Fantasy Football 2018: Week 1 Spreadsheet and Game-by-Game Predictions

Packers vs Bears (SNF)

GREEN BAY

Aaron Rodgers – Since 2010, Rodgers has averaged 22.5 points in his 14 full games against the Bears. That is sheer dominance. He is easily a top three quarterback play this week.

Jamaal Williams / Ty Montgomery – Granted, the sample size is small (36 carries), but in his career versus the Bears, Montgomery has averaged 8.4 yards per carry. I can’t imagine either player dominating the touches, which doesn’t bode well for their fantasy prospects. It wouldn’t be wise to trust either of them as anything more than a flex play this week.

Davante Adams / Randall Cobb / Jimmy Graham / Geronimo Allison – Adams has scored four times in his last four matchups with Chicago. He will see a lot of Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara, neither of whom are particularly intimidating. He’s a rock solid WR1. Cobb has had his fair share of success against the Bears, though he will have his work cut out for him going up against Bryce Callahan. He’s a decent flex play in PPR leagues. Led by Adrian Amos, the Bears were a top 12 defense against the tight end position last year. That being said, Rodgers will probably want to show off his new toy on opening week against a division rival – making Graham a top 8 play this week at his position. Allison is nothing more than a deep-league dart throw at this point.

CHICAGO

Mitchell Trubisky – Trubisky posted one of his better fantasy performances in his lone matchup with the Packers last year. With a plethora of weapons at his disposal, he should be serviceable as a second option in 2-QB leagues.

Jordan Howard / Tarik Cohen – As was often the case last year, Howard’s rushing totals could take a hit due to negative gamescript. If true, the reports about him being used more in the passing game should prevent him from bottoming out, making him a relatively safe RB2. John Fox failed to properly utilize Tarik Cohen and I don’t expect Matt Nagy to make the same mistake. It wouldn’t shock me if this game had Cohen’s fingerprints all over it. He’s a high-risk, high-reward flex play in all leagues.

Allen Robinson / Trey Burton / Anthony Miller – It’s difficult to forecast how Chicago’s revamped passing game will perform against Green Bay’s overhauled secondary. For now, I’d consider Robinson to be a low-end WR2 and Anthony Miller a deep-league PPR flex play. Trey Burton looked to be a favorite of Trubisky in the preseason and has a favorable matchup against the Morgan Burnett-less Packers defense. Josh Jones struggled to cover tight ends last year. Burton should finish inside the top 10 at his position.

Prediction – Packers 29, Bears 21.

Eagles vs Falcons (TNF)

PHILADELPHIA

Nick Foles – Foles put a whole new meaning to the term “boom or bust” last year. In his five full starts (including the playoffs), Foles scored 25 or more in three of them and less than 10 in the other two (with one of them coming against the Falcons in the Divisional round). The Falcons allowed the ninth most points to the quarterback position last year, which makes Foles worth a look as a QB1 streamer, though be mindful of his low floor.

Jay Ajayi / Corey Clement / Darren Sproles – In his two matchups against the Falcons last year (one of them as a member of the Dolphins), Ajayi averaged 114 yards from scrimmage. Though he failed to score in either of those contests last year, he won’t have to cede goalline carries to LeGarrette Blount this year. Reports out of Philadelphia are that Ajayi will be “the guy” out of the backfield this season. Even if those reports are true, Ajayi will have his work cut out for him against a defense that allowed the fourth fewest points to running backs last year. He’s an RB2 based on potential volume alone. Clement should see more work this year, though he’s best kept on the bench until he proves to have some fantasy relevance. Sproles is 35 and likely to be eased back in. He should ride the bench even in the deepest of PPR leagues.

Zach Ertz / Nelson Agholor / Mike Wallace – On paper, Ertz has the most favorable matchup of Philadelphia’s pass catchers. Whether he garners the attention of SAM linebacker De’Vondre Campbell or free safety Keanu Neal, he should be in a position to post a top 5 TE statline. Agholor posted a line of 3-34 on 3 targets in the divisional round and should benefit from Alshon Jeffery’s absence. Slot corner Brian Poole is by no means a lockdown corner.  Agholor should be a high-floor WR2 this week, especially in PPR. Wallace draws the toughest matchup of the bunch in Desmond Trufant. He’s a risky flex play to open the season.

Eagles D/ST – The Falcons allowed the ninth fewest points to opposing defenses last year. There are better streaming options out there.

