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Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week One

Fantasy Start/Sit Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Week one of the NFL season is upon us. It is time to get your lineups in order after that awful Thursday night game. It’s amazing how a change in format can alter the value of a player (I am looking at you Nelson Agholar).  For now, we look forward to Sunday and Monday and who you should be looking to Start/Sit for week one.

I am not going to be wasting your time with obvious statements like “Start Cam Newton.” I know what you are thinking, “of course I am starting Cam Newton.” I agree, but for some reason, there are start/sit articles that feel the need to remind you. Instead, we will be focusing on players who you may have a legitimate decision to make when considering your lineup.

To help make my decisions I will utilize the data analysis tools right here on FFStatistics.com (Be sure to check out the Start/Sit Tool). So without further ado, let’s get into the Start/Sit picks for weel one for fantasy football.

FFStatistics Start/Sit for Week One

Quarterback

Start Andy Dalton @ IND

Cincinnati has an improved offensive line this season, while Andy Dalton has a healthy Tyler Eifert and John Ross to throw to in addition to A.J. Green and Joe Mixon. Now, I do not want to get carried away. It is still Andy Dalton. But still, there are reasons to be optimistic, especially in matchups such as this one vs. a weak Colts defense.

Dalton looked pretty good in the third preseason game against the Bills, completing 11-of-16 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Given the matchup against Indianapolis, I would expect him to continue this trend.

The Colts‘ pass defense improved down the stretch in 2017 but still finished as a well below-average squad. Look for A.J. Green, John Ross, and Tyler Boyd to make those inferior cornerbacks work all night. Take a look at the Target Heatmap for the Colts defense vs. the league average (charts below). Time to get beat deep? The Colts finished 30th in yards and points allowed per game last season.

Probability Andy Dalton >= 20 Fantasy Points : 20%

I expect Andy Dalton to be a top-10 Fantasy quarterback in Week One.

Sit Jimmy Garoppolo @ MIN

The Vikings allowed multiple passing touchdowns to a quarterback just once in the last 13 games in 2017. Yes, that is pretty good. Add that information with the additions of Sheldon Richardson and George Iloka, and you have a problem for most passing offenses.

Remember the Colts’ Targets Allowed chart? You are about to see something completely different. The Vikings were 2nd in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game in 2017 (192.4). They allowed well below league average targets downfield (chart below) while allowing the 2nd least amount of catches over 40 yards.

Garoppolo could a big year in 2018, but this isn’t a good matchup to trust him for week one, especially on the road. In three road games last year (Chicago, Houston and the Rams), Garoppolo averaged just 15 Fantasy PPG. By the way, in 2017, starting quarterbacks averaged just 8.9 fantasy points per game against Minnesota in U.S. Bank Stadium. Leave Jimmy on your bench this week.

Probability Jimmy Garoppolo >= 20 Fantasy Points : 10.53%

Start Blake Bortles @NYG

It’s trivia time!

Guess who was pretty good down the stretch last season? Blake Bortles. Not counting week 17, Bortles scored over 18 fantasy points in his last five games (chart below). Two of those games were on the road.

Guess who has an upgraded offense this season? Blake Bortles, who has added free agent Donte Moncrief, rookie D.J. Chark, and veteran Austin-Serfarian Jenkins. They will join Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook in a 2018 campaign that could be the best year of Bortle’s career.

Guess who is a pretty crappy pass defense? The New York Giants, who gave up the 2nd most passing yards per game (252.4). They also gave up the most passing touchdowns in the NFL (32) and the most passes of over 40 yards in the NFC (13).

Guess who plays the Giants this week? Blake Bortles. If you take a look at the violin plot (below, which also highlights the other start/sit QB’s), there is a high probability of Bortles coming through with a big game vs. the Giants. He has an over 50% chance to finish with a 20+ point performance (52.63%) according to our stat/sit tool on FFStatistics. Bortles also shows a fairly decent ceiling with a safe floor compared to other week one quarterbacks. If you roster Blake Bortles, it may be a good time to throw him in your lineup.

