Coach’s Office: Who to Start and Who to Sit – Week 1

EAGLES @ FALCONS – Josh Cook

Quarterbacks: 

START – N/A

SIT – Matt Ryan, Nick Foles

Foles did not look good during the preseason, completing 16-of-26 attempts with two picks and no touchdowns. While he does have the luster of his Super Bowl victory while filling in for Wentz, it should also be noted that Foles is still a backup quarterback.  As for Ryan, he faces a really stout defense on the road. In his career, Ryan has completed 62 percent of his passes on the road, which is five points lower than at home. He also has thrown 10 more picks on the road than at home (68-58) while also posting a lower quarterback rating away from Atlanta (89.8-97.5). There are better options available for Week 1 than these two.

Running Backs:

START – Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Jay Ajayi

SIT – Ito Smith, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood

Ajayi should see enough volume to make it worth starting him. However, he has battled a vague “lower leg” injury lately, and he also could be hampered by an uninspired offense given how Foles has looked in the preseason. Still, Ajayi’s volume makes him a start, though expectations should be lowered. On the Atlanta side, both Freeman and Coleman are startable. Freeman is likely someone drafted as a starter and owners may be hard-pressed to find a better option to go with. Coleman, meanwhile, is likely a bench option or flex play on most teams that drafted him. Still, both could have solid games. When the Falcons met the Eagles in the playoffs last season, both Coleman (79 yards) and Freeman (7 yards) had 10 carries. Freeman also added five receptions for 26 yards and touchdown while Coleman had just one reception for 14 yards.  The outlook of a 50/50 workload split makes Coleman a solid flex play while Freeman slots in as an RB2 you don’t have to be happy about having in the lineup this week.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Julio Jones, Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor

SIT – Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Austin Hooper

There are very few instances where Julio Jones would be a sit. There are even fewer instances where Zach Ertz would not be in a starting lineup. These two are top-flight options that will likely be started every week as long as they are healthy. But outside of these two, only Nelson Agholor is an attractive starting option in this matchup. Alshon Jeffery is out as he rehabs a shoulder injury, and someone other than Ertz will need to be involved in the passing game. Agholor turned in a solid campaign in 2017 and should see enough volume sans Jeffery to start the 2018 season off on a high note.

49ers @ VIKINGS – Ben Stecker

Quarterbacks:

START – Kirk Cousins

SIT – Jimmy Garoppolo

Cousins will take the helm of his new franchise, against the pre-season darling San Francisco 49ers, in Week 1 from the comfort of home in Minnesota. While many believe the 49ers defense is much improved, they have yet to prove it on the field and I expect Cousins to come out guns blazing with his new slate of weapons making him an easy start. Jimmy G, on the other hand, runs into a Vikings D that allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game in 2017 and the fewest points to opposing offenses. The hype around the San Francisco QB is high, but it would be wise to look elsewhere at a deep QB position this week.

Running Backs:

START – Dalvin Cook

SIT – Alfred Morris, Matt Breida, Latavius Murray

The Vikings were cautious with Cook all preseason, preserving the breakout candidate for the season opener and that gave Murray a lot of touches with the first team. But Murray is still the same plodder who managed only 3.9 yards-per-carry and has been perfectly mediocre virtually his entire career. Cook is the focal point of this running game and should be in lineups until proven otherwise making Murray a bench rider this week. Jerrick McKinnon’s injury has thrown a shroud over the San Francisco running game and while owners are sprinting to scoop up Morris, Breida may actually be the player who benefits the most in the long run as a possible stud down the stretch. Neither is a safe play against the stingy Minnesota D this week.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Marquise Goodwin, Kyle Rudolph, George Kittle

SIT – Pierre Garcon, Laquon Treadwell

There was a brief scare last week when Thielen exited practice with an undisclosed leg injury but reports are he’s fine and will be ready to go Week 1. Thielen and Diggs are must starts with Cousins at the helm and Rudolph is a threat for red zone work on a weekly basis making him a start. As mentioned before, this Vikings pass defense is tough making Goodwin the only trustworthy start at WR but someone has to catch the balls in what I expect to be a catch-up game for San Francisco. Kittle is likely the next best option for volume as Garoppolo’s likely safety blanket and check-down warrior. Garcon and Treadwell will be fantasy factors at some point in 2018, just not now.

SEAHAWKS @ BRONCOS – Ben Stecker

Quarterbacks: 

STARTRussell Wilson

SITCase Keenum

It’s a little surprising to me how polarizing of a player Wilson has been in the fantasy community this year. Many are fading the perennial Top 5 QB but I can’t justify doing that until he truly shows he’s lost it. Wilson is a weekly must-start until further notice, even against a very good Denver defense. Keenum on the other hand is a complete wild card facing a Seattle defense that looks nothing like it’s former self-making this match up too tough to predict. Due to all of those unknowns, I would look elsewhere for other QB options this week, but if you’re in a pinch, Keenum is acceptable.

