Week 1 can be trickier to navigate than it seems on the surface level. You drafted your team, slotted your first picks into starting positions across the board, and that's all you need to do to field your best Week 1 lineup, right? Wrong. Matchups play a key role in deciding Fantasy points on a weekly basis and there will be examples of players currently on your benches that should be starting over players currently in your lineups. That's the nature of the game.
And while these matchup-based plays will become more apparent and easier to spot as we accumulate more data on the season, there are glaring Week 1 examples of players you should start and sit. There are also examples of sleepers who could provide unexpected production and big names who could flop based on these Week 1 matchups. Every week, I'll dive into all of the starts, sits, sleepers and busts that you need to know across the slate. Let's dive right in.
All lines from Caesars Sportsbook.
The line wants us to believe: Tennessee can out-last Arizona in a high-scoring matchup. It's not crazy to think the Titans can exceed their projected point total of 27.5 -- they did it 10 times last year. That's two more times than the Cardinals, but the Titans defense has some suspect parts that the Cards can capitalize on. Specifically, I'm not sold the Titans pass defense can hold up for four quarters. I could see Arizona take this game very late.
ARI Arizona • #2
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Under Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals typically don't lean heavily on their running backs -- they finished just below league-average with 21.1 running back rushes per game in 2020 after being dead-last (17.5) in 2019. There are simply no signs of that changing; backup quarterback Chris Streveler lead the team in rush attempts this preseason and Arizona ordered up 31 running back rushes versus 68 passing plays called. So if this team is going to be in pass-happy mode, Edmonds is the better guy to have on the field than James Conner thanks to his receiving skills. Expect him to lead the way in playing time and definitely count on him getting work in the passing game against a Titans team that ranked seventh in percentage of man coverage defensive snaps last year. Edmonds figures to have an edge versus that man-to-man style and can also eat up yardage against heavy zone defenses guarding against big passing plays and hurry-up offenses. Edmonds qualifies as a flex option in non- and half-PPR leagues but has the added upside for a good game in full PPR.
The line wants us to believe: Houston's better than what public perception suggests. There's no doubt the oddsmakers could have gotten away with the Jaguars giving up as many as six points. So why only give three? To trick you, duh! This is one of a handful of win-able games for Houston, who happens to have a solid defense and offensive line (both potentially better than the Jaguars, actually!). You might not know it because all you've heard about is that the Texans' quarterback situation is a mess. The team will be fired up because it's Week 1 when optimism can still exist. Do not be surprised to see an upset.
JAC Jacksonville • #10
Age: 23 • Experience: 2 yrs.
This is Jacksonville's new slot receiver. He lined up there on nearly 70% of his preseason snaps, landing a generous target share of 27% from Trevor Lawrence over three games. This also happened to play into Lawrence's tendency from college to throw a bunch of short, high-percentage passes. To that end, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Shenault catch a bevy of throws, but it's what he does with them that could slow you down. I charted Shenault running routes of 10 yards or fewer 67.6% of the time, further cementing him as a high-volume, low-efficiency player. It doesn't mean he can't break away, but Houston slot cornerback Desmond King is a master of limiting the big play (but has allowed a catch rate north of 74% each of four seasons). Houston's new zone-dominant defense is also set up to corral receivers and keep after-catch numbers low. Shenault is a no-brainer flex in half- and full-PPR, but be wary of a mediocre game in non-PPR.
Marvin Jones WR
JAC Jacksonville • #11
Age: 31 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Shenault might have had the highest target share from Trevor Lawrence, but right behind him in the two games he played was Jones at 25%. Jones happened to be far more explosive, bringing in multiple deep throws and averaging 13.3 yards per catch. No one had a higher rate from Lawrence as the two were clearly in rhythm right from the jump. While D.J. Chark is a total wild-card after missing the preseason due to finger surgery, Jones at least has established himself as a reliable part of the Jaguars offense who can work short or deep. I would expect Jones to find ways to get open against the Texans' zone scheme. He's not too far off from Shenault in PPR rankings, but ahead of Shenault in non-PPR. I'd start Jones over Chark, too.
The line wants us to believe: Washington isn't that good. I've been under the assumption all offseason that Ryan Fitzpatrick was an upgrade at quarterback, the offensive line is healthier than it was last season and the defense is as dominant as ever up front. Getting a point with the Football Team at home feels too good to be true. We'll learn a lot about the Chargers in this game, but the reality is both offenses should blow past their projected point totals.
