At long, long last, NFL football has finally arrived.
Past are the spring and summer speculations, and for the first time in more than half a year, actual, real life professional football will be played tonight.
Week 1 of the NFL season, of course, comes at the same time as the first fantasy football matchup of the year, and a quick start is important. Whether you’re looking to begin your title defense or prove all the doubters wrong following a last place finish, it all starts in Week 1.
Below are a couple players I’m high on this week, as well as a few to avoid if you want to win your first matchup of the 2019 season.
Jameis Winston — Quarterback — Tamp Bay Buccaneers
Winston has everything you could ask for in a breakout QB candidate. He’s got a pair of big and athletic receivers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, an elite and emerging tight end in OJ Howard and a new coach who has a history of airing the ball out with frequency now in Bruce Arians’ offense. The Buccaneers get the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, a suspect defense that Winston should find plenty of success against.
Austin Hooper — Tight end — Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons draw the Vikings in Week 1, a matchup that bodes poorly for most Atlanta fantasy players. The Vikings defense boasts one of the best cornerbacks in the league in in Xavier Rhodes, whose prominence should temper expectations for top Falcons receiver Julio Jones. But Minnesota was prone to giving up big games to tight ends last season, allowing over 90 yards to opposing TEs on four occasions last season. Hooper should be able to find room to work in over the middle of the field.
Duke Johnson — Running back — Houston Texans
Week 1 seems to be churning into a perfect storm for Johnson. The Texans already lost Lamar Miller for the season with an ACL tear, and the newly signed Carlos Hyde will likely take a few weeks to get up to speed with the Houston playbook. Beyond that, the Texans take on the Saints this week, a game that is likely to develop into a shootout. Johnson is known for his pass catching ability. If New Orleans jumps out to an early lead as is expected, the Texans will have to pass a lot.
Phillip Rivers — Quarterback — Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers should be fine longer term, but the expected game script for the Chargers Week 1 contest against the Indianapolis Colts is not a favorable one. With no more Andrew Luck, the Colts will likely look to a more run heavy attack, holding possession as long as possible and keeping the Chargers offense off the field. Indianapolis has the offensive line to pull it off. The Colts were also an underrated defense last year, and should only improve this season following breakouts from players like CB Pierre Desir and LB Darius Leonard. The recent signing of Justin Houston should give the Colts pass rush an added punch. If you have another option this week, go with him.
Derrius Guice — Running back — Washington Redskins
Guice is another player I like for the rest of the season, but his Week 1 matchup against the Eagles is an awful one. Philadelphia has one of the strongest defensive lines in the league, and after missing much of the preseason, Guice is still getting up to speed in the Redskins offense. Keep him on your bench, but avoid putting him in your lineup this week if you can.
Robby Anderson — Wide Receiver — Jets
Anderson should have some value this year if the late 2018 rapport he built with Sam Darnold carries into this year, but he carries a ton of risk in Week 1. The Bills were not a great team last season, but their defense was extremely underrated. Third-year CB Tre’Davious White had a bit of a sophomore slump in 2018, but he was a star as a rookie in 2017, and many are calling for a return to form. The recent signings of Le’Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder throw into question how second-year quarterback Sam Darnold will distribute passes this season, and Quincy Enunwa is healthy to start the year, too. I’d say Anderson is a “wait-and-see” candidate that I’m holding on my bench if at all possible.