Thursday - Jan 21, 2021

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Don’t Panic!

If you’re like me, you’ve just watched the annual event in Fantasy Football that I can only describe as Le Grande Suckstravaganza, otherwise known as Week 1. Maybe they’re a bit rusty, maybe they’re still working off that Chunky soup

Michael Strahan and 

Donovan McNabb’s Mom are always pushing, or maybe that little green dot is throwing off a few quarterbacks’ balance – Who knows. Here I’ll show you a few ways the opening week in the NFL is just plain odd to help put some things in perspective, and maybe keep a few of you from a trade, waiver, or lineup move you might regret.

The Geekly Details – By prescription only. Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery within one hour of reading.

We’re going to look at play since 2002, which is when the last big shift in offense happened. We’ll use typical scoring with one point per reception. When I talk about starters, I mean the top 12 quarterbacks, 24 runningbacks, 36 wide receivers, and 12 tight ends at the end of that season, and by backups the next range of the same size, e.g. RB25-48. When I say significantly high or low, I mean outside of the average variation for the position which is 25% below average for all positions and for QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs, 30%, 40%, 45% and 50% above average respectively. I’m not including place kickers in this study since they’re largely inconsistent, league scoring varies widely, and nobody likes them anyway.


The Obligatory Chart

The top half of

this chart 

shows the percentage of starters and backups with big games for the week; higher means more guys are having unusually big games. The bottom half shows the percentage of starters with a bad game for the week; lower means more guys struggled.

We see some interesting patterns over the end of the season, with a lot of big passing games, and a split in the runningbacks, perhaps a sign of wear and tear or changes in the guard. If you just look at the gradual red runningback lines against the wavy lines around it, you see something you already know: Runningbacks are generally a lot more consistent than everyone else. For a few things you might not know, read on.


Passing on Week 1

History says one or two starting QBs on opening day will look as lost as a hungry cow on artificial turf, or a certain

Saint in the RCA Dome. History also says several will come out looking like

Steve Young incarnate, like 

Jake Delhomme with his 3 TD outing. Consequently, Week 1 can produce some of the most passing points of the season across the league, but this is feast or famine –

a third of teams will have one of their best fantasy passing games of the season (Enjoy it while you can,

Eli Manning) and the same amount will have one of their worst (I forgive you

Marc Bulger). All this is slightly more volatile than most weeks, with week three being when you start to see the most consistency.

Most receivers are consistently inconsistent, and we see it here. In any given week, about a quarter of starting wideouts are going to perform well below par, and Week 1 is no exception. What can

Brown do for you? 2 points. Week 1 has also been unfriendly to a few of the starting tight ends, much like

Chris Cooley, who I can only believe

Jason Campbell thought to have a fish on his helmet.

These trends get pretty wild over time with receivers getting less consistent, for better or worse, as the season progresses. We also see that in any given week as many as

nearly half of all starting and backup wideouts are going to come out of nowhere and play above their class.  This alone should make you think twice before you drop that middle draft pick you made just a couple of weeks ago to grab a guy who happened to have the game of his career, like

Mr. Antwaan “They still haven’t taken my picture after 5 years” Randle El.

(Correction: His photo was apparently posted a few hours after this article was published. Either a coincidence, or good work, readers!)

Running for your life

We also see a quite a few starting backs will generally get off to a slow start, like

Steven Jackson or

Maurice Jones-Drew, and only a couple start the season with a bang relative to what they normally do (




RSVP, and neither

LJ beat

LT). For better or worse,

over a third of them aren’t showing their true selves, sometimes taking a few weeks to settle in. As a unit, a closer look at Week 1 reveals that while a few teams will have one of their best fantasy running games Week 1,

nearly half

of all teams will have one of the worst of their season.

Insert collective sigh of relief here.


Good for breakfast.  Bad for your team.


we see a turnover. Chances are the games you watched each had about one more turnover than usual, if a bit less tasty and apple-filled, but probably just as flaky.

Interceptions on opening day have been going back and forth between the high 20s and high 30s over the last few years, and this year is looking like a high 20s, which is just slightly more than any other week. Meanwhile, Week 1 has consistently been one of if not

the worst week for fumbles. With his second sad appearance in this article, hold on before you diagnose

Steven Jackson with fumbilitis. On the other side of the ball, don’t pat yourself on the back just yet for picking

Detroit DE Dewayne White and his three turnovers and a sack in Oakland

 with, say, your 17th pick (let me have this one small victory this week). Thanks to one-year Shark Tank Veteran


for prompting a look at this.

And now for something completely different…

Good waiver moves are second only to a good draft in driving your fantasy football success, and none of this should stop you from making a good trade or waiver addition. You want to be first to your wire this week, but this doesn’t just mean acting quickly but also working and planning quickly. Look at your roster, the game logs, pose your questions in the

Trade or Waiver Forum

, share ideas and observations in the

Main Tank

, and only then think about a move.

When you’re thinking about a roster change this early, you should consider all the planning, research, predictions, and other ideas that led you to draft the guy you’re considering dropping, and compare the pickup against that. Don’t compare that pickup to what your guy did in one game, and especially not the oddity that is Week 1. All this is just as true for when you’re setting your Week 2 lineup, and you can count on seeing this a few times this week in the

Who Should I Start? Forum

. As a professional stat weenie I’ve worked with used to say “One is not a trend.”

Regression to the Mean: What goes up must come down.

Stat geeks have another sort of saying called “regression to the mean.” If you’re like me, you were still in bed from 8-to-10am while your math professor was explaining this. He basically meant “what goes up must come down” and vice versa. Over time, guys will have their highs and lows, but they’re really only as good as the middle, and eventually they’ll get there. So when the week one winners in your league on the backs of a few big games start talking trash, you know what to say: “Oh yeah, well your squad is gonna regress to the mean!” Or not.

For feedback, interrogation, and criticism, or if there are numbers to crunch, drop a note in the

Article Discussions Forum

. Good luck, have fun, and remember that friends don’t let friends jump to conclusions.

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