Football is back. Fans are back. Fantasy football is back. As we approach Sunday morning, I feel like the Nicolas Cage Con-Air freedom GIF. Obviously, we are not 100 percent past the threat of COVID, but the reality of live football all across the country broadcast to nearly every nation in the world has to bring a smile to your face.
In Week 1, we get to dive right back into the deep end without a statistical-trend life preserver. So don’t go overboard taking excessive risks. The journey to building a strong bankroll is a long and arduous one. I strongly recommend devoting most of your bankroll to multipliers the first couple of weeks. Still, you are here to chase the ultimate dream.
Like each of us, you want that moment in the sun. You need the thrill of taking down that larger field tournament. Only then will you truly feel the adulation of being a champion. That glowing aura that will be your inevitability. The brass ring is waiting for you … come take it!
DFS: The Primetime Slate
On Sunday night, the Chicago Bears visit Hollywood. This won’t be a Goldilocks’ fairy tale. This will be a redheaded nightmare for Andy Dalton. The best-case scenario for Dalton is that he gets pummeled a few times and isn’t benched at the half. Dalton does have some weapons at his disposal, but the Los Angeles Rams defense is for real. He is the clear QB4 on this slate and shouldn’t be anywhere near your starting lineup. He is facing a ceiling of 240-2, with a considerably lower floor.
Matthew Stafford has a slightly easier matchup, and a stronger supporting cast, but the Bears defense isn’t a pushover. He gets the de facto QB2 nod here, but his ceiling isn’t significantly higher than Dalton’s. That said, everyone will be using Lamar Jackson, so Stafford is also the pivot.
David Montgomery is one of my favorite running backs for this season. The matchup Sunday isn’t elite, but he is the only back guaranteed to see a bell cow’s load. He proved last season that he could be effective both on the ground and through the air. The Bears will be forced to lean on Montgomery to keep Dalton from being decapitated. This suggests a ton of carries and a healthy dose of emergency dump-offs. Between the two, Montgomery should top 125 combined yards and score.
The Rams lost their starting running back, Cam Akers, for the season. This means that Darrell Henderson and the recently acquired Sony Michel will tote the rock for their offense. If we had just one of them, they would be the obvious RB2 on this docket. I believe that eventually Sony Michel will notch out the role of the goal-line back. For this week, I expect to see Henderson as the primary ball-handler, as long as his thumb injury doesn’t get aggravated. He wasn’t on the injury report Wednesday or Thursday, so it is unlikely Henderson misses any time.
Allen Robinson will finish the season as a top-10 WR. It won’t even matter who his QB is, as he has done it with schlock chucking him the ball previously. This week will be an interesting challenge for him, though, as he faces his former Jacksonville Jaguars running mate, Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey has owned Robinson in their prior meetings, so the best you can hope for here is 5-50-1. At his price, I cannot justify playing him. Darnell Mooney or the recently acquired Breshad Perriman are much safer options to roll out. Still, they have the Red Popgun throwing them the ball, so limit your expectations. That said, I’d consider Mooney at my WR3 slot based on price.
Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are easily the top-2 WR choices on this slate. Choosing between Woods and Kupp at WR1 will be your main roster decision this week. I recommend building multiple lineups, each headlined by one of the two. Keep an eye on DeSean Jackson‘s status for this game. He professes to be ready. If he suits up, play him at WR3. Over the last five seasons, Jackson has averaged 5-97 with four touchdowns in Week 1 games.
Cole Kmet may be something at some point this year. This week is not the week to use him. He is the TE4 on the slate, and it is by a monumental distance. Meanwhile, Tyler Higbee has bid adieu to his TE-by-committee partner, Gerald Everett. Higbee’s price is considerably cheaper than that of Las Vegas Raiders TE Darren Waller, and he has more competition for targets than the Baltimore Ravens’ Mark Andrews. That said, I enjoy the idea of using Higbee in double-TE lineups. Especially when you pair him with Stafford as a pivot-stack.
