Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts
Keenan Allen – Torn ACL
Russell Wilson – Ankle
Josh Hill – Ankle
Robert Griffin III – Shoulder
Mohamed Sanu – Leg
Sammy Watkins – Foot
The 2016 season is underway and the fantasy implications from offseason changes are already being seen. This is the week for finally getting a real picture of what’s going to happen. Reality often differs significantly from all the conventional wisdom created while teams were just deciding on which 53 players they wanted to keep.
Tight End Trouble
In 2015, we learned how important that the position was in the passing offenses of the NFL. There were 22 touchdowns scored by tight ends during the opening week. Five players scored more than once and three even gained over 100 yards. The start of this season wasn’t nearly so productive. By Sunday night, only seven tight ends scored at all and none had more than the 73 yards by Greg Olsen. Rob Gronkowski did not play but his replacement Martellus Bennett only managed three catches for 14 yards. The wide receivers already devalued the running backs – now it appears the tight ends are next.
Running Back by Coin Flip
There are several NFL backfields with new players and/or situations that made speculating about the individual workloads a challenge. Now we know. Considering the proportion of running back touches, the backs with a full-time job include Jeremy Langford (95%), Lamar Miller (89%) and Matt Forte (82%).
However, the committee approach still lives and a few big performances for the day obscured the workload sharing that will be a problem later in tougher games. Consider the respective touches of these pairings – Tevin Coleman (13)/Devonta Freeman (15), Justin Forsett (13)/Terrance West (14), Danny Woodhead (21)/Melvin Gordon (14), Christine Michael (17)/Thomas Rawls (15) and DeMarco Murray (18)/Derrick Henry (7). Certainly the ratios could change weekly but the reality is that these runners will not offer the consistency or potential production of a true full-time back.
It’s Miller Time
Lamar Miller led the NFL in both carries (28) and rushing yards (106) on Sunday. And he was the only running back that topped the century mark as a rusher. Spencer Ware gained 129 yards as a receiver and seven backs had over 100 total yards. But only one back managed to top 100 yards and it required 28 carries. That’s why almost one in every four touchdowns scored by the position came via a pass on Sunday.
Waiver Wire Mining
Week one always serves up at least a few notable players that were missed in fantasy drafts. Starting with next week, it is almost always more interesting and profitable to shop for the players that were drafted and then dumped by impatient owners. Depending on your league size, these are the best players likely still available:
Theo Riddick (Detroit Lions) – Ameer Abdullah will remain the primary rusher but Riddick was already the third-down back. The Lions released Joique Bell in the offseason but all his carries did not automatically wind up with Abdullah. Riddick not only caught five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown in Indianapolis, he also rushed seven times for 45 yards and a second score. His role as a receiver maintains his fantasy value each week and adding in rushing attempts makes him at least a bye week substitute.
Chris Hogan (New England Patriots) – Smaller leagues may have passed on any Patriot wideout besides Julian Edelman but Hogan impressed in the preseason and carried it into the season opener in Arizona. He ended with three catches for 60 yards and one touchdown in Jimmy Garoppolo’s first game. The ex-Buffalo Bill was signed during the offseason and supplies a speedy outlet for deep routes. Once Rob Gronkowski returns, Hogan could become even more valuable thanks to lesser coverage.
Victor Cruz (New York Giants) – He did not play in the last 26 games by the Giants but he’s finally healthy and already contributing. Cruz not only caught four passes for 34 yards and one score, but that tied for the most receptions with Odell Beckham. He was the only Giants receiver that caught all of his targets. All the hype went to Sterling Shepard this summer but Cruz matched him in production. This is a mature offense and it is worth stashing Cruz to see if he can improve upon a productive first game back.
Cole Beasley (Dallas Cowboys) – He’ll never become an elite wideout but catching eight passes for 65 yards during Dak Prescott’s first game has to be respected. In deep leagues with reception points, he could be a viable spot play since the defenses are loading up so heavily on Dez Bryant and leaving shorter throws over the middle open. He’s worth holding to see what develops as Prescott gets more comfortable as a starter.
Nelson Agholor (Philadelphia Eagles) – Though his first year was a disappointment, Agholor has already looked improved in his second season. With the rookie Carson Wentz starting for the first time, Agholor turned in four receptions for 57 yards and one touchdown versus the Browns. Both Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz had more production, but Agholor was the second best wide receiver as he should have been last year. Notable too was that Wentz only connected on two passes to the running back Darren Sproles. Agholor was the fourth wideout taken in the 2015 NFL draft and is finally starting to fulfill his potential.
