BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
Dri Archer – Knee/Ankle
Steve Smith – Knee
Alshon Jeffery – Hamstring
Jordan Cameron – Shoulder
Ben Tate – Knee
Shaun Hill – Thigh
Jordan Reed – Hamstring
Tyler Eifert – Elbow
Antony Dixon – Hamstring
Toby Gerhart – Ankle
Jadeveon Clowney – Torn Meniscus
Doug Martin – Knee
After a summer full of hype, speculation and outright guesses, the fantasy world finally watched the 2014 season. We have answers. Granted some are real and others are just one week situations that happened to be in the season opener. Fight off the urge to crow about your victory or cry about your loss for now. It was just one week. But it was the first one.
Running Backs = Wide Receivers = Running Backs
The reality is that running backs and wide receivers are now relative equivalents. Not only in scoring, but in the manner you should approach them. The NFL likes committee backfields that usually employ two similar backs and one smaller third-down type. Not unlike two wide receivers and a slot receiver.
The consistency is the issue because in the same way wideouts take turns being the most used for the week, running backs can also mix it up. So walking away from week one, you cannot decide that share ratios will necessarily happen next week. There are precious few teams that will rely heavily on just one back, let alone for every week of the season.
Consider what we learned about these backfields:
Atlanta – Used four backs and Steven Jackson had 12 of the 22 rushes. Jacquizz Rodgers ran six times and scored once while the rookie Devonta Freeman ended up with two runs and two catches. Barring injuries this committee will never allow a big game for one player.
Buffalo – C.J. Spiller ran 15 times and Fred Jackson only rushed seven times. Worse yet, Anthony Dixon was given five runs and all this in a very close game. It may switch between Spiller and Jackson each week but no reason to expect more than half the workload even if you correctly guess which one is the primary back for the week.
Cincinnati – Giovani Bernard ended with 14 runs and six catches for a nice game. The rookie Jeremy Hill was only allowed four runs. The Bengals made good on their promise to feature Bernard more.
Cleveland – Ben Tate already is injured and both Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell were used five or six times each with the undrafted Crowell scoring both touchdowns. No stability here.
Denver – Montee Ball received 23 of the 27 runs by the Broncos and remained for all three downs. Safe start.
Houston – Arian Foster ran 27 times and looks healthy as ever. No sharing here.
Indianapolis – Trent Richardson was in early but Ahmad Bradshaw was used later in the passing packages so their use depends on how much the Colts have to play from behind.
Jacksonville – Toby Gerhart was heavily used until he left injured. But how many times will the Jaguars be able to just run in games? Gerhart is a safe start in terms of being the primary here.
Miami – Knowshon Moreno was the hot hand with 24 runs for 134 yards and Lamar Miller was more of the third down back with 11 carries and four catches. Moreno has injury problems so do not get comfortable with this ratio yet.
New England – Stevan Ridley had the first carry and ended with eight runs to only seven for Shane Vereen who also had five catches for 35 yards and rushed in the only score. But Vereen is not apparently getting a major part of the load so far. At least not until Ridley fumbles again.
New Orleans – As tempting and yet terrifying as Bourbon Street at 3 AM. Khiry Robinson ran six times and scored once. Pierre Thomas ran seven times and caught six passes. Mark Ingram ran 13 times but only had one catch yet scored twice. Expect constant change here.
New York Jets – Chris Johnson was the primary runner with 13 carries and he scored during his five catches but Chris Ivory also ran ten times so Johnson’s 91 total yards will be hard to repeat each week. But both looked good running the ball.
Oakland – The Raiders looked horrible rushing and Maurice Jones-Drew only gained 11 yards on nine runs. Darren McFadden ran four times for 15 yards. Not only will both factor in, the chance for a big game from either looks remote for now.
Philadelphia – LeSean McCoy ran 21 times and added six catches for a solid afternoon but Darren Sproles filled in for 11 runs and four receptions as well. And the Eagles were not just running out the clock. McCoy is safe but Sproles is also very much in the game plan.
San Francisco – Frank Gore rushed 16 times in Dallas but never had a reception while Carlos Hyde scored once during his seven carries. As great as Hyde looked, this remains a committee that limits Gore.
St. Louis – Zac Stacy shared 11:5 with Benny Cunningham but the same happened in 2013. Some games Cunningham might equal Stacy, others he would share 1:2 and occasionally Cunningham disappeared so he only serves to lower Stacy’s production and not consistently.
Tennessee – While it is reasonable to expect the top rookie runner to gain more work as the season progresses, the Titans are using four backs – Shonn Greene (15 runs), Dexter McCluster (nine runs, one catch), Leon Washington (two runs, two catches) and Bishop Sankey (six runs). Sankey may work his way up but that may take some time.
