Can you believe it?! It’s already Week 1! After an off-season and pre-season that seemed like it would never end, we have finally reached the first full Sunday of meaningful football. It’s going to be a fun season!
I’m absolutely thrilled to be back writing the Start/Sit column this year. For those of you that are new here, every Saturday morning I’ll be dishing out some serious takes and knowledge to help set your fantasy football rosters for Sunday.
While for a majority of fantasy owners, Week 1 is mostly about starting your studs that you drafted, there are a few tricky spots that I do want to talk a little bit about.
So let’s get to it!
While the Chiefs had a pretty good defense last season, they still ended up allowing the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing QB’s last season. Heading into Week 1 however, it doesn’t seem like their secondary improved that much. They ended up trading away Marcus Peters over the summer, and now will roll out the services of Kendall Fuller, Steven Nelson, and Orlando Scandrick. While Fuller graded very well in 2017 at Corner according to PFF, Scandrick and Nelson graded pretty poorly, with Scandrick finishing at a 55.3, and Nelson at a 69.6 (nice).
While Rivers has never truly dominated against Kansas City these past few seasons, it’s a great spot for him at home to kick off the 2018 season. Keenan Allen should get a great 1-on-1 matchup with Scandrick, and Mike Williams should be able to do well against the other short Chiefs CB’s. If you got Rivers late in drafts, you should be able to let him rock and roll this week.
Jared Goff (@ OAK)
While it was going to be a pretty good matchup for Goff before the Mack trade, it just got even better. This Oakland Raiders defense was an absolute mess last season, ranking 30th in pass defense DVOA. They also allowed close to 19 fantasy points per game to the QB position, which was 12th-worst in the NFL.
Well, it doesn’t seem like the Raiders made any major improvements to their defensive unit over the summer, and especially with the loss of Mack, Goff should be able to do what he wants against this team on Monday. With the addition of Brandin Cooks, Goff has a bunch of weapons at his disposal, and should only grow in his second year under McVay.
All offseason, I talked as much as I could about Andy Dalton’s fantasy potential in 2018, and now he’s got a great first chance to prove me right as he’ll square off against the Colts in what is sure to be a high-scoring affair thanks to the weaknesses of both defensive units.
The Colts’ secondary had a season to forget last year, as they finished dead last in pass defense DVOA, and allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing QB’s. He’s also had some pretty good success against the Colts in the past as well, as he dropped 243 passing yards and 2 TD’s in the last game that he faced them. It’s a strong matchup for Dalton and the rest of this offense, and he’s the perfect streaming QB if you’ve got Carson Wentz in any leagues.
While Mahomes offers some serious upside for the whole year thanks to his big-play ability and stacked offensive weapons, his Week 1 matchup is pretty tough as he’ll face the Chargers on the road.
Los Angeles ranked 9th in the NFL in pass defense DVOA in 2017, and allowed the 5th-fewest fantasy points to opposing QB’s. While they did lose Jason Verrett over the summer, they still boast a great secondary with Casey Heyward and Trevor Williams, one that should give Mahomes fits in his second ever start in the NFL.
I’m just as excited as the next guy about Jimmy G’s potential in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but we might not see the full potential of this offense Week 1 on the road in Minnesota.
The Vikings ranked 4th in pass defense DVOA in 2017, and their unit should be even better this year. With Harrison Smith, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes in this secondary, I don’t feel too confident starting Garoppolo this week, and would look elsewhere.
So if you drafted Russell Wilson, you’re probably not going to bench him Week 1, but I do want to say that Wilson could have a long afternoon on the road in Denver.
While the Broncos might not be as dominant as they once were on defense, they still boast a pretty impressive unit. Although they did lose Aqib Talib over the offseason, they still feature Chris Harris, Bradley Roby and Justin Simmons in the secondary, Von Miller, and rookie Bradley Chubb.
But it’s not just about the Broncos, my concerns with Wilson are also about the Seahawks. We don’t know how healthy Doug Baldwin will be in Week 1, and I’m not confident in Seattle’s offensive line being able to protect their QB. You’re going to have to bite the bullet with Wilson this week, but just be aware that he might not perform well this week.
