Starting something new this season, we’re going to navigate the fantasy football world together. Each week, I’ll comb through the slate of games, predict which guys I believe will have the most success, and relay the information to you. Before we begin, I’ll lay out some “ground rules” to help clear things up:
1) I wont be listing super obvious plays like running backs Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara. If you drafted someone in the top-5, you’re playing them regardless of matchup.
2) We’ll run through each position sans kicker: QB, RB, WR, TE, Defense
3) Let’s have some fun and make some money together, yeah?
Now that we’ve gotten the instructions out of the way, let’s jump right into it:
Ever since the Cowboys acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper, Prescott’s game has elevated. In 10 weeks with Cooper, Prescott totaled a 70% completion rate, 2,741 passing yards, 15 touchdowns, four interceptions, 102 rushing yards, and five rushing touchdowns. Prescott faces a bad division rival in the Giants which he torched to the tune of 406 yards and four touchdowns in week 17 of 2018. With running back Ezekiel Elliott missing all of training camp, the onus is likely to fall on Prescott’s shoulders in week one.
Jackson is the ultimate dual-threat at quarterback, making him a sure-fire play in week one. The Dolphins ranked 27th in points per game allowed (27.1) and 29th in yards per game allowed (391.1) in 2018. Ironically, the defense hasn’t improved in terms of personnel, making them a major matchup to take advantage of. Jackson was a major problem through seven starts in 2018, totaling nine touchdowns (four rushing) and 1,670 total yards (556 rushing). The additions of running back Mark Ingram and wide receivers Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin are sure to help.
This is likely to be a wildly unpopular selection, but I’d reserve caution around Mayfield in week one. The Titans were 3rd in the league in points per game allowed (18.9) and 7th in the league in yards per game allowed (333.4). Mayfield’s top receiver in Odell Beckham Jr. will play, though he noted he hasn’t been able to “fully open up his hip and sprint” yet, providing extra caution. The season is likely to be a strong one for Baker, though I’d likely look to my bench if you have any depth at quarterback there.
I’d be reserved about playing Big Ben for a few reasons. First, his star receiver Antonio Brown is now gone, meaning we don’t entirely know how the offense will function without #84. Second, the Steelers are on the road in a hostile environment on Sunday Night Football. Lastly, Ben was so-so in 2018 against the Patriots as he registered a 252-yard performance with two passing touchdowns and two interceptions. The Patriots finished 6th in the league in points per game allowed (20.4) and 15th in yards per game allowed (349) in 2018.
The Cardinals were the worst rushing defense in the NFL last year as they allowed 154.9 rushing yards per game. Though Johnson may lose a few snaps to someone like C.J. Anderson, he’s still undoubtedly the most talented runner the Lions have. Johnson was a machine in 2018, averaging 5.4 yards-per-carry.
Baltimore Ravens RB Mark Ingram versus Miami Dolphins
As mentioned above, the Dolphins simply aren’t a good football team right now, and that remains the truth for their run defense which ranked 31st in the NFL last year (145.3 yards per game). Ingram is the top-dog with the Ravens, and even though all running backs in Baltimore are likely to see the ball, Ingram is the most talented and proven of the bunch.
Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake versus Baltimore Ravens
The Dolphins are probably going to get behind in this one, meaning Drake and his counterparts will have their best shot at creating work in the passing game. Unfortunately for them, the Ravens’ defense was stellar in 2018 (and looks to be once again), finishing 2nd in the league in points per game allowed and 1st in the league in yards per game allowed (third in rushing yards per game allowed).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin versus San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ defense was not good in 2018, and though they made additions (specifically to the defensive line), I wouldn’t trust them to shut down anybody yet. Godwin is now a starting receiver for the Bucs. Fellow starter Mike Evans has been dealing with the flu for the week, and though he’ll likely play, it could mean more targets headed Godwin’s way. Look for Godwin to produce both in the slot and outside the numbers.
Cincinnati Bengals WR Tyler Boyd versus Seattle Seahawks
A.J. Green is the best receiver on the Bengals, though he wont be available in week one (plus more). Tyler Boyd instantly becomes the Bengals’ top receiving option, and after a breakout season in 2018, the chemistry between himself and quarterback Andy Dalton is already constructed. Boyd is a surefire volume play.
Other potential starts: Cooper Kupp versus Carolina Panthers, Kenny Golladay versus Arizona Cardinals
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton versus Los Angeles Chargers
Hilton has eclipsed 1,000-yards receiving five times in the past six seasons. The only season he didn’t accomplish the feat was in 2017, when quarterback Jacoby Brissett started 15 games for the Colts. The connection between the two is a major unknown right now, and not only that, but the Chargers field a fantastic defense. I’d be very weary of playing Hilton this week.
Kansas City Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins versus Jacksonville Jaguars
Fellow wide receiver Tyreek Hill will receive shadow coverage from the Jaguars’ top cornerback in Jalen Ramsey, though things don’t get much easier for Watkins as he’ll oppose another stud cornerback in A.J. Bouye. Watkins had a relatively productive game in 2018 with six receptions for 78 yards, though the Jaguars probably wont have as bad a season as they did in 2018.
Other potential sits: Corey Davis versus Cleveland Browns, Robby Anderson versus Buffalo Bills
New York Giants TE Evan Engram versus Dallas Cowboys
The Giants are an absolute disaster on the offensive side of the ball, but someone needs to be fed (other than Saquon Barkley). With Odell Beckham Jr. gone, Sterling Shepard nursing an injury, and Golden Tate suspended, Engram immediately vaults to the top of the “target list”.
Baltimore Ravens TE Mark Andrews versus Miami Dolphins
At this point, I feel like I’m simply picking on the Dolphins, though a win is a win. Andrews and Lamar Jackson had a connection in 2018, and ironically enough, the Dolphins allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends last season (among the worst). I’d feel comfortable starting a lot of the Ravens’ offense, with Andrews fitting the bill.
Other potential starts: Delanie Walker versus Cleveland Browns, Darren Waller versus Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts TE Eric Ebron versus Los Angeles Chargers
The same applies to Ebron as it does with Hilton. I don’t trust Jacoby Brissett at this point, and that’d be enough for me to move cautiously around Ebron.
Dallas Cowboys TE Jason Witten versus New York Giants
Just don’t do it, please don’t.
Other potential sits: Kyle Rudolph versus Atlanta Falcons
Baltimore Ravens versus Miami Dolphins
Guess what, the Ravens made the list again! The Dolphins are bad, man. They’ll start Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, they just traded a stud left tackle and productive receiver away for draft compensation, and don’t have much else to show for an offensive attack. Ravens are an easy play.
Cleveland Browns versus Tennessee Titans
The Browns made major moves in the offseason as it pertains to their defensive roster, and luckily for them, they get to start out against the Titans. The Titans have a banged up running back in Derrick Henry right now, a suspended left tackle in Taylor Lewan, and a quarterback in Marcus Mariota who looked brutal in the preseason.
Other potential starts: Seattle Seahawks versus Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles versus Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys versus New York Giants
Jacksonville Jaguars versus Kansas City Chiefs
As much talent as the Jaguars have on the defensive side of the ball, I simply wouldn’t have the guts to start a defense opposing Head Coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Start your other defense, or go get a flier for the week with so many strong plays available.
Carolina Panthers versus Los Angeles Rams
The Panthers are generally solid defensively, though the Rams are a different animal offensively. The Panthers’ secondary is a weakness, meaning it could get ugly playing against the Rams’ trio of receivers.