Week 1 Fantasy Football Advice

Wednesday, Sep 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm ET

The 2017 Fantasy Football season is here, and that means that it's time for our first Where to Put'em column for the year! The first few weeks are always interesting and full of surprises.

This is the our look at the best and worst matchups for Week 1. 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 Sam Bradford (MIN, QB)
This is more about the New Orleans secondary than it is about Sam Bradford. Nobody gave up more yards through the air last year than the Saints. He's ranked #14 this week on FFN and has a solid opportunity to crack the Top 12 making him a borderline QB1. If you drafted Andrew Luck or Jameis Winston and need to stream a QB, Bradford could easily fill that need.
Start 'em Marcus Mariota (TEN, QB)
One of the great things about having two tremendously talented running backs is that the defense has to respect the run. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry will help keep the Raiders honest leaving Marcus Mariota with time to pick apart a secondary that gave up the 8th-most passing yards last season. Mariota is ranked 6th this week on FFN and should prove to be a solid QB1 for you.
Start 'em Kirk Cousins (WAS, QB)
Ranked 9th this week among QBs is Redskins' signal caller Kirk Cousins. He's missing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, but he still has an impressive cadre of talent including Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and a healthy Jordan Reed. The backfield is competent and Cousins is primed for a big year. It also doesn't hurt that he's facing a Philly defense that gave up nearly 20 fantasy points to quarterbacks last year.
Start 'em Christian McCaffrey (CAR, RB)
One of the more exciting prospects this year is Christian McCaffrey. Even though he is expected to share duties with Jonathan Stewart, the rookie out of Stanford has shown an explosiveness that should have fantasy owners excited. He's ranked 17th among running backs this week, but has the potential to be an RB1 against a Niners defense that gave up more rushing yards last season than any other team.
Start 'em Bilal Powell (NYJ, RB)
There's not much to get excited about in the NY Jets offense, but the bright spot may be Bilal Powell. He finished 2016 very strong and will look to continue that in Week 1. Powell's ranked 19th this week among RB's facing a Buffalo defense that gave up the 3rd-most yards on the ground to opposing rushers last year. Matt Forte will still rotate in, but Powell sits atop the depth chart. He should be a solid RB2 this week.
Start 'em Todd Gurley (LAR, RB)
Let's put 2016 in the rear view mirror. Rams coach Sean McVay has every intention of making Gurley the focal point of this offense. He'll figure heavy in the running game, but McVay has stated that he wants Gurley heavily involved in the passing game as well. The Colts gave up 120 yards on the ground last season so the matchup is plum. He's projected to be a Top 10 back this week.
Start 'em Stefon Diggs (MIN, WR)
Stefon Diggs is ranked 14th in STD scoring and 12th in PPR making him a borderline WR1 this week. See Sam Bradford above... Wide receivers have had great success against the Saints and the passing game should be on full display this week. The only real question mark for Diggs is going to be with his role. He had a big game against Seattle in the preseason, but he's not lining up in the slot where he did the bulk of his damage last year. This might not result in volume but it should open up his big-play ability.
Start 'em Michael Crabtree (OAK, WR)
This one certainly stuck out in the rankings. Sitting inside the Top 12 this week among wide receivers are both Raiders' receivers. Amari Cooper is ranked 7th and Michael Crabtree is ranked 11th. He'll face the Titans who gave up the 3rd-most yards through the air and the 2nd-most fantasy points to receivers last season. Derek Carr and company should put up decent numbers on Sunday afternoon.
Start 'em Brandon Marshall (NYG, WR)
Every indication is that Brandon Marshall (shoulder) will play on Sunday night. What's not certain is the status of Odell Beckham Jr (ankle). If OBJ can't go, Marshall moves up to WR1 territory. He's ranked 28th but should finish as a WR2 even if Beckham suits up. The Cowboys gave up the 7th-most passing yards last year and Giants/Cowboys games have historically been shootouts with fantasy owners the clear winners.
Start 'em Jason Witten (DAL, TE)
Jason Witten was drafted as a backup TE in virtually every league this year, but he'll have an opportunity to be a TE1 this week against Big Blue on Sunday night. He has historically done well against them (13 catches last year) and will once again be Dak Prescott's security blanket. While the Giants secondary is focused on Dez Bryant, expect Witten to be available underneath. With Zeke playing in this game, the Cowboys will have all their weapons.
Start 'em Zach Ertz (PHI, TE)
Ranked 9th this week among tight ends is Zach Ertz who should put up TE1-type numbers. While Alshon Jeffery should command the attention of Josh Norman, Ertz will have a little more freedom to make some plays. The last time he played the Redskins in Week 14, he hauled in 10 catches for 112 yards. He should finish in the Top 10 this week.
Start 'em Houston Texans (HOU, DEF)
Look at this list: J.J. Watt, Johnathan Joseph, Brian Cushing, and Jadeveon Clowney. If you are Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, those are not the guys that you want to start your season against. Add in the inevitable emotional component after the historic Hurricane Harvey, and the Texans should come out of this with a solid fantasy day.
Start 'em Kai Forbath (MIN, K)
Kai Forbath is ranked 9th this week among kickers and for good reason. The Saints gave up the 2nd-most points on the board last season. Forbath took over for Blair Walsh last season and fought off rookie Marshall Koehn in the preseason. Expect him to help the Vikes put some points on the board.
Sit 'em Philip Rivers (LAC, QB)
