Week 1 of the NFL season is upon us, and with it the return of fantasy football. Tips for setting a winning lineup:
▪ Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) has been remarkably less effective on the road than at home (including last year at Cleveland where he passed for 167 yards and zero touchdowns). Still, the Browns are not the most daunting of matchups. With Big Ben 100 percent healthy and all the weapons at his disposal, start Roethlisberger with confidence.
▪ Todd Gurley (LA Rams) gets a dream Week 1 matchup to shake off the cobwebs of a disappointing 2016 season, at home against the Colts. Gurley is a top-five running back option this week.
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▪ The Christian McCaffrey (Carolina) hype-train should instantly move into hyperdrive this week in a soft matchup (San Francisco allowed a league-worst 2,654 rushing yards last year). McCaffrey also returns to the Bay area, where he starred in college at Stanford.
▪ A.J. Green (Cincinnati) comes in second in this week’s wide receiver rankings, and over his past five games against Baltimore, Green averages 121 yards per game. He scored in each of those games.
▪ Amari Cooper (Oakland) and Michael Crabtree (Oakland) draw a very attractive Week 1 matchup against Tennessee, which allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers last season.
▪ Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona) has opened the NFL season on fire in recent years, including five touchdowns in his first five games last year and six touchdowns in his first five games of 2015. Look for more of the same this week against Detroit, which allowed 33 passing touchdowns last year.
▪ Denver allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers last year and Keenan Allen (LA Chargers) averages just 40.3 yards in four career games against the Broncos. But Allen has three touchdowns in those games and has too much upside to sit despite the tough matchup.
▪ Zach Ertz (Philadelphia) comes in as a top-five tight end option. Washington allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends last year. Ertz topped 100 yards with 10 receptions the last time these two teams met.
▪ Joe Flacco (Baltimore) is set to start but is a sit after missing the entire preseason. Plus, he has historically fared poorly against Cincinnati. In 16 career games against the Bengals, Flacco averages 208 yards and 0.9 passing touchdowns per game.
▪ Ameer Abdullah (Detroit) should have some big games this season, though this week he might be best left on the bench if you have better options. Arizona allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs last year. But you really do need to have a better option, because Abdullah should nonetheless be busy and can break a long one on any play.
▪ T.Y. Hilton (Indianapolis) and all the Colts’ players take a huge nose-dive down with Andrew Luck ruled out this week. It wouldn’t be crazy to bench Hilton.
▪ Bring your popcorn, because after 10 years of donning the Vikings’ purple, Adrian Peterson (New Orleans) will play his first game for the Saints in Minneapolis. Motivated to “stick it” to the Vikings, as Peterson said this week, he is a must-start.
▪ Like Peterson, Eddie Lacy (Seattle) returns to Lambeau to face Green Bay, which makes him more interesting than his preseason play has been. Also Thomas Rawls has a bad ankle, which should leave Lacy getting a larger workload than normal.
▪ Stefon Diggs (Minnesota) should be a high-end fantasy option this week against the Saints, who allowed the most passing yards last season.
▪ Ted Ginn Jr. (New Orleans) will make his debut as a Saint and he has a lot of sleeper value. Michael Thomas could be slowed by shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes, perhaps leaving Ginn as the more-open receiver. Willie Snead is serving a three-game suspension.
▪ Evan Engram (N.Y. Giants) has some sleeper potential right out of the gate against a Dallas defense that allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends last year.
Alan Satterlee is in his fourth year of writing about fantasy football for The Charlotte Observer. Find him on Twitter at @Speedkills_DFW.