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 Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson will not be featured. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.
QB Start of the week
Nick Foles at Dallas Cowboys:*(Maximum value: High QB1)* Over the last four weeks of the season, only Peyton Manning has scored more fantasy points than Foles among quarterbacks. He's got a plus matchup in a must-win game this week against the Cowboys, who have surrendered the second-most fantasy points (21.4 PPG) to signal-callers. (Maximum value: High QB1)
QB Start 'em
Colin Kaepernick vs Dallas Cowboys: If you haven't noticed, the Cowboys defense projects to be absolutely dreadful this season ... and that's after a 2013 campaign that saw fantasy players feast on it on a regular basis. With question marks along the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary, Kaepernick and the Niners should be able to pick apart Dallas at will. I'm expecting a very high-scoring affair at the Jerry Dome.
Andrew Luck vs. Denver Broncos: What a matchup on Sunday night! Peyton Manning and the Broncos go up against his old team, the Indianapolis Colts, in what should be a barn burner. I know the Broncos made some great additions in the offseason on defense, but you can't tell me Luck isn't going to be motivated to produce against the future Hall of Famer. With a questionable line and running game, I like Luck to throw it a ton.(Maximum value: High QB1)
Nick Foles vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Foles wasn't overly spectacular during the preseason, and I doubt he'll be as good this season as he was in 2013. However, he's still a top-10 fantasy quarterback with a great matchup against the Jaguars in the opener. Last season, Jacksonville surrendered an average of better than 19 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks ... that's right around what Foles averaged as a starter under coach Chip Kelly.
Tony Romo vs. San Francisco 49ers: The Cowboys aren't going to win a lot of football games this season, but this team could be a boon in fantasy football. New passing game coordinator and play-caller Scott Linehan likes to throw the rock, and Romo will likely have to throw it a lot if his defense is as bad as we project it to be in 2013. Also keep in mind that this Niners defense is a shell of its former self, so Romo will be in a position to score fantasy points.
Sleeper alert - Geno Smith vs. Oakland Raiders: If you're in a two-quarterback league or your signal-callers are a serious mess in a deeper league, Smith will be worth a roll of the dice this weekend. He flashed at the end of last season, finishing among the top 10 field generals based on fantasy points over the last five weeks. His success should continue against Oakland, which allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2013.
QB Sit of the week
Philip Rivers vs. Arizona Cardinals: Rivers has been one of the better draft bargains in fantasy football this season, but can you start him in a tough road matchup in Arizona? I think he's a risk, as the Cardinals allowed an average of 254 passing yards and 16 fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers in 2013. Unless you're really stuck at the position and don't have another option, Rivers isn't an attractive starter.
QB Sit 'em
Andy Dalton vs. Baltimore Ravens: Dalton was one of the top five quarterbacks in fantasy football last season, but can he duplicate that level of success in 2014? It's not likely, especially in the run-based scheme of new offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Dalton has also not had a lot of success against the Ravens, throwing for multiple touchdowns (six total) in just two of his six career starts against them. That's not a positive trend.
Alex Smith vs. Tennessee Titans: Smith ranked among the 15 best quarterbacks in fantasy land a year ago, but he was one of the most inconsistent players at his position as well. He'll open the 2014 campaign at home against the Titans, who had one of the toughest pass defenses in the NFL last season. In fact, their defense surrendered just 15 touchdown passes and the third-fewest fantasy points (13.33 PPG) to quarterbacks.
Eli Manning vs. Detroit Lions: Did you watch Manning during the preseason? If you did, you know the reason I would avoid him at all costs in Week 1. He completed a mere 48.8 percent of his 41 pass attempts, and didn't look comfortable at all in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's system. The Lions also have a fierce pass rush and were tough on fantasy quarterbacks a season ago, making Manning even less attractive across the board.
Owners beware - Cam Newton vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Newton has been a top-four fantasy quarterback in each of his first three seasons, and it's tough to bench him if you don't have a solid alternative at the position. Coming off ankle surgery and playing with a fractured rib, however, the veteran has thrown just three touchdown passes with two interceptions in his last two starts in Tampa Bay. At best, consider Newton a low-end QB1 this week.
