Week 1 NFL Matchup Preview Part Two
Be sure to check out Part One of our Week 1 NFL Matchup Previews.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
1:00 PM EST
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles
The Cleveland Browns are hoping a major overhaul in the front office and player personnel can get them out of the cellar of the AFC North and the NFL. Now lead by new head coach Hue Jackson and new starting QB Robert Griffin III, the Browns may become an interesting team to watch with young weapons at the offensive skill positions.
QB Robert Griffin III: Interesting streaming option for his rushing abilities, but take the “wait and see” approach.
RB Isaiah Crowell: Hue Jackson is well known for his desire to run the ball. Crowell is an interesting flex play against a weak defense.
RB Duke Johnson: Week 1 should be our first real insight to the RB split. Duke is a fine RB2 start in PPR leagues but problem best left on the bench in standard leagues.
WR Corey Coleman: The exciting rookie is best left on your bench if possible until we see how this team performs.
TE Gary Barnidge: The only returning target in the passing game, Barnidge is a fine start at TE.
D/ST: Playing against a rookie QB who missed most of the preseason with an injury makes this Cleveland unit a viable streaming defense for Week 1.
The Philadelphia Eagles fell apart in 2015, then paid a king’s ransom to move up in the 2016 NFL draft to select their eventual starter, Carson Wentz. Chip Kelly was fired and Sam Bradford was traded away at the last minute, raising questions about how the Eagles will perform in 2016. New head coach Doug Pederson has an uphill battle on his hands with a rookie QB who missed much of the pre-season and a roster that was depleted of veteran leadership by the previous regime.
RB Ryan Mathews: After splitting time last seasons, Mathews sits comfortable in the driver seat for early down work. A capable pass catcher as well, he’s a fine RB2 with RB1 upside.
WR Jordan Matthews: Having limited time to build rapport with new QB Carson Wentz, this might be a good week to leave Matthews on your bench if you have better options.
TE Zach Ertz: After a strong finish to 2015, Ertz finds himself in an offense that figures to feature the TE, but with a rookie QB who will limit his upside.
D/ST: Having a kick returner like Darren Sproles, the Eagles are always a good streaming option. It doesn’t hurt to be hosting Robert Griffin III in his first NFL start in over a year.
Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans
After winning the NFC North with a surprising 11-5 finish, the Vikings had high expectations for 2016 before their promising young QB Teddy Bridgewater suffered a devastating knee injury. Can the newly acquired Sam Bradford be their savior? Veteran Shaun Hill figures to be the starting QB for this week before turning over the position to Bradford.
RB Adrian Peterson: He’s a perennial stud. Expect a heavy workload against a weak defense.
WR Stefon Diggs: While the talent is surely there, it’s best to leave Diggs on the bench until the QB situation is figured out.
D/ST: The Vikings fielded one of the best defensive units in the NFL in 2015. The Vikings will look to control the clock with a heavy dose of running while the Titans figure to be a low volume, low scoring offense. If you league awards points for low points against, the Vikings are a viable start.
A miserable 2015 season lead to a coaching change for 2016. New head coach Mike Mularkey wants to run an “exotic smash mouth” offense. But can his defense keep them close enough to allow it to work? A major overhaul of the roster at RB and WR corp brings a glimmer of hope for this offense to be sneaky for fantasy purposes.
QB Marcus Mariota: Mariota looks to improve on his rollercoaster 2015 season with a much-improved running game behind him and significant upgrades at the WR position.
RB DeMarco Murray: Projected to be the lead back in a run-heavy offense, even a 50/50 split could result in a big workload.
RB Derrick Henry: The massive mountain of an RB projects to be TD dependent Flex play early in the season. In a game that projects to be very low scoring, Henry is best left on the bench until we can see the workload.
WR Tajae Sharpe: The rookie has come on strong out of the gates and forced himself into a starting role, however, he’s best left on the bench this week.
TE Delanie Walker: A very impressive 2015 season and great rapport with his QB finds Walker as a top 5 TE option for Week 1.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Miami Dolphins at Seattle Seahawks
The Miami Dolphins made a coaching change mid-season and then brought in offensive guru Adam Gase after the season. Gase will need to get the absolute most out of a questionable roster if he wants to compete in the AFC East.
