Football season is officially back. America's Lions ushered in the 2023 season with a win over the Chiefs on Thursday night, but come Sunday, we will be diving head-first into a new league year.
The days, weeks, or months you spent grinding the numbers to determine which players would lead you to fantasy glory are about to be put to the test, but as we saw with Trave Kelce's latest injury, things can go off the rails quickly.
Whether it's an injury you have to weather heading into Week 1, a tough matchup, or a questionable roster status for one of your players, it's time to manage our rosters accordingly.
To ensure we all get off the ground safely this week, I've put together a short list of streaming options to consider if you're already facing tough roster decisions.
Recommended streamers for this article will be based on where players were drafted among their positional peers based on their August ADP over at BestBall10s.com. To get an accurate look at potential streaming options heading into the week, we will be looking at:
QB13 or later
RB25 or later
WR37 or later
TE13 or later
Sam Howell (WSH) vs. Cardinals
Nobody knows what to make of Howell in this Eric Bieniemy-led offense heading into the season, but they get perhaps the easiest matchup on paper out of the gate.
Playing host to the Cardinals in a game that's expected to be a true home sellout to kick off the post-Dan Snyder era, the Commanders need to go out and execute against a team expected to be contending for next year's No. 1 overall pick. While there are some concerns around Washington's offensive line and Howell's history of eating sacks dating back to his days at North Carolina, it's hard to imagine many of these struggles playing a pivotal role in Week 1. If they do, then Washington has a bigger problem than we anticipated.
Washington's defense is expected to rank in the top 10 this season and should provide the offense with ample possessions in this game. It also wouldn't be surprising to see a handful of these positions start with a short field, as Clayton Tune and/or Joshua Dobbs could struggle to move the ball on Sunday.
Anything short of three touchdowns on Sunday would constitute a failure for Howell and the offense. While Terry McLaurin's (turf toe) status is up in the air, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel should give him enough receivers to work with, and Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson should have plenty of chances to make plays out of the backfield. Howell's rushing ability raises what's already a solid Week 1 floor, making him a solid start for anybody who faded the quarterback position in their fantasy drafts this offseason.
Geno Smith (SEA) vs. Rams
I'm not the only one at Rotoworld ready for Geno Smith to continue his scorched earth tour in Week 1 when he and the Seahawks play host to the Rams. Our own Denny Carter is just as in on Geno this week, as he mentioned in The Regression Files earlier this week.
The Seahawks get a Rams defense that's projected to be among the worst in the league per common sense and several rankings across the industry.
Smith shocked the NFL in 2022 when he finished the season with a line of 4282-30-11 while ranking 14th in EPA per play (0.086). In two games against the Rams last season, Smith threw for 580 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions and was the QB3 overall in Week 13. The Rams traded away Jalen Ramsey in the offseason, and linebacker Bobby Wagner left town after one year to return to the Seahawks. While Aaron Donald is still there to anchor the defensive line, he won't be able to cover D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and (perhaps) Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
For all the jokes we make about Pete Carroll and his offense being centered around high-T, barbarian-style running, the mainstream media sleeps on the fact that Seattle ranked fifth in early-down pass rate last season (59.2 percent) and had a pass rate over expected of two percent.
The addition of JSN could signal Carroll's desire to further air it out in 2023. I like Smith and a talented Seahawks receiving corps against this decimated Rams defense.
Derek Carr (NO) vs. Titans
Does Dennis Allen know how good his team was at passing last year?
The Saints ranked 30th in early-down pass rate but were seventh in EPA per dropback (0.170). While the quarterback combination of Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston is far from appealing, the Saints made the most of their limited pass attempts. Then they upgraded at the position when they went out and traded for Derek Carr this offseason.
Carr struggled his final year in Vegas, throwing for 3522-24-14 in 15 games while watching the final two games from the sideline.
Now, with the Saints, Carr has Michael Thomas (for now) and Chris Olave as his top two receivers and a red zone threat in tight end Juwan Johnson. They'll play host to a Titans defense that allowed the most passing yards per game last season (274.8) and did little to address their defense in the offseason. They used all six of their 2023 draft picks on the offensive side of the ball but did sign free agent corner Sean Murphy-Bunting to a one-year contract.