RB Start of the week
Arian Foster vs. Washington Redskins: I'm on the record as being scared of Foster for the duration of this season, but that doesn't change the fact that this week's matchup against the Redskins is quite favorable. In fact, their defense allowed the fourth-most fantasy points (21.79 PPG) to opposing running backs in 2013. Foster, who missed the preseason with a bum hamstring, also said he feels "wonderful" physically for Week 1.
RB Start 'em
Zac Stacy vs. Minnesota Vikings: I'm a bit concerned about Stacy and his potential production in 2014, but he does open the season with a nice home matchup against the Vikings. Last season, Minnesota was one of eight defenses to surrender an average of more than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. And with Shaun Hill under center, the Rams will no doubt look to their young runner to handle a heavy workload.
C.J. Spiller vs. Chicago Bears: So ... which Spiller will we see this season? The one who was a stud two years ago, or last season's less valuable version? I'd settle for something in between, and Spiller's opening matchup against the Bears makes him a viable flex option. In 2013, Chicago's defense surrendered an average of over 24 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. That was the second-most in the entire NFL.
Frank Gore vs. Dallas Cowboys: Notice a trend? Gore might be a bit long in the tooth at age 31, but he just continues to produce in the stat sheets. In fact, he's rushed for over 1,100 yards and at least eight touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. Couple that with a matchup against the Cowboys, who had an awful run defense in 2013, and it's not too hard to explain why Gore is a solid fantasy option this weekend.
Sleeper alert - Mark Ingram vs. Atlanta Falcons: Ingram looked tremendous in the preseason and appears to have earned the top spot on the New Orleans depth chart. While he's still going to share some of the workload with Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson, the Alabama product is all of a sudden on the radar as a flex starter. The Falcons also allowed the ninth-most fantasy points (19.91 PPG) to backs in 2013, so the matchup is favorable too.
RB Sit of the week
Maurice Jones-Drew vs. New York Jets: Here's an odd statistic about Jones-Drew: In his last seven September games, he's rushed for 60 or fewer yards six times and has rushed for just two touchdowns. MJD is also going to lose some work to Darren McFadden, and this week's road matchup against the New York Jets isn't favorable. The Men in Green surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points (13.37 PPG) to opposing running backs last season.
RB Sit 'em
Bishop Sankey vs. Kansas City Chiefs: I like Sankey in the long run, but it's tough to start the rookie this weekend in Kansas City. That's due in large part to the fact that he failed to pass veteran runner Shonn Greene on the team's depth chart entering Week 1. I expect a rotation against the Chiefs, with Greene, Sankey and Dexter McCluster all seeing time out of the backfield. Don't drop him, but keep Sankey on the pine for now.
Steven Jackson vs. New Orleans Saints: Jackson (hamstring) will start for the Falcons in Week 1, but he shouldn't be on your fantasy football roster. He's a slow starter in the stat sheets, and his September numbers prove it. In his last nine games in that month, Jackson has failed to rush for more than 77 yards. He's also scored just three total touchdowns in his last 14 September contests, making him a major risk for fantasy owners.
Trent Richardson vs. Denver Broncos: Richardson was a massive disappointment last season, and his preseason numbers did nothing to build confidence in the minds of fantasy leaguers. In fact, he rushed for fewer than three yards per carry in his final two contests. The Colts have issues on their offensive line as well, making Richardson even more of a risk in Week 1. Keep him on the fantasy sidelines for your season-opening contest.
Owners beware - Ryan Mathews vs. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals were the toughest team in the league for fantasy running backs to score on last season, especially on their home field. In eight games, a mere two teams rushed for 100 or more combined yards. Furthermore, Arizona allowed just two rushing touchdowns in those contests. That makes Mathews, who was drafted as a RB2/3 in most fantasy leagues, a real risk in this clash of Western teams.
WR Start of the week
Victor Cruz vs. Detroit Lions:Eli Manning looked horrendous in the preseason, and I wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole in fantasy leagues this week. However, Manning's poor outlook isn't a statistical death sentence for Cruz. This week's matchup at Ford Field is favorable, in fact, as the Lions surrendered an average of almost 27 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts a season ago. That makes Cruz a nice option.
WR Start 'em
Andre Johnson vs. Washington Redskins: Johnson might be a bit long in the tooth, but he's still the top option in a Houston offense that could be more productive than people predict this season. The veteran out of Miami (Fla.) has had a lot of PPR success in recent seasons against NFC teams, averaging more than six catches in his last six games against the conference. That includes three contests where he recorded at least 97 yards.
