That’s all that stands between you and the 2012 NFL season. All the podcasts, iPhone apps, magazines and cryptic Mike Shanahan “updates” you’ve sunk time and money into the past two months? They’re finally about to be worth it.
Of course, all the prep in the world might not be enough to save you from the arbitrary and capricious nature of health in the NFL. Take it from someone who hitched his wagon to Darren McFadden and Kenny Britt in 2011.
But don’t let the sometimes cosmic cruelty of torn pecs and shredded ACLs lull you into believing this game becomes one of chance after the drafts are through.
It’s true that in some rare seasons, there is simply nothing that can be done to make your fate a winning one. If you owned Michael Vick, Jamaal Charles and the aforementioned Britt, 2011 was probably one of those years.
But typically, there are plenty of ways to turn losing into winning and bad luck into good in addition to...you know, setting your lineup and monitoring the waiver wire. For starters...play your starters, at least early in the season.
As the year drags on and injuries take their toll and summer hunches fade into cold realities (I.E., not only is Cam Newton not a bust, he’s seriously this good.), fantasy football necessarily becomes more and more about finding favorable matchups and exploiting them.
But in Week 1? Unless you’re dealing with an absolute matchup nightmare (say, the 49ers Defense in Green Bay), stick to the rivers and lakes that you’re used to.
Don’t “play matchups” and bench your WR2 for a 15th round lottery ticket because of some 2011 statistic. The least you can do is give your team a week to introduce itself.
Second, that 15th round lottery ticket? Don’t clutch it like a golden ticket. This isn’t fantasy baseball. You don’t have months to decide if a trend is for real or not. That second-string running back who rushed for 125 yards and two scores? Worth the “risk” of dropping your late-round hail marys almost every time.
That is not to say any pick you made after the middle rounds is imminently disposable. But again, this isn’t baseball. Fantasy football — particularly because of the predominance of head-to-head leagues — is a here-and-now venture. There’s no point in planning for Week 10 if you’re going to be 2-4 by Week 6.
Lastly — and I can practically “hear” Chris Wesseling tweeting this — go with your gut. Week 1 is not the time to get butterflies. So what if Rotoworld thinks your preferred RB2 is barely even a RB3? If you had your reasons in August, stick to them in September. It’s never those who adhere closest to Top 200 lists who win, but those who best blend what they think they know with what the “experts” “know” they know.
After all, isn’t it all just a big game?
Running Back Roulette
There’s yet to be a game that counts, but here we are, monitoring the every move of not one, not two, not three, not four...not five, but six upper tier running backs. Monday brought updates on all six.
The would-be consensus No. 4 overall player practiced for the first time since breaking his collarbone in San Diego’s preseason opener on August 9.
Like almost every injured NFL player, Mathews projected nothing but sunshine when pressed about his status, saying he’s "very hopeful" he’ll be ready for Monday Night Football against the Raiders.
The only problem? He’s yet to be medically cleared, and wasn’t expected back by Week 1 in even the most optimistic of timelines. Especially with the Bolts playing in the final game of the week, starting Mathews will simply be too great of a risk, no matter how sunny his outlook gets throughout the week.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier affirmed that AP will be a true game-time decision against the Jaguars, and that even if he does play, he’ll be limited to only a handful of carries.
Perhaps 2012’s greatest value pick, the inclination to start Peterson if he’s active will be great, but for at least one week, you must put your faith in the Toby Gerhart Experience.
Richardson not only returned to practice Monday, he looked “healthy running around.” So much so that Browns coach Pat Shurmur essentially guaranteed he’ll carry a starter’s workload if he’s active for his NFL debut. "If he's ready to go, he will be our starter.”
Considering how long the Browns have publicly projected optimism that T-Rich will be ready to go against the Eagles — and the not exactly cautious tones they struck on Monday — there’s little reason to believe the No. 3 pick won’t play. Find out where he sits in Wess and Mike Clay’s ranks later this afternoon.
According to Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey, MJD will be limited to spelling Rashad Jennings on Sunday. How true this really is will be impossible to know until the fur begins to fly and the Jags assess their shot at actually beating the Vikings. But for now, they at least intend to keep their best player in timeout after he held out for the entirety of the preseason.
Since Jennings isn’t exactly a slouch, you’d be safest to assume that MJD’s Sunday workload will indeed be limited, and that your RB1 won’t be much more than a low-end flex for the first game of the season.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera confirmed Sunday that Stewart's (ankle) Week 1 status is up in the air.
"We’ll see," Rivera said when asked if Stewart will take the field in Tampa. "We don’t know until he gets out here and starts running around."
Stewart has yet to practice since going down in Carolina’s third preseason game, and will need to get in at least a limited session on Wednesday to have a realistic shot at suiting up on Sunday.
Smith suited up for Monday’s practice, and appears poised to be full-go for Wednesday’s first official session. Provided you’re comfortable in your belief that he won’t immediately re-injure himself, he’ll be a solid — if uninspiring — RB2/flex against the Rams.
The Hurry Up: Jared Gaither (back) wants you to know that he’s a professional athlete. … David Garrard (back) returned to practice. … Jason Witten (spleen) practiced for the third straight day, but remains “uncertain” for tomorrow’s opener. He’ll undergo a round of all-important tests this morning. … Hakeem Nicks (foot) missed his second consecutive practice, but remains on track to start against the Cowboys. … Miles Austin (hamstring), meanwhile, remains on track to start against the Giants. … Evan Royster sits atop the Redskins’ depth chart...for now. … Shaun O’Hara retired. … Austin Collie (concussion) will be active for Week 1. … The Raiders surprisingly released CB Demarcus Van Dyke. … The Bears parted ways with Brian Price.