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Fantasy Football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em - Week 1 Matchup Analysis

Lamar Jackson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Welcome back RotoBallers to our Week 1 matchup analysis and Start Em, Sit Em column for fantasy football. After a long offseason, football is officially back! There are a number of marquee matchups to kick things off. Plus, we'll finally get some answers to many of the hot topics such as backfield battles, ascending players, new faces in new places, and how new coaching staff and offensive coordinators will impact their organization. A note for Week 1, all statistics are based on last season, so there is more variance than there will be later in the year. I'll highlight situations where I think there has been a drastic change.

For anyone new to the column, each week we'll be analyzing every game from the Sunday slate and the Monday Night Football game, helping you optimize your fantasy lineups and take down your opponent. Check back regularly for any updates on player injuries or other pertinent information. Additionally, you'll notice there are players that are obvious starts included in the "matchups we love" section in the interest of making sure everyone is covered. Furthermore, there will be times when one wide receiver or running back is listed individually but their teammates are included as part of the write-up as well. I also want to express my gratitude for some of the great resources that help me write this article each week such as Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus, Rotovitz, Pro Football Reference, NFL Next Gen Stats, DraftKings Sportsbook, and Fantasy Points, along with all of you for reading this article.

There is also a separate article for the Thursday Night Football game each week, so be sure to read that. Hopefully, you've got an awesome squad that's primed and ready to roll this week. But there are always deeper options available, especially early in the season. For those with a great team, let's move towards who warrants a starting spot in Week 1. If you have any additional lineup questions, follow me on Twitter @JoshCon, and feel free to ask away. Let's dive into the matchups.

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Matchups Analysis - 1:00 ET Games

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

Spread: Falcons -3.5
Implied Total: Panthers (18) vs. Falcons (21.5)
Pace: Panthers (23rd) vs. Falcons (27th)
Panthers Off. DVOA: -6.1% Pass (10th), -4.0% Rush (17th)
Falcons Off. DVOA: 7.8% Pass (19th), 8.2% Rush (3rd)
Panthers Def. DVOA:
15.5% Pass (27th), -5.4% Rush (18th)
Falcons Def. DVOA: 19.7% Pass (29th), 1.7% Rush (24th)

Matchups We Love:

Bijan Robinson (RB, ATL)

Making his long-awaited debut, Bijan Robinson will face a divisional foe in Week 1. How much work he'll receive is still up for debate, but both these teams are built to run the rock. The Falcons are favored to win, setting him up for a coming-out party with a sky-high ceiling.

UPDATE: Cordarrelle Patterson is out, making Tyler Allgeier a potential flex option.

Miles Sanders (RB, CAR)

The receiving corps enters the preseason a little banged up with older players, further enticing an already run-first team to hand the ball off to Miles Sanders. Couple that with a rookie quarterback and a lower-tier defense, and Sanders should be in for a nice day as a top-24 back with a top-15 upside.

Matchups We Hate:

Bryce Young (QB, CAR)

It's not the worst matchup to start your career with. As mentioned, the durability issues among the pass-catchers already reared their ugly head, raising questions about their reliability. Bryce Young could perform well from an NFL perspective, but taking the wait-and-see approach makes the most sense in Week 1.

Panthers WRs

Even if Young exceeds expectations in this one, it's difficult to project the distribution. There are literally five different players that could lead the team in receptions (two of which aren't wideouts in Sanders and Hayden Hurst). I'd expect one of Adam Thielen, DJ Chark Jr., or Jonathan Mingo to come through, but identifying who is a challenge. Additionally, Thielen and Chark both missed practice and could be ruled out. I'd rather call my shot in another matchup this week if possible.

UPDATE: Chark has been ruled out, removing one option from the receiving corps. Thielen is active, but it provides a slight boost to the value of Mingo.

Other Matchups:

Falcons Passing Attack

One of the biggest questions all offseason has been will Atlanta throw more? The Panthers make for a good test subject in Week 1. A defense that was pretty poor last season and projects to be a bottom-half unit again in 2023. Desmond Ridder is an interesting option in two-quarterback/Superflex leagues, but it's really Kyle Pitts and Drake London that we care about. Both are in play here given the matchup. I do worry they might not need to throw much to win. However, I'm definitely starting Pitts and inclined to start London as a top-36 receiver.

Hayden Hurst (TE, CAR)

One of the more bland tight ends is Hurst, who moved from the high-flying Bengals to the ground-and-pound Panthers. It's hard to see a lot of upside in his profile, but he's a safe play as a streamer.

UPDATE: Chark has been ruled out, removing one option from the receiving corps. It provides a slight boost to the value of Hurst.

Injuries:

DJ Chark Jr. (hamstring)
Adam Thielen (ankle)

 

Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens

Spread: Ravens -9.5
Implied Total: Texans (17) vs. Ravens (26.5)
Pace: Texans (17th) vs. Ravens (25th)
Texans Off. DVOA: -21.3% Pass (31st), -26.7% Rush (32nd)
Ravens Off. DVOA: 11.0% Pass (16th), 10.8% Rush (2nd)
Texans Def. DVOA:
2.6% Pass (10th), 3.8% Rush (27th)
Ravens Def. DVOA: -2.5% Pass (11th), -14.5% Rush (7th)

Matchups We Love:

Lamar Jackson (QB, BAL)

My personal favorite draft pick at the position this year gets a juicy matchup against the Texans. The issue last season was they were so easy to beat on the ground and establish a lead against that teams didn't need to air it out. While it's possible this is still true, Lamar Jackson is more than capable of doing damage with his legs. He's solidified as a top-five option.

Mark Andrews (TE, BAL)

His unquestioned No. 1 target also gets the nod in Week 1. Plenty of discussion about the upgraded receiving corps occurred, but everyone knows Mark Andrews is the alpha. He did miss some time in the preseason and is still on the injury report. If he's active, you have to play him for the upside.

UPDATE: Andrews is officially out. Isaiah Likely becomes a great streaming option with top-five upside.

J.K. Dobbins (RB, BAL)

It's been a rollercoaster ride for J.K. Dobbins since entering the league. He flashed during his rookie campaign, overtaking Mark Ingram II and Gus Edwards before suffering a catastrophic injury in training camp entering 2021. He still wasn't right to begin the season last year, making his debut in Week 3.

He lasted four games, then was sidelined for six more before returning to action. He looked awesome in his final four contests, racking up 297 yards on 47 carries. He's the clear leader in the clubhouse for a team that ran the ball 50.18% of the time, generating the third-most yards, second-most first downs, and second-highest yards per attempt, with a mouthwatering matchup. There's a chance he has his best game of the season in Week 1. Lock him in as a top-20 back with a top-12 upside. Edwards could be a desperation flex as well if they trounce the Texans as anticipated.

Matchups We Hate:

Texans Passing Attack

One of the defensive units that could be improved is the Ravens, who were already formidable down the stretch in 2022. The Texans are also dealing with multiple injuries to their offensive line. C.J. Stroud opens the year in a tough spot, giving me pause for him and his laundry list of potential pass-catchers, including Nico Collins, Tank Dell, John Metchie, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, and tight end Dalton Schultz. Collins is my bet to lead the way, especially in Week 1, making him a flex option. After that, Schultz is an okay streamer and the rest are completely off the radar.

