Well, here we are. At 8:30 tonight, the NFL will kick-off and the road to Super Bowl LII will be underway. Of course, with the season comes everybody’s favorite weekly escape, Fantasy Football. Maybe you play because you’re a football junkie and can’t get enough of the game. Or, maybe you’re a Jet fan like me and you need a reason to root for some other players as well this year. Hey, maybe you’re not even a huge football fan, but you’re in a league with friends or at work and just want to win for the sake of bragging rights. Whatever the case may be, this gridiron game brings people together and Fantasy Football is the cherry on top to a season that brings so much excitement. Here we go with my weekly Fantasy Advice:
- Kelvin Benjamin
- Benji could have a major bounce-back season this year and it starts week 1 in San Francisco. Not only does Benjamin have arguably the weakest cornerback schedule in the league this season, but the addition of Christian McCaffrey as a Swiss Army knife for that offense should force defenses to respect the run more. Plus, now a year removed from ACL surgery and with the Panthers looking to have Cam Newton be more of a pocket passer and run less, I see Benjamin torching a weak 49ers secondary and improving upon the two scores he’s already had this preseason.
- Melvin Gordon
- I know, I know. They’re playing Denver this week. Yes, I expect Denver to have a good showing and play LA tough (it’s still weird to me that they’re not San Diego anymore). The thing is, by volume alone I expect Flash Gordon to start this season with a bang. Over the past three years, Phillip Rivers’ target share to receivers goes from 54% to 47% against Denver. Where do all those targets go? To the running back, and with Danny Woodhead now in Baltimore, Melvin should get an enormous amount of touches through the air and on the ground, especially with the all-world cornerback duo of Chris Harris and Aqib Talib patrolling the secondary.
- Brandon Marshall
- Another bounce-back candidate for me, I fully expect Marsh to return to form as an elite end zone target. I keep hearing about how he’s old and continue to see people point to his regression last year. Relax. First of all, he’s only 33, it’s not like the guy is hobbling around out there and he’s not on an Andre Johnson-esque trajectory. I’ll admit, he uncharacteristically dropped way too many balls last year, but how much of that was his miserable situation combined with the fact that he had ineffective quarterbacks throwing him the ball? The Giants can’t run and will look to feast on an uninspiring Cowboys’ secondary. Couple this with the facts that I don’t expect Odell Beckham to be 100% and the Giants love to deploy 3-wide receiver sets and I see tremendous opportunity for B-Marsh. Not only is it a tough task to cover Marshall man-to-man, but the Giants also drop back to pass the 4th-most in the NFL in the red zone over the past two years… and now have the best fantasy wide receiver in the red zone since 2012. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this looks pretty promising for his debut for Big Blue.
- Todd Gurley
- I fully expect the Rams to run the ball down Indy’s throat with the intentions of exploiting a weak defense and controlling the clock. Throw in the fact that Andrew Luck is out and Scott Tolzien, who can be subject to turnovers, is starting for Indy and I expect a huge day for Gurley – one that puts his disappointing 2016 firmly behind him.
- Bilal Powell
- I mean, who else is going to get the ball? I don’t expect Josh McCown to throw very much on Sunday and when he does, will can that offensive line even hold up? My bet is he checks it down when he drops back and hands it to Powell the rest of the time. I do think Matt Forté will get some work too and have a nice game himself, but with the former pro bowler in his age 31 season and the best veteran leader the team has, I expect it to be the Bilal Powell Show in Buffalo.
Cause for Concern
- Keenan Allen
- See: Melvin Gordon. I’m actually high on Allen’s prospects this season and expect him to finally have a healthy year this year. *Knocks on wood* Unfortunately for him, he begins the season against that all-world secondary I mentioned earlier and if Rivers plays Denver the same way he has over the past 3 years, then the LA receivers will have only 47% of the target share to split amongst themselves. Over the course of the season, I consider Allen a great pick and major sleeper at his current draft position, but I’d temper expectations for this week.
- Dez Bryant
- The oft-injured receiver would make me nervous as a fantasy owner with his physical style of play. Although obviously a great talent, I don’t trust him against high-end corners. Yes, he typically devours mediocre corners, but in tough matchups he chokes far too often for me to trust him as a low-end WR1. Oh yeah, and in TWO games against the Giants last year he had two receptions for 18 yards and a fumble. I’m wary of Dez this week.
- T.Y. Hilton
- Ultimately, T.Y. is way too make or break for me to trust him as a WR1. Of course, you have to respect any player that led the league in receiving yards, but with Scott Tolzien starting for Indy week 1 against a respectable Rams defense I don’t have much confidence that he’ll put up WR1 numbers. Plus, I think the Colts’ decision to trade for Jacoby Brissett says something about their confidence in Tolzien. Beware.
Top Streaming Options
- Paul Richardson
- Green Bay surrendered the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in the entire league last year. Now playing out wide opposite Doug Baldwin and with the Seahawks’ running game a major question mark, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Richardson get some volume in a game that could see a lot of scoring. Yes, Seattle has a great defense, but is anybody really ready to count out Aaron Rodgers? Against the best quarterback in the league, Russ is going to have to air it out and I don’t think the Green Bay secondary has anybody to stop Richardson from having a great day.
- Zay Jones
- Sammy Watkins is gone. Jordan Matthews just arrived and may or may not be hurt. Um, this Jets-Bills game this weekend could be the worst combination of receivers I’ve ever seen in a regular season game. That being said, is it that crazy to say that the rookie Jones might be the best receiver on the field? Coming off a season where he caught a ridiculous 158 balls at ECU, I’d say it’s not that crazy. Despite the fact that I expect the Jets’ defense to be much improved this year, I think it’s a great matchup for Jones and could see him getting some nice volume as the Bills’ top receiver.
- Andy Dalton
- The Red Rifle finished last season as the 12th best QB in fantasy despite missing AJ Green, Tyler Eifert, Gio Bernard, and having to deal with a regressing Jeremy Hill. Two seasons ago he was top 5. The guy is a sneaky great fantasy quarterback and with Green, Eifert, and Gio all fully healthy, plus the addition of Joe Mixon, I could see him having a resurgent year. Against a Baltimore defense that doesn’t inspire a ton of fear anymore, I see him hitting Eifert and Green for a few scores as Cincy rolls over the Ravens.