By Chris Mangano (@ChrisMangano)
Welcome to the first part of our Week 1 matchups and starts/sits column for fantasy football. We’ll be covering every matchup from every Sunday game to help you make the best decisions for your fantasy lineups.
We will splitting this column into two parts because, well, it’s just too long otherwise. Below you will find all of the 1:00 PM games, and be sure to check out part two of the matchups for the later games.
Week 1 is tricky as we are basing most of the data off what happened last year. Players have switched teams, defensive and offensive coordinators have changed, so there is a lot of uncertainty. Don’t get cute this first week. You drafted guys early for a reason, get them in your lineup.
Week 1 NFL Matchups – 1:00 PM EST Games
Note: All grades, ratings, etc. taken from ProFootballFocus. The advice in this column is intended for season-long leagues, although daily sports players should still find the information useful.
Jets At Bills
Matchups We Love:
LeSean McCoy (RB, BUF)
Shady is primed for a huge day. With the Jets sending Sheldon Richardson to the Seahawks, their defensive front is left in shambles. Defensive End Leonard Williams is still a top tier player, but outside of that they lack playmakers. The Bills offensive line should get Shady to the second level against a linebacker core that is one of the weakest in the NFL. The Bills boast an above average line that should have no problem winning this battle. Shady is possibly the top running back play of the week.
Charles Clay (TE, BUF)
While the Bills will likely be leaning heavily on Shady in this one, Clay see his share of targets. Clay should see a heavy dose of linebacker Jordan Jenkins. Jenkins had a solid rookie campaign but should be no match for Clay in coverage. Clay makes for a solid streaming option in one tight end leagues.
Jordan Matthews (WR, BUF)
Matthews will likely play predominantly out of the slot which means he will get plenty of work against Buster Skrine (ranked 89th). This is a matchup Matthews should dominate and makes him a solid start especially in PPR formats.
Matchups We Hate:
All Jets Pass Catchers
Hard to trust any Jets pass catcher this week. You likely have better options.
Zay Jones (WR, BUF)
With Jordan Matthews a go this week, Jones will likely play primarily on the outside. This means he will split time lined up against Morris Claiborne (ranked 13th) and Justin Burris. Burris graded well in limited action in 2016. The Bills game plan will likely be to pound the ball with Shady and exploit the underneath matchups with Matthews and Clay. Jones should not be started in most leagues.
While the Jets will likely be playing catch up in this one, Josh McCown (QB, NYJ) is still not startable in most formats. The Jets implied team total of just 16 presents limited upside. The Bills have two potent run stoppers in Kyle Williams and Marcel Darius and should win the battle up front. This will limit Matt Forte (RB, NYJ) who should likely be benched, while counterpart Bilal Powell (RB, NYJ) has some PPR appeal due to his pass catching ability.
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (QB, BUF) was a sexy off-season late round pick, but loss of his number one weapon Sammy Watkins and a depleted receiving core will limit his upside. Still, Taylor has never been a high volume passer and his legs give him a relatively safe floor for those in two QB/Superflex leagues against possibly the worst defense in the NFL.
Eagles at Redskins
Matchups We Love:
Kirk Cousins (QB, WAS)
While Cousins has looked shaky in the preseason, a meeting with the Eagles should be just what the doctor ordered. The Eagles boast one of the leagues worst secondaries as Ronald Darby (ranked 68th) is their best corner.
Terrelle Pryor (WR, WAS)
Pryor played an equal amount on either side last season with the Browns and will likely do the same with his new team. Regardless of the side he lines up on he will draw a great matchup with either Ronald Darby (ranked 68th) or Jalen Mills (ranked 110th). He is an easy start this week.
Jamison Crowder (WR, WAS)
Crowder played 75% of his snaps from the slot last year and that should remain the same this season. That gives him a dream matchup with slot corner Patrick Robinson (ranked 91st). Start Crowder with confidence.
Zach Ertz (TE, PHI)
While there is some cause for concern as the Redskins did bolster their linebacker core, this is still a team that gave up the sixth most points to tight ends last year. In their week 14 matchup Ertz turned 13 targets into 10 catches for 112 yards. With slot wide receiver Jordan Matthews having been traded to the Bills, Ertz should be one of Wentz’ favorite targets. With Jeffrey likely to be shadowed by Josh Norman (see below), Ertz has big time upside this week against the Redskins.