UPDATE: Metchie has been ruled out. His absence does not change the situation.

Other Matchups:

Dameon Pierce (RB, HOU)

The preseason showcased Dameon Pierce as a three-down back who could have a monster workload in 2023. It's best to be cautious about assuming that will carry into the regular season, but the possibility exists. Pierce was impressive as a runner, finishing fourth in yards after contact per attempt, second in broken tackles per attempt, and 12th in PFF's rushing grade. If his passing game role increases, he's got a chance to level up. It's not an ideal matchup from a rushing perspective, but that does mean we'll find out more about his usage. He's in the top 24 with a bit more risk if he cannot find the end zone and doesn't earn targets, or if Devin Singletary steals work.

Ravens WRs

As alluded to, throwing the ball wasn't often necessary last season, but I suspect Baltimore will want to get some reps for their new wideouts. That said, deciphering who will play what role is a bit tricky at the moment. Zay Flowers dominated camp, propelling him to the top of the list. Rashod Bateman is the only one familiar with the system, but staying on the field has been a struggle. Odell Beckham Jr. is a fun throwback, but unlikely to be much more. Consider Flowers a top-36 option with Bateman in the flex range and Beckham a bench.

UPDATE: Andrews is now closer to out than in. If he misses, the receivers become more appealing, particularly Flowers.

Injuries:

John Metchie (hamstring)
Mark Andrews (quad)
Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle)

 

Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns

Spread: Bengals -2.0
Implied Total: Bengals (24.75) vs. Browns (22.75)
Pace: Bengals (20th) vs. Browns (18th)
Bengals Off. DVOA: 24.9% Pass (7th), 7.5% Rush (4th)
Browns Off. DVOA: 16.9% Pass (12th), 5.3% Rush (6th)
Bengals Def. DVOA:
-0.8% Pass (12th), -9.2% Rush (14th)
Browns Def. DVOA: 3.2% Pass (16th), 4.4% Rush (28th)

Matchups We Love:

Nick Chubb (RB, CLE)

For several years, the knock on Nick Chubb has been that he doesn't catch passes. Cleveland parted ways with Kareem Hunt, resulting in unproven tailbacks behind him on the depth chart. Jerome Ford's momentum was building until he suffered a hamstring injury. They recently acquired Pierre Strong Jr. as another insurance option, but that's far from a guarantee.

Chubb finished with the second-most targets (37) and receptions (27) of his career last season, which coincided with Hunt's decline. Week 1 will be telling, particularly because the Browns enter as underdogs and are expected to be trailing. Be excited to trot Chubb out there and hope for some increased passing work.

Joe Burrow (QB, CIN)

The Joe Burrow calf injury video went viral after it appeared he suffered a serious knee injury. Thankfully, that was not the case and he returned to practice last week. It could creep up again later in the season or limit his overall mobility. Still, he has an extremely talented cast around him, enabling him to generate elite levels of fantasy points from the pocket. The Browns are a team whose defense projects to take a leap forward, dropping Burrow outside the top five.

Bengals WRs

The core of Burrow's supporting cast is Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, each of whom is worthy of being the WR1 on an NFL team. The improvement Cleveland's defense may have made should not scare you off of these two, who belong in the top 15 to open the season. Tyler Boyd is an exceptional No. 3, but he's a boom-or-bust flex option whose spike weeks are difficult to anticipate without an injury to the dynamic duo.

Joe Mixon (RB, CIN)

Speaking of running backs catching passes, Joe Mixon also watched as his counterpart, Samaje Perine, walked in free agency. Despite his shortcomings, such as 62nd in elusive rating and 33rd in broken tackles per attempt, he still finished 23rd in rush yards over expected per attempt and 10th in efficiency.

Additionally, those numbers are palatable because of the workload. Especially as a receiver, he'll receive. He's also still the clear goal-line back for an offense that scored the eighth-most points in 2022 and will compete for No.1 this season. He slots in as a top-12 back.

Matchups We Hate:

Deshaun Watson (QB, CLE)

The jury is still out on Deshaun Watson. Was he elite before his off-field concerns? No doubt. Was he good last year? Not one bit. Will he be good this season? That's a highly debated topic. I believe the distractions and criticism he faced impacted his ability to perform on top of the rust he dealt with. It's certainly fair to expect an improvement from last year, but assuming he can ascend to anywhere near where he once was is a risky bet. The Bengals' defense excelled late in the season and into the playoffs, causing Watson to drop outside the top 12 this week.

Other Matchups:

Browns WRs

Amari Cooper had a career year, finishing as the WR9 in half-PPR scoring. He's been in the league long enough that we pretty much know what to expect. There will be spike weeks, and there will be bust weeks. Despite his outlandish campaign that featured six top-12 finishes, he was outside the top 40 seven times.

Those weeks are killer. He did perform better at home, which is the case in Week 1, but that kind of data isn't as sticky when it comes to wide receivers. It's also worth noting that the team traded for Elijah Moore and added Cedric Tillman in the draft to bolster the position behind Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones. Cooper is a volatile top-24 option. Beyond that, it could be Peoples-Jones or Moore, making both of them best left on your bench.

David Njoku (TE, CLE)

Cooper wasn't the only one racking up numbers. David Njoku averaged the ninth-highest points per game among tight ends, including top-six finishes in six of his 14 games (43%). Two of which came with Watson at the helm. Of all the players not named Chubb in this offense, he's the one I trust most and would be looking to start in Week 1.

Irv Smith Jr. (TE, CIN)

On the opposite side of the field, Irv Smith Jr. now occupies the position vacated by Hayden Hurst. He's been one of the many players that we get excited for every year only to watch an injury ruin his opportunity to break out. Could this be the year? It might be. He's a worthy dart throw and potential streamer because of his size, plus he catches passes from Burrow.

Injuries:

None

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts

Spread: Jaguars -4.5
Implied Total: Jaguars (25.25) vs. Colts (20.75)
Pace: Jaguars (12th) vs. Colts (10th)
Jaguars Off. DVOA: 27.1% Pass (6th), -7.5% Rush (20th)
Colts Off. DVOA: -32.4% Pass (32nd), -23.2% Rush (31st)
Jaguars Def. DVOA:
19.7% Pass (30th), -11.8% Rush (11th)
Colts Def. DVOA: 4.0% Pass (18th), -6.6% Rush (16th)

Matchups We Love:

Trevor Lawrence (QB, JAX)

Trevor Lawrence is a strong candidate to jump into the elite tier this year, both because of his numbers in 2022 (14th in completion percentage, 11th in passer rating, 10th in passing touchdowns, and ninth in passing yards) and the addition of Calvin Ridley.

Ridley is another interesting case study of players who missed nearly two years of football and are making their return. Even if it takes him some time to regain his form (which based on training camp may not be necessary), Lawrence possesses a spectacular complement of weapons. The Colts are a sinking ship whose defense is going to be in for a rough outing in Week 1, setting Lawrence up for a top-10 outing.

Jaguars WRs

Jacksonville played Ridley and Zay Jones as their outside receivers in two WR sets with Christian Kirk in the slot. If that usage carries over into the regular season, it will translate to a wider gap between Ridley and Kirk, both of whom are in play here. Ridley's unknown potential makes him an intriguing top-15 option with Kirk in the top-36 and Jones a boom-or-bust flex play.

