Week 1 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Advice on Top Fantasy Football Stars in Opening Games

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2018

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80) in action against the New York Giants during an NFL preseason football game on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Brad Penner)
Brad Penner/Associated Press

Welcome to what might end up being the roughest week of NFL fantasy football in 2018. 

The opening games are unpredictable in most imaginable ways thanks to a combination of factors.

On the field itself, players have to shake off rust and adjust to live action. New faces in new places and another infusion of rookies mixes up the normal formula.

From the sidelines, an offseason of personnel changes, innovation and adjustments changes how things play out as well.  

All of this impacts the realm of fantasy football, where owners have to weigh on a heavy dose of projection with fingers crossed. Below, we'll compare some of the best matchups of the week, find a verdict and analyze some start-sit candidates. 

       

QB

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Drew Brees (vs. TB) vs. Deshaun Watson (at NE)Drew Brees
Marcus Mariota (at MIA) vs. Matthew Stafford (vs. NYJ)Matthew Stafford
Aaron Rodgers (vs. CHI) vs. Ben Roethlisberger (at CLE)Aaron Rodgers
Andrew Luck (vs. CIN) vs. Cam Newton (vs. DAL)Cam Newton
Tom Brady (vs. HOU) vs. Russell Wilson (at DEN)Tom Brady
Author's opinion

Star to Know: Andy Dalton, CIN (at IND) 

Fantasy owners know to start the big names, but on-the-fence guys like Andy Dalton are sure to give them problems in season openers. 

With that said, Dalton should be nothing but a help in Week 1. His Cincinnati Bengals hit the road to take on the Indianapolis Colts, a team that coughed up the fifth-most passing yards on average a year ago and didn't make much in the way of improvements. 

Dalton has A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tyler Eifert and a healthy John Ross to hit while he stretches out a defense he tossed two touchdowns against a year ago. 

In other words, Dalton is one of those random guys about to explode.  

           

Star to Sit: Eli Manning, NYG (vs. JAX) 

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning is bound to have a big year. Odell Beckham Jr. is healthy, Saquon Barkley has arrived and so have major upgrades to the line up front, including Nate Solder. 

But skip Week 1. 

There, Manning has to deal with a stout Jacksonville Jaguars defense in a game that could come down to which team has the stronger running game. 

These Jaguars had the second-most interceptions a year ago, and there is no reason to believe they can't come close to the number again. Manning is one of the top streaming options of the year, but not yet. 

          

RB

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Alvin Kamara (vs. TB) vs. Kareem Hunt (at LAC)Alvin Kamara
David Johnson (vs. WAS) vs. Todd Gurley (at OAK)David Johnson
Leonard Fournette (at NYG) vs. Melvin Gordon (vs. KC) Melvin Gordon
Saquon Barkley (vs. JAX) vs. Ezekiel Elliott (at CAR)Ezekiel Elliott
Dalvin Cook (vs. SF) vs. James Conner (at CLE)James Conner
Author's opinion

Star to Know: Chris Carson, SEA (at DEN) 

Chris Carson is bound for stardom this year after seizing the lead role in the Seattle Seahawks backfield, even making the team pass up first-round pick Rashaad Penny. 

Carson certainly has support from teammates: 

The former seventh-round pick will get every-down duties on the road against a Denver Broncos defense that ranked among the five worst teams against running backs a year ago, meaning plenty of chances to rip off bulk gains. 

In fact, Carson might be the annual Week 1 breakout back owners rush to add. 

         

Star to Sit: Jordan Howard, CHI (at GB)

Jordan Howard still sounds like the starting every-down back for the Chicago Bears. 

But with a new offense in place and weapons like Tarik Cohen for Bears coaches to utilize, it's never so simple. 

As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reported, Bears head coach Matt Nagy said: "We'll do different things with (Howard) and we'll keep him on the field on third down—I've told you that before. Whoever it is, however we do it, running the ball's important."

