Ten Things We Learned in Week One

How We Fared With Our Picks in Week One



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By Greg Buchphoto of journalist Greg Buch

  1. Ray Rice Who? The Ravens running game looked like it got new life against a fierce Bengals run defense with Justin Forsett in the line-up. Remember when Forsett was forced into starting duty a few years back with the Seahawks and was surprisingly effective for fantasy owners? Well, Coach Harbaugh is issuing the usual coach-speak in defense of Bernard Pierce, who was supposed to be next in line. I don't believe there will really be a committee in Baltimore. We've already seen what Pierce could do last year and it was 2.9 YPC. Granted the O-line was partly to blame for not creating any holes, but if the Ravens want to get their moribund run game going they need to put the ball in Forsett's hands. He looks a lot like Ray Rice in his prime and should be able to squeeze through the narrow holes created by a poor run-blocking line much better than a bigger back.


  2. The NFL needs to change its initials to NPCL - the National Politically Correct League. If this week showed us anything, it's that what the league cares about is public perception and advertisers, not about doing what's right or being accountable. Roger Goodell represents the owners and the owners care about winning and revenues - it's as simple as that. Right now, I'm trying to decide which was more reprehensible: Ray Rice's brutal and violent unpremeditated attack or Goodell's careful, calculated and deliberate lies to cover up the NFL's knowledge of the incident to the media and to fans. If you ask me, he deliberately ignored the security footage of the elevator incident because he knew a long suspension would hurt one of the very franchises he represents and what harm would it do, so long as no one discovered the league had it in its possession? Then once TMZ leaked the video, he does an about-face and changes Rice's suspension from a measly two games to an indefinite suspension that will probably never be lifted to send the message that the NFL takes domestic violence "seriously". The real message is the following: the NFL only cares about public perception and losing its fanbase and advertisers.


  3. Ray Rice throws a mean uppercut. You certainly don't want to be a defenseless woman alone in an elevator with him! But is a lifetime ban really justified for a first-time offender? Seems to me that a more just punishment would be a one-year suspension where he's required to receive counseling and volunteer at a domestic abuse shelter to give the man an opportunity to redeem himself and correct the err in his ways. As a country, we pride ourselves on giving people second chances, so why not him? No doubt what he did was brutal and reprehensible and there's no justification for it but when guys like Josh Gordon and Justin Blackmon are repeatedly given third, fourth and even fifth chances, how can the league do a "Pete Rose" on Rice? He's serving as a sacrificial lamb on the alter of past NFL indifference toward domestic violence. I don't see the league ever re-instating him no matter what he does and this is going overboard in the opposite direction. Punish him, yes. Make sure it hurts his wallet and his self-esteem so he'll think twice about ever hitting a woman again and allow him the time needed to self-reflect but it's overkill to exile him forever from the NFL. People can change and do change. He deserves at least one chance to make amends and show the league he's become a changed man.


  4. Eli Manning's skills have eroded. This was supposed to be that "every other year" where Manning bounces back from a mistake-prone season but he looked like he's taking up where he left off last season. 163 yards and 2 INTs isn't going to get the job done in the NFL. He looked flustered by the pressure Detroit brought and uncomfortable in the pocket for most of the game. Clearly the Giants have some major problems on their re-made O-line but Manning's lack of mobility and poor decision-making isn't helping. Add to that a new West Coast offensive scheme and there's plenty of reason to believe things aren't going to change anytime soon. If you have Manning on your roster, we recommend ending that experiment now and dropping him for an unknown commodity like a Derek Carr or E.J. Manuel. If you own any of the Giants receivers, like Victor Cruz, now would be a good time to see what trade value you can get for them, before your fellow owners lose interest altogether.


  5. Alex Smith is who we thought he was. Last week just proved what we knew all along - he's a caretaker QB who's totally dependent on Jamaal Charles carrying the team on his back. He threw for just 202 yards and turned the ball over 3 times against the Titans and, not uncoincidentally, Jamaal Charles didn't get a lot of touches. The Chiefs played a cupcake schedule last season and were able to run all over their opponents. He may rebound over the next two weeks playing against two teams, the Patriots and Dolphins, who struggle defending the run, but don't count on him every week. It's really strange that Kansas City paid him like an elite QB, as he's totally dependent on the Chiefs' running game to be effective.


  6. The Rams defense won't be one of the elite units in fantasy this year. There, I've said it. They've just lost DE Chris Long for the year and are going to be winded and out-of-breath in a lot of games this year if Shaun Hill or Austin Davis don't elevate their game and generate some offense. If I'm a defensive coordinator playing them, I know I'd be stacking the box every 1st and 2nd down and daring them to throw on me. Some owner in your league is probably not paying attention and just looking at last year's results. Send them a trade proposal and pick up an emerging defense off the waiver wire. The Texans and Vikings are both readily available and both teams defenses should be much improved this year. The Texans are a different defense with Cushing in the line-up and I believe the no-nonsense Mike Zimmer will perform miracles with that Vikings defense.


