While the draft and waiver impact a fantasy football team, nothing else matters if you make the wrong lineup decisions. As managers make the final tweaks to their lineups for Week 1, should you start Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford against the Buffalo Bills in your fantasy football lineup?
Fresh off a Super Bowl season, Stafford is looking to prove it was no fluke in 2022. After getting out of Detroit, where the only time anyone saw him was through a half-closed eye during a tryptophan-induced coma on Thanksgiving Day, Stafford shined as bright as the lights of LA on premiere night.
Stafford’s first year wearing the Rams colors saw him hit career-highs in completion percentage (67.2%) and touchdowns (41). He ended the year as the QB5 overall and QB11 in points per game, averaging 20.4 PPR/game. Stafford pushed the ball down the field as he always has, ranking inside the top 10 in deep-ball attempts and competition percentage.
Unfortunately, he also had a knack for turnovers. Stafford led the NFL with 17 interceptions last year. This hurt his per-game totals, with Stafford topping 25 fantasy points only three times. If your league penalizes interceptions even more severely, it would have been worse.
It truly hit him between Weeks 15 through 18, right in the fantasy playoffs. In his four games, Stafford had three multi-pick games, throwing eight interceptions in total to just eight touchdowns. Over this stretch, he averaged fewer fantasy points per game (17.1) than Davis Mills (17.8) and Tyler Huntley (18.1).
While he walked away with a ring, Stafford limped his way home right when fantasy managers needed him the most.
Could Matthew Stafford get off to a slow fantasy start in Week 1?
The Rams are again a Super Bowl favorite, and much of that is to do with Stafford. He was a fringe QB1 during the draft cycle and in PFN’s fantasy football draft rankings, came in as the QB13.
Part of it is due to the lack of rushing upside, but there is concern surrounding Stafford’s throwing elbow. One of the stories of the summer has been Stafford’s elbow and whether or not that will impact him in 2022.
ESPN NFL insider Dan Graziano recently reported he believes the lingering elbow injury could impact Stafford all season long.
“My impression of this situation is that it affects Stafford’s practice schedule all year and could also, obviously, affect his performance on Sundays,” wrote Graziano. “He’s tough enough that it’s fair to believe it won’t affect his availability for Sundays, but this is a guy who already led the league in interceptions last year. We sure an elbow problem isn’t going to mess with him at all?”
However, whether it’s damage control or the truth, head coach Sean McVay sees it differently. Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, McVay has “no limitations” for Stafford. Omar Ruiz, also of NFL Network, reported something very similar, when he asked McVay if there’d be any hesitation before asking Stafford to throw 50-55 times to win a game, he simply replied, “no hesitation.”
The Bills are one of the NFL’s toughest matchups to start a QB against, even for Stafford
If not the elbow, Stafford also has another obstacle standing in his way, the Buffalo freaking Bills. From top to bottom, this is the best roster in football. Their defense ranked No. 1 in EPA last season, allowing the fewest yards (272) and points (16.4) per game last year. They were also No. 1 in fantasy points allowed as a team, ranking first against QBs in the process (11.29 PPR/game).
While this doesn’t correlate perfectly year to year, the Bills are the exception since they’re so good. They also got better with the addition of Von Miller. With that said, the most lopsided matchup of this game is the Rams’ wide receivers against the Bills’ cornerbacks.
Tre’Davious White is starting the season on the PUP list and will be out for at least the first four games as he recovers from a torn ACL suffered last year. That means Buffalo will be rolling out a combination of Dane Jackson, Kaiir Elam, and Christian Benford. Both Elam and Benford are rookies and will be facing both Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson, two of the best at what they do.
In a game with a 52.5 total, we expect fireworks offensively as both sides throw haymakers at the other. Stafford should put to rest the elbow concerns, at least for Week 1, as this is the healthiest he will be all year. If things are bad, then we have a serious question next week.
If you drafted Stafford as your starter, feel free to use him. While an interception could be in the cards, enough yardage and touchdowns should offset it, making him a solid play in Week 1 despite the matchup.
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