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Thursday Night Football Fantasy Starters: Rodgers, Wilson And Harvin Are Must Plays

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Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks in action against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on August 28, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks in action against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum on August 28, 2014 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

By Steve Silverman

Thursday night football has become an NFL staple.

If there was anything that seemed “experimental” about those games in recent years, that label has been erased as the 2014 season begins and so does CBS’s involvement with the franchise. The network will broadcast eight Thursday night games this season and it will use its top team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms on those broadcasts.

Fantasy football players are also ready to go all-in on Thursday night. Finding favorable matchups in the first game on the schedule each week gives a player a big edge going into Sunday. While it’s very hard to back this up with hard data, it seems that anytime your fantasy football team can jump to an early lead, it seems the rest of his or her team may follow suit in the games over the weekend.

On the other hand, a tough start may indicate that a long weekend is at hand.

During the 2014 season, we will look at the Thursday night games and try to get you the most favorable matchups. With the plethora of “one-week” fantasy leagues now available, it’s easy to change teams in each week of the season and draft a new roster.

We will advise you on who to draft (and who to stay away from) each week.

The season kicks off Thursday night with the Green Bay Packers traveling to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

In past years, some of the teams that have raised the banner have seemed distracted on Opening Night. We don’t think Seattle will have that problem this year.

Packers players

QB Aaron Rodgers — The Green Bay quarterback is itching to get started after last season’s injury-filled season. Rodgers missed seven full games last season with a broken collarbone, and while he returned at the end of the year, he was not completely healthy. He’s in excellent shape this year, and while he has a tough assignment against Seattle’s intimidating and top-rated defense, we like Rodgers to throw for 250-to-275 yards and two touchdowns. PLAY HIM

WR Jordy Nelson – The Packers showed Nelson the money this year, and there is no danger that it will impact his preparation or satisfy him. Nelson is a skilled, hungry player who runs better than you think, and will not drop the ball. While this will almost certainly be his toughest matchup of the year, he will still be productive. PLAY HIM

RB Eddie Lacy – Head coach Mike McCarthy is banking on Lacy following up his outstanding rookie season – 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns – with an even better performance this year. Lacy should be able to live up to his coach’s expectations, but not in this game. BENCH HIM

Seahawks players

QB Russell Wilson – Many long-time NFL observers are amazed that Wilson has been so productive over his first two seasons. He has thrown 26 TD passes in both years, and his leadership skills proved superb as the Seahawks brought home the Lombardi Trophy. Wilson has continued to push hard in the offseason and training camp, and he should continue to improve. He will throw for 250 yards and three TDs in the opener. PLAY HIM

RB Marshawn Lynch – While the Seahawks are known for their hard-hitting and bone-crunching defense, Lynch brings the same kind of mentality to the offensive side of the ball. We see many big games for him this year, but the Packers are going to try to shut him down, and they will likely have success in this game. BENCH HIM

WR Percy Harvin – Head coach Pete Carroll was somewhat frustrated last year because Harvin’s hip labrum difficulties prevented him from getting a chance to use the explosive Harvin on a consistent basis. Harvin is healthy this year, and he should be ready for a huge game here. Look for 5-133-2 from Harvin on opening night. PLAY HIM

WR Doug Baldwin – Look for Baldwin to remain a big part of the Seahawks offense this season after catching 50-7787-5 last season. However, he will play the part of role player and he will not be a big part of the gameplan. BENCH HIM

***

Steve Silverman has been writing, talking about and playing fantasy football since the early 1990s. He co-hosted Fantasy Football Weekly, the first Fantasy Football television program, in 1994 and ’95.

Silverman knew the game was more than just a gimmick when he selected tight end Brent Jones of the 49ers in the 1994 Pro Football Weekly draft. Jones was the first tight end among the paper’s editors, and the day after newspaper went to press, Silverman had a call on his voicemail from the All Pro tight end thanking him for the selection.

Believing he was the victim of a prank from his fellow editors, Silverman had the voice mail checked out by then-49ers beat writer Mike Silver and the 49ers media relations staff. Both confirmed it was Jones’ voice. Silverman and Jones spoke several times that season, and when the two met at the Super Bowl that year –the Niners would drub the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX – the gregarious Jones gave the writer a big bear hug.

“I knew that if an NFL Pro Bowl tight end was into fantasy football, it wouldn’t be long before the rest of the football world followed suit,” Silverman said.

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