Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Week One Game Previews
Fantasy Advice for Nearly Every Player in Every Game
Drafts have finished up, experts have made their bold claims (cough Dan Arnold is the breakout TE cough), and it is finally time to look ahead to week one matchups. The Game Previews are a chance for me to provide my brief thoughts on nearly every player that could be on a fantasy roster. These thoughts will be updated throughout the week should injury news comes out about players. Each player will be classified as one of the following:
Must Start: These are your elite players that you start weekly despite the matchup.
Should Start: These players have good matchups and opportunities and should be in your starting lineups.
Could Start: These are your fringe starters, the ones that could be in your starting lineup but also could be sat if you have better options.
Should Sit: These players have bad matchups or may not have the opportunities they usually get in a given matchup, and you should try to sit them on your bench.
Must Sit: These players should not be in your lineup at all; there are better options out there
Here is to a great week one and a great fantasy season for all.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Tom Brady (TB): What a perfect matchup for Tom Brady to kick off the 2021 season; the Cowboys gave up the eleventh most points to the quarterback position per game last year at 19.7. Brady has a full complement of weapons and should be able to tear up the Cowboys’ defense to kick off the NFL season and push for the highest scoring quarterback of the week.
Dak Prescott (DAL): Dak looks like he will be healthy and ready to go in week one. The Tampa Bay defense is not the best matchup in the world, but they can be attacked through the air. The Bucs defense allowed 18.9 fantasy points per game to the QB. The Bucs defense is dominant against the run, which leads to teams needing to attack through the air, where the Cowboys will be at their best. The one major concern for Dak in this game is the offensive line and if they can protect him long enough to get the ball to his weapons, but Dak is still a solid QB1 in week one.
Ronald Jones/Leonard Fournette (TB): We do not have any clarity on this backfield entering the 2021 season; however, the matchup is too good not to start either of these players in the flex if you drafted them. The Cowboys gave up 21 points per game to the running back position last year. Going off their performance in the regular season last year, Jones would be the best option for a big game in week one since he was the lead back, but Fournette’s playoff performance has put the depth chart in doubt. Due to match up, these two could be started if you want the boom potential in your flex but still have a downside due to the potential vulturing of touches they can do to each other.
Giovanni Bernard (TB): Bernard will be the pass-catching back for Tampa and could be a flex-worthy start in PPR leagues if you are desperate.
Ezekiel Elliot (DAL): Zeke has one of the toughest matchups for running backs in week one; however, you cannot bench your first-round pick to start the season; just make sure to adjust your expectations for this week. The Buccaneers gave up the fewest fantasy points per game to the RB position at only 13.7 points per game. Zeke will still see volume and can find the endzone but should be thought of more as an RB2/Flex play than a true RB1 like you drafted him to be.
Tony Pollard (DAL): With the tough matchup and lack of scoring potential for the Dallas running backs Pollard should stay on your bench this week.
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown (TB): The Cowboys last season was one of the best matchups for receivers in fantasy. They gave up the second-most points per game to the position at 28.7 points. With Brady and the Bucs’ potential passing game explosion, all three receivers are worth starting this week in fantasy. Over the final few weeks of last season, when all three of these players were healthy, they were all seeing five-plus targets a game. Start all of these Bucs receivers with confidence as WR2s with upside.
CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper (DAL): Dallas will need to attack through the air in this game, and Lamb and Cooper will be the primary beneficiaries of that. Last season, with or without Dak, these two demanded targets in every game. They both run great routes creating separation and have the ability to create after the catch. Should Dak have the time to get them the ball, they will be able to make big plays. Start both as low-end WR1s this week.
Michael Gallup (DAL): As the third option in the passing game for Dallas, Gallup does provide WR3/Flex value in this matchup. Last season, Gallup had some huge fantasy weeks, and he can provide that this week. With the game script projected to lead to a high amount of passes for Dallas, Gallup just needs to hit a big play, and he will return value in your flex position in week one.
