by ANDREW HORN
At last, fantasy football has completed Week 1 of the NFL regular season. It has been a long offseason of scandals, retirements, draft picks, free agency, rule changes and just about anything else you could imagine. Now it is back to what matters: football.
Just like last season, I am here to help guide fantasy novices and experts alike in making smart, informed decisions on how to win your league. It is only the first week of the season and certain players and teams have already played themselves out of Super Bowl contention. I cannot guarantee that reading my recaps will guarantee a championship, but it would be exceptionally difficult to win without these articles. Without further delay, here are the 2015 Week 1 winners and losers.
Winners: Tom Brady (NE)- 42.5 points
Well this is sure to upset Roger Goodell and every other Patriot hater across the nation, but Tom Brady looks ready for Super Bowl ring number five after Thursday’s performance. Brady picked apart a suspect Steelers defense for 288 yards and four touchdowns. Three of them were to his favorite target Rob Gronkowski, but Brady just looked sharp in the opening game. He was in a groove from the opening snap. Brady gets a vaunted Buffalo defense (yes, you read that correctly) in Week 2. Bills coach Rex Ryan has a 4-9 record against the Patriots as a head coach, including the postseason. Start Brady, unless you have another dynamite option. Do not expect 42 points from Brady this week. Something around 26-29 would be more reasonable.
Marcus Mariota (TEN)- 39.5 points
Two quarterbacks were taken as the first two picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Jameis Winston went number one overall, while Mariota was pick number two. They faced off against each other for their first professional games. Winston looked like a rookie. Mariota looked like a seasoned veteran. He only threw for 209 yards, but went 13-16 passing and had four touchdowns as well. His first score- a 52-yard catch and run by Kendall Wright came just two minutes into the game. Mariota showed that some Heisman trophy winners can play right away. Let’s not get carried away though, this was only one game. Before we go anointing Mariota the next Tom Brady, he needs to get by a Cleveland Browns defense that intercepted 21 passes and forced 18 fumbles last season, both top-10 in the league. Depending on who your other quarterback is, I would sit Mariota. I believe the laws of gravity will have a vicious effect on his scores for Week 2.
Loser: Joe Flacco (BAL)- 1.9 points
Nothing personal against Baltimore, but Joe Flacco played so poorly that I almost didn’t add the “s” in points. That is how horrible he was on Sunday. His counterpart Peyton Manning was not much better as the two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks faced off in Denver. Flacco went 18-32 for 117 yards and two interceptions. He was spectacularly horrendous in Denver. Expect Flacco to be statistically lower than in years past with the departure of Torrey Smith and injury to rookie Breshad Perriman. Flacco get a much easier test Week 2 against the Raiders. The Ravens are also staying out West, meaning the time difference won’t be a factor. Start Flacco.
Winner: Carlos Hyde (SF)- 34.6 points
Going into the Monday night games, I thought I would have to write about four or five running backs. Carlos Hyde changed that real fast. Hyde ran the ball 26 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns, all career highs. He also set a career high in ankle breaking spin moves with one on his first touchdown run.
San Francisco took it to Minnesota with old school, in your face offense. Colin Kaepernick did not have to throw the ball 35 times, allowing him to be more productive as well. The 49ers had a tumultuous offseason to say the least, but if cleaning house gives them this result, then they will contend for the playoffs. Start Hyde against the Steelers for the sole reason that Pittsburgh is a shell of itself without Dick LeBeau.
Losers: Philadelphia Running Backs
Ok, this criticism goes more for their top two backs, DeMarco Murray and Ryan Matthews. Both running backs combined for 13 rushing yards on 11 carries and 35 receiving yards on seven catches. The only saving grace for Murray and Matthews was that they combined for three touchdowns. Third-string back Darren Sproles outgained the prominent duo on the ground, through the air and added some yards on kickoff returns. Sam Bradford was great; otherwise Philly would have been blown out of the Georgia Dome. There is no time for the Eagles to feel sorry for themselves as they gear up for a divisional clash against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. In Philadelphia, DeMarco will rush against his old team. Start Murray and Sproles in a flex position, be wary of Matthews.
Winners: Tavon Austin (STL) and James Jones (GB)- 19.8 and 19.1 points respectively
There were receivers who scored more than these two on Sunday, but less than 6 percent of Fox Sports leagues had Jones starting on their teams. Less than 1 percent of leagues had Austin starting and only 3.2 percent of leagues have him at all. Jones caught two touchdowns for the Packers en route to reconnecting with his former teammate and All-Pro Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Tavon Austin continues to be electric as a special teams returner, making him a valuable asset for any person who owns the Rams special teams as well (double points!) Austin is less of a viable option because he still is not an important part of the Rams passing game yet, but James Jones is an extremely good looking option for owners needing a flex receiver. Jones has chemistry with Rodgers and is solidly sitting as a third option for Aaron Rodgers, with a real possibility of becoming option number two.
Loser: Dez Bryant (DAL)- 4.8 points
Well, Bryant broke a bone in his foot and will need a minimum of six weeks to heal, with the real possibility it could take him 8-10 weeks until he is back on the field. What is even worse is that Bryant owners likely used their first round pick on him. That being said, there are receivers available in a majority of leagues that could help be a Band-Aid until Dez comes back. Nate Washington (HOU), Donte Moncrief (IND), Tyler Lockett (SEA) and the two mentioned above are all receivers with double-digit outputs in Week 1 and owned in fewer than 20 percent of leagues.
Winner: Fantasy Owners
Last year, this section was repetitive because the points, excluding the occasional touchdown from some players, were created by four or five players. Week 1 saw five tight ends with two touchdown performances (Gronk had three). An astounding 13 tight ends scored more than 10 points. Along with the Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham kind of tight ends, other yound guys stepped an established themselves as legitimate options. Sefarian-Jenkins of Tampa Bay and Travis Kelce of KC both had 100 yards and two touchdowns. Monitor your tight ends closely because it is not clear whether this was a fluke week or the new normal.
Loser: Greg Olsen (CAR)- 1.1 points
One of the upper echelon tight ends, Olsen put up a pitiful performance Sunday as Carolina’s offense was mediocre against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cam Newton ran the ball 14 times, a number that is entirely too high for a franchise quarterback. You have to think Coach Ron Rivera will significantly lessen Newton’s rushing load, potentially opening up more targets for Olsen. If you have a better tight end, start them instead of Olsen as the Panthers have a tall task against the Texans in Week 2.
Top Performers: New this year, here are some of the top performing Defenses and Special Teams during the week and what it means going forward.
Seattle- 32.9 points
Analysis: They lost the game, but put on a show on defense and special teams. Continue to start them because of their big point potential.
Miami- 29.8 points
Analysis: An interesting team in Miami. Their secondary won’t be leading the league in sacks anytime soon, but their defensive line might be one of the best football has seen in the past 10 years. Adding to the sack potential is Jarvis Landry, the punt returner who burned the Redskins for the game winning score Sunday. Start them if the Defense has a reasonable chance of pulling out some points. Do not rely on the Special Teams alone.
St. Louis- 29.4 points
Analysis: They beat Seattle on put up nearly 30 points from the D/ST unit. As long as Tavon Austin is running kicks back, they will be ok. Rely on these Special Teams.
Tweet me @theandrewhorn for any help you may need with your fantasy lineups before tonight’s game!