It's a new year and Philip Rivers has his pick of targets including a healthy Keenan Allen. He's looked great in the preseason going 6-for-6, 85 yards and a score against the Rams. He'll have a solid year, but we'd stick him on the bench this week. The Denver secondary is no joke. Nobody gave up fewer yards last season to opposing quarterbacks than the Broncos and Rivers has historically struggled against them.
Sit 'em Matthew Stafford (DET, QB)
Like Rivers above, Stafford starts the year with a clean slate and will have plenty of opportunities to find Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Eric Ebron. Detroit's running game is healthy, and with everything looking positive, the only negative for Stafford is the matchup. The Cardinals gave up the 4th-fewest yards per game last year and the 5th-fewest fantasy points. We expect Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu to make Sunday a difficult one for Stafford.
Sit 'em Joe Flacco (BAL, QB)
Nobody had more passing attempts than Baltimore last year. Joe Flacco led the charge to lead the league with 679 attempts. Even though this is a team that has to throw, it's little surprise to see Flacco ranked 23rd among QBs on FFN this week. He's missed all of the preseason with a disk issue so we've got questions regarding his readiness to face a Cincy defense that gave up just 237 yards through the air last year.
Sit 'em Joe Mixon (CIN, RB)
It's tough to follow the thread on this one. Mixon was frequently drafted before Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard, and we also find Mixon ranked higher this week than both of those guys, yet he sits third on the Bengals Depth Chart. That's probably because he can still shine even though Hill is listed as the starter. At some point this season, Mixon will likely be the featured back, but with the volatility here and the Ravens tough run-D, the Cincy backfield should be avoided in Week 1.
Sit 'em Eddie Lacy (SEA, RB)
The storyline in Green Bay this week is going to be Eddie Lacy's return to Lambeau Field...as a Seahawk. Lacy hasn't looked very good during the preseason averaging just 3 yards per carry. Thomas Rawls has been listed as the starter for the game. Rawls is questionable with an ankle injury, and if he sits, Lacy will split carries with Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise. Combine that with a stout Green Bay run defense, and Lacy barely warrants flex appeal.
Sit 'em Frank Gore (IND, RB)
Don't be surprised if Frank Gore doesn't deliver the kind of results you wanted this week. He's facing a Rams defense that allowed just 103 yards on the ground last season, and even though he's looked pretty solid during the preseason, the loss of Andrew Luck doesn't bode well for him. We expect the Rams to stack the box against Gore and the run game. Backup QB Scott Tolzien doesn't intimidate the defense in the way a healthy Andrew Luck would have.
Sit 'em Jeremy Maclin (BAL, WR)
Look down the list of wide receiver rankings this week and you'll generally find the top wide receivers from each team near the top...except when you get to #43. That's where Jeremy Maclin is sitting as the #1 option in the Ravens receiving corp. The Bengals gave up the 11th-fewest yards per game and 10th-fewest fantasy points per game last season to side receivers. Couple that with the fact that Maclin has spent essentially no time whatsoever with Joe Flacco, and this is a matchup that could prove difficult.
Sit 'em Ted Ginn Jr. (NO, WR)
Plenty of Willie Snead owners went looking for Ted Ginn Jr when news of Snead's suspension was announced. Even though the Saints have one of the most prolific passing offenses, this won't be a week where you'll want to plug him into your lineups. The Vikings surrendered the 3rd-fewest yards and fantasy points to wideouts last year making this a tough matchup.
Sit 'em Alshon Jeffery (PHI, WR)
You didn't draft Alshon Jeffery just to sit him, so go ahead and play him but lower your expectations for him this week. He found the endzone and looked good during the preseason, but he's in a new offense, and more importantly will have Redskins' CB Josh Norman following him all over the field on Sunday. He indicated recently that his comfort level with former QB Jay Cutler developed "over years", so expecting a rapport with Carson Wentz right away in Week 1 might be a bit much.
Sit 'em Martellus Bennett (GB, TE)
Martellus Bennett is ranked 10th this week and is going to be active in a lot of lineups on Sunday afternoon, so why mark him in the sit column? After all, he's going from one elite QB to another so there's no dropoff there. The problem is with Seattle. They gave up the 8th-fewest yards through the air and the 4th-fewest fantasy points to the position. In fact, they gave up just three touchdowns to tight ends all last year. Green Bay has a lot of mouths to feed, and while Bennett will be a beast this year, he'll likely be touchdown-dependent in this game.
Sit 'em Antonio Gates (LAC, TE)
Antonio Gates, the future Hall-of-Famer, is not expected to be as involved with the offense this year with Hunter Henry taking over the reigns at TE. Gates will be featured more in the redzone than in getting down the field. Like Bennett above, Gates will be touchdown-dependent but his matchup will be even more brutal as nobody is more brutal on opposing tight ends than the Broncos. Double digit fantasy production is just not in the cards.
Sit 'em Seattle Seahawks (SEA, DEF)
Let me guess. You drafted the Seahawks as your starting defense? They will be a solid defense for you, but they may struggle in Week 1 at Lambeau Field against the Packers. They are ranked 19th this week among the 30 teams playing (no MIA/TB game). The Green Bay offense is one of the most high-powered in the league, and as good as Seattle is on the defensive side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers and company are too good to ignore. There are much better fantasy options this week.
Sit 'em Adam Vinatieri (IND, K)
The loss of Andrew Luck extends beyond just the quarterback position. Every position including that of kicker takes a hit which is why you'll find Adam Vinatieri just outside the Top 12 this week. The Rams also surrendered less than six fantasy points to them last season.

