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Inside the Matchup

Week 1

By: Andy Swanson | Jason Katz | Nick Caron | HC Green



Sunday Early:



Sunday Late:

MIA @ NE | DEN @ NYG | GB @ NO | CLE @ KC | CHI @ LAR



- Green highllight indicates plus matchup (top eight): begins Week 2
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight): begins Week 2

Cowboys @ Buccaneers - (Swanson)
Line: TB -8.0
Total: 52.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Dak Prescott will take the field for the first time since suffering a gruesome leg injury Week 5 against the Giants. Prior to sustaining a broken leg, Dak was on pace for a career year in fantasy points scored, with two 400-yard games and a 500-yard performance in a shootout against the Cleveland Browns in Week 4.

Dak’s 27.5 points per game in FFToday Half-PPR was better than Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes, and even 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers.

A big reason the Cowboys and Dak put up gaudy offensive numbers was out of sheer necessity, as the Dallas Defense was dreadful in those first four games, forcing the offense to throw more than anticipated. The defense should be better this season, but they still project to be in the lower half of the league and should present more than a few positive game scripts for the Dallas passing offense in 2021.

The Bucs present a tough challenge in the season opener. Tampa Bay possesses the No.3 ranked defensive line according to, with all of their starters from the championship team returning. Only the Washington Football team and the Pittsburgh Steelers rank higher upfront than the Buccaneers.

To make matters worse, the Cowboys will be without all-pro guard Zack Martin for the game after Martin was placed on the COVID-19 IR list on Sunday.

A matchup to watch will be the young Tampa Bay secondary of Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting against the Cowboys trio of receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and second-year sensation CeeDee Lamb. Entering 2020, the Bucs were young and experienced in the secondary, and it showed on the field. But they improved as a unit down the stretch, especially in the playoffs when the defensive front took over and forced bad throws from Rodgers and Mahomes.

Despite their stout defense, you can still make plays on the Bucs in the passing game, and it is far easier to pass on them than running the ball against the stout defensive front. All three wide receivers and Dak are worth a start in what could be a high-scoring game (53 over/under).

Running Game Thoughts: If you have watched HBO’s Hard Knocks, you would know that Zeke Elliott is a man on a mission. A mission to reminder his nay-sayers that he is still one of the best all-around backs in the NFL and that 2020 was more of a fluke than a sign of deteriorating skills.

Zeke lost weight, spent more time in the weight room, and is focused on putting his 979-yard, eight touchdown season from last year in the rearview mirror.

The Cowboy ground game kicks off the season with arguably the toughest matchup possible, with a road matchup against the reigning Super Bowl Champion Buccaneers and their second-ranked run defense.
The Bucs were the only team last season to limit opposing running backs to fewer than 1000 yards on the ground. Only Dalvin Cook and the Vikings topped 100 yards in a game, and only Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara managed to score more than one touchdown in any game.

Tampa is elite, and they returned all of their starters from last season. Expecting a big game from Zeke yardage-wise may be a stretch, but this game could be high-scoring, and Zeke could find the end zone.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (High-End)
RB1: Ezekiel Elliott (Low-End)
WR1: CeeDee Lamb (Low-End)
WR2: Amari Cooper (High-End)
TE2: Blake Jarwin (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers was not the only older quarterback to have a resurgent season in 2020. Tom Brady once again proved everyone wrong who doubted his ability to change teams and lead another franchise to a Super Bowl victory.

Brady’s 40 touchdown passes were the second-most of his storied career, and he improved significantly on his completion percentage from his last season with the Patriots. Sure, it doesn’t hurt that Brady has the best wide receiver trio in the league and one of the best skill position groups of all time when you include hall of fame tight end Rob Gronkowski, but you can’t take too much away from a 44-year-old man playing at such a high level.

You are starting all of your Buccaneer skill position players in this game with the utmost confidence against a Cowboy team that was one of the worst defensive units in the league in 2020. Dallas gave up the 14th-most points to opposing quarterbacks and the most to opposing wide receivers.

Credit Jerry Jones for not standing pat with a weak secondary and making drastic changes in the draft. Dallas went all defense with first-round pick in linebacker Micah Parsons and adding rookies Nashon Wright and Kelvin Joseph to the secondary depth. Second-year CB Trevon Diggs will need to take a big step up from his rookie season for the Cowboys to improve, although the addition of veteran Damontae Kazee to join Donovan Wilson at safety should help the unit overall.

Despite these additions, still ranks the Cowboys as the No.31 ranked secondary in the league, and the Bucs possess one of the most potent passing offensive units. Not a great recipe for the Cowboys, but certainly, you are licking your chops if you drafted Mike Evans, Chris Godwin (quad), or Antonio Brown.

Running Game Thoughts: As a team, the Buccaneers ranked 17th in total fantasy points scored by running backs in 2020, with 15 total touchdowns and just over 2000 combined rushing and receiving yards.

Despite having one of the best offensive lines in the league, the crowded backfield of Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ronald Jones, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn did not produce a fantasy running back ranked inside the top-15.

Jones finished 16th in total fantasy points and 24th in points per game. The fourth-year back from USC did post career highs with 12.6 points per game but was somewhat of a non-factor down the stretch and in the Super Bowl.

Fournette was the back to own in the playoffs, with four double-digit performances, including 135 total yards and a score.

Both players will be in the mix again this season, along with the addition of veteran pass-catching back Giovani Bernard. Gio suffered what the team has called a mild-high ankle sprain and has not yet been ruled out for the game, although he is a risky start based on the high likelihood he will be limited.

From a matchup perspective, this is a very juicy game for both running backs, and each should be considered starts. Dallas finished last season allowing the 9th-most points to opposing running backs, and enter 2021 ranked as a tier 4 defense out of 5 according to despite the fact that Dallas added veterans to the secondary and linebackers and focused all of their draft picks on the defensive side of the ball.

This game carries a projected over/under of 53, and points will be fairly easy to come by for the Bucs. Both Fournette and Jones are solid flex plays and possible low-end RB2s in deeper leagues.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (High-End)
RB2: Ronald Jones (Low-End)
RB3: Leonard Fournette (High-End)
WR1: Mike Evans (High-End)
WR1: Chris Godwin (Low-End)
WR3: Antonio Brown (High-End)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (Low-End)

Prediction: Tampa Bay 34, Dallas 21 ^ Top

Eagles @ Falcons - (Swanson)
Line: ATL -3.0
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: With Carson Wentz now an Indianapolis Colt, second-year QB Jalen Hurts is the unquestioned starter to begin the season for the Eagles. Hurts’ rookie season was a combination of ups and downs that you would expect from a first-year player who did not have a full offseason to prepare. His 52% completion rate was well below league average, and he threw only six touchdown passes in his five starts, yet he more than made up for it with just over 300 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns.

The Eagles and Hurts could not ask for a better matchup to kick off the 2021 season, as the Falcons project to be one of the worst defenses in the league and lack playmakers at all three levels.

Only the Lions gave up more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2020, and only the Cowboys were worse against wide receivers. ranks the Atlanta secondary dead last out of 32 teams, and PFF ranks the defensive line of the Falcons 31st overall.

The Falcons are terrible, and Hurts should have an excellent first game of the season, especially if he is able to take advantage of the suspect Falcon secondary with reigning Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith torching Richie Grant or Isaiah Oliver in the slot.

Both Hurts and Smith are strong starts this week, but the rest of the Eagles' passing options are not so certain. With Zach Ertz staying with the team despite rumors of a trade, he somewhat cannibalizes both his value and the value of Dallas Goedert at tight end. The matchup is prime, but the uncertainty of snaps and targets could be frustrating.

Jalen Reagor matched up against Fabian Moreau, or AJ Terrell outside could be a sneaky DFS play for owners. None of the Falcons corners graded higher than 60 on's cornerback rankings.

Starting Reagor in a season-long league could take a bit of intestinal fortitude considering his inconsistent play as a rookie. However, if you are going just on matchup alone, this does not get much better.

Running Game Thoughts: The Eagles under former head could Doug Pederson infuriated fantasy owners with a running back by committee approach that at times did not seem to have much rhyme or reason.

Fantasy owners collectively hoped that the new regime of Nick Siriani and company would discontinue that practice, only to be disappointed again with heavy usage of Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell in preseason games.

Miles Sanders is the defacto starter and the first and second-down back, but he appears to be the odd man out of passing downs for Scott and Gainwell, two far superior receiving backs.

It may surprise some fantasy owners to learn that the Falcons, despite their complete ineptitude with stopping the pass, were actually pretty solid against the run in 2020. No opposing running back topped 100 yards rushing in a game, and the team held opponents to under four yards per carry.

Opponents found little to no resistance moving the ball at will in the air against Atlanta and will likely follow suit again this season with a pass-heavy game script.

Considering the fact that Sanders may not see many passes, this is not the best matchup for him to start the season. You are starting him as a low-end RB2 or flex, but don’t be surprised if he disappoints.

Value Meter:
QB1: Jalen Hurts (Low-End)
RB2: Miles Sanders (Low-End)
WR3: DeVonta Smith (High-End)
WR4: Jalen Reagor (High-End)
TE1: Dallas Goedert (Low-End)
TE2: Zach Ertz (High-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Matt Ryan and the Falcons kick off the 2021 regular season with a home matchup against an Eagles defense that ranked in the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and the 7th worst in fantasy points to wide receivers.

Darrius Slay is a shell of his former self and more of a name than a true threat to the production of Calvin Ridley and Ryan. Slay’s grade dropped from 90.0 in 2014 with the Lions to just under 60 over the past two seasons.