Vincent Jackson vs. Carolina Panthers: Jackson is no longer a No. 1 fantasy wide receiver, but he's a nice No. 2 option in most leagues. The veteran has been better at home too, as he's found the end zone in each of his last three games on his home field. Furthermore, Jackson has scored five touchdowns in his last six games at Raymond James Stadium. So despite a tough matchup on paper against Carolina, Jackson is a good choice.
Michael Crabtree vs. Dallas Cowboys: I am a huge fan of Crabtree during what will be a contract year, and I like him even more as a starter this weekend against the Cowboys. Dallas might field one of the worst defensive units in NFL history to start the 2014 campaign, and that is coming off of a season in which their defense resembled Swiss cheese. If you drafted Crabtree, he should be in your active lineup as a No. 2 fantasy wide receiver or flex starter.
Sleeper alert - Cordarrelle Patterson vs. St. Louis Rams: Patterson isn't going to fit in the "sleeper" description for long, as he's projected to be one of the big breakout wide receivers in 2014. An explosive playmaker out of Tennessee, he was the best wide receiver in the final four weeks of the 2013 fantasy season. The Rams allowed an average of close to 22 fantasy points per game to wideouts a season ago, so Patterson is a terrific option.
WR Sit of the week
DeSean Jackson vs. Houston Texans: Jackson was a top-10 fantasy receiver a season ago, but that was as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. Now in Washington, he's in danger of seeing a decline in production in an offense with a lot of mouths to feed. The Cal product has also struggled in recent road games against the AFC (2012-2013), scoring just one touchdown with one game of 100 or more yards in his last four such contests.
WR Sit 'em
Torrey Smith vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Smith is coming off a career season, as he posted personal bests in both receptions and yardage. However, it's tough to trust him in what has to be considered a difficult matchup against the Bengals. In his last five games against this AFC North opponent, Smith has averaged 32.6 yards and has found the end zone just once. So unless you're hurting for a No. 3 wideout, Smith should be benched.
Mike Wallace vs. New England Patriots: With new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor calling the plays, Wallace is a good bet to improve on what was a disappointing first season in South Beach. However, this week's matchup against the Patriots and their new cornerback, Darrelle Revis, is not at all favorable. With Brandon Browner suspended for the first four games, I'd be shocked if Revis didn't shadow Wallace for most of this AFC East contest in Miami.
Sammy Watkins vs. Chicago Bears: I'm not a fan of rookie wide receivers, because most of them fail to make an impact in the stat sheets. Enter Watkins, who was the top wideout picked in the 2014 NFL Draft but is entering the regular season at less than 100 percent due to an injured rib. When you also consider how poorly EJ Manuel played during the preseason it's even more difficult to trust Watkins as a fantasy starter.
Owners beware - Eric Decker vs. Oakland Raiders: Decker has been one of the 10 best wide receivers in fantasy football over the last two seasons. He's also had a nice string of success against the Raiders, scoring a touchdown in three of his last four games against them. However, that was all while catching passes from Peyton Manning ... not Geno Smith. So while he's a viable No. 3 wideout in 12-plus team leagues, Decker's value has fallen.
TE Start of the week
Jordan Cameron vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: The loss of Josh Gordon for the season makes Cameron the unquestioned top option in the Cleveland pass attack. Furthermore, the USC product is projected to be a potential top-five tight end in fantasy leagues for the 2014 campaign. In his last game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Cameron was targeted seven times and caught five passes for 69 yards. Those are good totals from a tight end.
TE Start 'em
Vernon Davis at Dallas Cowboys: Another position, another player facing the Cowboys who finds himself in the "start" portion of the column. While I'm projecting Davis to have a down season in the stat sheets overall, it's hard to ignore a solid matchup against the 'Boys from Big D. In 2013, only three teams allowed more fantasy points to opposing tight ends than the Cowboys. That's great news for Davis' potential numbers.
Dennis Pitta at Cincinnati Bengals: This is a bad matchup on paper, but take a look at what Pitta has done against the Bengals. He's recorded five or more catches and at least 62 yards in three of his last four games versus the AFC North foe. What's more, Pitta has found the end zone twice in those four contests. Also, he tied for the team lead with 33 targets and 20 catches during his four-game stint in the lineup last year.