Evan Engram (TE, JAX)

Not to be forgotten, Evan Engram signed a big extension and is prepared to contribute once again. There will be ebbs and flows in terms of volume given the plethora of weapons but he's a strong top-12 tight end on an ascending offense.

Travis Etienne Jr. (RB, JAX)

After Travis Etienne Jr. was trusted into the starting role because James Robinson couldn't cut it, the team elected to draft Tank Bigsby in the third round. There's been a lot of back and forth about the breakdown of work between these two, especially when it comes to the goal line and obvious passing situations. Etienne will still open as the primary back, but it could cap his ceiling. As heavy favorites against a questionable defense, Etienne is a top-20 back with Bigsby as a potential flex option.

Matchups We Hate:

Colts Receiving Corps

Rookie quarterbacks generally fail to support their receivers. Add in the fact that Anthony Richardson is a mobile quarterback whose best attribute is his athleticism, and it's going to be dicey trusting any of the receivers or tight ends. Furthermore, there are a lot of them to account for.

Michael Pittman Jr. will lead the charge, but Alec Pierce actually profiles more as the deep threat that pairs better with Richardson's big arm. They also drafted Josh Downs, and have Kylen Granson and Mo Alie-Cox at tight end. You could take a shot on Pittman as a flex option, but there isn't a lot of upside.

Colts RBs

The backfield is absent superstar Jonathan Taylor, creating a significant void. On top of that, Zack Moss is recovering from surgery. This has prompted the team to name Deon Jackson (who is a capable pass-catcher but not much more) the starter. Evan Hull, a fifth-round rookie, is the backup. The offense could seriously struggle to score points plus Richardson is unlikely to target the backs frequently, making both of them players to avoid. If you're desperate for a start, Jackson would get the nod.

UPDATE: Moss is officially out as expected.

Other Matchups:

Anthony Richardson (QB, IND)

Richardson is the only Colt I'm remotely excited about, and it's purely because of what he offers on the ground. We know the recipe for success among signal-callers is rushing production, enabling him to be a below-average passer and still finish as a QB1 for fantasy. It's a little scary to trot him out there in Week 1 with all the turmoil going on in Indy, but he's a solid streamer that's unlikely to bust.

Injuries:

Jonathan Taylor (ankle)
Jelani Woods (hamstring)
Zack Moss (forearm)

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Minnesota Vikings

Spread: Vikings -5.5
Implied Total: Buccaneers (19.75) vs. Vikings (26.25)
Pace: Buccaneers (1st) vs. Vikings (6th)
Buccaneers Off. DVOA: 17.6% Pass (11th), -18.1% Rush (30th)
Vikings Off. DVOA: 11.4% Pass (15th), -13.9% Rush (28th)
Buccaneers Def. DVOA:
2.6% Pass (15th), -10.4% Rush (13th)
Vikings Def. DVOA: 14.2% Pass (26th), -4.2% Rush (19th)

Matchups We Love:

Vikings WRs

Justin Jefferson is essentially matchup-proof. He did finish as the WR47 or lower five times last season, including two of the first three weeks and their final two contests. Beyond him, veteran K.J. Osborn is battling to hold off rookie Jordan Addison. It seems like merely a matter of time until Addison secures the No. 2 receiver role, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him out-targeted over the first two to four games. The Buccaneers' defense projects as a middle-of-the-road unit. But both teams play fast, creating additional plays for Addison and Osborn. They are flex options with a lean toward Osborn for Week 1.

T.J. Hockenson (TE, MIN)

After a myriad of unusual "minor" injuries, T.J. Hockenson is back in the fold thanks to a big bag of money. Funny how often that seems to cure injuries. Nonetheless, this will be his first full season as a Viking. His usage last season was incredible, earning 85 targets across nine outings (9.5 targets/game).

Outside of Travis Kelce and Andrews, there really isn't anyone with that level of involvement. It's also probable that Hockeson operates as the No. 2 option while Addison and Osborn compete with one another, locking him in as a top-five tight end.

Alexander Mattison (RB, MIN)

For years, Alexander Mattison truthers have dreamed of the day Dalvin Cook is cut. It turns out dreams do come true. Minnesota was rumored to be a destination for high-profile backs all offseason. The only player they added, DeWayne McBride, was cut last week, solidifying their confidence in Mattison.

Furthermore, Cook handled over 300 touches last season while playing 72% of the offensive snaps, the most of his career. It is indicative of the workhorse philosophy the new coaching regime possesses. The once fierce Tampa Bay rush defense is no longer intact. Mattison is a top-20 back with a top-12 upside in Week 1.

Matchups We Hate:

Baker Mayfield (QB, TB)

On paper, it's a pretty ideal matchup for Baker Mayfield. But I'm skeptical to believe he can exploit this matchup the same way other more talented signal-callers could. In a pinch, there's a chance it works out. But you almost certainly have better options for Week 1.

Other Matchups:

Kirk Cousins (QB, MIN)

Acting as the maestro, Kirk Cousins comes in as a high-floor quarterback whose weapons can elevate him into the top 10 on any given week. Despite the flaws of their defense, I don't foresee Minnesota needing a shootout to take down the Buccaneers. Cousins falls into the streamer category.

Buccaneers Receiving Corps

Where it makes more sense to call your shot in Week 1 on this squad is the pass-catchers. In particular, Mike Evans. It's not to say you should necessarily expect another great year from Evans. Rather, the way this defense was beaten last season was over the top on deeper downfield targets, which is where he thrives.

Chris Godwin and tight end Cade Otton will compete for volume, which there may not be enough of if this team decides to limit the impact Mayfield has on the game. Evans is a boom-or-bust top-36 receiver with Godwin as a flex play, while Otton fits in as a steamer.

Rachaad White (RB, TB)

Much like Mattison, Rachaad White spent much of the offseason set for a heavy workload. It's an outcome that still exists. However, the positive reports on Sean Tucker, who went undrafted because of medical concerns and was named the No. 2 back, might mean more competition than originally projected.

White's value is as a receiver, earning the 13th-most targets and hauling in the 11th-most receptions among tailbacks despite playing an average of only 39% of their snaps. So long as Tucker doesn't eat into that aspect of his workload, he can thrive. He's a flex option with a safer floor in full-PPR leagues.

Injuries:

None

 

Tennessee Titans at New Orleans Saints

Spread: Saints -3.0
Implied Total: Titans (19.5) vs. Saints (22.5)
Pace: Titans (30th) vs. Saints (22nd)
Titans Off. DVOA: 6.2% Pass (20th), -5.5% Rush (18th)
Saints Off. DVOA: 4.9% Pass (22nd), -9.9% Rush (24th)
Titans Def. DVOA:
16.3% Pass (28th), -24.4% Rush (1st)
Saints Def. DVOA: -7.6% Pass (6th), -6.1% Rush (17th)

Matchups We Love:

Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)

The proclamation that "this will be the year Derrick Henry breaks down and disappoints for fantasy" is rearing its ugly head yet again. Eventually, that statement will be true. But some players are just plain special, making them outliers. Henry faced eight or more defenders in the box 38.11% of the time, second to only Tyler Allgeier.

Yet, he trailed only Josh Jacobs in rushing yards, tied Austin Ekeler for the second-most rushing touchdowns, and finished as the RB4 in half-PPR scoring. He just plain gets the job done. Tennessee made a splashy signing, bringing in DeAndre Hopkins.

