Week 1 Observations

You know before the season things won’t go your way some of the time, and you also know it will arouse unpleasant thoughts and emotions, but it’s not until Week 1 kicks off that you truly reconnect with the frustrations, disappointments and outright rage the NFL experience so reliably elicits.

Where to begin? In the high-stakes Stopa league, my two expensive backs are Le’Veon Bell and Leonard Fournette. Luckily, I was able to land a cheap Marquise Goodwin though. And it would be no problem having Sam Bradford as my QB-flex while waiting for Jameis Winston.

In the RotoWire Steak League, I lost Marqise Lee for the season, but I had Doug Baldwin as my No. 1 WR at least and Fournette as a steady running back. Good thing I started Nick Foles on Thursday night over Tyrod Taylor. And thankfully I invested heavily in IDPs like Joey Bosa, given my other weaknesses.

And that’s not getting into my two shares of Delanie Walker, high-stakes share of Greg Olsen picked up Friday and various other examples of valuable draft capital now lying in ruin. But fantasy teams are – unless you lost David Johnson last year – largely fixable, and the season is long, i.e., the torture has just begun, and it’s torture for everyone, not just you.

So the real calamity yesterday was losing three of four survivor entries in one fell swoop. Really, 40 points wasn’t enough against Ryan Fitzpatrick? Every time I think Sean Payton has things figured out, he astounds me. It’s bad enough Mike McCarthy has only one Super Bowl in the Aaron Rodgers era – more on that game below – but at least McCarthy’s teams are always in the playoffs when Rodgers is healthy. Payton has lost much more often than he should with peak Drew Brees. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so cavalier about assuming the gains the Saints made on defense were sustainable.

A couple good things happened too. I have a few shares of Adrian Peterson and George Kittle, my supercontest picks went 4-1 ATS, I have two shares of Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham (both of whom did well against arguably the league’s best defense), three of Jarvis Landry and two of Mike Evans, who was steeply discounted from last year’s price. But the bad outweighed the good as it usually does. Survivor is permanent, and I also write the column for the site, about which I feel worse than I do for my own entries.

• The Sunday night game was frustrating. I had the Packers against the spread, and that was easy to let go of because it wasn’t a Supercontest pick and they were down 20-0 in the second half. But my lone Ravens survivor entry would have benefited had Green Bay lost, and I also have a Rams/Packers side-bet with Dalton Del Don. But it wasn’t simply that Chicago lost, but how they lost. Up three with two-minutes left and facing Aaron Rodgers, Matt Nagy settled for a short field goal on 4th-and-1 rather than going for the win, then and there? How dumb to be up six – sure, a FG doesn’t tie the game anymore, but now instead of going for the tie, the Packers are forced to go for the win – and rely on your defense against Rodgers who had solved it all quarter.

The Bears were lucky the Packers scored so quickly and left them plenty of time to get a game-winning field goal. But instead of running their offense with short dump-offs and screens to their backs, they abandoned it and had Mitchell Trubisky – who did not look sharp – drop back and fire the ball 15-20 yards down the field on four straight throws.

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• Rodgers left early in the game, but was clearly fine, with 9.5 YPA and three TDs. His back up DeShone Kizer was unsurprisingly terrible.

• Khalil Mack wasted no time getting going for his new team with a pick, a sack and a touchdown.

• Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen both ran effectively, but Howard out-carried him 15:5 and actually saw five targets to Cohen’s four. But Cohen was on the field during the final, failed drive.

• Allen Robinson led the Bears with seven targets – he’s the clear No. 1, while Trey Burton had six, but caught only one.

• Randall Cobb had a huge game, thanks to the game-winning 75-yard TD catch, but he caught eight other mostly short passes too. Davante Adams was quiet most of the game, but had a 50-yard catch and a TD on the penultimate drive. Geronimo Allison looks like the clear No. 3 with eight targets. Jimmy Graham (four targets, eight yards) was an afterthought.

• Jamaal Williams had 15 carries for 47 yards. He runs hard, but he hardly cemented his case to keep the job once Aaron Jones returns in Week 3.

