Week 1 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em for Fantasy Football
By Larry Rupp
Week 1 of the NFL season involves some of the toughest start/sit decisions of the season. There isn't much to draw from outside of 2021 statistics, training camp reports and gut feelings. Seeking out favorable matchups and positive game scripts go a long way in a making crucial roster decisions.
With that in mind, here are The Duel's Week 1 start 'em, sit 'em picks for fantasy football.
Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1 Quarterbacks
Start Trevor Lawrence, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars (at WSH): Quarterback Trevor Lawrence enters his second NFL season with a chance to take a big leap in his development. The 22-year-old is surrounded by new offensive weapons in the form of running back Travis Etienne, wide receiver Christian Kirk and tight end Evan Engram. He also draws a great opening matchup. Washington posted the fifth-worst pass defense DVOA rating in the NFL last season and gave up a league-high 34 passing touchdowns. The Commanders also allowed the most rushing yards to opposing QBs in 2021. Everything lines up for Lawrence to ball out here, so he is worth streaming on Sunday.
Sit Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins (vs NE): With a new-look offense, expectations are high for Tua Tagovailoa. While he might produce impressive results as the schedule goes on, any fantasy plans should be put on pause for Week 1. The Patriots are a brutal team for quarterbacks to face thanks to Bill Belichick's football IQ, resulting in New England allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs in 2021. Tagaovailoa had a few examples of this, averaging only 14.7 points in two meetings against the Pats last year. Unless you're in a 14-plus team league, chances are you can find someone better to start this week.
Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1 Running Backs
Start Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns (at CAR): The Panthers' front seven allowed the fifth-fewest PPR points to opposing running backs a year ago, but those numbers were slightly deceptive. By comparison, Carolina also ranked just 15th in rush-defense DVOA and allowed the 15th-most rushing yards. The Panthers' run defense is merely average, which bodes well for Nick Chubb as the highlight of Cleveland's offense with Jacoby Brissett under center. Don't overthink this one. Chubb was a monster last year, putting up RB13 numbers despite playing in only 14 games. He's perhaps the Browns' only reliable fantasy option until Deshaun Watson returns.
Sit Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans (vs IND): Dameon Pierce has been a bit of a buzzy fantasy name since the Texans opted for his talents at running back ahead of Marlon Mack. Don't fall for the hype, though, at least not yet. He ranks just RB30 in The Duel's Week 1 PPR rankings because he plays behind an offensive line that put up the least amount of rushing yards and second-fewest rushing touchdowns a year ago. Pierce will also concede passing-back duties to Rex Burkhead, dashing his PPR value. Then there's the Colts factor. This is one of the best front-seven units in the entire league, ranking second in rush-defense DVOA and allowing the fourth-fewest PPR points to opposing running backs. Add in a lengthy 7.5-point spread, and this doesn't seem like the best opportunity for Pierce to rack up 20+ carries.
Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 1 Wide Receivers
Start Marquise Brown, WR, Arizona Cardinals (vs KC): Marquise Brown could end up being the top overall wideout in Week 1 given Arizona's depth issues. DeAndre Hopkins is out due to suspension, Zach Ertz is questionable with a calf injury, and Rondale Moore just suffered a hamstring injury on Thursday. Brown is about as clear-cut as a WR1 can get. He's coming off of a breakout 2021 campaign where he finished as WR22 in PPR scoring, and now he's reunited with college teammate Kyler Murray. Brown should be peppered with targets against a Chiefs secondary that struggled against the pass (No. 23 in Football Outsiders' pass-defense DVOA metric) last year and is working in new players in their secondary.
Sit DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles (at DET): DeVonta Smith enjoyed a very respectable rookie campaign, racking up WR30 numbers while playing in 17 games. He led the team with 104 targets and 916 receiving yards last year, but suddenly turned into a true No. 2 option with the addition of AJ Brown. From a fantasy perspective, Smith disappeared several times down the stretch by posting fewer than 10 PPR points in three of the last four games. He received the bulk of his targets during the first half last year, and I think this game sets up for a heavy dose of Brown. Add in Hurts' legs, the need to get the running game going, and a potential late lead, and this isn't the week for Smith to pop off. Not to mention, he rarely blew up during his rookie campaign, eclipsing 20 PPR points in just two of his 17 games.
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Larry Rupp is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Larry Rupp also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username phillyfan424. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.