To help get you started on a championship run in your fantasy football league, inside the numbers takes a deep look at Week 1 to help you find matchups to exploit when building your fantasy lineups.
Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos
The last time we saw Cam Newton, he was him running away from a pile of Broncos’ diving on his fumble in the Super Bowl. Fantasy owners should be running from the Panthers’ quarterback in this championship rematch. In that game, Newton threw for 265 yards, but he finished with no touchdowns and three turnovers. With Denver allowing a league low 12.3 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last year, don’t expect things to be different for Newton this time around.
In his pro career, Trever Siemian has just one rushing attempt to his credit, yet he draws the start for the Broncos as they defend their Super Bowl title. In three preseason games this year he completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 285 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Jonathan Stewart did score a touchdown against the Broncos in the Super Bowl, but, he should be rested on your bench this week. The Broncos allowed the fewest yards per carry in 2015 with a 3.3 YPC average against.
In each of the last three seasons, the Carolina defense has been in the bottom-10 in rushing attempts against. And for good reason, they allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yard average in 2015 with a 3.9 per carry, but C.J. Anderson still should be a factor in this one. Not only did he rush for 90 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl, but also the Panthers allowed the sixth-most receiving yards per game to running backs in 2015 with a 49.9-yard-per-game average.
The Broncos’ allowed a league low 14.9 fantasy points to wide receivers last season, so do not look for the Panthers’ pass catchers to get heavily involved here. Ted Ginn did have four receptions for 74 yards in the Super Bowl. However, that type of production is not likely to happen again this week. The big-play receiver is going against a defense that allowed the second-fewest 20-plus yard pass plays last season. The veteran pass catcher saw 23 percent of his receptions go for 20 or more yards so it is safe to say he is reliant on the big play.
Devin Funchess had two catches and 40 yards in his only game against the Broncos.
While there is a lot of excitement surrounding the return of Kelvin Benjamin temper the expectations. The wide receiver finished with more than 56 yards in just one of his last five games. And Denver allowed the fifth-fewest yards per game to opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver in 2015 with a 60.8-yard-per-game average.
Denver’s Demaryius Thomas should surprise a few people on Thursday. While Carolina allowed just 21.5 percent of the passing attempts against them to go to the opposing team’s No. 1 wide receiver in 2015, they still allowed that wideout the averaged 73.7 yards per game last year. And now, Josh Norman is a member of the Washington Redskins.
After five straight games without a touchdown, Emmanuel Sanders finished 2015 with two scores in his last three games. Carolina allowed just 21 passing touchdowns last regular season so don’t get too excited about Sanders’ recent trend.
If there is a place to attack the Broncos’ defense it is the middle of the field with the tight end. In 2015, they allowed 61.7 yards per game to tight ends. Greg Olsen should get close to matching those numbers in Week 1. In two career games against the Broncos, the tight end has 13 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
In 2015, Carolina allowed the seventh-fewest passing yards to tight ends; therefore, don’t look for Virgil Green to have a coming out party versus the Panthers on Thursday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Atlanta Falcons
During his rookie campaign, the Falcons held the Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston in check, as he averaged just 202 passing yards and one passing touchdown per game. He did rush for a total of two scores in the games versus Atlanta, but that seemed to be more a fluke than anything, as they allowed just one other rushing touchdown by a quarterback in 2015.
Matt Ryan finished the 2015 season with two straight 300 passing yard performances. That streak should end the Falcons’ season opener. The Buccaneers allowed an average of just 240 passing yards per game last season.
Atlanta allowed 21.5 fantasy points per game to running backs in 2015 so dial up Doug Martin in Week 1. The Tampa ball carriers had 178 total yards in two games against the Falcons last season.
Despite Doug Martin’s intended success, there is room for Charles Sims to do well on Sunday. The Falcons allowed 59.8 receiving yards as well as 25.7 percent pass attempts against go to running backs in 2015, paving the way for the second string runner to put up some nice fantasy points in the season opener.
In 2015, the Buccaneers’ run defense allowed just 3.4 yards per carry, but they still struggled to contain Devonta Freeman last season. The Falcons’ running back finished with 231 offensive yards in two games against the Tampa defense.