Join the Discussion

Big Poppy CommentedSep 7, 2017 11:00 am

Great info!

Just Win Baby Fantasy Football CommentedSep 7, 2017 11:00 am

I think your Bradford pick is a small risk, but could be a real gap opener in a tight league. Bradford is a franchise agent in our league, I'm tempted to pick him up for this week, BUT I have ARod!...

MSUBDOG CommentedSep 7, 2017 11:00 am

I'll go along with a few of your picks but I think your missing on a few.

Nerd CommentedSep 7, 2017 11:00 am

@Big Poppy: Thank you!
@Just Win: Never sit your studs, right!
@MSUBDOG: Absolutely possible. If I could predict the future....

Juddb23 CommentedSep 8, 2017 11:00 am

Anymore intel OBJ?

Nerd CommentedSep 8, 2017 11:00 am

Not really, but I think he plays - just not at 100%.

NeeNee CommentedSep 8, 2017 11:00 am

Not the best draft for me at RB... S. Vereen NYG or J Mixon Cin for Week 1? PPR
Vereen being 2nd, might get more action, Mixon spread too thin or take the chance?

Nerd CommentedSep 8, 2017 11:00 am

Ugh - maybe take a chance on Mixon. Maybe he'll have some of that Kareem Hunt rookie mojo going??

Jfrog22 CommentedSep 9, 2017 11:00 am

I am on the fence for my flex this week. I have D. Murray, I crowell, Hyde, Peterson, D. Henry, and Charles as my backs. I'm starting Murray and Crowell. My Receivers are Green, Benjamin, Jeffery, Marshall, M.Jones, and Hogan. Starting Green and Benjamin. Out of all the guys on the bench, who would you start. Was leaning towards Marshall, but I have a feeling about Jefferey or Hyde. Help please.

NeeNee CommentedSep 9, 2017 11:00 am

Ugh is right! THANKS

Nerd CommentedSep 9, 2017 11:00 am

@Jfrog22 - I like Jeffery out of that group. Might want to check the rankings to be sure.

Nerd CommentedSep 10, 2017 11:00 am

Looking less and less likely that OBJ will play. ESPN's Adam Schefter (referencing a text from a source) just said that OBJ has a better chance of playing than him taking a vacation in Cuba next month.

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