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Week 1 Fantasy Football Matchups and Game Breakdowns + NFL Player Props Picks

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Awesemo's WEEK 1 fantasy football matchups & NFL DFS game breakdown + optimal player prop picks for every single game.

Matt Savoca’s Fantasy Football Matchups Column returns for the 2021 NFL season. In it, he goes through every single game on the NFL DFS picks on DraftKings and FanDuel, while also providing tips for bettors and your season-long fantasy football lineups on Yahoo, ESPN, Sleeper, and CBS. There are 13 games on tap for Week 1, so let us dive into the all of the NFL DFS tips and fantasy football lineup decisions.

Week 1 NFL Sunday Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown

Fantasy Football Matchups: Early Games

Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans
Los Angeles Chargers at Washington Football Team

Fantasy Football Matchups: Afternoon Games

Cleveland Browns at Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Denver Broncos at New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles (22) at Atlanta Falcons (25.5)

The Eagles come into 2021 with high hopes for their second-year signal caller Jalen Hurts. Hurts was sub-par as a passer last season, ranking in the bottom-third of the NFL in completion percentage, completion percentage versus expectation and expected points added per play, but made up for this relative inefficiency by consistently using his legs to rack up yardage and fantasy points. In Week 1, he will face a Falcons defense that ranked at- or below-average in success rate allowed versus both the run and pass, as well as in the red zone. Meanwhile in Atlanta, the entire offensive identity of the team has shifted with the departure of longtime stalwart Julio Jones, making way for the presumed ascension of WR1 overall candidate Calvin Ridley, and for top-five draft pick Kyle Pitts. Possibly more important, however, is the arrival of head coach Arthur Smith, and with him, veteran defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Though they are likely a year away as a unity, Atlanta’s defense has a non-zero chance of entering the top third of the league as early as this season. Let’s break down the top NFL DFS picks for this matchup.

Both Offenses Expected to be Fast-Paced and Pass-Centric

Philadelphia ranked top 12 in game-adjusted pace, according to Awesemo’s advanced stats tool, while Atlanta ranked 27th. With a new offensive coordinator in Atlanta, it is possible that we see a faster-paced Falcons offense right out of the gate. Regardless, expected plenty of passing from both sides, as both the Eagles and Falcons ranked above-league average in game-adjusted pass rate, and both defensive units ranked outside the top 20 in PFF’s team coverage grade a season ago.

Calvin Ridley Has one of the Highest Floors at his Position

At $7,900 on DraftKings, fantasy gamers who roster Calvin Ridley are hoping for 24-plus fantasy points, and the Awesemo projections, which represent Ridley’s 50th-percentile outcome is nearly at that 3x pace, making Ridley one of the safest looking plays on the slate at his position. With lowered expected ownership than Stefon Diggs, Ridley looks like an ideal pivot play in tournaments, alongside being a rock-solid cash game option

Mike Davis Has the Atlanta Backfield All To Himself

Falcons starting running back Mike Davis should see a large majority of the backfield touches, and has a projection that vastly exceeds $5,400 salary, just 22nd among running backs on the slate. Davis performed admirably as Christian McCaffrey’s de facto replacement in Carolina a season ago, ranking 15th in expected fantasy points per game. Davis has a good chance of matching that usage in 2021 with the Falcons and begins the season at an extremely reasonable salary.

Kyle Pitts Is Ready to Begin His Career with a Bang

Kyle Pitts’ salary is quite high on FanDuel compared to DraftKings, making him a slightly more contrarian play on that platform, but is still projecting for the fourth-highest ownership at his position. Pitts’ projection is in-line with salary-based expectation, but he will have to vastly exceed it, producing a “have to have it” score (of 18-plus FanDuel points) in order for not rostering him to really hurt you. Despite being high on Pitts in general this season, there is little need to force him into lineups in Week 1. On DraftKings, Pitts has the eighth-highest salary at his position, making him a much more palatable, albeit chalkier, option.

Devonta Smith, Philadelphia’s Top Receiver (Already)

At $5,300, DeVonta Smith is outside the top 50 wide receivers in salary, but after taking the NCAA playoffs by storm and posting the second-highest PFF grade among incoming wide receivers and tight ends since 2014, we can expect that to change rather quickly. He needs 16 fantasy points to reach 3x value and looks like a slightly better value on FanDuel compared to DraftKings, where his projection does not quite meet his salary-based expectations. In tournaments, it is absolutely fine to bet on the talent of Smith, the likely top receiving option on his team, right away in Week 1.

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Atlanta DST a Tournament Option

Though this game has quite a few shootout indicators, the Falcons defense could be a sneaky-start at DST this week, hoping that the unit as a whole has improved, and that Jalen Hurts’ accuracy has not improved significantly. Though they have a wide range of outcomes (as most team defenses do each week), Atlanta’s squad looks like a value on DraftKings as well as FanDuel and could even be started in a pinch in deeper season-long leagues.

The Bottom Line

Despite implementing a new offensive system over the offseason, it is very likely this game becomes one of the most pass-heavy contests on the main slate, giving it some quality under-the-radar game stacking upside. It is easy to see a ton of points being scored by both sides, and with subdued ownership on both sides of the ball, there is a ton of enticing options for fantasy gamers on any platform, particularly in the receiving corps.

Prediction: Falcons 30, Eagles 27

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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