Many are looking for Mike Evans to take the next step this season, but that step isn’t likely to start in this game. The wide receiver has topped 61 yards just one time in four games against the Falcons, and last season, Atlanta allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game, with 15.5, versus the wide receiver. With Atlanta allowing just 50 percent of the passing attempts against them, lowest in the league, going to wide receivers last season, there is just a little opportunity to get Evans going in this one.
Tampa Bay’s Vincent Jackson scored just 74.3 fantasy points in 2015. Expect more of the same in Week 1. The Falcons allowed just 39.3 yards per game to opposing wide receiver twos in 2015.
Regardless of the matchup, Julio Jones continues to be a must-start. The wide receiver saw over 200 targets in 2015 and was no match for Tampa. In his last four games against the Buccaneers, the Falcons’ Pro Bowler has had at least eight receptions in each contest. With Tampa allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers last season, Jones is a lock for Week 1 lineups.
With over a third of Matt Ryan’s passes going to Freeman or Jones, there isn’t a lot of meat left on the bone for Mohamed Sanu.
Atlanta did allow 25 percent of the passing attempts against them to go to tight ends so the position did pretty well against them last season. The Falcons allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position in 2015. So if you are looking for a flyer, you could do worse than Cameron Brate.
Tampa allowed just four touchdowns to tight ends in 2016, so now isn’t the time to take a chance on rookie Austin Hooper.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans allowed 19.5 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2015. Normally, that would be good news for fantasy owners that have the opposing quarterbacks on their roster, but the Vikings don’t ask their quarterbacks to do much. In their last six games of the 2015 season, Minnesota threw for more than 231 yards just one time. So whether it is Sam Bradford or Shaun Hill, pass on the Vikings’ quarterbacks when building your fantasy lineup for Week 1.
Minnesota allowed 16.1 fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2016, so you could do worse than the Titans’ Marcus Mariota this Sunday. The second-year quarterback finished his rookie season scoring at least 20.4 fantasy points in each of his last three starts in which he finished the game in 2015.
If you have Adrian Peterson on your roster, you have to start him, but the running back could be in for a frustrating day. In 2015, the Titans allowed just 3.9 yards per carry to ball carriers and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. The Vikings’ rusher, who isn’t very active in the passing game, with just 3o catches in 2015, isn’t likely to catch many passes again this week. as Tennessee allowed the fewest catches to running backs last season with just 56.
After struggling for most of the season last year, DeMarco Murray finished the 2015 season with a touchdown in each of his last two games. As promising as that start is, do not get too excited about Murray in the season opener. Not only did the Vikings allow the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs last season, but also the Titans’ drafted Derrick Henry this offseason.
The rookie rusher scored 1.13 fantasy point per touch this preseason. Henry should be swiping opportunities from Murray, which should cause the veteran to lose fantasy appeal in 2016.
Tennessee allowed 24.5 fantasy points per game to wide receivers last season. Despite the above-average opportunity, there isn’t much to like from the Vikings’ receivers this week.
Over his last nine games in 2015, Stefon Diggs had just one game with a touchdown and averaged just 33.4 yards per game in that span. Those numbers might see an uptick with the Titans’ allowing 75.3 yards per game to opposing No. 1 wide receivers in 2015, but not enough that you should get excited about his opportunity in Week 1.
Minnesota allowed 69.8 yards per game to opposing team’s top pass catcher in 2015, so there should plenty of opportunity for Tajae Sharpe to cash in on the preseason hype in this one.
With Kendall Wright out for Sunday’s contest, Rishard Matthews could gain some popularity, but remember the wideout has just 107 catches in four seasons in the NFL.
If you are desperate for a touchdown from your tight end position, the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph could be your guy. Last season, he saw the seventh most end zone targets at the position and the Titans allowed a league-high 11 touchdowns to tight ends in 2015.
Minnesota allowed 7-plus targets per game to the tight end position in 2015 so look for Delanie Walker to pick up right where he left off last season. In 2015, he led all tight ends with 133 targets.
Cleveland Browns vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia allowed 20.3 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2016. Although it may be tough to trust Robert Griffin III in Week 1, he is worth keeping an eye on. With quarterback whisperer Hue Jackson on his side, the Browns’ quarterback played very well this preseason. He finished with 313 yards, three touchdowns and just one interception on 38 pass attempts. He also rushed for 40 yards on five carries.
