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Inside the Matchup


Week 1

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | HC Green
Updated: 9/11/20

Thursday:

HOU @ KC


Sunday Early:

SEA @ ATL | CLE @ BAL | NYJ @ BUF | LV @ CAR

CHI @ DET | IND @ JAX | GB @ MIN | MIA @ NE | PHI @ WAS


Sunday Late:

LAC @ CIN | TB @ NO | ARI @ SF | DAL @ LAR

Monday:

PIT @ NYG | TEN @ DEN

Notes:
- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight - 2019)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight - 2019)

Texans at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -9.5
Total: 54.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The new-look Houston Texans passing game will have its first opportunity to show off what it can do when it heads on the road to face the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Texans, now without DeAndre Hopkins, still look poised to be a high-powered passing game as the team added Brandin Cooks in the offseason. Kenny Stills has also now had a full offseason with the team and fellow field-stretching specialist Will Fuller is healthy again, giving Houston one of the more interesting down field passing games in the league. The Texans also roster one of the better pass catching backfields with David Johnson and Duke Johnson, which should give Deshaun Watson some excellent checkdown options.

This is certainly a passing game to target as the Texans-Chiefs contest is expected to be one of, if not the highest-scoring games of Week 1. These teams combined for a whopping 82 points when they played in the divisional round of the 2019 NFL Playoffs, and they scored 55 combined points when they played back in Week 6 of 2019, so look for more fireworks in this one.

Watson threw for 668 combined yards in those games while scoring six total touchdowns, so he’s an obvious must-start in this contest. Fuller and Stills both beat the Chiefs for some big downfield passes in the playoff game and they should be in line for some additional targets with Hopkins now off the roster. Fuller is usable as an upside WR3, but Stills should probably only be used in very deep leagues. Cooks (quad) is a tough one to predict right now because we just don’t know how much he’ll be involved, but he’s still a good bet to see at least a handful of targets if active, so feel free to give him a shot in your lineup if you’re a little thin at the position. Tight ends Darren Fells and Jordan Akins will likely cannibalize one another’s opportunities so they’re not much more than low-end TE2s, but there’s a decent chance that one of them gets into the end zone.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: The offseason trade that brought David Johnson to Houston is still a baffling one for most football analysts, but it should actually bring some clarity to this offense at the running back position. The fact that the Texans were willing to trade for Johnson should tell us that they’re planning on using him a bellcow role. That’s incredibly valuable for fantasy football even if some believe that Johnson is completely washed up as a talent. As long as he’s healthy, look for Johnson to be a contender for 20 touches on a weekly basis and that’s plenty enough to be a solid RB2 against a Chiefs defense that conceded the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this past season and really hasn’t made many significant improvements throughout the offseason.

Running back Duke Johnson has to be considered one of the stronger handcuff backs in the league right now given David Johnson’s health, but Duke isn’t likely to see enough touches to be fantasy relevant himself as long as David is healthy.

Value Meter:
QB1: Deshaun Watson
RB2: David Johnson
WR3: Will Fuller
Flex: Brandin Cooks (inj)
Bench: Duke Johnson, Kenny Stills, Darren Fells, Jordan Akins

Passing Game Thoughts: The Super Bowl LIV MVP is now the highest-paid player in NFL history. Along with being an unquestioned elite talent at the position in real life, the fantasy asset that is Patrick Mahomes should be one of the strongest players in the game this season.

Mahomes, along with his tight end Travis Kelce and top wide receiver Tyreek Hill, are among the absolute top players at their respective positions and should be started in any format, but the real question is regarding whether or not any of the other players in this passing game can be trusted for fantasy purposes. Mahomes threw for nearly 600 yards and a total of eight touchdowns in the two games he played against the Texans in 2019, but wide receivers Mecole Hardman and Sammy Watkins combined for just eight total catches in those games, with no touchdowns.

We may get to a point where one of Watkins or Hardman will emerge as a viable weekly option for fantasy, but that’s just not the case heading into Week 1. Start Mahomes, Kelce and Hill as usual, but let’s wait to see what happens with the snap and target shares here in Week 1 before we trust any other Chiefs pass catcher in our fantasy lineups.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Damien Williams was one of the most important pieces of the Chiefs Super Bowl run this past season, but that didn’t stop Kansas City from searching for his replacement. They did so in the form of rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, a pass-catching specialist running back from the reigning college football national champion LSU Tigers who became the only running back selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Edwards-Helaire may lack some of the explosive speed and size combination that some of the other backs in this class possess, but he may have found the best possible fit for his skill set in the high-powered Kansas City passing attack. With Damien Williams opting out of playing in the 2020 NFL season, the backfield appears to be open for Edwards-Helaire to immediately step in and play the majority of snaps in what figures to be one of, if not the very best offense in the league this season.

Williams scored three total touchdowns against the Texans when these teams faced off in the divisional round of the playoffs, so look for Edwards-Helaire to have a decent opportunity to get into the end zone in his very first NFL game. He was selected in the first round of most fantasy drafts that have happened over the past week and that should be an indication that he should be in practically every lineup here in Week 1, but those worrying about him being a rookie should simply push those fears aside and push the button on putting him in your lineup. This is a great fantasy matchup and one that could yield immediate high-end fantasy production.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB1: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Darrel Williams, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle

Prediction: Chiefs 34, Texans 24 ^ Top

Seahawks @ Falcons - (Swanson)
Line: SEA -2.0
Total: 49.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Russell Wilson and the Seahawks passing attack begin the 2020 season on the road against a Falcons defense that allowed the 10th-most points to opposing quarterbacks and the 15th-most points to opposing WRs. In a matchup that boasts a 48-point over under and two potent offenses, this could be the first game of 2020 in which Pete Carroll allows Russell Wilson to “cook.”

ProFootballFocus ranks the Falcons as the third-worst secondary behind only the Jets and the Panthers. Desmond Trufant is now a Lion, and the team will rely on rookie cornerback A.J. Terrell as a starter alongside Isaiah Oliver. Safeties Ricardo Allen, Damontae Kazee, and Keanu Neal are excellent in the middle of the field and in run support, so look for Wilson to attack the outside corners with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

Both wide receivers are strong starts in this matchup and should be in your lineup along with Wilson. Tight ends have also been fairly successful against the Falcons in the past few seasons (Atlanta ranked 15th in points allowed to the position in 2019), and new Seahawk tight end Greg Olsen is also a decent play.

A matchup to watch will be Terrell outside against Metcalf. Will the rookie cornerback from Clemson be up for the challenge in his first NFL game, or will he struggle with the speed of the NFL while matched up against one of the largest and fastest outside receivers in the league.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Chris Carson is back as the starting running back in 2020 after suffering a hip injury at the end of the 2019 campaign. Carson finished with the fifth-most rushing yards (1,230 on 278 carries), behind only Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, and Christian McCaffrey. The team will look to use him once again as the primary back in an offense that will continue to be a run-heavy team.

Although the Seahawks will look to run in this game, the Falcons have a talented front seven that could make running the ball difficult on Sunday. The defensive line of Grady Jarrett, Takk McKinley, Tyeler Davison, and Dante Fowler Jr. is stout, and linebacker Deion Jones is excellent in run support along with safety Keanu Neal.

Don’t be surprised to see the run game somewhat stifled by the Falcons and the Seahawks lean more on the passing game in this matchup. Carson is a must start and a threat to score, but he may find it hard to reach 100 yards.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (High-End)
RB1: Chris Carson (Low-End)
WR2: Tyler Lockett (Low-End)
WR2: DK Metcalf (Low-End)
TE2: Greg Olsen (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Atlanta ranked third in passing yards per game in 2019, with Matt Ryan finishing fifth in total passing yards despite missing one game. No quarterback completed more passes than Ryan in 2019, and he topped 600 pass attempts for the second straight season and the fifth time in his career.

Dirk Koetter offenses historically rank in the top 10 in pass attempts, and this season will be no different. With a talented receiving corps of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Hayden Hurst, Ryan will pass a ton this season, starting with Week 1 against the Seahawks. Ryan has thrown for over 4k passing yards in each of the last nine seasons, and in four seasons with Koetter as OC, Ryan has finished in the top 6 in passing all four years.

The Seahawks secondary drastically improved with the acquisition of Jamal Adams from the Jets this summer. Adams and Quandre Diggs are arguably the best safety tandem in the league, with cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers on the outside (Assuming Quinton Dunbar does not play because of off-field issues).

The matchup in the secondary to watch will be Julio Jones or Calvin Ridley on Flowers, who earned a disappointing 53.9 grade last season by PFF.com after allowing just over 700 receding yards last year.

Adams is one of the few safeties in the league that excels in all three facets of the position in coverage, run support, and blitzing. With the Falcons boasting arguably the best one-two WR punch in the league, Adams’ help on the back end should help open up the middle of the field for new tight end, Hayden Hurst.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: The Falcons moved on from Devonta Freeman this past offseason and replaced him with former Ram Todd Gurley. Gurley is under contract for a one-year, $5.5 million show-me deal.

