Start you studs! Anyone you drafted in a first few rounds are guys you probably will have in your starting lineup. Don’t get cute, even in a perceived tough matchup.
Conner can see an every-down role for the Steelers in Bell’s absence, and should get enough opportunity in both the run and pass game to warrant a RB2 start. He looked good in the preseason, and showcased his improvement as a pass-catcher. Would keep him in my lineup until Bell comes back, regardless of matchup. As far as the Browns rush defense, even with Danny Shelton gone, they have talent on that defensive front to continue to stop the run. They were quicker than any other defense in creating contact with opposing RBs last season, but with Conner staying relevant in the pass game along with their offensive line and offense as a whole, I want Conner in my lineup this week with the possibility of him getting 20+ touches and goal line work.
The Colts run-defense weren’t great last year, and they might be even worse this year. They gave up the 7th most rushing yards, but also the 3rd most rushing attempts. If Andrew Luck helps with giving teams less positive game scripts, those attempts might go down just a bit. Indy didn’t give up too much per attempt last year, but after losing Johnathan Hankins, teams should continue to exploit them on the ground. The Bengals offensive line didn’t show much improvement in the run game, but with the offense itself potentially taking a step forward, I wouldn’t be worried about Mixon in this matchup – hopefully we can see a goal-line touch or two. Very excited to see how much 3rd down and passing work Mixon handles, and how much we see Gio come onto the field.
We need to take a look at what the game script will look like on a weekly basis when considering Alex Collins, and it shouldn’t be an issue this week. This Bills team will struggle on offense, and Collins has the Ravens defense to keep him relevant throughout the entire game, especially in this one. Ever since the Bears traded Marcell Dareus to the Jags, the Bills have been very vulnerable on the ground. They added a couple of pieces in free agency and the draft, but I’ll bet on the game script and the volume for Collins to be there in this game.
Derrick Henry/Dion Lewis
Just like Collins, we have to determine game script when considering an early-down back like Derrick Henry. This game should be close according to Vegas, so Henry should be involved all game long. Miami was top-10 in most fantasy points allowed to RBs in 2017, and that was with Ndamukong Suh. With him gone, it will get worse. They were also 5th-worst in rush defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. If you own Derrick Henry, you will have to constantly try and figure out what the game script will look like every week, but I’m not worried about game script against the Dolphins this week with the spread at -1.5 favoring the Titans. Dion Lewis is game script proof, and is a better play in games where you think the Titans will be trailing. He should be fine this week as well in PPR formats.
He’s a 3-down back on a good offense. He’s not the most efficient back in the world, but he’s averaged low-end RB1 numbers with Deshaun Watson on the field. The Patriots are vulnerable against RBs, especially in the pass game, and with the rushing ability of Watson, lanes will be even more wide open for Miller. Wouldn’t hesitate to have him in my lineup this week in what should be a high scoring game.
With Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson gone from that Seattle line, they are going to have some trouble stopping RBs this years. This game should be close, and we shouldn’t expect Seattle to get out to a big lead by any stretch in Denver, so Freeman should be relevant all game long. The only issue here is what the timeshare between him and Devontae Booker will look like. Because of the good matchup on paper, I feel good about starting Freeman this week with the potential of him getting 17+ carries, and a bit in the passing game.
The starting RB for the Packers while Aaron Rodgers is the QB needs to be in your starting lineup. There really is nothing else to say. With Rodgers slinging it, the defense can’t stack the box. He’ll get more goal line opportunities than most, and he’ll catch the ball and have production in the pass game too. There is so much to account for when you’re playing against Aaron Rodgers that the ball carriers will see a huge benefit, regardless of whether you like Williams as a talent or not, or whether you think Aaron Jones will take his job in a couple of weeks. In a good game script at home, expect Williams to be involved throughout the game with upside to get 20+ touches.
He’s a risky start because of the unknown of that offense, unknown of Trubisky’s development, and unknown of how the target share will shake up with all the new pieces. Robinson is the clear #1 WR on the Bears, that we know. Trey Burton will get his, but with the Packers potentially taking a lead in this game, Trubisky is going to have to chuck it. Matt Nagy is one of the best in the NFL in knowing how to create space for his WRs, and there’s no doubt he’s doing that. With reports of Robinson being moved around all over the formation, that bodes well for creating matchup problems. This Packers secondary is young and talented, but they’re still inexperienced. Kevin King is a liability on the outside, and rookie Jaire Alexander is taking his first snaps of his career. You drafted him as your WR2 or WR3, and I’m okay starting him this week because of his upside and game script.
