FFStatistics Starts ‘Em/Sit ‘Em: Week 1
Here we are again, Week 1 of the NFL season. The end of yet another offseason where we found ourselves thirsting for football, overreacting to any and all news, taking apart in too many drafts, and taking victory laps despite no actual football being played. The wait is over. We now get to see how good we are, analysts and fans alike, at drafting, picking sleepers, picking hills to die one, etc. Now the games matter, and we couldn’t be more excited.
We at FFStatistics are here to help you win leagues. We pride ourselves on our statistics and analysis and aim to help you make the decisions to help you win week in and week out. FFStatistics will be providing all of the analysis you need, from the waiver wire, to start/sit decisions, to DFS, and more!
Now that all of that is out of the way, let’s get to why you are really here: starts and sits. Week 1 is the most difficult week of the season in trying to determine who to start and sit. We have last years’ data to work with, but there have been a lot of changes in the offseason. So stick with me as we figure this out together.
Without further ado, here are you starts and sits for Week 1 of the 2019 season!
Nick Foles vs. Kansas City Chiefs
One of the things that did not change this offseason is that the Chiefs offense is still arguably the most potent in the league. Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, Damien Williams, and company are all back for 2018’s highest-scoring offense. This likely will lead to a high scoring affair, even if it is against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The current over/under of 52.5 is the second-highest of Week 1.
I talked about the Nick Foles/John DeFilippo relationship here. Essentially what it says is the DeFilippo’s offense is a little more pass-heavy than we have seen from the Jaguars and that will result in the Foles throwing a lot this season.
Foles will need to throw to keep up with the Chiefs in Week 1. He is a start.
Jimmy Garoppolo @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jimmy G has not been good this preseason. Really, he has been mediocre since he was traded to San Francisco. In fact, I would not be surprised if he lost his job this season. Regardless, Jimmy G and the 49ers have a fantastic matchup in Week 1.
The 49ers draw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1. The over/under for this game is on the high end at 49 points, so there should be plenty of scoring. The Bucs defense was abysmal last season ranking 30th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA against the run and 31st against the pass. They also gave up the fifth-most points to quarterbacks in 2018. There really was not any significant upgrades on the defensive side of the ball this offseason either.
While Jimmy G is a mediocre quarterback, he draws arguably the best Week 1 matchup in the league. Start him with relative confidence this week.
Matt Stafford @ Arizona Cardinals
Stafford had a rough 2018. It was his worst since his rookie season, throwing for fewer than 4,000 yards for the first time since 2011. This offseason we found out that Stafford was playing with fractures in his back. Previous to 2018, Stafford had finished as a top-10 QB in 6-of-7 seasons. He should positively regress in 2019.
The bounce-back starts with the Arizona Cardinals. Last season, the Cardinals were extremely good against the pass, holding opposing QBs to the fourth-fewest fantasy points in the league. They ranked eighth in DVOA against the pass. One would think you would want to avoid matchups against the Cardinals. However, the Cardinals will be without their two starting cornerbacks in Week 1. Patrick Peterson was suspended the first six games for PEDs. Robert Alford was placed on IR with a broken leg. The Cardinals will be starting a journeyman and a rookie at cornerback for the first six weeks of 2019.
The Cardinals offense, though disappointing in the preseason, looks to be high-flying with Kliff Kingsbury bringing the Air Raid offense to the NFL. If this is the case, the Lions will likely have to throw to keep up. With less-than-ideal cornerbacks and the potential for this game to be relatively high scoring, start Stafford win Week 1.
Derek Carr vs. Denver Broncos
Carr struggled against the Denver Broncos in 2018, with 455 yards and 1 TD in two games. The Broncos defense only got better in the 2019 offseason. The biggest change was the Broncos hired Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as head coach. He, in turn, brought over his defensive backs coach, Ed Donatell, to be the Broncos defensive coordinator. The pair led the number one overall defense and number one pass defense in the league, according to DVOA. The Broncos added Bryce Callahan, who ranked as the eighth-highest graded cornerback according to PFF and Kareem Jackson, ranked as the 14th-highest-rated cornerback, to the third-highest ranked corner in Chris Harris. The Broncos ranked fourth in DVOA against the pass last season. They gave up the 10th-fewest points to QBs in 2018.
