by Greg Talcott
Green Bay at Chicago:
Let’s be honest, this is not a road game for Green Bay; the Packers haven’t lost at Soldier Field since 2010…pathetic. As a lifelong Bears fan, that stat makes me want to hurl. News flash; Chicago isn’t winning this week. The Bears are going to get smashed, and Aaron Rodgers will continue to build on his 12-3 lifetime record against the Midgets of the Midway. If you have to wonder about starting Aaron Rodgers ever, you should have already handed in your league fees. Look for 300 yards and 4 TD’s from Rodgers. With that in mind, anybody who can catch a ball is a possible play for fantasy owners this week, but look for Davante Adams to have a big game (7 rec/100 yds./1 TD) with Randall Cobb still nursing a shoulder injury that won’t keep him out of the game, but may impact his normal production. Eddie Lacy will be huge, expect 125 yards and 2 TD’s. For Chicago, Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett are good plays, with both being primary targets in the passing game due to injuries at WR. In deeper PPR leagues, Eddie Royal makes a solid WR3. As for Jay Cutler, he should remain on your bench all season except in a bye week. Packers cream the Bears, 49-17.
Kansas City at Houston:
If I were an owner of any Kansas City players (I am not), I would not expect good things this week. Yes, you still have to start Jamaal Charles, but this is not a good matchup. Houston’s defense has the potential to be scary good this season, especially if Jadeveon “Don’t Call Me Jamarcus” Clowney can amass more than 1 FREAKING HIGHLIGHT FOR HIS CAREER! I swear if I have to see that tackle against Michigan one more time I am going to stab myself in the eyes with the dog thermometer… but I digress. Jeremy Maclin is a WR3 based not only on the matchup, but also because of Alex Smith who should spend much of the day running for his life. For Houston, the D/ST is a good start, along with DeAndre Hopkins. Alfred Blue is a solid Flex play this week, or weak RB2 in deeper leagues. Not a lot of offense in this one. Houston wins over KC 24-13.
Cleveland at NY Jets:
Finally, we get to talk about the “Who Freaking Cares” game of the week. When you look at levels of crappy football, this one should not even be allowed to be shown on a regional broadcast. Can you imagine Week 1 of the NFL season and you don’t like the Browns or the Jets and that is the televised game? That is how hostage situations start. No fantasy owner with a pulse drafted players off these teams, and if you did, no level of advice can help your team. Hard to figure out why the Jets are 3-point favorites when they will lose the game 3-0.
Indianapolis at Buffalo:
The Bills have a good defense, and Rex Ryan will only make them better. Unfortunately for the Bills, Indy has a much better offense. Fantasy owners should feel confident starting Andrew Luck, Frank Gore, TY Hilton, and Andre Johnson every week this season. The numbers this week should be in line with the players’ projected averages for your respective leagues without a lot of breakout potential from any player. For the Bills, LeSean “No Dudes Allowed” McCoy is a solid RB1 option this week, and Sammy Watkins a “boom or bust” WR3. It will take seeing Tyrod Taylor do it when it counts before he, or other players in the passing game become reliable options. Indy wins 24-10.
Miami at Washington:
This game will likely be uglier than a Nancy Pelosi swimsuit calendar for the Redskins. The fact is, Washington is not very good… at all. The offseason has been a poorly produced episode of “Days of Our Lives” with the drama involving one-time flash in the pan, self-proclaimed best QB in the league, RGIII. Hey Robert, you don’t hold a clipboard any better than Jimmy Clausen. For fantasy owners, I like Jarvis Landry to go for 9 rec/100 yds./1 TD. Tannehill is a good matchup play this week if you lack a better option, expect 250 yards, 2 TD’s, and a rushing score. The Redskins have a solid RB2 option in Alfred Morris, and WR3 options in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon. Miami wins easily 31-13.
Carolina at Jacksonville:
Now we get to the “Why is the NFL so Popular” game of the week. What is more entertaining than this game? Watching the Sound of Music for one. An interview with Ryan Seacrest on Behind the Actor Studio would be another. Giving the neighbor’s cat a bath while listening to the “Best of David Hasselhoff” would be a third. This game has no meaning except for those who own Greg Olsen. Cam Newton is going to struggle this season with the injuries and lack of depth the Panthers have at WR. If I have Cam Newton and anybody else as a QB I am thinking hard about starting anybody else. Panthers win 14-6.
Seattle at St. Louis:
This is going to be a very physical game that favors the home team in the Rams’ opener. Normally, I wouldn’t take the Rams over the Hawks, but with the offseason distractions in Seattle involving money, the Wilson contract deal and the continued holdout of Kam Chancellor, the Seahawks are primed for a slow start. The Rams have a fierce defense and Wilson will be earning every penny of his new deal this Sunday, but it won’t be enough. Wilson may be a mid-low level QB1, but this is not a great matchup. Marshawn Lynch will be the focal point of the Seattle offense in trying to soften up the Rams’ front seven, with things potentially opening up for Wilson in the second half. The best options for fantasy owners this week are Lynch, Jimmy Graham, and either of these two defenses as there won’t be a ton of scoring. Rams win 16-13.
New Orleans at Arizona:
The Cardinals’ passing game is maybe the most attractive play this week for fantasy owners. The Saints were horrible on defense last year and their secondary has been decimated by injuries. Carson Palmer may be a top 5 QB this week, posting over 300 yards and 3 TD’s. Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown are also both good starts this week as a result. For the Saints, Drew Brees should be able to post solid numbers against a tough Cardinal defense, but nothing to write home about. Brandin Cooks should be an every week starter with Marques Colston being a weak WR3/Flex play this week. Mark Ingram should be a sound choice at RB2 with limited upside. The Cards win 31-24.
