Week 1 Observations

Of the ~375 fantasy football weeks I’ve endured over the last 23 years, this had to be bottom five. For starters, I lost three of my four survivor entries before the season even started. Then I went 4-10 ATS pending Monday night. Virtually all my teams have either Tom Brady, Andy Dalton or Andrew Luck as their primary quarterbacks, and the Patriots, Texans and Giants as their defenses. I sat Kenny Golladay in one of two leagues in which I have him and Austin Hooper in two of three.

• The survivor loss hurts most, and it’s not because the Steelers and Bills (my other “viable” choices won) while my pick, the Patriots lost. I didn’t feel good about either of those games, and I don’t think the played out in a no-brainer way, either. It hurts because the game I instinctively liked best was the Rams-Colts, but I never seriously considered it because the line was only 3.5. Had the line been seven-plus, I might well have taken the Rams at home against the Luck-less, skill-less Colts, but the small line put them out of the range of permissible choices for me. That was a mistake. While the Vegas lines are *in general* a good guideline as to the probabilities, in particular they don’t mean much.

Put differently, while Vegas is *on average* pretty good at setting the spreads, the average doesn’t say much about the variance. If you need to be five feet tall not to fall out of the rollercoaster, making sure the average rider is 5-5, would result in a lot of deaths at the amusement park. The average isn’t especially helpful when it comes to the particulars. As my goal is to get the particular game right, tossing out anything Vegas doesn’t say on average has an 80-ish percent chance of winning was dumb. In Beating the Book, I predicted the Rams would win 24-6, a margin of 18, four points more than the margin I predicted for the Patriots. While those scores are just an off-top-of-the-head hunch, they are reflective of my instincts about the games.

What’s worse, I even addressed this mistake in my magazine survivor column. While the method of using win probability and ownership levels as co-factors is correct, I cautioned against relying solely on Vegas as a reliable barometer of win probability. Then I went ahead and did just that.

• The Giants offense without Odell Beckham is a joke. It’s basically the Colts without Andrew Luck or the Texans with Tom Savage. Checking the ball down to small-play targets like Shane Vereen and Sterling Shepard was all they had. Paul Perkins went nowhere, the offensive line couldn’t block, Brandon Marshall couldn’t get open, and Eli Manning couldn’t make a play. But at least Beckham wasn’t “distracting” them. I’ve said it before – Eli Manning would be Matt Hasselbeck had the Giants not drafted Beckham three years ago.

• The Cowboys defense is probably bad, but they drew a laughably easy matchup. Don’t read into it.

• Ezekiel Elliott looked good, but the Giants defense – though stout – got tired of being on the field the entire game. Dak Prescott also looked good, but had to do very little.

• Aaron Rodgers is a monster. Trying to stop him from running out the clock late in games is a nightmare. The Seahawks defense played great all game, but Rodgers’ ability to scramble, his zip, accuracy, rapport with his receivers and decision making was too much.

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• Jordy Nelson is no longer a big-play threat, but he’s still Rodgers’ clear No. 1 and catches everything.

• Maybe Ty Montgomery really is the Packers’ three-down back. He wasn’t efficient, but he’ll have easier matchups than the Seahawks going forward.

• Seattle’s style of offense whereby the QB runs for his life and throws on the move is high degree of difficulty – even for Russell Wilson.

• Paul Richardson looks like Seattle’s No. 2 (seven targets to Tyler Lockett’s three.)

• Jimmy Graham had a terrible game, dropping a third-down conversion that would have kept the Seahawks alive. Still, he had seven targets, at least one of which was in the end zone.

• Chris Carson was the only competent running back. And there’s no compelling reason for Seattle to stick with Eddie Lacy or Thomas Rawls.

 Cam Newton looked awfully rusty, missing wide-open receivers and would-be touchdowns. I wouldn’t worry about him long-term though.

•  Christian McCaffery got a lot of work, 13 carries, seven targets, five catches. The broadcast kept trying to make the point he was a Steph Curry of sorts, making everyone else better because of his unique skill set that required the defense to play differently, but it seemed like a stretch.

• Kelvin Benjamin had only five targets and one catch. Newton spreads the ball around like a poor man’s Drew Brees.

• Pierre Garcon is a decent bet to be top-10 in targets and catches this year.

• The Colts should be a pick ’em against the Jets right now on a neutral field. If Indy goes 0-4, does it even bother bringing Luck back this year? If so, to what end?

• Marlon Mack looks like Frank Gore’s backup, though Robert Turbin got some work near the goal line.

• Todd Gurley was inefficient as ever, but scored a TD and caught five passes for 56 yards. The matchups won’t get easier, either.

