Week 1 can be trickier to navigate than it seems on the surface level. You drafted your team, slotted your first picks into starting positions across the board, and that’s all you need to do to field your best Week 1 lineup, right? Wrong. Matchups play a key role in deciding Fantasy points on a weekly basis and there will be examples of players currently on your benches that should be starting over players currently in your lineups. That’s the nature of the game.
And while these matchup-based plays will become more apparent and easier to spot as we accumulate more data on the season, there are glaring Week 1 examples of players you should start and sit. There are also examples of sleepers who could provide unexpected production and big names who could flop based on these Week 1 matchups. Every week, I’ll dive into all of the starts, sits, sleepers and busts that you need to know across the slate. Let’s dive right in.
All lines from Caesars Sportsbook.
The line wants us to believe: Dallas’ offense will struggle. And it’s a legitimate concern: Dak Prescott is playing in his first meaningful football game in nearly a year against one of the league’s best defenses. There will be rust. Tack on Dallas’ offensive line already dealing with some injury issues and it’s not crazy to think the Cowboys will come out of the gate a little slow.
The line wants us to believe: Tennessee can out-last Arizona in a high-scoring matchup. It’s not crazy to think the Titans can exceed their projected point total of 27.5 — they did it 10 times last year. That’s two more times than the Cardinals, but the Titans defense has some suspect parts that the Cards can capitalize on. Specifically, I’m not sold the Titans pass defense can hold up for four quarters. I could see Arizona take this game very late.
The line wants us to believe: Houston’s better than what public perception suggests. There’s no doubt the oddsmakers could have gotten away with the Jaguars giving up as many as six points. So why only give three? To trick you, duh! This is one of a handful of win-able games for Houston, who happens to have a solid defense and offensive line (both potentially better than the Jaguars, actually!). You might not know it because all you’ve heard about is that the Texans’ quarterback situation is a mess. The team will be fired up because it’s Week 1 when optimism can still exist. Do not be surprised to see an upset.
The line wants us to believe: Washington isn’t that good. I’ve been under the assumption all offseason that Ryan Fitzpatrick was an upgrade at quarterback, the offensive line is healthier than it was last season and the defense is as dominant as ever up front. Getting a point with the Football Team at home feels too good to be true. We’ll learn a lot about the Chargers in this game, but the reality is both offenses should blow past their projected point totals.
The line wants us to believe: The Bengals are a live home dog. That, or the oddsmakers knew they could get away with making it a short line to get some nickels on the Bengals. The truth is that the Vikings greatly improved every aspect of their defense and should be in a good place offensively. This is already a big test for Cincinnati’s offensive line and defense, one I don’t think they can pass. Cincinnati lost by four-plus points in half of Joe Burrow’s 10 starts last year.
The line wants us to believe: The Jets defense can’t keep up with Sam Darnold. The truth is, any defense can keep up with Sam Darnold. He’s been an inconsistent passer his whole career and taking on his old team won’t make him any better. In fact, it might make him worse because the Jets coaching staff is pretty savvy. Do the Jets actually have the defensive personnel to capitalize on Darnold’s mistakes? That’s the only thing holding me back from going with the Jets to win outright. Darnold has nine career wins by six-points (38 starts).
The line wants us to believe: The Eagles have to earn their credibility this year. New coach Nick Sirianni doesn’t come into Philly with much of a pedigree and there’s still skepticism over how good Jalen Hurts can be. But Atlanta’s coaching situation is only nominally better with Arthur Smith leading the way (Dean Pees as defensive coordinator is pretty good). The edge is given to the home team with the better quarterback.
The line wants us to believe: The Steelers will struggle to hang with the Bills. This is something I completely believe — the Bills defensive line is much deeper than it’s been and the offense has evolved into a full-time passing approach. The Steelers defense, especially the secondary, has some weak spots. I fully expect a decent amount of money to come in on the Steelers, and I fully expect the Bills to win by 10.
The line wants us to believe: Seattle is marginally better than Indianapolis. This feels like the oddsmakers want you to take Seattle, especially when you consider the Colts’ tumultuous offseason. Could the Colts truly put it all together when Carson Wentz (and multiple offensive linemen) missed a bunch of training camp and the preseason? I’m skeptical, especially since it feels like the whole world is sleeping on the Seahawks defense being pretty good.
The line wants us to believe: Detroit won’t get completely blown out. Everyone thinks the Lions stink. On paper, they absolutely do, and a matchup against a good 49ers defense won’t help. But if that’s the case, shouldn’t they get more than 7.5 points? Could we be getting rickrolled by the oddsmakers on this one? To take the Niners is to count on Kyle Shanahan finding a way to win by eight-plus points. That happened five times last year.
The line wants us to believe: The Browns aren’t improved. Since these teams met in January, a five-point win for the Chiefs, the Browns upgraded much of their defense and will get Odell Beckham back on offense. Kansas City made some upgrades too, but it’s very much in line with public perception to simply assume the Chiefs will score a ton of points. Don’t be surprised if the Browns keep it close.
The line wants us to believe: The Giants aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be. To the oddsmakers’ credit, the Giants do have what should be a very good defense. But their offense feels messy, especially since they intend to take things slowly with Saquon Barkley. Denver’s offense looked pretty good this preseason and the defense might be among the best in the league. Even at home, the Giants feel overmatched.
The line wants us to believe: The Saints are still a strong team without Drew Brees and Michael Thomas. There’s definitely a feeling that the oddsmakers want you to take the Packers, especially since they’re practically ignoring the Saints losing their dome-field advantage. So without the New Orleans noise, and with Jameis Winston for the first time, why don’t the Saints have more points to their side? The issue is that I’m not convinced the Saints defense will be able to do enough to slow down the Packers … but maybe they’re good enough to keep things close.
The line wants us to believe: he Mac Jones hype is real. The oddsmakers know the public perception of Jones is very positive, but they didn’t quite raise the line as much as they could have. It’s just a guess, but they probably see this matchup as razor close and they inflated the Pats side because of Jones and the game’s location. I’ve watched Jones play, and in many ways, he’s ahead of Tua Tagovailoa. This close game should prove it.
The line wants us to believe: Chicago’s defense is no match for the Rams. Los Angeles’ projected point total is 26, but Sean McVay’s Rams have scored 24, 7 and 6 points against the Bears over the past three years. Matthew Stafford’s arrival definitely should help their chances, but it’s their first regular season game together versus a pretty solid defense. This might not be such a high-scoring matchup.
The line wants us to believe: Baltimore won’t blow out Las Vegas. It feels like a trap. The Ravens, with their historically strong defense and incredibly versatile quarterback, are perceived to be much better than the Raiders. And how could the oddsmakers lose sight of the Ravens winning each of their past four Week 1 games by at least 20 points?! That track record along with the expected weak Raiders defense compels me to back Baltimore, even if it’s fishy.