The fantasy season is upon us. Drafts are complete, bets have been made, and hopes are high for the upcoming season. Thursday Night Football kicks off the fantasy football season with the Kansas City Chiefs visiting the New England Patriots. Let’s break down the fantasy projections heading into the NFL season opener.
Fantasy Focus: Thursday Night Football Patriots Vs. Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been successful in the role that head-coach Andy Reid has carved out for him. He’s been labeled a game-manager but analysis of his stats shows he doesn’t lose many game. Since 2005, when he starts his team has finished with a 79-56-1 line. That’s a better winning percentage than Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer over a similar stretch. While he’s posted the lowest number of touchdowns of those three, he’s kept his team in the mix, and walked away with the win more often than not.
There’s nothing exciting about starting Smith. Kansas City’s defense is the third-ranked defense heading into this season, but stopping the Patriots is a huge task. The possibility of the Chiefs playing from behind makes Smith a slightly more enticing start. He’s a safe start in two-quarterback leagues or leagues that use a super-flex roster spot.
This exciting rookie was rumored to end up with the starting role prior to the injury to Spencer Ware. He’s now heading into the season opener as the clear-cut starter. Hunt excels at burst speed as a rusher and has shown good hands catching passes out of the backfield. In an Reid led offense, expect him to have a work-horse type of role with Charcandrick West as the change-of-pace back.
Start Hunt with confidence as an running back two, but remember that he’s a rookie starting his first game against a tricky defense.
Tyreek Hill was one of the more exciting and explosive players to watch last season. He’s a big-play threat every time he gets his hands on the ball. His draft stock reflected his ascension in the number-one receiver role this preseason. He’ll be the target for top coverage and New England schemes to remove top wide receiver threats. Last season, New England allowed the seventh-fewest points-per-game to the wide receiver position.
Hill is a risky start at best. If roster construction allows for safer receiving options, Hill remains a flier for a flex spot.
Travis Kelce is ranked as this season’s number-two tight end. New England allowed the ninth-fewest points-per-game to the position last season. Despite that, Kelce remains one of the safer receiving options in Kansas City’s offense. He’s a big-bodied presence that does well at moving the chains.
Kelce should be started, with confidence, in all formats.
New England Patriots
Tom Brady enters the season as one the number-two ranked quarterback. Kansas City’s defense was stingy last season allowing the 11th fewest points-per-game to the position. But, it’s Brady. The loss of Julian Edelman hurts the team, but New England has often operating with a next-man-up type of philosophy that has been very successful. Brady has a healthy Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and newcomer Brandin Cooks along with James White and Danny Amendola to operate from the slot.
Brady is a no-question must start for fantasy owners in all formats.
Let’s be honest, attempting to predict which running back is going to be the focal point of the offense is a daunting task. Last season was easy enough to figure out with LeGarrette Blount as a power back and Dion Lewis or White operating as the pass-catching back. In the off-season New England brought in Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee. Most analysts are projecting Gillislee to operate the Blount role, but Belichick has stated that he has ground to make up. Burkhead flashed a little in the preseason.
It’s difficult to project which, if any, of these running backs to roster with confidence. In a PPR format, White will be the safest to roster, especially in the absence of Edelman.
Cooks has been relatively quiet in the preseason. With Edelman out for season, it raise Cooks’ stock. There are plenty of mouths to feed in this high-powered offense. Much like attempting to project running back production, the wide receiving core is deep. Malcom Mitchell, Hogan, and Amendola are all in the mix as well.
Cooks is a risky start. With all the receiving options, it’s near impossible to predict who the hot hand is going to belong too. Cooks’ upside remains high and is best to roster with safer receiving options already in place.
Gronkowski enters the season healthy and having made dietary changes that seem to reflect his intent to stay that way. He is a centerpiece to this offense and a juggernaut over the middle and near the end zone. Outside of Brady, he remains the safest player to roster.
Gronkowski should be started with confidence in all formats. If he’s healthy, he should be in lineups.