Kickoff: Sunday, September 11th at 4:25 PM ET
Location: U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, MN
Betting Odds: GB -1.5, 48 total via Oddsshark
Writer: Ryan Kruse (@ryanpkruse on Twitter)
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers (Start, QB1)
Even at 38 years old, Aaron Rodgers has shown he’s still an elite quarterback with two straight seasons of top-six regular-season fantasy production at the position. At this point, it’s not a question of Rodger’s skills, but rather his weekly match-ups and how well his largely unproven receivers can perform. U.S. Bank Stadium can be a tough stadium to play in and I’m sure those fans will be loud, but the match-up should still be quite favorable for AR12 in Week 1. The Vikings allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game last year and their defense gave up the ninth-most points in the league. Rodgers could end up in low-end QB1 territory this week, especially with the uncertainty surrounding his receivers, but he should still be confidently locked into your starting lineup.
Aaron Jones (Start, RB1), A.J. Dillon (Start, RB2)
There are legitimate concerns about Aaron Jones’ usage this season as his RB2, A.J. Dillon, enters his third season and continues to earn substantial playing time. Jones barely out-carried Dillon (171 to 162) in the 15 games they played together last year. Aaron’s true edge in this backfield is his pass-catching ability. With multiple receivers leaving the Packers, there are roughly 240 vacated targets in Green Bay. Jones should be a prime target for AR12, especially during the first few weeks of the season while Rodgers builds trust with his new receivers. The PPR bump puts Jones safely in RB1 territory against a Vikings defense that struggled against the pass last year.
As mentioned before, A.J. Dillon should see plenty of work this year. Packers head coach Mat LaFleur said running backs Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon were “1A and 1A” over the off-season. The Vikings were the seventh-worst team in rushing yards allowed last year, so the enticing match-up should keep Dillon safely in the RB2 discussion in Week 1.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Allen Lazard (Start-able if active, WR3 with upside), Sammy Watkins (Sit), Christian Watson (Sit), Romeo Doubs (Sit), Randall Cobb (Sit), Robert Tonyan (Sit, TE2)
With Davante Adams leaving for Las Vegas, it seems like the clear WR1 in Green Bay will be Allen Lazard. For what it’s worth, I believe Lazard can be a reliable WR1 for the Packers. Allen was the fantasy WR8 over the last five weeks of the 2021 season and that was when he was still playing alongside Adams.
The chief concern here is Lazard’s health. Head Coach Matt LaFleur has been non-committal about Lazard, who has been sidelined since last week with an ankle injury after getting stepped on. To make matters worse, he did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Fantasy managers will need to monitor Green Bay’s injury report this week if they want to confidently start Lazard. Ian Rapoport said “it’s probably looking good” that Lazard plays on Sunday. But remember he said that on Tuesday, before Allen did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. If he’s healthy enough to play, I believe Lazard should at least be capable of putting up WR3 numbers with plenty of upside if he receives the lion’s share of targets. The Vikings conceded more fantasy points to wide receivers than any other team in 2021.
Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Randall Cobb are ranked quite close to each other this week, but they are still well outside of Flex territory and not start-able just yet. Some experienced fantasy managers might be tempted to throw Sammy Watkins in the lineup, knowing that many of his best performances are in Week 1 (I wouldn’t recommend it). Chances are one of these guys will have a good performance, but it’s still too much of a dart throw to confidently single one out right now. I would recommend caution with these receivers until we know who has Rodgers’ trust and the targets that go along with it. I believe Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are the two most likely receivers to quickly gain fantasy relevance and end up in the starting tier, but it’s still too soon to tell and not worth the gutsy start so early in the fantasy season.
Robert Tonyan could become a valuable waiver-wire tight end pickup later this season. “Big Bob” Tonyan has a solid rapport with Rodgers and should be an essential part of the offense again. Still, it could be slow going for Robert to start the season. He’s coming back from an ACL tear that ended his 2021 season in Week 8 and has only been fully participating in team drills for a few weeks. He was also limited in Wednesday’s practice. I wouldn’t be surprised if LaFleur begins the season easing Tonyan back into the lineup with a snap count.