Last year's low pass rates make me somewhat hesitant to play Carr out of the gate, but the Saints feel he's the necessary upgrade they needed at the position and should treat him as such. However, Carr playing against a Titans defense that should once again struggle in 2023 is enough to entice me this week.
Brian Robinson/Antonio Gibson (WAS) vs. Cardinals
It would only make sense to be in on both Washington running backs in a game where they're favored by a full touchdown.
Robinson suffered a gunshot wound to his leg last offseason and didn't get on the field until Week 5. However, after making his return, Robinson out-rushed Gibson 205-96 and finished the season with a rushing line of 205-797-2. His two rushing touchdowns fell well below his expected total, but make no mistake about it: Robinson looks to be the Commanders' preferred back on early downs and in short-yardage situations.
Gibson is expected to handle third-down and pass-catching duties for the Commanders to start the season and should still see his share of rush attempts on a weekly basis. There's some belief Gibson could be used in a similar fashion to how Bieniemy and the Chiefs deployed Jerick McKinnon last season. For those who forget, McKinnon ranked second among all running backs in red zone targets (17) last season and had 71 targets overall.
A handful of dump-offs to Gibson could make him a worthy flex play in this week's matchup against the Cardinals, and Robinson grinding away yards late in the game makes him just as viable an option. If either finds the end zone, they're likely looking at a top-24 PPR week or better.
A.J. Dillon (GB) @ Bears
When you're the worst team in the NFL, you're likely going to give up a lot of rushing yards. That was the case for the Bears last season, as the original holders of the No. 1 overall pick went 3-14 in Matt Eberflus' first season at the helm and allowed the second most rushing yards per game (157.3) to their opponents. Perhaps more telling than the total yards they allowed is the fact the Bears also allowed opposing teams to rush to the tune of 0.022 EPA per attempt — which ranked 28th in the league and shows that opponents weren't just running on the Bears but doing so in a highly-efficient manner.
Dillon saw 186 rush attempts to Aaron Jones' 213 last season and averaged 13.4 opportunities per game overall. That level of volume is expected to be sustained (and perhaps improved upon) heading into this season, making Dillon a valuable running back on a week-to-week basis and all the more valuable against bottom-of-the-barrel defenses.
Despite playing second fiddle to Jones all of last season, Dillon still finished as a top-24 back or better in 41.2 percent of his outings, which included three top-12 finishes. I like his chances to produce against a defense that's still projected to be among the league's worst in a game that should feature a positive game script for the Packers.
The Dolphins placed Jeff Wilson (core/finger) on injured reserve, and rookie running back De'Von Achane is expected to serve as more of a pass-catcher than a between-the-tackles grinder.
This leaves Mostert in prime position to handle most of the Dolphins' early-down rushes against a Chargers defense that allowed the fifth-most rushing yards per game last season. To their credit, the Chargers made strides this offseason to improve their defense. They signed inside linebacker Eric Kendricks and drafted Daiyan Henley with the No. 85 pick in this year's draft, but their defensive line still projects to be among the worst in the league.
Entering his age-31 season, Mostert is standing toe-to-toe with father time, but the veteran running back surprised everyone last season when he rushed for 181-891-3 a year after being diagnosed with severe damage to his knee cartilage. Mostert also ranked fifth amongst qualified running backs with 3.52 YCO/ATT (min. 150 attempts).
Mostert should be on the short path to double-digit touches to open the season in a game that figures to be high-scoring. He could be a hero for the Zero RB crowd in Week 1.
Javonte Williams (DEN) vs. Raiders
J.K. Dobbins (BAL) vs. Texans
Jamaal Williams (NO) vs. Titans
Cam Akers (LAR) @ Seahawks
Rachaad White (TB) @ Vikings
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (SEA) vs. Rams
This one doesn't come without some risk. Smith-Njigba recently underwent surgery for a broken wrist but has been practicing with the team and is expected to play on Sunday against the Rams, per head coach Pete Carroll.
The risk incurred with starting Smith-Njigba is the possibility of him seeing limited snaps due to his injury. The upside is starting a receiver who was arguably the best in his draft class against a defense that could be among the worst in the league.
