Fantasy Football Intelligence: Downloading Week One

One week does not make a trend. If you are sitting with Michael Thomas, Nick Chubb or any other brand name that under-delivered, don’t overreact to the events of one week – especially in a season with no exhibition games. As predicted, teams with coach and QB changes opened slower than those that had more stability. Teams with a new coach or QB were 3-7 this week – the winners were Cam Newton, Ron Rivera and Tyrod Taylor. Taylor beat another new QB, rookie Joe Burrow, who made some plays, but would have benefited from a preseason. Losses went to Stefanski, Burrow, Rivers, McCarthy, Ruhle/Bridgwater, Brady and Judge. New OC’s Gary Kubiak, Pat Shurmur and Chan Gailey also lost.

Last night I tweeted a prediction that the Brady trolls in the media will be breathlessly saying, “He’s thrown a pick six in his last three games!” While true, don’t grade him too harshly in his first performance with a new team facing one of the better defenses in the league. He will be in my top 12 next week for a home game against Carolina, but he won’t be at his best in Tampa for a few more weeks at least, so react accordingly.

MIke Tyson said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. Nobody got punched in the preseason, so some teams may take longer to gel. Don’t bail too soon on someone with a track record, but do look at how teams behaved now that they are finally facing live ammo.

Imposing a four sentence maximum, we give you what you need to know from each game while setting a record for the most semicolons used in a fantasy football blog.

KC 34 HOU 20 – Chiefs look like a juggernaut and CEH fit like a glove; we had him at RB7 and that may have been low. Use Watkins while he is healthy, don’t play Hardman unless Hill or Watkins gets hurt. David Johnson and Will Fuller played well for Houston; if they string a few good games together (won’t be easy with BAL, @PIT the next two weeks) owners will have an interesting keep or trade high decision next month. Johnson, who we had at RB15 (vs. consensus RB19) flashed vintage skills and scored well despite a terrible game script – staying upright will be key to his value.

BUF 27 NYJ 17 – Buffalo passed well and Allen is still their best runner; Singletary does not look like a reliable starter and neither is Moss…yet. Diggs caught 8/9 targets, but Buffalo won’t throw 46 times every week. Other than Jamison Crowder in PPR, the Jets have no reliable starters and Le’Veon Bell will miss multiple weeks.  Frank Gore will probably be the nominal starter, but neither he nor any other back on the roster is likely to bring value against SF next week.

NE 21 MIA 11 – Cam Newton delivered a usable fantasy performance with his legs while the passing game remains a work in progress; he isn’t an every week starter yet, but particularly in leagues where rushing TDs are 6 and passing are 4, he is on the radar. Patriots defense continues to exploit weak offenses, Sunday night in Seattle will be a better test for both sides of the ball. Preston Williams had 7 targets to Parker’s 4 for Miami, but Parker saw a lot more of Gilmore before he (Parker) got injured. Myles Gaskin led the Miami backfield with 13 touches and he is currently 0% owned in Yahoo leagues.

BAL 38 CLE 6 – The Kevin Stefanski era begins the way the Freddie Kitchens era ended with lots of mistakes and poor QB play, which makes Mayfield and all of his receivers risky fantasy propositions at best. Baltimore was dominant led by fantasy and real life MVP candidate Lamar Jackson. Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown benefited from a greater emphasis on the pass while rookie J.K. Dobbins scored twice to highlight an otherwise unimpressive day on the ground for the Ravens. The game script should be much better for Cleveland’s skill players when they host Cincinnati on Thursday; we are suspending judgment until then.

JAX 27 IND 20 – Behind 19/20 completions and 3 TDs from MInshew, the Jags pulled a major upset. The fantasy relevant takeaways mostly pertain to the running backs; Marlon Mack’s season ending injury raises the value of Jonathan Taylor and James Robinson (56% owned) had 17 touches as the Jags’ starting HB. WR Parris Campbell (22% owned) saw nine targets (6/71), tying Hilton (4/53) for the most on the team; he is a worthwhile pickup. The Colts threw two picks, missed a short FG and got stopped on a 4th down at the Jags’ 3 yard line; the next six games before their bye are eminently winnable and the Colts are well coached, don’t jump off the bandwagon yet.

WAS 27 PHI 17 – The Eagles offensive line injuries came home to roost with Washington recording 8 sacks and intercepting Wentz twice. Without Miles Sanders, the Eagles running game was unreliable while Peyton Barber emerged as a vulture that limits the upside of Washington’s Antonio Gibson. Dallas Goedert (55% owned) led the Eagles with 8/101/1 on nine targets; expect lots of double TE formations while they figure out WR – Goedert could be at least a back end TE1 with huge upside if Ertz goes down. Washington’s offense is not dynamic, but the defense may work its way into the streaming conversation five or six times this season.

CHI 27 DET 23 – Trubisky led the Bears back from 17 down, throwing 3 TDs, but it took rookie De’Andre Swift dropping what would have been his 2nd TD of the game in the final minute to secure the victory. Both teams worked the run game with David Montgomery going 13/49 with a catch and Adrian Peterson (46% owned) doing even better with 14/93 and three catches; both backfields are crowded, but those are your leaders. Anthony Miller (56% owned) and T.J. Hockenson (74%) showed some fill-in value.

GB 43 MIN 34 – Not only did garbage time make this look closer than it was, it got Adam Thielen 6/110/2 after a quiet first half. GB ran and passed at will; owners of Rodgers, Jones and Adams were thrilled and while both Valdes-Scantling (7%) and Lazard (42%) caught TDs, the eye popping number was 17 targets for Davante Adams, which he turned into a 14/156/2 line. Dalvin Cook’s two rushing TDs bailed him out of a mediocre performance; he only out-touched Alexander Mattison 12-10 – if one or the other gets hurt the last man standing will do well in the offense that is run first literally to a fault.

