Examining Week 1 action

It’s hilarious how virtually every fantasy sports media outlet tries to get people pumped up for Week 1. "Bring energy!" they urge us on the radio show. "It’s Christmas morning for the fantasy player!" Let’s be honest – Week 1 starts off like Christmas morning, but when you open your presents, it’s a lot of crap you don’t want, stuff you need to return and, to tell the truth, the turkey was a bit cardboardy, and the gingerbread house stale.

I know, I know. It’s the spirit that counts. Which is why I try to appreciate the occasion for what it really is – the joy of futilely hoping for the backdoor cover (how I lived without it during the offseason is mystifying), the diminished expectations for that sleeper in whom you unrealistically believed and coming to terms with your real-life favorite team handing away a win and lowering its chances to make the playoffs. The realization that for all your research, diligence and planning, you cannot prevent C.J Spiller from fumbling or make 32-year old Fred Jackson as slow as he should be.

Once we’ve come to terms with the Week 1 damage to our various pools and interests, the next logical question is how much does it mean going forward? To what extent does a bad start portend a bad year? Or, for those players who met or even exceeded our preseason expectations – can they keep it up?

To answer that, let’s look at top performers in Week 1 over the last two seasons and where they finished at the end of the year:

2012

 

WEEK 1 TOP-10 QB

WEEK 1 PTS

YEAR-END TOP 10

TOTAL

AVG

WEEK 1 RANK

Matt Ryan

32.46

Drew Brees

385.58

24.099

2

Drew Brees

25.56

Aaron Rodgers

366.60

22.913

6

Tony Romo

25.48

Tom Brady

356.28

22.268

17

Robert Griffin

25.00

Cam Newton

353.46

22.091

20

Michael Vick

23.88

Matt Ryan

336.56

21.035

1

Aaron Rodgers

23.82

Peyton Manning

336.06

21.004

13

Mark Sanchez

22.64

Robert Griffin

332.60

22.173

4

Matt Cassel

22.32

Andrew Luck

322.46

20.154

18

Jay Cutler

20.92

Tony Romo

321.92

20.120

3

Ryan Fitzpatrick

20.60

Matthew Stafford

316.58

19.786

14

WEEK 1 TOP-10 RB

WEEK 1 PTS

YEAR-END TOP 10

TOTAL

AVG

WEEK 1 RANK

C.J. Spiller

25.4

Adrian Peterson

311.4

19.463

6

Alfred Morris

21.6

Arian Foster

266.1

16.631

7

Ray Rice

21.3

Doug Martin

264.6

16.538

16

Stevan Ridley

21.2

Marshawn Lynch

250.6

15.662

22

Kevin Smith

21.1

Alfred Morris

246.7

15.419

2

Adrian Peterson

20.7

Ray Rice

222.1

13.881

3

Arian Foster

19.5

C.J. Spiller

218.3

13.644

1

Matt Forte

18.0

Jamaal Charles

210.5

13.156

24

Frank Gore

17.3

Trent Richardson

203.7

13.580

33

Michael Bush

16.2

Stevan Ridley

203.4

12.713

4

WEEK 1 TOP-10 WR

WEEK 1 PTS

YEAR-END TOP 10

TOTAL

AVG

WEEK 1 RANK

Kevin Ogletree

23.4

Calvin Johnson

226.4

14.150

25

Julio Jones

22.8

Brandon Marshall

216.6

13.537

6

Stephen Hill

20.9

Dez Bryant

210.7

13.169

36

Lance Moore

18.0

A.J. Green

204.8

12.800

46

Andre Johnson

17.9

Demaryius Thomas

203.4

12.713

7

Brandon Marshall

17.9

Vincent Jackson

187.4

11.713

64

Demaryius Thomas

17.0

Eric Decker

184.4

11.525

58

Pierre Garcon

16.9

Andre Johnson

183.8

11.487

5

Jeremy Kerley

16.5

Julio Jones

182.8

11.425

2

Jeremy Maclin

15.6

Roddy White

177.1

11.069

34

2011

 

