In the original Star Wars movie from 1977, the unlikely duo of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker joined forces alongside the Rebel Alliance to rescue the beautiful Princess Leia. Although Han preferred to run by himself, he played a core role in the Rebel Alliance’s victory over the menacing Empire and helped restore freedom to the galaxy. With the NFL season kicking off this Thursday, your team’s mission will not be to save the galaxy thankfully, but will be tasked with dominating your league through key roster additions, starting lineup strategy, and thoughtful preparation each week. Your team may be comprised of some misfits, unproven talent, dependable veterans (think Obi-Wan) and some sleepers with one goal in mind…conquer your league!
Embrace this new hope and new season. With the abundance of trades, injuries, workload question marks, coaching changes; Week 1 is generally one of the most difficult battles to prepare for. With the Miami Dolphins versus Tampa Buccaneers game being postponed along with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension withheld, prepare early! Follow the ranks as well as your gut, but also take a dive with me to discuss several key players for Week 1.
“The Dive” will deliver value to fantasy managers weekly by reviewing one player at each position (QB, RB, WR, & TE) and a defense that may be in line for a rewarding performance based on factors including opponent matchup, recent trends, workload factors, depth chart changes, history versus opponent, weather, and other variables. This will not be an article of “obvious” starts as you should generally play your studs, but rather filling in flex positions, bye weeks, and injury replacements.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
A home match up against the Cleveland Browns will taste juicer than biting into a filet mignon on Labor Day for Ben Roethlisberger owners. In 2016, Cleveland’s secondary allowed the most points to opposing quarterbacks including multiple touchdowns in every week except for two. Although Ben failed to light up the Browns in their two matchups last season, throwing Joe Haden’s direction will no longer be a factor as the defensive back recently joined the Steelers. In 2016, Ben threw eleven more touchdowns and held a QB rating almost 40 points higher at home. Start Big Ben at home this weekend!
Week 1 Projection: 250 passing yards; 2 TDs
Adrian Peterson, New Orleans Saints
If there’s one player to fear when he has a chip on his shoulder, it is Adrian Peterson. “All Day” may be more “part-time” as backup running back to Mark Ingram in New Orleans, but is healthy and will debut against his former team in Week 1 when the New Orleans Saints visit the Minnesota Vikings. Although Minnesota’s defense was tough last year, they became more vulnerable on the ground as the season progressed. The veteran running back admitted it would be great “sticking it to them” when referencing the matchup against his previous team. Look for AP to seek revenge!
Week 1 Projection: 80 total yards; 1 TD
Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49’ers
After eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards for the second time in his career, veteran wide receiver Pierre Garcon was specifically targeted for acquisition by new San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan. Although Garcon’s offense in Washington flourished last season, all signs point to him being a team leader and major offensive focal point for the new regime in San Francisco. Garcon and the 49ers will welcome the Carolina Panthers who were susceptible in the air as they surrendered the 7th most points to wide receivers last season. Start Garcon as a WR3 or low WR2 especially in PPR leagues.
Week 1 Projection: 75 receiving yards; 1 TD
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Look for veteran tight end Jason Witten to serve as Prescott’s safety blanket and serve as a key contributor on Sunday night. With 13 catches against the division rival New York Giants last season, Dallas will be forced to depend on Witten more significantly. Don’t expect any breakout games, but just another solid start from the Dallas tight end who has not missed a game since 2003!
Week 1 Projection: 50 receiving yards; 1 TD
Los Angeles Rams Defense
The Los Angeles Rams’ started 2016 well, but then took a nosedive by losing eleven of their next twelve games. 2017 will be a fresh start for the team who has a favorable home matchup against the Indianapolis Colts’ minus Andrew Luck. Although the Rams’ defense was solid in 2016, the absolute inefficiency of their offense overshadowed their success. With an improved offense that will turn the ball over less and stay on the field longer, the Rams’ defense will pressure backup quarterback Scott Tolzien the entire game and likely force a few turnovers. Stream the Rams’ defense with confidence in Week 1!
Week 1 Projection: 11 points
Good luck in Week 1!