We finally get some regular season football starting tomorrow night when Carolina travels to Denver for a Super Bowl rematch. Many of us are still coming down from a truly amazing weekend of college football, but it’s time to focus on the NFL, and fantasy in particular. Drafts are done, so let’s set out lineups. Here are the guys you need, the guys you don’t, and those you may want to take a gamble on.
Carolina at Denver – Thursday, September 8
Start ‘Em: Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Carolina D/ST, Denver D/ST
Sit ‘Em: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, C.J. Anderson, Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess
I know that Cam didn’t fare well against Denver in the Super Bowl, but things should be different this time. He will have a much better game and is basically a guy whose talent should never be left on your bench. Olsen is his favorite target and a perennial top 5 tight end. Benjamin and Funchess can’t be trusted for too much production against the Bronco secondary. The Panther defense is ferocious and they will look to feast upon first time starter Trevor Siemian.
As for Denver, I just can’t trust anybody on this offense yet. Really need to see how the quarterback performs before I insert Demaryius Thomas or Emmanuel Sanders into the lineup. C.J. Anderson is a borderline start, but I think Carolina’s defense is too stout to allow for any big numbers. I also think that talented rookie Devontae Booker will steal some of his touches. Denver’s defense will again by very good and should be a no-brainer start every week.
Games beginning at 1:00 EST
Tampa Bay at Atlanta
Start ‘Em: Jameis Winston, Mike Evans, Doug Martin, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman
Sit ‘Em: Matt Ryan, Tevin Coleman
“Famous” Jameis is looking to build on a solid rookie campaign as is stud receiver Mike Evans. These two should hook up often in this game. Doug Martin was a pleasant fantasy surprise and the Falcon’s defense, although improved, isn’t going to slow him down much.
Julio Jones is a must start every week as long as he’s healthy and Matt Ryan can get the ball somewhere in his vicinity. Freeman started strong last year, but faltered down the stretch. He should get a lot of touches in this game leading to some decent fantasy points. It remains to be seen how the Falcons will utilize Tevin Coleman, so for now it’s Freeman’s show.
Minnesota at Tennessee
Start ‘Em: Delanie Walker, Derrick Henry, Adrian Peterson, Minnesota D/ST
Sit ‘Em: Marcus Mariota, DeMarco Murray, Tajae Sharp, Kyle Rudolph, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell
This is a tough matchup to predict. We don’t know who will start for the Vikings, Hill or Bradford? What we do know is that Adrian Peterson will get a ton of carries so you’re obviously starting him. Minnesota’s defense is very solid and should have a good game here. I can’t trust anyone else until this quarterback situation gets ironed out.
The Titans will look to establish the run with Murray and Henry. I don’t see them getting a ton of yards against this D, but I like Henry getting some goal-line touches and possibly vulturing a touchdown or two. Mariota will likely need to look to Walker as his security blanket so he should get plenty of targets. Rookie Tajae sharp was fantastic in the preseason, but I’m keeping him and Mariota on the bench against the Vikes.
Cleveland at Philadelphia
Start ‘Em: RG3, Corey Coleman, Gary Barnidge, Duke Johnson Jr., Ryan Matthews
Sit ‘Em: Isiah Crowell, Terrell Pryor, Carson Wentz, Jordan Mathews, Zach Ertz
The RG3 era in Cleveland is upon us. I don’t mind starting him this week against a porous Eagles defense. The secondary is weak and I can see him hooking up with rookie speedster Corey Coleman on a couple of deep balls. Johnson Jr. is dangerous between the tackles and catching the ball. Barnidge was a pleasant surprise a year ago and should be a safety blanket for Griffin.
Eagles running back Ryan Matthews isn’t getting a lot of buzz. He has a history of injuries and being stuck in committees. He is clearly the lead back in Philly now and should get plenty of touches, especially since the Eagles will be starting rookie Carson Wentz. I’d stay away from the inconsistent Jordan Matthews for the time being.
Cincinnati at New York Jets
Start ‘Em: Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jets D/ST, A.J. Green, Bengals D/ST
Sit ‘Em: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Andy Dalton, Tyler Boyd, Jeremy Hill, Gio Bernard, Brandon LaFell
On paper, this game looks like it should be relatively low scoring. Both teams boast very good defenses, so it will likely be decided by a couple of big plays in the passing game and a field goal here or there. Both Marshall and Decker have a great rapport with Fitzy so they should get plenty of targets, particularly in the red zone. I’m very skeptical of Matt Forte this season, and in this game especially. Coming off injury with a lot of tread on the tires. Powell may end up being the more reliable option at some point.
As for Cincy, A.J. Green is a must start every week. The rookie Tyler Boyd will be a solid fantasy asset at some point, just not yet. I’m not a believer in Brandon LaFell. I don’t like either Hill or Bernard doing much damage in the running game against the Jets stout front seven.
