Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us!
For fantasy footballers all around the world, the anticipation is boiling over with excitement to see how their teams fair starting the season. A lot of the analysis has been given during the offseason, fantasy draft parties with great food and drinks along with the annoying defending champion reminding you about your demise last season have come and gone, and now the time has come to see how bad or good the team you drafted really is.
The concern with Week 1 every season is that you only can go off of last year’s stats, fantasy expert’s projections, and your own faith in certain players. NFL teams change every offseason with new faces both experienced and just fresh into the league. New head coaches along with offensive and defensive coordinators can affect a certain fantasy player’s production. Preseason games will give you a little fantasy glimpse but preseason is what it is, preseason. You just don’t know in the regular season. There are a lot of rookies who we’ve caught a glimpse in preseason (i.e. Ezekiel Elliott, Carson Wentz, Corey Coleman, Sterling Shepard). But…we just don’t know in the games that matter.
In fantasy football, you just can’t predict the future. Just look at Devonta Freeman last season. But you can minimize risks and set up your team to have the best production needed from week to week. Knowing this, let’s look at some players that should give you great value with the matchup they have.
Dak Prescott vs. New York Giants- A lot of people are buying the hype with Prescott’s preseason performance going 39 of 50 for 454 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions and a 137.8 QB rating. The matchup against the New York Giants is just to hard to resist. The Giants were the worst passing defense last season giving up 4,783 yards and averaging almost 300 yards a game. Prescott has a great offensive line to protect him and will take pressure off Prescott by running the ball with Ezekiel Elliott. I expect a very high scoring game with a lot of points being put up.
Derek Carr @ New Orleans Saints- Another great matchup against a reeling defense. Carr has a lot of potential with the Raiders offense this season. Week 1 for Carr couldn’t be any better facing the worst defense against opposing quarterbacks last season. The Saints allowed an average of 23 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. There have been some changes on the Saints defense with a new coordinator and some free agents but it shouldn’t be a drastic change. Carr has great targets like Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree that will produce. Start Carr with confidence.
Eli Manning @ Dallas Cowboys- The Giants didn’t exactly wow people during the preseason. But Eli Manning and the Giants high-powered offense should be clicking when they face a lowly Dallas Cowboys defense. The Cowboys defense did not do well in the preseason and have been scrambling to find some type of pass rush with Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Rolando McClain out from suspensions. Manning should have a clean pocket to throw to Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. In the last two out of three games in Dallas, Eli Manning has put up at least 28 fantasy points.
Sleeper: Robert Griffin III @ Philadelphia Eagles- RG3 is a high upside quarterback going against the third-worst defense against fantasy quarterbacks last season. RG3 has averaged 24 points in five career games against the Eagles. This game could turn into a shootout. Keep RG3 in your lineup radar.
Phillip Rivers @ Kansas City Chiefs- Rivers has only one game more than 18 points at Arrowhead Stadium in the past five years. As a lot of teams know, it’s always a tough go playing at Arrowhead. The Chiefs defense was the second best fantasy defense and a top 7 total defense last season. Rivers has averaged just nine fantasy points against the Chiefs in the past four meetings with two touchdowns and five interceptions. I don’t see Rivers as a top 10 fantasy quarterback this week.
Andy Dalton @ New York Jets- Dalton will have his first game since his thumb injury in Week 14 last season. He has lost some receivers this season in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Also, Tyler Eifert is currently out recovering from ankle surgery. Dalton does have his main target, A.J. Green, but will be dealing with Revis Island. The Jets defense has some great pass rushers up front and should give Dalton some fits. Bench Dalton and find another quarterback with a better matchup.
Marcus Mariota vs. Minnesota Vikings- The Titans look to have a good one-two punch with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry running the ball. I expect the Titans to rely on their run game to setup the pass. The Vikings defense is stout. This should be a low scoring game as both teams will be reliant on the run game and their defenses to win. If you have other options, look elsewhere.
Cam Newton @ Denver Broncos- Does anyone remember last year’s Super Bowl? Woof. Newton was shut down by the Broncos defense only throwing for 265 yards, one interception, and two fumbles. The Broncos did lose some weapons on defense with Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan. But the Broncos should be able to replace those starters and still be one of the best defenses in the NFL. You probably drafted Newton as one of the top 3 quarterbacks in your fantasy draft and rightfully so. Just like a lot of other fantasy quarterbacks playing the Broncos, you might want to consider a better quarterback matchup.
Spencer Ware vs. San Diego Chargers- Jamaal Charles is not ready to go for Week 1, still recovering from his knee injury last season. Ware is good versatile back who has speed to go with physicality between the tackles. The San Diego Chargers have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL. I see Ware getting a high volume of carries around 20. Ware had 11 carries for 96 yards and two touchdowns at San Diego in Week 11 last year. Put him in your lineups this week.
Rashad Jennings @ Dallas Cowboys- Jennings has a good fantasy history against the Cowboys. In two of three games that he’s played against Dallas, Jennings has put up double digit fantasy points. We all know about the Dallas defense and their struggles. Jennings finished up last season looking as a regular workload running back. I expect the Giants to keep using him that way. Jennings is a solid RB2 and a must start for PPR formats this week.
DeAngelo Williams @ Washington Redskins- DeAngelo Williams replaced LeVeon Bell last season during his suspension and eventual season ending injury in Week 8. Williams was a great pickup for fantasy owners having 10 games with double digit fantasy points. The Redskins were a good run defense last season but don’t look to follow up this season. The Steelers have a high-powered offense with Big Ben running the show. Expect DeAngelo to get good fantasy production both on the ground and in the air.