Darren Sproles (RB, PHI)
Sproles makes for a great play this week in PPR formats. The Eagles have held Sproles out of preseason action to keep him fresh for the regular season. Reports are he will play in three wide receiver sets which the Eagles used 58% of the time last year. If Blount struggles he could even see work in two wide receiver sets as well. Sproles should be a safe PPR play this week.
Matchups We Hate:
Alshon Jeffrey (WR, PHI)
Jeffrey gets the dreaded shadow from stud corner Josh Norman (ranked 24th) this year. While Jeffrey does posses a distinct size advantage it’s a matchup you’d rather not have to deal with. Many teams don’t have better options and will likely have to start him, and Jeffrey could have moments, but don’t expect a big game.
Second year signal caller Carson Wentz (QB, PHI) has a couple of new weapons outside, but with Norman shadowing Jeffrey may be forced to resort to the underneath throws that held him back in 2016. He should only be trusted in two QB/Superflex leagues. One of those new receivers, Torrey Smith (WR, PHI) will have a great matchup lined up against Bashaud Breeland (ranked 83rd). Smith is not a guy you want to play if you don’t have to, but if for some reason you’re desperate the matchup is juicy. Replacing Matthews in the slot, Nelson Agholor (WR, PHI) has a great matchup against slot corner Kendall Fuller (ranked 89th). Like Smith, however, he is a risk and should likely be avoided. The Eagles signed LeGarrette Blount (RB, PHI) in the off-season but seem determined to use him in a fashion that does not suit his skill set. While the Eagles offensive front should be able to push around a weak Redskins defensive front, he may still be limited by bad play calling.
While many believed rookie Samaje Perine (RB, WAS) was destined for the starting job, it was second year player Rob Kelley (RB, WAS) who easily won the starting job. The Redskins have a hole at center and left guard, and the Eagles present one of the toughest defensive fronts. Kelley could be in for a tough day. Meanwhile Chris Thompson (RB, WAS) could play a big role this year catching passes out of the backfield but is not someone you want to start right out of the gate. This could change down the road.
Raiders at Titans
Matchups We Love:
Marcus Mariota (QB, TEN)
Mariota should have no trouble finding his share of open receivers against an average Raiders secondary. Sure, Khalil Mack is one of the best pass rushers in the business, but this Tennessee offensive line could be the best in the league. When Mariota has time he should pick this secondary apart especially with the new weapons at his disposal. He is a must start in all leagues.
DeMarco Murray (RB, TEN)
While Mack and Bruce Irvin are good run stoppers on the outside, the middle of the Raiders line is weak as are the linebacker core. The Titans offensive line should be able to open holes for straight ahead runner Murray. Last year against Oakland, Murray ran the ball 16 times for 114 yards and one touchdown and added five receptions for 41 yards. We would expect more of the same this week.
Delanie Walker (TE, TEN)
Walker missed the week three matchup with the Raiders in 2016, but he should have no trouble finding space this week. The Raiders linebackers are not good and will have trouble staying with Walker. Safeties Karl Joseph and Reggie Nelson are a bit better in coverage but will be giving up lots of size to Walker. Look for Walker to have a big day.
Matchups We Hate:
Derek Carr (QB, OAK)
Drafters who selected Carr as their QB may be disappointed this week. The Titans have one of the leagues best defenses. In their week three matchup last year Carr had just 249 yards with one touchdown and one interception. We expect a similar outing this week.
Amari Cooper (WR, OAK)
Primarily staying to the left side (59% of the time in 2016), Cooper draws the tougher matchup against Logan Ryan (ranked 17th). Last year against Ryan, Cooper had just four catches for 62 yards on nine targets. An early round pick you almost have to start him, just don’t be surprised if he disappoints.
Corey Davis (WR, TEN)
With Rishard Matthews playing half of his snaps lined up to the right last season, Davis should see plenty of the Raiders top corner Sean Smith (ranked 16th). Trusting a rookie in week one against a good corner is a fool’s game. Leave him on the bench this week.
