Here they are—rankings for Week 1 to help you decide who to start and who to sit on your fantasy football team.
1. Randy Moss (NE) – The Brady to Moss air show returns to Foxboro on Monday night and this deadly combo should not miss a beat against a good, but not great, Buffalo pass defense. The last time Moss faced the Bills with Brady under center, he managed to accumulate an absurd 15 catches for 243 yards and 6 TD’s in 2 games. You probably shouldn’t expect a repeat of the 2007 meetings. Regardless, Moss should have a big impact on your week 1 fantasy total at the end of the day.
2. Larry Fitzgerald (ARI) – Do you even need a reason? It’s Larry Fitzgerald against the 49ers, start him.
3. Andre Johnson (HOU) – The Jets made it a priority in the off season to upgrade a pass defense that ranked 29th out of 32 teams last season, and yet, they are still no match for the great Andre Johnson. He is a must start fantasy option each and every week.
4. Calvin Johnson (DET) – If it were almost any other receiver in the NFL, we would have cause for concern heading into week 1 with a rookie QB against what should be a much improved New Orleans defense, but Calvin Johnson is not just any receiver. We would probably suggest starting him if he had to throw the ball to himself. He’s just that good and it doesn’t hurt that Johnson and Stafford looked to be on the same page in preseason.
5. Greg Jennings (GB) – He was able to find pay dirt in each of the 2 games in which he faced the Bears in 2008. It also doesn’t hurt that literally the entire Bears secondary is coming off of some kind of injury and this will be the first game that they will all play together as a unit. There are bound to be some blown coverages in this match up and there probably isn’t a better QB – WR tandem in the NFL at exploiting blown coverages than Aaron Rodgers and Greg Jennings.
6. Roddy White (ATL) – White will probably be matched up against veteran CB Will Allen for the majority of this game, but starting at the other CB position will be rookie Sean Smith. We are fairly confident that the Falcons will find a way to match White up against the rookie at least a few times which could yield big results. Regardless of who Miami decides to play against White, be it Will Allen, the rookie, double teams with FS Gibril Wilson, it doesn’t matter; the Dolphins secondary is no match for White.
7. Reggie Wayne (IND) – In his last 5 games against the Jaguars, Wayne has had no fewer than 74 receiving yards while averaging an impressive 116 yards per game during that span. By the numbers, it’s quite obvious that Jacksonville’s lock down CB Rashean Mathis has no clue how to stop Reggie Wayne in this match up and we seriously doubt Mathis will have an answer for him in week 1.
8. Marques Colston (NO) – Our only real concern here is that the Saints will build such a lead that they will abandon the passing game early, but then again, who are we kidding; it’s New Orleans. Colston should own a weak Lions secondary and is a must start fantasy option. As a side note, he had 7 catches for 104 yards against Detroit in week 15 last season.
9. T.J. Houshmandzadeh (SEA) – He actually has a QB that can get him into the end zone again. The Hasselbeck-Houshmandzadeh combination should be one to watch this season and it doesn’t get much better than a week 1 match up against the Rams. We expect Housh to return to elite fantasy form and actually be relevant outside of just PPR leagues this season.
10. Steve Smith (CAR) – There is no question that the Eagles will provide Smith with one of his toughest match ups of the season, but Smith is one of the few receivers in the NFL that is virtually match up proof. Smith will certainly have his work cut out for him, but ultimately, Delhomme always find a way to get the ball in the hands of #89.
