By Luke Moehle
It’s September, and we all know what that means… football is back! Throughout the subsequent weeks, I will be analyzing the key matchups favoring or opposing your teams’ fantasy football members based on positional matchups, weekly health reports and other factors that may aid or impair their fantasy performance.
Top Point Scorer: Cam Newton – Carolina Panthers
Facing off against the mediocre Dallas Cowboys defense that allowed the sixth most passing TD’s in 2017 (28), Cam Newton has a chance to start the 2018 season off just like he did in his MVP season in 2015. Being the mobile QB that he is, I see Newton rushing for 40+ yards and finding the end zone once. Through the air, look for him to pass for around 250 yards, two TDs and one INT.
Start ‘Em: Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals quarterback hasn’t always been the most reliable in terms of fantasy perspective, but in week one, Dalton will see a favorable matchup against an atrocious Colts secondary. In last season’s week eight matchup between these two teams, he torched the secondary for 243 yards and two TDs. When you add potential breakout receiver John Ross and his speed to the mix, Dalton becomes a pretty safe start in week one.
Sit ‘Em: Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
614. When Andrew Luck takes the field on Sunday as the starting QB for the Colts, it will have been 614 days since he has played in an NFL game. The biggest thing that worries me about the return of Luck, other than his time away, is the fact that his o-line allowed 56 sacks last season. Despite the strong addition of the sixth overall pick Quenton Nelson via the draft, the three-headed monster of Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap and Carl Lewis accounted for 25 sacks of their own last season.
The Running Backs:
Top Point Scorer: Todd Gurley – Los Angeles Rams
What do you get when you put an average run defense from last season, now without arguably the best defensive player in the NFL (Khalil Mack), up against last year’s top overall running back? The answer is the Todd Gurley show. I would not be surprised to see Gurley boast a line of 150+ yards of total offense while crossing the goal line twice against the Oakland Raiders.
Start ‘Em: Alex Collins – Baltimore Ravens
The Buffalo Bills, a year removed from allowing 124 rushing yards per game, serve as a desirable start for second year Ravens back Alex Collins. Collins was able to rush for 973 yards and six TDs in 2017, for an average of 4.6 yards per carry. In a game against the team who gave up the most points to opposing RBs in 2017, look for Collins to run for just shy of 100 yards, one TD and catch two to three passes.
Sit ‘Em: Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders
Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib… by now you thought I was making my predictions for the 2019 Pro Bowl, but in reality I was just naming a handful of the prestigious defense that the Rams’ front office has put together. Marshawn Lynch seems to be slowing down, despite still serving as a quality running back. The Rams’ offense is also very capable of scoring points quickly (first in the NFL in 2017), which will force the Raiders to play catch-up via the air. Monday night’s primetime matchup seems to be stacked up against Lynch.
The Wide Receivers:
Top Point Scorer: Keenan Allen – Los Angeles
Phillip Rivers’ favorite target is healthy and ready for week one. Keenan Allen is a fantasy owner’s dream when he is on the field, but his career has been plagued with injuries. In 2017, he finished third in points among wide receivers. Against a Chiefs defense without Marcus Peters in the secondary, Allen could be looking at a monster game. I will give him eight catches for 105 yards and a score.
Start ‘Em: John Ross – Cincinnati Bengals
Now that Brandon LaFell has departed from the Bengals, John Ross will slide into the No. 2 receiver slot for week one. It will be interesting to see what he can do during the regular season after having a strong preseason. Ross’ 4.22 speed (fastest in NFL Combine history) will allow him to get separation this week against the sluggish Colts secondary. Four catches, 64 yards and a TD.
Sit ‘Em: Amari Cooper – Oakland Raiders
Just as previously mentioned, the Rams defense appears to be a tough task for the Raiders to overcome. Amari Cooper is obviously capable of putting together a 1,000 yard receiving season, as he did just that in 2015 and 2016, but he is coming off of a year where he only totaled 680 yards and seven TDs. Facing off against two of the most elite corners in the league, his best bet to salvage his day is with a long touchdown reception over the top of Marcus Peters, who has a tendency to jump on some routes.
The Tight Ends:
Top Point Scorer: Rob Gronkowski – New England Patriots
There isn’t much to say when it comes to Gronk. When healthy, he is Brady’s favorite red zone target, and the best tight end in the league. With Edelman out, expect Gronkowski’s numbers to skyrocket. A very realistic line for him would be five catches, 70 yards, and two TDs.
Start ‘Em: Delanie Walker – Tennessee Titans
The Titans start their season with a game against the Miami Dolphins, who allowed the most points to opposing tight ends last season. Being one of Mariota’s most dependable weapons, Walker will get his touches and has the opportunity to rack up some major points against the soft Dolphins defense. Five catches, 55 yards, and one TD.
Sit ‘Em: David Njoku – Cleveland Browns
Despite the fact that I believe Njoku will become an elite tight end this season, the odds are not in his favor for week one, as he faces a Pittsburgh defense that was fourth best at defending tight ends just a year ago. When Baker Mayfield gets his shot, look for Njoku to be his favorite target, as the two connected on some beautiful passes during the preseason.