Week 1 fantasy football matchups: Early games

We've finally made it. Week 1 of the fantasy season is officially here. Below (and in the tab above), we preview each and every game on the Week 1 slate, highlighting the most relevant fantasy mathcups player by player. Sit back, pull up your lineup, and get ready to dominate your opponent. You can also **CLICK HERE** to see the previews for the late and primetime games.

Green Bay Packers:

 **Aaron Rodgers, QB** 

What else do we need to tell you about Aaron Rodgers? In two games against the Bears last year, he threw for 617 passing yards with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's our top-ranked quarterback this week and it goes without saying, but he's a must-start.

 **Eddie Lacy, RB** 

With Jordy Nelson on IR, Lacy could see an increase in passing targets, bolstering his already robust fantasy value. He's topped 100 total yards in nine consecutive games, the longest current streak of any running back. Against the porous Bears defense, he's a favorite to be one of the highest scoring running backs of the week.

 **Randall Cobb, WR** 

Cobb sprained his AC joint in the third preseason game, but has been a limited participant in practice all week and insists he'll play on Sunday. If he starts, you start him. Cobb has caught five touchdown passes in his last three games against the Bears and is now the top option in one of the league's best offenses.

 **Davante Adams, WR** 

Yes, the team signed former Packer James Jones to help cover the loss of Nelson, but Adams is the one to start this weekend. He's been working all offseason with Rodgers, and seems poised for a breakout. He could be in line for a big game as well, and represents a tremendous value for daily fantasy players.

 **Richard Rodgers, TE** 

Rodgers grew into the offense late last season and flashed a budding rapport with his quarterback. He's been a monster in offseason practices and could become the team's top red-zone threat with Jordy out. He's worth a flier in deeper leagues and is a bargain in DFS.

Chicago Bears:

 **Jay Cutler, QB** 

You've probably heard this before, but don't start Jay Cutler against the Packers. He is 1-11 in his career against them, throwing 14 touchdowns to 22 interceptions and only averaging 211.3 yards per game. Stay away from Cutty this weekend.

 **Matt Forte, RB** 

Forte is the must-start Bear in this matchup, as he's gashed the Packers for over 100 rushing yards in three of his last four games against the Pack. He could see a ton of touches in this one as the Bears wideouts are all suffering from some sort of injury.

Bennett should be in line for a healthy dose of targets in this contest, as again, the Bears wideouts are all injured. It'll be interesting to see which odd trend surrounding Bennett continues: He's never scored against the Packers in eight career games, but 10 of his 20 career touchdowns have come in the month of September. Something's gotta give, but either way, he's a TE1 this week.

 **Alshon Jeffery, WR** 

Jeffery's calf ailment is one of the most worrisome injuries in Week 1 of the fantasy season. His status needs to be closely monitored. If he plays, he's worth getting into your starting lineup. Especially if Packers safety Morgan Burnett doesn't play, as he's missed practice all week with a calf as well injury.

 **Eddie Royal, WR** 

Royal has been sidelined with a hip injury, but is worth flex consideration in this game if he plays. Working out of the slot in Adam Gase's offense, Royal could be a target monster -- especially if Jeffery sits or the Bears are in hurry-up mode because they're behind, which, let's face it, they probably will be.

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Cleveland Browns:

  **Isaiah Crowell, RB** 

Once Duke Johnson was cleared to play on Sunday, the post-Terrance West trade glow faded for Crowell owners. The Jets were stout against the run in 2014 and added the sensational Leonard Williams in the draft. It could be a day full of 1-yard runs for Crowell, so fantasy owners' only hope would be for a touchdown. The Jets could get ahead a bit in this one, too, which limits his value as the early-down thumper and could prevent the needed goal-line plunge.

  **Duke Johnson, RB** 

It'd be great if we knew more about what exactly Johnson's role will be in this offense, but with him only getting two touches in the preseason (due to injuries) it's all speculation at this point. His only real value would be as a flex play in deep PPR leagues as the game script could create a number of targets for him, but even then, he's probably best served on the bench.

  **Taylor Gabriel, WR** 

Let's be honest, you're not starting any of the Browns wide receivers. But if there's one DFS dart to throw, let it be Gabriel. He was quite effective last year, and with Darrelle Revis likely drawing Andrew Hawkins or Brian Hartline, Gabriel could use his speed/shiftiness to get open a few times.

  **Josh McCown, QB** 

Don't start him. Not even in 2QB formats.

New York Jets:

Fitzpatrick isn't going to strike fear into the heart of your fantasy opponents, but he could have use in deeper or 2QB leagues. The matchup against the Browns isn't ideal, so he's probably best suited staying on your bench, but if you need hope remember that it was under Chan Gailey's tutelage that Fitzpatrick thrived in Buffalo, and he now has a slew of talented playmakers around him (see below).

