Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 1
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another.
We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Without further ado, let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Ben Roethlisberger (at New York): Last year, the New York Giants allowed 19.9 or more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in all but four of their contests -- they allowed at least 21.7 in eight of those outings. They surrendered multiple passing touchdowns nine times, 275-plus passing yards nine times, and a league-high six rushing touchdowns to the position. The additions of James Bradberry, Xavier McKinney, and Blake Martinez are a start, but that's nowhere near enough to prevent us from targeting this defense. In 2018, Big Ben averaged 21.7 fantasy points on the road, proving that his ugly home/road splits were a thing of the past. The Pittsburgh Steelers have the fifth-highest implied total on the slate, and rostering Big Ben is a great way to get a piece of that action.
Cam Newton (vs. Miami): Starting Cam in his first appearance as a member of the New England Patriots is a risk, but luckily, he gets a matchup with the Miami Dolphins to start the season. Make no mistake, Miami won't be the cakewalk matchup they were last year, but expecting them to take a giant leap from the defense that allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks is a big ask. Seven passers scored at least 23.4 fantasy points against Miami last season. It's not like Newton's been a fantasy scrub for half a decade -- in 2018, Cam totaled at least 18 fantasy points in 11 of his first 12 games, and 21-plus in eight of those contests.
Jimmy Garoppolo (vs. Arizona): Jimmy G had three games with more than 28 fantasy points last season, and two of them came against the Arizona Cardinals. In total, he posted 741 passing yards, 8 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions over those two contests. Garoppolo wasn't the only one to feast on Arizona's secondary last year -- the Cards allowed at least 20.3 fantasy points 10 times. The San Francisco 49ers have the fourth-highest implied total for the week, making Jimmy a premiere streaming option.
Teddy Bridgewater (vs. Las Vegas): In five starts last year, Teddy had two games with 280-plus passing yards and three games with multiple passing touchdowns. Bridgewater had performances of 16.3, 19.9, and 28.3 fantasy points among those five starts. A revamped linebacker corps will certainly help the Las Vegas Raiders' defense take a step forward, but the secondary that allowed 4,355 passing yards and 33 scores is still lacking. This game currently has a total of 47.5, which doesn't hurt Bridgewater's prospects.
Russell Wilson (at Atlanta): On paper, it appears as if Russ has one of the best matchups on the slate. After all, we don't often associate the Falcons with defensive prowess. However, this might not be the blowup spot that some think it is. Last season, Wilson averaged 17.7 fantasy points on the road (compared to 23.6 at home), and he failed to reach 20.0 fantasy points in any of his last five road starts of the year -- including a 15.7-point performance in Atlanta.
Aaron Rodgers (at Minnesota): Gone are the days where Rodgers is a must-start no matter the matchup -- and this is a contest in which you definitely don't want to start him. In his last two seasons against the Minnesota Vikings (four games), Rodgers has averaged 226 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, and 1.3 rushing yards -- those have resulted in fantasy outputs of 16.0, 11.9, 14.4, and 7.3. Not great, Bob! In total, only four passers exceeded 17.9 fantasy points against the Vikings last year.
Daniel Jones (vs. Pittsburgh): Danny Dimes had an average draft position (ADP) inside the top 15 at his position this year, but for those who drafted him, I'd wait a week before trotting him out into your lineups. After acquiring Minkah Fitzpatrick, the Pittsburgh Steelers were a hellish matchup for opposing quarterbacks. In those 14 games, Pittsburgh surrendered per game averages of just 198.7 passing yards and 1.2 passing scores while recording a whopping 19 interceptions during that stretch. Only one passer surpassed 17.4 fantasy points during those 14 games.
David Johnson (at Kansas City): It won't take long to find out just how much DJ has left in the tank. In the very first game of the 2020 NFL season, Johnson will take on the Kansas City Chiefs and their 2019 28th-ranked rushing defense. Last year, Kansas City allowed at least 12.4 fantasy points to 10 different running backs...at home. Seven opposing backs managed more than 100 total yards at Arrowhead last year, and they allowed 11 scores to the position on their home turf. Johnson should get plenty of volume in this one, and thus, plenty of fantasy production.
