Start’em Sit’em Week One
Finally, after months of anticipation, the 2018 NFL season is about to kick off. Despite rumors of low ratings, the NFL is still the biggest TV game in town with 44 of the top 100 highest-rated primetime telecasts of 2017 NFL games. The fuel of their success is arguably America’s favorite pastime, fantasy football. Last year, an estimated 59.3 million people were playing fantasy sports, with fantasy football the clear front-runner leading the pack.
I’m excited to be reclaiming the Start’em Sit’em article here at Gridiron Experts, a featured piece that used to be my baby back in the day. Unlike other Start/Sit articles, I plan to take a different approach this season, one that will have a heavier focus on the RB2’s, flex positions, and those that plan to stream quarterbacks and defenses in 2018. I also try to take the time to offer a weekly piece of advice based on my 20+ years of playing fantasy football.
How Do You Pick Your Starts and Sits?
I plan to use a combination of matchup tools, data, and NFL Betting Lines to pick the best start’em sit’em players to recommend to you. Here is a list of sites I’ll be relying on:
- Daily Roto – I’m using Daily Roto for Redzone data, snap counts, targets, and play calling distribution.
- The Quant Edge – TQE has a WR/CB matchup tool that’ll be perfect for WR Start/Sits.
Week One Advice: Don’t Overthink It
The first week of the NFL season always comes with its fair share of rust. Every year fantasy owners overreact to player performances and sloppy play. Be prepared for someone in your lineup to struggle week one. It doesn’t mean they’re in for a terrible season, it just means they’re not in mid-season form yet. Last year, on the first NFL Sunday of the season, the game of the week was the Seahawks at Packers. That snooze-fest ended with the Packers winning 17-9 and featured just one passing touchdown. My point is, don’t overreact to a few bad games in week one; there are bound to be a couple of duds.
Also, nothing changes more than fantasy defenses year to year. The Jaguars were without a doubt one of the stingiest units in 2017, allowing just 16.8 points per game, but every season there is a team that seems to appear out of nowhere. The Jaguars may have been the best fantasy defense last season, but they weren’t even top 20 in 2016. In fact, the Rams, Chargers, Lions, and Saints were all trusted fantasy DST’s in fantasy last season, but were bottom feeders the year before.
Player movement in free agency, coaching changes, and the addition of a new crop of rookies can shake up defensive units drastically year to year. Don’t rely too heavily on matchups versus what you remember about defensive units from last season…it’s a new year!
Let’s get to it, the following are my recommended Starts and Sits for Week one in 2018!
Start’em Sit’em Quarterbacks
Lions vs. Jets
The Jets may have a new franchise quarterback in Sam Darnold under center, but the team’s defense is a work in progress. Morris Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson are both 28-year-old veteran corners that have been in the league for 7-years now. They’ve both earned their place as starters in the Jets secondary, but neither are world beaters. With a lack of pass rush mainly from having to start 3rd round pick Nathan Shepherd at DE, I think Stafford will have the time he needs to pick apart the Jets secondary at home on Monday Night Football.
Rams vs. Raiders
Without Khalil Mack, the Raiders pass rush will be almost non-existent. Trading Mack to the Bears was not something the Raiders had planned on, and while the Black and Silver did have an above average draft class, I’m not sure starters DT P.J. Hall (2nd round pick) and DT/DE Arden Key (3rd round) will make enough of an impact along the defensive front.
The Over/Under for this game is 49 points, which is one of the highest totals of the week.
If Todd Gurley is talking about how happy he is that Mack is out of this game, you know Goff is equally thrilled.
Super Flex QB | Streaming
Ravens vs. Bills
If you’re playing in a 16 man league, super flex, or you plan to stream quarterbacks based on matchups in 2018, don’t sleep on Joe Flacco. I know he has a history of being the least attractive fantasy option available, but the Ravens are one of my dark horse teams in 2018. Flacco finally has a group of wide receivers that have all of their thumbs and 20/20 vision. I expect them to blow the doors off the Bills.
Boom or Bust
- Dak Prescott DAL at CAR
- Patrick Mahomes KC at LAC
- Matt Ryan ATL at PHI
- Tyrod Taylor CLE vs. PIT
- Derek Carr OAK vs. LAR
- Andy Dalton CIN at IND
49ers vs. Vikings
It’s challenging to make Start/Sit predictions on players heading into week one, but I do not like the 49ers chances on the road this week against the Vikings. The loss of Jerick Mckinnon makes the offense extremely one dimensional. One of the biggest reasons why Kyle Shanahan liked Mckinnon so much was his ability to contribute in the passing game. Altering your game plan a week before the season starts while facing one of the leagues toughest defenses is something to avoid.
Steelers at Cleveland
I’m not sold on the Browns offense yet, but their defense looks nasty. Even throughout their miserable two-season stretch with just one win, the Browns defense always seemed to hang around in games. There are a lot of talented starters on paper for the Browns defense including a healthy Myles Garret. Defensive Coordinator Gregg “Bountygate” Williams may very well be the definition of human scum, but he’s a solid defensive coach that should cause problems for the Steelers at home on Sunday.
The Steelers opened the season against the Browns last year, and Big Ben had 267 yards, 2TD, and 1 INT. He finished the day as QB15, and I feel like he could repeat that statline in 2018. If you have a better option, take it.
Start’em Sit’em Running Backs
Broncos vs. Seahawks
I’ve said this a few times in the past on Twitter, but Vance Joseph seems slow to react as a head coach. It’s clear that Royce Freeman is the better running back for the Denver Broncos, but Joesph has just now named Freeman the starter as of Monday. Being an Oregon Ducks fan, and watching all of Royce Freeman’s college career, I was blown away by how long it took for fantasy owners to get on board with his potential. I own Freeman in a lot of leagues and have high expectations for him in 2018.
The game matchup couldn’t be better. The legion of gloom is not to be feared anymore. Contract holdout Earl Thomas will be missed by a squad that is lacking a vocal leader.
I think Mike Clay said it best:
“Russell Wilson is the only reason we’re not talking about the Seahawks as a viable candidate to pick first overall in the 2019 draft. Before you lash out, look at the roster and keep in mind Baldwin is hurting, Wright will miss time and Thomas is holding out.” – Mike Clay Twitter
Packers vs. Bears
It’s not a dream matchup, but the Packers are playing at home on Sunday Night Football. Williams emerged week 10 of last season and had four games of 20+ carries. The concern in the fantasy community is that Ty Montgomery will eat into Williams workload, but the history of the Packers playcalling tends to favor a lead dog in their offense. Williams will be motivated to impress, in hopes the coaching staff forgets all about Aaron Jones who is currently suspended for two games. I think Williams would make a solid RB2 or Flex player this week.
Deep League Flex
Bucs at Saints
While I do believe rookie Ronald Jones could emerge down the road, he’s looked awful throughout the preseason. The Bucs 2nd round RB had just 22 yards on 28 carries this preseason. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has come out and said Peyton Barber “is our starter,” and in my opinion, it’s not been from default. Barber has looked the part and could be a decent Flex in a deep league.
- James White NE vs. HOU
- Marlon Mack IND vs. CIN
- Tarik Cohen CHI at GB
- Dion Lewis TEN at MIA
Boom or Bust
- Marshawn Lynch OAK vs. LAR
- Carlos Hyde CLE vs. PIT
- Isaiah Crowell NYJ at DET