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.
Quarterbacks - Start of the week
Robert Griffin III at St. Louis Rams: You have heard me state it throughout the preseason - I love me some RG3, and the fantasy man-crush did nothing but increase after he scored an impressive 25 fantasy points in last week's win over the New Orleans Saints. Unless you have one of the elite signal-callers in fantasy football, Griffin III should be active against the Rams and their questionable defense.
Matt Ryan vs. Denver Broncos (Mon.) Another member of the fantasy man-crush list, Ryan led all quarterbacks in fantasy points last week with 299 yards and four total touchdowns. This week's matchup against the Broncos is on national television and is a perfect stage for Ryan to show off all of his offensive weapons in the pass attack. Look for a shootout between Ryan and Peyton Manning in this contest.
Peyton Manning at Atlanta Falcons (Mon.): Manning was tremendous in his first regular-season start since 2010, throwing for 253 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a huge win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. His statistical success should continue this week in what could be a high-scoring affair at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons allowed almost 17 fantasy points to Matt Cassel in their opener.
Philip Rivers vs. Tennessee Titans: Rivers didn't have the best statistical start to the season, throwing for just 231 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Oakland Raiders. On a positive note, he didn't throw a single interception (Rivers had 20 in 2011) and has a favorable matchup up next against the Titans. He's not an elite option right now, but Rivers is worth starting in 10-12 -team leagues.
Sleeper alert - Andrew Luck vs. Vikings: Welcome to the NFL, Andrew! The super rookie's first start was a disappointment, as Luck was intercepted three times and scored a mere 9.26 fantasy points in a loss to the Chicago Bears. Luckily, he has a much more favorable matchup next on the schedule against the Vikings. Their questionable pass defense allowed 19 fantasy points to Blaine Gabbert one week ago.
Quarterbacks - Sit of the week
Matt Schaub at Jacksonville Jaguars: If we have learned anything about the Houston Texans in recent seasons, it's that their offense is now run-based. That alone hurts Schaub's fantasy appeal. But when you also consider that he's thrown for multiple scores in just one of his last four games against this AFC South opponent, the veteran out of Virginia becomes an even riskier starter in fantasy land.
Joe Flacco at Philadelphia Eagles: Flacco sure looked terrific in his season opener, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a blowout win over the Cincinnati Bengals. However, I'd like to see him post such numbers on the road and against an aggressive defense like the one in Philadelphia. The Eagles boast one of the best cornerback duos in the entire league and are sure to give Flacco fits this weekend.
Mark Sanchez at Pittsburgh Steelers: I was dead wrong about Sanchez last week, as he scored 20.64 fantasy points and led the Jets to 48 points in a rout of the Buffalo Bills. But does one good performance make him a legitimate No. 1 option in fantasy football? Not to me, and not in a road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I'd keep Sanchez on the sidelines (or the waiver wire) until he has a better matchup.
Russell Wilson vs. Dallas Cowboys: Wilson was a hot name in the world of fantasy football when he won the top spot on the Seahawks depth chart. Of course, that was until reality set in and he played in a regular-season contest. That didn't go so well, as the rookie scored just 8.12 fantasy points in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. His fortunes won't improve in Week 2 against an improved Dallas Cowboys defense.
Owners beware - Michael Vick at Baltimore Ravens: Vick might have scored a respectable 15.88 fantasy points last week, but he threw an awful four interceptions and was lucky to escape the game without being injured. Next on the schedule is a date with the Baltimore Ravens, who have allowed one touchdown pass or less in each of their last 19 games. If you can afford to sit Vick, it might end up being a smart move.
Running backs - Start of the week
C.J. Spiller vs. Kansas City Chiefs: With Fred Jackson out of action, Spiller is now a terrific starter in fantasy land. In his last four games dating back to last season, he's carried the football a combined 55 times for 431 yards (7.8 YPC) and scored three touchdowns on the ground. Spiller has also been effective as a pass catcher with a combined 17 receptions for 168 yards and an additional two trips to the end zone.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis vs. Cleveland Browns: The Law Firm sure was impressive in Week 1, posting a rushing touchdown and 15.50 fantasy points against a tough Ravens defense in Week 1. Next on the schedule is a much more favorable matchup against the Browns, who have been weak against the run in recent seasons. While I don't see Green-Ellis as a No. 1 fantasy runner, he is a terrific No. 2 or flex starter this weekend.