As for defenses, there is only one defense on this slate not to use (Las Vegas). The Rams are the best choice since they get to hogtie Dalton. The Bears defense would be my third choice.
Monday night, Baltimore looks to take down the house in Sin City. Lamar Jackson is the QB1 on this slate by the length of the Vegas Strip. Unfortunately, he will be nearly 100 percent owned and two-thirds of his receiving weapons are hurt. Still, Jackson’s rushing numbers paired with a pittance through the air will easily be the pacesetter among all skill position plays. Derek Carr has more weapons to throw to, but Baltimore has a strong pass defense. He will be my QB3, but he is much less safe than Stafford as a pivot.
Gus Edwards was expected to shoulder the load lost by the injury to J.K. Dobbins. Unfortunately, he sustained a season-ending injury of his own. Popular waiver wire pickup, Ty’Son Williams, and/or free-agent signees Le’Veon Bell, Latavius Murray and Devonta Freeman will end up sharing the carries. Against Vegas’ so-so run defense, one of them could be used as a deep punt RB2 or FLEX play. Just watch the Friday practice to see who gets the first team run.
For the Raiders, Josh Jacobs was a solid running back last year. So, the team decided to reward him by signing Kenyan Drake to steal touches. In his own defense, Drake was also a solid running back the last couple of seasons. Now they are splitting touches and degrading each other’s value. Jacobs will likely remain the goal-line option, so he is a safe RB2/FLEX play. Drake will likely be the pass-catching option, which should also make him FLEX-worthy, at best. Keep an eye on Jacobs’ practice status Friday and Saturday as he has been dealing with a toe injury. If Jacobs is a no-go, Drake becomes almost a must-start at RB2.
Marquise Brown gets a great matchup this week, and he should be locked in as your WR2. By sheer lack of competition, I see him approaching 8-75-1. Sammy Watkins is also in play as a WR3. Much like DeSean Jackson, Watkins has made a career out of the first week of each season. One of those two should be your WR3, and I wouldn’t shame you if you played both of them in a lineup. Choosing which Raiders WR to play week-to-week is always a challenge. There is some upside to both Bryan Edwards and Henry Ruggs. I’ll avoid both this week and wait until one of them takes the lead here. If I need to roster a Raiders’ WR, I’ll likely use Hunter Renfrow, since he could see some target volume.
Andrews is always a solid TE option. With the lack of healthy receivers for Baltimore, he may see an uptick in targets this week. This should allow him to lock down the TE2 slot on the board. Much like Higbee, I can see using him in a double-TE lineup paired with Waller. Speaking of Waller, he is the only tight end approaching the rarefied air spectrum of Travis Kelce. Just play him, cause everyone else will be, and you cannot afford to not have his stats in your lineup.
Baltimore’s defense is my No. 2 choice this week behind Los Angeles. As for Vegas defense, you have a better chance of winning throwing your entire bankroll on double-zero on the roulette wheel.
The Main Slate: My recommended DFS lineups
At DK: $6.5K for Ryan Tannehill. $8.6K for Alvin Kamara. $5.9K for Antonio Gibson. $7.8K for DeAndre Hopkins. $5.7K for Brandon Aiyuk. $3.4K for Marquez Callaway. $3.2K for Anthony Firkser. $5.8K for Raheem Mostert at FLEX. $3K for the Minnesota Vikings defense.
At FD: $8.4K for Kyler Murray. $8.6K for Kamara. $7K for Gibson. $8.2K for Hopkins. $8.1K for Calvin Ridley. $5.3K for Michael Pittman. $4.7K for Firkser. $5.9K for James Robinson at FLEX. $3.8K for the Vikings defense.
At Fanball (SuperFlex – includes Sun Night): Tannehill, Sam Darnold at SF, Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey at FLEX, Russell Gage, Pittman, Callaway, and Firkser.