Jonathan Taylor (at Jacksonville): I have a feeling that "start everyone against the Jacksonville Jaguars" will become a theme in 2020. Taylor is certainly no exception. Jacksonville allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing backs in 2019, and it's going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. A whopping 17 backs score double-digit fantasy points against the Jags last year, with 10 of them posting 16.0 or more. Seven of the 17 backs to record at least 10.0 fantasy points did so on 15 or fewer touches, so Taylor can feast even if he has a limited workload. The Colts have the seventh-highest implied total on the slate and are favorited by more than a touchdown -- that's an ideal combination.
Chris Thompson (vs. Indianapolis): We don't know much about Jacksonville's running back situation, but what we do (seem to) know is that Thompson is penciled in as their pass-catching back. As far as matchups go, it doesn't get much better than this for Thompson. The Indianapolis Colts allowed the most receptions to running backs last season, and he should see plenty of work with his team being 7.5-point dogs. Eight different backs caught at least five passes against this defense last season, which makes Thompson a solid streamer in PPR formats.
Boston Scott (at Washington): While it doesn't look like the Philadelphia Eagles are too concerned about the health of Miles Sanders, it is possible that they could look to avoid giving him a full workload right out of the gate. Scott averaged 5.8 receptions in the final four games of the season last year while seeing at least 6 carries in three of those contests. Against what should be a terrible Washington defense, he has a chance to be a great streamer.
Derrick Henry (at Denver): Let me be very clear -- I am not suggesting that you sit Henry for someone like Chris Thompson or Boston Scott. However, at the very least, you need to temper expectations for the 2019 leading rusher. The Denver Broncos already had Pro Football Focus' top interior run defender in Mike Purcell, and now they added Jurrell Casey, last year's 14th-ranked interior run stuffer, to the mix. Denver also Shelby Harris, another top-50 run defender, on the line. In his lone matchup with the Broncos last year, Henry clawed his way to just 28 rushing yards on 15 carries, while also managing 1 reception for 5 yards -- he failed to score. This is one of those rare matchups with Henry where his floor is as low as his ceiling is high.
Le'Veon Bell (at Buffalo): If having Adam Gase as a head coach was enough, the addition of 83-year-old Frank Gore could be a thorn in Bell's side for the entire 2020 season. Those who drafted Bell in fantasy could be in for a disheartening opening week in what could be a very difficult matchup in the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo was mid-tier against the run last year, but they added Quinton Jefferson and Vernon Butler to beef up their defensive front. The New York Jets also have the lowest implied total on the slate. It might be wise to keep Bell on your bench to begin the season.
Jordan Howard and Matt Breida (at New England): This is as much about the situation in Miami's backfield as it is the matchup, which is far from a cakewalk. The Dolphins look as if they'll be splitting the backfield touches between Howard and Breida, which is never fun for fantasy purposed. On top of that, they face a Patriots defense that allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing backfields last season. New England doesn't project to be as good defensively in 2020, but I can't imagine that they'll become a "gimme" matchup.
Kenny Golladay (vs. Chicago): The Chicago Bears were one of the stingier teams against wide receivers last year, but that didn't stop Golladay from dropping more than 200 yards and multiple scores on them in two matchups. In fact, in four matchups with Chicago since 2018, Babytron has posted lines of: 6/78/1, 5/90/0, 3/57/1, and 4/158/1. Whether it's Jaylon Johnson or Kyle Fuller that lines up across from him on the outside, Golladay will have the advantage.
DeSean Jackson (at Washington): Whether he sees Ronald Darby or Fabian Moreau in coverage, DJax is going to have an advantageous matchup. And it could not have come at a better time, as the Philadelphia Eagles look like they'll be down both Alshon Jeffery and Jalen Reagor for Week 1's contest. DJax should feast against a secondary that allowed 14-plus fantasy points to 12 different receivers last year.