QB Ryan Tannehill: After an impressive 2014 season, Tannehill seemed to regress in 2015. A trip to Seattle in Week 1 is a rough way to start to 2016. He’s best left on the bench or waiver wire.
RB Arian Foster: The knock on Arian Foster has never been his skills, but health. At this time, he’s healthy which means he’s a very good option to start, regardless of the matchup. Foster is an RB2 with RB1 upside.
WR Jarvis Landry: The PPR monster has had a lot of shade cast his way in the offseason, but the constant volume of targets does not project to change. Some people may be tempted to shy away based on the matchup, but Seattle’s weak spot is often against slot WRs. Start Landry with confidence, especially in PPR leagues.
After back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, the Seahawks fell short in 2015. The Seahawks offense erupted in the second half of the season and the conventional wisdom says we should expect more of the same from them in this game.
QB Russell Wilson: Über efficient in the passing game and a nightmare to defend on the ground, he’s a must start every week.
RB Thomas Rawls: Reports are suggesting that Rawls will be eased back into game action. Start him with caution.
RB Christine Michael: The preseason star is now at the top of the depth chart. With Rawls on the mend, now is the time for Michael to make himself irreplaceable
WR Doug Baldwin: A barrage of TDs in the second half of 2015 has brought Baldwin into the weekly WR2 ranks.
WR Tyler Lockett: An off-season darling, Lockett was a boom/bust player in 2015. His ability to score every time he touches the ball combined with his kick returner role makes him a reasonable start at the flex position.
D/ST: One of the few weekly must-starts at the position gets a tasty home matchup to open the season.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
After missing the playoffs, head coach Tom Coughlin was unceremoniously replaced by offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. The offense added exciting rookie Sterling Sharp to the WR corp while attempting to improve their secondary by drafting Eli Apple in the first round of the draft.
QB Eli Manning: The matchup with Dallas and the weapons at his disposal make him a must-start in Week 1.
RB Rashad Jennings: After being part of a 4-headed monster at RB in 2015, Jennings projects to get the majority of the early down work for the Giants to open the season. He’s a viable start in the RB2 slot.
WR Odell Beckham Jr: Stud. Über stud.
WR Sterling Shepard: There is a lot of hype around the rookie WR and for good reason. But the Cowboys will look to slow this game down as much as possible, which may cap the ceiling for Sharp in Week 1. He’s a borderline flex option this week.
TE Will Tye: It looked like Tye was “the guy” earlier this year, things have become a bit cloudy to start the season. If you have other options, it’s best to stash Tye on your bench for this week.
D/ST: Some owners may be looking to the Giants as a streaming option due to the matchup against a 5th round rookie QB, but there are much better options out there.
The Dallas Cowboys were looking like the team to beat for the 2016 NFC East title until Tony Romo went down in the preseason. Now they will rely on their 5th round rookie and preseason darling, Dak Prescott. Can he keep them in contention in a division that is completely up for grabs?
QB Dak Prescott: After an extremely impressive preseason, the rookie finds himself at the helm of potentially one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL. Prescott has a track record of protecting the ball and limiting turnovers in his college career that carried over to the preseason. His rushing abilities give him some upside as a second QB in 2QB leagues.
RB Ezekiel Elliott: Already crowned the next big thing, Elliott should see a heavy workload behind one of the best run-blocking offensive lines in the league. Both Jerry Jones and fantasy owners paid a high draft pick price to get him, so you better use him.
WR Dez Bryant: After a lost season due to a broken foot, Bryant is hoping to return to his dominant ways this season. It appears he has already built some rapport with his new QB so you can feel confident starting him.
TE Jason Witten: Never a flashy player, Witten is the definition of a constant target. While the upside is capped by the rookie QB and an offense that plans to run the ball and control the clock, Witten is safe for a few reception and a nice floor in PPR leagues.
D/ST: Once a turnover machine, Eli Manning has become more controlled with his passing under Ben McAdoo. The Cowboys defense is just a middle of the road option this week.
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
The Detroit Lions come into the 2016 season with offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter finally able to install his full playbook. The Lions lost Calvin Johnson to retirement and added Marvin Jones in free agency. Perennially at the top of the list in passing attempts, the Lions offense is always a target for fantasy points.
QB Matthew Stafford: After finishing the 2015 season on an absolute tear, fantasy owners are hoping Stafford can pick up where he left off. A matchup against the defenseless Colts and shootout with Andrew Luck leaves many salivating over the possibilities. He’s a must start.
