10 players set to take flight in NFL Week 1

By Jesse Reed
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The start of a new season brings with it a sense of hope for every fan base. NFL Week 1 also sets the stage for some players to explode out of the gate.

That’s what we’re diving into here. In particular, we expect 10 players to open their 2019 NFL seasons with huge performances in Week 1.

Mark Ingram, running back, Baltimore Ravens

Given the modus operandi of Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, Baltimore will feature a power-rushing offense that suits Ingram to a T. We have already identified quarterback Lamar Jackson as a fantasy stud this weekend when the Ravens take on Miami. Ingram should also have a huge game. The Ravens feature an outstanding offensive line, and the Dolphins are in full tank mode starting a quarterback who is known for turnovers. The run game will be heavily implemented, and Ingram’s pass-catching abilities will also come into play.

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

During his college days at Stanford, Arcega-Whiteside was one of the best red-zone threats in the nation. He showed off his NFL potential in the third preseason game of the summer, catching eight passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in a breakout performance. Look for Carson Wentz to target Arcega-Whiteside down near the goal line often this year. It starts with a home game against a Washington defense that is talent poor in the secondary and at linebacker.

Devin Singletary, running back, Buffalo Bills

This third-round rookie out of Florida Atlantic impressed the Bills so much this summer that they let star running back LeSean McCoy hit the free market. Buffalo is going to feature a committee approach, utilizing the ageless Frank Gore and pass-catching phenom T.J. Yeldon alongside Singletary. Yet this rookie is clearly the team’s most dangerous weapon at the position. His ability to find creases and make house calls on any given play makes him one of the most exciting young backs in the game today. He’ll get his first chance to shine against a very tough New York Jets defense. His penchant for scoring around the goal line will be the catalyst for a big day.

Curtis Samuel, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers

The word coming out of Panthers headquarters this summer is that this third-year receiver is set to explode in 2019. The Charlotte Observer dubbed Samuel the offensive MVP of Panthers training camp, noting he has been “practically impossible to cover.” The young playmaker will have his work cut out in Week 1 as the Los Angeles Rams are coming to town. That said, we expect Norv Turner to have a game plan dialed up to spring him loose for big plays down the field.

Leonard Fournette, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars

Jacksonville’s Week 1 opponent is an interesting matchup. The Kansas City Chiefs feature a new-look defense that could shut down Nick Foles and the passing game. Of course, on the other side, Patrick Mahomes and Co. are lighting in a bottle offensively. For both of those reasons, Fournette is going to see a heavy workload this Sunday. The Chiefs have a new-look defense that should be very good against the pass. However, Fournette should find creases and have a huge impact on the ground playing behind Jacksonville’s big offensive line.

Marlon Mack, running back, Indianapolis Colts

Now that the Colts are moving on without Andrew Luck, the offense is going to necessarily rely on the run game. That’s not a knock against Jacoby Brissett, but just an acknowledgement of Luck’s rare talents as a passer. Last year, Mack became more integral as a three-down back toward the end of the campaign and averaged 4.7 yards per carry while scoring 10 touchdowns. The Colts are on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. Given the pass-rushing prowess of the Chargers, Mack’s ability to produce on the ground will be what drives the Colts’ offense.

D.K. Metcalf, wide receiver, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have been talking up this rookie receiver all summer long, and Russell Wilson has been vocal about his excitement level surrounding Metcalf’s rare abilities. The team’s first official depth chart reflects that, as Metcalf has been listed as the Seahawks’ No. 1 receiver. His deep speed is a perfect complement for what Seattle does in the run game, and for Wilson’s deadly accuracy deep down the field. This Sunday, the Seahawks have the Cincinnati Bengals coming to town, and we predict Metcalf will make an immediate impact.

Kyler Murray, quarterback, Arizona Cardinals

Nobody outside the Cardinals has a good idea about what Kliff Kingsbury’s offense is going to look like with rookie phenom Kyler Murray under center. We do know that Murray’s veteran teammates have been gushing over his talent and mastery of this system, and that the goal is to run defenses ragged with an uncommonly fast pace. The Detroit Lions have a strong defense, but given the fact nobody has seen this offense yet, and given the rookie’s explosive playmaking abilities, we expect Murray and Co. to have an early advantage.

James Washington, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers

As a rookie in 2018, Washington gave us glimpses of his potential. With Antonio Brown out of Pittsburgh, it’s time for this young man to do quite a bit more than that. Based on what we saw from Washington this summer in preseason games (10 catches for 207 yards and two touchdowns), he’s more than up to the task. A prime-time matchup on Sunday night against New England will be an immediate test for both teams. Look for Washington to be a huge X-factor for Pittsburgh.

George Kittle, tight end, San Francisco 49ers

With all the talk about Jimmy Garoppolo and the new 49ers wide receivers, somehow Kittle has flown under the radar a bit. Let’s not forget this guy set an NFL record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season last year. He’s just 25, and incredibly Kittle is still an ascending player in this league. He’ll have a chance for a monster game in Week 1 as the 49ers play on the road against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has yet to discover its identity.