ATLANTA

Matt Ryan – Ryan offered no upside last season, failing to reach 20 points in any game. The addition of Calvin Ridley as well as another off-season learning the new system should improve his prospects, though I’d be hesitant to start him against an Eagles defense that allowed the 10th fewest points to the quarterback position last year. He’s a QB2 for the opener.

Devonta Freeman / Tevin Coleman – Philadelphia’s second ranked rush defense should give fantasy owners reason to pause with Freeman and Coleman. That being said, the Eagles did allow the ninth most receptions to running backs and no team allowed more touchdown receptions to the position. Both players should have a high floor due to their receiving abilities, with Freeman being an RB2 and Coleman a mid-level RB3.

Julio Jones / Calvin Ridley / Mohamed Sanu – Whether he’s going up against Ronald Darby, Sidney Jones or Jalen Mills, Julio should be able to feast all night. The five-time Pro Bowler has totaled 377 yards and two scores in his last three games against the Eagles, putting up over 100 yards in each contest. He’s locked in as a WR1 this week. Ridley and Sanu will be volatile plays all season, with Ridley possessing the higher ceiling and Sanu the higher floor.

Prediction – Falcons 23, Eagles 20.

Colts vs Bengals

INDIANAPOLIS

Andrew Luck – It’s fair to expect some rust from Luck in his first regular season game since 2016, but don’t forget how consistent he was when he was healthy. The 28-year-old rarely posted less than 15 points, especially on his home turf. The Bengals were a middling pass defense in 2017 and there’s no reason to think they’ll make significant improvements in that area in 2018. Fire up Luck as a QB1 this week and don’t look back.

Jordan Wilkins / Nyheim HinesReports seem to be indicating that rookie Jordan Wilkins will get the start in place of injured Marlon Mack. Wilkins had an impressive preseason and will look to keep it going against Cincinnati’s bottom-8 rush defense, minus Vontaze Burfict. He should get enough volume to put up RB2 numbers this week. Hines struggled in the preseason and it wouldn’t be surprising if he ended week 1 behind Christine Michael in the RB pecking order.

T.Y. Hilton / Jack Doyle / Eric Ebron / Ryan Grant – Thanks in large part to William Jackson and Darqueze Dennard, the Bengals allowed the second fewest points to wide receivers last year. Jackson was one of the premier lockdown corners last year, and Dennard excelled in the slot. The Colts do move Hilton around, though no matter where he’s lined up, the matchup won’t be appealing. He’s a mid-level WR2 this week solely due to his upside. The Bengals struggled to cover tight ends last season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that both Doyle and Ebron have big games. Doyle is a top-10 option, especially in PPR leagues and Ebron is worth a flyer as a TE2. Grant will have some useful weeks, though week 1 isn’t likely to be one of them.

CINCINNATI

Andy Dalton – Dalton had one of his best performance last season in week 8 versus the Colts, and his arsenal of weapons is much improved this season. He’s a solid, yet unspectacular streaming option this week.

Joe Mixon / Giovani Bernard – Mixon averaged just 1.8 yards per carry in their bout last year, though he did manage to churn out 90 receiving yards. The second year pro should find more room to run this year, and is a good bet to score against a defense that allowed 12 rushing touchdowns to the position last season. He’s a high-end RB2 to start the 2018 season. Gio is at best a PPR flex play while Mixon dominates the touches.

A.J. Green / John Ross / Tyler Eifert – Green and Ross might have the best matchups of any receivers this week, going up against Pierre Desir and Nate Hairston. Green is a top 5 option, while Ross is a high-ceiling flex play. As long as he’s healthy, the Bengals will utilize Eifert in the middle of the field and in the red zone. The Colts allowed the 10th most points to the tight end position last year, though it’s worth noting that their safety room is much improved. Eifert is a touchdown-dependent TE2 in week 1.

Prediction – Colts 24, Bengals 21

Giants vs Jaguars

NEW YORK

Eli Manning – Jacksonville’s juggernaut defense allowed, on average, less than 10 points a game to the quarterback position last year. Stay away from Eli this week.

Saquan Barkley – Barkley’s first matchup in the NFL is as tough as it gets. After trading for Marcell Dareus, the Jaguars were one of the stingiest front sevens in the league. Nevertheless, I’d still be confident in firing up the rookie as a high-end RB2.

