What we are talking about:
He is going to win your week
Will he answer Peyton's challenge?
There were a lot of questions when Arian Foster ranked 11th on my list of running backs headed into the 2013 season.
"I bet you're just concerned about his yards-per-carry dropping from 4.9 to 4.4 to 4.1, aren't you?"
Uh, yeah. That's kind of a big deal.
Seriously, what kind of question is that. "So uh, Rank, do you mean to tell me that you're using facts and statistical trends to predict that a player is a going to take a step back? How dare you!"
Yes, how dare I?
Not only are his rushing numbers taking a dip, his yards-per-reception took a beating, too, which should be even more alarming to most of you. Well that and the fact he hasn't played during the preseason because of a back injury. Seriously, a back injury is nothing to play around with. Many big-time athletes in their prime like Mario Lemiuex, Larry Bird and Shawn Michaels were at their zenith when back injuries took them out.
Not to mention the Texans have other options this year, too. Foster has remained relevant because he gets into the end zone so much. What happens if Ben Tate gets work on the goal line? What if J.J. Watt gets his gimmick plays? Don't forget, DeAndre Hopkins could turn the Texans into more of a passing threat, too.
There are a lot of reasons to be afraid for Foster. We could see the biggest fall from grace since Jessica Alba did "The Love Guru" years ago. Or if you want to go with "Good Luck Chuck" that's fair, too. But that was probably just in the middle of her slide. And as a quick aside, did anybody think Michael Weatherly would be a bigger star in 2013?
Likes and dislikes are in bold, for those of you who don't want to take the 88 minutes required to read this column. (But it's Friday: What better way to cruise through it than by checking out my thoughts on fantasy football, comic books, wrestling, TV and music?) Facebook doesn't give you the option to dislike stuff, but I certainly do.
A big hand to stats maven Bill "Sudsy" Sudell for dropping the knowledge.
And without further ado ...
Robert Griffin III will start in Week 1. Like there was ever a doubt. You know what else I won't doubt? RG3 will tuck it and run in the opener, because it's instinct. Yes, everybody will hold their breath the first time he does this, but he's going to start running. Count on it.
Here's a quote for you from RG3: "I'll play fearless, play smart. I know I got to be safe and slide. I can still play fearless." Sure, so he'll go out and slide after he makes an 18-yard run. Trust me, he'll be just fine.
RG3 gets compared to Randall Cunningham a lot. Cunningham missed nearly the entire 1991 season because of a knee injury. He returned the next year and ran 87 times for 549 yards and five touchdowns. These running quarterbacks get into game situations and they just become football players again. RG3 is going to be just fine. Did we not see Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles last year? Don't over-think this.
You want a stat? Fine. RG3 is also a great start because the Eagles allowed the third-most points to fantasy quarterbacks last year. He also faces the second-easiest schedule for quarterbacks based on last year's stats. Until we see anything different, it's safe to start him.
My final score prediction for this game is Philadelphia 45, Washington 42. I love all the haters coming out and saying Chip Kelly will flop. Especially from the "retired" coaches who have been bounced out of the league. Maybe this is why you can't get a job in the league, fellas. This is going to work big time.
I talked to a member of the Eagles' organization during the offseason and he raved about the way Kelly has conducted his practices, where everybody was involved. There were five different practice fields and everybody (including guys like Matt Barkley) was getting in work. The tempo was upbeat and it's going to be hard to beat them.
I'm down with all of the starters in this game. LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. All of them are solid starters. McCoy is going to regain his magic. Realize Kelly ran the ball nearly 65 percent of the time at Oregon. McCoy is going to get back to his 2011 standards. Bryce Brown will evolve into a flex-option at some point, too.
DeSean Jackson has been great against Washington in the past, as he's scored a career-high four touchdowns against the team. Washington allowed the fifth-most points to fantasy receivers last year, and 15 touchdown passes at home in 2012. That was tied for the third-most in the NFL.
