Week 1 fantasy football flames: Big Ben to come out firing


Each week the Noise highlights under-started names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60% of Yahoo! leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week (Scoring thresholds – QB: 19 fantasy points, RB: 12 points, WR: 11 points, TE: 10 points; 0.5 PPR). If you’re a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 1 Flames in the comments section below.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers

(25% started in Yahoo; DK DFS: $6,400) 
Matchup: at NYG
Vegas line/Total: PIT -4, 47.5 

After Tommy John surgery sapped his 2019, Pittsburgh’s refurbished Commodore 64 is reportedly pain-free and fully prepared to slip floppy disk into drive. He’s bound to rediscover his 2018 form, a season in which he averaged 320.6 pass yards per game, totaled 34 touchdowns and ranked No. 6 in deep-ball passer rating (112.9). With explosive weaponry flanking him and a projected top-10 offensive line preventing punishment, vintage performances are sure to be abundant this season, especially Week 1. 

The Comeback Player of the Year frontrunner is a strong candidate to crack the position’s top-five in the opening act. New York’s already rotten secondary, without Deandre Baker (waived after some very questionable extracurriculars) and Xavier McKinney (foot), added extra layers of stench leading up to September. Suffice it to say, the Giants may not improve on their 8.0 pass yards attempt allowed last fall. James Bradberry (77.9 passer rating allowed in ‘19) is respectable, but rookie Darnay Holmes and slot corner Logan Ryan (97.8) are quite beatable. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson should attract the passer’s affections early and often. 

Fearless forecast: 301 passing yards, 3 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, 23.04 fantasy points 

Cam Akers, RB, Los Angeles Rams

(45%; $5,600) 
Matchup: vs. DAL
Vegas line/Total: DAL -3, 52 

As buzz around fellow rookies Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Antonio Gibson and Zack Moss reached ear-bursting decibels the past few weeks, headlines about the Florida St. product seemed infrequent. Sean McVay’s early RBBC admission suppressed much of the hype. However, with Darrell Henderson’s hamstring ailing and Malcolm Brown his only competition for touches, the greenhorn may gore the competition in his first meaningful NFL action. 

Gearing up for Little D (Believe me, the moniker applies), Akers has split first-team reps with Brown. The Rams O-line, which ranked in the bottom quarter in run-blocking efficiency last year, is a work in progress, but the youngster thrived behind a shoddy Seminoles front last season checking in at RB12 in total YAC (3.91 YAC/att.) and RB7 in missed tackles. His comfort level in a zone scheme combined with his quick acceleration, cut-back vision and lateral explosion will have Dallas’ Gerald McCoy-less front on notice. On roughly 55-60% of the opportunity share anticipate Akers to write an enthralling first chapter. 

Fearless forecast: 14 carries, 63 rushing yards, 2 receptions, 9 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.2 fantasy points 

Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts

(11%; $5,300) 
Matchup: vs. JAX
Vegas line/Total: IND -7.5, 45

Hedonistic feelings toward rookie Jonathan Taylor are understandable. His gaudy numbers at Wisconsin, whether surface or advanced (RB3 in total YAC and missed tackles), warrant eggplant emojis. Still, as Colts beat writers have stressed repeatedly this summer, the backfield still belongs to the incumbent, Mack. Off a 1,000-yard, 8-TD campaign, the creative pounder isn’t going to relinquish his standing atop the depth chart without a fight. At a minimum he’s a 12- to 14-carry-per-game rusher until Taylor forces head coach Frank Reich to think otherwise. 

This week, all three Colts rushers (Nyheim Hines included) are worth fantasy manager consideration. The matchup is glorious. Seemingly packing it in, the Jags — who were already paper kittens in the trenches after surrendering 27.3 fantasy points per game to RBs in 0.5 PPR last season — dealt their best pass rusher DE Yannick Ngakoue to Minnesota two weeks ago. Unseasoned interior defenders Abry Jones, K'Lavon Chaisson and Taven Bryan are talented, but unproven. Visible holes exist elsewhere. Behind Indy’s bulldozing O-line, Mack, in a contest with a likely positive script, leaves Taylor zealots disgruntled. 

