For the first six NFL seasons on the blog, I wrote a weekly fantasy advice column not just as a passion project, but also because of my love of fantasy football that kept growing through time. I'd bet almost half the posts on this blog are fantasy columns. Last year, I didn't write one because I thought I'd be too busy with a job to write it again. That wasn't true, and it's also not true this year. It's also a place for me to scratch my fantasy itch because I don't have a team or a league this year because I have no friends. But that doesn't mean I can't help the few who read this blog with fantasy advice they may or may not need. The column has returned, so let's get back to work.
Start of the Week: QB Marcus Mariota (TEN) vs. OAK
Mariota will finally have a full compliment of healthy receivers for this game, and looked to show no ill effects of his injury from the tail end of last season. He faces a Raiders secondary that isn't as good as you'd think, especially with the injury to David Amerson. It also wouldn't be a shock to see the Titans begin to throw the ball more than they have despite the success of "exotic smashmouth".
Who to Start:
QB Carson Palmer (ARZ) at DET: Thanks to injuries to Andrew Luck and hurricane enforced bye weeks, Palmer is a good stopgap if you need one. He has a healthy receiving corps, David Johnson, and faces a less than stellar Detroit defense. He always has bust potential too, but the boom potential this week is exciting.
RB Dalvin Cook (MIN) vs. NO MON: He's been less heralded than his fellow rookie RB's in Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, but he has the potential to be quite a solid option all season, depending on how he and Latavius Murray split touches. Regardless of how many he gets on Monday, the Saints defense is one almost every opposing offense will have success against, so Cook could get his career in fantasy off to a great start.
WR Sammy Watkins (LAR) vs. IND: I don't trust Jared Goff yet, and neither should you. But, Sammy Watkins has experience putting up numbers with less than stellar QB in Buffalo, so even with questions over who is throwing him the ball, the Colts defense without Vontae Davis poor defending the pass. Watkins should get off to a great start with the Rams.
WR Martavis Bryant (PIT) at CLE: The Steelers have so many weapons on offense that the biggest problem for fantasy players might be deciphering how the love gets spread around. Bryant, now back from a season-long suspension, figures to get plenty of looks from Big Ben and should be very successful against the Browns, who still don't have a good secondary.
TE Jason Witten (DAL) vs. NYG: He's not a number one fantasy tight end anymore, but he always seems to do well against the Giants, no matter how good their defense is. As teams key in on Dak, Zeke and Dez, Witten will occupy the soft spots in defensive schemes which will offer him the chance to be a decent fantasy option all season.
DEF Houston vs. JAX: Start every team's defense when they play against the Jaguars. This should be obvious from last year, and Houston's defense has the trio of Clowney, Watt and Mercilus on the field together for the first time ever. They could make some big noise on Sunday.
Sit of the Week: Joe Mixon (CIN) vs. BAL
Mixon has quite the crowded backfield to sort through before inevitably becoming the starter, but that day isn't going to be on Sunday against a stout Ravens defense. Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard will siphon touches from Mixon, and the Ravens defense looks to be one of the sneaky good units in football. Mixon's time will come, but not right now.
Who to Sit:
QB Philip Rivers (LAC) at DEN MON: Rivers could end up being fantastic this season, but he's never played well against the Broncos. He's only had one dynamite fantasy outing in the last six games against Denver dating back to 2014, and even though his receiving corps is healthy, Denver's D is still fairly stout despite a fair amount of attrition. Avoid Rivers for now.
RB Leonard Fournette (JAX) at HOU: Fournette could still be really good this season, and should be a contender for offensive rookie of the year despite the Jaguars ineptitude. But his offensive line is a mess, and he's likely not 100% healed from that foot injury. No Jags RB has scored against the Texans since 2013.
WR T.Y Hilton (IND) at LAR: Scott Tolzien is starting at QB, which makes T.Y Hilton a very dangerous fantasy play. Hilton only had three catches for 54 yards last season in Tolzien's lone start, and only has 630 yards in 10 career games without Luck playing. Hilton is so talented, but he may be QB dependent, making him a dangerous fantasy play.
WR Dez Bryant (DAL) vs. NYG: Another player you probably drafted fairly high, but has risk written all over him. The Giants always seem to defend Dez well, but his numbers weren't what many expected from him last season, particularly against Big Blue. If you have Bryant, you're probably starting him, though beware what could be some troubles ahead.
TE Eric Ebron (DET) vs. ARZ: The Cardinals always defend tight ends well, and it's also tough to play a player coming off a hamstring injury as Ebron is. He's also not proven enough as a fantasy option to play him in a brutal matchup.
DEF Kansas City at NE THU: This seems inevitable, but because the Chiefs D is so good, you may start them anyway. But don't. Tonight is the Pats show, and while the Chiefs D will be really good the rest of the way, the start of their season could be plenty rough.
3 Super Sleepers:
QB Sam Bradford (MIN) vs. NO MON: Even Sam Bradford is a worthy fantasy play against the Saints defense, which is seemingly getting worse with each passing season. If you have a Luck or Winston problem, Bradford could be a great stopgap.
RB Adrian Peterson (NO) at MIN MON: The Saints backfield is a crowded one with Mark Ingram getting the majority of touches in all likelihood, but with Peterson embracing the revenge game angle in ways many players don't, watch for him to be a sneaky flex play. Don't be surprised if he goes off.
TE C.J Fiedorowicz (HOU) vs. JAX: Tom Savage will need a safety blanket, and his number one tight end could be the guy against the Jaguars. Jacksonville has never defended the tight end well, and Fiedorowicz could easily benefit this week. He's a deep sleeper, but not a bad play either.
Buyer Beware: QB Dak Prescott (DAL) vs. NYG
I love Dak. He was so great as a rookie running and passing the ball, but not only did he struggle against the Giants, he's a prime regression candidate because of his running successes. Dak will have plenty of time to improve his play, but the Giants D has flummoxed the Cowboys in recent year. Dak is not the best start this week, especially if you have better options.
Welcome back this wonderful column, and enjoy the start of the football season.