Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside and intangibles. However, the tool isn't fully operational quite yet. As a result, I'll use the old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on three difficult Week 1 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.
Who should I start at QB: Eli Manning or Jameis Winston?
Dallas allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards in the league last year, but that's partly a byproduct of them being behind in most games, as teams attempted the second-fewest passes in the league against the Cowboys. Dallas' pass rush and front seven as a whole have been decimated this offseason, as they lost Randy Gregory, Demarcus Lawrence, and Rolando McClain to suspension for the start of the year. This should give Manning all day to stand in the pocket while Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard find holes in the Dallas secondary. Manning's fantasy stock has risen ever since he started playing with OBJ, as he averages roughly 50 more passing yards and .5 more touchdown passes per game with OBJ than without, per the RotoViz Game Splits App.
Winston also faces a solid fantasy pass defense, as the Falcons allowed a passing touchdown on just 3.4 percent of opponent passing attempts, fifth-lowest in the league. Desmond Trufant is a fantastic young corner, but will be stuck on one side of the field, allowing for Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson to find space when running opposite Trufant. Winston slimmed down this offseason and is in Year 2 under head coach Dirk Koetter. He was a consistent scorer last year, but his weekly ceiling is climbing higher in 2016 as he looks to take the next step as an NFL quarterback. The Bucs defense remains a work in progress as well, so this game could turn into a heavy-weight battle, with the teams trading blows on the scoreboard. If that's the case, Winston could be set for an even bigger performance in Week 1.
While Winston is improving and could end up in a shootout as well, for Week 1 it's wiser to go with the more established quarterback in the better matchup. Roll with Eli.
Who should I start at RB: Rashad Jennings or Spencer Ware?
This is another good question, as both backs appear to be in line for hefty workloads in Week 1 and are in favorable matchups. But let's dive in a little deeper.
The way Rashad Jennings closed out 2015 seems to have (finally) earned him the starting job in New York. And we should be thankful. His 432 yards on 79 carries (5.46 ypc) and two touchdowns over the final four weeks of the year helped him vanquish the four-headed backfield attack used for the majority of the season. Now, Jennings looks to lead the way with Shane Vereen mixing in on passing downs, you know, how it should have been all along. As mentioned with Eli Manning, Dallas will be without three starters from its front seven, which could open up some bigger holes for Jennings to barrel through. Jennings isn't inept in the passing game either (73 percent catch rate in 2015), helping raise his weekly floor to a more comfortable level. He should be featured early and often in what is a favorable matchup and will be the team's primary option near the goal line.
Spencer Ware possesses both explosive ability (5.6 yards per carry, 12.5 percent of carries going for 10-plus yards) and goal-line prowess (scored on five of seven carries inside the 5-yard line) in his 5-foot-10, 227-pound frame, making him a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. With head coach Andy Reid saying it'd be a "stretch" for Charles to play in Week 1 (he's practiced on a limited basis so far), Ware's stock is rising. He figures to play earlier and more often than Charcandrick West and has a ton of upside this week against an already weak San Diego front seven that will likely be without first-round pick Joey Bosa (hamstring). His workload floor is 15-touches, and that's being conservative, while his touchdown upside is huge.
This is a close call, but I have to lean Ware in this one. He was one of the most efficient backs in the league last year, is a goal-line monster, and has big-play potential. The Chiefs will likely rely on him to be the motor for the offense against the Chargers, setting him up for a fantastic fantasy performance.
Who should I start at WR: Alshon Jeffery or Keenan Allen?
Two elite wide receivers facing top-notch defenses. The issue here is apparent, but which pass-catcher should we trust more?
Alshon Jeffery was an absolute target hog last season, seeing 12 looks from Jay Cutler in every game where he played at least 75 percent of the offensive snaps. He'll have a tough task going against the Texans secondary, though, which allowed the fifth-fewest yards to opposing receivers in 2015. Jeffery's success could well depend on whether or not the Bears offensive line can keep Cutler upright. The addition of Josh Sitton is great, but J.J. Watt and a rejuvenated Jadeveon Clowney could give Bobby Massie and Charles Leno fits on the edges. Still, volume can often be a trump card for the wide receiver position -- just ask DeAndre Hopkins last year -- and Jeffery should see plenty of that, especially with Kevin White now nursing a hamstring injury.
Prior to Week 8, when Keenan Allen suffered his season-ending kidney laceration last year, he averaged 12 targets per game and was on pace for 1,664 receiving yards. He's Philip Rivers' favorite target, and with Stevie Johnson on IR, figures to once again dominate the target share in San Diego. The Chiefs boasted an elite defense in 2015, but the secondary has suffered numerous losses. Sean Smith signed with the Raiders in free agency, and the team traded Marcus Cooper to the Cardinals. That leaves Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines (coming off a torn ACL) -- who have a combined 24 starts between them -- as the Week 1 starters. While Peters might sound like a tough draw for Allen, he stayed predominantly on the right side of the field in 2015, never shadowing top receivers. Meanwhile, Allen played 58 percent of his snaps from the left side of the field, meaning he'd likely face Gaines more often than not on Sunday. Allen's lineup versatility and overall ability should allow him to thrive regardless of which young cornerback he's up against. With the Chiefs likely to get out to a lead in this contest, Allen could be in line for a massive workload while the Chargers try to play catchup.
While Jeffery might seem like the more reliable option after two tough statistical years from Allen, the smart choice here is to start Allen in a tough spot against the Chiefs. His personal matchups against the Chiefs corners are more favorable than Jeffery's, and the game script could turn more pass-heavy than the one between the defensive-minded, run-first Bears and Texans. Forget about what happened with Allen in 2015, and get ready for what's about to happen in 2016 -- a massive breakout year.