Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us as the Pittsburgh Steelers visit the New England Patriots for Thursday night football. Unfortunately, it is a game that many of us would treat like NFL commissioner Roger Goodell plans to: as a passive-aggressive protest, thanks to the recent Deflategate rulings.
But some of us happen to be fans of the Patriots, Steelers, and, most importantly, fantasy football players. So here is our weekly analysis of who to start, who to sit, and some spin on players to drive you crazy.
Please note: there are certain players that can be considered “set ’em and forget ’em.” We don’t include them in our “Start” segment because it usually goes without saying that if you drafted someone in the first two rounds, you’re sticking with them unless they are injured or on a bye.
Quarterback: Eli Manning, New York Giants
Starting Eli Manning is always a bit of a gamble because you can never tell which Eli you’re going to get: good Eli, or horrible Eli. He can throw touchdowns or interceptions. In this game against the Dallas Cowboys that begs to be a shootout, he should probably be able to do both.
I would start Eli Manning over: Carson Palmer (ARI), Sam Bradford (PHI), Jay Cutler (CHI)
Running Back: DeAngelo Williams, Pittsburgh Steelers
No, I don’t think DeAngelo Williams can fill Le’Veon Bell’s shoes, but the 32 year old running back is going to be at his freshest for the first game. With Vince Wilfork leaving for Houston, the New England Patriots’ defensive line is as small as they’ve even been, which means that Williams’ early speed and size could find or make some holes for decent gains. Yes, this game begs to be a shootout, but sometimes the best way to keep up with a high-powered offense is to keep them off the field with a run game.
I would start DeAngelo Williams over: Chris Ivory (NYJ), T.J. Yeldon (JAC), Frank Gore (IND)
Wide Receiver: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
I don’t expect Davante Adams to replace Jordy Nelson and rack up over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns, but for a #2 receiver or flex play, I think Adams is set for a decent year, and an amazing Week 1 against a Bears defense that has a secondary only in name.
Sure, James Jones is back from his visit to Oakland and may eat into Adams’ totals, but Jones will need at least a week to truly define his role, if he even finds one that is more than a “mentor” status.
I would start Davante Adams over: Sammy Watkins (BUF), Andre Johnson (IND), Keenan Allen (SD)
Tight End: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
This game between the Cowboys and Giants is expected to be high-scoring, which means that Jason Witten may be able to leave his blocking role more than usual and hoof it down the field. The Giants have bigger holes in their defensive line than the one in Jason Pierre-Paul’s hand, so run-blocking shouldn’t be a problem for the Cowboys’ offensive front. If I had to choose who has more fantasy points between Jason Witten and Terrence Williams, I’d go with Witten.
I would start Jason Witten over: Delanie Walker (TEN), Jordan Cameron (MIA)
DST: Miami Dolphins
Not only is Ndamukong Suh on the defensive line in Miami, but the Dolphins are playing Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins. Last season, Cousins played in six games and accumulated ten touchdowns, but also had nine interceptions. It’s a risk / reward play but, given the preseason confusion in Washington’s camp, the reward seems to be apparent.
I would start the Miami DST over: Texans (HOU), Cleveland (CLE), Rams (STL)
Kicker: Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks
The St. Louis Rams usually have a bend/don’t break defense when dealing with the Seahawks. With Hauschka’s leg and a dome setting, I could see more field goals than touchdowns.
I would start Steven Hauschka over: Adam Vinatieri (IND), Stephen Gostkowski (NE), Mason Crosby (GB)
Quarterback: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
There are too many question marks with the Panthers’ passing attack to let me start Cam Newton. It’s not just that their best receiver is actually their tight end, Greg Olsen. The Panthers are playing the Jaguars, which means that Cam won’t have to break out the Superman shirt (or Batman these days) and run very much for yardage. He’ll have Jonathan Stewart to do that for him rather than get too banged up in the first game.
Replacements: Carson Palmer (ARI), Sam Bradford (PHI), Philip Rivers (SD)
Running Back: Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts
The opportunity for Frank Gore is ripe in Indianapolis. It’s just too risky in this game.
The Colts will be playing Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills, a stellar defense that now has a stellar defensive-minded coach. Running is futile. Passing may be just as bad. Add that to the fact that we don’t know how Andrew Luck can possibly spread the ball around enough to keep everyone in double digit fantasy points, and it looks like this game may be a warm-up for Gore.
Replacements: DeAngelo Williams (PIT), Doug Martin (TB), Latavius Murray (OAK)
Wide Receiver: DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans
As good as Hopkins seemed to be last year, it always came down to one fact: the Houston Texans run the ball. J.J. Watt got 1/3 of Hopkins’ touchdowns playing tight end. That usually doesn’t bode well for wide receiver fantasy points.
As if that wasn’t enough to disrupt Hopkins, Brian Hoyer is now the quarterback of the Houston Texans after force-feeding running backs in Cleveland last season. This game in Kansas City is not the day to test things if you can help it.
Replacements: Vincent Jackson (TB), Davante Adams (GB), Keenan Allen (SD)
Tight End: Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts
Up against a Bills defense that was the stingiest to tight ends last year that now has a head coach that was almost as stingy to tight ends, Allen also has to share with Coby Fleener, Frank Gore, T.Y. Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, and even Andrew Luck running the ball in himself. Allen is touchdown dependent, and there are too many bodies with two few touchdowns to go around this week.
Replacements: Jordan Reed (WAS), Kyle Rudolph (MIN), Larry Donnell (NYG)
DST: Buffalo Bills
As great as the Bills defense is, it’s risky to pit them against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. There are plenty of games out there that could be much more low-scoring.
Replacements: Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings
Kicker: Cody Parkey, Philadelphia Eagles
Who would be surprised if Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles go for the two-point conversion every time they score? It’s not like the Falcons’ defense is going to be fresh at the end of a drive.
Replacements: Josh Scobee (PIT), Chandler Catanzaro (ARI), Blair Walsh (MIN)
Quarterback: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
With a new running back and a new fly-route runner, can Colin Kaepernick put last season’s bust behind him? It’s possible. He may even leave some Vikings’ safeties in his dust.
Running Back: Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The news is that Doug Martin is slimmer and quicker. If you have to test him out, this game against the Tennessee Titans would be the time. Then you can trade him away for a player you could start without having heart palpitations.
Wide Receiver: Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
It’s rare that a rookie receiver blows up in his first NFL game, so keep those expectations for Nelson Agholor in check. However, it’s fine to expect some good flex points out of him.
Tight End: Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins are terrible in almost every aspect of the game. When it comes to Jordan Reed, the question is: will the Redskins trade blocking for another route runner? And how far in the hole will they have to be to let that happen?
DST: Jacksonville Jaguars
Could the Carolina Panthers be that inept on offense that the Jaguars become relevant in DST rankings? I wouldn’t be surprised.
Kicker: Dan Carpenter, Buffalo Bills
I guess Dan Carpenter wasn’t as bad as the kickers Rex Ryan brought in to try out this past week. Kicker by default? Is that what you want at the end of your fantasy lineup?
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