Jamaal Charles at Buffalo Bills: Charles didn't post a huge stat line in Week 1, but it was good to see him run well and without limitations following major knee reconstruction last season. I see his statistical fortunes improving against the Bills, who have fielded one of the worst run defenses in recent seasons. Just ask Shonn Greene, who rushed for close to 100 yards and one touchdown against them in Week 1.
Reggie Bush vs. Oakland Raiders: Bush had a respectable stat line in Miami's opener, totaling 115 scrimmage yards in a blowout loss to the Texans. As the lone viable offensive option on their roster, the USC product is certain to see more than his share of opportunites all season long. Couple a virtual guarantee in touches with a matchup against the Oakland Raiders, and Bush should be considered a nice option.
Sleeper alert - Alfred Morris at St. Louis Rams: I'm not going to promise that Morris is going to lead the Redskins in backfield touches this week, because no one can predict the mad scientist that is coach Mike Shanahan. However, it's tough not to like the rookie after his monster performance in last week's win over the New Orleans Saints. Consider Morris a solid flex option against a weak Rams run defense.
Running backs - Sit of the week
Shonn Greene at Pittsburgh Steelers: Greene is coming off a solid season opener, so his stock is on the rise. Still, can you trust him as a prominent starter on your fantasy football team? I'm not convinced, and this week's matchup in the Steel City makes Greene a less attractive option. Coming off a loss to the Broncos on Sunday night, Pittsburgh's defense will be fired up in front of its home crowd.
Kevin Smith at San Francisco 49ers: I listed Smith in the sleeper section of this column last week, and he responded with 91 scrimmage yards and a pair of touchdowns. Good stuff, right? Of course, but that was against the Rams and not this week's opponent, the San Francisco 49ers. No defense has been tougher against opposing running backs over the last year, making Smith a difficult player to start this week.
Beanie Wells at New England Patriots: Wells, who is coming off knee surgery and battling a sore hamstring, was held to a mere 14 yards on seven carries in last week's win over the Seattle Seahawks. While Ryan Williams wasn't impressive in the contest either, it's pretty obvious that Wells is not 100 percent and is now a serious risk for fantasy football owners. He needs to be on the sideline if possible.
Willis McGahee at Atlanta Falcons: McGahee opened the season on a bad note, scoring a mere 6.4 fantasy points. He also lost a fumble and ended up sharing some carries, including a few in the red zone, to Knowshon Moreno. The Falcons had one of the stingiest run defenses in the league last season, allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2011. Keep McGahee on the sidelines if at all possible.
Owners beware - Steven Jackson vs. Washington Redskins: It's tough to bench a player of Jackson's caliber, and it's worse when you consider the current state of the running back position. However, he could be in for a tough weekend after the Rams lost two starting offensive linemen (Rodger Saffold, Scott Wells) in their opener. What's more, Jackson has rushed for 80-plus yards just once since last November.
Wide receivers - Start of the week
Percy Harvin at Indianapolis Colts: Harvin had a decent stat line in Week 1, recording six receptions and 104 scrimmage yards in a win over the Jaguars. He should remain active in fantasy leagues this weekend, as the Vikings head to Indianapolis to face a Colts defense that allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers in the opener. Consider Harvin a high-end No. 2 fantasy wideout in most leagues.
Reggie Wayne vs. Minnesota Vikings: Wayne was one of the most targeted wide receivers in the league last week, and an upcoming matchup against the Vikings couldn't be more favorable. Not only has their defense surrendered 30 receiving touchdowns in its last 12 games, but Minnesota also allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wideouts in 2011. Wayne has also caught one touchdown in his last three home games.
Vincent Jackson at New York Giants: Jackson didn't put up attractive numbers in his first game with the Buccaneers, but he did lead the team with 10 targets. I'd give him the start as a No. 3 wideout or flex starter in Week 2, as Jackson goes up against a Giants defense that allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers last week. Jackson has also scored 16 touchdowns in 22 career games against the NFC.
