Ah, Week 1. You either feel like Albert Einstein for finding that late-round tight end that put up more than 100 yards, or you feel like Mack Brown (cussing yourself and trying to figure out where things went wrong with your team). Don’t get your panties in a bunch. As NFL teams are still ironing out the details on their game plans, there’s plenty of time for you to figure things out, too. It was a strange Week 1 in the NFL. There were only 10 running backs that went for 20 or more fantasy points (Shark Leagues standard scoring) in Week 1, but there were seven tight ends that accomplished the same feat. Given that most leagues start two or more running backs (if you have a flex), than the one tight end most leagues start, it was a strange week indeed.
Last year there were a total of 38 times a tight end went for 20 fantasy points or more. That works out to an average of 2.2 per week. The highest number of tight ends scoring 20 or more fantasy points in one week last year was five. Now think about the fact that Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski both didn’t play in Week 1 and you can see how this was an abnormality…or it could be a trend. The NFL is very much a copycat league. If something is working for one team, you can bet some other teams are going to give it a try. The New England Patriots have had a ton of success with their two tight end sets, and the read-option is becoming much more of a trend than a gimmick. This could be a big year for a lot of tight ends, so pay attention. The good ones could be getting picked a lot earlier in drafts next year than they were this year. Now on to the calls for the week.
Jay Cutler is a guy you’re going to want to get into your starting lineup this week. A nice home game against a weak Minnesota defense is just what you need from your starting quarterback. Last week Matthew Stafford had 357 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Vikings. I’m thinking Cutler should be at about 300 passing yards and two or three passing touchdowns. That’s definitely startable for you.
A guy you’re going to want to sit this week is Tony Romo. Last week the Kansas city Chiefs defense held Blaine Gabbert to just 121 passing yards. While we all know Gabbert is about the bottom of the barrel when it comes to starting NFL quarterbacks; keep in mind that this Kansas City defense did send four defensive players to the Pro Bowl last year. All four of those players are back with the team this year. The Chiefs have had a 64 percent win percentage at Arrowhead Stadium since 1990, so I’m going to say Romo is a bad call this week.
Jake Locker is another guy that had an absolutely pitiful week last week. Locker had just 125 passing yards against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and this week Andy Dalton gets that tough matchup. Last year Pittsburgh gave up multiple passing touchdowns in a game just five times. They had just four quarterbacks throw for more than 250 yards against them. It looks like Pittsburgh is picking up right where it left off on defense, and that makes Dalton a bad call this week.
Darren McFadden made it through Week 1 unscathed, but with underwhelming stats on the ground. This week he should be able to show off what made him a popular fantasy draft pick in recent years. McFadden’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars will give him a chance to run all over the place. Jacksonville ranked 30th against the run last year, surrendering an average of 141 rushing yards per game. Saying McFadden would be a good call this week would be an understatement.
Week 1 gave us a good idea as to how much of the run game Eddie Lacy will be sharing with the other Green Bay running backs. The answer looks like not much. Lacy had 14 carries, and all other Green Bay running backs had just one carry combined. Looks like Lacy will be the top dog in this race. That’s good for Lacy since he gets a kind matchup with Washington this week. LeSean McCoy was able to put up 184 rushing yards against the Redskins this past Monday night, although that was in the new high-paced Eagles offense and it was on 31 carries. Still that makes McCoy’s average yards per carry just under 6.0, which isn’t good for any defense no matter who’s running against you. Lacy should have a solid game this week and he’s a good call to be in your lineup this week.
Ahmad Bradshaw had just seven carries last week and Vick Ballard had just 13. Ballard did get some recognition from his coaches for picking up the blitz well, so take note that he might be getting some more playing time because of that. This week, though, neither of them are good fantasy plays. Miami was middle-of-the-pack for rushing yards given up, but ranked eighth with just 10 rushing touchdowns given up last year. Trent Richardson had only a 3.6 yards per carry average last week against the Dolphins. Sit Bradshaw and Ballard until a clear cut favorite emerges and the Colts get an easier matchup.
Hopefully Pierre Garcon will be able to shred the San Francisco defense like Anquan Boldin did last week. Boldin had a huge 13-catch, 208-yard, one-touchdown day, and I think Garcon has a good chance to have a huge day as well. Green Bay is a middle-of-the-road defense against receivers, and most teams are playing from behind against the Packers. Garcon was the most targeted receiver for the Redskins in Week 1, and if Green Bay gives up anywhere close to the 412 passing yards it gave up in Week 1, Garcon will end up being a very good call to be in your lineup.
If you’re looking for a good flex play you can grab off the waiver wire, go grab Rueben Randle. The second-year wide receiver had five catches on six targets for 101 yards in Week 1, and should have another good game this week. The “Manning Bowl” looks to be one that will be high scoring. The Over/Under in Vegas is the highest of the week at 55 total points. All three of the Giants receivers had more than 100 receiving yards last week, and there’s a decent chance that could happen again. Randle would be a good call for you this week.
Someone who would be a bad call would be Tavon Austin. The rookie had an OK showing in his first week with six catches for 41 yards, but right now I think the top receiving target for St. Louis looks to be Jared Cook. The veteran tight end had 10 targets to Austin’s seven, and did more with them going for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Austin probably won’t flop this week, but I’d look elsewhere until the rookie gets familiar with the pro level.
I would have looked much more like a good prognosticator if I had told you to start Julius Thomas last week instead of this week. If you grabbed Thomas off the waiver wire, go ahead and throw him straight into you starting lineup. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, just do it now. The New York Giants-Denver game is going to be high-scoring, like I said above in the receivers section. Peyton Manning seems to find a way to make his tight ends good fantasy plays, and Thomas looks to be the next in line. Side note: I really want to give Thomas the nickname “Orange Julius” because it sounds good. And, since one of the Broncos colors is orange, it works even better.
San Diego gave up three touchdowns to tight ends last week. Hopefully this week Brent Celek can capitalize on that trend. Celek is a tight end that rarely goes for more than 100 receiving yards, and you’re hoping for a touchdown to capture his value. He had one touchdown last week, and I think he’ll have another one this week. He’s a good call to be in your starting lineup.
One tight end you’re going to want to keep on your bench is Kyle Rudolph. Jerome Simpson and Greg Jennings appear to getting more of Christian Ponder’s attention to start the season, judging by Rudolph’s two catches for 27 yards on four targets. Last year Rudolph was the top target after Percy Harvin went down. This year he looks to be third on the list. Rudolph would be a bad call this week.
Good luck this week, and, as always, may your starters stay healthy and I hope you make all the right calls.