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The fantasy life: Start and sit for Week 1

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Phillips is a multiple fantasy football champion, and co-host of the podcast “Pigskin Dynasty: Your Podcast for All Things Fantasy Football”. You can find him on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Podbean, and other podcast mediums. He also has live episodes on Facebook every Sunday morning at 9:00 am EST.


QB Andy Dalton, Bengals

This might surprise you, but I have big love for Dalton this weekend. Say what you want about the TCU Alum being a seasonal bust, but he still manages to throw up big numbers from time to time. This is one of those weekends. The Indianapolis Colts were dead last, I repeat, dead last in defense giving up the fifth most yards to opposing quarterbacks.

Do not expect much improvement from last year.

With the added weapon of second year running back Joe Mixon, I believe the Bengals offense will be more balanced, limiting the potential for Bad Andy. If Mixon gets going, look for the Colts to load the box, leaving man-to-man coverage on the outside.

Start Andy Dalton in daily fantasy. He’s very cheap.

Projection: 279 yards and three touchdowns.

QB Joe Flacco, Ravens

If Dalton was unexpected, here is another.

Joe Flacco is not an appealing fantasy quarterback. He does not consistently give you big numbers, and is not someone to start every week. That being said, I am all In on Joe Flacco this week against the Buffalo Bills. The matchup is so enticing, and the Bills are most likely going to be in the top five of next year’s NFL Draft. Flacco is another bye-week replacement going up against an awful defense.

At a price tag of $4,900 in auction, I am high on Joe Flacco.

Projection: 225 yards and two touchdowns.

QB Kirk Cousins, Vikings

I am all in on Kurt cousins for the season. The Vikings offense suits him, and I believe he finally proves to everyone that he is an elite quarterback. With a loaded receiving corps, Cousins should post elite numbers. In my opinion he is a must start week one.

Jimmy Garrapalo might have resuscitated the 49ers offense, but defensively they were absolutely atrocious against opposing quarterbacks in 2017. Allowing 31 total touchdowns and giving up the fifth most fantasy points per game should have Cousins salivating.

Add in a defense that was a league leader, and Cousins should consistently see a short field.

Projection: 274 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

RB Jordan Howard, Bears

It baffles me that some are down playing Howard. This man has rushed for over 1,000 yards each of his two seasons, and he is consistently going in the third and fourth rounds of fantasy drafts.

The Packers defense ranked 17th against stopping the run in 2017, and while Howard only rushed for 53 and 54 yards in their two contests, it was all his fault. The Bears lacked stability at the QB position, starting with Mike Glennon then switching to rookie Mitchell Trubisky. Expect better play from Trubisky to balance an offense that added weapons at wide receiver.

Better news is that Matt Nagy reported Howard is going to be a three down back, adding to his value as a pass catcher. Also promising is an improved defense with the addition of Khalil Mack.

Projection: 105 total yards and one touchdown.

RB James Conner, Steelers

I have been selling James Connor to anyone that will listen with the expectation that Le’Veon Bell would not start the season for the Steelers.

With Bell not showing for the team’s departure to Cleveland, surrendering his $853,000 game check, Connor becomes the Steelers bell cow. I believe Bell will not play until mid-October at the earliest, meaning Connor could become a must start mainstay.

Connor is not going to give you Bell like numbers, but during the preseason he showed he can be trusted both carrying and catching the ball. Do not forget he will benefit from sharing the field with Big Ben, Ju Ju, and Antonio Brown. He is alsovery cheap in Daily Fantasy giving you a great value in that format.

Projection: 85 total yards, several catches, and a touchdown.

RB Peyton Barber, Buccaneers

I have to admit at the beginning of the off-season I thought for sure Barber was not going to be of value for the Bucs. They drafted Ronald Jones, signaling, for me, an end to Barber’s carries (Matt loves USC, and as a UCLA I find him to overvalue Trojans...I kid). But after an abysmal preseason for Jones, Peyton has shown that he is the real deal.

Going in later rounds, I drafted him in the eighth round of one my one of my redraft leagues. I expect him to perform quite well against the Saints who are good against the pass, but susceptible to the run. I believe the corners will hold the wide receivers at bay leaving more pass catching opportunities for Barber.

If you haven’t picked up Barber in your waivers, do it. This guy is going to have a year.

Projection: 79 total yards and a touchdown.

WR Chris Hogan, Patriots

Against the Houston Texans last year Hogan hauled in 2 touchdowns during gun slinging shootout. Both he and Gronkowski are going to be Brady’s favorite targets until Edelman returns. The Texans secondary is mediocre, and Hogan has the potential to once again carve them up with his supreme route running. I don’t think he gets two touchdowns but I definitely am penciling him in for one.

Projection: 115 yards and a touchdown.

WR Marquise Goodwin, 49ers

Marquise Goodwin was a different man after leaving Buffalo for San Francisco. During the preseason, Goodwin was the X receiver in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. His rapport with Garrapolo appears to be growing, and with a 32 year old Pierre Garçon playing opposite of Goodwin, look for Marquise to get increasingly more looks.

