Fantasy Football Hot Takes: NFL Week 1
Howard Bender recaps the weekend's action in the NFL with his fantasy football hot takes and what you need to take away from everything you saw.
Here we go, fantasy football junkies! The season has arrived. After all that time spent studying players, coaches and offensive schemes, Week 1 has come and gone like a hurricane decimating a small, coastal town. The question is, which part of the town are you? Are you the brick home with the boarded-up windows, shielded from the wind and rain or are you the little shanty we see floating through the flooded streets, ready to crumble as the current steers you into a giant pile of rocks and debris?
It’s not even about whether you won or lost your first game of the season. Most of us don’t even know yet, with two more games still to be played Monday night. It’s how you react to what you witnessed and what you do to your team in the aftermath. Do you have confidence in the foundation you built or do you look at those who disappointed you as failures needing to be cast off your roster?
One of the biggest problems with excessive football coverage – and even more so here in 2020 as we’ve literally had nothing else to do for the past six months – is that expectations are so high that we fail to see the forest through the trees. We look at a single week’s failure and refuse to understand what truly went wrong or how that problem I going to be rectified. We’re like Veruca Salt from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. We want the win and we want it now. If we don’t get it, something must be fundamentally wrong and we want to fix it. We react. No, we overreact. We are so blinded by the loss that we become Wile E. Coyote with an Acme plunger and some dynamite, ready to blow up a roster we spent months researching.
Welcome to Monday Morning Hot Takes.
What we will do each week is take a look at the overreactions we are hearing and seeing in the aftermath of the Sunday games. Some will be accurate. Many will not. What we are hoping for is that you will see the glaring ridiculousness in most of them and be able to walk away from the games, win or lose, and understand what your job as a fantasy owner should be for the upcoming week.
Don’t Believe the Hype: The Browns are Still Terrible
The loss was upsetting, particularly for those who invested in the Browns offense this season. Baker Mayfield threw for under 200 yards, Nick Chubb was out-touched by Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham caught just three of his 10 targets for a wildly unproductive game. Six points? That’s all they scored was six points? If there was ever a time and a team in need of an Acme dynamite plunger, it’s Cleveland, right?
Well, let’s hold up for a second. The interception thrown on the first series was a tipped pass. It happens. In their second series, new head coach Kevin Stefanski calls for a fake punt in his own end and that results in a lost fumble. Welcome to head coaching, Kevin. Not exactly the start we were hoping to see.
The Ravens, in tune, capitalized on the mistakes and jumped out to a quick 10-point lead. The Browns came back and scored, but you could see they were already off their game. The ground attack Stefanski wanted to bring to the Browns was cast aside as early panic set in. What’s worse is that this was the Ravens they were facing; a high-octane offense that was primed to decimate the depleted Browns secondary. And before you knew it, the Ravens were up 24-6 in the first quarter. Were they victimized by a lack of talent or was it maybe some panic on the new coaching regime’s part?
Are the Browns going to blow things up now? No. They are going to pick themselves up from this thrashing and get back to the basics we knew Stefanski wanted to employ. This was a horrible debut. There’s no way around that. But as they move forward against opponents like Cincinnati, Washington and Dallas, you should expect to see the game plan we thought they were carrying into this Week 1 match-up. Mistakes were made, but there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They’ll regroup and we’ll be good to go moving forward.
Aaron Rodgers Remains an Elite QB
Take that, Jordan Love! Who are you replacing? Not this Aaron Rodgers , you aren’t. Look at that performance – 364 passing yards with four touchdowns. Who needs new weapons when you can sling the rock 17 times to Davante Adams and still find Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard for deep passes and touchdowns? This offense was electric, even without a huge game from running back Aaron Jones . The Packers are fired up and ready to prove to everyone that last year’s 13-win season wasn’t a fluke and it is definitely repeatable.
Um. OK. Let’s pump the brakes for a moment here. Yes, this was a great game for the Packers offense, but before we extend Rodgers’ contract for another decade, can we take a quick look at the Vikings defense? Yes, they added Yannick Ngakoue to the pass rush, but this is also a team that lost Linval Joseph in the middle of the defensive line and just put its best lineman, Danielle Hunter , on IR for the next three weeks. On top of that, their entire secondary got a makeover and it doesn’t look particularly good. Harrison Smith is a man alone on an island and he’s going to be pulled in a million different directions as neither Mike Hughes nor Holton Hill are particularly good cover-corners. And if you want it to get uglier, just try figuring out who is covering who when they face three-receiver sets.
This was a great way for Aaron Rodgers to open the 2020 season, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking the Fountain of Youth is now located in Wisconsin. Appreciate the effort you got, expect Rodgers to continue to play well against the weaker defenses, but please don’t start believing you have a consistent 300-yard passer at the helm.
Le'Veon Bell Was a Wasted Pick in Fantasy
It’s difficult to make a snap-judgment like this when there’s an injury in-play, so we will reserve final say for another time when Bell is not dealing with a hamstring issue. Perhaps Bell should never have been on the field in the first place, but all that denial of there actually being a hamstring problem in the preseason, obviously, led us all to believe he was fine. Clearly that wasn’t the case as he was ineffective early and maybe head coach Adam Gase knew that as he layered in Frank Gore as early as the second series of the game. Gase even commented in the post-game presser that he knew Bell was hurting and put him in any way, citing it as a mistake.