WEEK 1 TOP-10 QB

WEEK 1 PTS

YEAR-END TOP 10

TOTAL

AVG

WEEK 1 RANK

Tom Brady

36.98

Drew Brees

419.64

26.227

4

Chad Henne

36.54

Aaron Rodgers

409.42

27.295

7

Cam Newton

32.68

Cam Newton

405.34

25.334

3

Drew Brees

29.06

Tom Brady

394.30

24.644

1

Michael Vick

25.18

Matthew Stafford

375.32

23.457

8

Ryan Fitzpatrick

24.62

Eli Manning

320.82

20.051

20

Aaron Rodgers

24.58

Philip Rivers

303.56

18.972

11

Matthew Stafford

24.20

Matt Ryan

303.48

18.968

26

Tony Romo

22.58

Tony Romo

301.96

18.873

9

Mark Sanchez

21.70

Mark Sanchez

289.26

18.079

10

WEEK 1 TOP-10 RB

WEEK 1 PTS

YEAR-END TOP 10

TOTAL

AVG

WEEK 1 RANK

Mike Tolbert

27.3

Ray Rice

300.8

18.802

2

Ray Rice

26.9

LeSean McCoy

282.4

18.827

3

LeSean McCoy

25.7

Maurice Jones-Drew

264.0

16.500

9

Matt Forte

21.8

Arian Foster

256.1

19.700

Out

Cedric Benson

18.3

Marshawn Lynch

219.6

14.640

35

Ben Tate

17.6

Michael Turner

216.8

13.550

13

Beanie Wells

16.2

Darren Sproles

191.3

11.956

12

Tim Hightower

15.7

Ryan Mathews

190.6

13.614

16

Maurice Jones-Drew

15.7

Adrian Peterson

189.2

15.767

22

Darren McFadden

15.6

Michael Bush

187.5

11.719

47

WEEK 1 TOP-10 WR

WEEK 1 PTS

YEAR-END TOP 10

TOTAL

AVG

WEEK 1 RANK

Steve Smith

29.8

Calvin Johnson

265.2

16.575

4

Wes Welker

28.0

Jordy Nelson

216.3

13.519

15

Kenny Britt

25.6

Wes Welker

213.9

13.369

2

Calvin Johnson

20.8

Victor Cruz

207.9

12.994

No catches

Reggie Wayne

16.6

Larry Fitzgerald

189.1

11.819

49

Early Doucet

16.5

Steve Smith

188.0

11.750

1

DeSean Jackson

16.2

Percy Harvin

184.9

11.556

35

Devery Henderson

16

Roddy White

177.6

11.100

50

Randall Cobb

15.5

Mike Wallace

173.0

10.812

27

Andre Johnson

15.5

Vincent Jackson

169.7

10.606

67

In 2011, Chad Henne was the No. 2 Week 1 QB, and Ryan Fitzpatrick No. 6. Mark Sanchez was No. 10, but he actually finished No. 10 overall thanks to six rushing TDs. Fitzpatrick actually finished No. 12. Otherwise, most of the big names (Brady, Brees, Rodgers, Newton, Stafford) all performed in line with their Week 1 totals, and Newton and Stafford were not big names at the time.

Running back was all over the map. Mike Tolbert, Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower actually graced the Week 1 top-10. Marshawn Lynch (35), Michael Bush (47), didn’t emerge until much later. The takeaway is that RB, as always, is mostly about opportunity and health.

The takeaway at WR from 2011 was to be patient. Of the top-10 year-end finishers, five finished No. 35 or lower in Week 1, and seven finished No. 15 or lower. Only Wes Welker, Calvin Johnson and Steve Smith finished both in Week 1’s top-10 and the year-end top-10.

"This helps No One."

This message came up a few times in my Twitter feed this week when, for example, a scrub like Jackie Battle or Junior Hemingway scored a touchdown. A related phenomenon is when the guys doing the fantasy play-by-play on the radio are happy when Adrian Peterson scores a TD because it’s helpful to fantasy owners. Please understand fantasy football is a zero-sum game. Every time someone else does well, that’s bad for you. Every time you do well, it’s bad for everyone else. I’m sorry if it ruins the "school spirit" cheerleading for fantasy football generally, but the other owners in the league and the players they draft are the enemy. If Peterson scores – and I don’t own him anywhere – it’s harmful to me. If he’s on the sideline getting a breather, and Toby Gerhart gets a cheap one-yard plunge, that’s a win for me. Likewise, when Battle scored, that sucked for Chris Johnson owners and was great for those going against Johnson. Same with Hemingway and Dwayne Bowe/Jamaal Charles.

Things to Take Away from Week 1

– There are at least 10 quarterbacks who are top-five quarterbacks and maybe more. Same with tight ends (h/t Stopa).

– Every running back except Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Reggie Bush is terrible. In fact, only three players emerged from Week 1 with 100 rushing yards and one of them was quarterback Terrelle Pryor, and another was Shane Vereen who’s now out for a few weeks with a broken wrist. If it’s such a passing league, why is every defensive coordinator hell bent on stopping the run?

– Has there been another Week in NFL history where the 100-yard tight-ends outnumber the 100-yard backs (3:2)? Or one where the total TE touchdowns (21) outnumbered the total RB touchdowns (16)?

– The record in all of sports that will never be broken is most passing yards and TDs by two brothers. Eli and Peyton added 912 yards and 11 TDs to their totals in Week 1.

– I’d move Jared Cook to No. 4 overall among tight ends in non-PPR, ahead of everyone except Jimmy Graham, Vernon Davis and Rob Gronkowski. Cook is the Rams’ only viable red-zone target other than Brian Quick who is the No. 4 WR right now, and it appears the Rams gave him all that guaranteed money ($19 million) with the intent to use him.

– Vernon Davis could be a monster. In fact, when Rob Gronkowski gets healthy, Jimmy Graham could be the No. 3 option at the position.