This Eagles and Washington game is one I've really been looking forward to all offseason. There is so much uncertainty with RG3 and Chip Kelly. It's really going to be compelling television. And then on Tuesday night, we're going to get the season premiere of âSons of Anarchyâ to go along with it? I could almost poop confetti.
ImageI'm really excited for "Sons of Anarchy" this season. It, along with "Justified" are two of my favorite shows. I got a chance to meet Kim Coates ("Tig" from "SOA") this summer. Great guy. You might remember him as the guy Bruce Willis kills with a punch in "The Last Boy Scout" back in the 1980s. (It was part of my football movies bracket.) I would like to say, however, that Coates not being nominated for an Emmy is one of the biggest award snubs since Gino Torretta stole Marshall Faulk's Heisman Trophy.
Tom Brady is 10-1 as a Week 1 starter during his career, the best among quarterbacks during the Super Bowl era with at least 10 starts. And then he gets to play Doug Marrone and the Bills. I have to say, there is nothing about this matchup that doesn't scream Patriots blowout. The Patriots will be eager to push aside a rough (to put it mildly) offseason and they would like to welcome a rookie head coach from Syracuse to the NFL. I'm thinking the Patriots go into 2007 mode.
But now Brady has been personally challenged by Peyton Manning. You don't think the Broncos were trying to send a message to the Patriots the way they ran up the score and continued to feed Wes Welker? I expect Brady to be all, "You want to play that way (expletive) (expletive)? This (expletive) is (expletive) on!" And then Brady was admonished by Gisele for salty language.
The point is Brady will return volley by going after Danny Amendola about 68 times against the Bills. Seriously, Manning and Brady are probably bored with the regular season and need to do this kind of stuff to stay interested in the coming season.
Stevan Ridley is going to start for your fantasy team. No brainer right there. But Shane Vereen is a sneaky play this week. The Bills allowed the third-most points to fantasy running backs last year. The Patriots have scored 16 rushing touchdowns in the last 11 games in Buffalo and averaged close to 150 rushing yards in the last 13 games up there. Plus the Bills allowed the most rushing touchdowns at home last year (14). Excuse me while I go adjust some rosters. Hell, if you really need a tight end, you might as well go with Zach Sudfeld, too. I'm buying in.
Don't worry about the league catching up to Colin Kaepernick. He outscored Brady in four out of the last five weeks for the 2012 season. And honestly, I'm about to stop responding to folks who have questions and concerns about Kaepernick. He was a second-round draft pick the same year Newton was drafted. He was a star at Nevada. Now he has a full season under Jim Habaugh's tutelage. More Kaepernick, please! Yet, I was unable to land him in a single fantasy league.
The Packers have said they want to hit Kaepernick. Which is great. Thing is, they are going to need to catch him first. And from watching the playoffs last year, they didn't do such a great job of that.
Frank Gore is a nice play, too. Sure, he averaged 65.9 rushing yards in Kaepernick's seven starts. But the Packers have allowed more than 100 rushing yards in six of eight road games last year. Gore probably fell to you in the third round, so have some fun with him.
The Saints are going to be in a similar position with Sean Payton back as the full-time coach. This makes Drew Brees a fantastic start each and every week. Both the Saints and Patriots are going to challenge the single-season scoring mark this year.
Tony Romo has the easiest schedule among fantasy quarterbacks this year and he's got a great matchup against the Giants this week. Romo has thrown for at least 300 passing yards in three of the last four meetings with the Giants. And New York allowed the tenth-most points to fantasy quarterbacks last year.
Yet people get uneasy with Romo because of Romo. Put that out of your mind and make sure you start him. Unless, you snuck him in as a backup behind a true elite quarterback option like Tom Brady. Which happened to me in one league.
Adrian Peterson can join Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown as the only players in NFL history to rush for more than 9,000 yards in their first 90 games if AD can get 151 rushing yards. Seriously, are you going to doubt him?
