Week 1 Observations

Week 1 Observations

This article is part of our NFL Observations series.

That was a horrible week. I know, I know, it was great to have an ounce of normalcy in a year of distress and disorientation, and say what you want about the NFL, it delivered. The quality of play didn't even seem to suffer at all. Maybe OTAs and preseason are just the equivalent of showing your face at the office so people think you're doing your job. But for me, it was a familiar kind of misery like when you've ingested hallucinogens for the 20th time, they kick in and you're like, "Oh, right, this again." (Not that I actually know what that's like.)

The problem, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, is that predictions are hard, especially of the future. The things we think are just things we think, and reality DGAF. My daughter believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy until last month, and I actually thought Odell Beckham would go off this year. The myths of youth die off one at a time until you become a soulless data scientist, who can beat the spread at a 53 percent clip, eke out a minor profit and die humorless and insignificant. The alpha is in the Planck-length-sized space between the data and the narrative, and unfortunately when you become entirely atheist it's permanently out of reach. And yet you ignore the science at your peril. 

Honestly, the biggest reason I'm salty is I lost in Survivor with the Colts. It seems absurd after the fact to have trusted my season to Philip Rivers on the road in a new uniform – has any player in league history single-handedly tossed away more NFL games? And my first thought after Indy lost was going forward I should pick Survivor before looking at the point spread. But then I remembered I set my own line for this game at 9.5, my biggest on the board. If there was a faulty narrative, it was that the Colts offensive line would plow through a Jaguars defense that had traded away its best players, and Rivers wouldn't be asked to do much. Reality does not care about the stories you carry in your head, and that's a truth that goes far beyond football, though few will take that sentence to its logical conclusion for obvious reasons.  

In any event, while for you Week 1 might have been a welcome respite, for me it was mostly a familiar kind of anxiety and frustration, seeing hopes squashed and myths – held in this case since baseball was postponed in late March – destroyed. Still, there were moments of elation and joy – Jonathan Taylor taking his first catch and zooming up field (only to be tackled at the one-yard line), D'Andre Swift, scoring the TD (though dropping the game-winning and spread-covering one on the penultimate play of the game), Lamar Jackson gliding around and dropping dimes like last year was no big deal and Ronald Jones looking like Ezekiel Elliott, albeit against a tough run defense. All told, Week 1 was horrible for me, there's no way to sugarcoat it, but having it back was still much better than the alternative. 

