‘Twas the night before kickoff, when all through the land
Computer mice were stirring, just as fast as they can
Lineups were set, with research and care
In hopes that fantasy football glory soon would be there.
With the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos set to square off a mile high tomorrow night in a rematch from last year’s AFC playoffs, the NFL season is upon us. That means it is time for fantasy football season to begin as well. Even though week one typically is the easiest week of the season because lineups essentially shake themselves out based on how highly your players were drafted, it is never too early to give advice for those of you (un)fortunate enough to have an early head-scratcher.
For those of you who don’t play fantasy football, you probably don’t understand the excitement that comes with each new season. Friends once again compete for the title of league champion, something I am proud to be defending in a league featuring a group of friends I have played with since my Sophomore year of high school. Stakes are high, one guy even came all the way from Georgia to attend our draft in Green Bay. Dedication is key if you want to beat your friends.
And that is precisely what makes fantasy sports so perfect. It is the ultimate way to prove your sports merit to the very people you watch the game with week in and week out.
No one does a better job than FX’s The League, which kicked off its season tonight. A sitcom based on a fantasy football league, the success of the show proves the game is no longer simply for nerds.
My excitement for the fantasy season brings me back to a kid on Christmas. I’ve drafted my team, and want to know exactly what I have this year. You can never be sure until the games begin, that’s what makes it so great.
But anyway, that was just a side note. There’s one reason you clicked this article, fantasy football advice on the Broncos and Ravens. Without further adieu here are players I expect to produce starter-worthy outings, and those who would be better left on your bench. This is not to say that you should start Ed Dickson s over Jimmy Graham, that would be silly, but I see him having a nice outing to open the year.
Peyton Manning, QB
This one probably goes without saying, if you drafted Manning, you’re starting him every week. The guy is a Hall of Famer, so why bother putting him on here? Because he wants revenge. The Ravens defeated his team in the playoffs a year ago and went on to win the Super Bowl. The taste of defeat has been on his tongue all year since, and now he finally has a chance to get his revenge. Manning will show up huge.
Ed Dickson, TE
Tight end is considered to be a weak position for fantasy purposes this season. That means that if you weren’t fortunate to land Graham in your draft, you have a far from sure thing at tight end. Although the Ravens brought in Dallas Clark, he is at the twilight of his career and Dickson has already proven his rapport with Flacco. After the departure of Anquan Boldin to San Francisco, the Ravens lack a proven compliment to Torrey Smith in the passing game. Dickson could fill that role, and become a safety net for Baltimore.
Here’s a bet he finds the end zone in this one.
Denver Broncos D/ST
Did I mention the part about revenge? That applies to this unit too. Although the loss of Von Miller hurts, the Broncos will come out seeking revenge in this one. If they can contain Ray Rice, there is not much else the Ravens offense offers in terms of game-breaking players. Torrey Smith is yet to prove himself as a well-rounded number one receiver, and his one dimensional role as a deep threat can be taken away.
Denver has the talent to shut down the Baltimore offense, or at least produce some turnovers along the way. Not a bad option heading into week 1, and one that will surely show up in later weeks against weaker opposition in the AFC West.
Montee Ball, RB
Although the Wisconsin back was drafted with the expectation that his nose for the end zone would result in immediate fantasy glory, he finds himself in a dreaded backfield platoon. Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman aren’t exactly slouches, and figure to take away a good number of touches that should be Ball’s. He will get the goaline carries in all likelihood, however the yards just will not be there in the early weeks of the year. If you have an alternative, bench him for now.
Bernard Pierce, RB
Yes, he came on as a nice compliment to Ray Rice late last year. No, he will not make this a true timeshare in the backfield. Ray Rice is too dynamic to keep off the field. His ability to run and catch is second to none in the NFL, and Baltimore would be foolish to put him on the sideline. Pierce will get his touches, just not enough to be fantasy relevant consistently. In a game where Baltimore might be playing catch up, Rice will be the guy on the field because of his proven play-making ability as a receiver.
Keep Pierce as a handcuff, just lower your expectations while Rice is healthy.
Eric Decker, WR
Are there enough balls to go around in Denver with the addition of Wes Welker? Manning is going to look to his new addition in the slot in order to establish the threat early on. Thomas has the game-breaking abilities that Decker doesn’t and thus should see more targets than Decker out wide.
I just question whether he will be able to consistently reach the end zone and save his fantasy value. Not liking his chances to on opening night. Look elsewhere if you’re in need of a receiver.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express