Every year, we have to avoid the temptation to overreact heading into the first week of the season.
The NFL offseason is so long and we spend so much time diving into every detail as we prepare for the season, that like a wanderer in the desert, we’re liable to drown ourselves in an inch-deep puddle to satisfy our thirst.
Still, it’s possible to overcorrect and miss valuable information in Week 1.
You could see the first signs of Peyton Manning ‘s downfall last season, and if you were willing to “overreact” to that, you got out from under a mediocre quarterback when he still had trade value. Additionally, the New York Jets got shockingly competent quarterback play from Ryan Fitzpatrick , who found both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker for scores in Week 1 a year ago.
Finding that balance is difficult, and it’s a lot easier to identify what would turn into a real trend with hindsight, but we can still look for them. Coming off a shaky playoff performance, I was on high alert for Manning’s regression, and so I wasn’t totally willing to write his Week 1 performance off to one bad week.
Here, then, are 10 of the questions I am looking to find answers for in Week 1. We may not get the answer for every one this week, but if we can identify this year’s trends early enough, it might be the path to glory.
Can Jimmy Garoppolo run the offense?
We approached the New England Patriots offense with a little trepidation this offseason, but not that much, when you consider they are going from a first-ballot hall-of-famer to a second-round pick with a grand total of 31 pass attempts to his name for one-quarter of the season. What’s more, those four games Brady is missing represent nearly one-third of your typical Fantasy regular season, so if Garoppolo isn’t any good, that could totally sink every Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski owners’ season. Garoppolo isn’t the only first-time starter Fantasy owners need to be concerned about, but with him at the helm of what is expected to be one of the best offenses in football, he might be the most consequential. The matchup in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals is a tough one, but it might go a long way to answering how much Fantasy players can rely on their Patriots’ players.
Can the first-time QBs at least be respectable?
Referring to Trevor Siemian , Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott specifically, all of whom are set to make their first NFL starts this week. We’ve seen bad quarterbacks still manage to sustain Fantasy relevant players around them — look at the Dallas Cowboys , Houston Texans , and Cleveland Browns last season — so the question isn’t how good can Siemien, Wents and Pescott be. Chances are, they won’t be any good at all. The question, then, is can they avoid being embarrassingly bad. The combination of Ryan Lindley and Drew Stanton combined to pretty much singlehandedly tank what turned out to be an exceptionally talented Cardinals’ offense two years ago. If this trio can just be Brian Hoyer or Josh McCown-level bad, the likes of Jordan Matthews and Dez Bryant still have a chance to provide value.
Then again, maybe not …
|COMP/ATT: 18/26||YDS: 178||TD: 1||INT: 2||FPTS: 11|
|TAR: 6||REC: 4||YDS: 48||TD: 0||FPTS: 4|
|TAR: 8||REC: 5||YDS: 49||TD: 0||FPTS: 4|
Are Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts ‘ passing game back?
Colts appear to have Andrew Luck on a pitch count. Does have some labrum fraying, but not a major concern.
— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) September 8, 2016
That’s … not what you want to hear. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything serious is on the way for Luck, especially because he doesn’t seem to have much pain and is only expected to be limited in practice at this point, but it certainly is something to keep an eye on after his disastrous 2015 campaign. If Luck can be himself again, this has a chance to be one of the best passing offenses in football, with weapons all over the place for Luck. He looked fine in the preseason, completing 21 of 26 passes in limited action, and if he can air it out without difficulty against the Lions it should make you feel a lot better about things moving forward.
Can anyone break out from the pack in Baltimore?
For about 24 hours, it seemed like we had some clarity after the Ravens cut Justin Forsett . All of the sudden, Terrance West looked like the early down back, with Javorius Allen likely to take on the passing downs. Not an ideal arrangement for Fantasy, but at least one in which players had concrete roles. However, with the re-signing of Forsett — and Forsett’s confidence that he will start — this looks as cloudy as ever. Forsett struggled badly last season, and West and Allen still figure to see some work, making this an untenable situation for Fantasy heading into Week 1. Avoid it if you can, but if West or Forsett (or even Allen!) gets a majority of the work, it might be worth pouncing on them.
How will the workload in Tennessee be split up?