Odell Beckham Jr. / Sterling Shepard / Evan Engram – OBJ draws perhaps the toughest matchup of any top receiver – going up against Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Beckham is still a high-end WR2 based on talent, though this is definitely a week to fade the star. Shepard figures to get the first crack at Jacksonville’s D.J. Hayden-slot experiment. Throughout his career, Hayden has rarely ventured into the slot, making this an intriguing matchup for the third-year receiver. Shepard is a flex play in standard leagues and a WR3 in PPR. The Jaguars weren’t as generous to tight ends as some might have you believe, allowing the fifth fewest points to the position. Engram is a mid-level TE2 this week, especially in standard leagues.

JACKSONVILLE

Blake Bortles – The Giants allowed the most points to quarterbacks last year, and they could very well be without Olivier Vernon this week. While their secondary figures to be better, it is still one that Blake Bortles (gulp) can exploit. He’s one of the top streaming options in week 1.

Leonard Fournette / T.J. Yeldon / Corey Grant – When healthy, few teams can defend the run as well as the Giants. If Vernon were to miss the game, it would be a big boost to Fournette’s already high floor. He’s a rock solid RB1 this week. Any use that Yeldon and Grant might have is subverted by them splitting the backup role.

Keelan Cole / Dede Westbrook / Donte Moncrief / Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Whichever of these receivers draws Eli Apple this week has the potential to be the WR1 (he’s that bad). Cole should be downgraded a bit because of the likelihood that he’ll line up opposite Janoris Jenkins. Westbrook and Moncrief have plus matchups, though figuring out which one to play is nothing short of a headache. Gun to my head, I’d rank Cole as a low-end WR2, Westbrook as a WR3 (bump in PPR), and Moncrief as a low-end flex play. ASJ is worth a look as a streamer against a defense that has notoriously struggled to defend the tight end position.

Jaguars D/ST – Eli enjoys throwing to DBs nearly as much as his own receivers. Start Jacksonville with confidence.

Prediction – Jaguars 22, Giants 20

Ravens vs Bills

BALTIMORE

Joe Flacco – Buffalo’s pass defense is probably the one (and only) strength on their football team. Leave Flacco on waivers.

Alex Collins / Kenneth Dixon / Buck Allen – After trading Marcell Dareus, the Bills allowed the most points to the running back position. The Ravens should be utilizing a run-heavy gameplan in this one, making Collins an RB1. Dixon and Allen essentially cancel each other out, leaving neither of them with much value at the moment.

John Brown / Michael Crabtree / Maxx Williams – Buffalo’s secondary allowed the sixth fewest points to receivers last year. The good news for the Ravens is that Tre’Davious White doesn’t shadow. Phillip Gaines and Vontae Davis are no cakewalk, but they are beatable. It wouldn’t shock me if Brown was the more productive of the two. Both are flex plays this week. Williams is not a fantasy relevant tight end at this point.

Ravens D/ST – Nathan Peterman is starting, need I say anything else?

BUFFALO

Nathan Peterman – Yuck!

LeSean McCoy – The team has no offensive line, a quarterback who can’t throw, and less weapons than in a gun-free zone. I see no earthly way for Shady to find room to run. He’s a volume-based, low-end RB2.

Kelvin Benjamin / Charles Clay – Unless your league rewards players for dropped passes, Benjamin won’t do much damage. That being said, if he gets 15 targets, he’s bound to catch at least three of them. Clay could have a useful fantasy week if Peterman figures out how to throw the football to his teammates.

Prediction – Ravens 20, Bills 10

Patriots vs Texans

NEW ENGLAND

Tom Brady – These teams matched up in week 3 of last season and proceeded to score a combined 69 points (nice!). It’s entirely possible that this game has a similar outcome. Brady scored 34 points in that encounter. To say that he’s a top 3 option this week would just be stating the obvious.

Rex Burkhead / James White / Sony Michel – Decoding a Belichick backfield is like trying to figure out where your girlfriend wants to eat – at some point you just stop trying. Burkhead figures to lead the charge and has RB1 upside. White should see a lot of work as a receiver, especially while Edelman is out. He’s a mid-level RB2 in PPR. Michel is the wildcard, if he’s healthy this whole situation can go all Belichick on us. For now, I’d consider him to be a flex play in 12-team leagues.

Rob Gronkowski / Chris Hogan / Cordarrelle Patterson – If Gronk is on the field, he’s the TE1. End of analysis. Hogan’s matchup is appetizing, he’s a high-end WR2 at worst. If anyone can make Cordarrelle Patterson relevant in fantasy, it’s the guy in the hoodie-vests (Belichick). He’s an interesting option in DFS.

HOUSTON

Deshaun Watson – Starting in week 3 against the Patriots, Watson put up at least 20 points in five consecutive games before getting hurt. This is an appealing matchup for Watson, who has week-winning abilities for fantasy owners. He’s a top 6 option this week.

