Week 1 Recap: Check Your Head
With week one nearly in the books, there is no time like the present to panic. Seriously, I spent all night in my backyard with a shovel and pick ax digging a bunker. Peyton Manning is on pace for 8,000 touchdowns, Lamar Miller is getting released, and Julius Thomas is the best player in league history. In other news, I just yawned. To put it in 90's sitcom terms, fantasy owners are the teenage girl whose overprotective dad just told her she can't go on a date with the older guy in a leather jacket.
To kick off the first of my seventeen weekly recap columns, we are going to play some buy/sell/hold. But before you dive in, put away your gas mask, survival knife, and please, don't hit the submit button on your Stevan Ridley for Brian Hartline trade offer.
Broncos 49, Ravens 27
Peyton Manning tying the all-time single game touchdown record of seven was only the second biggest record set on Thursday night. Much more significantly, the word "oops" was used more times that evening than in any single day in human history. Fantasy analysts who questioned Manning's arm? Oops. People who'd never heard of Julius Thomas? Oops. Didn't think Wes Welker would thrive in Denver? Oops. You started Eric Decker? Oops. Those who took to Twitter during the first half, upset at Demaryius Thomas' lack of production? Oops. Worried about Ray Rice's workload? Oops. Montee Ball? Oops. Ronnie Hillman? Oops. Knowshon Moreno? Oops.
All told, there were three more oopses on Thursday than #twerks following the MTV VMA's last week.
For the Ravens part, Joe Flacco looked rather Flaccoish. If you were expecting the playoff version, shame on you. We've seen enough of the University of Delaware product to know what we have, and that is a top-18ish guy with upside for the occasional big game. There may be some value in Marlon Brown with Jacoby Jones (who actually looked very good) out the next 4-6 weeks with a knee, but I am not dropping even a WR4 to make that pickup. To me, he is a deep league flier only.
Buy: All Denver wide receivers. There are enough targets to go around that Welker, Thomas, and Decker could all end up in the top 20 at seasons end.
Sell: Bronco's running backs. At some point this season one of them will likely have at least some flex value (my money is on Ball), but none of them are worth playing in the interim.
Hold: Julius Thomas. He has had two good quarters in his career and they happened to be in the most prolific passing game since 1969. His physical skills and Manning give him legit top-10 possibilities, but until we see Joel Dreessen back on the field and/or Thomas be something other than a matador when pass blocking, I am not going to blow my top waiver spot or FAAB budget.
Patriots 23, Bills 21
In what was a surprisingly competitive game, E.J. Manuel dinked and dunked his way to two touchdowns and 16 points in standard scoring. While these are not exactly fantasy relevant numbers, when you look at Manuel’s play, it is becoming clear that he is more than capable of propping up his supporting cast. Stevie Johnson is as safe a bet as there is to put up yet another season of at least 60-900-6. And, in theory anyway, Manuel’s play should also keep teams from stacking the box in an effort to slow C.J. Spiller.
Speaking of C.J., the Pats shut him down for all four quarters. The good news is that despite the ineffectiveness, he still had 22 touches. The Bills did not give up on the run which bodes quite well going forward.
The Patriots gave us a lot to talk about. While Tom Brady was ordinary by his lofty standards, we got a vintage Wes Welker performance out of Danny Amendola. If he can stay healthy, there is no reason to think he won’t see a minimum of 100 receptions. We also saw a nice game from Julian Edelman. He was fourth on the team in targets, but he caught nearly everything, including two for touchdowns. I would expect his role to grow.
The news wasn’t so good for Kenbrell Thompkins. He saw 14 balls thrown his way but unfortunately managed to drag in only four. To put that in perspective, out of 142 wide receivers who had at least 14 targets in 2012, the lowest catch percentage was 31.25 percent, some 2.7 percent higher than Thompkins on Sunday.
Stevan Ridley, why, oh why do you torture us so?
Following Ridley’s embarrassing fumble, Shane Vereen came in and had a great game, totaling 159 yards. What will happen with the backfield next week is anybody’s guess, but based on where Ridley went in drafts, you are playing him anyway. I own him in two leagues and am not even close to panicking yet, but it sure would have been nice to get more than 2.6 points out of him Sunday.
Buy: Bills skill position players
Sell: Zach Sudfeld. Any time an undrafted rookie sees one target in an equal opportunity offense, I am not interested.
