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Start Em’ or Bench Em’: Week 1

Hello Fantasy fans,

Football is officially back this week! <Insert happy-face emoji> I think we’re all on board that opening week of the NFL is one of the best weekends on the calendar year. There is a lot of excitement, cheering, high hopes as well as the disappointment, booing, and let downs. Regardless of how your actual NFL team is doing, we all have our fantasy football teams to look forward too as well. Take this long journey with me this fantasy football season for 16 weeks as I advise you who to play and bench on a weekly basis. I’ll discuss who I think you should be starting on your team and who you should avoid for the week based on their match-ups. It’s week one, it’s finally football season, fantasy football drafts are over and it’s just finally time for FOOTBALL!!! Let’s get started.

***Obvious players like Aaron Rodgers, David Johnson, Antonio Brown and Travis Kelce and other players of that caliber will not be featured in these columns***

Play Em’

Quarterback:

-Marcus Mariota v. Oakland Raiders

  • The Oakland Raiders had one of the worst secondary’s in the NFL last year and didn’t do much to improve it. Sure they brought in a few rookies, but how much of an impact will they make week one? Until the Raiders show me they can defend against the pass, I’m starting legit receivers against them each week. On another note, the Titans brought in Eric Decker and drafted a stud receiver with their first round pick in Corey Davis. Add in last year’s leading receiver Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker, Marcus Mariota is going to have options against this porous secondary. Start Mariota comfortably.

Kirk Cousins v. Philadelphia Eagles

  • Kirk Cousins has had some of his biggest games against the Eagles secondary. Ronald Darby is good, but he’s not good enough to stop Kirk Cousins on a mission to proving to the Redskins he’s ready for monster contract. With the running game looking sup-par, it appears Cousins is going to win games with his arm. Free agent acquisition Terrelle Pryor is also on a one year deal and the two will combine for multiple scores this season. Also note Kirk Cousins has the most rushing touchdowns of any quarterback the last three years. Cousins will get your points, don’t worry.

Sam Bradford v. New Orleans Saints

  • Similar to the Oakland Raiders, the New Orleans Saints had the worst secondary a season ago. This game will rightfully highlight Adrian Peterson playing against his former team, but Sam Bradford will steal the show. Bradford was the most efficient quarterback and wants to be a more dynamic passing team this season. With impressive Dalvin Cook, break-out stars Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen along with Kyle Rudolph, Bradford can certainly carve up this Saints defense and start the season much like he did last year; spectacularly.

Running Back:

Todd Gurley v. Indianapolis Colts

  • The Colts got better defensively, but enough to completely stop opposing offenses. Last year Gurley had to face a stacked box week after week. This year under new head coach Sean McVay that’ll change. Adding new receiving weapons and a new offensive game plan, Gurley will return to a similar version of his rookie campaign. With Andrew Luck out officially out of the contest, the Rams don’t want to have everything relied on second year quarterback Jared Goff, so the best thing for him is get the running game going early and often. Gurley is going to have a heavy workload Sunday; meaning a lot of opportunities to score for your team.

Isaiah Crowell v. Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Rookie DeShone Kizer won the starting job for the Browns this pre-season. However, his opponent the Pittsburgh Steelers are historically good against rookie quarterbacks. Hue Jackson isn’t going to put his starting quarterback in a position to fail, so how do you help him out? Similar to Jared Goff in the above paragraph, you run the ball. Isaiah Crowell is an underrated running back that would be considered a top ten RB1 if he was on any other team. The Browns are going to play good defense and try to control the clock with a good running attack. Crowell is arguably the Browns best offensive player and they’re going to get him his well-deserved touches.

Kareem Hunt v. New England Patriots

  • Yes, Kareem Hunt went to a Mid-Major college at the University of Toledo and he’s a rookie, but he’s a rookie in an offense that only benefits running backs. Hunt will be heavily relied not only the running game, but also as a pass catcher. Andy Reid is one of the best at getting his play-makers the ball in space and Hunt will get a lot of chances to make plays opening night. You best be starting the 2017 offensive rookie of the year here.

Wide Receiver:

Kelvin Benjamin v. San Francisco 49ers

  • Have you been watching the Panthers in pre-season? Kelvin Benjamin was in fire and went from a player on my avoid list to a weekly flex-WR2 option. If things weren’t looking up for Benjamin, a week one match up against the San Francisco 49ers horrible secondary should get you excited. Kelvin Benjamin has also dedicated the season to his mother who is recently passed. He’s going to come out of the gate on fire and he won’t look back.

Michael Crabtree v. Tennessee Titans

  • We all know the hype with Amari Cooper, but as I’ve mentioned before, Crabtree puts up almost identical stats. Cooper is going to draw attention from the opposing teams’ number one corner, giving Crabtree better one on one matchups. This game has shoot-out written all over it and you’ll want to start the guy who has lead the Raiders in receiving touchdowns the past two years.

