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Inside the Matchup
Week 1
9/6/18; Updated 9/7/18

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Justin Bales



Sunday Early:


PIT @ CLE | SF @ MIN | TB @ NO | TEN @ MIA

Sunday Late:




- FPTs Allowed data from 2017 season
- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Falcons at Eagles - (Katz)
Line: ATL -1.0
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The defending Super Bowl champions project to have one of the better defenses in the NFL this season, making this a less than ideal opening salvo for the 2016 MVP. The Eagles ranked in the middle of the pack in FPts Allowed to QBs despite seeing the second-most pass attempts (601) in the regular season. Matt Ryan is coming off an extremely disappointing 2017 campaign (QB14, 20 TDs) where we saw the Falcons offense regress considerably following the departure of Kyle Shanahan. While Shanahan isn’t returning, the offense is due to rebound, which bodes well for the elite Julio Jones. The perennial all pro somehow scored just three touchdowns last year despite 19 red zone targets. The arrival of Alabama rookie, Calvin Ridley, should do nothing to detract from Julio’s targets and is projected to play roughly half the snaps on offense. Mohamed Sanu and TE Austin Hooper (Ranked 17th in targets among TEs last season) round out the receiving group but won’t garner enough attention to be viable options. In a tough road matchup, though, Julio is the only member of the Falcons passing attack you can reliably start.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Another victim of the great 2017 regression was Devonta Freeman. Drafted as a mid RB1, he finished as the PPR RB13 last year by fantasy points per game totaling 51 percent of Atlanta’s running back touches. While Tevin Coleman (41 percent share) still exists, Freeman remains the primary back in Atlanta and is obviously a must start even in a difficult matchup. Coleman presents a much trickier decision as his workload isn’t as secure. We can reasonably assume 10-12 touches and Coleman is always a big play threat, finishing seventh in breakaway run rate in 2017. If he’s your RB2 or in your flex this week, you can certainly do worse. This is not a ceiling week for either of the Falcons backs, but you can confidently deploy Freeman and safely deploy Coleman as normal.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan
RB2: Devonta Freeman (mid-range)
WR1: Julio Jones (mid-range)
Flex: Tevin Coleman
Bench: Austin Hooper, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley

Passing Game Thoughts: It should come as no surprise that Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles will open the season as the Eagles starting quarterback. I expect Foles to start at least the first two or three games and perhaps at that point we’ll a glimpse of Carson Wentz. Foles is coming off a phenomenal postseason run where he didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard with touchdowns (6), but he protected the football, throwing just one interception, and completed 72.64% of his passes. Hid previous matchup against the Falcons landed him a 246-0-0 line. Foles has proven capable when called upon, but I don’t expect him to be called upon this week given the receiving corps will be led by Nelson Agholor and Mike Wallace. The Eagles will try and win this game with ball control and defense. As the de facto No.1 receiver with Alshon Jeffery still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Agholor is a worthy start based on volume. Wallace, on the other hand, is very hard to trust as the passing game will funnel through Zach Ertz. Last year’s TE3 is certainly due for some negative regression this season, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less of a top five option. It wouldn’t be a shock to rookie TE Dallas Goedert to see an increase in expected to targets given Jeffery’s absence but the rookie also comes with a low floor.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: The Eagles had one of the league’s best rushing attacks in 2017, finishing third with 132.2 rushing yards per game. Most of that can be attributed to their elite offensive line. Jay Ajayi was just as mediocre on the Eagles as he was on the Dolphins – the only difference being the Eagles offensive line propelled his stats higher. Ajayi will open the season as the Eagles starting running back, but what does that really mean? Doug Pederson has always rotated his backfield and I expect to see plenty of Corey Clement and some Darren Sproles missed in as well. For the record, LeGarrette Blount led the Eagles with a 44% market share of RB carries last season and Ryan Mathews led the club in 2016 with a 41% share - not the kind of volume based numbers fantasy owners are looking for out of their RB2. Unless we see a shift in usage, Ajayi should be good for 10-12 carries and a target or two, but Clement projects to be the goal line back and primary passing down back, making Ajayi a very shaky start unless he establishes himself as more of a workhorse. Ajayi also did not see a single goal line carry with the Eagles last season and the Falcons gave up a grand total of 6 rushing TDs and the 6th fewest rushing yards to running backs last season.

Value Meter:
QB2: Nick Foles (low end)
WR3: Nelson Agholor
TE1: Zach Ertz (high end)
Flex: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement
Bench: Alshon Jeffery (shoulder), Darren Sproles, Mike Wallace, Dallas Goedert

Prediction: Eagles 23, Falcons 20 ^ Top

Bills @ Ravens - (Swanson)
Line: BAL -7.5
Total: 40.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Josh Allen era of Buffalo Bills will have to wait for another week as second-year player Nathan Peterman was named as the starting quarterback for the Bills against the Ravens Week 1. Although Allen flashed the big arm and gunslinger mentality that made him a first-round pick, head coach Sean McDermott opted to go with Peterman instead of the rookie.

Bills fans hope that Peterman’s first start of the season goes better than his first career start against the Rams last season that included five interceptions and only six competitions in a lopsided defeat.

A lack of receiving options outside of Kelvin Benjamin and Charles Clay will limit Peterman’s ability to move the ball against Baltimore, especially if the decimated Bills offensive line is unable to provide much time to throw. Benjamin looks poised to a high volume season and should garner a sizable target share against a Ravens team that will be without starting cornerback Jimmy Smith, who at 6-foot-2, and 205 pounds, processes the size to be able to match up against 6-foot-5 Benjamin.

Even without Smith, the Ravens boast a formidable defensive unit that allowed only six receiving touchdowns all last season while allowing the second-fewest points to opposing wide receivers. Like McCoy, Benjamin’s value could be found in garbage time as the result of a negative game script.

It remains to be seen if the Ravens will continue to struggle against tight ends, one of the few areas in which teams found success last year. Baltimore allowed eight receiving touchdowns to tight ends, compared to just six for wideouts, including a three-touchdown game by Marcedes Lewis.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: LeSean McCoy enters the 2018 season with numerous off and on-field questions that depressed his value from a consensus second-round pick to a high-risk/high-reward player often taken as late as the fourth round in 12-team leagues. Domestic abuse allegations brought forth by a former girlfriend raised concerns that McCoy may be suspended by the NFL, while concerns regarding McCoy's age and mileage have made many owners shy away from Shady.

In addition, McCoy has been limited by a groin injury that forced the veteran running back to miss game three of the preseason against Cincinnati and multiple practices. Despite sneaking into the playoffs last season, the Bills traded quarterback Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for a third-round pick and three starting offensive linemen, including left tackle Cordy Glenn, are no longer on the team.

There are more questions than answers with the Bills entering Week 1 against the Ravens, but there is little doubt that if healthy and on the roster, McCoy will be a fantasy asset worth starting based on the massive volume he will receive both the passing and running game.

Defensively, the Ravens finished 2017 as the No.6 ranked team against the run after a slow start to the season in which Leonard Fournette, Le’Veon Bell, Latavius Murray, and Jordan Howard all managed 100 yards and/or a touchdown against the defensive unit. When back to full health after the midway point of the season no running back posted a 100-yard game against the Ravens.

A negative game script will likely limit the ability for McCoy to reach more than 20 carries in the game, as the Baltimore secondary and defensive line will take advantage of a below-average Buffalo offensive line and the rookie quarterback. McCoy should make up for the loss of volume on the ground with more action in the passing game during garbage time.

Value Meter:
QB3: Josh Allen (Low-End)
RB2: LeSean McCoy (High-End)
WR2: Kelvin Benjamin (Low-End)
TE2: Charles Clay (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Baltimore front office conducted a full-scale line change of the receiving corps after a disappointing season in which the Ravens finished 27th in total yards and 29th in passing offense. Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace are gone, former first-round bust Breshad Perriman lost any chance of starting, and veteran tight end Ben Watson returned to New Orleans to presumably close out his career with Drew Brees and the Saints.

As a parting move in his final draft as General Manager, Ozzie Newsome added tight end Hayden Hurst and quarterback Lamar Jackson to add some youth to a veteran unit. Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead each signed free-agent deals, giving quarterback Joe Flacco arguably his best receiving group since the 2012 Super Bowl winning team.

Crabtree appears primed to be the volume and red zone target in the unit with Brown acting as the field-stretching big play option. Snead is a hybrid mix of the two, with an ability to get behind defenders deep while also working the middle of the field.

The matchup of Brown against veteran Vontae Davis on the outside is one that could make Brown a sneaky start week one, as Davis has looked to have lost a step against speedsters. Former Bengal first-round pick John Ross made Davis and the Buffalo secondary look silly Week 3 of the preseason and Brown is one of the more talented deep threats in the AFC.