But now isn't the time to bank on this. Not only has Howard struggled with drops over the past two seasons, his team is on the road against Aaron Rodgers and could fall behind early, meaning a reliance on Cohen and a passing game featuring Allen Robinson and other big names. 

          

WR

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Antonio Brown (at CLE) vs. Keenan Allen( vs. KC)Antonio Brown
Michael Thomas (vs. TB) vs. Stefon Diggs (vs. SF)Michael Thomas
AJ Green (at IND) vs. DeAndre Hopkins (at NE)AJ Green
Odell Beckham (vs. JAX) vs. Julio Jones (at PHI)Julio Jones
Larry Fitzgerald (vs. WAS) vs. Brandin Cooks (at OAK) Brandin Cooks
Author's opinion

Star to Know: Devin Funchess, CAR (vs. DAL) 

Devin Funchess looks like the No. 1 wideout for Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, which should have him putting up some good numbers to start the season. 

While he didn't put up huge yardage totals a year ago, the 6'5" Funchess reeled in eight touchdowns. With other guys out of the way and a rookie like D.J. Moore still learning the paces, he could see a big quantity day against a suspect Dallas Cowboys defense. 

Those Cowboys allowed 28 touchdowns through the air a season ago and didn't do much to address the secondary, meaning they should have a hard time finding the size and length to stop Funchess in the red zone. 

The owner of a pair of two-touchdown games a year ago, Funchess might be able to start the season with another if this turns into a track meet. 

         

Star to Sit: Jarvis Landry, CLE (vs. PIT) 

Hard Knocks fame aside, Cleveland Browns wideout Jarvis Landry isn't someone to lean on in the season opener. 

His Browns have to deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers, which sounds like an environment for plenty of fantasy production if both offenses start humming, right? 

But odds are this doesn't happen, even with Tyrod Taylor under center. The Steelers only permitted 201.1 passing yards per game last year on average, good for the fifth-best mark in the league. 

Now pair this with the fact Taylor and Landry still have to work off the rust after both joined a new team.

Landry is probably fine in a points-per-reception league still, but we're focusing on standard, where there won't be much in the way of yardage or scores. 

        

TE

Matchup ComparisonVerdict
Rob Gronkowski (vs. HOU) vs. Kyle Rudolph (vs. SF)Rob Gronkowski
Delanie Walker (at MIA) vs. Charles Clay (at BAL)Charles Clay
Zach Ertz (vs. ATL) vs. Tyler Eifert (at IND)Zach Ertz
O.J. Howard (at NO) vs. Jack Doyle (vs. CIN)O.J. Howard
Travis Kelce (at LAC) vs. Trey Burton (at GB)Travis Kelce
Author's opinion

Star to Know: Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. ATL) 

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz should have a better-than-usual day against the Atlanta Falcons to start the season. 

Not only is Ertz getting another year in the system and has a favorable matchup against an offensive-minded Falcons team, he could see more usage than usual with Alshon Jeffery out. 

Ertz quietly put up eight touchdowns a year ago on 74 catches, giving him 74 or more in each of his last three seasons. A double-digit catch game isn't out of the question, nor is at least one trip to the end zone given who is on the field, both in terms of teams and who is missing. 

        

Star to Sit: Jack Doyle, IND (vs. CIN)

Jack Doyle was the lead man for the Colts at tight end last season, but that only translated to 80 catches for 690 yards and four touchdowns. 

While there were quarterback limitations, the Colts obviously wanted to get some help at the position and brought on Eric Ebron. Doyle is still the starter, but it's easy to see how things could start to shift quickly if the production isn't there. 

Making things worse, owners can't feel confident in Andrew Luck in his first game since 2016. Sprinkle in a strong Bengals defense and owners are best served with a wait-and-see approach on Doyle. 

       

All scoring info, points-against info and ownership stats courtesy of Yahoo standard leagues.  

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