Gurley rushed for a disappointing 857 yards on 223 carries last year with the Rams and posted his lowest yard-per-reception average as a pro. He overcame his inefficiencies by scoring 12 rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns to finish tied for 11th place at the position with Joe Mixon.

Considering the team will likely incorporate Brian Hill and Ito Smith to some extent, Gurley will need to improve on his efficiency and continue to score double-digit touchdowns to return his third-round draft price.

Seattle gave up the 11th-most points to opposing running backs in 2019 and the second-most rushing touchdowns. The Seahawks defensive line is the worst-ranked unit heading into 2020 according to ProFootballFocus. The loss of Jadeveon Clowney to the Titans took away their best pass rusher, and the inside tandem of Poona Ford and Jarran Reed is average at best at stopping the run.

The strength of the Seahawks defense is their secondary, and the strength of the Falcons is their pass offense. Perhaps Koetter will pivot and lean more heavily on the run game to limit possessions for the potent Seahawk offense and target the subpar run defense.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matt Ryan (Low-End)
RB2: Todd Gurley (High-End)
WR1: Julio Jones (Low-End)
WR2: Calvin Ridley (Low-End)
TE1: Hayden Hurst (Low -End)

Prediction: Falcons 30, Seahawks 24 ^ Top

Browns @ Ravens - (Green)
Line: BAL -8.0
Total: 48.5

Passing Game Thoughts: To say that expectations for Baker Mayfield entering Year 3 are more reasonable than they were in 2019 would be an understatement. A season ago you couldn't go more than a single commercial break without seeing Mayfield calling a plumber or grabbing a drink. While his ads were Progressive, his play was regressive as he completed a lower percentage, threw fewer TDs and tossed more INTs. Mayfield's play was emblematic of a Browns team that was the NFL's most disappointing.

Now the former No.1 overall pick will try to bounce back under new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who comes over from Minnesota. Mayfield played perhaps his best game of last season against the Ravens in Week 4, passing for 342 yards in a win, but with the learning curve associated with a coaching change expect some bumps Sunday.

Despite topping 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth time in six seasons, Odell Beckham Jr. made a limited impact week to week, topping 100 yards in a game just twice all season. A surefire top-10 fantasy wideout since his rookie year, OBJ opens 2020 firmly in No.2 territory (an area he knows something about… "allegedly"). Jarvis Landry (83-1,174-6) is a steadier producer than Beckham but lacks his upside. He hit the Ravens for 241 yards on 15 grabs last year and can be deployed as your second or third wideout.

Austin Hooper (75-787-6) arrives from Atlanta coming off of a Pro Bowl season. How large his role will be is unclear, however, and as such he's better left on the bench until we see if he'll produce for Mayfield like he did for Matt Ryan. The Ravens allowed just 207.2 passing yards per game last year (sixth in the NFL), and the release of Earl Thomas feels like it could be a galvanizing factor for the secondary.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Concerns that Nick Chubb would end up in a timeshare with Kareem Hunt in 2019 proved unfounded, and Chubb finished second in rushing yards (1,494) and third in carries (298). He's the early-down bruiser while the speedy Hunt will be featured on passing downs. Expect a better approach in deploying the backs from Stefanski, who will have both at his disposal from Week 1 on. Baltimore finished fifth in run defense last year (93.4 yards per game), but Chubb torched them back in Week 4 for 165 yards and 3 TDs on 20 carries so don't hesitate to play him.

Value Meter:
QB2: Baker Mayfield (low-end)
RB2: Nick Chubb
RB3/Flex: Kareem Hunt
WR2: Odell Beckham Jr.
WR2/WR3: Jarvis Landry
Bench: Austin Hooper

Passing Game Thoughts: All Lamar Jackson did in his first full season as a starter was lead the Ravens to a 14-2 mark and earn unanimous MVP honors. That he did it while only passing for 3,127 yards is a testament to his dual-threat ability as he shattered the NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,206. Jackson also accounted for 43 touchdowns, including an NFL-best 36 passing strikes -- six of those came against the Browns to go along with 169 yards on the ground.

With an MVP under center you'd expect multiple receivers to be fantasy worthy, but in truth only Marquise Brown (46-584-7) deserves a roster spot. Hollywood was easily the top outside target as a rookie, and though he's a No. 3 fantasy receiver now it wouldn't be a surprise to see him climb the rankings. Mark Andrews (64-852-10) is already a clear TE1, and the trade of Hayden Hurst, the team's third-leading receiver, could mean even more action for Andrews in 2020.

Cleveland finished seventh in pass defense a year ago, giving up 216.9 passing yards per game. The secondary has seen significant change this offseason, including the signings of Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo, and the recent trade acquisition of Ronnie Harrison from Jacksonville. It'll be interesting to see how quickly this group meshes.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: As with the passing game, Baltimore's ground attack flows through Jackson, who averaged 6.9 yards per carry last year. Mark Ingram offers a nice complement to Jackson's speed with his bruising style and is coming off of a season in which he ran for 1,018 yards and 10 TDs. He's the top back now and rates as an RB3 for Week 1, but don't be surprised if J.K. Dobbins carves out a significant role this year. The Ohio State rookie is worth carrying on your bench. As for the Browns, only Cincinnati and Washington allowed more rushing yards last season.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
RB3: Mark Ingram
WR3: Marquise Brown
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: J.K. Dobbins

Prediction: Ravens 27, Browns 17 ^ Top

Jets at Bills - (Katz)
Line: BUF - 6.5
Total: 40.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Sam Darnold’s scorching close to his rookie season seems like a distant memory at this point. Darnold was well below average last season, failing to even reach 200 yards passing in his final two games. His supporting cast did him no favors and it’s somehow not just worse, but significantly worse entering the first week of the 2020 season.

The Jets tried to improve by signing Breshad Perriman and drafting Denzel Mims, but both of them are dealing with nagging injuries. Mims missed over two weeks of practice with a hamstring strain at the end of August before returning early September. Even if he’s active Week 1, he’s too far behind to be expected to do anything. Perriman has swelling in his knee and hadn’t practiced in weeks prior to Wednesday. This all spells disaster for the Jets, but could be PPR gold for Jamison Crowder. If you recall, Crowder opened the 2019 season with a 17 target game. Given that the other receivers may be the laughably inept Chris Hogan and journeyman Braxton Berrios, Crowder is a near lock to lead the team in targets. He also operates primarily out of the slot (70% slot snap share last season), so he’ll avoid much of Tre’Davious White.

You shouldn’t be in need of deep plays Week 1, but Chris Herndon is locked in as the starting tight end and also stands to benefit from the injuries to the receivers. The Bills project to be one of the league’s better defenses, but there’s still volume opportunity with Crowder and Herndon.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Another candidate to lead the team in targets is Le’Veon Bell. Of course, that all depends on how Adam Gase feels about his talented starting running back. Reports out of camp suggest Frank Gore may be in line for way more work than an 89 year-old should be handling. The Bills allowed the 10th fewest rushing yards per game last season, but you’re starting Bell for the volume and the receiving upside. No one on the Jets has a particularly high ceiling in a game that has all the makings of a low scoring affair. You’re obviously not benching Bell, but don’t expect a ceiling game here.

Value Meter:
RB2: LeíVeon Bell (mid-range)
WR3: Jamison Crowder (PPR only)
TE2: Chris Herndon
Bench: Sam Darnold, Frank Gore, Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims

Passing Game Thoughts: The good news is Josh Allen improved his completion percentage considerably over his rookie year with a career high (including college) in 2019. The bad news is he still fell short of the 60% threshold. To be fair, no one is drafting Allen for his passing ability. Allen is one of the worst passers in the league and would have absolutely no fantasy (or real life) value if he wasn’t so athletic. Fortunately, Allen is athletic as evidenced by his 31.8 rushing yards per game last season. He has expressed a desire to run less this season, but unless he suddenly improves as a passer, he will continue to stare down his first read and then take off if the throw isn’t there.

His first read this season will be newly acquired Stefon Diggs. For years, fantasy analysts have touted Diggs as Antonio Brown lite – this elite technician that is a budding WR1. Well, a WR1 season is out of the question in Buffalo. He’s probably not even a WR2. Diggs will certainly have his games, much like John Brown did last season, but Diggs excels on precision route running and accurate passes. Josh Allen is not known for his accurate passes. Diggs should be startable every week, but his floor is much lower than it was in Minnesota.

As for Brown, Allen doesn’t attempt or complete enough passes for more than one receiver to be consistently viable. Brown will have his weeks, likely at the expense of Diggs, but one or the other will struggle the majority of the time. Allen attempted just 461 passes last season and never recorded more than 266 passing yards in a game. He failed to reach 200 yards six times.

Dawson Knox will start at tight end, but belongs nowhere near starting lineups. Outside of deep leagues, the only Bills pass catcher you should be starting is Diggs, especially in a game the team will want to control on the ground and win with defense.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Devin Singletary is going to start at running back, but this backfield projects to be a pretty even split between Singletary and Zack Moss. The problem for Singletary is he wasn’t very effective in the passing game last season and could very well lose that work to Moss. Sean McDermott indicated that Moss is essentially the Frank Gore replacement and should be more effective in the same role.