RB Ameer Abdullah: The hype machine was out of control going into 2015, but a slow start and a lack of TDs has turned Abdullah into a bit of a post-hype sleeper. In a game projecting to be a high scoring affair, Abdullah is a fine start in the flex position.
RB Theo Riddick: After posting 80 receptions in 2015, many owners in PPR leagues can feel safe starting him in their flex spot in this potential shootout.
WR Golden Tate: An absolute target hog in Calvin Johnson’s absence, Tate has taken a lot of heat for his low yards per reception in 2015. He’s an excellent start at WR2 in all league formats in this shootout.
WR Marvin Jones: One of the offseason’s biggest WR signings, Marvin Jones joins a Lions team looking for a red zone threat to replace the retired Calvin Johnson. Jones has a history of TD production and has been highly touted this preseason. This is a great spot for the Lions to show off their new WR. He’s a solid WR2 option and a real advantage as your flex.
The Colts would probably like to just forget the entire 2015 season. Their star QB suffered multiple injuries that lead to a miserable season in a year they were favored to win the division.
QB Andrew Luck: Looking to move on from 2015, Luck should come out firing in this shootout. He has a real possibility to finish the week as the top QB.
RB Frank Gore: Frank Gore is pretty much the only show in town, which will result in the bulk of the touches in the running game. While it may not be exciting, there should be enough volume to make him an RB2.
WR TY Hilton: Andrew Luck’s favorite deep target, Hilton should be in line for a nice volume of targets.
WR Donte Moncrief: After a hot start in 2015 as Andrew Luck’s favorite red zone target, Moncrief was slowed by poor QB play to finish the season. Many are projecting a breakout season for the third-year WR and a Week 1 shootout on the docket definitely helps. A must start at WR2 with WR1 upside.
TE Dwayne Allen: Somehow Dwayne Allen’s draft stock actually dropped after losing competition for TE targets in an Andrew Luck offense. Week 1 will prove to be a reminder to all those who passed on him that it was a bad idea.
Sunday Night Football – September 11, 2016
8:30 PM EST
New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
Another year, another AFC East title. The Patriots return many of their key starters from last season and all signs point to them being the class of the division again in 2016. However, the suspension of Tom Brady for the “Deflategate” issue will put a bump in the quest for another division title.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo: We were preparing for this event last year, but the appeals process delayed it until now. While some may be scared away, Jimmy Garoppolo makes for an interesting streamer due to great targets and a game plan that reduces his risk.
RB LeGarrette Blount: A game against a strong run defense is typically not a “Blount Game”. However, Blount is an interesting flex option this week in a game where the game plan should be to limit passing and control the game.
RB James White: There is a lot of hype surrounding James White in PPR leagues. While some people are simply plugging him into Dion Lewis’ role, he’s actually more of a Shane Vereen than Dion Lewis, with minimal rushing opportunities. He’s a flex play in PPR leagues.
WR Julian Edelman: The expectation is that Jimmy Garopollo will hinder the performance of Julian Edelman, but due to his role, the impact may be less than many think. He’s a WR2 in PPR leagues.
TE Rob Gronkowski: He wasn’t on the team flight to Arizona, but this does not mean he will not play. He if does Gronk will be Gronk. Don’t get cute.
The expectations for this team are very high in both NFL and fantasy circles. There is a lot of continuity across the team which is always a good thing for early season success.
QB Carson Palmer: Palmer was a revelation early last year after being a late round draft pick or waiver wire pickup. But lost in the current Palmer hype is the impact the late season finger injury had on him, including a 6 turnover game in the playoffs. Palmer now has 13 turnovers in his last 7 games, including the preseason. Keep an eye on this.
RB David Johnson: Last year’s end-of-season darling was often the first RB drafted. He’s a must start.
WR Larry Fitzgerald: Much like his veteran teammate Carson Palmer, his performance slowed down as the season wore on. The expectation is that he will play even more out of the slot this season, so temper your yardage expectations. He’s a viable WR2/flex in all formats.
WR Michael Floyd: After a severe injury to his hand early in the season, Floyd finished with over 100 yards or a TD in 7 of his last 10 games. While the trio of WRs makes projections murky, Floyd is poised to play a major role for this team and your fantasy team. He should be a WR2.
