NFL Start ’em, Sit ’em Week 1: Kirk Cousins and Corey Davis have matchups you should exploit

One of the most nerve-wracking things in fantasy football is making lineup decisions. You have to consider so many different variables. The great news is that the team at Pro Football Network is here to help. Not all matchups are equal, but here are our top start ’em, sit ’em plays for Week 1.

NFL Start ’em, Sit ’em for Week 1: Quarterbacks

As the first NFL Sunday kicks off, which QBs are must-starts and who should remain on the bench in Week 1?

Start ’em | Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Cousins is a great option in Week 1 in all formats. Over the last eight games of last season, he averaged 27 fantasy points per game. Cousins averaged 301 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game. With Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen as his top two receivers, this momentum should continue in 2021.

The Vikings are favorites against the Bengals this week. The over/under is set at 47. Minnesota games finished with 47+ points scored in 13 out of 16 games last season. The Bengals will also be missing their No. 1 cornerback Trae Waynes. This bodes well for Cousins and the Vikings’ passing attack.

Sit ’em | Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

The potential for Winston in the Saints’ offense is through the roof for the 2021 season. However, he faces a Packers defense that only allowed 16 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks last season. Winston and the Saints also don’t have the home-field advantage due to Hurricane Ida’s landfall — the Saints/Packers game will be played in Jacksonville.

The Saints are likely to lean more on Alvin Kamara, their offensive line, and the running game. The Packers allowed nearly 27 PPR fantasy points per game to running backs last season.

Running backs

While both RBs found themselves with adjusted roles in the preseason following injuries to surrounding players, each finds themselves on opposite sides of start/sit debates for Week 1.

Start ’em | Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles

Sanders has averaged 16.4 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets), 85.6 total yards, and 14 PPR fantasy points per game since his rookie season back in 2019. He only accumulated 1,068 total yards in 2020 compared to 1,327 in 2019. However, Sanders missed four games because of a knee injury last year.  His receiving output decreased from his first season to his second.

Unfortunately, the 24-year-old running back could lose opportunities to Boston Scott and rookie Kenneth Gainwell as the season progresses. Even so, Sanders has a favorable matchup against the Falcons to open the season. Philadelphia’s offensive line also has a significant advantage against Atlanta’s defensive line. Sanders should lead the Eagles’ backfield in opportunities this week. He can be viewed as a low-end RB2.

Sit ’em | Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills

Moss (16%) and Devin Singletary (21%) were both actively involved in Buffalo’s offense when you look at their opportunity shares. This trend should continue in 2021. Moss is difficult to trust this week against the Steelers as more than an RB3 or flex option. Pittsburgh’s defense allowed the second-fewest PPR fantasy per game (18.7) to running backs last season. The Bills may continue to lean heavily on Josh Allen’s dual-threat ability as a passer and runner in Week 1.

Wide receivers

With the wide receiver position deeper than ever for fantasy football, start ’em or sit ’em decisions for Week 1 are invariably matchup-dependent.

Start ’em | Corey Davis, New York Jets

Davis is in a good position to see an abundance of targets this week against the Panthers. Jamison Crowder will miss the Jets’ opener after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list a week ago. Keelan Cole is also out with a knee injury.

Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson heavily targeted Davis in limited preseason action. The Jets signed Davis to a three-year, $37.5 million contract that includes $27 million guaranteed. Davis will operate as New York’s No. 1 receiver, and Wilson has the arm strength to attack defenses vertically. The former Titans receiver blessed quarterbacks with a 140.6 passer rating when targeted on 15+ yard throws in 2020. Davis is on the WR2 radar against the Panthers during opening weekend.

Sit ’em | Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

Sutton returns from his torn ACL injury to lead Denver’s receivers and could play limited snaps in his first game back. Sutton is likely to be matched up with Giants cornerback James Bradberry, limiting his upside. This would allow Jerry Jeudy to thrive. The Giants defense also limited quarterbacks to the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game last season.

Tight ends

Although the TE position in fantasy is notoriously shallow, start ’em or sit ’em decisions for Week 1 could mean the difference in a win or a loss.

Start ’em | Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns

Hooper’s first season with the Browns had ups and downs in the team’s run-heavy offense. He averaged 5.4 targets, 3.5 receptions, 33.5 receiving yards, and 9 PPR fantasy points per game. Hooper finished as a TE2 or better in eight games last season. He had three consecutive TE1 performances from Week 15-17. This includes a season-high 15 targets and 71 receiving yards against the Jets in Week 16.

Hooper is a solid starting option this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City allowed the sixth-most PPR fantasy points per game to tight ends last season. The Browns are underdogs in a matchup with a 54-point over/under. There should be a ton of opportunities for Hooper to generate fantasy points. He is a TE2 with upside.

Sit ’em | Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills

Knox is positioned to see a majority of the snaps at tight end this season. However, the matchup against the Steelers’ defense is suboptimal. Pittsburgh’s defense allowed the second-fewest PPR fantasy points per game to tight ends last season. It is also worth mentioning that wide receiver Gabriel Davis actually led the Bills in red-zone targets in 2020.

Kickers

The K position is often overlooked, but it can make or break your fantasy team in certain weeks.

Start ’em | Ryan Santoso, Carolina Panthers

Santoso is a great spot as the Panthers’ new starting kicker against the Jets. Carolina is favored at home, with the over/under currently at 43.5. New Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is reunited with his old teammate Robby Anderson. This duo will want to shine against their old team.

Sit ’em | Daniel Carlson, Las Vegas Raiders

It may be tempting to start Carlson. He finished last season with the third-most fantasy points behind Jason Sanders and Younghoe Koo in a productive Raiders offense. However, Carlson faces a Ravens defense that allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to kickers last season.

Defenses

The right DST selection could potentially win your fantasy week.

Start ’em | Jacksonville Jaguars

The strategy of streaming a defense against the Texans will be implemented often this season. Houston has Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback, who hasn’t seen relevant action since his time with the Bills (2015-2017). The Texans have a suspect offensive line and running backs David Johnson and Mark Ingram, who are beyond their physical prime. Houston has questionable receivers outside of Brandin Cooks. The Jaguars have a ton of young talent on defense and have an opportunity to shine in this matchup.

Sit ’em | New Orleans Saints

The Saints finished as the DST7 with 122 fantasy points. However, the only other offense last season to average more total yards per game than the Packers (394) was the Chiefs (414.7). This is a good week to fade the Saints’ defense.

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