Hold: Kenbrell Thompkins. Let’s give the kid another week to calm down and settle into the NFL game.
Bears 24, Bengals 21
I watched this game from kickoff to final whistle and noted a handful of things you can carry with you into Week 2:
-Giovani Bernard could easily have had closer to 10 points. He had two nice plays, including a 25-yard run, called back due to penalties. Even more frustrating for Gio owners, BenJarvus Green-Ellis was completely shut down but still played far more snaps. I can't see how this continues for long.
-Andy Dalton threw two very nice deep balls to A.J. Green. He also chucked a couple of awful interceptions, which really hurt the Bengals chances. But from a fantasy perspective, it is great to see the noodle-armed quarterback throwing it deep effectively.
-Chicago is very committed to the run and Matt Forte. Even more heartening, number 22 got the ball at the goal line (he scored) and in several short yardage situations (he converted all but one).
-Jay Cutler looked very blah in the first half but great in the second. Once they got the passing offense rolling, Cutler was sharp and decisive. This could be a sign of a nice year from the erratic quarterback.
Buy: Tyler Eifert. Eifert was specifically targeted on multiple plays and looks like a future star. As the season progresses, it is entirely likely he becomes the team’s number two option next to Green. Stash him as a streamer for the time being.
Sell: BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Though he'll be a safe option each week, he may not see the upside you'd want in a fantasy running back.
Hold: Martellus Bennett. He caught three balls on six targets, including a brutal drop on the first pass play of the game. His touchdown catch was spectacular, but aside from the play that ended in the drop, he appeared to be strictly a check down option.
Dolphins 23, Browns 10
Ryan Tannehill continues to look like he might become a decent NFL passer. While his number one, Mike Wallace, was draped by Joe Haden all day, Tannehill made GM Jeff Ireland look good for overpaying Brian Hartline this offseason. A number of fantasy pundits have smartly mentioned Hartline as an underrated PPR option, but nobody saw this coming. Don’t expect this to continue, but do expect the former Buckeye to be a WR4 with WR3 upside most weeks.
Top tip: There will be value in starting number two wideouts all season versus the Browns. Behind Haden, who generally shadows team’s best receivers, their cornerback options are very weak.
Jordan Cameron took full advantage of Josh Gordon’s absence, catching nine balls for 108 yards and a touchdown. The worst kept secret in drafts following a preseason breakout, Cameron should continue to impress in one of the most tight end friendly offenses in the NFL.
The Browns inexplicably abandoned the run, giving their best player, Trent Richardson, only 15 total touches. It isn’t like they passed it well either. Brandon Weeden was sacked six times, often holding onto the ball far too long, a common complaint last season as well. Making matters worse, he spent most of the game throwing it to the guys in teal, logging three picks against just one touchdown.
Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas were embarrassingly ineffective, totaling 17 yards on 18 carries (no, that is not a typo). The Brown’s defense is better than people think, so here is to hoping better days are ahead. The Dolphins get a soft Colts D next week; it may be a good time to see if Miller’s owner is ready to bail.
Buy: Lamar Miller. This kid is too talented to not have value. I am still buying him as a flex-worthy weekly start. Keep in mind, numberFire hasn't been sold on him throughout the offseason. Get him if he's cheap.
Sell: Brandon Gibson. Mike Wallace seems destined to disappoint in 2013, but he will catch more than one pass most games. Gibson’s stat line will suffer.
Hold: Brian Hartline
Lions 34, Vikings 24
Reggie Bush is the one guy I wanted to own in every league, but ended up getting in only one. Aside from the 191 yards from scrimmage, which included a scintillating 77-yard catch and run, he had two touchdowns overturned. Talk about a bad great game. Speaking of great games from Lion’s runners, my personal hero, Joique Bell, had a career effort, scoring twice among his 11 touches. I touted him as an underrated flex worthy player in PPR leagues and Sunday showed why. Even if you strip away the scores, you can see that he is still playable despite limited touches.
Calvin Johnson had a bad game. I only mention this because I expect it to be the only time I get to say it all season.
The Vikings had trouble moving the ball consistently all day. The Lions front seven gave up 78 yards to Adrian Peterson on his first carry and only 15 yards thereafter. Jerome Simpson logged a career day with a 7-140-0 line. If he can continue to be effective it will certainly help Greg Jennings, who got off to a sluggish start.
