Week 1 is the first big test for Fantasy Football players everywhere. How confident are you in your research? Are you too high on that one guy who went to your favorite school? Who is that rookie you don’t want to bench in case he has a huge game? There are so many questions that fantasy owners are contemplating this weekend, and those answers could cause an uproar in the waiver wire come Week 2.
If you have any start/sit questions in preparation for the weekend, I am active on Twitter and will most likely respond to any question. Twitter: @hardwiredsports.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the players that I think are worthy of a look this week, and which should stay deep on your bench.
Starting off easy, you can expect Aaron Rodgers to come through with a big game in Week 1. He is well-rested and returns his favorite target in Jordy Nelson, who you will see later on in this article. Plus the Jaguars ranked near the bottom of the NFL in pass defense a year ago, so he should have plenty of opportunities to air it out. The next guy on the list is Ben Roethlisberger. With arguably the NFL’s best receiver on his team and their starting running back unavailable to play, the Steelers will look downfield. Matt Ryan would also be a great play. The Buccaneers defense is still fairly weak, and Ryan has a great weapon in Julio Jones to attack them with. Pair that combination with wanting to start the season out with a home victory, and Matty Ice could be coming in clutch.
On the other side of things, here are a few quarterbacks that I would not trust to have big weeks. First of all, Dak Prescott. Sure, he had a great preseason and has Dez to work with, but it is awfully risky to start a rookie quarterback in Week 1, especially if that quarterback was drafted in the fourth round. It works out occasionally, but it’s not worth it this early. As for proven fantasy quarterbacks, avoiding Blake Bortles would be a good bet. Although he does have the “garbage time” upside against the Packers, Green Bay has a difficult secondary with plenty of playmakers that could cause a couple of interceptions. Lastly, I would not touch Jay Cutler. Cutler has proven to be a boom-or-bust type fantasy quarterback, and I think he will struggle against the Houston defense, especially if J.J. Watt sees a significant amount of the field.
The first running back that I would take a look at is Spencer Ware. With Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West likely missing out this weekend, Ware will get a steady diet of carries and probably quite a few receptions as well, given Alex Smith‘s history. Duke Johnson is also a great option, especially in a PPR format. Isaiah Crowell will most likely get the red zone touches, but the Eagles struggled mightily against the run last season, and I can see Duke getting 10-15 important touches. Lastly, Todd Gurley is definitely the #1 running back this season. He is an absolute beast and is taking on the 49ers dreadful run defense. Achieving both two touchdown scores and eclipsing the 100-yard mark is a very realistic possibility for him this week.
I know that I have mentioned this in the past, but I am quite high on Melvin Gordon this season. The Chargers as a whole were very disappointing last season, but Gordon looked strong in the preseason. The problem for him, though, is that he is facing a very tough Kansas City run defense. In accordance with this, I would not recommend starting Danny Woodhead this week either, even in a PPR format. Jonathan Stewart is another running back to keep on your bench, as he is going up against the Broncos defense, fresh off their Super Bowl victory in February. Also sit both Bengals running backs (Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard), just to be safe against the Jets’ defense.
If you read the quarterback section, you already know who is coming here: Jordy Nelson. After tearing his ACL last season, he is still the #1 target in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers will look his way all day long and the Jaguars better be ready to see #87 streaking down the field. Another hot receiver this weekend will be Amari Cooper, who faces the horrendous Saints’ pass coverage. Cooper should see plenty of Derek Carr targets in what could easily be a shootout or Raiders’ blowout. An under-the-radar pick for this weekend would be the WR2 from Indianapolis, Donte Moncrief. The Colts are anticipated to throw the ball a lot this season, and if Darius Slay is going to be glued to T.Y. Hilton, Moncrief will be left to their #2 corner. I think Moncrief will outscore Hilton in Week 1.
In the return of Kelvin Benjamin, I am not expecting great things here. He takes on the Broncos and their fabulous secondary and unless he can capitalize on a red zone touchdown, I don’t see a huge yardage production from him. Speaking of great secondaries in the NFL, do not start Julian Edelman this week, unless you are in need of a PPR flex. The Cardinals are a great defense and Edelman will definitely struggle when matched up with the likes of Patrick Peterson. No real reason behind this one, but do you really think Doug Baldwin is going to continue the touchdown tear he ended last season on? I doubt it. To put it in perspective, Baldwin was a top-1o fantasy WR in 2015-2016, but he needed 11 touchdowns in weeks 12-16 to do so. He will still get a steady dose of targets from RW3, but don’t expect the same production as last year.
Since this is always a bold prediction when Gronk is healthy, Gronk will not be the leading tight end scorer this weekend. Delanie Walker has a nice match-up against the Vikings this weekend and without any superior receiving targets for Marcus Mariota, Walker could have a monster start to the year. As I have previously mentioned, I think that the Eagles/Browns game has the possibility to be a shootout. And with that being said, I would advise both Gary Barnidge and Zach Ertz to be starters. Both have unproven quarterbacks leading them, but they are also reliable red zone targets week in and week out.
Jordan Cameron has struggled in the past couple seasons, and I do not expect that to change in this week. Maybe he can develop chemistry with Ryan Tannehill, but I just don’t see it happening here, even against a normally tight end-friendly defense in Seattle. Eric Ebron may have practiced in full yesterday, but how healthy is that ankle? Even if it is 100%, I would not trust Ebron this weekend, as he is typically a fringe starter when healthy.
I have made it abundantly clear that the Texans defense is going to be all over Jay Cutler and the Bears, so I cannot leave them off of this article. I also feel like the Panthers defense could be very effective against Trevor Siemian tonight. He is a young quarterback with very little experience and I think that the Panthers might be able to set the tone defensively in their Super Bowl rematch.
Browns and Eagles. Don’t start either one. I’m very hesitant about these defenses, especially with the high shootout possibility in that one. In another match-up, I have expressed the possibility of the Saints struggling to contain the Raiders offense. With Carr, Cooper, Crabtree, and Murray at 100%, the Saints’ defense should not be your starter this week.