It's Week 1, meaning we have more questions than answers about the 2014 NFL season. We can't trust the preseason. We know what happened last year, but things change quickly in this league. First impressions are huge, but they're not a great predictor.
Peyton Manning threw seven touchdowns in last season's opener on his way to a record-breaking season, but that was Peyton Manning. We know what he does every year. If Geno Smith tosses four scores against the Raiders this week, we don't know if he's ready for a sophomore surge, or if Oakland is even worse than we expected.
Real football and fantasy football both depend on matchups, and at this time of year, we're lacking reliable data in that department. But we've done our best to identify players to target or avoid in salary-cap games this week, based on the information we do have available (right now we're using Football Outsiders' KUBIAK fantasy projections and preseason projections for strength of defense), as well as compiling a list of elite players you should be targeting at their usual cost, no matter the matchup. We'll be providing picks for salary-cap leagues in this space all season, and as the weeks go on we'll have stronger predictors for matchups.
As always, remember not to panic after a Week 1 result. After all, half of the NFL will start 0-1. Here are the best and worst fantasy matchups in the opening week.
(Note: references to defensive rankings are based on Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, explained here.)
Nick Foles (plus-4 points)
After LeSean McCoy, there aren't many sure things in the Eagles' offense for a consistent fantasy output. One could argue they have too many weapons. Foles has a chance to prove he was as legit as his record-setting 27-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013 indicates. There won't be many opportunities on the schedule more favorable than a home game with Jacksonville's defense (ranked 28th last season).