You may be intrigued by Carson Wentz against a Browns’ defense that allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2015, but you shouldn’t be. The rookie only took 38 snaps in the preseason and rookie quarterbacks usually struggle in their first year in the NFL. No rookie quarterback has finished inside the top-12 of fantasy scoring at the position since 2012.
In 2015 the Eagles allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. There is some opportunity to take advantage of the Browns’ backfield in Week 1. With the Eagles allowing 4.5 rushing yards per carry last season, Isaiah Crowell has some upside here, but the more popular pick should be Duke Johnson. Philadelphia allowed 7.9 pass attempts and 46.1 receiving yards per game to running backs last season.
Cleveland allowed the eighth-most attempts and the third-most rushing yards last season. So a healthy Ryan Mathews and his 5.1 yards per carry from last season are in a position to do some major damage on Sunday.
The Eagles allowed the most fantasy points in the league to wide receivers in 2015. That trend plays into the hands of rookie Corey Coleman. Just seven teams last season allowed more passes thrown to opposing team’s No. 1 that the Eagles.
The real beneficiary of the Eagles’ struggles covering the wide receiver could be Terrelle Pryor. The wide receiver averaged 24.4 yards per catch this preseason and has a plus matchup. In 2015, Philly allowed 58.9 yards per game to wide receiver twos, fifth-most in the NFL.
While the Eagles led the league in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, the Browns were not far behind. Cleveland allowed 27.1 fantasy points per game to the position in 2015. Jordan Matthews stands to benefit the most. Cleveland allowed 80.8 yards per game to opposing No. 1 wide receivers in 2016.
After a hot start to the 2015 season, Barnidge cooled down the home stretch. Over his last six games, he had just two touchdowns as opposed to seven scores in his first 10 games. The lackluster end to 2015 should carry into the 2016 season. Philadelphia allowed just 6.9 fantasy points per game to tight ends last season.
The Eagles’ Zach Ertz came on strong to end the 2015 season. Over the final month of play, he finished with 450 yards and one touchdown.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. New York Jets
One of Andy Dalton’s best games as a pro came against the Jets. In 2013, the quarterback finished with 325 yards and five touchdowns against the New York team. However, that feat isn’t likely to happen again this weekend as the Jets’ allowed just 15.3 fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.
Despite two-thirds of their opposing team’s play going for passes, the Bengals allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season. This is not good news for the Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Jeremy Hill saw at least 15 carries is five of the last six games in 2015, but with the Jets’ having allowed just 13.3 fantasy points per game to running backs last season, it will take more than touches for Hill to be a factor this weekend. Unfortunately for the running back that means touchdowns. He relied on 11 rushing touchdowns to have fantasy importance last season, but with the Jets having allowed just four rushing touchdowns last season, this week doesn’t appear to be Hill’s week.
Over his last 10 games, Giovani Bernard scored double-digits one time. The Jets allowed a below-league average 40.9 receiving yards per game to running backs last season so don’t count on this being a 10-plus point showing for the Bengals’ runner.
Matt Forte finished the 2015 season strong with four double-digit fantasy point games in the last five weeks. His strong end to the 2015 season should carry right into this year. While the Bengals allowed the seventh-fewest rushing yards last season, Forte has an opportunity to do some damage in the air. The Bengals allowed the fifth-most catches to running backs with 102 as well as the fifth-highest receiving yards per game average to position.
The Jets were a middle of the road team against wide receivers in 2015 so don’t be afraid to use A.J. Green in this one. In his only career game against the Jets, he finished with 115 yards on three receptions.
Despite an impressive preseason, not much should be counted on from Tyler Boyd. The Jets allowed just 38.5 yards per game to the second wide receiver on opposing teams.
In just four games last season, Brandon Marshall didn’t catch a touchdown. He ended last season with a score in eight of his last nine. Despite being 32-years old, the touchdown machine continues to be a must-start.
Teammate Eric Decker is also a touchdown machine. He finished the 2015 season with 12 touchdowns including one in each of the Jets’ last four games. The wide receiver is a favorite of Ryan Fitzpatrick down around the end zone. He saw the third most red-zone targets in the league last year.