Our Akbar Gbajabiamila says Peterson is going to rush for 3,000 yards this season. Just 3,000? Hater.
If Adrian Peterson says he's going to get 2,500 yards, I'm like, "I'm in." I will no longer doubt this guy.
I must have officiated and participated in well over 100 drafts with Fantasy Draft Week and numerous charity events since August. Peterson went first in every single draft. Every one! Including the one where C.J. Spiller went in the eighth round. That's right, it was a big event at Sea Coast Grace in Cypress, Calif. and I wasn't playing attention to one of the tables. I feel as though I failed there.
Steven Jackson will be your fantasy MVP this year. I love him. I understand, he's on the wrong side of 30. But Hall of Famers like Walter Payton, Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders did well after 30. Curtis Martin's best season came after 30. Even a guy like Tiki Barber did well after 30. Don't let it rattle you.
If you look at Jacksonâs numbers against Michael Turner, they were nearly identical. Except for touchdowns. Turner scored double-digit touchdowns in every year he was in Atlanta. Jackson will get double-digit touchdowns for the first time since 2006 when he had 13. So yeah, let's put him down for 13 rushing this year. And Jackson is a much better receiver out of the backfield than Turner. Oh yes, Steven Jackson will be your fantasy MVP. Well, if you drafted him.
Lamar Miller faces the easiest schedule among fantasy running backs in 2013. But what about this week? While I fear the Browns have improved some on defense with Ray Horton, Miller still looks like a solid option in the flex spot, where I have him in our "experts" league.
Brandon Weeden could be a nice start this week. Well, I basically wanted to ease the tension for my man, Showtime Eric Young of TNA and "Off the Hook: Extreme Catches". He waited on a quarterback in a 14-team league and ended up with Weeden and EJ Manuel. Got to go with Weeden in this case. Donât worry, Eric, youâll be fine.
Let me say this, I don't care for Norv Turner as a head coach. I'm on record with that. But he's fantastic as an offensive coordinator. Weeden is a sneaky pick. Trent Richardson, of course, will be fantastic. And if you have a spot on your roster, reserve it for Josh Gordon for when he gets back. In fact, get ready to add Greg Little who will have a good game this week.
Sidney Rice is my spot-start of the week. The Seahawks have to throw the ball to somebody, right? He was the most targeted receiver last year, he will continue to be so this year. And don't start Rice over Roddy White or Brandon Marshall. But if you're in a fix for a receiver, he's a rather good option.
There will be times this season when Ben Tate is a pretty good flex option. Guess what? This is one of those weeks! Tate has averaged 5.1 yards per carry during his career and he bested that mark during the preseason. The Chargers allowed 127.6 rushing yards per game in the last five home games of 2012.
Plus, the Texans need to play for the Super Bowl. The Texans have been one of the best teams in football the last couple of years, but have fallen short. There is no need for them to rush Arian Foster on the field and have him carry it 30 times in the season opener after he was slowed during the preseason. And if the Texans are bullheaded enough to do that, well, it's going to be another bad ending in Houston.
Rashard Mendenhall is a nice flex option this week. There aren't a lot of non-committee running backs in the NFL right now, so you should grab one while you can.
If you need more sleepers for the coming week, be sure to check out Rank's 11 Sleepers which comes out every Wednesday. Or it might be moving to Thursday. DeAndre Hopkins is about ready to take flight, kids. You might want to add him right now if he's still available in your leagues. He's going to be the most added guy just behind Julius Thomas this week.
ImageI'll use this as a lazy jump off into the WWE. Love what they've done with Daniel Bryan. It was satisfying to see him win the strap, but the chase against the McMahon Family will be epic. He's like a modern-day Stone Cold. I was cold to having The Shield play the security force, but it does make sense now. But seriously, let Daniel get some small victories here and there.