Weekly strategy – Playing Patrick Mahomes is never a bad decision. That said, his price against an improving Cleveland defense isn’t great. If I’m going to pay that much this week, I would rather use Kyler Murray or Aaron Rodgers. Better yet, I like saving some money and using Ryan Tannehill. Jimmy Garoppolo and Jameis Winston are interesting options in the low-to-mid price range. However, in that range, I believe that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the best play. I also love the idea of using Sam Darnold in the revenge game.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals @ TEN
($7,600 DK, $8,400 FD)
Tennessee faced four “running QBs” last season: Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, and Deshaun Watson (2x). Of those three, Jackson was the only one to do anything required of the title rushing QB. So, I’m not expecting Kyler to go ham on the ground here. Still, with Kliff Kingsbury’s offense being so wide open, Murray can finish as QB1 based just on his passing numbers. Only six teams allowed more passing TDs than Tennessee last season. They will start this season among the worst as well following this shootout. If Murray can also take advantage of his legs, he will walk away with the top point spot this week.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs vs. CLE
($8,100 DK, $8,800 FD)
Mahomes looked mortal in the Super Bowl behind a piecemeal offensive line. No team did more to upgrade their protection unit this offseason than Kansas City. Now, Mahomes can look left and right down the line and see perennial Pro Bowlers instead of perennial turnstiles. Cleveland’s pass defense numbers look improved for last season, but they are aided by games facing: Dwayne Haskins, an aging Philip Rivers, Mike Glennon, Colt McCoy, and Joshua Dobbs. They also got a Sam Darnold Jets game, and a game in which Carson Wentz started and was benched for Jalen Hurts. All that said, the Browns did limit Mahomes to two total TDs in their playoff matchup. This week two TDs are Mahomes’ floor, and I expect him to blow that number out of the water.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers @ NO (in JAC)
($6,800 DK, $8,000 FD)
Rodgers led the league in touchdowns thrown last season. This included 12 games with three or more TDs. One of those games was a 283-3 performance against the Saints in Week 3. New Orleans loses the clear “home-field advantage” with the neutral site game, but Green Bay historically travels well anyways in terms of fan presence. Amazingly, during his lengthy tenure in the league, Rodgers has started against New Orleans only five times. In those games, he has averaged 316 passing yards and three total TDs per game. Just hitting that average will give Rodgers 3x value. Then factor in that Rodgers will be playing this season in scorched-earth mode.
Ryan Tannehill, Titans vs. ARI
($6,500 DK, $7,700 FD)
I mentioned above that this game will be a shootout. This equates to a big performance for both offenses. Tannehill will have his new toy, Julio Jones, ready to go for this game. Assuming that A.J. Brown is also good to go, Tannehill should be able to match yards for yards and points for points with Murray through the air. We also spoke earlier about Murray’s legs and his ability to get you bonus points with his rushing. Tannehill sneakily finished tied with Lamar Jackson for fifth among QBs in rushing TDs. This is a quiet bliss for Tannehill owners, since Arizona was actually the worst team in the league last year in yardage allowed on the ground to opposing QBs. Loving Tannehill is even simpler yet, since he is nearly $1k less in price.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Football Team vs. LAC
($5,500 DK, $6,600 FD)
Why am I choosing a sleeper QB in what I predict will be a low-scoring game? It is because Fitzpatrick finally has some job security, a great supporting cast, and he is facing a Chargers team that gave up a league-worst eight rushing TDs to opposing QBs. Fitzpatrick has never been a big-time rushing QB, but he has scampered for a couple of scores every season. This game will feature a lot of Ryan dumping the ball off to Logan Thomas, J.D. McKissic, and Antonio Gibson. That should allow him to post a reasonable 250-2 floor while possibly punching one in on the ground. Just don’t expect Fitzpatrick to single-handedly win the week for you. If you choose to play him, I recommend stacking him with Thomas. That pairing should let you spend like a drunken businessman on holiday in Thailand at the other positions.