As you all know, I am a big fan of Mixon this year, and he should get off to a very hot start in Week 1 against the Colts. Not only should he be a lock for a very healthy workload with Jeremy Hill out of the picture this year, but it’s a great matchup against a Colts defense that finished 29th last year in total defensive DVOA.
Behind a revamped offensive line, Mixon should be able to do what he wants against this Colts team, in a game that should be very high-scoring.
As we all know, this Le’Veon Bell situation is reaching new levels of craziness, and it’s looking more and more certain that he’ll miss Week 1, if not for a few weeks/months. Everyone here at Razzball will make sure that all of the Lev Bell owners know what to do, but in the meantime, let’s talk about Week 1.
If/when Bell misses Week 1, James Conner will be locked and loaded into a serious amount of production as the lead back. Even though the Browns had a good rush D last year, we can’t ingore the sheer volume that Conner brings to the table. As of now, Conner is a RB2/flex play, and should be locked into lineups when Bell is officially out for this week.
Another play due to volume, Jamaal Williams is in a great spot at home against the Bears. While the matchup might not be the greatest, as the Bears ranked 13th in run defense DVOA last season, Williams will be locked into at least 20 carries thanks to the suspension of Aaron Jones, and Ty Montgomery almost exclusively working in the passing game.
We have to take the workload when we can, and Williams is a quality RB2/flex option with upside if the Packers offense can get going. Rodgers is back, so I don’t think they’ll have any issues with that.
It’s a pretty tough matchup for AP in Week 1 against one of his former teams, as the Cardinals ranked 1st in rush defense DVOA last season and only allowed 2.8 yards/carry in the last 4 weeks of the regular season.
I’m not too terribly high on Peterson in 2018, and if you have him on your roster, chances are he’s not a starter, and shouldn’t start this week, especially when we don’t know how he’ll split work with Thompson.
With the devastating injury of Jerick McKinnon, the rushing duties of the 49ers now fall on the shoulders of Matt Brieda and newly-acquired Alfred Morris. However, none of us know with 100% certainty how they’ll split work.
Regardless of how much work they’ll receive, it’s not a good matchup either against this stout Vikings defense. Minnesota finished 6th in rush defense DVOA, and only allowed 3.64 YPC and the fewest fantasy points to opposing RB’s in the entire NFL last season. Although I can see the upside with Brieda, as he’ll likely get the majority of snaps these first few weeks, I don’t think it’s necessarily worth it this week on the road.
While I won’t complain too much if anyone wants to start Carson, as he’ll likely be locked into at least 15 carries as the lead back over Rashaad Penny, it’s certainly not a good matchup on the road in Denver.
The Broncos D ranked 3rd in the NFL last year in rush defense DVOA, and should only look to improve with the addition of star rookie Bradley Chubb. If you’ve got a better option than Carson, I’d use it. I don’t think he’ll be very productive against Denver running behind this lackluster O-line.
*Note* – There are so many good WR matchups this week it’s actually incredible. Feel free to ask about your specific wide receiver in the comments below, but I’ll probably tell you to start him. Below are 3 options that you might not hear a lot about, but are in great spots.
Sanders was one of the more impressive players for the Broncos during training camp and the preseason, and I’m certainly high on the veteran entering his 8th year in the NFL, thanks to the addition of Case Keenum to this offense.
Sanders gets a great opportunity to start off his 2018 season on a high note with a matchup against a very depleted Seahawks secondary. Gone are the days of the LOB, as Sanders will draw a tasty matchup against Justin Coleman in the slot. He should be one of Keenum’s favorite targets this season, and I can’t wait to see what he does this first week.
I’m also a big fan of Crowder for this season, simply because I think he’s the only valuable weapon in Washington’s entire offense for new QB Alex Smith. Jordan Reed is very injury prone, Paul Richardson is an unknown in this offense as of now, we haven’t seen anything of substance yet for Josh Doctson, and Chris Thompson might not be fully 100% until November.
