For fantasy football, we care about offense. Defenses matter (especially if, like me, you were one of the lucky ones starting the Jaguars’ or Rams’ defenses in Week 1), but we’re looking for yards and points.
Week 1 failed in that regard. The past four years, Week 1 has seen teams average 350 yards and 2.3 touchdowns per game, averaging 22.7 points. Well, in Week 1 of this year, teams averaged 314.1 yards, 1.9 touchdowns, and 20.2 points. This means that there is a really good chance you are disappointed with your fantasy team after Week 1 … but most of your leaguemates are as well (in my home league, 10 of 12 teams failed to meet projections).
The old saw goes that offense is ahead of defense early in the year, that scores start high and tail off. If that’s true, then we could be in for a long season from a fantasy perspective. But for now, let’s treat Week 1 as a slightly disappointing blip, and look ahead to Week 2. Below, we’re taking a look at some good and bad fantasy situations from the first week of the season with all 32 teams in action.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers: Rivers finished Week 1 as the No. 8 fantasy QB. He had three touchdowns, but only 192 passing yards. Of course, he did all that on the road against the Broncos defense, which — while it isn’t quite as stout as it was a couple years ago — is still one of the league’s best. In Week 2, he gets a home game against the Dolphins, who are at least well-rested, but speaking charitably, that unit is … not the Broncos. The Dolphins’ secondary ranked as PFF’s No. 19 unit entering the year. On top of that, Rivers was only sacked once Monday night; he was sacked two-plus times in 11 of 16 games a year ago, and does markedly worse under pressure. Keep him clean and he’ll feast.
Ty Montgomery, Green Bay Packers: Montgomery, a converted wide receiver, draws the Falcons in Week 2. The Falcons allowed more receiving points to opposing running backs last season than they did rushing points. That didn’t quite continue in Week 1, as Chicago running backs put up 19 fantasy points on the ground compared to 12 on receptions, but the point still holds — the Falcons aren’t great against running backs, but they’re worse against pass-catching running backs. Montgomery proved to be the bell cow for Green Bay in Week 1 (garnering 23 of 25 RB touches), and has had at least two targets in every single regular-season game since becoming a running back.
Shane Vereen, New York Giants: Speaking of pass-catching backs, two running backs reached double-digit targets in Week 1 — the Bears’ Tarik Cohen, and Vereen. Vereen caught nine of his 10 targets for 50 yards, meaning he was good for 14 PPR fantasy points despite not earning a single carry. With the Giants’ offensive line struggling in a big way Sunday night, Eli Manning might be relying on a dumpoff RB option a lot, and that could lead to Vereen being a flex-plus PPR back all year long.
DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans: The Texans still have serious problems at the quarterback position, with Tom Savage failing in record time in Week 1 and Deshaun Watson looking decent only because of the performance of his predecessor, but the plus side is that the team appears to have realized who its unquestioned best weapon is. Hopkins played all 16 games in both 2015 and 2016; in 2015, he had 187 targets, while in 2016, that fell to 138. No, a team can’t succeed by just throwing it to one guy over and over again forever (the Texans tried this in the past with Andre Johnson), but you lean on your strengths … and the Texans targeted Hopkins 15 times on Sunday. They might not always be the best of targets, but Hopkins will have plenty of chances to eat.
DeSean Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: I’ll keep beating this drum until people believe me, but the Bears sell out to stop No. 1 wide receivers. Julio Jones was one of the most popular receivers in fantasy in Week 1, but ended with only 66 yards; meanwhile, Austin Hooper had 128 yards and a touchdown, and Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel cannibalized some of Jones’s yards as well, as both had 40-plus. Sunday, the Bears face the Buccaneers in their season-opener. Mike Evans is still Mike Evans, but give me Jackson, the team’s No. 2 option. Jackson had 114 yards against the Bears as recently as last Christmas Eve.
Charles Clay, Buffalo Bills: Through Week 13 of last year, Clay was the No. 34 tight end, with 323 yards and no touchdowns. In five weeks since (four last year, plus this year’s Week 1), he’s the No. 1 tight end, with 282 yards, 5 scores, and 58 fantasy points. More importantly, Clay dominated the targets for the Bills in Week 1, getting thrown at eight times, three more than anyone else in a decidedly subpar Buffalo receiving corps. Jordan Matthews, with three targets, was the only wide receiver on the team with more than one target. This offense is LeSean McCoy first, Clay second, and then who knows.
Kirk Cousins, Washington: First thing’s first: Cousins is better than Scott Tolzien. (So are you, probably.) So seeing the Rams’ defense dismantle Tolzien and the Colts in Week 1 doesn’t necessarily mean the unit will do the same against Cousins in Week 2. That said, this is without a doubt a good defense, and will be adding maybe the league’s best defensive player in Aaron Donald in Week 2. Meanwhile, Cousins appeared to miss Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson in Week 1, averaging only 6.0 yards per attempt (240 yards, 40 attempts), his lowest single-game average since early November 2015 against the Patriots. And to top it all off, he faces his ex-offensive coordinator in new Rams head coach Sean McVay, and if there’s any coach in the league who knows how to exploit Cousins’s weaknesses, it’ll be McVay.
Devonta Freeman, Atlanta Falcons: Freeman’s Week 1 was salvaged by a touchdown run, because otherwise, he was pretty pedestrian: 37 rushing yards on 12 carries; 2 rushing yards on 2 receptions. Making matters worse is the fact that Freeman barely had only a small advantage in usage over Tevin Coleman — Freeman played 28 running/receiving snaps, while Coleman played 22. Freeman still has the pass-blocking advantage over Coleman, which should keep him on the field, but if Coleman keeps eating into Freeman’s work (and he had 58 total yards Sunday compared to Freeman’s 39), then the guy you likely drafted as your RB1 is more of a mid-level RB2.
Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers: In 22 career regular-season games, Bryant has 11 with 50 or fewer yards, including his past three straight games dating back to 2015. Yes, when Bryant has good games, they are great, but after a year off and with only six targets and 14 yards in Week 1, coming off a full year’s absence, let’s make Bryant prove he’s still the same guy before calling him a must-start. He’s outside my flex range.
Greg Olsen, Carolina Panthers: The Panthers had their bye in Week 7 of last year. Through Week 6, Olsen had 610 yards, two touchdowns and 73 fantasy points. That was 12 more fantasy points than the No. 2 tight end (Martellus Bennett) and 25 more than the No. 3 (Hunter Henry). After his bye, in 10 games, Olsen had 463 yards, only one touchdown, and 52 fantasy points, tied for No. 12 among tight ends. It didn’t improve in Week 1, as Olsen caught only two passes for 18 yards. This is one of those situations where, if you drafted him in a season-long format, you’re still obviously using Olsen, but if you’re selecting a DFS lineup, let’s hold off on Olsen until he reminds us of the start of 2015 again.
More Fantasy Football coverage from The Post