It is finally here! Not only is football that matters finally going to be on our television, but fantasy football is finally starting, too. Drafts are wrapping up, and you are likely already stressing about who to throw in your flex or replace a hurt starter for you in Week 1. Maybe you have to replace a player in the Dolphins and Buccaneers game, which may be postponed or moved to a location that won’t have many fans up north. Don’t worry, we got you with who to start and sit in Week 1.
Since it is early in the season, some general advice is don’t sit your early picks. Don’t get cute and cost yourself an early start because your first round running back has a tough match up. You didn’t draft those players that high just to sit them for a sleeper in the first week. In honor of this philosophy, I’m going to try and leave out as many of those top players as possible. If you drafted a guy like Le’Veon Bell with the first or second pick don’t sit him because of the hold out.
If you have any questions leave them in the comments. I’ll try to get to as many as possible.
Jordan Howard (Bears vs Falcons)
Howard was one of the best pickups last year in fantasy. He is one of the few do-it-all backs left which makes him super valuable in fantasy. It also makes him valuable even if his team is trailing because he is so involved in the passing game. It also helps that the Bears don’t have too many weapons outside of Howard, so they will likely be committed to the running back all game long.
The Falcons are coming off one of the worst collapses of all time after their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots. They are also coming off a season where they allowed opposing running backs to run all over them. They allowed running backs to score almost an average of 20 points in points per reception settings. Expect Howard to take advantage of that in Week 1.
Dalvin Cook (Vikings vs Saints)
Depending on when you drafted, Cook may be your second or third running back. In either case you should be starting him against the Saints. Cook had a very impressive preseason where he cemented his place above Latavius Murray, who the Vikings acquired in free agency.
Cook had a 4.1 yards per carry average, and he also caught six passes during the preseason showing he could be the next must-own running back. The Vikings are also replacing all of Adrian Peterson’s touches as he left for New Orleans in free agency, so expect Cook to be involved early and often against the Saints’ awful defense.
Any Patriots’ running back (vs Chiefs)
Well, are you feeling lucky? You must be if you expect to put any of the Patriots’ running backs in your lineup. Their back field includes Mike Gillislee, Dion Lewis, James White and former Bengals back Rex Burkhead. Odds are, for most people reading this, you own Burkhead, and he could end up being a great fantasy back to own this season. However, in case some forget, the Patriots and Bill Belichick love to switch things up depending on situations and teams they face.
Who knows which running back will get the most touches, and every back seems to have a short leash, so even the back who seems to be at the top can be pulled at any moment. For deeper leagues I understand having to take the risk, but if you can avoid the headache I would.
Gore is one of those plays who is deceptive. The news that Andrew Luck won’t play in Week 1 seems to be good news for Gore, as he will likely see more touches to make it easier for the back up quarterback.
However, the Rams will likely load up the box on the aging running back making running lanes hard to come by. The Rams will also likely be playing with a lead as the Colts defense will struggle to stop anyone this season, so Gore may be phased out of the game plan due the Colts having to throw to keep up.
Michael Crabtree (Raiders at Titans)
The Raiders were one of the hottest offenses last season with the emergence of Derek Carr behind an amazing offensive line. They will be facing one of the softest secondaries in the NFL as the Titans gave up the third most points to receivers last season.
Some may think Amari Cooper is the Raiders’ receiver to own, but last season Michael Crabtree was Carr’s favorite target, especially in the redzone. He had more than 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Expect Crabtree to make his way into the endzone at some point this week.
Chris Hogan (Patriots vs Chiefs)
The one thing I know about the Patriots is that you shouldn’t expect a player to be plugged into another player’s role to receive that same production. Many fantasy players are looking at Danny Amendola to receive Julian Edelman ’s targets, but I don’t see that happening.
This reminds me of when Aaron Hernandez went to jail and the following season people expected the next tight end on the depth chart to fill his role. Instead that player didn’t record a single reception. The Patriots don’t have a set offense. They built their offense around their players. Personally, I feel they will put more emphasis on Hogan who has flashed his ability. Plus, defenses will still be more focused on Brandin Cooks and Rob Gronkowski, leaving Hogan in single coverage.
T.Y. Hilton (Colts at Rams)
Hilton is already a guy I look to avoid in fantasy. He is a good receiver, but a lot of that is based on when Luck is throwing him the ball. Without Luck in Week 1 don’t expect much of anything from Hilton. Do you really believe in Scott Tolzien?
