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Inside the Matchup
Week 1
9/5/19; Updated 9/6/19

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | Kevin Scott



Sunday Early:



Sunday Late:

IND @ LAC | CIN @ SEA | DET @ ARI | NYG @ DAL | SF @ TB | PIT @ NE



- FPTs Allowed data from 2018 season
- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Packers @ Bears - (Swanson)
Line: CHI -3.0
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Packers and Bears kick off the 2019 NFL regular season with an NFC North matchup on Thursday Night Football. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers split the season series with the Packers last season, with the Packers beating the Bears 24-23 in a miraculous comeback victory after Rodgers left the field in the first half on a cart.

Rodgers was never the same player after the leg injury sustained against the Bears, as his mobility and elusiveness that makes him so dangerous were negated. Rodgers did play all 216 games despite the injury, with 4,442 passing yards on 597 pass attempts. His 25 passing touchdowns were the fewest in his career for a full 1-6 game season, but he also threw just two interceptions and added two rushing touchdowns.

The Packers did not do much via the draft or free agency to help Rodgers and the offense. No veteran wide receivers were brought in to compete with second-year wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown for the third wide receiver spot behind Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison. MVS appears to have the best shot to challenge Allison for Rodgers’ favorite outside target, as St. Brown suffered a severe ankle injury in the preseason.

Adams is once again the top dog in the passing offense and should garner close to eight targets every game, including a high percentage of red zone looks. The former second-round pick from Fresno State posted career highs in targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns last season.

In two games against the Bears in 2018, Adams combined to catch 13 passes for 207 yards and a score. Although Chicago presents a tough challenge, Adams is a must-start and does have a history of success against the division rival.

Although defensive coordinator Vic Fangio left to take over the head coaching job for the Broncos and starters Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan moved on via free agency, the Bears still boast one of the most potent defensive units, led by Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Roquon Smith. 47 of the team’s 50 sacks from last season were made players currently on the roster, and the addition of Ha Ha Clinton Dix in the secondary should help mitigate the loss of Amos.

Two matchups to watch in this game will be the outside pass rush of Mack and Leonard Floyd against David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga, and newly added free agent slot corner Buster Skrine against Green Bay slot receivers. If the two tackles can give time for Rodgers to take advantage of Skrine in the slot, the Packers might be able to upset the Bears at Soldier Field.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: The Bears allowed the fewest points to opposing running backs last season, with the defensive front lead by Akiem Hicks shutting down runs up the middle and speedy linebackers Smith and Danny Trevathan limiting outside runs.

No other team in the NFL ran the ball less than the Packers last season, which could carry over once again at the start of the season with a tough matchup against the Bears. Should the Bears take an early lead or the Packers struggle to establish the run, don’t be surprised to see Rodgers take control by passing at a high rate once again.

Aaron Jones led all qualified running backs last season in yards per attempt at 5.5, with 728 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games of work. He is an explosive back who is elusive and can break big chunks of yardage on the ground and in the passing game. Jones missed most of the preseason with a hamstring injury and has yet to play in a preseason game, but he still projects to be the leading ball carrier for the team.

Jones missed the first game against the Bears in 2018 due to suspension and was limited to just four carries when the teams played in Chicago in Week 15. It would not surprise me to see the Packers ease in Jones as he returns to health from the hamstring injury, which could negate his value as an RB2 in the first week of the season.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (Mid-Range)
RB2: Aaron Jones (Low-End)
WR1: Davante Adams (Elite)
WR4: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (High-End)
TE2: Jimmy Graham (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Mitchell Trubisky took a massive leap forward in fantasy production in his second season in the NFL. The former first-round pick of the 2017 NFL draft recorded career highs in passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and attempts while increasing his completion percentage from 59% to 67%.

Trubisky’s 421 rushing yards and three touchdowns helped balance out a relatively low passing yardage mark. Although he is not a flashy fantasy pick, Trubisky did average more fantasy points last season than Aaron Rodgers, Baker Mayfield, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson.

The Packers overhauled their defense after a disappointing 2018 season in which the team ranked 22th in total yards allowed per game. Clay Matthews left via free agency to join the Rams, and Mike Daniels was a surprise cut to the defensive line. Free agents Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith, and Adrian Amos were added to the roster, joining returning starters Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Blake Martinez, Kenny Clark, and Oren Burks.

While we don’t know for sure how much the new additions to the Packers will improve the defense, we do know that the Bears have enough skill position players and a clever head coach calling plays to find mismatches regardless of the opponent.

Owners will certainly want to start Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, and rookie sensation David Montgomery, who’s addition to the passing game will be a big boost over Jordan Howard. Howard’s presence in the backfield and his inability to be a pass-catching back limited the Bears offensively and let the defense know what they were planning on doing. Montgomery, while just a rookie, is a far-more skilled pass catcher and can be a threat to run and catch the ball.

Tight end Trey Burton is listed as questionable with a groin injury and could miss the season opener on Thursday. His absence would give Adam Shaheen the start at tight end. At 6-7, 260 pounds, Shaheen is a massive red zone threat but will not likely get enough volume to make him worthy of a play. The person who will likely see the biggest bump from Burton missing the game would be Anthony Miller, with more of the underneath options headed his way.

An interesting matchup to watch will be safety Adrian Amos playing against his former team. One would assume that Amos picked up on tendencies of his former quarterback when the two went against each other on the practice field.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: The Bears added veteran Mike Davis to the backfield early in the offseason with a corresponding move to trade former starter Jordan Howard to the Eagles. The team also added impressive rookie David Montgomery in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft, presumably to be the first and second-down back to Tarik Cohen’s third down and pass caching role.

Davis earned the first carry of the preseason, but it is clear that Montgomery is the more explosive of the two and will most likely earn a heavy workload alongside Cohen.

Mike Pettine’s defense allowed the 25th most points to opposing running backs in 2018, and the loss of Mike Daniels to the defensive front will likely be a hit to their run-stopping efficiency. Both Montgomery and Cohen should be considered strong starts in this matchup, but it should be mentioned that the Packers allowed the second-fewest receiving touchdowns to opposing backs. Cohen owners will still want to flex the diminutive running back, but expecting a touchdown may be asking a lot.

With teams changing their playing habits for starters in the preseason and veterans on both sides of the ball getting fewer and fewer meaningful reps before the opening game, don’t be surprised to see some sloppy football on both teams.

Value Meter:
QB2: Mitchell Trubisky (Low-End)
RB2: David Montgomery (High-End)
RB2: Tarik Cohen (Low-End)
WR2: Allen Robinson (Low-End)
WR3: Anthony Miller (Low-End)
TE1: Trey Burton (Low-End)

Prediction: Bears 24, Packers 17 ^ Top

Chiefs at Jaguars - (Scott)
Line: KC -4.0
Total: 52.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Although the Jaguars do have two excellent cover corners in Ramsey and Bouye, Mahomes and the Chiefs should still move the ball without much difficulty. Jaguars DC Todd Wash says Ramsey will shadow Tyreek Hill all day, limiting Hill’s upside. Hill posted a 4-61-0; 2-26 line in Week 5 last year against Jacksonville. That leaves Bouye and the rest of the secondary to try to stop Kelce, Watkins and the other weapons – which seems unlikely. Look for Mahomes to target Kelce and Watkins early and often and to take shots with Hill when the coverage dictates. He should also give several targets to pass-catching backs Damien Williams and newly signed LeSean McCoy out of the backfield.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: Jacksonville had the seventh-best defense against the run last season, which is impressive. They return a strong defensive front, including Calais Campbell and Marcell Dareus, but the loss of linebacker Telvin Smith and lineman Malik Jackson should hurt them. Still, they figure to be fairly stout against the run. The Chiefs come in with two primary running backs, and with uncertainty about which running back will play the larger role – or if it will be an even split. All offseason it looked like Damien Williams would be the primary back, and his pass-catching skill seemed to make him a great choice in the Chiefs offense. But the Chiefs signed LeSean McCoy this past weekend after he was cut by the Bills. Whether he is now as bad as he looked last season or was simply struggling behind a sub-par offensive line should become clear fairly soon. If they each get touches in this offense, they should each be productive, even if running against this defense will not be a breeze.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
WR2: Sammy Watkins
WR3: Tyreek Hill (shadowed by Ramsey)
TE1: Travis Kelce
Flex: Damien Williams
Bench: LeSean McCoy (until you see what role he has), Mecole Hardman

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Passing Game Thoughts: Nick Foles now leads the passing attack, and represents a big upgrade over Blake Bortles. It is difficult to ascertain how the revamped Chiefs secondary will perform, but at the least their safety play should improve with Tyrann Mathieu in the mix. With it being a completely new defense (4-3 under Steve Spagnuolo), we just do not know how they are going to fare against the pass. Foles is likely to rely on his tight end like he did in Philadelphia, and that means Geoff Swaim might be a solid play. The receiver group is fairly bland and no one really sticks out, except perhaps Dede Westbrook, who seemed to be poised to take a step forward last season. Foles may be forced into passing more than the Jaguars want to pass if they fall behind early, and that may bump up his stats during Week 1. But look for the improved pass rush of the Chiefs to force Foles to throw it short often, potentially leading to good numbers for Fournette and Swaim through the air. Marquise Lee has practiced in full both Wednesday and Thursday.