Running Backs:

START Chris Carson

SITRoyce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Rashaad Penny, Phillip Lindsay

Penny has been hurt all pre-season and even prior to the injury, Carson was looking like the starter. Carson enters Week 1 as a volume play and a sneaky cheap DFS option too, although this is a vastly improved Denver run defense and even with volume his upside may be capped. Freeman is likely to be the horse in Denver and he could break out this week so I won’t blame you if you start him, but if you have the option, it’s safer to play the wait and see game with all the Broncos running backs including preseason darling Phillip Lindsay who may make this a three-way committee. Booker has become an afterthought in the Mile High city.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

STARTDemaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin

SIT Courtland Sutton, Tyler Lockett, Jake Butt, Jeff Heuerman, Ed Dickson, Jaron Brown

Thomas, Baldwin, and Sanders are weekly must-starts who open the year matchup proof. This could change as the season goes on, especially for the Denver duo with the emergence of Sutton who may wind up being a breakout candidate. Sutton showed off his upside besting Josh Norman in the pre-season and if he emerges, it could be at Thomas’ expense. Lockett will be a starter some weeks but Denver has a very strong pass defense and that will make it tough to trust the recently extended Seahawk. Tight end for both of these teams is an unpredictable nightmare and should be avoided until the waters clear up.

STEELERS @ BROWNS – Ben Stecker

Quarterbacks: 

START – Ben Roethlisberger, Tyrod Taylor

SIT – None

Big Ben has a fleet of weapons at his disposal and has also been one of the most prolific volume passers in the NFL over the past several seasons. Combine that with the question marks surrounding Le’Veon Bell and the fact that the Brown’s defense was quietly very good against the run in 2017 and it’s all upside. Taylor is now the proud driver of perhaps the most upgraded offensive ride in the league with Landry, Gordon, Njoku, Hyde, Callaway, and Johnson. The Browns are likely to trail in this game meaning they’ll have to throw which, combined with Tyrod’s running ability makes for a nice high floor.

Running Backs:

START – James Conner/Le’Veon Bell

SIT – Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb

Bell is the most talented running back in the NFL and a must-start if he plays, but right now it does not appear he will be playing Week 1 due to his holdout, enter James Conner. Conner is a versatile every-down threat and potential workhorse stud when Bell departs Pittsburgh (assuming that will be in 2019 but anything can change at any time, just ask Kahlil Mack). Conner is a must-start if Bell sits. Johnson and Hyde are emergency flex starts if you’re desperate but the Steelers’ D is solid against the run and this could turn into a passing affair quickly.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku

SIT – Josh Gordon, Antonio Callaway, Jesse James, James Washington

Brown, Smith-Schuster, and Landry are must starts each week. Njoku is a big-time breakout candidate as one of the most athletic tight ends in the league who has also flashed this preseason. He is an easy start in a game where the Browns are likely to have to throw the ball. Gordon could be started but his lack of work this preseason shadows his Week 1 upside, start him in a pinch but sit if you can and wait one week. It’s too early to trust Callaway, Washington and James at this point so put a pin in these guys until we get some tape on them in real game situations.

BENGALS  @ COLTS– Matt Lotshaw

Quarterbacks: 

START – Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton

SIT – None

After a shoulder injury sidelined him last year. Andrew Luck returns for the Colt’s season opener. This Sunday will be Lucks first appearance in exactly 616 days. The rejuvenated seasoned field general has rebuilt his body by bulking up in anticipation for his comeback. Look for the Colts to feature more up-tempo and no-huddle under new head coach Frank Reich’s fast-paced offense. It’s also important to note, after rebuilding the O-line this offseason the group looks nasty up front. They could easily the best O-line Luck has ever worked with. On paper, the matchup appears tough. Cincinnati defense unit averaged impressive stats. 6th fewest pass yards 225 per game, 8th fewest touchdowns 1.2 per game, and 11th fewest fantasy points per game 16.4. But if we’re going off stats Luck has a career average of 2.1 touchdowns per game. At this point in the season anyone sitting a stud like Luck because of last years, stats that are based entirely on speculation is not a good idea. On the other side, the red rifle has a favorable matchup against Indianapolis. Dalton coming out of pre-season had a 71 completion percent threw for 324 yards and four TDs. He is undervalued and one of the best sleeper at his position for the first week of the season.

Running Backs:

START –  Joe Mixon, Jordan Wilkins

SIT –  Giovani Bernard, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack

Expectations are high for Mixon this year. He will enter this season as the starter. With an improved offensive line, the running game is expected to be a bigger part of the offense this season. There’s no denying that, the week one contest should be a cakewalk for the second year pro. For the most part, in 2017 the Colts struggled to stop the run game. Last season the Indianapolis defense allowed the 7th most rushing yards per game. So Mixon is obviously a fantasy start here, worth using as an RB2 borderline RB1 in all formats. Expect to see Mixon handle the majority of carries out of the Cincinnati backfield against the Colts. Although he will still lose some passing down work to Giovani Bernard. Jordan Wilkins fell into a heavenly week one matchup. He should get fed the ball plenty in the opener. Marlon Mack appears unlikely to be ready on Sunday. Wilkins will be running behind a rebuilt offensive line. Cincinnati had trouble stopping running backs in 2017 giving up the 4th most rush yards and 3rd most fantasy points. Wilkins is a sneaky start at running back this week.

