Michelle Magdziuk is a researcher for the NFL Media Group. She has co-founded the BallBlast Football brand and co-hosts the BallBlast Fantasy Football podcast.
NFL.com breaks down the best — and worst — fantasy matchups ahead of each week of the 2022 NFL fantasy football season.
The Chiefs allowed the third-most fantasy points in the NFL to quarterbacks last season, largely due to allowing a league-high seven rushing touchdowns to QBs. Murray has 20 rushing touchdowns since entering the league in 2019, the second most among QBs behind only Josh Allen. Plus, the Cardinals offense will need to air it out to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and Co.
The Commanders allowed a league-high 21.4 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2021. Lawrence has a chance to jump off to a hot start with his new receiving weapons and show the world that he is the generational prospect that many pinned him to be coming out of last year’s draft.
The Lions were a bottom-five defense in passing yards per attempt allowed, passing touchdowns allowed, rushing yards allowed, and rushing touchdowns allowed in 2021. The Lions added some new faces on the defensive side of the ball, but it will be hard to contain Hurts, who can hurt his opponent with either his arm or legs.
The Jets allowed the fourth-most fantasy points in the NFL to quarterbacks last season … and the most fantasy points to running backs. Jackson might have to play both roles yet again with J.K. Dobbins still working his way back to 100-percent health. Jackson could very well end as the QB1 on the week to start off the season.
Burrow averaged just 17.0 fantasy points per game in his two matchups vs. the Steelers last season. The Bengals steamrolled the Steelers 41-10 in Week 12 at home last year, yet Burrow scored just 16.4 fantasy points with Joe Mixon carrying the ball 28 times in the game. The Bengals’ game plan could be similar going into this matchup as the Steelers had the worst run defense in the NFL last season, and Burrow is still working his way back to full health after having an appendectomy in late July.
The Giants allowed just 15.0 fantasy points per game last season to the quarterback position (tied-third-fewest in NFL). This matchup screams a “Derrick Henry blow-up game”. The Giants were a bottom 10 run defense in 2021, and Henry has destroyed such defenses over the past three seasons. In a matchup that the Titans should not have to air it out to keep up with the Giants offense, they could feed their star running back 30+ times in this game.
Tagovailoa now has all the weapons needed to succeed this season both in the NFL and in fantasy football, however, he might have a slow start to the season having to face Bill Belichick’s defense in Week 1. The Patriots allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2021, and Tagovailoa averaged just 14.2 fantasy points per game in his two matchups against them last season.
Wentz averaged just 9.0 fantasy points per game in two matchups against the Jaguars in 2021. Wentz struggled in the preseason with his new team, averaging just over six yards per pass attempt and throwing zero passing touchdowns on six drives.
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Mixon will be playing behind an upgraded offensive line this season and the Steelers allowed the most rushing yards in the league in 2021. Mixon had 28 carries, 165 rushing yards and 2 TDs in his last matchups vs. the Steelers (Week 12, 2021). With both Joe Burrow (appendix) and Tee Higgins (shoulder) working their way back to full health, the Bengals could lean on the run to win in Week 1.
The Seahawks allowed the second-most fantasy points to the running back position in 2021. They allowed 10 different RBs to have a 20+ fantasy point day against them last season. The Broncos should have no problem getting an early lead in this game, which would allow them to feed both their RBs in the second half.
The Giants were a bottom-10 rushing defense in 2021, allowing 129.0 rushing yards per game. Henry has averaged 139.8 rushing yards per game, 5.8 yards per carry and 1.4 rushing touchdowns per game in matchups vs. bottom-10 rushing defenses over the last three seasons. Henry very well could be the top fantasy scorer among all positions in his first regular-season game back since fracturing his foot in October last year.
The Raiders allowed the third-most fantasy points in the NFL to the running back position last season. Ekeler dominated in both games vs. the Raiders in 2021 – scoring two touchdowns in each and averaging 29.2 fantasy points per game.
The 49ers allowed just 3.6 yards per carry to running backs in 2021 (second-fewest in the NFL). The 49ers have one of the strongest and deepest defensive line corps in the league, while the Bears enter the season with many questions along the offensive line. Montgomery missed last season’s Week 8 matchup vs. the 49ers, but his backup Khalil Herbert had 23 carries for just 72 yards (3.1 yards per carry) in the game. Montgomery may struggle to be productive even if he receives a heavy workload in Week 1.
Even with a flurry of defensive injuries, the Ravens still allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFL last season. Michael Carter is expected to start over Hall to begin the season, and although Hall should see a decent share of snaps and touches in this game, the matchup is too tough to take the risk on starting this rookie running back in your fantasy lineups.
The Titans allowed the second-fewest rushing yards and fantasy points to running backs in 2021. The Titans also allowed just one receiving touchdown to RBs all season long. Barkley should be fully healthy after another year removed from his ACL injury, but if he is not able to find production as a receiver in this game, it could be a low scoring fantasy week for him to start the year.
The Panthers allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points in the NFL to running backs in 2021, largely due to allowing the fewest receiving yards to the position. Hunt will split the backfield with stud RB Nick Chubb, and while he will likely see plenty of work in this game, his most valuable touches come as a receiver.
The Cardinals allowed the most receiving touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points in the NFL to wide receivers in 2021. Smith-Schuster had 97 receptions and nine touchdowns in his last healthy season (2020). It has been a while since we have seen Smith-Schuster dominate in fantasy football, but with an upgrade at quarterback and a nice Week 1 matchup, we could see the old JuJu back in action.
