Today’s the day. Football is BACK. No more predictions or training camp praise, time to show it on the field. That means it’s also time to set your first lineup of the season. The draft is the time to accumulate as many good assets as you can before the season starts, but weekly matchups matter in Fantasy Football, so I’m going to highlight some guys that I expect to over or underperform on a weekly basis so you can set your optimal lineup. The formula is simple:
FEEL THE HEAT = Get them in your lineup
Take a Seat = Bench, or at least lower your expectations
Here are your Week 1 names to know:
FEEL THE HEAT
Matthew Stafford (QB – DET) vs NYJ: Stafford, at home on Monday Night Football, against the Jets. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Stafford was drafted as a backup on some teams, but unless you have one of the stud QBs on your roster, roll with him in week 1. The Lions are still figuring out their run game, but their passing game is a well oiled machine. Stafford should open the season with a bang.
James Conner (RB – PIT) @ CLE: Seriously, WTF Le’Veon Bell?? Thank the Lord I don’t own him anywhere bc I’d be livid if my 1st rounder was playing games with my heart like this. Whether Bell shows up today or in week 10, he’s definitely not playing week 1, so in steps Conner. Conner is admittedly not an elite talent, but the Steelers have a way of getting their RBs to put up elite numbers (Deangelo Williams was a top 3 back for the 1st 3 games in 2016 when he filled in for a suspended Bell). Get Conner in your lineup while you can.
Royce Freeman (RB – DEN) vs SEA: In case you haven’t heard, Freeman was named the starter in Denver as a rookie. That’s impressive enough, but his preseason tape is even better. Freeman averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored in all 3 games he played in. There’s concern from some that Devontae Booker is going to steal touches, but don’t sweat that bc he stinks. Freeman is gonna be a stud this year, and the Seattle defense is a shell of what it used to be so don’t let the matchup concern you.
Brandin Cooks (WR – LAR) @ OAK: The Rams traded a first rounder for Cooks and then signed him to a big extension this offseason, and you normally don’t do that with a player you’re not planning on using much. The matchup against the Raiders, who just traded their best player away, is about as sweet as it gets. Don’t be surprised if the Rams draw up some big plays to show off their new toy in Cooks. He doesn’t need many targets to make an impact.
Kenny Stills (WR – MIA) vs TEN: Stills is the #1 guy in Miami this year, and there are a ton of targets available in this offense with Jarvis Landry off the squad. Primarily considered a deep threat to this point in his career, Stills should be able to show he’s more than that with more opportunities this year. Regardless, that deep play potential hasn’t gone anywhere, so in addition to receiving some more intermediate targets he can still take the top off of the defense for big plays. I expect Stills to be a surprisingly productive player this year.
Jordan Reed (TE – WAS) @ ARI: Reed has become more associated with his injury history than the dominance he shows when he actually plays. Well guess what, at least for this week he’s healthy, so if he’s on your team why wouldn’t you use him? Who knows when he’ll get dinged up again, chances are it won’t take long, but if he’s out there this week there aren’t many tight ends I would want to play over him.
Take A Seat
Patrick Mahomes (QB – KC) @ LAC: I love Mahomes this year. Drafted him myself. But not this week. On the road against the Chargers isn’t the ideal starting spot for a guy who might be a little bit turnover prone early in the season. I think Mahomes will ultimately be a stud, but I’m not starting him this week unless I don’t have any other options.
Saquon Barkley (RB – NYG) vs JAX: I’m not saying to sit Barkley, I’m just saying temper your expectations in his debut against the loaded Jags D. I expect Barkley to finish with a decent stat line due to volume, but there isn’t really a tougher matchup to start your career with. Treat Barkley as more of an RB2 this week. For anyone who plays daily fantasy, he’s an easy pass this week.
Devonta Freeman (RB – ATL) @ PHI: Again, not necessarily a ‘sit’ here, but just a caution due to the matchup. There are a lot of questions with the Eagles’ offense right now, but not many on their D-line which should be dominant. If the Falcons win tonight, they’re gonna have to do it through the air. Freeman is normally an easy start, but didn’t play a snap in the preseason and can be game flow dependent sometimes. It wouldn’t shock me if Tevin Coleman has the better fantasy numbers this week.
LeSean McCoy (RB – BUF) @ BAL: McCoy might be my least favorite player in fantasy this year. The Bills are trash, Nathan Peterman is starting, and they open on the road against a tough Ravens D. Unless he manages to break a long one, I don’t see much production coming here. You can do better. You DESERVE better.
Doug Baldwin (WR – SEA) @ DEN: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Baldwin himself admitted that his knee injury is going to have him at 80-85% health for the season. There aren’t many other receiving threats in Seattle, and oh yeah they’re opening on the road at Denver who should have a field day barreling through the Seattle O-line and pressuring Russell Wilson. Baldwin will have his moments this year, but likely not this week.
Amari Cooper (WR – OAK) vs LAR: I think Cooper will have a nice season overall (at least he better if he wants to stay in the league) but he’s going to get off to a rough start this year facing the Rams in week 1. The Rams are absolutely stacked this year so this should be an easy win for them. There might be some garbage time points available, but overall I can’t feel confident starting Cooper this week.
Best of luck in week 1 and for the rest of the season, everyone.
– The Elder