This is more about the running game than the receiving corps, as Tajae Sharpe seems to have established himself as the team’s No. 1 option as a rookie. The backfield is much more interesting, in part because the Tennessee Titans want to run the ball more than they pass. That could lead to plenty of opportunities for DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry , both of whom looked excellent in the preseason.
Can disappointing rookies improve in year two?
Melvin Gordon , Jeremy Langford and Matt Jones all had opportunities to contribute last season, but none of them impressed in the rushing game. They all had flashes as receivers, but it’s difficult to be a starting-caliber Fantasy option at running back without being reliable on the ground. Gordon (vs. Kansas City) could prove the most this week with a big game against a tough matchup, while Jones enters the season banged up and may not get a chance to play a big role until Week 2. If Gordon or Langford can get going on the ground this week, it would go part of the way to assuaging some of the fears Fantasy owners had about them.
How will Seattle and Arizona distribute touches and snaps among receivers?
These could be two of the most talented passing games overall, but the presence of so many similar options has served to depress eveyrone’s collective value in Fantasy. In the Cardinals’ case, Larry Fitzgerald , John Brown and Michael Floyd all ended up being drafted right around the same time. Carson Palmer had the best season of his career throwing to this loaded receiving corps, but a step back on Palmers’ part could be bad news for all three, given the amount of mouths to feed. The Cardinals should run three-wide sets quite often, but it will be interesting to see how they divvy up looks against this tough Patriots defense.
The Seattle Seahawks might be an even tougher team to pin down, because they have fewer passes to go around for an even deeper receiving corps. Russell Wilson was outrageously efficient last season, but still had just one receiver top 700 yards — only throwing the ball 483 times will do that. Tyler Lockett is a popular breakout candidate after he showed serious big-play potential last season, but he played just 62 percent of the team’s offensive snaps last season, and is listed as the No. 3 wideout again. If he can’t break that 70 percent mark in Week 1, it might be a sign that the Seahawks’ plans aren’t lining up what we were hoping for.
Can Kelvin Benjamin bounce back?
Unfortunately, we might not get an answer to this one solely with Week 1 numbers, but it was certainly a good start. Of course, it’s just one game, but that was about as close to a best-case scenario you could get for Benjamin owners. It certainly looks like Cam knows who is No. 1 receiver is. The Panthers could easily throttle back occasionally to preserve their top target, but things look good so far. If second-year receiver Devin Funchess gets more looks down the road, however, that could be a bad sign for Benjamin. If Thursday’s game was any indication, that scenario looks less likely.
|TAR: 12||REC: 6||YDS: 91||TD: 1||FPTS: 15 STND/21 PPR|
Can Pittsburgh Panthers and Cincinnati overcome lack of secondary options?
Andy Dalton might need to win the game for the Cincinnati Bengals with his arm, because the Jets finished first in football in rush defense DVOA in 2015. That will be a very good test for his much-diminished receiving corps, which lost Marvin Jones to free agency and Tyler Eifert to an injury that will keep him out for at least the first three weeks of the season. If Jeremy Hill can’t get going on the ground, we might find out a lot about how Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell complement A.J. Green sooner rather than later.
Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t have quite the same tough test in Week 1 against the Redskins, but his passing options might be even more depressing beyond Antonio Brown . Brown might be the best receiver in football, but things get scary beyond that. With Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell suspended and Heath Miller retired, there is a huge opportunity here for the likes of Markus Wheaton , Eli Rogers , and Sammie Coates to step up. Let’s see if they can do it.
Was Jordan Reed a one-year wonder?
The upside Reed showed last year was incredible, as he emerged as Kirk Cousins ‘ favorite target and hauled in nearly everything thrown his way en route to 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. He went off the board as the No. 2 tight end on average this draft season, and could even prove to be a value at that price if he can repeat last year’s performance. However, he has also struggled to stay healthy dating back to college, and might go as Cousins goes. If Cousins’ success last season was legit and Reed can stay healthy, you’ll be glad you drafted him. Pittsburgh represents a decent test in Week 1, coming off a 13th-place finish in pass defense DVOA.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Fantasy Football Week 1 Wishlist: Who takes over in Ravens’ backfield?