Martellus Bennett vs. Buffalo Bills: Some players start slowly in the stat sheets, while others get out of the gate quickly. Bennett is more of the latter, as he has recorded an average of 52 yards per game and a combined six touchdowns in his last eight September contests (Bears -- four games, Giants -- four games). If you don't have an elite fantasy tight end, Bennett is worth a roll of the dice based on his September success.
Sleeper alert - Zach Ertz vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: I'm on record as being a huge fan of Ertz, who flashed during the latter part of his rookie campaign and looks ready to break out in 2014. He opens with a tremendous matchup against the Jaguars, who gave up the fifth-most receiving yards (997), the fifth-most touchdown catches (nine) and the third-most fantasy points (9.61 PPG) to opposing tight ends last season. That makes Ertz a nice pick.
TE Sit of the week
Jared Cook vs. Minnesota Vikings: In the first week of the 2013 regular season, Cook went off for seven catches, 141 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately, that would make up a huge portion of the statistical production he had for the whole season. Cook has also recorded 50 or more yards once and scored just two touchdowns in his last seven home games, so even a favorable matchup against the Vikings makes him a real risk.
TE Sit 'em
Delanie Walker vs. Kansas City Chiefs Walker finished a respectable 12th in fantasy points among tight ends last season, finishing his first campaign in Tennessee with career bests across the board. However, the veteran out of Central Missouri State was inconsistent and difficult to trust against a formidable opponent. This week he faces the Chiefs, who allowed the third-fewest fantasy points (5.98 PPG) to tight ends in 2013.
Tyler Eifert vs. Baltimore Ravens: Eifert has some long-term upside, but it's hard to trust him in fantasy land until he puts together a string of good performances. He's also dealing with a bum shoulder, which kept him out of Cincinnati's third week of the preseason, and Jermaine Gresham remains in the offensive mix. With a tough matchup on the road against the Ravens upcoming, Eifert isn't an attractive fantasy option.
Eric Ebron vs. New York Giants: Ebron was highly-touted coming out of North Carolina, drawing comparisons to Vernon Davis because of his size and skill set. However, even a player with his potential isn't guaranteed to produce immediately in the stat sheets. Most rookie tight ends fail to post numbers good enough to warrant much more than a reserve spot in fantasy leagues (at best), and Ebron projects to be no different.
Owners beware - Coby Fleener vs. Denver Broncos: Fleener emerged into a viable fantasy option during a portion of last season, but the addition of Hakeem Nicks and return of Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen hurts his value for 2014. In fact, the Stanford product is almost certain to see a decline in per game production. So despite what looks like a good matchup on paper against the Broncos, Fleener isn't someone to start in fantasy land.
K Start of the week
Dan Bailey vs. San Francisco 49ers: Bailey was one of the top-10 kickers in fantasy football last season, and he projects to rank in that same tier again behind what should be an explosive Cowboys offense. The Niners were one of the toughest teams for kickers to score on in 2013, but this defense is missing several key contributors and looked far more vulnerable than usual during the preseason. Consider Bailey a nice starter.
K Start 'em
Justin Tucker vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Tucker was a fantasy football hero for countless owners last season, as he ranked third in points among kickers and scored a ridiculous 22 points in a Week 15 win against the Detroit Lions. He'll remain a solid option in 2014, and an opening-week matchup against the Bengals makes him an attractive starter. He's kicked a combined nine field goals in four career games versus the AFC North foe.
Phil Dawson vs. Dallas Cowboys: Another 49ers player in the "start" portion of this column? Yessir. Dawson, who emerged into one of the top kickers in fantasy football last season, should find no shortage of scoring opportunities against a Dallas defense that is going to struggle to stop opposing teams all season long. Look for the veteran out of Texas to post top-10 numbers at his position in the opening weekend of the season.
Sleeper alert - Cody Parkey vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Who is Cody Parkey, you might ask? He's the new starting kicker in Philadelphia, replacing the disappointing Alex Henery. A big-legged booter who hit on 5-of-6 field-goal attempts from 40-49 yards last year at Auburn, Parkey is going to have plenty of sleeper appeal behind an Eagles offense that is going to allow him more than his share of opportunities. He's a free agent in most NFL.com leagues.
K Sit of the week
Sebastian Janikowski vs. New York Jets: Once considered an elite kicker in fantasy land, Janikowski ranked an awful 26th in points at his position in 2013. He doesn't figure to rebound in the first week of 2014, as Sea Bass faces a tough matchup against the Jets at MetLife Stadium. Coach Rex Ryan will no doubt call out a lot of blitzes and aggressive packages to rattle rookie quarterback Derek Carr, so scoring chances could be few and far between.