  7. The long-rumored demise of the 49ers defense may have been premature. The Niners DST looked truly terrible at times this pre-season and most of us felt the losses of stud pass-rusher Aldon Smith and tackling machine Navorro Bowman would really set them back this year. They had a tough match-up last week against a Cowboys offense that allowed the least amount of fantasy points per week to defenses but managed somehow to come up with 3 sacks, 3 INTs, a fumble recovery and a defensive TD. If you own them, hold onto them and if another owner in your league dropped them before the season started, there a smart pick-up off the waiver wire. That being said, they may have lost their top 2 corners for this week's game, so consider benching them in Week 2 if either starter is out.


  8. Carson Palmer should always be started against the Chargers. This was the 7th game in a row where Palmer produced for fantasy owners when facing San Diego. There must just be something about playing his hometown team that gets Palmer super motivated and allows him to cut down on the usual mental mistakes that make him an iffy fantasy starter. I was at the game Monday Night and he looked poised and full of confidence and didn't get dejected when he missed a few throws but stepped up his game when it counted, making several nice, clutch throws to Michael Floyd and rookie John Brown when it was do-or-die for the Cardinals. Just don't assume this trend continues - he's still an inconsistent QB and is going to have some good games and some bad ones (after all, he doesn't play the Chargers every week). If you own him, now's the time to float some trade proposals.


  9. This really is a new and improved Mark Ingram. Many of us fantasy owners who've been burned in the past by him, stayed away from Ingram in the draft, despite the reports he was looking much better this off-season. He delivered a nice stat line against the Falcons, running for 60 yards on 13 carries, and he just looks faster and appears like he's hitting the holes with authority. I'm still not entirely sold on him as anything more than a Flex though but it has nothing to do with his skills and everything to do with the Saints' offensive scheme. Over 60% of their plays that involve RBs are passes. Keep that statistic in mind when another owner floats you a trade proposal for Ingram. He's not going to get 2 TDs every game and Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson should receive most of the catches out of the backfield.


  10. Steve Smith may be fantasy relevant after all. Most of us Bengals fans were worried about Smith torching our 37-year old CB, Terrance Newman, on some deep routes. Boy, did we get that wrong, as it was the younger Smith we were concerned about and Newman actually held up pretty good. Strangely enough, the CB Smith Sr. burned was a guy known for his speed, Adam "Pac-Man" Jones. Jones is at best the Bengals' 3rd string CB and is seldom asked to cover the opponent's top receiver, so we could see this situation happening a lot this year, where Torrey Smith is covered like a blanket by a team's top corner and Smith Sr. is able to get loose and do some damage. He's probably not someone you can depend on for consistent production but is worth adding off the waiver wire and using as a Flex or bye-week fill-in.


report card
By Greg Buchphoto of journalist Greg Buch


Quarterbacks

Where We Got It Right:
Peyton Manning
- We ranked Peyton as our #2 QB pick and he rewarded fantasy owners by throwing for 269 yards and 3 TDs, which was good for around 29 points in standard leagues.

Andrew Luck
- We ranked Luck as our #4 QB pick and he went off for 370 yards, 3 total TDs and 2 INTs, which equalled around 31 points in standard leagues.

Carson Palmer
- We named Palmer as our top sleeper pick based largely on his history against the Chargers. He rewarded fantasy owners who went with our recommendation by passing for 304 yards with 2 TDs and 29 yards on the ground, which is around 27 points in most leagues.

Where We Got It Wrong:
Drew Brees
- We made Brees our top pick but the lack of TDs cost him, as he ended up with a sub-par performance, throwing for 333 yards but with only 1 TD, along with a pick, which is around 17 points in most leagues.

Philip Rivers
- We ranked Rivers 12th and recommended owners start him but he was flustered by the Arizona pass rush and had a disappointing game with only 238 passing yards, a TD and a pick.



Running Backs

Where We Got It Right:
Marshawn Lynch
- We made Lynch our top pick at RB. We weren't far off-target, as he ended up the 2nd-highest scoring RB last week, running for 110 yards and 2 TDs for just over 24 fantasy points.

Matt Forte
- We made Forte our 2nd-highest ranked RB. He ended up scoring the 6th-most fantasy points by a RB with 169 total yards and 16.9 points in standard leagues.

C.J. Spiller
- We ranked Spiller as our #11 RB this week and advised his owners to start him. He ended up being the 15th-highest scoring back, scoring 12.4 points on 64 total yards and a TD.

Where We Got It Wrong:
Jamaal Charles
- We made Charles our #3 pick at RB and he had one of his more forgettable performances with just 34 total yards and no TDs. The Chiefs fell behind early and were forced to take to the air. As a result, Charles only received 7 carries and made four receptions.