The Jets’ allowed the third-least fantasy points to tight ends last season, so don’t look for the Bengals’ Tyler Kroft to surprise anyone on Sunday.
On average, Cincinnati allowed just 6.6 fantasy points per week to the tight-end position in 2015, so Kellen Davis deserves no fantasy consideration in Week 1.
Oakland Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints
Fire up your Raiders for the season opener. Derek Carr, who struggled over the second-half the season, should once again start this season red hot. The Saints allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last season with a 24 fantasy point average.
Oakland allowed just the 12th-most fantasy points in 2015, but Drew Brees remains a must-start each week. In two career games against the Raiders, the Saints’ quarterback has thrown three touchdowns in each.
Did I mention you should start all the Raiders this week? In addition to giving up fantasy points in bunches to quarterbacks, they also allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs in 2015. Latavius Murray should be a strong play this week, particularly in the passing game. The Saints allowed opposing running backs to average 59.3 yards through the air in 2015.
Before getting hurt last season, Mark Ingram was proving to be the Saints’ workhorse. He received 216 touches in 12 games in 2015.
Not surprisingly, the Saints allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers last season, so the Raiders’ Michael Crabtree is in play here. The Oakland pass catcher had the 10th-most targets in the league last season and is likely to see plenty of passes thrown his way on Sunday. The Saints allowed 81.1 yards per game to opposing No. 1 wide receivers last season.
Oakland’s Cooper could be in for a slow day, however. The wide receiver topped 69 yards just once over the final five weeks of the 2015 season, while New Orleans allowed just 37.8 yards per game to No. 2s last season.
The Saints’ Brandin Cooks is in a great spot this week. The wide receiver scored double-digit fantasy points in six of his last nine contests last year. He now gets to face an Oakland defense that allowed the second-most yards to No. 1 wide receivers last season. The Raiders allowed 91 yards per game to such pass catchers in 2015.
Rookie Michael Thomas had just six receptions this preseason for 95 yards.
Over his last 14 games in 2015, Willie Snead had just one game with a touchdown.
Nobody allowed more fantasy points to tight-ends then the New Orleans’ Saints, so Clive Walford could be a sneaky Week 1 option.
The Oakland Raiders allowed 10.3 fantasy points per game to the tight end position, which makes Coby Fleener an interesting option on Sunday.
San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs had a strong defense in 2015 and are expected to do so again this season. This defense allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last year. With Philip Rivers having not thrown for a touchdown in each of his last three versus the Chiefs, you may want to look elsewhere for your signal-caller this week.
Kansas City’s Alex Smith finished the 2015 campaign throwing for two touchdowns in each of his last two games, but before you get excited, the quarterback failed to throw for over 200 yards in each of his last five contests. You can do better than Smith this week.
The Chargers’ backfield is in for a tough matchup this weekend, as the Chiefs allowed the just 14.5 fantasy points per game to running backs last season, third-fewest in the league.
On 29 carries last season against the Chiefs, Melvin Gordon averaged just 2.48 yards per carry.
And teammate Danny Woodhead didn’t do much better, as he was held to 29 offensive yards in two games versus Kansas City in 2015.
San Diego, on the other hand, was very generous to opposing running backs last season. The Chargers allowed 21.9 fantasy points per game to ball carriers in 2015. The Chiefs’ Spencer Ware should have himself quite the game in this one. In two games against San Diego last season, the running back accumulated 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. More of the same can be expected in Week 1 if the preseason was any indicator. Ware received the ball on 30 percent of his 107 snaps this preseason.
The way to attack Kansas City through the air is with your No. 1 receiver. In 2015, the Chiefs’ defense allowed 93.3 yards per game to the opposing team’s top pass catcher, most in the NFL. All of this is great news for Keenan Allen owners. In three career games against the Chiefs, the Chargers’ wideout has averaged 6.67 receptions per game.
In two games against the Chargers last season, Jeremy Maclin was held to just nine catches for 97 yards and zero touchdowns. That play right in line with the Chargers’ numbers from last season. San Diego allowed the fifth-lowest target percentage to opposing No. 1 wide receivers in 2015, while allowing just 67.5 yards per game to the position. Look for Maclin to struggle to produce again in this one.