Lamar Miller – Miller was better with Watson on the field last year, though he posted just 60 total yards and no touchdowns against the Patriots. He’s an unexciting RB2 in all formats.

DeAndre Hopkins / Will Fuller / Ryan Griffin – Stephon Gilmore is no slouch, but Hopkins is better. In seven games with Watson behind center, Hopkins posted 606 yards and 7 touchdowns. He’s a top 5 WR play this week. Fuller scored an absurd seven touchdowns in just four games with Watson last season. Though that scoring rate is (obviously) unsustainable, he does have a delicious matchup against a secondary lacking a true second corner. He’s a high-upside WR2. Griffin is more of a blocker than receiver at tight end for Houston, and this isn’t the best of matchups.

Prediction – Patriots 34, Texans 28.

Dolphins vs Titans

MIAMI

Ryan Tannehill – Given all of their offseason additons, Tennessee’s defense could join the league’s elite this season. I expect Tannehill to struggle in his first start since 2016.

Kenyan Drake / Frank Gore – The Titans sported a top 10 run defense in 2017, and added Bennie Logan, Will Compton, and Rashaan Evans to their front seven this offseason. Drake should be fine based on volume, unless Adam Gase truly is dumb enough to give a chunk of the carries to Frank Gore. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and call Drake a mid-level RB2.

Kenny Stills / Danny Amendola / Albert Wilson / Mike Gesicki – DeVante Parker is questionable (at best) for this game, and even if he does play he won’t contribute much. Stills is the top target here, though he’s likely to draw a combination of Malcolm Butler and Adoree’ Jackson. He’s a high upside flex play in week 1. Wilson will likely draw the other of the two corners and I don’t see him getting enough looks to be relevant. He’s a dart play to begin the season. Amendola has the most welcoming matchup of the bunch, as he will go up against Logan Ryan. He’s a WR3 in PPR. Gesicki is an interesting streaming option in a slightly favorable matchup.

TENNESSEE

Marcus Mariota – This seems like it could be a high-floor game for Mariota. The Dolphins aren’t exactly overflowing with talent on the defensive side of the ball and struggled to create turnovers a season ago. Over the last two seasons, Mariota best performance came against these Dolphins – a game where he totaled more than 30 fantasy points. He’s in the QB1 conversation.

Derrick Henry / Dion Lewis – This is a salivating matchup for both backs. The Dolphins allowed the seventh most points to running backs last season, and that was with Ndamukong Suh in the fold. Suh is gone and Tennessee should have no trouble pounding the ball up the gut – which bodes well for Henry. He’s an RB2 to start the season. Dion Lewis could be in for an impressive Titans debut – as the Dolphins were very generous to receiving backs last year, finishing second to last in receptions allowed, and dead last in yards and touchdowns. The addition of Jerome Baker should help, though not enough to prevent Lewis from finishing as a top 25 back in all formats.

Corey Davis / Delanie Walker / Rishard Matthews / Taywan Taylor – The Corey Davis-breakout train could hit a speedbump called Xavien Howard. Howard is quietly turning into one of the league’s premier corners and he could give Davis fits on the outside. He’s a back-end WR3 this week. Minkah Fitzpatrick appears to be the starting nickel corner for Miami, which darkens Taylor’s outlook – though I’d be shocked if Fitzpatrick doesn’t spend some of the game covering Delanie Walker. Walker is still a volume-based TE1, while Taylor is a deep-league flex play. On paper, the most favorable matchup goes to Rishard Matthews, who will line up opposite a beatable Bobby McCain. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if Matthews outperforms Davis this week.

Prediction – Titans 21, Dolphins 17

Browns vs Steelers

CLEVELAND

Tyrod Taylor – For his career, Tyrod has proven to be an excellent streamer on his home turf – and that was on a Buffalo team devoid of targets. This season he will be throwing to Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, David Njoku, Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde. That’s quite the upgrade. He’s an elite streamer this week in what could be a shootout.

Carlos Hyde / Duke Johnson Jr. / Nick Chubb – I imagine Hyde will get the first crack at the early down work while Johnson will work as the third down back. The Steelers were a bottom 10 team against the run last year, so I’d punch Hyde in as an RB2 and Duke as a high end RB3 in PPR. Chubb should get some touches, though likely not enough to be fantasy relevant.

