2020 Fantasy Football Week 1 Preview: Asphalt

by Richard Savill
2020 Fantasy Football Week 1 Preview

Ever driven down a dirt road for twenty miles or more in dry summer heat? After the first couple of miles, the grinding sound of rubber versus rocks, rough riding, the constant clinks of stones and pebbles hitting the body - it becomes tiresome quickly for the uninitiated. You really appreciate "smooth" when your vehicle finally reaches good old asphalt again.

We think little of the asphalt we travel on during a typical NFL calendar. The nice schedule of time compartments with the combine, free agency, the draft, OTAs, training camp, preseason and the formal count of regular season weeks starting at one. When fantasy wraps up, we can sit back and enjoy the playoffs as a kind of reward for all our efforts.

The tumultuous year 2020 came along. This year. A year with a unique signpost directing the future. No need to expand further than that. Let historians enjoy their feast.

Week 1 of the NFL is here. We're driving forward. Fantasy didn't get preseason games to help us evaluate our prospects, so we're going in with a bit more speculation than usual. Makes it quite exciting.

Be warned, however. Without a preseason, it may require some time before the teams settle into the campaign. Treat September is an insulate preseason. In other words, we might need to wait for the quality to rise among several of our teams. Not saying we will have football follies, but there is a reason the NFL has a preseason.

Just the same, we all hope this is the return of asphalt. Not only for fantasy, but for our enjoyment of the NFL and the game we look forward to every September. Good Luck everyone!

2019 Fantasy Football Week 1 Preview 2019 Fantasy Football Week 14 Preview

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Games to Watch 2019 Fantasy Football Week 14 Preview

A brief rundown of the games this weekend. You have your fantasy lineups set, now it's time to watch 'em play.

Early Sunday: Dolphins (0-0) at Patriots (0-0) -6.5 43.0

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There it was. The AFC East door at the top of the stairs. Closed and locked for 20 years with a "keep out" sign. A couple of brave adventurers managed to see behind it in that time, but repelled in the next instance by a creature hoarding sterling silver. In 2020, suddenly there was an open door.

It's a new era in this division.

For the Patriots, their priority is to re-scheme the offense in the Brady-less era. Belichick knows that methods become easily entrenched after so many years of a system built around a quarterback. Cam Newton is not the Armani suit type. Despite the flamboyance, Newton proved himself a hard worker in camp - pleasing the coaching staff very well.

The Dolphins have their lego bricks ready to build around Tua Tagovailoa. We might even see an appearance of Tua in this game if the result is out of reach for either side in the fourth quarter. It would make sense for the Dolphins to allow Tua to get some feel of the pros without a preseason.

Will the Patriots finally decide to bell-cow or hot-hand their offense starting with Sony Michel? Or will we remain tied to the mix and match backfield Belichick and McDaniels have standardized for the Patriots in recent years?

Jordan Howard and Matt Breida are Messrs. Ho and Hum in fantasy. The Dolphins main attack will come from Fitzpatrick and the receivers. The Beard will likely open their first series with a bomb to Devante Parker or Preston Williams.

Once the game settles into the grind away from all that fun stuff, Cam is arm testing too, the running backs on both sides will begin to start roaming. We're in for a fun start in Gillette.

Fun Fact: The Patriots have not opened the season at home versus the Dolphins since 1990.
Sleeper: Jakobi Meyers, WR, Patriots

Other Early Sunday Games in Brief...

Seahawks (0-0) at Falcons (0-0) +1.0 49.0

Todd Gurley opens a new fantasy account in Atlanta. While the Falcons will test his tires, the script for this game has "shootout" flashing in neon lights. Russell Wilson should provide us with some insight into the Seahawks' wide receiving pecking order. Many predict a shift toward D.K. Metcalf. Fade all tight ends in this contest.

2019 Fantasy Football Week 14 Preview

Jets (0-0) at Bills (0-0) -6.5 39.5

The Bills have expectations of taking dominance in the AFC East this season. We're hoping for a running back competition in real time between Devin Singletary and Zach Moss. We might get it. With the Jets, we're watching the wide receivers, to see the favored target share between Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman. Against the Buffalo defense, it's not the best test case.

Bears (0-0) at Lions (0-0) -2.5 43.5

Not sure what Matt Nagy is thinking, but Mitch Trubisky starts in a Nick Foles type of game script. David Montgomery (groin) remains doubtful, so a Tarik Cohen/Cordarrelle Patterson tandem must suffice. Fantasy eyes will closely examine the hot-hand battle of D'Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson of the Lions. Newly acquired Adrian Peterson adds to this mix.

