Week 1 Matchups and Starts/Sits for Fantasy Football (Part 2)

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Welcome to the second 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 4:00 PM games, and be sure to check out part one of the matchups for the earlier 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.

Editor's note: Purchase any NFL Lineup Optimizer pass (including daily DFS cheat sheets), and you also get access to NBA and NHL Optimizers and DFS cheat sheets.

 

Week 1 NFL - 4:00 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.

 

Colts at Rams

Matchups We Love:

Todd Gurley (RB, LAR)
This is a big week for Gurley. The Colts defense is bad. Very bad. The Rams made improvements to their offensive line and they should easily win the battle up front. If Gurley can't produce this week, his days as a fantasy darling are likely over. He should be started with confidence this week in a very soft matchup.

Sammy Watkins (WR, LAR)
Watkins lines up primarily on the right which means he will get chances against the Colts weakest corner, Darryl Morris (ranked 53rd). No one on this secondary should be a match for Watkins, the real issue will be the play of his quarterback Jared Goff. He's startable in a plus matchup.

 

Other Matchups:

It's hard to trust any Colts offensive player. With backup Scott Tolzien (QB, IND) set to make the week one start, the entire offense seems likely to struggle. Aaron Donald still holding out for the Rams may give Tolzien more time to throw, but there is no league he should be started in. Normally a reliable running back, Frank Gore (RB, IND) is a tough start this week in an offense that will likely have trouble moving the ball. The touches should be there for Gore, however. Wide receivers T.Y. Hilton (WR, IND) and Donte Moncrief (WR, IND) take the biggest hits with Tolzien under center. You drafted Hilton in the early rounds but you likely want to sit him this week if you can until you see how much Tolzien will impact him. The only player who may garner consideration for a start this week is tight end Jack Doyle (TE, IND). Tolzien targeted him plenty in the preseason and the shorter passes should lead to more success. The Rams were stingy against tight ends in 2016 so expectations shouldn't be high.

There are very few, if any, leagues that you should need to start Jared Goff (QB, LAR) in. If you're in a two-QB league or have only Jameis Winston ahead of Goff on your roster, this is as good a spot as any. The Colts have one of the worst secondaries in the league and are without Vontae Davis.

 

Panthers at 49ers

Matchups We Love:

Cam Newton (QB, CAR)
After starting off 2016 against one of the league's best defenses in Denver, Newton gets a break this year with this matchup against the 49ers. Sporting a soft secondary and no real elite pass rushers, Newton should have no problem picking this defense apart. He is a must-start this week.

Kelvin Benjamin (WR, CAR)
Benjamin played half of his snaps from the left side of the field which will match him up against Rashad Robinson (ranked 78th). But it doesn't matter where he lines up, he will have a match up advantage everywhere. Start him with confidence this week.

 

Matchups We Hate:

Carlos Hyde (RB, SFO)
Hyde has big time potential this year in Kyle Shanahan's offense, but may get off to a slow start this week against a tough defensive front. Led by tackle Kawann Short and linebacker Luke Kuechly, this defense allowed opposing running backs to run for just 3.8 YPC in 2016.  You likely don't have better options than Hyde this week, and big games are surely ahead, just don't expect it this week.

 

Other Matchups:

It's unclear exactly how the Panthers will use running backs Jonathan Stewart (RB, CAR) and rookie Christian McCaffrey (RB, CAR). All indications are Stewart will get the early down work while McCaffrey will be used in the passing game and perhaps more. Though the 49ers took steps to improve this defense, both players make solid starts against a team that gave up the most rushing yards in franchise history last year. Wide receiver Devin Funchess (WR, CAR) has somewhat disappointed his first two years, but as the teams clear number two could improve this year. While his matchup this week is good you hopefully have better options. Tight end Greg Olsen (TE, CAR) makes for a solid start this week against an average defense at stopping tight ends.

Quarterback Brian Hoyer (QB, SFO) will have fantasy relevance this year but should likely be avoided this week. The Panthers were just average against quarterbacks last year but have an improving secondary. Newly signed wide receiver Pierre Garcon (WR, SFO) lines up primarily on the left which will match him up against second year corner Daryl Worley. Worley struggled early in the season but improved as the year went on. Garcon should see plenty of targets and is a solid start this week.

 

Seahawks at Packers

Matchups We Love:

Russell Wilson (QB, SEA)
Finally back to full health, Wilson looks to bounce back this year and gets a great first matchup. The Packers have possibly the league's worst cover corners and the Seahawks receivers should be open all game long. In an offense that has loved airing it out the last two years, Wilson has easy top 5 upside this week and is a must start.

Doug Baldwin (WR, SEA)
Seahawks slot receiver, Baldwin, will line up against Quinten Rollins (ranked 87th). Sadly Rollins is the highest graded corner in this secondary for the Packers. Baldwin should have a field day and has huge upside this week. He is a must start in all formats.

