Football is back. No, seriously, we’re not messing with you this time: Football is actually back. What matchups should you attack in fantasy this week?
Before we begin, let me just remind you: Khalil Mack is a Chicago Bear. Seriously. Okay, now on to the topic at hand. Fantasy! Whether it be DFS or a league with your buddies who take everything a little too seriously, you’re looking for matchups to exploit this week.
Is it a certain quarterback known to shred a certain secondary, or a running back ready to take advantage of a lackluster defensive line? Stay tuned and find out.
Week 1 has a LOT to offer. Division rivalries, big debuts and everything in between highlight a huge opening week for the NFL.
We get one rookie debut in Week 1 with young hair, I mean heir, Sam Darnold under center for the Jets. We also get multiple new faces for franchises as Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith all have new homes. Sophomore slumps? Can Mitchell Trubisky take control in Chicago and will Patrick Maholmes light it up? Will Goff lead the Rams to the promise land? I’m leaning towards yes.
Who are the no-brainers and who are the sleepers? Let’s dive in and talk about the 10 you should be looking at for week one of the NFL season.
10. Matthew Stafford vs. the Jets
This one seems like a no-brainer, but Stafford may not be in the conversation of QB’s who’ll light it up in Week 1. Going up against a Jets defense that’s vulnerable against the big play, Stafford might be one of the safest bets this week.
With one of the league’s best offensive lines and a receiver core coming into its own, there’s no reason the Lions won’t start 2018 with a bang on Monday night.
Golden Tate has found a home and a top spot in the Lions receiver core and pairing him with a pure deep threat pass catcher in Kenny Golladay presents a lot of opportunities for big plays.
What’s the main reason Stafford is an easy pick here? Yards. Stafford has always been a defense shredder. Even in the Lions’ worst years Stafford finds a way to finish with a ridiculous stat line. With a hopefully consistent running back core and talented receivers as well as hungry tight ends, he’s a perfect pick in this matchup on Monday Night Football.
9. David Johnson vs. the Redskins
It was a rough 2017 season for David Johnson. A wrist injury kept the most-picked No. 1 back of last season out for all but one game. The former third round pick was coming off a fantastic 2016 campaign, which sets 2018 up as a revenge campaign for the Arizona back.
Johnson gets a Washington defense that gave up 100-plus yards combined to backs in eight of the last 10 weeks of the 2017 season. With questions offensively still to answer about what Sam Bradford will bring to this offense, Johnson should see a hefty workload against the Redskins. Even as an obvious start candidate, Johnson has added value in PPR leagues after catching 80 passes in 2016.
The main reason to go with Johnson here? Again, it was a rough 2017. The hope was that Johnson could return sometime last season and help with a playoff push. That didn’t happen. Johnson just loves the game and pushes himself harder and harder every week. After a year of disappointment, he’ll be desperate to make up for lost time. Johnson vs. the Redskins is a top matchup in Week 1, standard or PPR.
8. AJ Green vs. the Colts
After a slight dip to just under 1,000 yards in 2016, Green bounced back in 2017 and heads into 2018 still showing he’s a top target to have in fantasy. Green has 70-plus catches in four of his seven years in Cincinnati and 1,000-plus yards in all but one.
Even in another year with 1,000-plus yards and eight touchdowns, what aspect of Green’s game dipped? Catches of 20-plus yards. Heading into 2017 Green posted 10 or more catches of 20-plus yards in every season, including a career high 19 in 2011 and 2015. In 2017, Green only posted nine catches at that mark, a new low, but don’t hold that against him. With another deep threat in speedster John Ross, the kinks are being worked out.
Going against a 23rd-ranked Colts defense against WR’s in 2017, Green looks like an easy target for big catches in Week 1. With Ross coming into his own, Green may not receive as much attention as in recent years. Even when he is well covered, Green has found ways to produce. The Bengals aren’t a favorite by any stretch, though Andy Dalton posted fantastic numbers in preseason. If he continues that stretch of play in Week 1, the dynamic Bengals duo should combine for some great numbers to start the campaign.
7. Ravens D vs. the Bills
Nathan Peterman! Alright, I won’t stop there, but this is a great matchup for the Ravens in Week 1. It’s smart of the Bills to go with Peterman. Josh Allen looked good in preseason but they still shouldn’t rush him into the starter role. I still see Allen taking this team over by the fifth week of the season. I think most do.
Peterman did in fact throw five interceptions in the first half of his first league start last year; you didn’t dream that. The matchup definitely impacted the Ravens spot in ESPN’s projections. They jumped right to the top for Week 1.
Not only did the Bills lose Tyrod Taylor, but the duo of Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones, while talented, are not guaranteed to produce. Benjamin hasn’t found a true home after showing promise in Carolina. Jones showed flashes last season, but how that carries over remains to be seen.
Shady McCoy gets the captain role for the first time in his career. He’ll be a tough stop as usual but this game will definitely be about pressure on this receiver group. The Ravens defense should feast in Week 1.
6. Alvin Kamara vs. the Buccaneers
Airheads aplenty for Alvin Kamara after an unbelievable rookie year in New Orleans. Thirteen touchdowns, 728 rushing yards, 826 receiving yards, 16 plays of 20-plus yards. I could go on.
