Atlanta Falcons @ Minnesota Vikings
Start: Kirk Cousins
Sit: Matt Ryan
Atlanta allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks last year while checking in 29th in pass defense DVOA (and they didn’t address defense until Round Four of the NFL draft), so Cousins should be able to take advantage of his weapons Sunday (assuming Stefon Diggs suits up).
Conversely, the Vikings surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last year, ceding the least scores through the air. They play especially tough at home, Julio Jones is banged up with a foot injury, and quarterback is extremely deep, so you can do better than Ryan in Week 1.
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
Start: Chris Thompson, Jordan Howard
The easy answer is to sit all Washington players in this overwhelming matchup in which they’ll be missing Trent Williams, but if you’re looking for a PPR sleeper or cheap DFS option, take a flier on Thompson, who could be plenty busy in the passing game given the likely game script and dearth of alternatives on offense (Adrian Peterson might even be a healthy scratch). Philadelphia yielded the second-most catches to running backs last season.
The Eagles are near double-digit home favorites, have a sizable advantage up front and will likely be protecting a lead throughout the second half. Miles Sanders has more long-term upside, but this is a committee right now, and Howard is going to play as arguably the league’s top blocking back in the NFL. The favorite for goal-line work, Howard should hit pay dirt Sunday, so treat him as a top-20 RB option in Week 1.
Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets
Sit: Devin Singletary, Robby Anderson
Singletary is the heavy favorite to lead Buffalo’s backfield in touches this season, but he’s currently splitting time with both T.J. Yeldon and Frank Gore (who somehow averaged 4.6 YPC as a 35 year old running behind Miami’s offensive line last season). The rookie gets a tough first test on the road against a defense that added Quinnen Williams in the draft.
Anderson appears over his calf injury, and he’ll be a buy-low target after this week with a bright longterm outlook, but you’ll want him benched Sunday when he’ll be shadowed by Tre’Davious White. The Bills ceded the fewest fantasy points to outside receivers last season, and Adam Gase’s offenses have finished last in plays per game two of the past three years.
Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins
Start: Mark Ingram, Albert Wilson
Recent reports of a committee in Baltimore’s backfield wasn’t ideal news for those rostering Ingram, but there are going to be a ton of touches to go around, and Week 1 presents a Dolphins front-seven that was bottom-five in points allowed to running backs last year. The Ravens have a fast-paced system, so Miami’s defense is going to be exhausted in Sunday’s heat.
Wilson is going to play the slot a lot more this season — an area where he’s thrived when previously given the chance — and also Baltimore’s most vulnerable on defense. Kenny Stills is gone, and no QB targets the slot more than Ryan Fitzpatrick, so Wilson is an intriguing sleeper (both this week and for the season).
Kansas City Chiefs @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Sit: Sammy Watkins
Start: Leonard Fournette in DFS
Over six road games last season, Watkins totaled 17 catches for 205 yards without a touchdown, and this week he’ll be facing A.J. Bouye and company, who yielded the fewest fantasy points to wideouts in 2018. You’ll want Watkins firmly on the bench Sunday.
I’m not optimistic Fournette stays healthy all season, but he’s looking at a big workload in Week 1 entering fresh, with little competition in the backfield and against a Kansas City team that had a historically bad run defense DVOA last season. The Chiefs’ fast pace should lead to more plays too, and the addition by subtraction of Blake Bortles should drastically help Jacksonville.
Tennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns
Sit: Corey Davis
Start: Rashard Higgins
Davis will be dealing with Denzel Ward and a strong Cleveland secondary, shaky QB play and likely less volume with Adam Humphries, A.J. Brown and Delanie Walker now around.
Cleveland’s new No. 3 receiver gets Malcolm Butler and a highly favorable first matchup, and it sets up well even further with Odell Beckham Jr. banged up (hip), and David Njoku facing a Tennessee D that locked down tight ends last season. Higgins is a sleeper and a cheap DFS option this week.
Los Angeles Rams @ Carolina Panthers
Start: Jared Goff, Curtis Samuel
Goff had massive home/road splits last season, but he played better on the road the year before, and Sunday’s game should be a high-scoring affair versus a Carolina defense that’s far more beatable through the air than on the ground. The Panthers’ offense should put up points, while the Rams’ run game may not be as strong with a compromised Todd Gurley. The passing attack also gets Cooper Kupp back, so Goff is a top-10 option in Week 1.
The Rams have a strong secondary, but Samuel looks ready to bust out this season, and Carolina will move him all over the field and get him touches in what should be a high-scoring game Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Seattle Seahawks
Start: Tyler Boyd, Rashaad Penny
This is a tough matchup in Seattle, but Boyd is going to be plenty busy with A.J. Green sidelined, and assuming he continues to work frequently out of the slot, he’ll get the soft part of Seattle’s secondary in rookie corner Ugo Amadi.
The Bengals allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs and ranked 26th in rush defense DVOA last season, and they are nearly double-digit underdogs on the road Sunday. Chris Carson is a borderline top-five RB in Week 1, while Penny is a fine flex option.
