Welcome to Week 1! The best 17 weeks of the year are finally upon us, which will hopefully inject some normalcy into your lives during this tumultuous period.
This week, be sure to take advantage of the Colts’ juicy matchup against the “tanking for Trevor” Jaguars, and steer clear of the Giants’ contest against the Steelers impermeable secondary.
Below are some good plays for the inaugural week of the 2020 NFL season, as well as some other players you should consider avoiding.
Who to Start in Week 1
— Carson Wentz (QB), Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team is a squad you’re probably going to stream against all season, even with the addition of star Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. Their front seven is shaping up to be fairly respectable, but their secondary is still a serious pain point. Last season, the Redskins allowed the third-most passing touchdowns (35) and are poised to be just as permeable — if not more so — this year. Wentz has performed well against Washington in the past and completed 28 of 39 pass attempts for 313 yards and three touchdowns in the Eagles’ 32-27 Week 1 victory last year. You can start Wentz with confidence as a QB1 this week.
— Michael Gallup (WR), Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams
People seem to forget that Gallup put up 1,107 yards last season, which was actually higher on a per-game basis than star wideout Amari Cooper. It’s true that the team drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and many assume he will quickly take over the No. 2 role. A more realistic scenario is that Gallup remains a key part of this high-scoring offense, especially at the beginning of the season while Lamb gets acclimated to NFL. He should put up big numbers against the Rams, who are lean at secondary aside from cornerback Jalen Ramsey – who will likely be covering Cooper.
— Anthony Miller (WR), Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Miller lit up the Lions on Thanksgiving last season for 140 yards in the Bears’ 24-20 victory. The Detroit secondary has undergone significant turnover this offseason with the loss of Darius Slay, and the addition of Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah, the 2020 No. 3 overall pick from Ohio State. Miller’s potential will remain limited so long as Mitch Trubisky is at the helm, but you can slot him in as a high-upside flex option in Week 1.
— Jonathan Taylor (RB), Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Wisconsin product was the third running back selected in this year’s draft and has landed in a rather confusing situation for fantasy in Indianapolis. He joins Marlon Mack, whom he will presumably usurp in spite of Mack’s 247 attempts for 1,091 rushing and eight touchdowns last year. In Week 1 the Colts get the Jaguars, whose recent fire sale would seem to indicate that winning games may not be the top priority this season. Their defense — which was once touted as a solid unit — allowed the 28th-most rushing yards last season, making this a quality matchup for any Colts player. Taylor and Mack both have comfortable RB2 upside this week.
— James White (RB), New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
There are a lot of question marks surrounding this Patriots’ offense after two decades of dominance with Tom Brady, the most significant of which revolves around quarterback Cam Newton’s health. Newton is expected to favor short yardage plays, which is good news for this pass-catching running back that essentially functions as a slot receiver. This isn’t going to be a blowout a la Week 1 in 2019 when the Ravens demolished the Dolphins 59-10, but White should see a good deal of scoring opportunities for fantasy, especially in PPR leagues.
— Hayden Hurst (TE), Atlanta Falcons vs. Seattle Seahawks
Hurst was eclipsed by Mark Andrews in Baltimore and was traded to the high-scoring Falcons this offseason. He has strong breakout potential opposite Matt Ryan, who has averaged just shy of 600 attempts per year since entering the league. Former Falcons tight end Austin Hooper caught over 70 passes in each of the last two seasons and was on a 16-game pace for more than 900 yards last year. Hurst should put up strong numbers in a plush matchup against Seattle, whose defense is currently ranked last against tight ends on CBS.
— Tennessee Titans D/ST at Denver Broncos
This is a sweet Week 1 matchup for the winners of the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes. The star defensive end is a Pro Bowler and a former No. 1 overall pick who could help elevate this defense to the elite level as the season progresses. They should finish top 12 this week against largely untested young signal-caller Drew Lock, even with their many offensive additions this offseason.
Who to Sit in Week 1
— Kyler Murray (QB), Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers
Murray has fantastic upside as a second-year breakout candidate — especially with the addition of DeAndre Hopkins. That said, the 49ers are probably going to be two of his most challenging matchups all season. Vegas currently has the point total at 44.5 with the 49ers favored by 7.5, meaning sports books project the Cardinals to score fewer than 20 points. Sit Murray in this tough road matchup if you have other options.
— DeVante Parker (WR), Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
The Dolphins hope that Ryan Fitzpatrick — who was named the team’s starter over Tua Tagovailoa — can muster some Fitzmagic against their AFC East rival. They managed to spoil New England’s streak of first-round byes in Week 17 last year when Stephon Gilmore struggled in shadow coverage against Parker. That said, the Patriots’ secondary is still chock full of talent, even in light of the opt-outs and turnover this offseason, and have the ability to shut down almost any passing attack.
— Sterling Shepard (WR), New York Giants vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers defense forced a league-best 38 turnovers in 2019 and are projected to again be one the top units. Shepard has season-long upside — especially at his ADP — but injuries have been his undoing throughout his career. He will also have to adjust to a new coaching regime under Joe Judge that will need to find its stride quickly in a series of tough matchups. Steer clear of any of your Giants pass-catchers for the next four weeks as the face the Bears, 49ers and Rams in Weeks 2 through 4.
— Leonard Fournette (RB), Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
This backfield is messy and it’s anyone’s guess at this point who ends up winning the starting role come midseason, or if head coach Bruce Arians just decides to use a committee of Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ronald Jones and Ke’Shaun Vaughn. Arians told the media after Fournette was signed that Jones is still the starter, but it’s difficult to trust those types of statements at this point in the season. Avoid starting any Tampa running backs until there is more clarity about the situation.
— D’Andre Swift (RB), Detroit Lions vs. Chicago Bears
Swift has been dealing with a leg injury in training camp that Lions coach Matt Patricia says could limit his snaps early in the season. The Georgia product will also have to adjust to a NFL offense amid a coronavirus-shortened offseason and on a very crowded running back depth chart. Even when healthy, the 2020 second-rounder will have to compete for touches against Kerryon Johnson and veteran Adrian Peterson, who still should vulture goal-line carries at the ripe age of 35. If possible, sit any Lions running backs, especially this week against a formidable Bears run defense.
— Chris Herndon (TE), New York Jets at Buffalo Bills
Herndon has solid rest-of-season value, especially at where he was valued in drafts, but he is set to square off against the Bills in Week 1, whose fearsome defense allowed the second-fewest points per game to tight ends last season. Herndon probably wasn’t your TE1, so it should be fairly easy to steer clear of him in a bad matchup this week.
— New Orleans Saints D/ST vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The current point total for this game is 49.5, which actually feels pretty low considering Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook will all be on the field. The Saints’ defense should be solid this season, but there are probably better options on the waiver wire this week in what could be a shootout in this highly anticipated Drew Brees-Tom Brady showdown.