Week 1 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: The “Are we there yet?” Edition

The kickoff cometh! In just a few hours, the NFL will return to that magic box in my living room and all will be right with the world. In the meantime, it’s time to make sure you’ve got your best fantasy football roster forward.

Much like our waiver wire recommendations have been shortened up to get with the times, I’ve taken the liberty of consolidating our start or sit feature, Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders, into a more compact version of its 2008 self. I’m focusing on just a handful of players that you may be on the fence about starting each week.

If you have questions about other players on your roster or whether you should give these alternatives the nod over your current starter, submit your questions in the comments. Our shortened features should open the comments up for more discussion, more Q&A and, of course, more cowbell.

Now back to this week’s good-looking starters…

Hot Hands Start of the Week

Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens vs. Kansas City Chiefs
I might as well put my fantasy money where my roster spot mouth is. I have Rice on plenty of my teams this season, and rather than wait to see what you have in him this year, I’m all about jumping him into your starting lineup immediately. Kansas City won’t know what hit them.

Last season, the Ravens could run over any team in the NFL, and I expect them to do the same in this matchup. While LeRon McClain and Willis McGahee could be lurking in the wings to steal some touchdowns, the Chiefs’ defense should give Rice at least a handful of opportunities to break a big play.

Others receiving votes:

  • Chris Henry, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: Another sleeper with plenty to like this week in Palmer’s return
  • Zach Miller, TE, Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers: The Chargers had a weakness for tight ends last season
  • Cedric Benson, RB, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos: I just doubt the Broncos defense this much
  • Fred Jackson, RB, Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: He’s the guy for Buffalo until Lynch returns. How good can New England’s defense be after losing all those veterans?
  • Almost every Saint you can find vs. Detroit Lions: It’s a party, and all the fantasy players are invited

Cold Shoulders Sit of the Week

Chris Johnson, RB, Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s hard to sit your first-round running back right after drafting him, but Johnson should be limited this week in the Titans’ debut against the defending Super Bowl champs. I like my running backs to have a shot at the end zone, especially a guy like “Every Coach’s Dream.” LenDale White should steal any short-yardage chances, and I don’t expect there to be many breakdowns in the Steelers’ defense.

The Super Bowl champs are rarely upset in their opening game, and I am sure the Steelers will control the clock. Unless you are lacking in the running back department — or you just like torturing yourself — try someone who has a bit more upside this week. Play Chris Johnson only if your alternative is Larry Johnson or Jamal Lewis.

Others receiving votes:

  • Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Tennessee Titans: Much like Johnson, Holmes should be bottled up in a low-scoring contest
  • Jamal Lewis, RB, Cleveland Browns vs. Minnesota Vikings: Very little chance he shows any more signs of life in this one…
  • Matt Schaub, QB, Houston Texans vs. New York Jets: Glad you’re back to full health, now dodge Jets for four quarters! Schaub’s risky this week.
  • All your Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens: Until Matt Cassel is 100 percent, the Chiefs can only play at 25 percent. No likey.

For more start or sit recommendations this week, read up at FootballDocs, Fantasy Football Xtreme, Fantasy Football Oasis (one of the more detailed out there), Fantasy Football Goat, The Fantasy Football Geek Blog and Fanhouse’s Week 1 Wake-Up Call.

Also, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win free Dominator Service from Top Fantasy Football by commenting on yesterday’s post.

As always, the comments are yours.

Foolish Thoughts: Broncos, Bills and Bears! Bowe, my!

Let’s be honest. You can’t believe anything you hear in the preseason.

Head coaches sound more like head cheerleaders. Rookies will all become superstars. Offensive coordinators experiment with plays that could radically change their offense for the better, and trainers expect everyone back at full speed by the first week of the regular season. It just doesn’t get any better.

By September, we’ll all forget we drank this much Kool-Aid, but after one week of the preseason, there are a few story lines worth following.

Jay Cutler finds targets in Chicago

Cutler’s move to Chicago this offseason took him down a few notches in the fantasy ranks due to a belief that the Bears just didn’t have the receivers to support his arm. Devin Hester is still a work-in-progress despite his nice season last year as the Bears’ leading receiver, and rookie Earl Bennett, now slated to start, hasn’t ever seen the field in the regular season.

