We’ve finally arrived. The 2017 NFL season is officially underway, and a full slate of Sunday games are on deck.
Heading into the first NFL Sunday of the new season, not every start/sit decision is an easy one to make with so much uncertainty among various teams and players. That’s why we’re taking a look at the biggest start/sit questions heading into Sunday and Monday’s NFL action.
QB Carson Palmer vs. Lions
The Cardinals figure to once again have a high-flying offense led by Carson Palmer, who is normally someone you’d like as a nice backup. However, Palmer could be in for a big game this week against a vulnerable Lions secondary, which allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks last year, despite facing a schedule that had a lot of average and bad starters. On paper, it still looks like one of the NFL’s worst secondaries entering Week 1. As long as he has Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown in his arsenal, Palmer should perform well enough to warrant starting him in Week 1.
RB Jonathan Stewart vs. 49ers
You should absolutely be starting Christian McCaffrey if you’re fortunate enough to have the star rookie. But Jonathan Stewart is also a viable starter against a putrid 49ers defense, which allowed the most fantasy points to running backs in 2016. With this being McCaffrey’s first regular-season game, expect the veteran Stewart to get plenty of work against San Francisco. If nothing else, he’ll vulture a touchdown or two from McCaffrey.
RB Terrance West vs. Bengals
The Ravens are going to rely heavily on their run game in Week 1, mainly because Joe Flacco missed all of training camp and the preseason with a back injury. Flacco will be rusty, so the Ravens will look to Terrance West to carry them to a win in Cincinnati. He will face a Bengals defense without star linebacker Vontaze Burfict (suspension), as well as hard-hitting safety Shawn Williams (elbow). West should be in for a big game against a vulnerable Bengals defense.
WR Martavis Bryant vs. Browns
Antonio Brown is a must-start every week, but his counterpart is primed for a big game in Week 1. Even though Martavis Bryant was suspended for all of 2016, he looked like himself in the preseason and could have a monster Week 1. He’ll face a Browns secondary that recently cut starting defensive backs Joe Haden and Calvin Pryor. They’ll still focus more on Brown, which could allow Bryant to have a field day in his NFL return.
WR Stefon Diggs vs. Saints
Stefon Diggs didn’t live up to expectations in 2016, but he still put up respectable numbers and should have better chemistry with Sam Bradford this year. It helps that they’ll go against one of the league’s worst past defenses in Week 1. The Saints allowed the fifth-most receptions and eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers in 2016. Diggs should be in for a big night in primetime as he begins his redemption season for fantasy teams.
TE Charles Clay vs. Jets
The Bills look like a team ready to tank, especially after trading away Sammy Watkins and letting Robert Woods walk this offseason. That’s good news for Charles Clay, who looks like the Bills’ top pass-catcher heading into Week 1. He started slow in 2016 but finished strong with 21 catches and four scores over his final four games. Expect him to get a heavy amount of targets and gash a depleted Jets defense.
QB Philip Rivers vs. Broncos
The Chargers could become one of the NFL’s best passing offenses with all of the weapons they have, especially with Philip Rivers. However, the Broncos have arguably the best pass defense in football. They allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks last year and in 2015. Expect Rivers’ output this week to be one of his lower marks in 2017, which won’t be good enough for him to be in your starting lineup.
RB Joe Mixon vs. Ravens
The Bengals love what Joe Mixon brings to their offense, so much so that he could become the featured back early in his rookie season. However, the Ravens feature one of the NFL’s best run defenses, which allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2016. The Bengals also are notoriously stubborn about favoring veterans over rookies. Since Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are still there, don’t expect Mixon to produce enough against Baltimore to warrant starting him in his NFL debut.
RB C.J. Anderson vs. Chargers
The Broncos have one of the more complicated backfields you’ll find, which makes it hard to trust C.J. Anderson entering Week 1. Anderson may be the No. 1 back, but he’s liable to share carries with Jamaal Charles, Devontae Booker, and possibly De’Angelo Henderson. It doesn’t help that they’ll face a Chargers defense much improved from last year. In Anderson’s one game against San Diego last year, he could muster up only 37 yards on 10 carries. Sit him until this backfield has more clarity.
WR Allen Robinson vs. Texans
The Jaguars are a mess offensively, and the Texans spot an elite defense that allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in 2016. As long as Blake Bortles is Jacksonville’s quarterback, it’s hard to see any of its pass catchers doing much in Houston, even Allen Robinson. He may be Jacksonville’s No. 1 pass catcher, but this Jaguars offense is too big of a concern to start him in Week 1.
TE Martellus Bennett vs. Seahawks
The Packers’ big offseason acquisition was Martellus Bennett, who figures to be one of the better fantasy tight ends in 2017. However, his Packer debut comes against one of the league’s best defenses in the Seahawks. It’s hard to see Bennett and Aaron Rodgers having enough chemistry right out of the gate for him to be effective against an elite defense, especially when the Packers also have Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and Davante Adams demanding targets. This will be one of the few weeks you keep Bennett benched.