11. Wes Welker (NE) – He is battling some kind of knee injury, but as usual the Patriots are very tight lipped on the details. The good news is that he did practice on Thursday, all be it on a limited basis. That said, we are fairly confident that Welker will play on Monday night and probably without limitation. We hope so, because the match up is pretty good and he should benefit greatly from the return of Tom Brady. Welker is especially useful in PPR fantasy leagues. Needless to say, be sure to monitor his status, that is if New England bothers to update it. Check injury report: knee (probable)
12. Chad OchoCinco (CIN) – No one stands to benefit more from the return of QB Carson Palmer than #85, especially with T.J. Houshmandzadeh off to Seattle. We have high hopes for the player formerly known as Chad Johnson and we should find out if the dynamic duo still has what it takes in week 1 against a soft Denver pass defense that ranked as one of the worst in the NFL a season ago. Ocho will likely be covered by all pro CB Champ Bailey which could cause some problems, but we still like his chances. Heck, he may even get you a field goal or two.
13. Vincent Jackson (SD) – It took him long enough, but Jackson finally lived up to expectations in 2008 becoming one of the premier deep threats in the NFL. A week 1 meeting with the Raiders may not be as seamless as you would think as Jackson will likely be matched up against shut down corner Nnamdi Asomugha. The good news is that Asomugha will be playing with a casted broken wrist and Jackson managed to get the better of him last season to the tune of 148 yards and a TD in week 14.
14. Anquan Boldin (ARI) – While his hamstring injury has us fairly concerned about his availability for Sunday, we also know that if anyone can play hurt and play well, it’s Anquan Boldin. Given his track record against the Niners, including a 2 TD performance against them last season, it would be a shame if he has to miss this game. Even in a limited role he is probably worth starting, but be sure to monitor the situation closely as Boldin is likely to be a game time decision.UPDATE: It seems less and less likely that Boldin will play in week 1 with a strained hamstring. He's expected to be a game time decision, but we wouldn't bet on him playing. Check injury report: hamstring (game time decision)
15. Terrell Owens (BUF) – At this point, there are more questions than answers regarding Owens fantasy value heading into week 1, but we do know that he is a top flight receiver in terms of talent and Trent Edwards will do everything under the sun to get him the football. It also doesn’t hurt that Owens will be facing a Patriots pass defense that gave up the second most receiving TD’s (27) in the NFL last season.
16. Eddie Royal (DEN) – With Brandon Marshall’s role for week 1 still very much up in the air, no one stands to benefit more than Eddie Royal. Even if Marshall starts and sees extensive action, Royal should be the go to guy in the Denver passing game. He has already developed a solid rapport with QB Kyle Orton in the preseason and Marshall should help draw the attention of the Bengals defense away from Royal. It could work out to benefit both players.
17. Braylon Edwards (CLE) – Hopefully, Edwards has gotten all the butter off of his hands from last season and can return to elite form. Time will tell, but we do know one thing for sure, Brady Quinn is going to have to get the ball to Edwards if the Browns want to have anything that resembles a successful passing game this season. The week 1 match up is not ideal, but if the Vikings have a weakness on defense; it’s pass coverage.
18. DeSean Jackson (PHI) – He has made claims that he will double his production from a season ago. Let’s see, that would give him 124 receptions for 1,824 yards and 4 TD’s. We will give him the 4 TD’s and then some, but 124 catches for 1,800 plus, c’mon man! He must have skipped a lot of math classes while at Cal. More to the point, we do like his week 1 match up against a mediocre Carolina defense and Jackson is sure to be McNabb’s go to target. By Jackson’s own assessment, he figures to have 22 catches for 234 yards and 3 TD’s. We kid.
19. Lance Moore (NO) – While it’s true that the Saints are overcrowded with playmakers and someone will have to be the odd man out, we seriously doubt that man is going to be Moore as many have suggested. He is definitely one of Drew Brees’ favorite targets and we see no reason why that will change. Even when Marques Colston returned from injury last year, Moore continued to put up top flight fantasy numbers. There may be weeks when Moore suffers from the “too many fish in the pond” syndrome, but we doubt any of the Saints WR’s will be immune to that at some point or another during the season. He didn’t have the best stat line against Detroit last season, but this match up is too good to pass up.
