Week 1 NFL Matchup Preview Part One
Be sure to check out Part Two of our Week 1 NFL Matchup Previews.
Thursday Night Football – September 8, 2016
8:30 PM EST
Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos
Led by quarterback, Cam Newton, the Carolina Panthers will look to avenge their Super Bowl loss vs the Denver Broncos in the NFL season opener this Thursday. The Panthers will have their star wideout, Kelvin Benjamin, who missed all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL. They will have to bring their best game as they have arguably the best defense to beat in Week 1.
QB Cam Newton: Last year’s number 1 fantasy QB is back and has a chip on his shoulder against this top rated defense. I look for Cam to lean heavily on Olsen, Benjamin and could easily see him scramble quite a bit in this one.
RB Jonathan Stewart: This game has the potential to be low scoring which could lead to more opportunities on the ground. That said, I still do not like Stewart in this contest given the hurdle that is the Denver defense.
WR Kelvin Benjamin: He has waited over a year to get back on the field and should be pumped for this long awaited season to begin. As long as he can calm his nerves and slow the game down, Benjamin should have himself a big night as Cam Newton’s number one target.
WR Devin Funchess: He has worked hard this offseason to earn the spot across from Benjamin. He could be put to work often if the coverage on Benjamin is too much for Cam to target him as much as he would like.
TE Greg Olsen: The most consistent tight end in the game. He should be a lock for 70 yards and a touchdown.
Without Peyton Manning at quarterback, the Broncos will feature rookie Trevor Siemian at the helm to defend their Super Bowl title. They still have their core wide receivers and running back C.J. Anderson to highlight their offense in this Super Bowl rematch. They will have their work cut out for them when they face the 4th best defense heading into 2016.
RB C.J. Anderson: Should get plenty of work to help take some pressure off of the rookie quarterback. This could easily translate into significant fantasy points this week and beyond.
WR Demaryius Thomas: Could possibly be “quarterback-proof” since he was still productive in the Tim Tebow days. Still worried about his overall production in this game against a tough defense in Siemian’s debut.
WR Emmanuel Sanders: May see more production from Sanders working the quick routes to get Siemian out of trouble. Same reservation with Sanders in this game when it comes to QB however.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
1:00 PM EST
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
It’s a coin toss every time these two teams get together. The Buccaneers hope to be on the right side of the token in Week 1 of the 2016 season vs their evenly matched opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. This is a young, talented team that would like to show they are better than their 6-10 record showed last season. They will get that chance to set the tone for their 2016 season with a divisional win.
QB Jameis Winston: in his rookie season last year, Jameis Winston threw over 4,000 yards, had 22 passing TDs and 15 INTs. Not a bad season, however, I believe we have only seen the tip of the iceberg here. You can expect Winston to get off to a great start against the Falcons with his team at full strength.
RB Doug Martin: Doug Martin returned to his rookie form last season, rushing for over 1,400 yards. There is no doubt, he is a talented running back, however, will we see the Doug Martin of last year when he averaged 4.9 yards per carry or will we see the Doug Martin of 2014 averaging 3.7 yards per carry? As good as his 2015 season was, Doug Martin did struggle against the Falcons last year.
WR Mike Evans: Last year, Mike Evans had over 1,200 yards receiving but only 3 TDs on the season. There is no way he keeps his TD number that low this season. I believe he leads the team in targets and reception TDs in 2016 and would not be surprised if he finds the end zone at least once in this game.
WR Vincent Jackson: If this offense is going to be effective this year, Vincent Jackson is going to have to remain healthy. It may be a tall order for the 33-year-old veteran but when he is healthy, he is a very productive receiver. He could be the beneficiary of targets in this game if Evans sees double coverage from the Atlanta secondary.
The Falcons were swept by the Bucs last season. They will be looking to stop that streak with a win this Sunday. The Falcons have some elite talent on offense including the number one fantasy RB, Devonta Freeman and a top 3 WR, Julio Jones who will be hoping to lead their team to a division win in Week 1.
QB Matt Ryan: Ryan will air it out to Julio Jones and check down to his pass catching running back in this divisional game against the Buccaneers defense that allowed the 11th most fantasy points to QBs last season.
RB Devonta Freeman: It is noteworthy that he did struggle a bit against the Buccaneers last year only averaging 3.9 yards per carry. If he gets stuffed in the run game he can still be dangerous through the air.
