By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
It’s finally here! Week 1 of the NFL season and we have our Week 1 Confidence Plays ready for you. Without preseason football, many of us have lacked a fix. Hopefully, none of you turned to actual drugs for said fix and just waited out the storm. I’m ecstatic you did. Because this season is going to be fun.
Or a headache because of COVID. I’m honestly not too sure, really, but I stocked up on Aleve just in case.
If you read my preseason Confidence Plays column, you have a good idea as to what this column is. It’s essentially a start/sit column featuring players I think will boom (play) versus those I think will bust (fade). I try to focus on some middle-of-the-road and streaming options, as you’re likely playing your top guys regardless of the matchup, but some of those top guys may land on the Fade side. (Some matchups suck — what do you want me to do?) Don’t interpret this as “I have to sit Patrick Mahomes to play Derek Carr because Carr is a Play this week.” Don’t be that fantasy player. But maybe put some of them in your DFS lineups to maximize upside or play them as your RB2 or WR2 or in your FLEX. Or, you know, stream them.
And without further adieu, my Week 1 Confidence Plays!
QB Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) – Facing the Giants in Week 1 is not like facing the Patriots in Week 1 last year. New York has no pass rush (11th fewest sacks in the NFL last season) and did nothing this offseason to improve it. Their secondary? They allowed the 5th most passing yards per game and the 7th most passing touchdowns. They brought in James Bradberry to lock down opposing number ones, but lost Sam Beal (opt out) and Deandre Baker (stupidity). A secondary that allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to quarterbacks is prime for the picking. Welcome back, Big Ben.
QB Cam Newton (NE) – Another quarterback coming off an injury, Newton gets the remade Dolphins defense and it’s fair to wonder how fast they can gel. Newton is plenty motivated after spending much of the offseason unsigned, but his ability as a runner should offset any chemistry issues with his new teammates. The Dolphins were tied for the 9th most rushing touchdowns allowed to opposing quarterbacks and Newton has 58 of them over his nine seasons in the league. They also allowed the most passing touchdowns, which makes N’Keal Harry and Julian Edelman attractive plays as well.
RB Josh Jacobs (LVR) – Jon Gruden spoke all offseason about wanting to get Josh Jacobs the football more. How did the league reward him? They gave the Raiders the Panthers in Week 1 — the team that allowed the most rushing yards and fantasy points to running backs in 2019. We’ll know very quickly if Gruden was talking out of his ass or not.
RB James White (NE) – If I like Cam Newton this week, it’s fair to assume I love James White. Against Miami last year, White caught a touchdown in each meeting. The Dolphins were tied with the Raiders for the 3rd most receiving touchdowns allowed to running backs. During Newton’s last healthy season in Carolina (2018), RBs were targeted on 23.8% of the team’s attempts. White once saw 21.4% of Tom Brady’s targets with New England. Love this matchup for White.
RBs Marlon Mack & Jonathan Taylor (IND) – Week 1 opponent: at JAX; JAX allowed 2nd most fantasy points to RBs and Jags got WORSE this offseason. The Jaguars front office has acted like a neighborhood chop shop of late. They took what was once the league’s best defense and over the last couple of years, sold off all the valuable parts. So if the Jags got WORSE this offseason, how do you think Colts running backs will perform against the team that allowed the 2nd most fantasy points to running backs last year? There will be no waiting for the Jonathan Taylor coming out party. It starts on Sunday.
WR Michael Gallup (DAL) – Last year, the Rams gave up a ton of picks to secure the services of CB Jalen Ramsey. In the offseason, they didn’t re-sign Nickell Robey-Coleman. Unless you follow the Rams as a fan, you probably don’t know who their CB2 is opposite Ramsey. (For the record, it’s Darious Williams.) Here’s the best way to translate that information — Michael Gallup is going to EAT on Sunday. The Cowboys leading receiver in fantasy points per game likely won’t see much, if any, Ramsey and he’ll be free to dominate a Rams defense that allowed the 6th most receptions to receivers last year. (And yes, I’m ignoring Gallup’s 1 catch for 6 yards effort in Week 15 against the Rams last year. It’s a brand new year, baby!) Gallup has top 5 upside this week. Yes, top 5.
WR DeSean Jackson (PHI) – Isn’t this just what happens? DeSean Jackson plays a former team and just lights them up every time? In Week 1 against the Washington Football Team that had a different name last year, DJax went for 8/154/2 on 9 targets. In 2018 as a Buc against Philly, he went 4/129/1 on 4 targets. Washington is remaking their defense and have Fabian Moreau and Kendall Fuller, both banged up already, on the outside. They ranked 96th and 102nd, respectively, in coverage grade per PFF. Jackson isn’t hurt (yet) so start him with confidence this week.
WR Allen Robinson (CHI) – The Lions defense hasn’t been good in some time and just traded away their best player (Darius Slay). Last season, they allowed the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. On 21 targets over the two games he faced DET, Allen Robinson combined for 14 catches, 172 yards, and a touchdown. Desmond Trufant and rookie Jeffery Okudah are tasked with shutting down Robinson and while normally I’d be hesitant, Trubisky has eyes for no one else. Robinson should easily see 9+ targets this week, making him a WR2 at worst this week.
TE Hayden Hurst (ATL) – Maybe the acquisition of Jamal Adams changes how the Seahawks decide to cover tight ends, but their safeties weren’t the ones getting consistently burned by tight ends last year, en route to giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to tight ends. Hayden Hurst was an expensive acquisition for Atlanta and last year’s TE1, Austin Hooper, was 2nd on the team with 97 targets. I firmly believe Hurst can see at least 6 targets in Week 1, putting him on path for a TE1 finish.
