The Fantasy Fool: Week 1 starters and benchwarmers

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Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has a tasty matchup to begin his third season, with the perennially inept Saints defense welcoming him to the Big Easy. (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images)

Wondering whether to start Aaron Rodgers and Julio Jones, or to bench Case Keenum and Chris Johnson? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 1 of the 2016 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders at Saints. Carr has a tasty matchup to begin his third season, with the perennially inept Saints defense welcoming him to the Big Easy. Look for the young gun to trade scoring passes with Drew Brees as he dices up the secondary with help from Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree.

Frank Gore, RB, Colts vs. Lions. The grizzled veteran didn’t get much action in the preseason, so he should be fresh entering the opener. Andrew Luck looks to be back in sync with his wideouts, which should open things up between the tackles for his workhorse back. The receivers should prosper, but so will Gore.

Spencer Ware, RB, Chiefs vs. Chargers. Jamaal Charles is expected to play little, if at all, in this game, leaving the backfield mostly in Ware’s capable hands. San Diego’s defense was one of the league’s worst last season, and there’s scant evidence of offseason improvement. Kansas City loves to run, and for at least one game, Ware is the man.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks vs. Dolphins. Don’t be surprised if Lockett picks up where he left off last season, tearing up opposing secondaries while they focus on counterpart Doug Baldwin. Russell Wilson looked as sharp as ever during the preseason, and should take full advantage of Miami’s weak pass defense.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Redskins vs. Steelers. Kirk Cousins enters the season on a tear while Jackson is healthy and as speedy as ever. Due in part to a shaky running game, this passing attack should be in full throttle mode on Sunday against Pittsburgh’s average-at-best secondary.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, Eli Manning, Matt Stafford, Tyrod Taylor; RBs DeAngelo Williams, LeSean McCoy, Lamar Miller, Latavius Murray, Doug Martin, Mark Ingram, Rashad Jennings, Eddie Lacy, Ryan Mathews; WRs Doug Baldwin, Kamar Aiken, Michael Crabtree, Mike Evans, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Sammy Watkins, Dez Bryant, Marvin Jones, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin, Brandin Cooks, Donte Moncrief, Alshon Jeffery, Eric Decker.

Roll ‘em back

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers at Chiefs. Over his last four games against Kansas City, Rivers has just two TD passes, neither of which came last season. Despite reloading at WR, he’s a very risky bet going into the unfriendly confines of Arrowhead.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Patriots at Cardinals. Jimmy Garoppolo will face a very stingy defense that is likely to put the clamps down on the Patriots’ running game. Blount may not get many opportunities, especially if Arizona gets out to a nice lead. Pass-catching tailback James White should be much busier in the opener.

Matt Jones, RB, Redskins vs. Steelers. He’s expected to get the start despite still rehabbing a preseason shoulder injury. But Jones will be sharing the workload with two other backs, and they’ll all be facing a stout Pittsburgh run defense.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles vs. Browns. It’s hard to feel good about Matthews going up against Browns CB Joe Haden with rookie Carson Wentz making his debut at QB. Philly’s passing game in general should be viewed with suspicion until Wentz shows he’s ready for primetime.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins at Seahawks. I’m really nervous about my beloved Dolphins heading cross-country to start the season against a hungry Seattle squad. Richard Sherman and his Legion of Boom-mates will be all over Landry, and Ryan Tannehill will have very little time to spot him anyway. Though he may make up for it in targets for PPR leaguers, Landry is loaded with red flags this weekend.

More thumbs down: QBs Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzgerald, Marcus Mariota; RBs Arian Foster, Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill, Jeremy Langford, Melvin Gordon, Chris Ivory, Thomas Rawls, Justin Forsett; WRs Tavon Austin, Stefon Diggs, Torrey Smith, Travis Benjamin, Kevin White, Kenny Stills, Mike Wallace, John Brown, Markus Wheaton, DeVante Parker.


Theo Riddick, RB, Lions at Colts. Detroit will do its best to establish Ameer Abdullah as its lead back, but this game is likely to be a passing affair. That means Riddick will be a big factor, and PPR leaguers should seriously consider slotting him in as a high-ceiling flex. Indy’s defense isn’t particularly strong, but their up-tempo offense should force Matt Stafford to sling it often.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO… ignores the inactive reports. I say it every year, yet it bears repeating. Every week, including the opener, several star players will be game-time decisions, and some will either be inactive or put on a play count. I tweet out the inactives and other late-breaking news as it happens all day Sunday (@ladd_biro), so follow me or find another reliable source. Just don’t set your lineup on Thursday and forget about it!

Ladd Biro is a four-time finalist and two-time winner of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).

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