Fantasy Football Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em: Week 1 lineup advice…


With the start of the 2021 NFL season comes a fresh set of fantasy football lineup questions. Fortunately, SN NFL writer Vinnie Iyer is back for another season of “The Decider,” a weekly start-or-sit advice column that will help you put together the best lineup possible.

If making lineup decisions for your drafted team(s) isn’t enough for you, we also have DFS suggestions for those who like to drive yourself insane trying to figure out who to start when nearly every player in the league is available.

Week 1 makes evaluating matchups and project utilization difficult. We don’t know everything, therefore the most we can do is make educated selections based on a range of criteria (recent performance, offseason acquisitions, talent, historical coaching tendencies, etc.). Touches will be exceedingly tough to project for some players, particularly committee backs, so avoid them if at all possible.


At each position, most owners will simply start the players they drafted first. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t be hesitant to experiment with the matchups a little, especially if you’re playing with someone who is a safer bet for touches and targets.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Fantasy Football Week 1 Start ‘Em: Quarterbacks

QB must-starts

  1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (vs. CLE)
  2. Kyler Murray, Cardinals (at TEN)
  3. Lamar Jackson, Ravens (at LV)
  4. Tom Brady, Buccaneers (vs. DAL)
  5. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (at NO in JAX)
  6. Josh Allen, Bills (vs. PIT)
  7. Dak Prescott, Cowboys (at TB)
  8. Russell Wilson, Seahawks (at IND)

Stronger starts

Jalen Hurts of the Eagles (at ATL). Hurts enters a fantastic first meeting under new offensive-minded coach Nick Sirianni. He’ll find new ways to wreck havoc in the dome by using the air and ground.

Ryan Tannehill is the quarterback for the Tennessee Titans (vs. ARI). Tannehill isn’t a week-to-week option, but he and Murray figure to be locked in a high-scoring battle.

Matt Ryan, Falcons (vs. PHI). Ryan loves playing at home and will be looking for immediate success against his hometown team. The Eagles aren’t well built to cover his top targets.

Kirk Cousins, Vikings (at CIN). Cousins should easily hit 250 yards and two TDs playing off the running game against a Bengals’ defense that’s improved in some areas but still weak on the backend.

Joe Burrow, Bengals (vs. MIN). A healthier Vikings’ defense should get back to a more respectable level under Mike Zimmer, but not at first. Burrow should be busy throwing to his top trio of weapons to keep up with Cousins and his duo.

Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (at HOU). The Texans’ defense in 2021 is a perfect way for a rookie No. 1 overall pick to get indoctrinated in the NFL. Lawrence should deliver a solid-to-spectacular debut with his arm and legs.

DFS bargains

Baker Mayfield, Browns (at KC, $7,100 on FanDuel, $5,900 on DraftKings). Mayfield is the most undervalued fantasy quarterback heading into the season, and he’ll have a good game against Mahomes, who’s script calls for a lot of passing, a few huge plays, and several touchdowns.

Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (at DET, $6,900 on FanDuel, $5,500 on DraftKings). Trey Lance would be a cheap must-start here should San Francisco go with the rookie in the opener over Jimmy G., but regardless, this a terrific road matchup for the visitors to light it up playing off the run.

Streamer special

Tyrod Taylor, Texans (vs. JAX). This is Tayor-made for some garbage points with two stinky AFC South defenses on the field. He should throw often to counter Lawrence and is good for some decent rushing production filling in for Deshaun Watson.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | D/ST | Kicker

Fantasy Football Week 1 Sit ‘Em: Quarterbacks

Weaker starts

Justin Herbert, Chargers (at WAS). This is rough sophomore-opening trip against Chase Young and Washington’s swarming defense, especially while trying to operate for the first time when it counts in a new offense.

