Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers @ Denver
While benching what may seem like the best QB in fantasy might be a stretch, the match-up against an elite Denver defense significantly reduces Newton’s upside. Carolina and Denver kick off the season on Thursday night with a Super Bowl 50 rematch. Last Febuary, Newton threw for 265 yards and rushed for 45 yards, all while getting sacked 6 times and throwing a pick. In terms of fantasy, that made out for 7.1 points in standard scoring systems. While it’s probable that Newton and the Panthers could win the rematch, I simply don’t think he will put up numbers consistent with being a top-tier option.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers @Kansas City
Even with all the injuries last season in San Diego, Rivers put up a good enough numbers to make him a top ten QB in fantasy. With that said, the match-up with a strong Kansas City defense has not been friendly to the Chargers QB in the past. Last season Rivers struggled in both losses to the Chiefs, failing to throw a touchdown and throwing an interception in each game. Rivers will have some great games this season, but for this week you might want to find a better option.
Carlos Hyde, San Francisco 49ers vs Los Angeles
As one of the few true workhorse backs in the league, Carlos Hyde is normally a popular start among fantasy players. However, due to his current injury status being questionable (Hyde is still undergoing concussion protocols) and with the game against Los Angeles taking place Monday night, it makes sense to look for other options. Not to mention his match-up with a fearsome Rams defensive front makes benching Hyde a good call.
Latavius Murray, Oakland Raiders @ New Orleans
The Raiders coaching staff has preached during the offseason that they intend to make running the football an emphasis in 2016. However, a week 1 match-up with a porous Saints secondary could mean that Murray takes a backseat to QB Derek Carr and the Raiders weapons in the passing game. While Murray could still have a decent game, I’m not projecting him to have an outstanding day fantasy wise.
Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks vs Miami
Baldwin’s fantasy season in 2015 was simpy incredible considering he scored a touchdown on a quarter of his targets. His 14 touchdowns last season, including a stretch of 4 straight games with at least 2 touchdowns, are more than likely a fluke rather than the standard. While Baldwin is still a quality WR2 or 3 depending on the format, don’t expect elite wide out type stats.
Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers @ Denver
After missing the entire season last year due to injury, Panthers fans are hoping Benjamin can become that elite wide out they were hoping to get when they took him with a 1st round pick. While Benjamin has outstanding upside, especially with Cam Newton throwing to him, a week 1 match-up with a Broncos defense that features one of the best secondaries in the NFL is not an inviting play for fantasy owners.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City
Since his early days in the league, Antonio Gates has been one of the better options at tight end in fantasy. Even at the age of 36, Gates still has the physical talent to be fantasy relevant in 2016. However, a stiff Chiefs defense that allowed the fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season should temper your expectations this week.
Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles vs Cleveland
Generally viewed as a top-ten option at the position, if you drafted Ertz you’re more than likely playing him this week. Although I’ll warn you that the match-up isn’t inviting. While the Browns were terrible on so many levels last season, they actually were a decent defense and posed a challenge against tight ends in 2015. Cleveland only allowed an average of 10.5 fantasy points to tight ends, almost 2 points lower than the NFL average last season.
New York Jets vs Cincinnati
For much of the 2015 season, the Jets were one of the better options at D/ST in fantasy. However, the Jets are without one of their best defensive lineman in Sheldon Richardson, serving a one game suspension. The Bengals on the other hand love to run the football with a terrific duo of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. With Cincinnati’s ability to run the football and complete play-action passes, the Jets defense is pass for me this week.