Along with sophomores Treylon Burks and Chigoziem Okonkwo, they form a much improved receiving corps. If defenses are required to turn their attention to the passing attack, Henry could see an increase in his efficiency. Regardless, he'll have no issue racking up points against the Saints.

Chris Olave (WR, NO)

Speaking of players who are special, Chris Olave did all he could to put himself in that category in Year 1. He was seventh in both targets per route run and yards per route, grading as the 14th-best receiver in 2022. All of this was with a carousel of quarterbacks, none of which compare to Derek Carr.

The Titans are much easier to attack through the air. Given that the Saints will be without their lead back Alvin Kamara, that seems the logical way to approach this matchup. Olave's a top-15 wideout who could crack the top 12. After him, the receiving corps features Michael Thomas (who many are back in on but I for one am not) and downfield speedster Rashid Shaheed. They're both flex players for very different reasons (possible volume for Thomas and ceiling for Shaheed) who I'd rather take a shot on.

Matchups We Hate:

Saints TEs

The displeasure here is more about the number of mouths to feed and uncertainty regarding their roles as opposed to the matchup itself, which was quite good in 2022.

Juwan Johnson broke onto the scene in the second half of the season with seven touchdowns in seven games, demonstrating his presence in the red zone. Taysom Hill often lines up as a runner or a passer but still takes away snaps from time to time. The team brought in Foster Moreau, who was productive behind Darren Waller in Las Vegas with 33 receptions for 420 yards and two touchdowns. The strategy for Week 1 is to observe and learn. Johnson would be the preferred player if you need a start.

UPDATE: Miller is now expected to miss this contest. The depth chart behind Williams is non-existent, which could result in more carries for Hill, which opens up more tight end snaps for Johnson.

Ryan Tannehill (QB, TEN)

Ryan Tannehill has quality weapons but will play behind a brutal offensive line, projected to be dead last by multiple sites. He's fine as your second quarterback if you need to start two. But there are better options with more appealing matchups if you're in need of a streamer.

Other Matchups:

Jamaal Williams (RB, NO)

As mentioned, Kamara will be watching this one while he serves a three-game suspension. Kendre Miller might hold the record for incurring and recovering from the most injuries in one offseason. He's currently cleared to play. But make no mistake that Williams will handle goal-line carries and the majority of the workload in general, earning him a spot as a flex option with a tough matchup.

UPDATE: Miller is now expected to miss this contest, further cementing the workload for Williams.

Titans WRs

DeAndre Hopkins leaves the desert and the Cardinals' air raid offense for a run-first contender that thrives off of play action. He earned a 29.4% target share last year, confirming he can still be the alpha in an offense. He'll need to hit something similar to maintain the 10 targets and 80 receiving yards per game he had with the Cardinals, but he's a volume-based top-24 wide receiver. Treylon Burks' potential breakout in 2023 takes a hit but he's still very capable of making an impact. He's a flex play in this one given the matchup is more difficult.

Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE, TEN)

Chigoziem Okonkwo suffered the same fate as Burks with the arrival of Hopkins. However, the scarcity of the tight end position keeps him in play as a high-upside streamer. Especially after the numbers we saw in 2022, including the highest yards per route run of all tight ends.

Derek Carr (QB, NO)

Derek Carr fits the bill as one of the more appealing streamer options we spoke about earlier. As we alluded to off the top, the Titans are exploitable through the air. Moreover, his supporting cast is deep and the coaching staff is trustworthy. He consistently provides usable fantasy performances, which is what you can expect during his debut at home in the Big Easy.

Injuries:

Kendre Miller (knee)

 

San Francisco 49ers at Pittsburgh Steelers

Spread: 49ers -2.5
Implied Total: 49ers (22) vs. Steelers (19.5)
Pace: 49ers (32nd) vs. Steelers (16th)
49ers Off. DVOA: 35.7% Pass (3rd), 0.6% Rush (13th)
Steelers Off. DVOA: 8.4% Pass (18th), -2.0% Rush (15th))
49ers Def. DVOA:
-8.0% Pass (5th), -23.7% Rush (2nd)
Steelers Def. DVOA: 5.5% Pass (19th), -15.3% Rush (6th)

Matchups We Love:

Christian McCaffrey (RB, SF)

McCaffrey did what they said couldn't be done. He played every single game, ending the year as the RB2. It's best not to get too cocky with running backs and their health, but nothing else can prevent him from finishing as a top-five back with RB1 upside each and every week. The Steelers have a stout defense, but his involvement as a receiver is enough to overcome the matchup.

Matchups We Hate:

Kenny Pickett (QB, PIT)

Betting on a Year 2 leap for Pickett makes sense given what we've seen during the preseason and the upgrades they made to the offensive line. Unfortunately, facing the San Francisco defense is not the time to cash that bet. Hold those chips for at least one more week while Pickett rides the pine on your team.

Steelers WRs

Similarly, it's going to be tough sledding for Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. It's possible one or both produce, but they're riskier flex options that could both bust. The lean goes to Johnson in full PPR and Pickens in half.

Najee Harris (RB, PIT)

There are already reasons to question Harris's outlook for 2023, primarily the emergence of Jaylen Warren. Matched up against one of the best rush defenses in the league, he's someone who drops dramatically in the ranks. Especially because he relies heavily on volume, and Warren was taking over third downs.

George Kittle (TE, SF)

Kittle remains limited at practice with a groin injury. It adds another element of risk to a player already competing for volume in what figures to be a low-scoring affair. He's someone you'd prefer to bench, but that's a tough proposition given his ceiling and the other options you have to choose from.

UPDATE: Kittle is good to go and should be in your lineup unless you have a great pivot.

Brock Purdy (QB, SF)

Purdy lands just outside of quarterbacks I'd be willing to stream. He boasts one of the better quartets in fantasy, propelling him into top-24 territory. He's a fine second option in leagues where you need two signal-callers. However, his reliability tends to be his best trait. He rarely hits a ceiling that wins you a week. Expecting that type of performance against Pittsburgh is improbable.

Other Matchups:

49ers WRs

Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are extremely talented receivers who win very differently. Aiyuk wins downfield as a prototypical receiver while Samuel is more of a Swiss army knife, seeing usage all over the field, including as a runner. Samuel's floor is higher because he receives so many manufactured touches, but Aiyuk has a higher ceiling because of his big-play ability and higher aDot. Against the Steelers, they are both in the top 36 with Samuel as the slight favorite to outscore Aiyuk.

Pat Freiermuth (TE, PIT)

If there's anyone to roll out there against the 49ers, it's Freiermuth, who was a focal point of the offense last season. He was earning an 18% target share, the ninth-most among tight ends. He's also due for touchdown regression after hauling in seven in his rookie campaign but only two in 2022 despite 19 more targets. He remains a top-12 option because of his role and the inconsistency at the position.

