In this weekly feature, we’ll pick five games to watch from a fantasy perspective, and talk about the players to watch in each game. Since this is still the early season, it’ll take some time before we watch out for the trends, but we’ll get there!
Game 1: Tampa Bay @ Atlanta
This divisional matchup might not seem very appealing on paper – after all, neither team made very much noise last year in disappointing finishes for both squads. However, from a fantasy perspective, there are a lot of stars here for your entertainment: RB Doug Martin could feast against a lackluster front seven, and QB Jameis Winston could have success with WR Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson – Evans and Martin would be surefire starts in particular.
On the Atlanta side, you’ll definitely be starting your studs (a phrase you’ll hear very often from me, and from fantasy football enthusiasts in general, especially to start the year) in WR Julio Jones and RB Devonta Freeman – you’ll rarely bench these two, especially against a team like Tampa Bay. QB Matt Ryan could have a good start here as well, but if you have better options at QB, play them instead.
Game 2: Green Bay @ Jacksonville
This one is seemingly one-sided: one features the best QB in football, and the other features Aaron Rodgers. Zing! But, in all seriousness, if Rodgers and the Packers lose, it will be quite the upset. Neither defence is in the upper echelon (read: top 5), so there should be plenty of scoring to go around. I’ll start by letting up on Rodgers and say that you should never bench him, ever, outside of his BYE week or injury. RB Eddie Lacy, WR Jordy Nelson, and WR Randall Cobb all will have value most weeks, but especially against the weak Jacksonville D/ST. If Dante Fowler Jr. and Jalen Ramsey can shore up their weak points, then perhaps they’ll put up some more fight, but that remains to be seen prior to Week 1.
On the other side, QB Blake Bortles, WR Allen Robinson, and WR Allen Hurns all deserve starts, though I would steer away from RBs TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory until their situation sorts itself out (in terms of goal line carries, the bulk of the carries in general, etc).
Game 3: Oakland @ New Orleans
The Raiders are a trendy pick to make the playoffs as a wild card this yer – they have a much improved team in many ways, including on defence. QB Derek Carr is set up to have a good year, with WR Amari Cooper, RB Latavius Murray, and TE Clive Walford. However, I’d let Walford sit on the bench a little longer – start the other three, and proceed with caution, as the NOLA Superdome is quite an imposing place to play for opponents.
With the Saints, QB Drew Brees is in the same boat as Rodgers – never bench him outside of injury or BYE week. WR Brandin Cooks and RB Mark Ingram can be played with confidence as well, and look out for WR Willie Snead to get some catches, though only play him if you’re in a tough spot at WR (he holds far more value for PPR, in which case you should definitely start him).
Game 4: New York (Giants) @ Dallas
These divisional games are some of my favourite to watch, especially the ones between the Giants and Cowboys, which always seem to end in absolutely mind-bending ways.
QB Eli Manning is always worthy of a start against the Cowboys, and likewise for WR Odell Beckham Jr. Other than those two, I would wait until later weeks to determine the usage of Sterling Shepard, Rashad Jennings, and Larry Donnell.
With the injury to QB Tony Romo, I would only start RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR Dez Bryant – the others are hampered by Romo’s injury. Any QB starting for the Cowboys will have fantasy relevance, but I would advise caution with starting Dak Prescott (no matter how good Callum thinks he is) right out of the gate.
Game 5: Pittsburgh @ Washington
Finally, our last game of the week. RB Le’Veon Bell is out, but DeAngelo Williams is more than worth a start in his place. WR Antonio Brown will of course be starting, stud as he is, and QB Ben Roethlisberger needs be started against a lackluster Washington secondary. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might consider starting WR Markus Wheaton or Sammie Coates – they could pay off.
QB Kirk Cousins can be started against the Steelers D/ST, as can WR DeSean Jackson. Since we’ve already touched on the adventure theme (cue Indiana Jones theme song), I WOULD say forego WR Pierre Garcon, and start WR Josh Doctson – maybe I’ve played too much Madden 17, but he is the real deal, and Cousins can sling it. However, Doctson is still out with an injury, so Jackson is the only one with real value right now. I’d stay away from RB Matt Jones – the Washington backfield needs a wait, similar to the Ravens and Jags – though it could be figured out in the coming seasons.