NFL Fantasy Football: To Play Or Not To Play

Rejoice football fans, week one is finally upon us. Each week I plan to give you players who I would start and who I would be nervous about starting every week. This doesn’t mean start my start of the week over the best at their position. Players like Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, Michael Thomas, and George Kittle, you start against anybody. You spent too high of a draft pick in your league to bench them. Those are players to expect results from week in and week out. My weekly player rankings should give you a better idea of who to start if you have a dilemma on your roster. Now onto the players!

QUARTERBACK TO PLAY

  1. Josh Allen: A top ten quarterback in fantasy last season, and a new weapon to throw to in Stefon Diggs, I expect Josh Allen to be even better than he was a season ago. Starting with a Jets defense that no longer has Jamal Adams, that is without CJ Mosley for the season, and that has a suspect group of corners. I expect Josh Allen to have a big day.

2. Matt Ryan: Matt Ryan quietly finished among the top 5 QBs in fantasy points scored a season ago. Out goes Austin Hooper, in comes Hayden Hurst; who I am personally very high on for fantasy tight ends. They go up against a Seahawks defense that isn’t The Legion Of Boom. They may have Jamal Adams, but they have a suspect pass rush with no real edge rusher to game plan for. And Matt Ryan at home without having to worry about a consistent pass rush is a recipe for disaster if you’re a Seahawks fan.

3. Philip Rivers: Rivers looked awful with the Chargers last season. And he’s old. But he’s in a better situation with the Colts and Frank Reich; who was his old offensive coordinator with the San Diego Chargers. This week he goes up against a Jaguars defense with major turnover. They have two players left from that 2017 team that went to the AFC Championship on defense. Start your Colts, and start Rivers if you’re in a deeper league.

4. Jimmy Garoppolo: A full season removed from his ACL Tear back in 2018, I have a hunch Garoppolo has a big year for the Niners. Starting this week against a Cardinals team who gave up the second most fantasy points to QBs last season. And who tied for the most touchdowns thrown against. He threw 8 tds against this team last season. He might be without Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, but I fully expect him to have a monster week.

5. Drew Brees: He had a bad end to his season in the wildcard against the Vikings. But he has a healthy Alvin Kamara, and newly acquired Emmanuel Sanders to compliment Michael Thomas. And he has them to play against a Bucs defense who gave up the 4th most fantasy points to QBs last season. I expect a shootout in the superdome.

Sleepers: Ben Roethlisberger, Derek Carr

QUARTERBACKS NOT TO PLAY

  1. Carson Wentz: I’ll be frank, I’m not all that into Carson Wentz as a starting fantasy QB this season. I wasn’t a fan of the Jalen Reagor pick, his receivers are injury prone, and they’ve lost Brandon Brooks for the season to protect him. And he goes up against an underrated Washington defense. I expect the defensive lines of both Washington and the Eagles to wreak havoc this week. This could be an ugly game.
  2. Kirk Cousins: I’m actually a fan of his game, and his promise for this season. I’m high on the Vikings offense with new coordinator Gary Kubiak taking over for Kevin Stefanski. This week however he’s going against a Packers defense who made life miserable for him a season ago. Capped off with that ugly Monday Night Football game that lost them the division. Love Cousins going forward, but not this week.
  3. Daniel Jones: He showed some promise last season throwing for 24 tds and 12 ints for his rookie season. However he goes up against a Steelers defense who made life miserable for opposing QBs a season ago; leading the league in sacks, finishing second in interceptions, and giving up the fewest fantasy points. I’d avoid starting Daniel Jones to avoid a Monday Night Massacre for your fantasy QB.
  4. Matthew Stafford: Stafford didn’t play in either game against the Bears last season. I think he’s an excellent quarterback poised to lead an explosive Lions offense. This week however he goes up against a stingy Bears defense who gave up the second fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs. Stafford would be a sit for me this week.
  5. Aaron Rodgers: A lot of people are down on Rodgers fantasy outlook this season. He was solid and finished 8th last year. I think he’ll be better in spite of the deficiencies in receivers not named Davante Adams. But he’s going up against a Vikings defense who figure to have a dynamic pass rush bringing in Yannick Ngakoue to play opposite Danielle Hunter. I like Rodgers this season, I’d lower expectations this week.

