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Monday Night Football Matchups and Starts/Sits (Week 1)


If I had even the slightest of onomatopoeia skills what you'd see here would be a textual rendition of the Monday Night Football theme song. I don't, though, so let's progress with the analysis instead.

Since 2006, the NFL has graced us with a Monday Night Football doubleheader in Week 1 - a tradition which remains unchanged. The schedule is designed to allow all playoff teams an equal number of days off at the conclusion of the regular season. Therefore, all games in Week 17 are played on Sunday. TV contracts are TV contracts, though, so the Week 1 doubleheader enables a full, 17-game MNF slate... Some random trivia for you.

Anyway, I hope your fantasy team survived Sunday's action, and if you haven't gone all Office Space printer on your laptop, phone, and/or TV yet, here's a preview of Monday night's doubleheader action for any remaining start/sit decisions you may have. If you didn't survive Sunday's action, well, there's still plenty of time to bounce back; you just need to spend more time reading stuff like this. Let's get into the first Monday Night Football preview of 2018. Enjoy, and best of luck!

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!

 

New York Jets @ Detroit Lions

Date and Start Time: Monday, September 10th at 7:10 p.m. EST
Game Spread: Lions -6.5
Over/Under: 45
Notable Injuries and Status:

Offensive and Defensive Rankings (2017):

Jets Lions
Passing Yards 24th 6th
Rushing Yards 19th 32nd
Pass Defense 21st 27th
Run Defense 24th 18th

 

Must Starts

Top Players That You Should Have In Your Lineup

Matthew Stafford (QB, DET)

After seven-straight 4,000+ yard passing seasons, and three-straight Top-10 fantasy finishes, why Matthew Stafford continues to be slept on is simply beyond explanation. Stay woke. Especially in Week 1 against this Jets secondary which projects to be among the league's bottom dwellers. Again.

In addition to boasting one of the better wide receiver duos in the league (more on them in a bit, kinda), the Lions offensive line is healthy and may be the best Stafford has ever squatted behind before rising and throwing the football. Stafford managed 4,446 yards, and 29 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions a season ago despite being sacked more times than every QB not named Jacoby Brissett. Just imagine what he'll do with time. Oh, and by the way, the Jets finished 2017 with just 28 sacks (fifth fewest), and on paper, don't look to have improved at all in that regard. In other words, Stafford should have plenty of time to dissect this porous secondary Monday night en route to one of the top fantasy finishes of the week.

Marvin Jones/Golden Tate (WR, DET)

Scroll up a smidgen, read all that jargon under "Matthew Stafford (QB, DET)", realize that he'll be throwing the ball to Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, and then nod in approval while grinning and plugging them into your lineups. Both guys finished 2017 with an excess of 1,000 yards receiving, and after Monday night, they'll both be on pace to repeat.

 

Must Sits

Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup

Sam Darnold (QB, NYJ)

Until further notice, Darnold is the quarterback of the future for the other New York football team. That's cool and all, but he's yet to acquire the wily vet status of Josh McCown - who would've at least invoked the slightest bit of confidence - as he'll be making his first NFL start... On the road. He also gets to deal with Darius Slay, Glover Quin, and one of the more underrated secondaries the league has to offer for his troubles. (He also went to USC. But, that's neither here nor there. I'll let you do some googling should you be unaware of the rich history of USC quarterbacks in the NFL.)

Admittedly, it's not difficult to imagine a scenario where he picks up some garbage time stats, maybe even a garbage TD, and finishes the night with a somewhat respectable tally in the fantasy points column. But, yeah... No thanks. The Lions finished 2017 tied for 4th with 19 interceptions, and INTs are not ideal when the objective is to accumulate the most fantasy points possible.