  **Chris Ivory, RB** 

The Browns fielded one of the worst rushing defense in the league last year, allowing 141.6 yards per game, and 19.64 fantasy points per game. Ivory has cemented himself as the featured back in this offense, and could see a ton of touches on the ground and through the air. He's an RB2 this week, at worst a flex, and a total bargain in DFS. Get him in as many lineups as you can.

The hate has gone too far on Marshall. The 31-year-old missed three games last year with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung, the first time in his career he missed three-plus games. It was also the first time since his rookie year that he failed to cross 1,000 yards. The Browns were middle-of-the-pack last year against wide receivers, so Marshall could merit WR3 or flex consideration.

  **Eric Decker, WR** 

We're very curious to get a full-game glimpse of Decker and Marshall running together, as part of Decker's struggles last year were 1) erratic QB play and 2) no competent wide receiver to run with. Marshall could help open things up for him, but this week, Decker is best served as a deep flex play or bench warmer until we see how Chan Gailey's offense really comes together with Fitz-magic under center.

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Kansas City Chiefs:

   **Alex Smith, QB** 

When it comes to fantasy quarterbacks, Alex Smith doesn't move the needle. The talk that he's throwing deep in training camp is somewhat exciting, but if you didn't draft a better option to start in Week 1, you did something horribly wrong.

   **Jamaal Charles, RB** 

Regardless of what moves Kansas City made in the offseason, Charles remains the centerpiece of this offense. Even against a strong Houston Texans defensive front, Charles should see plenty of carries. Plus, his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield means he'll remain part of the game plan no matter what the score.

   **Jeremy Maclin, WR** 

Maclin was the crown jewel of Kansas City's free agent haul. He'll add an infusion of talent to a group that has desperately needed it in recent seasons. Look for the Chiefs to do their best to get Maclin a touchdown catch in the first week because, well, you know ...

   **Travis Kelce, TE** 

Last season we all got to know Kelce after a breakout campaign. The athletic tight end isn't likely to sneak up on anyone, but it won't matter. Even against Houston's defense, Kelce should be able to create mismatches in the middle of the field and there's no doubt that he's earned Alex Smith's favor.

   **Chiefs D/ST** 

A couple of short years ago, this group was the top scoring defense in all of fantasy football. Last season, they barely cracked the top 15. This unit should be able to get after the quarterback -- especially with Justin Houston up front -- but how will they do against the run? Fortunately it's Alfred Blue and not Arian Foster they're facing.

Houston Texans:

   **Brian Hoyer, QB** 

Hoyer has value by default as the winner of the Texans starting QB derby. However, there's not much reason to consider giving him a look unless you're in an insanely deep league or have to start multiple quarterbacks.

   **DeAndre Hopkins, WR** 

While Hoyer might not be worthy of a start, Hopkins should be in all lineups. Last season, he took over as the top target in Houston's offense and this season will be the undisputed leader of the wide receiving corps. For now, he's a weekly start in most formats.

   **Alfred Blue, RB** 

Blue steps in for the injured Arian Foster, but that doesn't mean he's going to give you Foster-type numbers. This isn't a particularly great matchup for the LSU product, but if you're shorthanded at RB or looking for a flex play, you could do worse.

   **Texans D/ST** 

This was the second-best fantasy defense in 2014 and there's little reason to think it won't be among the best this season. The only downside of this group is that you don't get to take advantage of the touchdown passes that J.J. Watt will inevitably catch this season.

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Indianapolis Colts:

    **Andrew Luck, QB** 

You drafted him in the second round for a reason. And that reason was to use him every week, despite the matchup. Sure the Bills boast one of the league's best defenses, but the words "Luck" and "bench" just don't belong in the same sentence. Except for that one that you just read.

    **T.Y. Hilton, WR** 

Over the course of his first three seasons as a pro, Hilton has collected 100 receiving yards in a game 16 times. He brings a ton of fantasy value to the table with his big play ability and tallied 17 receptions of greater than 25 yards just a season ago. There's no way he should be riding the pine in Week 1, but keep expectations tempered a bit against Buffalo's defense.

    **Frank Gore, RB** 

The Colts haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Joseph Addai in 2007. Gore has rushed for 1,000 yards in eight of his last nine seasons. This year, the Colts will have a 1,000-yard rusher. And fantasy owners who drafted Gore will be happy they did. Remember last year when Ahmad Bradshaw scored eight total touchdowns in just 10 games with Indy? Expect Gore to get busy scoring early.