Josh Gordon / Jarvis Landry / David Njoku – The matchups here are underwhelming across the board. In his return, Gordon is going up against Artie Burns and Joe Haden, both of whom were decent in coverage last season. Gordon is obviously talented enough to dominate, but there are question marks in week 1, mainly concerning his snap count and target share. He’s a boom-or-bust WR2. Mike Hilton will line up opposite Jarvis Landry – a matchup that won’t be a walk in the park, thought certainly one that Landry should win. He’s a WR2 in PPR. Njoku could make for a decent start if Morgan Burnett is unable to suit up.

PITTSBURGH

Ben Roethlisberger – Big Ben on the road against a talented defense? No, thank you. Ben has had just three games with more than 20 points on the road over the last three seasons, compared to 12 games with less than 15. The 36-year-old is a low-end QB2 this week.

James Conner – Connor performed admirably for the Steelers in the preseason and should see heavy usage in week 1 with Le’Veon Bell out. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he finishes inside the top 12 at his position in week 1.

Antonio Brown / JuJu Smith-Schuster / James Washington / Vance McDonald – Brown has 584 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns over his last four games against the Browns. It doesn’t matter who lines up opposite him, he will feast. Briean Boddy-Calhoun is one of the league’s better slot corners, though JuJu posted 143 yards and a touchdown in their lone matchup. He’s a rock solid WR2, especially with Bell sitting this one out. The Browns are always ever so generous to tight ends, so McDonald could make for a decent deep-league streamer. In the past, when Le’Veon missed time, everyone on the Steelers saw an uptick in production. James Washington is an interesting sleeper to open the season.

Prediction – Browns 26, Steelers 24.

Saints vs Buccaneers

NEW ORLEANS

Drew Brees – Brees was undoubtedly better as an NFL quarterback last year than a fantasy quarterback. The two-headed monster in the Saints backfield allowed Sean Payton to lean on the run. The absence of Mark Ingram should help catapult Brees back into the high-end QB1 conversation, at least for the time being.

Alvin Kamara / Mike Gillislee – Kamara put up absurd numbers last year while averaging approximately 15 touches a game. Imagine what he can do with 20-25 touches. He’s probably the RB1 this week. Gillislee could be a decent dart throw in deep leagues.

Michael Thomas / Cameron Meredith / Ben Watson/ Ted Ginn Jr. – Thomas has yet to score in three outings versus the Bucs, though that should change quickly without Mark Ingram in the fold to steal goalline opportunities. Whether it’s Vernon Hargreaves or Brent Grimes, the matchup is nothing to be concerned about. Those corners should have more success covering Ted Ginn. Meredith is not playable until the depth chart works itself out on the field. Watson will have a tough going against a defense that allowed the second fewest points to tight ends last year.

Saints D/ST – Whenever you have a talented defense going up against Ryan Fitzpatrick, you have to start them.

TAMPA BAY

Ryan Fitzpatrick – The Saints were a difficult team to throw on when Marshon Lattimore was healthy last year. New Orleans’ defense should be even stingier this year. Leave Fitz on the waiver wire.

Peyton Barber / Jacquizz Rodgers / Ronald Jones – Barber should see the Lion’s share of the carries against a defense that was middle of the pack in terms of points allowed to running backs. He’s an RB2. Rodgers could have some use in deeper PPR leagues. Jones was dreadful in the preseason and should be kept on your bench until further notice.

Mike Evans / O.J. Howard / Cameron Brate / Chris Godwin / Adam Humphries – Evans is going up against Lattimore and needs to be downgraded significantly. On paper, Howard and Brate have decent matchups, though trying to figure out which one to play on a weekly basis will be a nightmare. Godwin has a neutral matchup in Ken Crawley, he’s an okay flex play. Humphries will be hard-pressed to produce anything against Patrick Robinson

Prediction – Saints 34, Bucs 21.

Vikings vs 49ers

MINNESOTA

Kirk Cousins – The 49ers finished the 2017 season as a bottom-12 defense against the pass, though that doesn’t quite tell the whole story. After Garoppolo took over, the defense took great strides and finished off the final five weeks as a top-10 unit. This has the feel of a grind-it-out, low scoring (ish) affair, which could put a cap on Cousins’ fantasy outlook.

Dalvin Cook / Latavius Murray – I expect the Vikings to ease Cook in, and the 49ers have a respectable run defense. Cook’s talent could win out, but there definitely is bust potential here. He’s a mid-level RB2. Murray is a touchdown-dependent RB3.