LAC L.A. Chargers • #81
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
I'm glad Williams is healthy and ready to play after getting the preferential starter's treatment this preseason, but this isn't the best matchup for him. Washington prefers to play zone coverage to keep big plays from happening downfield. Washington also has an incredible defensive line that figures to keep Herbert from having time to throw downfield. Williams also wasn't much of a red-zone guy last year, finishing third on his own team in red-zone targets with 10 in 15 games. It doesn't leave a positive outlook for Williams, who had eight games with seven-plus targets last year but had 15-plus PPR in just half.
Logan Thomas TE
WAS Washington • #82
Age: 30 • Experience: 6 yrs.
There are going to be weeks where Thomas should throttle defenses. This may not be the week for that. Chargers safety Derwin James has not only made a healthy return but has made play after play in practices including this sweet pick-six while covering George Kittle. Thomas figures to see plenty of James in coverage as part of a feisty new scheme the Chargers are planning to roll out. Thomas doesn't even have that much of a size advantage here -- the only saving grace is that Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be shy about peppering him with targets if he remains in single coverage. You have to hope for that if you start Thomas, which most people who drafted him will do because there aren't many streamable tight ends to use instead.
WAS Washington • #10
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
There's no good reason to start Samuel. He missed June minicamps and most of August's training camp and preseason with a groin injury and a trip to the Covid-19 reserve list. Coach Ron Rivera questioned his conditioning once he was back at practice this week, suggesting it might be too much to expect 20 to 25 good plays from him. The Chargers also have an underrated defense complete with feisty cornerbacks who could match up fine with Samuel. And besides, we have no idea if his role will revert back to what it was when he was last with this coaching staff in 2019, or the red-zone focus he had with the Panthers in 2020. One was definitely better than the other but neither one should be seen on the regular in his first full-time action in nearly three months.
The line wants us to believe: The Bengals are a live home dog. That, or the oddsmakers knew they could get away with making it a short line to get some nickels on the Bengals. The truth is that the Vikings greatly improved every aspect of their defense and should be in a good place offensively. This is already a big test for Cincinnati's offensive line and defense, one I don't think they can pass. Cincinnati lost by four-plus points in half of Joe Burrow's 10 starts last year.
Tee Higgins WR
CIN Cincinnati • #85
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
You won't confuse Higgins with Tyreek Hill, but you might with someone like Dez Bryant: A big, rangy, physical receiver with good speed. While Ja'Marr Chase takes some time to further acclimate to the NFL game, expect Joe Burrow to target Higgins in red-zone situations. If there's a drawback, it's that Higgins will compete against Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland play after play. Breeland allowed a 55.6% catch rate over 439 coverage snaps last year while Peterson still carries value as a physical cornerback who can come up big in the clutch. He's good enough to start in all formats but doesn't have top-20 upside.
Tyler Boyd WR
CIN Cincinnati • #83
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
My theory on Boyd is that he'll be Joe Burrow's most trusted target. He figures to line up in the slot the most compared to Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase, he's likely to draw the least amount of double coverage from defenses, and he's right in front of Burrow to snag short throws when the Cincinnati offensive line breaks down (which may happen a lot). Boyd will probably see a lot of ex-teammate Mackensie Alexander in coverage, which is a mixed bag. Alexander's a solid nickel, but Boyd likely has a lot of experience lining up against him last year in Cincy to lean on. It wouldn't be a surprise in the least to see Boyd beat Alexander a handful of times. Boyd is more of a decent flex in non- and half-PPR, but a borderline No. 2 receiver in full PPR.
CIN Cincinnati • #1
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
The expectation is that Chase will play along the outside for most of his snaps this season. That means he'll see a lot of Patrick Peterson and Bashaud Breeland this Sunday versus the Vikings. But it doesn't matter who he goes up against if he's not going to catch the ball. Chase admitted this week that the drops are related to getting used to the pro-style ball and concentrating on bringing the ball all the way in without jumping. The talent we saw at LSU in 2019 might not quite be on display in Week 1, nor should we expect Chase to get tons of throws to go his way. The Bengals don't have to do that given their receiver depth, and they might not even be able to dial up intermediate and long throws for Joe Burrow to make given the Vikings' much-improved pass rush. It's a good week to sit Chase if you can; I have Jakobi Meyers, Marquez Callaway, Corey Davis, Jaylen Waddle, Marvin Jones and Antonio Brown ranked higher.
