Week 1 Daily Fantasy Football: Matchups to Avoid and Exploit
The 2016 daily fantasy football season has already officially begun, with Thursday night’s Super Bowl rematch between the Panthers and Broncos getting things started. Ahead of that game, most would have noted both defenses being quite good, and that using any skill position players from that game would have been – at best – bold.
In the end, Cam Newton was strong, Greg Olsen was solid and C.J. Anderson was a total beast. However, Denver receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders disappointed.
The point is the matchups weren’t really there for huge fantasy performances, and it’s worth arguing you got lucky if one of your plays from that game panned out.
Going into the rest of week one, there are numerous other sticky situations that you may want to avoid – and you may not be as luck as people who used Newton, Olsen or Anderson.
To help you at least be aware of those situations, let’s take a look at the top five matchups to stay away from, as well as the best five to attack in week one:
5 Matchups to Avoid
Dolphins vs. Seahawks
It’s true we don’t know for sure what to expect in week one of a new season, but the odds aren’t great that Miami storms into Seattle and destroys a good Seahawks defense. Ryan Tannehill has always been shaky against solid defenses in the past, but this is a top-five defense against both the run and pass.
Seattle is usually especially nasty on their home field, while the numbers from 2015 don’t look promising for the Fins: Seattle ranked 2nd against fantasy QBs, 1st against fantasy RBs and 3rd against fantasy wide receivers. Across the board, Miami offensive players are probably best left alone this week.
Bears vs. Texans
Few are getting amped up about Chicago’s prospects this week, where they’ll travel to go up against J.J. Watt in Houston. This is a bad matchup on paper for the Bears, and it’s even worse when you look at the data.
Jay Cutler is a pretty suspect quarterback anyways, but considering the Texans were 4th against fantasy passers in 2015, he may have his work cut out for him. Alshon Jeffery could get enough targets to pay off, but Vegas sees Houston winning pretty easily at home. A potential blowout loss could also negatively impact running back Jeremy Langford.
Chargers vs. Chiefs
The Bolts do have the offensive firepower to combat just about anyone, but a date with Kansas City at Arrowhead in week one doesn’t sound appealing at all. One big reason is because of how great the Chiefs’ defense is, but also because that defense completely destroyed the Chargers in both meetings last year.
The 2015 data doesn’t help the Chargers, either, as Kansas City ranked 5th against fantasy quarterbacks and 4th against running backs. Needless to say, San Diego players shouldn’t be stacked in week one.
Jeremy Hill vs. Jets
Jeremy Hill should be a total fade this week, as he is on the road against a very stout Jets defense. New York has been an elite unit on the ground defensively, allowing just the second most fantasy points to running backs a year ago.
Not much has changed for Gang Green, plus the Bengals will be without their top tight end, two key wide receivers and their old offensive coordinator. Week one could be bad for Cincy in general, but specifically awful for Hill and the Bengals’ running game.
Buccaneers vs. Falcons
The last situation to avoid for sure in week one could be Tampa Bay’s passing game. Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson all have upside, but a road date with a decent Falcons pass defense could spell trouble.
Atlanta specifically held Evans in check in 2015, and as a whole ranked 7th against the quarterback position and second against wide receivers. With numbers like those, Buccaneers passing game options should be hands off this week.
5 Matchups to Exploit
Christine Michael vs. Miami
One of the top fantasy football targets this week has to be whoever is running the most in Seattle. Miami awarded the most fantasy points to running backs in 2015, and a trip to Seattle can’t help matters.
C-Mike looks like the play here, as regular starter Thomas Rawls (ankle) figures to play just sparingly. That should put Michael in play for a good amount of touches and overall, a strong fantasy outing.
Raiders vs. Saints
This game in general is going to be one to target, thanks to a high Vegas total and a ton of points coming. Oakland’s offensive players are the top guys to watch, though, since New Orleans had one of the worst defensive units in 2015.
To be more specific, the Saints were dead last in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks and ranked 30th and 29th in points awarded to running backs and wide receivers, respectively. Naturally, that puts Derek Carr, Latavius Murray and Amari Cooper in play at a high level in week one.
Bills vs. Ravens
Baltimore is another defense that could be fun to target, seeing as they simply haven’t been a great unit lately. In 2015 specifically, the Ravens gave up the 27th most points to wide receivers and the 24th most to quarterbacks.
Tyrod Taylor is also very much in play just because this week offers up a revenge narrative. Due to that, Taylor and Sammy Watkins make for an interesting stack option in week one.
Coby Fleener vs. Raiders
Oakland was really awful at covering the tight end a year ago, so much so that they finished 30th in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to the position. With few tight end options looking like locks this week, Fleener may be a borderline must-play entity.
Fleener could be looking at the starting tight end spot in New Orleans and could have been an attractive option regardless. With a home date with the Raiders, he may be completely necessary.
Browns vs. Eagles
This is another game you may want to target in general, as both of these defenses were atrocious in 2015 and not much has changed. The Browns could be the offense of the two to get the most production, however, as Robert Griffin III, Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor all offer upside with big plays down the field.
It only helps matters that Philly was so bad against the pass a year ago, finishing 31st against fantasy passers and 28th against fantasy wide receivers. Cleveland isn’t the only offense to focus on here, as we pointed out, however. The Eagles could also be in play, seeing as the Browns were dead last against wide receivers and just 27th against quarterbacks.
Overall, this should give you a great head start on who to start and sit in season long leagues or who to consider using in daily fantasy football games. No matter which path you take, good luck in your fantasy football leagues in week one!
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