Crowder gets a great opportunity to get off on the right foot in 2018 with this matchup against the Cardinals. Not only should he get a majority of the targets in this passing game, but because he’ll line up in the slot, he’ll avoid Patrick Peterson, and instead, draw the attention of the very beatable Budda Baker (a 21% advantage to Crowder, according to PFF). Crowder is a great WR2/flex play this week, especially in PPR.
While I haven’t been as big on Amendola as other fantasy writers have been this offseason, I think he’ll get a great first opportunity this week against Tennessee.
With the departure of Jarvis Landry, a lot of available targets are up for grabs in this offense this year, and Amendola could get most of these (along with Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson). Also, Amendola could get an increased snap rate thanks to the fact that DeVante Parker could miss this game as well. Lining up in the slot, Amendola will likely draw the services of Logan Ryan, a matchup that results in a 27% advantage to Amendola, per PFF.
While he’s not the safest option this Sunday, Amendola could have a great Week 1, and should be used as a flex option in PPR if you need him.
I’m not really high on Cooper or Nelson for the year, and absolutely want nothing to do with them in Week 1 against the Rams. I do understand the argument that Oakland will likely be playing from behind this game, and both receivers should receive an ample amount of targets, but even still, I don’t want anything to do with them.
If things line up the way they should, Cooper should draw the coverage of Aqib Talib, a -46% disadvantage towards Cooper, and Nelson should draw Marcus Peters, a -43% disadvantage, some of the worst individual WR/CB matchups of the week, per PFF.
If you drafted Cooper, he’s likely your WR2, so you might not be able to sit him, which is understandable, but just lower your expectations a lot. And for Nelson, you likely got him late, and should keep him on your bench this week.
While Pete Carroll insists that Baldwin is “ready to go” against Denver, it’s really hard to trust him this week after a summer filled with inactivity. And while I do understand that you can never bench your studs in Week 1, I’m not in love with Baldwin this week as he’ll likely see a lot of Chris Harris Jr. You don’t have to bench him, but with Wilson and Carson, just lower your expectations.
I’ve talked a lot about the 49ers offense above, so I’ll shorten my argument for Goodwin. Simply put, I really like the upside that Goodwin presents this year under Kyle Shanahan, and with Jimmy G running the offense, but I’m not too confident in him this week as he’ll likely draw the coverage of shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes.
While it is a little bit concerning that Eifert will be on a snap count for this week (and potentially a majority of the season), we can’t ignore how good of a matchup he’ll get in Week 1.
I already touched on how the Colts secondary was pretty bad in 2017, and they weren’t a whole lot better in covering the Tight End position. In fact, they ranked 23rd in DVOA allowed to the position last year. It’s a tasty matchup, and Eifert is a quality streaming candidate for those of you who waited on drafting the position.
The matchup isn’t great, as Pittsburgh ranked 1st in DVOA allowed to the TE position in 2017, but from a volume standpoint, it’s hard to sit Njoku if he’s one of your only options for Week 1. After a summer and preseason filled with a lot of targets and first-team activity, Njoku should be actively targeted this year from Tyrod/Mayfield, and it should start in Week 1 against the Steelers.
Evan Engram (vs. JAX)
Not only is he not going to be 100% as he’s coming back from a concussion suffered a little while back, but it’s an insanely tough matchup for him agains the Jaguars. I’d look elsewhere this week if you have Engram.
Not only is it a tough matchup for the two TE’s, as New Orleans ranked 5th in overall pass defense DVOA and 6th versus TE’s in 2017, both Brate and Howard should eat into each others’ production. Before we move further in the season with starting these two options, I’d like to see how they split their workload over the course of a week or two. I’d look elsewhere if I had these two options.
Kickers and D/ST
Wil Lutz (vs. TB)
Vegas has pegged this game as a slugfest (50 O/U), and he’ll be kicking indoors, so Lutz is one of the best kicking options this week.
Stephen Hauschka (@ BAL)Ste
This Bills offense should be struggling on the road at Baltimore, which shouldn’t bode well for Hauschka.
Alright guys, that’s it for me this week, so thanks for reading the first edition of “Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em”, and I’ll see you on Wednesday for my Week 2 rankings! As always, if you have a question or comment, don’t hesitate to leave one below!
You Can Follow Me on Twitter @razzball_zach