Singletary played in 12 games last season and carried the ball 151 times. He received just one goal line carry. Gore was given 11. It’s entirely possible that Singletary is the third most likely player to rush the ball at the goal line, behind Moss and Josh Allen. The Jets were completely dominant against the run in 2019, but it’s foolish to assume that will carry over. Both Singletary and Moss are in play this week, but I advise a wait and see approach on how this committee will pan out if you can afford to do so.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (low end)
WR3: Stefon Diggs
Flex: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss
Bench: John Brown, Dawson Knox

Prediction: Bills 20, Jets 13 ^ Top

Raiders @ Panthers - (Swanson)
Line: LV -3.0
Total: 47.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The Raiders made a full-scale change to their receiving corps with the selections of Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards in this year’s NFL draft. Ruggs, a speedy wide receiver from the University of Alabama who some believe will be Las Vegas’ version of Tyreek Hill, was the first wide receiver taken in the draft. Edwards is a big, physical receiver who will give Derek Carr a much needed big receiving threat on the outside.

Tight End Darren Waller will once again be a favorite volume target for Carr in the middle of the field. The question is will Waller see a significant reduction in targets now that the team has two other options for Carr to lean on?

The Panthers might just have one of the worst defenses in the league after replacing last year’s starters that includes Eric Reid, James Bradberry, Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Vernon Butler, Bruce Irvin, and Mario Addison.

The team used their first five picks on defensive rookies to fill in the gaps, including Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Troy Pride Jr., who are all slated to start against Las Vegas.

Look for the Raiders to attack a weak Panthers secondary that enters 2020 as the second-worst unit according to PFF.com. Tre Boston is the only player in the secondary with a decent grade.

An interesting matchup in this game will be former Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead going against his former team, including tight end Darren Waller in coverage. The Raiders know Whitehead’s strengths and weaknesses, so don’t be surprised if they make a point to target him in the passing game.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: Josh Jacobs’ rookie season was nothing short of a smashing success for the first-round pick out of Alabama. Jacobs rushed for 1150 yards and seven touchdowns on 242 carries in 13 games, adding another 20 receptions for 160 yards in the air.

Jacobs posted five 100-yard games as a rookie with six games of at least 20 rushing attempts. He will once again be the bell cow for the Raiders and should finish as an RB1 as long as he stays healthy.

No other team allowed more rushing yards than the Panthers last season. Carolina was the only team in the league to allow over 2k rushing yards, and their 27 rushing touchdowns allowed was nine more than the second-worst unit.

The Panthers will likely struggle against the run again this year, but they do have Kawann Short returning from injury and used the seven pick of the draft to select run-stopping defensive lineman Derrick Brown from Auburn.

Carolina’s front office knew that stopping the run was a massive area of need for the defense, and they addressed it in the draft. We will see on Sunday if their efforts pay off against a stout Raiders rushing attack.

Value Meter:
QB2: Derek Carr (High-End)
RB1: Josh Jacobs (High-End)
WR3: Henry Ruggs III (High-End)
WR3: Bryan Edwards (Low-End)
TE1: Darren Waller (Low -End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Teddy Bridgewater era of Carolina Panthers football kicks off this Sunday against the Raiders, a team that gave up the fifth-most points to opposing quarterbacks in 2019 and the 10th-most points to opposing wide receivers.

The Raiders addressed their deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball with the selection of first-round cornerback Damon Arnette from Ohio State. The team also gets last season’s first-round pick, Jonathan Abram, back at strong safety.

The team also added defensive tackle Maliek Collins as a free agent from the Cowboys and linebacker Cory Littleton from the Rams. The Raiders defense is a far cry from the unit that was torched last year by numerous quarterbacks and will be a good test for Bridgewater and first-year head coach Matt Rhule.

D.J. Moore finished 2019 as the No.22 WR with 9.7 fantasy points per game. He was the beneficiary of eight games last season with 10 or more targets and should once again be the leading receiver for the team in terms of target volume and production. If he is able to take that next step and become a touchdown scoring threat in the offense, Moore could be one of the best fantasy options at the position in 2020.

The Panthers added Robby Anderson this offseason to provide another downfield threat. Bridgewater is not known for being a great downfield thrower, but he does have a strong arm, and the team may look to stretch defenses downfield on play-action passes.

The Raiders are starting to new linebackers in their defense with Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski. Both are veterans and have experience in the league, but don't be surprised if there is a little miscommunication in coverage without a full offseason and preseason to get on the same page. Ian Thomas (foot) has reportedly had a strong camp and could be a sneaky play against this defense.

OAK FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
OAK FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
OAK FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
OAK FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: There is little to say for CMC fantasy owners, as he is a must-start regardless of opponent or situation. You do not need us to tell you to start him.

CMC owners should note that the Raiders did take steps this offseason to improve a run defense that allowed the 16th-most points to opposing RBs in 2019. The addition of defensive tackle Maliek Collins in the middle of the line opposite of Jonathan Hankins should improve their run defense between the tackles.

They also made a massive overhaul to their linebackers with new starters Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkowski. These changes should help their rush defense, but the sheer volume and skill CMC provides should still make him one of the top plays of the week.

Value Meter:
QB2: Teddy Bridgewater (High-End)
RB1: Christian McCaffrey (Elite)
WR1: D.J. Moore (Low-End)
WR3: Robby Anderson (Low-End)
WR4: Curtis Samuel (High-End)
TE1: Ian Thomas (High-End)

Prediction: Las Vegas 28, Carolina 21 ^ Top

Bears @ Lions - (Green)
Line: DET -3.0
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It's almost hard to wrap your head around GM Ryan Pace's offseason moves, highlighted by the decision to trade a fourth-round pick to the Jags for Nick Foles and guarantee him $21 million only to name Mitchell Trubisky the Week 1 starter after declining his fifth-year option. That he did all of this in a QB market where guys like Cam Newton and Jameis Winston signed for pennies on the dollar makes it all the more embarrassing.

Nevertheless, that's where the Bears stand with Trubisky (3,138 passing yards, 17 TDs and 10 INTs in 2019) running the show in Motown. Odds are his leash is short with both Pace and Matt Nagy almost certainly feeling the heat after last season. Trubisky stands a decent chance of at least getting off to a good start, having thrown six TDs and only one pick in two wins over the Lions last year.

Allen Robinson (98-1147-7) returns as the team's No. 1 target and is easily the most desirable player on the Bears from a fantasy perspective. Even with a subpar triggerman the 27-year-old is right on the cusp on WR1 status, though having him as your WR2 is preferable. Anthony Miller (52-656-2) has flashed during two NFL seasons, including a 9-catch, 140-yard effort against Detroit last Thanksgiving. There's no consistency, though, which makes him a bench stash at best.

Pace also handed an inexplicable contract to Jimmy Graham (38-447-3) after the veteran did little in two years with the Packers -- not to mention that Chicago had roughly 86 TEs already on roster. He isn't worth owning. Detroit finished last in pass defense last year, allowing 284.4 yards per game, and they replaced No. 1 CB Darius Slay with Desmond Trufant, which is likely a downgrade. This looks like advantage Chicago.

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

Running Game Thoughts: On paper, the combination of David Montgomery (1,074 total yards and 7 TDs as a rookie) and Tarik Cohen (669 yards, 2 TDs) offers a mix of power and speed. In practice, the duo underwhelmed last year, and Nagy did them no favors by rarely sticking with the run. Montomgery (groin) returned to practice on Thursday and looks like he’s going to suit up this weekend but temper your expectations. The Lions surrendered 115.9 yards per game last year and lost DTs A'Shawn Robinson and Snacks Harrison during the offseason.

Value Meter:
RB3: David Montgomery
RB3/Flex: Tarik Cohen (PPR only)
WR1/WR2: Allen Robinson
Bench: Mitchell Trubisky, Anthony Miller, Jimmy Graham

Passing Game Thoughts: Through eight games last season, Matthew Stafford was on pace to throw for 4,998 yards, 38 TDs and 10 INTs. We'll never know if he could've reached those lofty totals because a back injury ended his season in Week 9 -- the Lions went 0-8 without Stafford to finish 3-12-1, underscoring his importance -- though after starting every game for eight consecutive campaigns there's no reason to doubt Stafford's durability based on 2019.

Detroit features two dangerous receivers in Kenny Golladay (65-1,190-11) and Marvin Jones (62-779-9) along with reliable Danny Amendola (62-678-1). While the veterans are solid contributors, Golladay (hamstring) is an emerging star. He topped 100 yards four times during his eight games with Stafford and has top-10 upside at the position. Jones, now 30, has been banged up the past two seasons and may be on the downside; his YPR has slipped from 18.0 in 2017 to 12.6 last year. Amendola is a pure possession receiver.

Last year's first-round pick T.J. Hockenson caught six passes for 131 yards and a TD in Week 1. Over his next 11 games he combined for 26 receptions, 236 yards and one score before ending the year on IR with an ankle injury that is reportedly still giving him some trouble. He doesn't belong in lineups yet, but he's a nice stash piece. In 2019, the Bears finished ninth in passing yards allowed (222.1 per game).

