2009 Fantasy Football Start and Bench Advice: Week 1

09/08/2009 2:22 am by in Start Bench Advice

Here is our second edition of our Week One 2009 Fantasy Football Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em Advice. We released the first edition back in July, but situations have changed, players are banged up and values have moved all over the place — So, we’ve attacked these questions again, or changed them slightly… Start and Bench Advice was meant to be bold – We know that and we understand that. We also understand that fantasy owners aren’t looking for us to answer the obvious questions, which is why we address only the stuff that needs addressing! Enjoy!

Week 1: Start & Bench Advice (2009)

Should I Start Chris Wells (vs. SF) or Larry Johnson (@BAL) ?


In July’s edition of our Week 1 Start and Bench Advice, we had Larry Johnson facing off against Jonathan Stewart. Given Stewart’s health, clearly the runner is no longer a solid option entering Week 1. We changed the challenger of this question to Chris Wells, who faces the 49ers in Week 1. Without even looking at Wells’ match-up, L.J. goes right to the bench. I have no doubt that the Ravens will shut him down in Week 1. Wells, on the other hand, should have a solid outing against that 49ers’ rushing defense. There is some risk that Wells will get less touches than most think in Week 1, but when your alternative is L.J. against the Ravens, I take the chance that Wells punches in a score and gets 50+ yards rushing. I love Wells this season and I think he will finish so strong in 2009 he will start going inside the top 12 overall in early 2010 fantasy football mock drafts.


I would start Chris Wells over Larry Johnson even if the Chiefs had a good match-up. The thing is that they don’t. L.J. couldn’t have a worse match-up and Wells’ is decent. Start Wells for sure if in this situation and expect about 10 fantasy points. Wells should progress as the season moves along. He could be a good RB2 by season’s end.

Should I Start Ray Rice (vs. KC) or Cedric Benson (vs. DEN)? ?


I go with Ray Rice — No question. I am not a believer in Cedric Benson this season. Rice is the EASY play here. Some doubt his situation this year, and fear a possible RBBC in Baltimore, but I honestly feel that he will get the touchdown looks and at least 15 carries right out of the gate. Rice could see a handful of 100-yard, one-touchdown games in the first half of the season. Ride Rice all the way and don’t be surprised if he is a top 12RB in 2009 when all is said and done.


Ray Rice is the player to start here. Ced Benson isn’t a sure thing and can’t stay healthy. Let him prove his worth before you get suckered into relying on him as an ’09 fantasy starter. Rice is a potential rising star. Don’t sit scratching your head at the end of Week 1 because you doubted the guy we told you to believe in all off-season long!

Should I Start Ronnie Brown (@ATL) or Clinton Portis (@NYG) ?


Again, in July we attacked some of these questions, but things have changed. However, this particular Ronnie Brown / Clinton Portis match-up we left the same. The same advice applies: The Ronnie Brown show begins in less than one week — Do you have your tickets yet? Atlanta was 25th against the run last year, surrendering 127.9 yards per game, 4.9 yards per carry and 17 rushing touchdowns, so even doubters should be excited about this Week 1 match-up. I have already made it very clear that Ronnie Brown is a must-own in 2009Brown didn’t exploded during his first season back from ACL surgery, but he played 16 games last year on the still-healing knee. He also, at times, showed flashes of brilliance and managed to score 10 times. That’s impressive. Ten scores and the keys to that Dolphins Wildcat offense… there is a lot to be excited about in 2009 when it comes to Brown. I know many of you feel that Ronnie finished the season at a crawl, but his yards per carry average was still 4.3 on the season. That isn’t a fantastic average or anything, but it isn’t half bad considering he wasn’t near 100 percent for most of the season. A slow finish with a 4.3 yards per carry average just tells me that Brown wasn’t getting the touches down the stretch, it wasn’t that he wasn’t producing. Is that a concern? No, I don’t think so. When runners suffer ACL injuries, they often need a full season of playing on the knee before they can get back to their pre-injury workload and form. With no one in Miami to steal carries, and Ricky is no threat if you ask me, the touches will be there for Brown in 2009 — And it all starts on September 13th at Atlanta! My advice is to trade for Brown before he shines in Week 1. As for Portis, he faces a top 10 rushing defense (Giants) in Week 1. This one isn’t even close in my opinion — Start Brown and expect at least 100 yards rushing and at least one score. I have a strange feeling that he could have a much bigger game than that, though. I’m saying it now, so mark it down… If healthy, Ronnie Brown will be a top 5-8 fantasy RB in 2009.