Start Ridley with confidence in a game that could be sneaky high scoring with the Falcons forced to play catchup.

The most intriguing player in this matchup review is rookie Kyle Pitts, the third overall pick out of Florida. How many snaps will he take outside? Will the Falcons treat him more as a wide receiver or a true inline tight end? Now with Julio gone, will Pitts assume those lost targets and become the best rookie tight end the game has ever seen?

Unfortunately, we will not have the answer to those questions before kickoff and most likely not until the mid-point of the season. What we do know is Pitts has a size and speed combo that will create enormous mismatches for defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. We also know that the Eagles do not have a linebacker ranked in the top 32 at the position, according to, which would bode well for a strong start for Pitts.

Fantasy managers who selected Russell Gage late may have chosen one of the steals of the draft now that Julio Jones is a Tennessee Titan. Gage saw 110 targets last season as the third option and filling in for Jones when Julio went down, with an impressive 72 catches for just under 800 yards and four touchdowns. Look for Gage to get around ten targets in this game in a favorable matchup against journeyman CB Steven Nelson.

Running Game Thoughts: He may not wow you with his skill set, but you cannot shy away from the fact that Mike Davis is the starting running back for the Falcons and should get a near workhorse level of work to start the season.

With a wide receiver listed as the No.2 running back and the ultimate definition of a JAG (just a guy) in Wayne Gallman sitting in the hole, this appears that it is Davis’ job to lose.

From a matchup standpoint, it is not the best for Davis when projecting running success against an Eagles defense that enters the season ranked as the 5th-best defensive front per Fletcher Cox is old but still good, and Javon Hargrave should shore up the middle of the line.

Look for Davis to have more success catching the ball than running it, especially if the game goes sideways and the Falcons are forced to pass more to catch up.

Cox and Hargrave were limited last week with groin and ankle injuries, respectively, but both players are looking like they will be ready for Sunday.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matt Ryan (Low-End)
RB2: Mike Davis (Low-End)
WR1: Calvin Ridley (Elite)
WR3: Russell Gage (High-End)
TE1: Kyle Pitts (Low-End)

Prediction: Eagles 32, Falcons 21 ^ Top

Jets @ Panthers - (Swanson)
Line: CAR -4.0
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: If you are a fan of revenge game narratives, this game is for you, with Sam Darnold going against his former squad and his replacement in Zach Wilson. You also have Robby Anderson teaming up with his former QB to take on New York.

From a matchup standpoint, Darnold is intriguing, as the Jets secondary of Blesauan Austin, Bryce Hall and Javelin Guidry rank as the No.28 secondary entering the season per And it doesn’t hurt that Darnold has D.J. Moore, Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr., oh, and a guy named Christian McCaffrey to throw to on Sunday.

Our hope is you have a better option than Darnold, but he is very much in the streaming and DFS conversation. Fire up and start Moore and Anderson for sure, and Marshall could be a flex play in deeper leagues.

The Panthers added tight end Dan Arnold to the mix, and the Jets were dreadful against tight ends last season. While the matchup looks good for Arnold, we advise waiting to see how the targets unfold in a few games before adding him to your lineup.

Running Game Thoughts: The Jets boast a top-10 ranked defensive line with Quinnen Williams, Folorunso Fatukasi, and Sheldon Rankins.

You also have to like the addition of defensive-minded head coach Robert Salah, who helped make the 49ers one of the top defenses in the league.

Despite all this, you are starting Christian McCaffrey in all formats, and you should expect a solid game. It may not come in the form of great rushing yards or even a rushing touchdown, but he will more than make up for it in the passing game and will likely score on a touchdown reception.

Starting linebacker Jarrad Davis was placed on injured reserve on September 3rd with an ankle injury, and prized free-agent acquisitions Vinny Curry and Carl Lawson are both out for the year.

Value Meter:
QB2: Sam Darnold (High-End)
RB1: Christian McCaffrey (Elite)
WR2: D.J. Moore (High-End)
WR2: Robby Anderson (Low-End)
TE2: Dan Arnold (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The future is now for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and the Jets, with the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft slated to start in this opening week matchup against the Panthers on the road.

By most accounts, Wilson has looked great in practice, and he played well in preseason matchups against vanilla defenses. The question is, how will he do now when the games count and opposing defensive coordinators draw up confusing coverage and blitz schemes?

Free-agent wideout Corey Davis clearly appears to be Wilson’s favorite target base on the volume he received in the preseason and should be started in all formats.
Slot receiver Jamison Crowder is on the COVID-19 IR list but does have a chance to play, according to Rich Cimini of Should Crowder miss the game, look for rookie Elijah Moore to get some run in the slot and some designed screens.

The young Panthers secondary gave up the 8th-most points to opposing quarterbacks in 2020, with 11 QBs reaching 18 fantasy points or more.

With a full season under their belts and the addition of Jaycee Horn, one of the best CB prospects in the league, this defense could take a huge step forward as the Bucs did and the end of 2020.

Running Game Thoughts: Most of us in the fantasy community assumed that rookie Michael Carter would hit the ground running and take control of the Jets backfield. That has not been the case, and Carter is currently listed fourth on a crowded depth chart led by veteran Tevin Coleman.

The Jets encompass multiple coaches from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree and will likely use a similar method of rotating backs, often playing the hot hand and leaving fantasy managers guessing on touches.

Although the Panthers present a choice matchup as the 12th ranked unit against the run last season, it is difficult to recommend starting one of the running backs based on the uncertainty of how things will play out.

We assume Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson will share the first and second down carries, with Carter also getting in the mix. But how with La’Mical Perine be used, and who will be the goal line back?

The best course of action is to avoid this backfield right now until the waters become less murky.

Value Meter:
QB2: Zach Wilson (high-End)
RB3: Tevin Coleman (High-End)
WR2: Corey Davis (Low-End)
WR4: Elijah Moore (Low-End)
WR4: Denzel Mims (Low-End)
TE2: Tyler Kroft (Low-End)

Prediction: Carolina 30, New York Jets 21 ^ Top

Chargers at Football Team - (Katz)
Line: WAS -1.0
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It was a tale of two halves for 2020 Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert. From Weeks 1-11, Herbert averaged 25 FPts/g. From Weeks 12-16, he averaged just 17 FPts/g. Week 1 of the 2021 season could be closer to second half Herbert as the Football Team has one of the best pass defenses in the NFL.

In 2020, Washington allowed the second fewest passing yards per game, just 191.8. While this may temper expectations for Keenan Allen, you are certainly not sitting anyone you took in the top three rounds in Week 1. Allen will still get his usual 8-10 targets and rack up receptions underneath. Mike Williams is more of a fringe starter and one I would fade in a tough matchup.

The Chargers signed Jared Cook to replace Hunter Henry. Cook is what he is at this point – he’ll catch about three balls for 30 yards and you hope he scores a touchdown. He’s a streaming option, at best.

Running Game Thoughts: Austin Ekeler averaged 16.5 FPts/g last season and would’ve been an RB1 had he not missed six games with a torn hamstring. He is poised to be a PPR monster. Washington was mediocre against the rush last season, but you didn’t draft Ekeler for the rushing yards. Ekeler will be just fine volume wise. You just hope he finds a way to score, which is the one knock on his fantasy profile.

Beyond Ekeler, it looks like Justin Jackson will be the guy sharing time. He beat out Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree for the No.2 role. Jackson is talented and has flashed in spurts, but he has nothing more than RB4 value as long as Ekeler is healthy. With that being said, there is concern over Ekeler’s status for Week 1. The team is cautiously optimistic he will play after he missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practice with a hamstring issue. I think Ekeler plays, but that’s not what you want to hear before the first game of the season.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert (low-end)
RB2: Austin Ekeler (high-end)
WR2: Keenan Allen (high-end)
Bench: Mike Williams, Justin Jackson (Flex play if Ekeler sits), Jared Cook

Passing Game Thoughts: After deploying a cavalcade of players barely worth a spot on an NFL roster, the Football Team went out and secured Ryan Fitzpatrick to be their quarterback for the 2021 season. Fitzpatrick will be a boon for all fantasy assets on this team as long as he can remain the starter. Fitzpatrick is quite prone to interceptions, resulting in his benching, but he’s also not afraid to sling it, which facilitates big plays for his offense.

This Chargers were one of the better pass defenses last year, allowing just 223.6 passing yards per game. That won’t discourage you from starting Terry McLaurin, though. McLaurin managed to average 15.1 FPts/g last season with Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Taylor Heinicke at quarterback. The Chargers will likely stick Chris Harris on him, but you’re starting Scary Terry.

Curtis Samuel is another story. He was a popular WR4 selection in earlier drafts coming off a WR26 season, but a bout with Covid and a lingering groin injury depresses his ADP. News has not been trending in the right direction heading into Week 1 as Samuel missed practice on Thursday. He’s best left on the bench for this one.

Finally, we have Logan Thomas. Last year, no tight end played on a higher percentage of his team’s snaps than Thomas. Some are fading him this year because they feel his 2020 targeting was a product of necessity. I disagree. I think Thomas is a tremendous athlete and that Fitzpatrick can support three fantasy relevant pass catchers. Thomas is an every week start until further notice.

Running Game Thoughts: One of my favorite breakout players for the 2021 season is sophomore running back Antonio Gibson. After a rookie season hampered by a toe injury, Gibson is ready for an increased workload in year 2.

Gibson may still get pulled on third downs in favor of J.D. McKissic, but expect him to be more involved in the passing game on first and second down. Speaking of McKissic, he remains a viable bye week/injury filler in PPR leagues, but is certainly not someone you should need to start Week 1.