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Year after year, the Lions promise to get their woeful running game fixed. Year after year, they fail. The team invested a second-round pick in 2018 on Kerryon Johnson. After he combined for 1,044 yards in two injury-marred seasons, the team turned around and spent another second-rounder on D'Andre Swift. While no one has seen Swift on an NFL field, the fact the Lions felt compelled to sign 35-year-old Adrian Peterson this week doesn't instill a lot of confidence in the short term. Against a top-10 run defense (102 yards/game) from 2019, Detroit could be stuck in neutral.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford
RB3: Kerryon Johnson
WR2: Kenny Golladay
WR3/Flex: Marvin Jones
Bench: T.J. Hockenson, D'Andre Swift, Danny Amendola (PPR only)

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 20 ^ Top

Colts @ Jaguars - (Swanson)
Line: IND -7.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: According to Sharp Football Stats, the Indianapolis Colts boast by far the easiest schedule of any team this season. With games against the Jags, Jets, and Bengals in three of their first five games, targeting players on the Colts is a smart option for owners looking to take advantage of a cake schedule in the first month of the season.

The Jags have sold away all of their talent on defense and project to be one of the worst, if not the worst defense in the league. The once-vaunted Jags defense that included Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye, and Yannick Ngakoue is now filled with young, unproven players, or veterans who are past their prime.

Conversely, the Colts boast the best offensive line in football, a savvy veteran QB in Philip Rivers who, despite being a statue, still has the physical tools to pick apart defenses, and a stout run game that boasts arguably the best rookie prospect at RB since Saquon Barkley.

From a fantasy perspective, Rivers ranks outside of the top 12 at the position but is someone who still has value in certain choice matchups like this week’s game against the Jags. He will not give you anything on the ground, and he will likely throw a pick or two. Still, with the weapons on the outside and the protection the line should give him, Rivers is a nice streaming option this week and a solid play in 2-QB leagues.

The matchup of Tre Herndon on T.Y. Hilton on the outside is one that the Colts will likely exploit. The Jags’ secondary ranks 28th out of 32 teams according to ProFootballFocus, and that was prior to starter Rashaan Melvin opting out of the season due to COVID-19. Herndon has just one and a half seasons under his belt, and rookie CJ Henderson will line up opposite on the outside. Look for Rivers to take advantage of Jacksonville’s inexperience outside with big plays to Hilton and rookie Michael Pittman Jr.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: The Colts selected running back Jonathan Taylor from the University of Wisconsin to eventually become the bellcow back. Marlon Mack is in the final year of his rookie contract and will not likely be resigned by the team, paving the way for Taylor to become the primary back on a team that plans on running the ball a ton in 2020.

It is not really a question of if Taylor will take over, but when. The positive game script that this matchup presents should be an excellent time for the team to give Taylor a ton of work to get acclimated. Mack will likely earn the start and is a viable flex option with the upside of scoring a rushing touchdown or two against a depleted Jags front seven. But Taylor is also a strong start should he also get around 15 carries.

The Colts are a far superior team and should beat the Jags in this matchup. Hopefully, head coach Frank Reich will use this time to get Taylor comfortable in the system while rewarding fantasy owners who used an early draft pick to select the talented rookie.

Value Meter:
QB2: Philip Rivers (High-End)
RB2: Jonathan Taylor (Low-End)
RB3: Marlon Mack (High-End)
WR2: T.Y. Hilton (Low-End)
WR3: Michael Pittman Jr. (Low-End)
WR4: Parris Campbell (High-End)
TE2: Jack Doyle (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Gardner Minshew is a younger version of Ryan Fitzpatrick, with a stronger arm and much better mobility. Like Fitzpatrick last season, Minshew knows he is playing on a bad team that will likely be one of the worst in the league with the inevitable early-round pick in next year’s draft.

Minshew knows that unless he does something impressive on the football field this season, he will likely be replaced with Trevor Lawrence next year. He also knows that he has a long leash because losing isn’t the worst thing in the world for a team like Jacksonville, which is in the midst of a full-bore rebuild.

For fantasy owners, the situation for Minshew and his receivers is golden. The team has a dreadful defense, and the offense will need to throw the ball a ton to win games. That equates to fantasy points galore, including the incredibly valuable garbage time points when the opposing defense has the game in hand.

A favorite breakout candidate for Minshew in the passing game is D.J. Chark, who averaged more fantasy points per game last year than Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, Tyler Lockett, Robert Woods, and Terry McLaurin.

The Colts have a solid young team, and their defense is improving, but they do come in with the 26th ranked secondary according to PFF.com, and can be beaten by big, fast receivers like Chark and Chris Conley.

Another player to monitor in this game is Tyler Eifert. Reports out of camp this summer continue to highlight a strong performance by the oft-injured former Bengal. He is too risky to start, but don’t be surprised if he is a popular waiver claim after this game should he and Minshew connect on a red zone TD.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game: The Jags reportedly tried to trade Leonard Fournette to everyone and everyone, only to come up with no takers. Instead, the team released the disappointing former LSU star who eventually signed with the Bucs.

The team is now left with a veteran pass-catching back in Chris Thompson, James Robinson, and Dare Ogunbowale. An injury to Ryquell Armstead will keep him out of the rotation for a while, leaving the first and second down work to Robinson and Thompson as the pass catcher.
The Colts boast one of the better run defenses in the league in 2019 and added to their front line with the trade for DeForest Buckner. Counting on a big game from Robinson this week is likely a risky play, making Thompson to player in this backfield if forced to choose.

Value Meter:
QB2: Gardner Minshew (High-End)
RB3: Chris Thompson (Low-End)
WR1: D.J. Chark (Low-End)
WR3: Chris Conley (Low-End)
WR5: Dede Westbrook (High-End)
TE2: Tyler Eifert (Low-End)

Prediction: Indianapolis 34, Jacksonville 21 ^ Top

Packers @ Vikings - (Green)
Line: MIN -3.0
Total: 46.0

Passing Game Thoughts: While Aaron Rodgers wasn't great last season, he still passed for 4,002 yards, 26 TDs and 4 INTs in his first year in Matt LaFleur's system. At 36, he has lost a step athletically, but he's still elusive enough to extend plays. Whispers out of Packers camp suggest that Rodgers rediscovered something watching old practice footage, and that the difference in his delivery was both immediate and noticeable. He only rates as a QB2 right now, but don't be too quick to dismiss his potential.

Despite the 2020 NFL Draft being regarded as rich in receiver talent, Green Bay didn't select one and once again enters the season with Davante Adams (83-997-5) as their only bona fide difference maker at the position. Despite his status as a top NFL WR, Adams only has one 1,000-yard campaign on his resume, due in large to minor injuries that seem to crop up annually. Still, when healthy he's a true WR1.

Beyond that, Allen Lazard (35-477-3) seems to have the best chance to take a step after emerging as the team's No. 2 receiver last year. He's worth stashing if you have the space on your bench, but he shouldn't be active as this time. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has good vertical speed and drew praise from AR during camp; he might be someone for your watch list. Minnesota was 15th against the pass (233.6 yards per game), but they've undergone so many personnel changes it's hard to know what we'll see from the Vikings, at least early on.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Aaron Jones emerged as a star under LaFleur, compiling 1,558 total yards and 19 TDs. He has a history of durability issues, though, and with talented backups Jamaal Williams (713 yards, 6 TDs) and A.J. Dillon, the Packers will try to keep Jones fresh in 2020. As such, he's better suited as an RB2. Jones torched the Vikings, who allowed 108 rushing yards per game, twice last year, and you can bet he'll be a focal point for Mike Zimmer's game plan.

Value Meter:
QB2: Aaron Rodgers
RB2: Aaron Jones
WR1: Davante Adams
Bench: Jamaal Williams, AJ Dillon, Allen Lazard

Passing Game Thoughts: Kirk Cousins saw his four-year streak of 4,000-yard seasons come to an end last year as he threw for 3,603 yards, 26 TDs and 6 INTs as part of a concerted effort to feature the running game -- Cousins' 444 attempts were 162 fewer than in his first year in Minnesota. He struggled in two losses to Green Bay, completing less than half of his passes and tossing three INTs. Both of his TDs against the Packers went to Stefon Diggs, who was traded to Buffalo in the offseason.

With Diggs gone, Adam Thielen (30-418-6) is the only sure thing associated with the Vikings' aerial attack from a fantasy perspective, and even he is coming off a season marred by injuries. Bisi Johnson (31-294-3) is the nominal No.2 wideout, but rookie Justin Jefferson is the one to watch. He's worth carrying on your bench while Thielen rates as a strong No.2 fantasy receiver for this Sunday.

Green Bay finished 14th against the pass last season, allowing 232.6 yards per game, and they plan tons of nickel and dime packages. The Packers return their top four defensive backs along with the pass-rushing trio of Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith and Kenny Clark. This looks like a tough matchup for the Vikings.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: Look for Minnesota's offense to flow through Dalvin Cook (250-1,135-13), who ran for a season-high 154 yards on 20 carries against Green Bay in Week 2 last season. The Packers finished 23rd in run defense last year and, as anyone that saw the NFC Championship Game can attest, are vulnerable in that area. Cook is a strong No. 1 fantasy back this week, and backup Alexander Mattison is a smart player to have on standby for Cook owners.