Facing a tougher defense than he did in 2018, Carr will struggle to open the 2019 season. Sit him.
Sam Darnold vs. Buffalo Bills
Darnold came on in the last four weeks of 2018, finishing as the QB13 in the last four weeks of the season. His worst game in that four-game stretch was against the Buffalo Bills, throwing for 170 yards, 1 TD, and 1 interception.
The Bills had arguably the best defense in the league last season. They ranked second overall in DVOA and second against the pass. They also gave up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in the league. Nothing has significantly changed from 2018 to 2019 on the defensive side of the ball.
The over/under for this game is the second-lowest in Week 1. It will likely be low scoring, which is not good for any quarterback. Facing a good defense in a low scoring game, sit Darnold in Week 1.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Baltimore Ravens
Ryan Fitz”Magic” always seems to land on his feet somewhere. In 2019, it’s as the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. Unfortunately, this means that he is the bridge QB for a team that is rebuilding. Last year, in his eight games started, Fitzpatrick ranked as the QB5 in points per game. However, that was with a lot better offense around him.
Fitzpatrick goes into Week 1 with a relatively poor supporting cast against a good defense. The Baltimore Ravens ranked third overall in DVOA and third against the pass. They gave up the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last season as well. The Ravens also added a premiere safety in Earl Thomas.
The Ravens want to control the clock on offense as well. This means fewer possessions for both teams and a lower-scoring game. The over/under for this game is the lowest for Week 1. Low scoring, fewer chances to throw, and facing a great passing defense means you should sit Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1.
Mark Ingram @ Miami Dolphins
Mark Ingram landed in a role that could end up being extremely productive in 2019. The Ravens, with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, had the highest run rate last season, running the ball 61% of the time according to Sharp Football Stats. While that likely is not something you can expect going forward, the point still stands that the Ravens will be a run-heavy team in 2019.
Ingram and the Ravens could not have asked for a better matchup to start 2019. The Dolphins are rebuilding on both sides of the ball. Last season they ranked 25th in defensive DVOA overall and 24th against the run. They also allowed the third-most yards and fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.
The over/under for this game is 37 points, the lowest in Week 1. This will likely be a defensive slog, but the Ravens will run the ball a ton. Feel safe to start Ingram in Week 1.
Tevin Coleman @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tevin Coleman has been relatively effective throughout his career. His career yards per carry is 4.43. He has averaged 40 targets and 30 receptions in the past three seasons. Despite being a relative disappointment last season, Coleman has finished as an RB2 in each of the last three seasons.
Now Coleman finds himself as the RB1 for the San Francisco 49ers under a familiar face in Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was Coleman’s offensive coordinator in 2016 when Coleman finished as the RB18. While Shanahan does like to split touches in the backfield, RB1s have averaged 214 carries and 48 targets. Coleman should get plenty of opportunities.
Coleman faces a poor Buccaneers defense in Week 1. Like their pass defense mentioned above, the Bucs run defense was also bad last season. They ranked 31st in the league in DVOA against the run. They allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs in 2018. While there has been some turnover, like the signing of Ndamukong Suh and drafting linebacker Devin White, but this defense has a similar makeup to last season.
The over/under, also mentioned above, is 49 points. This will be a relatively high scoring game and Coleman will get plenty of opportunities. Start him.
Chris Carson vs. Cincinnati Bengals
We all know about the Seahawks offense. They ranked last, or first depending on how you look at it, in run percentage. Despite missing two games, Chris Carson ran the ball 247 for 1,151 yards, the fifth-most in 2018. It’s safe to say that the Seahawks will continue to run under offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, whose RB1s have average 249 carries a season.
The Seahawks face one of the worse defenses in the league in Week 1. The Bengals were the 28th ranked overall defense according to DVOA and 26th against the run. They also struggled running backs in the passing game, ranking 31st. This largely has to do with their linebackers or lack thereof. The Bengals allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. They allowed the fourth-most yards on the ground and through the air.