You might be hesitant to play Goodwin considering the matchup with the Vikings defense, but in order for the Niners to even have a chance of winning they’re going to have to throw the ball. I believe Jimmy G targets Goodwin often.

In Daily Fantasy, Goodwin is worth $4,600, which is a steal. If you need a flex or third receiver, Goodwin is a solid play.

Projection: 72 yards and a touchdown.

WR Golden Tate, Lions

Also known as PPR stud or PPR specialist, Golden Tate is going to get smothered with targets against the New York football Jets. Multiple reports suggest Golden Tate is going to operate primarily in the slot which is where he finds the greatest success. Matthew Stafford consistency looks for his security blanket in Tate, and I believe that’s the case in this matchup.

I expect a lot of short routes that will allow Tate will do his thing, which should give him receptions and YAC.

Projection: 79 yards and a touchdown.

TE Jordan Reed, Redskins

I know what you are thinking, Start Jordan Reed? The man that missed 10 Games last year. The man that is injury prone.

Before you get the pitchforks and try to burn my house down, listen to the stats. Alex Smith loves his tight ends. Vernon Davis in San Francisco, Travis Kelce in Kansas City. Now he pairs with Jordan Reed, who when healthy was a consensus top three fantasy TE.

Do you remember 2015?

He produces elite numbers when healthy. He is a wide receiver in a tight end position. Multiple reports suggest that Reed is going to be the focal point of the offense that has no dominate wide receiver. If they are going to move the ball through the air, Jordan Reed is going to be the guy to do it.

I am not saying Jordan Reed‘s going to play all 16 games, but for week one he is going to have a great one. He is finally healthy and feeling great.

Projection: 94 yards and a touchdown.

TE Eric Ebron, Colts

Ebron Appears to be the guy for Indianapolis. He had five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in the Colts third preseason game, which is when the starters see the most time.

Jack Doyle didn’t even have a catch.

It appears luck trusts Eric, and is willing to target him with confidence. What is a quarterback safety blanket? The TE, and I believe with Luck playing his first game back in over a year he is going to target his tight ends, and in particular Ebron.

One thing to note, the Bengals defense is not good at protecting the middle the field which is where Ebron would do most of his damage.

Projection: 45 yards and a touchdown.

TE Delanie Walker, Titans

The Titans have to throw it to someone, I believe Cory Davis and Delanie Walker will be the two biggest weapons for the Titans. Walker did injure his toe during the preseason, but I believe you will be ready to go with him for week one. The Dolphins defense gave up the most points per game against the TE position in 2017.

I believe Walker gets fed early and often, getting you solid points in PPR leagues.

Projection: 72 yards and a handful of catches.

Ravens D/ST

Nathan Peterman as a starting quarterback for the Bills week one. Do you need another reason?

Nothing is given in fantasy football, but I am pretty confident the Ravens defense be a top scorer for the weekend. Start the Ravens defense in any fantasy league, including daily fantasy sites.

Chargers D/ST

This is rookie season and for most young quarterbacks the first year is a learning session. His growing pains start agains an opportunistic Chargers defense. You base a defense on how well they get to the quarterback and how well they turned over the ball and I believe the Chargers do a good job in creating Turnovers. Start them!

K Justin Tucker, Ravens

The Ravens seem to always move the ball but can never actually getting into the end zone, leading to many field goal opportunities. Plus, Tucker is one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the NFL.

Projection: 3-for-3 and 2 extra points.


QB Jimmy Garrapalo, 49ers

You want to start him. If you are in a keeper league you may have even over drafted him.

Remember, the question is about the matchup.

Jimmy G has to ride the bench this week against the Minnesota Vikings. The match up is just so tough. Fun fact: the Minnesota Vikings, in the last 13 games of last season, only allowed multiple touchdown passes once. Fun fact number two: Jimmy G’s last three road games saw him average 15 points per fantasy game. I believe the Minnesota Vikings have a field day with Jimmy G and give him his first loss as a starter.

Do yourself a favor and bench Jimmy G. If needed, go to your waivers to find another alternative. Maybe Andy Dalton?

Projection: 245 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.

QB Dak Prescott, Cowboys

I am not high on Prescott this year, Part of it has to do with he offensive line.

Travis Frederick, the all pro center, is going to miss the Carolina game due to an illness, Tyron smith is battling injury but will play but does he last?

Who is he throwing to? The Cowboys receiving core is unproven in production, and their likely number one receiver will be Cole Beasley. I know, right?

I believe the Cowboys will forced feed Elliot to the ground, leaving very minimal opportunities for Prescott to produce fantasy numbers. Additionally, the Panthers defense is no joke. I would hold off on Prescott in all fantasy leagues including two quarterback leagues until I can see him produce with a offensive line in disarray.

One thing to note that Prescott is always prone to get a rushing touchdown so there is some small upside if you decide start Prescott. Do so at your own risk.

Projection: 235 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.

QB Russell Wilson, Seahawks

I know what you’re thinking, Russell Wilson is a consensus top-five quarterback. Why sit him this week?

Russell Wilson has a history of starting slow, andI think that is going to happen this week. Fun fact: Since the merger, the Broncos have played 59 home games in the 1st 2 weeks of the season, and their record for that span is 51-8! Why the impressive record? I believe the altitude plays a factor. That stadium is tough to play at the beginning of the season when players aren’t at peak shape.