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Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – A.J. Green, T.Y. Hilton, Tyler Eifert, Eric Ebron

SIT – Jack Doyle, John Ross, Ryan Grant, Tyler Boyd

Green continues to be one of Fantasy’s most dependable starting options week after week. This highly talented wide receiver should have no problem against the Colts defense that gave up the 5th most receiving yards and 11th most fantasy points to wide receivers. It’s important to note, Hilton is looking to redeem himself after a bad year. With some healthy quarterback play, he should be considered in the top ten at his position once again. The Colts star receiver will do battle against underrated shutdown cornerback William Jackson who led all NFL corners in catch percentage in 2017. Make no mistake about it, this will be a dogfight for Hilton. Luck and T.Y. are a lethal combination so keep Hilton in your lineup. It will be interesting to see how the tight ends will be used. When healthy Eifert is one of the better tight ends in the league. Remember he caught 13 touchdowns a couple years ago. And with the Colts Defense giving up the 11th most TDs to the position. Odds are he sees the end zone. In his first game with the Colts Ebron could see a spike in production. This is a juicy matchup the Bengals allowed the 8th most receiving yards and 4th most receptions to tight ends last year. Both tight ends should see a lot of snaps in this game.

Chiefs @ Chargers – Ciriaco

Quarterbacks: 

START – Philip Rivers

SIT – Patrick Mahomes

Phillip Rivers is one of those guys who you can draft late in drafts and plug into your starting lineup each and every week. He has thrown for 4200 plus yard every year since 2013, with a low of 28 touchdowns. The Chiefs, on the other hand, traded away their best cornerback Marcus Peters. I fully expect Rivers to crest 300 yards and a couple TDs Sunday. His opponent, Mahomes, is a great prospect with a bright future. That said, I would fade him just because I don’t want to put all of my trust in week one on a guy making his second career start on the road against a fierce San Diego defense. If you have a better option start him and use week one to evaluate Mahomes and his prospects going forward.

Running Backs:

START – Melvin Gordon, Kareem Hunt

SIT – Spencer Ware, Austin Ekeler

Melvin Gordon and Kareem Hunt are both top eight guys at the position who you should never sit outside of injury. Hunt led the league in rushing yardage and Gordon commands 300 plus touches. They both can beat you on the ground or in the air, making them game script independent. Both will get the necessary touches to get your fantasy team the production it needs to win. I’m not concerned with Spencer Ware or Austin Ecklar as guys who will get more than a couple touches. That’s why they are obvious sits for me. Nobody should be in a position to have to start either of those guys this early in the season. Ware may top out at ten carries making him unappetizing unless he gets a TD. Ecklar may get a couple catches but that’s about it. I would leave them at the end of my bench.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Keenan Allen, Tyreek Hill, Tyrell Williams, Travis Kelce

SIT – Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams. Antonio Gates

Keenan Allen is an obvious start and should never sit for any reason. My start for this week is Tyrell Williams. With Kansas City trading away Marcus Peters, the defense will have to shift a lot of coverage Allen’s way to slow him down at all. That will leave a lot of single coverage looks for Tyrell. With a 16.5 yard per reception average in his career I expect him to turn those looks into big yardage plays that will crush your opponent from the WR3/Flex position. I would also start Tyreek Hill this week as I expect San Diego to put points on the board early, leading to a few bombs aimed Hill’s direction. As an unashamed Sammy Watkins truther, I hate to tell you to sit Sammy Watkins but that is exactly what you should do. Sammy has done little in the preseason to give any indication that he can wrestle the number one WR role from Hill so I have doubts he can do so in week one. I would park Sammy on the bench until he shows the world some chemistry with Mahomes. I would also sit Mike Williams this week. At this point, he looks like a situational TD threat and possible 4th or 5th option in the passing game. Travis Kelce should be busy on Sunday. He is currently the second best TE in the league and should stay glued to your starting lineup, regardless of matchup. Don’t overthink this. The ageless Antonio Gates returned to the Chargers starting lineup once and although the possibility remains that Gates could roll out of bed and score a TD in his bathrobe and slippers before getting his first cup of coffee, it is remote. I’d stay away and see how this plays out before he gets a start from me.

