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Key NFL Week 1 matchups to leverage in fantasy football start/sit decisions

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) makes a catch on a pass from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (not seen) during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Football is a game of matchups. There is a saying in fantasy football to “start your studs,” but we really want to rely on the players who will score the most fantasy points. Talent plays a large factor in which players score the most, but matchups also heavily contribute.

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Digging deep into the PFF database, here are five cases where the combination of how the two teams play or use their players will lead to bigger games by the offenses involved. 

Brandon Aiyuk‘s big-game potential:

The 49ers' second-year wide receiver has the best matchup of Week 1, according to PFF's wide receiver/cornerback matchup chart. This is in large part because of the lack of experience in the Lions secondary.

Detroit has five cornerbacks on the roster, and three are playing in their first NFL game. One of the two starters is Amani Oruwariye, who has played on the right side when Jeffrey Okudah has been healthy. The third-year cornerback allowed 733 receiving yards last year, ranking 10th-worst at the position. He allowed a relatively low catch rate at 55.3%, but part of that was a high average depth of target allowed at 14.0. He missed nine tackles on coverage, ranking fourth-worst among cornerbacks.

Aiyuk should be able to take advantage of the matchup. He lines up more on the left than the right and has made at least one explosive play in each of his last seven games. Both he and Deebo Samuel graded as top-10 receivers from Week 7 on last year. Samuel should also be lined up against Oruwariye whenever Aiyuk isn’t.

The biggest question is whether the Lions choose to use Okudah to shadow. The Lions rarely used shadow coverage last season, but they have a new defensive coordinator in Aaron Glenn. He comes from New Orleans, which did use shadow coverage depending on the matchup. It’s not clear which receiver the Lions would shadow if they choose to. If they do, it could limit one of the 49ers' starting receivers but open up an opportunity for the other. 

Start Darrell Henderson

The Rams' starting running back is only being started in 33.4% of fantasy leagues, but he has a particularly good matchup against the Bears. The Rams use man run concepts more than most teams, and that is where Henderson excels. He has averaged 5.1 yards per carry on these runs, on top of gaining a first down or touchdown on 44.2% of his carries.

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