After finishing 2017 with the fourth-worst defense in the NFL Buffalo GM Brandon Beane addressed deficiencies on the defensive line by adding Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy in free agency while focusing on linebacker with the selection of Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds with the 16th overall pick of the 2018 draft. Despite these additions, the Bills have looked spotty on defense in the preseason, allowing the 27th most yards and the ninth-most points.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: The additions of Lotulelei and Murphy on the defensive line will be a considerable improvement for a defensive unit that allowed the most points to opposing running backs in 2017. With Lotulelei joining Kyle Williams in the middle, teams will not be able to exploit Buffalo on the ground quite as much as they did last year, and speedy rookie linebacker Edmunds should help limit stretch runs outside the tackles.

Alex Collins appears to have a firm grip on the starting running back job for the Ravens as we enter the season with Buck Allen working in as a change of pace and receiving back. Collins looks to build off an impressive stretch run in which he carries the ball 83 times for 343 yards and three touchdowns in December, with 14 catches for an additional 135 yards. The Ravens appear to be the beneficiary of the incompetence of a Seattle Seahawk front office that failed to realize the talent of Collins when he was on their roster.

The one trend that continues to be a cause for concern for Collins owners is red zone usage. Nearly 40% of Allen’s carries came inside the 20, as head coach John Harbaugh appeared to have more confidence in Allen in critical game situations. This may not continue in 2018, but it is something that must be monitored by Collins owners.

Value Meter:
QB2: Joe Flacco (High-End)
RB2: Alex Collins (Low-End)
WR3: Michael Crabtree (High-End)
TE2: Ben Watson (High-End)
Flex: Javorius Allen (High-End)

Prediction: Ravens 28, Bills 14 ^ Top

Bengals at Colts - (Bales)
Line: IND -2.5
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Andy Dalton (QB16) struggled a bit last season, but the addition of left tackle Cordy Glenn and first round pick Billy Price on the offensive line should help him right the ship. The matchup against the Indianapolis Colts this week looks juicy as Indy ranked in the bottom-10 against quarterbacks last season while allowing the most big plays (20+ yards) in the league. His top option, AJ Green, as solidified his role as a WR1 over the last few years. He’ll continue to be peppered with targets, especially in the red zone, against a weak Indianapolis secondary.

Tyler Boyd and John Ross are the other two receiving options. Ross comes with tremendous upside as a deep threat. This is an interesting matchup for him, as no one in the Colts secondary has flashed the speed to keep up with Ross. Boyd should play plenty of snaps in the slot, but it’s difficult to trust him outside of a dart throw. Tyler Eifert is finally healthy, and he makes an elite option at tight end. His only struggles throughout his career have come via injury, but now is the time to take advantage of his talent until he finds himself on the sideline once again. He’s expected to play mostly on third downs and in the redzone which may cap his yardage totals.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Joe Mixon is seemingly the clear-cut number one option at running back for the Bengals and I expect him to see the bulk of the backfield touches in Week 1. Gio Bernard played a major role in the Bengals offense last season, recording double-digit carries in each of the last five games last season. However, Bernard is likely nothing more than a third-down back early in 2018. With that being said, Mixon has also played in the slot during the preseason, suggesting both of these players will play a major role in the passing game. The Colts were a decent option to target in the running game last season (7th most FPts allowed to RBs) but held Mixon in check on the ground (11-18-0) during a Week 8 meeting in Cincinnati.

Value Meter:
QB2: Andy Dalton
RB1: Joe Mixon (low-end)
WR1: A.J. Green (mid-range)
TE1: Tyler Eifert (low-end)
Flex: John Ross
Bench: Tyler Boyd

Passing Game Thoughts: Andrew Luck will return to the Colts after missing last season with a shoulder injury. He gets a tough matchup, but if he returns to his pre-injury form, Luck will immediately be a QB1. T.Y. Hilton was a WR1 during Luck’s last healthy season and most importantly, Hilton is expected to play the majority of this game against Dre Kirkpatrick, while Ryan Grant matches up with William Jackson. While Grant loses nearly all of his value in this matchup, Hilton enters the WR1 fray against Kirkpatrick.

The Colts will be utilizing their tight ends as wide receivers this season. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are both going to play a major role in the offense. It’s tough to know which tight end will be more valuable on a week-to-week basis, but Doyle played significantly more snaps with Luck in the preseason. With that being said, Ebron was a red zone threat in the preseason and this offense should be able to support two tight ends due to their lack of credible outside options.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: It looks as if Marlon Mack (hamstring) is going to be ruled out this week. If that’s the case, Jordan Wilkins will draw the start. He’s a bit more of a power running back, while Nyheim Hines is more of a speedy pass-catching option but has demonstrated trouble holding onto the ball during the pre-season. Assuming Mack is out, Wilkins, Hines, and Christine Michael will all split snaps making it extremely difficult for fantasy owners. Of the group, Wilkins is the top option, but this is not a great matchup regardless. This is a situation that likely should be avoided, as Mack and Robert Turbin (suspended) appear to be their two best runners but won’t be suiting up.

Value Meter:
QB1: Andrew Luck (low-end)
WR1: T.Y. Hilton (low-end)
TE1: Jack Doyle (low-end)
TE2: Eric Ebron
Bench: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines

Prediction: Colts 27, Bengals 24 ^ Top

Texans at Patriots - (Katz)
Line: NE -6.0
Total: 51.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Deshaun Watson had a very shaky start to his career from a real life perspective with his accuracy issues (64% true completion percentage, 32nd in the league) and ball security problems (13 interceptable passes in less than half a season), but from a fantasy perspective, the kid was lightning. Watson actually threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots in a shootout last season. While we know Watson has no hope of repeating his 9.3% touchdown rate, he still possesses a high floor due to his running ability - averaging just under 40 rushing yards a game last season. He should be in line for a volume heavy game against the high scoring Patriots which bodes well not just for Watson, but also for his top target, elite WR DeAndre Hopkins.

2017’s league leader in touchdowns is poised for another strong season where Hopkins should once again be amongst the league leaders in targets. Hopkins will benefit from a full training camp to work with Watson and is an elite option whenever he takes the field. Opposite Hopkins is the much more volatile Will Fuller. Obviously there’s no way Fuller will catch a touchdown on more than half his receptions from Watson this season, but he’s always a big play threat and the opponent doesn’t really matter. If you start Fuller, you are hoping for a splash play.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: Lamar Miller has no business still being a starting running back in the NFL, but when D’Onta Foreman tore his Achilles, the Texans weren’t left with much of a choice. Foreman is going to open the season on the PUP list, which means Miller is locked into considerable volume. As we know, the single most important factor in fantasy production is volume and in a projected high scoring affair, Miller should easily surpass 20 touches and likely have an opportunity to score a touchdown. The only real concern is that the Texans might have the league’s worst offensive line, but in what will likely be a theme this season, Miller is a safe, if unspectacular option.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson (high end)
RB2: Lamar Miller (mid range)
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins (elite)
Flex: Will Fuller

Passing Game Thoughts: Excluding Watson due to an insufficient sample size, Tom Brady finished as the QB5 last season by FPts/G. He tailed off considerably down the stretch, but was still a weekly QB1 option. His best performance of 2017 came against the Texans, where he threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns. The problem in 2018 is Brady is another year older and he won’t have Julian Edelman or Brandin Cooks. Instead, his top options will be Rob Gronkowski, the most dominant TE of all time, and Chris Hogan, who has been thrust into the top wide receiver role. Hogan was well on his way to a breakout season last year until it was derailed by a shoulder injury. With Edelman suspended, Hogan will have every opportunity to be a fantasy factor. Brady can typically support multiple pass catchers, but the guy lining up opposite Hogan is a bit of an unknown right now. Phillip Dorsett appears to be the favorite, but perhaps Cordarrelle Patterson emerges as the second most valuable Patriots receiver however the most likely scenario is that the running backs pick up the receiving slack.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: Rex Burkhead is going to be the primary running back for at least the first week of the season. Burkhead finally got a chance to shine last season and did not disappoint, rushing for five scores while adding three more through the air in just 10 games. Burkhead also has to be considered the favorite for goal line carries. The Patriots did uncharacteristically spend a first round pick on Sony Michel, but he’s currently recovering from a knee injury and is unlikely to play. That leaves Burkhead setup for considerable volume but he won’t be the only back as James White is going to see the field plenty on passing downs either in place of Burkhead, or in tandem with him as the pseudo-slot receiver. White is actually the guy I think benefits most from the Edelman suspension and it would not shock me to see the Patriots roll with 22 personnel with Hogan, Gronk, Dwayne Allen, Burkhead, and White. But, as always, the Patriots remain a bit of an enigma until we see it.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (high end)
RB2: Rex Burkhead (high end)
WR2: Chris Hogan (high end)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (the top option)
Flex: James White (PPR only)
Bench: Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman (suspension), Sony Michel (knee)

Prediction: Patriots 31, Texans 26 ^ Top

Jaguars at Giants - (Katz)
Line: JAX -3.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Giants do not possess an imposing pass defense, but that really doesn’t matter much when facing the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. It simply does not get worse than Blake Bortles, who has no business being a backup, let alone a starter. Don’t let the deceptive 21 touchdown 13 interception final line deceive you – Bortles was dreadful last year. He was 28th in the league with just 3.5 air yards per attempt. had some of the best receiver play in the league with Jaguars pass catchers posting the ninth best target separation, yet Bortles barely completed 60% of his passes. There are only 32 starting QBs, but Bortles managed to finish 33rd in deep ball completion percentage.