The Chargers were an average run defense last year, allowing 119.8 rushing yards per game. You are obviously firing up Gibson with confidence.

Value Meter:
QB2: Ryan Fitzpatrick
RB1: Antonio Gibson (low end)
WR2: Terry McLaurin (high end)
TE1: Logan Thomas (mid-range)
Bench: Curtis Samuel, J.D. McKissic

Prediction: Football Team 27, Chargers 23 ^ Top

49ers @ Lions - (Green)
Line: SF -7.5
Total: 45.0

Passing Game Thoughts: While Kyle Shanahan has yet to “officially” announce a starter, all signs indicate Jimmy Garoppolo will get the nod in Week 1 with Trey Lance perhaps getting some situation-specific work. Suffice to say, such a setup would render both QBs unplayable for fantasy owners. Reading the tea leaves, though, it appears the 49ers will go with Garoppolo until either, a) the team starts losing, b) Lance is ready, or c) Jimmy G gets hurt (again). Garoppolo has always been a fantasy reserve, and with him on borrowed time there’s no reason to carry him on your roster. Lance, on the other hand, is worth stashing.

Even with the quarterback position in flux, the 49ers have some interesting receivers at their disposal. George Kittle is the most established and reliable, comfortably occupying a top-three slot at the TE position. Like many Niners, Kittle is looking to turn the page on an injury-riddled 2020 when he posted a 48-634-2 line. He’s been a great volume target, but his red-zone mediocrity (14 career TDs) keeps him a notch below Travis Kelce. On the outside are up-and-comers Brandon Aiyuk (60-748-5) and Deebo Samuel (33-391-1), who missed four and nine games, respectively, last year.

Of the two, Aiyuk seems more likely of taking another major step as his route running is well ahead of Samuel, who has done a lot of his damage on short passes where the idea is simply to get him the ball in space and let him work. Aiyuk has been dealing with a hamstring injury but is likely to play in Week 1. Detroit finished 30th in pass defense a year ago, allowing 284.9 yards per game, and may be even worse in 2021. Plug Aiyuk and Samuel into your lineup this week.

Running Game Thoughts: Given his age (29) and style of play it seems, shall we say, dubious to enter the season with Raheem Mostert atop the depth chart. Outside of his ridiculous performance in the 2019 NFC Championship Game, Mostert has topped 100 yards rushing in a game just once in his career. His per-carry average is nice, and he’s playable this week as an RB2, but make sure you have a contingency plan in place if Mostert is one of the guys you’re relying on. On that front, Trey Sermon would be a nice get for your bench. The Lions were less putrid against the run last year albeit only slightly as they ended the year 28th at 134.9 yards allowed per game.

Value Meter:
RB2: Raheem Mostert
WR2: Brandon Aiyuk
WR3: Deebo Samuel
TE1: George Kittle
Bench: Trey Lance, Trey Sermon

Passing Game Thoughts: For the first time since 2008, the Lions will open a season with someone other than Matthew Stafford under center. That honor goes to another former No. 1 overall pick, Jared Goff, who was acquired along with draft picks in an offseason trade with the Rams. Goff put up big numbers two years ago (4,688 passing yards, 32 TDs, 12 INTs) but that was with Sean McVay calling the plays and the likes of Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley catching balls. None of them are in Detroit, and Goff sits near the bottom of pretty much every fantasy ranking out there.

Only one of the Lions’ top four receivers from last year are back, and that’s third-year TE T.J. Hockenson, who tallied 67 catches, 723 yards and 6 TDs. He figures to be a popular target for Goff and should carry TE1 value most weeks as a result. Things are a lot murkier elsewhere with names like Tyrell Williams (DNP in 2020 due to a torn labrum), Kalif Raymond (19 career catches in four seasons), Quintez Cephus (20-349-2 as a rookie), and fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown populating the depth chart.

None of them are playable in Week 1 against a 49ers team that finished fourth in pass defense last year (207.9 yards per game) despite massive injury problems. Looking ahead, however, St. Brown and Williams appear the most likely to deliver something resembling fantasy value.

Running Game Thoughts: D’Andre Swift enjoyed a solid rookie year, posting 878 total yards and 10 TDs, but he figures to have his work cut out for him unless Goff and company can do enough to make teams respect the passing game. Newcomer Jamaal Williams (741 total yards, 3 TDs with Green Bay) is a tough, reliable runner with little big-play ability. They’ll square off against last year’s No. 7 run defense (106.4), which isn’t a great matchup for the tandem. Still, with few other options, Swift could be deployed as an RB3 with Williams more of a flex candidate.

Value Meter:
RB3: D’Andre Swift
Flex: Jamaal Williams
TE1: T.J. Hockenson
Bench: Jared Goff, Tyrell Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown

Prediction: 49ers 31, Lions 16 ^ Top

Steelers at Bills - (Katz)
Line: BUF -6.5
Total: 48.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Another year removed from elbow surgery will hopefully restore Ben Roethlisberger to closer to his former self. A road matchup against an elite offense in Buffalo should force the Steelers to throw a lot and this team has no shortage of fantasy viable pass catchers.

The clear WR1 is Diontae Johnson. He was a target magnet last season and should build upon that in 2021. The bad news is Johnson will draw Tre’Davious White. The good news is the Steelers move him around the formation and scheme him open so I’m not concerned about Johnson.

The WR2 is Chase Claypool, but in the preseason, it was JuJu Smith-Schuster out there in two receiver sets. JuJu is nothing more than a volume based PPR option. Claypool, on the other hand, has immense upside after a rookie season that saw him score 9 touchdowns. He is the preferred fantasy option, but both are startable.

As tight end, rookie Pat Freiermuth looked fantastic this preseason. Eric Ebron remains the primary tight end, but they could end up in a bit of a snap share. There’s no reason you should have to start either of these guys in Week 1.

Running Game Thoughts: With James Conner off to Arizona, the Steelers spent a first round pick on Alabama rookie Najee Harris. In the preseason, Harris dominated first team snaps and was used as a true three-down back. The Steelers project to have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, but Harris’ value lies in his pass catching ability. Harris is an adept receiver so even if the Steelers fall behind, it won’t take Harris off the field, which is a likely scenario against the Bills.

The Bills allowed 119.6 rushing yards per game last season, which was middle of the pack. Harris will be fine on the ground if his line cooperates. The bare minimum, the volume is going to be there.

Behind Harris is a complete unknown. With Anthony McFarland on IR, either Benny Snell or Kalen Ballage will spell Harris when he’s tired. Neither is even remotely close to fantasy relevant.

Value Meter:
RB2: Najee Harris (high end)
WR2: Diontae Johnson (mid-range)
WR3: Chase Claypool
WR: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Bench: Ben Roethlisberger, Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth

Passing Game Thoughts: I blasted Josh Allen as a prospect and was trending correct after his disastrous first two NFL seasons. Last season, everything changed. Allen morphed into an accurate passer and set the league on fire. I’ve fully bought in. I don’t know how he did it, but Allen is elite, both in real life and fantasy football.

The Steelers were a dominant pass defense last season, allowing just 194.4 passing yards per game. However, I caution those looking to fade offensive players against this defense based on last year’s stats. The Steelers lost Vince Williams, Bud Dupree, Mike Hilton, and Tyson Alualu. If anything, I predict the Steelers are more of a pass funnel defense this season.

Allen is my pick to win MVP coming off a season with 4,544 passing yards and 45 total touchdowns. It is no coincidence that Allen’s ascent coincided with the arrival of Stefon Diggs. After never truly putting it together in Minnesota, Diggs smashed in 2020, averaging 20.5 FPts/g and finishing as the overall WR3. Look for these two to pick up right where they left off.

The Bills’ WR2 last season was John Brown. He signed with the Raiders (before requesting and being granted his release after the preseason). The Bills replaced him with an old, but certainly not busted Emmanuel Sanders. Diggs sat out the entire preseason, but in the one real game where Allen played, he locked in on Sanders. There is no doubt in my mind that Sanders is going to have his moments and is the clear WR2. Sorry to all those Gabriel Davis supporters, but he’s the WR4 and it’s not going to happen without multiple injuries in front of him.

One of those injuries would have to be to Cole Beasley, who will reprise his role as the primary slot receiver. Beasley was a screaming value last season, finishing as a low WR3. The Steelers’ defensive losses would appear to leave them vulnerable underneath, but you’re not starting Beasley in Week 1.

Dawson Knox plays tight end for the Bills. That’s about the extent of what you need to know about Knox. He is probably on your waiver wire and should stay there until further notice.

Running Game Thoughts: It is exceedingly difficult to talk about the Bills running game. This was an issue last season as well. Simply put, they don’t have one. The Bills threw the ball 59.2% of the time last season and 102 of those rushes were Josh Allen.

Zack Moss and Devin Singletary form one of the most uninspiring running back duos in the NFL. The Steelers were a top 10 rushing defense last season, for whatever that’s worth. Regardless of whether that gets worse, Moss and Singletary have little value to start the season. If forced to start one, I prefer Singletary as he’s the receiving back.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (high end)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (high end)
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders
Bench: Zack Moss, Devin Singletary, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Dawson Knox

Prediction: Bills 31, Steelers 24 ^ Top

Seahawks vs. Colts - (Swanson)
Line: SEA -3.0
Total: 49.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Russell Wilson and the Seahawks face a stiff challenge to open the season with a road matchup against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. With the 49ers taking on the Lions and the Rams hosting the Bears, the Seahawks appear to have been dealt the short straw.

The Colts ended the season as the No.8 defense in total defense and gave up the 10th-fewest points on the year. From a passing game perspective, the Colts gave up the 12th fewest points to opposing QBs and the 15th fewest to opposing wide receivers.

Of course, this is 2021 and not 2020, and both the Seahawks and the Colts are different teams from a year ago. The Colts added rookie pass rushed Kwity Paye and brought back their front seven, including stars DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard. Their secondary is also in place from a year ago, leading us to believe the Colts will once again be an above-average-to-good defensive unit across the board.

Wilson also has his collection of skill position players who helped him post a career-high 40 passing touchdowns in 2020. Veteran WR Tyler Lockett signed a lucrative extension, and DK Metcalf is in the third year of his rookie deal and primed for a monster season.

Veteran Cornerback Xavier Rhodes had a solid first season with the Colts in 2020, but he is not the same player from his earlier years with the Vikings. He enters 2021 as the No.30 outside cornerback, according to, ahead of only Trae Waynes and Casey Hayward Jr. on the list of top 32 players.

Look for Metcalf to use his size and speed to take advantage of Rhodes on a few deep passes on play-action, assuming Chris Carson can keep the defensive front seven honest with early run plays.

If you drafted Gerald Everett to be your late-round tight end, you made a wise choice. But this opening week matchup may leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth, as the Colts ranked 5th in fewest points to opposing tight ends last season, and Leonard and company in the linebacking corps will make things difficult for Everett.

Running Game Thoughts: We know two indisputable truths about head coach Pete Carroll. First, he chews gum like a mad man on the sidelines. Second, he loves to run the ball over and over again, even if it is not overly effective and at the cost of the passing game.

Carroll and former OC Brian Schottenheimer could not see eye to eye on how much the team should run the ball, so Schottenheimer was shown the door in favor of Shane Waldron. Prior to working with Seattle, Waldron was the passing coordinator for the Rams.

Carroll also got his wish with the team resigning Chris Carson to be the lead back along with Rashaad Penny, Alex Collins, and pass-catcher DeeJay Dallas. Carson is the man and will get the majority of carries as long as he stays healthy.

The offensive line finished 14th overall last season and enters the year projected as No.19 according to Not great, but adequate enough to open holes for Carson and give Wilson some protection.

From a matchup perspective, the Colts finished last season as the 12th most stingy defense against the run, with nobody outside of Derrick Henry topping 100 yards. It is not easy to run on the Colts, but it is also not impossible. Start Carson in all formats, but temper some expectations.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (Low-End)
RB2: Chris Carson (High-End)
WR1: DK Metcalf (Mid-Range)
WR2: Tyler Lockett (High-End)
TE2: Gerald Everett (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Philip Rivers era of Colts football came to an end with the veteran QB retiring after one up and down season with the team. Instead of drafting their future QB in the draft, the team traded for Carson Wentz with the hope that a reunion with former offensive coordinator Frank Reich would resurrect Wentz’s spiraling career.

Wentz has an uphill battle, with a small broken bone in his foot that cost him significant time to acclimate to the team. He will also be without veteran wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, who will miss multiple weeks with a neck injury.

One of the reasons why Wentz struggled at the tail end of his career was jumpy feet and bad decisions with the ball that were exacerbated by offensive line injuries on the Eagles. Although the Colts are dealing with injuries to their offensive line, it appears that Wentz will have both Quentin Nelson and Ryan Kelly to start the season.

Perhaps if given time to throw the ball and familiarity with Frank Reich, Wentz might regain some of his lost form with the Eagles.

With Hilton on the sidelines, the future is now for Michael Pittman Jr. to take that next step and become the leading receiver for the team. He has the size, speed, and ball skills to do so. He just needs to find a rapport with Wentz.

If there is a weak spot on the Seahawks defense, it is at cornerback. With all-pro Jamal Adams at strong safety and Quandre Diggs patrolling the middle of the field, Seattle has arguably the best safety tandem in the league. Yet on the outside, with rookie Tre Brown and DJ Reed, the team is nowhere near as formidable.

Look for Reich to dial up some plays to take advantage of Brown outside with Pittman, and don’t be surprised to see Parris Campbell used all over the field, including out of the backfield, to create mismatches for the aggressive Seattle defense.

Running Game Thoughts: After a slow start to his rookie season that included an 11 for 22 yard dud against the lowly Lions in Week 8, Jonathan Taylor finished red hot and lived up to his early draft price and hype with just under 1500 total yards and 13 touchdowns in 2020.

Taylor will once again be the main back, but he will have Nyheim Hines (head coach Frank Reich said this week he wants Hines more involved) and Marlon Mack sharing touches in the Colts backfield.

You drafted Taylor likely in the first round with the intention of him starting every week, so I don’t need to try to convince you to insert him in your lineup. From a matchup perspective, you should expect a solid day against a Seahawks defense that gave up the 10th-most points to opposing running backs last year.

Six opposing backs scored double-digit fantasy points against the Seahawks, including Jeff Wilson with nearly 100 combined yards and a pair of scores in Week 17. In the final five weeks of the season, the Seahawks gave up 578 total yards and six total touchdowns to opposing running backs.

Only three teams gave up more receptions to running backs last year, making Hines an interesting start for those in need of a flex option.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Wentz (High-End)
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (High-End)
WR3: Michael Pittman Jr. (High-End)
WR4: Zach Pascal (High-End)
WR4: Parris Campbell (High-End)
TE2: Mo Alie-Cox (Low-End)

Prediction: Indianapolis 24, Seattle 17 ^ Top

Vikings @ Bengals - (Green)
Line: MIN -3.0
Total: 47.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Statistically speaking, Kirk Cousins enjoyed a strong season, finishing eighth in passing yards (4,265) and sixth in TDs (35). His problems are two-fold, however, as only Carson Wentz and Drew Lock threw more INTs last year than Cousins (13), and the Vikings missed the playoffs for the second time in his three seasons with the club. No doubt that sticks in Mike Zimmer’s craw, and it’s why it’d be surprising to see Minnesota do anything other than try to establish the run most weeks. That means that while Cousins will have big games, they’ll be difficult to anticipate since it’s almost always going to be Plan B.

Despite what promises to be inconsistent weekly production from the passing game, Adam Thielen (74-925-14) and Justin Jefferson (88-1,400-7) carry enough upside that they should remain in the active lineup. Part of that is related to talent, and another part to a lack of other options. The team had high hopes for Irv Smith (knee), but he tore his meniscus and is unlikely to play this season. They pivoted by acquiring Chris Henrdon from the Jets, but he’s been a disappointment since an encouraging rookie campaign back in 2018. It’s really Thielen, Jefferson and little else.

Cincinnati ranked 19th in pass defense last season, giving up 241.2 yards per game, though they hope to improve with Trae Waynes set to return after missing all of 2020 along with offseason signings Mike Hilton and Chidobe Awuzie. While a run-heavy approach is easy to imagine this Sunday, both Thielen and Jefferson can be played as WR2s with WR1 upside. As for Cousins, he’s a middling QB2.

Running Game Thoughts: Even with Cook missing a pair of games last season, he still carried the ball 312 times for 1,557 yards and 16 TDs, which was second in the NFL in all three categories. He’s one of just two RBs (along with Derrick Henry) that are true focal points of their offenses. While those things cast Cook as a top-three fantasy RB, there are some durability concerns for a back coming off heavy usage that has never played more than 14 games in a season. Every week he suits up he’s an RB1, and that includes Sunday against a Bengals squad that yielded 148 rushing yards per game.

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

Passing Game Thoughts: All eyes will be on Joe Burrow this Sunday to see if he has fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered last November. He certainly looked the part of an ascending talent last year, averaging 269 yards and 1.3 TDs per game before the injury, but this is an awfully quick return, so he has something to prove. It’s hard to imagine he won’t be a bit rusty, which is the reason he’s more of a QB2 for the opener in what looks like a plus matchup.

With A.J. Green gone, Tyler Boyd (79-841-4) is the elder statesman. Boyd was on pace to post a third straight 1,000-yard season, but he fell off the face of the Earth after Burrow got hurt, managing just 10 catches over the last six weeks. Tee Higgins (67-908-6) held up considerably better with 24 grabs in that same stretch and enters 2021 as the top fantasy option among Cincy’s receivers. First-rounder Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 season at LSU and struggled with drops during the preseason, but his potential for quick production is high given his collegiate connection to Burrow.

To use some scouting terminology, Minnesota’s secondary was “hot garbage” last year. Zimmer knew it, and the team spent the offseason overhauling that unit with Patrick Peterson, Bashaud Breeland and Xavier Woods all signing. While it’s a new day in the defensive backfield we’ll have to wait and see how much gas those veterans have left in the tank. For Sunday let’s pencil Higgins in as WR2 and Boyd as WR3 with Chase either on your bench or as a risk/reward flex play.

Running Game Thoughts: Limited to just six games last season due to a foot injury, Joe Mixon will try to pick up where he left off back in 2019 when he ran for 1,137 yards and scored eight total TDs. The loss of Gio Bernard might generate more opportunities in the passing game for Mixon, though Samaje Perine was solid in limited work last year and could see steady work. The Vikings struggled here as well, finishing 27th in the NFL in run defense at 134.4 yards per game. Consider Mixon an RB2 with RB1 upside.

Value Meter:
QB2: Joe Burrow
RB2: Joe Mixon
WR2: Tee Higgins
WR3: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Ja’Marr Chase

Prediction: Vikings 27, Bengals 23 ^ Top

Jaguars @ Texans - (Swanson)
Line: JAX -3.0
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: First overall pick Trevor Lawrence makes his NFL debut against a Texans team that projects to be one of the worst, if not the worst, team in the league. This is the perfect matchup for a player like Lawrence to get his feet wet against a defense that lacks a pass rush or talented players in the secondary.

From a pure fantasy perspective, it would be wise to wait to start Lawrence unless you play in a very deep 12 team or a superflex league. Yes, he has all the talent in the world, but even some of the best of all time, like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, struggled in their rookie season.

As for the skill position players in the passing game, it appears as though Lawrence will have both D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones at his disposal. Chark missed most of the preseason with a finger injury, and Jones has a shoulder ailment, but both are expected to play against a Texans pass defense that gave up the 6th-most points to opposing wideouts last season.

Houston enters the season with the 32nd-ranked defensive front, according to, after finishing the season in the cellar in 2020. No pressure and an inability to stop the run should open things up for Lawrence and the passing offense.

Running Game Thoughts: The roller coaster ride that is James Robinson left fantasy owners motion sick this summer after the team surprisingly used a first-round pick on Travis Etienne despite Robinson dominating last season.

Robinson fell from a consensus RB2 or flex to someone treated as though he had the plague. Yet, a season-ending injury to Etienne brought Robinson back into the fold as an RB and should be a solid start this season and especially Week 1 against the Texans.

Veteran Carlos Hyde will still be in the mix and could take around ten carries away from Robinson, but Robinson is the far more talented player at this point, and the cream will rise to the top.

Only the Lions gave up more points to opposing running backs last season, and according to, their defensive front will be among the worst again in 2021. You drafted Robinson as your No.2 RB with the hope of big games against below-average opponents, and this is arguably his best matchup of the year.

A few injuries to watch that could negatively affect the ground game for the Jags are an ankle injury for starting tackle Cam Robinson and an elbow injury for guard Andrew Norwell. Head Coach Urban Myer said the team anticipates that they will have both players on the field on Sunday.

On the other side of the football, starting linebacker Whitney Mercilus suffered a hamstring injury against the Bucs in the final preseason game is questionable.

Value Meter:
QB2: Trevor Lawrence (High-End)
RB2: James Robinson (High-End)
WR3: D.J. Chark (High-End)
WR3: Marvin Jones (High-End)
TE2: James O'Shaughnessy (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: To say the Houston Texans are a dumpster fire would be an understatement. From bad trades, questionable coaching, and Deshaun Watson’s off-field issues, this is a team destined for the first overall pick next year.

The roster is filled with aging running backs past their primes and a defense lacking playmakers at every level. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks is still talented and well within his prime playing years, but he lacks a quarterback who can make plays down the field in veteran Tyrod Taylor.

From a fantasy perspective, it is likely the best option to avoid this team altogether. However, if you drafted a Texan late in your draft with the hope of an upside play against a bad defense, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Jacksonville delivered the golden sombrero last season in defensive ineptitude, finishing in the bottom ten in fantasy points allowed to QBs,WRs, RBs, and even Tight Ends. The Jags were an equal opportunity sieve for fantasy points and did not discriminate based on position.

Yes, 2021 is a new year, and the Jags did make some moves via free agency with CB Shaquill Griffin from Seattle, FS Rayshawn Jenkins from the Chargers, and linebacker Damien Wilson from the Chiefs.

However, they still project to be a bottom-tier defense with the 27th ranked secondary and 17th-ranked linebacking corps to enter the season per

Start Cooks as a high-end number three wide receiver and don’t give much more thought to anyone else in the passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: The Texans would have one heck of a running back room if the year was 2019 and not 2021, with a slew of aging backs discarded by other teams for various reasons.

Mark Ingram, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead all made the 53-man roster and will be available to play against Jacksonville. The question is who will get the majority of carries, and will that person have enough volume to start in a 12-team league.

Our guess is Lindsay and Ingram will work as the primary first and second down backs, with Johnson working in as the pass-catching back.

From a pure matchup standpoint, it doesn’t get much better for the Texans with a home game against a team that gave up the third-most points to running backs in 2020. Yet, the excitement of starting any of the players is limited based on the number of players in the running back corps and the unknown of how many snaps each player will get.
Perhaps the best way to handle the Texans running backs is to wait and see how it unfolds in the first few games and limit playing Lindsay or Ingram to DFS.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tyrod Taylor (Low-End)
RB3: Phillip Lindsay (Low-End)
RB3: Mark Ingram (Low-End)
WR3: Brandin Cooks (High-End)
TE2: Pharaoh Brown (Low-End)

Prediction: Jacksonville 28, Houston 21 ^ Top

Cardinals at Titans - (Swanson)
Line: TEN -3.0
Total: 52.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Tannehill and the Tennessee Titans play host to Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals in what could be the highest-scoring game of the week, filled with numerous fantasy options that should be in most lineups.

Murray is a top-5 QB and a smash play this week against a Titans secondary that gave up the fifth-most points to opposing quarterbacks last season. Six opposing QBs topped at least three passing touchdowns last season against the Titans, and 11 QBs scored at least 18 fantasy points in their matchup.

The Titans did add Bud Dupree to boost their pass rush, and they replaced Adoree Jackson with Janoris Jenkins. The Dupree addition will undoubtedly help their pass rush, but Jenkins is a shell of his former self and comes in as the No.27 outside CB out of 32 entering the season.

In addition to DeAndre Hopkins, who should be an auto-start in all formats, Kyler Murray has two new weapons at his disposal with veteran A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore. Look for Green to be a much-needed red zone threat opposite Hopkins, while Moore will be used in the slot and on a few designed reverses and bubble screens.

Christian Kirk is currently listed as the starting slot receiver for Murray and could see some action, but the lack of possible targets makes him more of a fringe flex play.

Perhaps the most significant offseason move by GM Steve Keim was the addition of center Rodney Hudson to the offensive line. Although he is in his twilight years, Hudson is widely considered one of the top centers in the league and should help both the running and passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: The Cardinals will use a two-handed monster approach to the running game with Chase Edmonds and free-agent signee James Conner. The former is the one you want to start, as he looks to be the lead back of the tandem, while Conner will likely work in as a change of pace.

However, Conner is the bigger of the two and could steal some goal line work that does not go to Kyler Murray, the team’s best goal line rushing threat.

The Titans present an excellent rushing matchup based on how they played last season against opposing running backs, allowing the sixth-most points and 20 total touchdowns in 17 games.

Tennessee forked out a ton of money to bring in Bud Dupree and Denico Autry to shore up their linebacking corps. While we do think those players will improve the defense, the Titans come in ranked as the No.23 defensive front according to

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray (high-End)
RB2: Chase Edmonds (Low-End)
WR1: DeAndre Hopkins (High-End)
WR3: A.J. Green (Low-End)
WR4: Christian Kirk (Low-End)
WR4: Rondale Moore (Low-End)
TE2: Maxx Williams (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Tannehill and the Titans passing offense lost two key cogs over the offseason via free agency, with Corey Davis signing with the Jets and Jonnu Smith joining forces with Hunter Henry in New England.

To more than make up for the loss, the Titans traded for Julio Jones to fill in opposite of A.J. Brown, giving Tannehill one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league.

You are starting both Brown and Jones with confidence in this matchup, and don’t be surprised to see Tannehill get Jones involved early to get their new prized acquisition acclimated into the system.

When you think of the Titans, the first thing you think of is Derrick Henry running the ball. While we do anticipate the team to continue to be a run-first unit under new offensive coordinator Todd Downing, with two elite receiving options outside, teams are not going to be able to focus on just the run or the pass, making Tannehill’s job much easier.

The Cardinals made a splash on the defensive side of the ball this offseason with the acquisition of JJ Watt to join Chandler Jones in the Arizona pass rush. They also drafted versatile linebacker, Zaven Collins, to join Isaiah Simmons in the linebacker corps. Add in all-pro safety, Budda Baker, and you have an underrated defense that could surprise some people this season.

With that said, you are starting Tannehill, Jones, and Brown without question. Tight End Anthony Firkser is interesting in deeper leagues and those with tight end premiums.

Running Game Thoughts: Derrick Henry continues to prove naysayers wrong who doubt whether or not he can continue his torrid usage page. Last season fantasy owners were told he would break down, and he responded with a 2000-yard season. This season fantasy owners were once again told to anticipate a down year from last season, simply because nobody in the NFL has ever rushed for back-to-back 2000-yard seasons.

Only time will tell if fantasy analysts were right about a fall-off. Until that happens, you are going to plug King Henry into your lineup regardless of matchup and reap the rewards.

The Cardinals were middle of the pack in points allowed to running backs last season. Only Jeff Wilson of the 49ers topped 100 yards, and in somewhat of a fluke, pass-catching running back James White of the Patriots was the only back to rush for more than one touchdown in a game.

We anticipate that the Titans will give the Cardinals a heavy dose of Henry to open up the play-action game for Tannehill and keep Murray and the Cardinal passing offense off the field. Look for over 100 rushing yards and a score or two from the reigning rush king.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ryan Tannehill (Low-End)
RB1: Derrick Henry (Elite)
WR1: A.J. Brown (High-End)
WR1: Julio Jones (Low-End)
TE2: Anthony Firkser (Low-End)

Prediction: Tennessee 34, Arizona 30 ^ Top

Dolphins at Patriots - (Katz)
Line: NE -3.0
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Entering his second season, Tua Tagolailoa is the unquestioned starting quarterback for the Dolphins. However, questions still remain about how effective he can be. His opening salvo will be a road date with a Patriots defense that allowed 222.3 passing yards per game last season, eighth fewest in the league. The Dolphins want to be a run first offense and this game may oblige in being a low scoring, defensive contest. That’s bad news for the entire Dolphins passing game.