Who is Aaron Rodgers’ #2 target behind Davante Adams with Jordy Nelson gone? Maybe in the red zone it’s Jimmy Graham, but outside of that it has to be Randall Cobb. With Rodgers and Nelson on the field last year, Cobb has produced WR2 numbers in PPR formats with even higher weekly upside. Without Jordy, we should expect Cobb to be one of the main beneficiaries of those vacant targets. Bryce Callahan is a good nickel corner, but the Bears defense as a whole were in the top third of the league in fantasy points allowed to slot WRs last year, and it didn’t get better as the year went on. Start Cobb while he’s healthy; there’s a rapport there that can’t be reproduced. We’ve seen Rodgers make more than 2 WRs relevant, so it’s really tough to bench Cobb in his situation, especially in PPR leagues.
It should be a nice opening week for Jared Goff, with all three of his starting WRs having advantages against the Raiders secondary. Cooper Kupp in particular should have the biggest advantage going up against 33-year-old Leon Hall in the slot for most of the game. Kupp tied with Davante Adams last year for the third most redzone targets, and he should continue to be Goff’s favorite target in that area. Ideally, I would rather see how the target share shakes out on this team before I start one of these WRs, but this is a matchup that I think Sean McVay and Co. should be ready for. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t want to exploit Hall against their young rookie who’s almost 10 years his junior. If you need a WR3 or flex this week, I would feel fairly confident in rolling out Jared Goff’s best friend in Week 1. Keep an eye on whether Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will play in Week 1, as he was recently signed by the Raiders. He’s apparently still learning the playbook, but Kupp would be downgraded if DRC is the guy in the nickel.
The Honey Badger is gone, and Jamar Taylor will be the guy in the nickel for the Cardinals. I’m not worried about that matchup at all, and Crowder has a chance to be Alex Smith’s guy, which is what we’ve been hearing all offseason. Josh Doctson needs a QB to let him go get it, which doesn’t sound like Alex Smith to me. If we think Paul Richardson can be a legit deep threat, it can work, but Smith hasn’t had a deep passing season like he did until he met Tyreek Hill… and Richardson ain’t no Hill. I’ll bet on the underneath and intermediate routes that Crowder runs to be where Smith favors. Wouldn’t hesitate to start Crowder in PPR leagues.
The Browns are going to try and run the ball as much as they can until they can’t. Tyrod Taylor isn’t winning games for you, but he’ll be part of a winning process as long as he’s getting help in the run game. The Steelers haven’t been the same rushing defense since Ryan Shazier’s brutal injury, and I wouldn’t be worried about a terrible game script with the Browns at home. Tyrod also likes to check it down to his backs on early downs, so Hyde is in play to keep his floor up with a few catches.
Wilkins is capable of being a 3-down back, but it’s possible he sticks to an early down role with Nyheim Hines being more of their pass-catching RB. Either way, Wilkins is capable in the pass game, so he can boost his value and floor a bit by catching some balls on early downs. The offensive line looked horrendous in the run game this summer, and that’s why he’s a desperate start. Andrew Luck can make this offense move either way, so Wilkins can see some touches in opportune spots. Keep an eye on Marlon Mack and whether he plays; he practiced the last couple of days. It’s a longshot, but it’s possible. If Mack plays, would downgrade Wilkins.
This is a pretty desperate play, but the Saints just don’t have any other RBs on their roster to use. Sean Payton never has had a single RB be his workhorse on all three downs, so we can see a lot of Mike Gillislee after they cut both Jonathan Williams and Boston Scott. I don’t expect Alvin Kamara to get 20+ touches every week, so there will be a back to complement him; we also know two backs can be successful and produce for fantasy, so if you’re real desperate, taking a shot at Gillislee is an unknown but educated-guess type of decision. As far as the matchup, you can expect the Saints to be up for most of this game at home, and Vegas agrees. Game script is looking good for Gillislee.
Barber is by far the Bucs main option at RB, but if the Saints get out to a big lead at home, it’s possible we see more of Jacquizz Rodgers in obvious passing situations than we do Barber. Barber can get phased out, but the Saints defense was vulnerable on the ground last year, and that’s how the Bucs are going to have to try and beat them. Run the ball, control the clock. He’s a decent start with the hopes of the game not getting out of hand.
