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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1: Running backs

Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate weekly look at NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Fantasy superstars such as Todd Gurley and Antonio Brown will not be featured. All player matchups are based on PPR scoring system. NFL researchers Matt Frederick and Michael Florio have contributed to the column. For your final starting lineup decisions, check our weekly fantasy football lineup rankings.

Start 'Em

Start of the Week - Alex Collins vs. Buffalo Bills 

Collins, a league winner for countless owners last season, needs to be in your starting lineup based on a matchup against the Bills. Their defense was awful against the run a year ago, allowing 28.16 PPR points per game to running backs. Buffalo also allowed 12 top-20 PPR backs, including seven in the top 10 in their last 10 games of 2017.

Joe Mixon vs. Indianapolis Colts 

Mixon enters the regular season as a major breakout candidate in fantasy circles, and his Week 1 matchup against the Colts makes him a prime starter. Last season, Indianapolis allowed a combined 13 top-20 PPR running backs, including five who finished in the top 10. Look for Mixon to finish with between 14-16 PPR points in this one.

Royce Freeman vs. Seattle Seahawks 

Freeman's stock is on the rise, as he finished the preseason with 15 rushes for 84 yards (5.6 YPC) and three scores en route to earning the starting job in Denver. While this week's matchup against the Seahawks might not look good on paper, Freeman is going to see enough volume to make him a solid No. 2 fantasy back in Week 1.

Kenyan Drake vs. Tennessee Titans 

Drake is coming off an impressive 2017 campaign, and he should open this season as the lead back ahead of Frank Gore in Miami. The Titans defense wasn't what you would call vulnerable to the run in 2017, but this unit did allow a combined 99 catches to running backs. Drake, an impressive pass catcher, should be seen as a No. 2 back.

Peyton Barber vs. New Orleans Saints 

Barber took over the top spot on the Buccaneers depth chart in the preseason, and he looks like a major sleeper ahead of his matchup in New Orleans. Their defense struggled to stop the run a season ago, allowing an average of 26.15 PPR points per game to opposing backs on their home field. Consider Barber a viable flex starter this week.

Start 'Em:Lamar Miller at New England Patriots, James Conner at Cleveland Browns
Sleepers:James White vs. Houston Texans, Bilal Powell at Detroit Lions (Mon.)

Sit 'Em

Sit of the week - Marshawn Lynch vs. Los Angeles Rams 

Lynch's matchup looks great on paper, as the Rams allowed the fourth-most PPR points to running backs on the road a season ago. Of course, that was before the team added some serious beef to its defensive line in the form of Ndamukong Suh. Game script could also be against Beast Mode this week, making him a risk for owners.

Carlos Hyde vs. Pittsburgh Steelers 

Hyde is coming off an impressive preseason, and it looks like he has secured the top spot on the Browns depth chart entering Week 1. However, the veteran will no doubt lose snaps and touches to Duke Johnson and rookie Nick Chubb, and a matchup against the Steelers isn't a favorable one. Keep Hyde on the fantasy sidelines.

Jamaal Williams vs. Chicago Bears 

Williams is a nice volume start this week, but don't be surprised if his numbers are less than stellar against the Bears. Their defense allowed the ninth-fewest PPR points (22.81 PPG) to running backs a season ago, and that was before the team added talented rookie Roquan Smith and superstar Khalil Mack. He's a flex at best.

Chris Carson vs. Denver Broncos 

Carson's value is on the rise after an impressive camp and preseason, but can you trust him as a starter in Seattle's opener? The Broncos surrendered the seventh-fewest PPR points (19.19 PPR) to opposing running backs on their home field last season, and Carson could lose work to rookie Rashaad Penny if he's back from an injured finger.

Matt Breida vs. Minnesota Vikings 

Breida is considered a viable sleeper in fantasy circles in the wake of Jerick McKinnon's absence, but there are a few red flags this week. First, Alfred Morris looks like the starter and will no doubt see his share of touches. What's more, the Vikings surrendered the fewest PPR points (14.95 PPR) to opposing running backs a season ago.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. You can follow Michael on **Twitter**, **Facebook**, **YouTube** and **Instagram** for all of the latest fantasy football news, notes and in-depth analysis!

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