Packers (0-0) at Vikings (0-0) -2.5 46.0

Too cool for school? Justin Jefferson chose to forego his senior year at LSU to participate in the NFL draft. He landed like a plum right into the spot vacated by Stefon Diggs. Olabisi Johnson remains his only competition. In Green Bay, Allen Lazard has the second receiver spot locked up, apparently, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling is quietly impressing - possibly a shock sleeper.

Eagles (0-0) at Washington (0-0) +6.0 43.5

Antonio Gibson. The great fantasy debate of 2020. I said from the outset his skill mechanics are that of a Tavon Austin coupled with similar hype. After the release of Adrian Peterson and the training camp buzz, reevaluation is on the menu. The Eagles enter another season with banged up receivers. Alshon Jeffery is a scratch and perhaps Jalen Reagor too.

Raiders (0-0) at Panthers (0-0) +2.5 47.0

Teddy Bridgewater flew under the fantasy radar this off-season. This is a matchup for the Panthers where we might be wondering why we didn't pay him much attention. Besides Christian McCaffrey, there are mouths to feed in this curious offense. The Raiders enter with some new vitality on offense as well. Henry Ruggs is the fantasy attraction for our notebooks.

Colts (0-0) at Jaguars (0-0) +7.5 45.0

A hollowed out Jaguars team will attempt to put a product on the field. Number one draft chasers this year. Frank Reich and his Colts continue their "steady as she goes" mentality. We know Philip Rivers is a bridge year quarterback, but for fantasy his value is in the form of high volume passing. But T.Y. Hilton still holds fantasy risk. Parris Campbell holds fantasy reward - maybe.

Browns (0-0) at Ravens (0-0) -8.5 48.5

Here's one to tuck into. The offensive weaponry of both these teams remain virtually unchanged from where we left off in 2019. In fantasy, the focus is on the backfield splits for both sides. When these teams met last season, the split between rushing and passing were  not far from an even balance.

Late Sunday: Buccaneers (0-0) at Saints (0-0) -3.5 49.5

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The very first time Drew Brees and Tom Brady crossed swords on a football field was in 2002. Can you imagine a game where Brees made just 18 pass attempts against Brady's 53 and won? If Ladanian Tomlinson is on your team, then yeah, you can imagine it.

Quite a few storylines like that will come up comparing these two through the years on the FOX broadcast I'm sure. But we still have a football game of significant fantasy implications.

Let's start with Leonard Fournette. It's about snap count. We need to see how much run Bruce Arians decides to allow him from the outset. Fournette joined the team just last week, but I'd still like to guess a 60-40 split in favor of Ronald Jones. I do not think 40% is too high an expectation and others might argue it's too low.

Other fantasy matters abound. The roles of Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard in the offense. What happens there? What about Mike Evans (doubtful) and Chris Godwin?

Then there's Tom Brady himself. He didn't come to Tampa Bay to be a game manager quarterback. We will see exactly what is left in the tank and especially in a season opener with his Hall of Fame rival across the field. Brady won't be held back.

Neither will Drew Brees. He knows the stakes too. Brees will play this game much like he does in a typical matchup against Matt Ryan and the Falcons. The script seems right for this kind of gunslinging between he and Brady. Therefore, pencil in a big opening day for Michael Thomas on your fantasy team.

Fun Fact: This is the sixth meeting between Brady and Brees. Brees leads 3-2 overall, but Brady is 2-1 against the Saints including the last two.
Sleeper: Scott Miller, WR, Buccaneers

Other Late Sunday Games in Brief...

2019 Fantasy Football Week 14 Preview

Chargers (0-0) at Bengals (0-0) + 3.5 44.0

Joe Burrow showed his stuff in training camp and everyone went away pleased and very happy. As per usual, defenses will examine the tape through September and find out what defensive looks Burrow reads well and those he does not. Defenses always catch up. Onlookers have fantasy interest of which receiver Burrow favors. It may not be who we'd immediately expect.

Cardinals (0-0) at Forty-Niners (0-0) -7.0 47.0

Your fantasy Cardinals open the year in a tough matchup against the league's top defense entering 2020. Kenyan Drake owners may have to wait another week for better stats. The 49ers will continue their suffocating ways that nearly led them to a Super Bowl victory. Kendrick Bourne is a starter in this game. Perfect spot flex.