Sam Darnold, Panthers vs. NYJ
($5,000 DK, $6,500 FD)
This is a popular bold sleeper of the week. Darnold facing his former team. Let’s analyze the upgrade from last year: Christian McCaffrey >>>> La’Mical Perine, Robby Anderson >> Breshad Perriman, D.J. Moore > Jamison Crowder, Terrace Marshall >= Denzel Mims, and Dan Arnold >= Chris Herndon. The Jets allowed the fifth-most passing yards and the third-most passing TDs last season and their defense is still in the process of being completely overhauled. Unfortunately, that new-look defense is still lacking mightily in veteran backfield presence. In superflex format DFS, Darnold is a lock for my SF slot. If I had to choose who to stack him with, I’d say Anderson or Dan Arnold.
Weekly strategy – Considering their matchups, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Alvin Kamara are all great RB1 options. Unfortunately, they are all very pricey. That means that if you use one of them, you will have to go cheaper at RB2. Or, if you want to use two of them, then you will need to be chintzy at WR. James Robinson and Antonio Gibson are my favorite two options for RB2. I also like Raheem Mostert and Damien Harris. If you wish to punt RB2, consider using Javonte Williams. Just know that he will have an extreme ownership percentage and no guarantee of featured back usage.
Alvin Kamara, Saints vs GB
($8600 DK, $8600 FD)
Green Bay was rotten against the run early in the season, but they did get better as the season progressed. The one thing they failed to improve in was covering pass-catching backs. Only one team allowed more RB receiving yards, and only three teams allowed more RB receptions than Green Bay. That defense will be pushed further in this game since Kamara will technically qualify at RB while performing the role of WR1 for New Orleans. Add on the release of Latavius Murray and you’ll see why Kamara will lead all RBs in DFS points this week.
Christian McCaffrey, Panthers vs. NYJ
($9,500 DK, $10,400 FD)
Of course, FD refuses to give us a discount on the returning McCaffrey. I love this matchup, but seriously … 10k … already. Come on, man! As mentioned above, the Jets are installing a new defense. It should help improve their run coverage, but they get a test right out of the box. Achieving 3x at this price will be tough, but he still should post mid-20s in points and that will be enough to lock up a top-4 spot.
Dalvin Cook, Vikings @ CIN
($9,100 DK, $9,400 FD)
The Vikings have lost their top two TEs from last season. Their No. 3 tight end from last year missed all of the preseason with various maladies. His backup just arrived at the training facility earlier this week. Plus, both Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen have seen limited run this preseason due to injuries of their own. What I am getting at is that Cook will likely have to assume even more of the passing-game work than he has in previous seasons. Cincinnati has added some new pieces to their defensive front this offseason, but several of those new pieces are questionable with injuries right now.
Derrick Henry, Titans vs. ARI
($8,800 DK, $8,900 FD)
Henry is much maligned due to his lack of a pass-catching role in the Tennessee offense. That limited role will diminish even further this season with the presence of Julio Jones. Still, Henry’s ability to bust off a 90-yard TD run at any time makes him a safe floor play all season. Besides, who needs PPR points when Henry’s last seven games produced 1,081 rushing yards. That seven-game stretch would’ve finished as the fifth-highest rushing total for the entire season. Arizona and Tennessee are set for a high-scoring contest, so you must assume that Henry will get in the end zone at least once. That is if Tannehill doesn’t vulture him.
Raheem Mostert, 49ers @ DET
($5,800 DK, $6,100 FD)
Everyone and their sister will be rostering Trey Sermon in this game against the league’s worst defensive team against the run from last season. I have zero reasons to think that Sermon won’t have a productive game. That said, this is Week 1 and Kyle Shanahan is not just going to hand over the reins of the backfield to a rookie. It is the same reason that we will not have Trey Lance at QB this week. Sermon may be the next great thing, but Mostert hasn’t shown any signs of degrading from his previous breakout. Consider both of them this week. Just know that Sermon will have a higher ownership percentage.