Stefon Diggs / Adam Thielen / Kyle Rudolph – Richard Sherman versus Stefon Diggs will be one of the more interesting matchups to watch in week 1. In his prime, Sherman could lock down any receiver – but he’s no longer in his prime and Diggs isn’t just any receiver. I’d start Diggs with confidence this week. Thielen should have the most favorable matchup going up against K’Waun Williams. He’s a WR2 and a low-end WR1 in PPR. The 49ers allowed the ninth most touchdowns to tight ends last season, and Rudolph is always a threat to score. He’s a borderline TE1 this week.

Vikings D/ST – I’d start the Vikings at home unless you have another elite option.

SAN FRANCISCO

Jimmy Garoppolo – Garoppolo totaled less than 16 points in three of his five starts last year, though he did manage to put up 22 against the Jaguars. I’d caution against starting him versus a Vikings defense that allowed less than 12 points per game to opposing quarterbacks last season.

Matt Breida / Alfred Morris – Regardless of who shoulders the load for the 49ers in this game, the matchup isn’t one that inspires much confidence. I wouldn’t start either player against a Minnesota front seven that allowed the fewest points to the running back position last year.

Marquise Goodwin / Pierre Garcon / George Kittle – It’s hard not to love Goodwin this year, but his matchup with Xavier Rhodes is a rough one. He’s a WR3 this week. Garcon will see a lot of Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, both of whom can be beaten. He’s a low-end WR2 in PPR. Harrison Smith and the Vikings allowed the fewest points to tight ends last season, rendering Kittle useless for this week.

Prediction – Vikings 23, 49ers 17.

Chargers vs Chiefs

LOS ANGELES

Philip Rivers – Rivers and his vast arsenal of weapons will be going up against a suspect Chiefs secondary to begin the season. The 36-year-old put up at least 17 points in six of his eight home games last season. There’s no reason to think Rivers can’t post QB1 numbers in this one.

Melvin Gordon / Austin Ekeler – Gordon averaged 124 total yards and a score in his two bouts with the Chiefs last year. He should post a line similar to that in week 1. Ekeler doesn’t have much value unless Gordon goes down.

Keenan Allen / Mike Williams / Tyrell Williams / Antonio Gates / Travis Benjamin – Unless you can figure out how the targets will be divided, Keenan Allen is the only trustworthy target in this offense. Allen averaged only 57 yards and failed to score in their two matchups last year, but Kansas City’s secondary has changed since then. Allen averaged 108 yards on his home turf last year and scored four of his six touchdowns at home. He’s a high-end WR1 in all formats.

Chargers D/ST – It’s always wise to start a defense brimming with talent at home against a rookie quarterback.

KANSAS CITY

Patrick Mahomes – This isn’t an ideal first opponent for Mahomes (in 2018). The Chargers have a splendid secondary paired with an ever so powerful pass rush. Mahomes might have some instances where he showcases his special abilities, but he’d be hard-pressed to turn it into an effective fantasy outing.

Kareem Hunt / Spencer Ware – Hunt averaged an astounding 194.5 total yards and scored three times in their two meetings last year. Fire him up as an RB1 in all formats. Ware will likely be eased back into action, so it would be unexpected him to be fantasy relevant this early.

Tyreek Hill / Travis Kelce / Sammy Watkins – On paper, this matchup might look daunting for Tyreek Hill, though in reality the Chargers don’t have anyone who can match his speed. Hill averaged 89 total yards and scored in both games last year, and he could produce a similar output in this one. Kelce’s outlook is a bit more troubling, as this matchup was a nuisance for him last year. In their two games, he totaled just 47 yards on 7 receptions. I’d fade Kelce a bit this week, especially in DFS. Watkins showed nothing resembling chemistry with Mahomes in the preseason and he will likely see a lot of Casey Hayward in this one. He’s not worth starting.

Prediction – Chargers 28, Chiefs 23

Broncos vs Seahawks

DENVER

Case Keenum – Earl Thomas is all that is left from the Legion of Boom, and he’s coming back from an injury. Unlike in the past, Seattle is no longer a defense where you must fade the opposing quarterback. The Broncos might not throw enough to put Keenum in the QB1 conversation, but you can certainly do worse as a QB2.

Royce Freeman / Devontae Booker – Vance Joseph did the smart thing and named Freeman the starter. Now he has to be smart and give Freeman a majority of the carries. The Seahawks allowed nearly 1,500 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns to running backs on the ground, so this could end up being a peachy debut for the rookie. Booker will have some PPR value as the third down back in this offense. He’s a flex play in deep leagues.