 

Matchups We Hate:

Ty Montgomery (RB, GBP)
While the Packers do have a good offensive line, the Seahawks have one of the best defensive fronts and linebacker cores in the league. The addition of Sheldon Richardson from the Jets just makes them that much stronger. In their matchup last year he had just 41 yards on the ground but did add three catches for 45 yards and found the end zone. He'll need a similar result this week to pay off for his owners.

Martellus Bennett (TE, GBP)
Bennett should see a boost to his fantasy value playing with Aaron Rodgers, but could find things tough this week. The Seahawks gave up the third fewest points to tight ends last year and allowed just three touchdowns. This may be a week to stream at the position for Bennett owners.

 

Other Matchups:

A crowded backfield made more unpredictable due to the fact Thomas Rawls (RB, SEA) may or may not start is the stuff of fantasy nightmares. If Rawls does sit, Eddie Lacy (RB, SEA) would get a bump in a revenge game but don't sleep on rookie Chris Carson (RB, SEA) who impressed in the preseason. Possibly the safest start out of this backfield is C.J. Prosise in PPR formats as he should see the majority of the passing down work. The Seahawks other wide receivers, Tyler Lockett (WR, SEA) and Paul Richardson (WR, SEA) have flex appeal in very deep leagues against a terrible secondary. Tight end Jimmy Graham (TE, SEA) is an easy start this week though the Packers were decent at stopping tight ends last year.

Look, you're starting Aaron Rodgers (QB, GB) regardless, just know this is a tough matchup. Seattle is an elite defense that gave up the fourth fewest points to quarterbacks last year. Although he only threw for 246 yards against them last season, he did toss three touchdowns. Jordy Nelson (WR, GB) is a must-start no matter what but he should line up across from Richard Sherman (ranked 12th) plenty in this game. The Packers do a good job moving him around, however, so he should still get his. It's still unclear if the Seahawks will use rookie Shaquill Griffin outside and Jeremy Lane in the slot, but either way Davante Adams (WR, GB) and Randall Cobb (WR, GB) should be solid plays this week.

 

Giants at Cowboys

Matchups We Love:

Evan Engram (TE, NYG)
It's hard to trust a rookie in week one, but this is about a good a matchup as you can get. The Cowboys were the worst team against tight ends last year. Still, outside of two tight end leagues he can likely be left on the bench until we get a chance to see how he will be used in this offense. Tight end has never been a focal point for this Giants team.

 

Matchups We Hate:

Dak Prescott (QB, DAL)
Prescott had a great rookie season that saw him finish as one of the top quarterbacks. Now being drafted as a QB1, Prescott owners may be disappointed this week. The Giants defense is elite, and in the two matchups last year Prescott averaged 196 yards passing and had just one touchdown versus two interceptions. With his main weapon likely to be shut down (see below) Prescott could be in for a tough night.

Dez Bryant (WR, DAL)
Bryant is going to see a lot of Janoris Jenkins (ranked 8th). In his two games against the Giants last year he had two catches for 18 yards...total. We know you drafted him early but he is a risky start this week and will likely need a touchdown to produce a relevant fantasy day.

 

Other Matchups:

Common thought that quarterback Eli Manning (QB, NYG) seems to always play better against the Cowboys just isn't true. Last year in their two matchups, he had a 207-yard, three-touchdown, one-interception game and a 193-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception game. With Odell Beckham, Jr. not at 100%, Eli is a tough start outside of two-QB/Superflex leagues. Starting running back Paul Perkins (RB, NYG) draws an OK matchup against a mediocre Cowboys front, but plays in an offense that ignores their running backs. Don't expect too much. If healthy, Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR, NYG) is a weekly must start. The matchup against the Cowboys corners should not scare anyone. If he starts you play him. Newly signed Brandon Marshall (WR, NYG) should win his matchups with whoever he is lined up against and makes for a solid start. Slot receiver Sterling Shepard (WR, NYG) may be the odd man out and carries risk into this week as the third wide receiver.

Congrats, Ezekiel Elliott (RB, DAL) owners, you get him for at least one week. Unfortunately it's against the only team that held him in check last year. In his two games against the Giants last year Elliott had 12.2 and 10.7 PPR fantasy points. Dallas still has a very good offensive line, but for the first time in years there are question marks. You're starting Elliott but don't expect a monster game. Wide receiver Cole Beasley (WR, DAL) has been a late-round PPR pick this year but needs to be benched this week against slot corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ranked fifth). Old reliable Jason Witten (TE, DAL) could be a sneaky start this week as the one area the Giants do struggle in is covering tight ends.

 

More Week 1 Lineup Prep