Nick Mensio

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Week 1 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Thursday, September 7, 2017


Welcome back, all. It’s been what has felt like a short eight or nine months since we last convened here, but Week 1 is upon us. Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward redraft leagues but can also be used for DFS purposes, as these are players I’ll likely have some exposure to on Sundays and Mondays.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Carson Palmer at Lions: The over-under for Cardinals-Lions is at 48 at the time of this writing (Wednesday PM). That’s the fifth-highest total on the slate. My feeling is this one has a legitimate shot to smash the over and could be our highest-scoring game of Week 1. As noted by Pro Football Focus’ pace god Pat Thorman in his Snaps, Pace, and Stats article, the “Lions began 2016 at a breakneck pace, going no-huddle on 46 percent of their snaps” in the first month of the season before halting the wagon and playing at a snail’s pace when they realized their defense couldn’t keep other offenses out of the end zone. This preseason, Detroit got back to playing fast. The Lions ran the most no-huddle snaps in the league this summer. (Hat tip again to Thorman on that nugget.) If that carries into the season and the Lions try this up-and-down thing again, this game could be fantasy gold. Arizona ran the second-most plays per game last season and was top-six in pass-play percentage. The Cardinals will be playing in a dome against a defense that lost its leading sack man, Kerry Hyder, to a torn Achilles’ in the preseason while RE Ziggy Ansah spent all summer on PUP with knee and ankle issues. Top CB Darius Slay is a young star, but the rest of the Lions’ cornerback group is in a sorry state. Larry Fitzgerald should eat slot CBs Quandre Diggs and D.J. Hayden for lunch while David Johnson does what David Johnson does out of the backfield both as a runner and catcher. Detroit allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last season and didn’t change much on defense. Palmer is an elite streamer. Andrew Luck and Jameis Winston owners would be wise to pounce.

 

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Starts

Ben Roethlisberger at Browns: Big Ben’s road troubles are well documented, and the concern is very real. But this is one spot I’m willing to take it into account and believe the positives outweigh the negatives. First off, the Browns were dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last season and have since cut top CB Joe Haden while losing No. 1 overall pick DE Myles Garrett to what is believed to be a multi-week ankle injury in Wednesday’s practice. Second, Roethlisberger’s cupboard of weapons is stocked full with the return of Martavis Bryant from suspension and Le’Veon Bell back from his holdout. Third, the Steelers’ implied team total of 27.75 points is the third-highest on the slate. And fourth, Bell may not be ready to take on a full load with his conditioning in question following his summer absence. Big Ben flopped in his game at Cleveland last season, completing 23-of-36 passes for 167 yards (4.6 YPA) and no touchdowns, but he lit up the Browns for 349 yards and three scores on the road in 2015. With the most talent he’s had around him in years — everyone is healthy and allowed to play — it was hard to believe Big Ben was being drafted as a borderline QB1/2 in season-long drafts. This is one of the elite offenses in the league. According to Warren Sharp, the Steelers have the 11th-easiest schedule. I’d feel more than fine with Roethlisberger as my QB1 the duration of the year.

Marcus Mariota vs. Raiders: A couple years ago, we wouldn’t have looked at Raiders-Titans as a premier spot to find fantasy goodness. Times have changed. Two of the better teams in the AFC now, with talented offenses, Oakland and Tennessee presents us with Week 1’s highest total at 50.5 points. Mariota is this year’s darling among young quarterbacks who are expected to make the leap. He’s 100 percent healthy after fracturing is fibula late last season and draws a cake home matchup right out of the chute. The Raiders allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season and remain a mess on defense in the back seven. First-round CB Gareon Conley was activated from PUP just last week and missed a month of practice with a shin injury. Veteran CB Sean Smith has reportedly been benched in favor of T.J. Carrie. And second-round DB Obi Melifonwu was sent to I.R. this week. The Titans were the league’s No. 1 red-zone offense last season, and Oakland was near the bottom in allowing red-zone touchdowns. Mariota flopped in a home date against the Raiders early last year, but we have enough reason to go back to the well here. He also has the added bonus of rushing ability. The Titans are expected to loosen the reins on Mariota this year, as evidenced by their bolstering of his pass-game arsenal in the offseason. He’ll be worth rolling out there as a QB1 pretty much every week.

Kirk Cousins vs. Eagles: Cousins has won his last four starts against the Eagles. In those four games, Cousins has finished as the weekly QB5, QB1, QB15, and QB11. The latter two came last season against Jim Schwartz’s defense, and Cousins threw multiple touchdowns in both starts. The Eagles improved the back end of their defense with the acquisition of CB Ronald Darby from the Bills, but Nos. 2 and 3 corners Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson remain prime punching bags. Mills graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst cover corner last season out of 119 qualifiers, and Robinson is on his fourth team in four years and was burnt to a crisp on just 401 snaps with the Colts in 2016. The 47.5-point total for Eagles-Redskins is strong and could very easily hit the over. The Redskins need to improve their red-zone offense after finishing 30th in touchdown success rate there last year. Washington was 11th in that same category the previous season. The addition of Terrell Pryor and health of Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson, along with the further emergence of Jamison Crowder should help inside the 20-yard line.

Editor's Note: Get our 2017 NFL Draft Guide + Season Pass for FREE with your first deposit on FanDuel and dominate your leagues! Claim now.

 

Sits

Dak Prescott vs. Giants: If Ezekiel Elliott was serving his suspension during this one, Prescott would be higher up the quarterback rankings. But with Zeke possibly playing only this one game then serving his six-game ban, expect the Cowboys to ride him hard. On top of that, the Giants surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season and were No. 4 in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA. They held Prescott in check in two matchups as a rookie, limiting him to 196.0 yards per game and a 1:2 TD:INT mark. Prescott was the QB26 both weeks. The sophomore will have far better matchups to take advantage of this season, especially if Elliott has to hit the shelf. The 48-point over-under for Giants-Cowboys seems high. They combined for 39 and 17 points last Weeks 1 and 14.

Philip Rivers at Broncos: Like the Giants above, the Broncos are one of the top-notch pass defenses. Denver allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season and finished No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA. Rivers has really struggled against the Broncos in their last five meetings, dating back to 2014. In those five games, Rivers has finished as the QB22, QB28, QB16, QB23, and QB22. Expect much of the same on Monday night on the road. The Broncos lost DC Wade Phillips, but they still return Von Miller, Derek Wolfe, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby as pass-game disrupters. The Chargers are going to be good on offense in 2017, but this is a spot to tread lightly. Chargers-Broncos has a Vegas total set at 43.5 points, one of the lowest of Week 1.

Andy Dalton vs. Ravens: Dalton has largely struggled against the Ravens in recent years. In two meetings with Baltimore last season, Dalton averaged 254.5 yards and 1.0 touchdowns per game, finishing as the QB20 and QB28 in Weeks 12 and 17. Despite all of their cornerback issues of late, the Ravens still managed a 10th-place finish in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last year. They’ve since added first-round CB Marlon Humphrey and ex-Cowboys CB Brandon Carr to Jimmy Smith. GM Ozzie Newsome also handed a big contract to S Tony Jefferson to help solidify things on the back end. This defense is what’s going to carry the Ravens in 2017. It’s going to be one to avoid most weeks. A.J. Green is the only Bengals player of interest. He’s gone for at least 131 yards in three of his last four season openers and has routinely stolen Smith’s lunch money in coverage. At 42.5 points, the total for Ravens-Bengals is the fourth-lowest of the week.


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Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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