Start – Mike Evans vs. Carolina Panthers
Some people may be shy to start Mike Evans solely on his targets from Tom Brady in Week 1 and a limited snap count due to injury, but the Tampa Bay receiver appears to be near full health and is still the top target even with the rise of stud No. 2 receiver Chris Godwin. With an array of weapons, including an involved tight end squad, there will be times when it feels like there are too many mouths to feed. Once Arians and Brady can mesh after spending nearly two decades with Bill Belichick, Evans will return to WR1 status and it can be as early as Week 2. Also, Chris Godwin currently remains in the Concussion Protocol and has not been cleared to play.
Another start — JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Denver Broncos
Sit – Sterling Shepard vs. Chicago Bears
Once Odell Beckham Jr. left the Giants, the new core of the receiving unit appeared to fall on Sterling Shepard. With a second contract of 4 years/$41M in 2019, the receiver played 10 games and posted career-worst stats in every category. Daniel Jones may seem like an upgrade over the aged Eli Manning, but Jones is off to a strong relationship with wide receiver Darius Slayton that is giving more credence to the sophomore receiver over Shepard. In addition, Golden Tate, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley are also picking up targets from Jones, taking away Shepard’s opportunities at getting the ball. Darius Slayton is the only bet on this receiving corps, with tentative approval of Engram at the tight end position.
Another sit – D.J. Moore vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sleeper Start – Will Fuller V vs. Baltimore Ravens
If Mahomes vs. Jackson is considered the modern-day Manning vs. Brady, consider Watson vs. Jackson the modern-day Brees vs. Brady. For the top-billed matchup of the weekend, expect plenty of points with two high-flying offenses led by elite quarterbacks and big-play receivers like Will Fuller V. When it comes to needing the long play to get in the groove or recover from trailing against the explosive Lamar Jackson to Hollywood Brown connection (similar to Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill), expect Fuller to be the spark of life for this offense. His 8 catches, 112 yards against the Chiefs is a good start to taking over a receiving corps no longer led by DeAndre Hopkins. Perhaps another solid performance, this time with a touchdown on the stat sheet.
Start – Jared Cook vs. Las Vegas Raiders
Giving up 30 points to a Panthers offense led by Teddy Bridgewater is forecasting defensive woes for the Raiders. An inability to put pressure on a quarterback and a transparent secondary gives opposing offenses time to allow routes to develop and make the smart play. When you allow Drew Brees these advantages, he will shred a defense like cabbage. As previously mentioned, their matchup against the Saints will not be as one-sided as some expect now that Michael Thomas is likely to sit this week, but Jared Cook’s value is one to keep an eye on as his target count should see an increase. Cook’s 5 catches for 80 yards against a solid Buccaneers defense WITH Thomas on the field is the usage rate we like to see for the journeyman tight end.
Another start – Greg Olsen vs. New England Patriots
Sit – Noah Fant vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Evan Engram has reverted to being on the hot seat for Giants fans after his performance against the Steelers on Monday Night Football. However, this could serve as a better look at what to expect from the Steelers defense this season. Penetrating the offensive line and limiting Saquon Barkley to 0.4 yards per carry, the Steel Curtain days seem to be back this season for the team’s linebackers and defensive line. With the middle of the field plugged by Devin Bush, this may be the requisite bad performance by the rising talent this year. Keep him for the long run, sit him out this week.
Another sit – Chris Herndon vs. San Francisco 49ers
Sleeper Start – T.J. Hockenson vs. Green Bay Packers
Za’Darius Smith is a matchup nightmare for most tight ends in the league and Hockenson can be in line to have a rough day, but his budding chemistry with underrated slinger Matthew Stafford will not only give T.J. Hockenson the touchdown value he began the 2019-2020 season having, yet also fulfilling the needed targets and yards to push him into the second tier of tight ends among the league. Consider this a boom-or-bust play, we’ll bet on the boom.
Another sleeper – Logan Thomas vs. Arizona Cardinals
Start – Indianapolis Colts D/ST vs. Minnesota Vikings
Take Dalvin Cook out of the game plan and the Colts will look to have their way against the Vikings offense. The loss of wide receiver Stefon Diggs is not talked about enough as the biggest blow to a team that has been in the conversation for Super Bowl contention in recent years. With Adam Thielen being the only focus of the offense for opposing defenses, he will have an uphill battle against former teammate Xavier Rhodes or solid CB Rock Ya-Sin. If anyone over the middle can stop Dalvin Cook, Darius Leonard would be in that group. It’s a great matchup for the backfield and linebackers, the rest is in Indianapolis’ favor.
Another start – Arizona Cardinals D/ST vs. Washington Football Team
Sit – Seattle Seahawks D/ST vs. New England Patriots
The Seattle Seahawks’ meh performance against the Atlanta Falcons, but overall dominance on the score and clock reminds us of how Russell Wilson is poised to be an MVP, eventually. With an equally undervalued matchup over the years, the Seahawks face the Cam Newton-led Patriots for the first time. Now … hear us out as we put on our tinfoil hats: Belichick completely held back his offensive scheme in Week 1. Bill Belichick is too much of a Bond villain-level genius to showcase all of Cam’s potential with the offense against the Miami Dolphins.
Miami gets a rep for being the team that always manages to beat New England via a sign from God, but New England looked like the better team going in and came out with the same status. Cam’s comeback campaign started with a Week 1 performance of a 78% completion rating, 75 yards rushing, and two touchdowns (rushing) and can continue against Pete Carroll. Expect Belichick to fire off his secret scheme in a game that could likely be an honorable defeat for New England.
Another sit – Dallas Cowboys D/ST vs. Atlanta Falcons
Sleeper Start – New York Giants D/ST vs. Chicago Bears
Week 2 may be an early call to consider this Giants defense a vastly improved unit compared to last year’s ailing presence on the field, but the pops and stops by newly acquired Blake Martinez, James Bradberry, and Logan Ryan is the upward trend that this defense needed. Martinez’s production of 13 tackles in Game 1 will continue with an assignment to stop the only talent being used by Chicago — being their backfield tandem of David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen — and also stopping the short yard play that gives Mitchell Trubisky his revered status as an absolute monster at quarterback. We’re serious. Chicago’s offense doesn’t appear wise enough to trick this improved Giants defense and Allen Robinson may be staying in New York with a different jersey if the Giants can woo the disgruntled receiver.
Another sleeper — Jacksonville Jaguars D/ST vs. Tennessee Titans