WR Julio Jones: Will easily be a top 5 WR this week against a spotty Tampa Bay secondary.
WR Mohamad Sanu: Could see more targets than expected in his first game with the Falcons depending on how the inevitable double coverage on Julio Jones pans out.
Buffalo Bills @ Baltimore Ravens
The Buffalo Bills did not face the Ravens in 2015 so this matchup is interesting. The Bills will lean on their mobile quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, star WR, Sammy Watkins and RB, LeSean McCoy to defeat a Ravens team that allowed 25.1 points per game last year.
QB Tyrod Taylor: Even though the Baltimore Ravens seem to be a mess right now, Taylor could struggle against a team that ranked 8th in yards allowed in 2015. If that happens, you could see him scramble more than he would like in this game.
RB LeSean McCoy: Shady has a tough matchup Week 1 against the Ravens who are very tough against the run. If they fall behind, he could spend his time blocking for his quarterback.
WR Sammy Watkins: Could be the only Bill to have a decent stat line at the end of this game as Watkins faces a defense that allowed the 5th most fantasy points to WRs last year.
This offseason has been a mess for the Baltimore Ravens. Recently, they released their starting running back just to sign him again a few days later. This team could still be sneaky good. Flacco has a ton of new talent to throw to and could be productive on offense. Do not sleep on this team as they could be a tough matchup throughout the season.
QB Joe Flacco: Has a lot of young talent to throw, led by veteran Steve Smith Sr. Flacco could be dangerous against the Bills if his young receivers excel in the season opener.
RB Justin Forsett: Maybe the biggest question mark on the field Sunday. The Ravens released and re-signed him a few days later which should tell you that the Ravens do not view him as “their guy” even though they say he will be heavily involved, I would avoid Forsett Week 1.
WR Steve Smith Sr.: Entering his 16th NFL season, Steve Smith Sr. wants to prove he still has gas left in the tank. At 37 years-old, it will be quite the challenge to keep it going all season. If the Ravens want him to last the season, they will have to limit his playing time which doesn’t bode well for him Week 1 against the Bills.
WR Mike Wallace: Entering the 2016 season as Flacco’s favorite target, Mike Wallace could have himself a great Week 1. I do not see it going much further than that as Breshad Perriman and Kamar Aiken earn more playing time as the season progresses.
Chicago Bears @ Houston Texans
The Bears enter 2016 without running back, Matt Forte and tight end, Martellus Bennett. They will have a tough matchup, away at Houston against the Texans. This team could struggle early and often against the Texans while they attempt to get comfortable with their new weapons on offense.
QB Jay Cutler: Did not look very good in preseason and could easily carry that into Week 1 vs the Houston Texans. He could be under a ton of pressure against a team that ranked 5th in sacks last year.
RB Jeremy Langford: I do like Jeremy Langford more than most this season as he is the starting running back on a decent offense. I just don’t like him in Week 1 against a team that allowed the 10th fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2015.
WR Alshon Jeffrey: Not a great matchup, however, I see the Bears falling behind early which will lead to more targets for Jeffery. Play him as you normally would.
WR Kevin White: In his NFL debut, Kevin White could struggle against this tough defense, however, the same applies to him in the pass game where he could see an increase in work due to the Bears possibly falling behind in the game.
TE Zach Miller: I love Zach Miller at tight end this season. Week 1 however, is a different animal. I could see Miller blocking more in this one to protect Cutler and the more he does that, the less he is catching passes.
This team has a lot to be excited about. They have a bunch of new talent in QB, Brock Osweiler, RB Lamar Miller and a young, talented WR, Will Fuller to compliment DeAndre Hopkins. Pair all of that with a great matchup against the Chicago Bears in Week 1.
QB Brock Osweiler: Should be an exciting game to see what Brock Osweiler can bring to this revamped Texans offense. I would start him Week 1. He has too much reliable talent around him not to at least try him out.
RB Lamar Miller: My most anticipated player this season. Now on a team that will give him the work load he deserves, I see big things for Lamar Miller in 2016. To me, he is an every week RB1 since he can produce both on the ground and through the pass game.
WR DeAndre Hopkins: Easily a top 5 option in WR Week 1. Play him as you normally would.
