This article goes into depth of some players you should start (plug em in) or bench (sit em out) during week 1. This doesn’t include the top 5 at every position as they are always must start and not dependent on matchups. As always comment any questions and what y’all think!

‘Plug em in’ Quarterbacks

  • Ben Roethlisberger: The Giants have arguably the worst defense in the NFL. They lost key pieces of their secondary over the last two seasons, including Landon Collins, Deandre Baker, Eli Apple and Janoris Jankens. Even with last week’s addition of Logan Ryan, the Giants will struggle to shut down opposing offenses. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off an injury but has been having a great training camp. In 2018, (the last time Big Ben played a full season), he led the league with 5129 yards. Expect a big game from Roethlisberger and the Steeler’s passing offense. 
  • Matt Ryan: The Atlanta Falcons play the Seahawks this week in a game that should be a shootout due to both teams lackluster defenses and high powered offenses. The biggest weakness of the Seahawks defense is their defensive line. With the loss of Jadeveon Clowny and Frank Clark over the past two seasons their d-line lacks the ability to create QB pressure it once possessed. This will allow Matt Ryan to have an abundance of time in the pocket to read the defense and complete passes. Ryan also benefits from his WR duo that includes Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, along with the Falcon’s new offensive weapons, Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst. The Falcons are also getting back their right guard, Chris Lindstorm, who was held out his rookie season in 2019 due to an injury. Sit back and watch Matt Ryan air out the Seattle defense. 
  • Cam Newton: Dual-threat Quarterbacks are always valuable in fantasy football. Cam Newton is up against a developing Dolphins defense. Since he got signed, Cam has been on a mission to regain his spot as an elite NFL QB. Patriots coaches and players report that Newton practices nonstop, being the first one in and last one out. It’s been a while since Newton has seen the field. He was reinjured early in 2019 after initially injuring his shoulder in 2018. In 2018 Newton was averaging over 20 fantasy points a game before his injury. Now that he is healthy and has new offensive weapons in Julian Edelman, James White, K’Neal Harry and one of the greatest coaches in our generation in Bill Belicheck, Cam Newton should have a good game against the weak Dolphin’s front-seven. 
  • Carson Wentz : The Washington Football team has a really good defensive line, but their defense has lots of missing pieces. Their secondary ranks at 30th overall according to PFF for 2020. With the loss of their star CB Quinten Dunbar, WAS’s secondary will be even weaker than last year. Offensively, Wentz will have Desean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery back as weapons. He will also have Zach Ertz, Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert in the passing game. In 2019 the two games against Washinton, Wentz had 25 and 19 fantasy points respectively. Carsen Wentz should be in for a big game on sunday. 
  • Sneaky starts QBs: Daniel Jones, Jared Goff, Jimmy Garroppolo

‘Sit em out’ Quarterbacks

  • Aaron Rodgers: Aaron Rodgers is not the same since his injury and one of the biggest reasons for that is the lack of receiver talent for the Packers. Other than Devante Adams the Packers don’t have a clear WR2  rather they have two WR3s. Matt LeFluer also did not make any attempt during the draft to grab one, instead he drafted QB, Jordan Love in the first round. They also grabbed running back AJ Dillon in the draft. Matt Lefluer is also leaning towards running the ball a lot more in Green Bay. Finally looking at Aaron Rodgers’ two games against Minnesota in 2019 he scored 13 and 9 fantasy points respectively. There are lots of better options than Rodgers this week don’t settle. 

  • Kirk Cousins: It’s very simple to dissect why Cousins is a bench player for this week. First of all the Packers defense is very good, especially their pass rush led by Za’darius Smith and Preston Smith. Cousins will be under pressure all game and will need to get that ball out quick. This results in a problem because Packers have Jaire Alexander, Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos sitting in the secondary awaiting a bad throw. Secondly, the Vikings lack a receiver other than Adam Thielen. Thielen will be the primary target of the Green Bay defense. Justin Jefferson is a rookie and this will be his first NFL game (due to no preseason), in a tough matchup here it’s likely he struggles. Lastly in 2019 Cousins scored 8 and 7 fantasy points respectively against the Packers and ended as QB20 overall. Kirk Cousins will be a matchup dependent starter for 2020. 

