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FANTASY: Who you should start in every NFL Week One matchup

By Bryce Wells

It’s finally time to stop counting down the days until the 2019 NFL regular season.   The best time of year is upon us: Week 1.

February 3rd was the last time many of us were able to melt into our couches, turn on our 60-inch HD 4K TV’s, and spend an entire day gorging ourselves on buffalo wings, burgers, and other tasty treats our bodies instantly regret. Is it worth it? Of course, it is. As a good friend likes to remind me, “I’m not here for a long time, I’m here for a good time.”  The same goes for our fantasy teams.

An important rule of thumb is to not forget about your vets.  Guys like James White, Alshon Jeffery, Larry Fitzgerald, and Julian Edelman all finished inside the top-30 at their respective positions last year.  At worst, these types of players will provide enough production to start in your flex and can win you a matchup while your opponent starts their shiny new toy (insert unproven rookie wide receiver name here).

At the end of the day, don’t be scared to play seasoned vets and don’t get caught up in the hype for unproven rookies and hopefully-he’ll-breakout-this-year guys.  You need points to win, and established players with years of consistent production make those stressful start/sit decisions that much easier.  For those still drowning in indecision, I’m here to keep your team and mind afloat.

Criteria for the Start/Sit categories:

Auto Start:  Players you don’t have to think about twice; they are starters regardless of matchup.

Starters: Players that are most likely in your lineups unless you have auto start players that can be played in their spot instead.

Sit: Players I wouldn’t have in my lineup for matchup reasons or otherwise.  Don’t play these guys unless you have no other options.

Don’t Sweat It:  Keep these players far, far away from your starting lineups.

PACKERS @ BEARS

Auto Start:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Davante Adams

Start:

  • David Montgomery
  • Allen Robinson

Sit:

  • Aaron Jones
  • Anthony Miller
  • Geronimo Allison & Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS)

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Jimmy Graham
  • Trey Burton (Not expected to be ready Week 1)
  • Mike Davis
  • Taylor Gabriel

Conclusion:

A classic matchup to kick off the season.  Expect a big Week 1 from David Montgomery against a suspect Packers defense.  Most running backs going up against the Bears’ defense will end up being in the Sit category for obvious reasons.  The verdict isn’t out on Geronimo Allison and MVS yet, but if you had to play one, play MVS.  He’s in more WR sets than Allison making him a safer upside play.

CHIEFS @ JAGUARS

 Auto Start:

  • Patrick Mahomes
  • Tyreek Hill
  • Leonard Fournette
  • Travis Kelce

Start:

  • Nick Foles
  • Dede Westbrook

Sit:

  • Sammy Watkins & Mecole Hardman
  • Damien Williams & Lesean McCoy

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Keelan Cole, DJ Chark & Marquise Lee
  • Geoff Swaim & Josh Oliver
  • Darwin Thompson

Conclusion:

The best offense in the league on the road against a top defense.  Most people won’t play Nick Foles and that’s understandable, but if the Chiefs put some serious points on the board Foles will have to play catch-up.  As for Watkins & Hardman, I’m just not sold.   Hill went 4 for 61 last year against Jalen Ramsey, so it may seem like Watkins would be the play, but in fantasy, I don’t have high expectations for him, especially against the Jags.  Damien Williams was drafted too high this year and owners aren’t as optimistic with the McCoy signing.  Until we see what both can do on the field, they’re on the bench in fantasy.

FALCONS @ VIKINGS

 Auto Start:

  • Matt Ryan
  • Julio Jones
  • Dalvin Cook
  • Stefon Diggs & Adam Thielen

Start:

  • Devonta Freeman
  • Calvin Ridley
  • Austin Hooper
  • Kirk Cousins

Sit:

  • Kyle Rudolph & Irv Smith Jr.

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Ito Smith, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison
  • Mohamed Sanu
  • Alexander Mattison

Conclusion:

Not much to say about this matchup except PLAY EVERYONE.  This is one of my favorite matchups for the week not only in fantasy but football as well.  This should be a high scoring game even though we can expect a solid showing from the stout Viking defense.  Dalvin Cook and Julio Jones will be a few of the top scorers due to what these offenses bring to the table.