WR Will Fuller: I think Will Fuller will be an exciting player this year and could prove to be a great fantasy value as the season progresses. I would feel pretty good starting Fuller in a flex spot if you are scrambling to fill it, otherwise, I would recommend you wait and see how he looks in his first NFL game with the Texans.
Green Bay Packers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
They have a favorable matchup in Week 1 vs the Jacksonville Jaguars who ranked 28th against the pass in 2015. The Packers should handle the Jaguars easily on offense but it could turn into a shootout if they are unable to stop the talented Jacksonville offensive weapons.
QB Aaron Rodgers: Has his guy, Jordy Nelson back and should be targeting him a bunch when he is in there as he may play limited snaps to start the season. Aaron Rodgers has a new tight end to target in Jared Cook so he could lean on him in this game if Randall Cobb is heavily covered.
RB Eddie Lacy: He is looking much better this year and has been fantastic this preseason. He could take advantage of this middle of the road run defense and make a statement as the starting running back for the Green Bay Packers. Not to over-react but if Lacy struggles in Week 1, this could lead to more of a split with James Starks and I think he knows that.
WR Randall Cobb: Should get the majority of the targets in this game with Nelson limited. He is looking to bounce back from last season and could easily do that against the Jaguars defense.
WR Jordy Nelson: A little hesitant to start Jordy Week 1 even with the favorable matchup. He will most likely be eased back into playing and that means limited snaps. Limited snaps means limited opportunities for fantasy production. I would feel just ok with him in a flex spot this week.
This team has a very tough opponent in Week 1 in the Green Bay Packers. The Jaguars will have their work cut out for them on defense and will have to keep up offensively as well if they want a chance to win this game. The Jaguars cannot afford to make any mistakes if they expect to beat a team that is in contention year after year.
QB Blake Bortles: Tough matchup against the Packers but could be forced to throw a ton which bodes well for fantasy purposes. He has a lot of talent to throw to that can bail him out of tough spots. I would start Bortles if you have him. He could have a big day fantasy-wise.
RB Chris Ivory: Chris Ivory should have the opportunity for goal line work in what will likely be a high scoring game. Not a bad option in deeper leagues.
RB T.J. Yeldon: I like Yeldon this year but as my feelings with other running backs in game 1 of the season, I just don’t like him this week. The Jaguars offense will be off the field while Aaron Rodgers does his thing and when they are on the field, I find it hard to believe they will lean on their running game in this one.
WR Allen Robinson: Seems to never disappoint and will be targeted heavily in this game.
WR Allen Hurns: Has a nose for the endzone and could find it multiple times in this game against a team they will have to throw a ton against.
TE Julius Thomas: He will be looking to bounce back from last season and has a great opportunity to do so against the Packers. I like Thomas as a solid TE2 with TE1 upside.
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Tough matchup for the San Diego Chargers in Week 1 as they begin 2016 in an away game to face one of the league’s top-ranked defenses, the Kansas City Chiefs. This matchup has the potential to be a low scoring game which could lead to low fantasy points all around.
QB Philip Rivers: Very tough opponent to kicks things off for Rivers. Usually, I like these type of games for quarterbacks because they will have to throw more but I am not sure that will be the case here with the Chiefs. Play Rivers if you have to but I’m not crazy about it.
RB Melvin Gordon: Sounds like a broken record but I do like Gordon this year more than others and expect him to have a much better season, I just don’t see it happening in this game.
RB Danny Woodhead: I normally do not like players that have limited playing time but I could see some production out of Woodhead in this game. Rivers could be forced to check the ball to Woodhead often and if that is the case, he could see more playing time this week. I do like Woodhead in PPR only at the flex spot this week.
WR Keenan Allen: I expect Keenan Allen to have a tough afternoon this Sunday. It’s hard to sit a top WR but if you have a WR2 on your bench with a better matchup, I would highly consider starting him over Allen Week 1.
TE Antonio Gates: This a guy that you continue to wait and see if this will be the year his production dips. I think he has one more good year in him. The only value I see for Gates in Week 1 is if the Chargers find themselves in the red zone often and I just can’t see that happening. I think Gates is a TE3 this week against Kansas City.
The Chiefs will begin their season at home against division opponent, the San Diego Chargers. They have a big question mark in their running back position to start the season so they will want to focus on their defense and keep Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen off the field as much as possible in this one. The Chiefs have enough on offense to win this game but I believe their defense will be key to success on Sunday.
