The Lineup Cheat Sheet combines Fantasy analysis and game flow predictions with a confidence scale to give you a definitive answer on who to start in your leagues.
The higher the number next to a player’s name, the more confident you should be to start him.
If a player isn’t listed, don’t start him.
Numbers are based on non-PPR scoring but are typically applicable to PPR formats.
To find a specific player, use your search function — CTRL-F on PCs and Command-F on Macs. If neither of those are options, or if you’re on a mobile device, you can search by game.
If you’re still unsure, just send a note on Twitter (@daverichard) using #CBSFLCS and I’ll give it a look, time permitting.
Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos
Both of these defenses were great last year and both lost significant talent during the offseason. The Panthers’ secondary has a bullseye on it after losing Josh Norman and the Broncos are probably going to go after rookie cornerback James Bradberry pretty quickly. The Broncos’ run defense thinned out after Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan left, so the Panthers could attempt to establish the run. Of the two, the Broncos have a much better chance of succeeding, even with Trevor Siemian starting.
|Cam Newton (6.9)||Trevor Siemian (4.3)|
|Jonathan Stewart (5.4)||C.J. Anderson (8.5)|
|Kelvin Benjamin (6.1)||Devontae Booker (3.8)|
|Devin Funchess (4.2)||Demaryius Thomas (7.5)|
|Greg Olsen (6.8)||Emmanuel Sanders (5.7)|
|Panthers DST (7.0)||Virgil Green (4.0)|
|Broncos DST (8.0)|
Cam Newton went touchdownless, rushed for less than 50 yards and completed just 43.9 percent of his passes against Denver in Super Bowl 50. Wade Phillips had Newton’s number then, and it’s hard to believe he won’t have his number again when he had months to prepare for this game. Pair that with Newton habitually starting slow (one touchdown in each of his last four Week 1 games) and Fantasy owners might expect some lumps from their quarterback.
Cleveland Browns at Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia’s schedule will be nasty later, but it will enjoy some favorable matchups to start the season. Cleveland’s defense has no pass rush, an undermanned run defense and a secondary that has some known names but not a lot of great talent. Whether it’s Chase Daniel or Carson Wentz , the Eagles offense should be able to put up some points while the defense (a big sleeper this week) keeps the Browns under control. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has an unblemished history against Hue Jackson (2-0) and Robert Griffin III (1-0). The Browns will miss Josh Gordon .
|Robert Griffin III (4.5)||Carson Wentz (3.7)|
|Isaiah Crowell (5.3)||Ryan Mathews (7.9)|
|Duke Johnson (4.8)||Darren Sproles (4.0)|
|Corey Coleman (4.9)||Jordan Matthews (6.0)|
|Gary Barnidge (5.7)||Zach Ertz (7.0)|
|Browns DST (2.4)||Eagles DST (6.2)|
The Browns added Demario Davis and have Christian Kirksey and Danny Shelton up the middle of their defense. If you don’t know who those guys are, that’s okay. They’re pretty good players but they’re not established run stuffers. Behind a pretty good O-line, Ryan Mathews should get off to a rip roaring start — starting running backs averaged 5.2 yards per carry against the Browns’ first-string defense in the preseason.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons
The Buccaneers have two advantages — they have the better matchup when their offense is on the field and they have the Falcons former coach as their new defensive coordinator. Matt Ryan ‘s track record is great against the Bucs both at home and in Kickoff Weekend games. It will come down to Smith finding creative ways to make Ryan implode, which is something the quarterback has done frequently under coordinator Kyle Shanahan. We could see a high-scoring passing game with two 300-yard passers, but Ryan’s going to have to play mistake-free for the Falcons to land a win — something they didn’t do against the Bucs in 2015.