Sleeper: Christine Michael vs. Miami Dolphins- Pete Carroll doesn’t plan on rushing Thomas Rawls back from last season’s broken ankle injury. Christine Michael has saw a lot of time during the preseason with Thomas Rawls being out. Michael looked impressive during the preseason rushing 26 times for 157 yards which is 6.0 yards a carry. The Seahawks recently released their official depth chart and Michael was listed as the starting running back. The Dolphins were dead last in fantasy points allowed to running backs last season. Michael should be the early-down running back getting the workload of carries. Michael is good fit as a flex option this week.
Melvin Gordon @ Kansas City Chiefs- Melvin Gordon looks to have a lot of upside going into this season. He looked great in the preseason scoring two touchdowns. But the Chiefs defense has been pretty good against the Chargers running backs lately. The Chiefs defense has just surrendered one rushing touchdown in its last five games against the Chargers. Also, the Chiefs only allowed one running back to rush for over 100 yards last season. I do see an overall improvement from Gordon this season but I don’t have much trust in this Week 1 matchup. After Week 1, Gordon faces the Jaguars, Colts, and Saints. Put him in your lineup next week.
Jonathan Stewart @ Denver Broncos- Jonathan Stewart is mostly a touchdown dependent running back who has been known to have a low floor. Stewart only had two games last season with over 100 yards rushing. Stewart is also prone to injuries which hampered him last season as well. Week 1 on the road against the Broncos will be a tough hill to climb. The Broncos defense allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards at home in last season. Stewart only had 8 fantasy points against the Broncos in the Super Bowl with 6 of those points coming from one touchdown. I suggest to roll with Stewart after this week.
Arian Foster @ Seattle Seahawks- Foster is now 30 years old and coming off of an Achilles tear injury. The Seahawks defense has a great run defense allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs last season. The Dolphins offensive is starting to get thin with their starting center out this week. Foster does deserve his spot as the starting running back with Jay Ajayi not getting any grasp from his preseason struggles. If healthy, I expect Foster to have a good fantasy season. I would temper expectations on Foster against Seattle this week.
Carlos Hyde vs. Los Angeles Rams- Hyde has a difficult task ahead with Aaron Donald and the Rams defense. Hyde is a workhorse back who has the ability to put up good fantasy numbers. Injuries have been the issue with Carlos Hyde. One of those being a recent concussion which he just got cleared on the NFL’s concussion protocol. Unfortunately for the Hyde, he is a good running back in a bad offense. The Niners will have a tough time keeping up with other high-powered offenses and will have to go to the air often. Hyde will have better fantasy weeks but this week doesn’t look to be one.
Amari Cooper @ New Orleans Saints- Cooper’s 2016 fantasy campaign will be starting against bad Saints secondary who allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers last season. Points should abound in the Superdome on Sunday with two great offenses going at it. Cooper should have a field day with double digit fantasy points.
Donte Moncrief vs. Detroit Lions- Moncrief should have a great fantasy season and is a favorite on a lot of fantasy owner’s rosters. Andrew Luck is back after dealing with injuries last season. Moncrief had at least six targets in five of the seven starts with Luck, including three games with at least eight targets. T.Y. Hilton should be getting covered by Darius Slay while Moncrief will face a far less difficult task against Nevin Lawson. Put Moncrief in your lineup this week.
Golden Tate & Marvin Jones @ Indianapolis Colts- Double your pleasure here. The Colts defense will be on a trajectory as one of the worst defenses in the league this season. Marvin Jones joined the Lions from the Cincinnati Bengals and will be filling the #1 wide receiver spot in Calvin Johnson’s absence. Jones has played well during the preseason. Golden Tate should still be in line to get the most targets from week to week. The Colts gave up an average of more than 24 fantasy points per game to wide receivers last season. Expect the Lions receivers to eat.
Sleeper: Michael Floyd vs. New England Patriots- Floyd is a part of a high-powered offense with Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. There are some question marks with both Fitzgerald and Brown coming off of recent injuries. Fitzgerald with an MCL sprain and Brown with a concussion. Floyd could be the recipient of more targets if both Fitzgerald and Brown have problems getting back to full strength.
Julian Edelman vs. Arizona Cardinals- Edelman will miss his main man, Tom Brady, for four weeks and will have to work with Jimmy Garoppolo. Edelman is coming off of another foot surgery which gives caution to a lot of fantasy owners. This is a bad matchup with the Cardinals defense that allowed the sixth-fewest yards to wide receivers last season. It’ll be tough sledding for Edelman with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu against Jimmy Garoppolo.
Emmanuel Sanders vs. Carolina Panthers- The new era without Peyton Manning begins for the Broncos. Trevor Siemian comes in as the new starting quarterback. We’ve only seen a small sample size of Siemian so far in preseason and nothing too impressive. Demaryius Thomas should have the biggest amount of targets going to him. I see Sanders as a risky play against a solid Panthers defense. Sanders should be WR3 in most formats this week.
Jarvis Landry @ Seattle Seahawks- Landry should have a solid fantasy season being the #1 target for Ryan Tannehill. Seattle always plays tough on their home turf. The Seattle defense led the NFL with the fewest touchdowns allowed to receivers last season with six. Landry also had just six games with double digit fantasy points last season with four touchdowns and will likely be held under 100 receiving yards this week.
Kelvin Benjamin @ Denver Broncos- Benjamin is coming back this season after after surgery to repair his torn ACL. No team allowed fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than the Broncos last season. Denver also allowed just seven touchdowns to opposing receivers last year, and only two #1 receivers found the end zone. The Broncos still have a solid secondary with Chris Harris, Jr. and Aqib Talib. Benjamin looks to be eased into the season to get back into football shape so temper expectations on his volume.