The day is finally here. After months of anticipation as always, we’ve arrived at Kickoff 2009. We’ve got a very good column cooked up for Thursdays, but we’re keeping that under wraps until next week, when we’ll have some data to work with. Instead, we’ll take a fantasy look at the game tonight between the Titans and the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger has basically cleared the controversy caused by a civil lawsuit filed by Andrea McNulty, claiming sexual misconduct on Roethlisberger’s part. His owners and Steeler fans everywhere must have been on edge when the news broke, but now it seems this story is on it’s way to disappearing. Big Ben should enter the game with a clear head and with his dignity intact, having defeated Shaquille O’Neal in a QB contest on Shaq Vs.
Kerry Collins rejuvenated his career in Tennessee last year, leading the Titans to wins in their first 10 games of the season and earning a Pro Bowl selection. Despite that, he’s not a very good fantasy QB and was being largely ignored in fantasy drafts this preseason.
We know how dominant the Steelers defense was last year, and they’ll be looking to make a statement in this opening game. I wouldn’t put Collins anywhere near your starting lineup. Sitting just behind the Pittsburgh unit, Tennessee’s defense had a wildly-successful as well, one that was overshadowed due to Pittsburgh’s record-setting year. Keep Big Ben parked on the bench as well.
Chris Johnson came into the NFL and lit it on fire, leading to a top-ten ranking heading into this season. Teammate LenDale White is the goal-line vulture, having scored 15 times in 2008. Since I think scoring in this game will be few and far between, I wouldn’t use White this first week. For Johnson, you likely drafted him in the first round, so you basically have to start him, as he’s likely your most talented back. Let’s hope for a 100-yard game from the second-year player.
Pittsburgh’s run game is led by Willie Parker, with Rashard Mendenhall as a backup. The running game has looked largely out of sync in the preseason; while preseason performance doesn’t mean much, I’d hesitate to use any Pittsburgh running back in this tough matchup. Hopefully you have another solid option to use as your RB2 or flex.
Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are two of the three guys on either offense (including Johnson) that I think you can start this week. If the running game falters, it’ll be up to these two and Roethlisberger to get it done through the air. Both should have solid yardage totals, and one should find the end zone.
With Nate Washington banged up, Justin Gage will once again be the primary receiver in Tennessee to start the season, though he shouldn’t be making an appearance in any starting lineups this week. Rookie Kenny Britt should draw the start opposite Gage, and while you shouldn’t start him yourself, he’s one guy I’ll be watching closely in tonight’s game.
Tennessee received very solid production from Bo Scaife over the last few years, but they still didn’t balk at selecting supremely-talented Jared Cook in the draft. Add to that the fact that big Alge Crumpler is listed as the starter and has done solid in the preseason, and this is a group to avoid, at least until it sorts itself out.
Pittsburgh will again feature Heath Miller at tight end, though he’s losing a little luster in fantasy football. I’m not a big fan of the Titans’ linebackers, so I think the potential is there for Miller to have a solid game. Still, there has to be better options available to you in Week 1.
Pittsburgh has proven to be a tough place for kickers over the years. Rob Bironas is my top-ranked K this season, so I’m all for starting him every week. Jeff Reed probably shouldn’t be rostered this season considering his tough home park, and I wouldn’t use him this week either.
Here’s where it gets good. If you’re one of the many that reached for the Steelers D in the middle rounds, you should be soundly rewarded tonight, as they should make mincemeat of Kerry Collins’ Titans. The Tennessee D presents a solid start as well, as I think you should be taking the under on points scored tonight.
Hope you guys enjoyed this extended look at the first game of the season. Good luck in your leagues this year, even if you’re in one of mine.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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