Going Inside Week 1
Here’s my inside look at some of the Week 1 matchups and additional notes on various players:
If this game is any sign, both QBs will have a high pass attempt rate this season--perhaps 40+ per game. Tom Brady averaged over 37 pass attempts per game last season, but don’t be surprised if that number is higher. The Buccaneers loss of starting CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (dislocated elbow) is massive, as the team does not have a quality backout outside CB. The drop-off in talent at CB to journeyman Ross Cockrell is significant. Once Murphy-Bunting left the game in the first half, the Cowboys went after whoever lined up opposite starter Carlton Davis. The Buccaneer fantasy defense will take a hit until Murphy-Bunting returns, so you might want to pick up another defense if they’re the only you have on your roster. I have them in 3 and will pick up another one ASAP. As for the Cowboys, once again, their pass defense was awful. They’re expecting a better push up front, but Brady got the ball out faster, which negated the outside rush. The other issue is they’re very weak at DT. The Cowboy defense should, once again, be an elixir for your WRs and TEs this season.
Keep an eye on rookie RB Kenny Gainwell today. If what I saw in training camp is any indication, he will have a potentially significant role in the Eagles passing game. He might be worth stashing at the bottom of your roster in PPR leagues. I’ve added him in 2 of my 7 leagues with PPR scoring. If he can be worth 8-10 points per game, Gainwell would absolutely be worth stashing. Stay tuned. It’s hard to call the Dallas Goedert-Zach Ertz pass target split this season. The coaches, I’m told, are very high on Goedert and see him as a 3-down TE and Ertz’s role is not expected to be close to what it once was. However, it’s still unclear how much the new staff will use the TEs in terms of “11” or “12” personnel. The Eagles played the most 12 personnel (2-TEs) in the NFL last season at 33.2%. What I did is if I drafted Goedert, I drafted another TE to play in a rotation. Meaning, I’ll likely switch on and off with him and Noah Fant. Both have injury histories, but have a lot of upside. I’m expecting the Falcons to be a heavy 12-personnel team, as they’re deep at TE and HC Arthur Smith’s background is with that position. The only way that changes is if they’re behind a lot in games, which would force them to play more 11 (3-WRs). It’s expected that they’ll be a heavy run based offense, which is why they signed power RB Mike Davis to be their starter. What worries me about this game for the Falcon offense is how their interior OL matches up with Eagle DTs Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox. The Falcons are weak in the interior and veteran QB Matt Ryan does not move very well. However, plays are there to be made against the Eagles average secondary if they can keep Ryan relatively clean, which I’m not convinced they’ll be able to do.
I don’t normally recommend fantasy defenses, but I have a hard time believing that the 49er defense won’t do well today. The Lions, on paper, are going to have trouble scoring this season and have perhaps the worst group of WRs in the NFL. If you get good value for points against, the 49er defense should be a decent starter today. One guy I do like from the Lions WRs corps is Amon-Ra. St. Brown. The rookie has shown the ability to be a playmaker and there will be plenty of opportunities at playing time for him this season. Other than Tyrell Williams, no other Lion WR role is set in stone, so St. Brown has a chance to be a nice surprise this season. WR coaches I spoke to before last year’s draft mentioned how impressed they were with his tape. The Lions have real issues at CB. They decided not to sign a veteran to start and will go with a bunch of inexperienced players. This is good news for your QB going up against them. Projected starters Jeff Okudah and Amari Oruwariye did not play well last season and you can expect OCs to go after them. I’ll be interested to see how 49er HC Kyle Shanahan calls the game today. We know it starts with the run with them, but attacking the Lion secondary has to be on his radar. Brandon Aiyuk is definitely in my lineup today.
The Titans believe their defense will be better last season simply because they’re going to have a better pass rush. OLB Bud Dupree looked good coming off ACL surgery and they’re deeper at CB (Janoris Jenkins also had a good camp). However, the depth at CB will be tested today against the Cardinals, who run more multiple WR sets than most teams. The knee issue with WR A.J. Brown is nothing new, I’m told. It’s a carryover from last season. He had surgery on both knees earlier this year and has residual soreness. The guy is as tough as they come and the team may continue to rest him on Wednesday’s, which is what they did for most of last season. What I’m interested in seeing is the timing with Julio Jones and Ryan Tannehill, considering Jones barely practiced in training camp.
The Seahawks got a huge break when it was made known Friday that Colts CB Xavier Rhodes (calf) was ruled out. The Colts don’t have quality depth at the position and this should not be lost on Seahawk OC Shane Waldron. This sets up for a potentially huge game for Russell Wilson and their WRs. Chargers-Washington Football Team Austin Ekeler (hamstring-questionable) did not have any issues in Friday’s practice, so barring an issue in pregame warm-ups, he’ll be in the lineup today. He suffered the injury earlier this week, which is why the coaches backed off his workload. If he couldn’t play for whatever reason, I’d expect an RBBC until one of the 3 backups showed the ability to be a consistent producer. From what I’m told, none of them separated themselves from the other two. Keep an eye on TE Donald Parham in dynasty leagues. He, at times, was hard to cover in training camp because of his size (over 6-8). What I’m told is he had to get stronger physically when the Chargers signed him last year and he’s starting to get that done. Veteran TE Jared Cook is on a 1-year deal and there’s a belief within the team that Parham will have a very good shot to take over next season if he continues to progress this season. WFT rookie WR Dynami Brown was the talk of camp from more than one team source. Cam Sims is technically ahead of him on the depth chart with Curtis Samuel (groin) on IR, but that shouldn’t matter too much. Brown is a playmaker and was their shot play WR in camp. The coaches love him. He has to be on your radar in dynasty leagues. And keep an eye on UDFA rookie RB Jaret Patterson, who was also very impressive in camp. I’m interested to see how many carries he gets in behind Antonio Gibson as the season progresses. He easily beat out Peyton Barber for a roster spot.
Other players on my radar this week
Bryan Edwards/WR/Raiders vs. Ravens: Ravens are without star CB Marcus Peters (ACL) and Edwards had a dominant camp. It has never been about talent with Edwards. Can he stay healthy for a change? Terrace Marshall/WR/Panthers vs Jets: The Jets have one of the NFL’s worst groups of CBs and he had an outstanding training camp. I'm very interested to see how they use him today. Michael Pittman vs. Seahawks: The team raves about him and his ability to play in multiple spots. The Seahawks are very average at CB, so there’s an opportunity for the 2nd-year pro to get it started in a good way today, especially without veteran WR T.Y. Hilton (neck-IR) in the lineup. Also keep an eye on 3rd-year WR Parris Campbell, who will also play inside and outside. Gerald Everett/TE/Seahawks at Colts: The Seahawks have been looking for a vertical threat at TE for years and now they have one. I’m really interested to see how many targets he gets.