Robby Anderson (WR, NYJ)

I hate to be repetitive and painfully obvious here, but seeing how I like Stafford, I like his receivers. And seeing how I don't like Darnold, I don't like Anderson (or any of his receivers for that matter). For starters, Quincy Enunwa is back - his injury opened the door for Anderson in 2017. Secondly, the Jets added Terrelle Pryor this offseason, and while D.J. Swearinger and the Redskins don't respect him (he hasn't done much to prove his NFL staying power at WR either), he's still another mouth to feed. All told, the "wait and see approach" is probably the best bet with this Jets passing attack in 2018. I know, Anderson was a fantasy darling in 2017 - the rare waiver wire gem that comes out of (seemingly) nowhere to put up a top-20 season. But, it doesn't seem likely he'll do it again in 2018. And if he does, it's not likely to begin Monday night. (I'd imagine he'll go to bed without covers after being blanketed by Darius Slay all evening.)

Lions Running Backs

"Must sit" is a bit excessive. This is more of a tread lightly. If I had to pick one, I'm taking Theo Riddick (assuming PPR scoring) as his floor is likely to be the highest on a weekly basis, given Stafford's affinity to pass. However, until we see how things pan out between LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson, and Ameer Abdullah, I wouldn't advise putting any of them anywhere near your starting lineup. The potential risk of this four-RB platoon far outweighs the reward at this point. I mean, Matt Patricia has spent the last 14 years under Belichick, it's only right he makes his RB situation a nightmare for fantasy GMs.

 

Solid Options/Sleepers

Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?

Solid Option - Isaiah Crowell (RB, NYJ)

If Woody Johnson came to me and said he wanted me to replace Todd Bowles as the Jets head coach, I wouldn't blink before asking, "Where do I sign?" I wouldn't have even the slightest idea on where to begin my coaching journey, but I know my gameplan - with a rookie QB - would revolve around getting my running backs touches early and often. That would come before I even began to consider how terrible the Lions run defense was after losing Haloti Ngata to a torn bicep last season (he's a Philadelphia Eagle now), or the fact that they allowed the second-most rushing TDs and nearly 100 rushing yards per game to opposing RBs.

Solid Option - Bilal Powell (RB, NYJ)

If Woody Johnson ca... Wait.

Solid Option - Luke Willson (TE, DET)

The Jets allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends than all but five teams in 2017. There's really not much more to say here.

Sleeper - Neal Sterling (TE, NYJ)

The tight end position is widely referred to as a quarterback's "security blanket", and with the departure of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Sterling is the next in line to occupy that role for the young Sam Darnold. Now, there is some uncertainty here, as the Jets head into the season rostering four TEs. However, Eric Tomlinson is most known for his blocking (and isn't likely to see a bevy of targets), while Jordan Leggett and Chris Herndon combined to amass just one catch during the preseason. So, if I had to bet, I'm taking Sterling - who lead all Jets offensive players with a 91.5 preseason grade from Pro Football Focus after finishing with five receptions for 51 yards.

No need to give him much attention in season-long formats, but if you're in a bind, just want to go outside the box, or looking for a cheap, next to zero-percent owned, GPP DFS option with upside, Detroit allowed the 9th most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs in 2017.

 

Los Angeles Rams @ Oakland Raiders

Date and Start Time: Monday, September 10th at 10:20 p.m. EST
Game Spread: Rams -4
Over/Under: 48.5
Notable Injuries and Status:

Offensive and Defensive Rankings (2017):

Rams Raiders
Passing Yards 10th 16th
Rushing Yards 8th 25th
Pass Defense 13th 26th
Run Defense 28th 12th

 

Must Starts

Top Players That You Should Have In Your Lineup

Jared Goff (QB, LAR)

Pinpointing which Rams receiver will go off Monday night is a bit of a challenge, but there isn't much doubt that Goff will have himself a night. Gone is Sammy Watkins, but with Brandin Cooks now in the fold, Goff still possesses an arsenal of weapons and is positioned perfectly to build upon his breakout sophomore campaign which saw him average 253.6 passing yards, nearly two passing touchdowns, and 17 fantasy points per game.

