Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It wasn’t long ago that Drew was a no-brainer fantasy start week in and week out. However, given the ultra successful ground game last year some managers paused while drafting him this season. Now, while I do question Brees’ season-long value compared to his career numbers, I question the Tampa Bay secondary more. The Bucs were dead last in opponents points per game with over 29 per. I expect New Orleans to lean heavy on the passing game with Brees in this one given Mark Ingram will be serving his first of a four game suspension.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
This one is simple: you shouldn’t be forced into starting Andy Dalton, BUT if you are you can start him with confidence as few defenses project to be worse than the Colts to start the year. With the likes of Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson, and Dan Reynolds at cornerback Indy is looking quite susceptible. Ok, ok, so Dan Reynolds is the lead singer of Imagine Dragons but you get my point. The Colts have nobody to fear in their secondary. Dalton should have no problem bringing the thunder against the Colts! I’m so sorry. Moving on.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions Opponent: New York Jets
Matt Stafford has thrown for two or more touchdowns in each of his last 5 opening games. And while that stat may not be an accurate predictor for Stafford’s production come Monday night, he should be started with confidence against a struggling and rebuilding Jets squad. Vegas shows the Lions having an implied total of over 25 points. Besides, he is playing at home with maybe the best receiving corps of his career.
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
Ol’ Money Bags Kirk gets to open the season in his home dome against a 9ers defense that allowed the 25th most QB points per game last year. On the back of an elite defense, excellent receiving weapons, and a strong run game, Kirk should have plenty of opportunities to score this week against a banged up San Fran squad.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
Get ready for a common theme this year. If you have players playing against the Colts, then, like I tell the employee at Panda Express: “LOAD IT UP!” The Colts have done very little to improve their horrendous defense from last year and the Bengals have made key additions on their offensive line that include ex-Bill and run-game mauler Cordy Glenn.
Christian McCaffery, Carolina Panthers Opponent: Dallas Cowboys
The first real test for the Norv Turner and Ron Rivera 25-30 touch hype train will come against a Dallas team that was in the bottom four teams in receptions allowed to the running back position last year. Sign me up for Run CMC this week!
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings Opponent: San Francisco 49ers
I know what your saying as your bottom lip gets fat and your eyes fill with water: “But Travy, they said he’s gonna split carries with Latavius Murray!” I don’t care, go to your room! Wait…I mean I don’t care about this supposed split! Dalvin has checked all the boxes I care about. Has he shed the knee brace? Check! Did he play in the preseason? Check! Is he playing a against weak defense? Check! Start him. Do it.
Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Opponent: New Orleans Saints
If the Buccs have any chance in this game it will be to rely on the run and play keep away from Brees and the explosive New Orleans offense. The one blemish for this young and budding NOLA defense is their run defense, which Pro Football Focus has ranked as 27th coming into 2018.
Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins Opponent: Tennessee Titans
I don’t know if any of the Miami players will consistently WOW you this season but if forced to choose one for this game and potentially more I am betting on Kenny Stills. There are a boatload of targets up for grabs in this offense with the departure of Jarvis Landry and with Parker unlikely to play for at least week one, Stills provides the skill and opportunity to be viable starting fantasy wide receiver. The Dolphins are not favored in this game and game script could force Tannehill to look for Stills early and often.
Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Opponent: Atlanta Falcons
With Alshon Jeffery not playing in this game or possibly the next few, I would target Nelson Agholor. Last year Agholor scored the most fantasy points from the slot. He also faces the Falcons and Mike Wallace will likely draw coverage from Desmond Trufant leaving the lesser secondary pieces to line up against Nelson.
Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears Opponent: Green Bay Packers
Allen Robinson has been quite the enigma this preseason as he has reportedly been healthy but hasn’t been seen much during the preseason. Either way he faces a Green Bay secondary chalked with young draft picks and still fresh off being one of the worst defensive backfields in football last year.
Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions Opponent: New York Jets
Marvin looks starvin’….for touchdowns! And if you read the QB’s section you know Stafford looks ready to feed him! This looks to be a game where the all the Lion’s can feast and Jones especially as Stafford’s favorite target from last year.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
It may get ugly for the one they call the Jimmy GQ. The Vikings are a reining elite defense that just added more help in to their already stacked roster in Safety George Iloka. A depleted running back corps and lack of premier talent at WR and TE do not bode well for Jimmy’s fantasy prospects this Sunday.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders Opponent: Los Angeles Rams
I have multiple questions for the Raiders coming into their opening week. Can Carr rebound from a horrible 2017? Can Jon Gruden take a decade off and come back to be a successful NFL coach? Is the newly stacked Rams secondary that includes all-world talent like Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib too tough of a matchup to trust Carr for fantasy purposes? The answer, at least to the last one is yes. Stay away!