• A road matchup against the Panthers isn’t easy, but the Cowboys offense is toothless. No downfield throws, six sacks taken. Dak Prescott and Jason Garrett are way too conservative. This might give Cole Beasley some PPR value, but his ceiling is five or six TDs.

• Zeke Elliott will get his, but he’s probably not going to catch more than 50 passes, and the offense is a drag.

• Christian McCaffrey had 10 carries to C.J. Anderson’s seven. Both got touches inside the five, but Cam Newton and the fullback scored the TDs. McCaffrey did have six catches for 45 yards, but if you were expecting a workhorse, you’ve probably been had.

Newton salvaged his day on the ground as he often does, and no receiver did anything of note. Greg Olsen is likely out for a while if not the entire season.

While McCaffrey’s not a workhorse, Adrian Peterson surely is – 26 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 70 more (though in garbage time.)  He’s the lead back on a competent offensive team, and his light workload the last two years probably buys him a final solid season if he stays healthy.

• Chris Thompson picked up right where he left off last year – a poor man’s Alvin Kamara, scoring and producing again at what surely must be an unsustainable pace (six catches, 128 YFS, TD.)

• Jordan Reed caught four of five targets for 48 yards and a score. If he’s healthy, he’s a top-seven TE, especially with Walker and Olsen going down. Between Reed and Thompson, and slot man Jamison Crowder, there might not be much left for the outside receivers.

• David Johnson broke through late with a score, but the Arizona offense looked terrible with Sam Bradford. Can’t imagine it’ll be long before Josh Rosen takes over, barring a significant turnaround next week. Larry Fitzgerald, 10 targets, nine catches, 76 yards, got his at least.

• If Doug Baldwin misses significant time, it’s a free-for-all among the Seattle pass catchers. Will Dissly, a fourth-round rookie, led the team in receiving this week, but it could be Tyler Lockett (who did nothing until one blown coverage for a 51-yard TD), Brandon Marshall (TD, second TD called back for OPI), or anyone else.

• Russell Wilson (3 TD, 9.0 YPA) did just fine against a tough Denver pass defense without Baldwin, so he might be okay while we figure it who he’s throwing to.

• Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny split carries, with the former getting 51 yards and the latter eight, though both were roughly equal in the passing game.

• Case Keenum threw three picks, but had 329 yards and three TDs, targeting both Emmanuel Sanders (11-10-135-1) and Demaryius Thomas (10-6-63-1) heavily. The narrow tree is still in effect.

• Royce Freeman was okay – 15 carries for 71 yards – but so was Phillip Lindsay who had the exact same ground-stat line. The difference was Lindsay also caught two passes for 31 yards and scored, while Freeman did not receive a single target. Devontae Booker had two targets for 11 yards.

• Every year the stat guys love the Chargers, and every year they disappoint. Joey Bosa is out for several weeks, the special teams gave up a TD on its first punt and they dropped a “home” game to their key rival despite being favored by 3.5 points. No one ever went broke betting against the Chargers.

• Philip Rivers got 8.3 YPA, three TDs and 424 yards, though, bolstering further his untouchable stats-to-wins ratio.

• Say what you want about Melvin Gordon, but if you took McCaffrey over him, you might want to re-check the definition of “workhorse”. Gordon had 15 carries and 13 targets, nine catches and 166 YFS, and that was despite Austin Ekeler getting 87 receiving yards and a TD.

• Keenan Allen did his usual 11-8-108-1 (unremarkable given the team’s 424 pass yards) and Mike Williams looks like the No. 2 with 6-5-81 over Tyrell Williams’ 5-2-8-1.

• As a Kareem Hunt backer, I’m concerned. He had 16 carries, which is fine, but I don’t like the trick dump-offs to Tyreek Hill and De’Anthony Thomas at the goal line. It certainly helped Pat Mahomes (four TD passes), but those should be Hunt’s TDs. Hunt also got only one target and no catches. It’s not panic time by any means, but those little vultures here and there chip away at his status as a first-round pick.

