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START/BENCH: Week 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I keep beating that poor joke to death — and yet it never gets old.

Well, for me anyway.

In the steaming pile of poo that is 2020, it really is the most wonderful time of year though. Most of the year has been one kick in the junk after another. The COVID-19 pandemic has cost over 180,000 Americans their lives and had a seismic impact on every aspect of our lives.

Along those lines, I hope each of you are well and navigating this mess as best you can. Stay safe.

In the grand scheme of things, football doesn’t really matter — at least not this year. But for a great many people, having games to watch will be the most welcome of diversions, A shred of normalcy in this most abnormal of years.

And where there’s NFL football, there’s fantasy football.

No doubt a great many fantasy managers will pour themselves into their teams like never before. They will agonize over every lineup call. Search for any and every edge.

Not like there’s much else to do.

However, this early in the season the smart play is generally the obvious play. I’m not a strict adherent to the philosophy of “Always Start Your Studs,” but this early in the year the matchup data we have is based off 2019.

Remember 2019? Yeah … me neither.

You drafted the players early you did for a reason. Provided that those players are healthy, get them on the field in Week 1.

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, let’s get after it.

QUARTERBACKS

STUDS

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (vs. Houston)

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (vs. Cleveland)

Dak Prescott, Dallas (at Los Angeles Rams)

Russell Wilson, Seattle (at Atlanta)

Deshaun Watson, Houston (at Kansas City)

SPOT-START OF THE WEEK

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco (vs. Arizona)

When last we saw the San Francisco 49ers on the field, they were blowing a fourth quarter lead in Super Bowl LIV. But despite that disappointment, 49ers general manager John Lynch told Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area that he’s excited about the 2020 season — largely because of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

“Jimmy’s come back and performed really well in camp and we’re excited,” Lynch said. “The history of quarterbacks in this system, it shows, right around now is when they start hitting stride. And we think Jimmy has already done that. So, we’re excited to see where this goes, but proud of him for the way he’s prepared himself to lead our team.”

Fantasy managers should be excited about Garoppolo in Week 1 for another reason — there’s a possibility that young wide receiver Deebo Samuel will be able to play Sunday, and even if he doesn’t, the 49ers open the season against an Arizona team that led the league last year in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.

ROLL THEM OUT

Cam Newton, New England (vs. Miami)

Newton has made such a favorable first impression that New England coach Bill Belichick named him a team captain. We may never see the 2015 iteration of Newton again, but in a Top 5 fantasy matchup Sunday with Miami, solid QB1 production is well within reach.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (at New York Giants)

With last year’s elbow injury hopefully in the rearview mirror, Roethlisberger was one of favorite value picks under center this summer. He’ll have a chance to pay immediate dividends Monday night against a Giants team that surrendered the third-most fantasy points per game to the position last season.

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia (at Washington)

The injury bug is already blowing though the City of Brotherly Love — Wentz has missed practice time with a soft-tissue injury and the Philadelphia wideouts are banged up yet again. But for one week at least, Wentz should still be a good fantasy play against a less-than-stout Washington secondary.

SIT THEM DOWN

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota (vs. Green Bay)

Cousins doesn’t generate a ton of fantasy enthusiasm when the matchup is good. This week’s is most assuredly not — Green Bay was 28th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last year. In two starts against Green Bay in 2019, Cousins averaged less than 160 passing yards a game and threw three interceptions against just two touchdowns.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants (vs. Pittsburgh)

Jones didn’t generate the hype this summer that Kyler Murray did, but he was still viewed as a second-year quarterback with considerable upside. This isn’t the week to bank on that upside, though — Pittsburgh led the league in both sacks and takeaways last season. Run, Daniel. RUN!

Kyler Murray, Arizona (at San Francisco)

Since Arizona acquired superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, there hasn’t been a more hyped signal-caller in fantasy football than Murray. But don’t be surprised if he starts slow — San Francisco gave up less than 170 passing yards a game last year and was 23rd in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an nine-time FSWA Award finalist and three-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last four years. He won the honor in 2017 and 2019. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.

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