The funny thing isn't if your QB can beat Manning. But can you get a tight end to match Julius Thomas?
Speaking of tight ends, Vernon Davis is going to be a beast this year. Starting here in Week 1. Randy Moss can keep quiet about it.
ImageI don't know if you caught it, but Fan Free Agency ended on the Dave Dameshek Football Program. I want to thank everybody who played along, because I really did appreciate it. But in the end, my nephew Peter Stoneking has joined the U.S. Army. And like his grandfather and grandmother (my parents) and so many members of my family, Peter is a Bears fan. His wish when he entered training was for me to finally become a Bears fan, and who am I to turn down that request? So go Bears!
Jay Cutler was one of Rank's 11 (or maybe it was the sequel, Rank's 12) sleepers. And there will be games where he thrives under Marc Trestman's offense. This isn't going to be one of those games in Week 1. The Bengals are much too tough.
The Bengals allowed the fifth-fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks last year. They didn't allow a quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards after Week 1 last year. So this is a defense to avoid for the coming season. So while I like Jay Cutler for the season, I'm going to pass on him this week.
And while I just raved about Chip Kelly and the Eagles offense in the "like" column, I'm going to put Michael Vick over here as one of my dislikes. And here's why. You probably drafted Vick as your QB2 in most leagues, unless youâre in a real big league or you fell asleep at the wheel during your draft. Which is what happened to me in one of my leagues. So I have to start him. Most you do not need to.
Ryan Tannehill was one of my preseason sleepers, too, but I've cooled to him recently. The offensive line has become a concern for the Dolphins. Or more to the point, it continues to be a concern for the Dolphins, so I really need to see something from him.
Not sure Mike Wallace is the best fit for that offense, too. The Dolphins need a deep threat. But Tannehill needs some time to get Wallace the ball, and I'm not sure he's going to be afforded that opportunity with that line. Brian Hartline might benefit, but he's not a worthy fantasy option right now.
And the matchup isn't very good for Wallace, either. The newest Dolphin has averaged 54.4 yards per game and scored two touchdowns in five career starts against the Browns. Cleveland has allowed just three total touchdown passes in its last five home games. Plus Wallace hasn't been explosive with just three receptions of more than 25 yards in his last 10 games.
Alex Smith was one of Rank's 11 Sleepers recently, and he's got a decent enough matchup against the Jaguars. But I can't endorse starting him. Yet he's certainly a guy to watch as the season progresses and he'll have some excellent starts along the way. With Andy Reid as the coach, and Chris Ault (the former Nevada coach) as a consultant, he's going to benefit greatly under this regime. Finally, he's got a coach he can work with.
How long are we going to wait for Sam Bradford? He's always one of those sleepers to keep an eye on, but you just can't trust the guy. Let's see it happen first. He's been given a ton of weapons, so it seems like this is his make-or-break season. Like do well, or enjoy Oakland next year.
Eli Manning has done well against the Cowboys in the past. He always seems to relish playing in Cowboys Stadium. Anybody else remember the autograph he signed for the new stadium? I'm not sure if this was an urban legend or not, but it made him seem a little cooler to me. Not cool enough to start this week, let's not get crazy.
The lesson you should take from all of this is you likely drafted a stud quarterback. Go with that guy. Don't look too hard at the matchups. Don't try to get all Montgomery Burns on your opponent. Go with your guy.
Your guy is not Terrelle Pryor, BTW. Even though I called this (expletive) months ago. Running quarterbacks will always have some value in fantasy leagues. But please stop short of comparisons to Cam or Kaepernick or anybody like that. Even Tim Tebow is a bit of a stretch here.
The difference between Tebow and Pryor aren't much, in that neither is very good at throwing a football. Tebow benefited from playing behind a great line, he had a good running game and excellent receivers. In other words, none of the things Oakland has. If you want to make a comparison, make a comparison to Tebow with the Jets. Both the Jets and Raiders offense are about the same.