Matthew Stafford, Rams (vs. CHI). Stafford has a up-and-down track record against the Bears’ defense, and his prime-time stats are far from sublime. This also feels like a physical, lower-scoring Sunday night game with L.A. leaning on Sony Michel, Darrell Henderson, and the running game.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington (vs. LAC). Count on limited Fitzmagic in the opener, as Brandon Staley gets the Chargers’ pass defense to show plenty of active energy in his coaching debut.

Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins (at NE). Tua vs. Mac Jones will be a defensive slugfest instead of an Alabama celebration with Bill Belichick and Brian Flores scheming in the same AFC East matchup.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (at BUF). Roethlisberger will open a rough and perhaps final season in Pittsburgh with big lumps against the Bills’ pass rush and back-seven coverage.

Derek Carr, Raiders (vs. BAL). Keep the Carr parked as the Ravens’ defense will cause him to fold Monday night in Vegas.

Zach Wilson, Jets (at CAR). He’s making this list because soon he will be in consideration for deep-league streaming. His debut matchup is a little tougher than Lawrence’s on the road against a defense with playmakers on every level.

Deep traps

Jameis Winston, Saints (vs. GB in JAX). Winston may believe he can repeat his high-TD, high-INT fantasy significance from his 2019 season in Tampa Bay, but Green Bay’s pass defense is legit, and in a neutral-site game, New Orleans should want to attack aggressively on the ground.

Carson Wentz, Colts (vs. SEA). He’s been hurt once more. He’s been on the COVID-19 list for a while now. With his new team’s attack and limited weapons, he’ll be rusty. Don’t fall for the trap, despite the fact that the figures appear to be in your advantage.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Start ‘Em: Running backs

RB must-starts

  1. Christian McCaffrey, Panthers (vs. NYJ)
  2. Dalvin Cook, Vikings (at CIN)
  3. Alvin Kamara, Saints (vs. GB in JAX)
  4. Derrick Henry, Titans (vs. ARI)
  5. Antonio Gibson, Washington (vs. LAC)
  6. Nick Chubb, Browns (at KC)
  7. Aaron Jones, Packers (at NO in JAX)
  8. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (at TB)
  9. Saquon Barkley, Giants (vs. DEN)
  10. Najee Harris, Steelers (at BUF)
  11. Austin Ekeler, Chargers (at WAS)
  12. James Robinson, Jaguars (at HOU)
  13. Joe Mixon, Bengals (vs. MIN)
  14. Jonathan Taylor, Colts (vs. SEA)
  15. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs (vs. CLE)
  16. David Montgomery, Bears (at LAR)
  17. Chris Carson, Seahawks (at IND)
  18. Miles Sanders, Eagles (at ATL)
  19. Mike Davis, Falcons (vs. PHI)
  20. Kareem Hunt, Browns (at KC)

Stronger starts

Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon, 49ers (at DET). San Francisco isn’t going to give up Kyle Shanahan’s committee any time soon, but let’s hope it narrows it down to these two. With Mostert as an RB2 and Sermon as a flex, the Lions’ run defense is still bad, and the game script should favor huge ground plays.

Gus Edwards, Ravens (at LV). JK Dobbins (knee) is out, so be on the bus early. Edwards should be on a mission to back Lamar Jackson with strong early-down numbers.

Sony Michel, Rams (vs. CHI). The Rams pursued Michel in order to deploy him in Sean McVay’s run-first offense. He’s the backfield player the coach should put his trust in right away. On Sunday night, Michel should score at least one short touchdown.

Chase Edmonds, Cardinals (at TEN). In Arizona’s offense, you can’t trust James Conner at all, but Chase is a viable flex option in Nashville.

Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers (vs. DAL). The presence of each other and the return of Giovani Bernard limit their weekly values in different ways. You have to choose your places, and cleaning up behind Tom Brady’s big passing game against a new-look Cowboys defense makes sense, but more as flexes than RB2s.