I'm already touting Geno Smith in this article, so it would only make sense to be in on his receivers. As previously mentioned, Carroll and the Seahawks became one of the most pass-heavy teams on early downs last season, and the drafting of Smith-Njigba could serve as a signal that they plan to continue that approach in 2023.
JSN should be in store for plenty of productive fantasy weeks as a rookie. Why not start off on a high note in a game that could be ripe for wide receiver scoring?
Jordan Addison (MIN) vs. Buccaneers
In the first year under head coach Kevin O'Connell, the Vikings began their divorce from the run-heavy ways of Mike Zimmer. In eight seasons under Zimmer, the Vikings ranked 27th in early-down pass rate (50.3 percent) and had a pass frequency expected of negative two percent.
Last season, the Vikings ranked ninth in early-down pass rate (56 percent) and a pass frequency over expected of three percent. The difference between O'Connell and Zimmer has been night and day, and we're just one year into this.
While Justin Jefferson will continue to be locked into his elite, rookie Jordan Addison has a chance to earn a significant portion of the 106 targets Adam Thielen, who is now with the Panthers, saw last season.
I should probably mention that Addison was listed as a backup on the Vikings' unofficial depth chart, but veteran starter K.J. Osborn is also expected to play primarily from the slot — where he saw 59.1 percent of his snaps from last season. Addison, on the other hand, is expected to play primarily as an outside receiver opposite Jefferson.
In his lone preseason outing with the Vikings, Addison lined up outside with the starters and saw three targets on 13 routes. The Vikings play host to the Buccaneers this weekend and have the fourth-highest implied team total (25.75 points) on the slate. If we get the offensive outing we're expecting and a high-volume passing attack, Addison could very well finish as a top-36 receiver in PPR leagues this week.
Treylon Burks (TEN) @ Saints
Zay Flowers (BAL) vs. Texans
Romeo Doubs (GB) @ Bears
Courtland Sutton (DEN) vs. Raiders
Tyler Higbee (LAR) @ Seahawks
I've spent a considerable amount of time touting Tyler Higbee as a late-round flyer in drafts.
The recent news of Cooper Kupp and his hamstring injury has me high on the Rams tight end heading into this week's matchup against the Seahawks.
Higbee's efficiency metrics won't pop off the charts, but he was one of just four tight ends to see 100-plus targets last season, and he could be in line for a busy day against a Seahawks defense that struggled against tight ends last season.
It should be noted that the Seahawks did bring back Bobby Wagner, who should tighten up the defense's ability to shut down tight ends, but in a game the Rams are expected to be trailing in, a negative game script could result in targets being funneled to Higbee either way.
When trailing in the second half of games last season, the Rams threw the ball at a 70 percent rate, tying for the fifth-highest pass rate amongst teams in said scenario. Higbee saw 40 of his 104 targets come in this same situation — the most any tight end in the league.
The Rams are 5.5-point underdogs on the road at the time this is being written and sit at +200 on the moneyline. Things are shaping up for Higbee to be in a prime position for targets on Sunday with Kupp out, and this game is likely to get out of hand.
Hayden Hurst (CAR) @ Falcons
Throughout the week, DJ Chark has been trending towards missing Sunday's game against the Falcons, and Adam Thielen is dealing with an ankle injury. Both players sitting would put greater expectations on Jonathan Mingo and Terrace Marshall but don't overlook the impact Hayden Hurst could have in this matchup.
The Falcons allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing tight ends last season and did little to address their defensive woes this offseason. Atlanta used just one of their three top-100 draft picks on the defensive side of the ball and made Jessie Bates their only significant signing to bolster their secondary.
The mainstream media doesn't want to talk about Hurst having a chance to earn significant targets this season. However, the Panthers are lacking in overall receiver talent, and the early injuries to Chark and Thielen only create more cause for concern.
Hurst is a long shot for an elite fantasy week, but as a streaming option, he could provide a safe enough floor to those looking for alternatives at the position. The bar for tight end production is low, but Hurst has finished as a top-12 fantasy tight end in 33 percent of his games dating back to 2020.
Chigoziem Okonkwo (TEN) @ Saints
Luke Musgrave (GB) @ Bears
Michael Mayer (LV) @ Broncos
Logan Thomas (WSH) vs. Cardinals