Hello everyone and welcome to NFL regular season eve. Or something like that. It's just one short day until the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots kick off the 2017 season and there will be football on everyone's television set for the next 22 Sundays until a champion is crowned at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Feb. 4, 2018 at Super Bowl LII.
Ezekiel Elliott to Play in Week 1
Fantasy owners received some good news, and perhaps some bad news, in regards to early-round pick Ezekiel Elliott. An NFL arbitrator upheld the league's six-game suspension to the stud running back, although a ruling on his temporary restraining order is expected by later this week. Since a decision by the arbitrator wasn't reached until after 4:00 pm Eastern Time on Tuesday, the running back will be in the starting lineup for the regular season opener against the New York Giants. His status going into Week 2 remains unclear, but fantasy owners have to be elated that, for at least one game to start, he'll be in the lineup.
Fantasy owners should expect a solid performance. In the opener last season at Jerry World, Elliott racked up a season-low 51 yards and 2.6 yards per carry. That's not great, but he was able to find the end zone, one of 15 rushing scores for the back. On Dec. 11 he posted his seventh 100-yard rushing game at Met Life Stadium against the G-Men in a low-scoring battle. You can expect Elliott to have a chip on his shoulder in Week 1, especially since it could potentially be his last appearance until November. Or not. He could also continue the legal process, a la Tom Brady and Deflategate, continuing to play with a suspension looming. There is a possibility he doesn't miss any games this season, and the situation lingers into 2018. Either way, expect the Cowboys to feed Elliott frequently and get the most out of him, as Darren McFadden and company take a backseat, at least for the opener.
The addition of Elliott into the lineup will likely be great news for the passing game, too. When Elliott is in the backfield, opposing defenses have a big concern. That's not exactly the case if McFadden is toting the rock. Dak Prescott will have more time to operate, Dez Bryant will receive slightly less attention and Cole Beasley and Jason Witten will also be freer to roam. While the Elliott situation could be a giant distraction, as long as he remains on the field it is obviously a good thing for the Dallas offense and fantasy owners of their key personnel.
Despite the inclusion of Elliott in Week 1, fantasy owners should be a bit leery of Prescott. Remember, he was 0-2 against the G-Men last season while completing just 42 of his 82 pass attempts for 392 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, including a season-low 45.4 rating in the December meeting in New Jersey. It wasn't a huge part of his game in 2016, but he was limited to just three rush attempts for 13 yards in the two meetings with Big Blue. The young quarterback was unable to connect with his biggest his biggest target, Bryant. He was targeted 14 times in the two contests, but the duo connected for just two receptions and 14 yards. Beasley was far more effective, snaring 12 balls for 106 yards on 19 targets. Witten was also a security blanket for Prescott against the Giants, posting nine grabs for 66 yards in last season's opener while totaling 13 grabs for 92 yards on 24 targets.
Editor's Note: Get our 2017 NFL Draft Guide + Season Pass for FREE with your first deposit on FanDuel and dominate your leagues! Claim now.
Sunshine State Battle Up in the Air
With the state of Florida potentially under the gun this weekend from an approaching hurricane, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins will not play Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium. However, the league is discussing plans to move the game, possibly to a neutral site in either Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. Both teams have a bye in Week 11, but a change in the schedule would mean the teams have a bye in Week 1 and then have to play 16 consecutive regular season games without a break. The league would likely want to avoid that, and the teams would certainly not be in favor.
Dangerous Hurricane Irma is projected by the National Hurricane Center to be right off the coast of Florida, either near the Keys or in the Florida Straits, by the early part of the weekend. It could then be picked up by a trough, taking it up the spine of the Sunshine State. It's currently a Category 5 hurricane and with sustained winds of 185 miles per hour, making it the strongest storm ever in the Atlantic basin outside of the Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico, and already a historic event due to its low pressure and high winds. It started hammering the Leeward Islands with a direct hit to Barbuda late Tuesday night and remains on a trajectory which would put NFL fans and the teams in serious danger. Obviously football is secondary or tertiary in concern. If the game is played in Week 1 in a neutral site, might we see the players a bit distracted? Obviously they are professionals, but also human. It would be understandable if their minds were elsewhere with their family and friends both experiencing some type of effects from the storm.
Quick Hits: Tyler Lockett (leg) expects to be ready for Sunday's showdown with the Packers, and head coach Pete Carroll has tabbed the speedster as the primary return man if he is active. Not only will Lockett be useful in the return game, but he has a chance to see significant work on offense behind Doug Baldwin now that the team pulled the plug on Jermaine Kearse. He and Paul Richardson will be jockeying for targets. Still, Richardson enters the season as the team's second wideout on the depth chart. … Also in Seattle, rookie Chris Carson has obviously made a favorable impression on Carroll. He is listed with veteran Eddie Lacy as the backup running back behind Thomas Rawls. The latter is still listed as the starter, but he has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury which has him less than 100 percent heading into the regular season. It's possible Carson carries over his momentum from the preseason and makes an early splash, making him rather attractive as a stash option. … Rookie Christian McCaffrey is reportedly toting his own customized playbook with a package of plays just for him. That's great news for McCaffrey, and perhaps not terribly exciting news for Jonathan Stewart and his fantasy owners. … Marquise Goodwin is listed as the second wideout for their Week 1 tilt against the Panthers. While fantasy owners will certainly want to pay attention to the situation, he is only worth stashing away in deeper leagues at the moment. George Kittle is also listed as the starting tight end, but you'll want to see them get a few games under their belts and show some consistency before giving them a whirl. … The 49ers jettisoned Jeremy Kerley, which led to Goodwin's ascension. However, it didn't take long for Kerley to find work, as he is returning to the Jets on a one-year pact. He is familiar with the system and will give the team a much-needed veteran presence on a roster devoid of many impact receivers. As such, owners in PPR leagues desperate for help, potentially those looking for a replacement for Cameron Meredith (knee), should have their antenna up. … Tyrod Taylor has completed the league's concussion protocol and is cleared to play in Week 1 against the Jets. Taylor rolled up 297 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in his lone appearance against Gang Green in 2016.