The Raiders convinced Marshawn Lynch (RB, OAK) to come out of retirement this year to replace Latavius Murray. Running behind quite possibly the best offensive line he has ever had, Lynch has some upside. His usage could be handcuffed however as DeAndre Washington (RB, OAK) and Jalen Richard (RB, OAK) both looked good in 2016. We suggest taking a wait and see approach with this backfield in week one if you can. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree (WR, OAK) gets the slightly better matchup against Brice McCain (ranked 35th). Crabtree lit the Titans up last year to the tune of eight catches for 102 yards on 11 targets. He makes for a safe start this week. The Raiders also brought in veteran tight end Jared Cook (TE, OAK) but the Titans were one of the stingiest teams against the position last year. There are not many formats you should be starting him in.
The Titans have two new additions to their receiving core, drafting Corey Davis in the first round and signing free agent Eric Decker (WR, TEN). Decker should primarily line up in the slot against corner T.J. Carrie (ranked 49th). He is a safe start this week. Returning receiver Rishard Matthews (WR, TEN) played half of his snaps on the right last year which would give him plenty of chances against David Ammerson (ranked 62nd). He could be a sneaky play this week in a plus matchup.
Jaguars at Texans
Matchups We Hate:
Leonard Fournette (RB, JAC)
Sure, Fournette may get his share of work, but his team is expected to be playing from behind and he is not used in the passing game. Not to mention the Jaguars offensive line, while improved from last year, is still not great. With a healthy J.J. Watt back in the lineup, and one of the strongest linebacker groups in the league, the Texans should be able to shut down the Jaguars rushing attack.
Tom Savage (QB, HOU)
With limited weapons at his disposal, and Hopkins going up against two of the strongest corners in the game (see below), Savage has little upside this week. Even in two QB/Superflex leagues he is barely worth a start, if at all.
Lamar Miller (RB, HOU)
Houston has one of the leagues worst offensive lines and are expected to be without left tackle Duane Brown. The Jaguars on the other hand have two strong inside lineman after signing Calais Campbell (ranked 2nd) and Malik Jackson (ranked 15th). If Miller is going to salvage his day it will have to be in the passing game. If you’re starting him don’t expect a big game.
If last season was any indication, Hopkins will be shadowed by stud corner Jalen Ramsey (ranked 23rd). In two games against Ramsey last season Hopkins caught just 13 of 30 targets (43.3%) for 135 total yards and 0 touchdowns. He has major target upside this week, but in a tough matchup with a bad quarterback it might be best to sit him if you can.
Quarterback Blake Bortles (QB, JAC) almost lost his starting job to Chad Henne in the off-season. He is bad, we know this, but he is playable in two QB/Superflex formats as he could be chucking it in the fourth quarter. 2016 bust Allen Robinson (WR, JAC) could have a solid first week. Typically lining up on the outside, he will see a mix of Kareem Jackson (ranked 33rd) and Jonathon Joseph (ranked 40th). The targets will be there and the matchup is OK, it just depends how accurate the throws from Bortles are. Marqise Lee (WR, JAC) is expected to be ready for week one and will play outside along with Robinson. He could be a sneaky play in very deep PPR leagues.
If you’re hurting for a tight end, C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE, HOU) makes for an OK option this week. The rest of the Texans receivers will be struggling to get open which may lead to Savage dumping off to his tight end repeatedly. He is a safer bet in PPR formats than standard.
Cardinals at Lions
Matchups We Love:
Carson Palmer (QB, ARI)
Palmer had a disappointing 2016 after an MVP caliber 2015. Week one could be a bounce-back performance for him as the Lions were one of the worst defenses against the pass last year. Palmer looked healthy in the preseason and should be able to pick this secondary apart that has one lone standout in Darius Slay. Palmer makes for a great start this week.
David Johnson (RB, ARI)
It’s David Johnson, just start him. But in case you want more in-depth analysis neither the Cardinals nor the Lions have great fronts. Still the Cardinals should win the battle if only slightly, which is more than enough for Johnson.