Mark Ingram, Kamara’s partner in the backfield, is suspended to start the season so how does one not expect Kamara to find lots of space against the Bucs on Sunday? In the two matchups between these teams last season, Kamara rushed for a combined 112 yards and two touchdowns to go with 168 receiving yards and a touchdown. That’s pretty decent.
The Buccaneers defense didn’t make any big strides in the offseason, and especially with Ingram out, Kamara is likely to top all backs this week. The Saints are coming off the Minnesota Miracle; the worst way to end a season (unless you’re the 2016 Falcons). Drew Brees loves to spread the ball, but throwing to the runners is a big plus for him. Don’t expect any changes in Week 1.
5. Keenan Allen vs. the Chiefs
Keenan Allen is somehow both a sleeper and a top target, as the Chargers have become, somehow, a team people love. This is an interesting season in Los Angeles. Can Phillip Rivers finally bring out the best in Allen?
Going against a decimated Kansas City defense, Allen is a perfect matchup this week. There’s no Eric Berry either, so Allen could thrive.
After an injury in Week 1 of 2016 sidelined Allen the rest of the year, he bounced back in a big way. In 2017, the Chargers receiver posted a career high in receptions (102), yards (1,393), catches of 20-plus yards (18) and catches of 40-plus yards (four). Unreal numbers across the board, that’s for sure.
Rivers is the resident gunslinger (sorry Jay, we know you’re busy on Very Cavallari) of the league, and there’s no doubt the air attack makes a big push again to start this season.
4. Kareem Hunt vs. the Chargers
Think back to Kareem Hunt’s debut last year. Remember the 247 yards from scrimmage? What a whirlwind rookie year for the Chiefs’ now-premiere back. With a new QB in second-year man Patrick Mahomes and a new offensive coordinator, can Hunt find that same magic in 2018?
It’s hard not to think he does, and Sunday’s opener against the Chargers is built to be a slugfest. Two high-powered offenses primed to score. The Chargers boast a fearsome foursome on the front line, but Hunt’s versatility out of the backfield, as well as his ability to work within gaps, makes him a tough cover for the best defensive lines.
Kamara was the star that shone brightest last season but Hunt never slouched, posting 455 receiving yards to go with his casual 1,327 rushing yards. The Chargers gave up 100-plus yards to running backs 10 times in 2017. Hunt is a must start and has a great matchup, especially if Mahomes starts to air it out and the score starts piling up.
3. Titans D vs. the Dolphins
The Dolphins, oof. Ryan Tannehill is back! Jarvis Landry is gone. There’s no premiere back (yet) with Kenyan Drake as the man in Miami, unless the Frank Gore of old shows up. The Titans defense has steadily improved year after year and added to that with the Malcolm Butler signing.
To their credit, the Dolphins went out and signed Danny Amendola to be their number one (?) guy by committee with Kenny Stills. Amendola had a great run in New England, but how he transitions from Tom Brady to Ryan Tannehill remains to be seen.
The Titans are hungry and coming off an AFC Divisional Round exit in 2017-18. All-Pro safety Kevin Byard should continue his rise to becoming one of the top safeties in the league, and the Titans should find ways to shut down the run and force Tannehill, coming off injury, into some tough throws on Sunday.
2. Rob Gronkowski vs. the Texans
Gronk eat. I think he will against the Houston defense. Gronkowski gets talked about maybe more than any tight end in the game right now, but then he’s one of the key offensive weapons for the most consistently dominant team in the league. It comes with the territory.
It’s been an up-and-down road for Gronkowsk,i but after an injury derailed a solid start in 2016, he responded with another 1,000 yard season in 2017. With Tom Brady under center, and going against a Houston defense prone to give up yardage to tight ends, Gronkowski gets the No. 1 nod for tight ends this week.
Brady spreads the ball. After losing Brandin Cooks and Amendola to the Rams and Dolphins respectively, and Julian Edelman to suspension, it’s a tough Week 1. That’s why Gronkowski may shine brightest on the field. The wide receivers starting for New England in the opener? Chris Hogan, underrated, and who should stand out for this core, and Phillip Dorsett. Cordarrelle Patterson may get some targets as well. Play Gronkowski this week.
1. Tom Brady vs. the Texans
Tom Brady remains the best matchup this week regardless of who he’s throwing to. System QB! Jokes aside, Brady finds a way to score week in week out. With a committee of backs who can catch out of the backfield, and Gronkowski to throw to, expect Brady to find the open man Sunday.
The Texans defense struggled against quarterbacks in 2017, giving up 300-plus yards seven times. Oh, and Brady threw for 378 yards and five (!) touchdowns against them in the slugfest that was their Week 3 matchup last season.
Speed kills, and the Patriots certainly have speed in Patterson, an intriguing figure who can stretch the field against any defense. Hogan fits the Patriots stereotype, not only amassing catches but creating space for himself too.
Brady gets the No. 1 spot for Week 1 going against the Texans in what should be a great matchup on all fronts. Who did we miss? Who’s your top guy this week? Let us know in the comments below!