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After a long and cold offseason, football is back. With a full slate to dissect, let’s jump right into it.
Eagles @ Falcons
Steelers @ Bills
The Bills will be missing starting DT Star Lotulelei, which is a small boost for Najee Harris’ fantasy value this weekend. Emmanuel Sanders is officially questionable for Week 1. The veteran WR has been dealing with a nagging foot issue for the past month, and he might see a limited run this Sunday. In his absence, we can expect WR Gabriel Davis to get run in three-wide receiver sets.
Alex Hightower, one of the Steelers’ starting LBs, is listed as questionable with a groin injury. He practiced in full on Friday and I expect that he will suit up. In a bit of a surprise, the Steelers placed RB Anthony McFarland on the Reserve/Injured list and he will miss the first three games of the season. This move leaves Benny Snell and Kalen Ballage as Harris’ backups. Snell should be rostered in 14- and 16-team leagues as he could see a massive workload if Harris misses time with injury.
Vikings @ Bengals
Vikings’ starting LB Anthony Barr will miss Week 1 with a knee injury. Barr has been sidelined since the first week of August, so this may be a multi-week injury. Additionally, first-round pick LT Christian Darrisaw has been ruled out for Week 1 as he has not fully recovered from a recent core muscle surgery. Darrisaw hasn’t practiced since early August and there is no indication for when he might play.
The Bengals have ruled out CB Trae Waynes with a hamstring injury. Waynes has yet to play a snap for the Bengals since signing with the team. Frequent burn victim Eli Apple will take his place alongside Chidobe Awuzie. Both cornerbacks will have their work cut out for them trying to contain Vikings wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
49ers @ Lions
Starting LT Taylor Decker has been ruled out for Week 1 against the 49ers. First-round pick Penei Sewell will make his debut at left tackle this Sunday. Sewell’s had plenty of practice at the position as he was the starter for two years at Oregon. Sewell was playing right tackle in the preseason and posted a dreadful 38.6 overall PFF grade. It’s hard to not see Decker’s injury as a blow to immobile QB Jared Goff’s fantasy prospects this weekend.
As expected, the 49ers ruled out WR Jalen Hurd this Sunday and head coach Kyle Shanahan noted the team might shut him down “for a little bit”. Brandon Aiyuk was practicing in full on Friday, which is great news given that he recently missed time in training camp with a hamstring injury. Aiyuk is a high-upside WR3 this week. QB Trey Lance was removed from the Week 1 injury report and practiced on a limited basis on Friday. As I’ve previously noted, Jimmy Garoppolo will start for the 49ers but will need to play incredibly well to hold on to the starting job.
Cardinals @ Titans
The Titans have four players who are listed as questionable. Of the four players, the Titans listed as questionable, Josh Reynolds was the name that stood out. Reynolds was a late addition to Friday’s injury report after getting in limited practices over the last two days. It’s quite likely that the Titans limit Reynolds’ snaps if he plays. Both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are set to tee off on the Cardinals’ pillow-soft secondary.
Kicker Sam Ficken was also listed as questionable, but it’s quite likely that he plays. The Titans did sign K Mike Badgley, so Ficken’s grasp on the starting kicker spot is tenuous at best. The Titans have placed Ficken on injured reserve and have promoted Badgley to the active roster.
Seahawks @ Colts
The Seahawks start the season with a clean bill of health.
The Colts, on the other hand, do not. In a bit of a surprise, QB Carson Wentz was a full participant in practice and will play Week 1. Wentz has reportedly looked excellent since returning from a foot surgery that threatened to derail his 2021 season. Additionally, OG Quenton Nelson is expected to play despite being listed as questionable. Unfortunately, CB Xavier Rhodes, DE Kemoko Turay, and LT Eric Fisher have all been ruled out. It was always a long shot for Fisher to suit up Week 1, as the team has expected he’ll rejoin them in mid-October. Indianapolis’ coverage takes a big hit without Rhodes this week, and the defensive unit will have their hands full with D.K. Metcalf on Sunday.
Chargers @ Washington
Chargers RB Austin Ekeler is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury but is expected to play per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The good news is that Ekeler made it through practice on Friday without any setbacks. It’s possible that the team closely monitors Ekeler’s snaps this Sunday to prevent re-aggravating the injury. Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, and Larry Rountree should all be active this Sunday. All three RBs should be rostered in 12-team leagues.
Jets @ Panthers
The Panthers are mostly healthy, and only WR Shi Smith will miss Week 1.