Keenan Allen v. Denver Broncos

  • What, start a receiver at Denver? Listen, I know it might sound crazy to you, but check out Keenan Allen’s career stats at Denver. In two contests playing against the Broncos in Denver, Allen has 11 Receptions for 101 yards with 3 touchdowns. There is just something about Denver that makes Allen play at a Mile High level. Let’s factor in that he missed pretty much all of last year and he’s ready to come back and ball out. For all you owners that took a chance on him your dividends will start to pay off here in week one.

Tight End:

Eric Ebron v. Arizona Cardinals

  • First I tell you to start a receiver coming back from a major injury against the #NoFlyZone and now I’m telling you to start a tight end against the Cardinals secondary; I must be nuts! No, I’m just looking at the matchup and how the Cardinals defense has done in the past. This defense has struggled mightily against tight ends the last few years and I don’t think they did enough to really change that this year to make a difference. Look for Ebron to take full advantage of the mismatches all day.

Jack Doyle v. Los Angeles Rams

  • Andrew Luck isn’t playing. That’s fine, which makes Jack Doyle even more intriguing. No matter if it’s Scott Tolzien or Jacoby Brissett; they’re going to be throwing check downs all day long to Doyle. Colts tight ends have been good in fantasy, but also had some sort of time share or ‘handcuff’ attached to their name. Not this year, Jack Doyle is the lone benefactor at the position and will look to capitalize whoever is throwing him the ball.

CJ Fiedorowicz v. Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Looking at the pass catching options in Houston is a little sad. You have Will Fuller out some time with a broken collarbone. Jalen Strong suspended the first game and a bunch of ‘meh’ guys behind Braxton Miller, who has an injury history himself. DeAndre Hopkins is currently the only reliable downfield target Savage will have for now. Why does all of this matter? It’s matters because CJ Fiedorowicz is going to get a lot of one on one matchups and will exploit the Jaguars defense. Young or inexperienced quarterbacks tend to look to their safety blanket tight end until they’re comfortable, so Fiedorowicz will see a lot of work on Sunday afternoon.

Defense:

Los Angeles Rams v. Indianapolis Colts

  • This should be an easy one. The Indianapolis Colts are without Andrew Luck and we’ve seen how this team operates without the likes of their franchise quarterback before. The offense is going to struggle all game long and fail to find a good rhythm. With or without Aaron Donald, this Rams defense is underrated and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is licking his chops at his first game with the team.

Buffalo Bills v. New York Jets

  • Should it be legal to even mention the teams playing against the New York Jets? When a team’s beat offensive player is arguably Bilal Powell, a running back that’s consistently forgotten about on this team, there is something wrong. Josh McCown has no one to catch the ball and Matt Forte might break a hip on his first juke. This could easily be the worst talent offensive team I’ve seen in my day as a fan. Start whoever is playing against them.

Atlanta Falcons v. Chicago Bears

  • Last year rookies took over on defense and stepped up in big ways on their way to the Super Bowl. Those rookies are in year two and know how to play at a championship level caliber. They should be hungry to redeem themselves after the collapse. Week one is a matchup against Mike Glennon and the Chicago Bears. This defense will play angry and should have a field day. Start with confidence.

Bench Em’

Quarterback:

DeShone Kizer v. Pittsburgh Steelers

  • The Steelers are historically good against rookie quarterbacks. Being as this will be Kizer’s first NFL game and against the easy favorites in the AFC North division, it’ll be a rough day for the promising signal caller. Also add in the fact that Running back Isaiah Crowell will get a lot of touches and will possibly take away any goal line work Kizer could get.

Trevor Siemian v. Los Angeles Chargers

  • This offense could possibly be one of the worst in the league. The offensive line didn’t get any better and they’ll be going up against a vastly improved Charger defense. The ceiling for Siemian isn’t very high and I don’t see him coming close to that on Monday night. He’s getting Peyton Manning like comparisons and I just don’t see it. Be very cautious with this signal caller moving forward. He did win his starting job because the competition looked worse after all.

Alex Smith v. New England Patriots

  • Opening day of the NFL season and you’re playing against the G.O.A.T Tom Brady in New England coming off the best comeback in Super Bowl history. This team added a bunch of additions offensively and defensively that made the team better somehow. The Patriots will be on fire and I don’t see Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense being able to keep up in result being predictable and the defense stopping him.

Running Back:

Carlos Hyde v. Carolina Panthers

  • New head coach Kyle Shanahan just had to get Joe Williams in the draft. It was also rumored that Carlos Hyde was on the trade block this off-season. Week one he’s the starter, but facing a much underrated Carolina Panthers defense. If, or when, he struggles and the team gets behind early while they’re playing catch up, the 49ers will be forced to pass the ball and abandon the running game. Avoid if you can.