 TITANS @ BROWNS

 Auto Start:

  • Baker Mayfield
  • Odell Beckham Jr.
  • Nick Chubb

 Start:

  • Derrick Henry
  • Corey Davis
  • Jarvis Landry
  • David Njoku

 Sit:

  • Marcus Mariota
  • Adam Humphries & AJ Brown

 Don’t Sweat It:

  • Tajae Sharp
  • Dion Lewis
  • Delanie Walker
  • Rashard Higgins

Conclusion:

I’m not going to tell you to sit Derrick Henry and Corey Davis because at a certain point there have to be points scored by Titan players.  These two are most likely the ones to do so.  A different story in Cleveland as this offense should be firing on all cylinders with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and a year under Baker’s belt.  Play all Browns players this week, especially Nick Chubb.  When the Browns get an early lead Chubb will be put to work.

BILLS @ JETS

 Auto Start:

  • Le’Veon Bell

Start:

  • Sam Darnold
  • Josh Allen
  • John Brown

Sit:

  • Devin Singletary & Frank Gore
  • Zay Jones & Robert Foster
  • Dawson Knox
  • Quincy Enunwa

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Cole Beasley
  • TJ Yeldon
  • Chris Herndon (Suspended 4 Games)
  • Ty Montgomery
  • Jamison Crowder

Conclusion:

What a gross game in a gross division (expect to see this in the AFC East quite a bit this year).  On the bright side, we get to see the Jets offense which carries a lot of potential.  Lev Bell is the only auto-start and for good reason.  The Jets paid him enough to guarantee him plenty of opportunity; don’t buy into the “Adam Gase doesn’t like to feature RBs” talk.  Avoid all other backs until we know how their situation plays out.  I also like Sam Darnold and Josh Allen and think Darnold outplays Allen despite the latter’s rushing upside.

RAVENS @ DOLPHINS

Auto Start:

  • Lamar Jackson

Start:

  • Mark Andrews
  • Mark Ingram
  • Albert Wilson

Sit:

  • Marquise Brown & Miles Boykin
  • Justice Hill
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Kenyan Drake & Kalen Ballage

 Don’t Sweat It:

  • Willie Snead
  • Gus Edwards
  • Hayden Hurst
  • Devante Parker & Preston Williams
  • Mike Gesicki
  • Josh Rosen

 Conclusion:

By far the worst game in Week 1.  Lamar Jackson could finish in the top-10 this week because Dolphins gonna Dolphin.  Mark Andrews has been getting almost as much love from beat writers as Lamar this off-season, and I’m buying it.  I also felt obligated to throw at least one Dolphin in the start category and that’s Albert Wilson.  Don’t overthink it though.  He could be a flex play but I almost guarantee you have someone else on your bench to play in your flex.  It won’t be pretty against the Ravens defense but Wilson has the best odds out of all Miami players. Maybe he belongs in SIT after all.  Play him at your own risk.

REDSKINS @ EAGLES

 Auto Start:

  • Carson Wentz
  • Zach Ertz

Start:

  • Derrius Guice
  • Alshon Jeffery
  • DeSean Jackson
  • Miles Sanders

Sit:

  • Case Keenum
  • Adrian Peterson
  • Trey Quinn & Terry McLaurin
  • Jordan Howard
  • Dallas Goedert

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Dwayne Haskins
  • Chris Thompson
  • Paul Richardson & Kelvin Harmon
  • Jordan Reed
  • Nelson Agholor & J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Conclusion:

The Eagles should be able to boat-race the Redskins in this matchup but I’m really excited to see what some of these guys do.  Derrius Guice, Miles Sanders, and DeSean Jackson are all intriguing, and hopefully, we’ll find out which guys are catching passes in Washington.  Carson Wentz better be in your lineups, and if you want to go for upside, go Guice.  We know Jay Gruden wants to run the offense through him and we all know what that means: an upset Adrian Peterson coming off a 1,000 yard rushing season.  Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

RAMS @ PANTHERS

 Auto Start:

  • Jared Goff
  • Todd Gurley
  • Brandin Cooks
  • Cam Newton
  • Christian McCaffery
  • DJ Moore