The line wants us to believe: The Jets defense can't keep up with Sam Darnold. The truth is, any defense can keep up with Sam Darnold. He's been an inconsistent passer his whole career and taking on his old team won't make him any better. In fact, it might make him worse because the Jets coaching staff is pretty savvy. Do the Jets actually have the defensive personnel to capitalize on Darnold's mistakes? That's the only thing holding me back from going with the Jets to win outright. Darnold has nine career wins by six-points (38 starts).
CAR Carolina • #11
Age: 28 • Experience: 5 yrs.
While I still saw some inconsistency from Sam Darnold during his half of preseason football, I do think he's good enough to get Anderson the ball against their old squad. Anderson himself ran precise routes with the kind of quickness to separate easily from defenders. The Jets defense has a great playcaller in Robert Saleh, but he's stuck with a depleted pass rush and secondary. The Jets top cornerback figures to be Bryce Hall, a second-year guy who gave up a catch on 75% of the passes thrown in his direction last year. Expect this to be one of the Panthers' easiest matchups of the year.
Corey Davis WR
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #84
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
While it's true Davis looked good in the preseason, I suppose I'm still skeptical about him making an impact in the regular season. The Panthers defense feels like an underrated unit; cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson aren't bad and the pass rush has the talent to put some heat on rookie quarterback Zach Wilson. Carolina figures to play a lot of zone coverage which in turn makes Davis' chances of making big plays slimmer than we'd like. His best hope is to wrangle eight or nine targets into good PPR production.
The line wants us to believe: The Eagles have to earn their credibility this year. New coach Nick Sirianni doesn't come into Philly with much of a pedigree and there's still skepticism over how good Jalen Hurts can be. But Atlanta's coaching situation is only nominally better with Arthur Smith leading the way (Dean Pees as defensive coordinator is pretty good). The edge is given to the home team with the better quarterback.
Jalen Hurts QB
PHI Philadelphia • #1
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
In a tougher matchup, I'd express some concern for Hurts. But in what will be his fifth NFL start, Hurts takes on a Falcons pass rush and secondary that has major question marks. New defensive coordinator Dean Pees has a history of playing a lot of man coverage to get after the quarterback, but he may opt for more zone to keep Hurts from getting away from the pass rush and picking up chunks of yardage when defenders' backs are turned. That might impact Hurts' overall rushing totals but he still will gain some on the ground, and having zone-defense beater DeVonta Smith on board will be beneficial. Hurts should be considered a low-end starter.
PHI Philadelphia • #6
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Whether the Falcons opt for man or zone, Smith can beat the cornerbacks they have rostered. His slick route-running was on display in the preseason and there was enough evidence from first-hand reports from practice to suggest Hurts will find him frequently. Notably, the Falcons defense is pretty solid up the middle of the field but suspect as you get closer to the sidelines. It feels safer than it should to unleash Smith in Fantasy lineups with the hopes he capitalizes on out-breaking routes and back-shoulder fades.
The line wants us to believe: The Steelers will struggle to hang with the Bills. This is something I completely believe -- the Bills defensive line is much deeper than it's been and the offense has evolved into a full-time passing approach. The Steelers defense, especially the secondary, has some weak spots. I fully expect a decent amount of money to come in on the Steelers, and I fully expect the Bills to win by 10.
PIT Pittsburgh • #19
Age: 24 • Experience: 5 yrs.
The Bills' zone style of defense has routinely benefited short-area middle-of-field targets, not downfield receivers. Smith-Schuster's 6-55-1 stat line from last season, while his teammates didn't do much, is an example. Another example: slot-dominant receivers such as Cooper Kupp, Keenan Allen and Jamison Crowder amassed 14-plus PPR points on the Bills in 2020 and even guys like Hunter Renfrow and Jakobi Meyers picked up at least 10 PPR points. There's another issue: The Bills pass rush is definitely deep and potentially dominant, making this a challenging first test for the Steelers offensive line. If Ben Roethlisberger has to throw the ball quickly, Smith-Schuster is logically the easiest target since he's routinely in the slot and running short-range routes. I'm comfortable starting Smith-Schuster as a No. 2 receiver in all formats.