Value Meter:
RB1: Dalvin Cook
WR2: Adam Thielen
Bench: Kirk Cousins, Alexander Mattison, Justin Jefferson, Irv Smith

Prediction: Packers 23, Vikings 16 ^ Top

Dolphins at Patriots - (Katz)
Line: NE -6.5
Total: 42.0

Passing Game Thoughts: The last time we saw the Dolphins play was on the road in New England ruining Tom Brady’s aspirations for a first round bye. The Dolphins start the 2020 season in the same place they ended the 2019 season, but face a much different Patriots team. Ryan Fitzpatrick remains the starter, but is not a Week 1 fantasy option. Fitzpatrick threw for just 409 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions in his two starts against the Patriots last season.

While Fitzpatrick is off the radar, both DeVante Parker and Preston Williams are in play. Negative game script should keep the gunslinger throwing and there’s not much out there to throw to besides Parker and Preston. Prior to tearing his ACL last season, Preston was averaged 7.5 targets a game. After Preston went down, Parker completely took over, finishing as the overall WR2 the rest of the season. With only Mike Gesicki as the other relevant receiving option, Fitzpatrick’s targets should consolidate mostly to his top two receivers and tight end. The Patriots were the second best pass defense last season so this certainly isn’t a favorable spot, but in Week 1, lineup decisions should be made based more on player than opponent.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: After shipping Kenyan Drake to Arizona, the Dolphins were rolling with a backfield of Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin. They made it a point to address the position this offseason by acquiring Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. These two form a perfect committee with Howard being the between the tackles bruiser and goal line back while Breida should operate as the receiving and two minute drill back.

Predicting game script is something we have to do despite it being an inexact science and it is paramount for the Dolphins as it will mostly determine whether it’s a “Howard game” or “Breida game.” On the road as touchdown underdogs, this shapes up more like a Breida game. Howard is always a threat to fall into the end zone so don’t assume this means to automatically bench him, but if I had to guess, Breida out-snaps Howard in this one.

Value Meter:
WR3: DeVante Parker
TE1: Mike Gesicki (low end)
Flex: Preston Williams, Matt Breida, Jordan Howard
Bench: Ryan Fitzpatrick

Passing Game Thoughts: If you told me when I last wrote about the Patriots that the next time I wrote about them, I’d be talking about Cam Newton as their quarterback, I’d have said you’re crazy. With a full year to recover from a medley of injuries, Newton is fully healthy and hoping for a bounce back campaign. While I’ve been more than willing to roll the dice on Newton, we mustn’t forget how bad he was the last time we saw him. Newton completed just 56% of his passes and didn’t record a single touchdown in his two 2019 starts. However, in 2018, the last time Newton was remotely healthy, he posted an 11-week stretch of multi-touchdown games. We know what he’s capable of and a home contest against a weak Dolphins defense is the perfect way to start the season.

It remains to be seen how much Newton will run, which brings us to what he can do with his arm. Newton will be throwing to Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and apparently, Damiere Byrd. Newton is not Brady so it’ll be interesting to see how Edelman fares without the pinpoint precision of Brady. Harry was mostly a zero his rookie season while Byrd was toiling away as a rotational WR3/4 in Arizona. With no tight end of consequence, Newton could end up checking it down to James White a bunch. Or, he could just run. Predicting what this Patriots offense will look like in the post Tom Brady era is difficult. I wish I had something better for you, but we just have to wait and see.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: The most confident thing in this game for me is James White. With Damien Harris on short-term IR and Sony Michel one of the worst running backs in the NFL, White should lead this backfield in snaps and touches, even if game script favors the Patriots. Michel could end up being out there to burn the clock in the fourth quarter, but as the Patriots build up a lead, White should be a big part of it. It wouldn’t shock me if White handled 6-8 carries while seeing 6-8 targets. The matchup is also great for Michel, but no running back enjoyed more favorable conditions than Michel last year and we all know how that went. It’s White or bust for me here.

Value Meter:
QB1: Cam Newton (low end)
RB2: James White (mid-range)
WR3: Julian Edelman
Bench: Sony Michel, NíKeal Harry

Prediction: Patriots 23, Dolphins 20 ^ Top

Eagles at Washington - (Katz)
Line: PHI -6.0
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: One of the biggest issues impacted the Eagles passing game in 2019 was its inability to stay healthy. The Eagles rightfully addressed their wide receiver situation in a big way heading into 2020. They signed Marquise Goodwin and drafted Jalen Reagor in the first round. Well, it’s “déjà vu all over again” as Goodwin opted out and Reagor sustained a slight tear in his labrum that he is expected to play through to the best of his ability. Reagor was expected to miss the first few weeks, but he’s been practicing so we can’t rule him out just yet. If he does play, with Alshon Jeffery still recovering from offseason surgery, Reagor will start opposite 34 year-old DeSean Jackson with UDFA street signee Greg Ward in the slot.

Regardless of Reagor’s status, expect to see the Eagles in a fair amount of 12 and perhaps even 22 personnel in an effort to get their best players on the field. If Reagor doesn’t play, when the Eagles move to three receiver sets, it appears as though JJ Arcega-Whiteside will get first crack at the starting job.

We’ve seen Jackson torch the Football Team in the past. He was healthy for exactly one game in 2019 and he posted 8-154-2 on the Football Team. He may be old, but he can still get behind a secondary. Jackson is very much in play this week and every week for as long as he stays healthy. Ward is nothing more than a deep league floor play.

The target leader for the Eagles should be Zach Ertz, who always benefits from everyone dropping around him. Ertz is just a generic TE1 when everyone is heathy, but he becomes a target vacuum when he’s the only game in town. Ertz failed to reach double-digit targets over the first half of the 2019 season. After the Eagles lost pretty much their entire receiving corps, Ertz hit double-digits in five of his final seven games.

Both Ertz and Dallas Goedert are startable in Week 1. Goedert played at least 70% of the snaps in 11 games last season. Even though Ertz is obviously ahead of him, the Eagles know to get their playmakers on the field. Goedert is a huge red zone target, which is what you want when starting one of the back end TE1s that are basically touchdown or bust. Despite the injuries, Carson Wentz proved last season he can battle through them and still be a QB1. Wentz played his best football Weeks 13-16 last season while dealing with the crusty remains of his pass catchers. Wentz is an every week fantasy option.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Doug Pederson has always used a committee at running back. That’s narrative street talking. If we look at talent, we know that Miles Sanders is the most talented running back the team has had since LeSean McCoy (really DeMarco Murray, but they used him improperly so his talent was rendered irrelevant). With that being said, Sanders is not a special talent, he’s just the best the Eagles have had. He’s certainly above replacement level and has proven capable of putting up big numbers when given volume. Boston Scott has also proven the same thing. With that being said, it looks like Sanders is poised to see at least a 60% opportunity share, which makes him a firm RB1. With the Eagles as road favorites against a team that gave up nearly 150 rushing yards per game last season, Sanders is a smash this week. Scott is someone that should be rostered, but best left on benches while we see how much he’s used.

Value Meter:
QB1: Carson Wentz (mid-range)
RB1: Miles Sanders (mid-range)
WR2: DeSean Jackson (mid-range)
Flex: Jalen Reagor (if he plays)
TE1: Zach Ertz (high end)
TE1: Dallas Goedert (low end)
Bench: Boston Scott, Greg Ward

Passing Game Thoughts: I would be genuinely shocked if Dwayne Haskins started all 16 games this season. However, he’s the guy for Week 1. Haskins’ touchdown rate matched his interception rate last season at 3.4%, which is never what you want to see. In seven starts and nine total appearances, Haskins managed just seven touchdowns and his completion percentage was sub 60%.

Terry McLaurin is a popular breakout candidate this season and while I like his talent, I worry about what we saw last season with Haskins. Haskins became the full time starter in Week 9 and led McLaurin to five straight WR3 or worse outings. For McLaurin to live up to his fourth/fifth round ADP, he’s going to need Haskins to improve. Two of McLaurin’s three 20-point efforts last season were against the Eagles. In what should be a high scoring affair, even with Haskins, McLaurin is a strong play this week.

Starting alongside McLaurin appears to be Steven Sims, who closed 2019 on a tear with 15.5, 25.3, and 18.5 fantasy points. You should have no need to start Sims this week, but he’s a name to keep an eye on. One more guy to watch for is Logan Thomas, the converted quarterback that has the best shot at being this year’s Darren Waller. Again, not a starting option, but something to monitor.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: After rightfully releasing Adrian Peterson, the Football Team enters the season with rookie Antonio Gibson as their presumed RB1. Gibson is athletic, but he also only has 33 career carries. Expecting him to be a three down back is unrealistic. Gibson will cede passing game work to J.D. McKissic and share early down work with either Bryce Love or Peyton Barber (one of them will likely be inactive). The Eagles were a pass funnel defense last season, struggling against the past, but excellent against the run, allowing just 90 rushing yards per game. In a high scoring affair, this game should see more passing resulting in more McKissic on the field. You’re not starting or even rostering McKissic, but it’s important to temper expectations for Gibson in his first career game. I would avoid everyone in this backfield for now.