  • Phillip River: Phillip Rivers is coming into a run heavy offense with the Indianapolis Colts (in 2019 Colts ranked 4th with 29.4 rush attempts per game). In San Diego with Keenan Allen, Rivers ended as QB6 however, you should expect his numbers to drop without his star wideout and in Frank Reich’s offense. The Colts are also up against a very lacking Jaguars team in a game that is likely to be a blowout. Colts will be running out the clock with the dynamic duo of Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor. Finally the Colts receivers are still very underdeveloped outside of TY Hilton and Jack Doyle. Rivers will likely lean on the run game for week 1 as well as for the majority of the season. 

  • Ryan Tannehill: There is no doubt that the Titans are a run heavy offense. In 2019 the Titans ran 48.79% of the time which was the third highest in the league. Week 1 the Titans are up against a very formidable Broncos defense. The biggest talents on this defense include their front seven as well as a solid corner in Bryce Calahan. This will make it very hard for Tannehill to get the ball into his star wideout, AJ Brown’s hands, as he is likely to be shadowed by Callahan or AJ Bouye. Outside of Brown this team lacks reliable receiving targets. Against this tough Broncos defense bench Ryan Tannehill. 
  • Bust QBs: Drew Lock, Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater 

‘Plug em in’ Running backs

  • Marlon Mack: Marlon Mack has been getting the majority of the first team work throughout training camp. Mack has notably been excelling with passing work, catching everything Philip Rivers throws in his direction. His backup, Jonathan Taylor, has been struggling throughout camp with receiving work and pass blocking. Taylor is likely to get some of the first down work but expect the majority of it to go to the Colts star back who ran over a 1000 yards last season. The Colts are also up against a poor Jaguars defense that has lost its talented players over the past two seasons. Other than Josh Allen, the defensive line includes a few unproven no names who will have trouble stopping Mack and the Colts O-line. Colts are likely to go up in score early and just run out the clock with Mack and Taylor. 

  • David Johnson: David Johnson is getting another shot in 2020 with the Houston Texans. Bill O’Brien traded potentially the best receiver in the league for Johnson in the offseason and has claimed he wants the Texans to start running more this season. The Texans offensive line (ranked 22) is also a moderate improvement over the Cardinals offensive line (ranked 29). David Johnson has proven himself as a receiving back for the Cardinals, so in a high scoring game against the Chiefs, Johnson should get his share of targets. The Chiefs also allowed 124.8 rush yards per game last season, which ranked 8th highest in the NFL. In his Texan’s debut, David Johnson should act as a workhorse back and gather a touchdown or two. 

  • Todd Gurley: Gurley has a chance to be one of the biggest steals of 2020. As previously mentioned, the Falcons-Seahawks game is projected to be one of the highest scoring games of the week. In a game that is set to be an offensive battle, Gurley should run through Seattle’s defensive line that is devoid of talent. Todd Gurley is coming off a great training camp receiving praise from coaches and players like OT Jake Mathews and FB Keith Smith. The OC for the Falcons has also stated that Gurley will be given 15-25 carries a game, which could give him RB1 potential. Gurley has also said his knees feel much better from the past two seasons. The Falcons have spent numerous high-value draft picks on offensive lineman the past two seasons, and the signing of Todd Gurley makes their intent to run the football more obvious. Plug in Gurley in your lineups this week!

  • James Conner: James Conner and the Steelers are up against a weak Giants defense in week 1. The Steelers will be running the ball a lot to control the clock and keep the ball way from Saquon Barkley and the talented Giants offense. James Conner missed 6 games in 2019 due to assorted injuries saw his rushing numbers drop tremendously. Now fully healthy and with Ben Roethlisburger under center, James Conner can hopefully get back to his 2018 pro bowl form. This favorable matchup for the Steelers lead back is a great opportunity for fantasy owners to regain trust in him. 
  • Sneaky start RBs: Jordan Howard, James White, Boston Scott 

‘Sit em out’ Running Backs

  • David Montgomery: David Montgomery is returning from an injury he suffered at camp just a few weeks ago. It is likely he will need some time to fully recover before he cant get back to his 2019 form. The Bears are also up against a high scoring offense on the Lions. The Bears will have to pass the ball a lot more this game to keep up with Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense. The Lions front seven also added two new weapons in DT Nick Williams and LB Jamie Collins Sr. David Montgomery will have a tough time producing to start off 2020. 