|Jameis Winston (6.7)||Matt Ryan (5.9)|
|Doug Martin (8.1)||Devonta Freeman (8.7)|
|Charles Sims (4.9)||Tevin Coleman (3.2)|
|Mike Evans (9.4)||Julio Jones (9.7)|
|Vincent Jackson (4.8)||Mohamed Sanu (3.7)|
|Buccaneers DST (5.2)||Falcons DST (4.0)|
Winston had some good numbers against the Falcons last season, rushing and throwing for one score each in both meetings. But his yardage always seemed to suffer in part because he averaged just 28.0 pass attempts per game. That might have been because former coach Lovie Smith wanted to run the ball and play conservatively. New coach Dirk Koetter won’t be as conservative — his nature is to lean on his playmakers, which obviously includes Winston. He’s good enough to start in Week 1, especially over guys in tougher matchups like Philip Rivers and Andy Dalton .
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
The game should be a good one for both passing attacks, but the running backs could struggle to find room. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell will take turns against a Bengals run defense that improved with Karlos Dansby coming over. They might only make plays as receivers out of the backfield. That same type of role is also reserved for Giovani Bernard , who could pick up some chunk plays along the edge. Jeremy Hill is a candidate to score, but it would be a surprise to see him lead the Bengals offense against the Jets and their monstrous front seven.
|Andy Dalton (5.7)||Ryan Fitzpatrick (5.1)|
|Jeremy Hill (7.4)||Matt Forte (7.2)|
|Giovani Bernard (5.6)||Bilal Powell (4.3)|
|A.J. Green (8.5)||Brandon Marshall (8.4)|
|Tyler Boyd (4.0)||Eric Decker (6.9)|
|C.J. Uzomah (3.2)||Jets DST (6.8)|
|Bengals DST (6.6)|
A couple of trends skew Decker’s way in Week 1. Decker scored in every Jets home game in 2015 and opened last season with a touchdown in each of his first four overall. In two career games against Marvin Lewis’ Bengals, Decker scored twice and had at least 99 yards in each. To be fair, Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t his quarterback in those games, but Fitzpatrick has consistently gotten off to a hot start in every season when coached by offensive play caller Chan Gailey. Decker is worth trotting out in Week 1 ahead of Kelvin Benjamin or Jordan Matthews.
Chicago Bears at Houston Texans
John Fox’s defense opens the season with a banged-up secondary and a suspect pass rush. That’s bad news for them but great news for the Texans, who should continue putting highlights of their deep-threat offense on film for future opponents to prepare for. Considering the state of the Bears offense, this should end up being a Week 1 showcase game for Houston Cougars .
|Jay Cutler (4.7)||Brock Osweiler (6.5)|
|Jeremy Langford (7.0)||Lamar Miller (9.5)|
|Alshon Jeffery (7.9)||Tyler Ervin (3.1)|
|Kevin White (4.1)||DeAndre Hopkins (9.0)|
|Zach Miller (4.8)||Will Fuller (6.6)|
|Bears DST (3.0)||Texans DST (8.5)|
Brock Osweiler has never been a Fantasy sleeper, but for this week he is. Chicago’s best pass rusher will start the season on the PUP list and its secondary is already on backups. This should be a week for DeAndre Hopkins to post nice numbers, but Will Fuller should also get some deep opportunities like he did in the preseason. The Bears finished last season ranked fourth in pass defense (224.6 yards per game) but tied for fifth in most passing touchdowns allowed (31). They’re not any better this year.
Minnesota Vikings at Tennessee Titans
Something tells me the Vikings are going to take out their frustration of losing Teddy Bridgewater on the Titans defense. Or maybe it’s just a really good matchup for Adrian Peterson to run wild in — he’s decimated Dick LeBeau-led defenses for at least 125 total yards and a touchdown twice in his career, and this time around the defense isn’t very good. Because the Titans running backs figure to struggle against Mike Zimmer’s squad, expect Marcus Mariota to eventually play from behind and pass over 30 times. Rookie Tajae Sharpe could benefit.
