For those who were lucky enough to snag Adrian Peterson or Drew Brees, there is no question to start those two. But most owners have much more difficult decisions to make, like maybe starting Denver running back Montee Ball over Arizona’s Rashard Mendenhall; or some are in the unenviable position of possibly sitting Panthers quarterback Cam Newton against the Seattle Seahawk’s top ranked defense.
It’s difficult for owners to know what they really have until about a month into the season, so for the first week its best to focus on matchups and each player’s history.
It’s also important to be very meticulous when setting a lineup. During that time, consider the below players at each position.
Start 1st: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Oakland)
Oakland’s defense has made some improvements, but Luck is poised to take the NFL by storm this season with another year of experience under his belt. Luck already has tons of poise in the pocket, and the Raiders were second to last in the league in sacks last year. Very little pressure means beaucoup yards for Luck.
2nd Option: Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Washington)
The Redskins pass defense was horrid last year, and Vick should be more comfortable in Chip Kelly’s quick-gunning offense. He also should have a better game than Jay Cutler (vs. Cincinnati) or Phillip Rivers (vs. Houston)
Start 1st: Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots (vs. Buffalo)
Last season Ridley clobbered the Bills for 204 yards and three touchdowns, both New England wins. It was his first year with an expanded role, and that experience will only help his growth. There are lots of rookie rushers to look at like Green Bay's Eddie Lacy or the Bengals Giovani Bernard, but Ridley is guaranteed touches after his 2012 season.
2nd Option: Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (vs. Cleveland)
He only had 51 carries last season, but averaged 4.9 yards per, and Miller is absolutely the No. 1 running back this season. He should get most of the workload this week and beyond.
Start 1st: Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (vs. New York Giants)
His teammate Dez Bryant will get most of the attention from a shaky Giants secondary, and Austin should rip off big chunks of yardage. Since 2009 he’s played the Giants eight times, notching 35 catches, 519 yards, and four touchdowns.
2nd Option: Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Jacksonville)
Jacksonville still has plenty of issues to workout in their young secondary, while Bowe arguably has the best quarterback he’s ever played with in Alex Smith. Many have Bowe as their No. 2 receiver, but he’ll play like a No. 1 in Week One.
Start 1st: Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions (vs. Minnesota)
The Lions offense will have Minnesota running ragged, and Pettigrew will be there throughout for lots of dump-offs. With Calvin Johnson breaking records, it’s easy to forget he was second on the team last year with 59 receptions for 567 yards.
2nd Option: Brandon Meyers, New York Giants (vs. Dallas)
The Cowboys arguably have one of the most improved defenses in the league, and it will mostly be focused on taking Eli Manning down, and preventing deep plays by Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. Meyers, like Pettigrew, will be the beneficiary. He could even fare better than Green Bay's Jermichael Finley (vs. San Francisco) or Carolina's Greg Olsen (vs. Seattle).
Start 1st: Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Jacksonville)
They are on the road and face running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but the Chiefs will focus their attack on MJD, and force quarterback Blaine Gabbert into plenty of errors down field.
2nd Option: St. Louis Rams (vs. Arizona)
This defense was stuck right in the middle in terms of yards and points allowed last year, but four 100-plus total tacklers all over the field (LB James Laurinaitis, LB Jo-Lunn Dunbar, CB Cortland Finnegan, S Quintin Mikell), and another year of Jeff Fisher at the helm means lots of trouble for Arizona.