DFS bargains

David Johnson, Texans (vs. JAX, $5,700 on FanDuel, $5,700 on DraftKings). DJ is a shaky season-long option because with a poor Houston rushing game, Phillip Lindsay, Mark Ingram, or Rex Burkhead could end up being the most relied-upon option. Johnson, on the other hand, was not awful last season and will take advantage of this easy start to put up respectable combined statistics.

Damien Harris, Patriots (vs. MIA, $5,800 on FanDuel, $5,200 on DraftKings). Over Mac Jones, Harris should see a lot of action as the genuine Alabama cornerstone of New England’s run-heavy system. Expect heavy volume with a floor of 80 total yards and a touchdown, as the ground game is the preferred method of attacking the Dolphins.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Sit ‘Em: Running backs

Weaker starts

D’Andre Swift, Lions (vs. SF). Swift may struggle in tougher opponents when game scripts aren’t in his favor and receiving work only helps with his numbers to a certain extent. He’ll also be trying to play with a groin injury he sustained during the preseason.

Darrell Henderson, Rams (vs. CHI). Henderson was a tempting draft target after Cam Akers (Achilles’) went down, but because of Michel’s presence and Henderson’s ongoing durability difficulties, buyers and deployers should be cautious.

Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake, Raiders (vs. BAL). Do you really want to figure out how the Raiders will deploy both running backs against the Ravens in a crucial home game? You don’t have it.

Myles Gaskin, Dolphins (at NE). In this game and throughout the season, Gaskin will still get the most touches over Malcolm Brown and fast change-of-pace Salvon Ahmed, but expect the Patriots to take him away first and force Tua to try to defeat their fine secondary downfield.

Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon, Broncos (at NYG). Williams should emerge as a star once he breaks free from the committee, but the Giants’ run defense is surprisingly good. Before committing to one, even as a flex, see how this situation plays out.

Zack Moss and Devin Singletary, Bills (vs. PIT).In a pass-happy offense where Josh Allen will still run a lot, this is the best committee to avoid. This is especially true when it comes to the Steelers’ defense.

Tevin Coleman and Michael Carter, Jets (at CAR). Do you want to see what Mike LaFleur has planned for the new-look running game in Week 1? Avoid this circumstance until further information about how to use it becomes available.

WEEK 1 FANTASY: Sleepers | Busts

Fantasy Football Week 1 Start ‘Em: Wide receivers

WR must-starts

  1. Davante Adams, Packers (at NO in JAX)
  2. Tyreek Hill, Chiefs (vs. CLE)
  3. Calvin Ridley, Falcons (vs. PHI)
  4. Stefon Diggs, Bills (vs. PIT)
  5. DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals (vs. TEN)
  6. Justin Jefferson, Vikings (at CIN)
  7. A.J. Brown, Titans (vs. ARI)
  8. DK Metcalf, Seahawks (at IND)
  9. Terry McLaurin, Washington (vs. LAC)
  10. Mike Evans, Buccaneers (vs. DAL)
  11. Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (vs. DAL).
  12. Keenan Allen, Chargers (at WAS)
  13. Allen Robinson II, Bears (at LAR)
  14. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (at TB)
  15. Robert Woods, Rams (vs. CHI)
  16. Amari Cooper, Cowboys (at TB)
  17. Julio Jones, Titans (vs. ARI)
  18. Adam Thielen, Vikings (at CIN)
  19. Cooper Kupp, Rams (vs. CHI)
  20. Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers (at DET)
  21. Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals (vs. MIN)
  22. Tee Higgins, Bengals (vs. MIN)
  23. Odell Beckham Jr., Browns (at KC)
  24. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (at IND)
  25. D.J. Moore, Panthers (vs. NYJ)

Stronger starts

Robby Anderson, Panthers (vs. NYJ). After a strong first season in Carolina, Anderson gets a good “revenge” game against his previous team in Week 1. Plus, the Jets’ secondary is bad enough that he’ll be busy reuniting with Sam Darnold, who may throw a big-play touchdown.