The Vikings allowed the most fantasy points in the NFL to wide receivers last season. Allen Lazard would be my preferred Packers WR to start in this game, but his status (ankle) is in doubt leading up to the weekend. If Lazard does not play, Sammy Watkins and Romeo Doubs become high upside fantasy starts in Week 1.
Toney finally seems to be fully healthy entering Week 1, and he gets a juicy matchup to start the season. The Titans allowed the second-most receiving yards and fantasy points to wide receivers in 2021. Toney is always risky to start in your fantasy lineups as he has struggled to make it through entire games without suffering an injury, but he showed flashes of greatness when on the field as a rookie.
Per Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs allowed the fourth-most receiving yards on deep targets (20+ air yards) in 2021. Kyler Murray is one of the best at throwing the deep ball and Brown is one of the fastest WRs in the NFL. Brown should see plenty of targets in this game with DeAndre Hopkins serving his suspension and with the need for the Cardinals offense to keep up with Patrick Mahomes.
St. Brown is very talented, and he should end up being a solid fantasy WR this season. However, he gets a tough matchup to start the year. The Eagles allowed the second-fewest fantasy points in the NFL to the wide receiver position in 2021. They also made key upgrades to their pass defense this offseason with the additions of pass rusher Haason Reddick, cornerback James Bradberry, and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson. St. Brown should still lead the team in targets, but it could be a tough day for him against a very strong secondary group.
Cooper will be playing his first game as a member of the Cleveland Browns and with QB Jacoby Brissett. Cooper should see a lot of targets this season as he is by far the most talented and experienced WR on the roster. However, the Panthers allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points in the NFL to WRs last season. Plus, they will be getting back their 2021 1st round pick, CB Jaycee Horn, who allowed just one reception for eight yards in three games played as a rookie.
The 49ers allowed the tenth-most fantasy points in the NFL to WRs last season, however they added CB Charvarius Ward in free agency. Per PFF, Ward allowed just a 50.0 catch percentage in coverage last season with the Chiefs, which was the third best among all cornerbacks (minimum 250 coverage snaps). With the lack of other talented pass catchers in the Bears’ offense, Mooney will be the focus for the 49ers secondary. Mooney had just six receptions for 64 yards on nine targets in his matchup against the 49ers last season.
The Raiders defense focused on limiting Allen in their two matchups last season — Allen had 19 targets through the two games but recorded just 88 receiving yards and zero touchdowns. The Raiders’ ferocious pass rush allowed the defense to hold WRs to the second-fewest yards per reception and fifth-fewest fantasy points in the NFL last season.
The Eagles allowed the most receptions, receiving touchdowns and fantasy points to the tight end position in 2021. Hockenson had 10 receptions for 89 yards in his matchups against the Eagles last season. Although the Eagles have made many upgrades on defense, there are still questions surrounding their inside linebacker corps, and opponents should be able to take advantage against them over the middle to start the season.
The Lions allowed the second-most receiving yards in the NFL to tight ends in 2021. Goedert led the Eagles with six receptions for 72 yards in their matchup vs. the Lions last season … in a game that Jalen Hurts only threw for 103 yards on nine completions.
Waller returned to practice last week and looks good to go for the start of the season. The Chargers gave up the most yards per reception, and the second-most receiving touchdowns and fantasy points to tight ends in 2021. Start Waller with confidence in Week 1.
The Raiders allowed the third-most fantasy points to the tight end position last season. Even 34-year-old Jared Cook put up 10 receptions for 150 yards and a touchdown over his two matchups with the Chargers against the Raiders last year. Everett is a sneaky sleeper option at the tight end position this week.
Joe Flacco will be the Jets starting quarterback in this game, and he has favored the tight end position throughout his career. The Ravens gave up the third-most fantasy points to TEs last season. If you waited until late in your fantasy draft to select a tight end, Conklin is a solid option off waivers in Week 1.
No, do not sit Kelce. Patrick Mahomes will find a way to get the ball into the hands of his favorite target, but this might not be a typically big fantasy week for the best tight end in the league. The Cardinals allowed just two touchdowns to tight ends last season, plus the third-fewest receptions and fourth-fewest receiving yards in the NFL to TEs. Only one tight end scored 12+ fantasy points in a game vs. the Cardinals in 2021 (George Kittle, 20.1 fantasy points in Week 9).
The Saints allowed just three receiving touchdowns to the tight end position in 2021, while Pitts only found the end zone once all season long as a rookie. Drake London is questionable to play in this game as he is still recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in the preseason opener. If London is not at full health, the Saints could opt to put Marshon Lattimore on Pitts for most of the game. Considering Pitts’ talent and cost in fantasy drafts, he is still an obvious start in Week 1, but it could be a tough day for the second-year tight end.
The 49ers allowed just 9.3 fantasy points per game to the tight end position in 2021. Kmet will need a ton of targets in this game to be productive as the 49ers allowed the fewest yards per reception (9.0) to tight ends last season. Kmet had six targets in the Bears matchup vs. the 49ers last year, but he recorded just three receptions for 24 yards in that game.
Gesicki finished as the fantasy TE8 in PPR leagues last season, while recording the fifth-most receptions among tight ends (73). However, the team added star WR Tyreek Hill and there has been a lot of talk surrounding Gesicki being used more as a blocker this season. The Patriots allowed the fewest fantasy points to the tight end position last season. Gesicki is too hard to trust as a fantasy start in Week 1.
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