It's finally here, y'all. Week one of the NFL season is upon us and to say it's been a trying time to get this far would be underselling it.
Without any preseason games to evaluate, fantasy footballers could only rely on 2019 game tapes and reports from team beat writers. That's fine and all, but if you're like me, I'm sure you're nervous about particular players due to the uncertainty left without any preseason.
So here are my thoughts heading into week one. There's huge matchups, divisional battles and playoff teams reconvening, but here are some players to keep an eye out for.
Start 'em — Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Allen has been one of the top tier wideouts in the league for some time now, averaging 101 catches, 1262.7 receiving yards and six touchdowns per season since 2017. He's got a tasty matchup in week one against a Cincinnati Bengals club that gave up an 8.3 yards per attempt average last season, which tied for highest in the league.
The Cal product may be in Anthony Lynn's run-heavy scheme (and some will note that Tyrod Taylor will be under center) but Allen is a ball hog. He's got 10 career games with 10 or more receptions, including a 13-catch, 183-yard and two-touchdown effort against Houston last season. Add in Mike Williams still nursing a shoulder injury and this has the makings of a layup start for the season opener.
The eighth-year pro also signed a four-year, $80 million extension last week. The Bolts will want to see early returns on their investment.
Sit 'em — Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
Danny Dimes may be primed for a breakout in 2020, but don't expect it coming in week one. The Steelers had one of the NFL's top defenses in 2019 and they return essentially all of their starters after leading the league in sacks (54) and fumble recoveries (18), while placing second in picks (20) and forced fumbles (22), and fourth in passer rating allowed (79.7).
Those fumble rates are key, as Jones led the league in fumbles with 18. A second-year QB in a new system, against one of the game's top units, this could be a recipe for disaster.
Although I do think the G-Men should expect an uptick on the offensive side of the ball this year, this week one matchup is not the time to expect that progression.
Sleeper of the week — Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
The nearly forgotten star for the 'Boys, Gallup compiled his first 1,000-yard season last year and should be a piece in one of the NFL's top passing units once again. The Colorado State product averaged 81.6 receiving yards per game over the final eight games, boosted by two 100-yard games and two contests with 98 yards.
That rate would also average out to 1,306 yards in a full 16-game season.
He's got a solid matchup against a Los Angeles Rams' D that ranked at No. 12 in the league in terms of passing yards allowed in 2019. But with Amari Cooper drawing the tough matchup of lockdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and stud rookie CeeDee Lamb being integrated into the lineup, Gallup could benefit from the other guys garnering attention.
Plus his best yardage game of '19 came in week one — 158 receiving yards and seven receptions — so who's to say he can't repeat that effort.
Bills fantasy outlook — New York Jets
Losing playmakers Jamal Adams (traded to Seattle) and C.J. Mosley (COVID opt-out), the Jets will have a tough time replicating a No. 7 overall ranking in terms of total defense. Although the secondary seems to be the strength of New York's unit, Buffalo should be able to make plays down field.
With the addition of Stefon Diggs to a core featuring John Brown, Dawson Knox and Cole Beasley, Josh Allen is in line to have a huge fantasy presence this week, especially factoring in his ability to take off and run. I expect Diggs to make at least one splash play against the Jets, considering he logged a ridiculous 17.9 yards per catch average last season.
In my opinion, the toughest thing to evaluate without the preseason is who will be the lead dog in the backfield. Yes Devin Singletary had a strong rookie season, but he's had struggles with fumbles throughout training camp. Add in third-round rookie Zack Moss' strong camp and this has the makings of a one-two punch committee.
The Jets should be a favorable matchup for the Bills' run game, as New York seems to have one of the weaker defensive lines in the league on paper.
Defensively, Buffalo should outmatch the Jets in all categories. The Bills' deep d-line should take advantage of New York's growing offensive line, who has many unknowns next to 2020 first-rounder Mekhi Becton. As talented as Le'Veon Bell may be, don't expect him to challenge the Buffalo defense as anything more than a potential mismatch in the passing game.
As Bills fans, do I really need to tell you that Frank Gore won't be a factor either?
Even with the status of Josh Norman unknown, the Bills secondary still looks stout with All-Pro Tre'Davious White, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer and Levi Wallace. And after a season ranking tied for second lowest in TD passes allowed (15), third in passer rating allowed (78.8) and fourth overall in passing yards allowed (3,123), Buffalo should have no problem locking down an injury-riddled core of Breshad Perriman, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder and Chris Hogan.
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