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Fantasy Football: starts and sits for Week 1

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to my Week 1 starts and sits post. Here, I will feature fantasy players at every position that are good plays this week, and also ones that should find themselves on your bench. I’m not going to put obvious starters like David Johnson in the start section, even if they have a really juicy matchup, it’s more about finding players who fantasy owners will have to actually make a decision on. Let’s get right into the starts and sits, beginning with the quarterbacks.

Quarterbacks

Starts

The Steelers start the season with a game against the Cleveland Browns. Last year, the Browns defense allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks (19.4 points per game in standard scoring). Roethlisberger will be boosted by the return of wide receiver Martavis Bryant to what is already one of the game’s best stable of skill position players. Facing a weak defense, Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense will start 2017 off with a bang.

The Buccaneers have received a lot of hype coming into 2017. The biggest reason for the attention they are getting is their rising star at quarterback, Jameis Winston. Winston will keep the hype going strong in the first game of the year as he faces a relatively weak Miami secondary. The Dolphins allowed the fourth most points per game to quarterbacks last year, and they haven’t done enough in the offseason to make me think they will be much better. Expect a big game from Winston and his high octane offense.

Sits

Welcome to the which is quarterback is playing the Broncos section of this article. In Week 1, Philip Rivers is the victim of such a schedule. Even after releasing T.J. Ward, this is still the NFL’s best secondary. This is a team with a very weak offensive line, not a good matchup to face Denver’s ferocious pass rush. Rivers didn’t score more than 13 points either of the two games against the Broncos last year. Even though Rivers gets Keenan Allen back, the combination of Denver’s incredible secondary and having to deal with Von Miller breathing down his neck every play, Rivers will not get a great start to 2017.

The Cowboys open the season against the New York Giants at home, just as they did a year ago. However, Prescott struggled against the Giants in both games last year, scoring 17 points in the two games combined, and the Cowboys lost both times. Prescott hasn’t shown me that he can handle the Giants ever before, and I don’t see that changing in Week 1.

Running Backs

Starts

  • Todd Gurley, LA Rams

The Rams have solved a lot of problems on their offense with offseason acquisitions, and they are lucky enough to be able to test them out against the awful Colts defense in Week 1. With a much improved offensive line headlined by Andrew Whitworth, Gurley will be able to restore confidence in fantasy owners that lost trust in him last year with this soft Week 1 matchup.

McCaffrey gets a nice welcome to the NFL by facing what was the worst rush defense in terms of fantasy points allowed a year ago: the San Francisco 49ers. Expect the Panthers to try to get the ball in his hands this week, a lot. He’s an even better start this week in PPR.

Sits

This Ravens defense is good. It was the NFL’s best rushing defenses a year ago, and with arguably the NFL’s best front seven, it should be even better this year. The Bengals appear to be in a committee mode with Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard all in the mix for touches. With carries divided between three players and facing an elite rushing defense, all three Bengals running backs are not good plays this week.

Lynch will be welcomed back to the NFL by facing a Titans defense that allowed the fewest points per game to running backs last year. With Lynch also likely to be a little rusty after not seeing a NFL snap in so long and facing a good rushing defense, I don’t love Lynch this week.

Wide Receivers

Starts

The Vikings are facing the Saints porous secondary in Week 1, and the game will be played in Minnesota. The Saints have been noticeably worse on the road versus at home, and as a result, I think Diggs will have a big game. Expect Sam Bradford to find Diggs running free downfield throughout this game.

  • Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers

What makes the Steelers offense so tough to defend when they are at full strength is that you can’t double team everyone. On many teams across the NFL, Martavis Bryant would be a number one receiver. The problem is that he is on the same team as Antonio Brown. No matter how the Browns choose to defend in this game, Bryant will see less attention than Brown, meaning that a big return party could be in store for Bryant.

Sits

First, no matter who the Jaguars are playing, it is always worth noting that the quarterback is Blake Bortles. In Week 1, the Jaguars play the Texans. Sure, A.J. Bouye has left Houston and is now in Cleveland, but this Texans defense has a chance to be just as good, if not better than a year ago. It’s a defense led by a powerful front seven and really good players in the secondary. This could be a long game for the Jaguars offense.

  • Keenan Allen, LA Chargers

It’s not going to be a fun return to the NFL for Allen as he has to deal with Chris Harris Jr. and the rest of the Broncos secondary in Week 1. As I wrote about Philip Rivers, “This is a team with a very weak offensive line, not a good matchup to face Denver’s ferocious pass rush. Rivers didn’t score more than 13 points either of the two games against the Broncos last year.” This obviously hurts Allen’s value as well. I don’t think his return party will be as thrilling as someone like Bryant.

Tight Ends

Starts

The Cowboys allowed the third most fantasy points per game to tight ends last year. Sure, the Giants typically don’t utilize their tight ends much, but they haven’t recently had one as dynamic as Engram. Engram’s combine stats are unbelievable, and I think this is a target that Eli Manning will love throwing to, something he should get many opportunities to do against a weak Cowboys secondary.

Clay has a really good Week 1 matchup against the Jets, a team which has stripped away all of its decent players with the exception of Leonard Williams. Clay is no more than an average tight end, but with a matchup against this horrible defense, Clay will have a great start to the year.

Sits

The Cardinals allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends last year. Eric Ebron seemingly enters every season with hype that he will breakout, but he never does. With a tough Week 1 matchup, I don’t see that breakout coming this week.

Like the Giants, Green Bay doesn’t typically use their tight ends a lot. In Week 1, the Packers face a Seahawks defense that allowed less than six points per game against tight ends last year. Bennett’s first regular season game with the Packers added to the fact that the Packers don’t use their tight ends much and that it’s a tough matchup, doesn’t make Bennett a good Week 1 play.

Defense/Special Teams

Starts

  • Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have a great Week 1 matchup against the Texans offense. Tom Savage will be the starter, and while I would have to hope he can’t be any worse than Brock Osweiler, he surely isn’t going to put up really good numbers. Especially against a Jacksonville secondary that features former Texan Bouye, Jalen Ramsey and Barry Church.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers

I’ve probably mentioned the Steelers more times than I should on a Ravens website, but as you probably know by now, they face the Browns in Week 1. Not only do they face the Browns, but they face a rookie quarterback in his first career start. The Steelers also have Joe Haden now who should be motivated against his former team. This should be a big day for the Steelers defense as well.

Sits

The Chiefs have a really good defense, but they play the Patriots in Foxboro. That’s all you need to know about this unit in Week 1.

Kickers

Starts

If you watched the Ravens at all during the preseason, then you know that this offense will largely be just driving the ball to around the opponents 35 yard line and the kicking a field goal. Tucker may very well get the most field goal opportunities this year, and given that he is most accurate kicker in NFL history, that could lead to another excellent year for fantasy owners.

Bryant benefited from being a part of the NFL’s best offense last year. The Falcons start off against the Bears, meaning that Bryant should be able to pick up right where he left off from last year.

Sits

  • Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers

Don’t expect an offensive explosion from the Packers this week. This team will only get so many chances against Seattle’s defense, and Crosby will not get a ton of attempts.

We don’t know if the Cardinals offense is back to being good again, or if they will be bad like last year (with the exception of if your name is David Johnson). I’m taking a wait and see approach with the Cardinals this week.

That’s it for this week, good luck in your opening matchups!