  • Lions backfield:  The Lions backfield is a mess fantasy wise. With the addition of rookie, D’andre Swift, and veteran, Adrian Peterson, to the 1-2 punch of Kerryon Johnson and Ty Johnson, the Lions backfield is too crowded. D’andre Swift is a player to keep on your bench for now as he is the RB4 in the Lions depth chart currently. Swift is also returning from an injury he suffered at camp a few weeks back. Adrian Peterson will steal goal line work from Kerryon Johnson as well as some early down work. This would ideally lead to Kerryon Johnson as being a weak flex however, this week he is someone you should bench. This is because the Lions are up against a top 5 defensive line and both Johnson and Peterson are unlikely to produce. If you have any of the Lions running backs on your roster, just wait and see how the season progresses and who emerges as the lead back. 

  • Miles Sanders: Miles Sanders is a stud and it will be very tough for you to bench him as he was likely an early round pick. However, I advise you to be wary of him and see if it’s possible to rely on him a little less in week 1. Washington’s defensive line is projected to be one of the best in 2020. With the addition of Chase Young to Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Daron Payne, this group will be very tough to run against. Not to mention that Miles Sanders is coming off an offseason injury and will be slow to start. Another reason to be wary is that the Eagles offensive line has lost three starters over the past couple of months. Running the ball may not be as easy with a group of lineman who haven’t had any game time to garner chemistry. More so I would expect the Eagles to go up early and run out the clock with backup RB, Boston Scott in order to keep Sanders healthy. Don’t expect Miles Sanders to put up RB1 numbers during his week 1 match up.

  • Melvin Gordon: Melvin Gordon is now in a full blown committee in Denver with Phillip Lindsey and Royce Freeman. What makes it worse is that Gordon is coming off a rib injury that kept him out of practice just last week. This led to Lindsey and Freeman cutting into Gordon’s first team reps. The Broncos are also up against a former playoff contender, the Titans. The Titans were also ranked 13th in 2019 in rush yards allowed per game. With the tough matchup and the limited reps it’s safe to say bench Gordon week one. 
  • Bust RBs: Jags RBs, Bucs RBs, Cam Akers

‘Plug em in’ Wide Receivers

  • Jamison Crowder: Jamison Crowder looks to be the newest PPR darling in fantasy football. He doesn’t get a whole lot of YAC and doesn’t get many deep targets, but Darnold loves to hit him on short passes. Against Buffalo last season, Crowder scored 24.3 and 20 fantasy points in PPR leagues. Crowder should be able to avoid All-Pro CB Tre’davious White by moving into the slot, where he does most of his damage. With Darnold under center, Crowder is set to produce a consistent 15+ points, and should be considered a high-end flex or WR 2 every week.

  • DeSean Jackson: Jackson has been performing great in training camp and is set to explode this week. The Eagles are projected to blow WAS out this week in what should be a decently high scoring performance by PHI’s offense. With rookie WR Jalen Reagor expected to miss the first game, DeSean Jackson should slot in as the #1 option for QB Carson Wentz. WAS also traded away star CB Quentin Dunbar, who was the best coverage back in the NFL according to PFF. Last season, in week 1 against WAS, Jackson caught 8 targets for 154 yards and 2 TDs. While he likely won’t achieve that same level of production, Jackson is the #1 option for a quality quarterback and should see his fair share of targets. I would definitely start him as a high-end flex if you were able to draft him.

  • Michael Gallup: All-Pro CB Jalen Ramsey will have the responsibility of shadowing WR Amari Cooper on Sunday Night Football. This means that both Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb should be inline for more targets than normal. The Rams-Cowboys game should be a high-scoring affair on both sides of the football and Dak Prescott should have a good game. While Cooper will likely get his fair share of targets, Gallup should see an increased workload with Ramsey on Cooper. I like his odds of ending as a WR 2 this week and I think he should be started in all leagues.
  • Sneaky Start WRs: Calvin Ridley, DK Metcalf, Dionte Johnson

Sit em out’ Wide Receivers

  • Devante Parker: While Devante Parker was able to get the better of Stephon Gilmore in their second matchup last season, I would stay wary of starting him. The reigning DPOY is still a tough matchup and Parker has been limited in practice with an injury. If you have other options to start over Parker I would definitely use them. I would consider Parker a low-end flex this week.