Value Meter:
WR2: Terry McLaurin (low end)
Flex: Antonio Gibson
Bench: Dwayne Haskins, Steven Sims, Bryce Love, J.D. McKissic, Logan Thomas

Prediction: Eagles 34, Washington 26 ^ Top

Chargers @ Bengals - (Green)
Line: LAC -3.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: For the first time since 2005, someone other than Philip Rivers will be the starting quarterback for the Chargers. For now, that's Tyrod Taylor, who has suited up for four teams in nine NFL seasons. He spent three years as Buffalo's starter and was essentially a poor man's Lamar Jackson, averaging 465 yards rushing and 2,952 yards passing during that time. He's likely just keeping the position warm for first-round pick Justin Herbert, but while Taylor is in the lineup he holds sneaky dual-threat value as a legitimate QB2.

Injuries were a concern early in Keenan Allen's career, but after not missing a game in any of the past three seasons it's probably time to move on from that narrative. The Cal product is one of the NFL's elite route runners, though the move from Rivers to Taylor makes him more of a WR2 for now. His running mate Mike Williams (shoulder) is banged up again amid conflicting reports about his availability for Week 1. Expect him to sit out and have other options at the ready.

Hunter Henry has the talent to be a top-five tight end, but injuries have limited him to 41 of a possible 64 games in his career. He should make a nice target for the risk-averse Taylor and is a midrange TE1. The Bengals finished 2019 ranked 21st against the pass, allowing 244.8 yards per game through the air, and they'll be without prized free-agent signing Trae Waynes (pec), who is out with a torn pec.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: With Melvin Gordon gone following the NFL's least successful holdout last year, Austin Ekeler is now the top back. How they manage the 5-foot-10, 200-pound back's usage will be interesting after he logged 224 total touches for 1,550 yards and 11 TDs in 2019. He's not a traditional lead back, but he still carries RB1 value with Justin Jackson waiting in the wings as an intriguing bench stash. Cincy was dead last against the run last season, allowing 148.9 yards per game.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tyrod Taylor
RB1: Austin Ekeler
WR2: Keenan Allen
TE1: Hunter Henry
Bench: Justin Jackson, Mike Williams (shoulder)

Passing Game Thoughts: Easily one of the most intriguing storylines of the NFL's opening weekend is Joe Burrow, the No.1 overall pick that is set to take the field without a single preseason snap under his belt. He posted obscene numbers at LSU, but that's a far cry from lining up against Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Burrow has enough upside to carry as a third QB if you have roster space. For now, though, he can't be started given the level of uncertainty.

At least there's some talent on the outside for Burrow with former 1,000-yard receivers A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd (90-1,046-5). Green hasn't taken a snap since December 2, 2018, due to injuries, and at 32 it'll be interesting to see how much he still has left. Boyd has served as the de facto No.1 receiver the past two years, but now he needs to mesh with Green while catching balls from a rookie. Both players are low-end No. 3 fantasy receivers for Sunday.

LA finished fifth in pass defense in 2019 (200.3 yards per game), and they have the pass rush and talent at corner with Casey Hayward and Chris Harris to make Burrow's debut a nightmare. Granted, the loss of Derwin James (knee) is a blow, but bear in mind they played much of last season without him.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Joe Mixon (278-1,137-5) is by far the best fantasy option in the Queen City right now, even taking into account that defenses will load up to stop him and put the ball in Burrow's hands. Some may still remember Giovani Bernard's name from his days as the lightning to Jeremy Hill's thunder, but he's nothing more than an afterthought now. Look for Cincy to feed Mixon against a group that gave up 112.8 yards per game on the ground last year.

Value Meter:
RB2: Joe Mixon
WR3/Flex: A.J. Green
WR3/Flex: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Joe Burrow

Prediction: Chargers 24, Bengals 10 ^ Top

Buccaneers @ Saints - (Swanson)
Line: NO -3.5
Total: 49.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Tom Brady era of Tampa Bay Bucs football kicks off with a divisional tilt against fellow future first-ballot hall of fame QB Drew Brees and the Saints. As Brady enters his 20th season in the NFL, he arguably has the best complete surrounding skill position cast of his storied career. Sure, Brady had Randy Moss for his then-record setting TD season, but with Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, TE trio of Gronk, Howard, and Cameron Brate, and an RB stable that includes Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, Brady has weapons at all positions and should have a monster season at age 43.

The Saints gave up the 10th most points per game to opposing quarterbacks in 2019, with eight opposing QBs posting at least 20 fantasy points. Considering the Bucs gave up the 8th most and did not make significant changes to their defense, Brady and the offense will likely need to throw early and often to win this matchup.

Both of these teams ranked in the top 5 in points per game last season, and Vegas has an implied total of 59 points scored in what projects to be a high scoring matchup.

You are going to want to start all of the main receiving options for Brady, including Godwin but an injury that needs to be monitored is Mike Evans, who missed practice Thursday with what the team has described as a hamstring injury. He’s likely a gametime decision so monitor injury reports over the weekend. Marshon Lattimore has found some success against Evans in the past. Evans failed to log a catch against Lattimore in Week 5 last season, effectively killing any chance for Evans owners to win their respective matchup..

The Saints finished 12th in points allowed to outside receivers but finished second to last in point allowed to wideouts from the slot. If Godwin lines up in the slot for a large part of this game, he could be in line for a monster performance.

We don’t know how the snaps at tight end will break down for the Bucs, making Gronk and Howard somewhat risky plays at the start of the season. If you have a better option, it might make sense to wait and see how head coach Bruce Arians plans to use his depth at the position.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: All summer, the fantasy community heard nothing but praise for Ronald Jones from the Bucs camp. Jones put on weight and looks more powerful. Jones has been working on his receiving and pass protection. Jones should be the primary guy in the backfield, and Arians loves him.

The buzz propelled Jones into the fourth or fifth round in drafts and made the former USC Trojan a favorite breakout candidate.

Then, the Jags released Leonard Fournette, and the Bucs signed him to their roster, crushing the collective soul of Jones truthers everywhere.

Jones still projects to be the primary back, but reports surfaced today that Fournette will also have a “significant role.” To make matters worse, the Bucs also have veteran LeSean McCoy on the 53-man roster, ready to pilfer touches from both players.

We may have no idea how the work will be handled in the backfield. But we do know that the Saints have a solid run defense that gave up the fourth-fewest points to running backs last season, behind only the 49ers, Bucs, and Patriots.

This is not a great matchup for any of the backs, but if forced to choose one, I would go with Jones and pray he does not blow a pass protection assignment or get brick hands.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady Low-End)
RB2: Ronald Jones (Low-End)
RB3: Leonard Fournette (High-End)
WR1: Chris Godwin (Low-End)
WR2: Mike Evans (inj)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (Low -End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Drew Brees is the other quarterback in this matchup that features two geriatric QBs with a combined age of 84 years. Although I kid about the fact that both players are just a few years away from joining AARP, this game projects to be a high scoring affair with a ton of fantasy points scored on both sides.

Nearly 80% of the yardage gained against the Bucs last season came in the passing game. Five different QBs topped 30 fantasy points against Tampa in 2019, including 39 points by Daniel Jones and the Giants Week 3.

Brees himself posted a solid 228 passing yards and three touchdowns in an easy 34-17 win against the Bucs at the Super Dome last year.

The Bucs did get better in their secondary in the second half of the season with young corners Jamel Dean and Calton Davis combining for 18 pass breakups. Joining them is another young defensive back Sean Murphy-Bunting, a second-year player from Central Michigan.


Tampa Bay is young in the secondary and getting better, but this matchup against Brees, Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jared Cook is going to be a big task to open the season.

Of course, you are starting Michael Thomas, the top WR taken in drafts who is a must-start each week regardless of opponent.

The matchup to watch will be Emmanuel Sanders opposite of Thomas. Sanders gives Brees a veteran option he has not had in tandem with Thomas and could be a big performer with the Bucs focusing on Thomas.

Jared Cook scored a touchdown in each of his two games against the Bucs last season. If he doesn’t score a TD, his low volume will be a killer, but history has shown he has a high probability to score against TB.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: Contract talks are still up in the air, and a reported epidural for a back issue continues to linger for Alvin Kamara owners. The good news is Kamara is practicing and active for this week’s matchup against the Bucs, in what should be a high scoring game between two of the league’s best offenses.

Kamara posted 23 touches, including a whopping 10 catches against the Bucs when the two teams faced off last year. Although he failed to reach the end zone, he did post over 100 total yards.

The matchup of Kamara against linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White will be a fun matchup to watch, as David is one of the best cover linebackers in the league. The Bucs rank 3rd in the league at the linebacker position according to PFF.com, trailing only the Seahawks and Cowboys.

Only the Patriots allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs in 2019, and Tampa Bay was the only team to limit opposing RBs to fewer than 1000 rushing yards.