Not all big games mean that a player needs to leave the waiver wire. On average, one in every 16 players just had their best game of the year.
Quincy Enunwa (New York Jets) – Talented slot receiver but he’ll never be more than a #3 wideout behind Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Add in Matt Forte and he’ll only be the fourth most targeted in most games. He’s worth holding only by the Marshall and Decker owners in case they are injured.
Eddie Royal (Chicago Bears) – He may have scored on his four catches for 57 yards this week but he is in his ninth NFL season and second year with the Bears. Kevin White gets all the development and increase in workload and that will prevent Royal from offering any consistent fantasy value.
Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs) – Smith comes off an impressive 363 yard, three touchdown effort in the comeback win over the Chargers. But that doesn’t change the reality of his career or what the Chiefs ask him to do on a weekly basis. That was only the fifth 300 yard game in his 11 year career and his best yardage game ever. Chances of a repeat are exceedingly low.
Jack Doyle (Indianapolis Colts) – While the top fantasy tight end for a given week would seem to be automatically worthy of a waiver wire grab, Doyle may be the first to ignore. He only caught three passes for 35 yards of the 385 passed by Andrew Luck. But he did catch two scores on a day when there were only eight touchdowns from all tight ends combined. And yes, Gary Barnidge came from nowhere last year but he’s apparently lost his glass slipper this year. Doyle only had four targets while Dwayne Allen was thrown six and caught four for 53 yards and one score. But he’s in his fourth year with only 35 career receptions and Allen remains the primary receiving tight end.
It’s Just Week 1
Having actual results are great but don’t lose any hope yet if your key players under performed this week. In the season opener for 2015, Cam Newton only passed for 175 yards and one touchdown in Jacksonville. Blake Bortles managed just 183 yards and a score in that same game. Devonta Freeman totaled just 47 yards one year ago while David Johnson only caught one pass and Todd Gurley was still two weeks away from his debut. We’re just on our first step of 16 more weeks of changes.
CLE 10, PHI 29
The Eagles look to be much better on offense than expected, so long as all games are played at home versus the Browns. Carson Wentz (278 yds, 2 TD) had no interceptions and overall had a solid career first start against a bad defense. The best part was that the three best players were also the three main Eagles taken in fantasy drafts – Jordan Matthews (7-114, TD), Ryan Mathews (77 yds, TD) and Zach Ertz (6-58). Robert Griffin hurt his shoulder and only threw for 190 yards. Apparently just because they were behind was not a reason for them to get sloppy points at the end. Browns already look in trouble but it was just one game.
MIN 25, TEN 16
The Vikings are always enigmatic. They won because they scored two defensive touchdowns. Adrian Peterson only gained 31 yards on 19 runs which should be catastrophic. Shaun Hill found Stefon Diggs (7-103) but nothing else happened on offense. The Titans rushing game never really materialized though MIN has a solid defense. DeMarco Murray scored twice – both as a receiver – and totaled 77 yards. Tajae Sharp (7-76) was the lead receiver but otherwise Marcus Mariota mostly ignored the other wideouts like last year.
CIN 23, NYJ 22
The Bengals squeaked past with a last minute field goal and this game was all about A.J. Green (12-180, TD) having the best performance of the day. Jeremy Hill scored once but otherwise there were no real fantasy stars here aside from Johnson. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for two scores but only 189 passing yards. Matt Forte opened to 155 total yards but the passing numbers were small and that doomed Brandon Marshall (3-32) and Eric Decker 2-37, TD).
OAK 35, NO 34
One day the Saints are going to find a defense and it will be a day of mourning in the fantasy community. Everybody feasted. Drew Brees (423 yds, 4 TD), Mark Ingram (87 yds), Brandin Cooks (6-154, 2 TD) and Willie Snead (9-172-1) all had great first games. Derek Carr (319 yds, TD) only threw one score but also tossed a couple of two-point conversions. Latavius Murray (72 yds, TD) rushed in a score and Amari Cooper looked great with 137 yards on six receptions. The Raiders look even better on offense this year and the Saints still look bad on defense. That’s all good for fantasy.
