Saturday, September 8, 2012

Homer guide: Top Week 1 fantasy starts in AFC East


It's finally here: the 2012 NFL season. And, yes — it brings with it a fresh fantasy football season.

Last year we had some of the usual suspects putting up big numbers for teams (Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Stevie Johnson), while some new faces took center stage and really helped push their fantasy teams to new heights (Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Reggie Bush, Rob Gronkowski).

But who's worth it and who's a waste when it comes to the AFC East this season?

Each week, I'm going to offer who my starting lineup would be, consisting solely of AFC East players.

Here's this week's lineup:

QB: Tom Brady
This is a no-brainer. Brady is a fantasy starter for pretty much every game he steps on the field in, regardless of who the other three AFC East quarterbacks are facing. But, in Week 1, with the huge question marks surrounding the other three quarterbacks, there’s really no other option. My second choice here would be Jets’ signal caller Mark Sanchez. He’s playing to keep his career alive.

RB: Fred Jackson
Jackson racked up 934 yards in the 10 games he played last year (5.5 average yards per carry) before going down to injury. Jackson is still the best fantasy RB in the division this week, even against the Jets' stout defense. We're not sure what kind of workload C.J. Spiller will get, and Shonn Green is too inconsistent at this point. Jackson will likely get a ton of touches on the ground and through the air, and he excels at both.

RB: Reggie Bush
Bush was another one of the biggest surprises in the league last year. After leaving New Orleans, the city he played in since leaving college and the team he won a Super Bowl with, Bush become the No. 1 back for the Dolphins. He also had more touches than ever before and for the first time in his career broke the 1,000-yard mark. With rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill behind center, Bush will get plenty of touches, both via handoffs and short passes.

WR: Wes Welker
Welker, just like the guy throwing him the ball, is an every-week starter at receiver. He’s been lighting up fantasy team’s scoreboards since the Patriots’ record-breaking 2007 season. He’s also probably made the Dolphins violently ill considering they let him walk after two seasons in Miami. He’s had four 1,000-plus-yard seasons since landing in New England — his one sub-1000-yard season came in 2010 when he suffered a knee injury and finished with 848 yards after 15 games. He’s coming off his biggest season yet, when he racked up an ungodly (for a "slot receiver") 1,569 yards receiving and nine TDs.

WR: Stevie Johnson
Johnson became a household fantasy name off of the waiver wire in 2010. He played all 16 games for the Bills and racked up 1,073 yards after two incredibly quiet seasons. He then followed suit with another 16-game, 1,000-yard season in 2011. He’s effective and durable, and with quality (or even just decent) play out of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, he’ll be a top fantasy WR again this season. He is matched up against fantasy-killer Darrelle Revis this week, but Johnson has had enough recent success against Revis to earn him a start.

WR: Santonio Holmes
The Jets need a playmaker and a leader, and Holmes can be both. But he HAS to be both this year, kind of like he was in the Jets' 2010 AFC Championship berth run. Holmes and the Jets know that’s in the past now, and their quest out of average-ville starts Sunday against the Bills, where Holmes will be facing a young Buffalo corner in either rookie Stephon Gilmore or second-year Aaron Williams, which makes him a good start this week.

TE: Rob Gronkowski
Another New England no-brainer. Gronk was simply a beast last year. He put up numbers that rivaled legendary wideouts like Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin. He caught 90 balls for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns. Who the hell else would you want as your starting TE heading into Week 1? Well, besides his fellow Patriots tight end, Aaron Hernandez.

DEF: New England
Bill Belichick will have a scheme put together to confuse young quarterback Jake Locker, and with some hungry young defenders in the front seven and a healthy defense, this is a good start. Also, New England has handled the Titans with ease throughout the Belichick-Brady Era. They haven’t played each other in a couple of years, but if their last meeting is any indication (59-0 blowout by New England), the Patriots should handle this one just fine.

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