Welcome to Week 1 of Pack to the Fantasy! My name is Kevin Tompkins and I’ll be doing my best to give you as much fantasy goodness as you can handle. If you’re wondering where the Packers/Seahawks portion is, that game will be its own separate article on PTTF! Without further ado… (reminder: CTRL+F is your friend!)
Week 1 START OF THE WEEK (THE BIG CHEESE!)
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington
Against a super porous Eagles defense, Cousins should have no problem carving them up in their home opener. He has 2 straight seasons of top 10 fantasy finishes at the QB position and I can’t see him not getting a 3rd. It starts this week.
Week 1 SIT OF THE WEEK (THE LIMBURGER!)
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis
Resist the Tolzien effect. You can do better this week, as there’s no doubt the lack of Luck behind center will bring everybody down, especially Hilton. With Luck back in the fold, Hilton is good to go, but not this week.
Jets @ Bills
- Bilal Powell is your only startable Jet. All others should be avoided, and if you have to rely on them in Week 1, you may have had one too many Mojitos at your fantasy draft. Consider Powell a middle of the road RB2 for this tilt. Bilal should get a 2:1 ratio of touches compared to Matt Forte, especially if the Jets are down, which they probably should be. New acquisition Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson are dart throws in any format, but with that QB situation, they’re not viable plays. That Jets D/ST (now that they’ve traded Sheldon Richardson) can stay on waivers the entire season.
- As for Buffalo, LeSean McCoy is the bellcow of bellcows this week, he should be leaned on early and often, he’s undoubtedly a RB1 in this matchup. Tyrod Taylor isn’t a bad play either if you drafted Jameis Winston or Andrew Luck and have to scramble for a QB. As for the wideouts, I would stash Jordan Matthews until he gets healthy. Zay Jones could be a factor, but I would adopt a wait and see approach with those 2 wideouts. TE Charles Clay should be on the waiver wire in most leagues and should probably stay there for Week 1. Bills D/ST is a worthwhile top 5 play this week against that abomination of an offense.
Cardinals @ Lions
- You drafted David Johnson #1 and he’ll show you the way. The only competition for the top running back spot this week for LeSean McCoy, Johnson should dominate the Lions’ front 7, both through the air and on the ground. Larry Fitzgerald will see a nice matchup against Quandre Diggs this week. Fitzgerald might not have the downfield juice anymore but the man is a monster in September, with 5 TD in 3 games in 2015, and 3 TD last season in 3 games, to go with no less than 8 targets. In my eyes, a high end WR2 this week. Carson Palmer is a top-12 play this week, as Detroit allowed a league-high 73% completion percentage to opposing QB’s in 2016. Opposite Fitzgerald, Jaron Brown is listed on the depth chart as their other starter at wideout, but John Brown will be starting sooner rather than later. For now, he should be left on your bench, but in a pinch, he can be considered a WR4/low end flex. As for the Cardinals D/ST, they’re worthy of starting consideration, but temper expectations especially in yardage-based formats.
- With the Cardinals’ superb secondary, you have to give a bump down to most of the Detroit skill position players. Golden Tate who would normally be a high-end WR2, is a low end because he should be shadowed by 3 time All-Pro Patrick Peterson. Eric Ebron should not be on your radar as a viable TE play, but hopefully he gets more red zone targets than the 1 he received last season. Ameer Abdullah had a lot of hype his rookie season, but injuries have derailed a bit of that luster. In this matchup, he should be considered a VERY low end RB2 or even a flex. Theo Riddick will eat into Abdullah’s touches and can be used in PPR as a flex option if your options are dire… (The Mimosas coming back into play!) I know Detroit wants to run the ball, but Matthew Stafford is a gunslinger and wants to win games with his arms. For fantasy, that bodes pretty well and should give you license to start him most weeks, including this week. The Detroit D/ST looks great on the waiver wire and should continue to seek permanent residence there.