Buy: Joique Bell
Sell: Kyle Rudolph. He is just too inconsistent to be started above the glut of solid tight ends.
Hold: Greg Jennings. Jennings will likely be just fine and should post WR3 numbers. Stick with him but maybe look elsewhere in week two when the Vikings go to Soldier Field to face the Bears.
Colts 31, Raiders 17
Everybody calm down and step away from The Pryor. The former Ohio State star had a great (fantasy) game and should continue to have legitimate value, but those of you who are in a frenzy (and judging by Twitter, you are many) need to step back before you do something you will regret.
Against 2012’s number 29 ranked rushing defense in terms of adjusted defensive rushing NEP per play, Terrelle Pryor could very well have just had his best game of 2013. Before you yell at me, answer this: Do you expect him to run for more than 112 yards or throw more than one touchdown regularly? If he is not owned in your league, pick him up. Unless you have a low-end QB1 or face a brutal week two matchup, don’t get cute and start him over a proven option.
Until Pryor establishes himself, I am steering clear of all Raiders passing options. But if forced to pick, I’d go with Rod Streater. He is more of a possession guy, which should bring more consistent results than his counterpart. Speaking of Denarius Moore, he's completely unreliable, logging two drops in seven targets versus the Colts. Neither of these guys is a recommended starter.
In other Oakland news, Darren McFadden had a decent fantasy showing thanks almost entirely to a touchdown plunge from the one-yard line. Can't say numberFire didn't see this coming. More importantly, he was ineffective running the ball despite having his beloved power blocking scheme back. With their offensive line unable to get any push against such a soft defense, my preseason prediction of disappointment seems all the more likely. He was a good play against the Colts, but he won't be against better defenses.
Andrew Luck is going to have a very nice season. He was efficient as ever and picked up where he left off last year with his rushing prowess. It would be nice if the Colts would get T.Y. Hilton more involved, but as long as Reggie Wayne keeps drinking from the fountain of youth, Luck will be fine.
Buy: Ahmad Bradshaw. He is being worked back slowly, but in the next week or two he should take hold of the job and prove to be a valuable asset to both the Colts and your flex slot.
Sell: Darren McFadden
Hold: T.Y. Hilton. He was over drafted all fall and is poised to disappoint for at least the first half of the season. Hang in there and hope the Colts come to their senses and give him more run over Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Saints 23, Falcons 17
Show of hands: How many of you started Roddy White? You can’t see it right now, but I am raising my hand twice. This is obviously a situation to watch closely going into week two, but if White is still hurting as bad as he was this week, there is no reason to gamble again. And while Harry Douglas had a nice game, you can do better elsewhere.
After similar reports in the preseason, Steven Jackson reportedly looked a bit slower and stiffer than in previous years. And aside from a 50-yard run, he was not overly effective, registering two drops in the passing game. He is going to continue to put up RB2 numbers but any talk of RB1 upside should be tabled. This is something we noted in March.
The Saints did what many expected and quickly turned to Pierre Thomas ahead of Mark Ingram. I own the former Alabama star as an RB5 in two leagues and am not ready to give up entirely, but he is edging closer and closer to being not worth rostering. Pierre Thomas should be owned in most leagues in the event that New Orleans also gives up on their former first rounder. This is another thing we've talked through on numberFire.com.
Buy: Darren Sproles. This guy is probably the most under-appreciated player in fantasy. He has RB2 value in leagues of all types and is borderline top-5 in PPR (was 7th in PPG in 2012 and 6th in 2011).
Sell: Mark Ingram
Hold: Lance Moore. The Saints spread it around so much that Moore is going to have weeks like this. But as the second wide receiver on one of the best offenses in the league, he retains WR4 status with weekly WR2 upside.
Jets 18, Buccaneers 17
I don’t know what to think about Josh Freeman. The thing that keeps people coming back is that for every 15 for 31 stat line, he has a great throw like the one he made on the Mike Williams touchdown. The bottom line is that he is good enough to make Vincent Jackson a fantasy monster and keep Williams in WR3 to WR2 territory. But that's about it.
Geno Smith didn't show enough to be fantasy relevant, but like fellow rookie E.J. Manuel, he did plenty to keep his teammates in the conversation. Kellen Winslow’s reemergence was a nice surprise and both Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill looked like they might be able to fill in a bye week for desperate owners. The run game was another story, and I wouldn’t expect that to get better next week against the Patriots, who shut down C.J. Spiller on Sunday.
