Week 1 Fantasy Cheat Sheet
Editor's note: FanDuel.com is hosting a one-week long $1,000,000 Fantasy Football contest for just Week 1 and Dave will be playing in it. It's only $25 to join and first prize is $100,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1 p.m. ET. Enter now to join Dave.
Each week I'll be coming up with a 1-10 scale to help owners evaluate their Fantasy Football options as part of this new advice column for 2014.
This week's confidence scale is based on old-school 1980s pro wrestlers, because nothing spews confidence like arm-locks and step-over toe holds!
1 - Tiger Chung Lee, jobber extraordinaire
2 - Iron Mike Sharpe, who yelled and lost a lot
3 - Koko B. Ware, nice bird but rarely won
4 - Greg Valentine, the not-quite master of the figure four
5 - King Kong Bundy, who never should have been in a one-piece
6 - Rowdy Roddy Piper, loved as a good guy or bad guy
7 - Randy Savage, may he rest peacefully in sunglasses heaven
8 - Andre The Giant, a dominating force for years
9 - Hulk Hogan, because Hulk Hogan
10 - Jake 'The Snake' Roberts, because you know why
On to the games!!!
Raiders at Jets, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
This is actually a good matchup for both young quarterbacks as the Jets secondary is in bad shape and the Raiders secondary figures to be the same (even with some veteran additions). It wouldn't be surprising to see the Jets come out in a spread formation and let Geno Smith find one-on-one short-area matchups to go after. That would mean a lot of Chris Johnson on the field -- the matchup is probably best for him. As for rookie Derek Carr , he might be more apt to take some downfield chances against the Jets' suspect cornerbacks.
Derek Carr (4.3): Oakland's best choice by default, his big arm should come in handy -- but he belongs on your league's waiver wire for the time being.
Geno Smith (5.9): Four of five multi-score games came at MetLife Stadium last year, including a December home win over the Raiders. An extremely tempting gamble for desperate two-QB owners.
Maurice Jones-Drew (6.3): Might need a long touchdown run to break through in Fantasy. Marcel Reece had one of those at the Jets in '13 -- one of nine scores the Jets allowed to running backs on the ground all season.
Darren McFadden (3.9): Figure Jones-Drew to cap McFadden's snaps and touches. That'll help keep McFadden healthy and unproductive. Benchola.
Chris Johnson (7.9): Not joking around, Johnson's actually a good play. After a quality preseason he'll take on a Raiders run defense that should be improved but not outstanding vs. the run. Should exceed 15 touches.
Chris Ivory (3.1): Might load up on carries as a clock killer in the fourth quarter, but only if the Jets pull away. Seems unlikely. Ivory's best for the bench.
Rod Streater , Andre Holmes , James Jones , Denarius Moore (3.5 avg.): Not even sure how the snaps will shake out for these guys -- Raiders receiving corps is a mess. But so is the Jets secondary. Streater is the safest bet.
Eric Decker (6.9): Familiarity with Oakland's scheme will come in handy: His last four games vs. Oakland: 27 catches (31 targets) for 327 yards and a score in three of those meetings. Should still be about as effective even without Peyton. Start him.
Mychal Rivera (3.8): Should end up getting covered by rookie safety Calvin Pryor . The Raiders might try to exploit it, but Fantasy owners shouldn't give a hoot.
Jace Amaro (3.5): Put him on your scout team radar -- the more he plays, the more spread-principle passing the Jets will use. He's got all sorts of potential. Might realize a little of it vs. Oakland.
Raiders (4.1): It's Week 1 and you drafted another DST. Don't torture yourself.
Jets (6.5): It's Week 1 and you drafted another DST. But this is a Raiders team with a rookie QB and a beatable O-line. Take them over the Bengals, Broncos and 49ers.
Jaguars at Eagles, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The target is going to be on the Jaguars secondary in this one. With their D-line bulked up, the Eagles should max protect Nick Foles and take shots against the likes of Dwayne Gratz and Winston Guy . Philly will put a huge emphasis on the O-line as the Jags will test that right side with Lane Johnson suspended. If the line can't hold, the running backs will catch a ton of dump offs.
Chad Henne (2.7): Had a dream this past week that Henne got hurt and Blake Bortles came in, won the game and started for the next 10 years.
Nick Foles (8.5): Matchup will make him look like a Pro Bowler -- or at least it should. Unimproved Jags pass defense allowed 29 scores to quarterbacks last season (34 total including rushing, which Foles will do).
Toby Gerhart (7.3): Volume back needs 15-plus carries/20 total touches to be a factor. Philly's run defense isn't perfect, so the Jags might force it to Gerhart in his first game with the team.
LeSean McCoy (9.2): Would it surprise you if McCoy was part Cheetah? Not me.
Darren Sproles (5.5): Guessing he'll play about 20 snaps for the Eagles. Not worth starting.
Marqise Lee , Cecil Shorts , Allen Hurns (3.6 avg.): It's not like the Philadelphia secondary is stifling, it's that the Jaguars receiving corps is bleak. Why risk it for Fantasy? Lee has the most upside by far.
Jeremy Maclin (5.5): Emotional first game in over a year after averaging 8.3 yards per grab in the preseason. Not the safest bet beyond a Flex spot.
Riley Cooper (5.1): Feels like no one wants to trust Coop. Maybe this is why: He had one game with more than eight Fantasy points at home last season.
Jordan Matthews (3.3): Give him time before trying him. When he takes on smaller corners he could be a red-zone dynamo.
Marcedes Lewis (5.6): Crazy to start him? Probably, but on a team thin on reliable receivers, Lewis looks better. Philly was strong versus tight ends last year.
Zach Ertz (7.9): Should be a money matchup versus whoever the Jags put on him (could be a slot corner, could be a linebacker). Start him.
Jaguars (3.3): They will have good matchups down the line. At Chip Kelly's Eagles isn't one of them.
Eagles (6.3): Sleeper DST. Jacksonville is still developing on offense (without Bortles). Like the Birds over the 49ers, Chiefs and Packers.