Value Meter:
QB1: Drew Brees (Low-End)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (Low-End)
RB3: Latavius Murray (High-End)
WR1: Michael Thomas (Elite)
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders (Low-End)
TE1: Jared Cook (Low -End)

Prediction: Saints 34, Bucs 28 ^ Top

Cardinals vs 49ers - (Caron)
Line: SF -7.0
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: One of the league’s most-improved offenses from 2018 to 2019 could again be better this season as the Cardinals invested heavily in their passing game by adding star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The already-crowded wide receiver room gets even deeper, which only serves to help the fantasy prospects of reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray. Coached by Kliff Kingsbury, the Cardinals are known for being one of the fastest-paced systems in the league and it could become even quicker now that the majority of the players are heading into their second season within the offense.

Murray himself was a quality fantasy QB1 as a rookie and things should be even better for him now that he has a true standout WR1 to throw the ball to. A matchup against a very good San Francisco defense could give fantasy owners some pause for DFS purposes, but he’s an unquestioned top-12 option on a weekly basis, even in difficult matchups. The same applies for Hopkins, who has been one of the league’s most consistent pass catchers. Wide receivers entering new offenses often need some time to become fully acclimated, but Hopkins’ floor, even as a new player in the Arizona offense, should still make him at least a low-end WR1.

Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald remains one of the league’s best pure pass catchers out of the slot, but his fantasy outlook remains relatively minimalized, especially now that he could be as low as the third-most-targeted player in the Cardinals offense.
Christian Kirk is bordering on the PPR WR3 territory in most matchups, but it’s worth noting that he was not successful against the 49ers defense in 2019. He was targeted a total of 14 times in the two contests he played against them, but caught just eight of those passes for 49 yard and no touchdowns. San Francisco’s defense is quite strong overall and Kirk should probably be on most benches in this one.

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

Running Game Thoughts: With David Johnson now gone, the Cardinals have seemingly embraced running back Kenyan Drake, who they acquired midway through the 2019 season. Drake came over from the Dolphins after Arizona suffered numerous injuries in their backfield and he immediately stepped in to become one of the best fantasy assets down the stretch.

Drake hasn’t been a full-time bellcow back yet during his NFL career, but his skill set would certainly indicate that he has the ability to be an every-down back. He’s a solid runner with great speed, but perhaps most importantly for fantasy purposes is that he is a quality pass catcher out of the backfield.

This isn’t a great matchup given that the 49ers defense is widely believed to be one of the best in the league, but don’t let that worry you too much. There are some great fantasy options on the board this weekend which does push Drake a little further down the rankings than he’ll usually be found. Still, Drake showed that he is still a fantasy asset worthy of being a high-end RB2 even against this defense, when he rushed for a total of 177 yards with a touchdown while adding a total of 65 receiving yards on 10 catches against the 49ers in the two games he played against them in 2019.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray
RB2: Kenyan Drake
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins
Bench: Chase Edmonds, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella

Passing Game Thoughts: The defending NFC Conference Champion San Francisco 49ers have an excellent Week 1 matchup against an Cardinals defense that they absolutely torched in 2019. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had two of his three best fantasy games of the 2019 season against this Arizona defense, which really hasn’t seen much improvement over the offseason. Garoppolo threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns in each of the two games he played against the Cardinals a season ago and he might be being underrated by some fantasy analysts. The truth is that, even with a banged up wide receiver group, the 49ers passing game is in a great spot to produce big numbers here in Week 1.

It’s tough to know exactly which wide receiver will be Garoppolo’s favorite to start the season with Deebo Samuel looking unlikely to play, but veteran Kendrick Bourne seems like the best bet to contribute immediately. Bourne actually scored in both of the games he played against the Cardinals in 2019 and while he doesn’t have the highest ceiling, he may be the most reliable option. Rookie wide receiver Brandin Aiyuk is seemingly the most talented option but this will be his debut game after a shortened offseason, so it’s probably best to keep him on your bench in this one.

The wide receiver group is a big question mark right now but what remains an easy decision is putting George Kittle in your lineup as an elite fantasy tight end. Kittle should be the top fantasy tight end on the board this week as he’ll be against a Cardinals defense that has been comically bad against opposing tight ends in recent seasons. Kittle himself scored in the one game he played against the Cardinals in 2019 and there’s a very good chance that he’ll get into the end zone again here to start the season.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Running back Raheem Mostert really excelled down the stretch for the 49ers during their playoff run in 2019, which has led to him being by far the highest-drafted running back in the 49ers backfield. It’s easy to look at what Mostert did and say that he’ll be the bell cow in San Francisco, but the truth is that we just don’t know if that will be true. The 49ers have been known to rotate their backs to keep everyone fresh throughout Kyle Shannahan’s time in San Francisco and there’s a real chance that they do that again to start the 2020 season. Tevin Coleman and even Jerick McKinnon are now both healthy heading into the season and they were both ahead of Mostert prior to getting hurt, so be careful with trusting Mostert too much until we see exactly how things play out in this backfield. The Cardinals defense is not very strong so Mostert can still be worked into your lineup as an RB2, but understand that this might not be as clear of a backfield as it appears to be on paper.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jimmy Garoppolo
RB2: Raheem Mostert
TE1: George Kittle
Flex: Kendrick Bourne (low-end)
Bench: Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Brandon Aiyuk

Prediction: 49ers 28, Cardinals 20 ^ Top

Cowboys vs Rams - (Caron)
Line: DAL -2.5
Total: 52.0

Passing Game Thoughts: It went a little under-reported given the successes of the offenses in Kansas City, Baltimore and San Francisco this past season, but no offense moved the ball for more yardage than the Dallas Cowboys did in 2019. While much of that can be attributed to Ezekiel Elliott and the running game, the truth is that Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing game took a big step forward this past season. They doubled down on those successes over the offseason when they added one of the top pass catchers in the NFL Draft, CeeDee Lamb, with their first round NFL Draft pick. Prescott now leads one of the NFL’s most-stacked offenses from a skill position standpoint, which should continue to make him a must-start in practically any matchup.

Prescott will face a Rams defense that was good against opposing passing games in 2019. The most concerning situation for the Cowboys has to be that wide receiver Amari Cooper is banged up a bit heading into Week 1 and he’ll likely see plenty of attention from star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. It’s tough to bench a player like Cooper, but calling him a WR1 in this game would seem to be pretty ambitious.

While Cooper’s ranking should be lowered this week, look for fellow wide receiver Michael Gallup and perhaps tight end Blake Jarwin to see more targets than usual. Gallup broke out in his sophomore season, going over 1,100 receiving yards at age 23 and he appears to be in a good position to replicate or even improve upon those numbers here in 2020. Drop Gallup in your lineup as a high-end WR3 or even a low-level WR2 this week.

Meanwhile, Jarwin was stuck behind future Hall of Famer Jason Witten in 2019 and should finally have an opportunity to show off what he can do now that Witten is with the Raiders. There’s certainly a possibility that Jarwin never does much, but the opportunity is there, especially in a matchup like this when Prescott’s top option is likely to be locked up throughout the game.

Lamb is a player who fantasy owners could consider dropping into their lineups in deep leagues, but remember that we’ve had a shortened offseason and Lamb is unlikely to get a full snap share here in Week 1.

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

Running Game Thoughts: Few running backs in recent history offer more consistency than Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott has been an elite fantasy option every year that he’s been in the league and there’s no reason to believe that things will change much here in 2020. Sure, the Cowboys look like they might pass more this season than they have throughout Elliott’s career, but that might not be as bad for Zeke as it would seem. A more productive passing game would theoretically lead to more red zone opportunities for Elliott, who scored just six rushing touchdowns in 2019 after scoring 12 times on the ground in 2018.

One concern for Elliott owners is that former all-pro center Travis Frederick did retire this offseason, so he might find it a bit more difficult to find space between the tackles. Nevertheless, Elliott remains an elite RB1 in just about any matchup.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott
WR2: Amari Cooper
WR3: Michael Gallup
TE1: Blake Jarwin (low-end)
Bench: Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams offense took a big step back this past season, both in yardage and points, from where they were in 2018. Much of that can be attributed to the health problems the team had, but it could also be true that NFL defenses are starting to “figure out” this Sean McVay offense. Now without Brandin Cooks, the Rams offense would seem to be even less explosive than it was in 2019.

Of course, it’s worth considering that even a “down” season for the Rams offense still meant that they were a top-10 overall offense. Quarterback Jared Goff had a lower than expected touchdown rate and should be in line for a bit of positive regression in that area, so don’t be surprised if he tosses two or three touchdowns as early as Week 1 against the Cowboys. Dallas lost star cornerback Byron Jones over the offseason and now they have a very inexperienced, not particularly talented secondary that is certainly exploitable. It’s tough to put Goff as a QB1 given the number of great options on the board, but Goff is someone who could be considered a streaming option and he’s certainly worthy of starting in a two-QB/Superflex league.

Wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are one of the better duos in football, so feel free to deploy them in your lineup as strong WR2 options, especially against this weak Cowboys secondary. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and even Gerald Everett may be sleeper options here in Week 1 as the Cowboys were one of just three teams who gave up over 1,000 receiving yards to opposing tight ends in 2019, and they really haven’t done much to improve that deficiency throughout the offseason.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: The Rams let veteran Todd Gurley walk this offseason, which has led to an extremely confusing backfield situation. The team drafted rookie running back Cam Akers, but they also invested in Darrell Henderson in the draft in 2019. Even given that injection of talented youth, however, many expect that it’ll actually be veteran Malcolm Brown who sees the most work here in Week 1. Brown has been given opportunities before and he’s never been particularly productive, but he is a player who the coaching staff has expressed confidence in.

The lack of clarity in this backfield should give pause to anyone who is considering starting one of these backs. Henderson is banged up, so it’s unlikely that he sees significant playing time if he even gets on the field at all, but the fact that all three could see playing time is very concerning.

Akers likely has the highest upside of the bunch so he’s the player who should be given an opportunity to be in your Flex position if you’re going to take a chance on any of these players, but it’s probably wise to bench them all, for now, until we see exactly how this backfield situation plays out on the field.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jared Goff
WR2: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp
Flex: Cam Akers
TE1: Tyler Higbee
Bench: Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, Van Jefferson, Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett

Prediction: Cowboys 27, Rams 24 ^ Top

Steelers at Giants - (Katz)
Line: PIT -6.0
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s been nearly a full 365 days since we last saw Ben Roethilsberger throw a pass. The Steelers experienced some of the worst quarterback play in NFL history last season from Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges so it will be a welcome sight to see Big Ben return. The spot is great on the road against a below average Giants defense that could just be flat out bad.

We’re still not sure what to make of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Is he a true WR1 or did he just benefit from Antonio Brown being on the other side? We will find out soon enough. Regardless, both JuJu and Diontae Johnson are quality starts as the clear top two targets for Roethilsberger. Johnson led all rookie wide receivers in receptions last season and led the NFL in target separation. JuJu played poorly, but was also hurt and victimized by dreadful QB play. Do not fade him in Week 1. James Washington has the edge on rookie Chase Claypool for the third receiver spot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they split snaps out of the gate. Washington has splash play upside, but is not a fantasy option outside of the deepest of leagues. The Steelers brought in Eric Ebron at tight end. He could be a red zone target, but is not someone I’m overly optimistic about.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Mike Tomlin is committed to James Conner as his three-down back and I believe him. Conner is not a special talent by any means, but he’s already proven that he’s capable of producing in favorable conditions when given volume. For as long he remains healthy, he should have favorable conditions, assuming Big Ben isn’t done. Conner is a huge injury risk, but he’s healthy entering Week 1 and is in a smash spot with the Steelers installed as touchdown favorites on the road against the Giants. The primary backup job appears to have been won by Benny Snell, but he’s just a bench stash with no value unless Conner gets hurt.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ben Roethlisberger (low end)
RB1: James Conner (low end)
WR2: JuJu Smith-Schuster (mid-range)
WR3: Diontae Johnson
Bench: Eric Ebron, Benny Snell, James Washington

Passing Game Thoughts: Daniel Jones took the boom/bust moniker and turned up to 100 last season. Jones finished as the QB3 or better four times as a rookie. He also finished as the QB16 or worse seven times. Jones torched weak defenses and was completely stymied by tough defenses and the Steelers have arguably the league’s best defense. Jones is a fade and he’s probably going to take his receivers down with him.

Evan Engram should be his primary target and Engram is a top five option for as long as he stays healthy. He is always a mismatch for linebackers. At WR, the Giants are deploying a bunch of WR2s in Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton. All of them will have their weeks but none of them is clearly superior to the other. I like Shepard the most, but it’s marginal. In a game where Jones should struggle, it’s best to avoid all non-Engram pass catchers.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Even though the matchup is bad for Saquon Barkley, you don’t need anyone to tell you to always start Saquon Barkley. The freak talent is going to produce on volume alone and there’s always the possibility that he busts off a huge gain. Barkley could see a significant target share as well with Jones likely under constant pressure and struggling to find receivers open downfield. The touchdown upside is not necessarily there in this one, but Barkley will find a way to be productive.

Value Meter:
RB1: Saquon Barkley (low end)
TE1: Evan Engram (mid-range)
Bench: Daniel Jones, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton

Prediction: Steelers 27, Giants 17 ^ Top

Titans vs Broncos - (Caron)
Line: TEN -2.0
Total: 41.0

Passing Game Thoughts: There’s practically no way that the Titans passing game could be anywhere near as efficient as it was throughout the second half of the 2020 season when Ryan Tannehill took over the starting job and led the team on a deep playoff run.

Nevertheless, even a downtick in efficiency could be made up for with simply more volume here in 2020, and that seems fairly likely given the breakout from wide receiver A.J. Brown. Brown was one of the league’s most productive receivers in the league on a per-target basis as a rookie, contributing particularly impressive numbers after the catch, and it would make sense that the Titans lean a bit more on Brown here in 2020.

Unfortunately, former early-first round draft pick Corey Davis simply hasn’t enjoyed the same type of breakout that Brown did, and that leaves the Titans without a locked in secondary option in the passing game. The player who looks most likely to step into that role, if anyone’s going to do it, is actually tight end Jonnu Smith. Smith, who hasn’t yet reached 500 receiving yards in a season, has been one of the fantasy football darlings at the tight end position throughout the fantasy draft season. He’s shown flashes of big time playmaking ability and his opportunity has arrived now that Delanie Walker is no longer on the team. Smith isn’t much more than a high-upside, low-floor option at the moment, but he’s a player who could break out as early as Week 1.

One other thing to consider in this game is that superstar pass rusher Von Miller will be out this season for the Broncos, which should give Tannehill and the passing game a bit more time than they would otherwise have against this defense.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: We’ve always known that Derrick Henry had elite level physical talent, but it took a few years before he finally showed what he can do when he was given a full workload in 2019. Henry led the league in rushing yards while scoring a total of 18 touchdowns as the Titans really relied on him heavily down the stretch.

Look for more of that to happen this season, even right away here in Week 1 as the Titans head to Denver to face the Broncos. Denver was a top-10 defense against the run a season ago, but the loss of Von Miller won’t help anything. Not only that, but the Titans would likely lean heavily on Henry even if the Broncos were the best run defense in the league -- that’s just the Titans way of offense right now. Henry is a locked-in RB1 in any matchup for the time being.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ryan Tannehill
RB1: Derrick Henry
WR2: A.J. Brown
TE1: Jonnu Smith (low-end)
Bench: Darrynton Evans, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries

Passing Game Thoughts: The Broncos avoided a potentially gigantic setback this week when third-year wide receiver Courtland Sutton suffered a shoulder injury in practice. There was some concern that the injury was something more major, but it ended up being an AC joint sprain, which leaves him day-to-day and questionable for this weekend’s game against the Titans. Sutton was already only a low-end WR2 even if he was healthy, but the lack of clarity on the injury has pushed him down to being more of a Flex option in this game.

If we get word that Sutton will be out, look for rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to immediately rise up the depth chart and assume the WR1 role in his first NFL game. Jeudy is a superstar talent who many believed to be the best pass catcher in April’s NFL Draft, so it’s not as if he’s incapable of stepping right in and being a quality fantasy option. Of course, if Sutton does play and appears to be healthy, Jeudy is more of a low-end flex option for the time being, but keep an eye on this situation as he could elevate all the way up to being a low-end WR2 if Sutton is out.

The other player who would likely benefit significantly if Sutton is unable to suit up is tight end Noah Fant. Fant broke out as a rookie this past season and has risen up draft boards throughout the offseason as it became increasingly apparent that the Broncos offense could take a step forward this season. Fant isn’t much more than a low-end TE1 with upside, but that’s better than many tight ends.

Quarterback Drew Lock was a favorite by some to be a breakout performer in 2020, but the Titans aren’t a particularly exploitable defense, so it’s probably wise to keep him on your bench in this one, especially if he’s going to be without Sutton.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: One of the major fantasy football moves this offseason was that Melvin Gordon left the Chargers, moving on to join the divisional rival Broncos. While it’s true that the Broncos had a fairly talented backfield already with Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman on the roster, neither player had given the Broncos much in the passing game throughout their young careers, and that’s something that Godron has been excellent at.
Certainly Gordon won’t just step in and become the immediate every down back, but it does seem probable that he’s going to lead the Broncos in carries while also being the team’s primary pass catching weapon out of the backfield. That should be good enough to make him a reliable fantasy RB2 in most matchups.

The Titans defense was only middle-of-the-pack against the run in 2019, but they did make a big acquisition this week when they signed star defensive lineman Jadaveon Clowney. Many know Clowney for being an athletic freak, which would seem to indicate that he’s a great pass rusher, but his best attribute is actually his ability to play against the run. Few are better at containing the edge and exploding to make plays on running backs than Clowney is.

Still, even with the improved Tennessee defense, Gordon should still be in most fantasy lineups as a low-end RB2 or a Flex. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman should stay on your bench for now, at least until we see how the Broncos choose to break up the touches in this backfield.

Value Meter:
RB2: Melvin Gordon
WR3/Flex: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy
TE1: Noah Fant (low-end)
Bench: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman

Prediction: Titans 20, Broncos 17 ^ Top