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Monday Night Football Starts and Sits: Week 1 Matchup Analysis


The NFL is back in full swing which means it is time to start thinking about those fantasy rosters. As usual, this week’s Monday Night Football slate consists of two sets of games.

This season’s Monday night games feature two interesting matchups. On one hand, you have the Pittsburgh Steelers traveling to face the New York Giants. The Steelers featured one of the most aggressive defenses in 2019 and get Ben Roethlisberger back to try and spark their offense. Meanwhile, the Giants have a surplus of offensive weapons for second-year quarterback Daniel Jones, such as running back Saquon Barkley, wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton, and tight end Evan Engram, but also feature a questionable defense with a terrifyingly bad secondary.

The second matchup should be a defensive showcase with the Denver Broncos traveling to Tennessee to face the Titans. The Broncos will be looking to see if Drew Lock can take a step in his second year with Courtland Sutton, Phillip Lindsay, Noah Fant, and a host of new offensive weapons. Denver hoped to ride their defense to victory, but a potentially season-ending injury to Von Miller last week could force Lock to be more assertive this year. Meanwhile, the Titans will look to continue forward with consistent quarterback play with Ryan Tannehill and explosive plays by Derrick Henry at running back, A.J. Brown at wide receiver, and Jonnu Smith at tight end. The Titans feature a sturdy defense that just added Jadeveon Clowney, although he will likely have a limited role in this first game.

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Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants

Game time: Monday 9/14 @ 7:15 PM EST
Game line: Pittsburgh -5.5
Over/Under: 46

 

Must Starts

Ben Roethlisberger (QB, PIT)

Normally I would be cautious about advocating for a 38-year-old quarterback coming off major elbow surgery, but this is a perfect storm situation. For one, most of the reports coming out of Steelers camp discussed a Ben Roethlisberger that looked like was relatively healthy and ready to go. The Giants allowed the third-most points to quarterbacks weekly last season (20.7) and recently cut their former first-round pick DeAndre Baker. Even if he is still knocking off the rust, Roethlisberger has more than enough weapons in the passing game to be a viable quarterback in week 1.

James Conner (RB, PIT)

Productivity has never been a problem for James Conner, but health has. Luckily, he made it through training camp unscathed and will take over the role as the bell cow back in Pittsburgh once again. Conner only played in 10 games last season, but his 14.6 points per week in PPR formats ranked 17th in the league (if we ignore Wes Hills’ week 17 explosion). Due to workload, and the fact that the Giants were in the bottom half of fantasy defenses against the run, Conner should find a spot in your lineup.

Saquon Barkley (RB, NYG)

The Steelers suffocating defense is a tough matchup for most running backs, but Saquon Barkley is not most running backs. Even with a high ankle sprain costing him three games last season, Barkley finished the year as RB10 in PPR leagues and averaged 18.8 points per game. Barkley has shown the ability to pop a big play at any moment regardless of his opponent. Plus, the Giants having their full complement of receiving weapons should prevent Pittsburgh from loading the box, giving Barkley access to running lanes he may not see otherwise. You didn’t draft Barkley to watch him sit on your bench, get him in your lineup, and don’t look back.

JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR, PIT)

Many fantasy managers were burned by Juju Smith-Schuster last season as injuries robbed him of four games and caused him to finish his sophomore campaign averaging less than 10 points per game. However, with Ben Roethlisberger back in the fold and an offseason to heal up, Juju should be poised to erupt once again. The Giants gave a contract to James Bradberry in the offseason and he quickly became their best corner thanks to the legal troubles with DeAndre Baker. Juju is in a prime spot to show that his second year in the NFL was just a blip on the radar.

Diontae Johnson (WR, PIT)

On the other side of the formation, Diontae Johnson will be looking to build upon his impressive rookie season in 2019. Even with the absence of Juju Smith-Schuster and Ben Roethlisberger, Johnson was able to finish as WR39 receiving passes from Duck Hodges and Mason Rudolph. Corey Ballentine will be starting opposite of James Bradberry which leaves Johnson plenty of room to operate. The second-year receiver has gotten rave reviews from camp will hopefully get out to a hot start with Big Ben at the helm once again.

