Fantasy Billboard: Giddy Up and Whoa Down for Week 1

Russell Wilson is set to take on his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, on Monday night. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post/TNS)

And we’re off. Fantasy Billboard’s Week 1 Giddy Ups! and Whoa Downs! will help you make the tough start/sit decisions every week. Make sure to check the NFL injury reports before submitting your lineups. Good luck to all players.

Giddy Up!

Russell Wilson, QB — Wilson marches back to Seattle with a score to settle. Denver traded two first and two second-round draft picks for Russell, plus DE Shelby Harris, TE Noah Fant and QB Drew Lock, who could not beat out former Jet Geno Smith. It’s bombs away for Wilson. He won’t let his foot off the gas until the clock strikes 00.00.

Baker Mayfield, QB — Another revenge game, as new Carolina Panther Mayfield squares off at home against Cleveland, the team that literally kicked him to the curb. Mayfield will pepper Christian McCaffrey underneath theBrowns’ solid pass defense. Cleveland is still paying the majority of Mayfield’s contract ($10.3 million) while the Panthers are only shelling out $3.5 million. Oh, the irony if the Browns lose.

Rhamondre Stephenson, RB — Stephenson the Giant is the new receiving back for the Pats who excels in yards after contact, making him fantasy gold in PPR leagues. He should rush for 60 yards and add another 50 through the air. A TD is all but assured as Stephenson bursts into RB1 territory.

Saquon Barkley, RB — I want to give a little love to Barkley. He’s in a new aggressive offense and looked great in camp. Expect him to return to his rookie ways when he was a fantasy terror. It starts this week in Tennessee, who just lost Pro Bowl linebacker Harold Landry III for the season. Good news for Barkley and the G-Men’s offensive line.

Sammy Watkins, WR — He’s probably not rostered in your league, but Watkins always puts up a whammy on opening days. His incredible last four combined starts on opening day: 23 catches for 397 yards and four TDs. Start Watkins this week. Then cut him because the wheels come off from here on out.

Jaylen Waddle, WR — With all the hype surrounding Tyreek Hill, Waddle has become the forgotten man. But don’t forget Waddle scored in both games vs. the Pats last year. This should be a high-scoring affair. Check his injury status, but Waddle should be jammin’ on Sunday.

Cole Kmet, TE — Old King Cole Kmet had 50 catches in his last 12 games. The hype could not be greater for the 6-6 second-rounder out of Notre Dame. In a little more than three series in preseason, he had five catches on six targets for 67 yards and a TD. Giddy Up!

Whoa Down!

Carson Wentz, QB — Wentz will be the sixth opening day starter for the Commanders in six years. He played poorly last season even though the Colts boasted one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Those days are over. He now plays behind a Washington front that gave up a whopping 43 sacks in 2021.

Joe Flacco, QB — Flacco has never been a prolific fantasy QB. In his last 63 games he’s thrown 75 TDs. That’s slightly more than one per outing. The Ravens’ secondary is ranked number one in preseason polls. Should you start Flacco? Nevermore. If Zach Wilson is able to play without practicing after his knee surgery two weeks ago, I’m down on him too.

Cam Akers, RB — I’m a fan of Akers. Just not this week. Returning for the playoffs at the end of the season after his Achilles tendon tear, he limped to a painful 2.6 yards per carry. Akers has been out all training camp with an undisclosed injury. I much prefer stablemate Darrell Henderson against the Bills Thursday night.

Dameon Pierce, RB — The rising star rookie supplanted Rex Burkhead and jettisoned Marlon Mack out of Houston. But I won’t be rolling him out for his NFL debut on the road against the Colts’ stellar defense. They gave up just 10 rushing TDs last year. I’m in “wait and see” mode.

Michael Thomas, WR — Speaking of “wait and see,” we’ve been waiting two years to see Thomas back on a football field. The last time he had an NFL reception was before COVID. He’s now in a run-first offense. I can keep waiting.

Mecole Hardman, WR — Hardman’s always been a WR3 since coming to K.C., and that’s what he’ll be this year.

Noah Fant, TE — Fant’s former Denver teammates gave up two TDs to tight ends in 2021. After this sure-to-be frustrating contest, Fant might try to sneak onto the Broncos’ plane back to Denver.

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