Cutler certainly has the arm to do many things well for Chicago, things Neckbeard and Rexy could never do consistently, but this preseason will be important in determining how high he can climb up the quarterback ranks. It wouldn’t surprise me if Hester, Bennett and tight end Greg Olsen outperformed expectations, but they will have to prove it on the field.

As a former college teammate, Earl Bennett seems to be on the same page as Cutler this preseason, and Hester can get behind the defense in a hurry as long as Cutler can get him the ball.

Rusty in their first preseason appearance, in which Cutler put some of the blame for an interception on Hester, the Chicago Bears face the Giants this weekend. A good showing from Cutler could prove he is worth consideration as a starter this season.

Denver lost with Josh McDaniels

Left in the wake of the Cutler saga, Denver isn’t very happy with their new quarterback. Kyle Orton is basically just the consolation prize from Josh McDaniels’ botched talks with Jay Cutler this offseason. Neckbeard won’t get much slack if he can’t prove his ability in the Broncos’ new system.

Orton’s first showing could have gone much better, and it might not be long before we see Chris Simms getting a shot at the starting job.

The real story to watch here is the Broncos’ receivers, Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. Marshall’s got plenty to prove on his own, but neither fantasy stud from last season can do much without a quarterback to get them the ball.

If the Broncos still don’t impress in their second game against the Seahawks, it’s time to get worried.

Bills don’t need no stinkin’ huddle

Trent Edwards is another quarterback who could make a jump into the starting-worthy category this season. The Buffalo Bills are experimenting with a no-huddle offense to take advantage of their two explosive receivers, Lee Evans and Terrell Owens, and minimize the problems associated with having no offensive line. Really, they got nothing there.

The new offense hadn’t quite come together when the Bills faced the Titans in the Hall of Fame game, but Edwards was perfect in his second game and completed all 10 of his passes for 79 yards. If that progress continues, he’s worth considering at the top of the backup quarterback pile — at least until it gets cold in Buffalo.

T.O. sat out the Bills’ second game with a bad toe, but if he can return and prove effective in this offense, he’ll remove many concerns about whether things will work this season in Buffalo.

Who’s Chief in Kansas City?

I generally don’t enjoy watching the Kansas City Chiefs play football, but with Todd Haley running the show, they could become a fantasy receiver factory.

The big story out of preseason is Dwayne Bowe’s demotion to the third team. He’s definitely in Haley’s doghouse for showing up this offseason out of shape, but he’s lost weight and was the best receiver on the field in the first preseason game. If he regains his role as the No. 1, he could be the most targeted receiver in the NFL this season.

I don’t love Matt Cassel or Dwayne Bowe because I fear that Kansas City will fall short of expectations this season on offense, but in a PPR league, Bowe could be a huge weapon. We’ll see the Chiefs try out their new offense against the Vikings this Friday, and perhaps Bowe will be back on top by then.

What are you looking for this preseason? As always, the comments are yours.

Foolish Thoughts: You complete me, 2009 kickoff and site enhancements

The Hall of Fame game was everything I thought it would be last night — a little bit of football surrounded by a media frenzy of interviews. Outside of two catches, we didn’t see much of the Terrell Owens and Trent Edwards show, and I’m not yet convinced that the new no-huddle offense in Buffalo is going to make the Bills a fantasy football force this season.

Then again, it was the Tennessee Titans defense out there, and it doesn’t seem that they’ll be suffering this season without Albert Haynesworth terrorizing quarterbacks up the middle. I’m sure they’ll still miss the big fella when it counts.

As far as highlights go, the most significant play of the game was Vince Young’s touchdown pass to Paul Williams for the Titans’ third score. Drafted in 2007, Williams has been invisible thus far in the NFL with only one career reception. Much like Young, Williams needs to show something this season. The preseason touchdown connection could be the beginning of an upswing for both players.

More important than the game itself, the kickoff of the Hall of Fame game signifies the final stretch before fantasy football season, which I guess is also known as the preseason, and the NFL had me at “hello” this year.

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