By Adam Harris-
(CBS) “Upside, Downside” is simple; I will tell you who you should be inclined to start and who you should proceed with caution on a week to week basis. If a player is on the “Downside” list, look for a better option on your team. This column is here to help teams that need to make decisions week in and week out, with players on the fence.
Lets begin this session of “Upside, Downside” with this statement: Every player on Detroit has an UPSIDE in week 1. Obviously, Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson are prime to have a great game against the Rams defense, but so will Lions running back Kevin Smith. The Rams gave up the second most rushing yards per game last year and the fifth most touchdowns on the ground. I did not want to waste any of my “Upside” players on the Lions. That would be too easy – start them all.
Now for the niddy gritty…
Matt Schaub (HOU): The Texans are playing the Dolphins, who last year gave up the eighth most yards per game in the air at 249.5. Schaub has the potential to put up at least that many yards passing and 2-3 touchdowns for a very nice Week 1.
Robert Griffin III (WASH): If the Redskins have any chance against the Saints this week, Robert Griffin III will need to be involved in all scoring plays. Whether it be throwing against the third worst passing defense last year, or running it himself, RGIII has the potential for one rushing, one throwing touchdown, and at least 50 yards on the ground.
Cam Newton (CAR): This is a very juicy match up for the sophomore QB in Week 1. Facing the worst team against the run, and a team that gave up the most rushing touchdowns last year in the league, the Buccaneers will give the NFL’s most mobile and productive goal line QB in the game everything he needs. Newton converted on 8 of his 15 carries inside the 5-yard line last year. Two rushing TD’s is a possibility.
Upside Notables: Philip Rivers (SD), Tony Romo (DAL) – Each with very nice match-ups against the pass.
Michael Vick (PHI): Simply, I believe LeSean McCoy is going to have a fantastic game against the Browns this week, and this will keep Vick in the pocket. Cleveland was second in the NFL against the pass last year and on the road the Eagles will keep the ball in McCoy’s hands.
Peyton Manning (DEN): Manning is going to have a very nice season, but it will have to wait at least one week. Pittsburgh is a tough draw, as they allowed only 171 passing yards per game last year (first in the NFL) and 15 touchdowns in the air (second in the NFL). This game will be low scoring, and that is not typically good for Manning – well any Manning really.
Downside Notables: Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton – Hopefully you weren’t relying on starting these two anyway.
LeSean McCoy (PHI): Cleveland is good against the pass, but horrible against the run, allowing the third most rushing yards in average per game and total last year. McCoy should get in the end zone at least once Sunday.
Fred Jackson (BUF): Jackson’s upside solely has to do with how prone the Jets defense is to giving up TD’s on the ground. They gave up 17 rushing touchdowns last year, which was the fifth most in the league. The defense is one year older but with even more pressure because of the non improved offense.
Bears RB Combo (Forte, Bush): Many expect the Bears to attack in the air Sunday to show off their new arsenal at WR, but many times during this preseason offensive coordinator Mike Tice and head coach Lovie Smith have expressed the need to establish the run. The Bears will be able to do that against the fourth worst in yardage and second worst in TD’s against on the ground last year – the Indianapolis Colts.
Trent Richardson (CLE): It’ll be rare when Trent Richardson is on my Upside list. Richardson is on the Browns, and they have no threat other than him. Richardson is going up against a mediocre Eagles defense against the run, but with very little passing threat, the Eagles can key on the one offensive threat at running back.
Jaguar RB Combo (JAX): Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings will split carries against a Viking defense that only gave up 10 TD’s on the ground last year. It will be messy on the road for the Jaguars offense. Avoid them this week if you can to see who takes the clear number one roll.
Downside Notables: Cedric Benson (GB), Adrian Peterson (MIN) – San Fran vs Benson will pose trouble, and Jacksonville did one thing correct last year and that was stop the run.
Darrius Heyward-Bay (JAX): If the Jaguars are going to score a touchdown, I believe it will be to Heyward-Bay. The Vikings secondary was the fourth worst in the NFL against receivers (yardage wise), and gave up the most TD’s to receivers last year with 34.
Dez Bryant (DAL): Bryant is a stud, and now that he has been on Jerry Jones’s form of house arrest, all he’s had to do is think about football and Week 1. The Giants secondary was bad last year, giving up the third most receiving yards per game and the seventh most total TD’s to receivers. If Tony Romo has time, he will find Dez Bryant.
Upside Notables: Pierre Garcon (WASH) – RGIII targeted Garcon a ton in the preseason and I don’t expect that to change week one against a bad Saints secondary with no bounty pool to knock players out.
A.J. Green (CIN): The Baltimore Ravens gave up the least amount of TD’s to receivers last year at 11. A.J. Green will have to wait at least one week to justify getting picked as the second best WR in the draft over and over and over and….over.
Roddy White (ATL): Tough Week 1 match-up for the Falcons offense in general. The man I see taking most of the hit, however, is Roddy White. The Chiefs ranked fourth in the NFL last year in yards given up to wide receivers per game last year. Julio Jones is clearly the stud on the outside now.
Downside Notable: Stevie Johnson (BUF): The Jets still have Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis as corners.
Antonio Gates (SD): Philip Rivers is going to have a big game Monday night, and if Rivers has a big game, his number one target Antonio Gates will, too. Oakland is not good against the pass, and Gates is healthy and ready to show off what he can do without Vincent Jackson on the Chargers any more. Monday night is a good place to start. If Rivers throws my expected 2-3 TD’s, 1-2 should be to Gates.
Rob Gronkowski (NE): I want to caution fantasy owners expecting the Gronk of last season in Week 1. Aaron Hernandez will assume a bigger roll, and with teams keying on Gronkowski, he will have to work extra hard to get open. Tennessee is not bad against the pass.
Keep up on the waiver wire. Any #FF questions please ask me on Twitter @aharris670.