• Tyreek Hill is a monster. He had only eight targets, but he converted them to seven catches for 169 yards and three TDs (including a return.) The Chiefs defense isn’t good, so they’ll be in their share of shootouts, and the real test for Hill will be whether he ever gets 12 or 15 targets. As it stands he could get 120 targets for 1,300 yards and 11 TD, but the real Antonio-Brown-esque upside will only kick in (especially in PPR) if he gets to 150 targets.

• Sammy Watkins seems like the guy he was on the Rams – a decoy more than a primary look, but it’s only been one game, albeit disturbingly one where neither Travis Kelce nor Hunt were involved as receivers, and Watkins still didn’t see much work.

• There’s not much you can take away from the Ravens-Bills except that Kelvin Benjamin and LeSean McCoy are hard to trust in the near term. This game was garbage time from the beginning.

• Saquon Barkley got most of his production on one play, but he broke tackles and showed off his 4.4 speed on it. He caught only two passes, but had six targets, so he’s likely game-flow proof.

• Odell Beckham went 15-11-111, and should have had a long TD but Eli Manning overthrew him. This was against the league’s best pass defense. He’s all the way back.

• Sterling Shepard had seven targets and Evan Engram five. The only thing that can stop the Giants core stars is Manning’s inaccuracy. But this system and personnel will put him in position to succeed against most teams (Manning had 6.1 YPA and a pick-six.)

• Leonard Fournette went down early with a hamstring injury, but looked sharp and caught three passes. To the extent he’s healthy, he’ll still have a major workload as a runner and receiver.

• The Giants pass defense played well – Janoris Jenkins was a Pro Bowler, and Eli Apple had one of the better games of his disappointing career. Accordingly, Blake Bortles and the receivers didn’t do much, but it looks like Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook are Nos. 1 and 1A.

• It was bad timing for DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans and the Saints defense to revert to 2016 form all at once. The result was 293 yards, three TDs and one concussion (Jackson) between them. Ryan Fitzpatrick had 417 yards, 14.9! YPA, four TDs and a rushing TD. It was one of the bigger fantasy QB games of all time, and one has to wonder if Jameis Winston will get the job immediately upon his return from suspension. Either way, as bad as the Saints defense looked, the Bucs passing offense is loaded.

• O.J. Howard had only two targets but 54 yards receiving, i.e., he picked up where he left off last year. Chris Godwin also went 4-3-41-1. Cameron Brate didn’t catch either of his two targets.

• Peyton Barber was merely passable, didn’t have any catches. Ronald Jones was a healthy scratch.

• If the Saints defense is half as bad as it looked, Drew Brees will go down as one of the steals of the draft. He had 439 yards, 9.8 YPA and three TDs. Michael Thomas had a monster 17-16-180-1 line, and Alvin Kamara went 12-9-112-1 as a receiver and scored twice on eight carries for 39 yards. Whether Kamara sees a full workload as a runner won’t be clear until the Saints are actually leading for a decent stretch of game.

• With so many receivers banged up, Rob Gronkowski had a big day, but his target share (eight of 39) was nothing unusual. He just does a lot with the work he gets. Philip Dorsett and James White (seven and nine targets, respectively) were the only other relevant factors in the passing game. Dorsett who went 7-66-1 might be entering the circle of trust. Chris Hogan had five targets, but caught only one pass for 11 yards.

• Rex Burkhead led the team with 18 carries but caught only one of three targets. We’ll see how the workload is split once Sony Michel (knee) returns, but Burkhead is at least ahead of Jeremy Hill.

• Tom Brady had an unremarkable 277 yards, 7.1 YPA, three TDs and a pick during a relatively easy win. He didn’t seem especially bothered by the absence of Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman.

• Deshaun Watson had a poor game – just 5.2 YPA, a pick and a lost fumble. He did have 40 rushing yards and moved well.

• DeAndre Hopkins had a pedestrian 11-8-78 line, but he almost never gets entirely shut down. Bruce Ellington caught a short TD.

• Lamar Miller went 20-for-98 and caught one pass for 11 yards, but yielded the TD to Alfred Blue.