– Colin Kaepernick looked like Steve Young Sunday, operating almost exclusively out of the pocket and scrambling when necessary. He’s one of six top-3 QBs

– Blaine Gabbert was essentially awarded the job this preseason based on what?

– Eli Manning’s setup could not be better for fantasy purposes. Both Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz are healthy now, Rueben Randle looks like a future star and Brandon Myers is competent at tight end. Stevie Brown (the team’s best pass-defending safety) is out for the year, Prince Amukamara (the team’s best cover corner) has a concussion and the running game is temporarily dead now that David Wilson is in the doghouse.

– Jordy Nelson is a top-10 WR now that he appears healthy.

– I’m a little nervous about Tony Romo. He downplayed the bruised ribs he suffered against the Giants, but he didn’t look the same the rest of the game, and it’s not great news that Dez Bryant (also likely to play Week 2) is nursing a foot/ankle injury.

– The Pats can’t stretch the field with their current personnel. Kenbrell Thompkins is slow, and Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman are small and not typically dangerous down the field. Aaron Dobson has the size/speed to change that once he gets healthy, and of course, Rob Gronkowski can make plays anywhere.

– Without Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers offensive line was among the worst in the league. A week of practice will help, but Week 2 in Cincinnati could be ugly. The Steelers also lack red-zone targets with Heath Miller still out.

– The Chargers pulled off an incredibly feat Monday night: They survived the departure of Norv Turner without losing their identity. Philip Rivers is a broken man. I don’t think he can be re-assembled.

– Ben Tate outplayed Arian Foster Monday night, but Foster’s display of health was encouraging, and he also made a nice one-handed snag of a pass. I think Foster’s stock should go up, not down as a result of Week 1.

– LeSean McCoy will be a monster for as long as he stays healthy. If we were to re-draft for the rest of the year, his ADP might be No. 2.

– Compare the Week 1 performances of Dez Bryant and A.J. Green, consider their respective opponents, too and try to argue that the preseason matters at all for healthy veterans whose roles are not in doubt. That might seem obvious, but Bryant was flying up boards due to the preseason.

– David Wilson will be heard from again, possibly as early as Week 2, but likely no later than Weeks 3 or 4. Brandon Jacobs is not an obstacle, and Tom Coughlin taught a once fumble-prone Tiki Barber to protect the ball.

– RGIII looked awfully shaky in the first half, but settled in later in the game. He won’t be a top-10 QB unless he runs for at least 400 yards and a few scores, however.

Not Surviving Week 1

I’ll write more extensively on this in the Survivor column, but a couple thoughts on picking the Steelers on the site (and in three of my four pools):

First off, I feel badly for anyone who took my advice and lost. Even though, each person is responsible for his own pick, and obviously no pick is guaranteed (otherwise, why bother with survivor, just put your life savings on the moneyline each week), it still sucks to plunk down the dough and be done before it even starts. I took the Pats in one other pool, and one of my four is a re-buy, so I still have some action, but many people who lost don’t.

As enjoyable as it can be to play fantasy football, or handicap games against the spread, there really is no other football-based game as insanely dramatic as survivor. For as much misery as it’s caused me (I turned down a $12K three-way split in Week 16 of 2000 only to lose in Week 17, and I would have won $37K in 2011 had the halftime scores held up – I lost in Week 12 on Thanksgiving Day), there’s nothing like advancing and rooting for others to perish. There’s no game where such a small investment can pay off so big, and when you do cash, it often covers the costs of all your pools in every sport for the entire year with profit to spare. So I’m sorry if you took my advice and lost as a result.

I don’t think the pick was especially bad, however. The Steelers lost their starting Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey in the first quarter, lost a fumble on the Titans five-yard line and never recovered. I once read a handicapping book that said never to bet on a team that loses its starting center the week before the game because the entire rhythm of the offense is thrown off. You could see the high and low snaps to Ben Roethlisberger, and with the lack of protection from the line, it was tough for him to generate any offense. The Steelers defense predictably shut down Jake Locker entirely – 6.3 YPA, 125 passing yards – but you can’t score zero offensive points for 58 minutes.

OK, so the Steelers had some bad luck, but isn’t your pick supposed to withstand bad bounces/injuries? Yes, it is. But when you consider the most popular picks (and Vegas favorites), the Colts and Patriots, were life and death with the Bills and Raiders, it’s unclear how many options could have withstood injuries/bad bounces.

The best pick turned out to be Denver (though one can debate whether the game would have gone that way had John Harbaugh challenged the Wes Welker drop and gotten his tired defense off the field in the third quarter with the lead still intact), and of course, that was the pick the Vegas odds combined with the pick distribution indicated. I didn’t trust them against the Ravens, and I trusted the Steelers more than Vegas did, so I adjusted the odds. But it turns out – as is often (but not always) the case, Vegas was correct here.

Follow @Chris_Liss on Twitter.

Liss is RotoWire’s Managing Editor and host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

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