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Welcome to the Winners Club: Fantasy Football & NFL Betting Are Back!

The 2021 NFL season begins tonight. Here's what you need to know for your fantasy team and sports betting.
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Hi, this is the first of hopefully many times I'll be arriving in your inbox, so I'll start with a brief introduction before getting into the content you subscribed for: winning analysis and insight for all fantasy sports and sports betting.

I'm a writer for Sports Illustrated's Fantasy and Betting verticals, and I'm very excited to be heading up the Winners Club newsletter. If you are a diehard fantasy sports player or sports bettor, this is the newsletter for you. But if you are just starting out, fear not; it's our job and mission to help players and bettors of all skill levels win.

The Sports Illustrated fantasy and betting team produces great content with insight and analysis around the clock. My job is to condense all of that info and deliver it to your inbox three days a week: Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday. We'll have best bets, Over/Under Analysis, Player Prop data, player projections, rankings, and of course, injury updates and waiver wire advice. Plus Michael Fabiano's famous Start Em, Sit Em advice. I'll also be answering your questions throughout the season, so feel free to start sending them my way. Just reply to this email, send a new note to winnersclub@si.com, or slide into my Twitter DMs (@kkylewood). And don't forget to follow @SI_Fantasy and @SI_Betting for daily updates on all of our coverage. The goal here is to keep you in the black and the envy of your fantasy league. We want you to win, and my colleagues and I are here to make sure that happens.

Gus Edwards Injury

Ravens RB Gus Edwards reportedly suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury. Second-year back Ty'Son Williams is in-line to be the starter. Baltimore will likely need to add a free agent as they are now dangerously thin at the position.

What's Cooking at SI Fantasy and Betting

Cowboys vs. Buccaneers Betting Breakdown: Frankie Taddeo broke down the betting angles for Thursday night's matchup between Dallas and Tampa Bay. The spread has moved around a bit since opening at Buccaneers -8.5. Taddeo offers his pick, player prop advice, and more ahead of the first game of the 2021 NFL season.

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Michael Fabiano has you covered with advice for any players you're on the fence on heading into Week 1 for DFS or season-long leagues. I was happy to see Fabiano is high on Jalen Hurts against Atlanta — I waited a round or two too late to grab a quarterback in one of my leagues, and luckily Hurts has a favorable matchup on the road.

jalen-hurts-philadelphia-eagles

Fabiano’s Week 1 Player Rankings: Didn’t see one of your guys listed on start ‘em, sit ‘em? No problem. You can see how the top 32 quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers, and team defenses stack up for Fabiano, as well as the 60 best running backs and receivers.

Waiver Wire Adds: It’s never too early to be looking at the waiver wire (even before Week 1 starts). Childs has 10 players to target, and he took it a step further by explaining the priority of each addition. See who Childs recommends you pick up before their stock rises too much after this weekend’s games.

Player Rankings and Projections: Shawn Childs takes player rankings a step further with individual player projections broken down by team or position — however you like it. Rushing attempts, completion percentage, yards per catch, it’s all there. Childs has Patrick Mahomes throwing four touchdown passes against the Browns' improved defense. No surprise: Mahomes is the No. 1 play at QB for Fabiano and Childs.

Patrick Mahomes plays in the 2020 AFC Championship

College Football Week 2 Bets: Richard Johnson created his own composite ranking system to develop his own point spreads and help you win. You’re going to want to follow his picks with a weekend slate headlined by a top-10 showdown between Iowa and Iowa State and a clash between No. 12 Oregon and No. 3 Ohio State.

SI Sportsbook Up and Running in Colorado: Broncos fans in Colorado can now bet on Denver -3 (-110) against the Giants for Week 1 with the launch of SI Sportsbook in Colorado. More states are soon to come, but Sports Illustrated readers and subscribers can now apply the advice from the growing SI Betting and Fantasy team to make wagers on our very own sportsbook.

si sportsbook

Relish this Thursday Night matchup and take advantage

Tonight’s opener is studded with fantasy superstars on both the Cowboys and the Buccaneers. Not to scare you too much, but we’re two weeks away from Panthers-Texans on Thursday Night Football. Yikes.

Anyways, let’s get back to the good stuff: “America’s team” vs. the defending Super Bowl champs. There’s a good chance you or your Week 1 opponent have someone playing tonight. But don’t take my word for it — I crunched the numbers!

Dallas and Tampa Bay combined have the highest number of players starting in more than 50% of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues. It makes sense why that’s the case — this game has the third-highest Over/Under of the week on SI Sportsbook: 51.5 (-110).