Stevie Johnson vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Johnson had a nice stat line in the opener, recording 55 yards and one touchdown in a loss to CB Darrelle Revis and the New Yor Jets. He's a nice option against the Chiefs, who surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in their opener. And here's a good nugget -- Jackson averaged 22 more yards per game when the Bills lost Fred Jackson to injury in 2011.
Sleeper alert - Eric Decker at Atlanta Falcons (Mon.): Decker posted a disappointing stat line in standard leagues in Week 1 with just five catches, 54 yards no touchdowns and 5.4 fantasy points in a win over the Steelers. Still, I would keep him active on Monday night in what could be an absolute barnburner against the Falcons. Their defense allowed six catches and 82 yards to Dexter McCluster in the opener.
Wide receivers - Sit of the week
DeSean Jackson vs. Baltimore Ravens: Jackson is coming off a dreadful 2011 season, and he wasn't so hot in Philadelphia's opener with just four catches and 7.7 fantasy points. This week he faces the Ravens, who have surrendered no more than one touchdown pass to a quarterback in their last 19 contests. Furthermore, Jackson has just one touchdown (receiving or on special teams) in his last 10 home games.
Kenny Britt at San Diego Chargers: Britt is back on the field after a one-game suspension, and he could be a nice option for fantasy leaguers as the season progresses. However, you would be wise to keep him on the sidelines this week against the Chargers. The Titans plan to limit him to about 15-20 snaps in the contest (he's also coming off multiple knee operations), so Britt isn't a recommended option.
Justin Blackmon vs. Houston Texans: Blackmon should end up being the No. 1 rookie wide receiver in fantasy football this season. But I don't like this week's matchup against the Texans and their stout defense. In 2011, this unit allowed the eighth-fewest receiving yards to wideouts and will no doubt focus on stopping Blackmon in this AFC South tilt. Unless you're in dire straits, leave the rookie on the bench.
Sidney Rice vs. Dallas Cowboys: A one-time fantasy star, Rice is back at 100 percent and on the radar once again. However, starting him against the Cowboys and their upgraded defensice backfield is not advised. The duo of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne held Giants wide receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz to a combined 96 yards and no touchdowns in Week 1, so Rice could be in for a pretty tough weekend.
Owners beware - Torrey Smith at Philadelphia Eagles: Smith looked like he was in line for a huge Week 1, posting an early 52-yard reception from Flacco. Unfortunately, he would catch just one pass the rest of the night. His fortunes aren't likely to improve much in Week 2, as Smith goes up against the Eagles and shutdown CB Nnamdi Asomugha. While I do think he will have a nice season overall, Smith is a risky option.
Tight ends - Start of the week
Aaron Hernandez vs. Arizona Cardinals: A potential breakout candidate in fantasy land, Hernandez opened the regular season on a high note with six catches, 59 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Titans. Next on the schedule is a date with the Cardinals in what could turn into a blowout at Gillette Stadium. Hernandez, who has a chance to emerge into an elite tight end in fantasy land, needs to be active.
Brandon Pettigrew at San Francisco 49ers: Pettigrew had 77 yards in the opener against St. Louis, but he could have had more had he not dropped several passes (including one in the end zone). Still, the fact that he was targeted 10 times (tied for the second-most among tight ends) is a good sign. This week he'll face the Niners, who gave up 10.70 fantasy points to Finley in last week's win at Lambeau Field.
Jacob Tamme at Atlanta Falcons (Mon.): Tamme and Manning hadn't played in a regular-season game together since 2010 before last week's win over the Steelers, but their rapport was still evident. The duo hooked up five times for 43 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown pass in the second half. That rapport, plus an attractive matchup against the Falcons, makes Tamme worth starting if you don't have an elite tight end.
Coby Fleener vs. Minnesota Vikings: Fleener had a nice start to his NFL career, catching six passes for 82 yards from his former collegiate and current quarterback, Luck. This duo should continue to make sweet music together against the Vikings, who allowed 52 yards and 11.20 fantasy points to Marcedes Lewis in Week 1. Fleener is still a free agent in over 50 percent of NFL.com leagues, so go out and get him.