|Shaun Hill (2.7)||Marcus Mariota (5.5)|
|Adrian Peterson (9.6)||DeMarco Murray (7.3)|
|Jerick McKinnon (4.1)||Derrick Henry (5.9)|
|Stefon Diggs (5.6)||Tajae Sharpe (5.8)|
|Kyle Rudolph (3.8)||Rishard Matthews (3.8)|
|Vikings DST (7.2)||Delanie Walker (6.6)|
|Titans DST (4.6)|
Fantasy owners should be reasonably confident in starting Murray as a No. 2 running back. Yep, the Vikings run defense is expected to be very good. But the Titans offensive line should be improved from last season and the scoreboard should push Murray into plenty of snaps. Besides, it’s Derrick Henry’s first NFL game — is Mike Mularkey really going to lean on the rookie if he doesn’t have to? Expecting 100 total yards from Murray isn’t crazy.
Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens
Rex Ryan is good for two things: entertaining offseason press conferences and Week 1 victories. He’s won five straight Week 1 games and 6 of 7 in his career. Giving him a whole offseason to come up with a game plan is seemingly unfair. There’s also the added motivation of knocking off the Ravens, something he’s never done. With the Jets he was 0-3 against them but this time around he gets Baltimore with its most uninspiring offense in years. Between Ryan’s chicanery and Tyrod Taylor (another ex-Raven) causing havoc against the Ravens defense, the Bills should be successful.
|Tyrod Taylor (7.3)||Joe Flacco (3.9)|
|LeSean McCoy (9.1)||Justin Forsett (4.5)|
|Reggie Bush (3.3)||Javorius Allen (4.2)|
|Sammy Watkins (8.3)||Terrance West (3.9)|
|Charles Clay (3.7)||Kamar Aiken (4.7)|
|Bills DST (7.4)||Crockett Gillmore (3.4)|
|Ravens DST (5.0)|
So much about the Ravens offense is a mystery. Maybe in another matchup Aiken would be worth starting, but the Bills boast two solid cornerbacks in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby . Combined they allowed nine touchdowns last season according to Pro Football Focus. Aiken’s not even a touchdown guy, he’s a volume receiver who needs lots of targets to deliver good Fantasy numbers. Given all the uncertainty in the receiving game in a bad matchup, you’re better off sitting Aiken, Steve Smith , Breshad Perriman , Mike Wallace , Derrick Mason, Qadry Ismail, Raymond Berry and all of Baltimore’s other receivers.
Green Bay Packers at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Packers are a very tough first test for Gus Bradley’s improved defense. Jacksonville added a lot of talent on that side of the ball but still allowed four touchdowns over roughly five quarters to first-string offenses this preseason. Their secondary will especially have a lot of pressure on them with the Packers offense back at full strength and Jordy Nelson reportedly as good as ever. Meanwhile, the Packers defense has looked good and matches up well with the Jaguars’ risky offensive line.
|Aaron Rodgers (9.1)||Blake Bortles (6.1)|
|Eddie Lacy (9.2)||Chris Ivory (6.1)|
|James Starks (3.4)||T.J. Yeldon (4.4)|
|Randall Cobb (8.8)||Allen Robinson (8.9)|
|Jordy Nelson (8.1)||Allen Hurns (5.9)|
|Jared Cook (6.4)||Julius Thomas (4.6)|
|Packers DST (6.4)||Jaguars DST (4.2)|
You drafted Blake Bortles to be your starter, but this isn’t the week to fully trust him. Sure, his preseason stats were nice (no turnovers) but the Packers blitz-heavy defense combined with a savvy secondary is exactly what he doesn’t need. Expect the Jaguars to put up some points, but Bortles might not be responsible for all of them and should be responsible for some turnovers. In each season debut he’s made he’s tossed two interceptions. Kirk Cousins , Brock Osweiler and Jameis Winston are safer.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have won four straight against the Chargers, holding their division rivals to 7 or fewer points in each of the last three (including twice late last season when the Bolts’ roster was depleted). Additionally, Andy Reid typically has his teams ready to roll (4-1 in his last five as head coach) and on point offensively. The Chargers run defense was awful in the preseason, setting up Spencer Ware as a slam-dunk for a nice game to pace the Chiefs.