We can’t get too excited about starting any Patriots RB, but with Sony Michel still not ready, Burkhead will probably get the most combined touches in the both the run and pass game. Just don’t forget about James White, and even Jeremy Hill. We all think Burkhead will be the guy on the goal line attempts, but Hill has looked good this summer, and we shouldn’t count him out. Burkhead is the most versatile back they have, and that’s his best attribute. They like to use him in the red zone, and he’s been effective. Would rather start more traditional RBs with guaranteed volume, but if you spent some draft capital on Burkhead, he’s an okay start this week.
If this game stays close, which it should, Peterson can be relevant all game. He needs volume to be successful, so you’ll need to hope for close to 20 carries and a goal-line look or two. I’m not sold that Chris Thompson will see a huge role outside of pass-catching situations and third downs. There was a reason Jay Gruden didn’t want Thompson’s role to expand last season, but he was then left with no choice when all their early down backs got hurt – and that reason became validated when Thompson got hurt. Both are viable, with Thompson in PPR, but just keep in mind that Peterson is dependent on game script to stay relevant.
Joe Flacco and John Brown have a real rapport going, and I would expect Brown to get a respectable target share. The Ravens probably won’t have to pass a ton in this matchup, but if Brown can get away from Tre’Davious White for a bit and match up with Vontae Davis, that’s a matchup that can be exploited. If you’re looking for a deep WR with upside, Brown is more than a one-play TD upside guy.
With Davante Parker out for Week 1, there will be targets concentrated elsewhere. We’ve already heard of the rapport building between Amendola and Ryan Tannehill, not to mention Amendola is playing the slot position that Jarvis Landry used to play in Miami. Logan Ryan is a good nickel corner, but the Titans play a lot of zone. They gave up the 6th most fantasy points to slot WRs last season. They made a change at DC with Dan Pees, who was a former DC with the Ravens. He is a little conservative with 4-man rushes and zone play behind, but we’ll see what Mike Vrabel wants to do here. Kenny Stills can see a lot of Adoree Jackson and Malcolm Butler, so not as high on him this week, although he should still see the targets. Would be perfectly fine starting Amendola this week in PPR leagues, as he’ll be running those short to intermediate routes Jarvis did in the past.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has gone on to the Raiders, so we don’t need to be worried about starting slot WRs against the Giants anymore; last year the Giants defense was a hot mess, and I think Janoris Jenkins will have a much better year, but he’s on the outside. Blake Bortles surprisingly has been one of the best QBs over the last 10 years in passer rating when he targets the slot, according to PFF. Right now it looks like Dede will be in the slot, so he can come up with 5-7 catches in this game and come away with a nice return in PPR leagues.
With Chris Harris on Baldwin, and all the targets vacated from Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson, Lockett has an obvious potential increase in targets. We saw some high-target games in the past, but consistency has been an issue. We know that the Seahawks like him a talent, evidenced by the extension he was recently given. He should be a major part of the offense, and with no Aqib Talib on the outside anymore for the Broncos, he’s a solid play this week.
Eli has formed a great rapport with Sterling Shepard, but it’s tough to favor him over one of the best WRs in the league in OBJ. OBJ should still get his targets this week, but Eli might think twice with his attempts towards Jalen Ramsey when Sterling Shepard has a plus matchup out of the slot. Nickel CB DJ Hayden is a big downgrade from Aaron Colvin, so Shepard can see a bigger role if Eli doesn’t want to throw it a ton towards Ramsey or AJ Bouye on the outside. Evan Engram is obviously a factor, as someone who can take away from Shepard, but this would be a bet on talent and rapport if you choose to start Shepard out of desperation this week. If you drafted Engram, you’re playing him, and he should be a beneficiary as well. Keep in mind that Engram’s numbers didn’t take a huge lift last season after OBJ got hurt, averaging only about one more reception and less than one more target per game with OBJ out.
The Colts secondary is rough, and they’re going to have their hands full trying to deal with just AJ Green. On the other side though, they have to prevent John Ross from getting behind them. Something is going to have to give, and with the Colts CBs not being the fastest bunch, we can see Ross catch a long one to give your team a higher ceiling. Strangely enough, Andy Dalton plays better on the road, and with the Colts installing new turf to give an advantage to speedy players, they’ll have someone to test their new purchase in Week 1. Not actively looking to play Ross this week, but if you have a team with a solid floor that needs a little oomph, or you’re desperate for a player at your WR3 or flex spot, Ross is probably a good play who’s sitting on your waiver wire. He obviously makes a decent GPP/tourney play in DFS this week as well.
