Week 1 Observations
I know I’m gonna get rugged soon because Week 1 was too good.
You go into the year making predictions and decisions under so much uncertainty that if you’re honest with yourself, you admit you really know nothing and could easily get everything wrong.
I’m not saying that to project false modesty — I really mean it. I wondered many times leading up to the year whether I was actually that high on Saquon Barkley or just high on him at his original price and then, having made up my mind, just lazily operating in its well-worn grooves.
It’s easy to get confused between, “I like this value” and “I think this will happen.” The former is a perfectly valid reason to draft someone, but it’s not the same as the latter which is a form of insight rather than probablistic projection. Insight isn’t available on command — once in a while the universe grants you a sneak preview and you have to recognize it, something that’s all the harder now that our milieu has been overrun by high-functioning autists and their acolytes who worship at the altar of the spread sheet. Many don’t believe insight of that kind even exists! But sometimes you think you see something, and you decide to trust it, even while harboring serious doubts and the fear you’ll get rugged.
It was also a good week not because I got everything right (I didn’t), but in part because of what other people got wrong. In the Circa Survivor pool, roughly half the 6,133 entries are already out — if you bought in for $1000, your equity has already doubled. That is, unless like me you have the Broncos, in which case your equity has gone up 50 percent (75 percent chance to have $2000 in equity = $1500.) And that’s where the rug-pull could come — if the Broncos lose, what was seemingly a glorious week takes a tragic turn.
But already I’m ecstatic I avoided the Colts and 49ers, and no matter what happens tonight, no one can take away the joy I am feeling at seeing them eliminated along with the Bengals. Taking the Monday night game is torture if everyone gets through, but it’s a 24-hour-happiness freeroll when so many do not.
The other two major things that went right were the Giants not only winning, but doing so in gutsy and dramatic fashion thanks to excellent play-calling and shrewd risk-taking by their new coach, and Barkley, whom I drafted in six of seven leagues, looking like the 2018 version and being used extensively in the passing game. If we were to draft again today, Barkley is a universal top-five pick. I don’t want to jinx him because a Barkley injury would be another massive rug-pull for me.
I also made one bet, under 50.5 on the Cowboys-Buccaneers, in a game that ended at 22. In my 51 years in this planet, I’m not sure I’ve sweated an under less.
Of course, not everything went right. I was 2-3 in the Circa Million, winning with the Bears and Steelers, but losing badly on the Packers, Patriots and Panthers, I have five shares of Travis Etienne and I made some lineup errors like starting Rhamondre Stevenson over Clyde Edwards-Helaire in my NFFC Primetime. But given the NFL’s unique capacity to inflict misery, I got off pretty easy — so far.
Brian Daboll didn’t only go for two to win at Tennessee, he designed great plays the entire game, particularly on the final drive, calling a fourth-down Daniel Jones play-action QB run when the defense was keying on Barkley. It’s exactly what was lacking the last 10 years and bodes well even if Jones and the pass-blocking were shaky for much of the game.
Barkley (16-164-1, 7-6-30) was so quick, smooth, explosive and decisive, it was a joy to watch him run. People whose faces are buried in spread sheets and don’t watch the Giants regularly probably forgot about last year’s Week 4 game against the Saints stout run defense, when he had 126 yards from scrimmage and two scores. He got hurt on a freak play (rolled his ankle stepping on someone’s foot after the play was over) the following week at Dallas and was never the same. (Moreover, the entire offense with an injured Dimes and Mike Glennon was beyond putrid.)
Kadarius Toney looked good on a gadget play but he didn’t get a single target. Richie James (6-5-59-0) was the team’s No. 2 target after Barkley, and he looked pretty good except on a key third-down drop.
Despite losing A.J. Brown this offseason, Ryan Tannehill played a good game and made a perfect throw to Kyle Phillips to set up the game-winning field-goal attempt. The Titans’ play calling and play design were good too, despite fielding a team of Derrick Henry and a bunch of nobodies.
Henry (21-82-0, 1-0-0) looked okay — he still falls forward for several yards on most plays simply because the defender has about as much chance of stopping his momentum as one would a falling oak. But the verdict is still out on the burst.
Robert Woods (2-1-13) will be a cut by Week 4.
I liked Alvin Kamara (9-39-0, 4-3-7-0) a little but came away without shares in part because Jameis Winston doesn’t have Drew Brees’ touch on short passes and doesn’t check down as much. But I had forgotten about Taysom Hill’s penchant for stealing TDs.
I should have gotten some shares of Jarvis Landry (9-7-114-0). He may be slow and unathletic, but he’s an alpha. Michael Thomas (8-5-57-2) surprised me with his production. I wanted nothing to do with him once he picked up yet another injury in camp.
Like Landry, Cordarrelle Patterson (22-120-1, 5-3-16-0) was too cheap. I took Stevenson over him in one league on a coin-flip call, which might have been a mistake.
Justin Fields is a player. He probably won’t amount to much in fantasy because Chicago is the worst place in the league to play quarterback, but he’ll scramble around and make unlikely plays like the 51-yard TD to Dante Pettis. Think Tim Tebow/Taysom Hill with slightly more skill.
The conditions were bad, so I’ll cut Trey Lance some slack, but it’s far from assured he’s good, and if he’s not, Jimmy Garoppolo is around to take his job. (The 49ers were extremely close to making the Super Bowl last year with Jimmy G, so the leash will be short.)
Deebo Samuel, whom I targeted last year and faded this year, got his eight carries for 52 yards and another rushing TD, and Elijah Mitchell is hurt yet again. Maybe Samuel’s opportunities in the ground game won’t regress after all.
I faded Mitchell because it’s unclear he’ll ever be able to handle the rigors of being an NFL back. It’s one thing for a player like Barkley or Christian McCaffrey, who has already done it, to get hurt and quite another for a young player who hasn’t yet.
Even MacPherson’s kicking is like my reading — put the book too close to my face, and I can’t see a damn thing, but if I hold it two feet away, no problem.
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