TB 31, ATL 24
This is one of those games where you have to decide if the Falcons are this bad or the Buccaneers are this good. We’ll know more next week. Jameis Winston did himself proud with 281 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Evans (5-99, TD) was the top receiver but Vincent Jackson (2-18) still doesn’t matter and they used three different tight ends. Charles Simms scored once but Doug Martin combined for 96 yards and caught five passes. Matt Ryan threw two scores and 334 yards but Tevin Coleman was top for the team with five catches for 95 yards. Both Mohamed Sanu (5-80, TD) and Julio Jones (4-66, TD) both scored though Jones’ ankle seemed to be an issue. Devonta Freeman owners likely freaked with only 40 total yards and watching Coleman do more as a runner and a receiver.
CHI 14, HOU 23
The good news for the Bears was that Jeremy Langford combined for 63 yards and one score while Alshon Jeffery (4-105) dominated as a receiver. But Kevin White only managed three catches for 34 yards and no other players mattered much. Brock Osweiler’s first game as a Texan saw his connect for scores to DeAndre Hopkins (5-54) and Will Fuller (5-107). Lamar Miller ran for 106 yards can caught four passes for 11 more yards. Both offenses had encouraging starts but only mediocre stats overall aside from one wideout per team.
BUF 7, BAL 13
Horrible. That this was low scoring was no shocker but only two touchdowns? No Bills player had more than 70 total yards and that was LeSean McCoy with the only touchdown and only fantasy relevant stats. The Ravens had no player with more than 41 yards, split up the carries between Justin Forsett and Terrance West and only Mike Wallace (3-91, TD) mattered because he caught a 66-yard touchdown. Best to ignore this game ever happened. It was literally one interesting play and then nothing.
SD 27, KC 33 OT
This is a Game-O-The-Week contender. The Chargers led 27-10 in the fourth quarter but were tied with a minute left to play. In overtime, the Chiefs just marched 70 yards for the winning touchdown on the opening drive. The Chargers had no star players aside from Danny Woodhead with 120 total yards and a score and Melvin Gordon running for 57 yards and scoring the first two touchdowns of his career. The loss was tough enough but adding in Keenan Allen’s likely season-ending injury made for a somber trip home. The Chiefs finally got the offense going and Alex Smith ended with 363 yards and two scores. Jeremy Maclin (5-63, TD) and Travis Kelce (6-74) had good games but Spencer Ware had a monster game with 70 rush yards and a score, plus a team high seven catches for 129 yards. This was a heartbreaker for the Chargers and a big “whew!” for the Chiefs.
GB 27, JAC 23
For a 50 total point game, there was a lack of any big performances. Anyone with much yards did not score and anyone who scored did not have many yards. Blake Bortles threw for 320 yards and one score but both Allen Hurns (4-75) and Allen Robinson (6-72) did not score. T.J. Yeldon did score but only had 69 yards. Julius Thomas (5-64) once again scored in Week 1 so we’ll see what happens in the next 15 games. Aaron Rodgers only passed for 199 yards but threw two touchdowns and rushed in a third. Jordy Nelson (6-32, TD) at least scored but no Packer topped 57 receiving yards. Most everyone had a decent game but no one had a great game.
NYG 20, DAL 19
Chances are Terrance Williams will be instructed on the art of GETTING OUT OF BOUNDS YOU IDIOT. The reality is that he would have only been around the 50-yard line but at least the Cowboys would still have had a chance for a Hail Mary pass. These divisional rivals always play low scoring affairs in recent years and this was no different. Eli Manning threw for three scores but only 207 yards. Odell Beckham (4-73) and Sterling Shepard (3-43, TD) were the best receivers but Victor Cruz (4-34, TD) finally made it back into a bo score. Ezekiel Elliott ran for only 51 yards on 20 carries but ran in one score. Dak Prescott only threw for 227 yards and no scores including just one completion to Dez Bryant who bobbled away a touchdown again. The Cowboys at home in a real NFL game did not look nearly as impressive as they did in the preseason but at least they made no errors. Other than, you know, going out of bounds…
MIA 10, SEA 12
The Seahawks opened 2015 with a loss to the Rams so this should not be that surprising. Every Survivor Pool in the nation almost started out with over half of all entrants getting kicked out because of this game. The Seahawks needed a late drive to secure the win though everyone knew that they would score the touchdown. Just a really disappointing game from a fantasy perspective. The Dolphins had little offense outside of Arian Foster (100 total yards) and jarvis Landry (7-59). The Seahawks won thanks to Doug Baldwin (9-92, TD) who caught the game winner. Christine Michael ran for 66 yards but had to share nearly equally with Thomas Rawls. This is another game better to just forget. The Seahawks played like they could mail it in and score at the end and win. Which they did.