Fearless forecast: 14 carries, 67 rushing yards, 1 reception, 7 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.9 fantasy points

Will Fuller, WR, Houston Texans

(42%; $6,200) 
Matchup: vs. KC
Vegas line/Total: KC -9, 54 

Potentially one spontaneous tendon rupture away from a permanent siesta, Fuller is a perpetual boom/bust candidate. Presumably healthy and motivated to rekindle his on-field romance with Deshaun Watson, the wideout will push quad-burdened Brandin Cooks for top target honors in the Houston locker room. Cooks is no doubt his biggest threat, but the former Ram is highly questionable to see action Thursday after missing practice earlier this week. If he sits, Fuller, and his mesmerizing speed, could play the role of Roadrunner; KC DBs Wile E. Coyote. 

Overwhelming pomp and circumstance is anticipated for Thursday night as the reigning world champs relive their February triumph in front of 17,000 raucous fans enhanced with artificial crowd noise. With the Texans a heavy underdog, expect fireworks galore. Fuller, who should draw an unideal mixture of Charvarius Ward (67.3 passer rating allowed) and Rashad Fenton (78.7), could still clean up on roughly 7-9 targets. Follow the massive Vegas total. Follow the volume. The “Garbage Time All-Star” label could easily apply. 

Fearless forecast: 5 receptions, 87 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 17.2 fantasy points 

Hunter Renfrow, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

(1%; $4,500) 
Matchup: at CAR
Vegas line/Total: LV -3, 47.5 

As fantasy drafters drooled over rookies Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, Renfrow sat back in the shadows, largely dismissed for the pair of P.Y.Ts. It was a common mistake. Absentmindedly, many forget the bond he and Derek Carr forged late last season. The sophomore target, who finished WR3 in YAC per reception, WR6 in fantasy points per snap and blazed an 83-1,072-8 full-season pace over Weeks 9-17 last year, is better than advertised. 

Entrenched in the slot, he and Carr should rekindle their budding on-field romance Week 1 in Charlotte. The Panthers, alongside Jacksonville and Cincinnati, are in the running for the emasculating title of “Hello Kitties” defense. On the surface, they might be the odds-on favorite. Eli Apple (107.5 passer rating allowed in ‘19) and Donte Jackson (119.9) don’t evoke much confidence. Specific to Renfrow in the slot, Juston Burris (97.9, 71 catch%) is a forgiving foe. Yes, bank on Josh Jacobs having a field day, but on passing opportunities near the goal line, expect Carr to zero in on the trusted pass catcher. 

Fearless forecast: 5 receptions, 64 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.9 fantasy points 

Shocker special (Under 10% started) 

Kendrick Bourne, WR, San Francisco 49ers

(0%; $5,000) 
Matchup: vs. ARZ
Vegas line/Total: SF -7, 47 

Bro Country on loop. The majority of people reading this would rather endure the self-inflicted ear bleed than remotely entertain a receiving afterthought in a run-first offense, particularly for Week 1. However, as CEO of #TeamHuevos digging deep is outlined in the job description. With pickaxe and shovel in hand, mining for weekly gold is what the gig demands. If you want hard-hitting advice to start Michael Thomas there are Captain Obviouses who can dish the assist. 

Bourne is a deep cut, but there’s a cogent path for him to log instant success. Deebo Samuel is a 50/50 proposition to return to action 10.5 weeks removed from suffering a nasty Jones fracture and Jalen Hurd is out with a torn ACL. Outside of George Kittle, Bourne is Jimmy Garoppolo’s most trusted option. Remember, last season he lured 11 red-zone targets, converting five for touchdowns. Against an Arizona defense susceptible to slot receivers, the veteran’s odds of spiking six are rather significant. His primary dance partner in coverage, Byron Murphy, yielded a 68% catch percentage and 113.7 passer rating to assignments in ‘19. 