Antonio Gibson, Football Team vs. LAC
($5,900 DK, $7,000 FD)
I may end up with too much exposure to this game. Still, at $5.9k on DK this feels like a dramatic pricing error. It is much the same situation we are facing with the $5.9k price tag that James Robinson has on FD. I’ll likely have more exposure to Robinson, since I believe that game will have more combined points, but I’d be amiss to feign disinterest in Gibson. If I do use Gibson, it will be in a lineup without Ryan Fitzpatrick or Logan Thomas.
|Amon-Ra St. Brown||$3,000||$5,000|
Weekly strategy – Calvin Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins are the top two options this week. A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin are my pivot WR1s. When planning WR2, I am looking at a Brandon Aiyuk, Robby Anderson, or D.J. Moore. At WR3, I like Russell Gage (if I don’t use Ridley) and the Bengals. DeVonta Smith could be a sneaky WR3 option if you want to take a flier on a rookie. I expect to have a fair amount of exposure to Michael Pittman or Zach Pascal. Both could also be used at WR3 or FLEX. If I choose to punt the WR3 position, I will take a chance on Marquez Callaway, Quintez Cephus, or Rondale Moore.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons vs PHI
($7,900 DK, $8,100 FD)
Despite missing one full game and having one game that he was shut out in, Ridley finished fourth in receiving yards. This also came despite splitting looks with Julio Jones. Julio is gone and many expect Kyle Pitts and Russell Gage to inherit most of his departed targets, but Ridley will inherit a fair share, too. Philadelphia finished last season middle of the pack against the pass. That said, they were absolutely humiliated by most of the true WR1s that they faced. I’d be surprised if Ridley didn’t post 10-125-1 this week. If Jalen Hurts can keep this competitive against a bad Atlanta secondary, Ridley may even post higher numbers in response. I just don’t have that much faith in Hurts.
DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals @ TEN
($7,800 DK, $8,200 FD)
My QB1 is Kyler Murray so it makes sense that my WR1 should be his hookup. Hopkins had more targets last year than the next two Cardinals combined. Arizona has changed up their WR depth chart with the additions of A.J. Green and Rondale Moore, but both of them will eat into Christian Kirk’s target share, not Hopkins’. Tennessee typically allowed one huge WR performance each week (except against Cleveland). DeAndre will get the targets, so he will get the huge stat line as well. I particularly like reverse stacking him where I have Tannehill starting.
Davante Adams, Packers @ NO
($8,300 DK, $8,600 FD)
Yes, I am slightly concerned about Saints CB Marshon Lattimore. Still, this is Davante Adams. He is matchup-proof. Much like Ridley, Adams finished fifth in receiving yards despite missing two full games. He also finished second in total TDs to only Kamara. This could easily be another 10-120-2 game for Adams, but his floor is 7-75-1.
Tyreek Hill, Chiefs vs. CLE
($8,200 DK, $8,500 FD)
The Cleveland Browns held Tyreek Hill out of the end zone in their playoff matchup last year. Hill still caught eight of 10 passes for 110 yards, so it wasn’t a complete loss. Both Tyreek and Travis Kelce posted solid lines in that game, so starting a stack of Kelce-Mahomes-Hill may be worthwhile. Still, it would be detrimental to your overall roster construct. I’d feel better about just doing the Mahomes-Kelce stack.
Russell Gage, Falcons vs. PHI
($5,300 DK, $5,700 FD)
Atlanta will be throwing the ball a lot, so any member of their offense deserves consideration. If you choose to not use Ridley at WR1, then you should definitely use Gage at WR3 and/or Kyle Pitts at TE. If you use Ridley pivot to one of the Jaguars or one of the Bengals at that WR3 slot. All you need to remember is that from Week 11 on last year, Calvin Ridley had the second-most targets among all WRs … Russell Gage had the 10th most. That was more than studs like Keenan Allen, Allen Robinson, DK Metcalf, A.J. Brown, D.J. Moore, and Terry McLaurin.
Michael Pittman, Colts vs. SEA
($4,100 DK, $5,300 FD)
With T.Y. Hilton on the shelf, Pittman gets anointed as the Colts’ WR1 and, most importantly, their primary possession receiver. Seattle allowed the third-most receiving yards to the position last year. They also allowed 15 percent more receptions than the next closest team. Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell both make decent WR3/FLEX plays here as well, but Pittman seems destined to be the primary beneficiary of this cake matchup.
