IT’S HERE! IT’S FINALLY HERE!
That’s right, folks! Week 1 of the NFL season starts tomorrow! Jeez, you can tell I’m excited!
After 31 Sundays without any meaningful NFL football, we have finally arrived to the oasis that is the 12-hour binge of NFL Football Sunday. Drink it up friends, it always goes down smooth.
Now that drafting season has concluded, we can now look to our televisions to see the fruits of our labor. Let the real fun begin!
And now, for the inaugural edition of “Stromme’s Starts/Sits”. Each week, I will give you three running backs that I believe will have a great matchup, and three that you might wanna think about leaving on your virtual bench. Got it? Good. Since you understand, let’s rock.
1) Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers:
Now, I am well aware that Eddie Lacy was either a top keeper in keeper/dynasty formats or a top-five pick in re-draft formats, so this information might be better used in DFS or weekly survivor formats, but he has one hell of a matchup.
Yes, you should be starting the Cheesehead running back no matter what; he’s one of the few NFL players that are virtually matchup proof. However ,for those in DFS or survivor formats, this might be the week to consider using him. My reasoning is two-fold:
Let’s take a look at the the Green Bay opposition in Week 1, the rival Chicago Bears, and their depth chart. More specifically, what they have going on in the middle of the defensive line. Veteran nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff begins serving his first of a three game suspension for substance abuse Week 1 and will be inactive. The Bears’ second-round pick nose tackle, and second on the depth chart behind Ratliff, Eddie Goldman suffered a concussion in a preseason game against Cincinnati after an unpleasant encounter with Jeremy Hill. His status for Week 1 is uncertain and he will be a game-time decision in a best-case scenario, leaving the only other option at nose tackle for the “Monsters of the Midway” Terry Williams, an undrafted rookie free agent out of East Carolina. Run, Eddie! RUN!
During the two games in which Green Bay and Chicago matched-up in 2014, Aaron Rodgers threw for a combined line of 40/55-617-10-0 ! Ungodly numbers! A-Rod was unconscious against his divisional foe. With Alshon Jeffery not being 100% heading into Week 1, I hardly see a chance of Smokin’ Joe Cutler and Co. being able to keep up with the reigning NFL MVP and his high-flying aerial attack, leaving the Packers with a chance to really run-away with this one by half-time.
This Bears’ defense –one that is a dramatic far-cry from the “46” defense constructed by Ditka and Buddy Ryan didn’t do much by means of improvement over the off-season. Rodgers and the rest of the Packer offense should run away with this game early. Which, by my estimation, should leave ample time for what many fantasy matchups hinge upon: garbage time.
Who shall be there to receive such a bounty of meaningless rushing yards? None other than our boy, Eddie Lacy. That’s right you degenerate DFS players, Eddie Lacy is primed for a big Week 1. (don’t worry Draftking junkies, you’re among family. I dabble as well.)
2) Chris Ivory, New York Jets
Ivory is a serious candidate for the “Most Undervalued Running Back” Award for the 2015 draft season. Seriously, nobody wanted this guy. He was consistently going between the seventh and ninth rounds of most drafts I took apart in. Mucho value.
He, presumably, will take the vast majority of snaps for Gang Green during Week 1, and probably going forward. Occasionally yielding to Bilal Powell on passing downs is essentially his only threat to playing time. (No, Zac Stacy isn’t relevant. Anyone who actually saw him play in St. Louis last season can attest to this. Don’t even start.)
Who does Ivory’s Jets take-on in their home-opener? The Cleveland Browns. In case you blanked on who the worst run-defense in the NFL was in 2014, it was those same lowly Browns that march into the Meadowlands Sunday afternoon.
Yes, the Browns did address the defensive line during the offseason, drafting rookie DT Danny Shelton in the first round and signing veteran defensive lineman Randy Starks from the Dolphins. But let’s get serious for a minute, is a rookie DT out of Washington and an aging veteran –that profiles more as a situational pass-rusher at this stage in his career- going to do a complete 180-degree turn on a run defense that RANKED LAST IN THE NFL JUST ONE YEAR AGO? I highly doubt it. In fact, I’m more than willing to bet money on the Browns ranking near the bottom in terms of stopping the run again in 2015.
