Fantasy Football: Avoiding Week 1 Owner Overreaction
OK, OK. People...can I have your attention, please? Step away from the ledge, find a seat and let’s begin today’s program about Week 1 Fantasy Football Overreaction.
It’s not your fault. Nobody figured Adrian Peterson would rush for two touchdowns, making your decision to start Jamaal Charles instead look foolish. Not a fantasy soul in existence saw Cam Newton melting down against the woeful Buccaneers, a team he’d previously run roughshod over.
But don't panic. The Packers aren’t yesterday’s news, Matt Stafford will shine again and the Jets aren’t “back.” Let’s begin by taking a deep cleansing breath and exhaling slowly. Let the real NFL air replace the fantasy oddities clogging up your lungs.
Fantasy veterans know that the season is a grind, and one week, specifically the first week, often isn’t indicative of the team you have whether you won or lost.
There are statistical outliers (like the Jets scoring 48 points), and then there are real trends (like Chris Johnson continuing to be a shadow of his 2009-2010 self).
Here are five Week 1 happenings you need to dismiss and five that you need to monitor.
Dismiss: The Jets' Scoring Parade
Mark Sanchez’s had three TD passes—three. Rex Ryan’s offense isn’t as bad as it showed in the preseason, and it isn’t as good as it showed Sunday. The Jets will come back to earth as only the Jets can against Pittsburgh in Week 2.
Monitor: Chris Johnson's Lack of Production
CJ had 11 carries for four paltry yards against the Patriots. His 2,006-yard effort in 2009 was replaced by a 1,047-yard effort in 2011, and he’s 996 yards away from the 1,000-yard mark in 2012 with 15 games to go.
The larger issue is that the Titans don’t seem to be able to rely on him any longer as a consistent weapon. If you drafted Johnson or retained him in a keeper league, don’t wait too long to deal him if these numbers continue.
Dismiss: Green Bay's Offensive Woes vs. 49ers
The Packers have already lost as many regular-season games as they did all of last season, and no one enraged fantasy owners in Week 1 like Green and Gold offense did. But credit the 49ers defense. At times it looked like it had a copy of Green Bay’s playbook. The coverage was that tight.
This not only chop-blocked all of Aaron Rodgers’ weapons, it also silenced RB Cedric Benson is his Packers debut.
The Packers may not wind up being as offensively dominant as last year, but the Niners are a one-of-a-kind defense. Most teams don’t have the personnel, let alone the game plan, to stifle Rodgers and Co. like San Francisco did in Week 1.
Monitor: DeMarco Murray's Inability to Find the End Zone
But in 184 carries, Murray has only found the end zone twice, and never away from Cowboys Stadium.
Murray can put this growing concern on ice by scoring at Seattle this Sunday. If he doesn’t, owners need to keep watch on a young star who has all the skills except the one owners want the most.
Dismiss: Cam Newton's Regression Against the Bucs
Owners are fretting about Superman wearing a kryptonite necklace after Sunday’s panicky performance at Tampa. Relax.
New Bucs coach Greg Schiano showed the second-year stud something Raheem Morris didn’t in 2011. Newton looked confused and impatient much of the day. Think of Sunday as a stud cleanup hitter being fooled by a rookie pitcher the first time through the batting order.
Newton still threw for 300 yards and a TD to go with his two interceptions. What he didn’t do was run—only four yards on five attempts. That’s not his game, and he’ll almost certainly return to form Sunday at home against the Saints, who’ll likely still be gassed from chasing RG3 all over the field in Week 1.
Monitor: Michael Vick
He was a consensus No. 1 fantasy pick just two years ago. Since then, he’s been injured frequently, thrown 20 TDs and 18 interceptions in 17 games, and rushed for just one touchdown while fumbling nine times
Vick owners should be genuinely concerned about the tread starting to show on Vick’s tires and exploring trade options for a replacement if there’s a big drop-off in Vick’s fantasy backup.
Dismiss: Kevin Ogletree and His Huge Game Against the Giants
There’s no way the fourth-year wideout steps in and replaces the departed Laurent Robinson’s 11 TDs from 2011, or eclipses Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, or Jason Witten in targets once they’re 100 percent healthy.
If you scrambled on opening night and claimed him, thinking you got away with a steal, remember: This is a marathon. Ogletree’s eight-catch, 114-yard, two-touchdown game was a sprint.
Monitor: The Steelers Defense
Yes, it was the NFL’s top-ranked unit last season, though it gave up 6.1 yards a play and 334 total yards in a Week 1 loss at Denver. I can hear owners saying the Steel Curtain should be a “Dismiss” candidate rather than a “Monitor.”
But consider Pittsburgh’s aging defense: SS Troy Polamalu is 31 and a 10-year vet. Safeties Ryan Clark and Will Allen are 32 and 30, respectively. CB Ike Taylor is 32, as is LB Larry Foote. DE Brett Keisel is 33, and NG Corey Hampton is a whopping 35.
The Steelers defense is long in the tooth. A16-game schedule could wind up being a root canal for owners who own it.
Dismiss: Robert Griffin III's Debut
It’s hard to wave off a 19-of-26, 302-yard, two-touchdown day for a rookie on the road against the Super Bowl champs two years removed. But owners would be well-advised not to go all in on a QB with 60 minutes of game time under his belt.
The Redskins remain the road this week against a Rams team that made Matt Stafford look silly, picking him off three times and nearly upsetting the Lions. Let RG3 duplicate last week’s effort a few more times before pledging your undying fantasy love.
He may wind up being every bit as good as Cam Newton was in 2011.
Let’s wait and see.
Monitor: Wes Welker's Playing Time
Welker was on the field for only 43 of 67 offensive snaps against the Titans Sunday, after being on the field 89 percent of the time last season. He wasn’t hurt and only had three receptions for 14 yards.
If he’s being slowly phased out (he’s 31), or if the passing game is completely about the tight ends now, Welker doesn’t appear to have the status he once did with New England.
Owners should pay attention to his targets the next few weeks to see if this trend continues.