We know that Carson is going to get a lot of work on the ground. On top of that, news out of training camp is that Carson will be more involved in the passing game. If that is the case, Carson is in for a huge season and a huge Week 1. Start him.
Aaron Jones @ Chicago Bears
Ahhh the dreaded Bears matchup. This one is pretty simple. The Bears ranked as the best defense in the league according to DVOA. They ranked third in total yards allowed and first in points. Against the run, they ranked second in DVOA. They allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs. They only allowed seven double-digit fantasy games to RBs last season. While they lost their defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach, the Bears have similar personnel to what they had in 2019. While they may regress a bit, this is still one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
Aaron Jones finds himself in a relatively murky situation after finally taking over as the lead back under Mike McCarthy. New head coach Matt LaFleur announced in February that he was planning to use a committee approach. Now, anyone who has actually watched the Packers knows that Jones is far and away the most talented running back. However, he struggled to gain traction under Mike McCarthy and seems to be in a similar situation under LaFleur. LaFleur has a recent history of using a committee approach with Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis in 2018. Henry proved to be the more talented running back in 2018, but it was not until halfway through the season that he actually garnered more touches.
Facing a vaunted Bears defense on the road in a relatively unknown situation, avoid Aaron Jones this week.
Kenyan Drake/Kalen Ballage vs. Baltimore Ravens
Can anyone tell me what is actually going on in Miami? Does anyone really want any part of this backfield? Regardless of who is the starter, this is not the matchup you want to start either Drake or Ballage.
First and foremost, this is going to be a relatively low scoring game. The over/under is the lowest of Week 1 at 37 points. You will point out, “But you have Mark Ingram as a starter!” I do. It is because Ingram has a great matchup on a run-first team. No such luck for Drake and Ballage. We don’t really know what this teams offense will look like with a rookie play-caller in Chad O’Shea. They will likely have to air it out more this season because they will be falling behind early and often.
The Ravens had a dominant defense in 2018 ranking third in overall defensive DVOA. They ranked sixth against the run and first in coverage against running backs. In terms of fantasy, the Ravens tied for the fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs. While the Ravens have seen some turnover with star inside linebacker CJ Mosley signing with the New York Jets and Eric Weddle moving on to the Los Angeles Rams. Young, capable linebackers Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor will step into Mosley’s shoes and the signing of Earl Thomas is probably an upgrade over Weddle.
The Ravens defense looks to be as good as last season. The Dolphins are an unknown at this point. Avoid the Dolphins backfield this week.
Josh Jacobs vs. Denver Broncos
This might be a bit of a homer pick on my end being a Broncos fan, but there are legitimate reasons as to why I do not like the Raiders matchup this week. First, Jacobs is a rookie running back in his first real NFL game. Second, the Broncos run defense was better than what many think last season. Also, the defense got a few upgrades this offseason that look to push them back into the elite category in 2019.
Last season, outside of a three-game stretch that they allowed 548 rushing yards, including two 200-yard rushers, and over 20 fantasy points to three RBs, the Broncos were actually good against the run. Outside of those three games, they allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. As was mentioned, the Broncos upgraded their defense. Mainly, they hired Vic Fangio as their head coach and Ed Donatell as their defensive coordinator. These two were the masterminds behind the best defense in the league in the Chicago Bears in 2018. They also got an upgrade at linebacker with Josey Jewell replacing the oft-injured Brandon Marshall. Finally, they upgraded their secondary the additions of Kareem Jackson at safety and Bryce Callahan and cornerback.
A rookie RB in his first game against an upgraded defense in a division rivalry. No thanks, I’ll look elsewhere.
Marquise Goodwin @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A lot of people seem to have forgotten Marquise Goodwin. Up until this week, Goodwin was the only known starting receiver for the 49ers. They seem to forget that Goodwin had a rapport with Jimmy G in 2017 to the tune of a WR9 finish in the final five weeks of the 2017 season. Unfortunately, Goodwin struggled with injuries and off-field issues and had a disappointing season in 2018.