Chris Ivory is a very intriguing flex play in Week 1. Count on him reaching the end-zone Sunday.
3) Bishop Sankey, Tennessee Titans
This one is more for the “if you’re desperate” crew.
As my loyal readers may have figured out by now, I am not a Bishop Sankey guy. I was in the “David Cobb for starter” camp for the entire preseason. Unfortunately for Cobb, and those who took my advice, he sustained a serious calf injury in the Titans’ preseason tilt with the Rams and was subsequently placed on IR. What a damn shame.
Now, despite the Titans grabbing Terrance West from the Browns, I believe that this is Sankey’s job to lose. To his credit, he did have a decent showing in the preseason and may have won the starting job over Cobb anyway, but he is now the starter in Tennessee.
West does have some talent, but he hasn’t been acclimated to the Whisenhunt playbook yet. The second-year back out of Towson just doesn’t seem ready to be a plugged in and play for the Titans just yet.
Despite his blazing speed, we all should know by now that Dexter McCluster is nothing more than a return-specialist who may or may not get an end-around hand-off every now and then. Nothing to see here, folks.
With Sankey presumably being the lead back heading into Week 1, it does provide a buying opportunity for fantasy owners, as he goes up against a less than inspiring Tampa Bay run defense that ranked 19th against the run in 2014.
Lovie Smith will run his Tampa-2 scheme again in 2015, a defense that is notorious for being susceptible to the run. Don’t let Gerald McCoy scare you, he was there for the majority of the season in 2014 and this defense still struggled against the run. Feel free to take a chance on Sankey if you’re hurting at the running back position.
1) Justin Forsett, Baltimore Ravens
Forsett was one of the many Cinderella stories to come from the running back position for fantasy owners in 2014. If it wasn’t Forsett, it was C.J. Anderson or Jeremy Hill. Either way, rostering one of those three backs more than likely paid off big time for your 2014 squad.
Well, temper your expectations for the former Seahawk, Texan, and Jaguar. Forsett has the deck stacked against him in Week 1. He and his teammates from the city that put crab cakes on the map go into the stadium that resides a mile above sea-level, only to face one of the best front-sevens in the AFC. Malik Jackson (who lead the Broncos in TFL and QB hurries), veteran DE Antonio Smith, up-and-coming NT Sylvester Williams, and a linebacking core of DeMarcus Ware, Vonn Miller, Danny Trevathan, and Brandon Marshall, will make things tough on opposing running backs all season long.
Not only will Forsett have to oppose that front-seven, he goes up against his former offensive coordinator in Gary Kubiak, who now is the Head Coach in Denver. Who would know how to shut-down the feel-good running back story of 2014 better than the man who gave him the opportunity in the first place? Kubiak clearly knew how to make Forsett tick, he gave him the opportunity that saved his career, who’s to say he doesn’t know his flaws? Relay that to a defensive coordinator with ample amounts of talent in front of him, and BAM! You have a slow-day for Mr. Justin Forsett.
I’d be looking elsewhere at the RB2/FLEX spots in your lineup if you own Forsett. Week 1 doesn’t look to be kind to him.
2) Alfred Blue, Houston Texans
You’re (not) my boy, Blue! …At least this week.
Not this week anyways. The man who averaged 3.1 YPC in his rookie year, opens his sophomore campaign at home against an absolutely stout Kansas City Chiefs’ front-seven that can hang with the best of them.
Blue is just about all the Texans have until Arian Foster comes back (God knows when that will be, the man tore his groin right off his thigh, that “four week return time” seems like a bit of a pipe-dream to me). And yes, he should get the bulk of the carries for Houston until Foster comes back, but I sense a mighty struggle against this stacked front the Chiefs will deploy this Sunday.
I really feel like Alfred Blue will look like a ATV stuck in the mud against this defensive front. I would really look elsewhere for a flex option if Blue is your boy.
3) DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers
This one is probably tailored more towards the deeper leagues, but bear with me.
Yes, he will be the feature back for the Steelers in tomorrow’s opener in Foxborough, but that doesn’t mean he will be a dependable fantasy option.