Fearless forecast: 4 receptions, 51 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 13.1 fantasy points 

Bonus flames (Under 60% started)

QB: Tyrod Taylor, LAC (Line: LAC -3.5; DK: $5,600) — The last time Tyrod secured snaps under center, 2018 with Cleveland, he finished in the adjusted completion percentage dungeon — QB44 of QB44 among passers with 100 dropbacks. Pinning the tail on the donkey is an exercise in futility for the journeymen, even when not blindfolded. Still his matchup against Cincinnati is hard to ignore. DBs Trae Waynes (109.9 passer rating allowed in ‘19), Mackensie Alexander (90.2) and William Jackson III (99.1) comprise only a mediocre coverage group. Without Mike Williams (shoulder), most will veer another direction, but the opponent combined with Tyrod’s duality present intriguing Week 1 upside. (FF: 197-2-1-43-0, 19.2 fantasy points)

RB: Boston Scott, PHI (Line: PHI -6; DK: $4,800) — Reading the tea leaves, the belief is Miles Sanders will suit up after missing multiple practice weeks with a moderate hamstring strain. Due to the prolonged absence and injury nature, Scott is likely to take on an enhanced role, possibly 12-14 touches. Washington’s bookends are sensational, but presumably doughy up the middle, it’s an area Philly’s pony keg could flow. Also superb in the pass game, he could resemble the rusher who grabbed 23 receptions, averaged 87.5 total yards per game and tallied 3.97 YAC per attempt Weeks 14-17 last year. Fly Eagle, fly. (FF: 11-47-1-5-32-0, 16.4 fantasy points)

RB: James White, NE (Line: NE -6.5; DK: $6,000)Cam Newton, in his Patriots debut, is getting the Tony Romo/CBS crew No. 1 treatment. The prized passer is the headliner, but, in the end, White could be the most radiant fantasy star. Newton’s documented accuracy struggles downfield throughout training camp arrow to frequent high-percentage tosses in the flat. The Dolphins clamped down on pass-catching backs last season conceding 4.5 receptions and 39.3 receiving yards per game. However, in Cam’s opening act, getting White the ball will be a priority. Do you honestly have faith in anyone outside Julian Edelman? Paint me skeptical. (FF: 7-31-0, 6-47-1, 16.8 fantasy points)

WR: Marvin Jones, DET (Line: DET -3; DK: $5,500) — Gallons upon gallons of Old Style. That’s on tap for Bears backers, this blatherskite included, from now through December. Chicago’s front is fearsome, but the back-end has substantial question marks. Kyler Fuller (93.3 passer rating, 1.43 yds/snap allowed) and rookie Jaylen Johnson, expected to replace Bryan Callahan who was flame broiled often in 2019, are the projected starters. If Eddie Jackson regains his 2018 form, the Bears will be adroit. If not, and Stafford picks them apart with surgical precision. Bank on the latter. Jones was the definition of “TD dependent” last season, but he should again rank notably in total air yards (WR28 in ‘19) and average depth of target (13.1, WR26). (FF: 5-72-1, 15.7 fantasy points)

TE: Dallas Goedert, PHI (Line: PHI -6; DK: $4,100) Alshon Jeffery, Lisfranc’d. Jalen Reagor, sidelined. DeSean Jackson, largely one-dimensional. It’s possible J.J. Arcega-Whiteside or Greg Ward ratchet their games, but in an offense that leaned on 12 personnel 52% of the time in 2019, Zach Ertz and Goedert are sure to be centerpieces in Doug Pederson’s game plan. Washington performed meekly defending tight ends last season. If Ertz’s tag-team partner continues to clothesline the competition in the open field (6.10 YAC/rec in ‘19), he’s likely to score the first of many TDs in the Year of the COVID-19. (FF: 5-58-1, 14.3 fantasy points)

DOUBLE BONUS: James Robinson, JAX, RB (Line: IND -7.5; DK: $4,000) Ryquell Armstead’s bout with the ‘rona and Devin Ozigbo's stint on the IR (hammy) has thrust the UDFA into the fantasy spotlight. The 5-foot-9, 222-bound rookie shined throughout Jags camp showcasing his three-down skills. He isn't Usain Bolt (4.64-40 yards speed), but, evidenced by his productivity with Illinois St., he owns the elusiveness, power and pass-catching accumen to deliver a thump. Admittedly, he’s risky given Jacksonville’s anemic defense, but if the home club can hold serve for at least a half, he should crank out flex-worthy numbers in deeper formats. (FF: 13-55-1, 2-11-0, 13.6 fantasy points) 

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