Demaryius Thomas / Emmanuel Sanders / Courtland Sutton – Thomas will draw Shaquill Griffin in this one; which isn’t a juicy matchup, but it’s not terrifying either. Thomas is a volume-based WR2 to begin the season. Sanders seemed to have a rapport with Keenum in the pre-season and it should carry over to the regular season. Similar to Thomas, his matchup with Justin Coleman is neither encouraging nor discouraging. He’s a WR2 as well, with upside for more in PPR leagues. Sutton isn’t start-worthy until proven otherwise.

Broncos D/ST – They should get plenty of sacks in this one as Seattle’s offensive line struggles to keep Russell Wilson upright.

SEATTLE

Russell Wilson – The matchup is less than ideal for Wilson to start the season. Denver has a ferocious pass rush and allowed the second fewest rush yards to quarterbacks last season. That being said, he’s still a back-end QB1 based on volume, efficiency and talent – though there is buyer beware.

Chris Carson / Rashaad Penny – Carson is expected to see a majority of the touches to begin the season, though the matchup is less than enticing. The Broncos were a top-10 rushing defense a season ago, and they’re only expected to get better. Carson does have some volume-based upside, but he’s a low-end RB2 to begin the season. Coming off an injury, the Seahawks will presumably want to ease Rashaad Penny into action – thus limiting his fantasy value early on.

Doug Baldwin / Tyler Lockett / Brandon Marshall – Baldwin is playing on a bum knee and his first matchup of the year is against one of the league’s best slot corners in Chris Harris Jr. I would fade him for this week, especially in DFS. Lockett has elite big play ability, but he’s nothing more than a flex play for the opener. Marshall could have some value in deeper PPR leagues.

Prediction – Broncos 21, Seahawks 17

Panthers vs Cowboys

CAROLINA

Cam Newton – Newton redefined “hit-or-miss” last year, as he totaled more than 20 points in seven games and less than 13 points in six. I don’t think this game will fall under either category as the Cowboys didn’t allow many quarterbacks to dominate them in the way that Cam can (that rhymes!), but they didn’t shut them down either. I’d consider Cam to be on the lower end of the QB1 spectrum this week.

Christian McCaffrey / C.J. Anderson – This could be a game where CMC does most of his damage as a receiver – as the Cowboys allowed the tenth fewest yards on the ground to running backs but the second most receiving yards. He’s an RB1 in PPR and a mid-level RB2 in standard leagues. Anderson will be touchdown-or-bust all season, and the Cowboys allowed just six rushing touchdowns in 2017.

Devin Funchess / Greg Olsen / D.J. Moore – Funchess will see a lot of Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie, both of whom are above average cover corners. He’s a back-end WR2 who can be bumped up in PPR. Olsen’s matchup isn’t too intimidating, as the Cowboys were middle of the pack in defending tight ends last year. Moore is an interesting flyer in deeper leagues.

DALLAS

Dak Prescott – In 19 of 25 games with Zeke on the field, Prescott has scored at least 15 points. His upside is capped by the lack of receiving threats on the Dallas roster, but his floor is amongst the best as long as Zeke is active.

Ezekiel Elliot – Elliot has scored 14 or more points in PPR in all but three games in his career. That’s astonishing. He’s the safest RB1 in the league.

Allen Hurns / Michael Gallup / Cole Beasley – All three receivers are flex plays, at best. If you want some upside, go with Gallup. Hurns and Beasley could have some value in PPR leagues.

Prediction – Cowboys 20, Panthers 19

Cardinals vs Redskins

ARIZONA

Sam Bradford – It’s difficult to trust a quarterback in fantasy when you can’t trust that he will get through the game without getting hurt. I expect a lot of dump offs in this one for Bradford against a defense that was surprisingly decent against the pass last year. There are better streaming options available in most leagues.

David Johnson – Yum. That’s the best way to describe Johnson’s first game back against a bottom-5 run defense from a year ago. He’s a top 3 option this week.

Larry Fitzgerald / Ricky Seals-Jones / Christian Kirk / Chad Williams / J.J. Nelson – Since Josh Norman rarely ventures into the slot, Fitz should be able to avoid him for much of this game. The 35-year old is a high-end WR2 to start the 2018 season. RSJ figures to be the full-time starter at tight end and will go up against a defense that allowed the fourth most points to tight ends in 2017. He’s a worthy streamer. The other receivers aren’t playable until one emerges from the pack.

WASHINGTON

Alex Smith – Smith starts his Redskins career against a Cardinals defense that allowed the ninth most points to quarterbacks a season ago. He was a model of consistency last season, scoring 15 or more in 11 of 15 games. He’s a low-end QB1 on opening day.

