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NFL Week 1 fantasy football start 'em or sit 'em

Nov 22, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (30) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy football drafts are officially in the books, and the time has come to set lineups for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. I'm here to be your guide through weekly sit/start questions across traditional 10- and 12-team leagues, along with deeper formats.

My goal in this weekly piece will be to feature fringe, underrated or overrated players across all positions, since evaluating players with a 95% start rate isn’t very helpful.


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Without further ado, let's dig into the inaugural edition of the 2021 PFF fantasy football start ‘em or sit ‘em for Week 1 of the NFL season

QUARTERBACKS

START

TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

The reigning Super Bowl champions kick off the 2021 regular season against the Dallas Cowboys, and the spot could not be better for Tom Brady. Dallas allowed the fourth-most passing touchdowns last season, and TB12 hit his stride down the stretch for Tampa as he got more comfortable in the Bruce Arians system.

Over the final eight weeks (including postseason), Brady’s fantasy points per game increased to 23.2 — seventh in the league — and his output was nearly three full points per game above expectation

Expect Brady to rip Dallas’ 31st-ranked secondary to shreds Thursday night with the league’s No. 1 receiving corps at his disposal. 

RYAN TANNEHILL, TENNESSEE TITANS 

The Tennessee Titans have the fourth-highest implied team total on the Week 1 slate, which bodes well for Ryan Tannehill to post some gaudy fantasy numbers. The Titans quarterback leads the NFL in passer rating and yards per attempt over the past two seasons, and the addition of Julio Jones should help him maintain his efficiency. Matt Ryan’s fantasy points per game increased by over 45% (21.1 versus 14.5) with Jones in the lineup. 

Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals offense should have no issue moving the ball against the Titans’ inexperienced and 21st-ranked secondary — that also helps Tannehill. Arizona moves at a lightning-fast pace in the Kliff Kingsbury Air Raid offense — second-highest average play clock time in 2020 — so there’s a great chance this game turns into a shootout.

Arizona also has major issues in its secondary after Malcolm Butler retired. He was supposed to replace Patrick Peterson, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, fourth-round rookie Marco Wilson will be tasked with covering the outside alongside veteran cornerback Robert Alford (2020 opt-out returnee). 

The Cardinals rely heavily on Cover 0 and Cover 1 defensive coverage, both of which put a lot of pressure on cornerbacks winning their one-on-one matchups. Nobody should expect them to win against dominant wide receivers like Jones and A.J. Brown

Plus, Tannehill’s passing touchdown efficiency skyrockets versus these coverages. The Titans passer threw for an insane 9.1% touchdown rate against Cover 0 and Cover 1 last season, nearly twice the rate against all other coverages. 

SIT 

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