Tyler Boyd, Bengals (vs. MIN). Outsiders like Chase and Higgins have a lot of buzz, but don’t forget about Boyd, who is doing a great job for Burrow in the slot.

Jerry Jeudy, Broncos (at NYG). Teddy Bridgewater starts for Jeudy, and his versatility will keep him busy in a difficult matchup in New York.

Deebo Samuel, 49ers (at DET). The Niners will put up a lot of points, so try to fit as many as you can into your lineups as possible.

Brandin Cooks, Texans (vs. JAX). Cooks is usually a sneaky good producer, regardless of who his quarterback is. Taylor should target him frequently, and the Jaguars aren’t equipped to stop him.

Antonio Brown, Buccaneers (vs. DAL). AB should join Evans and Godwin in the Brady fun.

Laviska Shenault Jr. and Marvin Jones Jr., Jaguars (at HOU). Who will end up as the top Jaguars’ fantasy receiver 2021? Hint: His name is below. But these guys also will be pretty good for Trevor Lawrence in more favorable matchups, with Shenault needing volume off his shorter passes and Jones needing some big plays.

DFS bargains

DJ Chark, Jaguars (at HOU, $6,100 on FanDuel, $5,800 on DraftKings). Chark and Lawrence is the top combination for Jacksonville, and the price is very nice to attack a shaky secondary. Also, consider a Chark attack stack with Lawrence.

Michael Pittman Jr., Colts (vs. SEA, $5,300 on FanDuel, $4,100 on DraftKings). Pittman will get key targets early with no T.Y. Hilton (neck) and the tight ends in flux. Carson Wentz will need to throw to someone often opposite Russell Wilson.

DeVonta Smith, Eagles (at ATL, $5,300 on FanDuel, $4,500 on DraftKings). Smith or Jalen Reagor are good tournament targets this week with some big-play ability against the Falcons’ weak pass defense in a comfortable road environment for Jalen Hurts.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Sit ‘Em: Wide receivers

Weaker starts

Steelers’ Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and JuJu Smith-Schuster (at BUF). With Big Ben rusty and the club poised to play run-heavy with Najee Harris, the Steelers’ passing game can’t be trusted in this terrible matchup.

Giants’ Kenny Golladay (vs. DEN). There’ll be no cause to celebrate Golladay’s first start for the Giants against a rejuvenated Broncos secondary led by Vic Fangio’s improved pass rush.

Broncos’ Courtland Sutton (at NYG). After missing the previous season due to a knee injury, Sutton will most likely see James Bradberry on the outside. Oh, and a QB with a bad arm. So, no, thank you.

Jets’ Corey Davis (at CAR). Davis and Zach Wilson have the potential to be a prolific duo, but the Panthers’ pass rush and secondary will make it difficult for them to make a quick impact.

Browns’ Jarvis Landry (at KC). He’s a low-upside play opposite OBJ, and given Cleveland’s increased depth of weapons, that could be the case every week.

Curtis Washington, Samuel (vs. LAC). Samuel (groin) has been limited in preseason action for his new squad, and the Antonio Gibson-Terry McLaurin-Logan Thomas show will continue.

Cowboys’ Michael Gallup (at TB). Because Lamb and Cooper are much more involved in catchup mode for Dak Prescott, the Bucs’ pass rush will limit the field-stretching harm.

Deep traps

All species of dolphins (at NE). The Patriots’ secondary is a tough matchup for this new-look receiving corps, and Will Fuller, who is suspended, won’t be able to help DeVante Parker and Jaylen Waddle.

Ravens, Ravens, Ravens, Ravens, Ravens, Ravens, Raven (at LV). “Hollywood” won’t have to do much in Vegas because Rashod Bateman (core) is out for the season. This also applies to all Raiders wideouts in the same game.