Running Game Thoughts: While the defensive personnel has been upgraded in Kansas City, they were the worst team in the league against the run last year. They will improve, but it is unlikely they will turn into a stout team against the run with the same core of linebackers. I anticipate the Jaguars will try to play keep away from the Chiefs offense by grinding it out on the ground, particularly early in the game. Look for Fournette to rack up touches and yards, and potentially a score or two. With the exit of T.J. Yeldon, Fournette is likely to play all three downs and should be RB1 viable as long as he can stay healthy. If the Jags fall behind and are forced to pass, that should not stop Fournette from being productive.

Value Meter:
QB2: Nick Foles
RB1: Leonard Fournette
Flex: Dede Westbrook
TE2: Geoff Swaim
Bench: Marqise Lee, D.J. Chark, Chris Conley

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Jaguars 24

Rams at Panthers - (Scott)
Line: LAR -3.0
Total: 50.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Panthers were a bit below average on defense last season, but they have added many new faces to the starting lineup (DL Gerald McCoy, DL Dontari Poe, DL Bruce Irvin, and S Tre Boston). Boston figures to be the most help against the Rams passing game, but it is doubtful the Panthers will be able to slow down the Rams attack much. However, the Patriots certainly showed a model for how to stop the Rams in the Super Bowl, so it will be interesting to see if other teams copy their game plan. The Panthers defensive personnel looks set up to stop the run, so look for the Rams to rely heavily on the pass in this matchup. Cooks, Woods, and Kupp – and also Gerald Everett – should get plenty of targets from Jared Goff in this one.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: As stated above, the combination of McCoy, Poe, and Kawann Short up front, with Kuechly and Shaq Thompson at linebacker, presents a difficult group to run against. Gurley is already likely to have his touches scaled back after his knee struggles from last season, and the Rams will likely ease rookie Darrell Henderson into the rotation. So look for the Rams to do less on the ground this week than normal, although they will still stay committed to the run since that is central to Sean McVay’s philosophy but they may be less effective against this strong front. For what it’s worth, McVay said Gurley would not be on a snap count.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jared Goff
RB2/Flex: Todd Gurley
WR2: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods
WR3: Cooper Kupp (back to form post-knee injury?)
TE2: Gerald Everett
Bench: Darrell Henderson

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams boast one of the strongest secondaries in the league, with corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and newly-acquired safety Eric Weddle. This will make it difficult for Cam Newton and the passing game to get going. However, if the Rams have a weakness on the defensive side it is at linebacker, with an aging Clay Matthews their best-known player at that position. With Aaron Donald putting pressure on Newton internally, look for Newton to get rid of the ball quickly when possible, either to running back Christian McCaffrey or to one of the receivers running quick slants or screens. The deeper passing game to D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel might have to wait a week to get going.

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

Running Game Thoughts: A strong running attack seems likely to be the best way to attack this Rams defense, and the Panthers certainly have a strong running game. McCaffrey should be a volume hog, both as a runner and a receiver but they should definitely feature C-Mac on the ground to set up the pass. Carolina also likes to run the clock and play a time of possession battle, particularly at home, and it would be smart to try to keep the ball away from the Rams’ offense. McCaffrey barely came off the field last year, playing 95 percent of offense snaps so keep an eye on how much usage Jordan Scarlett and Reggie Bonnafon receive in backup roles.

Value Meter:
QB2: Cam Newton
RB1: Christian McCaffrey
Flex: D.J. Moore
TE2: Greg Olsen (should get several targets when matched up on linebackers)
Bench: Curtis Samuel (not enough volume in this game)

Prediction: Panthers 24, Rams 23

Titans @ Browns - (Swanson)
Line: CLE -5.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: After four seasons in the NFL after going second overall in the 2015 NFL draft, it is hard not to label Marcus Mariota as a bust. The former Oregon Duck has yet to play a full 16-game schedule, and his fantasy points per game continues to drop after a career-high 21.5 points per game in 2016.

Although just 25 years old, Mariota has yet to throw for more than 3500 yards or 26 touchdowns, and the rushing yards that we expected him to produce have yet to materialize. Aside from a five-touchdown outlier season in 2017, Mariota does not provide much touchdown scoring upside on the ground to make up for his lack of production in the passing game.

On a positive note, Mariota did increase his completion percentage to 69% last season, and he is surrounded by a young, but talented wide receiving group that includes Corey Davis and A.J. Brown, and a couple of veteran possession options in Adam Humphries and tight end Delanie Walker.

A road matchup against a revamped Browns defense is not an easy way to start the season for Mariota. It also does not help to have their starting left tackle, Taylor Lewan, out for the first four games while on suspension.

Over the last five games to end the 2018 regular season, the Browns ranked 14th in points allowed to opposing quarterbacks and 29th to opposing wide receivers. A matchup to watch in this game will be fill-in left tackle Dennis Kelly and Myles Garrett battling out on the outside, and whether or not Mariota will be able to have enough time to read the field and find an open receiver. To make matters worse for the Titans, starting right tackle Jack Conklin missed practice on Wednesday with a knee injury and may miss the game or at least be limited.

Look for Mariota to use Humphries and Walker as safety valves over the middle to help mitigate the pressure brought by the Browns defensive front. Davis is worth a start as a low-end No.3 wide receiver, but don’t be surprised if he delivers a dud due to lack of volume. Humphries could be a sneaky PPR play, and Dion Lewis may be used more in this game that people might think.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: No running back scored more fantasy points over the final five weeks of the season than Derrick Henry. Henry’s 238 yards and four touchdowns against the Jags in Week 14 were career highs for the former second-round pick from Alabama, and the 170 yards and two touchdowns in scored in the following week against the Giants proved to be league winning performances.

Context is key when evaluating fantasy production, and the teams who Henry torched in his crazy end to the 2018 season were beaten down by injuries and all but phoned in the 2018 season by the time the Titans played them.

The 2019 Browns are the opposite of a team who has quit. The Browns are loaded on offense and hungry on defense and will look to live up to the preseason hype surrounding the franchise.

Although Henry is cleared to play and is reportedly ready for Week 1, we have not seen him run full speed in a game, and a negative game script that could be forced upon the Titans offense by Baker Mayfield and the Browns could limit Henry’s volume.

Owners who used an early-round pick on Henry will no doubt start him. But expectations should be tempered, and Henry owners may be in for a long day with Lewis getting more work in the passing game with the Titans likely trailing early.

Value Meter:
QB2: Marcus Mariota (Low-End)
RB2: Derrick Henry (Low-End)
RB4: Dion Lewis (High-End)
WR3: Corey Davis (Low-End)
WR4: A.J. Brown (Low-End)
TE1: Delanie Walker (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Fresh off setting the NFL record for passing touchdowns for a rookie, expectations are running high for Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns passing game in 2019.

Mayfield’s 22 fantasy points per game placed him at 14 overall among QBs who played at least ten games last season, ahead of other big-name QBs like Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, and Philip Rivers.

Although the team did take a hit to the offensive line with the loss of guard Kevin Zeitler as part of the Odell Beckham Jr. trade to the Giants, the addition of an elite WR like Beckham gives Mayfield one of the best wide receiving corps in the league.

The collection of Jarvis Landry, Beckham, and David Njoku, along with a potent run game will give Mayfield tons of options to exploit and a ground game that will add balance to the Browns attack.

Beckham and Landry are friends dating back to their teenage years, but both wideouts are alpha males who expect to get alpha-male like volume and usage in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how each player handles sharing volume, as Mayfield was at his best last season spreading the ball around instead of force-feeding Landry.