Sleeper alert - Kyle Rudolph at Indianapolis Colts: Rudolph put up a nice stat line last week with five catches and 67 yards against the Jaguars. He had a total of seven targets from Christian Ponder, who should no doubt continue to look in the direction of this talented Notre Dame product. Rudolph, who is still a free agent in a ton of NFL.com leagues, is well worth a look if you lack a top tight end.
Tight ends - Sit of the week
Brent Celek vs. Baltimore Ravens: Celek was targeted eight times last week (tied for sixth-most among tight ends), but he still finished with a modest 6.5 fantasy points in a win over the Browns. Next on the schedule is a date with the Ravens, who still field one of the toughest defenses in the National Football League. This unit allowed three receptions for 30 yards to the tight end position in Week 1.
Dennis Pitta at Philadelphia Eagles: Pitta had a huge stat line last week, but his fortunes could change in Week 2. The Eagles allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends in Week 1 and have not allowed a touchdown catch to a tight end in six straight games. Philadelphia has also allowed fewer than 200 passing yards in six of last six games, which doesn't bode well for Jos Flacco for any of his receivers.
Heath Miller vs. New York Jets: Miller had a strong start to the 2012 campaign, posting 50 yards and one touchdown in a loss to the Broncos. That ranked seventh among tight ends based on fantasy points. However, that was his first touchdown since last October and just the second time he has recorded 50 or more yards in his last eight regular-season contests. He's a risk against a tough Jets defensive unit.
Tony Moeaki at Buffalo Bills: A talented pass catcher, Moeaki was considered a deep sleeper in some fantasy circles during the preseason. Unfortunately, his Week 1 performance (three receptions, 37 yards) left quite a bit to be desired in the stat sheets. Moeaki was also overshadowed by Kevin Boss, who finished with just under 10 fantasy points against the Bills. Keep Moeaki benched until further notice.
Owners beware - Jason Witten at Seattle Seahawks: It's tough to bench a player of Witten's caliber, and it's not a move you should make unless you have a legitimate replacement. Just keep in mind that he's coming back from an injured spleen and was held to a mere 10 yards in the season opener. What's more, the Seahawks are very tough at home and field one of the more underrated defenses in the entire league.
Kickers - Start of the week
Matt Bryant vs. Denver Broncos (Mon.): Bryant opened the regular season with a bang, scoring 16 fantasy points on the strength of his four field goals and four extra points in a win over the Chiefs. He should post another solid stat line in Week 2, as the Falcons and Broncos should light up the scoreboard at the Georgia Dome on Monday Night Football. That will mean a number of opportunities for Bryant to produce.
Garrett Hartley at Carolina Panthers: While he was a bit of a fantasy disappointment last weekend with a mere six points, Hartley should still be considered a No. 1 kicker in most leagues. His fortunes should improve against the Panthers, who gave up three field goals and 10 fantasy points to Connor Barth in their opener. Hartley also scored double-digit fantasy points in his last contest against Carolina (11/07/2010).
Shayne Graham at Jacksonville Jaguars: Once considered a No. 1 fantasy kicker, Graham hasn't been much of a factor since his time with the Bengals (2003-2009). He's back on the radar in fantasy football now, however, earning the top spot on the depth chart when rookie Randy Bullock was lost for the season. The Jaguars allowed 16 fantasy points to Blair Walsh in Week 1, so Graham has a favorable matchup in this AFC battle.
Sleeper alert - Justin Tucker at Philadelphia Eagles: Tucker, a rookie out of Texas, made a nice impact for owners in Week 1 with three field goals, five extra points and 14 fantasy points in a blowout win over the Bengals. Next on the slate is a game against the Eagles, who allowed three field-goal conversions and 10 fantasy points to veteran Phil Dawson in their opener. Tucker is a free agent in most NFL.com leagues.
Kickers - Sit of the week
Rob Bironas at San Diego Chargers: Our kicker sit of the week in the opener, Bironas mustered just seven fantasy points in a loss to the Patriots. He could post another mediocre stat line against the Chargers, who surrendered just two field goals and no extra points to Sebastian Janikowski last Monday night. San Diego also allowed fewer than eight fantasy points per game to opposing kickers during 2011.