Adrian Peterson / Chris Thompson – It’s always a possibility that AP has another vintage performance in him, but the days of him plummeting through defensive lines are a distant memory. He’s a low-level RB2 against a defense that allowed the fifth fewest points to running backs in 2017. Chris Thompson should fare better though, as the Cardinals allowed the sixth most receiving yards to the position last year – he’s a solid RB2, especially in PPR.

Jamison Crowder / Jordan Reed / Paul Richardson Jr. / Josh Docton – Crowder has the best matchup of the bunch going up against slot corner Budda Baker. He’s a WR2 in PPR leagues. Alex Smith loves throwing to tight ends and the matchup is not one to fear for Jordan Reed. He’s a top 6 tight end to begin the season. Docton and Richardson will each see some of Patrick Peterson, and both players need to be faded.

Prediction – Redskins 26, Cardinals 23

Lions vs Jets (MNF)

DETROIT

Matthew Stafford – Stafford traditionally starts the season off on a hot note, averaging just under 23 points over his last seven opening games. The Jets allowed the fifth most points to the quarterback position last year, making them an ideal first opponent for the 30-year-old. He’s a top 8 quarterback option to start the 2018 season.

LeGarrette Blount / Kerryon Johnson / Theo Riddick – Blount should get the goalline work, Johnson should get the early down carries, and Theo Riddick should get the third down touches. Frankly, this backfield is a mess for fantasy purposes. Riddick might be the only trustworthy one as a flex play in PPR leagues.

Marvin Jones Jr. / Golden Tate / Kenny Golladay – Marvin Jones draws the toughest matchup in newcomer Trumaine Johnson. He’s a high-end WR3. Tate will square up against Buster Skrine in the slot, which should easily favor Tate. He’s a WR2 in PPR. Golladay could have some relevance as a flex play going up against Morris Claiborne.

Lions D/ST – They’re an interesting sleeper option against a rookie quarterback.

NEW YORK

Sam Darnold – Darnold is making his NFL debut against a top-12 pass defense from a year ago. He’s a back-end QB2 at best.

Isaiah Crowell / Bilal Powell – Crowell and Powell could both have some value in this matchup as the Lions were a bottom-8 run defense in 2017. In theory, Crowell should get the early down work, making him the better start in standard leagues – while Powell should get the third down touches, making him the better start in PPR.

Robby Anderson / Jermaine Kearse / Quincy Enunwa – Anderson will have his moments this season, but he will have to work for them against Darius Slay this week. Don’t expect more than WR3 output from last year’s breakout star. Kearse and Enunwa have some value in deeper PPR leagues.

Prediction – Lions 27, Jets 17

Raiders vs Rams

OAKLAND

Derek Carr – Jon Gruden has had one of the worst offseasons I have ever witnessed, though the one thing he is known for is getting the most out of his quarterbacks. Carr will have his hands full against a loaded Rams defense. I’d stay away and wait for a better matchup for Carr.

Marshawn Lynch / Jalen Richard – The Rams allowed the third most points to running backs last season, but that was without Ndamukong Suh. Their front line is improved but can still be run upon. Lynch should see enough volume to produce RB2 numbers. Richard could have some value in deeper PPR leagues as a third down back.

Amari Cooper / Jordy Nelson / Jared Cook – Cooper is likely to draw a familiar, yet nightmarish matchup in Aqib Talib. He’s closer to being a WR3 than he is a WR1. Jordy will see Marcus Peters and Nickell Robey-Coleman, which makes him a fade as well. Cook’s matchup isn’t as daunting, so he could have some value by default.

LOS ANGELES

Jared Goff – The Raiders allowed the sixth most points to quarterbacks last season, and they were a better defense then. Goff should post QB1 numbers to begin the 2018 campaign.

Todd Gurley – This is the real MVP going up against a below-average Oakland front seven. He’s a top 3 play, as he will be all season.

Brandin Cooks / Robert Woods / Cooper Kupp – All three receivers start the season with plus matchups, though Kupp’s is probably the most favorable. Cooks has the lowest floor, combined with his usual high ceiling. He’s a WR3. Woods and Kupp have higher floors, with Kupp being the better play in PPR leagues.

Rams D/ST – They’re not a great option, though you should probably start them unless you have another top option.

Prediction – Rams 31, Raiders 23.

 

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Jonathan Spader's picture

September 06, 2018 at 12:12 pm

Elisha, As usually you spent a ton of time and effort writing this article. Keep up the good work.

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