Fantasy Football Lessons from Week 1

The NFL returned with a bang on Sunday. Including Thursday night’s opener between the Panthers and Broncos, the first 13 games of Week 1 have been decided by an average of 5.38 points. Only three teams—the Texans, Eagles and Vikings—won by more than one score. Four games were decided by just one point, including the Raiders taking down the Saints with a two-point conversion after pulling within one point on a Seth Roberts touchdown with less than one minute remaining. It was one of the most exciting Week 1 slates in recent memory.

The real work for fantasy owners begins now. The drafts and auctions we obsessed over the last few weeks were merely a jumping-off point. Now it’s time to learn from what we see on the field and adapt to the ever-changing realities of the regular season. We’ll help you get ready for the crucial work you have to put in every week with the biggest fantasy takeaways from every Sunday’s action. With that, let’s get to the fantasy lessons learned in Week 1.

The Jameis Winston breakout season is here

Winston backers had to be feeling awfully good by the end of the first half Sunday. After a slow start, Winston led two touchdown drives in the second half, both of which went at least nine plays and 75 yards, capping them off with touchdown passes. He added two more scores on Tampa Bay’s first two drives of the second half, finishing the game with 281 yards, 8.52 YPA and four touchdowns against one interception, good for 26.54 points in standard-scoring leagues. Winston hooked up with eight different receivers in total, and spread his touchdowns among four targets — Mike Evans, Charles Sims, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Brandon Myers. He looked every bit the part of a breakout quarterback, which so many in the fantasy community expect him to be this year. Sure, he faced an easy test in the Falcons to start the season, but that does not dismiss how good he looked as he kicked off his second year in the league. We’re watching the newest member of the QB1 class.

Tevin Coleman is a problem for Devonta Freeman

We tried to warn you all summer. As good as Freeman was last year, there wasn’t any chance he’d enjoy the same monopoly on the backfield this season. If you doubted that during draft season, you likely changed your mind on Sunday. Freeman had 15 total touches, carrying the ball 11 times for 20 yards and catching four passes for 20 yards. Coleman, meanwhile, had the ball in his hands 13 times, most notably catching five of his six targets for 95 yards. Coleman may not be better than Freeman — though it is worth remembering he was the starter last year before suffering an injury in Week 2 — but he’s going to have a significant role in the offense all season. So long as the split between the two resembles what it looked like in Week 1, Freeman is going to have trouble justifying his draft-day price tag.

Carson Wentz might be a thing

The Eagles surprised a lot of people in the football world when they dealt Sam Bradford, their projected starting quarterback, to the Vikings right before the start of the season. While the price offered by the Vikings, a 2017 first-round pick and 2018 fourth rounder, was too good to refuse, it left the Eagles with only Carson Wentz and Chase Daniel at the quarterback position. Rather than giving Daniel a shot, the Eagles handed the keys to the second overall pick in this year’s draft, and Wentz made Doug Pederson look good on Sunday. Both quarterback and coach got their first career wins in their debuts, with Wentz throwing for 278 yards, 7.51 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wentz looked poised all afternoon, looking nothing like a rookie quarterback who played sparingly in the preseason. Now, Wentz isn’t the only quarterback who will thrive against the Browns this year, but anyone who invested in Philadelphia’s offense, especially Jordan Matthews owners (seven catches, 114 yards, one touchdown, 14 targets), had to be encouraged. Wentz will be a primary add in any superflex leagues where he was a free agent heading into Week 1.

The Saints defense is your friend

It’s dangerous to assume that a bad defense one year will be just as bad, or worse, the following season. Each year is a blank slate, and injury and schedule factors that may have hurt a defense are wiped away with the off-season. It looks safe, however, to throw that out with respect to the Saints. One of last year’s most porous units could be even worse this season.

The Raiders racked up 486 total yards in their 35-34 win over the Saints in Week 1. Derek Carr threw for 319 yards, 8.39 YPA and a touchdown. Latavius Murray ran for 59 yards and a score on 14 carries. Amari Cooper caught six passes for 137 yards, while Michael Crabtree pulled down seven for 87. Not only did the Saints fail to sack Derek Carr, they rarely put pressure on him. Just when it looked like it couldn’t get any worse, cornerback Delvin Breaux, the best individual player on the defense, suffered a broken fibula and is out for the foreseeable future. Fantasy owners will be happy to target the Saints defense all season, in both season-long and DFS formats.

Spencer Ware is here to stay

Ware did more than fill in for an injured Jamaal Charles on Sunday. He essentially turned into Charles, putting up a stat line that had to make the usual Kansas City starter proud. Ware had 70 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and caught seven of his eight targets for 129 yards, racking up 25.9 points in standard-scoring leagues. The Chiefs rallied back from a 24-3 deficit to beat the Chargers 33-27 in overtime, and Ware was indispensable. Charles, who missed this game while still working his way back after tearing his ACL last season, could return as soon as next week, but Ware has to retain a role in the offense. No team in the league can afford to turn away from a player who has the ability to total 199 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches. That could make things tough for owners of Charles and Ware, even those who handcuffed the two, but that will likely be the reality once Charles is healthy enough to play.

Matt Forte hasn’t changed

He’s 30 years old playing with a new team that already has a versatile back on its roster it likes. This has to be the year Forte starts to slow down, right? If Week 1 is any indication, wrong. Very, very wrong. Forte brought the multi-faceted game that made him a star in Chicago to New York, running 22 times for 96 yards and pulling in five of his seven targets for 59 yards. Forte was responsible for nearly half of the Jets yards from scrimmage in their 23-22 loss to the Bengals. Bilal Powell, meanwhile, got six touches. Forte may not out-touch Powell by an order of 4.5-to-1 every week, but there shouldn’t be any doubt who owns the Jets backfield. Forte’s skill set fits perfectly in the Jets offense, a fact he put on display against a tough Cincinnati defense. Forte was the only consistent weapon for the Jets Sunday, and while that won’t always be the case, he shows no signs of slowing down during his first season in his 30s.

(Photo credit: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

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