Greg Zuerlein vs. Washington Redskins: Looking for a hot kicker to pick up off the waiver wire for a one-week start? Well, Zuerlein might fit the bill on paper after an 11-point performance against the Detroit Lions. But this week's matchup against the Redskins isn't as attractive based on the numbers. In last week's suprising road win over the Saints, Washington allowed a meager six fantasy points to Hartley.
Steven Hauschka vs. Dallas Cowboys: Hauschka, who finished in the top 20 in fantasy points among kickers last season, opened the 2012 campaign with a 10-point performance in a loss to the Cardinals. He could find scoring opportunties to be more difficult against the Cowboys, though. Their new-look defense held Lawrence Tynes to one field goal and five fantasy points in the season opener, so keep Hauschka on the pine.
Owners beware - Jason Hanson at San Francisco 49ers: At 42 and in his 21st NFL season, Hanson still has plenty of fantasy value playing with one of the most prolific offenses in the league. However, he could be in for a tough night in the City by the Bay. The Niners surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing kickers in 2011, and held Mason Crosby to a meager two fantasy points in a huge opening-week victory.
Defense - Start of the week
Patriots defense vs. Cardinals: New England's defense sure looked terrific in Week 1, scoring a solid 16 fantasy points against the Titans. This week brings a matchup against the Cardinals, who will have the mistake-prone Kevin Kolb under center with John Skelton (ankle) out of action. Surprisingly, the Patriots are still available in almost 30 percent of NFL.com leagues. Go out and get this unit now before it's to late.
Bengals defense vs. Cleveland Browns: If you base the Bengals' value on last week's performance against the Ravens, you'd think this unit should be left on the waiver wire. But considering this week's matchup against the Browns, the Queeny City cats are a viable starting option. Rookie Brandon Weeden looked like a deer in the headlights at times last week, so look for the Bengals to put pressure on him often.
Texans defense at Jacksonville Jaguars:Blaine Gabbert might have looked good against the Vikings last week, but that team has one of the more vulnerable defenses in the league. That's not the case with the Texans, who scored 15 fantasy points in Week 1 and are now one of the better defenses in fantasy football. With Wade Phillips calling the shots, look for Houston's emergence among the top defenses to continue.
Sleeper alert - Raiders defense at Miami Dolphins: Oakland's defense was atrocious last week, scoring a single fantasy point in a Monday night loss to the Chargers. Still, this unit as some deep sleeper value in larger leagues against Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins. The rookie was ineffective in his NFL debut, throwing for no touchdowns and three interceptions, so the Silver & Black could have a major advantage.
Defense - Sit of the week
Denver defense at Atlanta Falcons (Mon.): If we learned anything from the first week of the season, it's that Ryan and the Falcons are going to throw the football a ton. That was evident against the Chiefs, who were burned for 40 points and had a negative fantasy point total. So despite the fact that the Broncos had one of the highest points totals among fantasy defenses last week, this is still a unit to avoid in Week 2.
Seahawks defense vs. Dallas Cowboys: This defense from the Great Northwest emerged into a solid option across the board last season, finishing an impressive seventh in fantasy points at the position after being left undrafted in most leagues. However, a matchup against Tony Romo and the Cowboys is not very attractive. That was obvious in Week 1, as the Giants defense scored four fantasy points against the Pokes.
Browns defense at Cincinnati Bengals:Fantasy owners looking to add a defense off the waiver wire might be considering the Browns, who were tied wth the Jets for the most fantasy points scored at the postion (19) last week. However, this unit will be at a big disadvantage without superstar CB Joe Haden (suspension) in a road game against what should be a fired-up Bengals team. Clearly, this is a defense to avoid.
Owners beware - Detroit defense at San Francisco 49ers: The Lions were anything but impressive on defense last week, scoring four fantasy points despite what looked like a great matchup against Sam Bradford and the Rams. That performance, coupled with a difficult road matchup against the Niners, makes Detroit's defense a bit of a risk. In fact, defenses facing them last season averaged the fourth-least fantasy points.