Larry Fitzgerald (WR, ARI)
Playing primarily from the slot, Fitzgerald has a great matchup this week against Quandre Diggs (ranked 94th). Fitzgerald is a no-brainer start this week and should be considered a top end wide receiver in this matchup.
Matchups We Hate:
Eric Ebron (TE, DET)
While Ebron has potential this year to break into the top 12 tight ends, week one could be a tough start. That strong Cardinals linebacker core held tight ends to just 3 catches and 27.1 yards per game in 2016. Ebron will likely need a touchdown to salvage any kind of day.
Wide receiver John Brown (WR, ARI) has gone from sleeper, to in the doghouse, and back to sleeper. Brown lines up all over the field and should see a mix of Darius Slay (ranked 15th) and Nevin Lawson (ranked 35th). He did play 46% of his snaps from the slot last year so he could get some chances against Diggs as well. He’s startable this week but he brings considerable risk as well.
While the Cardinals have a decent secondary, quarterbacks did have success against them last year. Matthew Stafford (QB, DET) likely doesn’t bring big upside this week but he is a startable option in most leagues. With the departure of Calais Campbell, the Cardinals defensive front is not as strong as it once was. Running back Ameer Abdullah (RB, DET) should be a solid start in most formats. Theo Riddick (RB, DET) has flex appeal in PPR leagues. With T.J. Ward and Kenny Golloday playing outside alongside Marvin Jones, Golden Tate (WR, DET) should see a large chunk of his snaps from the slot against Tyronn Mathieu. Mathieu battled injuries and inconsistency in 2016 and is a much better matchup for Tate than stud corner Patrick Peterson. Tate is a safe start this week in PPR formats. Speaking of Marvin Jones (WR, DET), he’ll see a mix of Peterson (ranked 14th) and Tramon Williams (ranked 75th). He’s startable in deeper leagues and could haul in some deep balls against a secondary that struggles against longer throws.
Steelers at Browns
Matchups We Love:
Ben Roethlisberger (QB, PIT)
Roethlisberger could get off to a monster start against the friendliest defense to opposing quarterbacks in 2016. With Martavis Bryant back from suspension, and top wide receiver Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger will have two big weapons at his disposal. He is a must start in all formats.
Le’Veon Bell (RB, PIT)
Next to Shady, Bell might have the best running back matchup of the week. Last year in his one game versus the Browns he ran the ball 28 times for 146 yards and one touchdown, and caught eight passes for 55 yards. Start him with confidence.
Isaiah Crowell (RB, CLE)
The Browns beefed up their offensive line in the off-season and now have one of the league’s best. Their only “weakness” is right tackle Shohn Coleman. The Steelers gave up the seventh most points to running backs in 2016. A healthy Cameron Heyward and the addition of rookie T.J. Watt could help them improve, but Crowell should still have plenty of room to run this week. He is a safe start.
Matchups We Hate:
DeShone Kizer (QB, CLE)
While Kizer may have fantasy appeal at some point this year, week one isn’t it. Not only did the Steelers shut down opposing quarterbacks in 2016, but Kizer has not looked great thus far. Sure, he has had moments, but his reads are slow and he is inaccurate. This is not the week to start him in any format.
Stud wide receiver Antonio Brown (WR, PIT) is a must start in any matchup, but reports are the Browns will shadow him with Jamar Taylor (ranked 20th). You’re starting him, of course, but don’t panic if you don’t get the typical Brown game from him. Back from suspension, Martavis Bryant (WR, PIT) offers upside but with risk. With Brown being shadowed by Taylor, Bryant will be left matched up with Jason McCourty (ranked 57th). Newly signed tight end Vance MacDonald (TE, PIT) was seldom used in San Francisco and now goes to an offense that does not feature the tight end in the passing game. He is a risky start and you should have better options.
Second year wide receiver Corey Coleman (WR, CLE) and newly signed free agent Kenny Britt (WR, CLE) should line up opposite each other on the outside against corners Artie Burns (ranked 38th) and Joe Haden (ranked 88th). Between the two Coleman makes for the better start this week as Kizer seems to be looking his way often.
Falcons at Bears
Matchups We Love:
Julio Jones (WR, ATL)
No matter where Jones lines up he should have a distinct advantage over all the Bears corners. Their highest graded corner, Prince Amukamara (ranked 43rd) will be giving up three inches and 20 pounds to Jones. Jones should be in line for a big day.