The good news is that even though Bortles is terrible, he can still support a viable pass catcher or two. The Jaguars top receiver should be Keelan Cole, who posted 748 receiving yards as a rookie last season. Cole also could man the slot now that Marqise Lee (ACL) is done for the season. There was a lot of preseason hype around Dede Westbrook last season, but he’s best handled with a wait and see approach this year. Westbrook’s best ability is stretching the field, which doesn’t fit Bortles’ capabilities.

Another interesting name is offseason signee, Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Jaguars lack a true red zone presence and at 6’6, 260 lbs, ASJ could be a touchdown or bust fantasy option. Unfortunately, he’s dealing with a core injury, but if he plays, he’s definitely someone worth considering this week as the Giants are laughably bad at covering the TE giving up the most fantasy points to the position a year ago.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Even though passing is significantly more efficient than running, when your quarterback is Blake Bortles, the best offensive plan is Leonard Fournette. He’s already established himself as an elite running back and is as good of a bet for 25-30 touches. If Fournette can stay healthy, he’s a lock to finish top three in carries and the Jaguars will feed him the ball as much as he can handle this week. Fournette may lose some passing down work to T.J. Yeldon, but not all of it – Fournette is not a pure two-down back. He’s a capable pass catcher and should be good for a couple of receptions per game as well as goal line carries. He is locked into starting lineups everywhere.

Value Meter:
RB1: Leonard Fournette (mid-range)
WR3: Keelan Cole
TE2: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (if he plays)
Bench: T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, Dede Westbrook, Blake Bortles

Passing Game Thoughts: You are probably not benching Odell Beckham Jr., but you can’t be thrilled about starting him against the best cornerback duo in the NFL in Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Ramsey and Bouye ranked fifth and first in passer rating allowed, respectively, as well as fourth and seventh in fantasy points allowed per target last season. Whichever one finds himself facing off with Beckham, its advantage Jaguar. The Jaguars were the league’s best defense in 2017 and enter 2018 with that mantle intact.

Eli Manning will have his work cut out for him following a disappointing year in which he threw for under 3,500 yards and fewer than 20 touchdowns. Obviously the entire Giants offense gets a downgrade due to matchup, including second year TE, Evan Engram, who is coming off the second greatest rookie TE season of all time (behind former Giant, Jeremy Shockey). I am a big Engram fan and think he’s poised to improve upon his rookie campaign even though most fantasy analysts are projecting regression due to the return of a healthy Beckham. Regardless of anyone’s opinion on Engram, he’s certainly a talented player, but will have his work cut out for him against the Jaguars. The good news is that Engram might have to be featured a bit more in this game as he’s a mismatch against any linebacker with Ramsey and Bouye locking down Beckham and Sterling Shepard.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: This is my fourth year writing this weekly column and the first time I get the privilege of saying something nice about the Giants running game. Saquon Barkley is going to be a star and if there was one area where the Jaguars struggled last season, it was against the run. If throwing against Ramsey and Bouye is a bad idea, the Giants will have no choice but to try and run the ball and they will do so with Barkley. After spending the second overall pick on a running back, it is safe to assume he is locked into a feature role. Barkley didn’t play much in the preseason due to a hamstring injury, but he’s been healthy for weeks now and was just held out as a precaution. It was probably a blessing in disguise. The expected struggles of the Giants passing game may cap Barkley’s ceiling as scoring opportunities could be minimal, but Barkley should touch the ball a minimum of 20 times and will not be coming off the field on third downs.

Value Meter:
RB1: Saquon Barkley (low end)
WR2: Odell Beckham Jr. (low end)
TE1: Evan Engram (low end)
Bench: Sterling Shepard, Eli Manning

Prediction: Jaguars 23, Giants 16 ^ Top

Steelers @ Browns - (Swanson)
Line: PIT -4.5
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Steelers appeared to light a fire under quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with the selection of likely heir apparent Mason Rudolph in the NFL draft this summer. Instead of Big Ben embracing Rudolph as his eventual successor, the 15-year vet appeared to take offense by questioning how the selection helps the team win now and that Rudolph won’t play for “a while.”

Big Ben finished last season as the No.9 quarterback in fantasy points per game based on FFtoday standard scoring, with 28 passing touchdowns and 14 interceptions to go along with 4251 yards. Although he technically finished as a QB1, Big Ben proved to be a boom or bust quarterback as the No.21 ranked QB on our consistency ranking tool. His ability to produce monster 30-point games, like his 506-yard, two touchdown game against Baltimore Week 14 makes him a difference-making player in lineups. But he also failed to score more than one passing touchdown in a third of his regular season starts.

Antonio Brown continues to be an elite option after edging out DeAndre Hopkins for the most fantasy points per game for a wide receiver (14.8) in 2017. Brown is the closest you can get to a sure thing, with double-digit performances in nine of 14 games last year, including 11 catches for 182 against the Browns. In 12 career games against Cleveland, Brown has an astounding 86 catches for 1312 yards and seven touchdowns, the most touchdowns scored by Brown against any opponent.

JuJu Smith-Schuster proved to be a league-winning late round pick in his rookie season after finishing 2017 as the No.7 wide receiver at 10.3 points per game. Although a significant chunk of his points came when Brown was sidelined, he developed a rapport with Roethlisberger that should carry over into 2018, making Smith-Schuster a high-end No.2 wide receiver.

It may surprise some readers to know that despite finishing winless last year, the Browns actually possessed a decent defensive unit under Greg Williams. Although Cleveland allowed the sixth-most points to opposing quarterbacks, they ranked 14th in total yards allowed and appear to be getting better with the selection of cornerback Denzel Ward out of Ohio State and with former first overall pick Miles Garrett healthy.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: For the second consecutive season Le’Veon Bell did not participate in training camp or the preseason as Bell and the Steelers front office failed to reach an accord on a long-term deal. Missing training camp and the preseason for an elite talent like Bell is not much of a concern, with Bell proving last season that reps in training camp are not required to deliver a stud fantasy year. But it did appear that Bell needed a few weeks in the regular season to get up to game shape, as evident to his 3.2 yard per carry average over the first two weeks of the 2017 season.

Unfortunately it appears Bell will need more time to get into rhythm this season as he has yet to report to the team as of this writing. In his absence, James Conner is expected to start and receive the bulk of the workload with Stevan Ridley (yes, he’s still in the league) working in a backup role. Usage alone makes Conner a good bet for RB2 value with the potential for more if he’s able to find the endzone.
As the No. 20 ranked team last season in fantasy points allowed per game to running backs compared to the No.6 ranked team for points allowed to wide receivers, the blueprint last season for opponents was clearly to attack the Browns in the air. Even with the addition of first-round pick Ward to the secondary, look for the Steelers to exploit the Browns in the air, especially with the unproven Conner staring in the backfield.

QB1: Ben Roethlisberger (Low-End)
RB2: James Conner
WR1: Antonio Brown (Elite)
WR2: JuJu Smith-Schuster (High-End)
TE2: Jesse James (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Browns used the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft to select quarterback Baker Mayfield from the University of Oklahoma. Mayfield is clearly the future of the franchise and the player who will eventually take over the starting role from veteran Tyrod Taylor, who was acquired via trade with the Bills to be the starting QB until Mayfield is ready. Taylor gives the Cleveland passing offense a calming presence and an air of confidence after the disappointing rookie season of DeShone Kizer in 2017. Where Kizer struggled with reading defenses and limiting mistakes, Taylor takes what the defense gives him and excels and not making self-inflicted wounds.

