The season is finally upon us, and Whole Nine Yards is back to help you make the tough decisions on who to start as well as who to leave on the bench. Week 1 has a great slate of games with a lot of even matchups, but there are still some players poised to break out. Here are nine players I have my eye on this week.
Start: Tony Romo (Cowboys) vs. the Giants – Romo can be very hot and cold, but against the Giants he tends to be very hot. In two games against them last year, he threw for 744 yards and four touchdowns. In the second contest he also threw four interceptions, but this gunslinger is one of the few players who can turn a four-pick game into a solid fantasy output because he keeps throwing. Romo got the best of Eli in the season opener last year as well, totaling 307 yards and three touchdowns with only one interception.
Sit: Andy Dalton (Bengals) vs. the Bears – Despite losing Brian Urlacher, the Bears defense is hardly short of playmakers, especially in the secondary. Charles Tillman is coming off a career year and Tim Jennings more than doubled his career interceptions last year with nine. Those two pose a daunting matchup to the Bengals receivers. Dalton could be in for a long day as he struggles against top defenses.
Sleeper Start: Robert Griffin III (Redskins) vs. the Eagles – The very thought of recommending RG3 for a start this week makes me cringe, but Head Coach Mike Shanahan seems very confident that he is ready. This is the same guy who kept RG3 in only for him to get injured in the wild card round last year, but for some reason this season feels different. Both coach and player should be more cognizant of his physical limits this time around, so I’ll give Shanahan the benefit of the doubt here.
Start: Stevan Ridley (Patriots) vs. the Bills – Two of Ridley’s biggest games during his breakout 2012 season were against the Bills. He got 22 carries in each of those games and made the most of his touches with a total of 204 yards and three touchdowns. This year, with the Bills starting a rookie quarterback against the heavily favored Patriots, expect more of the same from Ridley.
Sit: Ryan Mathews (Chargers) vs. the Texans – Mathews was likely the biggest fantasy disappointment of the 2012 NFL season with a season high of 95 yards and only one touchdown all year. It would be quite the statement to come out and have a career performance against a top defense like the Texans possess, but it appears highly unlikely. The Chargers also could get behind early in this one, making the running game a less desirable option unless Mathews starts fast out of the gate.
Sleeper Start: Isaac Redman (Steelers) vs. the Titians – Redman will be shouldering the load for the Steelers with starter Le’Veon Bell out with an injury. In the only game Redman was given more than 20 carries last year, he rushed for 147 yards and a touchdown. In a limited sample size, Redman has proven he can set the pace from the starting tailback role, and Coach Mike Tomiln has expressed confidence in his capabilities.
Start: Mike Wallace (Dolphins) vs. the Browns – The Dolphins went out to get the electric Wallace in the offseason to revive their passing game, and he is poised to do just that this year. Ryan Tannehill has already made Wallace his number one target in training camp, and against a Browns secondary ranked 4th worst in the league last year, that connection will happen early and often.
Sit: Steve Smith (Panthers) vs. the Seahawks – Although he is one of the feistier receivers in the game, Smith struggled in his matchup last season with physical Seahawks corners Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman. He only managed four catches for 40 yards on 13 targets. He will likely continue to see high targets as the Panthers’ number one option, but he may find it difficult to gain separation in the red zone.
Sleeper Start: Roddy White (Falcons) vs. the Saints – Normally White falls more under the “start every week” category, but he is listed as questionable and has been limited in practice. However, White’s streak of 128 consecutive games started is unlikely to end this week, as he is the type of player who can shine even when hurt. His last effort when visiting the Saints? Seven catches for 114 yards. He’s worth the gamble in most cases.
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Story by Zac Bellman
Special to the Tribune