Kickoff: Sunday, September 13th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Bills Stadium, Orchard Park, NY
Betting Odds: NYJ +6.5, 39.5 total via Oddsshark
New York Jets
Sam Darnold (Sit)
Here’s a similarity and a difference in Week 1 for Sam Darnold this season. The similarity: he’s facing the Bills. The difference: he won’t be playing with mono. All systems go for Darnold’s health entering his third year; an important season in which quarterbacks are often expected to take “the leap”. Of course, Covid is going to hinder his true potential – at least early on – but all teams are starting on even footing.
The WR room in New York had its share of injuries during this summers expedited training camp. That being said. as of this writing, the first-team receivers are expected to be fit and suit up in Buffalo. Unfortunately, I’m not ready to consider Darnold a start candidate just yet. He’ll need to put it together for consecutive weeks. His streaming candidacy will fall not only on his production but the health of his receivers and of course Adam Gases’ play calling.
Le’Veon Bell (Start, RB2/FLEX), Frank Gore (Sit)
Le’Veon Bell did not have the return season Jets fans envisioned last year. There was a combo of factors: Adam Gase (you can sense a pattern here already), offensive line play & and also game script. Now with the offensive line revamped, Bell could dial it back to his days in Pittsburgh and not only be efficient on the ground but also in the passing game. Gase must do a better job – and he’s vowed to publicly – at utilizing Bell as a receiving threat.
Bell showed up this summer in tremendous shape. He’s clearly motivated and has every reason to be. I’m willing to ‘chance’ it with him Week 1 and slot him in my RB2/Flex spot and see what happens. If he can haul in multiple receptions and have the majority of the rushing work, that could be a sign trending upwards for the season overall.
If Bell isn’t a factor Week 1 and Frank Gore is, Bell owners could be in trouble. We saw it in Miami where Gase and Gore were together and Kenyan Drake was lobbying for touches. Gore, 37, has been said to have had a rock-solid training camp, albeit conditional work for him more than anything. He knows Gase’ system, and will no doubt be featured in the offense. The question remains, just how much will his involvement play into that of Bells. That being said, I’m not starting Gore, though there may be that whacky moment at some point the year where you find yourself adding him for flex consideration.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Jamison Crowder (Start, WR3/FLEX), Breshad Perriman (Sit), Denzel Mims (Sit), Chris Herndon (Start, TE2)
There is only one wide receiver I would confidently start this week, and it’s Jamison Crowder. He was healthy all training camp and is a familiar face for Darnold. Lining up out of the slot, if all works out this season, there’s no reason why Crowder can’t catch 85+ passes. We should see it start against Buffalo, who Crowder had 14 receptions for 99 yards against the Bills Week 1 last season.
After missing the final few weeks of training camp, Breshad Perriman is expected to be a go for Sunday against Buffalo. He’ll eventually become a flex candidate, but not this week. He’s missed some meaningful time with Darnold, and you’ll have to monitor his snap percentage this first game to gauge how truly ready he is. He’s apparently been dealing with knee swelling, and his time missed was extended by a few days later than anticipated, but somehow is ready for the opener.
Similar to Perriman rookie Denzel Mims is also ready to go despite dealing with hamstring tightness for almost a month now. It’s always rough for a rookie wide receiver to make a name for himself in his first year, but even more so this season with Covid limitations & his injury which may end up lingering. The Jets were cautious with their 2nd round WR-of-the-future the past few weeks, but he still missed meaningful reps this summer. He’s not fantasy worthy just yet.
Fingers crossed for a healthy season for third-year tight end Chris Herndon. He has the tools to be a longterm weapon for Darnold, and a fantasy darling given his ADP of 286. A suspension paired with an injury kept him sidelined all of last season, limiting him to a single catch on the year. Darnold and he came into the league the same year, and Herndon was a safety valve for Darnold; the pairing should pick up where they left off in 2018. Start Herndon with confidence this week and hope it continues all season long.
Josh Allen (Start, QB2)
All offseason leading up to drafts, Josh Allen was projected to finish as a top fantasy QB. Despite his completion percentage & passing yards total being rather poor his rush ability cannot be ignored. He has the big-throw capability as well, but completing his downfield attempts consistently is a cause for concern. Stefon Diggs was brought in, but he’s not going to be all out savior in that department; at least early on. Even so, Allen should get you a steady 18+ points weekly, and you can start him with confidence. It’s a matter of whether or not his production is predominately through the air or on the ground (again) that is left to be seen.
Devin Singletary (Start, Flex), Zack Moss (Sit, Flex if you must)
I’m willing to anoint Devin Singletary as a start candidate this week simply because his backup is a rookie, and if you drafted him your selection was likely made in a single-digit round; ADP of 59. However, his production may take a hit quickly in the coming weeks. We also should not ignore his fumbling issues, not to mention the fact that (then 36 year old) Frank Gore finished with 15 more carries than him. His lack of pass-game involvement is what worries me from a fantasy standpoint, as he’s really not a bruising back. It’ll be interesting to see how his season shapes out to be.
Third-round rookie Zack Moss is the “hit” I was referring to above. Moss is projected to challenge Singletary for the starting gig out the gate, especially because he’s poised to be a factor in the pass-game; a skillset Singletary lacks. There’s no doubt if Moss is a factor Week 1, he’ll remain involved and Singletary may even fade. With an ADP of 131 and the pass-catching value he brings, he’s the Bills back you want to own. Even with all this praise, I think unless you don’t have a better flex option, you could sit Moss this week and wait and see how a split favors both backs against the Jets.
Wide Receivers/Tight End
Stefon Diggs (Start, WR3), John Brown (Start, Flex), Cole Beasley (Sit), Dawson Knox (Sit)
Newly acquired Stefon Diggs could be poised for a successful debut season with the Bills. He was a solid contributor in his time with the Vikings; some would argue he was underrated. Going to a new team and playbook in these Covid times isn’t easy, but he had a pretty strong showing in camp. He could open up opportunities for himself and the offense around with him his skillset. I would start him against the Jets and see where it goes from there, but keep in mind there is also the target-share factor to consider long term this season. According to John Daigle of Rotoworld, the Bills just offer 35 vacated targets, ranking last. In Diggs’ favor in the season opener, the Bills will want to force-feed him if they can, simply because of the price they paid to bring him to Buffalo.
John Brown having past chemistry with Allen is why I would trust him out the gate quicker than Diggs. It wouldn’t shock me to see Diggs finish with more targets against New York, but if Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams plans to zone in on Diggs, the game can open up for Brown. He could have a similar performance to Week 1 last season. Brown had 7 receptions for 123 yards and 1 touchdown in the come from behind win.
A rather reliable slot option, Cole Beasley can be forgotten about (for now) from a fantasy standpoint. With Diggs & Brown, plus the two running backs in the mix, Beasley just doesn’t offer any real fantasy appeal this week.
Second-year tight end Dawson Knox lost his fantasy appeal for me when Diggs was brought in. His target share was decent last season but was nothing to write home about. The Jets notoriously struggle against the tight end, but I can’t see a situation where they have issues covering Knox; nor do I believe he’ll see many targets Week 1 anyhow.
-Matthew Cava (@cavaM_ on Twitter)