PIT Pittsburgh • #11
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Even with the Bills' stiff style of pass defense, you can't ignore targets. It's unlikely Johnson will fall off the map, even in a tricky matchup. Johnson averaged 9.6 targets per game last year and averaged an impressive 5.5 yards after the catch per reception against zone-scheme defenses like Buffalo's. Eleven of the 14 receivers with eight-plus targets against Buffalo last year pulled in at least 13 PPR points. Johnson should be started with No. 2 receiver expectations. Claypool had the same post-catch average against zone defenses (and was slightly better versus man defenses -- YAC is part of his game), but his target share was below 7.0 per game. Until we see Claypool become an even more dedicated part of this offense, as well as consistent pass blocking from the O-line, he's going to be a little tougher to trust in tough matchups. Call Claypool a flex at best.
The line wants us to believe: Seattle is marginally better than Indianapolis. This feels like the oddsmakers want you to take Seattle, especially when you consider the Colts' tumultuous offseason. Could the Colts truly put it all together when Carson Wentz (and multiple offensive linemen) missed a bunch of training camp and the preseason? I'm skeptical, especially since it feels like the whole world is sleeping on the Seahawks defense being pretty good.
SEA Seattle • #81
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
If you're in a tight-end bind, Everett has a shot to bail you out. It's believed he'll be another mismatch piece in the Seahawks offense thanks to his speed and size. His additional advantage is his comfort with the offensive scheme the Seahawks are going with this year, one that requires Russell Wilson to get rid of the ball quickly. The Colts played the fifth-most zone coverage last season and typically were willing to allow short throws underneath when they're otherwise guarding against longer plays. That could make for several easy completions for Wilson and a chance at 10 PPR points for Everett, who historically has been better and has more experience against zone coverage than man.
IND Indianapolis • #1
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
The Colts open the year against a Seahawks defense that has a bunch of questions at cornerback. The team's shuffled through the position recently, leaving them with three modest starters including 5-foot-9 cornerback D.J. Reed at left cornerback and, potentially, second-year defensive back Ugo Amadi in the slot. Because the Seahawks don't rotate their cornerbacks much, Indianapolis could manufacture the matchup of Reed against the 6-foot-4 Pittman. And while Amadi graded out well last year, he did allow a 75% catch rate and was 32nd in yards after catch allowed among qualifying cornerbacks. There's obvious risk in starting either Pittman or Campbell since they haven't had a ton of time getting their timing down with Carson Wentz, but the matchup is pretty alluring and both should have chances to rake in decent target share in their first game without T.Y. Hilton. I actually like Campbell better in full PPR and would strongly consider him in my DFS tournament lineups.
The line wants us to believe: Detroit won't get completely blown out. Everyone thinks the Lions stink. On paper, they absolutely do, and a matchup against a good 49ers defense won't help. But if that's the case, shouldn't they get more than 7.5 points? Could we be getting rickrolled by the oddsmakers on this one? To take the Niners is to count on Kyle Shanahan finding a way to win by eight-plus points. That happened five times last year.
Trey Sermon RB
SF San Francisco • #28
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
The obvious takeaway from Wayne Gallman's release from the 49ers is that Trey Sermon showed enough this preseason to be an effective counter-punch to Raheem Mostert's speedy style. He especially proved he's a good fit for Kyle Shanahan's run scheme and can handle playing on third downs as both a blocker and a receiver. Detroit has some known names in its front seven, but there's some legit concern it's among the worst run-stopping units in the league. Meanwhile, the 49ers have one of the better run-blocking offensive lines. When the 49ers won by seven-plus points last year, they averaged 29.4 running back runs per game; in losses that number was 22.6. The Niners are 7.5-point favorites on Sunday and aren't likely to give more than maybe 17 of those carries to Mostert. It could mean Sermon checks in with 10 carries and a couple of catches against a suspect run defense. You could do worse in your non-PPR flex spot.
SF San Francisco • #11
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
If you read the blurb above on Sermon, you know the 49ers typically ran the ball a lot when they won by seven-plus points last year. That means they threw less when they won those games, to the tune of 28.6 pass attempts per game. The Lions pass defense is far from a staunch unit, but if the Niners aren't going to need to throw much, then Aiyuk won't get many targets. This isn't even considering that George Kittle is back (Aiyuk averaged 5.5 targets per game with Kittle last year), or that the Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance experiment might lead to more quarterback rush attempts (assuming Lance plays). So as much as I love the matchup and believe in Aiyuk's talent, it'll take a special play or two for him to come through. You should be able to find a better option for your No. 2 receiver spot. Aiyuk should be trusted as a flex at best.