Joining Taylor is prized free agent wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who signed a lucrative long-term deal after four years with the Dolphins. Although Landry worked primarily in the slot for the Dolphins and was limited by a reduced route tree in the Adam Gase offense, Browns offensive coordinator Todd Haley appears to want Landry to move all around the offense, including outside as the flanker.

Lining up opposite of Landry is Josh Gordon, an immensely talented player who missed most training camp due to mental health reasons. When right, Gordon is one of the most physically gifted receivers in the league and creates a mismatch will all cornerbacks. The problem is Gordon has played in only 10 games dating back to his 2013 breakout, with one touchdown and 638 yards in those contests. It remains to be seen how many targets Gordon will receive as the likely No.2 target behind Landry, as Gordon was the top dog during his breakout sophomore campaign.

Second-year tight end David Njoku projects to garner a much larger target share than the 60 looks he received last year as a rookie. Like Gordon, Njoku possesses a size and speed combination that presents a difficult matchup for opposing linebackers, and his leaping ability will likely be utilized in the red zone.

The Steelers allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards to opposing quarterbacks last season and appear once again primed to be a difficult matchup for QBs looking to move the ball in the air. Although ProFootballFocus ranked the Steeler secondary as the No.23 unit heading into the season, the pass rush provided by T.J. Watt, Stephon Tuitt, and Bud Dupree is formidable and could cause issues for the Browns.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Like Taylor, veteran running back Carlos Hyde joined the team this offseason to be the starter until his heir apparent, Nick Chubb, takes over the starting role at tailback. Numerous injuries and a subpar offensive unit handicapped Hyde in his four seasons with the 49ers, limiting the former Ohio State Buckeye to 21 rushing touchdowns in 655 attempts. Not only did Hyde fail to reach double-digit scores in any of his four seasons in San Francisco, but he also failed to reach 1000 yards and averaged a paltry 3.9 yards per carry in 2017.

Hyde appears to be locked and loaded for a heavy first and second down role to start the season, with Duke Johnson once again working in as the passing and third down back. Johnson ended last season on a high note in a Week 16 game against Pittsburgh, with 90 total yards and a rushing touchdown.

Although the Steelers ranked 6th overall in total defense last year, running backs found success reaching the end zone down the stretch, with six rushing touchdowns allowed in the final four games of the regular season. A healthy Cam Heyward, Tuitt, and nose tackle Javon Hargrave could spell difficulty for Hyde to find room up the middle, but an aggressive pass rush from Dupree and Watt outside could open running lanes on counters and mis-directions.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tyrod Taylor (High-End)
RB2: Carlos Hyde (Mid-Level)
WR2: Jarvis Landry
WR2: Josh Gordon (High-End)
TE2: David Njoku (Low-End)

Prediction: Steelers 28, Browns 10 ^ Top

49ers vs. Vikings - (Swanson)
Line: MIN -6.5
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Jimmy Garoppolo has been nothing short of amazing in his short time as the starting quarterback for the 49ers, winning his first five games as a starter since joining the team via trade with the Patriots. Garoppolo completed 67% of his passes for 1560 yards and seven passing touchdowns. Although he finished as only the 21st ranked quarterback in fantasy points per game, he should improve on his numbers with a full offseason to learn Kyle Shanahan’s system and with the return of Pierre Garcon as a second weapon at the wide receiver position. Jerick McKinnon looked poised to be a 70-catch running back out of the backfield for Garoppolo, but an ACL tear during practice this week will cost the former Viking and high priced free agent acquisition the entire season.

Unfortunately for those owners who drafted Garoppolo as their starter, the Week 1 matchup on the road against the Vikings will prove to be difficult and may result in subpar fantasy numbers for all 49er offensive weapons. Mike Zimmer’s defense allowed the fewest points to opposing quarterbacks last season, with no QB topping more than two passing touchdowns in any game last year.

The Vikings return nearly every starter from the team that ended 2017 as the No.1 ranked unit in fewest yards and points allowed while improving an already potent defensive line with the addition of Sheldon Richardson.

Shanahan and Garoppolo will be tested with elaborate blitzes from both safeties, and the defensive front led by Everson Griffen will be a formidable task for rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey. Finding a weakness in the armor to exploit is not an easy task, as the Vikings allowed the fewest points to opposing tight ends, and only one running back managed to score a touchdown via the air last season. In short, starting a streaming quarterback over Garoppolo may be a wise move and tempering exceptions for both Garcon and Goodwin is recommended.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Second-year back Matt Breida is listed as the starting running back on the team’s official depth chart with veteran Alfred Morris working in as the change of pace and power/short yardage back. Breida averaged 5.2 fantasy points per game as the No. 70 ranked running back last season, working primarily as Carlos Hyde’s backup and breather back. Although Breida is listed as the starter, Morris projects to receive a sizable share of carries on Sunday, making both players marginal starts in what could be a challenging game for all 49er skill position players.

The Vikings allowed the fewest points to opposing running backs last season, with only Jonathan Stewart managing to top 100 yards and multiple scores. If you take away that flukey game against the Panthers only five opposing running backs managed to reach double-digit points in any game last year.

To make matters worse for San Francisco, the Vikings added Sheldon Richardson via free agency this summer to pair alongside Linval Joseph in the middle of the defensive line. Running between the tackles will be difficult for Breida and Morris, and the run support provided by pro bowl safeties Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith will make it difficult to run outside. In short, it may be a smart move avoiding all San Francisco running back options this week.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jimmy Garoppolo (Low-End)
RB3: Alfred Morris (High-End)
RB3: Matt Breida (Mid-Range)
WR2: Marquise Goodwin (Low-End)
WR4: Pierre Garcon (Low-End)
TE2: George Kittle (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins to a lucrative offseason free-agent contract to help an already talented offensive team get over the hump and make a run for a Lombardi Trophy. Minnesota ranked 11th in the NFL in passing yards and 10th in passing touchdowns last year with Case Keenum under center and project to be an even more potent passing attack with Cousins.

The tandem of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen propelled the Viking wide receiving corps to a 13th place finish among average points scored by a wide receiving group. Diggs finished .a tenth of a point per game behind Michael Thomas and A.J. Green for the 12th spot based on FFToday Standard scoring parameters, while Thielen finished as the No.15 ranked WR with 91 catches for 1277 years and four receiving touchdowns.

The distribution of targets will undoubtedly be different with Cousins running the offense and Pat Shurmur no longer calling plays in Minnesota. Cousins has a history of heavily targeting tight ends, which could hurt Theilen’s overall value and improve the fantasy stock of Kyle Rudolph. Based on the impressive preseason stat line of seven catches for 86 lads and a score that Diggs received in limited action with Cousins, it appears that Diggs will be peppered with targets to start the season.

Regardless of who receives the most targets on Sunday, it is safe to say that Cousins and the skill position players for the Vikings are licking their chops for their matchup against a 49ers secondary and linebacking corps that allowed the 5th most points to opposing quarterbacks last year. Although John Lynch and the 49er front office made a splash with the addition of veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, the San Francisco secondary is very young outside of Sherman, and lack playmaking defensive backs. Cousins and the Vikings should find little issues moving the ball against the 49ers, especially if the Minnesota defense is able to provide short fields off of turnovers.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: This matchup is a tale of two defenses in what could be a lopsided win for the Vikings. Unlike the Vikings who rank near the top in allowing the fewest points to opposing quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs, the 49ers gave up points by the buckets last season across the board. 12 different tailbacks managed to post double-digit performances against Robert Saleh’s defensive front, highlighted by Ezekiel Elliott’s monster 40-point game Week 7 at Levi Stadium.

The young San Francisco defensive front of Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas projects to be an impressive unit in the next few seasons. But as it stands the trio is still young and developing, and the linebacking corps led by middle linebacker Brock Coyle is less than impressive.

Second-year back Dalvin Cook and veteran bruiser Latavius Murray should find little trouble moving the ball vs. San Francisco. Cook will make his first regular season start after sustaining an ACL Week 4 against Detroit. Prior to the devastating knee injury, Cook was on pace to finish as the No.9 running back with 14.1 points per game, just behind Melvin Gordon and Alvin Kamara.

Owners who used a first or second-round pick on Cook will no doubt start the former Florida State Seminole, but expectations should be tempered somewhat as a negative game script with the Vikings blowing out the 49ers could limit his workload. And it is possible that Mike Zimmer and the coaching staff will ease their star RB back into action over the first few games of the season.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (Low-End)
RB1: Dalvin Cook (Low-End)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (Mid-Range)
WR2: Adam Thielen (Low-End)
TE1: Kyle Rudolph (Low-End)

Prediction: Vikings 28, 49ers 17 ^ Top

Bucs at Saints - (Bales)
Line: NO -9.5
Total: 49.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Jameis Winston has been suspended to start the season, meaning Ryan Fitzpatrick will draw the start at quarterback. Fitzpatrick’s top option, Mike Evans, gets a tough matchup against Marshon Lattimore this week. In two matchups against Lattimore last season, Evans totaled only six receptions for 68 yards. He’s an inefficient player that dominates with his target share (22.8%) and red zone presence. Overall, his matchup knocks him down a peg, but his nearly guaranteed 8+ targets adds to his value.