Weekly strategy – Paying up for Travis Kelce is never a mistake. George Kittle is $2k cheaper on DK and has a good matchup, too. After that pair, I would consider pivoting to Logan Thomas or Kyle Pitts. Gerald Everett and Jared Cook are possible plays for a discount. That said, if I am going cheap, I will use Anthony Firkser or Dan Arnold.
Travis Kelce, Chiefs vs. CLE
($8,300 DK, $8,500 FD)
Kelce has reached the financial equivalency at the TE position of Christian McCaffrey at RB. He is even the same price as Davante Adams, so if you wish to use Kelce, know that you likely won’t be able to spend big at WR1. The matchup is very good, but I’m not sure that I want to spend this much when I can get solid production from Kittle for $2k less on DK and $1.5k less on FD. There is definitely a spot to triple-stack Patrick Mahomes, Kelce, and Tyreek Hill. To use that group, go with two cheap RBs like Myles Gaskin, Javonte Williams, Damien Harris, or Raheem Mostert.
George Kittle, 49ers @ DET
($6,300 DK, $7,000 FD)
I’d be concerned about the split in targets between Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Kittle … if they were facing anyone else. Detroit is rotten against every position. There is a decent likelihood that they all top 7-70-1. That is if the Niners don’t just run for 300 yards against the Lions. That possibility is even more concerning to me. I’m not going to use him on FD, but at $6.3k on DK, I like the price.
Logan Thomas, Football Team vs. LAC
($4,600 DK, $5,600 FD)
Thomas finished 2020 as the third-most targeted TE. It is a shame that he did not get the draft rub that other TEs got this offseason. Everyone expects T.J. Hockenson and Kyle Pitts to challenge for the TE3, TE4, and TE5 slots this season behind Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. I think the dark horse should be Lo-T. The Chargers were actually pretty solid against opposing WRs last year, but they struggled against TEs allowing a fourth-worst 10 TDs. If the Chargers effectively limit Terry McLaurin, expect a huge game from Thomas as well as the RBs.
Kyle Pitts, Falcons vs. PHI
($4,400 DK, $6,000 FD)
So obviously I am not going to roster all three of Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, and Pitts. I’m especially not paying $6k for Pitts in his game one on FD. That said, the $4.4k on DK isn’t awful if you don’t use either of the Falcons’ WRs. Mark Andrews was the only top-10 TE to not score a TD against Philly last year. Regardless of what you think about Pitts’ future potential, everyone believes he will be a top-10 TE this season.
Gerald Everett, Seahawks @ IND
($3,400 DK, $4,800 FD)
Many people (myself included) are excited to see how Tyler Higbee performs now that he is free from Everett. I’m also excited to see how Everett performs without Higbee. In general, I am down on the Seahawks’ passing offense this season (despite the presence of two solid WRs) as I expect they will run the ball more than in prior seasons. The Colts’ numbers from 2020 against TEs are very good, but they also faced a lot of nobodies. The quality TEs they faced all (with the exception of Andrews again) did well against them. Russell Wilson has looked at his TEs in the red zone before. If Everett hauls in a touchdown at this price, he has already hit 3x.
Anthony Firkser, Titans vs. ARI
($3,200 DK, $4,700 FD)
First, everybody wanted him. Then nobody wanted him. Firkser was one of the most polarizing players this offseason for fantasy analysts. Much like Everett, at this price a single TD gives him 3x with everything else as gravy. The Cardinals were light years better against TEs last season than in previous seasons. Still, they are only one year removed from a decade of futility against the position. The statistical split between Firkser and Jonnu Smith last year wasn’t much with the exception of the TD category. Jonnu finished with just 61 more yards, two more catches, and 12 more targets. Together they posted a line of 80-835-9. That would have finished third in all three categories. If Firkser adds even a smidgen of Smith’s eight TDs to his line, he is in for a big season.