Ravens’ Ingram, Saints’ Thomas among best bets to score

NFL

It’s Week 1 of the fantasy football season, and these are our top five best bets to score in the opening week at the running back and wide receiver positions:

Running Backs

MARK INGRAM, Ravens

Ingram may eventually lose his starting job to rookie J.K. Dobbins, but he has his veteran status and an unusual preseason working in his favor to start the season. Baltimore has the fourth-best matchup for RBs versus the Browns, according to the RosterWatch Matchup Tool, and the Ravens ran the ball more than any other team in 2019 – with great efficacy. Fourth in total TDs last year, Ingram is a strong bet to score in Week 1.

MARLON MACK, Colts

Similar to Ingram, Mack has a talented rookie on the roster in Jonathan Taylor, but Mack is slated to start Week 1 against the Jaguars, our best matchup for RBs to start the season.

Only one team allowed more points to RBs in 2019 than Jacksonville. The Colts also happen to have our top-ranked offensive line in 2020. Use Mack wisely, it could be the only week you can play him over Taylor confidently.

CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE, Chiefs

One of the few rookie RBs with a starting role, Edwards-Helaire faces the Texans in Week 1 in what is our third-best matchup for RBs. The Chiefs put up 51 points on Houston in the AFC championship game in January, and RBs were responsible for three of those TDs. Darrel Williams will be in the mix somewhere, but he’s been running with the second team all camp and he’s being used primarily as a passing down back so Edwards-Helaire will see most goal-line carries. Once the Chiefs passed on Leonard Fournette, it was all systems go for the rookie in KC.

JOSH JACOBS, Raiders

Jacobs only scored seven TDs in 2019 as the Raiders main running back, but that had more to do with the Raiders throwing the ball a third of the time in the red zone – mostly to TE Darren Waller. In his Week 1 matchup with the Panthers though, Jacobs gets an excellent matchup for RBs in the entire league as Carolina gave up 27 TDs to RBs in 2019. Just for reference, the next-closest teams gave up 18. The Panthers actually cover TEs better than they cover RBs and WRs, so that just bolsters Jacobs chances of reaching the end zone.

RAHEEM MOSTERT, 49ers

It’s a crowded backfield in San Francisco with Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon all vying for significant snaps, but Mostert has been the starter in camp and should continue to do so in the season opener against the Cardinals. Coleman and McKinnon are more passing game assets than goal-line backs, while Mostert scored on 6 of his 14 red zone carries in 2019, making him a considerable TD threat. The Cardinals are also the fifth-best matchup for RBs going into the season.

Wide Receivers

MICHAEL THOMAS, Saints

This shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone, but Thomas is more than likely to score in his Week 1 matchup with the Buccaneers. He was the best red zone WR in the NFL in 2019, leading in targets (24), yards (179) and tied for TDs (eight). The Buccaneers are just the 18th-best matchup for WRs going into Week 1, but they gave up the most fantasy points and the third-most TDs to WRs in 2019. The fact that the Saints have the sixth-best offensive line in our rankings can’t hurt Thomas’ chances either.

DESEAN JACKSON, Eagles

Jackson is as fast as ever coming off core muscle surgery last season, according to those around the team, and that’s a good thing because he’s entering Week 1 as the Eagles’ No.1 WR option. Rookie Jalen Reagor is out until Week 2 at the earliest, and Alshon Jeffery is probably gone until Week 6, leaving Jackson and some youngsters to man the WR group for Week 1. In his favor is the Eagles’ offensive line, which is our third-best unit. They should give QB Carson Wentz more than enough time to open up the field with Jackson, who will have little trouble getting open against the Washington Football Team, our fourth-best matchup for WRs in Week 1.

JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, Steelers

Smith-Schuster has been the only Steelers receiver to impress thus far at camp, where he’s been showing the kind of pop that made him a top 8 fantasy receiver in 2018. 2019 was a lost year, plagued by injuries and the loss of QB Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2, and 2020 is a shot at fantasy redemption. Big Ben is back under center and the Steelers face our third-best matchup for WRs in the Giants. They gave up 22 TDs to WRs in 2019. The Steelers also have the fourth-best offensive line according to our rankings, so Roethlisberger will have ample time to throw.

TYREEK HILL, Chiefs

Hill played in only 12 games last year, yet he managed to score 7 TDs in that span. Just to put that into context, Kenny Golladay led the league with 11 TDs in 2019. The spark plug in the league’s best passing offense, Hill faces the Texans in what is the best matchup for WRs going into the 2020 season. Vegas is projecting a lot of points in this one with the highest projected game total of the week of 56.5

TYLER LOCKETT/DK METCALF, Seahawks

Lockett may find the end zone in Week 1 against the Falcons, our fifth-best matchup for opposing WRs in Week 1. Lockett scored 8 TDs in 2019, and 7 of them were inside the red zone. In fact, only Mark Andrews,Michael Thomas and Marvin Jones had more red zone TDs (8) than Lockett last year.

This column was provided to The Associated Press by RosterWatch, www.rosterwatch.com

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