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Fantasy Football Matchups That Matter - Week 1

By Jared Smola | Updated on Sun, 10 Sep 2023 . 12:01 PM EDT

Welcome to a brand new article for 2023: Matchups That Matter.

The goal of this article is to give you a look into the process that fuels our weekly projections and rankings.

The information below is all stuff that we use when formulating those rankings. Hopefully taking a look through it helps you make better lineup decisions each week.

You’ll also find a few sneaky starters at every position. These are guys that aren’t every-week fantasy starters – and might even be available on your waiver wire – that have the potential to be more productive than usual this week.

A final note: This article figures to evolve over the course of the season. So if there’s anything else you’d like to see included each week, let me know in the comments section below.

Enjoy and good luck in Week 1!

 

Highest Game Totals

1 Lions at Chiefs (53.0)

2. Dolphins at Chargers (51.0)

3. Bengals at Browns (46.5)

4. Jaguars at Colts (46.0)

t-5. Buccaneers at Vikings (45.5)

t-5. Rams at Seahawks (45.5)

 

Lowest Game Totals

13. 49ers at Steelers (41.5)

14. Packers at Bears (41.0)

15. Panthers at Falcons (40.5)

16. Cardinals at Commanders (38.0)

  

Highest Implied Points

1. Chiefs (28.25)

2. Chargers (27.0)

3. Ravens (26.5)

t-4. Jaguars (25.0)

t-4. Seahawks (25.0)

  

Lowest Implied Points

29. Titans (19.5)

30. Panthers (18.5)

31. Texans (17.0)

32. Cardinals (15.75)

 

Most Projected Plays

1. Chargers (66.0)

t-2. Eagles (65.5)

t-2. Vikings (65.5)

t-4. Chiefs (65.0)

t-4. Bengals (65.0)

 

Fewest Projected Plays

28. Falcons (61.0)

t- 29. Titans (60.5)

t-29. Bears (60.5)

t-31. Texans (60.0)

t-31. Cardinals (60.0)

  

Weather Concerns

Chance of rain in ...

  • Ravens vs. Texans
  • Broncos vs. Raiders
  • Eagles vs. Patriots
  • Giants vs. Cowboys

... But nothing to impact the Week 1 Rankings.

  

Quarterback

5 Best QB Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

1. Patrick Mahomes vs. Lions (+32.4%)

2. Jared Goff vs. Chiefs (+27.1%)

3. Justin Herbert vs. Dolphins (+22.9%)

4. Russell Wilson vs. Raiders (+20.9%)

5. Anthony Richardson vs. Jaguars (+16.1%)

5 Worst QB Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

28. Joe Burrow vs. Browns (-16.9%)

29. Josh Allen vs. Jets (-18.2)

30. Aaron Rodgers vs. Bills (-20.2%)

31. Deshaun Watson vs. Bengals (-20.6%)

32. Lamar Jackson vs. Texans (-22.3%)

Sneaky Starters

Jared Goff, Lions

Goff opens as a 4.5-point underdog in Kansas City. If Thursday night’s game goes according to script, he’ll need to chuck it plenty.

Goff averaged 280 passing yards and 1.6 TDs in eight losses last year (vs. 244 yards and 1.8 TDs in wins).

The Chiefs were the 2nd-best matchup for opposing QBs last year and will be without stud DT Chris Jones for this one.

Sam Howell, Commanders

Howell is coming off a strong preseason and gets a plus Week 1 matchup against the Cardinals, who ranked 21st against QBs last year and don’t look any better heading into 2023.

WR Terry McLaurin (toe) practiced all week and isn't listed on the final injury report, so it looks like he'll be at least close to 100% on Sunday.

Washington is sporting a solid 22.5-point implied total for the week.

Derek Carr, Saints

Carr makes his Saints debut in a plum spot: At home for a Titans defense that’s ranked bottom 8 in adjusted fantasy points allowed to QBs in each of the last three seasons.

No Alvin Kamara hurts, but Carr will have WR Chris Olave, WR Michael Thomas, WR Rashid Shaheed, and TE Juwan Johnson at his disposal.