  • Terry Mclaurin: While the hype on McLaurin has been out of control this offseason, his week 1 matchup doesn’t look great. Newly acquired CB Darius Slay should shadow McLaurin for most of the game. With a ferocious Eagle’s pass rush, QB Dwayne Haskins will have to get rid of the ball quickly. This means McLaurin will have to win his matchups with Slay, which is no easy task. Whie he likely won’t be shut down, I don’t think McLaurin is a dependable WR 2 this week, and should be relegated to your bench.

  • AJ Green: A.J. Green faces CB Casey Hayward in his first game since 2018. While Green was dominant when healthy, he hasn’t played in almost 2 seasons. He comes back to face one of the top corners in football. To add onto that, rookie QB Joe Burrow will take the stage for the first time in his NFL career. With Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram rushing Burrow, I don’t like the Bengal’s passing offense week 1. That being said, as Burrow acclimates to the NFL after the first few weeks (and Green stays healthy) I think Green can become a dependable WR 2 for the future. This week, I would try and find a better option.

  • Amari Cooper: Amari Cooper will be shadowed by Jalen Ramsey in week 1. As previously mentioned, Ramsey is one of the top corners in the NFL, and Cooper likely won’t be as effective as usual. Cooper, who tends to be a boom-bust receiver, is set up to bust in week 1. I personally wouldn’t start Cooper if I had better receivers with more favorable matchups, but if you are desperate then he is a high-risk, medium-reward level play.
  • Bust WRs: Allen Lazard, Tyler Boyd, Deebo Samuel 

‘Plug em in’ Tight Ends

  • Hayden Hurst: The Falcons are playing the Seahawks in a high scoring matchup. Everyone on the field should have a nice outing, especially Falcons newest addition, Hayden Hurst. In 2019 Falcons TE, Austin Hooper, ranked seventh in PPR PPG with only thirteen games under his belt. It seemed like the Falcons finally utilized their TE under their new OC Dirk Koetter. Koetter specifically traded for Hurst for this high powered Falcons offense for 2020. Moreover Seattle is very weak against TEs, in 2019 they allowed 70.8 yards per game to TEs which was the third most in the league. 

  • George Kittle: George Kittle is an absolute beast and is a must start most weeks, especially week one against the Cardinals. In 2019 Cardinals allowed the most points to opposing TEs with 13.1 fantasy points per game! Even with the addition of rookie Isiah Simmons, expect this number to stay relatively high mainly with Kittle, who is arguably the best TE in the league. Another reason to expect Kittle to produce this week is that this Niners versus the Cardinals game is a set to be a high scoring divisional game. Expect many targets to George Kittle as Deebo Samuel is likely to be shadowed by standout CB Patrick Peterson. 

  • Austin Hooper: Austin Hooper finally broke out in 2019 with the Atlanta Falcons. In 2020 he finds a new home with the Browns. Throughout training camp it’s been reported that Hooper and Mayfield have a real connection on the field and that Mayfield has found him multiple times in the endzone. Expect this connection to carry over to the week one matchup against the Ravens. The Ravens were tough against TEs in 2019 allowing only an average of 5 PPG. However, they lost Tony Jefferson and Earl Thomas during the offseason so expect this number to rise. Especially against a stacked Browns offense because the main targets for the Ravens defense will be to stop Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt. Hooper is our high-risk high-reward starter of the week!
  • Sneaky start TEs: Tyler Higbee, Blake Jarwin, Will Dissly 

‘Sit em out’ Tight ends

  • Mike Gesicki: Gesicki developed a ton of offseason hype over the past few months. However expect him to under-produce during the start of the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick has gotten the start over Tua which will lead to less receptions to the TE, as Fitzpatrick rarely targeted his TE in 2019. Rookie QBs tend to target TEs more due to them being a security blanket for dump offs. Until Tua gets the start I would be wary of Gesicki. Another reason to bench Mike Gesciki week one is because they are up against a tough Patriots defense that only allowed 6.6 fantasy points to opposing TE in 2019. The first game in 2019 against the Patriots, Gesicki only scored 2.10 fantasy points. It’s safe to say be wary of Mike Gesicki until Tua gets the start.

  • Chris Herndon: Chris Herndon will be a vital part of the Jets offense in 2020 however, it’ll have to wait till week two. The Jets are up against a tough Bills defense that only allowed 5.8 fantasy points per game to opposing TEs. In 2019 the Jets also had a tough time involving a TE into their offense. When Herndon went down due to an injury, Ryan Griffen stepped up and also played no role in that Jets offense. With no preseason this year it will take time for Herndon to learn to play a big role in this offense and this tough Bills defense doesn’t bode well for him. 