Kansas City allowed just 5.2 fantasy points per game to the tight end position, lowest in the league last year. Antonio Gates, who has zero touchdowns in his last three contests against Kansas City, likely will be a non-factor in this one.
Despite a lot of hype surrounding Travis Kelce, he has done little to back it up. In the last month of the 2015 season, he had just one touchdown and two games in which he was held under 20 yards. If you drafted him, you probably have to play him but you shouldn’t feel great about it.
Buffalo Bills vs. Baltimore Ravens
Tyrod Taylor should be a nice play this week. In 2015, the quarterback scored the third-most fantasy points per touch at the position and has a friendly matchup in this one. Baltimore allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to the quarterback position last season. One area of concern for Taylor though is that the Ravens’ have been good about limiting quarterback rushes. In each of the last four years, Baltimore has finished in the bottom seven in terms of quarterback rushing yards.
The last time that Joe Flacco faced the Buffalo Bills, he threw five interceptions.
Baltimore allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs last season. So LeSean McCoy could be in for a long day at the office.
Terrance West will be the starting running back for the Baltimore Ravens, as he won the job with a stellar preseason. He finished with 101 rushing yards on 25 carries. He also added three receptions for 25 yards.
The Ravens allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2015 so expect Sammy Watkins to be plenty busy on Sunday. 25.8 percent of passes against Baltimore went to opposing No. 1 wide receivers last season. Those pass catchers averaged 69.6 yards per game against the Ravens in 2015.
Robert Woods could be an under the radar target in Week 1. The Ravens allowed 59.5 yards per game to No. 2s in 2015. The Bills’ pass catcher also did well against Baltimore in his only matchup with them. In 2013, he finished with four receptions for 80 yards and one touchdown.
In 2015, the Bills allowed 24.7 fantasy points per game to wide receivers. The Ravens’ Kamar Aiken is the wide receiver to consider for your fantasy team this week. From Week 10 on last year, Aiken was fourth in the league in targets. The heavy usage should bode well for the wide receiver this week as the Bills allowed 83.4 yards per game to their opposition’s top catching option last season.
Baltimore allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends last year so don’t count on Charles Clay to provide much fantasy worth this week.
Chicago Bears vs. Houston Texans
At this point, Jay Cutler should not be drawing much, if any, consideration for fantasy purposes. The Texans are better than average against quarterbacks, allowing just 15.5 fantasy points per game to the position last season, but also Cutler scored more than 17.1 fantasy points one time in the last seven weeks of last season.
You could do worse at the quarterback position than Brock Osweiler. The young quarterback threw for 250 yards and two scores against the Bears last season, which is pretty consistent with what Chicago does. They allowed seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.
The Houston Texans allowed the tenth-fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2015, so it may be best to take the wait and see approach to Jeremy Langford in Week 1.
Lamar Miller is primed for a big game on Sunday. The Texans’ featured back has gained 83 offensive yards on 20 touches against the Bears in his career. Look for more of the same in Week 1, as the Bears allowed the tenth-most fantasy points to the position in 2015.
The Bears’ Alshon Jeffery is another one of those players that you probably have to start if he is on your fantasy team, but just brace yourself for what could a tough game. Not only did the Texans’ allow the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers last season, but they also limited opposing team’s’ No. 1 wide receivers to an average of 55.5 yards in 2015.
Although he struggled this preseason after missing all of last season due to injury, Kevin White might be the guy for the Bears this week. Houston actually allowed more yards per game to the No. 2 receiver last season with a 58-yard-per-game average.
Surprisingly the Bears were not bad against wide receivers in 2015. They allowed just 20 fantasy points per game to the position. Despite this success, DeAndre Hopkins is a top notch fantasy option in Week 1. The wide receiver finished his 2015 season with the third most targets, catches and yards.
Chicago allowed just 39.9 yards per game to opposing No. 2 wide receivers so give rookie Will Fuller a week to see how he adjust to the NFL before you plug him into your starting lineups.
The Texans allowed the fourth-lowest percent of targets to the tight end position last year, so naturally, the position struggled against the Houston defense. Tight ends averaged just 52.4 yards per game against the team so don’t look for Zach Miller to be heavily involved this week.
Green Bay Packers vs. Jacksonville JaguarsAnytime you have Aaron Rodgers on your fantasy team, you plug him into your lineup and this week is no different with the Jaguars allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.
