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Fantasy Football Week 1: Start 'em sit 'em picks

Fantasy football sit-start advice is presented by Ram Trucks. Built to Serve. Sit-Start advice should always be relative and league-dependent. Note that some players are targeted for DFS. Good luck with your Week 1 lineups!

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons

Start: Miles Sanders, Drake London

The Panthers are going to rely heavily on Sanders in Week 1 with Adam Thielen expected to play through injury (DJ Chark has been ruled out) and with a rookie QB making his NFL debut. It remains to be seen whether Sanders can take advantage of the increased targets he’s expected to get in Carolina, but he’s looking at plenty of touches Sunday in a game indoors. Jonathan Mingo is a fantasy sleeper with Thielen banged up and Chark out Sunday.

Volume remains a concern in Atlanta, but London is coming off a special rookie season in which he posted a higher target share, target rate and yards per route run mark than Ja’Marr Chase as a sophomore. He’s ready to erupt in Year Two and gets a matchup this week against a Panthers defense that yielded the fourth-most fantasy points to receivers last season.

Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens

Start: Nico Collins

Start in DFS: J.K. Dobbins ($21)

Collins is coming off an underrated sophomore year and was C.J. Stroud’s favorite target throughout the preseason. He’s Houston’s clear WR1 with Brandin Cooks gone and set to take over the Julio Jones role in the Texans' new offense. The Ravens allowed the third-fewest YPC last season and are big favorites this week, so game script will call for plenty of Houston passing.

Dobbins enters finally injury-free with a career 5.9 YPC mark. He gets to play for a Ravens offense that features a healthy Lamar Jackson and huge upgrades at receiver and offensive coordinator, even though Mark Andrews is expected to sit. Dobbins is also expected to catch a lot more passes this season.

He gets a highly favorable matchup Week 1 at home against a Texans defense that ceded the most rush attempts, rush yards, rush touchdowns and fantasy points to running backs last season. Baltimore is the biggest favorite and has one of the highest implied team point totals on the slate, so game script should cooperate as well.

Dobbins is a top-10 RB and a smash in DFS this week.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns

Start in DFS: Joe Mixon ($23), Nick Chubb ($31)

Mixon should score more touchdowns and catch more passes this season with Samaje Perine gone, and he could see more touches than usual in Week 1 with Joe Burrow returning from a calf injury. The Bengals upgraded their offensive line and face a Browns defense that ceded the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs last year.

Chubb should be looking at increased targets with Kareem Hunt gone and Jerome Ford slowed by a hamstring injury. Chubb's salary is reasonable, and he gets a home matchup against a Bengals squad that could feature a less-than-100% Burrow. Deshaun Watson remains a wild card, but Cleveland has a loaded roster that includes one of the league’s best offensive lines. Chubb is arguably the NFL’s best runner right now and should get off to a nice start in 2023.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts

Start in DFS: Travis Etienne ($25), Anthony Richardson ($22)

As the feature back in an offense led by MVP candidate Trevor Lawrence and featuring the addition of Calvin Ridley, Etienne could be in store for a big fantasy season. In Week 1 he gets to play indoors in a matchup that was highly favorable to fantasy backs last season. Jacksonville has one of the highest team point totals this week against a Colts team led by a quarterback with fewer than 400 career college pass attempts making his first pro start — while missing Jonathan Taylor.

Richardson is going to make plenty of mistakes, and the Colts offense will suffer, but his salary is criminally low. Richardson is an athlete the QB position has never seen before, and he has the right coaching to help him succeed. The Colts’ up-tempo pace will also help, and they get a matchup at home against a middling Jaguars defense that allowed the third-most rushing yards to quarterbacks last season.

Richardson’s Week 1 salary is a gift we won’t see again.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings

Start: Mike Evans, Kirk Cousins

Evans averaged the third-most air yards per game last season and could easily see a bigger target share from Baker Mayfield. The Bucs play indoors this week in a matchup that projects to be fast-paced against a Minnesota defense that allowed the third-highest YPA and the second-most fantasy points to receivers last season. The Vikings also ceded the most yards to WRs in 2022.