Washington – Alfred Morris ran 14 times but once again had no receptions. Roy Helu was the third down back with four rushes and two catches. That leaves Morris limited to just running and Helu can never get enough passes to matter.
Running Backs are no longer kings. They are just one of five or six offensive options on any given play.
Free Agent Ho!
The free agent grab in week one is always greatly anticipated. This will probably be the best week to add to your roster other than in a month when league mates give up on young players too early.
There were no surprises that merit grabbing anyone. While Jake Locker and Chad Henne turned in decent games, there is a good chance neither makes to the end of the season.
Justin Forsett (BAL) – Bernard Pierce was benched for fumbling and gave Forsett an unusually heavy load of 11 carries and five catches. He’s no secret. He’s on his fourth team in seven years. Leave him.
Isaiah Crowell (CLE) – The third stringer for the Browns scored twice and looked great. Worth a stash since Tate is already getting injured but he’ll always be in a committee.
Jacquizz Rodgers (ATL) – He scored but already showed last year he is not the answer. Better to wait to see if the Devonta Freeman owner drops him.
Allen Hurns (JAC) – The rookie was supposed to be in the slot but he replaced Cecil Shorts this week and blew up on the Eagles. He may never repeat that this year but he was much touted in camp and made the team despite being undrafted. He’s a strong buy this week.
Brian Quick (STL) – Seven catches for 99 yards and you are not paying attention if you think he is the Rams receiver to own. Actually a trick question because there is no Rams receiver you should own.
Andrew Hawkins (CLE) – No, not the next Josh Gordon but a solid receiver that Brian Hoyer prefers with eight catches last week. In a reception point league, he’s already worthy of being your third wideout.
Donnie Avery (KC) – Opened year with seven catches for 84 yards but Chiefs offense is not where to invest your passing game dollars. Dwayne Bowe will return soon.
Dwayne Allen (IND) – Andrew Luck is one of the great young guns. Allen is healthy again and he scored from 41 yards out. Trade your #2 tight end for him.
Levine Toilolo (ATL) – He scored last week but only had three catches. Not the second coming of Gonzo so leave him on the wire.
Travis Kelce (KC) – While he only managed three catches for 19 yards, the Chiefs are going to want to throw more this year and Kelce is worth being your #2 tight end.
Tim Wright (NE) – The late summer add by the Patriots only caught three passes for 15 yards but his uniform still has the tags on it. He’s another good #2 tight end for now.
Week one is always an odd one as teams have their first chance to see what they can do. Expect a month to pass before you can be comfortable with how good or bad players and teams will be this year. Right now many are installing new schemes and integrating new personnel. Above all – the schedule is in control for now so don’t decide anything without considering the opponent they just faced.
|MIN 34, STL 6||Okay this was a surprise. The Rams offense falling apart was no shocker and they lost yet another quarterback. Zac Stacy was held to only 43 yards on 11 carries and Benny Cunningham ran for 21 yards on five runs or just enough to ruin Stacy. Brian Quick (7-99) was the best receiver and will quickly be ripped from waiver wires and then returned in week three. The Rams still search for that elusive touchdown. Matt Cassel (170 yards, 2 TD) did not have to do much and gave Greg Jennings (6-58, TD) a decent game. Cordarrelle Patterson only gained 26 yards on three catches but also ran for 102 on three rushes. He scored once, becoming the most productive runner for the Vikings in the game and therefore on the season. The Vikes also used a lesser know rusher of Adrian Peterson (21-75) who at least added two catches for 18 yards. The Rams defense was not as good as billed but also had to suffer from what their offense could not do. That is likely to repeat. The Vikes host the Patriots and the Rams head to Tampa Bay for week two.|
|CLE 27, PIT 30||Yet another surprise with the Browns more than game here. When they said the Browns would focus on the run, they were correct. Combined they rushed 27 times for 173 yards and two scores but that required three players – Terrence West (16-100), Ben Tate (6-41) and Isaiah Crowell (5-32, 2 TD). Tate banged up his knee so his durability issues popped up before he made it to halftime of the first game. Andrew Hawkins (8-87) could be a quiet gem in a PPR league but Jordan Cameron (2-47) discovered the defense was looking for him. The Steelers squeaked past with Ben Roethlisberger passing for 365 yards and one score that went to Antonio Brown (5-116, TD) thereby proving that Joe Haden could not be everywhere all the time. Marcus Wheaton (6-97) had an encouraging performance. LeGarrette Blount hawked one touchdown but Le’Veon Bell did plenty well anyway with 109 rush yards, 88 yards on six catches and one score. This game is encouraging. We all want bad teams to get into shootouts. Oh yes, and no Johnny Footb… never mind. The Browns host the Saints while the Steelers go to Baltimore this week.|
