Which quarterback should I start in Week 1: Matt Schaub or Carson Palmer? -- S. Dhillon, Switzerland
Michael Fabiano: I like both quarterbacks going into their respective regular-season openers, but I'm going with Schaub ahead of Palmer. Barring a setback with his ankle (he practiced on Tuesday), Schaub is a solid option against a Jets defense that was among the league's worst against the pass last season. The Men in Green will also be without both Shaun Ellis and Calvin Pace, who are out due to league-imposed suspensions, so their defensive backfield could be vulnerable without a strong pass rush.
I need your help this week! I have Thomas Jones and Brandon Jacobs at running back, but I need to add another decent runner from Ahmad Bradshaw, Edgerrin James, Julius Jones and Rashard Mendenhall are all available. Which one of these guys should I pick up? -- D. Figueroa, El Paso, Texas
M.F.: As we enter the first week of the regular season, Julius Jones is the lone back you mentioned who's locked up a starting role. He's not going to make the same sort of impact as his Seahawk predessesors such as Shaun Alexander or Ricky Watters, but he's guaranteed to see the majority of his team's carries during the earlier portion of the season. If he produces between the white lines, Jones could make James more of a short-yardage and goal-line back. The Notre Dame product also has a favorable matchup in Week 1, facing a Rams defense that ranked an awful 29th against the run in 2008.
I need to start two running backs in Week 1. Steve Slaton is a lock, but I'm not sure who to start from Larry Johnson, Cedric Benson and Jamal Lewis. Thanks! -- S. Buchholz, Rapid City, S.D.
M.F.: Based on the matchups, I like Benson ahead of Johnson and Lewis. Johnson is on the road against the Ravens, while Lewis faces the Vikings at home. Benson, on the other hand, has a home game against a Broncos defense that will be this season's NFL version of swiss cheese. Denver was ranked 27th against the run in 2008, and the unit didn't improve much in the offseason. I wouldn't expect Benson to put up huge numbers, but he's definitely a viable starting option this weekend.
Your advise helped me win my league championship last season, thank you! My question for you is with my running backs. Who should I start from Steve Slaton, Ryan Grant, Darren McFadden and Ray Rice? I'm leaning towards Slaton and Grant, but McFadden and Rice were impressive in the preseason. Also, who would you pick up: Josh Morgan or Hakeem Nicks? Thanks for your help. -- D. Paine, West Hartford, Conn.
M.F.: You're welcomed! Glad to help. Slaton doesn't have the best matchup on paper against a Jets defense that ranked seventh against the run last season. But as I mentioned earlier, Ellis and Pace will both be out of action. Slaton is also too valuable to sit at this time. While McFadden and Rice did show flashes of potential during the preseason, I agree that Grant is the best option of the trio. In his last three starts against the Bears, Grant has rushed for a combined 306 yards and two touchdowns. As for your second question, I'd pick up Morgan over Nicks. With Michael Crabtree still holding out, Morgan is currently the best option at the wide receiver position in San Francisco.
M.F.: I'd start Rice ahead of Bradshaw and Walter. As I mentioned in the previous question, he's coming off a solid preseason and appears set to open as the starter for coach John Harbaugh. The Chiefs ranked an awful 30th against the run last season, and their defense doesn't figure to make an immediate improvement against the Ravens. While Willis McGahee could be a touchdown vulture in the Ravens backfield, Rice is still a nice option in terms of both reception and yardage production.
M.F.: This is a perfect example of overthinking the situation. Rodgers is becoming a superstar in fantasy circles and should be active in most leagues regardless of the opponent. Remember, this is a player who scored the third-most fantasy points in the league on NFL.com last season, and his preseason performances were nothing short of spectacular. Also, keep in mind that the Bears finished last season ranked an unimpressive 30th in pass defense -- the Chargers and Seahawks were the lone teams below them. Furthermore, Rodgers was impressive against his NFC North foe in 2008. In two starts against the Bears, Rodgers threw for a combined 487 yards with four touchdown passes.
Which quarterback would you start in Week 1 between Brett Farve and Ben Roethlisberger? I cant decide! I also can't pick a flex player between Domenik Hixon, Isaac Bruce and Percy Harvin. I would greatly appreciate your help. -- J. Wilson, Nashville, Tenn.
M.F.: Neither quarterback has what you would describe as a favorable matchup, but I like Roethlisberger more than Favre for two reasons. First, Big Ben is at home against a Titans defense that will be solid but less formidable without Albert Haynesworth. Second, Favre faces a Browns pass defense that can be tough to throw against on their home field. The Vikings are also going to run the ball a ton with Adrian Peterson, who should dominate a defensive unit that was 28th against the run in 2008. I'm not in love with any of those three wide receivers listed in your second question, but I'd have to side with Hixon ahead of Bruce and Harvin.
M.F.: I would stick with Rodgers and Rice. While I still think Warner is one of the better quarterbacks in fantasy football, I have to admit I'm a little worried about him. Not only is he 38 and coming off a surgical procedure on his hip, but Warner also has the dreaded "Super Bowl curse" hanging over his head. If you haven't heard of this hex, it's basically centered around a trend of Super Bowl losers who experience a decrease in statistical success the next season (Ex., Tom Brady, Randy Moss in 2008). I like Rodgers to ourperform Warner in fantasy circles, and I'd rather have the upside of Rice over Parker and the injury concerns that he comes with each and every season.
M.F.: If your league is based on a standard scoring format, I think you made a smart move. Sure, you're losing the top wide receiver in fantasy football. But keep in mind that Jennings scored just 30 fewer fantasy points than Fitzgerald on NFL.com last season. That's an average of just 1.7 fewer points over a full 17-game schedule. I would also argue that Jennings has the better quarterback, Aaron Rodgers over Kurt Warner, both on the field and in fantasy circles. I also like Brown to have a major impact in Miami -- I can see him posting 40-plus receptions, 1,300-1,300 scrimmage yards and eight to 10 touchdowns.
What do you think about the quarterback situation in Cleveland? Who do you expect to start? When the decision is made, would Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson be worth picking up? -- J. Wolfe, Livingston, Mon.
M.F.: In my opinion, Quinn will be named the starter ahead of Anderson. Regardless if coach Eric Mangini agrees with me or not, I wouldn't touch either of these signal-callers in Week 1. In fact, I wouldn't feel comfortable starting anyone in a Browns uniform this week against the Vikings. I also think there are far better options in most leagues in terms of reserve quarterbacks. However, the eventual winner would have some sleeper value in deeper league against the Broncos in Week 2.