Injuries:

George Kittle (groin)

 

Arizona Cardinals at Washington Commanders

Spread: Commanders -7.0
Implied Total: Cardinals (15.5) vs. Commanders (22.5)
Pace: Cardinals (2nd) vs. Commanders (26th)
Cardinals Off. DVOA: -10.2% Pass (29th), -12.4% Rush (27th)
Commanders Off. DVOA: -2.8% Pass (26th), -15.6% Rush (29th)
Cardinals Def. DVOA:
9.0% Pass (21st), 0.3% Rush (22nd)
Commanders Def. DVOA: 1.5% Pass (13th), -13.9% Rush (8th)

Matchups We Love:

Commanders WRs

Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson might be the next elite duo for fantasy football at the wide receiver position. McLaurin is battling a toe injury but has been at practice, signaling he'll suit up. Meanwhile, the sophomore Dotson is chomping at the bit to pick up where he left off. After their bye week, he caught 16 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns in their final four games with two top-12 finishes. Against the putrid Arizona defense, he's a top-24 receiver with added upside if McLaurin is limited or out, who himself is in the top 36 range because of the ailment.

UPDATE: McLaurin is cleared to play, keeping him in the top 36 with a higher ceiling.

Commanders RBs

It's a juicy matchup for the duo of Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson. There's no reason they can't both succeed, Robinson on the ground and Gibson through the air. They're also likely to share the goal-line role, meaning they could each find the end zone. Both are in the top 24.

Matchups We Hate:

Cardinals Passing Attack

The Washington defense got off to a rough start last season. From Week 5 on though, they gave up more than 20 points just five times while holding their opponents to an average of 16.6 points per game. Combine that with the lack of talent the Cardinals possess on offense outside of Marquise Brown and James Conner, and it gets ugly. Plus, they're dealing with injuries to their offensive line. Those are the only two players even worth considering for this week. Brown would be a top-36 volume play with a lower ceiling, while all other pass-catchers are benches.

UPDATE: Brown is active but the injury concerns make it best to avoid him in Week 1 if you can.

Commanders TEs

Logan Thomas is still the team's starter but Cole Turner is the young and upcoming player who I believe will overtake Thomas, likely due to injury. Until then, it's best to avoid these two in favor of better tight end streamers.

Other Matchups:

James Conner (RB, ARI)

As mentioned, Conner is in consideration here because he's utilized often in the passing game and has a nose for the end zone. He's in that RB24 to RB30 range.

Sam Howell (QB, WAS)

If for whatever reason you couldn't secure a starting-caliber quarterback in your draft, Howell is a nice streaming option for Week 1. The matchup is fantastic, they're at home, their new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy gets his chance to shine, and there are sufficient weapons for him to produce.

Injuries:

Kyler Murray (knee)
Marquise Brown (hamstring)
Zach Ertz (knee)
Terry McLaurin (toe)

 

Matchup Analysis - 4:25 ET Games

Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears

Spread: Bears -1.5
Implied Total: Packers (20) vs. Bears (21.5)
Pace: Packers (31st) vs. Bears (29th)
Packers Off. DVOA: 11.9% Pass (14th), 5.8% Rush (5th)
Bears Off. DVOA: -11.0% Pass (30th), 0.4% Rush (12th)
Packers Def. DVOA:
-4.9% Pass (9th), 10.6% Rush (31st)
Bears Def. DVOA: 26.3% Pass (32nd), 9.5% Rush (30th)

Matchups We Love:

Justin Fields (QB, CHI)

Fields is the closest comparison to Jalen Hurts as an elite rusher who could level up and join that top tier after 2023 if his passing game improves. The similarity includes a trade for a No. 1 receiver in DJ Moore. That's not to say you should expect that kind of production from him.

There is a massive opportunity for him though, particularly from a fantasy perspective where he was the QB3 in points per game from Week 6 on. That was after the coaching staff began implementing designed runs. The Packers were constantly torched on the ground in 2022, setting Fields up for a great start even if the passing stats aren't there in Week 1.

Khalil Herbert (RB, CHI)

Herbert has lived in the shadow of David Montgomery with an occasional moment to shine. In the three games he played without him, he finished as the RB11, RB9, and RB1 in half-PPR scoring. He also produced a top-25 finish in five of his other 12 games last season with Montgomery active.

Chicago needed more depth, prompting them to bring in D'Onta Foreman and Travis Homer. Neither of them is receiving a lot of hype. It's the rookie, Roschon Johnson, who appears to be Herbert's biggest competition. He could eat into his workload long-term. But he'll have to earn a bigger role, setting Herbert up as a top-20 back given the matchup we referenced above.

Aaron Jones (RB, GB)

While the Bears project to make a leap on offense, their defense is still going to be bad. We don't know how the Jordan Love era will play out. But leaning on their backfield duo of Jones and AJ Dillon is the most probable strategy, at least early in the year. There's nothing to indicate that Jones can't still excel at the goal line and as a receiver, keeping him in the top 24. Dillon is more of a risky flex option who will need to score to come through.

Christian Watson (WR, GB)

Beyond the ball carriers, Watson will be the focal point of the Green Bay offense. Romeo Doubs was okay until Watson returned from injury. After he came from his own ailment in Week 15, he racked up just 11 receptions for 111 yards in their final four outings. If anyone is going to challenge Watson, it's the rookie Jayden Reed, who profiles as more of a PPR receiver.

UPDATE: Watson has been ruled out while Doubs could be on a snap count, adding more upside to Reed, who remains an intriguing flex option.

Matchups We Hate:

None

Other Matchups:

Bears Receiving Corps 

The Bears elected to pass on selecting a player with the No. 1 overall draft pick, instead trading it for draft capital and Moore. Like a broken record, his annual fantasy finish has been between WR18 and WR22 since his rookie campaign. In 2020, he nearly hit 1,200 receiving yards. In 2021, he almost caught 100 passes. In 2022, he had a career-high of seven touchdowns.

The issue is that he can never seem to put it all together. The other concern is the passing volume in an offense that only threw the ball 44% of the time. Moore is a top-30 option with a safe floor. His arrival has crushed Darnell Mooney's value, perhaps to the point that he's a value. Mooney will fit in better as the No. 2, making him a potential flex play. Chase Claypool remains a wait-and-see situation.

Jordan Love (QB, GB)

Much like Howell, Love finds himself in an optimal situation to open the year in terms of his opponent. The game will be more competitive and they are on the road. He's in contention as a streamer, especially if they decide to pass more than expected.

Luke Musgrave (TE, GB)

What's ideal about the Green Bay offense for fantasy is we know exactly who the starters are already. At tight end, it's Musgrave, who the Packers spent a second-round pick on. He definitively beat out his rookie counterpart Tucker Kraft, earning a full-time role immediately. There are likely better streaming options available. If you're in a pinch, he can sufficiently fill the void.

Injuries:

Romeo Doubs (hamstring)
Christian Watson (hamstring)

 

Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos

Spread: Broncos -3.5
Implied Total: Raiders (20) vs. Broncos (23.5)
Pace: Raiders (24th) vs. Broncos (13th)
Raiders Off. DVOA: 6.1% Pass (21st), 3.9% Rush (8th)
Broncos Off. DVOA: -4.8% Pass (27th), -11.0% Rush (26th)
Raiders Def. DVOA:
21.4% Pass (31st), 1.6% Rush (23rd)
Broncos Def. DVOA: -6.6% Pass (7th), -3.2% Rush (20th)

Matchups We Love:

Broncos RBs

Health is the only thing holding Javonte Williams back because it creates question marks regarding his touches. He was very involved during the preseason, and the progress he's made in his recovery is extraordinary. But Samaje Perine remains a factor. How significant a factor is what we'll find out. Williams is still the preferred option because he's more explosive. Against the Las Vegas defense, both are potential flex options.