Falcons @ Bears
- Julio Jones. That nagging toe injury from 2016. He had it all season and if you owned him, it was literally the cross to bear, as that cross was plastered all over his player page. No longer. Prince Amukamara is out this week, so a juicy matchup for possibly the mostly talented WR in the league just got better. Start him. Love him. As for the other wideouts, Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel, they should be left on the waiver wire. And preseason darling Austin Hooper? I’d bench him just to see what his usage will be. More than likely, the gameplan will feature a lot of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Freeman signed a big time contract so you know he will be getting a majority of the carries, but Coleman will be very useful still, both as a spell and as a pass catcher coming out of the backfield. Freeman is a RB1 this week, start with the utmost confidence. Coleman is a very good flex option this week. Matt Ryan, oh no, I didn’t forget about you! I’ll start you this week, but I will also temper my expectations considering the game plan will probably be more run heavy than most. As for the expectations regarding the Falcons D/ST, START. NOW.
- Where to begin in the barren fantasy wasteland that is Chicago, IL… Jordan Howard was a 2nd round pick in most drafts, and he has to be started. I can definitely see a TD, but as for yardage, it’ll be hit or miss. Chicago should be trailing most of the game and will have to throw, throw, throw. Which doesn’t make Mike Glennon a starter… or anybody else on the offense. Kevin White is too raw as Chicago’s #1, and as for Kendall Wright, just not sure about his usage going forward. Everybody but Howard should not be owned in fantasy. It’s best not to think about Chicago’s D/ST, so let’s not and say we did.
Steelers @ Browns
- Start all Steelers that have a first or last name that start with B. That means you Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and Martavis Bryant. All 4 should be started with supreme confidence, yes, even Ben. New acquisition Vance McDonald could become worthy of startable consideration this season, but is best left on waivers for now. For me, I love the Steelers D/ST this week, and they have a beautiful set up matchups leading up to their bye week.
- The main fantasy option for the Browns is undoubtedly Isaiah Crowell, and the Steelers can be run on, but the gameplan will really test Hue Jackson’s patience with the running game. For me, Crowell is a middle of the road flex option. Duke Johnson could see some garbage time catches out of the backfield, but he’s a desperation flex play for Week 1. Kenny Britt is the only option to think about that would be anything close to viable. He has flex consideration, as he could nab a garbage time TD. Corey Coleman can have value, but not at this stage of the season. Also, a big fat no to the Browns D/ST.
Raiders @ Titans
- Derek Carr is a surefire QB1 this week we’ll see if he continues to make strides throwing to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who are easy starters this week. Cooper and Crabtree will have WR1 upside most matchups, but there are few games where both get love from Carr. Cooper gets the slight nod over Crabtree if I had to pick one over the other this week. Jared Cook should be firmly left on the waiver wire, he’s been too much of a tease his entire career for me to buy into him. Marshawn Lynch is back, and we’ll see if he can shake the rust off. For me, he’s an RB2 but a decent one, and if he shows any of the power and burst he had in Seattle, then bump him up a tier. The Raiders D/ST can have some use this season, but I’d leave them on the wire this week.
- With the highest over/under of the NFL slate this week, Marcus Mariota should be a huge part of that. His receivers aren’t anything really special, but they’re just good enough to be productive. Add in his running prowess and you’re looking at a solid QB1 this week and for most of the season, barring injury. DeMarco Murray should be running hard and often, and he is definitely in the RB1 mix. Derrick Henry has a lot of potential within this offense, but his carries are hard to gauge, and because of that, should be a bench stash. Even though the Titans have capable receivers, to me, they are nothing more than flex options. That goes for Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, and Corey Davis. Delanie Walker, however, should grab most of the targets from Mariota, and be an easy start every week. Tennessee’s D/ST could give up a lot of yards and quite a bit of scoring, so they should be left alone this week.