|JAX 17, PHI 34||The Jags led 17-0 at halftime when Chip Kelly had to show overheads to the Eagles about the Jaguars record last year, road woes and futility of their offense. When it was all over Nick Foles threw for 322 yards and two scores while LeSean McCoy ran for 74 yards and caught six passes for 41 more yards. Darren Sproles (11-71, TD) was a bigger factor than expected and looked better than he did in New Orleans last year. Jeremy Maclin (4-97, TD) had a great first game back from a torn ACL and Zach Ertz (3-77, TD) looks ready for that standard second-year breakout. The entirety of the Jaguars offense was from the undrafted wideout Allen Hurns who logged four catches for 110 yards and two scores by halftime and then nothing for the rest of the game. He replaced Cecil Shorts well though and fellow rookie Marqise Lee (6-62) was a big factor in the passing game despite the lack of a “u” in his first name. The Jaguars go to Washington and the Eagles play in Indianapolis this week.|
|OAK 14, NYJ 19||This game was troubling because no one scored many points. Geno Smith passed for 221 yards and one score while his new boy toy Eric Decker (5-74) led the receivers. Chris Ivory (10-102, TD) did not really matter until he broke his 71-yard touchdown run late in the game. Chris Johnson ran for 68 yards on 13 carries and added 23 yards and a score on five receptions. Derek Carr was hot early in the game but ended with just 151 yards and two touchdowns split between Rod Streater (5-46) and James Jones (3-34). Disappointing was Maurice Jones-Drew held to only 11 yards on nine carries and Darren McFadden only managed 15 yards on four runs. This we do not want – low scoring games with marginal fantasy value. The Raiders host the Texans and the Jets go to Green Bay this week.|
|CIN 23, BAL 16||The Bengals took the rare road win from the Ravens with Andrew Dalton passing for 301 yards and one score to A.J. Green (6-131) who scored from 77 yards out. Giovani Bernard ran for 48 yards and added 62 more on six catches but Jeremy Hill only received four runs for 19 yards. Ray Rice was already suspended but then the Ravens benched Bernard Pierce for fumbling and Justin Forsett (11-70, TD) got all those yards the Pierce owners were expecting. Joe Flacco passed for 345 yards and a score thanks mostly to Steve Smith (7-118, TD) and Dennis Pitta (10-83). Close game but the Bengals rushed better. These teams never have shootouts anyway. The Bengals host the Falcons and the Ravens host the Steelers.|
|BUF 23, CHI 20
|Definite upset. Sort of shocking really. E.J. Manuel wasn’t that good with only 173 pass yards and one score with one interception. That left uber-rookie Sammy Watkins with just two catches for three catches for 31 yards and Robert Woods was tops with only four receptions for 78 yards. Manuel did run in one score and the passing touchdown went to C.J. Spiller (3-11) who ran for 53 yards on 15 runs. Fred Jackson was limited to seven runs but gained 61 yards that included the 38 yard run which set up the game winning field goal. Jay Cutler passed for 349 yards and two scores split between Brandon Marshall (8-71) and Martellus Bennett (8-70). Alshon Jeffery (5-71) left with a hamstring problem. Matt Forte totaled 169 yards but did not score. The Bills host the Dolphins while the Bears go to San Francisco.|
|WAS 6, HOU 17||The offensive woes of the Redskins continues. Robert Griffin III passed for 267 yards and no scores and only ran for two yards. Pierre Garcon (10-77) is still a PPR-king and DeSean Jackson (8-62) was productive though both receivers never much got down field. Alfred Morris ran for 91 yards on 14 runs but never had a catch again. Roy Helu (4-46) added two catches for 15 yards. Ryan Fitzpatrick only passed for 206 yards and one score to DeAndre Hopkins (4-89) while Andre Johnson (6-93) did pretty well with his new quarterback. Encouraging was Arian Foster running for 103 yards on 27 carries and he had all but two rushes by a running back. The Skins get to host the Jaguars which should help and the Texans go to Oakland.|
|TEN 26, KC 10||Another upset. The Titans received 266 pass yards and two scores by Jake Locker who both entered and left the game uninjured. Justin Hunter was tops with his three catches for 63 yards and no Titan player stood out. Shonn Greene (15-71) took the biggest part of the backfield workload while Dexter McCluster (9-29) and Bishop Sankey (6-25) also contributed in this committee. Sankey was barely used but should see his load increase as he gets better at all the facets of his job. The Chiefs have problems. That offensive line that was was stripped down and yet not rebuilt only allowed Jamal Charles to gain 19 yards on seven runs and he added just 15 more yards on four catches. Alex Smith only passed for 202 yards and one score with three interceptions. Dwayne Bowe was out on suspension and Donnie Avery led the crew with seven catches for 84 yards. The Titans take away a nice road win and and now host the Cowboys while the Chiefs need to find some answers fast before they reach Denver this week. The Chiefs look much more like the team that finished 2-5 than the one that started 9-0 last season.|
