Week 1 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Matchups to Exploit and Avoid in Season Openers

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 9, 2017

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08:  Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after he intercepted a pass thrown by Matt Moore #8 of the Miami Dolphins in the third quarter during the Wild Card Playoff game against the Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

There's no better way to send a message to your buddies than dealing a crushing defeat to an opponent in Week 1 of the fantasy football season.

An outlandish score puts a team on the early radar as a playoff contender. More importantly, you're one step closer to claiming bragging rights or cash. Take advantage of the newbies in your league—win now.

There's no certainty on injuries, which will affect every squad in one way or another as the year progresses through November and December. As a result, it's important for owners to jump off to a 1-0 start and stack victories.

You may miss ESPN fantasy football guru Matthew Berry's pre-kickoff segment. If so, start setting up your lineup according to the 10 buzzing names below.


Start 'Em

1. Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons

2. Amari Cooper, WR, Oakland Raiders 

3. Antonio Brown, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers 

4. Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans 

5. DEF, Pittsburgh


Start 'Em: Delanie Walker, TE, Tennessee Titans vs. Oakland Raiders

NASHVILLE, TN - AUGUST 19: Delanie Walker #82 of the Tennessee Titans makes a four-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Nissan Stadium on August 19, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker saw 102-plus targets in each of the last three seasons. General manager Jon Robinson drafted wideout Corey Davis to boost the passing attack, but he missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury

Quarterback Marcus Mariota will rely on a familiar face in Walker against an Oakland Raiders defense that's inexperienced at the inside linebacker position. Projected starters Marquel Lee and Cory James have five combined starts. The former will take the field as a rookie; the latter played outside linebacker for three years at Colorado State.

Mariota doesn't have to test the Raiders' perimeter defenders with his wideouts. Starting with the Titans, offenses will test the Raiders' young linebackers in coverage. Walker led Tennessee in receiving yards and targets in two of the last three campaigns.


Start 'Em: DEF, Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland Browns 

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Artie Burns #25 celebrates his interception with Ross Cockrell #31 of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gre
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers defense against the Cleveland Browns offense featuring rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer lists as a must-start for Week 1. 

The Steelers signed cornerback Joe Haden to cover leftover cracks in a secondary that ranked No. 5 in passing touchdowns allowed. Kizer edged Brock Osweiler for the starting job under center, which doesn't say much about his ability to lead the Browns to an upset victory over a division rival with an explosive offense.

Head coach Hue Jackson understands Kizer will take his lumps in early starts with hopes that he develops over the next few months.

Expect this contest to favor the Steelers in blowout fashion. If Kizer doesn't throw multiple interceptions, the Browns offense will go conservative and put up very little points on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh could leave Cleveland with a shutout victory.


Sit 'Em

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

2. Leonard Fournette RB, Jacksonville Jaguars

3. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans 

4. T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts 

5. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers


Sit 'Em: Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants 

ARLINGTON, TX - AUGUST 26: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys gestures behind the line in the first half of a preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at AT&T Stadium on August 26, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In two contests against the New York Giants during the previous year, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 420 yards, one touchdown and one interception. By the way, the second game ended in a 10-7 win for Big Blue.

In 2016, the Giants defense ranked No. 2 in passing touchdowns allowed. Defensive backs Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Landon Collins will take the field looking to force takeaways through the air. 

On Friday, federal judge Amos Mazzant granted a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in favor of the NFL Players Association, which postpones Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension. According to the MMQB's Albert Breer, the running back's case may not come to a conclusion until after the 2017 season: 

The Cowboys will lean on their ground attack, which features a top-notch offensive line and Elliott, the 2016 rushing champion, against the Giants' stingy defense. Expect an overall low-scoring outcome and avoid Prescott.


Sit 'Em: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans looks on in the second half against the New England Patriots during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Me
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Houston Texans quarterback Tom Savage won the offseason competition to start over Deshaun Watson, but wideout DeAndre Hopkins missed several practices and didn't take the field for preseason action due to a thumb injury.

It's fair to question the rapport between Savage, who's thrown 92 career passes in three seasons, and his top receiver. At this point, we don't know how the tandem will blossom, but the Jacksonville Jaguars' pass defense ranked No. 5 in yards and touchdowns allowed.

Savage and Hopkins will reacquaint themselves after a brief stint together in the previous season. The Jaguars' top-five pass defense added standout cornerback A.J. Bouye during free agency. 

With Jalen Ramsey and Bouye lurking in the secondary, expect Savage to finish another regular season outing without a passing touchdown.


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