UPDATE: The team announced Williams will be on a snap count, which isn't a surprise and doesn't change his ceiling.

Broncos WRs

This unit has been hit the hardest of any in the NFL, losing Tim Patrick and K.J. Hamler. Furthermore, Jerry Jeudy is managing a hamstring issue that resulted in limited practices. Jeudy is undoubtedly the one to target here. But his situation opens the door for rookie Marvin Mims Jr. while simultaneously creating an opportunity for Courtland Sutton to prove the haters (myself included) wrong. The Raiders pass defense is questionable at best, making Sutton and Mims flex options that have a safer floor if Jeudy is out.

UPDATE: Jeudy is officially out, helping Sutton and Mims are gaining steam as flex options.

Greg Dulcich (TE, DEN)

It also gives a boost to Greg Dulcich, whose yards per route run of 1.30, yards per reception of 12.5, and 17.5% target share are all indicative of a player who has the ability to break out. Adam Trautman was brought in as one of head coach Sean Payton's former players, but they also cut Albert Okwuegbunam. Dulcich doesn't need more than a handful of receptions to break off a big play and finish in the top 10. He's an upside streamer who benefits from a nice matchup and Jeudy's injury.

Matchups We Hate:

Raiders Passing Attack

Two divisional rivals who underwhelmed in all aspects last season face one another in their quest to be better. The strength of Denver remains their defense. A unit that led the NFL in multiple categories for the majority of the season until the team gave up. Spearheaded of course by Patrick Surtain II, who is a nightmare matchup.

The transition to Jimmy Garoppolo could be bumpy, especially for Davante Adams, who lost his college teammate and reportedly expressed displeasure with his situation. He's the only receiving option you're going to want to start in Week 1. He's too good to fade entirely, but he could definitely finish outside the top 12 to open the year.

Other Matchups:

Josh Jacobs (RB, LV)

After holding out for the majority of training camp, Jacobs signed a new deal to remain a Raider. It's great news for Las Vegas, for Jacobs's fantasy value, and for the other offensive pieces. But it'll be an uphill battle on the road in Mile High. Even more so than Adams, he's assured a huge workload. This keeps him in the top 15 but outside the top 10.

Russell Wilson (QB, DEN)

The Wilson redemption tour begins with a plus matchup at home, creating a chance for him to prove he's still an above-average NFL starter. Sean Payton enters as the hopeful Messiah that will fix Wilson and Co. It's a terrifying proposition to rely on Wilson as a streamer, but he's a break glass in an emergency type option.

Injuries:

Jerry Jeudy (hamstring)

 

Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers

Spread: Chargers -3.0
Implied Total: Dolphins (24) vs. Chargers (27)
Pace: Dolphins (21st) vs. Chargers (5th)
Dolphins Off. DVOA: 33.0% Pass (4th), -3.1% Rush (16th)
Chargers Off. DVOA: 8.7% Pass (17th), -8.9% Rush (22nd)
Dolphins Def. DVOA:
12.4% Pass (25th), -17.6% Rush (4th)
Chargers Def. DVOA: -3.8% Pass (10th), 6.7% Rush (29th)

Matchups We Love:

Tua Tagovailoa (QB, MIA)

With the second-highest over/under of the week, this is the breeding ground for fantasy points. It features two great offenses that can score at will. Leading the charge for Miami is Tagovailoa, who has been a fantasy discount all offseason because managers are afraid. It's rightfully so, as another head injury could be devastating for his season and career. Long term, there is certainly more risk. As of this moment, he's healthy and ready to roll. He's firmly in the top 10 given his speedy weapons and the possible shootout.

Dolphins WRs

Speaking of speedsters, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle form one of the most productive and talented tandems in the NFL. They combined for over a 54% target share, over 3,000 receiving yards, and 15 receiving touchdowns. For reference, that would've been the 10th-most passing yards by a quarterback and 21st-most passing touchdowns. These two are elite and they're in your lineup.

Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)

Opposite Tagovailoa will be Herbert, who must be thrilled to have Kellen Moore as his new offensive coordinator. Moore's offense in Dallas finished fourth in points scored, sixth in points per play, and fourth in pace of play. It's also important to note just how much turmoil Herbert endured last year. Mike Williams and Keenan Allen both missed large portions of the season, Jalen Guyton missed the entirety of it, and Herbert himself suffered an injury to his ribs that limited his mobility. It's going to be a major bounce-back season for the whole offense, especially Herbert who's also a top-10 play.

Chargers WRs

The team recognized that proceeding with two aging, often banged-up veterans at receiver is not a wise plan, prompting them to select Quentin Johnston 21st overall in the 2023 draft. He's not someone to rely on and expect much from in Week 1. In fact, he's reported to be behind Joshua Palmer, but his upside is intriguing. Until such time, Allen and Williams are locked in as top-20 receivers, especially considering the over/under and that Miami is without Jalen Ramsey.

Austin Ekeler (RB, LAC)

Not to be overlooked, Ekeler was the engine that made this team go. It's possible the crowded receiver room interferes with his target share. There was a negative correlation in games Allen was on the field. As long as he maintains the goal-line work and earns targets at an above-average rate for RBs, he'll continue to push for top-three at the position. Week 1 will provide more information regarding his target share.

Raheem Mostert (RB, MIA)

It's been a rollercoaster ride for the Dolphins at running back. They brought back Jeff Wilson Jr. and Mostert before drafting De'Von Achane in Round 3 of the past draft. They were rumored to be interested in Dalvin Cook, eventually making him an offer he refused.

Then when the dust seemed to settle, news broke that Wilson would be out for at least the first four weeks. Achane missed some time with a shoulder injury but is set to make his debut. Meanwhile, at 31 years old, Mostert will be the starter. His durability concerns are unavoidable. Plus, the team will be without Terron Armstead, which hurts their O-line. For now, he's a top-24 back with a top-15 upside if the touchdowns come.

Matchups We Hate:

None

Other Matchups:

Gerald Everett (TE, LAC)

Everett is the odd man out in the passing attack, but that's not to say he can't find pay dirt or finish with five-plus receptions. He's still a streaming candidate, just one with a wider range of outcomes.

Injuries:

Jeff Wilson Jr. (abdomen)
De'Von Achane (shoulder)
Jaylen Waddle (oblique)

 

Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots

Spread: Eagles -4.0
Implied Total: Eagles (24.5) vs. Patriots (20.5)
Pace: Eagles (8th) vs. Patriots (19th)
Eagles Off. DVOA: 23.9% Pass (9th), 15.3% Rush (1st)
Patriots Off. DVOA: 1.2% Pass (23rd), -8.7% Rush (21st)
Eagles Def. DVOA:
-15.5% Pass (1st), -1.9% Rush (21st)
Patriots Def. DVOA: -11.6% Pass (2nd), -13.7% Rush (9th)

Matchups We Love:

Jalen Hurts (QB, PHI)

As the first member of the big three we'll discuss, Hurts is of course a must-start. The Patriots typically boast a well-coached defense, but it won't matter because of his dual-threat ability and the infamous "tush push" play when they get near the end zone.