TEXANS @ PATRIOTS – Ciriaco

Quarterbacks: 

START – Tom Brady

SIT – Deshaun Watson

Nobody is seriously thinking about benching Tom Brady, are you? If you are nervous about Brandin Cooks now playing for the Rams and Julian Edelman’s suspension for the first four games affecting Brady’s early season outlook, don’t be. “Tom Terrific” could throw for 300 yards just throwing screen passes to James White and Rex Burkhead. Throw in the fact that the Houston Texans pass defense has not been the same since the loss of Pro Bowler AJ Bouye. I will pass on Tom’s counterpart for the Texans Deshaun Watson. His 2017 was nothing short of amazing and I do believe, at some point in 2018, Watson will pick up where he left off. I just can’t bet my first game of the season on someone coming off of a devastating knee injury. This is doubly true of a QB who relies on his legs to get him out harm’s way. Watson is now in the “show me” part of the season before I can comfortably start him.

Running Backs:

START – James White, LaMar Miller, Rex Burkhead

SIT – Sony Michel

James White is the guy I would start in this game among the Patriots RBs. He should be a guy that is consistently open on short passes taking advantage of coverage liabilities of the Texans linebacking core. He is by no means a consistent option, no Patriots RB has been, but I like him to exceed expectations in this matchup. I would also feel good about placing Lamar Miller in my starting lineup as my RB2. With the aforementioned Watson coming off knee surgery I see the Texans placing more emphasis on the running attack, especially early. As an RB that can catch passes as well Miller can rack up some targets if the game gets out of hand and HOU has to abandon the ground game. Miller is a low-end bell cow that has little competition for RB opportunities. Sony Michel should sit on your bench until he shows us that his knee is fully healthy. His health and the number of quality guys in this running back core makes me stay away until further notice. Rex Burkhead is another guy you can start as the most likely guy to play a roll in every facet of the Patriots offense this week.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, DeAndre Hopkins

SIT – Will Fuller, Ryan Griffin

Start Chris Hogan as the WR1 for Brady. He will be a high-end WR2 for your fantasy team all year long and this game will be no different. HOU has nobody that can stop Hogan from eating Sunday. Don’t think of ever sitting Deandre Hopkins. Not for any reason. His only Kryptonite is Brock Osweiler. I would strongly recommend sitting Will Fuller. Fuller has a lot of fans for a guy that has missed eight games in two years. He also has battled hamstring issues in camp, further questioning his season opener. My true reason for keeping Fuller on the bench is the “Patriot Way” of playing defense on WRs. The Pats routinely put their weaker cornerback and a safety on an opponents WR1 while letting their top corner on the WR2. That would mean Stephon Gillmore shadowing Fuller. I do not like that matchup for Fuller. The tight end position is possibly the biggest mismatch of any matchup this weekend. I would start Rob Gronkowski over any other TE this week and probably all season. Gronk was a steal in drafts this season with him coming off the board routinely in the third round. Gronk will be on a lot of league winning teams this year. The Texans, on the other hand, may have the weakest tight end group in the league. With less than 1200 yards in five seasons, Ryan Griffen is unlikely to break out this year of any year.

BUCCANEERS @ SAINTS – Josh Cook

Quarterbacks: 

START – Drew Brees

SIT – Ryan Fitzpatrick

There’s no need to complicate this one. Drew Brees is really good and should be started. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not so good and should not be started.

Running Backs:

START – Alvin Kamara, Peyton Barber

SIT – Ronald Jones, Mark Ingram, Mike Gillislee, Boston Scott

Kamara is a top-10 running back in a solid offense. He’s also heavily involved in the passing game and plays with one of the all-time great quarterbacks, thus he will likely always be a start. Then there’s Peyton Barber. The starting tailback for Tampa Bay looked good in the preseason and soundly outplayed Ronald Jones, who had a bad preseason, to put it mildly. A slight case can be made for Boston Scott as a start, but his role is not yet clearly defined even with Mark Ingram suspended. Scott is one to watch but needs to be left on the bench for this one.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, Ben Watson, Chris Godwin

SIT – DeSean Jackson, Cameron Meredith, Tre’Quan Smith, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate

Michael Thomas and Mike Evans are essentially must-starts each week, and this matchup is no different. Ben Watson is also a good starting option, despite an unfavorable matchup against the Tampa Bay linebackers. But anytime Drew Brees is throwing the ball, pass-catchers will be intriguing lineup options for fantasy. Chris Godwin is also startable in this one. He’s a flex play in this one, but the young receiver has risen on the depth chart and turned in some solid performances late last season. It’s a tough draw against the Saints secondary, but Godwin could fare well in a contest that looks like it will feature some garbage time.

