Owners, can you believe it!? It’s here, game one of 256! As I am sitting down to turn on the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos game, week one is just about underway. With that, of course, brings tough decisions to fantasy owners across the country like who to start or sit with injuries, what matchups to exploit, and trying to piece together the enigma that is NFL depth charts.
Do not fret, as I am here to guide owners through these obstacles and (hopefully) contribute to piecing together your best possible lineup. With that being said, my weekly kickoff kit will review several injuries to fantasy relevant players, go over a few depth charts that I think are worth keeping an eye on, and finally round things out with my three favorite matchups this week.
Now, let’s get things rolling for week one!
The Other Neil’s Injury Report
TE Rob Gronkowski: NE – Although Gronk admitted Thursday afternoon he wasn’t 100 percent, he is set to play on Sunday night against the Arizona Cardinals. The stud tight end left Tuesdays’ practice early and was a limited participant Wednesday with a hamstring issue. However, because we’re talking about Gronk here it would be egregious of me to tell anyone not to start him. We have all seen Gronk play at less than full health, and the dude is still hands down the best tight end in football. Arizona allowed the 14th most points to tight ends last year, according to Yahoo fantasy, so Gronk shouldn’t be too limited. Sure he’s a little banged up, but you can almost always start Gronk with confidence.
QB Andrew Luck: IND – Luck was a limited participate in practice on Wednesday and Thursday and is currently listed as questionable. While his shoulder injury was first noted as minor, Luck’s reps were limited for the second straight day. He is still expected to be ready to go come Sunday, but I think this injury is really worth watching. With a very poor offensive line, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Luck’s a name frequent the injury report this year. Nonetheless, Luck is primed for a bounce back year, and starting against the Detroit Lions defense should be a fairly good start.
RB Chris Ivory: JAX – Ivory was yet again limited in practice on Thursday with a calf injury. With this being the second straight day Ivory has been limited, it’s worth keeping track of ahead of Sunday’s matchup with the Green Bay Packers. If anything at all really happens to Ivory, fellow backfield member T.J. Yeldon would make for a great play, especially in PPR formats. At the same time, however, Wednesday was the first day the injury was reported so not too much is known about Ivory’s calf right now. If the bruising back does suit up, he should serve as RB3 against a stout Green Bay defense, but keep in mind Ivory does have a spotty history with lower half injuries.
RB Jamaal Charles: KC – On Monday, Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid told reporters it would be a stretch for Charles to play in week one against the San Diego Chargers. Fast forward to Thursday’s practice and Charles is a limited participant. Despite Charles being one of the most dominant backs in the league over the past few seasons, it’s hard to see him even returning flex value on Sunday. With Spencer Ware and company set to take over the carries, Kansas City seems to be taking their time with bringing back Charles. Owners should go ahead and sit him this week and hope that knee starts feeling better in the near future.
RB Carlos Hyde: SF – Hyde was going through the league’s concussion protocol earlier this week, but was a full participant during Thursday’s practice. The talented back should serve as a solid RB2 option in the San Francisco 49ers’ Monday night matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Hyde has set a personal goal of 1,500 yards this season, and with the uptempo Chip Kelly calling plays, that seems totally possible.
TE Eric Ebron: DET – Ebron has been dealing with an ankle injury for the entirety of the preseason, but fully participated in practice on Thursday. While it is not a guarantee yet, Ebron seems ready to go for week one. Owners should use a little caution here depending on what the final injury report says; earlier this week Ebron was having issues running full speed and making cuts, according to ESPN. I am very excited about Ebron this year. If he’s presumably healthy, the Indianapolis Colts served up the 10th most fantasy points to tight ends last season making this a nice matchup.
RB Matt Jones: WAS – After dealing with a separated shoulder earlier this preseason, Jones was a full participant on Thursday. The fact that Jones himself said his shoulder felt awesome is an extremely encouraging sign. The Washington Redskins will be matching up with a tough Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense, so Jones projects for FLEX production. Still, I feel as though Matt Jones is a very intriguing name to watch this year on a high-powered Redskins’ offense.
TE Jimmy Graham: SEA – Despite fully practicing in Wednesday’s practice, a limited role seems to be the best case scenario for Graham in week one. The once prolific fantasy tight end is coming off a serious knee injury, and the Seattle Seahawks have no need to rush him back. As much as the upside is still there for Graham in Seattle, I would be looking for other tight end options in week one.