Buy: Mike Williams. He just keeps outperforming his ADP, season after season. He's been a numberFire favorite all offseason.
Hold: Kellen Winslow. We have seen this before from him and it usually ends bad.
Titans 16, Steelers 9
There really isn’t much to say here except that the Steelers need Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell back, healthy, and productive in a significant way. With the loss of Maurkice Pouncey for the season, the outlook in Pittsburgh isn’t great. While Ben Roethlisberger was upright, he got the ball to both Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, making each of them startable in PPR leagues. Without the touchdowns, it will be tougher sledding in standard scoring.
Jake Locker is looking more and more like he is never going to be an NFL quarterback. Considering the not inconsiderable talent at wide receiver in Tennessee, this is most unfortunate. I don’t really see how you can rely on any of their pass catching options on a week-to-week basis.
Chris Johnson was Chris Johnson except without the big run. And without it, he is merely average.
Hold: Your loved ones close
Seahawks 12, Panthers 7
Another barn burner!
Russell Wilson should have alleviated fears that he would regress by having a great day throwing the ball. Seattle had no room to run, so Wilson put the offense on his back and carried the team to a win. Helping him along the way was deep sleeper Doug Baldwin. He turned his eight targets into seven catches for 91 yards. Golden Tate also saw some but was less effective.
As I said, the Seahawks had little running room versus a solid Panthers front seven. Marshawn Lynch was completely bottled up, gaining 47 yards on 17 carries. For the Christine Michael fans among you, he did not touch the ball all day, giving way to Robert Turbin as Seattle’s second running back.
As many expected, the Panthers had a rough day on offense. Cam Newton did just enough to keep his owners from jumping off a bridge, but didn’t help anybody win a game. DeAngelo Williams had a nice day totaling 100 yards, 86 of which came on the ground. He isn't going to provide huge games at this point in his career and is one of the least efficient running backs in the NFL, but if the volume is there he is a reasonable flex play most weeks.
Buy: Doug Baldwin. He's worth a try at this point in the season. But don't get crazy and go starting him over a top 30 option until we see more.
Sell: Sidney Rice. If Baldwin emerges, Rice will be even less fantasy relevant than he already is.
Hold: DeAngelo Williams
Chiefs 28, Jaquars 2
Just like last season, it seems as though Chad Henne may have to come in and clean up after Blaine Gabbert. The former Michigan Wolverine isn’t exactly fellow alum Tom Brady, but at least he will push the ball down field. Keep in mind that Cecil Shorts emergence in 2012 roughly coincided with Henne taking over.
Maurice Jones-Drew was quiet in a game that got out of hand early. Expect more from him when the Jags face the Raiders next week.
There was a lot more to like with the Chiefs than the Jags. Alex Smith did what he does and threw a lot of short, accurate passes. How short? KC’s leading receiver was their fullback, Anthony Sherman. Dwayne Bowe saw a disappointing six targets, a number we’d expect to see rise in future weeks as the offense continues to come together.
Jamaal Charles left the game with a thigh injury that is reportedly not at all serious. I get the feeling that if the game were in doubt, he may have returned. While he was in, he filled Andy Reid's LeSean McCoy role beautifully. Charles is set to have a massive year, especially in PPR leagues.
Buy: Cecil Shorts. He is too talented to not be at least a WR3.
Sell: All KC pass catches except Dwayne Bowe. Smith will spread it around too much and not throw deep enough to give value to any other receivers not named Bowe.
Hold: Maurice Jones-Drew
Rams 27, Cardinals 24
This was the best game of the day that nobody saw. It featured two quarterbacks who hung big numbers, two running backs who did just enough to justify flex status, and five discussable receiving performances. First, the victorious Rams…
St. Louis may finally have a decent football team on their hands. Sam Bradford looked good against a very underrated Cardinals defense, posting 299 yards and two touchdowns. Jared Cook looked like the star so many thought he would be and Tavon Austin was second on the team in targets. Going forward, you can expect some inconsistency from Cook as he is a seam stretcher who does not do as well in short areas. He is as dependent on the big play as any tight end in the NFL. Austin should continue to grow and could be a worthy WR3 sooner than I expected.
Daryl Richardson and Rashard Mendenhall both struggled at times which is understandable given the quality of opposition they faced. The Rams back is clearly in a better situation and is the more versatile threat, but Mendenhall still has some flex appeal. Nothing happened in this game that changes the value of either player much over where they were ranked in the preseason.