Probability Blake Bortles >= 20 fantasy points : 52.63%

Start Tyrod Taylor vs. PIT

This Steelers matchup plays very well to Tyrod Taylor’s strengths. Look for him and the Browns to make a statement in their home opener. Taylor also boasts a supporting cast that is easily the best career. Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Duke Johnson, and David Njoku give Taylor a ton of weapons he can use to exploit the defense.

The Steelers got torched in the homes stretch last season, ranking 29th in adjusted yards per attempt allowed. They also tend to give up big plays, allowing big yardage gains at a well above league average rate (chart below). In fact, Pittsburgh allowed the 6th most deep passing yards in the NFL. Guess what? They have not gotten any better in the offseason.

Only five QBs have more 15+ point fantasy games than Taylor over the past three years. It just so happens that the Steelers also love to give up 15+ fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks too. QB1’s fared well in the last eight games against Pittsburgh in 2017 and I would expect that continue on the road this week.

Probability Tyrod Taylor >= 20 fantasy points : 20%

Running Back

Sit Alfred Morris @ MIN

Honestly, do we even know if Alfred Morris is truly “the guy” yet? Matt Breieda can certainly take a fair share of work in this backfield. What I am saying is that this situation is way too much of an unknown to trust Morris against the Minnesota D. Last time I checked, Morris did not even know the entire playbook. Red flag. If you do not know the plays, you will not be on the field for them. Simple.

Morris should be owned in every league, and there’s certainly a chance he’s an every-week starter at some point this season. However, week one is not the time to throw him in your starting lineup, especially if you have other options.

This is an absolutely brutal matchup against a tough Viking front seven. San Francisco is a current 6.5-point underdog, which puts should paint a poor game script for Morris (who is a non-factor in the passing game). The Minnesota defense ranked first overall in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs last year.

The bottom line is that the 49ers are road underdogs to an elite defense equipped to shut down their weakness. Take a look at how RB1’s faired vs the Vikings defense down the stretch in the chart below. It’s not pretty. Sit Morris this week.

Start Carlos Hyde vs PIT 

Start Duke Johnson vs PIT (PPR)

Listen folks, this game is going to be closer than you think. The Pittsburgh Steelers do not traditionally do well on the road in afternoon games, and we all know about “Road Ben.”

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns have built themselves a pretty great interior offensive line that should offer plenty of opportunities for the running game. Add in the absence of Pittsburgh’s Ryan Shazier and we are off to the races. The Steelers defense was giving up yards and points by the boatload last year after losing Shazier, and week one is just another one of those games.

Check out the obvious weakness on the left side of the Pittsburgh defensive line in the chart below. The Steelers’ allowed over 6.7 yards-per-carry last season on the left, well above league average (4.1/4.8).

Fortunately for Hyde owners, the left side just happens to be the sweet spot of the field the Cleveland running back loves to exploit (chart below). Hyde is the obvious RB1 for the Browns coming out of the preseason, in which he looked pretty good. Also, the Browns certainly did not treat Hyde like a guy who would be splitting early-down work with rookie Nick Chubb.

The veteran running back is also in love with week one. Did you know that? No other active skill position player has more points per game in week one than Carlos Hyde. It’s a fact, Google it.

Even though Hyde is expected to handle early-down work, Duke Johnson is still the teams third-down PPR machine. He should see plenty of action in this game. After working his way into the RB1 discussion last year in PPR leagues (chart below), Johnson comes into this season looking to prove it was not a fluke. Johnson gets an obvious boost in PPR formats, as he averaged 4.6 catches per contest last season. Pittsburgh was vulnerable to backs out of the backfield last season, as well, ranking 24th in Reception Success Rate to the position after Week 8.

Look for both Cleveland running backs to make an impact in this contest.

Wide Reciever

Start Will Fuller @ NE

New England is expected to win by close to 10 points, suggesting Houston will need to rely on Fuller’s deep-threat ability this week. New England also has a long history of selling out to stop a team’s primary offensive weapon, which suggests a much tougher draw for DeAndre Hopkins, opening up targets for Fuller.  Stephon Gilmore is expected to shadow Hopkins, leaving  Eric Rowe to shadow Fuller. Gilmore is very good folks, but Rowe? Not so much.

