5 NFL Stats to Know Through Week 1
Despite all our best efforts to soak up any and all information we can find leading up to Week 1, there is still so much we don't know at the start of season, and the opening week is the first time we can finally get new data to work with.
Sometimes, this can reaffirm things we predicted entering the year, but we also always get our share of surprises, too -- both good and bad.
Here are five stats to know -- both traditional and our advanced statistics -- from the season's first week.
Najee Harris Played 58 of 58 Snaps
Najee Harris may not have posted a big fantasy score -- particularly in a game the Steelers ultimately won over the Bills -- but playing literally all of Pittsburgh's offensive snaps should get our attention.
Harris produced only 49 yards from scrimmage on 16 carries and 3 targets, but the Steelers trailed in this one up until the start of the fourth quarter, and it wasn't exactly a fantasy-rich scoring environment with both teams combining for just 39 points.
There are still questions surrounding his overall upside behind an offensive line that ranked 31st in PFF's preseason rankings and with an aging Ben Roethlisberger at the helm. But he's being treated as a true feature back, and that could begin to pay dividends in what should be an easier matchup at home versus the Raiders in Week 2.
The Steelers have opened as 6.5-point favorites on NFL odds.
DJ Chark Racked Up 199 Air Yards
It was unclear just how targets would be distributed in this new Jaguars offense under Trevor Lawrence, but DJ Chark was the big winner -- at least for one week -- after piling up the second-most air yards (199) in the league behind only Tyreek Hill (231). No other player even hit 160 for the week.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Lawrence was forced to throw the ball a whopping 51 times after Jacksonville surprisingly fell behind early to Houston, yet Chark still stood out from a market share perspective. His 12 targets led the team and amounted to a 22% target share, and those 199 air yards came to a 47% air yards share.
While Chark hauled in only 3 catches, the end result was still a solid 86 yards and a score, and if he maintains this type of role, there could be plenty of spike weeks in his future. That will especially be the case if Jacksonville's defense continues to play poorly and forces Lawrence to air it out every week.
Mike Gesicki Played 39% of the Snaps
If you weren't paying attention and were just checking fantasy scores, you may have wondered if Mike Gesicki was injured when you saw a big goose egg next to his name. But his zero receptions had nothing to do with health, as Gesicki would see just two targets the entire game.
Worse yet, he saw the field for a mere 39% snap rate, which was lower than any of his 15 games in 2020.
Perhaps this ends up being a one-game blip that had to do more with this specific matchup against the Patriots, but targets could become even tougher to come by with Will Fuller coming off his suspension.
There's a good chance Gesicki will be dropped in a lot of leagues this week, so it can't hurt to keep a close eye on whether his role improves in Week 2 against the Bills.
Aaron Rodgers Recorded a League-Worst -14.1 Passing Net Expected Points
This is Aaron Rodgers we're talking about, so he ought to bounce back at home against the Lions this week (Green Bay is an 11.5-point favorite), but talk about a disastrous performance against New Orleans from the longtime veteran.
Ryan Tannehill, Matt Ryan, and Andy Dalton were among those near the bottom in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) on Sunday, yet Rodgers rated the worst in the metric at -14.10 Passing NEP. That came to a ghastly -0.48 Passing NEP per drop back and 34.48% passing success rate -- meaning he essentially hurt his team more often than not when he dropped back to pass.
Only Ryan Fitzpatrick was worse on a per-play basis, though he had the obvious excuse of only dropping back six times before his injury. Rodgers threw two interceptions yesterday after throwing five the entire season in 2020.
While touchdown regression was always a possibility for Rodgers, no one expected him to flat out stink, either.
This clunker figures to be long forgotten by season's end, but let's hope Rodgers, after a bizarre offseason, looks like his old self in Week 2's edition of Monday Night Football.
Deebo Samuel Saw a 48% Target Share
Deebo Samuel was one of the standout performers at wide receiver in Week 1. He caught 9 of 12 targets for a massive 189 yards and a touchdown.
Most notably, he saw a ridiculous 48% target share and 61% air yards share. With Brandon Aiyuk (zero targets) presently an afterthought, Samuel's sure looking like the number-one wideout in this offense.
It's worth noting that Jimmy Garoppolo threw the ball only 25 times and that this is a team that prefers to run the ball, so Samuel's upside could be more limited in other weeks, but there's no question the usage is incredibly promising for his outlook moving forward.
The 49ers and Eagles are combining for a 50.0-point over/under to begin the week, so perhaps we'll see another strong outing for Samuel.