The Titans defense presents a formidable matchup for Mayfield and head coach Freddie Kitchens. Tennessee allowed the 6th-fewest points to opposing quarterbacks last year. Mike Vrable’s defense allowed more than three passing touchdowns in only two games last season (both of which came on the arm of Andrew Luck), and four opposing QBs in 2018 failed to log a passing touchdown.

On a positive note for Beckham and Landry, The Titans did allow the 11th-most points to opposing wide receivers, with seven 100-yard games and 19 receiving touchdowns allowed. Bottom line, the Titans do an excellent job of limiting the production of quarterbacks who target running backs and tight ends, but teams have found success when passing to wide receivers.

Beckham Jr. is dealing with a hip injury that should be monitored as we get closer to game time. He was a full participant on Thursday and should be good to go, but owners should make sure nothing flares up before Sunday.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Back Thoughts: Nick Chubb took over the starting running back role with the Browns last season in Week 7 after the John Dorsey shipped Carlos Hyde off to Jacksonville. Chubb would proceed to score double-digit fantasy points in all but one game in 2018, with eight total touchdowns and three 1000-yard rushing games as the lead dog.

Chubb’s breakout performance catapulted the second-year player into the first round of most drafts, as owners assumed that Chubb would once again be the man, at least until Kareem Hunt comes off suspension in Week 10.

The subsequent trade of Duke Johnson to the Texans further propelled Chubb into the fantasy football stratosphere, with excited owners often taking the second-year player ahead of safer picks like Davante Adams, Julio Jones, and even DeAndre Hopkins.

Sunday’s opening game will be an interesting challenge for Chubb, as the only the Bears, Ravens, and Saints allowed fewer points last season to opposing running backs. The Titans allowed just seven rushing touchdowns last year, and they were the only team in the NFL to not allow a receiving touchdown out of the backfield.

Running back Dontrell Hilliard became a favorite sleeper of many to assume the pass-catching duties now that Duke Johnson is a Texan. While we do assume Hilliard will have that role, The Titans were one of the stingiest defenses against running backs in the passing game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Baker Mayfield (Mid-Range)
RB1: Nick Chubb (High-End)
WR1: Odell Beckham Jr. (Elite)
WR3: Jarvis Landry (Low-End)
TE1: David Njoku (Low-End)

Prediction: Cleveland 28 - Tennessee 14

Ravens at Dolphins - (Katz)
Line: BAL -7.0
Total: 37.5

Passing Game Thoughts: With a full offseason working as the clear starter and a playbook designed to suit his strengths, Lamar Jackson could not be setup better to succeed in 2019. Well, except for his wide receivers – they could be better. Jackson rushed for 695 yards last season despite starting just seven games. If Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin pan out and Jackson takes a step forward as a passer, he could break fantasy this season.

That could all start this week in Miami where the Dolphins have Xavien Howard and not much else. The biggest concern for Jackson is that the Ravens skew very run-heavy in a game they should control wire to wire. If Jackson failed to reach 20 pass attempts, I wouldn’t be surprised. The good news is Jackson could easily contribute to the ground game dominance himself. As for his pass catchers, not a single Ravens wide receiver is a must own in fantasy and you are not starting any of them in Week 1. Mark Andrews has been viewed as a breakout candidate at tight end, but I just don’t see it. The volume is never going to be there. You can do better.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: The Dolphins rush defense is just as bad as their pass defense. The Ravens may run the ball 40 times this game and No, Mark Ingram won’t handle all of the carries, but he will be the primary goal line back and has serious upside due to projected positive game script. Gus Edwards and Justice Hill will mix in, but for at least one week, Ingram is going to look like a screaming value relative to where he was drafted. The only concern for Ingram is whether Jackson steals the touchdowns near the goal line.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson (low end)
RB2: Mark Ingram (high end)
Bench: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Mark Andrews, Justice Hill

Passing Game Thoughts: The Ravens have one of the league’s best secondaries featuring a true shutdown cornerback in Marlon Humphrey. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are in full tank mode after trading away their starting left tackle, Laremy Tunsil, and best wide receiver, Kenny Stills.

Ryan Fitzpatrick does not care about opposing defenses and will launch the ball downfield regardless. Jakeem Grant probably has the best shot at making a play here. Albert Wilson is more of an underneath guy and Fitzpatrick isn’t about that checkdown life. DeVante Parker has no prayer against Humphrey. Fitzpatrick looked great at times throwing to Mike Evans and Chris Godwin last season, but it is a whole different world with arguably the league’s worst group of pass catchers. He will have his weeks, but this is shaping up to be one of those patented 200-yard, four interception games that has fans clamoring for Josh Rosen.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: This is Kenyan Drake’s backfield. Kalen Ballage will certainly see the field some, but the touches should skew heavily in favor of Drake. Drake has been practicing and appears to be over his mysterious foot injury. He has proven to be a very good receiver out of the backfield, racking up 53 receptions in 2018. If there is anywhere the Ravens can be beaten on defense, it is with Drake matching up against linebackers. In a game where the Dolphins should be in catch up mode, Drake could be in line for a nice PPR day. With that being said, the Ravens did allow the fewest receiving yards to running backs last season at just 25 per game. You likely drafted Drake to be a fringe starter and that is exactly what he is in Week 1. If you have someone with a better matchup, feel free to wait and see on Drake, but, at the very least, the volume should be there.

Value Meter:
Flex: Kenyan Drake
Bench: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kalen Ballage, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Mike Gesicki

Prediction: Ravens 27, Dolphins 13

Falcons @ Vikings - (Swanson)
Line: MIN -4.0
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: In 2018, Matt Ryan quietly put together a season that was better statistically for fantasy purposes than his MVP season in 2016. Although he threw for three fewer passing touchdowns last year, he more than made up for it with three rushing touchdowns. Ryan threw for 4,924 passing yards, with 35 passing touchdowns compared to just seven interceptions. In any other season without Patrick Mahomes putting up crazy numbers, Matt Ryan would have garnered serious MVP discussion once again.

Ryan and the Falcons draw a difficult matchup on the road against Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings to kick off the 2019 season. Only the Bills allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last season, and only the Jags allowed fewer points to wide receivers.

Offensive line was an area of concern for the Falcons and something that General Manager Thomas Dimitroff addressed in the draft with the section of guard Chris Lindstrom and Tackle Kaleb McGary in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Lindstrom looks primed to start at guard, while McGary will be active and in uniform after undergoing a heart procedure this summer.

The effectiveness of the rebuilt Falcons offensive line going against the stout defensive front of the Vikings, led by Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, and Everson Griffen, will be a key matchup in this game. If the Falcons can give Ryan enough time to read the defense, Atlanta has more than enough skill position players to take advantage of opportunities presented by the aggressive Vikings defense. Conversely, if Ryan is under constant pressure, he could be in for a long day, and fantasy owners will not be happy.

The matchup of Xavier Rhodes on Julio Jones will be a fun one to watch. Although he is the fourth highest-paid cornerback in the league, Rhodes is coming off a rough season and is not listed by ProFootballFocus as one of the top 25 corners in the league. Jones will be a tough matchup for Rhodes, who has struggled recently against big, fast wide receivers like Jones.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: With Tevin Coleman now a San Francisco 49er and his leg and groin injuries behind him, Devonta Freemen enters 2019 as the unquestioned starter in the backfield for what should be a top-10 scoring offense. The question is can Freeman stay healthy, and can the rebuilt offensive line do its job and create holes for Freeman and the reserve backs of Ito Smith, Brian Hill, and Qadree Ollison to run through.

After finishing as the stingiest run defense for fantasy points allowed to running backs two seasons ago, the Vikings were surprisingly light against the run last year. Mike Zimmer’s team allowed 11 double-digit fantasy point performances, including 123 yards and a score by Kalen Ballage in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.

Running the ball and keeping the defense honest is going to be critical for the Falcons to go into US Bank Stadium and steal a win on Sunday. Look for offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to design runs to add balance to their attack, while mixing in screen passes to Freeman to help negate the aggressive nature of safety Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr.

Despite the tough matchup, Freeman should still be considered a low-end No.2 running back with touchdown scoring upside. A big yardage game is not likely in the cards for Freeman, but he could counter that with catches out of the backfield on screens and a rushing touchdown.