Captain Munnerlyn is starting in the slot once again for the Panthers, and the Panthers allowed the 4th most fantasy points to slot WRs last season; this entire secondary really fell off towards the end of last year. Amongst a receiving core who isn’t necessarily the best in the league, a guy like Cole Beasley can stand out as a favorite target for Dak Prescott; Dak did talk Beasley up on multiple occasions this offseason. In a deep PPR league, I’m okay giving Beasley a shot to exploit this beatable Carolina secondary and betting that Beasley is Prescott’s guy without Dez Bryant or Jason Witten on the field.
This Chiefs secondary is almost non-existent outside of Kendall Fuller. There are some real liabilities on the outside, and once the Chargers get into the red zone, Mike Williams can do some damage. If you need someone to come in and get you a couple of catches with a chance of scoring, Williams is a good shot at that this week.
There is uncertainty around how much Cook will play in this game, but I wouldn’t be too worried. He’ll definitely be relevant in the passing game, so there’s less of a worry in PPR leagues. With him coming off the injury, it’s possible we see Latavius Murray involved more than we want on early downs. It’s yet to be seen, but I’m still rolling Cook out because of his draft capital and hope for the best at home against San Francisco. We’re not starting or sitting Cook because of matchups – it’s about usage.
You’re not sitting Howard, but it’s possible that the Packers get out to a big lead, and Howard is forced to be on the sideline a lot of the second half while the Bears try and catch up. This game can be closer than Vegas projects, in which case Howard can rack up 20+ carries. We’ll get a chance to see how much Howard has improved in the pass game, and how much Tarik Cohen actually plays in that backfield when the game is relatively close. Either way, Howard can see huge running lanes in a spread offense, and we’ve seen that he can still manage to be great in a non-ideal situation in his first two years. The Packers defense has improved, and can be pretty good against the run too, so don’t be surprised if Howard has a sub-par Week 1 showing. I wouldn’t worry about him moving forward.
Baldwin is practicing in full even with his knee not being 100%. I’m not so worried about that as I am in the fact that he’s going up against one of the best nickel corners in Chris Harris this week. Even with how good Harris is, the Broncos as a team still gave up a ton of fantasy points to slot WRs last year, so I’m not sitting Baldwin. He’s a stud, and he needs to be in lineups if he’s playing – especially if he’s practicing in full. Just don’t be surprised if Harris gets the best of him this week.
Sanders is a guy I’ve liked all offseason – it seems like him and Case Keenum have a real connection, and the blurbs from camp was confirmed in preseason play. Keenum targeted the slot more than any other QB last season, and that’s where Sanders will run a majority of his routes from. Sanders will see Justin Coleman in the slot this week, and he’s really on the come-up – he looked good last year and this preseason. I’m not benching Sanders since the targets will be there, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t have a huge game like he’s capable of with a better matchup.
I can temper expectations all I want on Tyreek, but he can score on anyone. I just won’t be surprised if it’s this week that he doesn’t. He’s going up against a very tough secondary, but with Joey Bosa out, there will be less pressure on Patrick Mahomes which can result in more time to set up that deep ball. Wouldn’t bench Hill this week, but understand that this can be the bust in his boom/bust nature.
Hopefully he runs some routes out of the slot this week, otherwise he’ll be seeing Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters on the outside. Nickell Robey-Coleman is in the nickel too so that’s not a whole lot better. Real tough matchup for these Raiders WRs, so not expecting a whole lot from Cooper in his first game of the season.
Xavier Rhodes might not shadow Goodwin, but he’ll see a lot of him. Goodwin can definitely beat him over the top, but getting some offense going against the Vikings in Minnesota is going to be a tough proposition for Jimmy G & Co. Goodwin might be okay in PPR leagues with some underneath work, but I’m trying to find a better option if possible. Even if they move him around to avoid Rhodes, the Vikings were stout against the pass in all areas of the field. Let’s hope he runs some routes against Trae Waynes, who plays opposite Rhodes – that’s where he can find success.
Alfred Morris/Matt Breida
Against the Vikings in Minnesota? I’m good. They’re one of the best defenses in the league against RBs, and even better at home. With the confusion around who will be the main guy too, I rather see the situation play out before I have either in my lineup.