This Raiders defense finished with the 8th fewest sacks in 2017, and that was with Khalil Mack, so Goff shouldn't find himself under pressure very often Monday night. And given the question marks surrounding their secondary, it's hard to envision Goff having much trouble getting 2018 off to a fast start. The only real concern here would be LA jumping out to a big lead, and then leaning on the ground game. Or, simply leaning on the ground game from the beginning...

Todd Gurley (RB, LAR)

Oakland wasn't terrible against the run last season, but neither were the majority of the teams which Gurley ran through with ease in route to the most fantasy points of all running backs. Nothing about this (or any) matchup suggests you have even the slightest bit of consideration for benching Gurley.

 

Must Sits

Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup

Derek Carr (QB, OAK)

If your week comes down to Carr, I sure hope your deficit is within single digits. Otherwise, you might be in for a long evening. Not only will Carr have to deal with Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and company breathing down his neck, but when he does have time to look downfield, he'll see Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, and Nickell Robey-Coleman draped all over his receivers. The Rams took one of the best pass defenses in the league, and made it substantially better (on paper). The cards aren't exactly stacked in favor of a big night here from Mr. Carr.

Marshawn Lynch (RB, OAK)

For starters, it's unclear how big of a role Doug Martin will play in this offense. Secondly, Lynch has been dealing with a groin issue and while he's been cleared, soft-tissue injuries are always worrisome. Third, and most importantly, Oakland's new offensive coordinator, Greg Olson, has ten years' experience as a NFL OC. Over those ten seasons, just once has one of his teams finished in the Top-15 in rushing attempts (his 2010 Buccaneers ranked 13th). On the flip, eight of those ten teams finished in the Bottom-12 in rushing attempts. You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks, right? At a minimum, you have to figure Lynch will see the majority of the goalline work. Problem is, what happens when he doesn't score?

Jordy Nelson (WR, OAK)

I won't go all Jalen Ramsey and proclaim that Aaron Rodgers made Jordy Nelson, but he sure as hell didn't hurt his career numbers either. And when we take into account that Nelson is coming off a predominantly Rodgers-less season, which saw him put up just 482 yards - his lowest total since 2009 - one would be justified in raising an eyebrow. Factor in his mileage and the matchup, and yeah, it's a no for me.

 

Solid Options/Sleepers

Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?

Solid Option - Jared Cook (TE, OAK)

Despite being down on Carr, I actually like Cook a lot this week as any semblance of success in this Oakland passing attack is likely to come at the hands of Cook. LA was middle of the pack against opposing tight ends a season ago, and will be replacing Robert Quinn, Alec Ogletree, and Connor Barwin from last season's linebacking corps with the lesser-known Samson Ebukam, Cory Littleton, and Matt Longacre. Cook led the Raiders in receiving yards, while finishing second on the team in receptions in 2017, and while neither the new head coach nor offensive coordinator cements a repeat, this appears to be one of the few exploitable areas of this Rams D.

Solid Option - Rams Wide Receivers

Against this secondary, it's hard to have a problem with any of the Rams talent at wideout and they should technically be must-starts. The problem, as mentioned earlier, is that we really don't know how they'll be utilized at this point so we run the risk of starting the odd man out who goes four for 45. Sure, we could look at last season's target shares and make assumptions, but Brandin Cooks is not Sammy Watkins. Nonetheless, you're starting Cooks, and Cooper Kupp with confidence. Robert Woods is probably the diciest of the three, but given his big play ability, he makes for a very solid WR3/flex play with plenty of upside.

Sleeper - Tyler Higbee (TE, LAR)

After plenty of buzz (and even more disappointment) in 2017, Higbee makes for an interesting post-hype sleeper. Yes, Gerald Everett is still around, but he's been dealing with a shoulder injury which may limit him a bit; at least early on. By most accounts, Higbee was a standout in training camp, and he did put a couple of impressive performances to his name a season ago. Yes, he also has to compete with Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, and Cooper Kupp for targets, in addition to, the 20 touches Gurley is practically guaranteed weekly. However, facing this Raiders D which allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs a season ago, rolling the dice might not be as crazy as it seems. Just don't blame me when he stays asleep.

 

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