Well, Week 1 of the NFL season certainly didn’t disappoint. We had some exciting games, some huge weeks from premier players, and a few shocking outcomes. As we head into Week 2 there is a lot to digest and, specifically for the main slate, some very interesting situations that will force us to take some stands on what we learned (good or bad) from the first week of real NFL games in seven months.
There are six teams who are favorites on Sunday’s main slate that entered the season with high expectations and are coming off of a very disappointing opening week ::
All six of those teams are now favored in Week 2, with all of them except the Colts expected to win by a touchdown or more. Which of these teams do you feel the strongest about having a big “bounce back” game this week? And are there any of these teams that you have serious long-term concerns about for this season after what you saw in Week 1?
I’ll start with the long-term concerns and focus on the 49ers; and honestly (sorry Dwprix!), this doesn’t even have anything to do with how they looked in bad weather in Week 1. I’ve been concerned all offseason.
Trey Lance is going to have spiked weeks this season. This offense is too “downhill” and too well-designed for Lance — with his skillset — to NOT pop from time to time. But with every training camp report, it became more and more difficult for me to believe that Lance would suddenly solve his processing and accuracy shortcomings this season. This doesn’t mean he won’t develop into “that guy,” but the road is long. Lance will be on the fringes of my tighter player pool pretty much every week, as his rushing upside is undeniable; but I don’t expect a high level of consistency, nor do I expect this offense to be one we can comfortably rely on for big production week in and week out.
With the other five teams…this may sound naive, but I expect all five of them to take care of business this week. The Rams and Bengals are the easiest to feel comfortable with, as each team has plenty of continuity and strong leadership. The Bengals, undeniably, performed at their absolute ceiling down the stretch last year (no one came into this year arguing that the Bengals are “the best of the best in the AFC”), but they remain good; and when healthy, they’ll continue to be a competitive team that can score points and win games. The Rams continue to need a WR2 who can actually separate from coverage, but they get a pass for playing a Bills team that could make a lot of opponents look silly.
The Raiders’ biggest weakness on offense is their O-line, and a game against the Chargers was always going to be a bit of a challenge, but I don’t see any reason to sound the alarm.
The Colts are still a great quarterback away from being an upper-tier team (and they probably need better ancillary pieces on offense to become elite), but while we’ve been lamenting Matt Ryan’s declining arm strength since 2020, he’s still a master of pre-snap reads, post-snap processing, decision-making, etc. Said differently: in every area except arm strength, he’s an upgrade on Carson Wentz; and especially in the AFC South, this should be enough for plenty of wins and good-looking weeks.
As to the Broncos. I mean. I’m holding onto this like a bad breakup. There is no way Nathaniel Hackett is this much of a dunce…is there? Teams are 2-42 all-time on field goals of 64+ yards. Teams were 48% last year converting 4th-5. The Broncos had time on the clock, and timeouts, and he chose the 4.8% option instead of the 48% option. He made the Broncos FAR less likely to win with one decision that my wife knew, at the time, made no sense (and while she grew up in a football family, and is married to me, she is, by no means, a football-head). Worse? The reason Hackett gave for ‘wishing he had done things differently was the fact that it didn’t work. What? No! The reason you should wish you had done things differently is because you did the thing that would lose you that game far more often than not. I mean. I literally don’t understand it. And probably the worst thing of all is that Hackett had decided BEFORE THE GAME that if they were in a situation where they needed a field goal at the end of the game, 64-yards was the mark where they were willing to take their shot. Okay, sure. I can buy that — if it’s a choice between a Hail Mary or a 64-yarder. But that wasn’t the choice. Does he not see that? I’ve probably never been as upset about a coaching blunder for a team I have no rooting interest in as I was with Hackett’s call on Monday night. It’s indefensible. (*End rant*) That said: we need to separate end-of-game decision-making from play-design/play-calling. The Broncos will be fine. They just can’t afford to be in close games as the clock winds down…
I’m not super concerned about any of the teams from a “can they score points” perspective. Generally speaking, I’m not going to change any of my perspectives on teams or players after a single week – that’s one of the worst things you can do in DFS. You’ll frequently hear me say “we know very little in Week 1, but we know even less in Week 2,” because now all we have is one data point that we can all collectively freak out about and overreact to.