Start:

  • Cooper Kupp
  • Robert Woods
  • Curtis Samuel
  • Greg Olsen

Sit:

  • Darrell Henderson & Malcolm Brown

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Ian Thomas
  • Gerald Everett

Conclusion:

Oh my god, what a matchup.  Panther and Ram shareholders are chomping at the bit to see what plays out.  Is Cam Newton healthy? Is DJ Moore or Curtis Samuel the WR1?  How is Todd Gurley’s knee?  The list of questions goes on, but one thing is for sure: Christian. McCaffery.  Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp will all be fine plays, and I’m expecting plenty of throwing this game with as many as nine players scoring in double-digits.

COLTS @ CHARGERS

 Auto Start:

  • TY Hilton
  • Keenan Allen

Start:

  • Marlon Mack
  • Phillip Rivers
  • Austin Ekeler
  • Mike Williams
  • Hunter Henry

Sit:

  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Devin Funchess & Parris Campbell
  • Eric Ebron

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Nyheim Hines
  • Jack Doyle
  • Justin Jackson
  • Travis Benjamin

Conclusion:

This kind of feels like a trap game with the exception of a couple guys.  The Colts have a very underrated defense against a Melvin Gordon-less offense and I’m expecting Keenan Allen to show up because of it.  Without Gordon, the offense tends to flow through Allen, Mike Williams, and hopefully Hunter Henry, so expect plenty of volume for these guys as well as a few turnovers from Rivers.  With Brissett facing a defense who recently lost Derwin James for at least half a season, TY Hilton is a strong play.  Marlon Mack could also open some eyes with the assumption that the Colts don’t have confidence in the passing game yet.

BENGALS @ SEAHAWKS

 Auto Start:

  • Joe Mixon
  • Tyler Boyd
  • Russell Wilson
  • Tyler Lockett

Start:

  • Chris Carson

Sit:

  • Andy Dalton
  • Rashaad Penny
  • DK Metcalf

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Giovani Bernard
  • John Ross
  • Tyler Eifert
  • David Moore
  • Will Dissly

Conclusion:

The answer is no, don’t start DK Metcalf.  Let the man give us something to go off of in Seattle before compulsively starting him because you saw his muscles.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the Bengals won’t be phenomenal on offense with Jadeveon Clowney added to this Seattle defense.  Once the Hawks get a lead, expect them to do what they reeeeealllllyyyy want to do, and that’s run.  Chris Carson should be a start in this game because of it.  Russ and Lockett will push the ball downfield and that’s the move for your starting lineup.  Mixon and Boyd deserve starts because they’re the only valuable pieces of that offense.  Play them and don’t overthink it.

GIANTS @ COWBOYS

 Auto Start:

  • Saquon Barkley
  • Evan Engram
  • Dak Prescott
  • Ezekiel Elliot
  • Amari Cooper

Start:

  • Sterling Shepard

Sit:

  • Eli Manning & Daniel Jones
  • Michael Gallup & Randall Cobb
  • Tony Pollard

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Golden Tate & Cody Latimer
  • Jason Witten

Conclusion:

Nothing is more magical than watching the two best running backs in football go head to head.  Zeke’s going to eat and Saquon is going to make guys look silly. Cooper should have a solid outing given his foot is no longer an issue, Dak provides a safe stat-line due to his rushing upside, and Evan Engram could push himself into a top-5 fantasy tight end with New York’s limited passing options.

49ERS @ BUCCANEERS

 Auto Start:

  • George Kittle
  • Jameis Winston
  • Mike Evans
  • Chris Godwin

Start:

  • Jimmy Garrapolo
  • Deebo Samuel
  • OJ Howard

Sit:

  • Marquise Goodwin & Dante Pettis
  • Peyton Barber & Ronald Jones
  • Tevin Coleman & Matt Breida

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Dare Ogunbowale
  • Cameron Brate

Conclusion:

It kind of feels like a big Kittle game doesn’t it?  Good, because that’s exactly what will happen.  The Bucs defense is one of the worst in the league, so wheels up for Georgie. The Chris Godwin hype train has finally reached the station and it will take on as many passengers as possible.  Mike Evans has posted a 1,000-yard season every year of his career, so there’s nothing to worry about with him. I don’t know what to expect from OJ Howard or Jimmy Garrapolo, but I’d still start them.  Winston is a must-start.