But how does Matt Flynn have to feel about this? On one hand, he's getting paid an awful lot of money to be a backup quarterback, which is awesome. How many of us wouldn't love to get millions of dollars to do nothing? I'm close, but I don't get millions of dollars. Plus the other good thing, too, is that Flynn doesn't have to play for the Raiders.
Speaking of quarterbacks, nobody is upset that Peyton Manning basically ran up the score on the Ravens here? Honestly, if this was the Patriots who did this to the Ravens, Peter King, Tony Dungy and some of the other major media types would have had a (expletive) fit with the way Manning conducted himself on the field in a blowout.
Personally, I love when teams run up the score. As a fantasy enthusiast, you should, too. And this was probably cathartic for Manning considering the way he gagged in the playoffs last year. However, it's hypocritical how he's held to a different standard. But considering he's given a free pass for his playoff transgressions, it's not surprising.
With the defending champion losing clean on Thursday night, it made me think I was watching RAW. Because any time a champion appears in a non-title match on the show, he or she ends up losing. Watch, I'm not making this stuff up.
If there is a theme to this week, it's guys I liked as sleepers this season aren't worth playing in Week 1. Daryl Richardson is another guy I've liked. But St. Louis rushers have done poorly against the Cardinals, with just two rushing touchdowns in its last 15 meetings against the Red Birds. St. Louis has only one rushing touchdown in its last nine home games against the Cardinals.
Richardson didn't score on 122 offensive touches last year. And he didn't break a run of more than 10 yards over his last six games. Of course, it could have been chalked up to the rookie wall a lot of these runners hit during their first year. But it's enough of a concern to keep him on the bench.
We're going to find it tough to play periphery guys against the NFC West defenses this year. The 49ers, Seahawks, Cardinals and St. Louis all pose formidable defenses this year which will make you think twice. Kind of like any movie with Ben Affleck as Batman.
ImageAnd since we're on the subject. I don't mind Affleck as Batman in one sense. I don't mind him as an actor. I've always kind of liked him going back to all of the Kevin Smith movies. I even kind of liked that movie he did where Samuel L. Jackson crashes into him and some briefcase gets stolen. And even his turn as Jack Ryan in Sum of All Fears. All of that said, he shouldn't be playing Batman in the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie.
ImageAffleck was Daredevil. And no matter how you feel about Daredevil, actors should be limited to just one superhero role. I'm looking at you Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool/Hal Jordan) and Chris Evans (The Torch/Captain America). Evans is the most egregious because he played two superheroes in the same universe. Affleck had his chance with the Marvel star, so he should have been eliminated here. Where was Congress on this one?
But going back to the NFC West defenses, the 49ers are going to be tough for any running back. San Francisco allowed the third-fewest points to fantasy running backs last year, and allowed four backs to top 100 rushing yards in 2012. And the D is even tougher at home, as it has allowed two rushing touchdowns in the last eight games at Candlestick Park.
That means Eddie Lacy rides the bench. I wouldn't sit an established star against the 49ers. But an unproven rookie who might not even get all of the carries on a team that rarely runs the ball? Yeah, hit the pine. The only problem is, there aren't a lot of great running backs available to you. So you would rather go with Lacy over guys like Mike Tolbert and Vick Ballard. Again, hit me up with your specific questions on Twitter. I'm trying to get to all of them. I really am.
The 49ers are also tough on receivers, too. San Francisco allowed just 17.93 points per game to receivers in 2012, the fifth-fewest in the league. The 49ers allowed nine touchdown receptions last year, tied for third for fewest allowed. So Jordy Nelson, until we get a chance to see you do something, you're on the bench. Same for you, James Jones. Though some of you on Twitter have hit me up with that question and I was surprised he had to start on some teams. But as a general rule, I pass.