Along with questionable offensive line play, I believe Russell Wilson has a subpar performance and is a bust this week. Many of you have to start him, like myself, but in Daily Fantasy I would definitely stay away as there are better alternative.

Projection: 225 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. If you have to start him, I will throw in 20 rushing yards to give you hope.

RB LeSean McCoy, Bills

This pains me to say this, as I am a LeSean McCoy owner. I own him in one of my dynasty leagues and I am unfortunately going to have to start him. I think LeSean McCoy is going to be at bust this week in a tough matchup against the Ravens.

The volume is going to be there, but I am not seeing results. I expect the Ravens to load up the box and make Nathan Peterman throw the ball. Not a good option.

Projection: 80 total yards with 3 catches.

RB Alfred Morris, 49ers

Another Niners player on my sit list for opening weekend is Alfred Morris. I believe Morris is going to have a great season. I believe he has a really good chance of getting over 1000 yards in this Kyle Shanahan offense. Kyle worked wonders in Washington (say that fast 5 times), but I think he is off to a slow start this week against a really good run stopping Vikings defense.

Look for Matt Brieda to be a better play this week for the 49ers. Expect them to be down quickl, and if they have to throw, Brieda is a much better receiver. I have Brieda as a sneaky flex option especially for Daily Fantasy.

Projection: 40 yards on 14 carries.

RB Marshawn Lynch, Raiders

Jon Gruden has had 1,000 yard rusher only twice in his coaching career. He tends to utilize a RBBC approach. The Los Angeles Rams are going to be one of the better defenses in the NFL, particularly in stopping the run. I believe they will hold down Beast Mode with ease.You need to sit 32-year-old running back on your bench this week.

Projection: 43 total yards on 13 touches.

WR Mike Evans, Buccaneers

Another player that people are going to unfortunately have to start because he was drafted so high is Mike Evans. Unfortunately hehas a history of playing poorly against the Saints. Fun fact: he had six catches for 68 yards in two match ups against last year. It seems the cornerbacks have his number, and combine that with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, it may be a hard day for Evan owners.

I believe Tampa will use the running game as a way to move the ball, limiting the opportunities for Evan to produce. I understand that people have to start him but in Daily Fantasy I suggest finding a cheaper alternative.

Projection: 47 yards on 4 catches.

WR Josh Gordon, Browns

Sigh. Another player that I am high on, yet must recommend to sit.

Talk about my dedication, I kept josh Gordon on my dynasty league roster for 2 1/2 years hoping that he would be active. Now, when he is finally active, I am going to sit him.

It is nothing against his physical ability. My primary concern is his pitch count that Hue Jackson put upon him. He has major touchdown upside, but the limited snaps is a reason I am pumping the brakes on them this week. I am a firm believer that Josh Gordon does breakout into the top 15 by season end.

Projection: 62 yards on 4 catches.

WR Amari Cooper, Raiders

Oh no! Amari Cooper’s on the sit list again. Fear not, it is only because of the matchup,

He is going up against one of the top pass defenses from last year, and that was before the acquisition Aquib Talib and Marcus Peters. John Gruden loves to feed his X receiver, so if you have to start him you should see low double digits. That said, go with better options that will bump those stats with a touchdown.

Projection: 62 yards on 6 catches.

TE David Njoku, Browns

Actually, I love David Njoku this season, But not this week.

He is going up against a Pittsburgh defense who happened to give up the fewest touchdowns last season against tight ends, yield only two. I believe he is going to have a limited role in the offense given the mouths they have to feed in Cleveland.

Projection: 32 yards on 4 catches.

TE Jack Doyle, Colts

Read my Ebron review. I feel confident in leaving him on the bench until I see what he can do with Andrew luck.

Projection: 41 yards on 4 catches.

TE Evan Engram, Giants

Engram is my big bust this week for the position, He is being talked up as a potential game breakers, but I do not see it. The Jaguars linebackers can easily keep up with him, and I believe he falls into the dreaded touchdown or bust category for week one. Looking at the Gaints roster, Odell is going to get targets, and I the talk is they will rely heavily on Saquan Barkley. Sterling Shepard is a forgotten Giant, and one of my guys that I believe are going to break out this year.

Too many mouths to feed.

Projection: 37 yards on 4 catches.

Bears D/ST

I know they just got Khalil Mack to help boost their front seven, and I do expect him to improve the unit. However, there is going to be a learning curve for Mack to get acclimated with the system. How fast can you learn it, we shall see.

How hungry do you think Aaron Rodgers will be?

Yes, I did note that the Bears defense will be a key in Jordan Howard’s production, but it is hard to see the Bears defense creating sacks or turnovers. Rodgers wears them down.

Projection: 25 or more points allowed and a couple sacks.

K Brett Maher, Cowboys

In a move that still baffles me, the Cowboys released Dan Bailey in favor for Brett Maher This guy played four seasons in the CFL and has never kicked an NFL field goal. I do not like his chances as there is going to be a learning curve.

Projection: 2-for-4 and 1 extra point.