But let’s face facts. We know Gase doesn’t like Bell who was brought in and signed to a huge contract by the previous regime. Gase has made his attempts to trade Bell public and when Gore was signed and Lamical Perine was drafted, we knew what he was doing. This is not going to be a situation anyone in fantasy wants to be invested. At some point, Bell will shine bright as a malcontent, the soft-tissue injuries will become even more abundant and the Josh Adams /Frank Gore tandem will become more prevalent. Maybe we see a good game or two out of Bell before the season is out, but for a guy who was drafted in the third and fourth rounds of fantasy drafts, this already smells like a wasted pick.
Josh Allen is Inching Towards Being Elite
This one may actually be a lot closer to truth than the first two hot takes as Allen put together a fantastic effort in Week 1 with 312 passing yards, a 71.7-percent completion rate, two passing touchdowns, 57 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown as well. Of course, his opponent was the Jets and they looked absolutely atrocious, but this is certainly an effort from which Allen and the Bills can build upon.
You certainly don’t want your quarterback to be your leading rusher, unless maybe we’re talking about Lamar Jackson , but the ineptitude of the Jets allowed Buffalo to have a little fun. It wasn’t so much that the Jets had a top-ranked run defense last year and the Bills just strayed away from a heavy ground attack as much as it was the lack of linebackers and a shaky secondary. Head coach Sean McDermott laid out a pretty solid game plan to expose the Jets weaknesses every step of the way. Allen did a great job spreading the ball out and an even better job extending plays with his legs and, not just finding his open receivers downfield, but hitting them with accuracy. It wasn’t the “run for your life and try too hard to thread the needle or chuck it away” performance we’ve seen in the past.
Now obviously, a tougher opponent with a better pass-rush could cause some issues in the pocket and the backfield, but with the Dolphins, Rams and Raiders lined up for the next three weeks, we just might have another legitimate contender coming out of the AFC East this year.
Tom Brady Can’t Win Without Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick had no problem winning without Tom Brady . In fact, Cam Newton looked pretty darn good for a guy few people believed could resurrect his career outside of Carolina. Granted, the Patriots were facing the Dolphins, but for those keeping score at home, it’s Belichick 1, Brady 0.
Things got off to a real nice start as Brady capped off the Bucs first series with a two-yard touchdown run of his own. But after that, the wheels fell off the wagon. Brady took three sacks, had a number of misfires down the field and tossed a pair of interceptions that were almost Winstonesque. But while some of us still very much believe Brady is a system quarterback and was a product of Belichick’s scheme, we also cannot make snap judgments based off this one game against a strong Saints defense. After all, the Bucs are still transforming and the lack of preseason was evident.
The Bucs still need to sort out their backfield. Ronald Jones looked okay at times, but 3.9 yards per carry on 17 touches isn’t great. Leonard Fournette didn’t look any better in his few attempts, but he’s only been with the team for a week. Let’s see what happens once he’s adjusted to the way Bruce Arians does things here.
We also have to factor in the loss of Mike Evans . Yes he played and he even caught a short pass in the end zone, but Brady spent much of his time trying to work the ball to a heavily-covered Chris Godwin , Scotty Miller and tight end O.J. Howard . This was not the formula from which he was training throughout the offseason and we know what Brady is like when he and his receivers are out of sync.
This team has some tremendous strengths. It just needs some time to develop. If there was ever a time to trust in the process, this would be it. Fantasy owners should not panic and those who have been anti-Brady for so long should not take that victory lap just yet.
The Colts Would Be Better Off with Jacoby Brissett Under Center
Don’t let the 363 passing yards fool you. This was not a good performance and while we may be tongue-in-cheek calling for Jacoby Brissett , we may not be wrong. It is very possible the Colts got thrown off their game early with the injury to Marlon Mack and maybe it was the lack of preparation due to the shortened preseason, but Rivers did not look good. Not at all. Opening drive aside, this dink-and-dunk style of moving the ball down the field had so many holes in it that you couldn’t help but wonder if they were doing it because Rivers truly doesn’t have the arm-strength anymore. In fact, the play-calling looked like it was more tailored for Brissett than Rivers to begin with, so add that to the list of things that could possibly go wrong in the future.
This team has a lot to sort out and maybe it gets some added clarity when the game-plan without Marlon Mack who landed on IR with a torn Achilles tendon. Perhaps a stronger run-first plan is needed here. More Jonathan Taylor and yes, more Nyheim Hines . But if we’re putting this season on someone’s shoulders, it should not be those of Philip Rivers .
You Can’t Run on The Washington Football Team
There’s good chalk and there’s bad chalk in the fantasy community and if you were loading up on Boston Scott this week, you were victimized by bad chalk. We can save that lesson for another time, but what we should all be very much paying attention to here is the strength of the defensive line for the Washington Football team and while they may not have all that prolific an offense, their defense is going to give a lot of people fits this season.
With Jonathan Allen stuffing the run in the middle, edge-rushers Chase Young and Montez Sweat creating havoc behind the line of scrimmage and a stout linebacker corps adding to the defensive power, this is not going to be a team that is easy to run on. Granted, Scott is an undersized scat-back who doesn’t take it between the tackles well, but any running back would have been hard-pressed to do much damage.