Less than 100 players on ESPN (84) and Yahoo! (96) have a start percentage above 50. Nine players in tonight’s game hit that criteria, meaning roughly 10% of the top players by start percentage this week will be on the field at Raymond James Stadium tonight. (The next closest was seven in the Chargers vs. Football Team game.)

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That’s not the expert rankings or point projections. That’s what the public is doing. Now let’s take a look at those nine players.

(Data via ESPN and Yahoo! Sports as of Wednesday evening.)

(Data via ESPN and Yahoo! Sports as of Wednesday evening.)

I know there aren’t many surprises on this list. But it underscores the excitement of having many players in a game with a high over/under that features two elite quarterbacks with two of the best receiving trios in the NFL at their disposals. Unfortunately, very few games fit that description.

I hope it goes without saying that I believe you should start each of the players listed above. But I want to bring up a few other names to drive home just how stacked the lineups are in this game.

Antonio Brown (14% ESPN start percentage, 29% on Yahoo!) is a viable flex this week. I wrote about the players who might benefit from games with high projected point totals earlier this week, and I think Brown is certainly one of those, especially if Chris Godwin is limited at all by his quad injury. Michael Gallup (18.9% ESPN, 9% Yahoo!) should be benched as a nod to both Tampa’s secondary and how quickly the front line might get to Dak Prescott with guard Zack Martin out.

Antonio Brown celebrates after a Bucs win.

The return of O.J. Howard could hamper Rob Gronkowski (25.7% ESPN, 30% Yahoo!), but he was last seen scoring two touchdowns in the Super Bowl. Things also get tricky with the Buccaneers’ running back trio. For now, I’d refrain from starting Ronald Jones II (7.3% ESPN, 33% Yahoo!), Leonard Fournette (19.3% ESPN, 19% Yahoo!), and Giovani Bernard (0.4% ESPN, 1% Yahoo) until the pecking order is sorted out.

Last but not least is Tampa Bay kicker Ryan Succop (23.8% ESPN, 83% Yahoo!). I’m not sure why everyone on ESPN is down on him (I’m of the 23.8% starting him), but if we’re all high on the Buccaneers offense and low on the Cowboys defense, then Succop should get in on the scoring party, too.

All in all, you’re looking at nine no-brainer starts (10 if you count Succop) and three players on the fringe. Enjoy the game.

Get your questions in, folks

I’ll be answering reader questions in each newsletter, so email those over to winnersclub@si.com whenever you have a question about a player, team, situation, or even a general fantasy or betting-adjacent complaint if you need to vent. I also wouldn’t be opposed to a few hilarious, painful bad beat submissions. Your response might be featured in the next Winners Club!

Tell your friends, family members, even your league mates to sign up to get Winners Club in their inbox three times a week at si.com/newsletters, where you can also subscribe to other SI newsletters.

Play of the Day and Games I’m Watching

Play of the Day: I mentioned a whole lot of viable fantasy players in tonight’s game. There’s one I’m highest on, though, and, unfortunately, he’s not on any of my teams. It’s some guy named Tom Brady. The reason Evans, Godwin, Brown, and Gronkowski are all good plays this week is because of the man tasked with getting them the ball and the porous defense he will face. Dallas’ defense allowed 34 touchdowns in 2020, tied for the third-worst mark in the league. Don’t overthink this. He’s now had a full offseason to get on the same page with his receivers, specifically Brown. While you may start the wrong Tampa Bay pass catcher, you can’t go wrong starting Brady.

tom-brady-buccaneers

Games I’m Watching: Last Saturday I sat in front of my TV and laptop for about 12 hours watching football. This weekend I get to do so on Saturday and Sunday. My Saturday will be taken up by watching the Gators in the afternoon before heading to Hard Rock Stadium to see Appalachian State vs. Miami. This will be my first football game in person since December 2019 — are you making your return to stadiums this fall? Which game(s) are you attending? With my Saturday occupied, these are the NFL games I’m most excited for this week:

  • Sunday, 1 p.m. ET: Steelers @ Bills
  • Sunday, 4 p.m. ET: Browns @ Chiefs
  • Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET: Ravens @ Raiders

Thanks for reading to the end of the first edition of the Winners Club. Don’t forget to send some questions my way and follow me on Twitter @Kkylewood. I’ll leave you with some tweets that stuck with me as we embark on Week 1 of the NFL season and several months of uninterrupted football. We made it.