Bengals at Ravens, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
New wrinkles for both teams add a hint of unpredictability, though there's strangely some familiarity. The Bengals have faced Gary Kubiak's offense while with the Texans three times over the last three years (postseason games included) and allowed at least 19 points each time (and lost all three). Hue Jackson's track record of leaning on the ground game might pay off as there are some questions about just how tough the Ravens run defense is.
Andy Dalton (6.7): Threw seven interceptions in two games against the Ravens last season and still had at least 18 Fantasy points in both (five total scores). Should be expected to get that much.
Joe Flacco (5.7): Week 1 of 2012 was last time he had a good stat line against Cincy. It's one of three times in 12 career meetings with Cincy that he's had multiple touchdowns and 200-plus yards in the same game.
Giovani Bernard (7.5): Don't sweat his role or the matchup yet, even with the lackluster preseason. He's too big of a playmaker set up for more than the 14.4 touches per game he averaged in 2013.
Jeremy Hill (3.7): Taking a wait-and-see approach with Hill -- I'm especially interested in how the Bengals plan to use him. One factor: Marvin Lewis took a conservative approach with Gio last year when he was a rookie -- don't be shocked if he does the same with Hill.
Bernard Pierce (6.8): Go with him if he's your Ray Rice placeholder for two weeks. Don't go with him unless you're real thin at running back. Cincy allowed over 100 total rush yards to only six teams last regular season.
A.J. Green (8.5): You'd have to be related to Lardarius Webb or Jimmy Smith to sit Green. He scored in each game vs. Baltimore last year.
Mohamed Sanu (4.1): Playing time will be there for Sanu. Targets might be too -- Marvin Jones (the guy Sanu is replacing) averaged nearly six targets per game in the Bengals' last 11 games last season. Risky, cheap pick for the FanDuel crowd.
Torrey Smith (5.9): Has a TD in two of three career home games vs. Cincinnati but should be given a look as a Flex/low-end No. 2 WR in PPR, just because of his role in the new offense.
Steve Smith (3.3): Had just three games with 10-plus Fantasy points last year, but one came in Week 1. In fact, he's been good for at least 10 Fantasy points in each of his last four Week 1 games. Still scared to start him.
Tyler Eifert , Jermaine Gresham (4.4 avg.): Ravens were pretty solid against tight ends last season and these guys might keep taking targets away from each other. Practice avoidance.
Dennis Pitta (7.5): Bank on Flacco rekindling old flames with Pitta right away. He has 20 targets (13 catches, 136 yards and a TD) in his last two full games against the Bengals.
Bengals (6.2): They've had Flacco's number more often than not and Ray Rice is suspended. They have a shot to hold them to under 21 points and rack up some sacks.
Ravens (6.0): Might prefer to wait a couple of weeks on the Ravens DST before trying them out. Let's see how they look before they play at Cleveland in Week 3.
Bills at Bears, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Even with a run defense that isn't considered to be much improved, the Bears will throw the kitchen sink at slowing down Buffalo's running backs and take their chances with EJ Manuel . As a rookie Manuel put up good numbers in half of his games but was decidedly bad in the others. With Sammy Watkins banged up and the passing game very much up in the air, the Bills could have a hard time putting points on the board.
EJ Manuel (2.3): Can't be serious about starting him after preseason implosion (one score over 82 pass attempts).
Jay Cutler (8.1): Even with Stephon Gilmore lurking in Buffalo's defensive backfield, Cutler should shine. He's had very good numbers in each of his last four season openers, most against tougher defenses than this.
C.J. Spiller (6.9): Obviously has potential against a run defense that was atrocious last season, but the Bears addressed their run defense this offseason and should be stronger. Plus, how much work will Spiller get? He had six games with 15 or more carries in 2013.
Fred Jackson (6.7): If you think the Bills are going to throw a bunch, this is the back you might prefer. Jackson typically picks up third-down work as well as two-minute offense and goal-line situations. Might end up with more snaps than Spiller.
Matt Forte (9.0): Let's see, at home against Buffalo. Hmmm ... what would Oprah do?
Sammy Watkins (4.3): Might see him lined up most often against 5-foot-8 cornerback Tim Jennings . Seems ideal until you realize the rookie, in his first game, is hurt and catching passes from a scattershot quarterback.
Brandon Marshall (8.9): Not that you'd sit him, but Marshall has 100-plus yards in each of his last three Kickoff Weekend games, including a touchdown in each of his last two.
Alshon Jeffery (7.0): Only four times last season did Marshall and Jeffery both deliver 10-plus Fantasy points in the same game. Judging by the matchup this week should be the exception, not the rule, so don't sit him.
Scott Chandler (5.3): Might be part of the Bills plans considering the Bears' group of linebackers and safeties. Too much downside to consider for Fantasy use though.
Martellus Bennett (6.4): Incredible two-year history in early-season games: Over 10 Fantasy points in five of eight September games (and just two total in the other months).
Bills (4.7): What might Bon Jovi say here? Livin' on a prayer.
Bears (6.6): Manuel's been known to turn the ball over and the refurbished Bears pass rush should feast on him via the suspect O-line in front of him. Expect numbers.
Browns at Steelers, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
The Steelers kick off an incredibly favorable schedule against suspect offenses -- they should thank their lucky stars that Brian Hoyer is the first quarterback who will test their secondary. Be it because they're playing from behind or because the ground game will struggle, expect the Browns to end up airing it out. Even with a defensive backfield running on fumes, the Steelers should hold their own and give their offense an opportunity to put up some points.
Brian Hoyer (3.5): Hoyer has one 300-yard game in his career. It came in 2013 against a weaker defense with a better receiving corps and a different offensive coordinator. The Johnny Football Countdown Clock is on.
Ben Roethlisberger (7.3): If you drafted him to be your backup, keep it that way. Roethlisberger tends to be a slow starter and the Browns defense as a whole is improved. He'll need some help from his receivers to get to 20 Fantasy points.