|Philip Rivers (5.3)||Alex Smith (3.3)|
|Melvin Gordon (5.8)||Spencer Ware (8.3)|
|Danny Woodhead (5.1)||Jeremy Maclin (5.4)|
|Keenan Allen (7.3)||Travis Kelce (6.3)|
|Travis Benjamin (4.5)||Chiefs DST (7.6)|
|Antonio Gates (5.0)|
|Chargers DST (3.2)|
Philip Rivers has not fared well against the Chiefs — he’s failed to throw a touchdown in each of his last three against them and has tossed an interception in each of his last five. You’d have to go back to December, 2013 to find the last time Rivers had a 20-point Fantasy team. If you can’t trust Rivers’ track record then you can’t trust Keenan Allen. Scoreless in three career games against the Chiefs, Allen is a safe pick in PPR formats because he gets a lot of catches, but non-PPR owners might be a little more careful in going with him.
Oakland Raiders at New Orleans Saints
This was the game with the most high-scoring potential from the second the schedule came out. The Raiders should be able to get by on talent and athleticism alone against a Saints defense that just hasn’t been rebuilt well. It’s not quite as easy for the Saints offense. They should be able to post a ton of points since they’re playing at home, but this Raiders defense has some talent. The pass rush, the secondary, it’s the best it’s been in years (at least on paper). New Orleans is 1-3 in its last four season openers with Brees averaging 21.5 Fantasy points per.
|Derek Carr (7.7)||Drew Brees (8.3)|
|Latavius Murray (8.2)||Mark Ingram (8.0)|
|DeAndre Washington (4.7)||Brandin Cooks (8.0)|
|Amari Cooper (8.6)||Willie Snead (6.4)|
|Michael Crabtree (6.7)||Michael Thomas (5.1)|
|Clive Walford (3.6)||Coby Fleener (7.6)|
|Raiders DST (5.6)||Saints DST (2.6)|
Provided they can protect Brees from the Raiders pass rush, the Saints have good matchups all over the field — but perhaps none better than in the middle of the field. Coby Fleener will either see a linebacker, Nate Allen or rookie Karl Joseph and wily veteran Willie Snead could be one-on-one with Raiders slot corner T.J. Carrie . Brandin Cooks should have chances against David Amerson on the outside, but Snead’s route-running should give him an edge while Fleener’s size will come in handy.
Miami Dolphins at Seattle Seahawks
If you think the Dolphins are nothing more than the sacrificial lamb heading into the Seahawks’ nest for a Week 1 blowout … well, you’re probably right. The Dolphins might have one of the best defensive lines but it won’t be able to mask a suspect back-end unit for very long, especially against Russell Wilson and his quick feet. Miami’s offense will be better in 2016, but this is an incredibly awful spot for them against a physical, tough Seahawks defense on the road. Adam Gase’s track record against Seattle isn’t … very … good.
|Ryan Tannehill (4.1)||Russell Wilson (9.3)|
|Arian Foster (6.3)||Christine Michael (6.2)|
|Jay Ajayi (3.5)||Thomas Rawls (6.0)|
|Jarvis Landry (6.5)||Doug Baldwin (7.6)|
|Kenny Stills (4.6)||Tyler Lockett (7.1)|
|Dolphins DST (3.4)||Seahawks DST (9.0)|
It’s a game that should work out favorably for the Seahawks running backs, but which one? Seahawks coach Pete Carroll dropped a hint this week, calling the game Thomas Rawls’ “second preseason game in a sense.” That can’t bode well for a busy workload. Michael might be the better passing downs back anyway, plus he’ll certainly pick up work if the game is a blowout. The only chance Rawls has for big numbers is if he scores, which is possible, or if he looks great in the first quarter and Carroll & Co. decide to ride him. That’s also possible, but common sense suggests the Seahawks will ease Rawls into action. That makes Michael the better Week 1 choice.