The line wants us to believe: The Browns aren't improved. Since these teams met in January, a five-point win for the Chiefs, the Browns upgraded much of their defense and will get Odell Beckham back on offense. Kansas City made some upgrades too, but it's very much in line with public perception to simply assume the Chiefs will score a ton of points. Don't be surprised if the Browns keep it close.
CLE Cleveland • #13
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Nothing from what's been seen at Browns camp since late August suggests Beckham is gimpy or rusty since returning to full team drills. How he'll fare against the Chiefs will come down to how many targets he'll get and whether or not he's finally on the same page with Baker Mayfield. In the six full games he played in last year he posted career-lows in catch rate (53.5%), catches per game (3.8) and yards per game (53.2) while seeing 7.0 targets per game. There were 14 instances last year of any Browns players getting eight or more targets (three by Beckham, six by Jarvis Landry). At 31.0 pass attempts per game in 2020, Cleveland threw the ball the fourth-fewest among NFL teams. Simple offensive philosophy and a very suspect track record with Mayfield are enough to make me nervous about trusting Beckham. Doing so against a modest pass defense that is certain to focus on Beckham in obvious passing situations make him no better than a flex in Week 1.
The line wants us to believe: The Giants aren't as bad as they're made out to be. To the oddsmakers' credit, the Giants do have what should be a very good defense. But their offense feels messy, especially since they intend to take things slowly with Saquon Barkley. Denver's offense looked pretty good this preseason and the defense might be among the best in the league. Even at home, the Giants feel overmatched.
NYG N.Y. Giants • #26
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Had Barkley been cleared for full practice weeks ago and participated in team drills, there wouldn't be any issues about starting him. Heck, if his coaches hadn't spoken openly about limiting his reps, we'd all swoon for him. But it's clear the Giants are understandably taking a cautious approach with Barkley, especially since they play on a short week at Washington next Thursday. The rest of the Giants offense, including the O-line, remains highly suspect. And what about the opponent? Denver was close to league-average in Fantasy points allowed to running backs and is getting Von Miller back on defense. Take a deep breath and start Barkley with No. 2 Fantasy running back expectations this week, and probably next week too. By Week 3, we should be close to seeing our familiar stud back.
DEN Denver • #33
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
Vic Fangio's comments this week about trusting Williams to handle any role in the run game suggests he's further along than a typical rookie. But the Broncos have been adamant since the offseason: they want two backs rotating every game. Therefore, it's hard to envision either guy having a big game unless one has a hot hand early and the other is a slug. On top of all that, the Giants have a pretty decent run defense with most of their top tacklers still on the roster including Leonard Williams and Blake Martinez. This is the perfect matchup for the Broncos to lean on play-action and get their pass-catchers involved. That doesn't bode well for either back unless there's a large lead built. It's an evaluation game for Fantasy managers -- neither Gordon nor Williams should be started with confidence. If you have to pick one, Gordon should get the nod since he has experience on his side.
The line wants us to believe: The Saints are still a strong team without Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. There's definitely a feeling that the oddsmakers want you to take the Packers, especially since they're practically ignoring the Saints losing their dome-field advantage. So without the New Orleans noise, and with Jameis Winston for the first time, why don't the Saints have more points to their side? The issue is that I'm not convinced the Saints defense will be able to do enough to slow down the Packers ... but maybe they're good enough to keep things close.
GB Green Bay • #85
Age: 27 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Until it becomes clear that Tonyan isn't part of the Packers' red-zone package, he has to be included in Fantasy lineups. That's how it has to be for tight ends with touchdown potential because of their quarterbacks, not their opponents. Tonyan caught a touchdown once every 4.7 receptions in 2020. But it doesn't hurt that the Saints had Tonyan score on them last year as one of nine touchdowns allowed to tight ends (tied for seventh-most). And it'll help the Packers in general that the Saints will play their first home game at Jacksonville, away from the usual noise of the Superdome.
NO New Orleans • #1
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Callaway was the darling of the Saints preseason and one of my favorite breakout picks, but he draws a tough matchup versus the Packers and quality cover corner Jaire Alexander. Considering this is Callaway's first NFL game as the Saints' lead receiver, and that it's not in New Orleans, and that Alexander is a pro, it feels unnecessarily risky to trust him as anything more than a flex. The only thing sticking in the back of my mind is that Jameis Winston won't care about Alexander covering Callaway and he'll fire intermediate and long-range shots anyway. It's the kind of work that has gotten Winston in trouble in the past, but if he's got time to throw, Callaway does have the quickness and savvy to get open. We've seen it. Hence the flex feelings.