ImageI'm also going to say I will miss Candlestick Park. It's not a great facility. But as a guy who watched his beloved Rams (for a few years) and Angels play in the same stadium, I always loved the early part of the season when a lot of NFL games were played on an MLB infield. California seemed to lead the league in this category with Anaheim, San Diego and San Francisco. But since the Giants are long gone from the Stick, I guess it's time to make the move to a new stadium for the 49ers, who need one. The Raiders playing a game in a baseball park, however, seems appropriate.
The Seahawks are really tough on defense, too. The Seahawks allowed the fewest points to receivers last year, and should be even better this year. And, get this, the Seahawks defense didn't allow a rushing touchdown in their last 10 games of the season.
DeAngelo Williams could be a flex option with Jonathan Stewart out, but not this week. Steve Smith was a favorite on the Dave Dameshek Football Program, but not this week. Normally, I would avoid most Panthers, but you can't trust them against the Seahawks.
Everything about Isaac Redman's matchup says he must start this week. The Titans allowed the fifth-most points to running backs last year. But as Terry Benedict once said to Limon Zerga, I just don't trust you. And if you know anything about the "Ocean's 11" movies, you know Benedict was completely right not to trust Zerga. He should have followed his gut, and that's what I'm doing here.
You want to play Giovani Bernard this week, and I can't blame you. But BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still there. The Bears defense allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs last year, and just two rushing touchdowns at home. We all want Bernard to be good. But wishing for it is fine; playing him in Week 1 isn't good.
Another rookie people love? How about Kenbrell Thompkins. I even joked with Matthew Berry this week that my phone now recognizes the name Kenbrell. Look, this is a fantastic matchup. But he's still an undrafted rookie. I look for Amendola, Vereen, Ridley and maybe one or two more guys to get into the mix here. But this is live football. That said, be sure to pick him up, though. He's owned in 36 percent of NFL.com leagues. A number that is way too low. Although after watching Peyton on Thursday, I won't blame you if you started him.
Is it time for New York Jets jokes yet? Poor Rex Ryan. Who knows what life might have been like if he had been offered the San Diego Chargers job instead of the Jets gig. He might have won a Super Bowl like he boasted about a few years back. I honestly believe he would have. Now he's just punching the clock until he becomes coach of the Oakland Raiders.
ImageRyan strikes me like George Costanza when he was trying to get fired from the New York Yankees so he could take a job at the Mets. Maybe we'll see Ryan driving around the Jets' parking lot with the Super Bowl III trophy tied to his bumper. A much better alternative than him putting on the bodysuit and running down the field. Sorry for that image.
Let's make our Ryan Mathews jokes now. But he's a solid flex option in most weeks. This isn't one of those weeks. The Texans allowed the fewest points to running backs last year, and Mathews managed just 10 fantasy points once last season. He's had no rushing touchdowns in his last nine games he's played and he's currently on a streak of 14 games without 100 rushing yards. He'll stop those skids at some point. Just not against the Texans.
ImageI'm in close to 89 leagues and I can't recall Philip Rivers being drafted in any of them. Partly because the quarterback position is now so incredibly deep. And partly because Philip Rivers. He's owned in just 17 percent of NFL.com leagues. This made me pause, because I didn't realize A.J. Smith played in that many fantasy leagues. Just kidding. Smith probably doesn't play fantasy football (safe bet), but what would a league be like with him in there? Would everybody be scared to draft Drew Brees at all because, you know? Or would it go the other way and Brees would be picked first overall, just to goad him? If you know anything about me, you know where my head is at.
For the record, you can submit your fantasy questions to NFL Fantasy Live, Michael Fabiano or me on Twitter. But realize, NFL Fantasy Live has 100,000 followers, and Fabiano has 100,000. Me? Just four. See, the odds are better I will answer your question, so hit me up both via Twitter or via Facebook. Although, it's tough to catch me on Facebook. Twitter is your go-to. Also be sure to catch the latest "Dave Dameshek Football Program."