Eagles @ Redskins
- Until we see some production from Carson Wentz, I won’t start him. He’s too volatile a commodity currently. That said, the Eagles did improve their personnel from last season, adding Alshon Jeffrey and LeGarrette Blount. Jeffrey this week is a high end WR2, possibly a low end WR1. Here’s hoping his hamstrings hold up. Alliteration aside, TE Zach Ertz is the only viable receiving threat from a fantasy perspective. He’s at the low end of the starting TE but should be starting in a majority of leagues. In his 2nd matchup against Washington, he torched the Redskins for 10 rec., 112 yds, temper yourself expecting those numbers but he does have some history on his side. The Eagles backfield is one I wouldn’t touch. Too many backs, hard to peg one guy who could stand out as the leader in touches. Darren Sproles does have PPR flex value, Blount also has flex value in TD heavy leagues, Wendell Smallwood could be a stash. But we do not know as of yet, so I would exercise caution. Where the Eagles D/ST is concerned, I see a shootout from these two teams, so I wouldn’t touch them either.
- Kirk Cousins has everybody healthy, including the top TE of the week Jordan Reed (He’s healthy, folks!). The man who bet on himself in free agency should have every opportunity to torch defenses this season. He’s my Start of the Week this week, and I think he’s going to go off most weeks providing his targets are healthy. The main cog in that is Reed, who has been the top fantasy TE in the NFL in terms of fantasy points per game. Terrelle Pryor was brought in from Cleveland, and he has to establish a rapport with Cousins, but that shouldn’t take long. Consider him a high end WR3. Same with Jamison Crowder who operates in the slot and already has Cousins’ eye. Considering the shootout possibility, best to leave the Redskins D/ST on the wire for the week.
Ravens @ Bengals
- Joe Flacco should be good to go for the Ravens, but not for your fantasy squad. He’s been largely irrelevant in fantasy the last few seasons. Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin have uses, but mostly as low-end WR3 or flex consideration. Terrence West is probably the worst #1 running back in the NFL, more than likely he will be a 2 down back on a team that was bottom-five in rushing attempts in 2016. No thank you. Same to the defense. Very little fantasy relevance here.
- With the Bengals, it revolves around AJ Green. He’s healthy and a super stud. Start with supreme confidence. Andy Dalton will get the ball to him. I would be wary of starting him at least until other reliable options come up, one of them hopefully being a healthy Tyler Eifert. He should be good to go for Week 1 and should be started in a majority of leagues. The backfield with Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and Joe Mixon has way too my mouths to feed, and all 3 should be in flex consideration until one comes out ahead. The Bengals D/ST I could see having value but they are on the low end of the starting spectrum.
Jaguars @ Texans
- Blake Bortles… should get eaten alive if he drops back to pass, but good thing Doug Marrone wants to run the ball and drafted a running back in the top 5 in this season’s draft. Leonard Fournette should be an easy RB2 for now, considering the volume he will have and the amount of talent he possesses. Bortles should be left on the wire. I can’t imagine a scenario where he would be a must start this season. Allen Robinson will hopefully get some footballs thrown in his general direction and might even get to catch a few. But I would put a WR3 tag on his, certainly not because of ability, because he has it. Jaguars D/ST have some sleeper potential on defense but I would be wary.
- Tom Savage. I’m not inspired, and you shouldn’t be. Hopefully this will be Deshaun Watson‘s team soon, but for now, DeAndre Hopkins will be receiving passes from Savage. Hopkins just inked a major contract from the Texans, but as it stands for fantasy, he’s a WR2. TE CJ Fiedorowicz probably is on the cusp of being relevant in fantasy, but only if the quarterbacking improves. He’s a solid bench stash with how thin the TE position is. Texans D/ST is a top 6 option, especially this week against Jacksonville.