The Vikings are dealing with a few injuries on the defensive side of the ball, but nothing seems to be too serious. Griffen and Joseph were listed on the report for Wednesday with elbow and shoulder injuries respectively, but both were full participants and appear ready to go.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan (Mid-Range)
RB2: Devonta Freeman (Low-End)
WR1: Julio Jones (Mid-Range)
WR3: Calvin Ridley (Low-End)
TE1: Austin Hooper (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The first season for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota proved to be an up and down season. Although the seven-year vet topped the 70% plateau in completion and tossed 30 touchdowns for the first time in his career, he threw for just 4298 yards despite throwing 606 passes as the Vikings failed to make the playoffs.

The front office fired their offensive coordinator midseason with the goal of installing a more run-heavy approach under Kevin Stefanski. The likely result of Mike Zimmer forcing a run-heavy approach won’t allow Cousins to top 600 attempts this season. Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, and Mike Boone will be used early and often, with the hope of taking advantage of defenses with more play action passes.

The decline of Cousins’ pass attempts will negate some of the volume for Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen, but both players will be excellent plays in matchups against teams who struggle to stop the pass, like the Falcons.

An injury-decimated Falcons allowed the most points to opposing quarterbacks last season and the sixth-most to opposing wide receivers, as safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, and linebacker Deion Jones missed most of the season due to injury. All three are back, and should drastically improve the Falcons pass defense.

An interesting matchup to watch will be pass rushers Vic Beasley and Takkarist McKinley against tackles Brian O’Neill and Riley Reiff. Neither player finished in the top 25 at their respective positions according to ProFootballFocus, and the outside pass rush from the Falcons could lead to bad decisions by Cousins and possibly turnovers.

With the Falcons focused on Diggs and Thielen, don’t be surprised to see tight end Kyle Rudolph more in this matchup, especially off of play action passes. Rudolph is a red zone threat who saw 13 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns in his final two games of 2018.

On the injury front, Diggs showed up on the injury report on Wednesday with a hamstring injury. He returned to the field on Thursday, but his history of last-minute scratches is a concern. Watch closely on Sunday and make sure he is active and ready to go.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Dalvin Cook showed his ability to break explosive runs with an 85-yard touchdown scamper against the Cardinals in the preseason. Cook is a three-down back with impressive vision and acceleration and could be an elite fantasy option all year if he can stay healthy.

Staying healthy has always been an issue for Cook, who missed extensive time in each of his first two seasons with knee and hamstring injuries. The team will likely look to limit the exposure of Cook with rookie Alexander Mattison sharing the load, along with Ameer Abdullah and Mike Boone.

With so many injuries to the Falcons in 2018, it is difficult to ascertain how they will do in 2018 against the run. The team added defensive tackle Tyler Davison via free agency to help Grady Jarrett in the middle of the line, but other than that it is just a matter of getting back healthy players like Neal, Allen, and Jones.

Assuming the defense is better than last year, Cook is still a must-start based on the matchup at home and the commitment by the coaching staff to run the ball. His work in the passing and screen game will be important as well, as the Falcons under Dan Quinn rank in the top 10 in receiving touchdowns allowed to opposing backs over the past two seasons.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins (Low-End)
RB1: Dalvin Cook (Mid-Range)
WR1: Adam Thielen (Low-End)
WR2: Stefon Diggs (High-End)
TE2: Kyle Rudolph (High-End)

Prediction: Minnesota 20, Atlanta 17

Bills at Jets - (Katz)
Line: NYJ -3.0
Total: 41.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Josh Allen may be listed as a quarterback, but he makes his hay with his legs, not his arm. Allen is one of the least accurate quarterbacks in the league, completing just 52.8% of his throws as a rookie. John Brown, Zay Jones, and Cole Beasley create one of the weakest wide receiver corps in the league. The Jets finished 2018 as football outsider’s 18th ranked pass defense and this is far from an elite unit, but only Brown’s downfield prowess contains any real upside as it only takes one play for him to return positive value. Allen is always a fantasy threat because of his rushing upside, but other than him, there is no one this passing attack you should need to be starting in Week 1.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: The departure of LeSean McCoy created serious ambiguity regarding this backfield. Devin Singletary is a slow, un-athletic rookie. Frank Gore is now 88 years old entering his 62nd season. T.J. Yeldon has always been underappreciated and that is going to continue in Buffalo. All three of these guys are going to play against last year’s 21st ranked rush defense. What the split will be is anyone’s guess. I would be very surprised if Singletary didn’t assume control of this backfield at some point, but it’s not going to be Week 1. Expect him and Gore to share early-down work with Yeldon mixing in on passing downs. This should be a competitive game so there are no fears of one back dominating snaps in comeback mode. If you are considering starting Gore or Singletary this week in a standard sized league/roster, something went seriously wrong at your draft.

Value Meter:
QB2: Josh Allen
Flex: John Brown, Devin Singletary
Bench: Zay Jones, Cole Beasley, Frank Gore

Passing Game Thoughts: Overall, Sam Darnold had a dreadful rookie season. He only played in 13 games yet managed to finish sixth in interceptable passes with 26. He ranked bottom of the barrel in play-action, deep ball, red zone, and pressured completion percentages. The silver lining is that Darnold closed the season strong, including QB1 performances Weeks 15 and 16. The bad news is the Bills were the second best pass defense in 2018 and project to remain at the top of the ladder in that department.

Robby Anderson is the unquestioned main target for Darnold. He faces a tough test in Tre’Davious White, who finished 2018 with the fewest fantasy points allowed per snap at just 0.25. Darnold’s struggles throwing the ball downfield and White being a shutdown corner could funnel more targets underneath to Jamison Crowder or Quincy Enunwa. Both are reliable sets of hands, but neither is a legitimate fantasy option. Most fantasy owners drafted Anderson to be at least a WR3 or a Flex, but if you have a viable alternative, you may be better served to use it. Chris Herndon will miss the first four games due to suspension.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: In addition to targets being funneled to Crowder and Enunwa, they may also go in the direction of the Jets’ big free agent acquisition, Le’Veon Bell. This is uncharted territory for Bell as he now gets to run behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. It will be interesting to see how his patient running style meshes with the Jets’ inability to block defensive linemen. We haven’t seen Bell play football in almost two years as he was held out the entire preseason. Practice reps can only do so much. Nothing can replace live game action so some rust is to be expected. With that being said, Bell can easily rack up receptions as Darnold panics in the face of the Bills’ elite pass rush. Bell is more of a floor play in Week 1.

Value Meter:
RB1: Le’Veon Bell (low end)
Flex: Robby Anderson
Bench: Sam Darnold, Jamison Crowder, Chris Herndon (suspension)

Prediction: Jets 20 Bills 16

Redskins at Eagles - (Katz)
Line: PHI -9.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: With Alex Smith still recovering from his gruesome leg injury and Dwayne Haskins deemed not ready, Case Keenum continues his quest to be Ryan Fitzpatrick 2.0 as he now starts for his sixth different NFL team. In years past, Keenum has enjoyed throwing to receivers such as Emmanuel Sanders, Adam Thielen, and Stefon Diggs. In 2019, he gets Trey Quinn, Paul Richardson, and a couple rookies.

Someone has to catch the ball for the Redskins. I just have no idea who it is going to be. The obvious choice would be Jordan Reed, but he remains in the concussion protocol. He practiced a bit on Wednesday and Thursday, but still has hurdles to clear. Monitor his status going forward. Perhaps Terry McLaurin or Kelvin Harmon emerges. Perhaps Quinn gobbles up targets underneath. However way you slice it, there is nothing good for fantasy in this passing attack. The Eagles were a middle of the road pass defense last season, but even in the easiest of matchups, no Redskin pass catcher other than a healthy Reed can be started until we have some clarity on who is getting the ball. No, Vernon Davis is not a viable streaming option.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: After missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL, Derrius Guice is back and Jay Gruden has stated the running game will revolve around Guice. That is the correct move as it is 2019 and Adrian Peterson does not need to be getting 250 touches in a season. Peterson will still probably see more work than Guice owners would like, but he has no fantasy relevance as long as Guice is healthy.

The real threat to Guice’s ceiling, in addition to the Redskins being an overall terrible offense, is Chris Thompson. I am completely over Thompson as a fantasy asset because he is too game script dependent and too boom or bust, but his status as the primary passing down back caps Guice’s upside. Guice has the skills to be a three-down back; he just won’t be used as one.