Kirk Cousins (Start-able, high-end QB2)
I’m sure plenty of readers will want to know how Kirk Cousins is a QB2 yet still “start-able.” The Sit/Start team here at QB List had a great discussion over the off-season about the overall cohesiveness of our weekly rankings. The beauty of this article is the truly talented team of fantasy football addicts that contribute their research and experience every week of the fantasy season. I believe our unique and differing opinions are one of our greatest strengths as a team of writers, but at the same time, we understand how it can be frustrating for the readers looking for precisely 12 QB1s each week. So we’re doing our best this season to keep the QB1/QB2 (and RB1/RB2 etc.) tiers better in sync each week.
That said, Kirk Cousins finds himself in QB2 territory in Week 1. I’d personally rank him somewhere around QB14 or QB15 this week, which certainly makes him a start-able fantasy option if need be. One reason for the slight downgrade into QB2 territory this week is Cousins’ match-up against a great Green Bay secondary. The Packers had the sixth-best defense in passing yards allowed per game in 2021. Don’t stress out if Cousins is the best QB on your fantasy roster. He will still be a perfectly viable option this week.
Dalvin Cook (Start, RB1), Alexander Mattison (Sit)
You drafted Dalvin Cook in the first round of your draft for a reason. The man is a beast and has shown he can still play at an elite level. New head coach Kevin O’Connell’s pre-snap motion and zone scheme offense should work perfectly with Cook’s running style. The Packers were pretty darn good against the run last year, but that’s not going to be enough to devalue Cook out of RB1 territory. I’m ranking Dalvin right in the middle of the RB1 tier in Week 1.
Alexander Mattison is an easy sit this week, but still worth a quick mention. As the league continues to evolve, reliable handcuffs are almost as rare as true bell-cow backs. Mattison is worth keeping on the bench for every fantasy manager with Dalvin Cook on their team. Heck, there are plenty of fantasy managers stashing Mattison on their bench without even having Cook on their team.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Justin Jefferson (Start, WR1), Adam Thielen (Start, WR3), K.J. Osborn (Sit), Irv Smith Jr. (TE2, Sit)
Unless your draft went heavy on running backs in the first round, chances are Justin Jefferson was a top-five pick in your league. There isn’t much that needs to be said about this phenomenal young talent. The only thing standing in Jefferson’s way is an intimidating Green Bay secondary. Justin’s stat line could take a slight hit if he finds himself lined up against Jaire Alexander most of the day, but let’s not overthink this in Week 1. Fire up that first-round pick with confidence.
Although Jefferson hogged 29% of the Vikings’ target share last year, veteran Adam Thielen still put up the fourth-most single-season fantasy points of his career in 2021. That was all thanks to Thielen’s uncanny ability to find the end zone. Adam had 10 touchdowns in 2021 and has had an impressive 13.7% touchdown rate since Kirk Cousins joined the team. Thielen is a WR3 with TD upside and will likely be in that tier for most of the season if he stays healthy.
K.J. Osborn is well outside of start territory this week. Still, he’s worth keeping an eye on. Osborn could carve out a role as the third WR option in this pass-happy, Rams-esque offensive scheme, which could lead to decent fantasy production as the season continues.
Irv Smith Jr. is returning this year after missing all of the 2021 season with a torn meniscus. There are too many question marks here to warrant a start, especially in Week 1. He missed the 2021 season, but Irv wasn’t very impressive in the 2020 season either, finishing as the regular-season TE23. Smith seems to be primed for a sizeable role in the Vikings’ offense this year and could be a valuable tight-end waiver wire pickup if he starts seeing consistent targets and putting up respectable fantasy numbers. But for now, he’s no more than a bench stash in deep leagues.