DeSean Jackson and Chris Godwin are in a bit of an odd position, as they are seen as co-starters, although neither generally plays the slot. They are expected to split snaps, although both come with quite a bit of upside. Of the two, Godwin’s appears to have the higher ceiling after receiving rave reviews throughout the offseason, although Jackson’s speed could help him take the top off of the defense. With all three receivers referred to as “starters” during the off-season it’s difficult to project how usage will shake out.

Tight ends Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard are also splitting snaps. Howard is more of the blocking tight end, while Brate is the receiving option, although Howard has proven plenty of big play ability. New Orleans allowed the 5th fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season making this an un favorable matchup for Howard and Brate.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: There is only one running back to truly consider from the Buccaneers at this point in the season - Peyton Barber. Barber averaged 18 touches per game over the last five games last season and has been named the clear-cut number one option for Tampa Bay this season. Ronald Jones, who was an early second round pick for the Bucs, struggled in preseason and is listed as the third string running back for the opener. The only running back that may steal touches from Barber is Jacquizz Rodgers, although it’s highly unlikely he plays more than a handful of snaps.

Value Meter:
RB2: Peyton Barber (low-end, volume driven)
WR2: Mike Evans
TE2: Cameron Brate
TE2: O.J. Howard
Bench: Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees has been an elite fantasy option for years and despite a down statistical season in 2017, he has shown no signs of deteriorating skills. There are a lot of mouths to feed in New Orleans, and without Mark Ingram in the backfield, Brees could see a few extra pass attempts this week. New Orleans will have 71 targets to replace with Mark Ingram suspended. Michael Thomas has been his WR1 since entering the league, and he should be locked into 8+ targets. Alvin Kamara is the only other player to return with 100+ targets from last season, but we’ll discuss him below.

Ted Ginn Jr (WR34) quietly posted solid numbers last season, but will see competition from Cam Meredith, rookie Tre’Quan Smith, and tight end Ben Watson. Ginn is the most likely player to repeat his success, although Meredith is tentatively expected to slide into a starting role once he’s fully recovered from his ACL injury. Smith is on the outside looking in, but has looked outstanding during the preseason. Overall, Ginn is a high upside option, while Watson features a relatively high floor. These wide receivers should find plenty of success against Tampa Bay’s bottom-five ranked defense against receivers.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints are only carrying two running backs on their roster at the moment. As mentioned above, Mark Ingram is suspended, leaving Alvin Kamara and Mike Gillislee to handle the rushing duties. Gillislee was recently signed, suggesting he could see somewhat of a limited role this week. Kamara, on the other hand, featured elite efficiency last season (12.6 touches per game, 1554 combined yards, 13 TDs) and will see a significantly bigger role this week. The Saints could find themselves up early in this game, giving Kamara and Gillislee plenty of carries against the Bucs, who featured one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL last season allowing the 6th most fantasy points to running backs.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees (high-end)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (elite)
WR1: Michael Thomas (mid-range)
WR2: Ted Ginn Jr.
TE2: Ben Watson
Bench: Cameron Meredith, Tre’Quan Smith

Prediction: Saints 31, Bucs 21 ^ Top

Titans at Dolphins - (Katz)
Line: TEN -1.0
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Titans passing attack can’t be worse than it was last season with Mike Mularkey’s awful “exotic smash mouth” game plan. Marcus Mariota excels when the defense is spread out and he can get rid of the ball quickly. The Titans literally did the exact opposite with him last year. Mariota was better than the numbers indicate. He made his fair share of inaccurate throws and bad decisions, but he was the unluckiest quarterback in the league.

He enters 2018 with a healthy Corey Davis, who has every opportunity to breakout this season. I’m not entirely sure he will, but if he doesn’t, it will likely be his own fault. He doesn’t have the easiest opening matchup against Xavien Howard so Rishard Matthews might once again be the most valuable Titans WR. Matthews played in 14 games last season and saw at least seven targets in six of them. He’s a floor play, but he won’t get you zero. Taywan Taylor projects to be the primary slot receiver, but you shouldn’t need to dig that deep in Week 1.

Mariota’s primary target, however, will remain Delanie Walker. The veteran TE has been nursing a toe injury, but has declared himself ready to go and I believe the man. I am a bit concerned Walker may start to break down this season, but this week, Walker will be his usual self.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: The Titans backfield is going to be a near even split between Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis. The better weekly play will depend a lot on game script. Lewis comes with a higher floor because he’s a satellite back that has proven capable of running between the tackles and handling goal line carries. While Henry can certainly do both of those things, he cannot catch passes like Lewis. The good news for Henry owners is this game should trend to his game script allowing him to lead this backfield in snaps and is a good bet for a touchdown. Lewis is still going to see the field plenty in what should be a competitive contest, making both backs worthy Week 1 starts.

Value Meter:
QB2: Marcus Mariota
RB2: Derrick Henry
RB2: Dion Lewis
WR3: Corey Davis (high end)
TE1: Delanie Walker (low end)

Passing Game Thoughts: After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, Ryan Tannehill is back under center for the Dolphins and being treated as somewhat of a savior. The Dolphins got rid of QB Jay Cutler and their leading receiver, Jarvis Landry, replacing the wideout with Danny Amendola and Albert Wilson. Currently, Amendola is the favorite for slot duties with Kenny Stills lining up out wide. That other flanker spot would’ve gone to DeVante Parker, but he’s out with a hand injury. Adam Gase has mentioned the possibility of putting Wilson out wide but any way you slice it, the Dolphins WR situation is very much in flux at the moment, making all of them risky fantasy options. Rookie TE Mike Gesicki has looked great in shorts and a t-shirt, but it hasn’t translated into production with the pads on. There may be value in this passing game, but right now, we have no idea where it is.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: Kenyan Drake was a revelation last season, but it was a bit of an accident that we even got to see it. Jay Ajayi entered the year as the starter, but the Dolphins smartly rid themselves of the worst RB on their roster. Damien Williams took over as the starter, but he got hurt, paving the way for Drake to stake his claim to the starting job.

Drake is the clear starter entering this season, but is not without his set of concerns. Drake was never a primary back in college and did not project as one in the NFL. He certainly played well last year as evidenced by his 6.8% breakaway run rate, fifth in the league, and 30.9% juke rate, seventh in the league, and I believe the talent is real, but with 87 year-old Frank Gore around and rookie Kalen Ballage also in the mix for touches, it remains to be seen what level of volume Drake is looking at. I am certainly more bullish than bearish on Drake though.

Value Meter:
RB2: Kenyan Drake (mid range)
Bench: Ryan Tannehill, Frank Gore, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Mike Gesicki

Prediction: Dolphins 24, Titans 19 ^ Top

Chiefs at Chargers - (Caron)
Line: LAC -3.5
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The new-look Chiefs offense under quarterback Patrick Mahomes makes its debut in Week 1 on the road in what looks like a very tough matchup against an excellent Chargers defense. Los Angeles possesses one of the best secondaries in the league along with some of the league’s top pass rushers, which could spell trouble for a gunslinger like Mahomes who is known to let the ball rip even in bad situations. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill is one of the few players in the league who is capable of beating this secondary deep, which is how he scored in each of his two games against the Chargers in 2017. Banking on a deep touchdown is always a risky proposition, but Hill is the best bet to do that of any player in the NFL. Sammy Watkins is a player who should probably be on fantasy benches as he’ll have tough matchups no matter where he’s lined up on the field and will be the second or third option on most plays anyway. Tight end Travis Kelce is a must-start in seasonal leagues in any matchup but it’s worth noting that the Chargers did keep him in check in 2017 (7-47-0).

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: While the Los Angeles defense is a great unit overall, one player who they simply could not contain in 2017 was Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt. Hunt punished the Chargers with two monster performances that including 327 total rushing yards, 62 receiving yards and three total touchdowns. Certainly we shouldn’t be expecting that type of output again, but Hunt is a better option than the on-paper matchup indicates.