    **Andre Johnson, WR** 

Fantasy owners who got Johnson at his Round 6 ADP definitely got a steal. The veteran is now playing with the best quarterback he's ever been paired with in his career in Andrew Luck and has already built great trust with his signal-caller. Expect Johnson to eat on underneath routes as the Colts chip away at Buffalo on Sunday.

Both Fleener and Allen should play a big role in Indy's passing attack on Sunday, but predicting which tight end will get the red zone looks is nearly impossible. Fantasy owners should lean toward Allen since he dominated in the end zone last season, but that's not to say Fleener will be completely ignored by Luck either.

Buffalo Bills:

    **LeSean McCoy, RB** 

There are good reasons to be down on McCoy this week against the Colts. He's still nursing a hamstring injury and has said himself that he's not "100 percent," but can you really bench a running back that you used a late-first or early-second round pick on? No, you can't. McCoy will be fed by the Bills and Indy's run defense is nothing to write home about.

    **Sammy Watkins, WR** 

There's a chance that Watkins is just going to explode on Sunday. He's been "kept in the garage" all preseason and his athletic ability is off the charts. The Bills offense should be reinvigorated with Tyrod Taylor under center and you have to think he'll be targeting his best wideout a ton as the Bills do what they can to keep pace with Andrew Luck's offense.

    **Tyrod Taylor, QB** 

Nobody's been pounding the table harder for Tyrod Taylor as a viable fantasy option than our own Matt Harmon. Don't misinterpret the praise, though, as there's no doubt Taylor is a questionable play in standard, single quarterback leagues -- there are just too many other veterans who rank ahead of him. But if you're playing in any daily leagues, Taylor is a great value play that will leave room for other upper echelon players at other positions.

    **Charles Clay, TE** 

Clay is an exciting addition to the Bills' passing attack, and he proved his big play ability during the preseason. Taylor will likely lean on Clay in short-yardage situations and near the goal-line as the Bills will need to employ a pass-heavy scheme to keep up with the Colts.

    **Percy Harvin, WR** 

If you somehow ended up with Percy Harvin on your fantasy squad, do yourself a favor and don't start him on Sunday. He may be listed ahead of Robert Woods on the depth chart but there's really just no room for a gadget-type wideout on the Bills offense. Seek wideout production elsewhere, at least for Week 1.

Woods is a risky play in fantasy in Week 1 but we can see him making enough plays to keep your roster afloat if you play in a deeper format. Beyond that though, it's hard to trust any Buffalo pass catchers on Sunday other than Watkins and Clay.

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Miami Dolphins:

     **Ryan Tannehill, QB** 

There might not be another quarterback who was as hyped this offseason as Tannehill. The Texas A&M product showed flashes of his potential last season and now with another year in Bill Lazor's offense, Tannehill has a real chance to take off. Throw in a matchup against what could be one of the worst teams in the NFL and it has the makings of a hot start for Tannehill.

     **Lamar Miller, RB** 

Miller started to come into his own last season by rushing for nearly 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns. Now that he's playing for a new contract, the fourth-year running back seems poised to explode. What better way to start than against Washington's porous defense?

     **Jarvis Landry, WR** 

Remember when everyone was all agog over the second-year receiver from LSU with a history of making sick, one-handed catches? That's right ... Jarvis Landry. Who did you think I was talking about? Landry has been one of the most ballyhooed fantasy receivers around this summer. Look for Week 1 to be his coming out party.

     **Jordan Cameron, TE** 

The tight end position has been a fantasy enigma for the last couple of seasons, but Cameron is here to save us from our doldrums. After watching Charles Clay succeed in the Miami offense, there's little reason to think that the super-athletic Cameron can't do the same -- or better. He should be a matchup problem for plenty of opposing defenses, including Washington's.

     **Dolphins D/ST** 

Miami's defense has the potential to be a nice streaming option in plenty of leagues. Plus ... did you watch Washington this preseason? Yeah.


     **Kirk Cousins, QB** 

Kirk Cousins is a starting quarterback in the National Football League. He doesn't have to be a starting quarterback for your fantasy football team. You'll be happier that way.

     **Alfred Morris, RB** 

Fantasy enthusiasts love Alfred Morris. If only we could convince his coaches that he's worthy of the same love from them, then we could all be happy. Still, it's not a terrible idea to start Morris as an RB2 this week. Do it now before Matt Jones takes over.

     **DeSean Jackson, WR** 

After suffering a shoulder injury in training camp, Jackson became something of an afterthought. Although that might have had something to do with the media circus surrounding the team. If there's a Washington receiver to own, he's the one.

     **Matt Jones, RB** 

This might be a bit of a deep dive, but Jones ran hard during the preseason and could force his way into some extra carries -- especially if this game becomes a blowout.

