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Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (vs San Francisco)
Pickett and the Steelers offense have a lot of momentum coming out of a strong summer. They won’t get to dodge Nick Bosa after he and the 49ers found some middle ground on a new contract just in time for Week 1, but the Steelers will get the benefit of an improved offensive line and a large number of players coming off of an impressive summer, including George Pickens and Jaylen Warren potentially on the verge of a breakout season. The 49ers defense is one of the better groups in the league, but the Eagles showed they can be run on, and the Steelers running game was surging at the end of the season. Pickett looked like a quarterback in command of his offense in the preseason, and he could get off to a hot start piloting a group that might finally have the wind at their backs.
Sam Howell, Washington (vs Arizona)
Howell is just one of a host of Commanders who are good plays this week against a woeful Cardinals defense. He appeared to be ready to be an NFL starter in the preseason, and he’ll have a strong group of skill players at his disposal (including Terry McLaurin despite his preseason toe injury) deployed by new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. Howell has some running ability and could end up being one of the best quarterback starts of the week. He’s an excellent DFS play, to boot.
Derek Carr, New Orleans (vs Tennessee)
Carr should get a bounce this week just from the lift of getting out from under Josh McDaniels’ thumb. He’ll also get to throw to Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed and a host of tight ends against a weak Titans secondary. Carr isn’t a high-ceiling play this week, but he’s unlikely to be a bust as long as he doesn’t cede too many red zone snaps to Taysom Hill.
Desmond Ridder, Atlanta (vs Carolina)
Ridder should be able to have success against a Panthers defense that is adjusting to new coordinator Ejiro Evero’s scheme. The Falcons have a strong running game but also have a multi-faceted passing game that can contort defenses with playmakers at wide receiver, tight end, and running back. The Falcons should be ready to pass more now that Ridder has had a full offseason to prepare as the starter. If Marcus Mariota was your starter, you would have called the most run-heavy offense you could, too.
Jamaal Williams, New Orleans (at Tennessee)
Williams only has Kirk Merritt and maybe Tony Jones taking away snaps in the backfield this week, unless you count the possibility of Taysom Hill getting goal-line carries as a quarterback. It’s possible that Williams is disappointing if he doesn’t score and the Saints don’t control this game, but the Titans offense is likely to have trouble moving the ball. Expect Williams to get 20+ carries, which is about all you can ask of an RB2/Flex play.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City (at Detroit) **Thursday**
Patrick Mahomes II should rely more on his running backs as receivers, with Travis Kelce likely sitting, but the team also wants to preserve Jerick McKinnon for the stretch run, so it could be a night for Edwards-Helaire to shine. McKinnon only had double-digit touches once in the first 12 weeks last year, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if Edwards-Helaire gets more touches, just as he did for the first six weeks last year. Isaih Pacheco is coming back from two offseason surgeries, so the team is also probably going to err on the side of being cautious with him this week, too.
Brian Robinson, Washington (vs Arizona)
Robinson is a slam dunk pick for 18+ touches and at least one scoring opportunity against the Cardinals this week. The Arizona defense is poor at all three levels and the offense is starting Joshua Dobbs, so the Commanders should control this game. Robinson is also not recovering from a gunshot wound this year - keep in mind that he might not have been 100% all year after getting shot right before the season last year. Antonio Gibson is also a good play this week.
Raheem Mostert, Miami (at Los Angeles Chargers)
If you’re not going to play Mostert this week, when are you? The Chargers run defense is a plus matchup, Mostert is actually the healthiest experienced back for Miami, and Mike McDaniel should put an emphasis on the running game. Mostert was actually productive once he established himself last year, with Jeff Wilson as the main obstacle to consistent fantasy value. Now Wilson is on injured reserve, so it’s all systems go for Mostert.
Kenneth Gainwell, Philadelphia (at New England)
The Eagles are going to employ a three or four-headed backfield, which will be tough to decipher and project for fantasy, but it seems likely that their best mode this week will be the fast-break offense that Gainwell fits in. Gainwell was the back that the team trusted the most in camp. He’s the most experienced in this offense and maybe the most versatile. Don’t be surprised if he leads the backfield in touches and snaps.
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