After an excellent fantasy campaign last season, Blake Bortles could be due for a regression this season. If not for the season, very likely for at least Week 1. The Packers allowed just 15.4 fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.
Jacksonville allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs in 2015, so we will get to see if a trimmer Eddie Lacy is the answer to a better fantasy season from the ball carrier. The heavier 2015 Lacy averaged just 12.5 rush attempts per game.
Green Bay was an average team in terms of containing the fantasy points of running backs in 2015 allowing 16.9 fantasy points per game to the position, but with the Jaguars splitting reps between Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon it will be best to avoid the Jacksonville backfield until we find out how it all will shake out.
While there is some risk to starting Jordy Nelson in Week 1, as the wide receiver should be rusty, the matchup is too sweet to avoid. The Jaguars allowed 85.3 yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers in 2015.
In his only career game against the Jaguars, Randall Cobb finished with five receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown.
Green Bay allowed just 20.5 fantasy points to wide receivers last season but the Jaguars’ lead pass catcher still is in a nice spot this week. Allen Robinson is a must-start on a weekly basis after busting out last season. The pass catcher finished the 2015 season with 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Allen Hurns had a knack for the big play last year. 19 of his 64 catches in 2015 were for 20-plus yards. Unfortunately for Hurns and his fantasy owners, the Packers allowed the fifth-fewest of those plays in the league last season.
In 2015, the Jaguars allowed 9.3 fantasy points per game to tight ends, sixth-most in the NFL. The Packers’ newly acquired Jared Cook is likely to make an immediate impact this week. Jacksonville allowed opposing tight ends to average 63.9 yards per game last season.
Julius Thomas had a total of 10 catches in his last three games last season.
Miami Dolphins vs. Seattle Seahawks
The Cliff Notes version of this game is this: Sit all Dolphins and start the majority of the Seahawks.
In 2015, Seattle allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks with a 12.9 weekly average, so you will want to avoid Ryan Tannehill in Week 1. The quarterback scored less than 14.5 fantasy points in two of his last three games. That trend is likely to continue this weekend.
Over the last seven games of the 2015 season, Seattle’s Russell Wilson averaged 33.8 fantasy points per contest. With the retirement of Marshawn Lynch look for Seattle to allow Wilson to keep doing his thing this season.
In three of the four games that he played last season, Arian Foster scored double-digit fantasy points. While that is enticing you won’t want to start him against the Seahawks. The Seattle defense allowed just 11.8 fantasy points to running backs in 2015, the best mark in the league.
Miami allowed 24 fantasy points per game to running backs last season, so there is plenty of opportunity to get some points out of the Seahawks’ backfield. The toughest part will be figuring out which runner to lead with. Thomas Rawls averaged 18 fantasy points over the last month of his 2015 season, while Christine Michael rushed for 100 yards in Week 17 against a stout Arizona defense.
Jarvis Landry failed to find pay dirt over his last five games of the 2015 season. Look for that disturbing trend to continue this weekend. Seattle allowed the third-fewest fantasy total to wide receivers in 2015 while allowing just 14 receiving touchdowns on the season. No. 1 wideouts averaged just 46.8 yards against the Seahawks.
Doug Baldwin snagged 11 touchdowns from Week 12 to Week 16 last season.
As a rookie, Tyler Lockett exceeded four receptions in just four games, but three of those occurred in the final five weeks of the 2015 season.
Jordan Cameron had zero double-digit performances in 2015. Don’t expect him to get one in the season opener either. Seattle allowed just 8.7 fantasy points to tight ends last season.
The only time that Jimmy Graham played the Dolphins he finished with four receptions for 100 yards and two scores.
New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys
Last season, the Dallas Cowboys had Eli Manning’s number. In two starts, he averaged just 182 passing yards. He also did not complete a touchdown against them in 2015.
Dak Prescott has been all the rage this preseason. The rookie signal-caller finished the warm up part of the season with a 78 percent completion percentage while throwing five interceptions and zero interceptions. The Cowboys’ starter also had 53 rushing yards and two scores via the ground on seven carries. The Giants allowed 20.2 fantasy points to quarterbacks, third-most, last season, so Prescott is in a nice position to carry his success over to the regular season.