Eli Manning, New York Giants Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
A healthy OBJ, a shiny new first round running back, a emerging stud at tight end in Evan Engram, and offensive guru Pat Shurmur hired at head coach. This list is why the Giants and Eli Manning have received high praise offseason by the Fantasy Football community. But like many of my ex-girlfriends have told me, the Jags defense are telling Eli, “It’s not you, it’s me!” The Jaguars return as possibly the most elite secondary in football. Eli is in for a long day.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons Opponent: Philadelphia Eagles
Continuing the theme of quarterbacks facing elite defenses from last year I am urging you to look elsewhere this week if you are considering starting Matt Ryan. Even though I do feel as if this is the matchup I have the most chance of being wrong on, the Eagles will be at home and coming off a Super Bowl winning season in which they allowed the 4th least points per game at 18.2. Can Steve Sarkisian return Matty Ice to the Shannahan glory? Not buying it for week one.
Chris Carson, Seattle Seahawks Opponent: Denver Broncos
Listen, the Broncos and Von Miller will get a lot of credit for how great their pass rush is and rightfully so, but they are also stout against the run too. Last year less than 17% of the rushing attempts against the Broncos resulted in a first down! And if you haven’t heard, the Seattle offensive line is bad. And why haven’t you heard that? You been avoiding me? What gives? Not the Broncos defensive front, I’ll tell you that.
Alfred Morris, San Francisco 49ers Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
If you are some of the poor, pathetic fools that drafted Jerick McKinnon this year but swooped up Alfred Morris and/or Matt Breida as well then you probably feel like the one guy at the table who bought insurance when the dealer was offering it. But much like taking insurance in Blackjack, Morris is not a great bet, especially this week. The 49ers travel to Minnesota to play the Vikings who last year allowed the fewest yards per scrimmage and fantasy points per game to opposing backfields. Busted!
Mike Gillislee, New Orleans Saints Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Saints looked locked in and ready to let Jonathan Williams carry the load for this backfield while Mark Ingram served his suspension. But after cutting Williams and then Boston Scott, the Saints turned to Mike Gillislee who Sean Payton has been raving about this week. While I do think that Gillislee can have a productive role in the offense while Ingram is out, I would suggest looking elsewhere this week as he will have to play catch up with the playbook and will face a Buccaneers defense who’s strength resides in their defensive front led by Gerald McCoy.
Marshawn Lynch, Oakland Raiders Opponent: Los Angeles Rams
Similar to my takes on Carr above and Cooper below, I want to be excited about the Raiders on offense this year. It will not start this week against a newly stacked defensive front for LA that already included newly paid Aaron Donald but then added Ndamukong Suh.
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders Opponent: Los Angeles Rams
Of all three Raiders featured in this Play or Stay Away piece I am least excited about Amari Cooper. Not only will Cooper have to face either Talib or Peters but if Gruden moves Cooper all over the formation as he has stated he would, then Cooper will be facing one of the league’s top slot corners in Nickell Robey-Coleman. There is little on paper to suggest Cooper has a big night on Monday.
Marquise Goodwin, San Francisco 49ers Opponent: Minnesota Vikings
I am all aboard the Goodwin Hype Train as he projects to be the #1 in a Shanahan offense this year, however I am jumping off the train this week against the mean Vikings D. I’ll hop on next week when it leads to a matchup with Detroit.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks Opponent: Denver Broncos
Baldwin’s knee is a concern and so is the Seattle offensive line. I see a lot of Russ running for his life and therefore don’t feel great about starting any of the Seahawk weapons. Of all the questions in the Broncos secondary the one constant remaining is Chris Harris who is likely to matchup on Baldwin for most of the afternoon. I am looking to start other options this week if I can and deploy a “wait and see” strategy with Baldwin.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants Opponent: Jacksonville Jaguars
Much like Cooper, Shepard faces a secondary for the Jags that is loaded even beyond just Jalen Ramsey. Opposite starting corner A.J. Bouye and and safety Tashaun Gipson will take turns giving Shepard fits and even though Shepard could be a breakout star this year in an improved Giants offense, this does not look like the week to trust him!