Not every league uses two quarterbacks, but most use flex positions. However, this column doesn't discriminate. Every week I'll pinpoint the best of those fringe starters for second quarterbacks AND flexes to help you make the tough choices that don't need to come down to coin flips.
Injuries and bye weeks will create considerable confusion, as they do every year, and when they do, whether you've been playing two quarterbacks every week or two flexes or whatever, the weekly recommendations each position should help you sort through the mess. So watch the bouncing ball and stay on your toes. Offensive and defensive schemes will become more transparent from week to week, and this column will look for calculated risks and strong matchup plays that lead to playoff berths and championship bragging rights.
For Week 1, I've settled on six QB2's and six Flex starts because, well, 12 is my favorite number. If you're in a tough spot to begin the year with an injured star (Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews, Miles Austin, etc.), dealing with the backlash of an ugly holdout (thanks, MJD and Mike Wallace) or just unsure about your second quarterback (yeah, Andy Dalton at Baltimore scares me too), then pull the trigger on one of these options.
1. Jake Locker vs. New England - The Patriots' pass defense will be improved over last year, but by how much is anybody's guess. The pass rush looks more imposing with Chandler Jones coming off the edge, but with Locker's ability to evade rushers with his legs and throw on the move, he should still be in store for a big game. Neither secondary is a shutdown unit so this game could become a shootout in a hurry, particularly if Tom Brady puts a couple quick scores on the board. Look for Locker to make nice use out of his myriad weapons, in particular dynamic rookie Kendall Wright, en route to one of his best passing days of the season.
2. Andrew Luck at Chicago - The big uglies that inhabit Soldier Field are no longer the "Monsters of the Midway." With the cream of the Chicago defense starting to curdle, the once feared defense looks fairly old, slow and thin at every level. Luck, perhaps the most mature, poised passer to enter the league since the man he replaced, should find plenty of success through the air and with his legs when his own shoddy defense lets Jay Cutler and Co. build an early lead and force him into constant drop backs.
3. Russell Wilson at Arizona - The moment is not too big for this rookie third-rounder. Wilson earned the start in Seattle by being not just a gifted athlete, but also a leader with great poise and presence. With Marshawn Lynch dealing with back spasms, expect Pete Carroll to put this game in Wilson's confident hands. He has nice weapons on the outside in Sidney Rice and Braylon Edwards and will use his tremendous athleticism to routinely extend plays to allow him to find open targets or scramble for first downs. Although the Cardinals defense is no pushover, Wilson looks like a safe bet for two scores because of his dual-threat abilities as a passer and a runner.
4. Robert Griffin at New Orleans - That's right. A third rookie passer in his first regular-season action. RGIII is a great upside play and has the added benefit of finding himself in a game that will force him to throw it early and often to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints Machine. New Orleans will throw a lot of blitzes at Griffin to rattle him, but he has the wheels to get out of pressure and make plays.
5. Joe Flacco vs. Cincinnati - The Ravens are looking to air it out more this season and speed up the tempo of their offense. Coordinator Cam Cameron won't hesitate to mix in some no-huddle early to test the Cincinnati defense and put it on its heels. With the amount of speed Baltimore now boasts on the outside with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones and with Anquan Boldin and Ray Rice as premier check downs underneath, Flacco should have no trouble exposing the fact that Leon Hall is the only competent Bengals cover man.
6. Alex Smith at Green Bay - The Packers pass defense was a fantasy goldmine last season, and until they prove that the changes they made defensively can slow down opposing quarterbacks, any passer who faces them gets a boost. First up is Smith, and though the Niners' vaunted defense might keep the Packers from forcing a shootout, the best way to move the ball against Green Bay is still through the air. With considerably more weapons to choose from this year, that should help Smith pick up where he left off in a statement 2011 postseason run.
1. DeAngelo Williams at Tampa Bay - After doing nothing in the offseason to improve at the point of attack, a Bucs defense that finished dead last in rush yards and scores allowed in 2011 should struggle again this season versus the run. When the Panthers saw the Bucs last December they rolled them for 270 yards on the ground at nearly 9.0 per attempt, and D-Will post more than 80 total yards and two scores on less than 10 touches. With Jonathan Stewart nursing a sore ankle, expect Williams to see a heavier workload, possibly with similar results.
2. Peyton Hillis vs. Atlanta - The Chiefs defense is without elite pass rusher Tamba Hali (suspension) and could also be without top corner Brandon Flowers (foot) and starting free safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder). That means Kansas City is going to do anything it can to keep its beaten and depleted defense off the field and keep Matt Ryan and his high-flying pass attack at bay. Expect heavy doses of Hillis and Jamaal Charles as the Chiefs try to grind out long drives.
3. Michael Crabtree at Green Bay - By starting the team's No. 1 receiver against what was last year's worst passing defense we're not exactly spraining any muscles. But still it makes too much sense. The Packers figure to force San Fran to pass more than it's used to, and Crabtree figures to be heavily targeted.
4. Justin Blackmon at Minnesota - Blackmon looked like a seasoned vet during a highly impressive preseason despite coming to camp late after being the last first-rounder to sign his rookie deal. Given how miserable the Vikings secondary was in 2011 and the limited improvements they made at corner, it's hard to not picture Blackmon physically imposing his will on Minnesota secondary. Expect a big debut from this tough cover.
5. Braylon Edwards at Arizona - No Seahawk target displayed better chemistry with Russell Wilson during the preseason than Edwards. With Golden Tate sidelined by a knee injury, Edwards moves into the starting lineup opposite Sidney Rice, who likely will draw Patrick Peterson in coverage. Expect Edwards to expose the weaker Cardinals corners as he leads Seattle in receiving.
6. Michael Bush vs. Indianapolis - Last year, Marion Barber robbed six goal-line scores from Matt Forte. Now that job has fallen into the significantly more capable hands of Bush. With the Colts making the transition to a 3-4 defense without the adequate personnel to play that scheme, they may just be the league's worst defense out of the gate. That should spell a nice day for Bush who may have multiple opportunities from inside the 10.