After a long offseason, the NFL is finally back in business. It seems like forever ago when Tom Brady and the New England Patriots hoisted the Lombardi trophy in front of a beaten-down commissioner that couldn’t tuck his tail between his legs and run off that podium fast enough.
Week 1 is always the hardest to predict each season. Just because a player or team was good last year doesn’t guarantee squat when a new season begins. All of the players below should be rostered in most leagues, with the exception of the Week 1 QB sleeper. Some have favorable matchups waiting for them this weekend; others not so much.
For 2016 team defensive passing statistics, click here.
You won’t see the elite studs at this position below. You’re going to start Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers regardless of what anyone says.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland
Breaking news: the Browns suck. Okay, they’ve sucked for what feels like the last two decades, and that’s not going to stop this year. The Browns allowed the 12th most passing yards and the most passing touchdowns with 36. There was a little hope for this Cleveland defense after the Browns selected standout defensive end, Myles Garrett, with the first pick in the 2017 draft. However, Garrett is expected to miss Week 1 with a high ankle sprain. So much for the bright spot.
There’s no need to sugarcoat it. Big Ben is going to have a field day with this Browns defense. He put up great numbers with a limited supporting last year, and now he has all his weapons at his disposal. This one could get really ugly, really quickly.
Week 1 Projection: 330 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders at TennesseeOnly two defenses allowed more passing yards last season than the Tennessee Titans, and one of those, Green Bay, was only by a single yard. They did their best to bolster the secondary by signing Logan Ryan, but this unit as a whole is still subpar.
Before Carr’s season ending injury, he and the Raiders were on a roll. Carr had a 96.7 QB rating, 28 touchdowns, and a measly six interceptions when he went down against the Colts on Christmas Eve. With the weapons on this team, Oakland, and Carr, in particular, should have no problem picking up where they left off last season. Carr has a lot of weapons to throw to and a workhorse running back behind him. This game should be a shootout between two of the best young signal callers in the game. Sit back and enjoy.
Week 1 Projection: 320 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals at Detroit
While Detroit was near the middle of the pack in passing yards allowed last season (14th), they gave up the 2nd most passing touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks threw for 33 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions when facing the Lions. Do you want two even better statistics? Sure you do. Detroit was the dead last in opponent quarterback rating and completion percentage at an astounding 106.5 and 72.7%, respectively.
In addition to the above, it needs to be pointed out that, even though he’s getting up there in age, Palmer always plays well in September and especially in Week 1. In the last four season openers, he has averaged 302.3 yards per game with nine touchdowns and only one interception. Nothing about this Lions defense leads me to believe that this week one trend for Palmer is going to end on Sunday.
Even with the favorable matchup, you’re probably not starting Palmer in single-QB leagues, but he makes for a very strong play for those of you that play DFS or two-QB formats.
Week 1 Projection: 290 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT.
Phillip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers at Denver
I got a funny feeling you’re going to see the quarterback facing Denver a lot in this section throughout the season. There was a 254-yard gap between Denver and the team with the second fewest passing yards allowed. What’s even more astounding is the fact that Denver allowed only 13 passing touchdowns last season. Thirteen. That’s it. Denver was also 1st in opponent’s completion percentage, QB rating, and had the third most sacks in the NFL. Basically, it was never a fun day to be a quarterback facing the Broncos.
Rivers’ career numbers against Denver aren’t too shabby, but he had a tough time in 2016, completing only half of his passes and throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns. The Broncos also sacked him six times during the teams two meetings. Overall, Rivers is a very good quarterback and one of the most underrated passers in the game, but expect him to have a tough game this week.
Week 1 Projection: 250 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions vs Arizona
Fresh off a record-setting contract extension and straight into an unfavorable Week 1 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals defense. Stafford better be on his toes this week, or he’s going to find himself on his back quite a bit. The one thing Arizona’s defense did better than any other team in 2016 was get after the quarterback. The Cardinals recorded 48 sacks last season for a total of 374 yards lost.
Over his career, Stafford has had a rough time against Arizona. He’s lost all four starts and has thrown seven interceptions and only three touchdowns. Call me Captain Obvious, but that’s terrible. Expect the Cardinals to put a lot of pressure on Detroit’s offensive line and, in turn, put Stafford on his back plenty of times.
Week 1 Projection: 260 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys vs New York (The Good One)
Do we really expect Prescott to throw only four interceptions this season? It almost seems like whatever he accomplishes this year will be a letdown after his stellar rookie season. Now I don’t necessarily think Prescott is going to have a terrible game, but the Giants do have a solid defense, especially against the pass. Outside of passing yards, the Giants were amongst the league’s elite in passing touchdowns allowed, interceptions and opposing quarterback rating.
Another aspect that puts a damper on Prescott’s Week 1 outlook is that Dallas figures to rely heavily on Ezekiel Elliott this week before they potentially lose him for the next two months. Prescott is going to need to really step up this season when Zeke ends up serving his suspension. However, this is not going to be one of those weeks.
Week 1 Projection: 250 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Sleeper of the Week
Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington
You could say Wentz’s rookie season was pretty average. He threw for 3,782 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions. Yeah, pretty average sums it up. One stat that is very encouraging is that Wentz had the 5th most pass attempts in the entire league during his rookie season. The Eagles obviously trust Wentz to do good things, and I got a hunch we’re going to start those this season starting Week 1 against a mediocre Redskins defense.
Week 1 Projection: 310 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT.
Thank you for reading this week’s quarterback matchup report on Fantrax. I hope you can use this article to your advantage and get a leg up on your fellow league members. Got a question about a player not covered here? Ask in the comments below or follow me on Twitter @EricCross04 and ask there. Make sure you check back in next Friday as we breakdown quarter backs for Week 1.