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8 key starts & 8 sits to consider for Week 1 fantasy football

The Packers and Bears got the 2019 NFL season started, but there are still 15 more Week 1 games ahead of us. It looks like the perfect time to assess your roster and decide who to start and who to sit before it is too late. Decisions, decisions...

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd runs after catching a pass during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on November 25, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Finally. Football came back to our lives. The ball flew again since it officially did for last time last February. The Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears started with what we can only hope is a better season than what both rivals showed on Thursday. But I don’t care, because let me say it again, football is back!

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Amid all the hype and excitement, though, you must keep calm, relax, and take some minutes to make the most important decisions of your weekend: who to sit, and who to start in fantasy football. But fear nothing. I’m here to help you get the most out of the players you drafted and have on your roster. Whether you’re playing in an 8-, 10-, or 12-team league, you must have doubts about deciding who to put on that widely open flex position, who to stream at quarterback, or how could you address all of the uncertainty surrounding the tight end slot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst gambles you should take if you have the following players in your team or can get them via waivers before Sunday’s games start.

Quarterbacks

Nick Foles, JAX (vs KC) - START

There is a real chance Nick Foles didn’t make it to any of your league’s rosters on draft day. If you’re one of the “lucky” fantasy GMs who drafted Andrew Luck before he announced his retirement, you’re probably going to stream the position at least during the first few weeks until you find a solid option. For this weekend, there doesn’t seem to be a better bet than Foles — available for free. Not only is Foles a proven veteran, he faces a defense in Kansas City’s that allowed the most passing yards in 2018 and almost 20 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. Vegas predicts 51.5 total points in a complete shootout of a game in which Foles will need to throw the ball to keep up with the Chiefs’ high-octane offense.

Philip Rivers, LAC (vs IND) - START

Rivers is not as clear a waiver wire option as Foles, but (at least to me) he has been unreasonably faded in most drafts I’ve participated in. It makes no sense. Rivers finished last year as the 13th-best QB, which is to say, almost a low-end QB1 in 12-team leagues. He has surpassed the 4,300 yards mark four consecutive seasons and thrown 28-plus touchdowns in each of the last six years. Did I mention he has Hunter Henry back at the tight end position? Or that Melvin Gordon won’t be in the backfield taking passing plays from him? Can’t get much better than this.

Jimmy Garoppolo, SF (at TB) - SIT

Everybody threw Garoppolo under the bus after his middling preseason debut and bad outings in training camp. I don’t think we should close the book on him this soon (the season hasn’t even started, folks) but all eyes will be on him from day one. The game between San Francisco and Tampa Bay could end in an offensive festivity given both defenses’ poor quality, but I’m not trusting Garoppolo nor the 49ers receiving corps at all. Not at least for now. Even with a great matchup against Tampa, George Kittle seems like the only viable option in the passing game. I’m not telling you to trade or release Garoppolo at this point, but if you can put someone else in your lineup for Week 1, do it.

Sam Darnold, NYJ (vs BUF) - SIT

If there is a sophomore quarterback I’m convinced will take a huge step forward this season, it is Darnold. Not this week, though. The upside Darnold brings for the first game of the season is mediocre at best against a great defense in that of Buffalo. The Bills’ unit ranked second-best in DVOA last season and excelled against the passing game, allowing just 3,081 yards through the air (Jacksonville finished second-best yet allowed 273 more yards!) Although Darnold shown quite an improved game during three of his four last games in 2018 it may still take time for him to settle. On top of that, New York will put Le’Veon Bell on the field for the first time and he will take all the rushes he can — plus there are players missing or questionable on the Jets’ receiving end.

Running Backs

Marlon Mack, IND (at LAC) - START

It is not that Indianapolis has the best RB-matchup against the Chargers to start the season. Los Angeles finished in the top half of the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and almost made the top 10 in yards allowed to the position. The thing is, Indianapolis is starting Jacoby Brissett at the quarterback position for the first time since 2017. Turns out Brissett is not Andrew Luck, and even if the Colts need to make use of the passing game to catch up to the Chargers offense, I think Indianapolis will still go the safe route and run the ball up the field with Mack to make sure they get some yardage even with short gains.

Mark Ingram, BAL (at MIA) - START

Look at what Ingram did in New Orleans complementing Alvin Kamara in 2017 and 2018: he has rushed for 1,769 yards, scored 18 touchdowns, and added 586 more yards catching the ball. He’s got averages of 63.2 rushing yards per game and 20.9 yards receiving. Again, as a complement to Kamara. If you don’t think Ingram would be great as the leader of the Ravens’ backfield this season, on a team that will favor the run as no other in the league, and who also features Lamar Jackson at QB, I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe all of that is not enough to convince you. Then let me tell you who the Ravens are facing this week: Miami.

Kenyan Drake/Kalen Ballage, MIA (vs BAL) - SIT

For the time being, stay away from Miami’s backfield (stay away from the Dolphins in general, but I guess you already knew that). I can’t think of a bigger mess in a backfield right now than that present in Miami. There have been rumors about a potential Drake trade. Then the Dolphins listed him as their RB1. Ballage appeared to be the go-to option when Drake was injured during the preseason. Now Ballage is RB2 in the last depth chart released by the team. All signs point to an RBBC approach for the Dolphins and it is not clear who’ll be who in the backfield, so leave both running backs in the bench and ride some other guy at the position or flex slot.