The line wants us to believe: he Mac Jones hype is real. The oddsmakers know the public perception of Jones is very positive, but they didn't quite raise the line as much as they could have. It's just a guess, but they probably see this matchup as razor close and they inflated the Pats side because of Jones and the game's location. I've watched Jones play, and in many ways, he's ahead of Tua Tagovailoa. This close game should prove it.
Mike Gesicki TE
MIA Miami • #88
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
It feels like we should use Gesicki while we can -- Will Fuller will be back next week and the concentration of targets will be further diluted in Miami. Gesicki had the second-highest target share from Tua Tagovailoa last year, but it was only 14.8%. The good news? Gesicki had more catches (29), yards (308) and touchdowns (3) from Tagovailoa than anyone else on the Dolphins. It feels likely the Patriots will have a solution for covering Gesicki, but the hunch is that focus will really only come into play near the red zone and that in general, they'll be more concerned with Jaylen Waddle. Gesicki is worth the Week 1 nod for his receiving potential, not just his decent touchdown-scoring upside.
NE New England • #16
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Xavien Howard and Byron Jones are Miami's two excellent cornerbacks. Combined they played 161 snaps in the slot last season. Justin Coleman was added to the Dolphins secondary this offseason, and he's been a slot corner for much of his career. Unfortunately for him, he's given up 12 touchdowns and a 69.4% catch rate with 17 missed tackles over his last two seasons (157 targets). This is who Meyers is expected to line up against for much of the game. Mac Jones looked poised and cool while throwing accurate passes this preseason, and there's no reason to believe he won't keep it going against the Dolphins. At worst he's a Flex in all formats but his Fantasy value is ultimately tied to the catches he gets.
The line wants us to believe: Chicago's defense is no match for the Rams. Los Angeles' projected point total is 26, but Sean McVay's Rams have scored 24, 7 and 6 points against the Bears over the past three years. Matthew Stafford's arrival definitely should help their chances, but it's their first regular season game together versus a pretty solid defense. This might not be such a high-scoring matchup.
CHI Chicago • #12
Age: 28 • Experience: 8 yrs.
You probably don't need this one laid out for you: Robinson figures to see a lot of Jalen Ramsey in coverage. Last year Ramsey helped hold Robinson to 70 yards on four catches. The year prior Ramsey had a bigger hand in keeping Robinson to 15 yards on four catches. And even in 2018 before Ramsey was a Ram, Los Angeles kept Robinson in check with 42 yards on five catches. I can't say Andy Dalton is a worse quarterback than Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles, who threw to Robinson in those three prior matchups. But he's also not great. If that's not enough, consider that L.A. has another cornerback named Darious Williams who was pretty great against the pass last year, so even if Robinson gets away from Ramsey, there's still another quality corner to contend with. You're best off thinking of him as a flex this week.
LAR L.A. Rams • #27
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
If the Rams are still coaching up Sony Michel, then Darrell Henderson figures to have a great chance to notch his fourth career game with at least 15 touches. When he's had that work in the past he's come through for 15-plus PPR points twice but found over 80 total yards once. But if Michel is ready to contribute, then Henderson could fall short of that workload and especially get pulled in high-value goal-line situations. Making things harder is a fresh Bears defense stocked with big men Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman up front for the first time in a year and linebacker Roquan Smith behind him. You'll probably wind up starting Henderson as a low-end No. 2 running back or high-end flex, but there's a lot of uncertainty.
The line wants us to believe: Baltimore won't blow out Las Vegas. It feels like a trap. The Ravens, with their historically strong defense and incredibly versatile quarterback, are perceived to be much better than the Raiders. And how could the oddsmakers lose sight of the Ravens winning each of their past four Week 1 games by at least 20 points?! That track record along with the expected weak Raiders defense compels me to back Baltimore, even if it's fishy.