In July I recommended everyone start Clinton Portis, but I have changed my mind. I’m buying into Smitty’s hype on Ronnie Brown. I don’t see him being a top 5RB like Smitty, but I think he is still very underrated. He looks quick again and he looks 100 percent over that ACL injury. Portis could get 70 rushing yards and have a shot at a score. Brown feels like a lock for a score and well over 100 ru/rec yards. Brown has the match-up and the upside.

Flex Question

Should I Start Darren McFadden (vs. SD) or Chad Ochocinco (vs. DEN) ?


Back in July, we had Chad Ochocinco facing off against Donnie Avery. While Avery (stress fracture) should play in Week 1, and even though I still like him a lot this season, Ochocinco has seen increased value ever since early July. He is the guy to roll with in that situation… so now we’re comparing Chad (vs. Denver) against Darren McFadden (vs. Chargers). If in this situation, instead of the Chad verses Avery situation, who do you start? I say roll with Ochocinco, but it’s close. McFadden should have a big year, but given that Oakland could be playing from behind in this match-up, McFadden could be limited in rushes and I just don’t trust JaMarcus Russell yet. Russell and McFadden could connect on a couple long passes, but I think it’s much safer to count on Ochocinco in Week 1. Don’t be shocked if McFadden turns into a solid fantasy RB2 by mid-season (or earlier), though.


As I said back in July when this question was Donnie Avery versus Chad Ochocinco, give me Chad Ochocinco all day long! He is a risky fantasy WR1 this year, but Ocho could produce very, very good fantasy WR2 numbers. I see him catching 5+ passes for 90 yards and a touch against Denver in Week 1. McFadden owners would be lucky to get similar fantasy points in Week 1, so why even consider benching the more sure thing? Start Ocho!

Smitty’s Week 1 Thoughts

Get Ready For The Show!

While Week 1 is always full of surprises and disappointments, Tom Brady and Randy Moss should be rock-solid. Three-hundred yards and three touchdowns for Brady seems about right… and 1-2 scores out of Moss, to go along with at least 80 yards, doesn’t even seem close to unrealistic. If you disagree, let’s talk one week from today. My favoirte 2009 fantasy football draft strategy is drafting both Randy Moss and Tom Brady — For more on that strategy, listen to a radio interview I did a few days ago.

If you want to buy-low on LaDainian Tomlinson, trade for him before he destroys the Raiders in Week 1. Oakland was second to last in 2008 against the run, surrendering 159.7 yards per contest and 23TDs on the year. Tomlinson could have 130 total yards and at least one score in this one. After Week 1, he might start getting overvalued. I like LT2 this season — My point is that he will only get more expensive in terms of trade value.

Don’t Sit ‘Em, But…

Don’t be shocked if Chris Johnson struggles in Week 1 against that Steelers defense. The Steelers were second in the league last year against the run, surrendering just 80 yards per game on the ground. Pittsburgh only gave up 7 rushing touchdowns all year long back in 2008. Don’t bench your studs (unless you’re in a small league), and Johnson is a stud, but just don’t count on 100 total yards and a score (something you might expect from Johnson most weeks).

The Match-Up Is Rough, But Don’t Worry…

DeAngelo Williams has a rough match-up against the Eagles, a defense that ranked 4th in the league against the run last season — Carolina surrendered just seven rushing touchdowns in all of 2008 (tied for first). All that said, and even though I just predicted a mediocre performance out of Chris Johnson based on match-up, Williams should have a monster game in Week 1. The Panthers will run him a ton, and given his breakaway ability on every play, Williams should have at least one score and well over 100 yards in this contest. The Eagles should win this game, but Carolina will keep it closer than most expect and it will be because of D-Will. I had my doubts about Williams early in the off-season, but let me just say… he looks as good as last year. He may not score 20 total TDs, but I can see him scoring 15 times in 2009. Expect at least one of those scores to come in this Week 1 match-up.

Bench ‘Em If You Have Alternatives…

Go ahead and bench Ryan Grant in Week 1 against the Bears. Aaron Rodgers should still have a good outing, Greg Jennings too, but Grant won’t find much room to run in this one. Grant could have a very good season in 2009, but all that will have to start in Week 2 when the Packers host the Bengals.

Trade For Them Now:

1. Ronnie Brown – The breakout warnings stop this weekend; He will soon be everyone’s favorite breakout player!
2. Pierre Thomas – Use his injury status to your advantage. He should have a big year.
3. Chris Wells – Should get better every week and by season’s end he will look like a top 12 overall pick for 2010.
4. Marion Barber – The runner is very underrated right now. Take advantage, as he still has strong fantasy RB2 upside, but is being valued like a low-end fantasy RB2 or even a flex-like option.

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