SEA 38 ATL 25 – Russell Wilson put on a show going 31/35/322/4 with a surprising pass first game plan; we need to watch Seattle for a few weeks to see if this is a trend from one of the most run focused teams in the NFL. While the Hawks only ran 20 times and split up the carries, Chris Carson owners were saved by two nice receiving TDs. Atlanta benefited from garbage time as Matt Ryan rolled up 450 yards, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage (2% owned) each had 12 targets, 9 catches and 100+ yards; Ridley added 2 TDs. Todd Gurley had 16 touches and a score, but did not stand out; he will probably have many similar days when game flow works against him and Atlanta’s passing offense compiles stats in garbage time.

LV 34 CAR 30 – Josh Jacobs got the workload and was the star with 25/93/3 along with 4/46 receiving. Neither defense was particularly good and both teams will get a better test next week when the Saints come to Vegas and the Panthers visit Tampa. Robby Anderson (6/115/1) is only 31% owned and may be in a position to pick up stats when the Panthers are behind, which will be often.

LAC 16 CIN 13 – An ugly game that was clinched by a missed chip shot FG, anyone with fantasy players in this game was probably disappointed. Ekeler had 19/84, but ceded 12 carries and a goal line score to Joshua Kelley 12/60/1 (13% owned); Kelley looked good enough to earn more work, but week two against KC looks like an Ekeler game once the Chiefs turn it into a track meet. A.J. Green only went 5/51 but saw nine targets and could have had a score or two. Tyrod Taylor completed only 16/30 passes; Allen and Williams owners should be concerned, but the conservative plan should be okay for Hunter Henry and the backs.

AZ 24 SF 20 – Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins engineered a big upset; Murray’s passing 26/40/230/1/1 was pedestrian, but he added 13/91/1 on the ground while Hopkins snagged 14/151 on 16 targets (more targets than the rest of the Cardinals’ WRs and TEs combined). Kenyan Drake (12/60/1, two catches for 5 yds) owners were buoyed by a TD, but he did not look like RB13 and Chase Edmonds got more receiving work. George Kittle had 4/44 in the first half but was not targeted on 30 snaps in the second half after returning from a leg injury – a knee sprain that will leave him questionable for next week. No 49ers WR stood out as a replacement for Deebo Samuel; Garoppolo moved the ball around but could not establish rhythm for himself or with any particular receiver and he may be without Kittle next week.

NO 34 TB 23 – Michael Thomas had 4/37 in week 17 last year and 6/48 in week 13; don’t sweat his 3/17 line just because it happens in week 1 – his sprained ankle/questionable status for week 2 just has to be endured, he’ll be fine. The Saints have a lot of options and Thomas will regress from last year’s numbers and still be top 5; against the Bucs the Saints were in command most of the way so they ran the ball 34 times and passed 31, with 10 of the 19 completions going to RBs and TEs. Ronald Jones held down the lead back role for the Bucs and other than one catch for 14 yards, Leonard Fournette was unimpressive; both are owned in more than 90% of leagues but neither is reliable at the moment – gun to my head, I’m taking Jones against Carolina. Mike Evans is clearly not healthy, but Scotty Miller (6%) received six targets and a carry, ending up with 79 yards – he might be a good streamer for next week.

LAR 20 DAL 17 – Like the Eagles, Dallas’ offensive line woes slowed them down and only got worse as the game went on; the Rams defensive line managed three sacks and hit Prescott seven times over the course of the night. Malcolm Brown (27% owned) led the Rams running attack with 79 yards and 2 TDs; he looks to lead a muddled backfield, but at some point he may be displaced by the better pedigreed Cam Akers (91%) or Darrell Henderson (43%). Rookie CeeDee Lamb 5/59 (6 targets) outperformed Michael Gallup, though Gallup had a big catch negated at the end by OPI. Amari Cooper had 14 targets for the Cowboys and Blake Jarwin tore his ACL, you need to find an option going forward if he is your starter.

PIT 26 NYG 16 – In the second quarter, I texted a friend and said that Daniel Jones’ style reminds me of a younger, leaner Big Ben; after Jones threw the pick in the end zone, my friend texted back, “He reminds me of Yepremian.” The Steelers’ ferocious defense will have some big scoring days; the pass rush should lead the league in sacks. It didn’t take long for James Conner to get hurt again, Benny Snell replaced him and went for 100+ yards; he will win more early down work, seriously impeding Conner’s upside, as will multiple injuries on the offensive line. The Giants offense had it’s moments, but they will be facing tough defenses for the next month. Barkley is the safest start and Slayton looks interesting, but the biggest worry is how often the Giants will be around the end zone.

TEN 16 DEN 14 – Noah Fant is available in 21% of leagues, he looks like a top 10 TE. Philip Lindsay was splitting time before getting hurt, but Melvin Gordon seems like the better goal line option and if Lindsay misses time, Gordon is at worst a high end RB2. Both Jerry Jeudy and Drew Lock will be fantasy starters in the future and this year they are reasonable streaming targets. Anyone other than Derrick Henry is risky in Tennessee; A.J. Brown is probably a better play against good teams since Tennessee will run 30 times in games they can control.

 

 

 

Lee Benjamin

Lee Benjamin has been a football fan since Jim Plunkett was under center for the Patriots and his first ever fantasy football pick was a young Jerry Rice. He’s won more championships during Tom Brady’s career than Tom Brady, though unfortunately, they pay a lot less. His blog, Fantasy Football Intelligence, is published regularly on the WTPL, WTSN and Frank-FM sites. Lee spent over 25 years in New England media. He now resides in South Florida and enjoys freelance writing about sports and politics.