Ben Tate (6.2): He'll start the season as "the guy" and run into the teeth of an improved Steelers run defense. Twice have Kyle Shanahan's running backs played Dick LeBeau's Steelers and twice the defense has smashed his scheme. Tate has two career carries against Pittsburgh.
Le'Veon Bell (7.7): With additions Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner , this is a stronger Browns run defense. It's going to take a lot of work for Bell as a rusher and a receiver to deliver for Fantasy owners.
LeGarrette Blount (5.9): Is he the clock killer? The goal-line guy? A part-time back? The uncertainty surrounding his role keeps him from being anything more than a desperation pick.
Andrew Hawkins , Miles Austin (3.4 avg.): We'll keep an eye on Hawkins, a short speedster who could rack up some decent targets. Shanahan's successful receivers are typically a good combination of speed and size, but he doesn't have anyone like that on the roster now.
Antonio Brown (8.3): Had good-to-great results in games against the Browns last season (including torching Joe Haden for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown).
Markus Wheaton (4.0): It'll take guts but he's a good sleeper. The Browns will probably put Joe Haden on Antonio Brown , leaving Buster Skrine on Wheaton. That's an exploitable matchup.
Jordan Cameron (5.9): Brutal history against the Steelers: Posted a personal-best 69 receiving yards against them last season, has one career touchdown against them (four games). He'll receive a lot of attention from Pittsburgh's secondary. I'd consider other options if you can.
Heath Miller (5.8): Miller's last touchdowns against the Browns came in 2011. He's never had more than 71 yards in his career against the Browns (17 games!). He could find the end zone in what might be a close game, but the yardage will end up being low.
Browns (5.1): Yes, this is a sleeper unit. No, I wouldn't use them in Week 1 at Pittsburgh.
Steelers (8.0): The first of many consecutive games against weaker defenses for the Steelers. Ride them.
Saints at Falcons, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Without Tony Gonzalez, expect the Falcons to run a three-receiver, no-huddle offense for much of this game. That may or may not mean a lot of snaps for Steven Jackson , who didn't take a preseason snap and missed a month of training camp with a hamstring injury. Count on the Saints building a lead on the Falcons' suspect secondary, taking the ball out of the Falcons' running backs' hands and into Matt Ryan . Usually that leads to big numbers for his receivers.
Drew Brees (9.7): The only dude you should sit Brees for is Peyton Manning at home against his former team. Got both guys? Didn't think so.
Matt Ryan (8.9): Typically puts up his best numbers at home, has been outstanding in Week 1 the last two seasons and Julio is back. Expect a very good game.
Pierre Thomas (6.5): Still the safest Saints running back for Fantasy thanks to being the most experienced in all of the running back roles. Had 130 total yards at Atlanta last year (on just 15 touches).
Mark Ingram (6.4): Not predictable enough to lean on in Fantasy. Had just two games last year with 10-plus carries -- four if you include two playoff games (which Thomas missed).
Steven Jackson (6.1): When last season ended the Falcons kept Jackson at 17-19 touches per game. He might get around that much this time around with Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman pitching in. It would be surprising to see S-Jax run well and often.
Marques Colston (5.4): Targets could start to dwindle for him this year with Jimmy Graham dominating and Brandin Cooks contributing. Might expect a good-but-not-great stat line in this one, even though the Falcons cornerbacks are shaky.
Brandin Cooks (4.8): The hunch is that Cooks will be one of the most unpredictable Fantasy receivers out there because of his boom-or-bust nature. But that "unpredictable" factor works for him early on because the Falcons won't know how to deal with him either. Might be a fun Flex to consider.
Julio Jones (8.7): The foot appears to be a non-issue, as are Saints cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Patrick Robinson .
Roddy White (7.2): Forget last year and remember this -- he's going to move into the slot and take on a lot of Tony Gonzalez's old routes. Should be money more weeks than not, including in Week 1 against Saints corner Corey White . Use him.
Harry Douglas (3.8): Pretty much the forgotten man in the Falcons offense. In weeks where a starting corner moves into the slot, Douglas could find ample room against lesser defenders outside. That's not the look he's expected to have this week versus the Saints, so steer clear.
Jimmy Graham (9.8): Time to start showing what he's worth after a rich contract extension. A must start.
Levine Toilolo (2.1): Could play a fair amount for the Falcons but might do more blocking than pass catching. Not a safe bet.
Saints (4.5): Held the Falcons to 30 combined points in two games last season (including Week 1 when Julio Jones was healthy). Totaled eight sacks and a pick in those games. Still a little too risky compared to other DSTs this week.
Falcons (1.15): Have held the Saints to 23 points or less in three straight meetings. Still too difficult to trust.
Redskins at Texans, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
No secret here -- Washington has to do a great job managing Robert Griffin III protection in order to have a chance against the Texans' improved pass rush. There's a good chance we'll see Jay Gruden lean on RG3's legs as a way to bolt out of harm's way and still complete passes, but it doesn't mean the visitors won't keep a fullback or blocking tight end on the field to help the O-line out. Griffin tends to thrive only when he's not pressured, so this is a problem.
Robert Griffin III (6.1): The Texans secondary isn't dangerous but their pass rush is beyond worrisome. Tack on RG3's first regular-season game in a newfangled offense and there's bound to be bumps in the road. Play it safe and go with another passer if you can.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (5.5): Look for a ball control type of offense from the Texans with a couple of long pass attempts just to keep Washington in check. No one has much confidence in Fitzpatrick for Fantasy purposes.
Alfred Morris (8.0): It'll be tough sledding when Morris gets carries early on and it could be a lot of watching from the sideline if Washington falls behind and needs to throw. Could still grind his way to a score but wouldn't expect more than 65 or so rushing yards. Bit of a risk.
Arian Foster (8.6): If he's healthy and active then Bill O'Brien will lean on him, as he's been known to do with his backs. Washington's run defense hasn't been great for a long time and Foster will gash them.
DeSean Jackson (5.8): Considering his big-play ability and the Texans pedestrian cornerbacks, Jackson should be given the nod as a capable third receiver or Flex. He'll get some juicy targets on plays Griffin extends outside of the pocket.