Evan Engram (TE, NYG)

The one “weakness” last season for the Steelers’ defense was the tight end position. While they allowed a respectable 7.2 PPR points per week to the position, they did finish 25th in the league in terms of touchdowns allowed to the tight end position (8). That bodes well for Evan Engram. Like James Conner, Engram’s career has been marred with injuries to this point. However, when he is on the field, he is easily one of the most talented offensive players in the NFL. Engram played in only 8 games last season, but he finished as TE18 with 109.4 total points. His weekly average was an even more impressive 13.7, which ranked 7th overall among tight ends.

 

Consider Sitting

Daniel Jones (QB, NYG)

By all accounts, Daniel Jones exceeded expectations as a rookie for the Giants. Jones played in 13 games, finishing as QB23 while averaging 17.46 points per week. Jones showed the ability to run and throw and was often missing at least one of his weapons weekly, making his totals even more impressive. With that being said, he should be firmly planted on your team’s bench for his week 1 matchup against the Steelers. Pittsburgh was the fourth-best fantasy defense against quarterbacks in 2019 (12.8 points per game) thanks to a league-leading 54 sacks and 19 interceptions generated. Pivoting off Jones may not be a terrible idea in your first fantasy matchup.

Sterling Shepard (WR, NYG)

As stated above, the Steelers passing defense is extremely formidable, which likely won’t bode well for Sterling Shepard. Shepard played in just 10 games last season and averaged a paltry 8.5 fantasy points per week, leading to a finish as WR54. The Steelers utilize Steven Nelson and Joe Haden on the perimeter and both players are coming off fantastic 2019 seasons. Shepard has also historically flourished in the slot and struggled to play outside, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Giants juggle using Shepard and Golden Tate in the slot.

Golden Tate (WR, NYG)

Speaking of Golden Tate, playing from the slot isn’t necessarily and advantage against the Steelers passing defense. According to PFF.com, Mike Hilton was the third-best rated cornerback in terms of coverage in the slot last season. Tate provided some consistency for Daniel Jones in his rookie year, providing 9.4 points per week in PPR leagues. It isn’t a bad idea to fade the Giants wide receivers this week considering the Pittsburgh secondary was the 7th best against wide receivers last season (18.3 points per week).

Eric Ebron (TE, PIT)

Eric Ebron fell flat in 2019 for the Colts just one season after having a career year with Andrew Luck. Injuries limited Ebron’s effectiveness, leading him to Pittsburgh as a free agent. Vance McDonald led the tight end position last season with 55 targets, but it has been a few seasons since the Steelers have had to rely on the position for huge production. The Giants were okay against tight ends last season (8.2 PPG, 11th worst in 2019), but can utilize Jabrill Peppers’ athleticism to try and negate the position. If you have a better option, it is probably safe to wait and see what role Ebron will have in 2019.

 

Potential Sleepers

Darius Slayton (WR, NYG)

Darius Slayton burst on to the scene for the Giants last season, capitalizing on the various injuries the Giants’ offense suffered in the passing game to emerge as Daniel Jones’ deep threat. Slayton will likely reprise his role as the team’s vertical passing threat, making him a very volatile boom or bust play. It has been established above that the Steelers’ pass defense is stifling, so if you need to play a Giants option, Slayton represents the most upside. All he needs is one catch to go for 60 yards and a score thanks to his speed. Ultimately, Slayton should ride your bench if you’re ahead, but is in a great position to deliver huge points if you’re desperate.

James Washington (WR, PIT)

Predicting the Steelers’ passing game this week is one of the more difficult tasks from an analysis standpoint. James Conner, Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Eric Ebron are all capable of being the focal point of the offense, especially thanks to the Giants’ porous secondary. However, it wouldn’t be shocking if James Washington also plays a prominent role in the passing game. Washington collected the second most targets for Pittsburgh last season and has been with the team long enough to establish rapport with Big Ben (Diontae Johnson didn’t have many snaps with him on the field last season). Washington has some definite upside in this matchup.

 

Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos

Game time: Monday 9/14 @ 10:10 PM EST
Game line: Tennessee -1.5
Over/Under: 41.5

 

Must Starts

Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)

If Derrick Henry is on your starting roster, you used an early-round pick on somebody who will be in your lineup every week. Henry finished as RB5 in PPR leagues despite averaging less than two targets per game, which is absurd. Until he shows any signs of slowing down, you can pencil him in for at least 20 carries a game and can have supreme confidence that he will get the goal-line work. Fire up Henry and enjoy watching him grind this week.