The Eagles were football outsiders’ ninth ranked rush defense in 2018 and as touchdown underdogs, projected game script does not favor Guice. You can certainly do worse as a Flex play, but I’m staying away from Guice if I can afford it.

Value Meter:
Flex: Derrius Guice
Bench: Case Keenum, Trey Quinn, Jordan Reed (concussion), Vernon Davis

Passing Game Thoughts: After back-to-back seasons that ended prematurely, Carson Wentz is setup to succeed in his fourth season as the Eagles’ starter. Alshon Jeffery was fully healthy up until Thursday when a bicep injury emerged. It is definitely something to monitor.

Zach Ertz remains Wentz’s top target, but he will be hard pressed to match his 9.8 targets per game from last season. In addition to Jeffery and Ertz, the Eagles reunited with DeSean Jackson. Despite being 32 years old, DJax still has blazing speed (he led all receivers in yards per reception last season) and is going to command targets and end a few drives quickly by burning someone deep.

The Redskins are far more vulnerable on the ground than through the air and in a game where the Eagles project to win comfortably, Jackson will have to make something happen on limited targets to be fantasy viable, which will likely be a theme for him throughout the season. Nelson Agholor will start in three receiver sets, but is completely irrelevant. Dallas Goedert is the league’s only true tight end handcuff. He will be a TE1 if Ertz misses time, but is unstartable as long as Ertz is healthy.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: The Eagles are going to run the ball early and often this week against a Redskins’ rush defense that ranked 20th in 2018. The problem for fantasy owners is we don’t know who will get the ball. Jordan Howard should handle early down and goal line work with Miles Sanders mixing in and perhaps taking some series to himself.

Darren Sproles will be the primary passing down back. There is optimism that Sanders can wrest control of this backfield sooner rather than later, but it won’t be in Week 1. Doug Pederson’s patented three man committee should be in full force. The Eagles may score multiple times on the ground. Howard is the floor play. Sanders is the ceiling play. We will know much more after this week so if you can afford to take a wait and see approach, you should.

Value Meter:
QB1: Carson Wentz (low end)
WR3: Alshon Jeffery
TE1: Zach Ertz (high end)
Flex: Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders
Bench: Dallas Goedert

Prediction: Eagles 30, Redskins 17

Colts @ Chargers - (Caron)
Line: LAC -7.0
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The most shocking news of the preseason came when Colts quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly retired, resulting in backup Jacoby Brissett becoming the center of what was expected to be a very good Indianapolis offense. While relatively athletic, Brissett is obviously nowhere near the passer of Luck, who was one of the league’s most efficient quarterbacks in 2018.

The move to Brissett affects everything in Indianapolis and has to lower the ceiling for just about every member of the offense, but the one player who might not see as much of a drop off in production as one would expect is top wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. While the quality of his targets will almost certainly take a hit, the number of targets that Hilton sees could actually increase under Brissett as the team opts to funnel targets to the top target in their passing game. This is a trend that is often seen throughout the league when teams lose their top quarterback and it’s a major reason why players like DeAndre Hopkins don’t necessarily see a significant drop off in production even when they’ve had to deal with backup quarterbacks.

Accordingly, the remaining players in this passing game - primarily wide receivers Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, as well as tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle - should expect to see a lower percentage of the team’s targets go their way. The other members of this passing game were not really starting options in most leagues but Ebron now becomes only a borderline starter at best.

Brissett can be considered a low-end QB2 for fantasy this week. Meanwhile, Hilton should still be a low-end WR2, but don’t be too optimistic in this game specifically because he’ll likely see plenty of attention from cornerback Casey Heyward who is one of, if not the absolute best cornerback in the league.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: While the prevailing opinion is that the Colts will likely see a higher percentage of run plays called this season then they would have if Andrew Luck was still behind center, be careful with the assumption that this automatically means better fantasy production for Marlon Mack. Mack was in line for a fairly heavy workload under Luck anyway but in what should have been a much more effective offense that would not allow defenses to stack boxes nearly as heavily to stop him. While more carries might somewhat offset the projected dip in efficiency on a per-carry basis, Mack’s touchdown ceiling absolutely takes a hit under a Brissett offense.

Still, the notion that Mack is a one-dimensional grinder has suppressed his perceived value to the point that he has become a steal in some formats. The existence of Nyheim Hines certainly limits Mack’s upside in the passing game, but it would not be surprising to see Mack catch more passes this season than he did in 2018, which could also help offset some of the concerns about his ceiling in the Colts offense.

For now, Mack is a low-end RB2 in standard leagues while being more of a Flex play in PPR formats. Hines himself might have value in this specific matchup against the Chargers on the road, as he does have pass catching upside given that the Chargers could be up multiple scores, leading to a pass-heavy gameplan from the Colts against a soft, lead-protecting late game strategy from the Chargers.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jacoby Brissett (low-end)
RB2: Marlon Mack (low-end)
WR2: T.Y. Hilton (low-end)
TE1: Eric Ebron (low-end)
Flex: Nyheim Hines (low-end, PPR only)
Bench: Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell, Jack Doyle

Passing Game Thoughts: Always a consistent producer, but one with a relatively low upside, Philip Rivers should probably be avoided in single-quarterback leagues this week in what could end up being a Chargers blowout. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we should be avoiding his pass catching weapons, however.

Keenan Allen seems to be fairly healthy heading into the season despite some preseason concerns and should step in as the team’s primary pass catching weapon. He will likely have added competition for targets this season, however, as wide receiver Mike Williams is expected to take a step forward and tight end Hunter Henry will be back after missing the 2018 season with an injury. Allen is still the lead dog in what should be an effective offense, however, so don’t be too concerned about the competition, especially early in the season. He’s a low-end WR1 in just about any matchup with high-end WR1 upside if the Colts are actually able to keep this game close.

Williams does have serious touchdown potential as we saw in 2018, but he’s a much riskier play than Allen due to a lesser target share, as well as red zone competition with Henry who has proven to be an elite end zone weapon throughout his short career. Williams is a decent low-end WR2 this week.

Henry does not come without risk, but most believe that he’s going to step right back in and produce as a borderline top five tight end this season. Most fantasy teams don’t have Henry and another tight end of consequence rostered so he should be in just about every lineup as a quality TE1.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: With Melvin Gordon still holding out, the Chargers will turn to backups Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson to shoulder the load in what has been a very productive offense for running backs. The team has released reports this week which indicate that Ekeler and Jackson will “split touches,” but that doesn’t really give us much information. We should fully expect that Jackson will see the field, but the touch distribution has been fairly significantly in Ekeler’s favor in the past when Gordon has missed time.

Look for Ekeler to serve both as the team’s primary ball carrier as well as their passing down specialist, making him a sneaky play as a solid RB2 who has potential to break into RB1 status here in what should be a good game script for the Los Angeles running game.

Jackson, on the other hand, shouldn’t be relied on by anyone other than desperate Gordon owners who have no other options. He’s someone who could sneak into the end zone but he lacks real pass catching upside for PPR formats.

Value Meter:
QB2: Philip Rivers
RB2: Austin Ekeler
WR1: Keenan Allen
WR2: Mike Williams (low-end)
TE1: Hunter Henry
Flex: Justin Jackson (low-end, non-PPR only)
Bench: Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman

Prediction: Chargers 27, Colts 20

Bengals @ Seahawks - (Caron)
Line: SEA -9.5
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: With A.J. Green still in a walking boot, the Bengals passing game goes from about a league average passing game to one that should be practically completely avoided, with one exception.

Wide receiver Tyler Boyd broke out in 2018, catching 76 passes for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns, finally giving the Bengals another reliable pass catching weapon outside of Green. Boyd now steps in to a situation where he’s the top target in the passing game, which should lead to a heavy target share, but the Bengals offense will likely not be very good and that could really limit Boyd’s touchdown upside. Still, Boyd is a mid-level PPR WR2 given what is expected to be a strong target total, especially on the road against a weak Seattle secondary.

The other members of the Bengals passing game should be avoided, at least until we see how things break down. Some still have high hopes for wide receiver John Brown and tight end Tyler Eifert is healthy to start the season but let’s temper our expectations for either of them until we see something happen on the field.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: The Bengals are expected to lean heavily on Joe Mixon again this season as the dynamic young tailback broke into near-elite territory in 2018 despite playing in a mediocre Cincinnati offense. Mixon has great value in all formats and will almost certainly be a big part of the passing game especially while A.J. Green is sidelined as the Bengals will need to get the ball into the hands of their best players. He does have a relatively tough matchup on the road against the Seahawks this week, especially now that they added Jadeveon Clowney who is a very good run defender, but he’s still a low-end RB1 in PPR formats and a high-end RB2 in standard formats.