Anthony Miller (at Detroit): Taylor Gabriel picked up an injury in Week 12 last year, and Miller went on to post lines of 6/77/0, 9/140/0, 3/42/1, and 9/118/1 in a four-game stretch. That 140-yard performance came against these very same Detroit Lions. After a couple of solid seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, slot corner Justin Coleman struggled in his first year in Detroit -- 10 slot receivers pegged Detroit for at least 12 fantasy points in 2019. With Gabriel no longer a member of the Bears, look for Miller to eat in this matchup. He's an excellent streamer.
Diontae Johnson (at NYG): The New York Giants ceded the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers in 2019. They replaced Janoris Jenkins with James Bradberry, which is a plus, but this is still going to be a matchup we should chase. Johnson recorded at least 60 receiving yards or a receiving score in seven games last year, and that was despite playing with quarterbacks that made Blake Bortles look like a star. With Big Ben back in the fold, Johnson could kick off his season in style.
Terry McLaurin (vs. Philadelphia): Those who roster McLaurin likely invested a pick inside the top-five rounds in order to acquire him, but they could be headed for disappointment in Week 1. That's because McLaurin will be facing off against Philly's prize acquisition from the offseason, Darius Slay. According to PlayerProfiler, Slay was top 30 in pass break-ups, touchdowns allowed, coverage rating, catch rate allowed, passer rating allowed, and fantasy points allowed per target in each of the last two seasons.
Will Fuller (at Kansas City): Expectations are sky-high for Fuller this season, though he could be in for an underwhelming performance in opening game of the 2020 NFL season. The reason being that he's going up a Chiefs defense that allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers in 2019. Last year, only seven wideouts exceeded 13.0 fantasy points in half-PPR formats against Kansas City -- three took place in the first two weeks of the season, and three others were posted by receivers who line up almost exclusively in the slot. In two matchups with the Chiefs last year, Fuller managed 133 yards and 0 scores on 17 targets. I'm fading Fuller for the opener.
Breshad Perriman (at Buffalo): If Perriman was one of your sleeper picks in 2020, avoid starting him in Week 1. Perriman draws top corner Tre'Davious White to start the season -- that's...not a great matchup. White and the Bills allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers in 2019.
Mark Andrews (vs. Cleveland): Andrews might be the start of the week at the tight end position (George Kittle will have his say). In two games against the Cleveland Browns last season, Andrews totaled 10 receptions for 124 yards and 3 scores. Second-round safety Grant Delpit could have helped the Browns' solve their long-standing issues of covering tight ends, but, unfortunately, Delpit ruptured his achilles before his season even began.
Tyler Higbee (vs. Dallas): Only two teams -- the Seahawks and Cardinals -- allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Dallas Cowboys did last season. Dallas' safety situation hasn't exactly gotten better since, which had many clamoring for the team to sign Earl Thomas. But they didn't, and here we are. Higbee averaged 104.4 receiving yards over his final five games last season, scoring twice during that span -- that includes a 12/111/0 line against Dallas.
Dallas Goedert (at Washington): It's hard to imagine Washington's defense being much improved over the squad that allowed the fifth-most points to tight ends in 2019. With a plethora of targets likely available to start the season, you could do worse than streaming Goedert in your tight end spot.
Eric Ebron (at NYG): The Giants weren't very good at keeping tight ends out of the end zone in 2019, allowing the sixth-most scored to the position. Now they'll face a tight end who scored 13 tuddies in 2018 and has been receiving glowing reports from camp.
Other option: Hayden Hurst (vs. SEA).
Hunter Henry (at Cincinnati): Despite a leaky defense, the Cincinnati Bengals were surprisingly tough on tight ends last year. Only four tight ends exceed 10.1 fantasy points against them in half-PPR formats. I'd also feel a bit uncomfortable starting Henry with confidence until I see that the Los Angeles Chargers divvy up enough volume for him to be fantasy-relevant.
Austin Hooper (at Baltimore): Hooper draws a nightmare matchup in his first game in a Browns uniform. Last season, no team was stingier against opposing tight ends than the Baltimore Ravens. Also working against Hooper is the fact that he's the third target on a team that should be run-heavy in 2020.
Chris Herndon (at Buffalo): You might be tempted to start Herndon since the Jets are not exactly loaded with weapons, but this is not the week to do it. Herndon squares off against a Buffalo D that allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends last year.