Week 1 NFL fantasy football matchups

Alex Smith

         Kevin C. Cox – Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots kicked off the 2017 NFL season on Thursday night in what was an impressive win for the Chiefs. Both teams not only kicked off the NFL regular season, they also kicked off fantasy football season.

Anyone who has Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt or Tyreek Hill is off to a hot start in their week one fantasy matchups. But the week is far from over yet.

Quarterbacks 

Start:

Derek Carr vs Titans

@derekcarrqb + @amaricooper9 = Touchdown #oaklandraiders#NFL#preseason#Dallascowboyspic.twitter.com/iPMdDlBZ3Q

— T-ENTSPORTS (@t_entsports) August 29, 2017

Yes, Derek Carr is coming off a season-ending leg injury, but he’s also coming off an impressive season. He had one of the best touchdown-to-intercerception ratios in the NFL last season (28 touchdowns and just six interceptions), and he gets to open the 2017 season against last years third-worst pass defense. The Raiders also have quite a few question marks defensively, which could turn this game into an old fashion shootout between Mariota and Carr.

Carson Wentz vs Redskins

Carson Wentz doesn’t jump out as an instant fantasy starter, especially when you look at last year’s numbers, but there’s definitely upside this week. He’s opening the season against a Redskins defense that was bottom-ten in the league last season defending the pass. Quarterbacks that faced the Redskins last year averaged a 91.1 QBR and over 250 yards per game. Wentz will be accompanied by the Eagles’ newest offensive additions, Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, which adds to the upside. Alshon Jeffery will give Wentz even more opportunities to air the ball out and take more risks in the redzone.

Cam Newton vs 49ers

Cam Newton will be looking to help people remember why he was the league MVP just two years ago when the Carolina Panthers kickoff their season against the San Fransisco 49ers. Last season, the 49ers defense was surprisingly just outside of the top-ten in passing yards allowed, but quarterbacks were still efficient against them. Quarterbacks averaged 7.7 yards per attempt and QBR’s of 96.9 against the 49ers. The Panthers offense looks very well balanced, and the addition of dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey will further help Newton move the ball down the field.

A couple other guys worth considering, with favourable matchups, are Sam Bradford versus the Saints and Eli Manning versus the Cowboys.

Sit:

Tyrod Taylor vs Jets

This matchup would usually be quite favourable for Tyrod Taylor but his concussion, off-season roster moves and the lack of reps with Jordan Matthews will lead to the Bills opting with a run-heavy approach, with LeSean McCoy getting a lot of touches.

Philip Rivers vs Broncos

Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense looks like it could do some serious damage this year, but a week one matchup against the Denver Broncos defense could be a bit too much for the Bolts to handle. The Broncos finished number one in almost every defensive passing statistic in 2016, which speaks for itself. Their defense isn’t quite the same considering the loss of T.J. Ward, but it’s still a huge risk with the odds in Denver’s favour defensively.

Running backs

Start:

Dalvin Cook vs Saints

Despite signing Latavius Murray in the offseason, the Minnesota Vikings have named Dalvin Cook as their starting running back, which is great news for fantasy owners. The Vikings face the New Orleans Saints who allowed the fourth-most rushing touchdowns last season. The Saints also allowed over 100 yards rushing per game and they had the worst pass defense in the league, which will help the Vikings get in the redzone and give Cook some opportunities to rumble his way across the goal line.

C.J. Anderson vs Chargers

Anderson’s 2016 season was shortened due to a knee injury, but a week one matchup against the Chargers could be what he needs to get back in old form. The Chargers allowed the third-most rushing touchdowns in the league last year, and over 4000 yards receiving, which is ideal for a running back like Anderson who gets touches and targets out of the back field.

Sit:

LeGarrette Blount vs Redskins

The last time fans saw a top-tier power back sign with the Eagles during free agency was with Demarco Murray, and we all remember how that turned out. Yes, that was Chip Kelly’s offense, but we should see Sproles in a lot of third-down scenarios. Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz should also take redzone plays away from Blount.

Seahawks Running Backs vs Packers

Seattle Seahawks running backs have already been frustrating for fantasy owners, and the Seahawks haven’t even played a game yet. It’s much easier to avoid the carousel of running backs in Seattle between Lacy, Carson, Rawls and Prosise for at least the first week to get a feel for how the carries will be split up. Also, the Packers had a top-ten rushing defense last year, and were tied for the fifth-fewest rushing touchdowns allowed. 

Wide Receivers 

Start:

Kelvin Benjamin vs 49ers

The Panthers’ down field threat will look to take advantage of a 49ers secondary that allowed the third-highest yards per reception in the league last season (12.5). The 49ers were also in the bottom-five for passing touchdowns allowed last season with 30. Benjamin finished the year with 63 receptions, 941 yards and seven touchdowns after missing the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL.

Stefon Diggs vs Saints

Diggs gets to open up his third season against last years worst ranked pass defense in the league. The New Orleans Saints allowed the most passing yards and one of the highest average QBR’s last season. Diggs’ matchup is even more favourable because Saints top corner Delvin Breaux is out with an injury. Last year, Diggs saw an increase in over 30 receptions and almost 200 yards compared to his 2015 rookie campaign.

