Week 1 Fantasy Football Preview: Buffalo Bills at Los Angeles Rams
Hundreds of fantasy football players reference the Lineup Setting Heat Map when setting their lineups every week. The video above is less than three minutes if you want to see for yourself if this will be helpful for you. If so, you can sign up here for less than a beer (poetry).
Easily THE most valuable aspect of the Heat Map is the detailed written analysis for every single fantasy-relevant player, every single week. Yes, all 250-300 of them. So that you can sample what we're brewing for week 1, I've included my player notes for everyone in the Bills at Rams game below. This is just a tiny taste.
Hope you enjoy!
As of this writing (Tuesday 9/6), the NFL's opening game, Bills at Rams, is tied for the 2nd highest over/under on the slate at 52.5. It figures to be one of the best games in week 1 and dare I say the NFL's first game of the season could be a preview of the NFL's last?
With the 2nd smallest spread between the two teams (the Bills are favored by 2), this one seems like it will be a thrilling shootout that should remain close for all 60 (or more) minutes.
It's a game to target in fantasy football; the Bills have the 3rd highest implied total (27.25) and the Rams have the 8th highest implied total (25.25) on the opening slate.
All of this is terrific news for football fans and fantasy football players alike. Like they will be all season, the Bills and Rams are teams to target in week 1 of fantasy football.
Josh Allen has THE best odds to win MVP in the NFL this season, and he'll look to get off to a hot start against last year's Super Bowl Champions. He finished the regular season on a tear last year, registering 20 or more fantasy points in 5 of his last 6 contests (including 3 over 30).
Emmanuel Sanders is gone but Gabriel Davis looks more than ready for the spotlight. Likewise, Cole Beasley is out of town but Buffalo brought in Jamison Crowder (who seems to have been passed by the exciting Isaiah McKenzie).
TLDR; Josh Allen will be just fine with his current supporting cast.
As for the Rams defense, be aware that they held QBs to the 5th fewest fantasy points last season and closed the season on a high note, allowing ZERO 18 point games since Aaron Rodgers got em for 26.28 way back in week 12.
Still, it's a brand new season and those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt so big that even a well done steak would be tolerable.
And what are you gonna do? Bench Josh Allen? Let's move on.
Devin Singletary, James Cook and Zack Moss
The good news for Devin Singletary is that he finished last season on a tear, wrapping up his final 5 games with 16 or more PPR points, including 23 or more in his last 3 games.
The bad news is that it's no longer last season, and the Bills have made some changes to the backfield. Most notably, they were clearly in the market for a pass-catching RB after nearly signing JD McKissic, then signing Duke Johnson, then using a 2nd round pick on this class' premier pass-catching back, James Cook.
And if that wasn't enough, preseason usage indicates Zack Moss still exists as a legitimate short yardage and TD threat.
So to recap, Singletary might get work between the 20s, Cook might serve as a passing down specialist, and Moss might handle goal line work.
Translation; this is a tangled mess heading into week 1.
It certainly doesn't help anything that the Rams allowed the 11th fewest PPR points per game to RBs last season, including the 10th fewest touches, 7th fewest scrimmage yards and 15th fewest TDs.
On the brighter side, the Rams DID allow the 13th most catches (5.1 per game) and the 16th most receiving yards (39.2 per game) to RBs.
Again, remember that last year's numbers really don't mean a thing here.
Still, that's in line with what I'd expect from this potential shootout; a game where pass catchers shine and the ground games take a backseat.
I'd still choose Singletary over any Bills back in week 1, but I wouldn't be excited to start any of them and I wouldn't be surprised if Cook—or Moss—outscore Singletary in the opener.
If you've played fantasy football before, would it REALLY surprise you if Moss falls into the end zone once or twice when we're all expecting fireworks elsewhere?
Stefon Diggs turned in another great season last year, albeit with a "slower" (lol I guess) finish to the year; Diggs landed between 9 and 15 in 5 of his last 7 games (he mixed in a 21.5 point and a 23.1 point game for good measure).
Emmanuel Sanders and Cole Beasley (and their 184 targets have left for darker pastures, and Diggs should get all the work he can handle this season with exciting sidekick Gabriel Davis by his side.
It certainly doesn't hurt that, as a team, the Rams allowed their fair share of production to WRs last year, offering the 16th most PPR points per game to WRs on top of the 3rd most catches (13.8 per game) and 7th most receiving yards (167.3 per game).
Of course, that's at a team level, not individual level where, on a scarier note, Diggs is likely to dance with Jalen Ramsey all night long.
Still, you're not benching your 1st/2nd round pick in a likely shootout that should feature plenty of points.
Temper expectations for Diggs, but don't get cute.
It's shaping up to be an exciting first week for Gabriel Davis in his first season as a full time starter after flashing insane upside on limited time in previous seasons.
There's a lot working for him in week 1:
- Cole Beasley and Emmanuel Sanders (and their 184 available targets) are out of the picture.
- this looks like it could be a shootout; more points is never a bad thing for fantasy football
- assuming Stefon Diggs DOES get the Jalen Ramsey treatment, that'll leave Gabriel Davis with much more favorable matchups.
- The Rams allowed the 16th most PPR points per game to WRs last season, including the 3rd most catches (13.8 per game) and the 7th most receiving yards (167.3 per game)
Assuming you drafted Davis as WR 3 (or so), he's an exciting play in week 1 with some pretty intense upside.
Isaiah McKenzie 👍 and Jamison Crowder 👎
As you probably know by this point, I'm publicly very high on Isaiah McKenzie this season.
Cole Beasley accumulated 325 targets over the last 3 seasons, including 106 or more in three straight seasons (last season featured the most targets of the slot receiver's career: 112).
There's A LOT of opportunity to be had for whoever seizes the slot role in Buffalo.
Now, to be fair, the Bills DID bring in Jamison Crowder and they did so for a reason; they had him in mind to play slot.
But when Crowder missed time early in camp with an injury, McKenzie saw more time on the field and, as has been reported, the Bills then struggled to get McKenzie OFF of the field.
By all accounts, McKenzie looks like the front runner for the slot receiver role, and I like his chances of getting off to a hot start in this potential shootout where the defense figures to key in on Stefon Diggs.
As for Crowder, he is someone I would not trust in week 1, but I'd have him flagged as a potential in-season pickup.
Dawson Knox exploded onto the scene last season, accumulating 71 targets, 49 catches, 587 yards and a whopping 9 TDs to finish as the TE 8 in PPR points per game.
He was very boom or bust on a week to week basis, registering 14 or more PPR points in 7 contests (including three that crossed 20) but landing under 10 in 9 games.
I also noted in my June fantasy football preview of the Buffalo Bills that we need to be wary of negative TD regression this season with Knox after he scored 9 TDs (tied for most among TEs) on just 66 targets (20th "most")
Still, in a potential shootout against a Rams defense that last season allowed the 13th most catches per game to TEs (5.2), Knox is fine as a TE1 option.
He's boom or bust, but shootouts like this give him a better chance of booming.
Besides the Super Bowl, Matthew Stafford finished last season on a high note, rattling off three straight performances of 20 or more fantasy points to close down the season.
In fantasy football, he finished as the QB 7 and averaged 19.5 fantasy points per game. Robert Woods and Odell Beckham are gone (for now) but Allen Robinson—who already has a 1400 yard season on his resume with a much worse QB—is in alongside Cooper Kupp. I'm not expecting Stafford to miss a beat and think he'll mostly pick right back up where he left off; Cooper Kupp + Allen Robinson is a terrifying thought for defenses.
There's two concerns for Stafford heading into week 1: