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 PFF.com,
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.
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
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
Despite these additions, PFF.com 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
PFF.com 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.
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.
ProFootballFocus.com ranks the Atlanta secondary dead last out
of 32 teams, and PFF ranks the defensive line of the Falcons 31st
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
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 PFF.com'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
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
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 PFF.com 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 PFF.com, 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 PFF.com.
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.
Jets @ Panthers- (Swanson) Line: CAR -4.0 Total: 44.0
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 PFF.com. 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.
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 ESPN.com. 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
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
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
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
The best course of action is to avoid this backfield right now
until the waters become less murky.
Chargers at Football
Team- (Katz) Line: WAS -1.0 Total: 44.5
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.
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
Steelers at Bills- (Katz) Line: BUF -6.5 Total: 48.5
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.
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
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.
Seahawks vs. Colts- (Swanson) Line: SEA -3.0 Total: 49.0
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
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
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 PFF.com, 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
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
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
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 PFF.com. Not great, but
adequate enough to open holes for Carson and give Wilson some
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.
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
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
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
Vikings @ Bengals- (Green) Line: MIN -3.0 Total: 47.0
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
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.
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.
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 PFF.com, 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 PFF.com, 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.
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
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 PFF.com.
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
Our guess is Lindsay and Ingram will work as the primary first
and second down backs, with Johnson working in as the pass-catching
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.
Cardinals at Titans- (Swanson) Line: TEN -3.0 Total: 52.0
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
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 PFF.com.
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
Dolphins at Patriots- (Katz) Line: NE -3.0 Total: 43.5
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
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
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.
Broncos at Giants- (Katz) Line: DEN -3.0 Total: 41.5
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Browns at Chiefs- (Caron) Line: KC -5.5 Total: 54.5
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Ravens at Raiders- (Caron) Line: BAL -4.0 Total: 50.5
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.
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.