JAGUARS @ GIANTS – Ben Stecker

Quarterbacks: 

START – Blake Bortles, Eli Manning

SIT – None

Love him or hate him, Bortles had a juggernaut fantasy finish to 2017 and a solid performance in the playoffs thanks to his ability to create with his legs. He looked like the 2015 vintage that finished Top 5 in the league and while that may be stretch for this year, he’s startable against a Giants defense with a lot of question marks. And if you thought calling Bortles a start was a reach, you probably hate starting Manning against Jacksonville. Both calls play off each other. The Giants are at home and Eli has a full stable of weapons to utilize. As good as the Jags D might be, ODB, Barkley, Engram, and Shephard are going to be tough to contain and the Derp Face can make you pay. I see the Giants taking a surprising lead in this one through the air and Bortles having to play catch up driving up his point totals. Either that or Fournette and the Jacksonville D will make this the lamest snoozer of the week and I’ll look dumb.

Running Backs:

START – Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette

SIT – TJ Yeldon, Wayne Gallman, Jonathan Stewart, Corey Grant

Barkley and Fournette are Top 10 fantasy RB’s (arguably Top 5), every down players and are must-starts every week. This makes everyone else here obsolete.

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Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Dede Westbrook, Odell Beckham, JR, Evan Engram

SIT – Sterling Shephard, Dante Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Cody Latimer, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Yeah, it’s slightly contradictory to suggest this game will turn into a quasi-shootout and then only list three receivers as start options, but they’re pretty good options and this is where I think the points will accumulate along with the running backs. OBJ and Engram are weekly must starts and Westbrook was outstanding in his limited work with Bortles in 2017. with the injury to Marquise Lee, he’s also the most talented and healthy receiver on the team. At least one of Moncrief and Cole is going to have a game, I have no idea which and the same goes for Shephard and Latimer. If you’re feeling lucky, gamble on Shephard and Moncrief, I’m trying to avoid depending on luck.

BILLS @ RAVENS – Matt Lotshaw

Quarterbacks: 

START – None

SIT -Nate Peterman, Joe Flacco

Buffalo named Nate Peterman the starting quarterback for week one. Peterman had a good showing this pre-season completing 33 of 41 passes for 431 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. But don’t be fooled by Peterman’s pre-season stats this is a nasty matchup. The Ravens defense had the 10th fewest yards allowed, 5th fewest TDs allowed with 17, ranked 1st with the most interception 22, and 2nd fewest fantasy points 12.9 per game. Remember Peterman is the same guy that threw five interceptions in the first half of his first NFL game. Stay away and bench Nate Peterman. Locked in as the starting quarterback for the Raven is Joe Flacco. Squaring off against the Bills who have one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL. Flacco lost his tight end to an injury earlier in the offseason. He will probably be locked on Michael Crabtree all game. With that said, I still wouldn’t start Flacco unless you were forced. Bench Joe Flacco

Running Backs:

START – Alex Collins, LeSean McCoy

SIT – Chris Ivory, Javorius Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon

You can’t find a better fantasy play this week then Alex Collins. This is a mind-blowingly good starting matchup at its finest. Buffalo’s defense allows the most fantasy points to running backs with 29.1 per game, most rushing yards, with 112 per game, and most touchdowns per game with 1.1. The Bills defense will most likely be on the field the majority of the time Sunday. Javorius Allen will mix in on passing downs and could be a sneaky flex play. For the most part, Collins is looking at a massive workload. This is a dream matchup scenario for fantasy owners. As for the other running back in this game, McCoy looks like he will play. McCoy had a groin injury earlier in the pre-season and still could possibly be suspended for a previous domestic violence case. Chris Ivory could see work if McCoy can’t play or the Raven’s jump out to an early lead. Look for the Raven’s defense to stack the box and cause Buffalo’s offense to struggle forcing McCoy’s fantasy points to come on big runs or dump offs. Needless to say, he won’t have a lot of room to run Sunday. Based on the amount of volume start McCoy

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START -Michael Crabtree, Kelvin Benjamin, Charles Clay

SIT -John Brown, Willie Snead, Zay Jones

Charles Clay’s breakout might start this Sunday. He could easily end up dominating the Bill’s target share and red zone looks. This isn’t a great offense but when your playing from behind counting stats add up quick. Look for Clay to provide top ten production Sunday at the tight end position. Start Clay. Trusting John Brown is not something I would advise. He’s small, is always hurt and has sickle cell addition to being on a new team. Sit John Brown. On the other hand, Crabtree has great hands and should see plenty of targets in this Ravens Offense. He might not be young anymore but Crabtree is a technician at his craft. The change of scenery and new scheme might be just what Crabtree needs. Buffalo is a tough matchup for wide receivers and the Ravens might control the clock by running the ball. But something tells me Crabtree will be productive in this game. Start Crabtree. You may already know, Buffalo’s newest player Kelvin Benjamin is a big bodied red zone threat who is showing every sign of being extra motivated after getting traded from Carolina. Buffalo probably will fall behind early and Baltimore will be playing without Jimmy Smith so that helps Benjamin’s case even more. Start Benjamin in this tough matchup.

TITANS @ DOLPHINS – Ciriaco

Quarterbacks: 

START – N/A

SIT – Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota

With one of the lower over/under this week at 45 points this is a game to avoid if possible. I would sit both Marcus Mariotta and Ryan Tannehill unless you play in a two QB format. If that is the case I would slot Mariotta slightly ahead of Tannehill. This is due to to the latter missing all of last season with a knee injury and Mariotta having much better talent around him as we will get to shortly.

Running Backs:

START – Derek Henry

SIT – Dion Lewis, Kenyon Drake

With Miami replacing Ndamukong Suh with Akeem Spence, I will make Derrick Henry my start in this matchup. Henry is a size-speed specimen who should rack up plenty of yards on Sunday with DeMarco Murray out of the picture and on the TV. Dion Lewis was brought into the backfield with a healthy resume as an all-around contributor, but he projects as a guy the Titans lean on in the two-minute drill or when the team is forced to pass. With this game projected as a close one, I would bet on Henry this week. Ranked 7th by football outsiders in rushing defense I would pass on small sample size hero Kenyon Drake this week. He could absolutely prove me wrong but I have a hard time believing in a guy who did nothing in college and had a second-half breakout due to Jay Ajai getting traded and Damien Williams getting injured.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Rishard Matthews, Kenny Stills, Delanie Walker

SIT – Corey Davis, DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Mike Geseki

Miami had a terrible pass defense last year and it does not look any better this year. The issue is the Titans number one WR, Corey Davis, has been in and out of the lineup his whole career, making him someone that is difficult to trust. If I had to start any of these options I would lean Rishard Matthews if he suits up. He has consistently produced as a high-end WR3 in Miami and Tennessee. Could this be a “revenge game?” I guess we will see Sunday. Out of the Dolphins WR group I will start Kenny Stills. He is the most talented guy in that receiver room and I see him making at least one long reception in this game. I would permanently park Devante Parker on the bench. He has been a fantasy “darling” for years but has been a complete let down for anybody who has ever invested in him. Parker is still technically starting but I doubt he ever becomes a reliable fantasy option. Delanie Walker has been beast since arriving in Tennessee. With at least 800 yards and 60 catches in his last four years with Tennessee, he has been one of the most reliable at his position in that time frame. He should be peppered with targets in this game in spite of his pre-season toe injury as one of Mariotta’s favorite targets. Miami has size/speed freak Mike Geseki as the backup at the moment, making the TE group for Miami a must sit. Journeyman AJ Derby is not someone I would trust in week one.

REDSKINS @ CARDINALS – Ben Stecker

Quarterbacks: 

START – Alex Smith

SIT – Sam Bradford

Smith had better be a solid start this week or he’ll be run out of Washington DC on a rail. Expectations are super high for the veteran, but while I think he will be a fantasy starter this week, I don’t think he’ll be a weekly winner so temper expectations a little. Bradford is far too risky right now to trust when there are so many better options.

Running Backs:

START – David Johnson, Adrian Peterson

SIT Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley

DJ is a must-start every down back, but what are we going to get from AP this year? He isn’t going to run for 1500 yards this year but he appears to have locked up the early-down work in the Redskins office and this week, that will play. The Redskins are a bit better overall than Arizona and I expect they’ll play with a lead allowing for some clock grinding from the veteran. This will increase Johnsons pass catching and decrease Chris Thompson’s overall value as a receiving threat. Kelley is an afterthought at the moment.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Larry Fitzgerald, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, Ricky Seals-Jones

SIT – Josh Doctson, Christian Kirk, JJ Nelson

Fitz and Reed are must-starts when they play, for Reed that won’t be always but it is this week. Crowder is the best receiving option in the Redskins corps and will be a volume target and RSJ is likely to be a valuable safety blanket for Bradford. Doctson and Kirk really belong in the “in limbo” category here. I’m OK starting either, but if I have more dependable options I’ll wait one more week to see their upsides play out. Kirk is an exciting playmaker who will be fantasy relevant and it could be as soon as this week, and Doctson has all the talent in the world but can’t stay healthy. Each has his risk and his rewards, so we have yet another gamble.

COWBOYS @ PANTHERS – Matt Lotshaw

Quarterbacks: 

START – Cam Newton

SIT – Dak Prescott

Newton gets ready to face off against the Cowboys at home. The addition of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner will help Cam be more productive. Not to mention, this week as he faces a Cowboys defense that’s been gashed by mobile quarterbacks. Definitely, start Newton this week since he’s in a favorable position. On the other side of the field, Dallas will run the ball all day in this game. Although the Panther’s have a middle of the road secondary. If Carolina stacks the box to stop the run Dak could then exploit man coverage. Dallas needs to take advantage of the Thomas Davis suspension by involving its revamped receiving group. All things considered, with Ezekiel Elliot, back and a somewhat healthy offensive line minus a few parts. Daks, only hope for fantasy relevance would be a rushing TD. In any event, with an unsettled receiving core and a run-first offense system. Until proven otherwise Dak is a game manager. Keep Dak on the bench.