• Jimmy Garoppolo had his chances, but threw three picks in his first loss as a starter. He still managed 7.9 YPA and threw for 261 yards and a TD against a tough defense on the road. Don’t be concerned.

• George Kittle’s stock went way up. He’s healthy and looks like Garoppolo’s first read, going 9-5-90.  Dante Pettis made a great catch on a long TD and had five targets. He could fill in for Marquise Goodwin, if Goodwin misses time. Pierre Garcon didn’t do much with six targets, and neither did Trent Taylor.

• Matt Breida outrushed Alfred Morris (who lost a fumble), but neither did much against a stout Vikings front. Reserve judgment for one more game.

• The Vikings ran the same offense as last year – with Kirk Cousins doing what he had to, Adam Thielen outproducing Stefon Diggs, though Diggs scored, Kyle Rudolph catching a TD and the backs splitting the ground work, though Dalvin Cook saw seven targets for 55 yards. Latavius Murray will be involved for now, though.

• The Titans season went downhill in a hurry. Marcus Mariota is already hurt, and Delanie Walker is out for the year. Jonnu Smith is interesting at TE, but only in deep leagues. Dion Lewis outsnapped and outproduced Derrick Henry by a wide margin, scoring the TD and getting involved as a pass catcher. Corey Davis is the No. 1 WR, and it’s unclear how the rest of the pecking order will play out, or how much it will matter.

• Kenny Stills is still the Dolphins best receiver, though targets were roughly an even split between him, Jakeem Grant (return TD), Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. And that’s with DeVante Parker still out.

• Adam Gase wasn’t joking apparently when he said Frank Gore would split carries. Gore actually ran better than Kenyan Drake, though Drake saw four targets. But this was an odd game with multiple lightning delays.

• Joe Mixon had a big day – 149 YFS and a score. Keep in mind it was against a soft Colts defense, but the good news for Mixon is Gio Bernard had only one carry and one catch.

• A.J. Green is a fumbling machine, but he went 8-6-92-1. Tyler Eifert caught all three of his targets for 44 yards, a good sign for a player working his way back to health.

• T.Y. Hilton had 11 targets, and Jack Doyle 10, but Doyle fumbled on the final drive, and it was returned for a TD, sealing the game. Eric Ebron 5-4-51-1 was also involved as was Ryan Grant, 9-8-59.

• Andrew Luck wasn’t efficient but went for 319 yards and two scores on 53 attempts. Expect Luck to be among the league leaders in attempts if he stays healthy. Jordan Wilkins got the start at running back, but didn’t do much – 14 carries for 40 yards and three catches for 21. Nyheem Hines had 37 snaps (compared to 46 for Wilkins) and was involved in the short passing game (9-7-33.)

• If it were possible to award both the Browns and Steelers losses the league should. Ben Roethlisberger threw three picks and lost two fumbles, continuing his subpar road play, and the Browns couldn’t cash in, thanks to a blocked field goal in overtime. The Steelers also missed a 42-yard field goal in overtime in part because they saw no particular need to advance the ball any closer, despite rain and wind.

• Le’Veon Bell lost some leverage in his holdout as his replacement James Conner went 31-135-2 on the ground and 6-5-57 through the air, typical Bell numbers, though Conner lost a key fumble. Whoever starts for the Steelers is a workhorse, though I wonder if Bell reported for Week 2, whether they saw enough from Conner to split things up as Bell apparently seems to want.

• Antonio Brown saw a whopping 16 targets, but had a relatively modest 9-93-1 line. Ever-efficient Juju Smith Schuster went 8-5-119 but didn’t score. Jesse James went 5-3-60, serving as the offense’s No 4 option.

• Tyrod Taylor had a nice game on the ground – 77 yards and a TD, but managed only 4.9 YPA through the air.

• Jarvis Landry is clearly the team’s top wideout with a 15-7-106 line, but Josh Gordon scored a big TD late and should have a bigger load next week.

• Carlos Hyde had 22 ineffective carries, but only two targets to Duke Johnson’s six. Nick Chubb had three effective carries and could obviously cut into Hyde’s role at some point.