Detroit at San Diego:
A plethora of fantasy options abound in this game on both sides of the ball. That being said, the QB edge goes to Philip Rivers both in fantasy and reality. Stafford is a feast or famine QB with a propensity for inconsistent play. Megatron is an every week start, while Golden Tate (overrated coming into the year) is a solid WR3, weak WR2 this week. The questions many owners have is how much will Ameer Abdullah see the ball and the answer is enough to be a RB2/Flex play in week 1 with lots of upside. His rookie counterpart Melvin Gordon would also be a solid Flex play in week 1. Chargers win 23-20.
Tennessee at Tampa Bay:
No time like the first game of the year to continue the conversation on who is the right choice, Winston or Mariota. I am on record saying Mariota is the guy and I believe he will lead the Titans to a win on the road in his first NFL start. Because you have two rookies playing head to head in their first ever NFL games, gut instinct says they will keep it simple and as a result the passing numbers may be a little light. With Mike Evans status in doubt, the safest play at WR in the game is Vincent Jackson. Doug Martin is looking for redemption in a contract year and is a solid RB2 with low end RB1 potential. It may not be pretty, but Mariota gets the last laugh. Titans win 13-10.
Cincinnati at Oakland:
The Raiders are going to surprise some people this year, and they will start with beating the redheaded stepchild of the NFL, Andy Dalton. For Oakland, Amari Cooper is a must start most weeks unless you are really deep at WR. Latavius Murray could be an absolute stud this season, and is a good play this week against the Bengals with 125 total yards and a score. Likewise, Derek Carr, for those lacking a true QB1, is an attractive option this week for fantasy owners, 250 yards and 2 TD’s being the expectation. Andy Dalton really isn’t a fantasy option at QB, but the Bengals do have two players poised for solid production; AJ Green and Jeremy Hill. Both players should have about 100 yards and a TD each when all is said and done. Raiders win it, 21-17.
Baltimore at Denver:
Peyton Manning’s final act begins here. I am on record saying I have questions about Manning finishing the season and the Broncos possibly backsliding this year, but those concerns are weeks away. For now, Manning is still a true QB1 who will put up good numbers week in and week out. Two years ago, Manning put up 462 yards and 7 TD’s against the Ravens. Don’t expect those numbers, but 300 yards and 4 TD’s is well within range. Manning has fewer weapons without Julius Thomas, so expect even more opportunities for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Both Sanders and Thomas should eclipse 100 yards and score this week. Owen Daniels could be a surprise this year at TE, but he needs to display that connection with Manning before fantasy owners get too excited. Fantasy owners are expecting big things from CJ Anderson this year and given where he has been drafted, he has to be your RB1. If Anderson fails in the starring role, your fantasy season is likely over; those who drafted Montee Ball know this to be true. Baltimore, on the other hand, has far fewer fantasy options with Justin Forsett being the biggest threat. Joe Flacco has never been a stat monster and when your top receiver is Steve Smith Sr., that is not about to change. Denver wins 38-14.
New York at Dallas:
I like Eli Manning this season to put up the best numbers of his career statistically and I like him this week against Dallas. Odell Beckham is good for over 100 yards and at least 1 TD this week. I also like Rueben Randle as a WR3/Flex play against the Cowboys. Neither team is set at RB so I would stay away from all backs if possible. If I need to play someone, I go with Darren McFadden and Rashad Jennings as the guys who will likely get the most opportunities. Of course for Dallas, Dez Bryant will be motivated to show he is the top receiver on the field for either team and will put up approximately 10 receptions for well over 100 yards and a score. New York wins on the road, 31-23.
Philadelphia at Atlanta:
This should be a close one with the revamped Eagles and Falcons getting into a shootout. Sam Bradford is the chic pick for breakout player of the year in Chip Kelly’s offense, assuming his knees hold up (that is asking a lot). Both Ryan and Bradford are starts this week with expectations for greater than 300 yards and 2 TD’s each. The RB situation in Atlanta is murky at best with Devonta Freeman banged up and rookie Tevin Coleman likely to get most of the work. Coleman is an intriguing Flex, but not a legit RB2 option at this time. For Philly, DeMarco Murray may be the man, but he will split carries and his production from last year is going to drop this season. Murray is a low end RB1 this year. For receivers, Julio Jones is a must start and could also catch 10 balls this week with over 100 yards and a score. Jordan Matthews is a WR2 play and the most reliable option of the Eagles receivers. For Flex plays, the timeless and versatile Darren Sproles is a solid play. Atlanta wins 38-34.
Minnesota at San Francisco:
I really don’t think you can understate the following point; Adrian Peterson is going to have a big year. To start, he is going to go against possibly the worst team the 49ers’ organization has ever put on the field. San Francisco is a mess when it comes to the loss of both player and coaching personnel in the offseason. The Vikings, on the other hand, are a team on the rise with a promising second year QB in Teddy Bridgewater, underrated Charles Johnson and overrated Mike Wallace at WR, and the best RB in the game. I am going out on a limb with a big prediction here; 200 yards for AP and two scores. I think Bridgewater finishes the game with solid game manager numbers, but not fantasy material. For San Fran, the most appealing options are Anquan Boldin in PPR leagues as a low level WR3, and Carlos Hyde as a low level RB2/Flex. Vikings roll 31-10.