Backup running back Giovani Bernard is someone who we shouldn’t be putting into our lineups this week, but let’s make sure to pay close attention to what type of snap share he gets in this game. The Bengals recently re-signed Bernard to a fairly significant contract for a backup running back, indicating that they want to make sure that he’s locked up under contract for the immediate future. Bernard has shown us solid RB2 production in the past when he’s been given the opportunity and he does have some PPR flex appeal if he’s getting enough snaps.

Value Meter:
RB1: Joe Mixon (low-end, PPR)
WR2: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, John Ross, Tyler Eifert

Passing Game Thoughts: Since Russell Wilson entered the league in 2012, no team has thrown the ball less often than the Seattle Seahawks. While that’s not necessarily indicative of a team that doesn’t trust its quarterback, it does give us a pretty strong indication that he’s not likely to set the world on fire with his passing totals here in 2018, especially now that the team is without former top wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

Wilson himself has always increased his own fantasy value with his rushing ability and that’s still there, but he’s taken some pretty significant steps back in terms of rushing totals in recent seasons, whether that’s due to his own decision-making or behind-the-scenes coaching decisions. With Wilson’s rushing being less significant now, and his passing numbers still relying heavily on other-worldly touchdown efficiency, the Seattle quarterback is no longer a locked-in weekly QB1 for fantasy.

Wilson does have a fairly good matchup this week, though, at home against what shouldn’t be an overly impressive Bengals defense. Feel free to give him a shot as a low-end QB1 this week as he has a decently high floor with top five QB upside.

The only pass catcher in Seattle that should be considered early this season is wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Lockett broke out in 2018 and should see an even higher target share this season. Lockett will also almost certainly see a higher snap percentage out of the slot than he has ever seen, which should lead to some nice fantasy numbers. Lockett has been successful out of the slot in the past and Wilson has looked to the slot quite often throughout his career, so don’t look for that to change anytime soon. Lockett can’t possibly keep up the touchdown efficiency that he had in 2018 but he can certainly make up for it in total target volume. Look for him to produce as a high-end WR2 this season, and especially here in Week 1 with the Seahawks’ second receiver, David Moore, listed as “Out” with a shoulder injury.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: While the Rashaad Penny first round draft pick from 2018 would seem to indicate that the team eventually has to give him a chance to be the lead back, it doesn’t sound like that’s going to be happening anytime soon. The Seahawks have come out publicly, stating that Chris Carson will again be the team’s primary back heading into the season. They have also been vocal about wanting to get Carson more involved in the passing game, which likely won’t mean that he’ll become some sort of PPR juggernaut, but it should mean at least a couple more opportunities each week.

Carson is an RB1 this week, at home against a Bengals defense that isn’t expected to be particularly great. The Seahawks will almost certainly lean heavily on Carson to win this game, so the opportunity is certainly there for him to turn in a big game.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (low-end)
RB1: Chris Carson
WR2: Tyler Lockett (high-end)
Bench: Rashaad Penny, David Moore, D.K. Metcalf, John Brown, Gary Jennings, Will Dissly, Nick Vannett

Prediction: Seahawks 27, Bengals 17

Lions @ Cardinals - (Caron)
Line: DET -2.5
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: While Matthew Stafford is no longer the 5,000 yards per year quarterback that he once was, and the Lions are certainly more focused on their running game than they ever have been with him behind center, there are still times when Stafford can produce QB1 numbers for fantasy purposes. This Week 1 matchup on the road against the Cardinals is one of those times.

The Week 1 road game in Arizona will be played either under a roof or at least in great field conditions, so that’s obviously helpful to the passing game. It’s also worth noting that the Cardinals will almost certainly be looking to implement a high-paced offensive gameplan. That should mean more total plays for both teams, even if the Lions don’t want to play ball with a fast-paced gameplan, they should still have more opportunities than usual. Add in the fact that they’ll be facing an already weak Arizona secondary which will also be without the suspended Patrick Peterson and it’s easy to see why Stafford could put up some surprisingly good numbers in this contest.

The receivers who benefit most from this situation are Kenny Golladay, who won’t see shadow coverage from Peterson, and even Marvin Jones. Both players are viable fantasy options this week and fantasy owners may even be able to sneak in first round rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson into lineups as a low-end TE1 with some touchdown upside.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: The Lions moved on from veteran pass-catching running back Theo Riddick this offseason, a strong sign that the team is committed to turning Kerryon Johnson into their every-down workhorse back. While that might end up being a less-than-optimal decision for the Lions as an actual NFL team, it does give us additional confidence in Johnson as a fantasy asset.

Johnson has a good matchup this week against what is not expected to be a good Arizona defense, in what could be a strong game script for the Detroit running game. We should expect that the Lions will run more total plays than they typically do in this game, which would presumably lead to more touches for Johnson. He’s a strong play in all formats and can be considered a low-end RB1 in this game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford (high-end)
RB1: Kerryon Johnson (low-end)
WR2: Kenny Golladay
TE1: T.J. Hockenson (low-end)
Flex: Marvin Jones
Bench: C.J. Anderson, Ty Johnson, Danny Amendola, Jesse James

Passing Game Thoughts: All eyes will be on the newly-revamped Arizona offense here in Week 1. After an up-and-down preseason, Kliff Kingsbury’s offense will get its first chance to show out, at home against an underrated Detroit defense.

While many are high on Kyler Murray for the season, it’s worth being cautious here in Week 1 in what is not a particularly great matchup. The Lions were quietly one of the league’s best defenses at keeping running quarterbacks in check in 2018. They played against most of the top rushing quarterbacks in the league this past season and none of them were particularly effective on the ground. That’s not to say that Murray can’t still give us something as a runner, but it’s a less-than-optimal matchup for that specific aspect of his game. Murray is a good enough passer to produce quality fantasy numbers with his arm alone, but this is his first NFL game and it’d be nice to at least have the floor of some rushing yards if we’re going to be putting him in our lineups here in Week 1. It’s very risky to start Murray here in Week 1 without having ever seen this new offense, but he’s still a startable/fringe QB1.

From a receiver standpoint, the only two players who we should be looking at for the time being are veteran Larry Fitzgerald and second-year receiver Christian Kirk. Kirk seemingly took over as the team’s primary pass catcher prior to his season-ending injury in 2018, but that doesn’t mean that we should be completely disregarding Fitzgerald. Fitz still has value, particularly in PPR formats. Both players are only Flex/WR3 options here in Week 1, but they’re still usable.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: One of the most talked about “busts” from the 2018 season, David Johnson still finished as a borderline RB1 in fantasy despite playing in one of the most anemic, poorly-coached offenses in recent memory. Many swore off the former top three fantasy draft pick this draft season, but those who took a chance on him have the opportunity to reap the benefits of what almost certainly will be a significantly improved Arizona offense - after all, how could it get much worse?

The major concern remains the offensive line play in Arizona and that was on display this preseason as the line looked to be outmatched numerous times, but an improved passing game should absolutely help reduce the number of stacked boxes that Johnson sees this season. He’s one of the few true bell cow backs in the NFL with both elite rushing and pass catching skills, so the upside remains for him to finish as one of the top backs in the league this fantasy season.

Johnson will face a Detroit defense whose strength is their front seven so this is not a particularly great matchup, but Johnson should see enough of a workload to be a strong RB1 play anyway.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray (low-end)
RB1: David Johnson
Flex: Christian Kirk (PPR only), Larry Fitzgerald (PPR only)
Bench: Chase Edmonds, KeeSean Johnson, Andy Isabella, Michael Crabtree, Charles Clay

Prediction: Lions 30, Cardinals 24

Giants at Cowboys - (Katz)
Line: DAL -7.0
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s 2019 and Eli Manning is still the starting quarterback for the New York Giants. What a time to be alive. By just about any measurement you can find, Manning was terrible last season. Over the past two seasons, Manning has a total of two touchdowns in three games against Dallas, excluding their meaningless Week 17 contest from last season (which the Giants somehow lost anyway).