WR John Brown: He’s now cleared from his preseason concussion, but the target distribution may lead to up and down weeks. He’s a risky flex play, but has the upside of a WR2.
D/ST: The Arizona defense was typically drafted to be an every week starter and a matchup with a QB making his first NFL start looks good on paper. But the great game planning of Bill Belichick may limit the ceiling for this unit. You drafted them to be a weekly starter, but temper your expectations.
Monday Night Football, September 12, 2016
Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins
The Steelers again have aspirations of a deep playoff run, but they are no longer the class of the division. This isn’t your dad’s Steel Curtain either. This team is built to score a lot of points to cover for their questionable defense.
QB Ben Roethlisberger: When healthy, Ben Roethlisberger has the upside to be the QB1 for the week. The first of the two Monday Night Football games projects to be a shootout and Ben is a must start.
RB DeAngelo Williams: When filling in as the primary RB last season, DeAngelo Williams was a consistent RB1. He’s a must-start RB1 in the first three weeks of the season filling in for the suspended Le’Veon Bell.
WR Antonio Brown: The consensus number one overall player in fantasy drafts, Antonio projects to get peppered with targets and be a week one stud, even in a possible showdown with Josh Norman. Never bench your studs.
The 2015 NFC East Division Champions have returned many of their offensive starters and suddenly look to be one of the best offenses in the league while looking to stay atop the NFC East standings.
QB Kirk Cousins: After leading many teams to a fantasy championship in 2015, expectations are high for Cousins in his second season as a starting QB. Cousins threw multiple touchdowns in just 5 games and was buoyed by an outlier 5 rushing TDs on just 26 attempts last year, but this week’s matchup against a weak Steelers secondary makes him a great starter.
RB Matt Jones: Expected to be the primary ball carrier, a preseason shoulder injury opened the door to Rob Kelley taking on part of the workload. Keep an eye on the injury report to make sure he’s not going to be limited before starting him as an RB2.
WR DeSean Jackson: An early season hamstring injury slowed DeSean Jackson’s 2015 season and led to a reduced draft cost this year. Jackson is always a threat for a deep TD and should be a WR2 based on the matchup in Week 1.
TE Jordan Reed: Reed was the top TE in points per game in 2015 and all signs point to the same thing happening this year. He’s a must-start every week.
Monday Night Football – September 12, 2016
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
After a very tumultuous run in St. Louis, the Rams have returned to Los Angeles. They made a splash at the draft by trading up to the number one overall position to select their presumed QB of the future, Jared Goff. While their defense is one of the best in the NFL, their offense projects to be one of the worst. After drafting Goff, they are proceeding with incumbent starter, Case Keenum for Week 1.
RB Todd Gurley: While he is one of the best talents in the league, he may be held back by the poor performance of the rest of the offense. You’re not benching him, but he will have to make his own opportunities.
D/ST: The Rams have one of the top defensive units in the league, but are often put into poor situations by their offense. A matchup with Blaine Gabbert and the Chip Kelly lead 49ers makes them a solid start this week.
Many fans and probably the team would like to forget 2015. They were one of the worst offenses in the league and saw an exodus of retirements on the defensive side of the ball. New head coach Chip Kelly hopes to inject some excitement into the offense with his fast-paced system, but does he have the personnel to run it effectively?
QB Blaine Gabbert: I wrote about the potential impact of the increased volume possible for Gabbert earlier this offseason, but I want to see it before I would use Gabbert as a streamer.
RB Carlos Hyde: Coming off a concussion suffered in the preseason, Hyde projects to get a big workload in this game. A tough matchup makes him a lower level RB2 start.
WR Torrey Smith: Torrey Smith has been hyped during the offseason as a great value play, but wait and see how the passing game looks before you use him as a WR2/Flex.
TE Vance McDonald: McDonald should be a borderline starter for Week 1. The TEs have been heavily involved in the preseason, but the 49ers project to run a lot of 2-TE sets. He’s a borderline starter.
D/ST: I’m not going to pretend that the 49ers have a good defense, but what they lack in talent they make up for in opportunity in Week 1. A home matchup with Case Keenum and an expected low scoring game makes them an interesting streamer for Week 1.
Be sure to check out Part One of our Week 1 NFL Matchup Previews.