It's hilarious how virtually every fantasy sports media outlet tries to get people pumped up for Week 1. "Bring energy!" they urge us on the radio show.
"It's Christmas morning for the fantasy player!" Let's be honest - Week 1 starts off like Christmas morning, but when you open your presents, it's a lot of crap you don't want, stuff you need to return and, to tell the truth, the turkey was a bit cardboardy, and the gingerbread house stale.
I know, I know. It's the spirit that counts. Which is why I try to appreciate the occasion for what it really is - the joy of futilely hoping for the backdoor cover (how I lived without it during the offseason is mystifying), the diminished expectations for that sleeper in whom you unrealistically believed and coming to terms with your real-life favorite team handing away a win and lowering its chances to make the playoffs. The realization that for all your research, diligence and planning, you cannot prevent C.J Spiller from fumbling or make 32-year old Fred Jackson
as slow as he should be.
Once we've come to terms with the Week 1 damage to our various pools and interests, the next logical question is how much does it mean going forward? To what extent does a bad start portend a bad year? Or, for those players who met or even exceeded our preseason expectations - can they keep it up?
To answer that, let's look at top performers in Week 1 over the last two seasons and where they finished at the end of the year:
There's always going to be some correlation between Week 1 performance and year-end finish because Week 1 counts like any other. But looking at last year, Matt Ryan
was the No. 1 Week 1 QB, and that meant nothing. He was already the No. 7 QB by ADP
and finished at No. 5 by season total, No. 6 by average per game. Take away Week 1, and he did exactly what you'd have expected the rest of the way.
Similarly, Cam Newton
was No. 20 in Week one, despite having a No. 5 ADP, and he finished the year at No. 4, No. 5 by average per game.
Where Week 1 was a good indication the last two years was for rookie running QBs. RGIII finished No. 4 in Week 1, and finished the year No. 4 in per-game average. In 2011 (see below) Cam Newton
finished No. 3 in Week 1 and No. 3 at year-end, too. Something to keep in mind for your FAAB bidding on Terrelle Pryor
(No. 9 in Week 1), perhaps.
For running backs, Adrian Peterson
's No. 6 finish in Week 1 was obviously huge because it meant he was healthy. It obviously didn't portend an all-time great season, however. Stevan Ridley
and Alfred Morris
parlayed the No. 4 and No. 2 showings into year-end No. 5 and No. 10 totals. Again, it seems Week 1 matters more to young players getting opportunities for the first time, though Doug Martin
finished No. 16 and Trent Richardson
No. 33. Their opportunities were more or less locked in given their draft slots, however. Maybe this doesn't bode well for Lamar Miller
At wide receiver, Week 1 had almost no correlation to year-end finish. Don't get too excited about Julian Edelman
, Leonard Hankerson
or Brian Hartline
. Chances are far greater those performances were short-term outliers. Even Anquan Boldin
is probably less than even money to finish in the top-15 from Weeks 2-17.
Similarly, don't be too concerned about Dwayne Bowe
or Eric Decker
. They might or might not pan out, but Week 1 isn't a big indicator either way.
In 2011, Chad Henne
was the No. 2 Week 1 QB, and Ryan Fitzpatrick
No. 6. Mark Sanchez
was No. 10, but he actually finished No. 10 overall thanks to six rushing TDs. Fitzpatrick actually finished No. 12. Otherwise, most of the big names (Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Newton, Stafford) all performed in line with their Week 1 totals, and Newton and Stafford were not big names at the time.
Running back was all over the map. Mike Tolbert
, Cedric Benson
, Beanie Wells
and Tim Hightower
actually graced the Week 1 top-10. Marshawn Lynch
(35), Michael Bush
(47), didn't emerge until much later. The takeaway is that RB, as always, is mostly about opportunity and health.
The takeaway at WR from 2011 was to be patient. Of the top-10 year-end finishers, five finished No. 35 or lower in Week 1, and seven finished No. 15 or lower. Only Wes Welker
, Calvin Johnson
and Steve Smith
finished both in Week 1's top-10 and the year-end top-10.
"This helps No One."
This message came up a few times in my Twitter feed this week when, for example, a scrub like Jackie Battle
or Junior Hemingway
scored a touchdown. A related phenomenon is when the guys doing the fantasy play-by-play on the radio are happy when Adrian Peterson
scores a TD because it's helpful to fantasy owners. Please understand fantasy football is a zero-sum game. Every time someone else does well, that's bad for you. Every time you do well, it's bad for everyone else. I'm sorry if it ruins the "school spirit" cheerleading for fantasy football generally, but the other owners in the league and the players they draft are the enemy. If Peterson scores - and I don't own him anywhere - it's harmful to me. If he's on the sideline getting a breather, and Toby Gerhart
gets a cheap one-yard plunge, that's a win for me. Likewise, when Battle scored, that sucked for Chris Johnson
owners and was great for those going against Johnson. Same with Hemingway and Dwayne Bowe
Things to Take Away from Week 1
There are at least 10 quarterbacks who are top-five quarterbacks and maybe more. Same with tight ends (h/t Stopa).
Every running back except Adrian Peterson
, LeSean McCoy
and Reggie Bush
is terrible. In fact, only three players emerged from Week 1 with 100 rushing yards and one of them was quarterback Terrelle Pryor
, and another was Shane Vereen
who's now out for a few weeks with a broken wrist. If it's such a passing league, why is every defensive coordinator hell bent on stopping the run?
Has there been another Week in NFL history where the 100-yard tight-ends outnumber the 100-yard backs (3:2)? Or one where the total TE touchdowns (21) outnumbered the total RB touchdowns (16)?