Detroit Lions at Indianapolis Colts
Hope you like passing! The Lions have got to be preparing to take aim at a Colts secondary missing several cornerbacks including top cover corner Vontae Davis . And the Colts … well, they’re going to try passing against everyone, but the Lions secondary isn’t expected to be very dangerous. It’s the Lions pass rush that could make things a little more difficult for Andrew Luck , but not enough to keep him contained. Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin worked under Chuck Pagano in Baltimore and probably has some ideas on what Matthew Stafford & Co. can expect.
|Matthew Stafford (7.5)||Andrew Luck (8.5)|
|Ameer Abdullah (7.1)||Frank Gore (5.7)|
|Theo Riddick (5.2)||T.Y. Hilton (8.2)|
|Marvin Jones (7.7)||Donte Moncrief (7.8)|
|Golden Tate (6.3)||Phillip Dorsett (6.2)|
|Anquan Boldin (5.0)||Dwayne Allen (4.4)|
|Lions DST (3.8)||Colts DST (3.6)|
The Colts run defense wasn’t great in the preseason, nor was it even good last season. This is a risky call, but if the Lions can manage to stay close or get the lead, Ameer Abdullah has a shot at some pretty good numbers. He’s not an every-down back but he finished 2015 with 11 or more touches in 6 of his final 7. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 5.7 yards per catch in that span. Against these Colts, Abdullah should be a safe bet for at least 60 yards with a chance to break a long run or two. And it would so be like Abdullah and the Colts to get us excited so soon and fizzle out in a few weeks. For now, he shapes up as a risk worth taking as a low-end No. 2 Fantasy rusher compared to Danny Woodhead or Jonathan Stewart.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys
A new quarterback. A new running back. A star receiver who typically starts out slowly. None of them have played in weeks. And, a defense missing its pass rush. This isn’t a good formula for the Cowboys, and it’s compounded by facing a familiar division rival. The Cowboys have won five of the last six in the series with the Giants and have scored at least 20 points in all six. They’ll have a lot of work to do to keep that up against a Giants squad that’s put up at least 21 points in each of its last six against Dallas.
|Eli Manning (6.3)||Dak Prescott (4.9)|
|Rashad Jennings (7.8)||Ezekiel Elliott (8.6)|
|Odell Beckham (9.5)||Dez Bryant (8.7)|
|Sterling Shepard (5.2)||Terrance Williams (4.4)|
|Giants DST (5.8)||Jason Witten (5.8)|
|Cowboys DST (4.4)|
Everyone’s starting Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant in Fantasy (even though Dez has one score and no 100-yard games in his career in Week 1 games). No one should start Dak Prescott or Terrance Williams (one score in six career games with the Giants). But Jason Witten has two things going for him — a strong track record and a rookie quarterback. Witten has whipped the G-Men for at least one touchdown in four of his last six against the Giants and has racked up at least seven Fantasy points in six of seven meetings including both in 2015. With Prescott in need of a safe short-area target and the Giants iffy at safety, Witten should be a great one-week option who should start ahead of Antonio Gates, Kyle Rudolph and both of the Buccaneers tight ends.
New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
What a horrible matchup for Jimmy Garoppolo to make his first NFL start in. But instead of the Cardinals going after Garoppolo over and over, they might instead focus on covering the field, especially in the middle to keep Rob Gronkowski , Martellus Bennett and Julian Edelman from carving them up. It worked for the Broncos against Tom Brady in the playoffs last year and it could easily work against a more inexperienced and less accurate passer like Garoppolo.