Value Meter:
RB1: Kareem Hunt
WR1: Tyreek Hill (low end)
TE1: Travis Kelce
Flex: Sammy Watkins
Bench: Patrick Mahomes, Spencer Ware, Chris Conley

Passing Game Thoughts: Quiet and consistent, Philip Rivers continues to be a borderline QB1 for fantasy purposes, but his individual upside remains limited due to his immobility. While he’s done well in most matchups, he has actually struggled against the Chiefs recently, including throwing for just two total touchdowns in his past three games, along with three interceptions. That’s not a large enough sample size to completely dissuade us from starting Rivers, but it’s certainly possible that the Chiefs defense simply has him figured out.

The Chiefs defensive unit is depleted from where it was at a season ago, however, and now safety Eric Berry is dealing with a foot injury that could keep him out of the game. That would be ideal for tight ends Virgil Green and the newly re-signed Antonio Gates, but there’s a good chance that Gates will play primarily in the red zone, thus limiting the true upside of both tight ends even in what should be a good matchup. Wide receiver Keenan Allen remains a strong play and while he struggled against Kansas City a season ago, we should expect him to continue to be peppered with targets. Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams are both potential deep fantasy starters, but neither should be started in normal leagues until we see how the Los Angeles offense will utilize them.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: The Chargers did not perform well offensively against the Chiefs a season ago, but fantasy owners of Melvin Gordon don’t care as their bellcow running back produced three touchdowns in those two games, including 70-or-more rushing yards in both contests as well as a 91-yard receiving day. Gordon also scored a pair of touchdowns when these teams played back in Week 1 of the 2016 season, so there’s a track record of him getting into the end zone against this defense. Gordon is in line to see a high number of touches in Week 1 and should be a solid RB1 for fantasy.

Value Meter:
QB1: Philip Rivers (low-end)
RB1: Melvin Gordon
WR1: Keenan Allen
Bench: Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Austin Ekeler, Virgil Green, Antonio Gates

Prediction: Chargers 27, Chiefs 21 ^ Top

Cowboys at Panthers - (Bales)
Line: CAR -3.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Dak Prescott gets a great matchup against Carolina, who struggled against quarterbacks last season. With that being said, he has very few viable receiving options. Allen Hurns is arguably the most talented wide receiver for the Cowboys, while Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, and Terrance Williams will all see snaps. Hurns and Beasley are the safest options, while Gallup comes with some upside if he’s used around the goaline as projected. Generally, these wide receivers shouldn’t be considered.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott gets a tough matchup against Carolina, who featured one of the best run defenses in the NFL last season, allowing the 3rd fewest fantasy points to RBs. With that being said, Elliott will see more than enough touches to be an elite option. He’s also expected to contribute in the passing game more this season. The only concern here is both teams tend to play at a slow pace which could cap the upside of all skill players involved. Rod Smith is the backup to Zeke and should see an expanded role this season but not enough to knock Zeke off his three-down workhorse role. It would be shocking to see anyone outside of Elliott and Prescott contributes in a major way in the rushing game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Dak Prescott
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (elite)
WR2: Allen Hurns
Flex: Cole Beasley
Bench: Michael Gallup, Terrance Williams, Rod Smith

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton and company get a matchup against an average Dallas pass defense this week. He makes a QB1 option on a weekly basis because of his rushing potential but lacks the passing skills to routinely post high yardage totals. Newton last faced the Cowboys in 2015 posting a below average 16-27, 183-0-0 passing line but did rush 12 times for 45 yards and a score.

His top option throughout his career has been Greg Olsen, who is finally healthy and has a decent matchup against a Cowboys defense that likes to funnel targets to the middle of the field. Olsen (toe) only played a handful of games as a healthy body last season, and he’ll return to a high-end TE1.

Devin Funchess is the clear-cut top receiver for Carolina. Dallas struggled against wide receivers last season, ranking as a bottom-10 defense in fantasy points allowed to the position. Funchess has flashed upside, and that should continue into the beginning of 2018. D.J. Moore and Torrey Smith are two more options that could command targets, although they are not likely to play prominent roles in this game. Smith will take over the deep threat role left by Ted Ginn Jr while Moore will be rotating snaps with slot man Jarius Wright.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Christian McCaffrey played nearly every first-team snap in the preseason and appears locked into a workhorse role, even with C.J. Anderson on the team. The biggest surprise for CMC is that he was taking goal line carries instead of Cam Newton during the preseason. While protecting Newton is a smart team move, it’s something Newton owners should keep an eye one. McCaffrey also adds plenty of receiving potential to his game (80-651-5 last season) and should be a PPR monster in 2018. The Cowboys allowed the fourth most receptions to running backs last season making it difficult not to be excited about his Week 1 matchup. It’s impossible to trust Anderson in this game after seeing him play almost exclusively with the third string in preseason. Newton and McCaffrey are the two players that should account for the majority of Carolina’s rushing stats.

Value Meter:
QB1: Cam Newton (high-end)
RB1: Christian McCaffrey (mid-range)
WR2: Devin Funchess
TE1: Greg Olsen (high-end)
Bench: C.J. Anderson, D.J. Moore

Prediction: Panthers 23, Cowboys 17 ^ Top

Seahawks at Broncos - (Caron)
Line: DEN -3.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The top fantasy quarterback in 2017, Russell Wilson returns in what is likely a worse situation than he had a season ago, but still one that he should produce fantasy points within. Wilson’s ability to make plays with his legs gives him a floor that few fantasy players can provide, and it’s why we shouldn’t be overly concerned that Doug Baldwin (knee) might be limited in the early parts of the season. We do expect Baldwin to play, but how much he’ll play and how effective he’ll be is the question. The Broncos secondary is a tough one to begin with and being limited only makes Baldwin even more risky. One player to look at in deep leagues is Tyler Lockett, who could end up leading the team in targets in Week 1, depending on Baldwin’s health. Lockett is a speedster who can go deep on any play, so taking a shot on him in DFS might not be the worst option. Brandon Marshall is the only other fantasy-relevant receiver in this offense at the moment, but let’s see how much he plays before we put him in our fantasy lineups.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: The Seattle running game is simply not an ideal situation for fantasy. With the team naming Chris Carson as the starter after drafting Rashaad Penny in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft, it doesn’t appear Seattle has a great grip on their own talent. Not to mention the Seattle offensive line has been notoriously terrible for a few seasons now and that didn’t change over the offseason as they’re still expected to be one of the worst units in the league. The other concern is that C.J. Prosise is likely to be involved to some extent as a pass catcher, which again limits an already low upside in the Seattle backfield.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson
WR3: Doug Baldwin
Flex: Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett
Bench: Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, Brandon Marshall, Jaron Brown

Passing Game Thoughts: The Broncos have been searching for their Peyton Manning replacement and while Case Keenum isn’t the answer, but it’s also pretty tough for him to be worse than what the Broncos have been trotting onto the field over the past few seasons. Keenum comes from Minnesota where he did a great job getting the ball to his top two receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and will likely key in on his top two options in Denver - Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders - which is great news for fantasy owners. The Broncos don’t have much to speak of at tight end at the moment and rookie Courtland Sutton still needs time to develop, so the Broncos’ target hogs should continue to feast early this season, especially in what is now a surprisingly good matchup against a weakened Seahawks secondary.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: After months of coachspeak, the Broncos finally made it official that rookie running back Royce Freeman will start in Week 1 over Devontae Booker. Freeman was one of the top prospects at the position in the draft and landed in a running back-needy offense where he should see plenty of work. C.J. Anderson was quietly productive in Denver a season ago and Freeman should be in line to pick up where Anderson left off, and then some. The Week 1 matchup against the Seahawks is historically a tough one, but it might not be nearly as difficult now that the defense has seen so many top talents leave. Freeman is a solid RB2 with upside in Week 1.

Value Meter:
RB2: Royce Freeman
WR2: Demaryius Thomas
Flex: Emmanuel Sanders
Bench: Case Keenum, Devontae Booker, Courtland Sutton, Jake Butt

Prediction: Broncos 24, Seahawks 21 ^ Top

Redskins at Cardinals - (Caron)
Line: ARI -1.5
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: New Redskins quarterback Alex Smith might not have the huge contract of Kirk Cousins, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be a worse QB for this Washington offense either. In fact, Smith’s safe-but-steady passing game might actually benefit an offense that features Jamison Crowder in the slot. Crowder was one of the hottest fantasy names in recent years but he’s cooled off significantly after a disappointing 2017 season, but we’re already hearing reports that he’s clicking with Smith, which should be of no surprise to those who know how Smith operates.