• Jared Goff looked sharp and accurate, Sammy Watkins healthy and Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods competent, albeit against a soft opponent.

• So much for my theory that Hurricane Harvey would inspire the Texans to play well. That narrative worked for the Saints after Katrina, but maybe it works only after female hurricanes.

• The Texans quarterback play in the first half was uncivilized, barbaric – “savage” if you will. It’s amazing Bill O’Brien started Savage over the more mobile, improvisational DeShaun Watson behind that awful offensive line.

• If Allen Robinson is out for the year, Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns should be useful. Lee did nothing Sunday, but the Jaguars didn’t need much from their passing game.

• Maybe the offseason hype about the Jaguars defense was legitimate, but we’ll need to see them do it against a better opponent.

• Leonard Fournette didn’t blow anyone away, but he was the team’s workhorse with 26 carries and three targets.

• Nelson Agholor had a big game, but take away his 58-yard TD on a busted play, and he was 5-for-28 on six targets.

• Zach Ertz producing before Week 16 is a revelation. He’s the team’s No. 1 target right now.

• Alshon Jeffery had three catches on seven targets for 38 yards. The Eagles like to spread around, so he’s in Kelvin Benjamin territory for me.

• Terrelle Pryor dropped a potential TD, but he had six catches on 11 targets. There’s no reason not to be bullish on him.

• Marshawn Lynch looked surprisingly spry for a 31-year old that had been away from the game for a year. We’ll see how he holds up as the year goes on, but so far so good.

• Amari Cooper finally got the red-zone looks of which he had been so unfairly deprived, but converted only one out of four.

• Corey Davis led the team with 10 targets, but it was a fairly even split between him, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker (nine each.) Eric Decker (three) was the odd man out in Week 1.

• Golden Tate is easy money in PPR – 12 targets, 10 catches, 107 yards, but Kenny Golladay made the big play and scored two TDs. While Marvin Jones caught a TD, he was again an afterthought with only two targets.

• Larry Fitzgerald was up to his old tricks – 13 targets for 74 yards. John Brown had nine targets and only caught four for 32, and you have to worry about Carson Palmer (5.6 YPA, three picks.)

• David Johnson was ineffective as a rusher, but still made plays in the passing game. Unfortunately, he sprained his wrist and might miss significant time. Some scrub – Andre Ellington or Kerwynn Williams – is likely to fill in, though the team could always bring in Chris Johnson’s carcass. When was the last time the No. 1 overall player by ADP got seriously injured in Week 1? Think about how excited people were to draw the No. 1 pick too. What a disaster.

•  Antonio Brown caught all 11 of his targets for 182 yards, while Martavis Bryant caught two of six for 14. It’s hard to carve out a big role when the guy on the other side has a massive one. Still, let’s reserve judgment until after a home game where the Steelers pass offense is typically far better.

• DeShone Kizer looked okay to me, given the limited snaps I watched and that it was his first NFL game.

• Jeff Erickson warned me about the Bengals offensive line, and I blew it off and drafted Dalton everywhere. Four picks, five sacks and a fumble later, I’m thinking maybe I should not have.

• Javoris Allen had 21 carries and could be the team’s primary pass catcher now that Danny Woodhead is out. Incidentally, who thought it was a good idea to draft a 32-year old coming off an ACL tear and missing time with another preseason injury? Woodhead’s absence is good for Terrance West too.

• The Bengals look like a three-headed committee at RB right now, though it won’t matter if they can’t block anyone.

• I wasn’t worried about Jordan Howard – even after Tarik Cohen exploded onto the scene yesterday – until Howard dropped a potential game-winning TD on the team’s final series. In Howard’s favor is Cohen’s build (5-6,179) makes him unlikely ever to see a heavy workload. Even Maurice Jones Drew was more like 5-6, 195. Still, Cohen could be a 100-carry, 50-catch player, highly valuable in PPR.

Like last year Matt Ryan spread the ball around to everyone, bad news for Julio Jones whose ceiling depends on Ryan reverting to 2015 form. Austin Hooper saw only two targets, but made the most of them dismissing a hapless Bears DB with a straight-arm en route to an 88-yard TD.

The Jets-Bills went pretty much to form, with Mike Tolbert vulturing LeSean McCoy’s TD and Charles Clay being Tyrod Taylor’s first look.

• There’s no point in the Jets trotting out Josh McCown’s rotted corpse. He’s bad, and he’s got nothing to offer them going forward. Whether it’s Christian Hackenberg, or unknown as-yet-to-be-signed free agent, they have to make a switch.

• It’s pretty sad Kevin White is likely out for the year with a broken collarbone. Looks like he’s taken the Yatil Green career path.