Sit:

Allen Robinson vs Texans

Robinson struggled last year, and the struggles could continue into this season. The Jacksonville Jaguars open their season against a stingy Houston Texans defense.  The Texans had the second-best pass defense last year ahead of the Vikings and Cardinals, and just behind the Broncos at number one. It also doesn’t help that the quarterback scenario has been nothing short of inconsistent and dicey in Jacksonville.

Jordan Matthews vs Jets

Matthews hurt himself in practice just after being traded from Philly to Buffalo. His preseason injury limited a vast majority of his reps with starting QB Tyrod Taylor. The possible lack of chemistry and Buffalo’s run heavy offense doesn’t work in Matthews favour, despite the lack of offensive weapons and his number one receiver status on the Bills. The Jets also don’t have a terrible defense. They ranked ahead of Kansas City and Oakland in passing yards allowed last season, and their defensive line is very capable of disrupting quarterbacks.

Tight Ends

Start:

Delanie Walker vs Titans

With the potential of a Raiders vs Titans shootout, Delanie Walker could see a lot of targets. Over the past three years in Tennessee, Walker has averaged over 100 targets, 800 plus yards and over 11 yards per reception. The Titans are also facing an Oakland secondary that had the ninth-worst pass defense, and allowed the second-most yards per passing attempt last year with 7.9.

Zach Miller vs Falcons

Zach Miller definitely doesn’t jump off the page as a go-to guy, but he’s a sleeper for solid production this week. With the loss of Cameron Meredith in the preseason, the Bears are lacking big play ability on the outside. Jordan Howard will see a lot of touches out of the back field, but that should also set up the play action. In third down and redone situations, the Bears top two targets will be Howard and Miller. Atlanta allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game last year, and they allowed the fourth-most passing touchdowns.

Sit:

Jack Doyle vs Rams

With Tolzien starting at QB for the Colts, the offensive production and the ability to move the ball will be an issue. The Colts might also have trouble protecting Tolzien from a disruptive Rams defensive line. It could be wise to avoid using Colts offensive players for at least the first week of the season.

Antonio Gates vs Broncos

Gates is an all-time great on the field and for fantasy teams, but the Chargers will be looking to incorporate Hunter Henry in their offense more and more. Even if Gates was going to see more action, a week one matchup against Denver isn’t a good one.

Kickers

Start:

Mason Crosby vs Seahawks

Green Bay kicks off their season against a tough Seahawks team. The Packers might not get in to the end zone like they would against other opponents, but they shouldn’t have a problem getting in field goal range, which is ideal for Crosby. Opposing kickers made 100 per cent of their extra point attempts against Seattle last season.

Steven Hauschka vs Jets

The Bills take on the Jets and, shockingly, the winner will move in to first place in their division. The Jets lack of offense should create good field position for the Bills, and they shouldn’t have to move the ball too far to get in field goal range for Hauschka. Opposing kickers made over 87 per cent of their field goals against the Jets last season. If the Bills can’t execute around the redzone it’s favourable for Hauschka considering opposing kickers were 100 per cent between the 20 and 30 yard lines against the Jets last year.

Sit:

Adam Vinatieri vs Rams

Vinatieri is definitely trustworthy, but the Colts offense with Tolzien at quarterback is anything but. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the Colts are able to move the ball down field with ease. It also doesn’t help that the Rams were number one in the league last year with the fewest field goals allowed all season (16).

Defenses

Start: 

Houston Texans vs Jaguars

The Houston Texans, with a healthy J.J. Watt, are facing off against the Jaguars to open up their season. The Jaguars are going with Blake Bortles as their opening day starting QB, and he’s known to be an interception machine since joining the league. The Texans allowed the second-fewest passing yards per game last year (202),  behind the number one Denver Broncos. That’s some impressive company. Their deadly d-line factored in with their pass defense should prove to be a long day for Bortles and the Jaguars.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs Browns

The Steelers, and new addition Joe Haden, take on the Cleveland Browns in the dog pound. Rookie DeShone Kizer gets his first start in the NFL against a Steelers defense that allowed the fifth-fewest passing touchdowns last season. Haden just further boosts their pass defense, and he’ll have some added motivation when he takes on his former team.

Other defenses that could really shine in their matchups this week are the Panthers against the 49ers and the Falcons against the Bears.

Sit:

Detroit Lions vs Cardinals

Detroits defense that surrendered the second-most touchdown passes in the league last year is taking on the Arizona Cardinals, which is known for airing the ball out. Opposing quarterbacks averaged a league-high 106.5 QBR against the Lions defense last season. A healthy Cardinals team could be lethal.

New York Giants vs Cowboys

The Giants take on their division rival Dallas Cowboys, with Ezekiel Elliot. Prescott with a year under his belt, plus, Zeke running behind the best o-line in the league is scary. It’ll be a tough test for the Giants, and it’s definitely not in their favour. The risk/reward factor for fantasy owners isn’t worth it in this matchup.

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