Rob Gronkowski/OJ Howard (TB): I am not interested in starting any Tampa Bay tight end this week. We are still unsure how the return of OJ Howard will play into this team, and until we get a little clarity on the situation, neither is worth starting even as a streamer. For Gronk, when Evans, Godwin, and Brown were healthy late in the year, he saw his production decline. From weeks 14 through 17, he had less than 3 catches every game and less than 30 yards receiving in 3 out of the four games. You are relying on a touchdown for any fantasy value with Gronk.
Blake Jarwin/Dalton Schultz (DAL): I can see one of the Dallas tight ends being worth a stream at tight end this week. However, the question is which one is the starter. If he is fully recovered, Jarwin will step back in as the starter, but until we see him back on the field and taking the majority of snaps, I am not comfortable streaming either tight end.
San Francisco 49ers vs Detroit Lions
Jimmy Garoppolo/Trey Lance (SF): Despite having a fantastic matchup against the Lions, neither 49er QB is worth starting at this moment. The Lions did give up the second-most fantasy points to the QB position last year and did not seem to have made many improvements. However, if San Fran goes forward with this committee approach, it takes any potential value in fantasy away. Jimmy G becomes an exciting streaming option if the finger injury keeps Lance off the field for week one. If Lance somehow comes out and starts week one (I would love it if this happened, but it is unlikely), he would be a must-start in fantasy this week.
Jared Goff (DET): The Goff era in Detroit is in for a rough start. The 49ers were one of the best teams against quarterbacks in fantasy last season, and they have a vaunted pass rush. In his two matchups against this defense last year, Goff put up 15.9 and 5 fantasy points. He has worse weapons to throw the ball to now, and this could be a very ugly game for the Lions’ offense.
Raheem Mostert (SF): Mostert has the potential to be a top-scoring running back in fantasy football in week one. Last season the Lions gave up 93.7 yards per game to the position and 26.7 fantasy points per game. The 49ers will run the ball and run it a lot this season, as evidenced by the preseason finale, where they ran for over 200 yards. Mostert will be at the front of that rushing attack, and with that volume and incredible matchup, he has the potential to win fantasy matchups in week one.
Trey Sermon (SF): Looking to the same matchup, Sermon should also be a nice fantasy running back this week. While he will most likely get less work than Mostert, he should still see enough volume to be an excellent RB2/Flex play for fantasy this week.
De’Andre Swift (DET): The health status is still unknown for Swift. He may not even play in this game, and even if he does, he will most likely be limited. This means a low amount of touches against a strong run defense in the 49ers. The 49ers gave up seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to the running back position. Swift will be a great RB for fantasy, but due to the health and workload concerns on top of a bad matchup, he should be left on benches this week.
Jamaal Williams (DET): With the potential that Swift will be limited or out of this game, that means Williams should see the majority of the work for Detroit. The matchup is still very poor for running backs, and owners should only start Williams as a flex if they are truly desperate.
Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel (SF):
As with the rest of the Niners’ offense, the receivers have an incredible matchup. The Lions were the worst against opposing receivers last year, giving up 29.1 fantasy points per game. Aiyuk and Samuel will both have the chance to rack up the targets and make plays after the catch. Both of these players can provide we3 value with plenty of upside for more.
Tyrell Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Trinity Benson, Quintez Cephus (DET):
The receiving group for the Lions is a mess right now, it is still uncertain who will be the target leader in this offense, and until that is known, there is no excellent start in this group. On top of that, this is a rough matchup for receivers. This is a situation to avoid at all costs in week one.
George Kittle (SF):
Kittle was drafted as a top 3 right end for a reason, and he will be locked and loaded in your starting lineup every week. No matchup would lead to keeping Kittle on the bench.
TJ Hockenson (DET):
Hockenson is the one Lion worth starting for fantasy in this matchup. He should be a target monster and will be the leading receiver for Detroit. If the Lions’ offense moves the play and scores in this matchup, Hockenson should be involved.