Pierre Garcon (5.6): Could end up leading Washington in catches this week but is expected to run a bunch of short- and mid-range routes. I like DeSean Jackson better.
Andre Johnson (6.8): Simply a matter of what kind of targets he'll get. Will they be longer than 15 yards? Will they be accurate? Johnson has flirted with mediocre quarterbacks for much of his career and has another in Fitzpatrick. Not sure if Johnson will get enough grabs to put up nice stats.
DeAndre Hopkins (4.4): Not good enough to start in this matchup. Had just two touchdowns all of last season and needs to build up some consistency before becoming a habitual Fantasy starter.
Jordan Reed (6.8): Has a shot to win matchups against the Texans linebackers and safeties. Expect him to be a big red-zone target this week.
Garrett Graham (3.5): Ever since O'Brien had Rob Gronkowski for a year with the Patriots he's used tight ends more often in his offenses. Problem is that Graham isn't the only tight end on the team that could get some targets in key third down and red zone situations. Keep an eye on how much rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz plays.
Washington (4.2): Sort of appealing because #LOLFitzpatrick, but chances are they'll struggle to keep the Texans offense under 24 points. Might have a couple of sacks and a turnover but nothing really special otherwise.
Texans (6.9): Simply because of their potential to rack up a bunch of sacks, the Texans are a low-end starting option this week. Picking off Griffin could help their cause too. RG3 led Washington to 24 or more points in five of 13 starts last season.
Patriots at Dolphins, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Bill Belichick recently remarked that the Dolphins new offense looked "very similar" to the Eagles offense, which isn't a shock since ex-Eagles assistant Bill Lazor is now running the Dolphins offense. Is it any coincidence that the Patriots spent the better part of a week scrimmaging against the Eagles this preseason?! The Dolphins connected with Mike Wallace for some nice gains including a long touchdown in the Patriots' last game against Miami, a loss for them. With their added defensive talent and some experience against a fast-break offense, bank on the Patriots coming out strong in Week 1.
Tom Brady (9.1): Remember when Tom Brady threw for over 500 yards and four touchdowns in his 2011 Week 1 game at Miami? That was awesome.
Ryan Tannehill (5.1): His running of the offense was hit or miss during the preseason. He might complete more than the 59 pct. of passes he connected on in two games vs. the Patriots last season, but it's too much too soon to expect a monster game.
Stevan Ridley (7.6): Whenever there's a game where Ridley could kill some clock in the second half, he should be considered for Fantasy. This is one such game. He has four touchdowns in his last four against Miami, too.
Shane Vereen (7.0): Might start and pick up a bunch of receptions, but playing time might not be plentiful for him based on how the game might shake out. Expect about 13 touches.
Knowshon Moreno , Lamar Miller (5.7 avg.): Miller could start, but Moreno might be best suited to work when the Dolphins are playing from behind. His pass protection is better and he's a more qualified receiver out of the backfield. I'd bank on him doing more than Miller.
Julian Edelman (6.5): Edelman's targets, catches and yardage tumbled when Rob Gronkowski played last season. Compare Edelman's games against Miami last season for examples. We're expecting Gronk back, along with an improved receiving corps. Edelman's OK as a No. 2 receiver.
Mike Wallace (4.9): Bank on the Patriots focusing on taking him away from the Dolphins offense, especially after he decimated them for 105 yards and a score in their last meeting. Darrelle Revis might have something to do with how Wallace does.
Brian Hartline (3.7): Sneaky sleeper in standard and PPR leagues. Should see a bunch of single coverage against Alfonzo Dennard (a.k.a. not Revis). If the Dolphins offense moves as fast as the Eagles do and they're forced to pass a lot, then Hartline should collect a lot of targets.
Rob Gronkowski (8.7): As Jason La Canfora told us on Fantasy Football Today, if Gronk's active he'll play a lot. Money in the bank.
Charles Clay (5.7): Believe it or not, the Patriots were scared of Clay in their last meeting and left the door open for Wallace to deliver while putting the clamps on Clay. Not sure it'll stay that way this time around. He's a sleeper to stash in deep leagues, but not a starter.
Patriots (7.8): Count on the unit to get off to a great start because they're healthy and much improved from last season. Plus, the Dolphins offense isn't promised to be anything great.
Dolphins (3.6): Sit them down and wait for Week 2 when they play at Buffalo.
Vikings at Rams, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Do yourself a favor and assume nothing with the Vikings defense. Sure, they stunk for much of last season, but new head coach Mike Zimmer has long been regarded as one of the sharpest defensive minds in football. Sneaky under-the-radar additions like Linval Joseph , Anthony Barr and Captain Munnerlyn could make this unit really strong. And this is a really good matchup for them since the Rams are already down to their backup quarterback and don't have a gamebreaker at receiver (yet). I'd be shocked if the Vikings laid the proverbial egg against a team captained by Shaun Hill .
Random Fun Fact: Norv Turner's offenses have averaged 32.7 points per game over their last three against Jeff Fisher coached defenses. Turner's teams are 3-0 in those games.
Matt Cassel (5.3): Cassel might be the first quarterback you hear about adding as a very good bye-week replacement. He should have command of a potent offense that will ask him to throw downfield. If your starter has a bye in Weeks 7 or 9, take a look at Cassel.
Shaun Hill (4.1): Two takeaways on the veteran: He's not afraid to run around a little bit and he's very reliant on whichever receiver he believes to be his best. No one should start him, but pay attention to who he throws at.
Adrian Peterson (8.9): The matchup suggests a tough week for Peterson given how the Rams front seven should be among the best in the league. You know what? I could write anything here and you'd still start Peterson, so let's just save some time.
Zac Stacy (8.2): The fear isn't Benny Cunningham cutting into his workload as much as defenses keying in on him. Averaged 17.0 Fantasy points per game in five home games versus non-division opponents but averaged 22.8 carries per game. Not sure he'll see as many and Minnesota's D has potential, but he should still be great.