Ty Montgomery v. Seattle Seahawks

  • If you’re on the Montgomery hype train that’s fine, but take note that Jamaal Williams could steal touches from him, especially the important goal line carries. If that wasn’t enough to shy you away during the draft process and you drafted him, then the fact he’ll be facing a very tough hard nose Seattle Seahawks defense week one. That doesn’t bode well for Ty Montgomery. If you can, find another option.

Frank Gore v. Los Angeles Rams

  • Probably the biggest loser of Andrew Luck’s injury, well beside Luck owners. Frank Gore is 1) going against a stout defensive unit 2) playing with a quarterback that’s nothing special. This is how it’s going to work. The Colts will try to control the game with a running game and play action, Gore will consistently get stuffed at the line. The Rams will keep scoring, then the Colts will abandon the running game and replace Gore with Rookie Marlon Mack on the passing downs. I’d wait to play Gore until a juicy good matchup or Luck returns.

Wide Receiver:

Michael Thomas v. Minnesota Vikings

  • Kudos Mr. Thomas on becoming the number one receiver for the Saints. Your prize is a week one date with ascending cornerback Xavier Rhodes in Minnesota. The Vikings have a stout defense and done a good job at eliminating opposing offenses play-makers. They’ll do the same here as well. It’s also the return of Adrian Peterson, so the Saints will try to feature him as much as the can so he can get “revenge” on his former team.

Demaryius Thomas v. Los Angeles Chargers

  • It’s hard to like a guy that has questionable quarterback play, but it’s even harder when he’s going up against one of the best corner duos in the whole league. I understand Demaryius Thomas did well with Tim Tebow, but at least he could threaten defenses with his legs. Trevor Siemian has nothing exciting about him and won’t help Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders nor your team this week.

Dez Bryant v. New York Giants

  • It helps the Cowboys offense that Zeke Elliott is probably going to play in week one, but that doesn’t help who Dez Bryant is matched up against. Janoris Jenkins and the New York Giants secondary did a pretty good job at keeping Bryant in check in both contests last year. I look for another disappointing game for Dez Bryant here and a not so good start to the fantasy season.

Tight Ends:

Antonio Gates v. Denver Broncos

  • Antonio Gates is a future hall of gamer in this league for sure, but his time is surely coming to an end. We all thought Ladarius Green would eventually take over the reins from Gates, but that wasn’t the case thanks to never ending injuries that have plagued his career. Instead, rookie standout Hunter Henry showed flashes of brilliance last year and will be too good to keep of the field. If you have Gates I’d try to trade him while he still has name value, because his stock is about to plummet.

Martellus Bennett v. Seattle Seahawks

  • There is a lot of mouths to feed in Green Bay. A plethora of receivers, a few running backs and Bennett himself. This has been the best tight end Rodgers has had in a long time. However, with the amount of capable targets on the team and the fact they’re playing the Seahawks is enough to warrant a spot on the bench this week.

Coby Fleener v. Minnesota Vikings

  • Coby Fleener wasn’t quite as good as people were expecting his first year in New Orleans. He should be better this year with the departure of Brandin Cooks, but week one isn’t the start he’ll be wanting. The Vikings defense is one of the best in the league and they’re not going to allow yards or scores come easily. Fleener was going as a TE1 in most leagues and I encourage you to start your back-up or a streamer off the waiver.

Defense:

Kansas City Chiefs v. New England Patriots

  • Many of you probably drafted them as your one and only defense. Well, if you have room I’d suggest streaming a defense for the week. Tom Brady and this offense are going to come out guns blazing with all the new offensive weapons he and Bill Belichick acquired this off-season. The Patriots are excellent at attacking a team’s weak points and they have the talent to do it in a multiple of different ways. The aging Chiefs defense will be no match on opening night.

San Francisco 49ers v. Carolina Panthers

  • I saw this as a top favorite streaming defense this week and I automatically thought why? I’m encouraging everyone not to play this defense. Sure it’s improved, but not enough to stop a determined Cam Newton eager to prove the critics his shoulder is fine. The front 7 of 49ers is good, but the secondary still needs work. Newton has some new offensive weapons to play with and he’ll make sure they shine in their debut. Stay away from this defense.

Tennessee Titans v. Oakland Raiders

  • The Titans defense improved and will be a good unit throughout the course of the year, but no one should ever start a defense against Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders offense. This game has the potential to be a high scoring affair and you don’t want to start a defense that’ll give up a lot of touchdowns. The Titans defense is a good one to have, just not in week one. Along with Carr the Titans have to try and stop the likes of Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Marshawn Lynch. Don’t risk it here.

*Note: If you want Kickers on the future Start Em’, Bench Em’ please let me know and I’ll add them to the read.

Good luck in your fantasy matchups and hope you win! Come back next week and I’ll give you the week two players to start and bench. Also feel free to comment, like or share your thoughts on any of our social media pages. Until next time, have a wonderful day!

-Austin Thomas


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