With the opening week of the NFL season always comes a handful of lies. The pro football season in itself is a small sample size with just 16 game for any team in a regular season, but one game can easily produce plenty of flashes in the proverbial pan. With the reactionary nature of the sport’s audience and media, we often see a week’s worth of results blown out of proportion.
On the other hand, sometimes what we see are “new realities” unveiling themselves. A new season can bring a turning of the leaf for a select bunch of teams, units or individual players. Occasionally these Week 1 revelations are just that and we should take them seriously.
The trick for fantasy owners is deciphering which side does each Week 1 vision fall into. The danger in writing off a revelation as a mirage is that come Week 4 or 5 when you’re finally ready to buy in, the edge will be gone. Your league mates will know to hold players from these newly elite offenses and DFS sites will now price-up players going against these defense that reveal themselves to be sieves.
Here we’ll look at three units that thrived in Week 1 and attempt to gauge whether they’re for real or not. All three face new tests in Week 2, so be sure to track them during the games set to kick off soon.
The Vikings offense
Unfortunately, if Sam Bradford does indeed sit out the Vikings road trip to Pittsburgh, we’ll likely be no closer to knowing the truth behind this offense once the dust settles after Week 2. However, cracking the nut of this unit’s productivity is an essential fantasy quandary.
In Week 1, all your Vikings hit. Bradford delivered elite-level throws to budding playmakers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, leading to over 200 yards and two scored between the two. Kyle Rudolph found the end zone. Dalvin Cook rushed for over 100 yards and ripped off big-time runs off the rebuilt offensive line’s right side.
Of course, this all comes with the caveat that Minnesota got the Saints defense to cooperate in the scoring festival, which the unit typically has no problem doing. However, we ought to be inclined to believe in this Vikings unit. They finished will down the stretch, have multiple skill position pass-catchers entering their primes, drafted a dynamic rookie running back and their quarterback is at home in this system. While they may not lift all tides as they did in Week 1 against New Orleans, we shouldn’t be a bit shocked if this is a top-12 NFL offense and fruitful soil for fantasy growth.
Sam Bradford's injury in Week 2 may actually keep the hype around this unit under wraps for at least one more week. In the meantime, be ready to make offers for Vikings players in case their current owners don’t know what they have.
The Jaguars defense
We might have the fear the Jacksonville Jaguars defense from here on out. The unit put up 10 sacks on Houston in Week 1, spearheaded by new free agent addition Calais Campbell and his 4.5 alone. Jacksonville was so suffocating they took it upon themselves to rebrand as #Sacksonville on social media. It was a bit of layup but not completely unclever.
The Houston Texans offensive line is in a state of disarray with Duane Brown in a holdout situation, and pocket statue Tom Savage and rookie Deshaun Watson exacerbated the issues. Yet, it’s hard to take much away from this defensive unit’s absolute domination in Week 1. In addition to what suddenly looked like dynamic pass rush, the Jaguars boast a pair of shutdown corners. They are built for success at the most important defensive positions.
If the Jaguars stop unit is for real, it will create a ripple effect on their own team in addition all their opponents. Keeping games close or in their favor will make rookie runner Leonard Fournette money in the bank and a favorite to lead the NFL in carries. They’re clearly committed to him as the offensive engine. Should that pass rush remain even close to what we saw in their season-opener, offenses will consistently be in ruts against this team and tremble to throw into the teeth of a secondary with Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye.
The Jaguars get a matchup with the Titans in Week 2. Tennessee’s offensive line is one of the best pass protections fronts in the business and Marcus Mariota is a careful but dynamic young passer. If Jacksonville shuts down this unit, we need to take serious heed of playing skill position players against them.
The Raiders offense
Our goal when analyzing this team isn’t so much about their overall effectiveness; we knew the Raiders offense was going to be a strong one. In this case, we’re more worries about overall distribution and playtime allotment.
Much of the worry around Amari Cooper’s fantasy stock revolved around his volume and his lack of “money targets” in scoring position. Neither were issues in Week 1. Cooper collected 13 targets overall and owned a massive 42.6 percent share of the team’s intended air yards, compared to under 27 percent for Michael Crabtree. He also earned four looks in the red zone, which was extremely encouraging even if at least a few of them were bungled. If Cooper maintains that usage for another week, we might need to consider him as a part of the backend of the elite-tier WR1 group.
In the backfield, Marshawn Lynch almost cracked 20 touches in his first game since November 2015. However, he was only on the field for 48 percent of the team’s plays, as DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard chipped in on 25 and 19 percent, respectively. If he’s not even going to be a 50 percent back in this offense, he’ll make for a risky play in certain game scripts. We need to see if the playing time distribution holds for another week or if this was just getting Lynch back up to speed, because he looked so good in Week 1 those of us who were pessimistic on him may need to revise expectations.
A matchup with the near JV quality New York Jets isn’t ideal when it comes to solving puzzles, but it’s what the schedule-makers gave us. Oakland should handle this game at home with ease, meaning we might not get clear indicators to the questions we seek. However, do what you can to track the usage of Cooper and Lynch. The duo might need even higher boosts to their already lofty stocks.