Cordarrelle Patterson (8.0): Maybe I'm just drinking purple Kool-Aid here but is there a Rams defender who can contain him? Cassel's a good enough quarterback to get him the ball, and Norv Turner is a creative enough playcaller to make it happen. Must start.
Brian Quick , Kenny Britt , Tavon Austin (3.1): I was most impressed by Quick this preseason, plus there's worry about whether or not Britt will stay locked in or Austin on the field for 16 weeks. None of these guys should be in play.
Kyle Rudolph (7.1): Follow the logic: Jeff Fisher's defenses typically do well against tight ends but in Norv Turner's last three games against Fisher's defenses, the tight end scored and had at least 60 yards to go with it. Granted, the tight end was Antonio Gates and the defense belonged to the Titans, but it's a reminder that tight ends get a lot of use in Turner's system and Rudolph should match up nicely against the Rams' safeties.
Jared Cook (4.2): Remember the game he had a year ago? Good times, man. Good times. After that bonanza he averaged 4.2 Fantasy points for the rest of the season, so excuse me if I'm not confident.
Vikings (6.1): The more I look at them, the more I like them as a sleeper unit against a Sam Bradford-less offense. I'd take them ahead of the 49ers.
Rams (7.6): The potential for a bunch of sacks and a special-teams score make them a viable unit. Plus, if we're off on all the Cordarrelle Patterson/Kyle Rudolph hype, the DST would benefit greatly.
Titans at Chiefs, Sun., 1 p.m. ET
Ken Whisenhunt has a pretty big advantage in that he coached against the Chiefs twice last year, winning both games while with the Chargers. In those games his tight ends shouldered quite a lot of work, catching 11 passes for 154 yards and three total touchdowns. Check out how Delanie Walker is utilized against the Chiefs secondary on Sunday, which has arguably gotten weaker.
Jake Locker (6.5): Anticipate Locker running a no-huddle offense similar to what Philip Rivers ran last season. Not only will it keep the pass rush off of him, but it'll help him complete more passes. He's worth a look in two-quarterback leagues and as a Hail Mary choice in FanDuel tourneys.
Alex Smith (6.3): He'll play without Dwayne Bowe , but Smith made his way to some nice weeks without Bowe contributing much anyway. Like Week 8 of last year, for instance, when he totaled 25 Fantasy points against a Ray Horton-coached defense (Horton's in charge of the Titans this year). Bowe had a 7-yard grab. Another FanDuel tourney sleeper and not necessarily a Week 1 option.
Shonn Greene (5.7): We might mock the Titans for beginning the year with him instead of Bishop Sankey , but like a dedicated Fantasy owner, Whisenhunt trusts him the most. I'd expect a lot of work for not necessarily a lot of yardage.
Dexter McCluster (6.0): Here's a sneaky PPR choice. McCluster is obviously familiar with the Chiefs defense and their schemes after practicing against them for years. And we know how Whiz likes leaning on his pass-catching running backs (see Woodhead, Danny).
Bishop Sankey (2.2 as in second-string): Gotta see it first. He's the most talented back on the Titans roster but if he can't pass protect or hold on to the football then it's going to be a while before he sees 15-plus touches per week. We think.
Jamaal Charles (9.3): The Titans run defense added some veteran linebackers, but it's not enough to slow him down. You'd have to be a total goon to sit him.
Kendall Wright (5.3): Like the matchup a lot and think he'll be used a little differently than what we've seen in the past. Wright averaged roughly five catches and over 50 yards per game last season from Locker -- averages that should go northward.
Justin Hunter (3.7): Not sure if this will be the game where we'll see Hunter step up, but it's coming. His work in the preseason proved he's going to be a factor in the offense. Might gamble on him next week when he plays Dallas.
Donnie Avery (2.3): With Bowe suspended, there might be a little attention given to Avery in Fantasy. Even though the Titans pass defense figures to be worse off this season, he's not worth the one-week gamble.
Delanie Walker (6.2): Whisenhunt's recent track record suggests a big game for Walker. It doesn't hurt that half of his touchdowns last season came from Locker (in about 6 and a half games).
Travis Kelce (4.8): As far as potential breakout roster-stash players go, Kelce's pretty much at the top. The Titans have the safeties to try and limit Kelce, which is easier for them to do with Bowe off the field. I'd rather bench him for his breakout game and lean on him moving forward than start him when I didn't have to and risk losing out on another, more reliable tight end.
Titans (4.3): Questions about their pass rush and secondary will get answered soon enough. They're not worth starting the first game of the season.
Chiefs (4.4): Familiarity in what Ken Whisenhunt does offensively could pay off for the defense, but the secondary is just too nerve-wracking to trust.
Panthers at Buccaneers, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
The matchup will be won or lost at the line of scrimmage. If the Buccaneers can't make lanes for Doug Martin to run through, they'll have a tough time putting the Panthers away. If the Panthers can't protect Cam Newton (as they had a hard time doing in the preseason), the Bucs' defensive front will eat him alive if he's as clunky of a runner as he was in August.
Cam Newton (6.9): The good: Newton had 31 and 30 Fantasy points in two games against the Bucs last season. The bad: Lovie Smith is 2-0 in his career coaching against Cam, but he held him to under 20 Fantasy points just one of those two times and Newton threw for over 300 yards in both. Newton has also started slowly each of the last two openers.
Josh McCown (4.7): So many similarities to last season -- two big receivers, a big tight end and a pass-catching running back -- but even with a good matchup it's hard to trust him. Plus, if the O-line in front of him can't protect him then there will be some issues.
DeAngelo Williams (4.7): Scored at Tampa Bay last season but has totaled 60 yards over 21 carries in his last three against the Buccaneers (that's seven carries per game, kids). Plus, in four career meetings vs. Lovie Smith-coached defenses he's never scored or totaled more than 82 yards. Can't trust him.
Jonathan Stewart (2.9): Stewart's another roster-stash candidate -- not someone worth starting of course, but if he can stay healthy he has potential to be a touchdown producer.