Rashad Jennings is healthy and will look to carry the momentum he built to end 2015 into this season. Over the last four weeks of last season, Jennings averaged 21.5 touches per games. In that span, the New York ball carrier averaged 15.5 FanDuel points per game.
Few rookies have entered their pro career with more hype than Ezekiel Elliott. This weekend, he has an excellent matchup that certainly will help him reach the heights of that hype. New York allowed 21.1 fantasy points per game to running backs last season.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise since the Cowboys limited Eli Manning, but Odell Beckham struggled against the Cowboys in 2015. In two starts, he finished with just nine receptions for 79 yards.
Speaking of rookies with high expectations, the Giants’ Sterling Shepard could struggle in this one. Dallas allowed just 32.5 yards to opposing No. 2 wide receivers last season.
Dez Bryant had a 2015 season to forget. Between his own injuries as well as the injury to Tony Romo, the Cowboys’ wide receiver was a shell of his old self. With Romo shelved again this season, Bryant’s 2016 isn’t off to a good start. That downward trend could continue on Sunday. In his last eight games versus the Giants, Bryant has just one game with a touchdown.
Terrance Williams had just one 100-yard game in 2015, and he should not start 2016 with on. In two games against the Giants last season, he was held to 70 yards or less, and in six career games against the Cowboys’ rival, Williams has never eclipsed that 70-yard mark.
Dallas allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season so look elsewhere for a sleeper tight end than the Giants’ offensive huddle.
You want to start the Cowboys’ Witten in this one. Not only did he finish with 14 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants’ last season but New York struggled with tight ends all season. They allowed 11.4 fantasy points to the position in 2015, mostly due to allowing an average of 80.7 yards per game to the position.
Detroit Lions vs. Indianapolis Colts
Over his last six games of the 2015 season, Matthew Stafford averaged 28 fantasy points per game.
Prior to being shut down last season, Andrew Luck had a subpar year for his standards, as he averaged just 19.8 fantasy points per game.
Over his last 13 games, Ameer Abdullah had just one double-digit fantasy point game. His production should be limited again in this one. Indianapolis allowed 18.9 fantasy points per game to the position, 12th most in the league, but the real problem is that the second-year runner will lose touches to Theo Riddick.
Obviously, Riddick’s only value is in the passing game where he caught over 80 passes last year, but you may want to look elsewhere for your running back position in Week 1. Indianapolis allowed just 34.8 receiving yards to running backs per game last season.
At this point in his career, Frank Gore is touchdown dependent. The only games that he recorded double-digit fantasy points last season were the games in which he found the end zone. If his past performance against the Lions is any indicator, Gore should be scoring double-digits in Week 1. In each of his four career appearances against Detroit, the veteran runner has crossed the goal line for six.
The Lions will look to replace the production of now retired Calvin Johnson. Look for Golden Tate to step up his performance to help fill the shoes. In five games as a Lion in which Megatron did not play, Tate registered 599 yards and three touchdowns. The wide receiver has a decent matchup to do so in as well. Indianapolis allowed 83.8 yards per game to opposing No. 1 wide receivers.
Marvin Jones scored one touchdown over his last 10 games in 2015.
Without Andrew Luck under center, TY Hilton averaged 1.3-less receptions and 11.6-less yard per game last season. With Luck back healthy, Hilton should see a jump in production for the year, but for Week 1, he might be slowed down once again. The Lions allowed just 68.9 yards per game to No. 1 pass catchers.
If there is a wide receiver set to benefit against the Lions it is Donte Moncrief. Detroit allowed more than 20 percent of targets to go to the opposing team’s second wide receiver.
Indianapolis allowed the 10th most fantasy points to tight ends last season, so Eric Ebron isn’t a terrible starting option for Week 1.
The Lions’ defense allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2015. Dwayne Allen could be in play this week.
New England Patriots vs. Arizona Cardinals
Arizona allowed just 15.1 fantasy points to quarterbacks last season, so Jimmy Garoppolo draws a rough matchup in his first career start.
As tough as a matchup this is for Garoppolo, it isn’t much easier for Carson Palmer. Not only did Palmer struggle down the stretch last season, as he averaged just 15 fantasy points during the last three weeks, but also the Patriots allowed just 16 fantasy points to signal-callers in 2015.