Panthers @ 49ers
- The talk of the Panthers since the NFL draft has been how they are going to employ Christian McCaffrey. I like to adopt a wait and see approach with rookies, but I would put him in as a RB2, as he should get the 3rd down work and work his way around the field on early downs. Jonathan Stewart is still hanging around and will get carries, but to me, he’s a flex. Cam Newton‘s rushing yards should probably start declining now, if he’s smart and wants to remain in the league. He has no excuses now, as he has the most weapons he’s had in his career at his disposal. Start Newton with confidence every week, as he does have the potential for rushing TD and the occasional burst of rushing yards. Kelvin Benjamin being back provides Newton with that big body that can post up in the red zones and can win most 50/50 balls on the outside and should be a WR2 for most of the season. TE Greg Olsen is one of the best, especially in PPR leagues. Easy start every week. He knows how to get open and excels at running up the seam to gash the defense up the middle. Carolina’s D/ST should be started this week, but they reside in too tough a division to start every week.
- The Hoyer Show has come to the Bay Area, but that show is one you shouldn’t be banking on. Brian Hoyer has one viable target, Pierre Garcon, and he will be fed early and often if the 49ers are to be anywhere close to successful. Garcon is one of my favorite players this season from a fantasy standpoint, because he is the X receiver in a Kyle Shanahan offense, who will get fed targets left and right (just like Garcon was fed in Washington in 2013). As for the running backs, Carlos Hyde has talent, but seems to be bit by the injury bug too much. Hyde should be a middle of the pack RB2. Look out for Matt Brieda, who could be on your waiver wire. They could employ a “thunder/lightning” approach to keep both backs healthy. I don’t care how healthy the 49ers D/ST is, you shouldn’t be rostering them.
Colts @ Rams
- If you love quality quarterbacking, this matchup may not be for you. “The Immortal” Scott Tolzein will be starting in place of Andrew Luck. No, no, don’t go pick him up off of waivers. I know, I know the temptation. I don’t trust him one bit. This could possibly be the worst Indy since “The Crystal Skull”. T.Y. Hilton would normally be a high end WR2, but his numbers will suffer, downgrading him to a low end WR2 or possibly a WR3. Donte Moncrief should be regarded as a flex. Preseason darling TE Jack Doyle could be a beneficiary of Tolzein, being a safety valve but even that is in question. I would bench him honestly. Frank Gore is not immune to this at all, who should see stacked fronts. Consider him a flex for this matchup. The Colts D/ST even with a good matchup, just isn’t that good. You can do better.
- If you believe in Jared Goff, then thank you Jared Goff for reading my article, make sure to throw me a retweet! He has a shiny new target in Sammy Watkins, but I honestly don’t buy what the Rams are selling. He’s a decent WR3 but only because of matchup because there’s a lot of volatility there. Todd Gurley could have a huge day with the Indianapolis defense being so small and unproductive. The hell with it, Gurley as an RB1, he has a big time upside in this matchup, even with stacked boxes his way too. I’d take a spin with the Rams D/ST, even without Aaron Donald. They’d be on the low end of the scale in terms of pecking order for starting defenses, but I’d be happy with the matchup.
Cowboys @ Giants
- Yup, Zeke is playing. I say Ezekiel Elliott will grab at the very least a TD, but the Giants can stop people. They showed that last season, and that continues with Dak Prescott. They can lock up Dez Bryant, none of their other skill position players really stand out, and Prescott’s rushing numbers don’t seem very repeatable. Dak’s a fine NFL QB, but for fantasy purposes, I’ll let somebody else deal with him. If you have him, unless you don’t have other options, he’s right on the edge of being a viable start. As for Bryant, on a team that wants to keep a 50/50 split of rush/pass, Bryant’s targets may dip further. He’s certainly worth a solid WR2 slot, but he will have to make big time use of the targets he gets. The Dallas D/ST is pretty much a no-name defense, which doesn’t bode well for fantasy. Leave the D be.