Doug Martin (8.5): The matchup screams stay away because the Panthers front seven is excellent, but something tells us the Bucs will lean heavily on Martin. The addition of Logan Mankins could really help him out.
Kelvin Benjamin (6.4): If the prospect of Benjamin seeing a lot of Alterraun Verner scares you, then you didn't see his last six 2013 games (not a single grade higher than 0.6 on ProFootballFocus.com). Count on Benjamin leading the Panthers in targets, catches, yards and touchdowns.
Vincent Jackson (6.3): He was considered a slow starter last year before tearing up the Jets for 154 yards on seven catches, his most productive Week 1 ever. Jackson totaled exactly that many yards in two games against the Panthers last season. Expect a No. 2 receiver performance.
Mike Evans (4.5): Have a weird feeling he'll make his presence felt as the Panthers aim to contain Jackson on passing downs and leave the rookie in single coverage. The Panthers gave up just six touchdowns to receivers last year (no rookies) but have lost some key personnel in the secondary.
Greg Olsen (6.1): Had eight Fantasy points in each game versus the Buccaneers last season, probably knows a thing or two about finding holes in Lovie Smith's defense after practicing against it for the first four years of his career and then scoring on it in 2011 (he was stifled at Chicago in 2012). Figure him for a decent game.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins (4.5): Another name to keep on the bench in hopes of a breakout session sometime in the first couple of weeks. It's worth noting the Panthers struggled with tight ends toward the end of last season and didn't find a supreme solution to the problem this offseason.
Panthers (6.7): Should be start-worthy against the Buccaneers as it could take them a few more weeks to really get the offense figured out.
Buccaneers (5.8): If Cam struggles, this DST will be a gold mine. Don't mind them one bit as a Week 1 plug-and-play.
49ers at Cowboys, Sun., 4:25 p.m. ET
Last year this would have been a tricky game for the Cowboys and a chance for the Niners ground game to roll up a ton of yards. But the Niners passing offense figures to be a priority while the Niners defense is missing too many key parts to keep the Cowboys grounded. Bank on a shoot-out similar to the one the Niners were in last season in Week 1 against the Packers.
Colin Kaepernick (7.9): Not only did the Niners bulk up their receiving corps after making Kaepernick the highest-paid quarterback in the franchise's history, but he's probably going to have all day to throw in the pocket against a punchless Cowboys pass rush. That'll equate to big numbers, though probably not the 412 yards and three touchdowns he had in Week 1 last season.
Tony Romo (9.5): The Niners held 12 of 16 quarterbacks to under 20 Fantasy points last season, but their defense is under the microscope following the loss of two quality cornerbacks and a trio of front-seven defenders. Romo should have time behind a very quality offensive line to connect on deep routes and put up huge numbers. He's opened four of his last five seasons with outstanding performances.
Frank Gore (8.3): We're not sure how long Gore will hold up this season (his track record suggests he'll play until he's 38 years old) but while he's healthy, starting and facing an easy matchup he should be in lineups.
Carlos Hyde (5.1): If you're somehow desperate in Week 1, Hyde could fill in as a cheap Flex. The hunch is that he'll do a little more than spell Gore and potentially wind up with close to 10 touches against a bad Cowboys run defense.
DeMarco Murray (8.1): Including the playoffs, 6 of 8 rushers with at least 18 carries had 10-plus Fantasy points on the Niners last season. Murray is 14 for 14 in his pro career in delivering 10-plus Fantasy points when he has at least 18 carries in a game. And the Cowboys are 12-2 when he has at least 18 carries (11-0 when he has 20-plus carries).
Michael Crabtree (8.1 if healthy): His track record with Kaepernick is golden and the Cowboys secondary is suspect. Plus, he's a Dallas native who has never played a pro game in Dallas. There's no getting away from him as a starter this week -- so long as he looks like a go.
Anquan Boldin (4.2): Had an amazing Week 1 game last season and really had a resurgent season without Crabtree on the field for much of it. Entirely possible he strikes out of the slot for a touchdown, but the downside makes him a questionable Fantasy choice.
Dez Bryant (9.5): Even Dan Snyder, John Mara and Jeffrey Lurie are starting Dez on their Fantasy teams. Jim Harbaugh probably is too.
Terrance Williams (5.1): Being given an opportunity to start and play regularly with the Cowboys should lead to some excellent numbers for Williams. It's OK to be a little nervous about using him beyond a Flex since he had just two games last season with eight or more targets.
Vernon Davis (7.7): In 10 games without Crabtree last season, Davis scored in seven games and totaled 38 catches for 623 yards and nine touchdowns. In eight games with Crabtree last season (including the postseason), Davis totaled 19 catches for 281 yards and six scores. The matchup is juicy, but his opportunities seem to go away when Crab's around.
Jason Witten (7.0): Ol' reliable for the Cowboys should be serviceable in what should be a high-scoring game. Last time these teams met, Witten had well over 100 yards as the Niners left him in single coverage.
49ers (5.7): You drafted them to be your weekly starting option. You can either take your chances with them this week, find another DST (Lions, Jets, Bears, Vikings) and carry them and the Niners or cut bait and freefall into streaming DSTs. I'd try to carry a second DST but not at the cost of a quality bench player.
Cowboys (0.6): There might not be a week all season where we'd feel good about the Dallas defense.
Colts at Broncos, Sun., 8:30 p.m. ET
This should be a tough, low-scoring defensive matchup with plenty of big defensive plays. Yeah, right, and I'm a supermodel. Last year's game was a slobberknocker and this one should be no different ... save for one potential wrinkle: Montee Ball . Though the Colts run defense improved this offseason with the addition of D'Qwell Jackson , there could be some opportunities for Ball to control the clock on Denver's behalf -- something the Colts seem unlikely to do with Trent Richardson .
Andrew Luck (9.3): Threw three touchdowns and ran for another vs. Denver last season. Here's a cool stat: Luck averaged over 22 Fantasy points per game when he had at least 35 pass attempts last season and averaged just over 25 Fantasy points per game in games with at least 40 pass attempts. Should be a lock.