Today is All Saints’ Day (vs. GB in JAX). Marquez Callaway has a lot of outside big-play excitement with Winston, to the point where he may see Jaire Alexander. At this point, you’re also not thinking about Tre’Quan Smith.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Start ‘Em: Tight ends

TE must-starts

  1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs (vs. CLE).
  2. George Kittle, 49ers (at DET).
  3. Darren Waller, Raiders (vs. BAL).
  4. Mark Andrews, Ravens (at LV).
  5. Kyle Pitts, Falcons (vs. PHI).
  6. Dallas Goedert, Eagles (vs. ATL).
  7. Logan Thomas, Washington (vs. LAC)
  8. T.J. Hockenson, Lions (vs. SF).
  9. Noah Fant, Broncos (at NYG).
  10. Robert Tonyan, Packers (at NO in JAX)

Stronger starts

Rams’ Tyler Higbee (vs. CHI). Higbee will be the lone veteran in L.A. and should make an early impact as Stafford’s third target.

Patriots’ Jonnu Smith (vs. MIA). Smith saw more preseason work than the Patriots’ other seasoned tight end addition, and it will show in his ability to connect with Mac Jones, who will avoid perimeter coverage.

Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski (vs. DAL). As he celebrates more ring-winning fun with Brady, Gronk is going to have a score.

Chargers’ Jared Cook (at WAS). He’s been overlooked during the preseason, but he’ll be a big target for Justin Herbert against a difficult secondary and pass rush.

DFS bargain

Browns’ Austin Hooper ($5,100 on FanDuel, $4,000 on DraftKings) (against. Chiefs). As the Browns’ passing game expands and the matchup demands solid looks from Baker Mayfield, Hooper could see a lot more action in the offense this season. In the opening, he can get five catches for 50 yards and a probable touchdown.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Sit ‘Em: Tight ends

Weaker starts

Dolphins’ Mike Gesicki (at NE). With the wide receiver adjustments, Gesicki won’t be as important to the offense this season, and this matchup is unfavorable for starters.

Giants’ Evan Engram (vs. DEN). Engram (calf) is a difficult player to trust at any time, so the early focus will be on the wide outs and Barkley.

Hunter Patriots, Henry (vs. MIA). As he sees more of a significant run-blocking duty at first, Henry’s wasted time will come up to him.

Seahawks’ Gerald Everett (at IND). Everett has gotten a lot of attention as a result of Higbee’s injury, but the Colts are terrific at stopping the run, so take a wait-and-see attitude.

Steelers’ Eric Ebron (at BUF). Ebron is always a threat in the red zone for a cheap score, but because of Najee Harris, he will likely receive less opportunities.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Start ‘Em: Defenses

Defense must-starts

  1. Rams (vs. CHI)
  2. 49ers (at DET)
  3. Patriots (vs. MIA)
  4. Washington (vs. LAC)
  5. Chargers (at WAS)
  6. Ravens (at LV)
  7. Broncos (at NYG)
  8. Buccaneers (vs. DAL)

Stronger starts

Packers and Movers (at NO in JAX). There are interceptions when Winston is pitted against a strong pass defense.

Dolphins are a type of marine mammal (at NE). In some manner, Miami can make it a difficult debut for Mac Jones.

Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Panthers Panther (vs. NYJ). Carolina has the potential to make Zach Wilson’s debut a difficult one.

Giants are giants (vs. DEN). There’s a chance that Bridgewater will have some issues against another underrated bunch on the road.

Seahawks are a team that plays in the Pacific Northwest (at IND). Against Carson Wentz, there should be some big plays to be had.

DFS bargain

Bills ($3,600 on FanDuel, $2,500 on DraftKings) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers In a different way, Ben Roethllsberger may soon be profiling like Winston.

Fantasy Football Week 1 Sit ‘Em: Defenses

Weaker starts

Colts (vs. SEA). Not against Russ.

Steelers (at BUF). Not against Josh.

Saints (vs. GB). Not against A-Rod.

Vikings (at CIN). Not against Burrow.

Chiefs (vs. CLE). Not against Baker.

Browns (at KC). Not against Patrick.

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