(Image credit: Matt Ludtke/USA Today Sports)
By: Jett Rosenstein
The 2021 NFL season has officially arrived and that means the experience that is fantasy football is back once again. I want to welcome you into “The Playbook.” Each week, I will get you all the information you need to get you ready for the week ahead in fantasy football. Everything from waiver wire stashes, start/sit, buy low/sell high, defensive streams, and much more. Like always, it is important to trust your gut when it comes to making decisions about your lineups, but I will do everything in my power to make sure you start off your fantasy season with a W.
QB Jalen Hurts (PHI) vs ATL
Despite all of the concerns surrounding Jalen Hurts as a passer, he still possesses tremendous rushing upside. For week 1, he faces off against a team that gave up the 2nd most points per game to QBs in 2020 (23.32). Hurts should have plenty of opportunities to rack up points both through the air and the ground. We could be potentially looking at a top 5 QB performance on the week. Get him in your lineups!
RB Raheem Mostert (SF) vs DET
When Raheem Mostert is healthy, he is sure to be productive. Especially in a matchup like this against the Lions. The Lions gave up the most points per game to RBs in 2020 (31.99). The 49ers love to run the ball and until rookie Trey Sermon adapts more to life as an NFL player, Mostert is sure to see a majority of the carries. This is the first of 3 very nice matchups for the explosive RB.
WR Laviska Shenault Jr (JAX) vs HOU
Touted as a potential breakout candidate for fantasy football in 2021, Shenault starts off with a very nice matchup against the dysfunctional Texans. The Texans allowed the 7th most points to WRs in 2020 (40.73). Look for Shenault to command a lot of targets and outperform his projection of 14.93 according to Yahoo Fantasy.
Other notable names: Jimmy Garoppolo vs DET, Ty Johnson vs CAR, Robby Anderson vs NYJ
QB Joe Burrow (CIN) vs MIN
As much as I like Joe Burrow from a season-long perspective, I expect him to struggle in his first game back after suffering season-ending injuries. He may not show any signs of rust, but there are other QBs out there that are much safer to roll out in week 1. Temper expectations!
RB Josh Jacobs (LV) vs BAL
This is going to be a tough game for Josh Jacobs. Besides going against a Baltimore defense that is fairly stingy against the run (11th fewest PPG in 2020), it is also for certain the Raiders will be trailing for a good amount in this game. That doesn’t bode well for Jacobs considering he isn’t very involved in the passing game. You may not have a better option but tread lightly.
TE Mike Gesicki (MIA) vs NE
Mike Gesicki has been a popular target for QB Tua Tagovailoa, but in this game fantasy points may be hard to come by for the TE due to a very stingy and much-improved New England defense. This defense gave up the 5th fewest PPG to TEs a year ago and it won’t be any different in this game. You just have to hope Gesicki finds the end zone to maintain relevance.
Potential Busts: Allen Robinson vs LAR, Saquon Barkley vs DEN, Justin Herbert vs WFT
Defensive Domination (Defenses that may still be sitting on your waiver wire)
1. Denver Broncos vs NYG
This is a no-brainer for me. The Broncos face a Giants team that is led by a QB in Daniel Jones that has been a turnover machine over the past several years. I expect no different in this game. In addition, the Broncos will be very usable in their next two matchups against the Jets and Jaguars.
2. Los Angeles Chargers vs WFT
This is a high-risk/high-reward section due to the fact we don’t know what we will be getting from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. He could go for 4 TDs or 4 INTs. But, despite a little risk, this defense improved over the offseason and is getting key guys like Derwin James back. Take a chance on them if you are in need of a defense.
3. Miami Dolphins vs NE
Part of the reason I am adding the Dolphins to this list is due to the fact they are facing a rookie QB in Mac Jones. While Jones looked fantastic in preseason action, the regular season is the real test. The Dolphins are nothing to mess around with on defense and one or two rookie mistakes by Jones could vault the Dolphins up the week 1 D/ST ranks.
Waiver Wire Stashes (guys to add to your lineup before Week 1 begins)
1. Russell Gage (WR) ATL (30% Owned in Yahoo)
With Julio Jones no longer a part of this team, the Falcons will be looking for someone to take over the #2 WR spot behind Calvin Ridley. This offense figures to be pass-heavy once again and with a matchup against the lowly Eagles in week 1, Gage could put up big numbers. Better to stash him now rather than fighting for him in the waivers process.
2. Tony Jones Jr. (RB) NO (20% Owned in Yahoo)
After Latavius Murray got cut from the Saints, Jones Jr. was elevated into the backup role behind Alvin Kamara. The only real reason to stash him would be if you are handcuffing Kamara. He may not have standalone value just, yet but in the case of Kamara missing any time, Jones Jr. could be a league winner.
3. Juwan Johnson (TE) NO (10% Owned in Yahoo)
Here we have another New Orleans Saint that could potentially burst onto the scene. Johnson, a WR who converted to a TE is now receiving some hype after popular sleeper candidate Adam Trautman went down with an injury. With the lack of dependable options on this Saints offense, Johnson could find a good amount of production and heal some of the despair that is the TE position.
4. Bryan Edwards (WR) LV (13% Owned in Yahoo)
Edwards has a tough matchup in Week 1 against the Ravens, but I really like his season-long outlook. There has been plenty of buzz coming out of Raiders camp about Edwards with comparisons such as Terrell Owens being tossed around. I am going to stash him and see if the hype was really warranted.
5. Wayne Gallman Jr. (RB) ATL (4% Owned in Yahoo)
While Mike Davis is set to be the starter and receive the bulk of the workload, Wayne Gallman was just added to this team to be the backup. Davis’ body wore down towards the end of last season and Gallman could be elevated into a bigger role if Davis were to go down due to injury. Gallman flashed the ability to be a workhorse in NY and could do so once again in Atlanta. RBs are fragile and this is the type of move that could set you apart from your league mates.