It’s finally time to watch real football. Week 1 is here and there are plenty of juicy matchups. Tampa Bay and Miami won’t be playing because of weather, but every other NFL team has played or will be playing this week. Here are my studs, duds and sleepers for Week 1.
Stud: Sam Bradford – Bradford isn’t a sexy fantasy pick, but he should have a big week against New Orleans’ poor secondary. The Saints’ defense allowed 274 yards passing per game last season. Bradford should have a competent rushing attack with Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray. Bradford doesn’t have the highest ceiling (he threw for three touchdowns twice in ’16), but he is a great streaming option if you have to replace Jameis Winston or Jay Cutler this week.
Dud: Philip Rivers – Rivers has thrown for 4,000 yards in four-straight seasons, but he has a tough matchup this week. The Broncos gave up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season. Wide receiver Keenan Allen returns for the Chargers, which should help some. I expect Rivers to throw for less than 200 yards and one touchdown in a low-scoring game.
Sleeper: Carson Palmer – Palmer has a juicy matchup this week with a Lions defense that gave up the fifth most fantasy points to quarterbacks last season. Palmer is healthy and should get plenty of opportunities in the red zone. He can lean on David Johnson and the rushing attack, which should set up a deep ball or two. Palmer is a mid-range QB2 this season, but he’s a nice streaming option this week against the Lions. I’d expect 240 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Stud: Christian McCaffrey – Normally I wouldn’t go on a limb for a rookie, but this is an exception. McCaffrey is versatile and should be used in a variety of ways against San Francisco. The 49ers were awful against the run last season. In fact, they were the worst fantasy defense against opposing running backs in 2016. They’re slightly improved, but McCaffrey’s usage rate should be high and the 49ers are bound to have a few slip-ups. I’d expect McCaffrey to come close to 100 yards from scrimmage. A good day could become a great day if he scores a touchdown.
Dud: Marshawn Lynch – ‘Beast Mode’ returns, but how much does he have left? Lynch in his prime could struggle against a Titans defense that allowed 88 yards-per-game on the ground. Couple that with the fact that he hasn’t played meaningful football in 19 months and you see why I worry about starting him this week. There is risk with Lynch and I’m only putting him in my lineup if I have to. Avoid him in daily formats.
Sleeper: Adrian Peterson – Peterson says he wants to “stick it” to the Vikings. That’s easier said than done. AP is past his prime and Minnesota was one of the top run defenses last season. Peterson will split carries with Mark Ingram. With that said, if there’s one player who will go crazy in this one, it’s Peterson. I would also expect the Saints to give him the bulk of the red zone work against his former team.
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Stud: Michael Crabtree – The Raiders may struggle rushing the ball, but they should have no problem throwing it. The Titans allowed 269 yards passing per game a year ago. Crabtree is coming off of an 89 catch season and should be Derek Carr’s go-to-guy in the red zone. I wouldn’t be surprised if Crabtree had a 7 reception, 100+ yard outing this week.
Dud: Keenan Allen – Allen is returning to the field for the first time since he tore his ACL last season. Couple that with the Broncos’ secondary and you’ll quickly see the risk in starting Allen. He should get bottled up. Allen is a WR3 until he proves otherwise.
Sleeper Kendall Wright – Wright has great appeal in deeper formats and PPR leagues. The Bears’ passing attack will be below average, but Mike Glennon will have to throw the ball somewhere. Wright is an underrated slot wide receiver who could have 5+ receptions this week.
Stud: Zach Ertz – Ertz is poised for a big 2017. He has a great matchup against the Redskins. He had 18 receptions for 209 yards in two matchups with Washington last year. He has a great chance to be a top-five tight end this week. He’s worth a look in daily formats as well.
Dud: Martellus Bennett – Bennett is a weapon that Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ offense will benefit from. But, he could struggle this week against Seattle. The Seahawks gave up the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2016. Bennett is worth owning, but taking a wait-and-see approach is probably best.
Sleeper: Charles Clay – Clay could be the Bills’ leading receiver this week. He has a rapport with Tyrod Taylor. Clay could put up solid numbers with Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews still getting acclimated into the Bills’ offense.
Stud: Houston – The Texans should force the Jaguars into multiple turnovers. Houston has a full compliment of pass rushers. J.J. Watt is back and Jadeveon Clowney should help him wreak havoc. Houston is my top defense of the week and worth as look in all formats.
Dud: Cincinnati – The Bengals could’ve been a nice streaming option against Joe Flacco and company. Flacco didn’t play all preseason and hasn’t played with first-year Ravens Jeremy Maclin and Danny Woodhead. I don’t like them nearly is much without Vontaze Burfict. He’s their best player and the guy who helps generate turnovers. I would avoid starting the Bengals’ defense this week.
Sleeper: Buffalo – The Bills’ defense is the most-talented group of players, but they won’t need to be against the Jets. New York is the worst roster I’ve ever seen. At least they are on paper. I don’t think their offense will score more than 10 points and Buffalo should force a couple turnovers.