Week 1 is probably one of the toughest weeks to call for fantasy in the NFL season. It is especially hard when we didn’t even get to see these teams in preseason this year. You really have to go on the word of the players and coaches, which fantasy players should know to be wary of.
My best advice for Week 1 is really just to follow your gut and play your stud players that you spent major draft capital on. This is even more relevant with as little information as we have this season.
The Bengals in particular will be a hard one to pin down this week. My advice for fans is show some caution in putting all your chips in the Cincinnati basket, but if you feel that strongly about playing someone like John Ross, then pull the trigger. It is Week 1, and it is all about having fun this year with fantasy.
Joe Mixon, RB: This really is more about where you probably took Mixon in your draft. He was either your first or second running back taken, and you drafted him to be a foundational piece to your team. Why would you sit him Week 1? Don’t over think this. Also the Chargers may be playing either rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray or former-Bengal Nick Vigil, and the Bengals could get Mixon mismatched on one of them for a few big plays throughout the game. That is of course on top of him just getting an insane volume.
Keenan Allen, WR: This is similar to the Mixon statement. Allen was probably one of your first receivers drafted. He should be pretty solid in PPR formats. One thing working against him is the uncertainty of how well Tyrod Taylor will mix with him in their first season. Also how much will the Chargers actually throw the ball? Either way, it is just as likely he keeps on trucking along as a very productive wide receiver Week 1. Mike Williams being out also opens up the door for more targets.
Tyler Boyd, WR: The Chargers probably have the toughest trio of cornerbacks the Bengals will face all season. That is the only reason I don’t have Boyd in must start territory. If you aren’t playing in a league full of Bengals fans then you probably got Boyd at a decent value, and you may have better options in front of him. I’d still be comfortable with Boyd as my WR2 or FLEX this week. Joe Burrow loves his slot receivers, and teams can no longer focus on Boyd with A.J. Green and John Ross healthy on the outside. Expect Boyd to be Burrow’s safety blanket all game.
Austin Ekeler, RB: The only reason Ekeler isn’t a must start is Los Angeles has a semi crowded backfield. Justin Jackson could absolutely steal some quality touches, but Ekeler is still the lead back. D.J. Reader is nice, but not having Geno Atkins hurts. The linebackers are better than last year (Germaine Pratt had a strong second half), but Ekeler may be one of the best running backs out in space. Should have a good to great day.
A.J. Green, WR: I’ll be very blunt in saying Boyd is the Bengals’ wide receiver you should be more confident in for fantasy this season. That doesn’t mean Green won’t be good. Cincinnati has already talked about Green playing a limited roll Week 1, it is a tough matchup and this is his first game in a year and a half. You probably drafted Green fairly early though, so you should play him. Just don’t go in expecting him to light it up Week 1.
Hunter Henry, TE: Yes, Cincinnati is improved at linebacker, but Taylor loves his tight ends. Charles Clay owes him for making him look so good back in Buffalo. Henry is also just a really talented tight end in his own right, and an absolute matchup nightmare. Hopefully, the Bengals are able to get safety Vonn Bell matched up on him more times than not (for their own sake), but Henry should do just fine for the purposes of your fantasy team.
Not great, but okay
Bengals Defense: This unit was the worst in football last season. There is reason to believe that they are better, though. They have made a number of personnel changes at each level of the defense, and it will be interesting to see how they gel early in the year. This is absolutely a risky streaming option, but the Bengals have historically had pretty low scoring games with Taylor on the other side. Maybe that continues?
Chargers Defense: The loss of safety Derwin James hurts, but the cornerbacks are legit on this team. Chris Harris, Casey Hayward and Desmond King is a serious test for a rookie quarterback in his first NFL game. It really just takes one Burrow mistake pick-six to make this play worth it. Also Joey Bosa getting pressure could be a problem.
Justin Jackson, RB: He will be behind Ekeler, but he could vulture some touchdowns, and he could see double digit touches. We really can’t tell because this is the first time we are going to see this Chargers offense with Taylor at the helm. Will they rely on the running game more? We will have to see, but he is a FLEX at best.
John Ross, WR: We will know more about Ross’ fantasy value as the season goes on. Can Burrow get Ross to play like the player we expected to get when he was drafted in the top 10? We don’t really know. At this point though he is a boom-or-bust play. Maybe he repeats his Week 1 accomplishment from last season where he had over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns. or maybe he just doesn’t get enough looks since there is only one ball and plenty of mouths to feed. This same mentality goes for Auden Tate who could get a couple redzone looks.
Tyrod Taylor, QB: I really don’t like this. Taylor is usually a solid fantasy quarterback, but he isn’t going to go out there and win you games. His ability to add some points via his legs are really the only reason I’m saying to not start him, but you HAVE to have better options in Week 1.
Just sit them
Drew Sample or C.J. Uzomah: Listen, one of these guys could actually be playable at some point in fantasy this season. The real problem is we have no idea how their snaps will get split or how much of the offense runs through them. No James and the possibility of Vigil being matched up with one is tempting, but it is just too much of risk when you have to have safer options.
Joe Burrow, QB: This is less about how I think Burrow will do this game and more about how your fantasy team was probably constructed. I am hoping for your sake you didn’t draft Burrow as your first quarterback. You hopefully drafted a more established player to start, and Burrow was more of a speculative or security pick in case your starter doesn’t work out. Just a reminder this is his first game. He is more likely to go out there and have a rough outing as he is to light it up. Unless you are in a two quarterback league, just leave Burrow on the bench this week.
Any other Chargers wide receiver: It is Allen or bust without Williams in the lineup. Taylor isn’t known for lighting it up in the passing game, so it is hard to trust someone after Allen or Henry in the Chargers passing game. There is the possibility that some guys comes out of nowhere in Week 1, but you really want to take that risk?