The first week of fantasy football action is just about in the books. Except, it really isn’t, at all. With two Monday Night Football games tonight, fantasy owners potentially have a dilemma on their hands. Adding to the confusion are injuries to the likes of Andre Ellington and Antonio Gates. Are either of these guys playing, and if so, can you trust them? And if not, who steps up in their place?
Possibly even more important is simply picking which guys will go off or have the highest upside on week one’s final night. Perhaps you’re staring defeat in the face and you need a crazy 40-point night from someone. Or maybe your opponent has Carson Palmer to go and you’re up by 10, but you’re not sure if it’s Rashad Jennings or Ryan Mathews that will push you to the win.
That’s what our weekly Decision-Maker column is for (also known as Fantasy Versus). Let’s break down each positional matchup to see who the best plays for Monday Night Football should be:
Matthew Stafford (Lions)
Stafford is king kong tonight when it comes down to talent and weapons. The Giants aren’t the easiest matchup on paper, but Stafford just needs to get the ball to his explosive weapons and they can do the rest. Other guys might have better matchups tonight, but he needs to be your QB if you’re left with a choice.
Philip Rivers (Chargers) vs. Carson Palmer (Cardinals) vs. Eli Manning (Giants)
I think it’s down to Rivers or Palmer tonight, as I just can’t trust the sad sack that is Eli Manning in fantasy football leagues. Manning is a last resort option and maybe worth a desperate stab in weekly games. I don’t condone that, though, and prefer Rivers tonight if you can sling it. I just think the absence of key players in Arizona is going to make life a whole lot easier for him. He’s the better talent between the two, as well. I do think he and Palmsy are in a full-blown shootout, though, so you’re probably good with either.
Reggie Bush (Lions) vs. Rashad Jennings (Giants) vs. Ryan Mathews (Chargers) vs. Andre Ellington (Cardinals)
I hear the noise about Joique Bell having more value, but I don’t really buy it fully. Bush showed he’s still plenty explosive in the preseason and last I checked he’s not dead. New York stopped him well last year and they’re solid defensively, but he only needs one big play to pay off. I like him above all else tonight, with Rashad as a not too distant second. Mathews could be a surprise against a pretty depleted Cardinals defense, but I don’t trust him. He has a crowded backfield, too. Ellington has a tough matchup against a strong Bolts’ run D to begin with, but he’s also banged up (foot) and probably isn’t going to play. It’d be silly to play him and hope he makes it through this brutal matchup.
Jonathan Dwyer (Cardinals) vs. Joique Bell (Lions) vs. Danny Woodhead (Chargers) vs Andre Williams (Giants)
Dwyer could draw the start, but San Diego is good against the run and he’s not particularly explosive, versatile or really even all that good. I doubt he does much, while Joique Bell takes the cake with this second group. In fact, with Ellington banged up, he comes in third for my Monday Night Football fantasy rankings. Dwyer and Williams could either easily vulture a touchdown, but neither are every down backs and Williams could have a shaky role. Woodchuck is as underrated as players come, and it’d be insane for him to not continue to have a solid overall role. He’s a dynamite Flex play in PPR leagues and ranks second in this group due to his balanced game. Unlike Dwyer and Williams, he can kill defenses in more than one way and can even chase passes down the field some.
Calvin Johnson (Lions)
He stands head and shoulders above the rest, obviously. His matchup might not be ideal, but he gets his no matter what.
Keenan Allen (Chargers) vs. Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) vs. Michael Floyd (Cardinals) vs. Victor Cruz (Giants)
I’ve been drinking the Michael Floyd kool aid, to be sure, but Fitzgerald seemingly not being 100% is the big reason he leads the pack tonight. Right behind him, though, is a very solid Allen and Fitzgerald. Cruz isn’t far behind, either. Anything Giants tends to scare me with Eli looking awful, however. That’s how they’re ranked, but if you’re stuck with just one of these guys tonight and don’t have an alternate option, I think you can still get 10+ points from any of them.
Rueben Randle (Giants) vs. Malcom Floyd (Chargers) vs. Eddie Royal (Chargers) vs. Golden Tate (Lions) vs. John Brown (Cardinals)
Any of these guys could do some damage, but Tate and Randle have the best roles and the highest ceilings under the lights of Monday Night Football. If I’m picking one it’s Randle, because I think the Giants will have to throw a lot late. Those are the two third level wide receivers to use in fantasy football tonight. Royal randomly scores touchdowns at times, so he’s not the worst play ever, and the same can be said for Floyd. But these two, along with Brown, are shots in the dark tonight.
John Carlson (Cardinals) vs. Antonio Gates (Chargers) vs. Brandon Pettigrew (Lions) vs. Ladarius Green (Chargers) vs. Eric Ebron (Lions) vs. (that TE mess the Giants have)
I don’t even care who is starting for New York. It’s a platoon of meh and I want nothing to do with it. To be frank, that’s pretty much the case with all four teams tonight. Gates would be the easy lock if he were 100% healthy, but he’s set up to be a true game time decision. Obviously if he’s out, the more explosive Green steps in as the starter and is without a doubt the best play. That might be the case anyway, which clearly should have him as the TE to use for Monday Night Football games. Gates and Pettigrew tie for a close second, but both are boringly safe. I’d prefer the upside of Green. Ebron and Carlson could also make some noise, but AZ doesn’t showcase the tight end and Ebron is a rook splitting time with Pettigrew.
Chandler Catanzaro (Cardinals) vs. Nick Novak (Chargers) vs. Josh Brown (Giants) vs. Nate Freese (Lions)
I really don’t like first year kickers, but Freese will take the second spot in these ranks. The winner is Novak, though. He’s not on the Giants and he’s proven himself to be a very solid kicker. San Diego moves the ball well and could up more points than people think against a suddenly overrated AZ defense. Freese’s offense is awesome, so he’s a close second.
Lions vs. Giants vs. Cardinals vs. Chargers
I can’t make a strong argument for anyone but the Lions. They’re facing Eli Manning, for one, plus they have a terrific pass rush. The Giants face a very talented Detroit offense, the Chargers had an awful pass defense in 2013 and Arizona could be without three extremely key starters from their gritty 2013 unit. Detroit isn’t even completely trustworthy, but they have easily the best matchup and carry upside, as well.