Cousins’ efficiency dropped (7.1 YPA) during his first season with coach Kevin O’Connell, but he threw for 4,500+ yards and 29 TDs anyway thanks to volume. The Vikings had the sixth-highest pass rate over expectation last season, helping Cousins reach a career-high 643 pass attempts. He gets a Tampa Bay defense that ceded the second-most passing touchdowns last season. Cousins posted an 18:4 TD:INT ratio at home last year, so he’s a strong Week 1 start.

Tennessee Titans @ New Orleans Saints

Sit: Treylon Burks

Start: Derek Carr

Burks has quickly returned from a tricky knee injury and appears ready to go Week 1. But even if 100%, Burks will be losing targets to DeAndre Hopkins and touches to Derrick Henry. Burks has plenty of long-term upside (especially if injuries hit this year), but he has a tough matchup this week. The Saints allowed the second-lowest YPA and the third-fewest touchdown passes last season.

Carr showed up in much better shape this season and will benefit from a historically favorable schedule and throwing to Chris Olave, Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed. He gets a prime Week 1 matchup against a pass-funnel Titans defense that allowed just 62.8 rushing yards per game last season. Tennessee had by far the most pass attempts and pass yards against them last year, when they allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and the second-most passing scores.

San Francisco 49ers @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Sit in DFS: Christian McCaffrey ($40)

Start in DFS: Diontae Johnson ($15)

McCaffrey’s fantasy value takes a small hit in a 0.5 PPR format, and he has a tough matchup in Pittsburgh. CMC has the highest salary in Week 1, but his opportunities (from 24.1 to 16.4) and fantasy points dropped when Elijah Mitchell was on the field last year. Mitchell is highly unlikely to hold up over a full season, but he’s ready for Week 1. The Steelers have one of the league’s best defensive fronts and were the toughest opponent for fantasy backs (schedule adjusted) last year.

McCaffrey will have much bigger games this season than in Week 1.

Johnson had by far the biggest difference in expected fantasy points and actual fantasy points among all pass catchers last year. He’s a terrific route-runner who also gets to play in an emerging Steelers offense that averaged the third-most yards per drive after their bye last year. Kenny Pickett looks primed to make a leap this season, with Johnson a huge beneficiary.

The Steelers get a 49ers defense that yielded the fewest fantasy points to running backs but the sixth-most to wide receivers last season. Johnson is incredibly undervalued in DFS this week with a salary outside the top 30 WRs.

Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Commanders

Start: James Conner, Brian Robinson

Conner is in a tough situation and is highly unlikely to stay healthy all season, but he should get a big workload Sunday. The Cardinals will be starting newly added Joshua Dobbs at QB and an already paper-thin WR group and Marquise Brown expected to play through a hamstring issue. Conner was the RB4 (ppg) over the second half of last season with some big games without Kyler Murray.

There’s concern Antonio Gibson splits touches, but there's also a real chance Robinson runs away with Washington’s RB job now that he’s fully recovered from last season’s gunshot injury. The Commanders are home and the second-biggest favorites this week, so game script should be favorable. The Cardinals gave up the third-most fantasy points to running backs last season and were easily the most favorable RB matchup when schedule-adjusted.

Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears

Start: Luke Musgrave, Khalil Herbert

With Christian Watson out and Romeo Doubs expected to play but battling a hamstring injury, Musgrave should see a good number of targets Sunday. The rookie TE had an 84% route involvement and a 24% target share during Jordan Love dropbacks in the preseason. This is a strong matchup for Aaron Jones, but Musgrave could be a top-10 tight end in Week 1.

Herbert led the league in rush yards over expectation last season and enters as Chicago’s lead back with David Montgomery gone. Questions remain regarding Herbert’s receiving ability, but he gets a favorable home matchup against a Packers defense that allowed 5.0 YPC and the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs last season.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos

Start in DFS: Davante Adams ($25)

Sit: Javonte Williams

Adams’ salary is barely that of a top-15 WR/RB this week. There are questions regarding his ability to repeat his recent performance at age 30 and with Jimmy Garoppolo as his new quarterback, but this is still arguably the NFL’s best receiver. Adams saw 180 targets last season when he led the league in air yards. He’s been easily the most productive fantasy player since 2020.

