If you profited off Sunday’s main slate in Week 1, you should pat yourself on the back. If you lost all your entry fees in Week 1, you should also pat yourself on the back. Chances are you made some excellent decisions on your rosters Sunday, but also some poor ones. I’m willing to guess, however, that if you’re an OWS member and you’re reading all the great work on the NFL Edge each week, as well as the rich content on The Scroll, your time will come this season.
Just by being here (I truly believe this), working on sharpening YOUR process, and deepening your thoughts, you’ll catch this variance train eventually and hit for a massive day. Learn every week. Build rosters that can tell a story. Guess less, correlate more!
Let’s get right back at it today with some hindsight. Instead of listening to your annoying friends who will tell you they predicted X, Y, and Z, I’ll try to apply some logic here as to what happened this weekend and whether it’s sustainable or random. Let’s go!
Which of these opposing statements is more accurate?
The Titans are worse because they lost their offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith.
The Falcons are worse because they gained a new head coach, Arthur Smith.
These statements should not correlate. But who is the real Arthur Smith? He may become a great head coach, and this first game was simply a rusty start with a new playbook for the Falcons. It’s also possible the Titans got into an uncomfortable game script and had to get away from what they do best. But both teams were horrendous Sunday, and we now have to sort out what to do moving forward.
In Tennessee, they should be fine. Arizona’s defensive front completely overmatched their offensive line, and they struggled when they got away from Derrick Henry.
As for Atlanta, only six points against the Eagles porous secondary is cause for concern. Matt Ryan did not attempt a pass longer than 20 yards in the air. He did not orchestrate a drive longer than 22 yards after the first quarter. Calvin Ridley disappointed. Kyle Pitts disappointed. And unfortunately, a good chunk of my lineups disappointed.
Coming into this game, given the notoriously pass-funnel Eagles defense (13th DVOA vs. run, 24th DVOA vs. pass in 2020), we expected Ryan to throw the ball often. Well, it turns out the Falcons offensive line had other ideas. This still turned out to be an offense heavily skewing toward three players: Mike Davis (15 carries, six targets), Ridley and Pitts (eight targets each) but the results were not there. Note moving forward: Watch Ryan’s arm strength. We’ve seen aging QBs sometimes look washed and bounce back, while others don’t. It’s only Week 1, but this could still be a potent offense. They simply can’t be this predictable on offense with a paltry 4.7 yards per pass attempt.
When looking into the expected SF blowout of Detroit, the simple fact (as Hilow nailed in the Edge writeup) was that any SF offensive player could hit. Still, between George Kittle, Raheem Mostert, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel, they would need extreme efficiency to do so. Then Aiyuk’s benching/injury/getting cut out of the game plan happened, and Deebo took over. If Aiyuk had been ruled out prior to kickoff, Deebo ownership would have skyrocketed. We essentially got a healthy Deebo with a benched Aiyuk, and given the lack of talent on the Detroit defense, a near-200 yard performance followed. Note moving forward: We don’t have to chase this one. Unless you’re Sonic! Deebo is a WR1 when healthy, and Kyle Shanahan will scheme him the ball, but this was cause-and-effect. It was a perfect situation for Samuel, and he capitalized. This will continue to be a talented team that will spread the touches around.
Fifty-eight total offensive points between these two teams. You had that, right? I did not, but before this game, we mentioned in the NFL Edge (credit to JM) that the 5% outcome here is a shootout. And in the case of a shootout, we had talented skill players in Jacksonville with an unknown at QB, along with at least Brandin Cooks from Houston. My first reaction to reading JM’s comment on a low-probability shootout was the blueprint laid down from Week 16, 2020. We had the Bengals and the Texans, Deshaun Watson vs. Brandon Allen, and a four-player stack that won someone $1M that week. When two bad defenses collide, sometimes you can get those under-owned shootouts.
The setup for a game stack (3, 4, or 5 man) was there with Lawrence plus two pass catchers and Cooks. I noted this as well in the OWS Collective on this game that I could go that route…and then I did not, and it’s likely you did not either. A combination of Trevor Lawrence ($6,200/25.08), D.J. Chark ($5,800/17.6), Marvin Jones Jr. ($3,600/18.7), and Cooks ($5,300/21.2) would have cost only $20.9K and produced 82.58 DK points. That’s a four-player player block that puts you on pace for about 186 points. Note moving forward: If you have a conviction on an edge, exploit it. Bad offense sometimes beats bad defense.
For a few seasons now, the Titans and the Vikings have been giving DFS players the keys to the corvette (i.e. guaranteed points). The Vikings effectively eliminated TEs (until late last season with Irv Smith Jr.). The Titans had their Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown goodness (I see you too, Corey Davis), which assured many points for paying those salaries most weeks.
Enter Week 1 of the NFL season, and we have some new faces at the party. By some measures, the Kansas City Chiefs were already there based on the last two seasons. I speak for many by saying the Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Patrick Mahomes trifecta has won many people a lot of money lately. In 2019, we typically still had a featured running back with LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams, and even parts of last season, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was an excellent chess piece for Andy Reid. Importantly, we also had an effective Sammy Watkins. That changes this season. Playing from behind against Cleveland Sunday, Mahomes distributed 15 targets to Tyreek and seven targets plus two touchdowns to Kelce. It seems those three could elevate to a new level. Tyreek, in particular, looks poised to be the top WR in fantasy potentially, and Mahomes did not show much interest Sunday in Mecole Hardman or any other Chiefs WR. Note moving forward: Losing Watkins and relying on Hardman as a WR2 should put Tyreek in a tier of his own moving forward.
The Dallas Cowboys found themselves in a passing game script Thursday night. Zeke Elliott was ineffective, but we should’ve seen that coming as Tampa Bay ranked #1 DVOA in 2020 against RBs and returned all starters. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb were the beneficiaries (16, 15 targets), and Michael Gallup was getting there too but is now out for an extended time. The Cowboys have no reason to change what they do best, which is to throw the football. Note moving forward: If forced into negative game scripts against a tough run defense, the Cowboys will throw it. And now, with Gallup out, this becomes an even more condensed target tree. If you’re playing Dak, it’s going to be a no-brainer to pair him with Cooper and Lamb. And I haven’t even mentioned how bad the Cowboys defense is.
And then there’s the Detroit Lions. Stay with me here. I talked in Willing to Lose about how D’Andre Swift is their most talented offensive player, how he should be game script immune, and how the Lions will have no choice but to throw the ball. But I did not see them running 92 offensive plays and throwing 57 times! Jamaal Williams got his share (though he only played 35% of the snaps), but 11 targets to Swift and 10 targets to T.J. Hockenson spells a very positive trend moving forward. The lack of talent and experience in this WR room is no secret. Considering how notoriously shallow Jared Goff’s aDoT is (7.5 yards per attempt in his career), along with expected second or third-tier pricing on these guys, I expect a Swift / Hockenson player block to be firmly in play for bottom-up builds in the future. Note moving forward: We can play two Lions on the same roster for the guaranteed volume unless their prices get prohibitive.