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Carolina Panthers:

      **Cam Newton, QB** 

Given the state of the Panthers passing weapons, the only way Newton maintains starting fantasy status is as a runner. However, the Panthers have been reluctant to use Newton in ways that expose his body to injury since the 2012 season. You probably have better Week 1 options than Newton, even in a decent matchup

The tilt with the Jaguars projects as a good Jonathan Stewart game. The Panthers found a winning formula riding Stewart down the stretch of the 2014 season. From Week 13 through the Super Bowl last season, only Marshawn Lynch and DeMarco Murray rushed for more yards. Expect another heavy dose of Stewart in Week 1, especially if the Panthers are sitting on a comfortable lead. Recent history shows us he's a ticking time bomb in the injury department, so you might as well play him while you're sure you have him.

      **Panthers WRs** 

You're not playing anyone from this group, unless you are completely desperate. We'll wait to see if Philly Brown is over his drop issues from the preseason, as he was named a starter. Perhaps Devin Funchess can emerge as a major factor at some point. We are not holding our breath for either.

      **Greg Olsen, TE** 

As he will be most weeks this season, Olsen is the safest tight end not named Gronkowski playing in the opening slate of NFL games. He'll own a massive share of the Carolina passing pie with Kelvin Benjamin on the shelf with a season ending injury. In 2014, Jacksonville ranked 19th in fantasy points allowed to the tight end, but that number is misleading. Teams were able to sit on the ball with the running game and milk leads. Carolina could do that, but if they are going to achieve said lead, Olsen must be a big part of it.

Jacksonville Jaguars:

      **Blake Bortles, QB** 

For the second straight preseason, Bortles looked like an all-star in the making. Of course, it's the exhibition season, but it is quite hard to just erase the memory of a young quarterback looking as comfortable and poised as he did. Will he translate it to the regular season games, or flop in a similar fashion to last year? If he's to reverse his narrative, this is not a great start. The Panthers run an aggressive defense, especially up front. We'll wait to see more from him before considering Bortles as anything more than a desperation streamer.

      **T.J. Yeldon, RB** 

Despite little preseason action, and doing little to impress when given a small shot, Yeldon looks set as the Jaguars' feature back. They clearly have visions of him as a three-down volume hog. That makes Yeldon interesting for fantasy purposes, but the Jaguars questions on offense limit his touchdown upside. The Panthers will sit star defensive tackle, Star Lotulelei, who is a game changing presence in the middle of their defense. That adds intrigue to Yeldon's Week 1 outlook, but patience is still advised. You'd rather let him make his debut in your fantasy lineup when not facing the Luke Kuechly-led Panthers.

      **Allen Robinson, WR** 

We've beat the Allen Robinson drum all offseason, and expect him to own a ridiculous share of the passing offense target volume this season. That'll especially hold true in this game with Julius Thomas out with an injury. Carolina's top cornerback, Josh Norman, is no joke and he shadowed No. 1 receivers last season. Yet, the opportunity for Robinson is so clear-cut he's still a fine play in Week 1. This might not be one of his blow up weeks, but he's still as safe as ever.

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Seattle Seahawks:

       **Russell Wilson, QB** 

Wilson is one of those fantasy quarterbacks that is rarely spectacular, but he's pretty consistent. The question is ... can he put up those same types of quality numbers against a strong Rams defense? The good news is that he has a very talented pass-catcher in Jimmy Graham, but it might be wise to temper expectations this week.

       **Marshawn Lynch, RB** 

The Rams were pretty average against the run last season and Lynch is a top-notch running back. You didn't need me to tell you to start Beast Mode, but I just wanted to reassure you that everything is going to be all right.

       **Jimmy Graham, TE** 

This is the first week of the rest of Graham's fantasy football life. We'll see if the Seahawks put the ball in the air more now that they have a quality pass-catcher. One thing seems certain: Graham should see plenty of targets in the red zone.

       **Seahawks D/ST** 

This group is likely to be missing Kam Chancellor when the season opener kicks off. While his absence will be big, this is still one of the top defenses in the NFL -- and one that was likely drafted before the 10th round. You're starting them this week.

St. Louis Rams:

       **Nick Foles, QB** 

Coming off a lackluster year and playing with a host of underwhelming pass catchers against the Legion of Boom. Do not want. I'm not sure Foles would start himself this week.

What are you doing to yourself? Don't do this. Go to the waiver wire and find some other options. It's for the best.

       **Brian Quick, WR** 

In case you haven't figured it out, there's not a lot to like about the Rams offense this week. But if you're forced to pick one of their wide receivers, Quick is the one.

       **Rams D/ST** 

The Rams defense, on the other hand, is a quality starting option this week. Opening the season at home against a Seattle offense that was suspect during the preseason should give you confidence to roll when them in Week 1.

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