NFL Week 1 – Matchups to Exploit & Avoid

Much like I did during MLB season, each week for NFL I am going to provide you guys with my favorite plays of the week. Unlike MLB where I took a handful of players, regardless of position, and broke them down rather in-depth, these are going to be short and sweet. I am going to be providing players that I like strictly based off of their matchup. There are obviously a ton more factors that should go into choosing your players (both in season-long and DFS), but I’m hoping to help you scrape the surface and lean you in the right direction.

In addition to giving you the most favorable plays based off of matchup, I am also going to give you the notable players that have some of the most difficult matchups for the current week.

Without further adieu, here is my first of 17 matchup articles on the season:


Exploit – Derek Carr vs. New Orleans Saints

Like I said, I want to keep these breakdowns short and sweet. We all know how terrible the Saints’ defense is, especially their secondary. They were the worst defense against quarterbacks last season, surrendering an average of 23.98 fantasy points in standard scoring with a total of 45 passing touchdowns allowed. That’s almost 3 per game and with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree being his go-to targets, don’t overthink this play, both his floor and ceiling are considerably higher than usual.

Others to Exploit – Dak Prescott vs New York Giants, Jameis Winston vs Atlanta Falcons (Both high-risk/reward plays)
Avoid – Cam Newton vs. Denver Broncos

There are a good chunk of lower priced options on DFS sites, so I don’t expect Cam to be widely owned. If you own him in a season-long league you obviously aren’t benching him. I’m not saying Cam is a terrible play, the matchup just isn’t anything close to enticing. The Broncos were the most impressive defense last season, both with their pass rush and their secondary coverage. Quarterbacks in 2015 averaged only 12.29 fantasy points against this defense, there are certainly a handful of better options this week.

Others to Avoid – Ryan Tannehill vs Seattle Seahawks, Jay Cutler vs Houston Texans

Running Back

Exploit – Todd Gurley vs San Francisco 49ers

Once a feared defense, the 49ers are a joke now. Last year, they lost the core of their defense to retirement in Patrick Willis and the aftermath wasn’t pretty. The 49ers were the second-worst defense against the run last season behind the Dolphins, giving up an average of 23.42 fantasy points to opposing running backs per game. A year removed from a breakout rookie season that was even shortened by injury, Todd Gurley should be licking his chops looking at this matchup. As long as the Rams don’t fall behind too much (and there’s a good chance they’ll be leading), Gurley should absolutely eat this week.

Others to Exploit – Latavius Murray vs New Orleans Saints, Lamar Miller vs Chicago Bears
Avoid – Arian Foster vs Seattle Seahawks

This shouldn’t be something I have to tell many people, but with his emergence as the lead back, there may be more owners hopping on his bandwagon. The matchup is terrible, there’s nothing more that needs to be said. The Seahawks have been the most dominant defense in the NFL for the past 3 seasons and should have zero problems stopping an injury-riddled, aging running back in a sub-par offense.

Others to Avoid – Jeremy Hill / Giovani Bernard vs New York Jets, Jeremy Langford vs Houston Texans

Wide Receiver

Exploit – Amari Cooper vs New Orleans Saints

Again, not much has to be said here. The Saints are god awful at defending everything, especially the passing attack. While they weren’t the worst team against the pass last season, they surrendered an average of 25.93 fantasy points to opposing receivers last season, and I doubt they’re anything close to prepared to take on Amari Cooper. He hit a bit of a rookie wall last season, but expect a monster game from Cooper this week.

Others to Exploit – Mike Evans vs Atlanta Falcons, Jordan Matthews vs Cleveland Browns
Avoid – Kelvin Benjamin vs Denver Broncos

The combination of returning from a torn ACL and matching up against, once again, the best defense in the NFL last season warrants an easy fade. They yielded only 14.65 fantasy points per game to wide receivers last season and should have no problem keeping the Carolina wideouts in check. Aside from Benjamin, they don’t possess a huge play-making receiver, meaning he could see a decent amount of coverage as well.

Others to Avoid – Julian Edelman vs Arizona Cardinals, Jarvis Landry vs Seattle Seahawks

Tight End

Exploit – Coby Fleener vs Oakland Raiders

This is a bit of a risky play given Fleener’s extremely disappointing preseason, but the matchup is there. The Raiders were the third worst defense in the entire league when it came to defending the tight end position and surrendered 12 total touchdowns to the position in 2015. In a pass happy offense, Fleener is bound to find his groove eventually, and week 1 looks like the perfect matchup to start.

Others to Exploit – Jason Witten vs New York Giants, Travis Kelce vs San Diego Chargers
Avoid – Antonio Gates vs Kansas City Chiefs

He’s old, and it began to show last season. He was slowed by injuries and was just slow in general. His hands are great and so is his size, but that’s about it. The matchup could not get any worse. The Chiefs were beyond stingy when it came to tight ends last season, allowing on 5.2 fantasy points per game to the position. That is AWFUL. Fade, fade, and fade! I want no part of Gates this season, especially this week.

Others to Avoid – Martellus Bennett vs Arizona Cardinals

Thank you for reading and I’m looking forward to continuing to assist you win your fantasy football matchups week by week in any way possible. Make sure to hit us with your questions on Twitter -> @FanForecast.



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