 

Running Back

5 Best RB Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

1. Ravens vs. Texans (+42.2%)

2. Commanders vs. Cardinals (+27.9%)

3. Bengals vs. Browns (+25.3%)

4. Broncos vs. Raiders (+25.1%)

5. Packers vs. Bears (+22.8%)

5 Worst RB Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

28. Eagles vs. Patriots (-15.0%)

29. Giants vs. Cowboys (-19.3%)

30. Saints vs. Titans (-22.6%)

31. Cardinals vs. Commanders (-27.7%)

32. Steelers vs. 49ers (-28.4%)

Sneaky Starters

Raheem Mostert, Dolphins

He couldn’t ask for a better spot than this.

RB Jeff Wilson is out. And rookie RB De’Von Achane is unlikely to be ready for a big role coming off his shoulder injury.

That leaves Mostert as Miami’s clear lead back vs. the Chargers, who have been much tougher against the pass than the run under HC Brandon Staley.

Last year’s Chargers ranked 27th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to RBs.

Jamaal Williams, Saints

The matchup is not good. The Titans allowed just 3.4 yards per carry and the 2nd fewest RB rushing yards last season.

But Williams is one of the safest volume bets at RB in Week 1. RB Alvin Kamara is serving the first game of his suspension, and RB Kendre Miller is likely out with a knee injury. Kirk Merritt is the only other RB on the active roster.

It might not be pretty, but Williams is a very solid volume-based Week 1 fantasy starter.

Brian Robinson, Commanders

We’ll see exactly what Washington’s backfield looks like under new OC Eric Bieniemy. But the guess here is that Robinson remains the primary early-down back.

That puts him in an excellent spot this weekend with the Commanders 7-point home favorites vs. the Cardinals.

Robinson could rack up a bunch of carries in the 2nd half with Washington nursing a lead.

  

Wide Receiver

5 Best WR Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

1. Falcons vs. Panthers (+21.4%)

2. Saints vs. Titans (+20.0%)

3. Buccaneers vs. Vikings (+19.7%)

4. Vikings vs. Buccaneers (+18.3%)

5. Chiefs vs. Lions (+12.0%)

5 Worst WR Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

28. Bears vs. Packers (-11.5%)

29. Ravens vs. Texans (-14.4%)

30. Raiders vs. Broncos (-15.4%)

31. Rams vs. Seahawks (-20.0%)

32. Bills vs. Jets (-29.1%)

CB Matchup Upgrades

Commanders WRs Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson vs. Cardinals CBs Marco Wilson and Kei’Trel Clark

Seahawks WRs D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett vs. Rams CBs Akhello Witherspoon, Derion Kendrick, and Cobie Durant

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Vikings CBs Akayleb Evans and Mekhi Blackmon

CB Matchup Downgrades

Bills WRs Stefon Diggs and Gabe Davis vs. Jets CBs Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed

Bears WR D.J. Moore vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander

Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore

Rams WR Van Jefferson vs. Seahawks CB Tariq Woolen

Sneaky Starters

Courtland Sutton, Broncos

Sutton opens the season without WR Jerry Jeudy against a flammable Raiders secondary that’s starting a past-his-prime Marcus Peters and fourth-round rookie Jakorian Bennett at the outside CB spots.

Sutton’s last four lines vs. the Raiders:

  • 5-80-0
  • 5-52-1
  • 4-33-0
  • 8-94-1

Nico Collins, Texans

Collins looks like Houston's clear No. 1 WR heading into the opener after drawing 30% of QB C.J. Stroud's targets this preseason.

Game script figures to force the Texans into plenty of passing on Sunday, with the Ravens favored by 9.5 points.

And Baltimore will be without starting CB Marlon Humphrey.

