FAVORABLE MATCHUPS WEEKS 1 AND 2
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Week 1 – @ Philadelphia Eagles
Week 2 – vs. Carolina Panthers
One of the most talented and physically gifted wide receivers on the planet, Julio Jones is a fantasy stud at the wide receiver position. His four straight seasons of at least 1,400 receiving yards have resulted in him finishing as a Top-10 wide receiver in each of those four seasons. The only thing separating him from being the best fantasy wide receiver is his touchdown total.
The Atlanta Falcons schedule in 2018 does not feature many “difficult” matchups for Jones. A Week 1 trip to Philadelphia to face the reigning Super Bowl champion Eagles is not as intimidating as you think. The Eagles strength is in their front seven, not in their secondary. In fact, the former Alabama star has a history of torching the Eagles secondary, most recently in the NFC Divisional Playoff game back in January where he hauled in nine receptions for 101 receiving yards. In a 2016 matchup with the Eagles, Jones tallied an impressive ten receptions for 135 receiving yards, and in 2012, he had five receptions for 123 receiving yards and a touchdown against them.
Speaking of career stats vs. an opponent, Jones has had tremendous success in his career vs. their divisional rival, the Carolina Panthers. In eight games vs. the Panthers since 2014, Jones has averaged 6.6 receptions, 117.6 receiving yards per game, including 15 receptions of 20+ yards in those eight games. The Falcons will play their home opener vs. the Panthers in Week 2, so expect another monster performance out of Jones in that game, as well as in Week 1 vs. the Eagles.
Week 1 – vs. San Francisco 49ers
Week 2 – @ Green Bay Packers
The theoretically acclaimed high-octane Minnesota Vikings offense will begin the 2018 season against two teams that we consider to be “average” matchups.
The San Francisco 49ers were 21st in the NFL in 2017 with 246.1 receiving yards allowed per game and were tied-24th with 27 receiving touchdowns allowed. The Green Bay Packers were worse, allowing 30 receiving touchdowns (tied-29th) and allowing an average of 252.6 receiving yards per game (24th). Another thing to keep in mind is without any game tape on the Vikings offense, the 49ers and Packers defenses will not know what to expect from the Vikings out of the gate, giving a slight advantage to the Vikings offense in these matchups.
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs had remarkable seasons in 2017. As the primary wide receivers on the Vikings, there will be plenty of targets for both of them throughout the course of the season. Both should easily finish somewhere in the WR12-24 range (WR2), but I fear neither will be able to reach WR1 numbers. Their ceilings are limited considering each of them will be involved in the passing game. If it were only Thielen or only Diggs on the Vikings, that player’s ceiling would be much higher than it is with two of them sharing targets. Could one of them have more success than the other? Possibly, but it’s more reasonable to expect both of them to split targets throughout the course of the season.
Nelson Agholor, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Week 1 – vs. Atlanta Falcons
Week 2 – @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Alshon Jeffery still on the PUP list, his status for Week 1 is up in the air and we won’t officially know if he’ll remain on the PUP list until after the Eagles final preseason game. Either way, it’s concerning for those wanting to invest in Jeffery in their drafts. Nelson Agholor on the other hand, is also dealing with a minor lower-body injury but should be fine for the start of the season.
The Eagles begin their 2018 season at home vs. the Atlanta Falcons, who were 25th in the NFL in 2017 with 362 receptions allowed to wide receivers. Their Week 2 opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, were an atrocious defensive team in 2017. They allowed 371 receptions last season, which was 32nd in the NFL. They also allowed an average of 269.1 passing yards per game, which ranked 31st in the NFL.
Currently being drafted late in the 7th round as WR41 in MFL10’s, Agholor is an excellent value pick in your draft and has a very good chance of outperforming that ADP and finishing as a WR2 this season. If Jeffery ends up on the PUP list, Agholor’s value will increase greatly and he will skyrocket up draft boards. Get him at his current 7th round price tag before it jumps up to the 5th/6th round. He is worth the investment given the potential upside he has in the Eagles’ above-average passing game.
Week 1 – @ Carolina Panthers
Week 2 – vs. New York Giants
As I mentioned above, the Dallas Cowboys Week 1 opponent, the Carolina Panthers, do not have a good secondary and are prone to giving up a bunch of receiving yards. In 2017, they were 22nd in the NFL in three categories (receptions allowed, receiving yards per game, and receiving touchdowns allowed). The Cowboys Week 2 opponent, the New York Giants, were even worse last season. They allowed a whopping 32 receiving touchdowns in 2017, which was dead-last in the NFL. They also allowed an average of 262.4 receiving yards per game, which ranked 30th.
It’s widely known that the Cowboys passing game could struggle this season with the losses of longtime players, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten. That said, someone has to catch passes for America’s team this season. Whether it’s Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, rookie Michael Gallup, or Cole Beasley, one of them is going to “shock and awe” the fantasy community in Weeks 1 and 2.
Considering the Cowboys, Panthers, and Giants do not have the greatest defenses, I expect both of those games to be high scoring affairs. Ezekiel Elliott can’t rush the ball 50 times a game. So, my money is on Terrance Williams having the most success in Weeks 1 and 2 and for the duration of the season. Since 2015, Williams has played six games against the New York Giants. In those six games, he’s accumulated 26 receptions, 333 receiving yards, one touchdown, all while competing for targets with Bryant and Witten. If you’re looking for a high-upside lottery ticket at wide receiver in the late rounds of your draft, Williams is an ideal choice.