No, Williams didn’t crack my preseason rankings despite being the fill-in guy while Bell serves his suspension. There’s a few reasons why:
He’s 32-years-old, which as many of us know, is borderline elderly in terms of the NFL running back. Not only is he old, he has perpetually ended up on injury reports throughout his entire career.
And yes, I know what most of you are saying, “he doesn’t need to stay healthy for the whole season, just for the first few games. Bell will be back soon anyway. Why do I care if he pulls a hamstring in Week 7 or something? Just need him to hold up for the interim.”
Well, not only could he break-down at any minute, he has spent his entire career in Carolina. In his entire Panther tenure, he has had to only deal with the playbooks handed-out by Ron Rivera and John Fox, both of which don’t seem nearly as complex as the playbook he had to handle this offseason. Todd Haley’s playbook is a much more complicated scheme than either of those guys’ staffs. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at how long it took Roethlisberger to comprehend said playbook. He had virtually the same weapons around him for three years, only to breakout last season. Not only will Williams have to learn how to be the pass-catching back Le’Veon Bell was in a short amount of time, but he also had to deal with the birth of his son during training camp. Now I’m only 22, I have no clue what the early stages of fatherhood are like, but from what I hear, it’s no walk in the park. Learning an all-new playbook, a complex one at that, all while dealing with the stress of bringing new life into the world cannot be an easy task.
Okay, so not only do you have an aging, injury-prone running back who more than likely doesn’t know the playbook like the back of his hand, you have a pass-happy offense that has the number one receiver in football going up against a secondary that no longer has Darelle Revis or Brandon Browner. I really believe that this game will be an air show that will rival any put on over Labor Day Weekend. The current over/under I see is 52.0, favoring the over. Vegas knows this game will be a shootout, and I tend to agree. I really believe that both teams will chuck the pigskin with all they have, subsequently resulting in a neglected run game.
Anyway you slice it, I would avoid DeAngelo Williams this week.
Waiver Wire Mining:
With the Broncos cutting Montee Ball, this leaves Ronnie Hillman to be the official handcuff to C.J. Anderson. Now, Kubiak told The Denver Post back in early August that he “believes in the bell cow.”. For now, that’s clearly Anderson. However, say he were to take a C.J. Mosely hit the wrong way on Sunday, could Hillman be that new bell cow? It’s more than worth a gamble now, especially for those C.J. Anderson owners out there.
Speaking of Montee Ball, the former Wisconsin Badger (and fantasy darling of August 2013) is now on the street. Troy Renck of The Denver Post reports that the Atlanta Falcons may, or may not be, considering his services. Listen, the man gets ragged on quite a bit in the fantasy community (mostly from those that reached for him in the third round two years ago, but i digress…), but I do believe in his talent. 2014 was rough on him, he had an appendectomy last August, and it seemed to totally derail his entire campaign from a health standpoint. If he lands in the right situation (looking at you, Texans, Falcons, Titans, Browns, and possibly Dolphins), he could give a big middle finger to many of the doubters out there. It’s a situation worth monitoring.
Another situation to watch is the running back quagmire that has developed in Nashville. Yes, Sankey was on my “start” list this week. However, if he were to struggle against the Buccaneers on Sunday, we could see Terrence West take some snaps against his former team in Week 2. You should know by now what my thoughts are towards the Browns’ run prevention strategy, and West should have no trouble exploiting the Cleveland run defense he spent a whole 12 months practicing against. Remember kids, many scouts were touting Terrence West as something close to the next Brian Westbrook a mere calendar year ago. Again, keep an eye on this situation, as it could very well have RBBC written all over it sooner rather than later.
Oh, the Cowboys added another running back in Christine Michael. Now, Cowboys’ VP of Football Operations Stephen Jones told the team’s official website that it would be “a long-shot” if Michael were to suit-up for the ‘Boys in Week 1. If Joesph Randle, Darren McFadden, and Lance Dunbar underwhelm this week, is it totally out of the question to suggest that they might give the former Seahawk a shot at taking the reins? If they were 100% content with the situation ahead of them, they more than likely wouldn’t have taken a flyer on another back… right?
That’s it for me this week. For more football tidbits, follow me on the Twitter machine at @stromme_93.
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