Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 2

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 2

Statistical Analysis

Targets, touches and touchdowns: Week 2

Turns out Thursday night’s season opener was blatant false advertising.

The Chiefs and Patriots combined for 69 points in the league’s annual kickoff contest, and the game featured two running backs with at least 22 fantasy points, a 35-point quarterback and a 20-point wide receiver.

But instead of a sign of things to come, it was just the opposite as the contest has been the highest-scoring game of the week so far. And all four of the aforementioned players – K.C.’s Kareem Hunt, Alex Smith and Tyreek Hill and New England’s Mike Gillislee – still sat atop their respective fantasy positional high-scorers’ lists after 12 more games were played Sunday.

That established, let’s move in for a closer look at the significant stats, notable numbers and illuminating integers compiled through action Sunday in the opening week of the 2017 fantasy season.

  • While the Chiefs and Pats each scored at least 27 points Thursday, only four out of the 24 teams in action Sunday hit that mark – and two were the Rams (46 points) and Jaguars (29). Twelve of the remaining 20 teams failed to reach 20 points, with six in single digits. Those dozen duds – the Bengals (0 points), 49ers (3), Giants (3), Texans (7), Colts (9), Seahawks (9), Jets (12), Titans (16), Bears (17), Packers (17), Redskins (17) and Browns (18) – combined for all of 11 offensive touchdowns while committing 24 total turnovers and surrendering 50 sacks. Of the 12, only the Bears, Packers and Browns managed to find their way into the end zone more than once on offense Sunday, and a full nine of the 12 finished with fewer than 265 yards of total offense. Ugh. Poor-to-atrocious offensive-line and/or quarterback play can be blamed in almost all 12 cases, and while Aaron Rodgers and the Packers won’t be facing the Seahawks’ defense every week, we really wonder how much better it’s going to get for most of the rest. Adjust your fantasy expectations accordingly.
  • The lone team that failed to remove its zero on the scoreboard Sunday also has one of fantasy’s most clouded running-back situations. And as you might guess, it didn’t get too much clearer in the 20-0 loss to the visiting Ravens. Jeremy Hill got the start but wound up playing the fewest snaps (10) and getting the fewest touches (seven) of the trio, which also includes Giovanni Bernard (29 snaps, eight touches) and rookie Joe Mixon (22, 11). Bernard led the way with 40 rushing yards on seven carries and added a 39-yard reception – Cincy’s longest play of the day – while Mixon (eight rushes-9 yards; 3-15 receiving) and Hill (6-26, 1-minus-2) weren’t as efficient. Cincy has a quick turnaround, hosting the Texans on Thursday night, and that should provide a lot more clarity after Houston surrendered 178 total yards and a pair of TDs on 41 touches to Jacksonville backs Sunday.
  • The Panthers’ RB situation has been another backfield under the fantasy microscope, and on Sunday in Santa Clara, it was rookie Christian McCaffrey out-snapping (47-29) and outgaining (85-82) veteran Jonathan Stewart on an equal number of touches (a nice, round 20 apiece). But it was Stewart who wound up with the better fantasy day, thanks to his 9-yard scoring reception in the third quarter, and the veteran’s seemingly better chance at finding his way into the end zone on any given week looks to be the fantasy tiebreaker here, particularly in standard-scoring re-draft leagues. Since the start of the 2015 season, Stewart ranks eighth among league RBs with 17 TDs – 15 rushing, two receiving – and he’s done it in 27 games. Weighing 35 pounds more than McCaffrey, Stewart is the better goal-line option, and with QB Cam Newton running less and RB/FB Mike Tolbert now vulturing scores in Buffalo, it enhances Stewart’s scoring chances all the more.
  • Sunday’s 46-9 home romp over the literally Luckless Colts was almost all about defensive domination for the Rams, but the offense – under the direction of new head coach Sean McVay and second-year QB Jared Goff — looked light years ahead of 2016’s disaster. The trade for Sammy Watkins provided Goff a shiny new No. 1 wideout, but the play of third-round rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp shouldn’t be overlooked by any means. Kupp – a four-time All-American at FCS Eastern Washington, where he set the NCAA all-division mark for career receiving yardage (6,464) – tied for the team lead with six targets Sunday and paced the squad with 76 yards while hauling in Goff’s lone TD toss. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Kupp hardly is an end-zone stranger after hauling in 73 scoring passes in 52 collegiate games, and don’t be surprised if he winds up leading the team in targets as Goff’s new best friend.
  • In the Sunday-nighter, the Cowboys dusted off their tried-and-true 2016 success formula, dominating possession (34:14-25:46) and the rushing stats (31-129 to 12-35) in felling the Giants 19-3. Overshadowed, somewhat, in the win was the performance of QB Dak Prescott, who completed 24-of-39 passes for 268 yards and a TD while adding 24 yards on three rushes. It added up to 20 fantasy points – the second-year quarterback’s 13th performance with 20 or more points in 17 career games. Only Rodgers (15) and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan (14) have had more such contests since the start of last season. Sure, with only two career 300-yard passing games and one contest with 30-plus fantasy points, Prescott’s ceiling isn’t as high as other QB1s but few have a higher floor.
  • Meanwhile, another QB in action Sunday continued to trend in the other direction. There was some summer sleeper buzz surrounding the Cardinals’ Carson Palmer after a down season a year ago, but his Week 1 showing in the Motor City has quieted some of that talk as the 37-year-old QB finished 27-of-48 for 269 yards, a TD and three picks in a 35-23 loss to the Lions. In 2015, Palmer had a career season, finishing fifth among fantasy QBs with 382 points. He had 11 multiple-TD-pass games, nine 300-yard-plus contests and only two multiple-interception games in those 16 regular-season contests in 2015, but in the two playoff contests and 16 regular-season contests since – he missed one start a year ago – Palmer’s totals in those categories have been nine, seven and seven games, respectively. Most, troubling, have been the turnovers, and with three more interceptions Sunday – including a pick-six – to go along with the one TD toss, Palmer should be regarded as a mid-level QB2 until proven otherwise on the field.
  • It was a rough-and-tumble opener for most of fantasy’s top-ranked tight ends as the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Jimmy Graham and Greg Olsen caught 17 of 31 targets for 135 yards and no TDs – combined. Up in Orchard Park, N.Y., though, TE Charles Clay had nine targets – three more than any teammate and tied for the most among NFL tight ends through Sunday – and reeled in four of those passes for 53 yards and a TD in a 21-12 win over the Jets. It was an extension of Clay’s strong but overlooked finish to last season when he caught 18 of 23 targets for 209 yards and all four of his 2016 scores in a three-game stretch during the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16). And now with WRs Watkins and Robert Woods – among others – gone, Clay is the lone 2017 Buffalo tight end or wide receiver who actually caught a pass in a Bills jersey last season, and fantasy general managers in need of early-season tight-end help would be wise to take notice.

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