Goodwin starts a fresh season on the right foot against the Bucs. As was mentioned above on Jimmy Garopollo as a start, the Bucs struggled against the pass last season. Against WR1s and WR2s, the Bucs ranked 29th in coverage. They gave up the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2018. That secondary did not get any better this offseason.
The over/under on this game is 49. So points will be scored. Against a poor secondary and with rapport with his quarterback, Goodwin is a sneaky start in Week 1. O, and Jimmy G and Goodwin are a sneaky stack in DFS.
Marvin Jones @ Arizona Cardinals
This seems to be a pattern. Start a quarterback, start his wide receiver. It’s almost as if pass defense affects the quarterbacks and wide receivers. Novel concept, huh? Anyway, Marvin Jones makes Matt Stafford better. Since Jones joined the Lions in 2016, Stafford has averaged twice as many TDs and over 50 more yards per game. With Jones, he is the QB14. Without Jones, he is the QB22.
The Cardinals are without there top two cornerbacks in Patrick Peterson and Robert Alford. A normally stingy passing defense is not so stingy without those two. They are starting a journeyman and a rookie. The Lions will look to take advantage in Week 1. Thus, start Marvin Jones.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Detroit Lions
Larry Fitzgerald just keeps on going. In his mid-30s, Fitz continues to be productive, produce 734 yards and six TDs last season, and 1,156 (!) yards and six TDs in 2017. He is for all intents and purpose, the Cardinals WR1.
The Cardinals face a Detroit defense that was not good against the pass last seasons, ranking 31st in DVOA. In coverage, they ranked 32nd, 27th, and 32nd against wide receivers.
The over/under of this games is 49. This means it will be relatively high scoring. With the Cardinals missing their two top cornerbacks, the Lions will likely be throwing. The Cardinals will need to throw to catch up as well as prove that the Air Raid offense works. Fitz will get plenty of work. Start him.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling @ Chicago Bears
One of the ongoing debates this offseason was who would be the WR2 for the Green Bay Packers. The two main candidates were Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison. MVS is currently leading, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Allison will have something to say about it.
Regardless, this is not a great matchup for the Packers. The Bears ranked first overall in 2018 in DVOA against the pass. In coverage, they ranked first, third, and fourth against wide receivers. They allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points.
In his only game against the Bears last season, MVS caught 1-of-2 targets for 12 yards. While you can’t base his potential off of that one game, that still does not look great. Until the Bears prove they are not the same defense they were in 2018, I am avoiding any secondary and tertiary matchups against the Bears. Sit MVS in Week 1.
Sterling Shepard @ Dallas Cowboys
The argument is “New York Giants, DUH!” But I will not be lazy. The Giants look extremely rough this season. An old Eli Manning, a poor offensive line, no true WR1 (no offense to Shepard), and the list keeps going. Shepard did not start his season off great either, breaking his thumb. He then proceeded to practice with it…
The Cowboys had a fantastic season on the defensive side of the ball. They ranked ninth overall in DVOA. Against wide receivers, the Cowboys allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points.
Shepard struggled against the Cowboys last season with 91 total yards in two games. With a bad offense on paper against a good defense, avoid Shepard in Week 1.
Calvin Ridley @ Minnesota Vikings
Calvin Ridley had a great rookie campaign, if not inconsistent. Ridley finished as the WR21 in fantasy, firmly cementing him as the WR2 in Atalanta. Ridley should follow up a fantastic rookie season with another spectacular season in 2019. It just won’t start well in Week 1.
The Minnesota Vikings finished the 2018 season ranked fourth in overall defensive DVOA. They ranked fourth against the pass. Against wide receivers in coverage, the Vikings ranked third, sixth, and ninth in DVOA. Finally, The Vikings allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in 2018.
While Ridley is a talented WR, he will struggle in Week 1 against a good Vikings secondary. Sit him.
Noah Fant @ Oakland Raiders
Rookie tight ends generally do not fare well in the NFL. Since 2000, only seven rookie tight ends have finished as a fantasy TE1 out of 329. Only 42 have finished as a TE2.
