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Weekly Matchups: Strong Plays, Weak Plays Week 1

Kyle Fisher

Kyle Fisher

Kyle Fisher writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

Each week during the season we'll examine players who have advantageous matchups and those who have tougher matchups. Whether an owner actually starts or benches these players rides on a variety of factors. Consider this advice one variable in the mix, an important word but not necessarily the final word.

STRONG PLAYS

Johnny Knox vs. DET

Knox has been perhaps the most talked about under-the-radar receiver in 2010 fantasy drafts. Knox finally gets to put all the hype to the test in what looks to be a favorable Week 1 matchup against the Lions. Even though the Bears passing game struggled last season, Jay Cutler still threw 27 touchdowns, and the Bears led the NFL with 75 percent of their total touchdowns coming via the pass. This season, offensive guru Mike Martz steps into the mix, which only enhances Knox’s upside. Furthermore, Knox is paired against a Lions unit that surrendered the seventh most catches to wide receivers, the second most yards, fourth most touchdowns and third most fantasy points overall. Look for the Knox hype to pay off Week 1 as he definitely should put up quality numbers.

Jerome Harrison vs. TB

Despite the attempts to limit Harrison’s ascension to the starting job, the injury to Montario Hardesty, at least for the moment, allows Harrison to feel comfortable as the top back for the Browns. As poor as the Browns were in 2009 from a fantasy perspective, they ranked eighth in the NFL in yards rushing at 130.4 yards per game, and Harrison averaged 187 yards per game and scored five rushing touchdowns in the last three games of 2009. While it is unlikely he will duplicate that historic performance, Harrison should have success against a Buccaneers defense that ranked last in 2009 in rushing yards allowed, 21st in rushing touchdowns allowed and gave up the seventh most fantasy points via the run. Harrison has been drafted as a third running back or flex option in most leagues but should exceed those expectations in Tampa.

Ronnie Brown vs. BUF

Brown is one of those backs who is rarely targeted in drafts and is never celebrated as a good value pick, but when healthy, can put up big fantasy numbers for his owners. Brown starts the season healthy and had 115 yards and two touchdowns last season in his only contest against Buffalo. Brown could certainly attain similar numbers against a Bills unit that allowed the third most fantasy rushing points last season while ranking 30th in rushing yards allowed and 28th in rushing touchdowns allowed. Look for Brown to get major opportunities in Week 1 and deliver a quality fantasy performance.

Kyle Orton vs. JAC

Orton quietly threw for 3,802 yards last season and 21 touchdowns, and while he usually is not drafted to be a fantasy starter, except in very deep leagues, he should be starter quality in Week 1. The Broncos are banged up in the running game, and despite the loss of Brandon Marshall, should have success via the air in Jacksonville. The Jags ranked last in the NFL in sacks last season, gave up the fourth most points to fantasy quarterbacks, ranked 25th in passing yards allowed and 26th in passing touchdowns allowed. Orton won’t be a starter most weeks, but fantasy owners who have higher profile quarterbacks who have tougher matchups such as Brett Favre, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning could consider Orton as a viable Week 1 option.

Malcolm Floyd vs. KC

Floyd has moved up to the No. 2 passing option in San Diego behind Antonio Gates, as Vincent Jackson has signed and is currently serving a suspension. Floyd has been another high-profile sleeper who should pan out, at least in Week 1. The Chargers averaged more than 290 yards a game in the air in two meeting versus Kansas City last season, which means there are plenty of opportunities for Floyd to have a big opening night. Furthermore, the Chiefs didn’t do much better against the rest of the league as they ranked 28th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and 22nd in total passing yards allowed. Look for Floyd to have a solid opening night and be a good No. 2 receiver or flex option.

WEAK PLAYS

Brett Favre vs. NO

Favre returns to the scene of one of his most disappointing losses in last year’s NFC championship where he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in one of his worst statistical games of 2009. Furthermore, he is without the services of top wideout Sidney Rice and a less than 100 percent Percy Harvin, who continues to deal with severe migraines. Moreover, Favre himself is beginning the season at less than 100 percent after offseason ankle surgery. This coupled with a Saints defense that surrendered the fifth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2009, and Favre may not have a performance that is fantasy starter worthy this week.

Pierre Thomas vs. MIN

While there are no certainties in fantasy, one that comes about as close to a guarantee is that running backs do poorly against the Vikings defense. The Vikings have ranked in the top 2 in rushing yards allowed every season since 2006. In that time they have averaged about 77 yards per game on the ground. Last season, the, with the Packers, allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs per game at just 11.3 per game. Thomas should be in your starting lineup most weeks, but if you have depth at the running back position, this may be a week to use it.

Shonn Greene vs. BAL

As great as the Vikings run defense has been at frustrating fantasy owners, the Ravens have been almost their equal. The Ravens have ranked no worse than fifth in rushing yards allowed since 2006 and haven’t allowed an average of 100 yards rushing a game since 2004. Greene also doesn’t help himself against stout run defenses in the passing game, as he has just one career reception. Greene was drafted as a low end No. 1 fantasy back, and while his production this season may warrant that status, his owners probably won’t see it Monday night.

Hakeem Nicks vs. CAR

Nicks very well could be the Giants big-play receiver and all signs point to him having a very good season. However, this week Nicks is matched up against a Panthers defense that gave up the second fewest points to fantasy receivers in 2009. The Panthers also led the NFL by giving up just four passing touchdowns to receivers. This might be a week where the Giants use more of their running game, as Carolina gave up the ninth most fantasy points on the ground. With the ground game relatively healthy, expect to see more ground-and-pound and fewer targets for a player who could be a valuable fantasy player in weeks to come.

Mike Sims-Walker vs. DEN

Sims-Walker has been thought of as a No. 2 fantasy receiver in most drafts but during the last five games of 2009 he didn’t play like it. Sims-Walker only caught more than two passes in one game and scored just one touchdown after Week 11. Furthermore, Sims-Walker averaged less than 30 yards receiving in his final six games of 2009. The Broncos could present more of the same for Sims-Walker, as they surrendered the fourth fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. The Broncos were much less successful against the run, so while Maurice Jones-Drew could be in for a big day, Sims-Walker’s slump may continue into 2010.