Lowered Expectations: Tom Brady, Dak Prescott

RBS TO PLAY

  1. Josh Jacobs: Jacobs had an impressive rookie season finishing with over 1100 yards and 7 tds. This week he gets to go up against a Carolina Panthers defense who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs last year. I’d confidently start Jacobs in all leagues.

2. Austin Ekeler: Formerly in a time share splitting time with Melvin Gordon, Ekeler seems primed to be the Chargers workhorse this season with Gordon now in Denver. He had a monster season a year ago finishing in the top 5 of fantasy points scored among running backs. He starts the season off against a Bengals defense who gave up the most rushing yards in the league a season ago. Expect Ekeler and the Chargers to run all over the Bengals to victory.

3. Joe Mixon: For most of last season, Mixon was a disappointment for his fantasy owners. But he wound up finishing 13th among running backs for points; which would make him a low end rb1/high end rb2. He goes up against a Chargers defense without Derwin James, and who gave up the second most fantasy points to running backs last season. Mixon should be poised to have a big day against that defense.

4. Mark Ingram: Look at the details! Last season Mark Ingram finished just outside the top 10 in points for fantasy running backs. He didn’t have a great first game against the Browns(none of the Ravens players did really), but he had a solid second showing against them in week 16 putting up 17 fantasy points before he got hurt. That Browns defense a season ago gave up the 6th most fantasy points to running backs last year. WIth that linebacker corp losing key players to begin the season to free agency and injuries, I expect Ingram and rookie J.K. Dobbins to put up very solid games to start the season.

Sleeper: Jonathan Taylor, James White

RBS NOT TO PLAY

  1. Jordan Howard: The Patriots lost key players in their front 7 due to Covid opt out, and people leaving in free agency. Still during the regular season they gave up one touchdown to an opposing running back last season. I’d avoid Dolphins rbs this week.
  2. Chris Carson: The running back who finished right behind Mark Ingram in fantasy points last season, Chris Carson had a very good year. However he’s matched up against a Falcons defense who gave up the 8th fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. You may not have the depth to bench him in most leagues, but lower your expectations if you start him.
  3. Ronald Jones II: With adding Leonard Fournette to the backfield, I might advise staying away from Bucs running backs until a clear starter is established. And I expect Fournette to take the job ultimately. Still I wouldn’t start Fournette or Jones against a Saints defense who gave up the 7th fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs.
  4. Kareem Hunt: A solid flex play week in and week out in ppr leagues once he returned from suspension last season. Kareem Hunt is an injury away from being a must start RB1 in all leagues. This week, he and Nick Chubb go up against a revamped Ravens defense; who gave up the second fewest points to opposing running backs last season, and added Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, and Patrick Queen to that front 7. I expect both Cleveland running backs to have a long day.
  5. Derrick Henry: Maybe I’m crazy. Towards the end of last season until the AFC Championship game, Derrick Henry ran over damn-near every defender in his path. Running like a grown man to the tune of almost 200 yards in consecutive weeks in the playoffs, he looks ready to repeat that success in the regular season. Not so fast, the Broncos defense he plays this week gave up the 6th fewest fantasy points to running backs last season, and added a former teammate of Henry’s in Jurrell Casey to that defensive line. I wouldn’t bench him because he was likely someone’s first round pick, but I’d temper my expectations this week.

