Fantasy Football: Finding Week 1 Trends

Michael WhooleySenior Writer ISeptember 12, 2009

ATLANTA - AUGUST 29:  Running back Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons turns the corner against safety Steve Gregory #28 of the San Diego Chargers during the game at the Georgia Dome on August 29, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

What does a Week 1 game mean anyway? We fantasy football enthusiasts spend months leading up this very weekend, assessing past stats, positional trends, incoming rookies, any kind of quantifiable variable that might give us a leg up for this year’s fantasy season. So now that the season is here, I think a lot of us start our studs during the first week and let things evolve until we have a better grasp on which players are going to be point machines this season. So as the evolution of players begins, what can we really learn from Week 1?

I took a look back at the first game of the 2008 season to see who was putting up impressive numbers from the onset and who was already showing us a prime example of an ’08 demise. I thought I might be able to tease out some trends but truth be told, the best I can come up with is that more often than not, a microcosm of the entire season was staring us in the face during the 2008 Week 1 games. Sure there were some flukes like Antwaan Randle El’s 7 receptions for 73 receiving yards or Hank Baskett’s 102 receiving yards, or even a paltry 31 receiving yards and a TD for Larry Fitzgerald, but for the most part, what we saw was what we would get in 2008.

So what can we take from last year’s games to help make us better fantasy footballers? Well Michael Turner’s 220 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries against the Detroit Lions should have clued us all in on the fact that those Burner fanatics were right – this guy was going to be a top 5 back. It should also be noted that Jerious Norwood was able to put up 93 yards and a TD against the Lions, too – I say that’s something to keep in mind if you’re thinking about starting Reggie Bush or Mike Bell against the Lions this week. The Lions haven’t exactly bolstered their run defense and I can imagine a healthy Bush would eagerly embrace the chance to run all over the Lions. 

Two rookie wide receivers, Eddie Royal and DeSean Jackson, hit the scene with a Week 1 splash last year. Royal put up a hefty 146 receiving yards and a TD in a blowout game against the Oakland Raiders; Jackson was one of three receivers to connect with Donovan McNabb for over 100 receiving yards against the St. Louis Rams. I don’t normally advise grabbing rookie WRs and expecting them to pan out into anything until late in the season at best…but perhaps there’s some truth here that if they’re successful in Week 1 that they might just be fantasy start-worthy. Think about Percy Harvin – depending on how the Vikings utilize him and Bernard Berrian’s hammy status, we could just be seeing his coming out party here against the Browns. Or perhaps Kenny Britt, who showed us last night that he might be the big time receiver that Kerry Collins needs. I’m not saying run out and start one of these guys, but if they’re impressing from the get-go, I think there’s a good chance they’ll impress for the rest of the season as well. 

Another 2008 Week 1 revelation? Committee splits. By Week 1 the Baltimore Ravens were already splitting Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain at 22 carries and 19 carries, respectively. Sure, no one had any clue who McClain really was at this time last year but the writing was on the wall. I know there’s a lovefest for Rice going on these days and he’s sure to put up hefty numbers against the Kansas City Chiefs this week, but I recommend keeping a close eye on the number of carries given to McClain and Willis McGahee. Let that split help you dictate whether or not Rice is a good play in future games. For example, take a look at the DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart ratio from Week 1 last year – 18 carries (or 64%) for Williams, 10 carries (or 36%) for Stewart. By season’s end Williams had 60% to Stewart’s 40%; pretty darn close to their Week 1 display. 

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the Week 1 games – I can’t wait to see what we’ll learn this year!

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