NE 23, ARI 21
Yet another close game that came down to a field goal – this time it was a miss by Chandler Catanzaro. Jimmy Garoppolo won his toughest game so the Pats look even better now with Tom Brady out for three more games. Garoppolo threw for 264 yards and one score though no receiver had more than the 66 yards by Julian Edelman. Chris Hogan was the best play with 60 yards and a score on just three catches. Carson Palmer passed for 271 yards and two scores that both went to Larry Fitzgerald (8-81). David Johnson ended with 43 yards on four catches and 89 yards and a score as a rusher. Bitter loss for the Cards and invigorating for the Patriots.
Huddle Player of the Week
A.J. Green – The Bengals star wide receiver usually has two or three huge games every year and then enough “smaller” games to balance them out. This year, he wasted no time to record a monster performance with 12 receptions for 180 yards and one 54-yard touchdown. That was enough to lead the entire NFL in fantasy points so long as there were reception points involved. He also blew away all of his Tier 1 peers for opening week. He’ll do this again at least once or twice. But what a great way to start the year.
Drama 101 – Somebody has to Laugh, Somebody has to Cry
|QB||Alex Smith||388||3||QB||Phillip Rivers||243||1|
|RB||Theo Riddick||108||2||RB||Adrian Peterson||31||0|
|RB||Tevin Coleman||117||0||RB||Devonta Freeman||40||0|
|WR||Quincy Enunwa||54||1||WR||Dez Bryant||8||0|
|WR||Eddie Royal||57||1||WR||DeMaryius Thomas||48||0|
|WR||Davante Adams||50||1||WR||Sammy Watkins||43||0|
|TE||Jack Doyle||35||1||TE||Gary Barnidge||0||0|
|PK||Blair Walsh||4 FG||1 XP||PK||Brandon McManus||0 FG||3 XP|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 131||Huddle Fantasy Points = 33|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
Overall, the scores felt on the low side and tight ends disappeared. The reduced focus on rushing the ball was immediately apparent and we’ve already lost our first fantasy stud to a torn ACL. But there were many great games, one over time and many that went down to the wire which meant heartbreak was in big supply for many fans. There were only six instances of a team scoring at least 30 points and four of those were in two wonderful shootouts. The Raiders went for two points instead of the tie to beat the stunned hometown Saints and they would have qualified on most other weeks.
Lions 39, Colts 35
The Lions took this win with a 43-yard field goal as time expired in the Super Dome. That’s the Lions, winning, in a road game. There were three touchdowns and a field goal scored in the final eight minutes of a game that went back and forth.
Andrew Luck was the top passer this week with 385 yards and four touchdowns. The rushing effort still offers only mediocrity but Philip Dorsett (4-94) and T.Y. Hilton (6-79) did most of the damage even if they did not score. Luck went back to his tight end ways and connected for three touchdowns between Dwayne Allen (4-53, TD) and Jack Doyle (3-35, 2 TD). Donte Moncrief (6-64, TD) also scored.
Matt Stafford threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns. Marvin Jones (4-85) was the top wideout but the scoring went to Theo Riddick (5-63), Ameer Abdullah (5-57, TD) and even Eric Ebron (5-46). Riddick also scored as a rusher.
This was a bountiful harvest for fantasy points.
And this is my 20th year with The Huddle and my 324th Tunnel Vision. It is still exciting with every new season to see what is new and what still works in the NFL. Fantasy football is thrilling, frustrating, humbling and even maddening. Sort of like being married only it doesn’t mind if you dabble in other sports and in some cases you can actually come out ahead in finances.
This is a contentious year for politics and there’s constant dialogue about terrorism, racism, freedom and 100 other things that make real life and this online world all too often negative, depressing or even enraging. But The Huddle has never been anything other than winning and enjoying fantasy football. That’s all. We’re not curing cancer or solving world problems. But if we can contribute even just a few moments of enjoyment, entertainment and fun into anyone’s life, it is worth the effort. So while the world spins violently around us and the internet becomes as calming as an air raid siren, life is still good and fantasy football is still fun.
Let’s have a great year!
Now get back to work…