  • The Cowboys offensive line didn't give Dak Prescott enough time to throw. He was sacked three times and mostly looked underneath to his receivers and backs. Of course, his long pass to Michael Gallup to set up a would-be game-tying field goal was negated on a cheap offensive PI.
  • Zeke Elliott looks indestructible – he just smashes forward play after play, and he also saw work in the passing game. Tony Pollard will get some work, but it's not an issue for Elliott.
  • Much respect to the once conventional Mike McCarthy for going for it on 4th-and-3 from the 11-yard line, down three, with 11:46 left in the game. I'm not sure now the math works out exactly there, but it's at least close as the Rams got the ball inside their own 10 even after they failed to make it, and the Cowboys got the ball back two more times with chances to tie or win.
  • Malcolm Brown looked fine as the Rams' lead ball carrier. It seemed as if they wanted Cam Akers to be the guy, but Brown hit the holes more decisively, scored both touchdowns and even contributed as a receiver.
  • Kenyan Drake salvaged his day with a late TD, but Chase Edmonds caught three passes to Drake's two, and it seems both backs will be involved.
  • Kyler Murray wasn't efficient, but he had a monster fantasy day, running wild against one of the league's better defenses on the road.
  • DeAndre Hopkins (16-14-151) apparently will vie with Davante Adams for target hog of the year. He came at a discount late due to a minor preseason injury and the uncertainty with a new team, but looks like a bargain now.
  • Raheem Mostert had a big day, thanks to a 76-yard TD catch, but Jerick McKinnon also caught a TD and ran well. Mostert broke the Statcast record for highest speed by a ball carrier, for what it's worth. I still don't see Mostert as a workhorse.
  • George Kittle got banged up at the end of the first half, but returned. His skills are not in question, but he saw only five targets despite the injuries to the 49ers receiving corps.
  • Tom Brady looked great on the team's first drive, and that was it. Chris Godwin led the team with seven targets, but got hurt late in the game. Scotty Miller might be the new Wes Welker, though with six targets and five catches for 73 yards. O.J. Howard also got six targets (and a TD), while Rob Gronkwoski, despite playing a lot of snaps, saw only two. Mike Evans, playing hurt, did virtually nothing.
  • Drew Brees was all dink and dunk, and even Michael Thomas (5-3-17) was shut down before hurting his ankle late. Alvin Kamara salvaged his day with two TDs, though a third one in garbage time was called back, and he had little room to run.
  • Maybe Rivers was the curse after all. The Tyrod Taylor Chargers lucked into a win after A.J. Green was called for a questionable offensive PI on the would-be game-winning TD, and Randy Bullock injured himself on a botched game-tying chip shot. The Chargers are almost never on the good side of that kind of sequence.
  • Joe Mixon got his work, but didn't have room to run, while Giovani Bernard saw five targets to his two.
  • Joe Burrow scrambled well, but struggled against a tough Chargers secondary.
  • Austin Ekeler got 19 carries, but Joshua Kelley was more efficient and scored from in close. Ekeler had only one catch, and though that might be his low for the year, losing dink-and-dunk Rivers is likely to cost him. Mike Williams got banged around all game, but seemed relatively healthy.
  • Matt Ryan is the prohibitive favorite to lead the NFL in passing attempts. He had 54 for 450 yards, spreading the ball evenly between Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. Of course Ridley caught both the TDs and Jones caught none because positive TD regression happens to everyone except Jones.
  • Todd Gurley had 14 carries and scored, which is about what you might have expected.
  • Russell Wilson was nearly perfect, and the Seahawks threw 35 times to 17 non-Wilson runs. With DK Metcalf looking like a star opposite Tyler Lockett, Wilson has QB1 upside if the Seahawks do in fact turn him loose.
  • I didn't watch much of Bills-Jets, and it doesn't sound like something to regret. Lev Bell is hurt, so Frank Gore might start Week 2 at age 37. Jamison Crowder and Chris Herndon are the only Jet skill players you could credibly start.
  • Sam Darnold is making Dave Gettleman look like a genius, no mean feat.
  • Josh Allen spread the ball around and had a good fantasy day despite missing a wide open throw in the end zone. Par for the course.
  • Tough debut for Swift whose drop single-handedly cost the Lions the game. Adrian Peterson had 14 carries for 93 yards, while Swift had five targets, including the devastating drop. Kerryon Johnson had seven carries for 14 and is probably droppable if you need the space.
  • T.J. Hockenson caught all five of his targets, including a TD, but keep in mind Kenny Golladay was out.
  • The Bears skill positions were mostly true to form. David Montgomery was healthy at least.
  • Aaron Rodgers looked like he time-traveled to when he was actually good and threw the ball down the field. I faded him completely now that he doesn't run much, but Year 2 in the Matt LaFleur offense might make a difference.
  • Davante Adams (17-14-156-2) will have a monster year if Rodgers and LaFleur are truly willing to open it up. He's a target hog who gets red-zone work.
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the speed guy the Packers need, if he can stay healthy and avoid drops.
  • The Vikings only ran 49 offensive plays to the Packers' 76, so don't be alarmed to see Adam Thielen's and Dalvin Cook's modest usage numbers in a shootout. Both players scored twice, so it's not as though they let you down anyway. Olabisi Johnson got more looks (four) than rookie Justin Jefferson (3.)
  • Cam Newton was efficient as a passer and ran for two TDs. He's a perfect fit as a caretaker with playmaking upside on a great defensive team.
  • Julian Edelman led the team in targets (7), but N'Keal Harry had six. We'll see what happens when Newton is forced to air it out more.
  • The Dolphins did nothing offensively all game, but Myles Gaskin was their best running back. DeVante Parker injured his hamstring and likely will miss some games. Preston Williams might not be all the way back from his ACL tear, though.
  • It's amazing people were still drafting Miles Sanders in the first round despite news that he was "week to week" with a lower body injury in the preseason.
  • Of course Peyton Barber got 17 carries, 1.7 YPC and both rushing TDs. The Football Team running game is likely to be a headache all year.
  • Football Team is a great name for a football team.
  • Christian McCaffrey is so automatic there's nothing left to say.
  • D.J. Moore led the team in targets, but Robby Anderson made the big plays and scored the TD.
  • Josh Jacobs had a monster day with three TDs, six targets and four catches. He won't be facing the Panthers every week, unfortunately.
  • After a lot of preseason hype, Bryan Edwards had only one target while first-round draft pick Henry Ruggs went 5-3-55.
  • With Marlon Mack potentially out for the year with a torn Achilles' (it hasn't been confirmed yet) Jonathan Taylor should be a monster. And Nyheim Hines should be playable as Rivers is all dink and dunk to his backs at this point.
  • Parris Campbell looked pretty good and led the team with a 9-6-71 line, but I don't see enough deep throws to him or T.Y. Hilton from Rivers.
  • Gardner Minshew looked sharp, James Robinson was credible as the starting back and Laviska Shenault saw two carries and four targets.
  • Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham picked up where they left off last season – disjointed, haphazard and disconnected. Beckham actually saw 10 targets, but caught only three of them for 22 yards, albeit against a tough secondary.
  • Kareem Hunt saw most of the work – 13 carries for 72 yards and four catches for nine yards to Nick Chubb's 10-for-60 and one for six. Chubb is still the early-down starter, but apparently negative game flow is still a big risk for him.
  • Lamar Jackson made it look easy, getting 11.0 YPA, three TD passes and 45 yards on the ground. It's possible he was underdrafted this year, a rarity from a QB coming off an all-time season.
  • Marquise Brown (6-5-101) and Mark Andrews (6-5-58-2) did most of the damage for the Ravens, a good sign for them in a game where the opponent scored only six points. Rookie J.K. Dobbins got seven carries to Mark Ingram's 10, but scored both the running TDs.
  • One silver lining is I pivoted at the last minute to the Ravens from the Colts in one of my three Survivor pools – a rare oasis of clarity in desert of faulty assumptions.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Liss
Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.
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