Outside receivers Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson might not be as lucky, however, as Smith will likely take fewer shots downfield than Cousins did, especially in Week 1 with Patrick Peterson at cornerback. We don’t yet know which receiver - if any - Peterson will be shadowing, but it almost certainly won’t be Crowder. That, combined with his likely high target share, makes him a viable low-end WR2 in PPR formats. Tight end Jordan Reed has been limited in practice but is expected to play and could do some serious damage against in any matchup. He’s a TE1 as long as he’s on the field.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: The injury to Derrius Guice was a crippling one for many fantasy owners, but it was horrifying for the Redskins offense who are now left with the likes of Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley and the ghost of Adrian Peterson as their primary ball carriers. Peterson is expected to get the biggest share of the touches in Week 1, but who really knows how productive he’ll be? He’s been awful on a per-touch basis for the past two seasons and if he’s not getting 20-or-more carries, it’s hard to believe that he’ll even have a chance of sniffing 100 yards on the ground. The player to target in this backfield is Chris Thompson (leg), who is himself banged up, but provides the upside to potentially be an RB1 in PPR formats. Thompson is an elite pass catcher and playmaker and could end up leading the backfield in snaps this week.

Value Meter:
RB2: Chris Thompson (PPR only)
WR2: Jamison Crowder (PPR only)
TE1: Jordan Reed
Flex: Adrian Peterson
Bench: Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley, Paul Richardson, Josh Doctson

Passing Game Thoughts: Sam Bradford will start for the Cardinals in Week 1 and while he is not a great fantasy option for a multitude of reasons, including his high potential to be knocked out of games, he does bring some consistency in what could be a tough offensive situation. The Cardinals offensive line is still struggling which means the team will almost certainly need to get the ball in and out of their quarterback’s hand quickly. That plays right into Bradford’s skill set, and particularly benefits wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald who is coming off of three straight 100-reception seasons and is showing no signs of slowing down. Fitzgerald is a PPR monster out of the slot and is almost certainly a must-start in all formats, but the other options in Arizona are a huge question mark. Rookie wide receiver Christian Kirk is likely the next most-likely wide receiver to have a big game, but he is unlikely to play a high enough number of snaps to warrant a large target share. Tight end Ricky Seals-Jones is an interesting option in Week 1 for those desperate at the position as he’s expected to start and play significant snaps, but he’s also a risky play as we haven’t seen him perform at any sort of a consistent basis yet in his career.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: We never like to see players miss significant playing time with injuries, but there are actually some positives for fantasy purposes regarding David Johnson’s 2017 wrist injury. Johnson has had almost an entire calendar year to recover from an injury that he probably could have come back from within three months, but it’s also an injury that doesn’t really affect running backs all that much. As such, Johnson essentially saved himself from taking any wear and tear for an entire season and is now fully rejuvenated heading into 2018. Johnson is obviously an elite talent, so he’s someone who you’re not going to want to bench really in any matchup, but the offensive line concerns have to be something to consider in DFS. Still, Johnson offers enough upside in the passing game to make up for poor rushing performances, so he’s about as safe as you can get at the position.

Value Meter:
RB1: David Johnson
WR1: Larry Fitzgerald
TE1: Ricky Seals-Jones (low-end flier)
Bench: Christian Kirk

Prediction: Redskins 21, Cardinals 20 ^ Top

Chicago @ Green Bay - (Swanson)
Line: GB -7.0
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Chicago front office made a big splash this offseason by replacing old school coach John Fox with a brilliant, offensive-minded coach in Matt Nagy. A former offensive coordinator under Andy Reid, Nagy will likely transform the Bears offense from a simplistic run-first unit to a multi-dimensional offense based on creating and exploiting matchups.

In addition to the hiring of Nagy, the Bears signed Allen Robinson and Trey Burton to lucrative long-term deals, while adding talented rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller in the draft. Those three additions, along with free agent WR Taylor Gabriel, give second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky more than enough firepower to compete for the NFC North title.

The question facing Chicago is will Trubisky take that next step in his development and build upon an up and down rookie campaign. The former first round pick out of the University of North Carolina threw for 2193 yards, with seven interceptions and seven touchdowns in 12 starts in 2017. Trubkisy has the physical tools to be a star in the league, but time will tell how he fits into Nagy’s complex offensive scheme.

Making things difficult for Trubisky will be a Packers defense that reloaded with four defensive players in the first five rounds of the draft, including cornerback Jaire Alexander from Louisville, widely considered one of the most talented defensive backs in the 2018 draft class. The Packers also selected linebacker Oren Burks from Vanderbilt, who will likely start in the place of injured starter Jake Ryan.

Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams is set to start at corner opposite of Kevin King, but Alexander and Josh Jackson continue to impress and could see the field sooner rather than later.

An interesting matchup to watch in this game will be Burks matched up against Burton. Nagy’s offense in the past has relied heavily on the tight end, and I anticipate that he will look to take advantage of a rookie playing in his first game.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Rumors floated around the fantasy community this summer speculating that running back Jordan Howard was a poor fit in Matt Nagy’s system and that the team may look to trade or even cut their starting tailback. Those rumors proved to be nothing more than echo chamber nonsense, and Howard has repeatedly been given the support by Nagy and the coaching staff.

The former fifth-round pick out of the University of Indiana followed up his stellar rookie season with a solid sophomore campaign with 1120 rushing yards and nine touchdowns to finish as the No.13 ranked RB in fantasy points per game. Although he was not the most consistent player for fantasy owners with half of his games resulting in fewer than 10 fantasy points, the new offense under Matt Nagy should reduce the number of stacked boxes and will give Howard more running room between the tackles.

Takin Cohen projects to once again work in as the passing down back in the offense, but don’t be surprised to see Howard receive more targets than last season. Look for Cohen to be lined up all over the field as Nagy uses Cohen’s speed and elusiveness similar to how Tyreek Hill was used in 2017. But the primary back to own in Chicago is Howard regardless of format, with the high probability of Howard ending the season as an RB1.

Despite to favorable season outlook, both Cohen and Howard will likely find it difficult to move the ball Week 1 against a Green Bay defense that was surprisingly strong against the run last season. Led by talent run stopper Mike Daniels, Green Bay allowed only three rushing touchdowns in the final seven weeks of the season. The addition of Muhammad Wilkerson to the starting line will improve the unit’s run stopping ability. However, the loss of starting linebacker Jake Ryan to a season-ending knee injury was a big knock to the Packer linebacking corps.

Value Meter:
QB2: Mitchell Trubisky (Low-End)
RB1: Jordan Howard (Low-End)
RB3: Tarik Cohen (Low-End)
WR2: Allen Robinson (Low-End)
WR4: Anthony Miller (Low-End)
TE1: Trey Burton (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Once again Aaron Rodgers enters the season as the consensus No.1 ranked quarterback. Although favorite target Jordy Nelson was released this past offseason and signed with Oakland, the Packers gave Rodgers a deadly red zone weapon in tight end Jimmy Graham to go along wide top wide receiver Davante Adams.

No other quarterback over the past five seasons targets wide receivers more in the red zone than Rodgers, and Graham and Adams finished 2017 as the two most targeted red zone players in the league. It is safe to assume that both players will once again be heavily targeted by Rodgers within the 20, especially if the Green Bay ground game struggles again this year.

The opening week matchup against the Bears changed drastically for Rodgers and the Packers with the shocking trade of elite pass rush linebacker Khalil Mack by the Bears and Raiders. The No.7 ranked Bears defense was already a formidable unit prior to the addition of Mack, but now Chicago could compete with Jacksonville, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles for the top front seven in football.

The matchup of Mack against left tackle David Bakhtiari will be critical for the success of the Packer passing attack, as Bakhtiari is one of the highest rated tackles according to ProFootballFocus and Mack is arguably the most feared pass rusher in the league.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: Jamaal Williams gets the first crack as the starting tailback for the Packers after Aaron Jones was handed a two-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Williams rushed for 556 years and four touchdowns in 14 games last season, adding 262 yards and a pair of scores through the air. The former BYU standout proved to be a valuable fantasy asset down the stretch of the 2017 regular season with four double-digit fantasy performances in the final six games.

Versatile former wide receiver Ty Montgomery will also be in the mix at tailback, as his superior pass-catching skills make him a trusted option for Rodgers out of the backfield. Montgomery suffered a foot injury against the Raiders in the preseason but appears ready to contribute Week 1.