DeAndre Hopkins (Texans vs Jaguars)
If you don’t have a better option on your bench you may be stuck playing Hopkins, which isn’t the worst thing. Still Hopkins has Tom Savage throwing him the ball against the Jaguars’ top defense. There are a lot of things working against Hopkins in Week 1, but don’t worry, he will only face the Jaguars once more and that’s in Week 15... So that will be fun to deal with during the fantasy playoffs.
Jared Goff (Rams vs Colts)
I want to go on record now saying I don’t think the Rams’ offense is turning a huge corner this season. The Goff hype got out of control after a couple weeks of preseason games. This Week 1 game will be a good matchup though for the Rams and I’m going to assume Goff is available for pick up. He may be one of the better options out there.
Carson Palmer (Cardinals at Lions)
I really don’t understand why Palmer isn’t owned in more leagues. He will likely still end up being a middle of the road fantasy quarterback, which isn’t a bad thing. He is available in plenty of leagues, and he has a pretty decent matchup against the Lions that could end up being close to a shootout. I wouldn’t sit a quarterback I drafted for Palmer, but with a few guys being out due to injury in Week 1, you may need to pick him up.
Joe Flacco (Ravens at Bengals)
Flacco and the Ravens have struggled against the Bengals as of late. In fact most of Flacco’s damage against Cincinnati has been through Steve Smith Sr., which tells you a lot about what should be expected in Week 1.
It also doesn’t help he is coming off missing most of the offseason with a back injury. He returned to practice this week along with Danny Woodhead and Breshad Perriman. This could be a week where the Ravens offense has to drive through some rough patches as their familiarity with each other improves. You don’t have to be part of that ride.
Odds are you are in a pretty good spot with your quarterback as long as you don’t have Luck... or the Miami and Buccaneers’ quarterbacks whose situation is up in the air for Week 1 due to the incoming hurricane.
Delanie Walker (Titans vs Raiders)
Walker is the definition of consistency. Especially in PPR leagues, he ends up in the top 10. He is Marcus Mariota’s safety blanket, and the Raiders are awful at covering tight ends. They gave up the ninth most points to opposing tight ends last season, and Walker should see the ball fairly often.
Kyle Rudolph (Vikings vs Saints)
Rudolph quietly had a very productive season last year. He finished with 83 catches and seven touchdowns. He showed he and Sam Bradford had quite the connection. The Saints have one of those defenses who like to amplify opposing team’s offenses. It is quite a bold strategy. Odds are, between the amount of targets Rudolph should get and how bad the Saints’ defense, he should make his way into the endzone at least once.
Eric Ebron (Lions vs Cardinals)
Ebron has been a well hyped player coming into this season, but he starts it off with a rough matchup. Even though the Cardinals lost Kevin Minter to the Bengals this offseason, Arizona still boasts and incredible defense that allowed the fewest points to tight ends last season with an average of 3.5 points per game. I wouldn’t base Ebron’s season on any struggles this game. You can expect a lot of tight ends to struggle against the Cardinals.
Rams (vs Colts)
I’m personally a huge fan of streamlining defenses. Meaning, I usually pick up a defense with a good matchup every single week. It is too hard to trust a defense will consistently score well in today’s NFL the favors offenses so much.
The Rams have the best matchup this week. Facing off against a Luck-less Colts is the dream for any fantasy owner. It doesn’t matter how good or bad the defense is, Tolzien should make the Rams’ defense look incredible.
Jaguars (at Texans)
This is sort of a sneaky play, but I like this matchup more than the next defense I’ll talk about. Sure, the Texans have a ton of talent at the skill positions but Savage is still the quarterback.
The Jaguars also have a very good defense, and with Jalen Ramsey, they could end up turning a turnover into points. It may be the only way the Jaguars actually get on the board.
Chiefs (at Patriots)
The NFL season starts with Tom Brady and the Patriots on primetime celebrating their Super Bowl win. The Chiefs are a very good defense, but New England probably spent a lot of time preparing for this exact game.
I wouldn’t typically sit the Chiefs for any defense, but if you could find an alternative in Week 1 I would. You really think the odds favor Kansas City going into New England and ruining their homecoming after the Super Bowl?
Ravens (at Bengals)
The Bengals have played very well against the Ravens the past few years, and although I think the Ravens will end up with a few sacks, I’m not sure they are the best play this week. The Bengals have the ability to spread the field pretty thin, which seems to be the only weakness for the Ravens who are pretty thin at the cornerback position.