Process and Hindsight – Examining Mistakes from Week 1

Process and Hindsight – Examining Mistakes from Week 1

I always seem to bite off more than I can chew for football season. It comes with the territory. There are always more leagues to joins, lineups to set, and picks to make if you can find the time. To best maximize my football overload, I’m aiming to relive the biggest misses I had in Week 1 across my various platforms of pigskin prognostication. I may not be able to do this every week, but there is a lot to learn in the early part of the season, so here I am clackity-clacking on the keyboard in the hopes that we can learn, together, from my myriad mistakes.

Pick ‘Em:  9-5-1 Against the Spread

This is a weekly pool with some local buddies, where we pick every game against the spread. Simple stuff.

Biggest Miss:  PIT (-4)

Ben Roethlisberger on the road, what could possibly go wrong? A lot, apparently, as Big Turnover coughed it up five times. This type of visiting performance is par for the course for Pittsburgh, so I’m not too worried about their offense going forward. My evaluation of the Cleveland defense is what has changed. They had every reason to be geeked up for their home opener against a division rival, and I shouldn’t have dismissed all the talent they’ve amassed on that side of the ball. The Steelers didn’t break seven points until midway through the third quarter, thanks in large part to consistent pressure on the pocket. Soggy weather played a part in Roethlisberger’s failings, particularly on the interception that slipped through Jesse James’ hands (not so much on Big Ben’s second quarter arm-punt), but Cleveland’s defenders deserve a lot of credit. The Browns may not be the doormat we’ve come to expect based on recent seasons, especially at home, and we need to factor their improvement into our fantasy decisions going forward.

Dishonorable Mention:  LAC (-3)

I let too much residual love for the Chargers’ defense from the preseason creep into my Week 1 evaluation. Even in my seasonal rankings, I worry I didn’t ding the Bolts enough for losing Jason Verrett to injury. Once Joey Bosa was ruled out for Week 1, there wasn’t much reason in laying points against a high-powered Andy Reid offense. I was foolish to do so. Fantasy is still a week-to-week game, and this serves as a reminder that key injuries to non-fantasy names often have as much impact as those to the offensive skill position players we plug into our lineups.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff:  SEA (+2.5) & DET (-7)

When I picked Seattle, the line was at +3, which is where the game finished (DEN 27, SEA 24).

Of course, the group I play in shifts the lines as the week goes on, so I got backed into Yahoo’s final line of SEA +2.5. I don’t think that half point would have swayed me anyway, and if Doug Baldwin hadn’t been hurt in the game, there’s a chance the Seahawks could have covered. I would have stayed away from this line (and did in my best bets), but I have to pick every game in this pool, and this was close enough for me to feel good about my process and evaluations of the teams involved.

I was way off on the Lions, but no one saw that Jets performance coming. Take the L, allow the seed of doubt for Matt Patricia’s coaching ability to sprout, and move on.

Best Bets:  5-4 Overall, 4-2 ATS, 1-2 O/U

These are the picks I made for FantasyPros.com’s accuracy contest. I admittedly went a little overboard by making nine picks when they only required five, but I liked a lot of the lines, despite the inherent lack of real-game data entering Week 1. Accuracy scores from various analysts will be available after Week 4, when FantasyPros has a more significant sample of picks from me and everyone else.

Biggest Miss:  CIN-IND, Under 48.5

For many teams, the preseason has a tendency to spill into the regular season for a couple of weeks, and I expected that type of rust from the Colts and Bengals. With Andrew Luck returning from a year-long layoff, playing behind a suspect offensive line, and facing a tough Bengals front-seven, it seemed wise to fade the public expectation of a shootout. After Luck and Andy Dalton traded interceptions to start the game, I was feeling pretty good. Those feelings held strong when the first quarter ended in a 3-3 tie.

Both offenses got cooking after that, though. Luck didn’t look any more rusty than most Week 1 starters, and, given his pedigree, I will confidently use him where I own him going forward. On the other side of the ball, Joe Mixon was a revelation. This week’s 2QBXP podcast featured Scott Pianowksi issuing a tentative mea culpa for not believing the Mixon hype in draft season, and I openly welcome him to the bandwagon. I did have my doubts about Mixon potentially splitting time with Giovani Bernard, but Week 1 dispelled those concerns and made me feel a lot better about my third-round gambles on the second-year rusher.

Dishonorable Mention:  WAS-ARI, Over 44

Washington’s defense is probably better than I thought, and Arizona’s offense is definitely worse than I thought. I’m not panicking with David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald just yet. Both remain good bets for big workloads by default, and volume is still king in fantasy. On the other hand, my optimism for Sam Bradford is quickly fading. Maybe he was shaking off that extended-preseason rust I mentioned earlier, but he might not be talented enough at this stage of his career to produce at starter-level behind the Cardinals’ shoddy offensive line. And if Bradford’s stock is falling, Josh Rosen’s stock must be going up. Desperate 2QBers should look for Rosen on waiver wires.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff:  TEN (-1)

Thunderstorms killed every sense of continuity in the Titans’ opener at Miami. I’m giving both teams an incomplete grade for Week 1 and suspending preliminary judgement of their players into Week 2.

Seasonal Leagues:  4 Wins, 3 Losses

Setups vary between my seven leagues of record. Of my six redraft leagues, five are two-quarterback formats. Meanwhile, my lone dynasty squad in Faked Goods is one-quarterback. Scoring settings are pretty standard outside of the Scott Fish Bowl, with most leagues using PPR or 0.5-PPR. In Mike Clay’s Going Deep league, we play every team each week, so for the purposes of win-loss accounting, I’ll treat any finish in the top half of scorers as a win (Sal and I weren’t even close in Week 1).

Biggest Miss:  Amari Cooper over Emmanuel Sanders

Here’s another instance where my preseason rankings bias crept into a start-sit decision. Oakland gave me the narrow usage tree I expected, but that usage didn’t filter through to Cooper, as Jared Cook was Jon Gruden’s weapon of choice. Given Cooper’s matchup against LA’s cornerback duo of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, I could have seen his dud week coming. Sanders, on the other hand, had a matchup I liked and similar promise for a high target share. Receiver-cornerback matchups matter more than I gave them credit for, much more than my draft season touting of Amari Cooper.

Dishonorable Mention:  Benching Chris Thompson in PPR

I still won the matchup where I made this call, so things could have been worse. I had some nagging concerns about Thompson’s health and the potential for a split workload with Adrian Peterson and Rob Kelley. But look at those names. Why was I worried about Peterson the Plodder and Rob the Replaceable? In a non-PPR league, those sorts of concerns would have been more justified, but letting them impact my process in full PPR was an egregious punt.

I would have had to bench Chris Hogan or Doug Baldwin to fit Thompson into my lineup. And while I liked both those receivers entering Week 1, if I thought about things properly, I could have come to the decision to bench one of them. Thompson’s workload floor was more predictable, especially considering Baldwin’s more prominent health risks. Hopefully, missing out on Thompson’s Week 1 points won’t come back to bite me when tiebreakers come into play for the fantasy playoffs.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff:  Chris Hogan over JuJu Smith-Schuster

Considering the weather forecast for Pittsburgh at Cleveland, the process for this decision was sound enough. And now I know the fantasy season has officially started because I’ve been Belichicked. We can build on this!

Greg Smith

Greg Smith is an engineer, co-founder of TwoQBs.com, and enthusiast for the strategy and design of variance-based games.  When he started playing fantasy football in 2001, his home league's small number of teams necessitated starting two quarterbacks.  That necessity has since grown into obsession, making Greg one of the preeminent champions of 2QB and Superflex formats.

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