Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2018
This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst matchups for Week 1 of the 2018 NFL season. Decisions are based upon the FFN rankings and matchup analysis. Given the known conditions, these matchups are the ones to watch and/or avoid.
Please Note: This list does not generally include the elite players that you are going to start regardless of matchup. You don't need us to tell you to start Aaron Rodgers, Rob Gronkowski, or Antonio Brown. Instead, we take a look at other players on your team that we believe either have great matchups or should be avoided for multiple reasons. Factors like opposing defense, performance trending, and peer comparisons may influence our decisions.
Start 'em Matthew Stafford (DET, QB)
The Jets is a good way to start the season. They allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last year and the 11th-most passing yards. With a solid trio of receivers to throw to (Jones, Tate, Golladay), Stafford should come up big at home. He's currently ranked 6th on FFN this week.
Start 'em Kirk Cousins (MIN, QB)
Perhaps no other game will garner as much QB-attention as the Vikings/Niners. Kirk Cousins will face Jimmy Garoppolo and their spots in the FFN rankings aren't even close...and that has everything to do with the defense. Cousins is ranked 9th among QB's for Week 1 facing an improved San Fran secondary that gave up the fourth-most fantasy points last season.
Start 'em Joe Mixon (CIN, RB)
We have high expectations for Mixon this year. He gets a nice matchup against a Colts team that's ranked in the bottom half of the league in PPR points allowed to RB's in 4 straight seasons. Last year's defense allowed 15+ PPR points to 11 different RBs. Indy is expected to start 2 rookie LBs on Sunday. He's ranked 13th in Standard and 14th in PPR and has a legitimate chance at finishing in the Top 12.
Start 'em Jamaal Williams (GB, RB)
Williams starts the season against a quality Bears defense, but with Aaron Jones suspended, he'll have volume on his side. In Week 10 of last season, he didn't do particularly well against Chicago (20 carries for 67 yards and 1 catch for 7 yards), but the Bears didn't have Aaron Rodgers to contend with. This time the defense can't stack the box. Williams is a lock for 16+ carries and a score.
Start 'em James Conner (PIT, RB)
If Le'Veon Bell misses Week 1, Conner is a sneaky play with solid potential - especially in DFS where he would be significantly undervalued. The only strike against him would be the matchup. The Browns were pretty tough against the run last year limiting rushing yards to just 97.9 on average, but the workload would definitely be there.
Start 'em Chris Hogan (NE, WR)
With Julian Edelman starting his suspension, Amendola gone to Miami, and Cooks traded to Los Angeles, we anticipate quite a few targets to go Hogan's way. Hogan has a great history against the Texans having scored on them twice last season. He's ranked 18th this week making him a great WR2 with fantastic upside - potentially a Top 10 play this week.
Start 'em JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT, WR)
Potentially a great matchup as the Cleveland defense tends to leave the middle of the field open quite often, and he crushed them in his lone start last year hauling in 143 yards and a score in last year's finale. A limited or sidelined Le'Veon Bell would boost his target projection on Sunday.
Start 'em Jordan Reed (WAS, TE)
Look - you may not have many opportunities to play Jordan Reed this season, so plug him in now. He's healthy and that's a great thing. He may not have a full game of snaps, but he's guaranteed to be a top target for Alex Smith who has a solid track record of producing with tight ends. Arizona performed as a mid-pack TE defense last year.
Start 'em Trey Burton (CHI, TE)
Burton looked like QB Mitchell Trubisky's favorite target this preseason, with WR Allen Robinson slowly working his way back from last year's torn ACL. Burton appears to be the go-to guy and the Bears may very well find themselves playing from behind. Burton is a great security blanket for Trubisky and should finish as a Top 10 TE this week.
Start 'em Baltimore Ravens (BAL, DEF)
Our #1 ranked defense this week is the Ravens facing a Bills offense with a lot of question marks - especially at the QB position and an offensive line that is ranked near the bottom. Expect a lot of pressure on Peterman this week.
Start 'em Matt Prater (DET, K)
Very solid season last year and nothing scary about the matchup at home against the Jets. Look for the Lions to move the chains a lot in this game putting Prater into position for a solid fantasy day. Prater is ranked 5th this week on FFN.
Sit 'em Jimmy Garoppolo (SF, QB)
If you drafted Jimmy Garoppolo, you were probably pretty excited to plug him into your lineup. Hold onto that excitement one more week, because there's a good chance that he struggles a bit against the Vikings in Minnesota. The Vikes gave up the 2nd-fewest yards through the air last year, kept QB's to under 10 fantasy points, and they look just as solid in 2018. Jimmy G is ranked 25th this week making him a difficult play even in 2-QB leagues.
Sit 'em Patrick Mahomes (KC, QB)
This is not about potential as Mahomes has a ton of it, but rather about the stellar defense of the Chargers. LA gave up the 3rd-fewest passing yards last year and kept opposing signal callers to 11.5 fantasy points on average. Mahomes is ranked 20th among QB's on FFN this week.
Sit 'em Marshawn Lynch (OAK, RB)
Beastmode will have to wait a week as Lynch will come face to face with Ndamukong Suh and an improved defensive line. In addition to this being a poor matchup, if the Raiders end up playing from behind, he could struggle with volume. He's ranked 25th this week making him a potential flex play or RB3.
Sit 'em Matt Breida (SF, RB)
Breida was a popular name on the waiver wire with Jerick McKinnon lost for the season, but Alfred Morris is likely to start and the two of them will share touches. Breida will probably see more value in PPR formats, but he's a risky play this week given that he has his own shoulder issues and we don't know how the time share will shake out.
Sit 'em Josh Gordon (CLE, WR)
Yes, Gordon has a ton of talent, but as tempted as you may be to rush him into your lineups expecting 2013-type production, it's not likely to happen. The Browns have indicated that they plan to "ease him into" the season, so his targets and snaps are a big question mark. He'll also face Joe Haden and Morgan Burnett. That's a tough matchup for his first game back.
Sit 'em Kelvin Benjamin (BUF, WR)
This is a risky play. He opens against a Ravens defense missing top CB Jimmy Smith, but still a solid secondary. Benjamin is a good bet for 7-10 targets, but the real concern here is what to expect from QB Nathan Peterman. Benjamin is ranked 49th this week among all wide receivers making him essentially unstartable.
Sit 'em Charles Clay (BUF, TE)
Look above for our assessment of Kelvin Benjamin. It's tough to know what to expect with Peterman under center and a stout Ravens D. Clay should see a handful of targets on Sunday, but there's just not much upside here in the Nathan Peterman-led passing game.
Sit 'em David Njoku (CLE, TE)
Njoku is a great season-long play, but he may struggle a bit against a Steelers defense that dominated tight ends last year. He's ranked 14th this week putting him just outside of starting territory.
Sit 'em Chicago Bears (CHI, DEF)
The addition of Khalil Mack makes the Bears defense one of the most formidable in the NFL, but a road game at Lambeau Field against a healthy Aaron Rodgers isn't a good way to start the season. Rodgers has owned the Bears throwing 14 touchdowns over the last four home games against them. Chicago is ranked 19th among defenses on FFN this week.
Sit 'em Harrison Butker (KC, K)
The Chargers defense was pretty solid last season keeping kickers to an average of just 6 points. Butker has a nice season last year but we have questions about him on the road with their young QB under center. He's ranked 24th this week. There are better options out there that you can stream.