Start or Sit These Players on Thursday Night to Win Week 1 Fantasy
The start of a new season is upon us. Some of us enter 2021 off a championship campaign with the bragging rights to go along with it. Some of us have never been to the fantasy playoffs, and some of us may be playing fantasy football for the very first time.
The reality is, regardless of your experience or your finish a season ago, entering Week 1 we are all on even terms with a 0-0 record. This is a fresh start. You are feeling good after drafting a solid team (hopefully) and now get to see how everything works when it matters.
Week 1 is just the beginning. The season kicks off on Thursday September 9, 2021 with the Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys. This contest not only kicks off the 2021 season, it also gets us going on the first seventeen game season in NFL history.
Fantasy football is a four month journey that hopefully concludes in a fantasy championship. I will be with you every step of the way, with recommendations on who to start and who to sit for Thursday Night’s contest each week.
With out further ado, let’s take our first step towards your 2021 fantasy title!
Tom Brady – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Start
Tom Brady took off last season in Week 10 and stayed hot all the way to a Super Bowl Victory. Brady was the QB7 overall from Weeks 10-17 in 2020, averaging 24.34 points per game in 4pt/TD scoring leagues. He did all of this with a torn MCL.
In 2021, the Bucs have brought the entire starting lineup back for another run at a Lombardi Trophy. Brady has all of his weapons and a pass catching RB in Giovani Bernard at his disposal. The Dallas Cowboys are a great matchup for Brady and the Bucs. Dallas on average allowed over 20 points to opposing QBs, and although they have improved their defense, they are not a unit to avoid. Start Tom Brady with absolute confidence.
Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys – Start
Dak is back, and by all accounts his ankle and shoulder are back as well. Dak Prescott enters the 2021 season with a clean bill of health. Tampa Bay ranked 17th against opposing QBs in terms of points allowed in 2020, and I would expect them to be about the same this season. Despite the matchup, I expect to see a highly entertaining, high scoring contest on Thursday Night.
Prescott should thrive in a full season with Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott and Blake Jarwin. I like Dak as a top-five fantasy quarterback this season, and it wouldn’t surprise me if healthy for 17 games that he is in the running for No. 1 overall. Dak should put up big numbers in this one, and as a result he is a rock solid start in Week 1.
2. Running Back
Ronald Jones / Leonard Fournette – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sit
On paper the Dallas Cowboys are a defense you want to start your running backs against. In 2020, they yielded 127.9 yards on the ground per game and allowed 15 rushing TDs in 16 games. The problem here is not the matchup, it’s the running back usage.
I anticipate the Bucs to attack the Cowboys primarily in the passing game. I also have no idea what Bruce Arians has planned for Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. It’s the limited usage combined with uncertain workload that lands both of the backs on my bench in Week 1. If I am stuck, and had to start one, I would pick Jones over Fournette.
Giovani Bernard – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Start
The back I am the most interested in starting in this one is Giovani Bernard. Bernard should be involved as the reliable pass-catching option out of the backfield for Tom Brady, a component missing in 2020.
Brady targeted his backs 118 times last season (7.4/game). None of the backs on the roster last season have the pass catching ability that Bernard possesses. I am not looking for 7+ targets a game for Gio, but in this one it’s possible. Keep an eye on the Bucs injury report this week. Gio is nursing a mild ankle sprain. If he isn’t practicing by Tuesday, I change my lineup and sit Giovani Bernard.
Ezekiel Elliott – Dallas Cowboys – Start
The Bucs allowed the 4th fewest points to the opposing RB last season, and this is likely not an ideal matchup. That said I am starting Ezekiel Elliott with confidence here. Zeke is motivated and most importantly, Zeke has his QB back.
Dak Prescott started the first five games for Dallas before injury ended his season. In those five games, Elliott averaged 22.3 PPR points and was third in running back scoring. From Weeks 6 through 17, Elliott was RB24 and his points per game were 11.2. In addition to getting Prescott back under the center, Zeke’s offensive line is healthy again. Fire him up in Week 1!
Tony Pollard – Dallas Cowboys – Sit
When Zeke faltered in the later portion of 2020, Tony Pollard showed us all he is viable fantasy RB that if given consistent work can deliver for his fantasy managers. In Weeks 14-17 Pollard was the RB18, averaging 13.4 PPR points a game. In Week 15 with Zeke on the shelf, Pollard popped off for 31.4 PPR points and a RB1 overall week.
I like Tony Pollard, and most weeks he should be a consideration for your flex spot. This week, however, is not one of those weeks. This week should be a heavy workload running through Zeke and the pass catchers. Combine that with the Bucs tough run defense and Pollard finds himself on my bench in Week 1.
3. Wide Receiver
Mike Evans /Chris Godwin/ Antonio Brown – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Start
As I have mentioned, I anticipate a high scoring affair here. I have no idea which one of Brady’s primary receivers is the play. As a result I am starting them all. Dallas allowed 41.7 PPR points per game to the opposing WRs last season. They should be better in 2021, but this matchup likely isn’t one of them.
Tom Brady spreads the ball around as well as or perhaps better anyone in the game. Look for Godwin and Brown between the 20s and Evans in the red zone. All three wide receivers have a ceiling of 20 fantasy points with a relatively safe floor. I have no problem rolling with the trio versus the Cowboys.
Amari Cooper/ CeeDee Lamb – Dallas Cowboys – Start
High scoring, remember? That is the expectation. I also expect Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb to carry this attack along with Dak and Zeke in Week 1. Tampa allowed 39.5 points to opposing WRs last season, 11th worst. It’s not a great matchup, but it’s far from one to avoid with these talented pass catchers.
Michael Gallup – Dallas Cowboys – Sit
Michael Gallup will have his weeks in 2021, and I do believe that if you drafted him onto your fantasy roster you got a good WR at a great value. I also believe that Gallup will be a decoy in this offense at times and that is what I see his primary role being in Week 1.
All of the Cowboys’ pass catchers have immense upside, but Gallup, however, has the lowest floor. As a result, I am sitting him here.
4. Tight End
Rob Gronkowski/ O.J. Howard/ Cameron Brate – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Sit
Whoa, that is a lot of pass catching TEs on one roster. The closer you look at the Bucs offense the more you realize how loaded this team is. The problem I see here is where do the targets go? I expect Brady to spread the targets around to his trio of wide receivers and Giovani Bernard. I don’t expect much from the TE room here.
Now one of them will likely score, and any TE that scores is fantasy viable. I have no idea which one it is, hence I sit them all. As noted above, Giovani Bernard is questionable. If he doesn’t go in this one, I will consider moving Rob Gronkowski out of this pack and sliding him into my lineup. Gronk, after all, is likely the TE with the greatest chance of scoring in Week 1.
Blake Jarwin- Dallas Cowboys – Sit
Tampa Bay was fairly accommodating to the opposition TE last season, allowing 14.1 points to the position, 9th worst in the league. With Prescott back under center and Jarwin back to full health, there is breakout potential here. I just don’t see it in Week 1. Preseason usage suggests TE Dalton Schultz will still play a role which would cap Jarwin’s weekly upside and keep him on my bench in Week 1.
Thank you for reading Start or Sit These Players on Thursday Night to Win Week 1 Fantasy.
For all your start/sit questions be sure to reach out to me on Twitter @RotoHeatSully.
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