Peyton Manning (9.9): Unrelated-to-Peyton note/embarrassing fact about the author, Vol. 1 of 16: I was in drama club in high school.
Trent Richardson (4.9): It would be a legitimate shock if Richardson found a way to run effectively, and it has almost nothing to do with the matchup. He just has stunk for over a calendar year. It doesn't help that the Broncos D-line is as beefy as it's been in years.
Ahmad Bradshaw (2.1): If Richardson continues to Richardstink, then the Colts will turn to Bradshaw. Not a bad guy to eyeball off waivers and stash this week or next week.
Montee Ball (8.8): The Colts' run defense wasn't great last season but added talent to help slow down the run. Ball will test that talent as Indy is sure to keep the safeties back to protect against the big play from Peyton. Love this guy this week.
T.Y. Hilton (7.3): Hilton's track record outdoors is brutal, though the last game he played outdoors he went for over 100 yards (at New England in the playoffs). And in Luck's six total games last season with at least 40 pass attempts, Hilton delivered for over 100 yards in five of them. If the Colts are going to fire off a ton of passes to keep pace with/play from behind against the Broncos, then owners should roll with the Colts' most explosive receiver.
Reggie Wayne (6.2): He'll end up being one of the league's top possession receivers. Looks healthy and is running sharp routes, but not sure how explosive he is or how often he'll be asked to run long routes. A decent bet given the Colts' likelihood to throw a lot.
Hakeem Nicks (4.6): Might take some stones to start him, especially since he seems pegged as the third receiver in the offense (though the Colts will roll with a three-receiver set often).
Demaryius Thomas (9.3): When Jason La Canfora told us this week that the Broncos are toying with using him in the slot my jaw dropped. Talk about your all-time mismatches!
Emmanuel Sanders (7.9): The third preseason game proved that Sanders is bringing a whole new dimension to the Broncos. He can line up inside and outside, he won't draw deep coverage (other than what a standard Cover-2 would do) and he's got wheels. Expect a big start.
Dwayne Allen , Coby Fleener (5.2 avg.): Looking forward to seeing what Allen can do. If defenses get caught up in the Colts receivers then Allen is going to be a Fantasy giant. He'll play way more than Fleener, too. Not sure I'd start either one this week.
Julius Thomas (9.6): What would I have to tell you to consider sitting him? That the Colts will shut him down? That he only totaled 10 Fantasy points at Indy last season? That he eats live chickens before every game?!
Colts (2.2): Against Manning and the Broncos? #FantasyDeathwish
Broncos (5.9): There's a shot at some turnovers and sacks here, especially since the Colts O-line is a bit of a mess. I wouldn't drop them for a streaming option.
Giants at Lions, Mon., 7:10 p.m. ET
Eli Manning preseason totals: 20 of 41 for 188 yards (4.6 yards per attempt) with a touchdown. Icky. Now, we've seen many quarterbacks in new systems stink it up in the preseason and then come out guns-a-blazin' in the regular season. Manning will face off against a questionable set of cornerbacks at Detroit, but the pressure from the Lions defensive line could be tough for his O-line to deal with for four quarters. It's going to be a tough start for the Giants offense.
Eli Manning (3.1415927): New coordinator Ben McAdoo spent eight seasons with the Packers, so he's familiar with the Lions defensive talent. The scheme they'll play has changed, however, and Manning's command of the Giants new offense is definitely up in the air.
Matthew Stafford (8.7): With all elements of the Giants defense not so bad but not really outstanding either, he's going to have a real shot at showcasing Motown's new offense (which he does have good command of). Expect a big start.
Rashad Jennings (6.6): Tough draw for Week 1, as the Lions' front seven should be pretty stout. Jennings' skills as a receiver could keep him in play as a Flex option.
Andre Williams (3.5): Aside from Tom Coughlin and his parents, no one has higher expectations for Williams than I do. I'm not sure if I'm going to throw him into lineups this soon, though. Let's get an idea of his role first.
Joique Bell (7.8): We're about to start finding out just how much of a role Bell has in the Lions' new offense. He played more snaps in the preseason than Bush but Bush started three games, Bell started zero. If the Lions are going to kill the clock and sit on a big lead, Bell's the best bet.
Reggie Bush (7.4): All offseason long we've had the feeling that Bush will lose playing time and thus touches to Bell. Week 1 will be our first glance. It doesn't make him a bad start since he could still get 15 or so touches between runs and catches.
Rueben Randle (5.7): The thinking here is that Cruz will command more attention than Randle and the third-year receiver will benefit with softer coverage against a weakish secondary with his team playing from behind. That refrain helped him out a lot last season.
Victor Cruz (5.2): Until the Giants offense is absolutely back on track, I'm nervous to count on Cruz. Theoretically he should do well against the Lions' cornerbacks and potentially take a short play a long distance. But he had just 10 plays of 20-plus yards last season, a three-year low.
Calvin Johnson (9.1): If you like big, fast, physical receivers who have the ability to beat up double coverage, then you might want to consider starting Johnson.
Golden Tate (6.1): The dividends of playing opposite Megatron should begin on Monday night, though when Tate went up against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Super Bowl XLVIII (when DRC was with the Broncos) he was held to less than 20 yards. Then again, Stafford wasn't his quarterback and the game wasn't a blowout by the third quarter.
Larry Donnell (1.1): You're thinking Who is Larry Donnell ?!? He's likely to begin the season as the Giants' top tight end. Does it mean anything for your Fantasy team? Probably not.
Eric Ebron (4.6): Not sure I like his matchup against Antrel Rolle (assuming the Giants give Rolle the responsibilities of covering the rookie) but he'll be due for some big plays soon.
Giants (2.8): Once Jon Beason gets back into the groove this unit could be better all around. Until then, pass.
Lions (6.8): A Top 10 type of sleeper DST and the perfect unit to either stream for Week 1 or use in FanDuel tourneys.