BAL Baltimore • #5
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
You could point to the Ravens' depleted receiving corps, or Brown's numbers to finish 2020 (six touchdowns in his last eight games overall with 12-plus PPR in each), or simply how the Ravens have throttled Week 1 opponents each of the past three years. But all I need to do is see the Raiders pass defense and know Brown's going to have some chances to make big plays. Las Vegas has two rookies starting in their nickel package, a former Raven (Yannick Ngakoue) as their best pass rusher and Gus Bradley coordinating a zone-heavy defense. Baltimore utilized Brown as a short- and mid-range receiver toward the end of last year and it led to awesome efficiency. I think we'll continue to see it happen in this game. Make him part of your Monday slate DFS plans.
BAL Baltimore • #34
Age: 25 • Experience: 1 year
Everyone got to see Williams this preseason, and he looked pretty good. He's a bigger back who is willing to get physical, but he also has good acceleration to win on edge runs. Williams also has good balance and leg drive to extend and finish runs, plus he can pass block surprisingly well and seems to be okay in the passing game. I'm not sure he's a consistent player, and he's had his share of injuries going back to college, but the guy has a golden opportunity to lead the Ravens run game against the Raiders' suspect defense. Expect him to get close to 15 touches with good efficiency and a chance at scoring. That qualifies him as good enough to be a No. 2 Fantasy rusher, but he's probably safer as a non-PPR flex.
Josh Jacobs RB
LV Las Vegas • #28
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
The Ravens have consistently been one of the toughest run defenses in the NFL. That stands to continue thanks to second-year linebacker Patrick Queen improving and a behemoth D-line that has Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams. We'll see how the Raiders' re-tooled offensive line looks trying to push those giant humans around, but an equally concerning issue is the workload Kenyan Drake gets in his first game with the Raiders. Will he fulfill the passing downs role that limits Jacobs' snaps? What happens near the goal line? And is it bad that the only Raider to average over 3.9 yards per carry this preseason was Nathan Peterman? Jacobs' unideal situation worries me this week, but don't worry, he'll be fine next week against the ... *checks notes* ... Steelers on the road?! Aw, man.
The line wants us to believe: Dallas' offense will struggle. And it's a legitimate concern: Dak Prescott is playing in his first meaningful football game in nearly a year against one of the league's best defenses. There will be rust. Tack on Dallas' offensive line already dealing with some injury issues and it's not crazy to think the Cowboys will come out of the gate a little slow.
Ronald Jones RB
TB Tampa Bay • #27
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
By many accounts, Jones had the better training camp than Leonard Fournette. Is it enough to guarantee he will have more touches? Unfortunately, it won't. That probably won't be decided until after the game starts and Bruce Arians has a feel for which of his backs has a hot hand. Dallas did upgrade its run defense a little bit this offseason but there are still liabilities there in the run game. There's also the likelihood that the Bucs will have a lead and try polishing off the Cowboys in the fourth quarter with the run game. That could help Jones -- there were five games in his 13 starts last year where he had 10 or fewer carries. Three of those five were losses and a fourth was a close Bucs win. In the other eight outings, mostly blowout wins, Jones averaged 18.0 carries per game. Tampa Bay is a 7.5-point favorite. Jones also has more speed to create breakaway runs. The bet is he gets enough work to notch 70 yards with a mild chance at scoring. That makes him usable in non- and half-PPR.
DAL Dallas • #21
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Odds are that Elliott will play just fine, but the interior of the Cowboys O-line, with Connor McGovern replacing Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz at center, is a liability against the Buccaneers' massive D-line beef. You might think the Cowboys can combat it by running Elliott to the outside, but the Buccaneers held opposing rushers to 3.9 yards per carry between the tackles and the sidelines last year. There were also seven games in 2019-20 (out of nine) where the Cowboys lost by eight or more points and Elliott had fewer than 15 carries. Benching Elliott would take some guts, not to mention some really good backup running backs on the roster, but there's worry he may not score nor get enough work on the ground to fully return a startable performance.
TB Tampa Bay • #81
Age: 33 • Experience: 11 year
With ex-Falcons coach Dan Quinn now calling plays for the Cowboys defense, the Buccaneers should expect to see a ton of zone coverage. That's how most teams played them last year -- only five played man coverage more than one-third of the time. Brown can exploit either coverage but did average 3.0 more yards per catch against man than zone. He also averaged 5.9 targets per game and 10.1 yards per catch in 10 matchups with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the field. Brown has scored in five of his last six with Tom Brady but the low target volume and receiving efficiency make him vulnerable as a touchdown-needy wideout, even in PPR leagues. He's a Flex at best.