Welcome back, football. We’ve missed you so.
Week 1 of the NFL season officially begins Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, when the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots take on the Kansas City Chiefs. The bulk of the action comes Sunday, though, with daily fantasy sports contests already filling up as fans set their lineups for Week 1.
Opening weekend is tricky on the fantasy front, as it’s still unclear who’ll live up to or fall short of their preseason projections. But that won’t stop us from giving it a shot.
Below are our best plays and value picks at each position for Sunday’s DFS football contests.
Best play: Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks. Wilson gets a juicy Week 1 matchup against a Green Bay Packers defense that allowed the second-most passing yards in the NFL last season. He’s also healthy entering the season, meaning he could make some noise in the run game, too. Sure, he’s on the road, but if Seattle falls behind, that’s just more opportunity for Wilson to air it out.
Value pick: Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles. Wentz isn’t in the elite tier of fantasy quarterbacks, but he could perform like one versus the Washington Redskins, who boast a solid run defense but tied for eighth in passing yards allowed last season. The sophomore QB also has two new toys in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith and should get plenty of pass attempts.
Best play: Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers. This is about as close as it gets to a dream matchup. Bell roasted the Browns for 146 rushing yards and a touchdown last season, and while Cleveland did make additions on defense, it will be without No. 1 pick Myles Garrett and still is very inexperienced. The only concern with Bell is volume, should Pittsburgh build a huge lead.
Value pick: Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings. Cook will make his NFL debut against one of the league’s worst defenses, as the New Orleans Saints struggled against the run and pass last season. The rookie has established himself as Minnesota’s lead back and should be very involved in both the running and passing games.
Best play: Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons. Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense should come out slinging against the Chicago Bears’ secondary, which Pro Football Focus ranked 30th in the NFL this summer. That means plenty of targets for Jones, Atlanta’s bona fide No.1 wideout.
Value pick: Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers. Benjamin has some work to do to regain fantasy owners’ trust, but this is a great matchup for DFS purposes. The San Francisco 49ers allowed 30 passing touchdowns last season, tied for sixth-most in the NFL, and Benjamin is a big body who is a strong bet to find the end zone.
Best play: Greg Olsen, Panthers. Benjamin is a good red zone target, but Olsen still is quarterback Cam Newton’s go-to option in the passing game. He should have plenty of room to operate against the Niners’ lackluster defense.
Value pick: Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles. Ertz is to Wentz as Olsen is to Newton, and the Redskins allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in standard Yahoo! leagues last season. Expect Wentz to look to his trusty tight end often in this one.
Best play: Houston Texans. The Texans have a healthy J.J. Watt, an inspired home crowd in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and a matchup against one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league in Blake Bortles. Case closed.
Value pick: Atlanta Falcons. The Bears might boast a solid run game this season, but a Mike Glennon-led passing attack without top wideout Cameron Meredith is quite worrisome. If Atlanta scores points early and Chicago is forced to play catch-up, we could see turnovers on the Bears’ side of the ball.
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images