Eagles WRs

Right up there with Hill and Waddle are A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, who were excellent in 2022. They actually bested the aforementioned duo with a combined 56.6% target share, producing 18 touchdowns. However, their yard total was much lower. They're both fantastic receivers who warrant a spot in your lineup.

Matchups We Hate:

Patriots Passing Attack

New England wisely moved on from Matt Patricia and brought in a competent offensive coordinater, namely Bill O'Brien. He's not atop the list of playcallers in the NFL, but it's still a significant upgrade. That said, his first test is against the vaunted Philly defense, which feels a bit cruel. The jury is still out on Mac Jones. In a matchup as bad as this one, there isn't a pass-catcher you want to thrust into your lineup. None of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Gesicki, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, or Hunter Henry entice me.

Other Matchups:

Rhamondre Stevenson (RB, NE)

The only piece to salvage from the New England offense is Stevenson, who finished as the RB11 largely thanks to his 17.4% target share. The team moved on from Damien Harris before deciding to bring in Ezekiel Elliott, who looked washed last season.

The one area he still has value is at the goal line, which might cap Stevenson's ceiling given that the offense projects to have fewer opportunities to score. Stevenson will still get plenty of carries. Given the negative game script, he should see lots of targets as well, keeping him in the top 24.

UPDATE: As anticipated, Stevenson is expected to be active.

Dallas Goedert (TE, PHI)

Goedert is tough to gauge because the Eagles were so frequently leading games at halftime they didn't need to air it out. This resulted in fewer targets for him and Smith, who share the short to intermediate routes. With both healthy, I expect Smith to have the edge, making Goedert a bit more touchdown-dependent. He's still in the top 12, but it doesn't feel like a blowup week is coming.

Eagles RBs

As one of the messier backfields to project, D'Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny, and Kenneth Gainwell will compete for touches. Swift is undoubtedly the most talented of the bunch. But like a supernova, he always burns too bright, fading either due to injury or negative relationships with the coaching staff.

While Swift's upside is the highest, Penny is a proven talent as a runner, averaging over six yards per carry in the 15 games he's played the past two years. The issue is just that he's rarely on the field. That leaves Gainwell, who I think will end the year as the most productive back. But worry about it while all three are healthy. The reward for picking the correct player is high, but it's tough to do. I'd consider Swift a flex option but try to avoid all three if possible.

Injuries:

None

 

Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks

Spread: Seahawks -5.0
Implied Total: Rams (20.5) vs. Seahawks (25.5)
Pace: Rams (28th) vs. Seahawks (14th)
Rams Off. DVOA: -0.8% Pass (25th), -6.8% Rush (19th)
Seahawks Off. DVOA: 24.1% Pass (8th), -9.5% Rush (23rd)
Rams Def. DVOA:
11.0% Pass (24th), -10.5% Rush (12th)
Seahawks Def. DVOA: 3.8% Pass (17th), 1.9% Rush (25th)

Matchups We Love:

Geno Smith (QB, SEA)

After years of riding the pine and bouncing from team to team, Smith made his mark last year with an incredible breakout. He led the NFL in adjusted completion percentage, took the Seahawks to the playoffs, and finished as the QB5. A repeat performance would be setting the bar too high. Posting another QB1 season is well within the cards, particularly given his supporting cast. Smith gets the lowly Rams, who are a couple of injuries away from competing for the No. 1 overall draft pick, making him a top-12 quarterback.

Seahawks WRs

As we teased above, D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are the main characters. However, it doesn't end there. The team invested a first-round pick in Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Their new rookie flashed during training camp and the preseason before breaking a bone in his wrist. He's on track to suit up, but starting him in Week 1 is risky. Metcalf and Lockett are must-starts in a great matchup, though.

Matchups We Hate:

Rams Passing Attack

Cooper Kupp is ruled out for this contest, and possibly more. It's bad news for the offense as a whole, including Matthew Stafford. Behind Kupp are Van Jefferson, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, and Tyler Higbee at tight end. You can close your eyes, click play, and call your shot on Jefferson as a flex option if you like. For me, it's Higbee as a volume-based tight end with a high floor, especially in full-PPR leagues. Then call it a day.

Cam Akers (RB, LAR)

The concern I've had all offseason for Akers is the systemic risk that comes if or when the Rams' offense collapses because they're so reliant on Kupp and Stafford to sustain drives. I know he had an outrageous end to the year, totaling over 100 yards from scrimmage in their final four outings.

But every one of those matchups was top-10 in fantasy points allowed to running backs last year. He deserves credit for seizing the opportunity. However, he's a volume-based flex option that could struggle, particularly if Kyren Williams eats in the passing work.

Other Matchups:

Kenneth Walker III (RB, SEA)

Wide receiver was not the only area of improvement for the Seattle offense, who added second-round tailback Zach Charbonnet. Walker's inefficiencies around the goal line were evident. He managed only two touchdowns on 16 carries inside the 10-yard line, and one touchdown on nine carries inside the five.

It's an area many are predicting Charbonnet could overtake him. Additionally, the rookie projects to be an astute pass-catcher, an area Walker failed to excel. What's undeniable is Walker's explosiveness, finishing third in breakaway runs (15-plus yards) while averaging 4.6 yards per carry. He has the home-run hitting ability that can win you a week. For this reason, he's a top-20 back against Los Angeles while Charbonnet is a riskier flex option given his role is unknown for Week 1.

Noah Fant (TE, SEA)

Fant is the primary receiving tight end for the Seahawks, but they also have Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson to mix in. He gets a slight boost knowing that Smith-Njigba is recovering from surgery, keeping him on the radar as a streamer.

Injuries:

Cooper Kupp (hamstring)
Kenneth Walker III (groin)

 

Matchup Analysis - Sunday Night Football

Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants

Spread: Cowboys -3.5
Implied Total: Cowboys (24.5) vs. Giants (21)
Pace: Cowboys (4th) vs. Giants (15th)
Cowboys Off. DVOA: 12.8% Pass (13th), 1.1% Rush (10th)
Giants Off. DVOA: 10.4% Pass (7th), 20.2% Rush (10th)
Cowboys Def. DVOA:
-11.3% Pass (3rd), -15.7% Rush (5th)
Giants Def. DVOA: 9.1% Pass (22nd), 12.1% Rush (32nd)

Matchups We Love:

Tony Pollard (RB, DAL)

The theme of backup running backs that saw the starter cut continues here with Pollard. Ezekiel Elliott is playing in New England, leaving Pollard to take over as the main attraction. Sure, the team has Rico Dowdle and Deuce Vaughn, but neither has the talent to challenge for touches.

Admittedly, Pollard won't get everything, but he doesn't need to. He finished with 193 rushing attempts and 55 targets. Elliott's departure vacates 23 targets and 231 carries. Pollard only needs a small portion of those to match or improve upon his RB7 finish. He's a top-10 back taking on the Giants.

CeeDee Lamb (WR, DAL)

The other superstar on this roster is Lamb, who finally met expectations in 2022 with a WR6 season. He was sixth in receptions and receiving yards while tying for sixth in receiving touchdowns. At 24 years old, he's set for another massive year. He too is a top 12 receiver in this one.

After him, things get interesting. Michael Gallup is now fully healthy from his torn ACL while Brandin Cooks was acquired from Houston. It's unclear who will earn the No. 2 role or how drastically the pace of play and passing attempts will drop, making both flex plays with the edge to Cooks.