Melvin Gordon III (RB, DEN)

On the other side, Melvin Gordon presents an interesting dilemma. On one hand, the Broncos invested a two-year, $16 million contract ($13.5 million guaranteed) during the offseason to make Melvin Gordon their lead running back. However, a late training camp rib injury and the consistent presence of Phillip Lindsay in training camp has made this backfield sound like more of a one/two punch than a lead back with a change-of-pace back behind him.

Ultimately, I would expect Gordon to see a steady workload to justify his early draft capital (at least at the beginning of the year), making him a good play this week. The Titans were middle of the road against running backs in fantasy last season (19.1 points per week) and traded Jurrell Casey to Denver in the offseason, which could open up some bigger running lanes.

A.J. Brown (WR, TEN)

There was a lot of talk (rightfully so) about A.J. Brown’s struggles against top-level cornerbacks toward the end of last season. In week 15 against New Orleans, the wild card game against New England, and the divisional game against Baltimore Brown combined for six targets, three receptions, 47 yards, and zero touchdowns. But those games came against three of the best cornerbacks (Marshon Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore, and Marcus Peters) in the NFL last season AND Brown was just a rookie.

The Titans added very little target competition for Brown, meaning he seemingly heads into this season as their unquestioned number one receiver. Plus, the Broncos let Chris Harris leave during free agency and his replacement, A.J. Bouye, is more name recognition than ability at this point. Brown may not have the ridiculous boom weeks that signified his rookie season, but he should have more chances to excel and will start the year off with a quarterback that he has established rapport with.

Noah Fant (TE, DEN)

With Courtland Sutton’s injury (more on that later), Noah Fant becomes the biggest passing target in the Denver offense. Fant had a moderate level of success once Drew Lock took over the quarterback position last season, compiling 10 receptions on 14 targets for 188 yards and a touchdown in five games. With Sutton either ailing (or potentially ruled out), look for Fant to capitalize on a defense that allowed 8.9 points per week to tight ends, the fifth-worst mark in the NFL.

 

Consider Sitting

Ryan Tannehill (QB, TEN)

Ryan Tannehill took an opportunity to start at quarterback for the Titans in 2019 and parlayed into a big contract extension thanks to a hyper-efficient run through the regular season and playoffs. From weeks 6-17 last season, Tannehill finished as the QB4 in fantasy leagues thanks to 20.94 points per week. With that being said, Tannehill was likely drafted as your fantasy team’s QB2 this season, which means he is safer on your bench in week 1, especially given the matchup against the Broncos. Denver allowed only 14.8 points per week to quarterbacks last season and still have Bradley Chubb to rush the passer even without Von Miller. The amount of uncertainty in the Titans’ passing game after A.J. Brown makes Tannehill a wait-and-see player early this season.

Drew Lock (QB, DEN)

Like Tannehill, Drew Lock took over the quarterback job in Denver during the regular season and steps into 2020 as the unquestioned starter. Lock finished as QB24 from weeks 13-17 last year, averaging just 14.20 points per game despite helping lead the Broncos to a 4-1 record to close out the season. However, there are some reasons to be patient before thrusting Drew Lock into your starting lineup this season. For one, the injury to Courtland Sutton potentially robs Lock of his top target. The Broncos also added Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler through the draft along with Melvin Gordon in free agency, so a lack of preseason reps could cause some early season struggles in the passing game with timing.

Courtland Sutton (WR, DEN)

Full disclosure: I had Sutton primed and ready to go as a must-start before he suffered a shoulder injury at practice Thursday afternoon. The good news: It is an AC joint sprain that shouldn’t remove him from the starting lineup for too long of a time. The bad news: if he can play on Monday Night he will be limited with his range of motion and pain tolerance and it is an injury that will linger for quite a while. Ultimately Sutton may play on Monday Night, but with a fresh injury of this nature (and the late Monday Night Kickoff) I will be preparing contingency plans for my teams that have Courtland Sutton for the first week.

Jonnu Smith (TE, TEN)

Jonnu Smith is one of the more popular names as a late-round tight end target, but hopefully, he isn’t your only choice at the position. If he is, you should not consider dropping him to pick up an alternate option since he very well could be the second most targeted player for the Titans not only on Monday night but also throughout the season. However, the Broncos aren’t the best matchup for Jonnu Smith given their strength up the middle of the field. The Broncos only allowed 7.2 points per week to the tight end position and gave up a minuscule three touchdowns to tight ends last season (which includes four total games against Travis Kelce and Darren Waller). Smith has immense upside this season, but if you have another option with a softer matchup, you may as well use it.

