Matchups are everything in fantasy football. An average QB can put up monster numbers against a team with no pass rush and an awful secondary, and there are plenty of running backs who can post 200 yards against an army of midgets. Similarly, even the best quarterback can struggle against Seattle’s Legion of Boom, and Pittsburgh’s old Steel Curtain regularly swallowed opposing running backs whole. In this weekly column, we’ll look at the match ups and tell you which players could be headed toward big weeks, and which guys would be better leaving on the bench if possible.
POTENTIAL $$$: Carson Palmer, Arizona – Palmer could be a good streaming option for both the first two weeks, as he follows a matchup against Detroit with a road trip to Indianapolis. The Lions gave up the fifth most fantasy points to QBs last year, and you know Cardinals coach Bruce Arians – who came out with a book titled “The Quarterback Whisperer” this offseason – will call plenty of pass plays to test that secondary.
AVOID: Dak Prescott, Dallas – Aaron Rodgers (vs SEA), Tom Brady (vs KC) and Drew Brees (at MIN) all have bad match ups, but I’d never tell you to bench those guys. Prescott’s day just got a lot easier with the reinstatement of Ezekiel Elliot for Week 1, but with Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon coming off the edge, and a secondary featuring the likes of Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins, nothing is going to come easy for Prescott this Sunday against the Giants. Prescott averaged less than 200 yards with one TD and two INTs in his two games against them last year.
POTENTIAL $$$: Bilal Powell, NYJ – I’m not often going to talk up Jets in this column, but this is a good matchup for Powell. The Bills gave up the third-most fantasy points to RBs last year, and whether you want to believe the Matt Forte trade rumors or not, Powell will likely be the lead back to start out the year.
AVOID: Joe Mixon, Cincinnati – Based on preseason usage, Mixon probably won’t get the start this Sunday. That nod will likely go to fourth-year pro Jeremy Hill. With the Bengals going against the usually-stout Ravens front seven, it could spell a disappointing debut for the promising rookie from Oklahoma.
POTENTIAL $$$: Jamison Crowder, Washington – Crowder is an interesting case in that he’s probably behind Jordan Reed and Terrelle Pryor on the pecking order among Redskin pass catchers, but Philadelphia was tough against TEs last year, which should neutralize Reed. Washington and Philadelphia were also among the top seven in pass attempts, so with both teams flinging the ball around, it could be the perfect time for a slot-receiver like Crowder to have a big game.
AVOID: Tyreek Hill, Kansas City – Hill will have a lot on his shoulders tonight. Expectations are sky-high for the second-year pro out of Oklahoma State after his scintillating finish to 2016. The Chiefs let Jeremy Maclin walk during free agency and will be counting on Hill to be a go-to WR this time around. But is he ready for that role? It might be a tough adjustment, especially with Patriots CB Malcolm Butler ready to lock him down.
POTENTIAL $$$: Zach Miller, Chicago – If you read my preseason columns, you know I’m high on Miller this year. The Bears TE was criminally undervalued in fantasy drafts and has a great chance to leap off the mat with Atlanta coming to Soldier Field week 1.
AVOID: Eric Ebron, Detroit – Ebron basically missed all of training camp with a hamstring problem. Add that with the fact that the Lions are playing the Cardinals, who gave up the least amount of fantasy points to TEs last year, and it’s probably not a good week to be rolling Ebron out in your fantasy lineup.
POTENTIAL $$$: Panthers/Steelers/Chargers – All three of these teams can get after the quarterback, and they all have tasty week 1 match ups. The Panthers face the new-look 49ers, the Steelers get a Browns squad that gave up 66 sacks last year – 17 more than anyone else in the league – and the Chargers face a Denver offense that is still iffy along the offensive line and unsure at QB.
AVOID: Chiefs – Could be proven dead wrong on this one. Kansas City led the league in takeaways last year, and have the electric Hill returning kicks. But the Chiefs open the season in New England, the kind of team that doesn’t turn the ball over and prides itself on special teams.