Matchups We Hate:

Giants WRs

New York decided to take the quantity over quality approach with their receiving corps that includes Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard/ Wan'Dale Robinson who are both coming off injuries, newly acquired Parris Campbell, and rookie Jalin Hyatt.

Hodgins was productive down the stretch in 2022, Slayton is a big-play downfield threat, Campbell is slated to play in the slot, and the others will rotate in. Someone is likely to emerge as the season progresses. Against the Dallas defense, they're all a pass this week.

UPDATE: Robinson has been labeled as doubtful, but I still wouldn't take a shot on a receiver here.

Other Matchups:

Saquon Barkley (RB, NYG)

Barkley, like Jacobs, negotiated a one-year contract to stay with his squad. Facing the Cowboys is a tough test in Week 1. He fared quite well in their first meeting in 2022, racking up over 100 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. The second matchup was much harder, where he salvaged his 52-yard output with a trip to the end zone. New York projects to improve on offense with their new weapons, keeping him in the top 15 with a lower ceiling.

Darren Waller (TE, NYG)

The biggest addition to the Giants was without question Waller, who disappointed fantasy managers due to injury, but is a strong candidate to join Travis Kelce in the elite tier. He's a guarantee to begin as their No. 1 target with a great likelihood of ending that way as well. The matchup is brutal, but volume and red zone opportunities will be his savior, keeping him in the top 10.

UPDATE: Waller is active and should be in your lineup unless you have a great pivot.

Daniel Jones (QB, NYG)

At the helm of this made-over team is Jones, who received a well-deserved contract extension to remain the unquestioned starter. He hit career-highs in passing attempts (472), completion percentage (67.2), passing yards (3,205), rushing yards (708), and rushing touchdowns (seven). He also had a career-low five interceptions and six fumbles. Unfortunately, hosting their division rivals knocks him down to the streaming category of signal-callers.

Dak Prescott (QB, DAL)

Joining him there is Prescott, who has a much better matchup, but plenty of concerns regarding the freedom Dallas will give him to run the offense. It's fair to place a large portion of the responsibility for their playoff loss on his carelessness with the football.

It also extended to the regular season where he threw 15 interceptions in 12 games with an 8-4 record. The decision by Mike McCarthy to let Kellen Moore walk and take over offensive play calling is a red flag for their willingness to air out. He's still a streamer because the matchup is great. But they're likely to bleed the clock and lean on their defense once they establish a lead.

Jake Ferguson (TE, DAL)

Another change from 2022 is the Dallas starting tight end. Ferguson, who finished with a yards per route run of 1.79 and a targets per route run of 20%, was extremely impressive in his limited opportunities. Dalton Schultz is now a Texan, opening the door for Ferguson to step up. There was initially a lot of hype around rookie Luke Schoonmaker, but injuries kiboshed that. Ferguson is a streamer against the Giants.

Injuries:

Darren Waller (hamstring)
Wan'Dale Robinson (knee)

 

Matchups Analysis - Monday Night Football

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

Spread: Bills -2.5
Implied Total: Bills (24) vs. Jets (21.5)
Pace: Bills (7th) vs. Jets (3rd)
Bills Off. DVOA: 36.5% Pass (2nd), 0.6% Rush (11th)
Jets Off. DVOA: -0.6% Pass (24th), -10.4% Rush (25th)
Bills Def. DVOA:
-4.9% Pass (8th), -19.7% Rush (3rd)
Jets Def. DVOA: -8.2% Pass (4th), -12.5% Rush (10th)

Matchups We Love:

None

Matchups We Hate:

Aaron Rodgers (QB, NYJ)

Rodgers lands in the Big Apple, where he'll begin his quest for a title. Unfortunately, this game has slugfest written all over it, featuring two elite defenses that put a damper on fantasy production. That doesn't mean Rodgers and the Jets can't win this game or even perform admirably. For fantasy purposes, he's not someone you want to start this week.

Tyler Conklin (TE, NYJ)

In the same vein, Conklin, who has the potential to emerge as a weekly streamer, is off the radar as well.

Jets RBs

We spent much of the offseason waiting to see how the recovery would go for Breece Hall. It hasn't been all roses, but he's active for Week 1. Unfortunately, the team is in win-now mode largely because of Rodgers. Therefore, New York also signed Dalvin Cook to a hefty deal to ensure they're covered.

Cook projects to see more work early in the year while Hall works his way back from injury. The bad news is that Buffalo was actually harder to run on than pass against, limiting the excitement for either player. Cook is a flex option who'll rely on volume, and Hall is best passed on in favor of other players.

UPDATE: Despite coach Saleh mentioning Hall would be ready to go ahead of the weekend, he's officially listed as questionable for the game on Monday. I would still expect him to play.

Bills TEs

Dawson Knox is an average tight end. He graded No. 23 at the position in 2022, according to PFF. He managed to haul in 15 touchdowns over the past two seasons as their full-time starter but lacked the explosiveness this offense is missing. In lieu of this, Buffalo drafted Dalton Kincaid 25th overall this past draft. It's unclear what the distribution of snaps will be or whether they'll utilize both at the same time by lining Kincaid up as a receiver. This makes it wise to avoid both in Week 1 against a tough defense.

Other Matchups:

Garrett Wilson (WR, NYJ)

The lone Jet that we want in our lineup is, of course, Wilson. He's a prime candidate to join the elite wideouts in the NFL following an impressive rookie campaign. His 1,103 receiving yards were the 10th-most by a rookie. He also earned 147 targets. Where he struggled was finding the end zone (making only four trips), much of which fell on the shoulders of Zach Wilson and Mike White. Rodgers should be the upgrade he needs to be a top-12 wide receiver. However, he's more in the top 15 range this week.

Stefon Diggs (WR, BUF)

Already in that elite tier is Diggs, who despite some rumblings during camp, seems primed for another fantastic season. He'll take on Sauce Gardner, another sophomore who crushed expectations in 2022. Their series is even with Diggs catching five passes for 98 yards in Week 8, but being limited to three receptions for 37 yards in Week 14. It's far from ideal for Diggs, but he's too talented to bench. Gabe Davis is king of the spike weeks, but facing New York isn't the time to bet on one of those performances.

Josh Allen (QB, BUF)

Tossing him the pigskin is the second of the big three quarterbacks, Allen. The season really seemed to break down during the back half, likely as a result of his elbow injury. Those struggles bled into the playoffs where they barely escaped Miami and their third-string QB before getting outmatched by the Bengals.

The Bills ought to consider themselves in a championship window as well because Diggs is aging and there isn't much behind him. The Jets had Allen's number in 2022, holding him to 352 passing yards and one passing touchdown while forcing two interceptions. It's ugly, but moving off of Allen is nearly impossible.

James Cook (RB, BUF)

It's a little easier to rush the ball against New York than to throw it, which could mean more work for Cook. Following the departure of Devin Singletary, they brought in Damien Harris and Latavius Murray to compete for the backup spot. It's hard to tell who will emerge with that role, which may include goal-line carries.

We know Cook is a talented pass-catcher. What we're unsure of is whether he'll receive a portion of that goal-line work and how frequently Allen will target him. For now, he's a flex player with more upside in full PPR.

Injuries:

Mecole Hardman Jr.



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