I expect this team’s WR1 to be Will Fuller, but he still has one game remaining on his PED suspension from last season. DeVante Parker and rookie Jaylen Waddle should start in two receiver sets. Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jonathan Jones remain one of the best cornerback trios in the NFL. Parker and Waddle are not starting options in Week 1.

Mike Gesicki is one of the worst starting tight ends in the NFL, but is consistently viewed as a fringe TE1 option. Maybe he is by virtue of the shallowness of the position, but I don’t view him any differently than the tight ends you can get in the last rounds of your draft. Gesicki is a fine streaming option this week with Fuller out as he figures to pick up more of the slack than Albert Wilson or Jakeem Grant.

Running Game Thoughts: Myles Gaskin was one of the most polarizing players in fantasy drafts. If he maintains his usage from last season, he will be a screaming value. However, Gaskin is just a replacement level talent propped up by situation and opportunity. If either goes, so does Gaskin.

With that being said, I expect Gaskin to get a fair amount of work in Week 1 in what should be a lower scoring game. That’s not great for his touchdown upside, but the Patriots were one of the weaker run defenses last year, allowing 131.4 rushing yards per game, seventh worst in the league. The biggest concern for Gaskin is how much work he will cede to Malcolm Brown and Salvon Ahmed. Regardless, if you drafted Gaskin in the fifth or sixth round, he’s probably a starter for you, and should be treated as such.

Value Meter:
RB2: Myles Gaskin (low end)
TE2: Mike Gesicki
Bench: DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller (suspension), Tua Tagovailoa

Passing Game Thoughts: It was a foregone conclusion that Mac Jones would eventually take Cam Newton’s job. The surprising part came in the form of Newton’s release just two weeks before kickoff. The good news for Jones is he gets to debut at home. The bad news is it’s against one of the staunchest defenses of the 2020 season.

As great as the Dolphins were last season, they did struggle a bit against the pass, allowing 251.5 passing yards per game. But again, I expect this to be a low scoring, defensive affair, with the Patriots leaning on their run game and not asking too much of their rookie quarterback.

When Jones does take to the air, expect him to look in the direction of Jakobi Meyers, the team’s WR1. Meyers famously had two massive games last season of over 100 receiving yards, yet somehow was allergic to the end zone. Expect that to change in 2021. Meyers is probably not starting for you Week 1, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him locked into lineups Week 2.

Opposite Meyers will be Nelson Agholor. He is coming off the best season of his career (48-896-8) where he was uncharacteristically a deep threat. He should be used in that capacity again, but do not expect anywhere close to that level of production. That’s because the “WR2” in this offense is probably TE Jonnu Smith.

The Patriots signed Smith away from the Titans and appear poised to use him as a jack-of-all-trades weapon. He’s been consistently valued well ahead of Hunter Henry. I’m not quite sure how the split will work between those two, but expect a lot of two tight end sets. If you have Smith, you probably have to start him. He’s a gamble for sure, but we should have much more clarity on the situation following Week 1.

Running Game Thoughts: The Patriots jettisoned Sony Michel, paving the way for Damien Harris to be the dominant rusher in this offense. Fourth round rookie Rhamondre Stevenson flashed in the preseason, but he’s definitively behind Harris.

The Dolphins allowed 116.4 rushing yards per game last season. How much better or worse they are this season is important as Harris is only accumulating fantasy points on the ground. In 10 games last season, Harris was targeted just seven times. James White remains the pass catching back. He should be better than last year when he averaged just 8.3 FPts/g, but he’s not someone I had any interest in drafting. As such, I have no interest in starting him this week either.

Value Meter:
WR3: Jakobi Meyers
TE1: Jonnu Smith (low end)
Flex: Damien Harris
Bench: Mac Jones, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson

Prediction: Patriots 20, Dolphins 16 ^ Top

Broncos at Giants - (Katz)
Line: DEN -3.0
Total: 41.5

Passing Game Thoughts: After a heated preseason battle, Teddy Bridgewater won the Broncos’ starting quarterback job over Drew Lock. While some are concerned about Bridgewater’s tendency to not push the ball down the field, I view this as a boon for all Broncos. Simply put, Bridgewater is the superior player.

Last season, Bridgewater supported three fantasy relevant wide receivers in Carolina. There’s no reason he can’t do the same in Denver with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Noah Fant.

Sutton is returning from a Week 1 ACL tear, but looked phenomenal in his lone preseason action. It’s unclear whether he or Jeudy will draw James Bradberry, who was a top 10 cornerback last season. Hopefully, both move around the formation. Regardless, both are in line for high target shares. Jeudy is the more popular breakout candidate entering his second season, but Sutton is just two years removed from an 1,100- yard season. Both are worthwhile starts this week.

Noah Fant has been nursing a leg injury for a couple weeks now, but is expected to suit up. He’s coming off a TE1 season and should be able to repeat that performance this year. He’s a clear top 12 option this week. The Broncos WR3 is either K.J. Hamler or Tim Patrick, neither of which is fantasy relevant.

The biggest concern for the Broncos is that this game may be a low scoring defensive slog, which is not what fantasy managers want. But you can’t get cute in Week 1 so you should start your guys.

Running Game Thoughts: Preseason usage suggests that Javonte Williams has already usurped Melvin Gordon as the Broncos primary running back. I’m not so sure that’s the case. Gordon is the wily veteran and I expect him to be out there for the first snap on Sunday. That doesn’t mean Williams won’t play, though. Look for this to be a relatively even timeshare. The better fantasy asset will be the one catching passes.

The Giants allowed 111.4 rushing yards per game last season, 10th fewest in the league. They should remain an above average run defense. If you roster Gordon, you don’t need to start him outside of deeper starting lineups. If you roster Williams, you may need to start him but if that is the case, don’t panic. It’s Week 1 and we have much to learn. It certainly wouldn’t shock me if Williams stormed out of the gate. At worst, he should be a viable flex play.

Value Meter:
WR3: Courtland Sutton
WR3: Jerry Jeudy
TE1: Noah Fant (low end)
Flex: Javonte Williams
Bench: Teddy Bridgewater, Melvin Gordon

Passing Game Thoughts: There’s no way to sugarcoat this: it’s just a really bad spot for the Giants passing attack. Daniel Jones is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. In 27 career games played, he has thrown 22 interceptions and fumbled the ball 29 times. For those keeping score at home, yes, Jones has more fumbles than games played. He is certainly not a fantasy option against a strong Broncos pass defense.

Seven of the Broncos’ first 10 picks in the 2021 NFL draft were defensive players, including cornerback Patrick Surtain in the first round. Kenny Golladay looks to be on track to play after missing over a month with a hamstring strain. Golladay missed 2/3 of last season, changed teams, downgraded at quarterback, and then missed a month of training camp and all of preseason. He cannot be trusted in Week 1.

Sterling Shepard, on the other hand, is a safe, unsexy option. Given where he went in fantasy drafts, you shouldn’t need to start him this week. If you do, he should have a decent PPR floor. Shepard saw at least five targets in every game he played last season and hit double-digits three times.

Darius Slayton and Kadarius Toney round out the Giants’ wide receivers. Slayton will play ahead of Toney, who doesn’t really have a defined role. Look for Toney to be used situationally as a gadget player. If he played more than 10 snaps, I’d be surprised. Slayton is the Giants WR3, which has no fantasy value.

At tight end, Evan Engram is nursing a calf injury he sustained in the final preseason game because, for some reason, he was playing in that game. Free agent acquisition Kyle Rudolph will be the primary tight end, but there’s nothing here for fantasy.

Running Game Thoughts: It looks like Saquon Barkley is on track to suit up in Week 1. I fully expect him to be on a pitch count, but Barkley is a must-start whenever he is active. Don’t get cute and consider starting Devontae Booker because of the projected increased usage. Booker is a replacement level talent and the increase in usage will be more in the form of snaps than touches. I still expect Barkley to see the majority of carries, likely in the 12-15 range.

Last season, the Broncos struggled against the run, allowing 130 rushing yards per game. This season, I expect them to be much better, but we really don’t know anything for sure until we see it. Regardless, Barkley should do enough to at least be better than whoever your alternative is.

Value Meter:
RB2: Saquon Barkley (mid-range)
Bench: Daniel Jones, Kyle Rudolph, Evan Engram (calf), Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kadarius Toney

Prediction: Giants 20, Broncos 17 ^ Top

Packers @ Saints - (Swanson)
Line: GB -3.5
Total: 49.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense went scorched Earth last season on opposing defenses, with the first ballot hall of famer throwing 48 touchdown passes en route to his third MVP.

Much has been written about Rodgers’ unsustainable touchdown rate, and a regression to the mean is likely in his future, but we also know that Rodgers is not happy and is likely leaving after this season, and he wants to get his favorite target and good friend Davante Adams paid.

How can Rodgers help Adams get paid? By continuing to give the stud WR a ridiculous target share and elite targets in the red zone.

You are starting Rodgers and Adams regardless of matchup. The other players in the Packers passing offense are not so certain. Robert Tonyan exploded last season with 11 touchdowns on just 59 targets. If you are looking for touchdown regression, he should number one on that list.

That doesn’t mean you don’t start him, as he is likely going to get around five targets in this game and could reach the end zone.
MVS reportedly had a great camp, but it is advisable to use a wait-and-see approach if he is on your bench. A goose egg in Week 1 is hard to swallow.

A matchup to watch will be Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan going against a Packers offensive line that does not have top pass-blocking left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is on the PUP list. Top center Corey Lindsley left via free agency to the Chargers, leaving the number 2-ranked offensive line from a year ago a shell of its former self.