Start Emmanuel Sanders vs. SEA

Don’t let the reputation of Seattle defense stop you in this matchup. The departures or absences of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Earl Thomas have left the Seahawks a shell of its former self.

Emmanuel Sanders is now fully healthy off an ankle injury and the addition of quarterback Case Keenum should make for a more consistent offense in 2018. Last season, Sanders saw over 21 percent of the Broncos’ targeted air yards and  17.8 percent of the team’s share of red zone targets. That percentage would have been right around the number Demaryius Thomas posted(25.4 percent) if Sanders played the same amount of games.

Sanders also saw over 43% of the targets from Case Keenum this preseason. Think Adam Theilen folks. Sanders was not being used to his full capability with past quarterbacks, but with Keenum, we should start to see a change is quality of usage (charts below). Don’t forget, Sanders was able to post 1,032 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns in 2016 with Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch at quarterback.

Adam Thielen was Keenum’s favorite target in Minnesota, not Diggs. Thielen saw 142 targets, which was 47 more than anyone else on the Minnesota Vikings. Half of those snaps came in the slot, in which he was targeted on 25% of his routes. The highest percentage in the NFL.

If you followed along this preseason, it’s obvious that Emmanuel Sanders will fill this role for Keenum in Denver. Sanders is shaping up to be a safe floor high ceiling option this season and this Seattle matchup screams “start me.”

Sit Sammy Watkins @LAC

This is more of a gut call than anything. Casey Hayward will likely shadow Watkins in weel one. After a pretty awful preseason, Watkins is an easy fade against one of the best shadow cornerbacks in the NFL.

Our start/sit tool projects the probability of a 20+ point game out of Watkins at zero percent.

Probability Sammy Watkins >= 20 : 0 %

Tight End

Start Jack Doyle vs. CIN

Jack Doyle caught 80 passes for 690 yards and four touchdowns in 2017, without Andrew Luck. In fact, last season only Travis Kelce caught more passes as a tight end than Doyle. Andrew Luck is back now and it’s important to note that he has tossed nearly ¼ of his career passes to tight ends and over 30% of his TD’s. This could be a perfect storm for Doyle/Luck.

The preseason suggests that Doyle will easily be the TE1, with Eric Ebron only coming in to spell Doyle (sorry Ebron fans). This is not say that Ebron will not be a weapon, it’s just not going to impact Doyle’s performance to any serious degree.

Luck seems to have developed a good rapport with Doyle during training camp and should be comfortable using him as a safety outlet. Luck seemed to be reluctant (or unable) to throw the deep ball in the preseason. Whether this is by design, we won’t know for sure until the real game start. However,  it is likely Luck will rely heavily on his talented tight end as a safety net, who does most of his damage in short yardage targets (see chart below). This is especially true given Luck’s past usage of his past tight ends. 

With Vontaze Burfict suspended for this game, the field may be wide open for where Doyle likes to operate. Cincinnati ranked fifth-worst in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to tight ends in 2017. Start Mr.Doyle.

Sit George Kittle @ MIN

Kittle is a popular sleeper in fantasy this season after his strong finish to 2017. However, this is not the week to start him if you can help it. The Vikings defense gave up fewer than 10 PPR points per game to tight ends at home (and just two touchdowns) in 2017.

There is also the concern about the shoulder Kittle injured early in the preseason. Although, he seems to be healthy with all systems go.

It’s very possible for Kittle to have a breakout season with a full year alongside Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers will likely be forced to throw early and often with their poor defense and second-rate running backs corps. Typically a pass-friendly game script would bode well for the second-year tight end, but not against Minnesota on the road. Sit him.

4 Comments

    • Matthew Williams

      Thanks Keaton. Thanks for reading and good luck in DFS this weekend.

      You should check out our new DFS podcast “DFStatistics”, the very first episode debuted this afternoon. Hosted by myself and joined by Scott Michaud and Peter Howard.

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