This article is part of our East Coast Offense series.
Zero RB, Zero WR
Of my seven drafts this year, I was most proud of my zero-RB NFFC Online one. I bravely resisted the absurd running-back inflation, wisely taking safest-player-on-the-board Michael Thomas over injury-prone, and potential contract holdout Dalvin Cook with pick No. 5, refused to push up a RB in Round 2, getting Tyreek Hill and nabbed Rd. 3 bargain Odell Beckham, too. I took TE Mark Andrews in the fourth, knowing another great wideout would be there in Rd. 5, and sure enough there was Terry McLaurin for my full PPR flex spot.
Of course, this left me thin at RB, but I knew I could find a few useful ones. D'Andre Swift in the sixth, Ronald Jones in the seventh, Jordan Howard (who mercifully I benched in Week 1) in the eighth, Nyheim Hines (who unfortunately I also benched) in the 11th, AJ Dillon in the 14th and Jerick McKinnon in Rd. 15. All I needed was one of them to be good immediately, and another to be serviceable, and with my amazing WR/TE, I'd crush the rest of the league.
It turns out Jones looked pretty good, Hines seems like he'll be a fine PPR starter with Mack out and Rivers dumping off all the time, and McKinnon and Swift both have upside too. I should feel great about this team! Unfortunately, Thomas put up his first sub-10-point game since 2018 before spraining his ankle, Beckham got 22 yards on 10 targets, McLaurin had a modest 5-for-61 and even Hill, who had a decent game, didn't go crazy.
It's only one week, but it goes to show that no matter your strategy, it still comes down to picking the right players. Contrast my Week 1 start with a zero-RB team that took Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins at the 12-13 turn, came back in Rd. 3 with Adam Thielen and Rd. 4 with Calvin Ridley and got more or less the same backs I did. That would look like a league winner – at least as much as any team could after a single week.
Week 2 Sporcle Quiz
Can you name all the players who received at least nine targets in Week 1?
Guessing The Lines
|Game||My Line||Guessed Line||Actual Line||ML-AL||O/U||Actual O/U||MO-AO|
|Bengals at Browns||4||3||6||-2||47||44||3|
|Jaguars at Titans||10||10||10.5||-0.5||45||43||2|
|Panthers at Buccaneers||8.5||9.5||8.5||0||50||49||1|
|Broncos at Steelers||7||8||6.5||0.5||42||43||-1|
|Rams at Eagles||3||3||-1||4||46||46||0|
|49ers at Jets||-6.5||-7.5||-7||0.5||42||42.5||-0.5|
|Bills at Dolphins||-4||-6.5||-5.5||1.5||42||41.5||0.5|
|Vikings at Colts||6||4||3||3||47||48||-1|
|Lions at Packers||7.5||8.5||6||1.5||48||47.5||0.5|
|Falcons at Cowboys||8||8||5||3||54||52.5||1.5|
|Giants at Bears||2.5||3.5||5.5||-3||44||43||1|
|Football Team at Cardinals||5.5||6||6.5||-1||43||46.5||-3.5|
|Chiefs at Chargers||-8||-8.5||-8.5||0.5||49||48||1|
|Ravens at Texans||-6||-6.5||-6.5||0.5||50||52.5||-2.5|
|Patriots at Seahawks||3||4||4||-1||43||45||-2|
|Saints at Raiders||-4.5||-6||-5.5||1||48||51.5||-3.5|
It looks early on like I'm on the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and Colts, essentially some of the worst underperformers from Week 1. Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind (but almost never do) in Beating the Book.
Week 1 Observations
- The Giants have invested heavily in their offensive line the last few years, a second-round pick (guard Will Hernandez) in 2018, a trade for guard Kevin Zeitler last year, and first (Andrew Thomas), third (Matt Peart) and fifth (Shane Lemieux) round picks in 2020. And that's not counting 2018 free-agent signee Nate Solder who opted out this year. Granted the Steelers have a great defense, but the early ROI on the Giants blockers has been disappointing.
- It's disconcerting new Giants head coach Joe Judge punted on 4th-and-1 (4th-and-6 after a DOG penalty) from the Steelers 40 on the team's first drive. He also settled for a 21-yard field goal rather than going for the TD on 4th-and-goal from the two-yard line. For whatever reason, the fruit from the Bill Belichick coaching tree is mostly rotten.
- Saquon Barkley, who had 15 carries for six yards, was met three yards in the backfield on most plays and had nowhere to go. He did catch six passes for 60 yards on nine targets, a 96-catch pace on the year which might be realistic if he stays healthy.
- Daniel Jones, aside from one pick where T.J. Watt fooled him and one bad decision to stretch a play that resulted in his arm getting hit and a consequent interception, looked good to me. He was accurate, attacked downfield and scrambled well, despite not having a ton of time.
- Darius Slayton is the Giants best receiver. He's faster than possession man Sterling Shepard and more reliable than injury prone and concentration-lapsing Evan Engram, who had a terrible game.
- James Conner (ankle) is already hurt again, and Benny Snell looks spry enough to run with the job. Conner's price kept going up toward draft day, but sometimes the market's first impression is correct.
- Diontae Johnson led the Steelers with 10 targets, but Juju Smith-Schuster caught two of the three touchdows, the other going to James Washington. Rookie Chase Claypool also made plays, making this one of the deeper receiving corps in the league.
- Ben Roethlisberger wasn't especially sharp, but he looked healthy enough and threw three TDs without a pick.
- Stephen Gostkowski delivered a clutch game-winning field goal against the Broncos. Well, it was only a 25-yarder, and the only reason the game was close is that he missed three others and an extra point, but he's still got the job apparently.
- Phillip Lindsay hurt his foot, leaving Melvin Gordon (15-78-1, 3-3-8) the bulk of the work. Gordon did lose a fumble on a reception, though.
- Drew Lock played passably and was hurt by two Jerry Jeudy drops and the absence of Courtland Sutton. Lock is hardly a sure thing, but when the team's at full strength, he has a lot of weapons.
- Noah Fant led the team with a 6-5-81-1 line and looked fast in open space. Jeudy went 8-4-56, and despite the drops, looked smooth and mostly comfortable.
- Ryan Tannehill mostly threw short, but got two TDs, both to tight ends.
- Derrick Henry slogged his way to 116 yards on 31 carries and saw a little work in the passing game (3-for-15.) But practice squad call-up Jeremy McNichols was in on third downs at times, so it's unclear whether Henry's targets will really increase much this year.
- Corey Davis (8-7-101) and Adam Humphries (7-6-47) both outproduced A.J. Brown (8-5-39), and Jonnu Smith (7-4-36-1) caught a touchdown. The only knock on Brown was lack of consistent volume, though he's on a 128 target pace. The concern is Davis, the fifth overall pick in 2017, still seems to be in the team's plans along with Humphries who signed a big free-agent deal last year.
- Vic Fangio neglected to use his timeouts after the Titans were already in range for a game-winning field goal, giving his team insufficient time to mount a final drive. You'd think these billion dollar organizations would clean up this leak by now, but you'd be wrong.
- 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 Philip 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. Le'Veon 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 is out for the year with a torn Achilles' tendon. 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.