 

Potential Sleepers

Phillip Lindsay (RB, DEN)

Despite the addition of Melvin Gordon to the running back room, Phillip Lindsay has continued to shine during training camp and earned a role in the Denver offense. Lindsay finished as the RB19 in 2019 by averaging 10.2 points per game and once again eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards in the Denver backfield. Given Melvin Gordon’s rib injury, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Lindsay carve out a bigger role than most people expect. He is a safe FLEX play with RB2 upside.

Jerry Jeudy (WR, DEN)

Jerry Jeudy was already slated to start for the Broncos, but the Courtland Sutton injury opens up some potential opportunities for him in the passing game. In an ideal situation, Sutton will suit up and act as a decoy to draw the coverage, allowing Jeudy to take on a steady role and see an influx of targets against weaker coverage. Jeudy has some big-play ability, but there is an inherent risk in playing a rookie wide receiver with no preseason in his first NFL game over more entrenched options.

K.J. Hamler (WR, DEN)

K.J. Hamler also has massive upside this week for a different reason than Jeudy. Hamler figures to see some work (splitting time with Tim Patrick) in the slot for the Denver offense. Hamler is a complete boom or bust play that you should only use if you desperately need a big game out of someone, but he has game-breaking speed and could very easily catch one ball for 75 yards and a touchdown thanks to Drew Lock’s ridiculous arm strength.



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Welcome to Week 7 of the NFL season. Each week we will be providing streamer advice for all of those who need it, which is pretty much anyone and everyone. Streaming players with the best matchups each week as well as during your stud's bye weeks is an integral part of winning a fantasy championship... Read More


Lies, Damned Lies, and Fantasy Football Statistics (Week 7)

The more data we get as the season goes on, the better equipped we are to interpret matchups and make informed decisions. Then Week 6 comes along and blows it all to hell. The unpredictability of sports is what keeps us intrigued, as frustrating as it may be at times. Numbers are supposedly to be... Read More


The King's Week 7 Fantasy Football Lineup Rankings (Premium Content)

Welcome back, RotoBallers!  Below you will find my Week 7 fantasy football lineup rankings. The ranks are available in PPR, Half PPR and Standard formats. They will be updated as needed, so make sure to check back for the latest versions. Skill Position analysis is primarily based on the PPR ranks. The rankings are powered by... Read More


Slow Starters Ready to Break Out in Fantasy?

We are now more than a third of the way into the fantasy football season and a seemingly clearer picture is available across the landscape. After a pandemic-shortened offseason and lack of preseason exposure, there were plenty of worries headed into the first month specifically. Thus far, one of the most prevalent topics with regards... Read More


Fantasy Football Warning Signals for Week 7

The warning signals get brighter by the week since we have more data to work from. The larger the sample size the easier it is for us to connect the dots from the latest trends. Football is a game of small samples and many variables, making it one of the hardest sports to predict. How... Read More


How to Value Clyde Edwards-Helaire with Le'Veon Bell in KC

Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Jonathan Taylor? Coming into the season this was the biggest question for fantasy GMs, both dynasty managers who were thinking long-term and redraft managers who wanted to know who would be better for this season. There were many different theories and believe me when I say, both sides thought they were 100%... Read More


NextGen Stats - Quarterback Breakdowns and Takeaways

It's been a month since the last time we took a look at our beloved quarterbacks. Numbers are numbers, and numbers don't lie. You can twist them, but looking at them objectively, numbers say that no matter what, rushing the ball is almost always a worse option than passing it in today's game. That's why... Read More


Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Week 7

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement.... Read More


Coaching Matters: Offenses That Will Improve From Week 6

This series continues into its sixth week of where I dive into offensive areas that will improve or decline based on coaching in order to glean insight as to fantasy football value. In Week 6, we saw performances such as Ryan Tannehill throwing for 364 passing yards, the Houston Texans running backs combining for 66 rushing yards, and the New... Read More


Tape Tells All: D'Andre Swift's Week 6 Performance

Welcome to another edition of Tape Tells All. I've been thinking of rebranding as just TAPE. All-Caps like that. Probably wouldn't be a good idea for SEO purposes, right? Anyways, this week we'll be discussing Detroit Lions rookie running back D'Andre Swift. Swift set a lot of career highs this week, with bests in carries... Read More