Chargers at Cardinals, Mon., 10:20 p.m. ET
All eyes will be on new Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Though typically ex-quarterbacks tend to be more pass-heavy with their playcalling, it would behoove Reich to lean on his running backs a little more against Zona. This defense should be OK at linebacker and get along fine without Darnell Dockett causing trouble on the defensive line, but with the Chargers O-line no longer a major weakness we should see a decent dose of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead on offense.
Philip Rivers (7.5): Tough spot for Rivers against a defense with a good pass rush and some excellent defensive backs. Be prepared for Rivers to dink and dunk his way to first-down conversions, eliminating many big-play opportunities.
Carson Palmer (7.1): The Chargers front seven is underrated but the secondary, save for safety Eric Weddle , is a liability. Palmer should regularly put up 35 pass attempts per game and flirt with 300 yards regardless of the opponent. He's a sleeper for FanDuel tournaments for sure.
Ryan Mathews (7.2): The Chargers are going to need him to deliver if they're going to stay close enough to pull away in the fourth quarter. He's never rushed for a touchdown in Week 1 and has had over 100 yards in Week 1 just once in five years. Have RB2 expectations.
Danny Woodhead (7.1): It was off-putting when the Chargers slowed down his receiving workload in the second half of last season. They should lean on him on Monday as he's the perfect underneath target to sting the Cardinals defense when they have the Chargers receivers and tight ends covered up. Should be a Flex possibility in any league format.
Andre Ellington (7.1 -- if he plays): It's a shame if Ellington is hurt because the Cardinals don't have anything behind him. Jonathan Dwyer is the back you'll pick up but his track record is littered with inconsistency, plus he could lose some work to Stepfan Taylor, who is equally mediocre. Too bad ... the Chargers allowed over 130 total yards per game to running backs last season along with 14 touchdowns in 18 games.
Keenan Allen (6.7): Wouldn't count on him for a lot this week given the talent in the Cardinals secondary, though he was slightly better on the road than at home last year and was a perfect 6 for 6 in bringing home 10-plus Fantasy points when targeted at least nine times.
Larry Fitzgerald (7.7): Red-zone opportunities should keep him in the mix as a Top 20 Fantasy receiver all year. His last 100-yard game in Week 1 came in 2006 and he's had just three 100-yard games in his last two seasons, so he needs those scores (he did score twice in Week 1 last year).
Michael Floyd (7.1): Excited about his matchup, his opportunity, his talent and the kind of defensive coverage the Chargers will prescribe. Don't rule out him outperforming Fitzgerald more than just a handful of times this season.
John Brown (3.3): Remember the name, maybe sneak him on to your bench. The Cardinals will use him to take the top off of defenses and he can run any route you ask. Not bad for a rookie.
Antonio Gates (5.5): Going off of last season the matchup looks amazing but the Cardinals are well aware of their tight end deficiencies and might even overcompensate a little in their coverage of Gates, particularly in the red zone. He's gone touchdownless and under 75 yards in each of his last three Kickoff Weekend games.
Ladarius Green (5.1): It makes perfect sense for the Chargers to roll out Green way more than they did last season because of the mismatches he provides. But until we see it (and we think we will soon), he's a risky start.
John Carlson (1.3): The career underachiever has landed with an offensive-minded coach who neglects his tight ends. Nothing to see here.
Chargers (4.6): You'll be streaming them soon (like Weeks 4 through 6) but not this week.
Cardinals (6.4): Though the San Diego offense could put a damper on your week, I'd stick with the Cardinals DST and not carry a second unit or cut them for someone else.
Packers at Seahawks, Thu., 8:30 p.m. ET
The Packers are all too familiar with kicking off the season against a tough opponent -- they've opened each of the last two years against the 49ers. The Seahawks are a different group, one that could ultimately contain Eddie Lacy and put Aaron Rodgers into crucial passing situations. I'd expect the Packers to find ways to exploit single coverage against cornerbacks Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane , taking their chances against them and not Richard Sherman or Seattle's physical safeties.
Aaron Rodgers (8.3): No stranger to big Kickoff Weekend games, Rodgers lit up the Niners in each of the last two seasons. Did go scoreless in Fail Mary game at Seattle in '12.
Russell Wilson (7.7): Had the rare two-score-but-not-20-Fantasy-point game vs. Green Bay in last meeting, tends to play better at home and is coming off of some great preseason work. I like him.
Eddie Lacy (8.4): The Seahawks run defense should remain strong, but Lacy is matchup-proof. Fell below 10 Fantasy points twice in his last 12 games last season.
James Starks , DuJuan Harris (1.7): Might get eight touches combined.
Marshawn Lynch (9.1): Among the best you can get this week as he'll surely test Packers front seven. And succeed.
Jordy Nelson (7.5): Very possible he gets 'Terminated' and thus the numbers suffer, but more possible Packers chuck it 40 times and Nelson gets very involved.
Randall Cobb (6.6): We'll see how creative the Packers get with Cobb. He'll end up drawing some matchups where his speed will help him win.
Jarrett Boykin (3.9): Difficult starting option given unknown role with Packers offense healthy, but if they're throwing a bunch then Boykin should have a little value in PPR leagues.
Percy Harvin (6.0): Playmaking ability gives him a shot in any matchup.
Doug Baldwin (4.7): Think we're going to see him make a lot of plays this season now that he's elevated into a full-time role.
Jermaine Kearse (2.5): I don't know who needs a big-time sleeper in Week 1 but Kearse is on the list.
Zach Miller , Luke Willson (4.2 avg.): Would expect the Seahawks to use these guys -- specifically Wilson -- to test Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in coverage.
Richard Rodgers (4.7): Might get a decent amount of targets, but let's wait for a better matchup to gamble on this guy. For example: Week 2 against the Jets!
Packers (4.1): Make the move for another DST like the Vikings, Buccaneers or Bears for Week 1. Come back to the Pack in Week 2.
Seahawks (9.0): You drafted them early for a reason, so don't freak out now. Expect some turnovers, maybe a special teams score.