Week 1 Fantasy Preview: Jets vs. Browns

Joe Malfa with his week 1 fantasy preview for Jets vs. Browns

Along with the start of the football season comes the start of the fantasy football season. It is time to log onto ESPN.com, NFL.com, or whatever website you use in order to set your lineup and embark on your 13-week journey to fantasy immortality. My goal here, and throughout the season, will be to help you set that lineup by analyzing the potential fantasy output of the players in each Jets game — opponents included. I will not give exact score predictions per player because there are many different scoring systems used by leagues, but I will provide stats for you to predict scores based on your league’s system.

Quarterbacks

Ryan Fitzpatrick – 217 yards passing, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 24 yards rushing

In his first start as a New York Jet, Ryan Fitzpatrick has a bit of a difficult test against a pass defense that ranked 8th in the league last season. The Browns’ secondary is led by All-Pro CB Joe Haden, with newly acquired Tramon Williams on the other side, K’Waun Williams in the slot, and Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson providing help over the top. Despite Cleveland’s strong secondary, Fitzpatrick should still have moderate success in this one. He is an efficient passer in a familiar offense that will lead the defense to pay more attention to the run, and he should be able to find his big targets on quick plays that exploit the soft spots in the coverage. He could be a solid start if you are in a 14+ team league or a 2-QB league.

Josh McCown – 117 yards passing, 0 TDs, 2 INTs, 7 yards rushing

I’ll just start by saying this — if you are in a position to start Josh McCown this week for whatever reason (16-team league, 2-QB league, etc.), you are really in trouble. Chicago’s one-year wonder has no one to throw the ball to unless you consider Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline legitimate threats, and he is going up against what might be one of the best secondaries in the league. In addition, he may not even have many clear looks to throw the ball with the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, and Leonard Williams bearing down on him. If you, for whatever reason, do have him on your team, I’d suggest dropping him now because it won’t be long before Johnny Football gets his crack at leading this Browns’ offense.

Running Backs

Chris Ivory – 24 carries, 143 yards rushing, 1 TDs, 21 yards receiving

For the first time in his career, Ivory is fully healthy and the undisputed top-dog in the backfield. Bilal Powell and Zac Stacy will spell him at times, but you can expect Ivory to tote the ball at least 20-25 times per game in this offense. He looked better than he ever has throughout the preseason, and the offensive line looks significantly better than it did last season. The addition of James Carpenter and a seemingly rejuvenated Willie Colon will lead the way along with Nick Mangold as Ivory pounds the ball up the middle, which happens to be the weak spot in this Cleveland defense. Look for him to carry the ball early and often en rout to racking up one of what could be numerous 100-yard outings this year. Ivory will be a solid RB1 start this week, and has the potential the be one for the entire season.

Isaiah Crowell – 21 carries, 63 yards rushing, 1 TD, 18 yards receiving

Two weeks ago, Crowell’s overall fantasy outlook seemed a bit bleak as it seemed Terrance West and Duke Johnson would take a good amount of carries away from him. Since then, West has been traded to the Titans and Johnson sustained a concussion, leaving Crowell as the last man standing in what was a crowded backfield. His reward? A week one matchup against a defense that ranked 5th against the run. The likes of Alex Mack and Joe Thomas will still provide some push up front and create lanes for Crowell, but more often than not it will be the Jet defensive line that wins the battle in the trenches in this one. The fact that Cleveland will likely be playing from behind will take some carries away from Crowell, but he should still reach the 20-carry mark being the only RB left on a team that will struggle mightily throwing the ball. In addition, he will be the recipient of all the carries near the goal-line, which gives him some appeal as an RB2 or flex play this week despite the unfavorable matchup.

Wide Receivers

Brandon Marshall – 4 catches, 54 yards, 0 TDs

Marshall is unquestionably the go-to receiver on an offense that has been longing for a threat on the outside, but he will be shadowed by Joe Haden on Sunday. It will be fun to watch these two go at it, and while I do not believe Haden will shut Marshall down completely, Fitzpatrick won’t be able to play with his new toy as much as he would like this week. Marshall is a viable WR2 option this week because the big-bodied target always has the potential to haul in a TD.

Eric Decker – 6 catches, 78 yards, 1 TD

The question surrounding Decker has always been whether or not he was capable of being a top WR who could go toe-to-toe with and beat top CBs. This year, as was the case when he had his success in Denver, Decker will not have to do that as it is Marshall who will attract the attention of the opposition’s best CB and possible double teams. With Haden blanketing Marshall, Decker will receive a lot of looks from the Fitzpatrick — particularly in the red zone. Like Marshall, Decker is a viable WR2 option this week.

Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline – 6 catches, 67 yards, 0 TDs combined

Not much to be said here — should be light work for Revis and company. This projection shouldn’t mean much anyway because according to ESPN.com, Bowe is owned in just 6.3% of leagues while Hartline is owned in just 1.9%, and both are being started in just 0.2% of leagues. My heart goes out to that 0.2% of fantasy owners that are forced to start either of these guys for whatever reason.

This is the part where I skip over the TEs, because none of the TEs on either team are owned in more than 0.5% of all leagues on ESPN — arguably two of the worst TE situations in the league.

Defense

Jets – 225 yards allowed, 13 points allowed, 4 sacks, 3 turnovers

The stout Gang Green defense opens up against one of the worst offenses in the league, which should make for a nice fantasy output — one of the best starts of the week in terms of defenses.

Browns – 385 yards allowed, 27 points allowed, 2 sacks, 0 turnovers

The Browns have a solid secondary, but they were ranked dead last against the run last season and will open up against a team that has a lot of success running the ball. It could be a long day for this unit, so avoid starting them if you can.

*Kickers are fluky in fantasy, and throughout this series I will refrain from giving any kicking predictions. My final score prediction, however, can be an indicator of a kicker’s fantasy output (i.e. 27 points = 3 extra points, 2 field goals)*