It's officially fantasy football season with tonight's Broncos vs. Ravens matchup to kick off the NFL regular season.
Like all 32 NFL teams, fantasy owners are filled with so much optimism for the coming year. Their starting running back isn't hurt yet and their quarterback isn't going through a monster slump. All is well in fantasy land.
Here's my projection for some starts and sits this week. As always, feel free to disagree.
Matthew Stafford, QB, Start: 'But Tim, Stafford struggled to complete passes in the preseason!' I'm not buying it. Stafford will have his full compliment of weapons on Sunday, including
Note: I'll never include Calvin Johnson in the Lions five because he's always a must start unless injured.
Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons (vs. NO): I know, Jackson has been frustrating to fantasy owners in the past, but he's going to have a endless opportunities to please fantasy owners playin within the Falcons offense. Expect Jackson to get twice as many touches inside the 10-yard line than he did in St. Louis. Over his career, he's averaging 112 rushing yards (5.1 yards per carry) and a rushing touchdown per game against the Saints (last year's worst run defense in the league).
Michael Vick, QB, Eagles (vs. Wash): Vick has a chance to really have a big year in Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense. Vick completed over 73 percent of his passes in the preseason and this up-tempo style seems to really fit his game. The Redskins gave up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings (at DET): Rudolph proved to be a valuable weapon for the Vikings as a rookie with nine touchdowns. The Vikings have added some weapons on the outside that should benefit Rudolph. The Lions weren't all that good against opposing tight ends last year, allowing nine touchdowns.
Marques Colston, WR, Saints (vs. ATL): Don't expect a defensive struggle in Atlanta. These are two very high-powered offenses. Colston finished the 2012 season with 152 receiving yards in Dallas Week 16 and two touchdowns at home vs. Carolina in Week 17.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles (vs. WAS): The Redskins were the third-worst team against fantasy receivers last year. Add in the fact that both Eagles receivers Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn are out for the season with knee injuries, and that makes Jackson the No. 1 target on the outside for Vick.
Cam Newton, QB, Panthers (vs. SEA): Not many people can afford to sit a player with the fantasy potential that Newton offers, but he is facing the best secondary in the NFL this week. He faced the Seahawks last year in Week 5 at home and was 12-of-29 passing for 141 yards and had seven carries for 42 yards and a fumble.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers (at SF): This isn't so much an indictment on Lacy than it is recognition of how good the 49ers run defense is. They allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs last year. Expect quarterback Aaron Rodgers to be throwing the ball early and often by the bay.
Steve Smith, WR, Panthers (vs. SEA): It just makes sense that if I suggest you sit Newton you should also sit Smith. Seattle is big and physical in the backend of their defense and allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers last year.
Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens, (at DEN): Flacco has a tough matchup on the road at Denver Week 1. In eight road games last year, Flacco scored more than 14 points just twice (at San Diego and at Washington).
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Cardinals (at STL): He's expected to get the start against a suspect Rams run defense, but the real question is durability. He's heading into the game with a banged-up knee and that could mean an early exit.
Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins (at CLE): Miller seems to have won that position battle over Daniel Thomas. The Browns nine 100-yard rushing games last year and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Kenbrell Thompkins, WR, Patriots (at BUF): The undrafted rookie has played his way into the starting lineup for the Patriots and that's a good spot to be in when it comes to fantasy value.
Colts defense (vs. OAK): This isn't a unit you'll start a lot this season, but it looks like a pretty good matchup Week 1 against an Oakland offense that has a lot of question marks, including the ability of starting quarterback Terrell Pryor. Darren McFadden is really the only thing to worry about when it comes to that offense.
Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys (vs. NYG): Dez Bryant is the new top dog in Dallas, but Austin still has some value in deeper leagues. Austin had 13 catches for 206 yards and a score in two matchups with the Giants last year.
Daryl Richardson, RB, Rams (vs. ARI): With Isaiah Pead suspended, Richardson will be the full-time back for the Rams. The Cardinals allowed at least 15 points to opposing running backs in their last seven games last year.