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RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT: Week 1

Welcome back to Fantasy Sharks as we kick off another season of “Red Light, Green Light”, your matchup guide for all of this weekend’s NFL contests. While the information conveyed below piece is not intended to be solely a start/bench list, it can be used to evaluate those decisions as well.

In each NFL Week 1 game profile below, players mentioned in the green light sections have a great matchup, and can be counted on as rock solid options for the week. Players mentioned in the yellow light sections have just an okay matchup and/or usage concerns, meaning they are passable fantasy options but don’t expect them to set the world on fire. Players in the red light sections have serious matchup/usage concerns, require lowered expectations lowered for the week, and/or should be avoided if possible. Remember, seeing your stud listed in the yellow or red light section isn’t necessarily grounds to bench them, but more of an indication they may not be the guy(s) carrying your team to victory this week.

Notes: Fantasy points allowed statistics are based off of the Fantasy Sharks default PPR scoring system. Point Spreads and Over/Unders are based off the Fantasy Sharks consensus analysis.

Los Angeles Rams at Carolina Panthers

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Rams Panthers
Quarterback 19th 11th
Running Back 20th 27th
Wide Receiver 14th 8th
Tight End 10th 7th
Defense/Special Teams 30th 22nd
Vegas Line: Rams -3
Vegas Over/Under: 50.5
green-light
  • Greg Olsen – Worry not about sophomore Ian Thomas. As long as Olsen stays healthy, he’ll command the majority of Carolina’s targets from the tight end position/
  • Brandin Cooks – The Panthers’ secondary won’t have an answer for Cooks’ speed.
yellow-light
  • Cam Newton (f00t) – Practicing in full, and appears all-systems go for what is shaping up to be a back-and-forth affair.
  • Christian McCaffrey – No doubt the engine that powers Carolina’s offense, McCaffrey remains at risk for having goal-line touchdowns vultured by Newton.
  • D.J. Moore/Curtis Samuel – These two will be shouldering the load at wideout for 2019. CBs Aqib Talib and Marcus Peterson are a formidable duo, but that didn’t stop the Rams from finishing in the upper half of the NFL in terms of most fantasy points allowed to opposing wideouts.
  • Jared Goff – Carolina ranked 24th out of 32 teams in Football Outsiders’ 2018 pass defense DVOA rankings. However, Goff may be a little sleepy in a 1pm East Coast kickoff.
  • Todd Gurley – He’s been kept on ice all preseason due to the recurring knee issue that began during the tail end of 2018, though the Rams have shown little concern over the past few months. The matchup is tough, and we don’t know how often he’ll be spelled.
  • Robert Woods/Cooper Kupp – With questions surrounding Gurley’s usage, both Woods and Kupp could be featured more in the intermediate pass game.
  • Gerald Everett – He’s had a stellar offseason per the Rams’ beat writers, so there’s a chance he can break out against a mediocre Panthers defense in terms of tight end coverage.
red-light
  • Panthers D/ST – The Rams’ offense is just too potent to consider using this group as a spot start.
  • Darrell Henderson/Malcolm Brown – Despite being the shiny new toy in the Rams’ offense, Henderson did not look comfortable during the preseason. Brown may end up being used more than expected, so this is ultimately a shy-away situation for now.
  • Rams D/ST – Playing across the country in a 1pm EST matchup against a Panthers’ offense that limited opponents to the 6th-fewest sacks in 2018.

Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Redskins Eagles
Quarterback 14th 9th
Running Back 16th 14th
Wide Receiver 11th 3rd
Tight End 22nd 28th
Defense/Special Teams 5th 20th
Vegas Line: Eagles -8.5
Vegas Over/Under: 46
green-light
  • Zach Ertz – He’s surpassed 80 receiving yards in four of list five encounters with the Washington defense.
  • Eagles D/ST – Washington looks like they’ll have one of the least potent offenses in the NFL. Things could get ugly in a hurry for the visitor.
yellow-light
  • Jordan Howard/Miles Sanders – This backfield is going to be tricky, as its currently unclear as to how and to whom the Eagles plan to divvy up their backfield load. Both Howard and Sanders should each be afforded plenty of touches in this cupcake matchup though.
red-light
  • Dallas Goedert (calf) – He’s been sidelined the past few weeks, so it’s doubtful the Eagles hand him a full workload even if the young tight end is active.
  • DeSean Jackson (broken finger) – His ability to catch the football maybe compromised initially considering Jackson suffered the injury less than two weeks ago, so a conservative approach may be best.
  • All Washington Skill Players – This team didn’t do much during the preseason do convince the fantasy world that their offense would be scoring many points in 2019. Derrius Guice had a successful preseason debut a few weeks ago, but will be sharing the load with Adrian Peterson to start the year, and both face an Eagles rush defense that allowed the fifth-fewest yards on the ground to opposing backfields last season. Case Keenum‘s presence under center likely renders Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn as less-than-desirable lineup options. Jordan Reed (concussion) is not a lock to suit up, and his absence would open the door for 35-year-old Vernon Davis to start at tight end. Update: Guice is reportedly in line to start with Peterson a possible healthy scratch. Either way, I’m not bullish on Guice putting up usable numbers in what projects as a blowout loss.