The Giants traded Odell Beckham and replaced him with Golden Tate, who is currently suspended. The Cowboys have a true shutdown cornerback in Byron Jones who has no one to shut down. Sterling Shepard will run primarily out of the slot with Cody Latimer and Bennie Fowler on the outside, which speaks to the sad state of the Giants’ WR corps.

The most appealing member of this passing attack is Evan Engram. Despite the Cowboys’ excellent group of linebackers, Engram is an athletic mismatch for anyone. He thrived in 2017 while Beckham was out, putting up one of the best rookie TE seasons of all time. Engram is a good bet to lead the Giants in targets in Week 1.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: While the Cowboys possess a top five run defense, that doesn’t matter for Saquon Barkley. Operating in a weak offense, his ceiling is not as high as it would be if the Giants were actually good, but Barkley is locked into 20 touches minimum. With the Giants’ lack of pass catchers, Manning should be dumping it off to Barkley all afternoon. With volume being king in fantasy football, Barkley is poised to have a nice PPR day and he is always a threat to break off a big play. Even without one, Barkley has an incredibly high floor. He touched the ball 25 and 21 times against the Cowboys last season. You are obviously never benching him.

Value Meter:
RB1: Saquon Barkley (mid-range)
WR3: Sterling Shepard
TE1: Evan Engram (mid-range)
Bench: Golden Tate (suspension), Eli Manning

Passing Game Thoughts: Not that preseason performance matters, but Dak Prescott has looked phenomenal in what we can assume is a limited version of new OC Kellen Moore’s offense. The Cowboys are going to utilize more pre-snap motion and more complex route combination to scheme receivers open.

Amari Cooper has been dealing with a foot injury, but is all systems go for Week 1. He and Michael Gallup are both firmly on the fantasy radar against a Giants’ defense that ranked 26th against the pass in 2018. Jason Witten is back after a year off. The best thing I can say about Witten is that there’s no way his on field play in 2019 can be any worse than his performance in the booth last year. With that being said, Witten shouldn’t be owned in standard sized leagues. He still catches everything, but he can’t separate anymore.

Giants-Cowboys games have been lower scoring over the years and the Cowboys are a run oriented team. The matchup is great for Prescott, but I worry the volume may not be there, capping his ceiling and that of his receivers.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: I really had to wait until Thursday to write this section because Ezekiel Elliott made me. The Zeke holdout was a miserable experience and even though the Cowboys severely overpaid him, I don’t care, I am just glad it’s over. Reports suggest Elliott will be on a pitch count as he works his way back into game action. Reports also were consistent throughout the offseason that Zeke was working out and staying in shape. I have no doubt that as of this moment, and up until game time, Jason Garrett’s plan is to limit Zeke’s workload. I also believe that goes entirely out the window once the game begins. If Zeke is out there looking like the elite back he’s always been and the game isn’t a blowout, I surmise he will play more than expected.

No one should be debating whether to start Zeke. The only question is whether Tony Pollard is a viable option and to that, the answer is definitely “maybe.” If the Cowboys get a comfortable lead, it should be Pollard closing things out in the fourth quarter which, combined with mixing in throughout the game, will be enough for Flex value. If the game is close, you best believe Zeke will be out there during crunch time.

The Giants rush defense is only marginally better than their pass defense. The Cowboys have a top five offensive line allowing the running game to put up RB1 numbers this week. From Weeks 2-16, you can be confident that will be almost entirely Elliott. For Week 1, it might be a little more Pollard than Zeke owners would like.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (low end)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (low end)
WR2: Amari Cooper (mid-range)
WR3: Michael Gallup
Bench: Jason Witten, Tony Pollard, Randall Cobb

Prediction: Cowboys 23, Giants 17

49ers at Buccaneers - (Scott)
Line: TB -1.0
Total: 50.0

Passing Game Thoughts: After a strange offensive season in 2018, the 49ers should improve in 2019. Kyle Shanahan has a history of guiding offenses to excellence, and this may be the year he gets things going in San Francisco. Look for Garoppolo to throw to tight end Kittle across the middle all day, and also find second-year receiver Dante Pettis regularly. Pettis is their most talented receiver and should have no problem beating the Buccaneer corners, and Kittle should beat the safeties or linebackers with ease. Tampa’s defense should improve this season with new DC Todd Bowles, but they were the worst defense in DVOA in 2018, and there is just not enough talent there for them to consistently stop the pass. I anticipate a high-scoring affair, with both offenses having their way. Even if the Tampa Bay pass rush causes problems, Garoppolo has two excellent pass-catching backs in Breida and Coleman, who can help move the chains.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: Speaking of the 49ers running backs, Jerick McKinnon’s recovery from ACL surgery did not go as planned so the 49ers will rely on Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman in what should be a fairly even touch split. With an improved offensive line, the 49ers should be able to run at will against the Buccaneer defense. It will be interesting to see how rookie linebacker Devin White is able to hold up against the 49ers in his first NFL action, and also how newly signed Deone Bucannon and Shaquil Barrett are integrated into the defense. Either way, it is likely the 49ers running game of will end up superior to the run-stopping ability of the Bucs defense, even in Tampa Bay.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jimmy Garoppolo
RB2: Matt Breida
WR3: Dante Pettis
TE1: George Kittle
Flex: Tevin Coleman
Bench: Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel (need to see him integrated first)

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Passing Game Thoughts: The 49ers are fairly stout up front defensively, and have added Dee Ford to help with the pass rush. However, their secondary remains a weakness, finishing 27th against the pass last season. Jameis Winston had an up-and-down season in 2018, averaging 272 yards per game but struggled with consistency. With Bruce Arians now the head coach, one has to believe the offense as a whole will improve. Look for Winston to look for his trio of pass-catchers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J. Howard in what could become a shootout. They should not have any problem getting open against a weak secondary whose best piece is an aging Richard Sherman.

Running Game Thoughts: Surprisingly the Bucs did not do anything of note to address their running back room this offseason, which means they return Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones as their top two backs. Since the Bucs offensive line finished as the 31st-ranked unit in 2018, and the 49ers had the 12th-best run defense in 2018, this could be a tough go for the Bucs’ ground attack. There is always the possibility that they use the pass to set up the run and find some effectiveness but fantasy owners should look elsewhere for their RBs this week. Keep an eye on the role of Dare Ogunbowale who will likely see some action on third downs but could have his role expanded if Barber and/or Jones falter.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jameis Winston
WR1: Mike Evans
WR2: Chris Godwin
TE1: O.J. Howard
Bench: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones

Prediction: Buccaneers 28, 49ers 24

Steelers at Patriots - (Katz)
Line: NE -6.0
Total: 50.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Ben Roethlisberger averages about 280 yards and two touchdowns per game against the Patriots over his career. He is coming off the best season of his career, but will be operating without Antonio Brown for the first time this decade. Roethlisberger’s home/road splits have been a bit overstated in the past. Last season, he threw for 400 more yards, but four fewer touchdowns on the road.

Opening in New England is not ideal as Belichick will be extra prepared to slow down the Steelers’ offense. Expect the Patriots to bracket JuJu Smith-Schuster, now operating as the primary wide receiver, forcing Roethlisberger to look elsewhere. JuJu is going to be excellent this season, but he may struggle in this one.

Last year, the Patriots only allowed 55.6 yards per game to opposing TEs. With that being said, Vance McDonald is no longer splitting snaps with Jesse James and with AB gone, McDonald moves up the target hierarchy.

The WR2 for the Steelers is someone we want to pay attention to in fantasy; we just don’t know who it is right now. Donte Moncrief will start, but he’s not particularly good at football. It remains to be seen whether James Washington or, eventually, rookie Diontae Johnson can push for that role. For now, all Steelers pass catchers that aren’t JuJu and McDonald should remain on benches or the waiver wire.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: After playing nearly every snap with the first team offense in the preseason, it is abundantly clear that the Steelers’ backfield will not be a committee. James Conner will be a three down back with Jaylen Samuels working in relief. Conner was recovering from an ankle sprain when these teams faced off last season and Samuels broke out with 172 total yards on 21 touches. Conner should easily match Samuels’ touch count and the Patriots were one of the weaker teams defending receiving backs last season, allowing 49.1 yards per game. Whether Conner maintains a stranglehold on this backfield over the course of the season, we will find out, but at least in Week 1, Conner is in for a monster workload in what could be a high scoring contest. Samuels should see a handful of touches, but is off the fantasy radar.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ben Roethlisberger (low end)
RB1: James Conner (mid-range)
WR1: JuJu Smith-Schuster (low end)
TE1: Vance McDonald (low end)
Bench: Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Jaylen Samuels

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady enters the 2019 season without Rob Gronkowski, but with a healthy Julian Edelman and an unsuspended Josh Gordon. Brady is going to pepper Edelman with targets against a team he is very familiar with. Edelman saw 11 targets when these teams played last season and double-digit targets should be in the cards this week.

