- Can Marshawn Lynch live up to the hype in Oakland? Will Todd Gurley finally emerge? What's the next step for Marcus Mariota? Our fantasy experts tell all in our Week 1 fantasy cheat sheat.
For the first time in eight months, we’re set to enjoy a full Sunday of NFL action. There are a number of intriguing games to kick off the season, headlined by Seahawks-Packers in Green Bay and Giants-Cowboys in Dallas. “Intriguing” is the watchword of this column, because it best describes what we’ll be doing in this space this season.
Every Sunday, we’ll answer a question about the day that is about to unfold before our eyes. The question will change every week. Some weeks, it will be quite specific, and others, like this week, it will be broader in nature. No matter what the question is, though, we’ll strive to give you a last few pieces of wisdom before officially set your lineups and kick up your feet. Let’s get to it.
This week’s question:
We've spent the last three months making predictions, but none of us is sure exactly what will happen this season. So, with the calls you've made over the last three months in mind, what's the one situation you're watching most closely this week?
Michael Beller: To say I’m all-in on Ty Montgomery would be an understatement. I own him on half of my teams. I spent all summer telling anyone who would listen to draft him. I called him a league-winner in a debate with T.J. Hernandez. I boldly predicted that he’d be a top-five back. I’m on a shortlist of people most invested in Montgomery’s success this season, along with the player himself, his family, his teammates, and the Packers front office.
So, yeah, it’s safe to say I’ll be watching his tough matchup with the Seattle defense closely on Sunday. Here’s the thing, though. It won’t surprise me if he struggles as a runner. It won’t surprise anyone. The Seahawks dynastic defense somehow got even better just a week ago when the team swung a deal for Sheldon Richardson, adding to an already stacked front seven. If Montgomery does struggle on the ground, I’ll give him a pass, and you should, too.
What I’m most interested to see, then, is how the Packers integrate him as a receiver. Remember, he made the move to running back out of necessity last year, and only when he proved his chops did the Packers switch his designation on a full-time basis. Montgomery was a good enough receiver at Stanford to be a third-round pick in the 2015 draft. I fully expect him to be among the league leaders in targets among running backs, and I think we’ll see Mike McCarthy line him up as a receiver multiple times every week. His ability as a receiver is almost as important to his success this year as how well he makes the transition to the backfield. I can’t wait to see what he does through the air against the Seahawks this week.
Chris Raybon: Whether it’s been on Twitter, 4for4, or right here on SI, I’ve been tooting Todd Gurley’s horn all offseason because I think he's got a real chance to emerge as the No. 3 fantasy running back behind Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. If that sounds crazy, remember that Gurley was the top running back drafted in fantasy last season on average, going ahead of both Bell and Johnson. Week 1 is no time for snap judgements, but we should be able to get a good idea of whether Gurley will bounce back right off the bat because he’s got a soft matchup with the Colts, who allowed the third most yards per carry (4.7) in the league last season. The Rams new offense under first-year head coach Sean McVay, and their offensive line additions of veterans Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan should pay immediate fantasy dividends for Gurley, allowing him to return to rookie-year form when he topped 125 yards rushing in four of his first five career games. If Gurley doesn't have success in Week 1, he may be in for another long season.
Jennifer Eakins: With so much hype surrounding the return of Marshawn Lynch to Oakland, it will be interesting to see if he can live up to it. On the wrong side of 30 and a year removed from the NFL, Lynch has a tall order in front of him. He has two young, talented guys breathing down his neck in DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, both of whom have shown that they can produce. Lynch’s preseason involvement was minimal, so it’s still a mystery whether we’ll see Beast Mode or a slower, broken-down version of a back who was once among the very best in the game.
T.J. Hernandez: I've been beating the drum all offseason for Andy Dalton, and he will get tested in Week 1 against a Baltimore defense that 4for4 projects to rank 5th against quarterbacks this season. Even with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert missing a combined 14 games last season, the Bengals ranked seventh in percentage of drives to reach the red zone and 10th in yards per drive. Their issue was getting the ball in the end zone from in close, and with Green and Eifert healthy their fortunes should change. Dalton has already proven that he has top-5 fantasy upside. If Cincinnati has success against a tough Ravens defense, the Bengals are in for a huge offensive season.
John Paulsen: I made a fairly bold call to put Marcus Mariota in my top five, and I’m anxiously waiting to see if the Titans’ passing attack can make the leap from efficient to potent. The team has invested a lot of capital in the receiving corps, adding Eric Decker in free agency and both Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor in the draft, and these moves indicate that they’re going to throw the ball more. If Mariota is able to shred a very burnable Oakland secondary, his 2017 will be off to a great start.