Indianapolis Colts @ Los Angeles Chargers
Sit: T.Y. Hilton, Austin Ekeler
Hilton gets the obvious downgrade with the loss of Andrew Luck and a difficult Week 1 assignment against shadow corner Casey Hayward, and his production historically drops off in a big way when playing outdoors, so he’s someone to consider fading this week.
Ekeler proved he worked much better as a change-of-pace back than a featured one when given the starting opportunity last season, and he’ll be dealing with a poor Los Angeles offensive line up against a Colts run defense that ranked No. 4 in DVOA last season.
San Francisco 49ers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Start: Marquise Goodwin, Chris Godwin in DFS
A fantasy bust last year, Goodwin has earned a starting role to open this season and gets a highly enticing matchup right away against a Bucs secondary that was sliced for 8.2 YPA and a league-worst 110.0 Passer Rating last season. It’s an advantageous matchup for one of the league’s fastest players.
Godwin was a popular breakout pick, and he’s primed for a fast start in a potentially high-scoring game while facing a San Francisco secondary that was gashed for the most fantasy points by the slot position last season, and could be missing an always-injured Jimmie Ward on Sunday. Godwin’s a WR1 with a DFS price that doesn’t match.
Detroit Lions @ Arizona Cardinals
Start: Kerryon Johnson in DFS
Sit: David Johnson in DFS
While Detroit’s receivers are enticing with Arizona’s secondary so untested and without a suspended Patrick Peterson, the Cardinals’ front seven allowed the most fantasy points to running backs last year, and Johnson should be busy with Theo Riddick gone. The Lions’ slow pace should be offset by the Cardinals running plays quickly.
We have no clue what to expect from the Air Raid, and it’s safe to expect a learning curve with the young offense (although the element of surprise could help). Johnson hasn’t truly helped fantasy teams since 2016 (and his metrics were miserable last season on an individual level). He gets a Detroit run defense that went from bad (139.3 rushing ypg) to dominant (56.0 ypg) immediately after trading for Damon Harrison last season. DJ’s offensive line is a major issue as well.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
Start: Evan Engram, Michael Gallup
Odell Beckham Jr. is out of town and Golden Tate is suspended, so Engram should see good volume, especially with New York entering as TD underdogs. Dallas had the No. 5 run defense DVOA last year while struggling to cover tight ends, so the setup is favorable.
Amari Cooper is dealing with a foot injury and is scheduled to be shadowed by Janoris Jenkins on Sunday, while Ezekiel Elliott is slated to be on a snap count coming off his holdout. Enter Gallup, who looks ready to make the leap in Year Two and will face rookie corner Deandre Baker, so his arrow is pointing up.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ New England Patriots
Sit: Donte Moncrief
Start: Julian Edelman
Stay bullish on Moncrief moving forward, but Week 1 is a tough start against an improved New England defense that allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to outside receivers last season. Moncrief’s Sunday night is going to feature a lot of Stephon Gilmore, who’s one of the league’s best corners.
Edelman no longer possesses the most upside among receivers on his own team with Josh Gordon’s return, but he gets the more favorable matchup in Week 1, as the Steelers allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the slot last season. Pittsburgh defends the run well, yet the Patriots have one of the highest implied totals this week, so it’s a clean setup for Edelman.
Houston Texans @ New Orleans Saints
Start: Will Fuller, Jared Cook in DFS
Fuller routinely puts up WR1 stats when healthy (he has 11 touchdown grabs in 11 career games with Deshaun Watson) and gets a prime matchup against Eli Apple and company, who allowed the most fantasy points to outside receivers last season. Last year, Fuller produced the second-best Passer Rating when targeted, committed zero drops, finished third in yards per target (11.2) and was top-10 in fantasy points per target as well as fantasy points per route run, and he appears fully recovered from knee surgery. Indoors and with the week’s highest total (53), expect Fuller to benefit from a high-scoring affair Monday night. He’s a top-10 WR on my board this week.
The Saints have the highest implied team total in Week 1, and they face a Houston team that’s uptempo on offense, defends receivers well and possesses last season’s top-ranked run defense DVOA. Moreover, the Texans allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends last year, so the setup sure looks mouth-watering for newcomer Cook on Monday night. He’s a top-three TE on my board in Week 1.
Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders
Start: DaeSean Hamilton
Sit: Antonio Brown
Assuming Hamilton plays mostly the slot and the recovered Emmanuel Sanders moves outside, the matchup is favorable here, as Oakland’s secondary is most vulnerable in the middle of the field (although Daryl Worley isn’t a bad consolation prize if Hamilton plays more perimeter). Hamilton can overcome some shaky QB play with the help of an Oakland secondary that ranked last in pass defense DVOA last season.
My sit recommendation came before the latest crazy twist in this story with Brown asking for his release in an Instagram post on Saturday. When it did look like he would suit up for Week 1 after he gave an apology to the team, he was already the riskiest player to have in fantasy football. It was never a great matchup to begin with, and Brown barely practiced with his new team all summer. The way things are going the narrative could change again before kickoff on Monday, but consider this a fade in general on Brown this season. It’s become an increasing long shot the AB era ends well in Oakland.