That said…I am very wary of the 49ers for DFS purposes. I have almost no 49ers exposure in best ball this year, because I just couldn’t see how they could possibly pay off their ADPs on a run-first, low passing volume offense. I feel the same in DFS – Trey Lance isn’t going throw 35+ times per game, so you’re relying on massive efficiency for a 49ers pass catcher to smash, and at their prices that’s not the kind of outcome I want to be betting on.
Butttt that isn’t me changing my perspective, as that’s the perspective I had on the 49ers in the offseason. Let me leave you with this: if you find yourself reevaluating how you view any teams or players after Week 1, you’re probably doing it wrong, with a couple of narrow exceptions (Rams RB situation, Giants WR room).
I think you have to be concerned about the 49ers at this point. I was routinely mocked this offseason for my handling of Trey Lance in Best Ball, but it was quite simple for me – last year I was extremely overweight Jalen Hurts due to a wide range of outcomes being drafted so late; a similar wide range of outcomes was present in Trey Lance this season, yet he was going four rounds earlier all summer. Spoiler – I don’t have a lot of Trey Lance in Best Ball. The field was all caught up in his upside and neglecting the fact that he had not put everything together quite yet, and I could take a similar profile in Justin Fields four rounds later. All of that to say, we have to understand that Lance is not a complete quarterback just yet, meaning the 49ers have a lot of uncertainty moving forward. The next five to six weeks could be filled with many ups and downs as he continues to progress as an NFL quarterback. And that’s not even considering the massive impact George Kittle has on this offense (I highlighted that fact last week in this space and in the End Around). And that’s not even considering the injury to Eli(jah) Mitchell. Considering their setup this week, I will be very interested in Jeff Wilson should Kittle return (a week after this team completely flopped and Eli gained some steam throughout the week).
The next team on my concern list would have to be the Broncos. As a Packers fan I’m familiar with the tendencies of Nathaniel Hackett, but good lord, he took the boneheadedness to a new level in Week 1. Play calling was choppy, game management was atrocious, and the offense lacked cohesion. We know they have all the talent in the world, but the Broncos are going to need their stable of clipboard-holders to start making better decisions to truly unlock the upside of this offense.
I don’t really have much concern with the other teams on this list and chalk up Week 1 to minimal preseason repetitions.
I feel the strongest about the Broncos, Rams, and Raiders having bounce back games in Week 2. The Raiders lost a one score game to a very good Chargers team and have advantages against a vulnerable Cardinals team in Week 2, they should have a strong showing. The Broncos are in a prime spot at home to throttle the Texans. Finally, the Rams at home against a Falcons team that has personnel shortcomings across the board should get back on track handily in Week 2.
From a long-term perspective, I talked in my NFL Edge writeup about the importance of this week for Trey Lance and the 49ers. It is reasonable that his job could be in jeopardy with a loss to the Seahawks this week.
Also, the Broncos approach and decision making on Monday night brought more questions than answers. It is too early to judge, as that was a difficult situation for them in general with the emotions and energy in Seattle, but my trust in them to have optimal approaches and strategies is on a short leash at this point.
Finally, I still think the Colts will win their division, but I have doubts about their ability to contend in the AFC once again. They should have some weeks where they look unstoppable, likely against inferior opponents, but I doubt they have the firepower or sharpness to beat the elite teams in the league.
The Week 2 main slate presents an interesting scenario. Week 1 had no games with a spread of more than a touchdown, and with a couple exceptions the games were mostly clumped together as far as their expected game totals. In Week 2, however, we have the following situation ::
What that is likely to lead to is a heavy concentration of the field on the teams that are heavy favorites and the two games that are a step above the others in terms of expected scoring.
What that leaves us with is four games that fit this description:
While the field focuses on the “obvious” spots, we must realize it is only Week 2 and these spreads and totals are still far from efficient at this point. From the above criteria, we are left with four “middle class” games. The games that fit that category are::
Which ONE of those games do you think is the most likely to turn into a shootout and give us the chance to build uniquely around a game environment that could surprise the field?