So much of what Rodgers does relies on him buying time. If fill-in left tackle Elgton Jenkins and rookie center Josh Myers struggle, it could limit Rodgers and the passing game.

Running Game Thoughts: Aaron Jones continues to be a dominant fantasy running back with a third-straight season finishing as the RB6 or higher. The Packers rewarded the former fifth-round player with a lucrative contract extension over the offseason.

Jones will be the primary running back with bruising second-year back AJ Dillon also working in the mix.

The loss of Lindsley and Bakhtiari will not only hurt Rodgers and the passing game, but their absence could significantly hurt Jones and Dillon's respective values in this matchup against a Saints defense that allowed the second-fewest points to opposing running backs in 2020.

A positive note for the Packers and other teams looking to run the ball is the Saints do not have some of those players up from who made the run defense so dominant. The team will likely start journeyman defensive lineman Christian Ringo and inexperienced Malcolm Roach in the middle of the line between Jordan and Davenport.

You are starting Jones in all formats as a solid RB1. Dillon can be played as a low-end flex with touchdown upside, but we would advise against it if you have other options with high volume upside.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (Low-End)
RB1: Aaron Jones (Low-End)
WR1: Davante Adams (Elite)
WR3: Randall Cobb (Low-End)
TE1: Robert Tonyan (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Drew Brees era of New Orleans Saints football is over, and the Jameis Winston era is set to begin. Winston won the job over Taysom Hill and will be the primary QB, with Hill continuing to work his way in on certain packages. If head coach Sean Payton felt comfortable taking a first-ballot hall of fame QB off the field in favor of Hill, you can be certain he will do the same with Winston.

The Saints passing offense will be without starting wide receiver Michael Thomas, who is out for the first six weeks due to a lingering ankle injury. Preseason dandy Marquez Callaway will be the de facto number one WR for the Saints with Smith out, but he will have his hands full with Jaire Alexander, one of the top-ranked CBs in the league.

Tre’Quan Smith will be the other starting WR for Winston, but he is not someone you can feel confident in playing this week.

Tight End Adam Trautman is likely out, which opens the door for Juwan Johnson to possibly emerge as the Saints' tight end to own. Johnson is raw, but he is a huge target for Winston and could be a deep sleeper. Make sure to check position eligibility, as he is only a WR on some platforms.

If head coach Sean Payton were to get his way, the Saints would run the ball exclusively with Alvin Kamara and the vaunted New Orleans offensive line. Look for Kamara to be heavily involved in the passing game in addition to running the ball.

Running Game Thoughts: Alvin Kamara is an autostart regardless of opponent and should be in everyone’s lineup. The Packers ended the season giving up the 7th most points to opposing running backs, with Davlin Cook and Kamara each torching the defense for monster games.

It is too early to tell if the changes made on the defensive side of the ball will shore up the Packers run defense, but we do know they made a change at defensive coordinator, and they used two draft picks on defensive linemen Tedarrell Slation and Jack Heflin to give depth behind Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry.

The sudden cut of Latavius Murray over contract issues propelled Tony Jones into fantasy consideration in deeper leagues. The team will not rely solely on Kamara to carry the load, and with their run-heavy focus, Jones could be a sneaky start in deep leagues with around 10 to 15 carries.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jameis Winston high-End)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (Elite)
WR2: Marquez Callaway (Low-End)
WR3: Tre’Quan Smith(Low-End)
TE2: Juwan Johnson (Low-End)

Prediction: Green Bay 34, New Orleans 21 ^ Top

Browns at Chiefs - (Caron)
Line: KC -5.5
Total: 54.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The opening week of NFL action brings us a rematch from this past year’s AFC divisional round playoff game when the Browns head to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. This game saw Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield struggle to get much going through the air as he was held to just 204 yards and a single touchdown with an interception on 37 pass attempts, against what was considered to be a relatively weak Kansas City secondary. With top wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. now back on the field, however, the Browns and fantasy managers should have higher hopes for this offense heading into the 2021 season and particularly in Week 1 against the Chiefs.

Mayfield’s fantasy value really remains limited as long as the Browns continue to implement one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses. While he’s rarely terrible for fantasy, it’s also pretty rare that he produces a truly difference-making performance. He’s sort of an ideal QB2 for two-QB/SuperFlex leagues if he’s being matched with a higher upside option. With that said, Mayfield isn’t completely without upside in a matchup like this against one of the league’s best offenses. Mayfield could approach 300 yards through the air as the Browns will almost certainly need to pass the ball in order to keep up this week against the Chiefs, but don’t expect him to put up 50 pass attempts unless the game becomes a complete blowout in favor of Kansas City.

The aforementioned Beckham Jr. remains the most interesting pass catching weapon in the Cleveland offense and it’ll be interesting to see how the Browns choose to utilize him here in Week 1. Beckham may not lead the team in targets, but he should be the leader in air yards if things go how most expect that they will. Beckham has historically been a serious deep threat while also possessing some of the best short burst speed in the game which has allowed him to take short passes to the house. He’s a WR3/Flex while we monitor his game early this season, but Beckham has some nice upside.

Jarvis Landry is the Browns’ only other fantasy-relevant wide receiver at the moment and while he’s not someone who’s particularly fun to start, he’s typically fairly reliable from a fantasy standpoint. Landry led the Browns with 10 targets in the playoff game against the Chiefs, which he caught seven of, including one touchdown. Of course, in typical Jarvis Landry fashion, he was only able to muster up 20 total yards on those seven catches, so the upside remains limited, but Landry is a player who could find himself in your lineup in Week 1, particularly if you went RB-heavy or reached a bit to fill your QB/TE roles early in your draft.

Tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku should remind fantasy owners a lot of the Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett situation that we’ve been seeing in Los Angeles for the past few seasons. Both players cannibalize one another’s snaps and targets too much for either one to be particularly fantasy relevant, and certainly too much for either to be reliable. If one or the other does get injured then we might very well have a true TE1 on our hands, but as things are, neither player is someone who we should be relying on in normal fantasy leagues.

Running Game Thoughts: The heart and soul of the Cleveland offense remains its impressive running game, which continues to be one of the very best in the league. Nick Chubb, the team’s primary ball carrier, is a threat to lead the entire NFL in rushing this season and that’s while splitting snaps with another productive back in Kareem Hunt. Chubb and Hunt both averaged over five yards per carry when the Browns faced the Chiefs in the playoffs while the team struggled to pass the ball, so it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them lean more heavily on the running game in this one than they did in that contest when Chubb and Hunt combined for just 20 total touches.

Chubb seems like almost a lock to touch the ball 15 times in this game which should make him a low-end RB1 even in PPR formats. His upside is closer to 25 touches, especially if he gets going and the Browns choose to punish the defense with him being the “hot hand.” Still, Hunt will be involved as he has been since he came to Cleveland. Hunt is utilized much more in the passing game than Chubb is, so he may end up playing more than some expect, particularly if the Kansas City offense gets rolling like it normally does. Hunt is a much stronger play in PPR formats and he’s certainly a riskier option than Chubb, but he does have RB2 upside in this one depending on the game script. Put him into your PPR lineup as a Flex.

Value Meter:
QB2: Baker Mayfield
RB1: Nick Chubb (low-end)
WR3: Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry (PPR only)
Flex: Kareem Hunt (PPR only)
Bench: Rashard Higgins, Austin Hooper, David Njoku

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s hard to imagine a scenario where we wouldn’t want to start Patrick Mahomes and the super stud players in this Kansas City offense. Their recent playoff matchup against the Browns was one which saw Mahomes surprisingly throw for just one touchdown, but he was still quite effective passing the ball overall and he did also rush for a touchdown which allowed him to maintain a solid fantasy day. Not only that, but both wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce eclipsed the 100-yard mark despite being really the only players for the Browns to focus on in the passing game. The Chiefs’ 22-point output in that contest was one of their worst of the season so it’s not that this matchup has no risks, but it just seems likely that the Chiefs - who are now much healthier than they were at the end of this past season - are going to get back on track and at least reach 30 points in this game.

Beyond Mahomes, Hill and Kelce, who are surefire top-tier starters at their respective positions in practically any matchup, the only other player who we should really be paying much attention to in this contest is wide receiver Mecole Hardman. Hardman is a former early-round NFL Draft pick who hasn’t fired yet in his NFL career, but it seems as if the Chiefs are giving him the opportunity to be the WR2 in this offense now that they’ve moved on from Sammy Watkins. Hardman is a burner who possesses legit big play upside and could put up some big plays if the Browns do choose to focus heavily on Hill and Kelce in this contest. Hardman caught all four targets that came his way in the playoff game against the Browns, which he converted for 58 yards, so there’s some history of success from him that we can point to. He’s a low-end flex play this week, but someone who we should be keeping an eye on, particularly from a snaps and targets standpoint here in Week 1.

Running Game Thoughts: Second-year running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire figures to lead the Chiefs backfield again here in 2021 and there’s a pretty strong likelihood that he’ll do so without much competition. He missed the playoff game against Cleveland this past season and backup did provide some decent production in that contest, but this is a team that invested their 2020 first round pick on Edwards-Helaire, and one that also allowed him to carry the ball 25 times in his first NFL action back in Week 1 of the 2020 season. The Chiefs may opt to run the ball more often than some expect in this one, in an effort to force the pass rushers on the Browns to play more disciplined. Edwards-Helaire isn’t quite an RB1 right now because we don’t know exactly how much the Chiefs will end up utilizing him, but he’s a strong RB2 option in any format.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WR1: Tyreek Hill
TE1: Travis Kelce
Flex: Mecole Hardman (only in deep formats)
Bench: Darrel Williams, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Browns 23 ^ Top

Bears at Rams - (Caron)
Line: LAR -7.5
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: A Week 1 matchup on the road against the Rams isn’t exactly something that fantasy owners of members of the Bears offense should be excited about. The Rams were the league’s best fantasy defense against opposing passing games a season ago and it seems pretty likely that they’ll continue to be one of the best again here in 2021.

