Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, be sure to check our weekly lineup rankings.
Start of the week
Garrett Hartley vs. Redskins: Hartley beat out John Kasay during the preseason to re-claim the top spot in New Orleans, and this week's matchup against the Washington Redskins makes him a strong option in fantasy land. If he's a free agent (Hartley is still available in close to 20 percent of NFL.com leagues), go out and grab the veteran right now. He could turn into one of fantasy football's elite kickers in 2012.
Jason Hanson vs. Rams: Hanson, 42, continues to be a viable fantasy football option even entering his 21st season in the NFL. The strong-legged veteran, who finished among the better players at his position based on fantasy points in 2011, should open the new season on a high note against the St. Louis Rams. Their defense allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers last year, making Hanson a solid option.
Robbie Gould vs. Colts: Gould ranked among the best kickers in fantasy football last season, scoring 133.00 points in standard NFL leagues. His value continues to be prominent in 2012, and this week's matchup against the Indianapolis Colts makes him a nice option in fantasy land. Indianapolis surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing booters in 2011 and could struggle against an improved Chicago Bears offense.
Sleeper alert - Justin Medlock at Buccaneers: Who is Medlock? Well, he was a fifth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2007 and has played just one NFL game. However, he was one of the elite kickers in Canada and beat out Olindo Mare for the top spot in Carolina this preseason. With an attractive matchup against the Buccaneers on tap, Medlock is worth a roll of the dice if you don't like your current kicker.
Sit of the week
Rob Bironas vs. Patriots: Bironas, an eight-year veteran out of Georgia Southern, has been one of the better kickers in fantasy football over the last several seasons. Unfortunately, he's opening the 2012 campaign against one of the tougher defenses against kickers from last season, the New England Patriots. New England gave up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position in 2011 and could make Bironas invisible in Week 1.
Nick Folk vs. Bills: I don't have a lot of faith in the New York Jets' offense after watching them several times in the preseason, so I'm not going to recommend their kicker, Folk, in an AFC East battle against the Bills. Buffalo surrendered an average of just over seven fantasy points per game to the position last year, and their defense should now be much improved with the additions of defensive linemen Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
Phil Dawson vs. Eagles: Dawson, who will kick under the franchise tag for the second straight season, certainly won't see an increase in fantasy appeal as a result of being in a contract year. The Texas product also shouldn't be active in most fantasy leagues against the Philadelphia Eagles, who allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing kickers in 2011. Keep Dawson on the bench ... or on the waiver wire.
Owners beware - Matt Prater vs. Steelers: A popular sleeper (if there is a such thing at the kicker position), Prater is owned in almost 98 percent of NFL.com leagues. And while the presence of Manning will add to his appeal, Prater does have a tough matchup this weekend against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Last season, Pittsburgh surrendered the fewest fantasy points per game (5.56) to opposing booters in the entire NFL.