Noah Fant may be one of the few successful rookie TEs. He starts his career off with a prime matchup on Monday Night Football. The Raiders struggled against the pass, finishing dead last in the league in DVOA. Against tight ends, they were also last in the league in coverage DVOA. The Raiders allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2018.
Fant should be heavily involved in his rookie season. It starts in Week 1. Start him.
Will Dissly vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Will Dissly came out of nowhere in 2018. In the first two games, Dissly produced 19.5 and 13.2 fantasy points despite being a “blocking” tight end. Unfortunately, Dissly’s season ended with a torn patella tendon in Week 4. Regardless, it seems that Dissly is the starting TE for the Seahawks. He could also be in for a significant role early in 2019 with David Moore injuring his shoulder and DK Metcalf being a rookie.
Dissly and the Seahawks face a bad Cincinnati Bengals defense in Week 1. The Bengals ranked 25th in DVOA against the pass. They allowed the third-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2018.
Dissly is just coming back from injury. Luckily he faces a porous Bengals defense. Start him in Week 1.
Jared Cook vs. Houston Texans
The New Orleans Saints are in dire need of a third pass-catcher. Jared Cook may be able to fill that role. Cook had been a relative disappointment until he went to the Raiders. With the Raiders, Cook produced the two best seasons of his career. The Saints hope that he can repeat those performances.
Cook can get his time in New Orleans started off on the right foot in Week 1. The Texans were extremely good against the run last season, not so much against the pass. They ranked 23rd in DVOA against tight ends in coverage last season. Giving the second-most yards to tight ends in 2018, the Texans allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends.
The over/under for this game is 52.5, the highest of Week 1. Both defenses are very good against the run, so both teams will need to throw. A high scoring affair with a lot of throwing means plenty of opportunity for Jared Cook. Start him.
David Njoku vs. Tennessee Titans
Many were hopeful that David Njoku would “breakout” in his third season, though he did finish as the TE9 in 2018. It became more difficult with the trade for Odell Beckham Jr., moving Njoku down the pecking order. He may get his chances in 2019, but Njoku’s path to targets became more cluttered.
Njoku’s Week 1 matchup doesn’t help either. The Titans ranked 11th in DVOA in coverage of tight ends in 2018. They allowed seventh-fewest yards and second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2018 as well.
The Browns may go up early in this one, resulting in a big day for Chubb. With fewer targets against a defense that has done well against tight ends, sit Njoku in Week 1.
Eric Ebron @ Los Angeles Chargers
A lot of people have been screaming regression when it comes to Eric Ebron. After all, Ebron had the 16th-highest TD% for TEs with 50 or more targets since 2000. Not to mention that produced while not having to compete with Jack Doyle for targets nor a legitimate WR2. There are now more viable pass-catcher with Doyle and wide receiver Deon Cain returning to health, the signing of Devin Funchess, and the drafting of Parris Campbell. The Cols also lost Andrew Luck to an unexpected retirement and now have Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback.
On top of all of that, Ebron’s Week 1 matchup is not ideal. The Chargers ranked 10th in DVOA against the pass. They ranked first overall in coverage of tight ends. Last season, the Chargers allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
With more competition for targets and a worse quarterback situation going up against a good defense against tight ends, Ebron is a sit in Week 1.
Jimmy Graham @ Chicago Bears
Jimmy Graham was extremely underrated in 2018. While he was a “disappointment” in terms of touchdowns, Graham still finished as a TE1. He also garnered a quiet 91 targets, which was the sixth-most in 2018 among tight ends. Graham will have a good season in 2019, it just does not start off well in Week 1.
Not surprisingly, the Bears were good against TEs in 2018 as well. I have already mentioned how good they were against the pass. Against tight ends in coverage, the Bears ranked third in DVOA. They ranked 10th in terms of fantasy points allowed.
And there you have it. Your Week 1 starts and sits. Hopefully, you found this information helpful. I will continue to provide you with starts and sits all season. I will also follow up with a transparency thread every week to earn your trust. Good luck this season and in Week 1. We will see you next week.