As for Gordon, he is going to start and should play as many snaps as he can handle. He played limited snaps in the preseason so we don’t know his level of conditioning. 2013 Josh Gordon is never coming back, but he can be a very useful fantasy option and, if his head is in the game, he should be second or third on this team in targets.

The Patriots have no TE of consequence with Ben Watson suspended. Phillip Dorsett will be the WR3 and is nothing more than an end of the roster stash.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Sony Michel looks healthy and primed to be a workhorse for the Patriots. He will be somewhat game script dependent as James White will see heavy usage when the Patriots need to throw. Although game script is difficult to predict, the Patriots are touchdown favorites at home so we should see plenty of Michel Sunday night.

In the preseason, White split the backup role with Rex Burkhead. That is a concern for White’s upside and more evidence he has no prayer of getting near the 123 targets he saw last season. White will have his games, but it is anyone’s guess as to when they will be. Damien Harris has serious upside if anything happens to Michel, but as long as Michel is healthy, Harris is a bench stash.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (low end)
RB2: Sony Michel (high end)
WR2: Julian Edelman (mid-range)
WR2: Josh Gordon (low end)
Flex: James White
Bench: Damien Harris

Prediction: Patriots 30, Steelers 21

Texans at Saints - (Scott)
Line: NO -7.0
Total: 53.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Last season the Saints were poor against the pass allowing the 3rd most fantasy points to QBs along with the most to WRs, and it is unlikely anyone they added this offseason will have an immediate impact. Further, Watson should have more time to throw behind an improved offensive line that will feature Laremy Tunsil at left tackle. Look for the Texans to have plenty of success airing it out to DeAndre Hopkins, a healthy Will Fuller, and new acquired Duke Johnson. If Keke Coutee is healthy (limited Thu), he may also find success against either PJ Williams or Patrick Robinson from the slot. This game feels like a shootout by the time all is said and done.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: The Saints were actually quite good against running backs last season, finishing 3rd in DVOA against the run. On top of that, the Texans do not have an established ground game after losing Lamar Miller and need to build chemistry along the offensive line. Newly acquired Duke Johnson should get some work, and Carlos Hyde will mix in as well, but they will likely keep their carries to a minimum against a Saints front that includes Cameron Jordan and Sheldon Rankins.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
WR3: Will Fuller
Flex: Duke Johnson
Bench: Keke Coutee (until he proves he is 100% healthy)

Passing Game Thoughts: Similar to the Saints, the Texans defense was also excellent against the run but not great against the pass last season. However, it doesn’t matter much who the Saints played last year – they always seemed to produce on offense. Brees should have his way against this defense, as long as his offensive line can keep J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus from disrupting the pocket. Look for Brees to pick the Texans defense apart with short-to-intermediate throws that stretch the linebackers and secondary. Michael Thomas should have his way against Johnathan Joseph, and both Jared Cook and Tre’Quan Smith could have a great game against the Texans undersized slot corners. Finally, if Watt is causing problems, look for many designed screen plays or short routes to Alvin Kamara.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Although the Texans were excellent against the run in 2018, they did just trade Jadeveon Clowney to the Seahawks, and he was an excellent disruptive force in the run game. They are now depending on Angelo Blackson to replace him, so the Saints might have a good amount of success on the ground. If the Saints get up early, look for them to grind it out with Kamara and newly-signed running back Latavius Murray. Either way, Sean Payton should stay committed to the run, which will set up the pass.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees
RB1: Alvin Kamara
WR1: Michael Thomas
TE1: Jared Cook
Flex: Tre’Quan Smith
Bench: Ted Ginn Jr., Latavius Murray (volume concerns)

Prediction: Saints 33, Texans 27

Broncos @ Raiders - (Caron)
Line: DEN -1.5
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: There aren’t many passing games in the league that bring less excitement than the Denver Broncos’, led by new passer Joe Flacco. While Flacco is probably an upgrade from their 2018 quarterback, Case Keenum, he is certainly far from being a player who fantasy owners should be relying on from a fantasy standpoint, whether as a quarterback or a distributor to our pass catchers.

The Broncos do have some decent values at wide receiver this season, particularly with veteran Emmanuel Sanders being so cheap during draft season. Sanders appears to be ready to roll to start the season after suffering a season-ending injury in 2018, and he should resume his role as the team’s primary pass catcher. Sanders likely lacks the upside to be a WR1 anymore within the context of the Broncos offense which projects to be low volume, but he still has the ability to be a low-end WR2 or Flex option, particularly in PPR formats.

Young wide receivers Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton have upside for the season, but this could be a low volume passing game against a bad Oakland team, so don’t expect a ton of targets for either Sutton or Hamilton in this one.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: Breakout rookie running back Phillip Lindsay still projects to lead the Denver backfield this season, but there have been quite a few reports from Broncos training camp that fellow second-year back Royce Freeman has impressed and may have earned himself a higher percentage of touches this season than he saw in 2018. We’ll have to see what ends up happening, particularly if the Broncos get ahead on the scoreboard, but there has to be some concern that this backfield becomes a full-blown committee in what is not expected to be a particularly great offense.

Still, the Broncos are Vegas favorites in this game and that lead is only growing as more turmoil unfolds in Oakland, so there’s a possibility that the Broncos lean heavily on their running game. A heavy workload could mean that both Lindsay and Freeman have value in this game, but let’s be safe and stick to Lindsay as our only starter this week, unless you’re absolutely desperate.

Value Meter:
RB2: Phillip Lindsay
Flex: Emmanuel Sanders
Bench: Joe Flacco, Royce Freeman, Courtland Sutton, DaeSean Hamilton, Noah Fant

Passing Game Thoughts: Thursday afternoon brought some shocking news out of Oakland as the Raiders have opted to suspend wide receiver Antonio Brown due to conduct detrimental to the team. Brown has missed the majority of the preseason and early preparations for Week 1 but the team has still been expecting to have him on the field, so this is obviously a major blow to their gameplan.

Without Brown on the field, look for the Raiders to funnel targets to wide receiver Tyrell Williams, who also joined the team this offseason. Williams has been productive when given opportunities throughout his career as a Charger so he does have some sneaky upside in this game. It’s hard to trust him as anything other than a Flex play, but if you’re unexpectedly missing Brown and in need of someone to replace him, Williams is available in many leagues and could be a viable low-end replacement.

The other players who likely see more targets due to this news are wide receiver Hunter Renfrow and tight end Darren Waller. Waller has been the talk of training camp as he’s impressed from an athletic standpoint, earning himself the projected starting role for the team. Renfrow has also been a training camp standout and while he doesn’t project to see enough targets to be a starter here in Week 1, he is a player who we should be keeping our eyes on while Brown is out.

Quarterback Derek Carr goes from being a borderline starter in QB2 formats to someone who should be avoided in pretty much all formats as long as Brown is not on the field.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: With the passing game handicapped, look for the Raiders to rely heavily on their running game, particularly rookie first round draft pick Josh Jacobs. Jacobs was the top running back selected in this year’s NFL Draft and the Raiders made the decision to cut veteran Doug Martin, seemingly leading the way for Jacobs to see a heavy workload here in 2019. One of the knocks on Jacobs was that he never saw a big workload in college, but a lot of that is due to the fact that Alabama was so stacked at running back that they didn’t need to rely solely on one back.

Jacobs may be thrust into an even heavier workload here in Week 1 than previously presumed, but he does have a very tough matchup against one of the league’s strongest defensive units, the Denver Broncos. Add in the fact that the Raiders may opt to utilize pass catching specialist Jalen Richard more than some expect and it’s easy to see why Jacobs could struggle here in his NFL debut.

Still, Jacobs should be a lock to see 15 touches with the upside of 25 or so touches depending on how the game unfolds and that alone makes him a viable RB2.

Value Meter:
RB2: Josh Jacobs
Flex: Tyrell Williams
Bench: Derek Carr, Jalen Richard, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller

Prediction: Broncos 24, Raiders 17