TE Jonnu Smith (TEN) – Jonnu Smith’s greatest gift is his athleticism. He finished 9th among tight ends in YAC, and had the lowest amount of targets among the top 10 TEs (44). Last year, the Broncos allowed the 4th most receiving yards to TEs and it’s fair to assume that even in a low passing offense, Smith will have a few opportunities to stretch the field for chunk gains as the defense focuses on stopping Derrick Henry.
QB Daniel Jones (NYG) – Pittsburgh’s defense shut down everyone last year. They allowed the 4th fewest fantasy points to QBs a year ago. Daniel Jones has been a target of many fantasy players this offseason but if you listened to just about everyone, you should’ve drafted a backup plan for his early season schedule. People also like to casually forget that Jones had fewer than two touchdown passes in seven of his 12 starts and averaged an interception per start. The Steelers led the league in takeaways in 2019. This will not be a good start to Jones’s coming out party.
QB Baker Mayfield (CLE) – 2019 was a year to forget for Baker Mayfield and the Browns. But a new coach brings new hopes and dreams. Those dreams became nightmares when they saw Baltimore on the schedule for Week 1. The Ravens allowed the 2nd fewest fantasy points to opposing QBs last year and only allowed three 300-yard passing games — all in the first four weeks of the season. Mayfield finished as QB14 and QB16 in his two weeks against the Ravens and I have little faith he finishes any higher this week.
RB Alvin Kamara (NO) – Alvin Kamara put up respectable numbers against the Bucs in 2019, especially considering they had the stingiest run defense in the league in 2019. They allowed the 2nd fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs and allowed 83 receptions to RBs, T-12th fewest. For Kamara, his value this week will be in how many receptions he can procure. He had his only 10-reception game of last season in Week 11 versus the Bucs (an RB3 finish) but with Taysom Hill serving as a pest in the red zone — four of his seven touchdowns came inside the 20 — Kamara’s upside is limited. You’re still starting him, but don’t get your hopes up.
RB Kareem Hunt (CLE) – As we revisit this CLE-BAL game, it’s a good time to remind everyone that Kareem Hunt had only six touches against them in Week 16, good for 8.1 fantasy points. The Ravens allowed the fewest receptions to running backs a year ago and added one of the best sideline-to-sideline linebackers in this year’s draft — LSU’s Pactrick Queen. Hunt is off my radar in Week 1.
RB Devin Singletary (BUF) – I give the Jets a lot of flack, but they did have a respectable defense in 2019. They allowed the 3rd fewest rushing yards to RBs last year and allowed only one 100-yard rushing game. Devin Singletary made quite the debut against the Jets in Week 1 last year, compiling 98 yards on only 9 touches. With Zack Moss splitting work and Singletary being used sparingly in the red zone, I don’t see much upside for the Buffalo running back.
WR Amari Cooper (DAL) – Amari Cooper was held to one catch for 19 yards on two targets against the Rams in Week 15 last year. Ramsey played 70 defensive snaps that game and the Cowboys didn’t throw in his direction once. The Cowboys have a lot of weapons on offense and after paying Cooper $100 million this offseason, I’d guess Ramsey will line up opposite Cooper often. Why should Dallas look Cooper’s way if they put up 44 points on the Rams with him totaling one catch the last time? Fade Cooper. Hard.
WR Deebo Samuel (SF) – Samuel suffered a foot injury this offseason that many felt would keep him out for at least the first couple of weeks of this season. And yet, here we are heading into Week 1 and by all accounts, Samuel is ready to go. The Cardinals pass defense isn’t great and Samuel did go off for 8/134/0 in Week 11 against them last year. But that game didn’t feature George Kittle. In Week 9 with Kittle, Samuel had only 4/40/0 against ARI. Patrick Peterson is still a premiere corner in this league, despite last year’s struggles — he missed half the season due to suspension — and I expect him to be covering Samuel often this week. Combine that with the injury, I’m not banking on a big performance.
WR Tyler Boyd (CIN) – You won’t find many analysts who love them some Tyler Boyd as much as me. That said, I don’t expect a big game from Boyd this week. Even without Derwin James, the Chargers secondary is legit and they added Chris Harris from Denver this offseason. Harris spent much of last season on the outside and should be moving back to the slot this year, which lines him up on Boyd, who was tied for 3rd in the league in targets from the slot. The Chargers also allowed the 3rd fewest fantasy points to WRs last year, so there’s that too.
TE Austin Hooper (CLE) – Can I just say there aren’t many weapons on Cleveland that I do like this week? I thought the Austin Hooper contract was a joke and I’m not sold that HC Kevin Stefanski rolls out the red carpet to throw him the ball 97 times in 2020. Neither of his TEs in Minnesota last year topped 50 targets. Baltimore allowed the fewest fantasy points to TEs last year so I’m all out on Hooper this week.
TE Darren Waller (LV) – Just about the only thing the Panthers defense could do was cover TEs, allowing the 2nd fewest receptions to TEs in 2019. I don’t know how much passing Jon Gruden has in mind for this week when Josh Jacobs is primed for a 200-yard, 4-TD game, but when they do, I’m not expecting Darren Waller to be a big beneficiary. The Raiders have a chance to break in their young outside receivers against a questionable pair of corners and no one of quality can cover Hunter Renfrow in the slot. When Renfrow excelled in 2019, Waller disappeared from the game plan. Call this one a hunch more than anything.