Lowered Expectations: Nick Chubb, Kenyan Drake

WIDE RECEIVERS TO PLAY

  1. Juju Smith-Schuster: He was a fantasy bust last season. There’s no other way around it. Though you can’t really blame him with the abysmal QB play the Steelers had last season, he goes up against a Giants defense who gave up the second most fantasy points to receivers last year. They may have brought in James Bradberry to attempt to stabilize that secondary, but I don’t think he’ll stop Juju and the Steelers passing attack.
  2. D.J. Moore: Coming off a season where he finished 16th among fantasy receivers, D.J. Moore looks poised to continue where he left off; starting against the Las Vegas Raiders. They were solid last season finishing in the top 10 of fewest points given up to opposing receivers, but with a young secondary, I expect Moore to have his way with them.
  3. Stefon Diggs: For reasons I feel strongly about Josh Allen this week, those reason can be applied to Stefon Diggs this week. I don’t trust anybody in that Jets secondary to match up with Diggs.
  4. T.Y. Hilton: Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are gone. Along with pretty much the entire Jags secondary. I suspect rookie C.J. Henderson will be on Hilton most of the time, and I expect Hilton to win that match up consistently. Big week for T.Y.
  5. Jarvis Landry: The homer in me wants to say nobody from the Browns will be productive this week. The realist in me recognizes the damage Landry has done to the Ravens since arriving in Cleveland. In 4 games he has 25 catches for 412 yards, but only 1 td. Last year he went 8 for 167 in a big Browns win and 7 for 74 in a big Browns loss. Until they stop him, I would start him against the Ravens

WIDE RECEIVERS NOT TO PLAY

  1. Terry McClaurin: Maybe I’m crazy for listing him here. Terry McClaurin has had his way with the Eagles secondary in both games he’s played against them. So why did I list him here? The Eagles traded for arguably a top 5-10 corner in the league in Darius Slay. A corner who consistently matched up against the best receivers on the other team when he was with the Lions. When they played Detroit, McClaurin had 5 catches for 72 yards. Not great, not terrible either. And now Slay has the luxury of playing behind one of the best defensive lines in the league. I expect McClaurin to be covered consistently throughout the game.
  2. Devante Parker: He had a big game against Stephon Gilmore a year ago; playing a big role in the Dolphins week 17 upset against the Pats last season. I don’t expect him to have the same success this week against last season’s defensive MVP. The Patriots were tied for the fewest fantasy points given up to receivers last season. And with a secondary that is mostly intact from last season, I expect them to remain stingy.
  3. Tyler Boyd: Finishing as a WR2 in fantasy last season, Tyler Boyd was solid a year ago. And word through training camp is he’s emerging as Joe Burrow’s favorite target. That’s all well and good, but he and the rest of those Bengals receivers are facing a Chargers secondary who gave up the 7th fewest fantasy points to receivers, and were tied for the third fewest tds to receivers last year. Boyd should be very good this season, but producing this week might be a tall order.
  4. Marquise Brown: One of my sleepers in fantasy this season, Hollywood Brown looks ready to take the next step in development as a receiver this season now that he’s healthy. He’ll have to do it against a stingy Browns secondary; who gave up the 5th fewest fantasy points to receivers last season. They also held Hollywood Brown to 5 catches for 28 yards in two games last season. I wouldn’t play Hollywood this week.
  5. Jamison Crowder: He had a big week 1 last season against the Bills piling up 14 catches for 99 yards. 24 fantasy points in ppr leagues. This year however, Robby Anderson is gone, and he’s out there with Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman. Even in garbage time I don’t think he’ll have a good day against an elite Bills secondary.

Lowered Expectations: Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham Jr.