The Bears allowed the seventh-fewest points to opposing running backs last season, with only Latavius Murray managing to reach the century mark on the ground Week 17. Although the Bears surrendered 10 rushing touchdowns on the year, only four tailbacks reached double-digit fantasy points against Vic Fangio’s unit. Williams owners should not expect a massive yardage game against the Bears on Sunday night, but a receiving touchdown from Rodgers could be in the mix.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (Elite)
RB3: Jamaal Williams (High-End)
WR1: Davante Adams (Low-End)
WR3: Randall Cobb (High-End)
TE1: Jimmy Graham (Low-End)

Prediction: Packers 34, Bears 21 ^ Top

New York Jets @ Lions - (Swanson)
Line: DET -6.5
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The future is now for Sam Darnold and the Jets, as head coach Todd Bowles announced that the first round selection from USC proved enough in the preseason to earn a starting nod against the Lions. Darnold completed 64% of his passes this summer, with two touchdowns and one interception for a QB rating of 83.9. At times the rookie looked his age with a few questionable throws and decisions, but overall he looked poised in the pocket and ready to assume the starting gig.

Robby Anderson will be the No.1 receiver outside for Darnold after a breakout sophomore season in which the former Temple Owl catch 63 passes for 941 yards and seven touchdowns. Assuming Anderson does not miss too much time from a pending investigation by the NFL for personal conduct violations, a similar stat line in 2018 is well within the realm of possible outcomes. Anderson’s matchup against cornerback Darius Slay, especially on deep routes, will be a critical aspect of the game for the Jets.

An abdominal injury will most likely keep veteran Jermaine Kearse from playing opposite of Anderson on Monday night, opening the door for Quincy Enunwa and Terrelle Pryor to see action. Enunwa returns to the field after missing 2017 with a neck injury, while Pryor signed a one-year “show me” deal with the Jets with the hope of returning to his 1k season with the Browns in 2016.

The addition of former Patriot defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as the new head coach of the Lions should help improved a team that finished last season as the 27th ranked defense in yards per game. The Lions allowed the 12th most points despite forcing the fourth-most interceptions (19). A key to the Lions defense will be the run stopping ability of Ricky Jean-Francois and Sylvester Williams in the middle of the defensive line, and the development of second-year linebacker Jarrad Davis.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets signed free Isaiah Crowell to a three-year $12 million contract over the offseason to presumably take over the starting tailback role. The contract was somewhat of a head-scratcher based on the fact that Crowell never reached 1000 yards or double-digit touchdowns in his four seasons with the Browns, while incumbent veteran Bilal Powell continues to produce at a high level.

Look for Crowell to get the first crack at early down work on Monday against the Lions with Powell getting passing down and change of pace. Although Crow is listed as the starter on the unofficial team depth chart, Powell will be more active than Crowell owners will like and could marginalize both players to nothing more than flex plays.

Based on last year’s stats, beating the Lions on the ground proved to be the best course of action for opposing offenses. Detroit allowed the third-most points on the ground to running backs, with only the Bills and the Rams allowing more fantasy points to RBs. It would also make sense for Bowles and the Jets coaching staff to try to lean on the run to help limit the exposure in the passing game to their rookie quarterback while keeping the ball out of the hand of Matthew Stafford.

Value Meter:
QB3: Sam Darnold (Low-End)
RB3: Isaiah Crowell (High-End)
RB3: Bilal Powell (High-End)
WR3: Robby Anderson (High-End)
WR4: Quincy Enunwa (Low-End)
TE4: Jordan Leggett (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford threw for 4,446 yards as the No.10 ranked fantasy quarterback in 2017, with 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Not only did Stafford finish as a QB1, he provided a solid floor with 16 games of at least 10 fantasy points while managing to throw at least one touchdown in all but two games. As evidence to a shift in the offensive scheme and their desire to run the ball more, the former first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft threw for a career-low 565 attempts in 2017 and failed to score a rushing touchdown for only the second season of his nine-year NFL career.

Although he is no longer the flashy player that stormed only to the scene with 41 passing touchdowns in 2011, Stafford is a more than adequate QB1, and he will not burn you with excessive turnovers and poor decisions. Stafford also is the beneficiary of a wide receiving corps filled with a collection of field-stretching studs and a possession receiver he can count on. The wide receiving group of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay scored the second most fantasy points last season, second only to Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster in Pittsburgh.

The Jets defense ranked 10th in points allowed to both wide receivers and running backs last season and should be a unit that Stafford and the receiving weapons in Detroit can exploit on Monday Night. It should also be noted that New York was terrible against pass-catching running backs by allowing the second-most receiving touchdowns in 2017 to RBs. Look for offensive coordinator JimBob Cooter to design plays in the passing game for Theo Riddick to exploit this weakness of the Jets, making Riddick a sneaky flex play in deep leagues.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Of the many running back by committee backfields littering the NFL in 2018, the LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, and Kerryon Johnson logjam in Detroit may be the most difficult to project. The Lions signed Blount to a one-year $2 million contract to be the bruising back in the offense, only to then trade up in the second round to select Auburn RB Johnson. To make matters worse, the team opted to keep Abdullah on the roster to the chagrin of many Johnson owners, further clouding the outlook for RB carry distribution.

Although we don’t have a clear idea of how carries will be distributed, we do know that a home matchup against a Jets team that allowed the 8th most points to opposing running backs last season, including big games to Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, and Dion Lewis in the final three games of the year.

Look for Blount to get the start and work with on the first few series as the first and second down back, while Riddick works in on third and passing downs. If the Lions pull ahead, don’t be surprised to see Johnson get more work that Blount in the second half as the team will take advantage of the opportunity to give their prized rookie touches.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford (Low-End)
RB3: LeGarrette Blount (Low-End)
RB4: Kerryon Johnson (High-End)
WR2: Golden Tate (High-End)
WR2: Marvin Jones (High-End)
TE4: Luke Willson (Low-End)

Prediction: Lions 20, Jets 10 ^ Top

Rams at Raiders - (Caron)
Line: LAR -4.0
Total: 48.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Sean McVay offense turned Jared Goff from being a laughing stock to a viable fantasy quarterback in 2017, and there’s little reason to believe that it won’t continue to be successful in 2018. Goff finds himself having mostly the same weapons, with the exception of a big of an upgrade at wide receiver as Brandin Cooks has replaced Sammy Watkins. Cooks brings big play upside as a complement to possession style receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp, but all three players have fantasy viability on a weekly basis. The Raiders secondary is rather weak, so there should be plenty of opportunities for Goff to make them pay.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: The 2017 fantasy MVP returns this season in what is expected to be another great offensive situation. Todd Gurley silenced the haters in punishing fashion last year on his way to be being a top 4 selection in most fantasy drafts this summer. Gurley’s touchdown total (19) will be almost impossible to replicate, but his overall usage makes him an extremely safe option with extraordinary upside. Gurley is perhaps the best play on the entire board here in Week 1 as he matches up against a depleted Oakland defense that will now be without Khalil Mack.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jared Goff (low-end)
RB1: Todd Gurley
WR2: Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp (PPR)
WR3: Robert Woods
Bench: Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, John Kelly

Passing Game Thoughts: New head coach Jon Gruden has had nothing but praise for Derek Carr this offseason, which is good to hear considering that Carr was one of the biggest fantasy disappointments of the 2017 season. Carr will also now be without one of his favorite targets, Michael Crabtree, who has been replaced by an aging Jordy Nelson who was unsuccessful without Aaron Rodgers last season.

The one constant in this offense seems to be Amari Cooper who is expected to be a huge target hog this season despite a poor showing in 2017. Cooper was injured, however, so there’s still reason to believe that he could potentially finish as a WR1 this season. Unfortunately, Cooper will likely see plenty of attention from this improved Los Angeles secondary that now features Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters and Sam Shields at cornerback. While he’s not likely to have one of the huge games that we’ve seen from him on occasion in the past, Cooper should see enough targets in this game to at least be a low-end WR2. The only other pass catcher in this offense that fantasy owners should be eyeing this week is tight end Jared Cook who hasn’t been all that spectacular during his time in Oakland, but is the only other receiver in this offense that Carr has much rapport with.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: It’s easy to look at Marshawn Lynch’s 2017 season-ending statistics and see a player who is past his prime, worn out, and simply not very good anymore. But a closer look at the actual film would tell you that Lynch simply didn’t have much to work with and it’s actually shocking that he performed even as well as he did. The Raiders offense isn’t expected to be great this season but if there’s one thing that we should expect, it’s that Jon Gruden will want to pound the rock. Who better to do that with than Beast Mode? Lynch isn’t much of a contributor in the passing game so he doesn’t have the high floor that others do in PPR formats, but he’s still likely to see enough carries that he produces decent fantasy numbers with the upside of a touchdown, so I like him as an RB2 even in what could be a tough matchup against a much improved Los Angeles defensive line.

Value Meter:
RB2: Marshawn Lynch
WR2: Amari Cooper
TE1: Jared Cook (low-end flier)
Bench: Derek Carr, Jordy Nelson, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, Seth Roberts

Prediction: Rams 30, Raiders 20 ^ Top