It’s here. The long wait is over, and another fantasy football season is upon us.
Each Tuesday and Saturday during the season, ESPN fantasy analyst Eric Moody will ask our NFL Nation reporters the most pressing questions heading into the weekend and what to make of the fallout after games are played. Who is primed for a big performance, who is impacted by injuries, what roles may change? Here’s what our crew had to say about some of the biggest storylines heading into the weekend of Week 1.
With DJ Chark Jr. out and Adam Thielen questionable leading up to the Carolina Panthers‘ Week 1 matchup against the Falcons, how will rookie Bryce Young be impacted?
These were Young’s top wide receiver targets during the preseason, so there will be some impact although I expect Thielen will play. Chark will be missed but remember Young never had running back MIles Sanders in a preseason game and he will play a big role as a checkdown receiver in addition to his carries. Look for Young to rely heavily on rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo, who became more reliable late in camp. He’ll also rely heavily on tight ends Hayden Hurst and Tommy Tremble, particularly in the red zone. The tight end will be a big part of Frank Reich’s offense that wasn’t seen during the preseason. If Chark and Thielen don’t play, though, this will be a young, unproven group in Mingo, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Terrace Marshall Jr. (coming off a back injury). — David Newton
Who stands to benefit the most on the Los Angeles Rams‘ offense in Cooper Kupp‘s absence while he recovers from his hamstring injury?
WR Van Jefferson, who is likely Matthew Stafford‘s top target without Kupp on the field and the most proven option in this Rams offense. But how effective will he be? Jefferson played in eight games without Kupp last season while the No. 1 receiver was out with an ankle injury and caught 21 passes for 342 yards and two touchdowns. — Sarah Barshop
How might Joe Burrow‘s calf injury impact the Cincinnati Bengals‘ offensive game plan against the Cleveland Browns, and could this lead to a greater emphasis on Joe Mixon and the running game?
There’s a good possibility this happens. The Bengals have prepared for the chance that Burrow’s mobility is still limited, and the offensive game plan must be built around his limited mobility. That could lead to a lot of quick passes or a running game that features Mixon. One of the major deterrents to the ground attack would be an improved Browns run defense featuring DT Dalvin Tomlinson. — Ben Baby
What can we expect from Raheem Mostert and the Miami Dolphins‘ running game against the Los Angeles Chargers?
The Dolphins averaged 4.9 yards per carry against the Chargers in last year’s contest but couldn’t really commit to the run while playing from behind. One of their focuses this offseason was to recommit to the run game, and Mostert should be the primary benefactor of that. Salvon Ahmed and De’Von Achane are both healthy for Sunday’s game, but Mostert will see the bulk of the carries. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
How will the backfield touches be divvied out between Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall?
How concerned should fantasy managers be over Cooper Kupp’s injury?
Field Yates and Daniel Dopp tell fantasy managers to remain patient with Cooper Kupp.
They will share the workload, with Michael Carter getting some carries as well, but signs point to Cook finishing with more touches than the other backs. Cook, despite minimal practice time, was a full participant in practice and declared himself ready for Week 1. Hall, 11 months removed from ACL surgery, is still limited in practice. Their plan is to play him, but the Jets don’t want to tax his surgically repaired knee this early in the season. — Rich Cimini
How might Mark Andrews‘ quad injury impact his performance against the Houston Texans, and what adjustments could the Baltimore Ravens make to fill the void if he’s ruled out?
Andrews didn’t definitively say he was playing this week, which is unusual for someone who has only missed one game due to injury in his first five NFL seasons. If he does play, his effectiveness in the passing game could be limited if he lacks his usual explosiveness. He has become Lamar Jackson‘s go-to target because he gets open the most frequently. If Andrews doesn’t play, Isaiah Likely would take his spot as the top tight end option. In two games when Andrews was sidelined last year (he was injured in Week 9 and rested in Week 18), Likely totaled nine catches for 127 yards and one touchdown. — Jamison Hensley
How do you expect the touches in the Indianapolis Colts‘ backfield to shake out between Deon Jackson, Zack Moss and Evan Hull against the Jaguars?
The Colts are being coy about the availability of Moss, who has been out for several weeks with a broken arm. He returned to practice this week, but it’s unknown how much he’ll play or whether he’s in shape. Look for Jackson to carry the heavier load, especially because he is capable of playing on all three downs. Jackson had 10 receptions in one win over the Jaguars last season. Don’t rule out Hull being used in a complementary capacity, likely on third downs. — Stephen Holder
How might Kenneth Walker III‘s lingering groin injury impact his availability and performance in the Seattle Seahawks‘ game against the Rams?
Walker doesn’t have a game designation, so his availability for the opener isn’t in question. Clearly, though, he’s still requiring some maintenance for the groin injury that sidelined him for a couple weeks early in training camp, so that bears monitoring for the foreseeable future. The other issue as it relates to Walker’s fantasy value is that it still remains to be seen how much rookie second-round pick Zach Charbonnet will cut into his workload. Walker is still the unquestioned RB1, but Charbonnet’s draft status and the rave reviews he’s drawn from Seattle’s coaches suggest he’s going to be more than a lightly used RB2. — Brady Henderson
What have you heard about the availability of Green Bay Packers WRs Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears?
Watson was ruled out Friday because of the hamstring injury, but at least the belief is that it’s a short-team injury and not something that would require a month of rest. Doubs (questionable) appears to be on track to play, saying he felt good after two days of limited practice this week. The good thing for Jordan Love is that the Packers had an idea it was trending this way, so it’s not like they had to make last-minute changes. Said coach Matt LaFleur: “We still had a whole week to kind of prepare for this. So I wouldn’t say that would alter the plan too drastically.” — Rob Demovsky