QB Alex Smith: Smith doesn’t have to put up crazy fantasy numbers to pull this one off and I don’t expect him to. I expect the Chiefs to rely on whatever run game they have (most likely Spencer Ware) to control the clock. I do not recommend starting Alex Smith Week 1.
RB Jamaal Charles: Do not start. I don’t see the Chiefs rushing Charles back Week 1 and even if he does play he will be very limited.
RB Spencer Ware: The Chiefs will want to control the clock with the run game and Ware is the run game Week 1. Ware will get a big workload against a defense that ranked 30th in YPC allowed in 2015.
WR Jeremy Maclin: This matchup worries me a little for Maclin. He will be Smith’s number one target but again, if they can control the clock with the run game, then the opportunities just won’t be there for Maclin Week 1.
TE Travis Kelce: A top fantasy tight end normally, however, he is a tough start Week 1 according on how I see this game shaking out.
Oakland Raiders @ New Orleans Saints
The Raiders look to keep pace with the stout New Orleans Saints’ offense. This is a tough matchup and could very well be a shootout, a type of game you do not want to be in against the likes of Drew Brees.
QB Derek Carr: This game may not be in favor of the Raiders but it sure is in favor of Derek Carr’s fantasy numbers. I expect him to throw the ball a ton in this one.
RB Latavius Murray: The Raiders will have to throw a bunch in this one but he should get his carries against a team that allowed a league-worst 4.9 YPC last year.
WR Amari Cooper: Should be Carr’s number one target this season and will get a ton of them to start Week 1. Must start.
WR Michael Crabtree: A great compliment to this offense, Michael Crabtree will not be ignored in the pass game. I love Crabtree as a solid WR2 or flex play this week.
The Saints will be an offensive machine Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders. They have great balance and I expect them to utilize all of their offensive weapons in this game.
QB Drew Brees: Fresh off a new contract extension through 2017, Drew Brees is a must-start every week this season. Week 1 he will face the Raiders defense that was 9th worst among defenses again the QB position last year.
RB Mark Ingram: He will see a ton of work in this one, in both the run and passing game I expect. Must start.
WR Brandin Cooks: Should be the number one target and will get plenty of opportunities to produce solid fantasy numbers this week.
WR Willie Snead: Willie Snead should carry his preseason production over into Week 1 vs the Raiders. Drew Brees knows how to spread the ball around and will be targeting Snead as much as possible.
TE Coby Fleener: Highly anticipated to produce in this offense. Hard to say how much he will be involved but I have a feeling they will get the chance to try out their new tight end a bunch against a very average Raiders defense.
Cincinnati Bengals @ New York Jets
Tough matchup on the road against a very good defense. This game could be low scoring for the Bengals. They will have to stop the NY Jets offense and try to eat away at the clock with the run game to combat the talented Jets secondary.
QB Andy Dalton: Very tough matchup away against the Jets. Do not start.
RB Jeremy Hill: Not an ideal matchup for Hill but could see a fair share of snaps if the Bengals want to keep Fitzpatrick and company off the field.
RB Giovani Bernard: Bernard could be quite productive in this game as Dalton finds himself in trouble on 3rd down situations.
WR A.J. Green: A.J. Green is a top 5 WR for the season, however, Week 1 is tough as he will be blanketed by Derrell Revis on most plays.
The Jets have a great offense going into the 2016 season but face a very tough Cincinnati defense that ranked 2nd in points allowed last season. This has the makeup of a low scoring contest but I can still see fantasy production from the Jets side of the ball.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: Challenging Week 1 game for Fitzpatrick but has enough weapons around him to push through it. Not crazy about this matchup for Fitzpatrick but still see him finishing among the top half of QBs this week.
RB Matt Forte: Excited to see what Forte brings to this offense but is a shaky start this week. If possible, sit him this week and see how he handles carries with his new offense vs a defense ranked among the top against the run.
WR Brandon Marshall: It is very rare to see this receiver get shut down and I don’t see that happening here. Safe to start, even if it’s low scoring, he will be heavily involved.
WR Eric Decker: Up against a defense that ranked 2 in TDs allowed but still see him having a decent afternoon along with Brandon Marshall.
Be sure to check out Part Two of our Week 1 NFL Matchup Previews.