WR Jamison Crowder was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last week and is officially out for Week 1. Additionally, WR Keelan Cole was a late addition to the injury report and was listed as questionable with a knee injury. If Cole misses the game, both Corey Davis and rookie Elijah Moore make for upside WR3 starts. RB La’Mical Perine was listed as questionable and it’s quite likely he misses the game. The Jets recently promoted RB Josh Adams from the practice squad. Adams should not be rostered in any format.
Jaguars @ Texans
QB Deshaun Watson is out this Sunday. He is listed as “not injury related” on the official injury report. Tyrod Taylor will start for the Texans and it’s quite likely that Watson will sit for the foreseeable future.
The Jaguars enter Week 1 with a clean bill of health.
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Browns @ Chiefs
Odell Beckham’s Week 1 status is still up in the air. The Browns have listed him as questionable on their injury report and head coach Kevin Stefanski would not commit to Beckham playing Week 1. Reports out of training camp surrounding Beckham have been overwhelmingly positive and the team may monitor his snaps this Sunday. DE Jadeveon Clowney, S Grant Delpit, and S Ronnie Harrison are all listed as questionable. Clowney and Delpit were limited in practice on Friday, however, Harrison was a full go. Stefanski said that the team will “use the next 48 hours” to determine who’s playing and will “let us know 90 minutes before the game” which players are inactive.
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) is practicing in full for Week 1 against the Browns. This is great news after suffering a slight ankle sprain in the Chiefs’ second preseason game. Edwards-Helaire is currently a high-end RB2.
S Tyrann Mathieu has been on the COVID-19 list since September 1 and his status for Week 1 is up in the air. Mathieu’s absence could mean a small bump for Browns WR Jarvis Landry this Sunday. The Chiefs activated Mathieu from the reserve/COVID list and it's quite likely he plays, despite the questionable tag.
Dolphins @ Patriots
Miami Dolphins WR Preston Williams is currently questionable with a foot injury. Currently, the Dolphins are without the services of Will Fuller (suspension) and will ostensibly trot out the trio of DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, and Albert Wilson If Williams misses time.
On the Patriots’ side of the ball, CB Jalen Mills and WR Nelson Agholor are the only two starters listed as questionable. Both were limited in practice on Friday after not practicing on Thursday. We could see WR Kendrick Bourne in starting sets across from Jakobi Meyers if Agholor is severely limited on Sunday. Bourne is a viable starter only in the deepest of formats.
Packers @ Saints
Packers LB Za’Darius Smith was listed as questionable with a back injury. Smith didn’t practice on Friday and it’s quite likely he misses the Packers’ first game of the season. The Packers’ pass rush will take a hit if Smith sits.
The Saints placed both third-string CB Ken Crawley and WR Tre’Quan Smith on IR, which rules them out for the next three weeks. Without Smith, one of WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey, TE Adam Trautman, or TE/WR hybrid Juwan Johnson will have to step up behind WR Marquez Calloway. RB Alvin Kamara also figures to post a massive target share for the foreseeable future.
Broncos @ Giants
Broncos LB Bradley Chubb is the only player listed as questionable for Week 1. Chubb has practiced on a limited basis all week, so it’s expected he suits up. Both TE Noah Fant and WR Courtland Sutton were listed as full participants in practice on Friday and will play without restrictions this Sunday.
For the Giants, TE Evan Engram hasn’t practiced all week with a calf injury and has been declared out. His absence should open targets for WR Kenny Golladay who was removed from the Week 1 injury report. RB Saquon Barkley was listed as a limited participant all week and is currently questionable. Barkley may be on a snap count against the Broncos’ top-tier run defense.
Sunday Night Football
Bears @ Rams
Bears’ LB Khalil Mack is questionable for Week 1 against the Rams, although he practiced in full on Friday. Same story for WR Darnell Mooney (back). It’ll be a surprise if neither player is a full go this Sunday.
The Rams enter Week 1 with a clean bill of health.
Monday Night Football
Ravens @ Raiders
The Ravens lost CB Marcus Peters and RB Gus Edwards to ACL tears in Thursday’s practice. After losing Edwards, the team has brought in several free agent veteran running backs including Le’Veon Bell, Latavius Murray, and Devonta Freeman. Ty’Son Williams is expected to get the first crack at showing that he’s capable of being the three-down workhorse for the Ravens.
Las Vegas Raiders’ RB Josh Jacobs was officially limited in practice on Friday. Jacobs told the media he’s feeling good and that there will be “a lot of practices where I take time to rest my body.”
Enjoy the games, everyone!