Adams averaged 8-121-1 on 13 targets over two games against the Broncos last year and has a favorable matchup against Denver's scheme. He might not have a salary this low again in 2023.

The Raiders are a favorable matchup this week, and Williams could easily be your best option. Just realize there’s a chance he will take a backseat to Samaje Perine as he continues to recover from a serious knee injury that included tearing his ACL, LCL and PLC. Sean Payton sounds like he has a plan to ease Williams back into action. Rookie Jaleel McLaughlin has also impressed.

For what it’s worth, some reports have Perine as Denver’s lead back for “a good chunk of this season.”

Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers

Start: Raheem Mostert

Start in DFS: Keenan Allen ($18)

Mostert is unlikely to remain healthy this season, but he’s a strong Week 1 start. Jeff Wilson is on IR, and rookie De’Von Achane expected to miss Week 1 with a shoulder injury.

Miami’s offense was lethal last year when Tua Tagovailoa was healthy. Mostert has a career 5.4 YPC and gets to play on turf against a Chargers defense that ranked last in YPC and EPA/rush last season. Mostert is also an especially good matchup against an LA defense that’s been vulnerable to outside zone rushing.

Raheem Must-Start in Week 1.

Allen remained a target hog despite playing through a hamstring injury last season. He remains a bigger injury risk at 31 years old, but Allen is healthy entering the year, and rookie Quentin Johnston enters as the team’s WR4. The Chargers have the highest implied team total on the slate, and opponents attempted the third-most passes against the Dolphins last year. Allen’s DFS salary is outside the top 20 WRs this week.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots

Sit: Eagles RBs, JuJu Smith-Schuster

A healthy D’Andre Swift appears to be the favorite for touches in an Eagles backfield that’s going to be a committee this season. Kenneth Gainwell and Rashaad Penny (who’s the most favored Philly RB to score a TD this week) will also help replace Miles Sanders, and Philadelphia gets a tough matchup against a Patriots defense that ceded the fourth-lowest YPC last season. Meanwhile, Jalen Hurts matches up extremely well against New England’s man-heavy defense.

Smith-Schuster saw 100+ targets as KC’s slot receiver last season from the greatest QB of all time and still finished outside the top 36 fantasy receivers (points per game). New England’s offense will be improved this season, but the Patriots will rotate their receivers, even with DeVante Parker not expected to play. The Eagles were stingy against fantasy receivers last year when they ceded an NFL-low 5.5 YPA.

Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks

Start: Tyler Higbee, Seahawks D/ST

Higbee has seen a whopping 25% target share and has been a borderline top-five fantasy tight end over the last two years with Cooper Kupp off the field. With a bright offensive coach, a healthy Matthew Stafford and few other options on offense, Higbee is set for a productive Week 1.

The Rams have one of the league’s worst offensive lines and will be missing Kupp. Seattle is tough at home and should have an improved defense in 2023. The Seahawks are one of the biggest favorites this week, so their D/ST is a strong start.

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

Sit: Brandin Cooks, Daniel Jones

Cooks will soon turn 30 and will now be competing for targets with CeeDee Lamb and a much healthier Michael Gallup. The Cowboys play outdoors against a solid Giants defense Sunday night.

I’m high on Danny Dimes this season, but look for alternatives in Week 1. Dallas enters with a potentially dominant defense that led the league in pressure rate last season. Jones has struggled when facing the Cowboys throughout his career, posting a 3:5 touchdown:turnover ratio over five games.

Buffalo Bills @ New York Jets

Start: James Cook

Sit: Aaron Rodgers

Cook might lose some goal-line work to Damien Harris, but he enters 2023 as Buffalo’s new lead back. He quietly impressed as a rookie last season, leading all RBs in explosive run percentage (15+ yards). Cook will also crucially see increased targets with Nyheim Hines out for the season, giving him real fantasy upside against a Jets defense that ceded among the most targets to running backs last year.

The addition of Rodgers has the Jets as Super Bowl contenders, but he’ll be making his first start on a new team with a shaky offensive line. Rodgers also gets a tough Buffalo defense that allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season. With Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook also splitting work, the Jets might get off to a frustrating start for fantasy managers (other than Garrett Wilson, of course).