Carson Palmer catches a lot of flack, but he has been a decent quarterback for a long time. He did the Cards a great service on Sunday, helping the young duo of Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts post very productive afternoons. Our old friend Larry Fitzgerald reasserted himself significantly with the type of day we didn’t see in 2012 but came to expect in years prior. As long as Palmer can stay upright and healthy, all three of these guys have their arrows pointing straight up.
Buy: Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd. While it may be difficult to figure out which one to play each week, both have WR3/4 appeal.
Sell: Cardinals running backs not named Rashard. While Mendenhall is a walking injury, there is nobody behind him worthy of owning. It appears Alfonso Smith is next in line, but he lacks talent and would make any committee situation a muddled disaster.
49ers 34, Packers 28
Aaron Rodgers showed us a couple of things on Sunday afternoon:
1. His offensive line is good enough. He had enough time to throw and was only sacked twice. If they held up versus the 49ers vicious pass rush, they should be OK during the next 15 games.
2. The 49ers secondary is exploitable. We suspected this following some late-season breakdowns in 2012. And with the loss of Dashon Goldson, it is tough to expect improvement.
Among his receivers, Jordy Nelson impressed me the most. He looked like the guy we expected him to be last season. He and Randall Cobb present one of the best one-two punches at wide receiver in the NFL and will be a nightmare for defenses all season long.
Jermichael Finley did what he does and made a brutal drop that resulted in an interception. A short time later, he made up for it with a nice touchdown play. The enigmatic tight end is an, um, enigma that is just as libel to disappear for a game as he is to score 15 points.
Eddie Lacy had a nice day despite a costly fumble. Considering he faced perhaps the best front seven in the NFL, he handled himself well, scoring a touchdown and totaling 72 yards.
On the San Francisco side of the ball, Colin Kaepernick had a massive statistical day. He still looked young and uneven at times, but his sheer explosiveness and play making ability more than compensates. Seeing his immediate connection with Vernon Davis, who scored twice, and Anquan Boldin, who had a career game, is enough to give a guy goose bumps. The Niners did struggle mightily to run the ball, but that seemed to be a result of Green Bay continually loading up the box in favor of playing man to man on the back end. It didn’t really work out.
Buy: All offensive players on both teams
Sell: Jim Harbaugh constantly screaming at officials. Seriously Jim, you need to calm down.
Hold: James Jones. He had a bad day with only two targets. Lets chalk it up to playing the 49ers and see what happens next week against the soft Redskins pass D.
Cowboys 36, Giants 31
There is no way around it, David Wilson was bound to disappoint somehow. First it was the scheduled timeshare with Andre Brown. Then it was the optimistic skyrocketing of his ADP. The fact is that for all of Wilson’s talent, he is an incomplete player. He doesn’t block, is not especially effective as a receiver and he refuses to not fumble every other carry. At some point this kid will put up numbers, maybe as soon as next week, but I am glad I avoided him in every draft.
Is there a streakier passer in the NFL than Eli Manning? Mr. Football On Your Phone can go from brutal to amazing in a matter of one throw. Even in games where he struggles, his receivers are too good not to put up numbers. Speaking of, Rueben Randle had his 2013 coming out party last night, so take note. If you are in a dynasty or keeper league, he will be the Giants WR2 next season (Hakeem Nicks probably won’t be back) and will instantly insert himself into the top 15-20 discussion.
Tony Romo did not disappoint in his season debut. Despite Dez Bryant being blanketed all night, the most underrated passer in fantasy came through with 263 yards and two touchdowns. Romo was able to find Miles Austin and Jason Witten seemingly at will. Both had a big night and a healthy Austin seems like he could end up being a true draft day steal.
DeMarco Murray ran with violence. It is too bad his style gets him injured so often, because he is a joy to watch. As long as the pride of Las Vegas is on the field, he is a top-15 back who is capable of more if the Dallas offensive line allows it.
Buy: Brandon Myers. A personal favorite, especially in PPR, he is one of the best of the rest tight ends. Eminently unsexy, he will continue to benefit from Manning’s ability to make so-so talents into super consistent top-15 tight ends.
Sell: Backup running backs in Dallas. It is a super muddled situation where any one of three guys may take over if Murray goes down. I’d recommend laying off it for a few weeks and seeing what develops.
Hold: David Wilson