Adrian Peterson, WAS (at PHI) - SIT

If it wasn’t for a report that surfaced yesterday, you bet AP will be part of my team this week. Turns out Washington is planning on starting Derrius Guice at the running back position this week against an average Eagles’ defense when it comes to stopping the run game. I believe in Peterson as much as anyone and still think he will finish the season with monster numbers, but as far as Week 1 is the topic of conversation here you should fade him and go with other name for the flex position. Don’t risk putting Peterson in your lineup as he could even remain inactive for the game.

Wide Receivers

Cole Beasley, BUF (at NYJ) - START

Josh Allen is a gunslinger and he already came to the NFL with that reputation attached to him from his college days. He led the league in Intended Air Yards at 11.0 over risk-takers such as Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Cole Beasley, on the other hand, is a slot receiver who can’t make a better use of short routes. Beasley was targeted just 7.4 yards from the line of scrimmage on average in 2018. The word out of training camp has been that Allen and Beasley have connected from day one. Good news for everybody. Allen will have a safety valve in Beasley, and Beasley will improve his numbers as one—if not the—go-to options for Allen. The Jets also have a good defense against the pass, so taking short passes to Beasley could be Allen’s best play.

Tyler Boyd, CIN (at SEA) - START

With A.J. Green out for a few weeks, no other receiver will get more work in Cincinnati than Tyler Boyd. This could go either way, mind you, as defenses could put a double team on Boyd to remove any potential danger. Even with that, I’m confident in his ability to beat any potential coverage and still put up good numbers. There is not a lot of math to do here. If Boyd is on your roster he is probably your WR2 already, and you would be starting him no matter this week’s matchup (which is against league-average Seattle). But in case you had any doubt about it, just remove it from your mind. Boyd should be a lock in your team.

Devin Funchess, IND (at LAC) - SIT

As I explained with Marlon Mack, I think Indianapolis will try to avoid huge risks on offense at least during the first few weeks of the season and using Funchess screams “coin flip” to me. As if the Chargers defense wasn’t enough to scare Brissett (Los Angeles allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to WR in 2018), I don’t think Funchess will be heavily used at all by the new starter. I’d even go so far as saying the ceiling for Funchess in Week 1 is not higher than the floor of T.Y. Hilton or even Eric Ebron in Indianapolis’ offense — plus he’s been on the injured report without fully participating on practice until Thursday.

Keke Coutee, HOU (at NO) - SIT

As much as Houston’s wideouts have a good matchup on their hands this week, they are also as crowded a unit as it comes. Add Duke Johnson and Carlos Hyde to the equation from the backfield and you have a good deal of options for Deshaun Watson to explore. Oh, and Coutee is currently limited on practice due to an ankle injury. In an offense that already features the best receiver of the league in DeAndre Hopkins, has Will Fuller as the second option, and now has added Kenny Stills, it is too big of a risk to put a questionable player in your lineup when several other players will take a lot of opportunities from him. Pass on him at least until Stills’ role is defined and Coutee is back completely healthy.

Tight Ends

Hunter Henry, LAC (vs IND) - START

Overlooked in season-long drafts? Check. Back healthy after missing last season? Check. In a team that makes heavy use of TEs? Check. Part of an attack that will miss his leading running back and has injury problems in the OL? Check. The Colts allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends last season and things doesn’t look better now. Henry has scared some GMs from drafting him due to missing the whole 2018 year, but he is back and if there is a week when he’ll be at his best it is the first one of the season. Obviously, Henry is not someone you will find available for free in your league, but if you’re the savvy one who picked him on draft day, congratulations, you have a winner on your team.

Geoff Swaim, JAX (vs KC) - START

If you passed on tight ends during your draft or just drafted one to fill the spot and stream the position all season long or at least during the first few weeks, you’re wasting your time not going after Swaim. Kansas City was mediocre against tight ends in 2018 allowing 10.7 fantasy points per game. Swaim has no competition at the position, and only Dede Westbrook profiles as a more reliable option for Foles on offense given Marqise Lee is coming back from injury and the other Jaguars’ receivers aren’t that good. As someone you can get for free and put in your lineup, Swaim offers plenty of upside.

David Njoku, CLE (vs TEN) - SIT

Even with the late news regarding Odell Beckham Jr. having problems with his hip, the star receiver is practicing in full and is the clear go-to man on Cleveland’s offense. And he better be, as the Browns have one of the toughest matchups against receivers and tight ends facing Tennessee. With Baker Mayfield at quarterback, I don’t have any doubt he will go looking for the new fancy toy he’s been given this offseason in OBJ. Nick Chubb will get as many carries as he can handle. Even Jarvis Landry and more than anyone Rashard Higgins (who seems to have built a good connection with Mayfield this preseason) will take targets from Njoku. I’m not putting him in my lineup this week. Not being part of this offense, and not facing the best defense against TE in the NFL.

Eric Ebron, IND (at LAC) - SIT

Ebron had a season for the ages last season. If you tell me he will be able to sustain his production this year, there is no way I take him off my team any week. But there is not a single chance on Earth he repeats what he did last year. Even less with Brissett at quarterback. Let alone this week against a good defense against the position in that of the Chargers. Back when Ebron looked human he faced the Chargers (in San Diego) and scored a touchdown. Now that he’s turned into supernova, I’m betting on him laying an egg and leaving Los Angeles with lesser numbers than Jack Doyle.