Quarterback Andy Dalton is absolutely not a fantasy option in anything other than the deepest two-QB formats. He was extremely ineffective even in a much more stacked Cowboys offense a season ago and fantasy owners should avoid him in his first start in a new offense against one of the league’s best defenses.

The player in this passing game that fantasy owners will be watching is wide receiver Allen Robinson. Robinson is the unquestioned alpha receiver in this offense and will certainly be the focus of the team’s passing attack this season, but he has the extremely difficult task of battling with perhaps the league’s best cornerback, Jalen Ramsey. The Bears have matched up with the Rams in each of the past three seasons and Robinson has struggled to get anything going in those contests. In fact, he’s totaled just 13 catches for 127 yards and zero touchdowns in those three games. This isn’t to say that fantasy owners should completely bench Robinson, but if you’re in a shallow league with other viable options, it may not be a terrible idea. Robinson is a low-end WR2 this week.

The only other pass catchers in this offense that fantasy owners should be watching are wide receiver Darnell Mooney and tight end Cole Kmet. Both players have interesting ceilings, but this is probably not the week to start implementing them into your starting lineups. This could be a truly brutal matchup.

Running Game Thoughts: With running back Tarik Cohen still sidelined, David Montgomery is expected to take the lion’s share of backfield touches here in the early part of the season. The Bears did sign veteran Damien Williams who opted to sit out the 2020 season due to COVID-19, but it appears that Montgomery could be in line to be one of the league leaders in touches.

Montgomery hadn’t been particularly productive throughout the early part of his career, but really exploded in the second half of 2020 , in large part due to his uptick in touches. He became one of the elite fantasy backs down the stretch and could again be a cornerstone of fantasy championship rosters if he’s able to stay healthy.

Unfortunately Montgomery does get a very difficult matchup in Week 1 against one of the league’s best defenses, on the road in Los Angeles. The Rams conceded the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2020 and there’s little reason to believe that they’re going to see a significant drop off this season. Montgomery struggled when these teams met in 2020, carrying the ball 14 times for 48 yards. He did add an additional five catches for 21 yards so it wasn’t a complete disaster of a fantasy day, but it certainly wasn’t his best performance. Nevertheless, with his assumed role in the offense, Montgomery makes for a pretty safe RB2 option here in Week 1.

Value Meter:
RB2: David Montgomery
WR2: Allen Robinson (low-end)
Bench: Andy Dalton, Damien Williams, Darnell Mooney, Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham

Passing Game Thoughts: The Rams have finally moved on from Jared Goff and it appears they are making their push for another Super Bowl run here in 2021. The addition of veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford is a certain upgrade from Goff and immediately brings more interest to the Los Angeles offense as a whole, but particularly the quarterback position. Whereas Goff was typically a low-end QB2 at best, Stafford is more of a high-end QB2 or low-end QB1 in neutral matchups.

In Week 1, Stafford and the Rams host the Bears, who have continued to be an elite defense even through the tumultuous situations they’ve faced on the other side of the ball. Chicago gave up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this past season and they look poised to be quite good again this season.

With that information, it’s safe to call Stafford more of a mid-level QB2 this week as he gets his first chance to play in the Sean McVay offense. It’ll be exciting to see what he’s able to do against a true test in Week 1, but most fantasy owners probably have a better option than Stafford to start the season.

Wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp should continue to be solid WR2s for fantasy. This isn’t a great matchup for them, but both players have shown themselves to be productive fantasy assets even in tough matchups. They did, however, both struggle to get much going against the Bears when these teams played in 2020. Fellow wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Van Jefferson both could play a part to make Stafford a more interesting fantasy asset, but neither player is likely to be targeted enough to be worthwhile seasonal fantasy options here in Week 1.

The other interesting player in this passing game is Tyler Higbee, who now has the opportunity to see the vast majority of snaps at the tight end position after Gerald Everett departed during the offseason. Higbee is a big, athletic tight end who’s had fantasy success in the past, especially when Everett has been out, and it’ll be interesting to see how he plays here in his first opportunity as the every down TE. He’s a low-end TE1 play against a good Chicago defense, but one that quietly gave up the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2020.

Running Game Thoughts: The Rams running back situation has been bouncing around quite a bit over the past month, ever since perceived starter Cam Akers suffered a season-ending injury. Darrell Henderson seems to be the most likely player to see the biggest uptick in touches, but the Rams recently traded for former Patriots first round pick Sony Michel and that further complicated things, particularly on early downs.

The presumption is that Henderson will still be the starter at least in the early part of the season, so he should be in line for double-digit carries in this one, assuming that the Rams don’t fall behind by multiple scores early in the game. Even then, Michel is not a particularly good pass catching back, so Henderson could still find himself on the field in those important passing situations.

Henderson is going to be a low-end RB2 for many teams, but he’s more of a Flex option for most teams. Michel, on the other hand, should be avoided in all leagues until we see just how much he’s going to play with his new team.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matthew Stafford
WR2: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp
TE1: Tyler Higbee
Flex: Darrell Henderson
Bench: Sony Michel, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson

Prediction: Rams 24, Bears 21 ^ Top

Ravens at Raiders - (Caron)
Line: BAL -4.0
Total: 50.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The running back situation in Baltimore has been the talk of the fantasy community, but let’s be honest - the success of the Ravens offense continues to rest on the shoulders - and legs - of quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Jackson had a “down year” in 2020 and still finished with 26 passing touchdowns and just nine interceptions with 1,005 rushing yards and an additional seven scores on the ground. His passing yardage, however, continues to be minimal as he finished the season with just 2,757 yards through the air. Still, Jackson remained a borderline elite fantasy option at the quarterback position with the team struggling to find any receivers of consequence beyond tight end Mark Andrews. Jackson’s rushing ability makes him a high floor option while still maintaining a high ceiling in just about any contest.

Tight end Mark Andrews may not be one of the top tier of tight ends, but he’s certainly just a step down from those players. He remains the top weapon in the Baltimore passing game which is admittedly low volume, but it’s still enough for him to be a solid TE1 in really any matchup, especially a defense as depleted as the Raiders.

Other players to watch in the Ravens passing game are wide receivers Marquise Brown and newcomer Sammy Watkins, although both players are likely to be volatile, low volume options who don’t have much upside in a Ravens offense that typically doesn’t pass the ball enough for more than one player to be fantasy relevant.

Running Game Thoughts: With J.K. Dobbins, Justice Hill, and now Gus Edwards out for the season, the Ravens running back situation - at least for Week 1 - appears to be clearing up quite a bit. Ty’Son Williams has been a huge riser in fantasy drafts ever since the Dobbins injury but he now has to be looked at as a pretty decent RB2 option against the Raiders. The Ravens did add Le’Veon Bell but the veteran hasn’t been on the team for long enough to really learn the playbook or become accustomed to the blocking assignments for a player like Lamar Jackson at QB. As such, it should be Williams’ job in a big way here in Week 1, as he runs with an offense that has produced some truly excellent fantasy production from the running back position.

The Raiders were the fourth-worst fantasy defense against opposing running backs in 2020, so don’t sleep on Williams in this one. There’s a real shot that he becomes this season’s James Robinson in terms of coming out of nowhere and turning into a weekly fantasy asset.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
RB2: Ty’Son Williams
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Le’Veon Bell, Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins

Passing Game Thoughts: Many expected that the Raiders would move on from Derek Carr this offseason, but it appears as if the quarterback will get at least one more season to prove himself in Las Vegas. Carr lost 2020 top wide receiver Nelson Agholor this offseason and the team really didn’t add anyone of consequence, so it’s tough to be very confident in him from a fantasy standpoint. Carr has rarely been more than a mid-level QB2 for fantasy and he lacks the rushing upside to provide many spike weeks.

The only surefire fantasy starter in this passing game is tight end Darren Waller. Waller followed up a breakout 2019 season with a near record-breaking 2020 season and he appears in line to again be the top target in a quietly productive Raiders offense. The wide receivers on the roster are still very young, inexperienced and unproductive, so don’t be surprised to see Waller contend to be the top fantasy tight end again this season. He’ll face a Ravens defense in Week 1 that is excellent against opposing wide receivers but can be beaten by top level tight ends.

Wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards are both upside plays but neither should be in fantasy lineups here in Week 1 against a very good Ravens defense.

Running Game Thoughts: Josh Jacobs has been one of the most consistent and productive fantasy backs in the league since he entered the NFL but the Raiders made a significant addition this offseason when they added veteran Kenyan Drake. Drake is a very similar back to Jacobs in a lot of ways and both have been among the most-utilized goal line backs in the league over the past few seasons. The obvious concern is that if Jacobs doesn’t completely dominate the touches then it’ll be hard for him to return to borderline RB1 status for fantasy.

The Ravens defense is good across the board, but if there’s a place that they can be beaten, it’s on the ground. It’s easy to foresee a situation where Jacobs and Drake both touch the ball 10 or more times, but neither gets enough touches to be particularly useful for fantasy. Jacobs remains a low-level RB2 for fantasy this week, but understand that the upside is low. He’s more of a floor play.

Value Meter:
QB2: Derek Carr
RB2: Josh Jacobs
TE1: Darren Waller
Bench: Kenyan Drake, Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow

Prediction: Ravens 27, Raiders 23 ^ Top