  • Rob Gronkowksi: Rob Gronkowski has been reunited with QB, Tom Brady in Tampa Bay and expectations are high for this duo. However we are not on this hype train especially against the Saints who allowed only 7.1 fantasy points per game to opposing TEs in 2019. The Buccaneers offense includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette and rookie Ke’shawn Vaughn. So Gronk will have to compete for targets with all these offensive weapons when he is on the field. Not only that but Gronk will have to compete for field time with Cameron Brate and OJ Howard as Bruce Arians has mentioned he wants a TE committee to keep all his TEs fresh. 
  • Busts TEs: Dawson Knox, Packers TEs, Maxx Williams 

‘Plug em in’ D/ST

  • Eagles D/ST: Eagles D/ST is up against a weak Washington offense that only has Terry Mclaurin as a weapon. Mclaurin will likely be shadowed by Darius Slay leading the offense to get shut out. Eagles defense also made many new additions during the offseason that include CB Darius Slay, DT Javon Hargrave, CB Nickel Robey-Coleman, LB Jatavius Brown as well as a rookie LB in the third round of the 2020 draft. The defensive line for the Eagles is fully healthy as well. Expect the Eagles D/ST to put up solid numbers against the Washington Football team. 

  • Colts D/ST: Colts are up against the Jaguars in week one. Jaguars have one of the weakest offenses heading into the 2020 season. With the loss of Leonard Fournette and Nick Foles during the offseason this offense which ranked the 13th lowest in 2019 is expected to be worse heading into 2020. The Colts also made a big upgrade to their defensive line by adding a top 5 DT in Deforest Buckner. Expect Buckner to make an immediate impact on their defense. The Colts D/ST also has a very underrated secondary in Malik Hooker, Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin who will make more plays now that the defensive line, led by Buckner, will be pressuring opposing QBs. 

  • Chargers D/ST: The Chargers are up against a newly led offense, the Bengals. Without a preseason it’s hard to predict how Joe Burrow will perform in his first NFL game. To make matters worse for Joe Burrow, he is up against a top ten defense in the Chargers. With the loss of Derwin James during the offseason this defense will take a big hit but that impact will be limited due to the Chargers newest additions. The Chargers drafted Kenneth Murray, LB in the first round who is expected to be their starting LB. They also added a top 5 slot CB, Chris Harris Jr. in the free agency. Their standout LE, Joey Bosa is expected to be fully healthy heading into the 2020 season. The Chargers D/ST is a must start this week against the Bengals. 
  • Sneaky stats D/ST: Colts D/ST, Titans D/ST, Bills D/ST

‘Sit em out’ D/ST

  • 49ers D/ST: The Niners arguably had the strongest defense in 2019. However, they went all the way to the super bowl so it’s likely they show a slight regression. With the loss of Deforest Buckner and no new additions to their CBs, the Niners defense will struggle against a tough matchup against Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. The Cardinals added Deandre Hopkins, arguably the best WR in the league during the offseason. Since Richard Sherman doesn’t follow and stays on only one side of the field, Hopkins will have a few favorable matchups against Emmanuel Mosely. Against the Niners as a rookie in 2019, Kyler Murray was able to amass 391 passing yards, 4 pass td’s, 0 interceptions, 101 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. It’s clear that even the 49’ers dominant defense wasn’t able to stop him. This is also a divisional game, expect it to be high scoring and controlled offensively. 

  • Patriots D/ST:  The Patriots D/ST in 2019 was absolutely insane, averaging a whopping 14.8 fantasy points a game. Expect this number to drop a lot heading into 2020. The New England Patriots had a league high covid-19 opt out with 8 players. Two of those players are linebackers Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung. The Patriots also arguably have a weaker offense than in 2019 due to the loss of Tom Brady and no sign of a clear running back. A weaker offense puts more pressure on the defense to finish games. There is also a trend of the Dolphins showing out against the Patriots every year. Devante Parker destroyed standout CB, Stephon Gilmore in their 2019 matchup getting 8 catches for 137 yards. I would avoid the Patriots D/ST this week. 
  • Bust D/ST: Cowboys D/ST Ravens D/ST, Vikings D/ST, Browns D/ST

Author: Hamza Naqvi

College Graduate. Football Analyst.

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