Buffalo Bills at New York Jets

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Bills Jets
Quarterback 32nd 6th
Running Back 7th 21st
Wide Receiver 29th 1st
Tight End 32nd 31st
Defense/Special Teams 2nd 4th
Vegas Line: Jets -3.5
Vegas Over/Under: 38.5
green-light
  • John Brown – His proficiency in the deep passing game fits perfectly with Josh Allen’s ability to heave the ball downfield.
  • Jets and Bills D/STs – Low scoring contest featuring two young quarterbacks who were quite turnover prone last season.
yellow-light
  • Le’Veon Bell – A report surfaced in late August that Bell could operate in a timeshare with Ty Montgomery to start off the year. Only the Cardinals allowed more touchdowns to running backs in 2018.
  • Josh Allen – Rushed for 101 yards and a score in his lone 2018 appearance versus the Jets. While it’s not likely Allen puts up numbers like that on the ground again, he should be better equipped to take advantage of the opposition’s 9th-worst pass defense (in terms of yards allowed) from a season ago.
red-light
  • Sam Darnold – Buffalo had the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense last season, with minimal off-season tinkering.
  • Jamison Crowder – May see some of the targets that would otherwise have gone to Herndon, but there aren’t really any holes in this Buffalo pass defense.
  • Devin Singletary/Frank Gore/T.J. Yeldon – Buffalo announced earlier this week they would run a three-man committee at running back to start the season. Singletary was a sexy sleeper candidate all offseason, but the 36-year old Gore has proven time-and-time again that he has no interest in fading into the background. Yeldon figures to be the primary guy on passing downs.

Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Falcons Vikings
Quarterback 1st 31st
Running Back 4th 22nd
Wide Receiver 6th 31st
Tight End 20th 25th
Defense/Special Teams 24th 15th
Vegas Line: Vikings -4
Vegas Over/Under: 47.5
green-light
  • Dalvin Cook – Nearly two years removed from ACL surgery, Cook looked healthy and spry in brief preseason action. Expect a steady dose of the ground game as the Vikings look to keep the ball away from Atlanta’s juggernaut offense.
  • Adam Thielen – He’ll be the focal point of the Vikings’ pass game against a weak group of defensive backs with Stefon Diggs (hamstring) ailing.
yellow-light
  • Kirk Cousins – The Falcons’ abominable pass defense from 2018 will be aided by the healthy returns of starting safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Reports surfaced during the offseason of the Vikings wanting to run a more balanced offense.
  • Kyle Rudolph – Atlanta sits right in the middle of Football Outsiders’ 2018 tight end defense DVOA rankings.
red-light
  • Stefon Diggs (hamstring) – Notorious for under-performing in contests where he’s on that week’s injury report. Considering Diggs’ injury likely occurred mid-week, he’s not certain to be 100 percent.
  • Matt Ryan – Minnesota allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards and the fewest passing touchdowns last season.
  • Julio Jones (foot) – May show some rust after sitting out all preseason while nursing a foot injury, and the Vikings boast one of the NFL’s most formidable secondaries.
  • Calvin Ridley – Minnesota allowed just the second-fewest receiving yards per game to opposing no. 2 wideouts in 2018 (per Football Outsiders).
  • Austin Hooper – Became an established safety valve over the middle of the field last season, but will likely be held in check by the Vikings’ athletic LB corps.
  • Devonta Freeman – Facing a stout rush defense, and it remains to be seen if the Falcons want to get the other backs more involved this season in an attempt to keep Freeman fresher.

Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins

Tale of the Tape – Ranks for Most 2018 Fantasy Points Allowed Per Game
Position Ravens Dolphins
Quarterback 28th 7th
Running Back 31st 5th
Wide Receiver 26th 21st
Tight End 12th 15th
Defense/Special Teams 26th 3rd
Vegas Line: Ravens -4
Vegas Over/Under: 37
green-light
  • Lamar Jackson – While the Ravens’ passing attack may still be work in progress, it won’t matter against a Miami defense that won’t be able to contain Jackson’s rushing ability.
  • Mark Ingram – Ground and pound should be the name of the game for the Ravens this week.
  • Ravens D/ST – Miami is in full tank mode, having sold off anything not nailed down. The absence of starting LT Laremy Tunsil will be a boon for Baltimore’s pass rush.
yellow-light
  • Justice Hill – He could bust a long run or two against the Dolphins’ gutted defense while spelling Ingram.
  • Mike Gesicki – This might be a reach considering Gesicki struggled during training camp, and was at one point listed as fourth on Miami’s tight end depth chart. However, somebody will need to be targeted in the Dolphins’ pass game, and Baltimore allowed the 9th-most receiving yards to tight ends in 2018.
red-light
  • Mark Andrews – Heaped upon with offseason raves, however, how many looks will fellow second-year tight end (and 2018 first-round pick) Hayden Hurst steal?
  • Ravens Wide Receivers – All of Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Miles Boykin, and Chris Moore should be in the mix to start, but a low scoring and potentially one-sided affair such as this one won’t likely lend itself for one of them to emerge.
  • Dolphins Wide Receivers – Albert Wilson (hip) has barely practiced during the offseason, while DeVante Parker has been a perennial underachiever since entering the NFL in 2015. Baltimore allowed the 6th-fewest receiving yards to opposing wideouts in 2018.

About Will Weiler

An NFL Red Zone addict and all-around data nerd, I've been obsessed with the NFL and stats ever since I started playing the virtual pigskin game in 2005.