|NE 20, MIA 33||This is the first time that the Patriots lost a opener since 2003 and they now are all alone in the AFC cellar at 0-1. These are two teams that are very familiar with one another so the outcome is even a little more surprising. The fact that it was all Dolphin scoring after halftime when the Pats led 20-10 is kind of shocking. Tom Brady only threw for 249 yards and one score to Rob Gronkowski (4-40). Julian Edelman (6-95) led all receivers. This remains a committee backfield and Stevan Ridley (8-21) was the first runner but Shane Vereen gained 36 yards and one score on seven runs and added 35 more yards on five catches. Ryan Tannehill passed for 178 yards and two touchdowns split between Mike Wallace (7-81) and Lamar Miller (4-19) who also rushed for 59 yards on 11 carries. Knowshon Moreno ran for 124 yards and a score on 24 carries. This was roughly opposite the roles for the two backs in the preseason but Moreno was give the most carries and no receptions. The Dolphins looked more prepared and hungrier. And the Pats could not score a second half point. Now the Pats head to Minnesota and the Fins travel to Buffalo.|
|GB 16, SEA 36||First game of the year and kinda just an extension of the Super Bowl. There’s continuity. Nothing surprising here with the Seahawks defense at home still just as welcoming as a bunch of drunk navy SEALs. Aaron Rodgers started the year with a clunker of 189 yards and one score that went to Randall Cobb (6-58) while Jordy Nelson (9-83) was the preferred target. Eddie Lacy only ran for 34 yards before entering the league’s concussion protocol (step one – leave field, make fantasy owners cry). The Seahawks did enough to ensure the win. Russell Wilson passed for 191 yards and two scores but no receiver had more than Percy Harvin’s 59 yards on seven catches so fantasy value still is minimal in the passing offense. Harvin added four runs for 41 yards as well and was clearly a huge part of the game plan. Marshawn Lynch ran for 110 yards and two scores on 20 runs and looks just as punishing as he ever did. Now the Packers regroup and host the Jets while the Seahawks head to San Diego.|
|SF 28, DAL 17||This wasn’t that close. The Cowboys opened the game with a new plan to cover their bad defense – don’t force them on the field much. Instead lose a fumble and threw three interceptions and fell behind 28-3 while the 49ers mostly looked like a boxer who just stands there and watches his opponent hit his own face. Tony Romo would end with 281 yards and one score but that included a late 56-yard connection with Dwayne Harris. Dez Bryant was in and out of the game because of reported dehydration and ended with only 55 yards on four catches. Jason Witten was limited to two receptions for 14 yards and overall, it looked very much like Romo had taken it easy in the offseason and preseason and was out-of-synch. DeMarco Murray was effective rushing for 118 yards on 22 carries with one score but the Cowboys could not afford to just run the ball. Collin Kaepernick passed for 201 yards and two scores and was not pressed to throw deep because the Cowboys so often coughed the ball up. Anquan Boldin (8-99) and Vernon Davis (4-44, 2 TD) did all the damage. Disappointing to fantasy owners was Frank Gore running just 16 times for 63 yards while Carlos Hyde looked very good gaining 50 yards and a score on just seven runs. Now the 49ers will host the Bears and the|
|CAR 20, TB 14||Cam Newton was a scratch for the game thanks to ribs that were slow to heal and Derek Anderson was good enough throwing for 230 yards and two scores split between Kelvin Benjamin (6-92) and Greg Olsen (8-83). Deangelo Williams ran for 72 yards on 14 carries but the Buccaneers had a good defensive effort. Josh McCown passed for 183 yards and two touchdowns along with two interceptions and little happened in the passing effort with Brandon Myers (6-41) being the lead receiver. Doug Martin injured his knee and left the game but later returned. He was ineffective with only nine yards on nine carries. The main take away from this game is that the Panthers will compete because their defense remains really good regardless what happens on their offense.|
|IND 24, DEN 31||This was a great game and a definite contender for Game-O-The-Week. The Broncos came out and slapped the Colts around in the first half with a 24-0 lead but then had to hang on while the Colts made it a game. In the end, Peyton Manning passed for 269 yards and three scores all to Julius Thomas (7-104) but Demaryius Thomas was held to just 48 yards on four catches and Emmanuel Sanders managed six receptions for 77 yards. Montee Ball spent his first game as the primary back rushing for 67 yards and a score with two catches for 16 yards. Andrew Luck started slowly but passed for 370 yards and two touchdowns and Reggie Wayne (9-98) showed his knee was just fine. T.Y. Hilton was held to only five catches for 41 yards as the primary objective of the defense. Trent Richardson looks just as plodding as last year but Ahmad Bradshaw as a receiver ended with 70 yards on five catches. It was a great late Sunday game. Now the Broncos remain home to face the Chiefs and the Colts return to Indianapolis to host the Eagles.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Julius Thomas – Fantasy drafters often took a gamble on grabbing Thomas early hoping he could offer an advantage and that his late season slide in 2013 would not start out this year. No worries. All Thomas did was catch seven passes for 104 yards and three touchdowns for almost twice what any other tight end managed on opening week.
