After months of speculating, prognosticating and general posturing, Week 1 of the NFL (and fantasy football) season is here. That means we finally get to put all of our hot takes in action. In future weeks, I'll return to adding recaps of the previous week's action ... but do you really want a rundown of what happened in the preseason? I didn't think so. Let's do this.
Week 1 boomer
Jadeveon Clowney, LB, Houston Texans: Clowney is entering his third NFL season and we're waiting to see the potential that made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2014. But if the preseason is any indication, then the former South Carolina star is set to produce in a big way. Clowney was a terror during the exhibition season and gets to go against a Chicago Bears offensive line that is trying to piece things together after losing three players to free agency and one more (Hroniss Grasu) to injury. With the less-than-mobile Jay Cutler standing in the pocket, this seems like the perfect time to unleash Clowney as a true pass-rushing weapon.
Week 1 buster
Gerald McCoy, DL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Generally it's not in your best interest to even consider rolling with an interior defensive lineman in your IDP lineup. But over the past few years McCoy hasn't been your normal interior lineman, averaging nine sacks in the past three campaigns. But he might find it tough getting to Matt Ryan this week against a Falcons offensive front that has been upgraded and could sneakily be one of the best in the league. The addition of Alex Mack at the center position could be particularly problematic for McCoy this week.
Week 1 sleeper
Michael Johnson, DL, Cincinnati Bengals: Johnson has played third fiddle to Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins along the Bengals defensive line, but it could be that lack of attention that works in his favor in the season's opening week. The Jets have one of the older offensive lines in the league and it's a group that has featured a few underperformers in recent seasons. If Gang Green decides to devote extra focus to Dunlap and Atkins, it could mean that Ryan Fitzpatrick gets acquainted with Johnson in the season opener.
First down: Remember a few weeks ago when we thought J.J. Watt could miss a few weeks to begin the season? Yeah, well, you can forget about that. Texans head coach Bill O'Brien says that his star "looks decent" to start in Week 1. Watt is about as close to a sure thing as you can find in IDP fantasy football. If he's on the field, he deserves to be in your starting lineup regardless of the matchup.
Second down: We all need a purpose in life. For Mario Williams, that purpose is sacking the quarterback. That explains a little bit why Williams seems so excited about his third NFL act down in Miami. The veteran pass rusher says his job will be mostly to focus on getting to the quarterback, something he's done particularly well ... at least when he's happy. Let's hope that this season looks more like Williams' first three years in Buffalo and less like the disappointment we saw last season.
Third down:Sean Lee returned to practice for the Cowboys earlier this week. The team had held the linebacker out of practice as a precaution after he complained of soreness in his knee. For now, there doesn't seem to be any major concern about the issue. But considering his recent history of injuries, it's certainly worth keeping an eye on how things progress with Lee throughout the season.
Fourth down: After a big showing in training camp and the preseason, the Chiefs have named Justin March-Lillard a starter at inside linebacker alongside Derrick Johnson. The undrafted free agent could have a tough time becoming an immediate fantasy impact player while lining up next to one of the NFL's best tacklers, but he's worth keeping an eye on in the early going. If he continues his fine play from earlier this summer, he could be worth a speculative add in deeper leagues.