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START/BENCH: Week 1

Football season is finally here, folks.

On Thursday night, the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles will kick off the 2018 NFL season – and with it another season of fantasy football.

It’s the moment fantasy football freaks far and wide have been waiting all summer for. The moment when all the preparation and (hopefully) savvy drafting begins to pay off and the quest for a fantasy championship begins.

Given all the waiting and excitement about a new season, many fantasy owners are understandably jazzed and/or anxious about Week 1.

That nervousness and/or trepidation creates a potential Week 1 pitfall—the temptation to get cute and out-think yourself right out of the gate.

There are a couple of players widely considered weekly fantasy starters whose matchup in Week 1 is so stinky poo that they make an appearance in the “sit” portion of this column. But even then, don’t start a marginal option over them. In the first few weeks of the season, unless your depth at a position is off the proverbial chain, start the players you drafted as starters. Because, you know, you drafted them as starters.

You didn’t spend a second-round pick on Devonta Freeman so you could turn around and sit the Atlanta tailback just because the Eagles led the NFL in run defense last year.

Don’t overthink things and shoot yourself in the foot.

QUARTERBACKS

STUDS

SPOT-START OF THE WEEK

Andy Dalton, CIN (at IND)

If you’re the type who likes to stream quarterbacks, Sports Illustrated believes Dalton to be worth a look in Week 1 on the road. “The 30-year-old threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns when these two teams met in 2017, and with a healthy arsenal of weapons could produce a top-10 performance on Sunday in Indianapolis,” they said. “Rostered in just 23% of Yahoo leagues, Dalton makes a great stream this week if you’re in need. As a bonus, after a tough matchup in Week 2, the Bengals face a string of defenses soft against the quarterback position, so hanging on to the eight-year veteran could make sense through the first quarter of the season.”

I don’t know about Dalton’s long-term prospects, but it’s har to argue he’s a good spot-starter this week in Indy. The Colts ranked toward the bottom of the NFL last year and sacks, and on paper don’t look a bit better in that regard this year. Andy Dalton‘s long been a quarterback who can do damage from a clean pocket but struggles with guys in his face. He’s set up well for the former in Week 1.

ROLL THEM OUT

Kirk Cousins, MIN (vs. SFO)

With the Vikings opening at home, Cousins will no doubt be motivated to get off to a hot start to his first season with the Vikings. That should make for a strong debut against the 49ers. The Niners were 22nd in the NFL in pass defense in 2017, allowed the fifth-most touchdowns passes through the air and gave up the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in the NFC.

Philip Rivers, LAC (vs. KCC)

If you watched the Kansas City Chiefs play defense at all this preseason, then you probably noticed fairly quickly that the Kansas City Chiefs can’t so much play defense. That should set the stage for Rivers to light things up Sunday in front of 14 people at the StubHub Center, even with the Chargers’ propensity for opening the season with a clunker.

Matthew Stafford, DET (vs. NYJ)

Raise your hand if you trust the Lions to run the ball consistently in 2018. Now, if you see anyone with their hand up, laugh at them for being silly. The Lions might be a bit more balanced this year, but this is still a team that’s going to do most of its damage through the air – starting at home Monday night against a Jets team that gave up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2017.

SIT THEM DOWN

Jimmy Garoppolo, SFO (at MIN)

The San Francisco hype train already hit a major obstacle when the team lost tailback Jerick McKinnon to a season-ending ACL tear. Now comes a season opener on the road against a Vikings team that topped the NFC in pass defense and led all of the NFL with just 14 touchdown passes allowed last year. Jimmy G’s winning streak is about to come to an end.

Patrick Mahomes, KCC (at LAC)

Mahomes is going to have his moments this year to be sure—he’s been set up to succeed with a deep and talented cadre of pass-catchers. But the Chargers were a very difficult team to beat through the air in 2017. For the season the Bolts were third in the league in pass defense, and LA gave up just 17 passing touchdowns all season—tied for second-fewest in the AFC with the Jaguars.

Eli Manning, NYG (vs. JAX)

There’s hope in New York that Manning’s due for a bounce-back season thanks to the arrival of tailback Saquon Barkley and the return of wide receiver Odell Beckham. But that rebound isn’t likely to begin in Week 1 against Jacksonville’s vaunted defense. No team allowed fewer passing yards per game or fantasy points to quarterbacks last season.

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 a seven-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who was named the organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year for 2017. 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.