- 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
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
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
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.
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%
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.
Chiefs at Jaguars
- (Scott) Line: KC -4.0 Total: 52.5
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.
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
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
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.
Rams at Panthers
- (Scott) Line: LAR -3.0 Total: 50.5
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Ravens at Dolphins
- (Katz) Line: BAL -7.0 Total: 37.5
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.
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.
Falcons @ Vikings
- (Swanson) Line: MIN -4.0 Total: 47.5
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Redskins at Eagles
- (Katz) Line: PHI -9.5 Total: 45.5
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
Lions @ Cardinals
- (Caron) Line: DET -2.5 Total: 47.5
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
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.
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.
Giants at Cowboys
- (Katz) Line: DAL -7.0 Total: 45.0
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.
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
49ers at Buccaneers
- (Scott) Line: TB -1.0 Total: 50.0
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.
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
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
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.
Steelers at Patriots
- (Katz) Line: NE -6.0 Total: 50.0
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
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
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.
Texans at Saints
- (Scott) Line: NO -7.0 Total: 53.0
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.
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.
Broncos @ Raiders
- (Caron) Line: DEN -1.5 Total: 42.5
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
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
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
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.