TIGHT ENDS TO PLAY

  1. Hayden Hurst: One of my sleepers at tight end, Hayden Hurst looks poised to have a big year after being stuck behind Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle in Baltimore. Now starting in Atlanta, he’s rewarded with a match up against the Seahawks; who gave up the second most fantasy points to tight ends last season. They may have Jamal Adams over there, but I still like Hurst to have a big debut for the Falcons.
  2. Noah Fant: I didn’t mention him in my sleepers article, but I like Noah Fant as a tight end sleeper as well. He and Drew Lock showed a nice rapport towards the end of the year. And with a game against the Titans looming; who were tied for giving up the third most touchdows to tight ends, Noah Fant looks primed to show out in the home opener.
  3. Tyler Higbee: Would you believe me if I told you Tyler Higbee was the top tight end in fantasy through the month of December? You should, because he was. Poised to build off his end of the season tear, he has a match up against the Cowboys; whose defense allowed the 4th most points to tight ends a season ago. In that blowout loss last year he had 12 catches for 111 yards. Start Higbee ya dingus!
  4. Hunter Henry: I won’t lie to you all, I’m not particularly high on Hunter Henry this season. I don’t trust Tyrod to get him the ball. But in a match up against the Bengals; who were the seventh worst at stopping tight ends, I’m willing to give him a shot to prove me wrong. Start Henry this week.
  5. Mark Andrews: Normally I wouldn’t list someone like Mark Andrews in here. But this week I will. A pro bowler last season, and the TE5 in fantasy last year, Mark Andrews looks to have a great start to the season going up against the Browns. They gave up the second most touchdowns to tight ends last season, and Andrews put up 10 catches for 124 yards and 3 tds against them in two games last year. Start Andrews every week, but especially this week.

Sleepers: Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski

TIGHT ENDS NOT TO PLAY

  1. Austin Hooper: The tight end who was the highest paid in the league before Kelce and Kittle resigned with their respective teams, and the TE-6 from last season, Hooper looks to help Baker Mayfield play much better this season. This week however, he’s stuck playing against the Ravens defense; who gave up the second fewest tds and fantasy points to tight ends last season. Look to starting someone else at tight end.
  2. Chris Herndon: Somebody who seemed to have a nice rapport with Sam Darnold in his rookie year, but played in one game last season, Herndon looks to forget about his 2019 season. Unfortunately, he’ll have to start his season against the stingiest defense in regards to giving up fantasy points to tight ends; the Buffalo Bills. Don’t start Herndon this week.
  3. Mike Gesicki: He caught the game winning touchdown against the Patriots last season, and no Patrick Chung should bode well for him getting open. That being said, I’m not ready to start him this week against the Pats. He had 4 catches for 34 yards and the touchdown. Without that td, the Patriots effectively shut him down. I’d avoid Gesicki this week.
  4. Evan Engram: A tight end looking to bounce back from an injury filled season, Evan Engram should have a better season this year. To do that, he’ll have to produce against the Steelers. They gave up the 8th fewest fantasy points to tight ends last year. If you start him, I’d lower my expectations.
  5. Darren Waller: An elite fantasy tight end last season, Waller has risen like the mighty Phoenix overcoming his drug problems while producing for the Raiders. This week however, he faces a Carolina Panthers defense who gave up the 7th fewest points to tight ends and tied for giving up the 3rd fewest tds to tight ends last year. He is someone you ought to lower your expectations for when you start him this week.

DEFENSES

  1. Bills: An elite fantasy defense a year ago, they get to wreak havoc against a depleted Jets offense with a past his prime Leveon Bell, and subpar pass catchers. Sam Darnold may not see ghosts this week, but he’s in for a long afternoon in upstate New York.
  2. Steelers: Another elite fantasy defense last season, the Steelers look to pick up where they left off against a young Giants defense starting a rookie offensive tackle. Big Blue might look a little more black and blue after Monday night.
  3. Colts: Adding Deforest Buckner and Xavier Rhodes to a solid defense from a year ago, the Colts are treated to a match up against the team vying with the Jets to be the worst team in the NFL. This one should get ugly.
  4. Chargers: Even without Derwin James, the Chargers have a deep secondary, and a ver good defensive line ready to make life miserable for the number 1 pick in Joe Burrow. The Queen City might wind up becoming the Sack City after the Chargers get through with them.
  5. Eagles: Count me as a skeptic with Dwayne Haskins in year 2. The Eagles might boast the best defense in the NFC East after adding Darius Slay to that secondary. Haskins might wind up on his back a lot as well. Start the Eagles if your starting D has a bad matchup

Sleepers: Lions, Washington Football Team

As far as sitting defenses, I’ll keep this short and sweet. If they’re playing against a good or great offense, don’t play them. You’ll only be doing yourself a disservice by playing them this week. Now let’s win some week 1 match ups.

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