  

Tight End

5 Best TE Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

1. Tyler Higbee vs. Seahawks (+43.9%)

2. Logan Thomas vs. Cardinals (+41.1%)

3. Juwan Johnson vs. Titans (+37.0%)

4. Noah Gray vs. Lions (+26.4%)

5. Gerald Everett vs. Dolphins (+26.4%)

5 Worst TE Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

28. Kyle Pitts vs. Panthers (-19.7%)

29. Luke Musgrave vs. Bears (-20.1%)

30. Trey McBride vs. Commanders (-21.0%)

31. Tyler Conklin vs. Bills (-31.2%)

32. Chig Okonkwo vs. Saints (-36.1%)

Sneaky Starters

Tyler Higbee, Rams

Couldn’t ask for a better spot.

Higbee is in for a volume boost with WR Cooper Kupp out for Week 1.

In fact, Higbee drew 20.8% of Rams targets with Kupp out over the final 8 games of last season. Only 4 TEs registered bigger target shares over that span.

Plus, Higbee gets a Seahawks defense that tends to funnel targets to TEs and RBs. Seattle ranked dead last in adjusted fantasy points allowed to TEs last year.

Juwan Johnson, Saints

We heard throughout the summer that Johnson was one of QB Derek Carr’s favorite targets.

The duo has a good chance to get off to a strong start vs. a Titans defense that ranked 30th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to TEs last year.

Gerald Everett, Chargers

Everett’s Week 1 spot checks every box:

High over/under? 51.0 points.

High implied total? 27.0 points

Good matchup? Miami ranked 28th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to TEs last year.

Check, check, check.

Hayden Hurst, Panthers

Hurst got good usage in the preseason and opens against a Falcons defense that finished 27th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to TEs last year.

Carolina won't have WR D.J. Chark (hamstring) on Sunday. WR Adam Thielen (ankle) is listed as questionable.

 

Defense/Special Teams

5 Best DST Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

1. Jaguars vs. Colts (+79.3%)

2. Ravens vs. Texans (+66.3%)

3. Raiders vs. Broncos (+46.7%)

4. Seahawks vs. Rams (+37.0%)

5. Packers vs. Bears (+35.3%)

5 Worst DST Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

28. Jets vs. Bills (-32.6%)

29. Colts vs. Jaguars (-34.4%)

30. Steelers vs. 49ers (-35.5%)

31. Chiefs vs. Lions (-38.0%)

32. Lions vs. Chiefs (-48.4%)

Sneaky Starters

Commanders

The Cardinals are starting either Clayton Tune or Josh Dobbs at QB. Their 15.5-point implied total is easily the lowest of the week.

Packers

Let’s attack Justin Fields and the Bears offense until they give us a reason not to.

Chicago coughed up 58 sacks last year – fourth most in the league.

Seahawks

The Rams were the fourth-best matchup for DSTs last year, at least in part because of injuries to QB Matt Stafford, WR Cooper Kupp, and multiple offensive linemen.

Stafford will play this weekend, and the offensive line is healthier. But no Kupp makes this a solid spot for Seattle’s defense, playing at home as 4.5-point favorites.

 

Kicker

5 Best K Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

1. Chase McLaughlin vs. Vikings (+44.0%)

2. Daniel Carlson vs. Broncos (+25.8%)

3. Graham Gano vs. Cowboys (+24.7%)

4. Jason Myers vs. Rams (+15.7%)

5. Brandon Aubrey vs. Giants (+13.5%)

5 Worst K Matchups

(based on 2022 adjusted fantasy points allowed)

28. Jake Elliott vs. Patriots (-13.8%)

29. Chad Ryland vs. Eagles (-14.1%)

30. Blake Grupe vs. Titans (-15.3%)

31. Greg Zeurlein vs. Bills (-22.1%)

32. Chris Boswell vs. 49ers (-39.3%)

Sneaky Starters

Greg Joseph, Vikings

Kicking indoors with the fourth-highest implied total of the week. 

Brandon McManus, Jaguars

Kicking indoors with the sixth-highest implied total of the week.

Jason Myers, Seahawks

Myers’ Seahawks are 4.5-point home favorites with the fifth-highest implied total of the week

 

Other rankings are stale  before the 2nd round.

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