Pierre Thomas/Mark Ingram
- We recommended both Saints' RBs as sleeper candidates due to a juicy match-up against a poor Atlanta run defense and while the Saints backs did well as a group, accounting for 178 total yards, the pie was split pretty evenly, as the touches were split evenly between the two backs and even Khiry Robinson saw some playing time.



Wide Receivers

Where We Got It Right:
Cordarelle Patterson
- We made a bold prediction and anointed the young 2nd year WR as our #4 WR pick this week and he rewarded fantasy owners with 128 total yards and a TD, which was worth 18.8 fantasy points. The Swami hit the nail on the head, as he ended up the 4th-highest scoring WR in Week 1.

Percy Harvin
- We said to start our #8 ranked WR, Percy Harvin, and he had 100 total yards. Sadly, he didn't get in the end zone but it was still decent production from him.

A.J. Green
- We ranked Green at #9 this week and he victimized the Ravens suspect secondary catching a bomb for a TD and accounting for 136 total yards.

Where We Got It Wrong:
Demaryius Thomas
- Our magic lamp told us "Thomas would have a big game" so we made Demaryius our top WR pick. Unfortunately, we didn't know the lamp meant the other Thomas and the Broncos wide-out was largely a non-factor with 48 yards, as Peyton Manning focused all his attention on his big tight end.

Alshon Jeffery
- We crowned Jeffery as our #2 WR but Jay Cutler spread the love around in Week 1, distributing the ball pretty evenly between Matt Forte, his WRs and TE Martellus Bennett. Unfortunately, Marshall and Bennett were at the receiving end of his two TDs and not Jeffery.



Tight Ends

Where We Got It Right:
Zach Ertz
- We told you to start Ertz and, if you listened, you reaped the rewards, as he played a big role in the Eagles' victory with 77 yards and a TD, ranking him fourth among all tight ends this week.

Vernon Davis
- We ranked Davis as the #2 TE this week and sure enough he ended up as the 2nd-highest scoring fantasy TE with 44 yards and 2 TDs for 16.4 fantasy points.

Eric Ebron
- We advised you to sit the talented rookie and it turned out to be sage advice, as he was held without a stat against the Giants.

Where We Got It Wrong:
Jimmy Graham
- We made Graham the top TE this week but he didn't turn in his typical performance, with only 82 yards and no scores.

Tim Wright
- We named Tim Wright as a sleeper but it's obviously going to take more time for him to get integrated with the Patriots offense. He didn't see much action and ended up with just 15 receiving yards.



Defenses

Where We Got It Right:
Philadelphia Eagles
- We ranked the Eagles as our #3 DST and advised you to start them. They had a stellar game against a Jaguars offense that built an early 17-0 lead. The Eagles ended up with 3 sacks, a fumble recovery and a TD, and held the Jags scoreless in the second half.

Houston Texans
- We had faith in the Texans defense, despite a horrible season last year where they ended up last in fantasy scoring, and believed they'd be much better this year with Cushing healthy and rookie Jadeveon Clowney pairing with J.J. Watt to cause havoc in opponents' backfields. We liked the match-up against a mistake-prone Redskins team that hadn't exactly shined in the pre-season so much we ranked them as our #7 defense this week. They rewarded those who followed our advice by scoring 20 fantasy points with 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, a TD and only 6 points allowed.

Where We Got It Wrong:
Pittsburgh Steelers
- We named the Steelers DST as our top unit because we liked the match-up against a Browns team with a ragtag cast of WRs but Brian Hoyer played a good game and the Browns were able to put up 27 points and keep the Steelers DST, which recorded just 3 sacks, no turnovers, and no TDs, in check.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- We liked the Bucs' match-up against a Panthers team with a new cast of WRs and no Cam Newton in the game so much we not only made them our 4th-ranked DST but also named them as a sleeper pick. Sadly, the Bucs defense did very little, recording just one sack with no turnovers, no TDs, and 20 points allowed. With all the off-season additions it looks like it may take some time for this defense to gel.



Kickers

Where We Got It Right:
Dan Carpenter
- We ranked Carpenter or "Boiler" as we preferred to call him as our #2 kicker this week and featured him as a sleeper. He answered the call by providing 13 fantasy points with 3 field goals, including a 50+ yarder and 2 PATs.

Shayne Graham
- We made whichever unemployed kicker the Saints chose to hire a sleeper pick this week and our advice was right on the money, as Shayne Graham was hired and promptly kicked his way to 12 fantasy points.

Where We Got It Wrong:
Stephen Gostkowski
- Gostkowski was our top-ranked kicker this week and while he was okay, he didn't exactly light it up, scoring just 8 fantasy points on 2 field goals and 2 PATs. The Patriots receivers were covered well by the Dolphins' secondary and never quite got their typically high-scoring offense going.

Cairo Santos
- We named Santos as a sleeper but the Chiefs fell behind early and had to rely on Alex Smith's pop gun arm to get back in the game so our sleeper pick didn't get many chances, scoring only a field goal and a PAT.