Featured Games

Sunday Night: Cowboys (0-0) at Rams (0-0) +2.5 51.5

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Our first Sunday night game of 2020 presents us with a tour of the newly opened SoFi Stadium where both the Chargers and Rams play their home games.

I think we'll be impressed. As for the football game, we should expect some strong fantasy production on both sides.

Our first thoughts will turn toward Dak Prescott and what a Mike McCarthy offense looks like in Dallas. A fantasy conundrum needs resolving. There are high expectations for Prescott among analysts, and yet Amari Cooper, the number one receiver of the Cowboys, not so much. Cooper is among the bust warning lists of these same analysts.

What would the Cowboys' offense look like if Dak produces well and Cooper disappoints? It obviously means the productive share among the primary receivers balances away from Cooper. Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb, if one follows the logic, must be at par or just above Cooper's influence for a projected Dak Prescott rise.

Perhaps it is just over-complicated fantasy thinking, but this game is a good litmus test for whatever your speculations are for the Dallas offense in 2020.

On the Rams side of it, the backfield is of interest. A committee approach seems likely and intended by Sean McVay. Yet you somehow get the sense a bell-cow is compelled to emerge. With Darrell Henderson mending a hamstring, rookie Cam Akers has an early shot of quickly moving along that evolving process. If any game has the propellant, it is this one versus the Cowboys.

Fun Fact: The Cowboys and Rams last played a season opener at Anaheim Stadium in 1984. Eric Dickerson and Tony Dorsett were the feature backs. Cowboys won 20-13.
Sleeper: Van Jefferson, WR, Rams

Monday Night: Steelers (0-0) at Giants (0-0) +4.0 48.0

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Things do start seeming normal when you see Ben Roethlisberger return to football. During last season, there were hints he could return for a playoff charge. It turns out for the better he did not. The extra rest has served Ben well. Reports out of camp have him fresh and sharp.

This can also be said for the banged up running back crew the Steelers suffered with in 2019.

The Giants have their own deep scars from last season too. Their injury problems not only arose among receivers, but also Saquon Barkley in the early weeks.

Not to tempt fate, but I wish these teams a safe game. It should be good. I expect the Steelers will overcome a rocky start and settle in for a decent offensive show. A good way to start Monday Night 2020 would be a last drive field goal finale.

From a fantasy perspective, it's a winner for matchup regardless of the outcome. Expect a clearer picture of the receiving pecking order of the Giants. I predict Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton and Golden Tate in that order. You're starting all your Giants, with the exception of the defense.

On the other hand, the opportunistic Steelers defense is worth a strip fumble or two. Daniel Jones has a loose style with the football. We shall see how much effort at addressing this weakness he made over the off-season.

Start all your Steelers of appropriate fantasy worth - including Eric Ebron.

Fun Fact: The Giants and Steelers have met just once on MNF back in 1991. Chuck Noll's last season as Steelers' coach. Jeff Hostetler and Neil O'Donnell were the QBs. Giants won 23-20.
Sleeper: James Washington, WR, Steelers

Late Monday Night Extra

Titans (0-0) at Broncos (0-0) -2.5 41.5

Melvin Gordon is a topical running back in fantasy. We cannot rely on "Doc" Fangio or anyone else how the backfield share plan works out. We finally have a game to shed some light on matters. Unlike the earlier Monday game, this one on paper could play out as hard defensive football.

In the Booth on Sunday

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Jim Nantz

CBS Early

Dolphins at Patriots: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Browns at Ravens: Ian Eagle, Charles Davis
Raiders at Panthers: Greg Gumbel, Rich Gannon
Jets at Bills: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton
Colts at Jaguars: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta

FOX Early

Eagles at Washington: Kevin Burkhardt, Daryl Johnston
Bears at Lions: Kenny Albert, Jonathan Vilma
Packers at Vikings: Chris Myers, Greg Jennings, Brock Huard
Seahawks at Falcons: Adam Amin, Mark Schlereth

CBS Late

Chargers at Bengals: Kevin Harlan, Trent Green

FOX Late

Buccaneers at Saints: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Cardinals at 49ers: Kevin Kugler, Chris Spielman

Monday Night ESPN

Steelers at Giants: Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit (regular team)
Titans at Broncos: Steve Levy, Brian Griese, Louis Riddick

Check out the rest of our 2020 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers.

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