- Odell Beckham Jr. is the main story here, will he or won’t he play? That’s the game time decision leading up to 8:25 EST. People are saying he’s 50/50, what I will say is if you own him, I would keep tabs on his standing and maybe keep a Cowboys/Giants/Saints/Vikings/Chargers/Broncos WR on your bench to swap in just in case. In that case, I would recommend somebody like Cole Beasley or Ted Ginn Jr. If he does play, he’s an easy WR1, you’d never not play him. Brandon Marshall could be the big beneficiary though, as he’s shown in the past he can soak up targets and be supremely productive. He’s a WR2 if Beckham plays, low end WR1 if he doesn’t. Eli Manning should be better than he is with the targets he gets to throw to, but he’s not starting caliber if you ask me. Too many bad throws, bad reads, declining arm strength, the list goes on. Rookie TE Evan Engram can be a help but it’s hard to rely on a rookie TE in fantasy. He’s a waiver pickup and stash. Giants D/ST was drafted as a starting defense, and should be done so, but temper your expectations. It could be a shootout.
Saints @ Vikings
- What a mess this backfield is. Adrian Peterson, Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara. The main battle for carries seems to be between AP and Ingram. It’s hard to tell, so I would use them as flex options or very low-end RB2. Kamara should be in line for 3rd down work but not enough to establish fantasy relevance. Drew Brees is a QB1 and should be started every week until he retires. Now he has Michael Thomas to throw to? The rich get richer. Thomas is looking like another star in this league and is a WR1 in only his 2nd season. Willie Snead was suspended for the next few games, so look to Ted Ginn on the other side of Thomas. He’s a dart throw flex who could catch one ball for 70 yards and give you a quick 13.5 points. That’s his game. The Saints D/ST hasn’t been useful in years, they won’t start being useful on Sunday. Caveat emptor.
- You’re going to start most players against the Saints. It’s just what you do. Even if it’s Sam Badford… ahem, BRADFORD. I would start him in this matchup because… well, it’s the damn Saints. Same with WR Stefon Diggs, WR Adam Thielen, and TE Kyle Rudolph. Consider the both receivers average WR2 with some upside, and Rudolph a starting caliber TE. His targets may regress, but he’s worthy of starting for sure. The glue to this offense may be Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, whoever starts of the two, or even both. Both will be involved for sure, but Cook should run away with the job. Cook should be a RB2 with big time upside. You’re gonna want some stock in that kitchen. As for the Vikings D/ST… not this week. They do play Chicago twice.
Chargers @ Broncos
- Philip Rivers is going to need to throw his ass off (not literally, of course!) to beat Denver in Mile High this week. He could conceivably do it, he’s pulled off big wins with less. I’ll always bank on him as a starting caliber QB in fantasy. He’s got a bunch of weapons too, like a healthy WR Keenan Allen, WR Tyrell Williams, TE Hunter Henry… Allen needs a full healthy season to get his career back on track. If he gets hurt this season, his time as a Charger is toast. Pencil Allen in as a high-end WR2 with PPR upside. Williams is a low end flex play, because of the matchup. Hunter Henry is probably better than anybody you can find on waivers, but it’s a coin flip play for me as far as starting him. Melvin Gordon won a lot of people money last season considering the production and where he was drafted. Denver was a middle of the road defense last year against the run, so plug in Gordon and let the good times roll! The Chargers D/ST is a middle of the road play but I wouldn’t. You can do much better!
- Something called Trevor Siemian is the quarterback for these Denver Broncos, and while he doesn’t exactly evoke memories of one John Elway, all he has to do is get the ball into the hands of CJ Anderson, Demaryius Thomas, and Emmanuel Sanders. It should be a run-heavy game plan this week, so C.J. Anderson should be a solid RB2 this week. Lurking in the shadows though is Jamaal Charles, but he shouldn’t matter in fantasy, at least for this week. He’s strictly a change of pace to Anderson. Thomas is a high end WR2 and Sanders a low end WR2. Both should be started regardless of matchup. You drafted Denver’s D/ST to start and that’s just what they should do. Probably a good chance of multiple turnovers and sacks as Rivers tries to throw, throw, throw.