20. Derrick Mason (BAL) – He remains one of the more underrated fantasy prospects in the NFL especially in PPR leagues. As Joe Flacco’s go to guy in the Ravens passing game, we fully expect Mason to have one of his better games of the season right off the bat. A week one match up against what should be a poor Kansas City pass defense holds promise galore for the crafty veteran wide out. Mason is a pretty good bet for solid production in all formats this week, not just PPR fantasy leagues.
21. Donald Driver (GB) – He doesn’t have the best track record against Chicago, but we really like his consistency against them. While Driver will probably never return to elite form, he should give you solid production most weeks and we like his chances in week 1. Literally the entire Bears secondary is coming off of some kind of injury and this will be the first game that they will all play together as a unit. This bodes well for all Packer receivers.
22. Roy Williams (DAL) – He will be tested in week1 against a very good Tampa Bay secondary and we should find out if Williams is finally ready to step into the role vacated by Terrell Owens. It wasn’t long ago that Williams was considered one of the premier WR’s in the NFL, so we know he has what it takes to be successful. In spite of an otherwise lackluster performance, Williams did manage to score his only TD as a Cowboy against the Buccaneers last season.
23. Hines Ward (PIT) – In spite of a late 4th quarter fumble that almost cost the Steelers the game, Ward had an otherwise solid performance Thursday night against the Titans with 8 receptions for 103 yards.
24. Dwayne Bowe (KC) – We would like him a whole lot more with a healthy Matt Cassel under center, but that probably isn’t going to be the case and the match up against the Ravens is not all that favorable to begin with.
25. Anthony Gonzalez (IND) – He’s not in the same class as a young Marvin Harrison, but just filling Harrison’s role in a pass happy offense should give his fantasy value a nice boost this season. We aren’t as high on his fantasy potential as others, as Gonzalez has had ample opportunity to prove himself, with not so flattering results. That said, the potential is there and we are giving him the benefit of the doubt. While Gonzalez has not had much success against Jacksonville to this point in his short career, he should see a dramatic increase in targets as the Colts #2 WR and that alone helps his chances for a solid week1.
26. Antonio Bryant (TB) – He finally had his long anticipated breakout year in 2008 and in spite of poor circumstances in Tampa, we remain optimistic that Bryant can maintain his fantasy value to some degree. It won’t be easy against a very solid Dallas pass defense in week 1, but other than Kellen Winslow, Bryant is all the Bucs have in the passing game. At the very least, he should be targeted often. Hope for the best, Bryant is talented enough to find success even in a not so great situation. Check injury report: knee (probable)
27. Santana Moss (WAS) – He is a very hit or miss fantasy option and a week 1 match up against the Giants isn’t exactly ideal, but other than himself and Chris Cooley, the Skins have no viable options in the passing game. Moss should be targeted often in this match up and he is talented enough to make an impact.
28. Santonio Holmes (PIT) – After hauling in 9 passes for 131 yards and a TD on Thursday night against a very good Titans pass defense, Holmes is starting to build a strong case that he is finally ready to transcend into fantasy’s elite.
29. Torry Holt (JAC) – While the title of “Big Game” Torry Holt probably isn’t as fitting as it once was, a week 1 match up against the Colts will present Holt with a favorable opportunity to regain his nickname. The Colts will be without a couple of key starters in the secondary including super stud safety Bob Sanders. The Indianapolis pass defense was one of the best in the NFL last season, but under the circumstances they are vulnerable in week 1. In addition, Holt has excelled playing indoors and on turf throughout his career, Lucas Oil stadium provides both. We will see if Holt can take advantage of a fresh start as a Jaguar.
30. Bernard Berrian (MIN) – We liked him much more this week before we noticed that he was very limited in practice. Berrian can be a big time playmaker in the Vikings offense this season with Brett Favre under center, but a tweaked hamstring is not going to help the deep threat’s cause in week 1. If he gets to play, Berrian is probably still worth a look as a WR3, but be sure to monitor his health closely as Sunday approaches. Check injury report: hamstring (game time decision)
31. Laveranues Coles (CIN) – He was basically invisible in the preseason, but that may have been by design and could play in his favor heading into a promising week 1 match up against Denver. With shut down CB Champ Bailey likely to be matched up against Chad Ochocinco, Coles could benefit greatly.