Jordan Howard (RB, CHI)
The Bears offensive line should have no problem controlling the line of scrimmage and opening up running lanes for Howard. There is reason for concern, however, as the Falcons are 6.5 point favorites on the road and the Bears may have to abandon the run. You’re still starting Howard regardless and he is a top running back play this week.
Matchups We Hate:
Tevin Coleman (RB, ATL)
Last year Coleman posted historic numbers for a running back both in yards per reception and touchdowns per touch. He seems due for major regression this season. Add in the fact that the Bears have a tough defensive front and his lower volume compared to Devonta Freeman and you should look for better options this week.
After an MVP year in 2016, Matt Ryan (QB, ATL) seems due for some regression. Still he should be a solid play this week against a Bears team that is average against the pass. Running back DeVonta Freeman (RB, ATL) could get off to a slow start against a Bears defensive front that is one of the best at stopping the run. His work in the passing game gives him upside, however, and you are starting him regardless. Just temper expectations a bit. Receivers Mohamed Sanu (WR, ATL) and Taylor Gabriel (WR, ATL) will have plus matchups in this one but are not startable in most leagues.
Mike Glennon (QB, CHI) is not going to give you tremendous upside but he makes for a good streaming option in two QB/Superflex leagues. The Falcons are one of the worst defenses against the pass. With Cameron Meredith suffering a season ending ACL injury, Wide receiver Kevin White (WR, CHI) will get a chance to show what he’s got. He will draw a tough matchup against Desmond Trufant (ranked 32nd) and Robert Alford (ranked 40th). He is a tough start this week. Slot receiver Kendall Wright (WR, CHI) has the better matchup against slot corner Brian Poole (ranked 51st). He could be a sneaky start in deep PPR leagues. The Falcons struggle against tight ends, but trying to figure out if Zach Miller (TE, CHI) or Dion Sims (TE, CHI) will get the looks is a guessing game at this point. Pass.
Ravens at Bengals
Matchups We Love:
Jeremy Maclin (WR, BAL)
Maclin draws the best matchup for any Ravens receiver this week against slot corner Darqueze Dennard (ranked 84th). Maclin could be in for a big day, especially in PPR formats. Start him with confidence this week.
Mike Wallace (WR, BAL)
While Wallace’s matchup is not quite as good as Maclin’s, he still has a plus matchup. He’ll spend the majority of his snaps lined up with Dre Kirkpatrick (ranked 56th) and should also see second year player William Jackson who has yet to play an NFL snap. Wallace is a solid start this week.
Matchups We Hate:
Terrance West (RB, BAL)
West struggled in both games against the Bengals last year, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and scoring 0 touchdowns. The volume should be there but you’re gambling on him scoring a touchdown. Look for better options this week if you can.
The Bengals are just an average defense against the pass, unfortunately Joe Flacco (QB, BAL) is just an average quarterback. He is startable in two QB/Superflex leagues only. The Ravens signed Danny Woodhead (RB, BAL) in the off-season to be the team’s pass catching back. On a team with little depth at the position, and who threw the ball to running backs more than any other in 2016, Woodhead is a solid start in PPR formats.
Andy Dalton (QB, CIN) should bounce back this year but the Ravens do have a strong pass defense. He is startable in two QB/Superflex leagues but you hopefully have better options in one quarterback leagues this week. The Bengals have a muddied backfield at the moment. Jeremy Hill (RB, CIN) has been listed as the starter but will likely be in some sort of committee with rookie Joe Mixon (RB, CIN). The Bengals have one of the league’s worst offensive lines going up against a tough Ravens front. Neither back should see much room this week and both should be left on the bench. Giovani Bernard (RB, CIN) has a little more appeal in PPR leagues as he should be used in a pass catching role but you hopefully have better options this week. Stud receiver A.J. Green (WR, CIN) doesn’t have the best matchups but he has scored in five straight against the Ravens. He is a weekly must start. Tight end Tyler Eifert (TE, CIN) only played one game against Baltimore in 2016 but he had five catches and a touchdown. He is a safe start this week.