James White is expected to pick up the slack with Dion Lewis injured, but that likely won’t happen in this one. Last season, Arizona’s opponents threw to the running backs just 16.2 percent of the time.
LeGarrette Blount is another back that’s touchdown dependent. The four games that he scored double-digit fantasy points in 2015 also were the only four games in which he scored a touchdown. With Arizona allowing just nine rushing touchdowns last season, it is not likely that this is a game that Blount will score 10-plus fantasy points.
New England allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs last season, but you still have to play the Cardinals’ David Johnson. From Week 13 through Week 17, the Arizona ball carrier led all running backs in fantasy points scored, as he picked up 658 yards and five touchdowns. Working in the ball carrier’s favor is the fact that New England allowed four yards per rush attempt in 2015.
New England wide receivers are not a safe play in Week 1, as the Cardinals allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to pass catchers in 2015. They held opposing No. 1 pass catchers to just 54.3 yards per game.
Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd all have friendly matchups this week. The Patriots allowed 24.6 fantasy points per game to wideouts.
Fitzgerald finished the 2015 season with a touchdown in each of his last two games. John Brown had a touchdown reception in three of his last four games. And WFloyd had just one touchdown in his seven games.
You didn’t draft Rob Gronkowski to sit him, so you have to start him in Week 1. While the Cardinals allowed just 7.9 fantasy points to tight ends last year, Gronkowski isn’t your typical tight end.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Washington Redskins
The last time Ben Roethlisberger faced the Redskins; the quarterback threw for three touchdowns. While he might not toss that many scores in this one, the Steelers’ passer is in a position to put up solid fantasy numbers in Week 1. The Redskins allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the position last season.
Kirk Cousins ended the 2015 season with a bang. He threw for 11 touchdowns over his last three games. You like that?
Last season in games without Le’Veon Bell playing, DeAngelo Williams went off. He averaged 17 fantasy points in 10 starts for the Steelers. In those games, he averaged 17.8 rush attempts per game. Use him with confidence in this one.
Avoid Matt Jones in this one. Not only is he one of the worst starting running backs in the league this year, but also the Steelers are pretty good against the run. Only five teams allowed less rushing attempts than Pittsburgh last season. When teams did rush against them, the Steelers allowed just 3.8 yards per attempt.
If you are worried about Josh Norman blanketing Antonio Brown, don’t be. The Steelers will move him around to get the upper hand. For example, Brown ran 20 percent of his routes out of the slot, while Norman covered the slot just twice in 2015.
Markus Wheaton recorded 50-plus yards in five of his last six games. That total seems likely again this weekend. Washington allowed 55.6 yards per game to opposing team’s’ second wide receiver.
Pittsburgh allowed the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers last season. Look for DeSean Jackson to be a strong play this week. Not only did Pittsburgh allow 86.9 yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers, but also the wideout saw 33 percent of his receptions go for over 20 yards, while the Steelers allowed 52 such plays.
Pierre Garcon quietly finished the 2015 season very strong, as he scored a touchdown in each of the last three games. With the Steelers allowing 74.3 yards per game to No. 2 wide receivers in 2015, Garcon should carry his momentum into 2016.
The Steelers allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to tight ends last season. Jordan Reed will look to continue his success from 2015 in Week 1 and is a must start.
Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
There is not much fantasy appeal in this Monday night matchup.
Rams’ quarterback Case Keenum scored more than 10.4 fantasy points in just one of five games last season.
In Week 17 against these very same Rams, Blaine Gabbert tossed 354 yards and one touchdown.
The one player you will want from this game is Todd Gurley. The 49ers allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs with a 23.4 average in 2015.
Carlos Hyde rushed for 4.1 yards per attempt in 2015.
Tavon Austin is the only Rams’ pass catcher to consider for Week 1, thanks to his versatility. The Rams love to find ways to get him the ball. He had 52 receptions and 52 rush attempts in 2015.
Torrey Smith is the top option in the 49ers passing attack and should warrant consideration for a flex spot. Under Chip Kelly, he could put up similar numbers to Jordan Matthews who finished with 997 yards last season.
Over the last seven games of the 2015 season, Vance McDonald snagged three touchdowns after having caught zero scores in the first half of the year.