LIONS @ CARDINALS

 Auto Start:

  • Kerryon Johnson
  • Kenny Golladay
  • Kyler Murray
  • David Johnson

Start:

  • Matt Stafford
  • Marvis Jones
  • Christian Kirk

Sit:

  • TJ Hockensen
  • CJ Anderson
  • Larry Fitzgerald

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Andy Isabella & KeeSean Johnson
  • Charles Clay
  • Jesse James

 Conclusion:

It’s the Kyler Murray show in Arizona now.  He has a great shot at going HAM this week against a questionable Lions team.  David Johnson could be back to elite status, and Larry Fitz could surprise some people as he’s been hidden behind the Christian Kirk hype (who should also be started).  For the Lions, Kenny G. and Kerryon are your must-plays this week as they are the focal points of this offense.  If you’re shareholders of these two guys, you hope Matt Stafford’s struggles last year were only health-related and that the offense performs well in Week 1.

STEELERS @ PATRIOTS

 Auto Start:

  • Juju Smith-Schuster
  • James Connor

Start:

  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Vance McDonald
  • James White
  • Sony Michel
  • Julian Edelman & Josh Gordon

Sit:

  • Donte Moncrief & James Washington
  • Tom Brady

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Jaylen Samuels
  • Diontae Johnson
  • Matt Lacosse & Benjamin Watson

Conclusion:

Two dusty old farts with more Super Bowls than most going head to head.  I’m playing Big Ben but benching Tom.  The Patriots usually start slow, and if you factor in an improved Steelers defense, New England’s lack of receiver options and Tom’s lack-luster fantasy production the last few years, I’m out on TB12.  Juju and Connor are no-brainers, Vance is going to have an uptick in targets with the departure of Antonio Brown, and James White has outlasted more running backs in New England because he’s a Brady favorite.

TEXANS @ SAINTS

Auto Start:

  • Deshaun Watson
  • DeAndre Hopkins
  • Drew Brees
  • Alvin Kamara
  • Michael Thomas

Start:

  • Will Fuller

Sit:

  • Duke Johnson
  • Keke Coutee (May not play Week 1)
  • Kenny Stills
  • Latavius Murry
  • Tre’Quan Smith
  • Jared Cook

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Carlos Hyde
  • Jordan Thomas & Kahale Warring
  • Ted Ginn

Conclusion:

This is my favorite fantasy football matchup this week.  Watson has a shot at MVP as long as the O-line doesn’t give up the most sacks in the league again.  Hopkins is the beneficiary of Watson’s rising stardom, and if Will Fuller is healthy, he could be a top-25 WR this year.  Kamara is the most exciting player to watch in the league, Michael Thomas doesn’t drop passes, and Drew Brees is starting to decline even though he’s going to start in lineups.

BRONCOS @ RAIDERS

 Auto Start:

  • Antonio Brown

Start:

  • Emmanuel Sanders
  • Josh Jacobs

Sit:

  • Phillip Lindsay & Royce Freeman
  • Courtland Sutton & DaeSean Hamilton
  • Noah Fant
  • Derek Carr

Don’t Sweat It:

  • Joe Flacco
  • Jalen Richard
  • Tyrell Williams
  • Hunter Renfroe
  • Darren Waller

Conclusion:

I love my Broncos, I hate the Raiders, and I want nothing to do with this matchup in fantasy.  There are just too many players with too many question marks.  AB should play despite all the mumbo jumbo of the offseason.  Sanders, post-Achilles tear, somehow still looks good, and Jacobs should get plenty of carries.  That being said, Denver’s defense is solid so Jacobs is a scary start.  Who knows how the Lindsay -Freeman tandem plays out, and the same could be said with Sutton and Hamilton.  Derek Carr doesn’t deserve a start quite yet.

Enjoy the Fantasy Football weekend, everyone.  Check back next week for your Week Two plays.

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