Week 7 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

Week 6 was like the 2020 of fantasy football weeks. All those great matchups meant nothing, those studs let you down, and your bench likely went crazy. The good news is that we didn't have any season-ending injuries to running backs or games canceled due to COVID, so in retrospect maybe we shouldn't complain. The... Read More


FAB Bidding - Week 7 Waiver Wire Targets

Whether it's injuries, bye-week blues, or simply poor performance, we've got the waiver-wire cure...but it just might cost you! Alongside our famous waiver wire pickups list and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Budget (FAB). In... Read More


Waiver Wire Express - Week 7 Lightning Round

Week 6 was relatively healthy and had no coronavirus delays, so let's just take a moment to bask in that. That said, we still saw Miles Sanders (knee) and Zach Ertz (ankle) go down, while Mark Ingram (ankle) has a bye to get healthy. Week 7 byes are Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Minnesota. Let's get... Read More


Running Back Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Fantasy GMs are to be commended for rising to the unique challenges that have unfolded during this regular season. Injuries to critical players is an unwelcome reality that occurs every year. This is also the case for backs that were expected to operate as RB1s, but have been relegated to committees. However, this season has... Read More


Wide Receiver Waiver Wire Pickups - Week 7

Six weeks of NFL football are behind us, aside from a pair of Monday games, including a late afternoon game between the Bills and the Chiefs. In terms of wide receiver production this week, we didn't have the huge breakouts like we had in Week 5. Chase Claypool didn't score four touchdowns. In fact, only... Read More


More Recent Articles

 

Dissecting Contact Quality In Search Of Fantasy Bargains

Of the 1,015 hitters sampled(1) between 2015 and 2019, there were only 14 instances of hitters making more productive contact against pitches outside of the strike zone than against pitches inside of the strike zone based on xwOBAcon. Based on the same sample, the average hitter was a whopping .116 points better against pitches inside... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 23rd, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 23rd, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Lineup Order Risers and Fallers: AL West 2020 Review

It’s the offseason and there are about to be a bunch of moving parts. This allows for speculation in terms of players gaining or losing playing time, moving up or down a batting order and much more. The idea here is to highlight some lineup situations for each team and some potential winners or losers... Read More


2021 1st & 2nd Year Players with James Anderson - Benched with Bubba (Episode 317)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by James Anderson (@RealJRAnderson) on episode 317. The guys will go over 30+ first and second-year players. They will discuss their current ADP's in the 2 Early Mocks, what to expect of the players in 2021, and much more. They also go over some listener questions, compare Juan Soto to Mike... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 21st, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 21st, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 20th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 20th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 54: 2 Early Mocks APD Player Debates - Benched with Bubba (Episode 316)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They go over some of the positions and look at players with similar ADPs and debate. Going around the diamond discussing some players people are high on and some they are down on with a... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 18th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 18th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 17th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 17th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


2021 Early Mock ADP Values & Reaches: WPC+ Videocast

Pierre Camus and Nicklaus Gaut prepare for the 2021 fantasy baseball season with a look at early mock draft results from the RotoBaller Expert mock. Like and subscribe to the RotoBaller channel on Youtube to get all our latest podcasts and catch us on iTunes and BlogTalkRadio as well! Be sure to also tune into RotoBaller... Read More


Statcast Season Review: 2020 Barrel Leaders (Hitters)

The 2020 MLB season will always be one for the record books, even if everything that took place will have multiple asterisks attached to it. Evaluating Statcast numbers is a nice way to find hot and cold hitters, as well as underachievers and overachievers. Now that the regular season is over, let's reflect on the... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 16th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 16th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 15th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 15th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Daily MLB Injury Roundup for October 14th, 2020

RotoBaller has assembled a list of daily MLB injury updates to help you prepare both your seasonal and daily fantasy baseball (DFS) lineups, every day of the MLB season. Below is our updated list of injured MLB players for October 14th, 2020. Only players on teams that are scheduled to play today will appear below... Read More


Bubba and Bat Flip 53: 2 Early Mocks APD Trends & More - Benched with Bubba (Episode 315)

Bubba (@bdentrek) is joined by Bat Flip Crazy (@BatFlipCrazy) to take a deeper look at the 2 Early Mocks ADP. They dig into trends, some interesting risers/fallers, and much more. They also go over some listener questions at the end to keep the Fantasy Baseball information coming even in the offseason. Be sure to subscribe... Read More