The opportunity isn’t there yet for Johnson, but this can change as the season progresses. With Blount being a factor on early downs and on the goal line, and Theo Riddick being their primary pass-catching back, there isn’t much for us to hang our hat on for Johnson at the moment. He’s a talented back, but we have to wait.
It’s possible the Rams get out to a big lead, and if that happens, Lynch will be phased out by a guy like Jalen Richard in those obvious passing situations. Vegas doesn’t necessarily think that the Raiders will be out of this game, but just be aware that Lynch needs a positive game script behind in order for him to rack up touches. Doug Martin’s presence also doesn’t help Lynch be the workhorse on early downs. I didn’t mention Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers yet, so I wouldn’t have so much confidence in Lynch getting it done this week.
Not trying to test these Chargers corners, especially with Watkins not necessarily being Mahomes favorite target right now. Tyreek, Kelce, Hunt will probably be preferred over Watkins by Mahomes. I’m staying away until I see more usage out of Watkins. That combined with the matchup will not allow me to think about putting Watkins in my lineup this week.
Josh McCown was a guy who liked to chuck the ball downfield and gives his guys a chance, so he was naturally a great fit for Robby Anderson. We haven’t seen much of it from Sam Darnold this preseason, and while it should improve, I’m not trying to take my chances with Darius Slay projected to shadow Anderson this week. I would be careful not to devalue Anderson if he doesn’t perform, as he was relevant with multiple QBs and is still the #1 on the Jets, so he might be a buy-very-low target after Week 1. If you’re in desperate need at WR in a 14-team or deeper league, Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor are two guys who can see extra opportunity with Anderson locked up.
Andy Dalton @ Indianapolis
Dalton has a great matchup this week, has John Ross starting on the outside, and his favorite red zone weapon in Tyler Eifert back. The entire Colts defense is very questionable, including their secondary. Dalton should be able to produce low-end QB1 numbers at the very least.
Case Keenum vs Seattle
Keenum has a decent matchup at home against the Seahawks who is without a few of their key lineman from last season, no Richard Sherman, no Kam Chancellor, and without Earl Thomas for Week 1. Keenum has some real weapons in DT, Emmanuel Sanders, and rookie standout Courtland Sutton. With rookie RB Royce Freeman helping move the offense, Keenum might not need to do it all on his own, which can bode well for his fantasy success.
Tyrod Taylor vs Pittsburgh
Taylor will be on this list every single week; his legs give him 4+ points every week to combine to his 1-2 TDs and 200+ yards. It’s a tough matchup on paper when you look at the Steelers defense, but at home, Tyrod will be put in a position to succeed with Todd Haley as his OC. Don’t expect a huge ceiling, but his floor is relatively high.
Ben Watson vs TB
The Bucs have been good against tight ends, but we know Drew Brees loves to use his tight end. Ben Watson should know, because he recorded a 74-catch season with him a few years ago. Coby Fleener was a failed experiment, and with Cam Meredith having an unknown role and not necessarily lighting it up in preseason or camp, we could see Watson as the guy Brees targets in the middle of the field.
Eric Ebron vs Cincinnati
Ebron might be in the slot a lot more than we might be giving him credit for, and if that’s the case, he’ll be seeing some serious opportunity in this offense. There’s not much behind TY Hilton, and Ebron has a chance to become one of Luck’s favorite targets, as crazy as that may seem. Jack Doyle is more of the inline tight end, and he’ll get his fair share as well, but the guy lining up off the line is the guy I’ll bet on every week. Maybe he even becomes your every-week tight end!
Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs NYG
I don’t remember the last time the Giants were good at defending the tight end, and even though there are tons of pass-catching options for Blake Bortles, ASJ might be a matchup to exploit, especially in the red zone.
Ricky Seals-Jones vs Washington
We saw some ridiculous efficiency from RSJ last season, but now he’s playing a full complement of snaps. With not much behind Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, the third favorite target is yet to be determined. RSJ has a good shot, especially this week against a team that gave up the 4th most fantasy points to TEs last season. If you want a viable TE throughout the season, he has the potential for that.
Gesicki is a pure pass-catching TE, and he can definitely be used a ton in the offense this year. There will be some more targets to go around with Davante Parker out, and the Titans were middle of the road in defending the tight end position last season. He’s another guy you take a shot on in the hopes he can be valuable throughout the season.
Lions vs NYJ
A team at home against a rookie QB, while the #1 receiver is being shadowed by Darius Slay? Sounds like a good idea.