Kids are back to school, Labor Day has passed, the weather is finally simmering down, and pennant races are heating up in Major League Baseball. Of course, these signs also point to another annual milestone, which is Week 1 of the NFL season. On Thursday, September 8th, the season kicks off with a heated rematch between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, minus Peyton Manning, of course. Other notable matchups include early divisional battles between the “ Tony Romo-less” Dallas Cowboys against the New York Giants as well as the Los Angeles Rams traveling north to visit the San Francisco 49ers.
In the fantasy football world, most leagues have completed their draft and managers have been scouring the waiver wire for prospective gems as well as plotting trades for several target players. The Dive will be a valuable article for fantasy owners to add to their weekly research as I will evaluate one QB, one RB, one WR, one TE, and one defense that may be poised for a lucrative performance based on factors including opponent matchup, recent trends, depth chart changes, history versus opponent, weather, and other variables. Week 1 can be challenging as lineups are often being adjusted by coaching staffs and we have only preseason statistics as a recent gauge of player performance. Take a dive with me and let’s take a look at a few key matchups.
Derek Carr did not suffer a sophomore slump, but rather showcased his talent in 2015 to prove that he was not a one-season wonder. Carr and the Oakland Raiders begin the season in the “Big Easy” as they visit the New Orleans Saints defense. The Saints defense ranked near the bottom in all categories including most points and passing touchdowns allowed to opposing quarterbacks. With improved chemistry with wideouts Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper, look for Carr to not only have a solid season but also excel in Week 1. If your starting quarterback is injured, has a difficult matchup, or is named Tom Brady, then consider Carr this weekend.
Week 1 Forecast: 225 passing yards; 2 passing TDs
Arian Foster spent several seasons in the coveted position as top draft pick in fantasy drafts. However, Foster has missed 23 games over the last three seasons and now is on the wrong side of 30 years old. It seems almost a guaranteed bet that he will miss time at some point in 2016. With that being said, he is the starting running as he surpassed Jay Ajayi on the depth chart. With quarterback Ryan Tannehill running a more well-rounded offense than his former Texans team, expect Foster to receive ample opportunity without having to carry the team on his back. Foster will visit the Seattle Seahawks defense which was very weak against the ground attack last season, especially against pass-catching running backs like Foster.
Week 1 Forecast: 80 total yards; 1 TD
Steve Smith Sr. is 37 years old and recovering from a double rupture of his Achilles’ tendon. Even with those factors stacked against him, he is a must-play especially in PPR leagues. Quarterback Joe Flacco and Smith Sr. developed strong chemistry despite the Baltimore Ravens’ disappointing 2015 season. In fact, the veteran wide receiver was on pace to exceed 1,000 receiving yards and 100 catches before his season-ending injury. Baltimore welcomes the Buffalo Bills in Week 1 who struggled against opposing wideouts in 2015 including allowing 9 scores to wide receivers in the second half of the season. Monitor Smith Sr.’s status, but start him if he plays.
Week 1 Forecast: 80 receiving yards; 1 TD
Dwayne Allen is expected to have a career season as the Indianapolis Colts’ starting tight end with Colby Fleener now in New Orleans and Andrew Luck finally healthy. With a struggling offensive line, Luck is expected to rely on a shorter passing game with focus on getting the ball out early. Allen should be a beneficiary of this strategy and should be in store for a strong performance in Week 1 as Indy welcomes the Detroit Lions who surrendered the 4th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Allen should be considered a TE2 with high upside for Week 1.
Week 1 Forecast: 60 receiving yards; 1 TD
Robert Griffin III may finally rebound with the Cleveland Browns this season, but the odds are still stacked against him. The Philadelphia Eagles defense make a case for a Week 1 start as the Browns visit the “The City of a Brotherly Love.” RGIII will be making his first start since 2014 and will be without top wideout Josh Gordon who is suspended. Although a few names have changed, Cleveland’s offense allowed the 2nd most points to opposing defenses in 2015 and may be in for some growing pains with their new quarterback.
Week 1 Forecast: 12 points