The record in all of sports that will never be broken is most passing yards and TDs by two brothers. Eli and Peyton added 912 yards and 11 TDs to their totals in Week 1.
I'd move Jared Cook
to No. 4 overall among tight ends in non-PPR, ahead of everyone except Jimmy Graham
, Vernon Davis
and Rob Gronkowski
. Cook is the Rams' only viable red-zone target other than Brian Quick
who is the No. 4 WR right now, and it appears the Rams gave him all that guaranteed money ($19 million) with the intent to use him.
• Vernon Davis
could be a monster. In fact, when Rob Gronkowski
gets healthy, Jimmy Graham
could be the No. 3 option at the position.
• Colin Kaepernick
looked like Steve Young Sunday, operating almost exclusively out of the pocket and scrambling when necessary. He's one of six top-3 QBs
• Blaine Gabbert
was essentially awarded the job this preseason based on what?
• Eli Manning
's setup could not be better for fantasy purposes. Both Hakeem Nicks
and Victor Cruz
are healthy now, Rueben Randle
looks like a future star and Brandon Myers
is competent at tight end. Stevie Brown
(the team's best pass-defending safety) is out for the year, Prince Amukamara
(the team's best cover corner) has a concussion and the running game is temporarily dead now that David Wilson
is in the doghouse.
• Jordy Nelson
is a top-10 WR now that he appears healthy.
I'm a little nervous about Tony Romo
. He downplayed the bruised ribs he suffered against the Giants, but he didn't look the same the rest of the game, and it's not great news that Dez Bryant
(also likely to play Week 2) is nursing a foot/ankle injury.
The Pats can't stretch the field with their current personnel. Kenbrell Thompkins
is slow, and Danny Amendola
and Julian Edelman
are small and not typically dangerous down the field. Aaron Dobson
has the size/speed to change that once he gets healthy, and of course, Rob Gronkowski
can make plays anywhere.
Without Maurkice Pouncey
, the Steelers offensive line was among the worst in the league. A week of practice will help, but Week 2 in Cincinnati could be ugly. The Steelers also lack red-zone targets with Heath Miller
The Chargers pulled off an incredibly feat Monday night: They survived the departure of Norv Turner without losing their identity. Philip Rivers
is a broken man. I don't think he can be re-assembled.
• Ben Tate
outplayed Arian Foster
Monday night, but Foster's display of health was encouraging, and he also made a nice one-handed snag of a pass. I think Foster's stock should go up, not down as a result of Week 1.
• LeSean McCoy
will be a monster for as long as he stays healthy. If we were to re-draft for the rest of the year, his ADP might be No. 2.
Compare the Week 1 performances of Dez Bryant
and A.J. Green
, consider their respective opponents, too and try to argue that the preseason matters at all for healthy veterans whose roles are not in doubt. That might seem obvious, but Bryant was flying up boards due to the preseason.
• David Wilson
will be heard from again, possibly as early as Week 2, but likely no later than Weeks 3 or 4. Brandon Jacobs
is not an obstacle, and Tom Coughlin taught a once fumble-prone Tiki Barber to protect the ball.
RGIII looked awfully shaky in the first half, but settled in later in the game. He won't be a top-10 QB unless he runs for at least 400 yards and a few scores, however.
Not Surviving Week 1
I'll write more extensively on this in the Survivor column
, but a couple thoughts on picking the Steelers on the site (and in three of my four pools):
First off, I feel badly for anyone who took my advice and lost. Even though, each person is responsible for his own pick, and obviously no pick is guaranteed (otherwise, why bother with survivor, just put your life savings on the moneyline each week), it still sucks to plunk down the dough and be done before it even starts. I took the Pats in one other pool, and one of my four is a re-buy, so I still have some action, but many people who lost don't.
As enjoyable as it can be to play fantasy football, or handicap games against the spread, there really is no other football-based game as insanely dramatic as survivor. For as much misery as it's caused me (I turned down a $12K three-way split in Week 16 of 2000 only to lose in Week 17, and I would have won $37K in 2011 had the halftime scores held up - I lost in Week 12 on Thanksgiving Day), there's nothing like advancing and rooting for others to perish. There's no game where such a small investment can pay off so big, and when you do cash, it often covers the costs of all your pools in every sport for the entire year with profit to spare. So I'm sorry if you took my advice and lost as a result.
I don't think the pick was especially bad, however. The Steelers lost their starting Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey
in the first quarter, lost a fumble on the Titans five-yard line and never recovered. I once read a handicapping book that said never to bet on a team that loses its starting center the week before the game because the entire rhythm of the offense is thrown off. You could see the high and low snaps to Ben Roethlisberger
, and with the lack of protection from the line, it was tough for him to generate any offense. The Steelers defense predictably shut down Jake Locker
entirely - 6.3 YPA, 125 passing yards - but you can't score zero offensive points for 58 minutes.
Okay, so the Steelers had some bad luck, but isn't your pick supposed to withstand bad bounces/injuries? Yes, it is. But when you consider the most popular picks (and Vegas favorites), the Colts and Patriots, were life and death with the Bills and Raiders, it's unclear how many options could have withstood injuries/bad bounces.
The best pick turned out to be Denver (though one can debate whether the game would have gone that way had John Harbaugh challenged the Wes Welker
drop and gotten his tired defense off the field in the third quarter with the lead still intact), and of course, that was the pick the Vegas odds combined with the pick distribution indicated. I didn't trust them against the Ravens, and I trusted the Steelers more than Vegas did, so I adjusted the odds. But it turns out - as is often (but not always) the case, Vegas was correct here.
As I said, I'll explore this in more detail in this week's column