Of all the positions in fantasy football, it is my theory that when it comes time to set a lineup, the quarterback and tight end garner the least attention. The simple-minded fantasy owner will usually slot in whomever they drafted first. They will rarely sift through potential matchups seeking advantages, especially Week 1. Don’t worry though, I have you covered.
Each week this article will focus on start/sit quarterback and tight end plays. Don’t expect to see obvious names like Luck, Rodgers, or Gronkowski…unless they are mentioned in the ‘crash’ section.
Sam Bradford @ ATL
Well, I have been pumping Sam Bradford all offseason and I see no reason why I should stop now. Finally seeing the product on the field has given me even more confidence that he is going to put together a top 10 season at the quarterback position. In just four drives with the first-team offense, Bradford compiled 13 completions on 15 attempts for 156 yards and three touchdown passes. Although it is a small sample size, I came away most impressed with the accuracy in which he delivered the ball to his pass catchers.
Rookie head coach Dan Quinn had his way with the Eagles offense last season when he was coordinating the defense for the Seattle Seahawks. The Eagles offense only put up 14 points, and Sanchez had a rough day going 10/20 for 96/2/1. Chip Kelly was quoted saying “The Seattle defense shut us down with both scheme and personnel.” The good news for Dan Quinn is that he was able to implement his 4-3 scheme that afforded him success in Seattle. The bad news for Quinn is that he couldn’t bring the personnel with him to Atlanta. Instead of Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, and Byron Maxwell patrolling the back-end of the defense, Quinn will be working with a group that consists of Ricardo Allen, William Moore, Robert Alford, and Desmond Trufant. The secondary is where Atlanta struggled most last season, allowing a league high 280 yards passing per game. While there is hope that the Falcons’ pass rush will alleviate some pressure off of the secondary that is likely to be a work in progress, as will be this entire defense. I could see them being good some day, but Monday will not be that day. I fully expect Kelly to take advantage of the Falcons secondary and for Bradford to have a big game.
Ryan Tannehill @ WASH
Speaking of guys who were hot in the preseason…
Enter Ryan Tannehill, who had the Dolphins first-team offense firing on all cylinders. While one cannot put much stock into preseason numbers, his 33/41 for 303/3/0 was impressive. I pegged the Dolphins offense to take a step forward in 2015 and so far I have no reason to think otherwise.
While I anticipate Tannehill to have a strong season, this matchup is particularly juicy. Tannehill will look to continue a streak dating back to last season, in which opposing quarterbacks have thrown for at least two touchdowns against the Redskins defense. While there are some new faces in the Redskins secondary, the concern remains that this will be the weak link in the defensive chain. That proverbial link will be even weaker with the one game suspension of nickel corner Bashuad Breeland. His absence will force them to dig deeper into an already thin secondary to matchup with the three and four wide receiver sets that the Dolphins often run. With the Redskins having a strong front-seven to control the running game, look for the Dolphins to rely on mismatches in the secondary to move the ball, thus leading Tannehill to being a strong fantasy option in Week 1.
Depending on the depth of your league, you may have drafted Bradford or Tannehill as a backup. Don’t be the mindless owner who just inserts whoever they drafted higher into their starting lineup. Of the quarterbacks potentially drafted before Bradford or Tannehill I would happily start either of them over: Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Matt Stafford.
Martellus Bennett vs GB
While I am not a Bennett fan for 2015, I am looking to take a ride on the ‘Black Unicorn’ in Week 1. With Alshon Jeffery dinged and questionable to play, Bennett could take on an even larger role in the Bear’s offense. With an expectation for them to be playing catch up there should be plenty of targets available.
Bennett has a proven track-record of starting the season off fast.
First three games 2014: 161/4
First three games 2013: 60/3
First three games 2012: 185/3
Bennett has been fantasy gold during the first three weeks of the season. Going back to 2012, Bennett has scored nine or more fantasy points in eight of nine games.
Larry Donnell @ DAL
The Cowboys failed to match-up with Donnell last season. In the two contests versus Dallas, he was targeted 11 times hauling in 9/114. This game has all the makings of a high scoring affair, so locking down any viable piece of either offense is not a bad idea.
Dallas struggled against the tight end last season, allowing an average of 10.3 fantasy points per game. With Odell Beckham Jr. expected to draw the majority of the attention, the middle of the field should be wide open for Donnell to operate and post a solid fantasy day.
Matt Stafford @ SD
After a statistically strong 2013 road showing, Stafford reverted back to struggling away from the friendly confines of Ford Field in 2014.
Home: 282 yards per game / 13 touchdowns / 6 interceptions / 67% completion rate
Away: 250 yards per game / 9 touchdowns / 6 interceptions / 54% completion rate
Stafford was blanked four times in the touchdown column last year, three of which came on the road. Stafford will be tested right out of the gate, facing a top five passing defense from last year led by pro-bowl safety Eric Weddle.
Having a modern day thunder and lightning combination of Bell and Abdullah could transition the Lions into a team that runs the ball and plays defense rather than trying to win shootouts. After all, with Matt Stafford having a career record of 0-17 on the road verse teams that finish with a winning record, they might want to try something different. We will find out Week 1.
Cam Newton @ JAC
I could have summed up the reasoning on this potential crash in four words.
Being the charitable human I am, I will give you some more ammunition on why Newton needs to be on your bench this week.
To quote Peyton Manning: “Let’s just say we had some problems with protection”
The Jaguars had the sixth best sack total in the league with 45 sacks. The impressive part about the 45 sacks they accumulated is that they got it done without having to bring extra rushers.
In 2014, the Jaguars faced 602 drop-backs. They blitzed only 90 times, or 15% of the time. This was the lowest number of blitzes in the league, and it wasn’t even close. The Cowboys were the only other team in the league to blitz less than 20% of the time, yet they blitzed 39 more times than the Jaguars. Jared Odrick replacing Red Bryant at defensive end was the only major change to their front, and that should be considered an upgrade in the pass rush department.
What does this mean for Cam Newton and an offensive line that struggled allowing 42 sacks in 2014? If the Jaguars are able to carry over the success of getting to the quarterback without bringing extra rushers it is going to be a long day for Newton and his ragtag receivers who will struggle to beat the coverage.
Greg Olsen @ Jac
The Jaguars did a nice job against opposing tight ends in 2014. Much of it has to do with only rushing the front four and playing coverage in the back-end. Last year, they got off to a terrible start, allowing five touchdowns to tight ends through five weeks. However, they settled in and only allowed two tight end touchdowns over their final 11 games.
I expect the Panthers to lean heavily on their ground game this week. When they do throw, Jacksonville will do their best to take away Olsen, which at this point is Newton’s most trusted target.
Owen Daniels vs BAL
It really does pain me to put Daniels name in this portion of the column. After singing his praises all offseason, I am forced to refer to him as a ‘fantasy crash’ in Week 1. It really is a terrible matchup though. Baltimore allowed a grand total of three touchdowns last year to tight ends not named Jimmy Graham. Aside from that, one must factor in the familiarity that the Ravens have with both Daniels as well as Kubiak. It all adds up to a poor debut for Daniels.
This section of the article will be dedicated to a quarterback/tight end combination that has a good matchup and should be inserted into starting lineups.
COMBO PLAY: 9-82
Last season, the Giants had no answer for Tony Romo and the Cowboy’s passing game. He lit them up for 554/7/1 over two games. It can be argued that the Giants secondary will be in even worse shape this year after losing Mykkele Thompson, Bennett Jackson, and Justin Currie during the preseason.
Good luck. Right now we are all undefeated…except for anyone who played against Gronk and Brady, they are basically 0-1.
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