Running Backs:

START – Ezekiel Elliott, Christian McCaffery

SIT – C.J. Anderson, Rod Smith

Carolina’s jack-of-all-trades at running back is a definite start. McCaffery is being talked up like a bell cow back by his coaching staff. If McCaffery sees 20 touches this grind it out kind of game. He could have a huge day on the ground and through the air. The Cowboys will have there hands full covering McCaffery. On the other hand, last year Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 983 yards and 7 touchdowns in only 10 games. At any rate, Elliott is a pretty obvious start this week. Dallas has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and they pound the rock. Carolina run defense is good they averaged the 3rd fewest fantasy point allowed, 4th fewest rushing yards allowed. Luke Kuechly collected 139 tackles last year and he will be given the task of containing Elliott. This is a tough matchup on paper and Carolina will try to shut Elliott down. At the end of the day, the Cowboys run game is matchup proof and Elliott will get his numbers

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Greg Olsen, Devin Funchess

SIT -D.J. Moore, Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin, Terrance Williams

Beasley is a sure-handed slot receiving safety blanket. With not many stable receiving options Beasley should be all systems go in this offense. The other option is Allen Hurns a very solid smart receiver. Hurns is technically considered the number one receiver. To put it mildly, the Cowboys wide receiver situation is a mess right now. You can start Beasley and Hurns, but sit everybody else. For the most part, the Dallas defense is not a great matchup for tight ends but Greg Olsen is worth starting given his track record. He should see his fair share of targets over the middle. Dallas allows the 13th most touchdowns to the tight end position. It’s important to note, Devin Funchess has shown good chemistry with Newton over the past season. Dallas gives up the 8th most fantasy points to wide receivers, 6th most receptions and 2nd most touchdowns. Funchess should be in your lineup. D.J. Moore has the potential to develop into a good receiver. Its hard to trust rookie wide receivers though. Especially when they have inaccurate quarterbacks throwing them the ball. Carolina has a lot of mouths to feed in this offense. Moore will have his big games this season. But I’m not ready to start him just yet. Bench Moore

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BEARS @ PACKERS – Matt Lotshaw

Quarterbacks: 

START – Mitch Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers

SIT –  None

Mitch Trubisky will be traveling to the frozen tundra to kick off the season. Let me explain why you should start Trubisky on Sunday. First, the offense will be specifically tailored to Trubisky complementing his style of play. Second, He’ll have two new weapons on offense in Allen Robinson and Trey Burton. Third, Green Bays passing defense was really bad last year they allowed the 9th most passing yards 252 per game, 4th most TDs per game 1.8 and 4th most fantasy points per game19.7. Mix in Chicago’s new quarterback whisperer Matt Nagy and that sounds like a startable player to me. On a side note, Aaron Rodgers just became the highest-paid quarterback in the league this offseason. He has a tough matchup against the Bears defense that just added Kahlil Mack to its stout defense. Last season Chicago gave up the 8th fewest passing yards per game 229, 6th fewest TD passes and 5th fewest fantasy points 14.1 to quarterbacks. With all this being said, Rodgers is still the top fantasy quarterback in the league. Despite the tough matchup, Rodgers is always a start.

Running Backs:

START –  Jordan Howard, Jamaal Williams

SIT – Ty Montgomery, Tarik Cohen

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard is definitely a nice start in week 1. He will be a solid RB2 when he plays the Packers on Sunday. Howard will continue to be the workhorse in the offense, but Cohen will take most of the passing down work. Pass catching running backs like Cohen are hard to predict. So they are better left on your bench. Howard does have the potential to be an RB1 in this great matchup. Green Bay allows the 8th most fantasy points to running backs and 11th most rushing yards. After all, Howard has established himself as one of the best backs in the league he should find success on Sunday. Meanwhile with Aaron Jones suspended and Ty Montgomery hurt Williams will be the lead dog in the opener. Chicago’s front seven is tough and could be trouble for Green Bays run game. But with the lack of depth at the position, Williams should see a large number of carries. Green Bays offense is potent even in a bad matchup Williams is a start based on volume alone.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START –  Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Trey Burton, Jimmy Graham

SIT -Geronimo Allison, Kevin White, Taylor Gabriel

The Bear’s wide receivers have a phenomenal matchup this week. Placing Miller and Robinson in your starting lineup might be risky. Considering that we haven’t seen much of anything yet from Allen Robinson and Miller is a rookie, but its the right call. Chicago should throw the ball early and often in this one. It’s also important to note, Green Bay surrendered a league-high 21 touchdowns to receivers. In addition to, allowing the 3rd most fantasy points and 7th most receiving yards 160 per game. Packers defense usually bottles up tight ends. With that being said, the Trey Burton breakout might have to wait another week. But given the volume of snaps and targets, Burton remains a start. Davante Adams is a must-start every week regardless of the matchup. The Aaron Rodgers/Jimmy Graham combo will be fun to watch this year. Even though Chicago matches up with tight ends well. Start Graham, because he still has big touchdown upside making him a low-end TE1. A rumor of Cobb being placed on the trade block and having offseason surgery caused a drop in Cobbs fantasy stock. But Cobb is still listed as the number two receiver in a Rodgers offense. Start Cobb this week and keep an eye on Allison.