The Other Neil’s Depth Chart Notes
Each week in my depth chart notes, I look over the depth charts listed on ESPN, FantasyPros and each team’s respective site. While my notes here may not have a direct impact on each week, I point out a few things that are worth keeping an eye on.
Baltimore Ravens RB – As of Thursday, Mike Clay’s projected depth charts have Justin Forsett listed as Baltimore’s starter with Terrance West as the RB2 and Javorius Allen as a PPR flex option. The same goes for FantasyPros and the Ravens’ official site. This backfield is as crowded as any in the NFL, and I’m just curious who is going to take the majority of the carries. While it seems likely Forsett will early on, keep tabs on rookie back Kenneth Dixon, who the team really seems to like. Despite the Buffalo Bills having a shaky front seven, I’m not confident in rolling out any of these backs in standard or PPR leagues.
Cleveland Browns RB – Both ESPN and FantasyPros currently list Duke Johnson Jr. over Isaiah Crowell despite the Cleveland Browns site having the opposite. It will be interesting how this backfield pans out, as these backs are near perfect compliments to one another. My prediction however, is that Johnson’s natural playmaking ability will warrant him more snaps than Crowell, who is a hard-runner that could and will be used in goal line, as well as short yardage, situations. Just as a little bonus for leagues that count special team stats, Johnson was announced as the primary kick returner for the Browns.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB – As I mentioned above, Ivory’s calf injury makes things a bit more interesting in the Jags backfield. If Ivory doesn’t play against Green Bay, Yeldon’s value shoots up for week one. If he does play, I’ll be keeping a close eye on how the carries are split. ESPN’s Adam Schefter recently reported that Jacksonville’s head coach, Gus Bradley, said the team will “see how this week goes, but they both are going to get a lot of playing time.” With that in mind, it remains to be seen just how 50/50 this tandem will be.
Miami Dolphins WR – While Jarvis Landry is settled into the Dolphins’ WR1 spot, the WR2 spot on the chart is still up in the air. DeVante Parker was primed to have it all to himself coming into the season, but fellow wideout Kenny Still switched places with him on the depth chart earlier this week. With Parker looking more and more questionable for week one, Stills seems to be Miami’s WR2 against a phenomenal Seattle Seahawks’ secondary.
San Diego Chargers RB – Melvin Gordon is listed as the Chargers’ top back across the board. With that being said, I’m still keeping an eye on this backfeild early in the season. With Gordon’s ineffectiveness in the red zone last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if San Diego leans of Danny Woodhead in those situations. On top of that, former New York Giant Andre Williams is now in the mix. If Gordon fails to contribute in general early, I could see the pass happy Chargers go with Woodhead in the backfeild with Philip Rivers just slinging the ball. But who knows, that’s why we watch it!
Seattle Seahawks RB – For week one purposes, I’m not sure if fantasy owners can trust either Thomas Rawls or Christine Michael. Rawls just made his preseason debut last week after offseason ankle surgery while Michael led the NFL in rushing yards through the first three weeks of the preseason. Despite Michael being listed higher on depth charts, head coach Pete Carroll sounds as though he wants to see Rawls as the feature back. It is worth noting that Carroll said Wednesday there will be a restriction on Rawls workload heading into week one. Owners could conceivably get a solid RB1 if they were to start both of these backs against a Miami defense that allowed the most fantasy points to running backs last season.
The Other Neil’s Matchups to Watch in Week One
Andrew Luck vs Detroit Lions – According to 5dimes, the overunder for the Colts and Lions matchup is at 49.5. That’s a good amount of scoring, and the Colts don’t exactly run the ball well so I’ll let you do the math on that one. Despite my injury concerns for Luck this week, he could easily be a top three option at QB.
Jason Witten vs New York Giants – Yeah, I know the Dallas Cowboys will be rolling out the now prized rookie Dak Prescott. While I don’t have an official stat or anything to back me up, it does feel as though young quarterbacks like to rely on their tight ends when familiarizing themselves with the league. On top of that, the G-Men allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends last season making Witten a sneaky play in week one.
Ryan Mathews vs Cleveland Browns – Last year the Browns surrendered 4.6 yards per carry. That’s all you really need to know – oh, and they are the Browns. In what seems like another high scoring contest, Mathews appears to have a lot of run in front of him as the featured back in the Philadelphia Eagles offense.
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