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Jake Locker||266||2||QB||Aaron Rodgers||189||1|
|RB||Justin Forsett||84||1||RB||Doug Martin||16||0|
|RB||Mark Ingram||60||2||RB||Jamaal Charles||34||0|
|WR||Allen Hurns||110||2||WR||Michael Crabtree||25||0|
|WR||Steve Smith||118||1||WR||Vincent Jackson||36||0|
|WR||Brian Quick||99||0||WR||Dez Bryant||55||0|
|TE||Niles Paul||86||0||TE||Jordan Reed||4||0|
|PK||Caleb Sturgis||3 XP 4 FG||PK||Phil Dawson||4 XP|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 126||Huddle Fantasy Points = 31|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
Week one is always such a treat. It is humbling to predict and ended with seven road winners. The Pats are alone in the AFC East basement. The Browns look much better than expected. The Titans win in Kansas City but which one is defying expectations or are both? The Cowboys open their season offering one free interceptions with the purchase of large nachos and soda.The Vikings are somehow all alone atop the NFC North. The Saints are either worse or the Falcons much better. Or both? The Rams offensive plan to lose a quarterback every week now looks a bad idea. This is a delicious time because now we think we know what we see but it will be changing still.
The Game-O-The-Week? Had to go with the highest scoring one and overtime no less…
Saints 34, Falcons 37
This was a game of fantasy beauty because almost everyone had a good fantasy game.
The Falcons rediscovered the offense they lost in 2013 and Matt Ryan passed for 448 yards and three scores. Julio Jones (7-116) and Roddy White (5-72, TD) did what you wanted while Steven Jackson (12-52) did what you expected.
Drew Brees passed for 333 yards but only one touchdown because Mark Ingram (13-60, 2 TD) and Khiry Robinson (6-28, TD) took the scores while Pierre Thomas (7-31) makes this a three-headed monster. Marques Colston (5-110) was great up to the point he fumbled in overtime and the Falcons kicked the winning field goal. Jimmy Graham (8-82) was busy but the most promising was that Brandin Cooks (7-77, TD, 18-yard run) continues to shine as he did in the preseason.
The Saints seemed to have wrapped up the game with 1:20 left when Mark Ingram’s second touchdown run gave them the 34-31 lead. But the Falcons connected on passes to Harry Douglas, Julio Jones and Devin Hester to reach the Saints 34-yard line where Matt Bryant kicked a 51 yard field goal as time expired to send it into overtime.
The Saints received the kick in overtime but on the second play, Drew Brees hit Marques Colston over the middle and he fumbled the ball away. The Falcons took over on the 35 yard line and after three plays to gain just four yards, Bryant kicked a 52-yard field goal for the win.
The season started and while there wasn’t quite the offense I expected from the rules changes, there were plenty of fireworks and big plays. This is always a fun time too because some fantasy owners suddenly realize they are a genius with a high scoring team. And at least one guy in every league starts squawking about draft order or bad luck or how his draft picks must be haunted.
There were plenty of injuries to start the year but nothing too serious yet. Cruise your waiver wire to see what is there and remember the next three weeks is the prime picking time when good players hit the waiver wire because they just had a bad schedule to start or are young and growing into the position.
The decline of the running backs showed up again this week and it brings home one very good truth. With few “stud” players out there, the more that working your roster and building a complete team can bring home a championship. Don’t expect to ride any player all the way home – get busy improving the whole roster every week. And be happy – now you have something to do on Monday mornings.
Now get back to work…