JETS @ LIONS – Josh Cook

Quarterbacks: 

START – Matthew Stafford

SIT – Sam Darnold

Matthew Stafford certainly is a starting fantasy option as he leads the Lions into a tasty matchup with the Jets. The same cannot be said for his counterpart, Sam Darnold. The rookie is making his first start, which is a great reason to not have him in a fantasy lineup.

Running Backs:

START – N/A

SIT – Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell

There may be ample running room for the Lions tailbacks in this one, but it is not clear who will get opportunities between rookie Kerryon Johnson, bruiser LeGarrette Blount or receiving back Theo Riddick. The Lions’ backfield situation is far too murky to trust one of them in the lineup in Week 1. On the Jets’ side, Isaiah Crowell figures to get most of the carries, but the Jets figure to be passing a lot after falling behind. This lends to Bilal Powell getting some key receiving work, but this is a play best left unmade.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Golden Tate, Marvin Jones

SIT – Kenny Golladay, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Herndon, Luke Wilson

The Lions should be able to put up some decent offensive numbers in this one, so receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are solid options this week. However, Kenny Golladay’s usage remains a question mark, which makes him more of a boom-or-bust play better left on the bench if there are better options. On the Jets’ side, Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Quincy Enunwa and Chris Herndon may very well have their moments to shine, but this is not the matchup to plug them into the lineup. Anderson is the most intriguing option but could draw coverage from lockdown corner Darius Slay.

RAMS @ RAIDERS – Josh Cook

Quarterbacks: 

START – Jared Goff

SIT – Derek Carr

The Rams offense is scary, and Jared Goff will have ample opportunity to show how the offense is just as explosive this season as it was last. Meanwhile, the Rams defense is also scary with the likes of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh up front, and Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at corner. Derek Carr is a sit against this unit.

Running Backs:

START – Todd Gurley

SIT – Marshawn Lynch, John Kelly, Doug Martin

Todd Gurley was arguably the best fantasy option in the league last season and helped a lot of people win championships. There is no reason to ever sit him when he’s healthy. Marshawn Lynch may very well have a good season, but this Rams defensive front has what is probably the best interior line in the league. Lynch can’t be started against such a stout front.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

START – Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp

SIT – Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Seth Roberts, Jared Cook, Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett

By now this sounds familiar. The Rams are really good on offense and like to spread the ball around. Each of the three receivers — Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp — should see targets, and any of the three could be the one with the biggest game. However, the one position the Rams did not use very much last season was the tight end, so Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett are best left on the bench or waiver wire. As for Raiders pass-catchers Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, matching up against Talib and Peters is a difficult task that makes both receivers sits this week.

KICKERS – Josh Cook

START – Randy Bullock, Wil Lutz, Daniel Carlson, Matt Prater, Adam Vinatieri

SIT – Jake Elliott, Harrison Butker, Josh Lambo, Justin Tucker, Chris Boswell

There’s not much to say about kickers. Weather is always a bit of a concern, so places to avoid this weekend are Baltimore (Justin Tucker) and Cleveland (Chris Boswell). On the starting end, it’s as simple as targeting kickers who don’t have weather concerns and whose team figures to score a lot. A couple of legs to look for this week are Randy Bullock and Adam Vinatieri who will go toe-to-toe when the Bengals visit the Colts in a dome game.

DEFENSES – Josh Cook

START – Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars

SIT – Chicago Bears, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco 49ers

The Ravens, Saints, and Lions each face suspect offenses. Meanwhile, the Rams and Jaguars are stout defensively and should create plenty of problems for the opposing offenses. The units to worry about this week are the Bears, Texans, Chiefs, Buccaneers, and 49ers, as each square off against potent offenses that yielded among the lowest fantasy points per game to opposing defenses last year.

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Ben Stecker

Ben Stecker

Author SportsTalkLine.com at SportsTalkLine
Writer, sports connoisseur, Pacific Northwesterner. Rarely met a sport I couldn't be great friends with. Follow me on twitter @Softball_Guy
Ben Stecker
Joshua Cook
Fantasy enthusiast armed with whit, sarcasm and some knowledge, too. The Fantasy Sports Chef is a fantasy writer for SportsTalkLine.com.
Joshua Cook
Ciriaco
I'm a budding writer who's passion is for fantasy football. I love every NFL team but especially the Browns and what that franchise is creating on offense. I'm have two kids who I absolutely adore.
Matthew Lotshaw
I was born and raised in St.Louis Missouri, I have been playing fantasy sports since high school I write weekly previews and strategy articles to help the fantasy community