|Jimmy Garoppolo (3.5)||Carson Palmer (8.1)|
|James White (5.5)||David Johnson (9.3)|
|LeGarrette Blount (4.6)||Chris Johnson (3.7)|
|Julian Edelman (5.3)||Michael Floyd (7.2)|
|Rob Gronkowski (8.1)||Larry Fitzgerald (7.0)|
|Martellus Bennett (6.5)||John Brown (6.8)|
|Patriots DST (5.4)||Cardinals DST (7.9)|
Is there a Patriots cornerback that has the speed to keep up with John Brown? Provided he’s healthy enough to play, Brown should have a couple of chances to pull off some big plays because of his legs. New England was in the middle of the pack against the pass last season and allowed just nine pass plays of 40-plus yards, but that was when it had a solid pass rush. With Chris Long , Jabaal Sheard and Jamie Collins as their top rushers, expect Carson Palmer (who has never beaten Bill Belichick) to have some extra time in the pocket to connect downfield. It should pay off for Brown, who should fare better than Jarvis Landry and Julian Edelman.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins’ tendency was to rack up the stats in favorable matchups and struggle in the tougher ones. Where does this one rank? Despite the draft picks used to strengthen the pass rush and secondary, the Steelers don’t appear to have a threatening pass defense. Maybe the Steelers will have an edge on Washington’s scheme because they’re familiar with Jay Gruden from his days in Cincy (the Steelers won 4 of 6 matchups) but the Redskins’ talent should translate to some wins through the air. Both Cousins and Ben Roethlisberger should come up with multiple scores and 300-plus yards.
|Ben Roethlisberger (7.9)||Kirk Cousins (7.1)|
|DeAngelo Williams (8.4)||Matt Jones (5.0)|
|Antonio Brown (9.6)||Chris Thompson (3.6)|
|Eli Rogers (4.3)||DeSean Jackson (7.4)|
|Jesse James (4.2)||Jordan Reed (8.0)|
|Steelers DST (6.0)||Redskins DST (4.8)|
He’s healthy and should play a ton of snaps for Washington, so you might as well use DeSean Jackson while you can. Pittsburgh Panthers was middle-of-the-pack against the pass last season, allowing just under 275 yards per game with 29 touchdowns. They also allowed 52 plays of 20-plus yards and 12 plays of 40-plus yards. It’s a bit of a risk since Jackson is 0 for 2 lifetime in scoring or getting even 60 yards against the Steelers, but the hunch is Cousins will have time to throw — and will need to throw — thus giving Jackson some opportunities to stretch the field. He’s a low-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver worth starting ahead of Jordan Matthews, Kelvin Benjamin and Golden Tate.
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Look, it’s Case Keenum versus Blaine Gabbert . You already know the game will come down to running backs and defenses. Making matters worse for the 49ers is a receiving corps with two new veterans ( Rod Streater , Jeremy Kerley ) still getting used to the team. There’s also reason for concern for the 49ers run game — read on for that. Todd Gurley decimated the Niners defense in one meeting last season (over 140 total yards with a touchdown). He should remain the centerpiece of the Los Angeles offense and create some play-action opportunities for Keenum downfield. It won’t be a pretty game, but the Rams should grind it out.
|Case Keenum (3.1)||Blaine Gabbert (2.9)|
|Todd Gurley (9.4)||Carlos Hyde (7.5)|
|Tavon Austin (5.5)||Torrey Smith (3.9)|
|Rams DST (7.8)||Vance McDonald (5.9)|
|49ers DST (2.8)|
If the Niners’ key to victory is running the ball, expect a loss. As ready as Carlos Hyde might be, the Niners run game has struggled with the Rams over the past two seasons and Chip Kelly’s up-tempo scheme is already familiar to Jeff Fisher and his coaching staff. In 2014 Fisher’s Rams held LeSean McCoy to 86 total yards, a number Hyde would probably be happy to have after averaging just 2.4 yards per carry in games against the Rams last year (just 13 carries though). And Fisher has shut the door on Niners running backs in each of their last four meetings. Start Hyde as a No. 2 running back as you normally might but don’t be upset if he doesn’t return great value. Ryan Mathews and Rashad Jennings should fare better in their matchups.
Source: CBS Sports / Fantasy Football Week 1 Lineup Cheat Sheet: Starts, sits and sleepers