K Sit 'em
Caleb Sturgis vs. New England Patriots: You might not know it, but Sturgis was a top-20 kicker based on fantasy points last season. Regardless, it's tough to trust him this weekend against a Patriots defense that allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points (6.88 PPG) to his position a season ago. Sturgis has also been inconsistent in his career against New England, which makes him that much more of a risk as a true starting option.
Randy Bullock vs. Washington Redskins: Bullock was similar in production (or a lack there of) to Janikowski, as the duo tied for 26th in fantasy points among kickers. He was especially ineffective on his home turf, as Bullock made 68.4 percent of his field-goal attempts (13-of-19) at Reliant Stadium. Until he proves otherwise, the Texas A&M product isn't someone you should be using as a regular starting fantasy kicker this season.
Owners beware - Blair Walsh vs. St. Louis Rams: Walsh, who is a fantasy football owner himself, finished a disappointing 2013 campaign a mere 16th in fantasy points among kickers. While I'm expecting him to rebound and put up better totals during the course of this season, Walsh does have quite a tough matchup against the Rams in Week 1 ... their defense allowed the second-fewest fantasy points (6.13 PPG) to opposing booters in 2013.
DEF Start of the week
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns: In short, the Steelers defense has owned the Browns in recent seasons. In their last eight meetings, Pittsburgh has recorded 31 sacks against them. In their last 27 games, the Browns have been held under 300 passing yards by the Steel Curtain. Oh, and that's not all ... in their last 54 contests, the Browns have thrown for a mere 45 touchdowns including one or fewer in the last 12 meetings.
DEF Start 'em
New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins: The Patriots should be much improved on the defensive side of the football, as the addition of cornerback Darrelle Revis makes this unit even stronger than the one that ranked among the 10 best in fantasy football a year ago. The Dolphins are hoping to see improvement in Ryan Tannehill, but the fact of the matter is that he turned the ball over a ton in 2013. That's a real positive for New England.
New York Jets vs. Oakland Raiders: Streaming fantasy defenses is all about finding opponents who turn the football over, and turnovers happen with inexperience. As a result, it's hard not to like the Men in Green this week against rookie quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders. I'd be shocked if coach Rex Ryan didn't dial a ton of pressure to rattle the Fresno State product, so fantasy leaguers should also expect a few sacks.
Sleeper alert - Chicago Bears vs. Buffalo Bills:EJ Manuel did not look good in the preseason, and his top wideout (Sammy Watkins) is inexperienced and dealing with injured ribs. That's all you need to know if you like to stream defenses, as the Bills are a prime matchup for the current Monsters of the Midway. Chicago's defense is available in most leagues on NFL.com right now, so go out and grab them if you're looking for a nice sleeper.
DEF Sit of the week
Houston Texans vs. Washington Redskins: A lot of people are expecting the Texans to be a major player in fantasy football after the addition of No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. However, I find it tough to believe one player alone is going to transform a defense that ranked dead last in fantasy points just one year ago. So while this is a unit to keep an eye on, I'm not starting the Texans defense until I see it on the field.
DEF Sit 'em
Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: If you have been watching HBO's "Hard Knocks," you're probably very familiar with a number of the Falcons players on defense. And while some of their stories are memorable, this is not a unit you want to start in your fantasy league ... not against Drew Brees and the Saints, at least. Last season, defenses facing this explosive offense averaged the fifth-fewest fantasy points (5.06 PPG).
San Diego Chargers vs. Arizona Cardinals: You might not know it, but the Chargers had one of the five worst defenses in fantasy football last season. And while a few key additions should mean a more formidable unit in 2014, the Bolts still aren't a team you want to start on the road against a talented offense like the one in Arizona. While Carson Palmer does turn the ball over at times, the Cards are likely to score some points.
Owners beware - San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys: The Niners have had one of the top defenses in fantasy football over the last few seasons, but the loss of Navarro Bowman (knee), Aldon Smith (suspension) and possibly Ray McDonald (suspension?) leaves this unit with some major question marks. The Cowboys have a strong offensive line and will score some points as well, so it could be a slow start to the season for San Francisco's defense.