32. Donnie Avery (STL) – He could be a very pleasant surprise against a Seattle defense that ranked dead last in the NFL a year ago in passing yards allowed. The Seahawks will also be without their best cover corner in Marcus Trufant which bodes well. That said, Seattle will key in on Avery in the passing game and he is coming off of a broken toe. In addition, Rams QB Marc Bulger will be playing with a broken pinkie.
33. Jerricho Cotchery (NYJ) – This ranking is probably a bit on the generous side on our part considering the circumstances, but he is Mark Sanchez’s best option in the passing game and the match up against a mediocre Texans secondary is favorable. Cotchery is much more valuable in PPR fantasy leagues than he is in standard leagues, so keep that in mind when setting your line up.
34. Josh Morgan (SF) – He has real sleeper potential and a week 1 match up against an Arizona defense that gave up a league worst 36 receiving TD’s last season is extremely favorable. If he is going to live up to the hype, this is the week for him to do it.
35. Brandon Marshall (DEN) – He is talented enough to do some damage in week 1 against Cincinnati, but Marshall’s role in the Denver game plan is completely undefined. He is fairly risky at this point.
36. Lee Evans (BUF) – He has the ability to make an impact in week 1 against a vulnerable Patriots secondary, but QB Trent Edwards is probably going to heavily favor T.O. in this one.
37. Domenik Hixon (NYG) – Everyone is selling him short and we like his chances to answer the critics in week 1, that is if the Giants give him the chance.
38. Devin Hester (CHI) – He has the tools and a QB to produce at a big time level, but the week 1 match up does not bode well.
39. Ted Ginn (MIA) – Week 1 will grant him the opportunity to prove his worth against a young and inexperienced Falcon secondary. We will like him more when he finally shows some consistency.
40. Percy Harvin (MIN) – The talented rookie could benefit greatly if Bernard Berrian is less than 100%, regardless, Harvin’s versatility in the running, return and passing games should give him an opportunity to make an impact in week 1.
41. Chris Henry (CIN) – He has big play potential against a weak Denver pass defense, but Henry is not the safest bet as Carson Palmer’s third option in the passing game. Check injury report: thigh (probable)
42. Steve Breaston (ARI) – He would benefit tremendously if Anquan Boldin is unable to play and a decent WR3 play regardless. Check injury report: knee (probable)
43. Michael Jenkins (ATL) – He has sleeper potential matched up against Miami rookie CB Sean Smith in week 1, but hardly a guy you can count on.
44. Steve Smith (NYG) – Probably best suited for PPR leagues, Smith is a shaky WR3 play at best.
45. Chris Chambers (SD) – A hit or miss fantasy prospect, Chambers could benefit in week 1 flying under the radar.
46. Nate Burleson (SEA) – He probably isn’t going to have the fantasy impact of year’s past in the Seahawks new offense, but the match up is favorable for week1 and Burleson has been known to surprise.
47. Justin Gage (TEN) – He definitely exceeded expectations Thursday night pulling in 7 passes for 78 yards and a TD against arguably the best pass defense in the NFL. Gage isn’t the most consistent receiver, but he’s definitely worth grabbing if he’s still up for grabs in your league.
48. Isaac Bruce (SF) – The match up against Arizona holds promise for the crafty veteran, but Bruce is more miss than hit.
49. Troy Williamson (JAC) – A starter in week 1 coming off of a big preseason, Williamson has developed a solid rapport with QB David Garrard as a deep threat. He has sleeper value for week 1, but there are safer options available.
50. Muhsin Muhammad (CAR) – A possession receiver with red zone potential, but the match up is less than favorable.