Oakland at New Orleans
Start ‘Em: Derek Carr, Latavious Murray, Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Raiders D/ST, Drew Brees, Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Mark Ingram
Sit ‘Em: Clive Walford, C.J. Spiller, Coby Fleener
This game could produce bunches and bunches of fantasy points. I’m all in on the Raiders offense this season. Derek Carr is the real deal as is Amari Cooper on the outside. Latavious Murray is big, bruising back who will get plenty of touches and Crabtree is the perfect complement to Cooper. The defense should be much improved on the shoulders of Khalil Mack and FA signing Bruce Irvin. Plus, the Saints defense is very, very bad.
Drew Brees will throw the ball a lot this game as he always does. His two favorite targets should be Cooks and Snead. Ingram is the clear lead back. Look for him to get his fair share of touches. I have some hesitation with Spiller at this point. Maybe he changes my mind in the coming weeks. And I’m not a fan of Fleener, he never did much with the Colts, and he has dorky hair.
San Diego at Kansas City
Start ‘Em: Spencer Ware, Travis Kelce, Jeremy Maclin, Chiefs D/ST, Phillip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead
Sit ‘Em: Alex Smith, Melvin Gordon, Travis Benjamin
Spencer Ware is a must start as he fills in for Jamaal Charles. I’m also a big fan of Travis Kelce as a top 5 TE this season. Maclin is a threat on the outside, and hopefully, Smith will look deep a few times. The Chiefs D/ST is missing Justin Houston, but they still have a formidable front seven and a strong secondary anchored by Eric Berry and Marcus Peters.
I’m not sure what to expect from the Chargers this season. They had a ton of injuries last year and Rivers was forced to throw the ball a million times every game. Rivers will have to throw a lot again, but he has a healthy Keenan Allen and the always reliable Antonio Gates. Can’t put much faith in Melvin Gordon yet, but I like Woodhead, especially his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
Buffalo at Baltimore
Start ‘Em: Tyrod Taylor, LeSean McCoy, Sammy Watkins, Joe Flacco, Kamar Aiken
Sit ‘Em: Reggie Bush, Robert Woods, Charles Clay, Steve Smith Sr., Terrance West, Buck Allen
This game should be a smashmouth affair. Tyrod Taylor’s ability to stretch the pocket and gain yards on the ground make him a solid start. Add the fact that he is going against his old team and his fantasy owners should be rewarded. McCoy will also get a lot of touches and should find the end zone at least once. I’m not sure there is anybody in the Ravens’ secondary who can match the speed of Watkins.
I have a feeling that Flacco will be forced to throw the ball a ton this game which could lead to decent numbers. I’m not on board with Smith Sr. until I see how he looks coming off an Achilles tear. Aiken is more reliable at this point, especially in ppr leagues. Really have no idea about the running back situation. It reeks of a committee, and I want no part of that.
Chicago at Houston
Start ‘Em: Lamar Miller, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Texans D/ST, Zach Miller, Alshon Jeffery
Sit ‘Em: Brock Osweiler, Braxton Miller, Jaelen Strong, Jay Cutler, Jeremy Langford, Kevin White
Lamar Miller will be getting a much bigger workload than he ever did in Miami. Houston likes to run the ball and he should reward fantasy owners in this game. Hopkins is a no-brainer, but look for rookie Will Fuller to stretch the field. He has shown a nice chemistry with Osweiler and could conceivably get a long score in this game. Houston’s defense is fully healthy. J.J. Watt will start and Jadeveon Clowney looked great in the preseason. The secondary is deep and talented. This is a top 5 defense.
I’m hesitant to start any Bears in this game. But if you have to, TE Zach Miller is a decent option. The Texans have had a tough time covering tight ends in the past. Jeremy Langford is a big back, who may get a bunch of carries, although I don’t foresee a ton of yardage. As for Jeffery, he has all the talent in the world, but is inconsistent. I see him as boom or bust depending on Jay Cutler, who is the very definition of boom or bust.
Green Bay at Jacksonville
Start ‘Em: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns
Sit ‘Em: Jared Cook, Julius Thomas, Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon
What a challenging way to start for the up and coming Jaguars. Nothing like welcoming Rodgers and the Pack into town. I can see a lot of points being scored this game. Both teams are very talented at the skill positions. Rodgers is a must start every week, and I like both Nelson and Cobb as well. Eddie Lacy is slimmed down and looking for a bounce back season.
Bortles likes to throw the ball all over the yard, and he has two of the most talented young receivers in the league. Both Robinson and Hurns will get plenty of targets. I’m not sure on the RB situation. It’s looking like a committee with Ivory and Yeldon, so I’m staying far away. Also have to see how Julius Thomas is utilized before I put him in my lineup.
That’s all for the early games. I will post the rest of the games tomorrow. Good luck!
Header image based on “Cam Newton” by Parker Anderson (CC BY-ND-2.0)