Are the best defenses against play action the best against regular passes too? How much impact does play action really have in an NFL game, and does it correlate from year to year?
12 Sep 2007
by Bill Barnwell
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Chris Brown's 175-yard day in Week 1 against the previously-stifling Jacksonville run defense represents the latest in a history of great Week 1 performances leading to breakout years. Storied in the halls of ESPN's Fantasy Football Hall of Fame are the great beginnings experienced by guys like Kevin Dyson in 1999, Cade McNown in 2000 and Quincy Morgan in 2002, the first evidences of breakout years by the stars of the early 21st cent...
Wait. You mean those guys didn't have breakout years? And ESPN stole that idea from ... Hey, one thing at a time here, buddy. You're blowing my mind.
OK, so maybe Week 1 isn't always an indicator of a breakout year. Declaring that great first weeks are overrated is low-hanging fruit, but if you'll just join me in reaching slightly higher up, we can find some more interesting things as a team. Namely, does a great Week 1 mean anything for the rest of the season?
I took the 65 best performances in Week 1, as judged by fantasy points in a standard league, from 1995-2006. The cutoff that made 65 was to include everyone who'd scored 30 or more fantasy points. Anquan Boldin was thrown out for being a rookie and having no history, as were Daunte Culpepper and Rob Johnson (who were basically rookies). The test: To see what, exactly, a big Week 1 means for the rest of the season.
The short answer? Not that much. The players' huge Week 1's, on average, netted them 33.8 fantasy points -- that's the equivalent of a 150-yard, three-touchdown game for a running back. In other words, unless your quarterback was Drew Brees, having a guy with that sort of numbers is going to win you the week in most fantasy leagues. Chris Brown actually only pulled out a 17, but that was because he didn't score any touchdowns.
The 65 players averaged 11.8 fantasy points per week the year before -- that includes guys like 2002 Priest Holmes, who averaged 26.6 points per game, and guys like 1998 Richard Huntley, who averaged two. Not including their Week 1 heroics, those 65 players averaged 12.8 fantasy points over Weeks 2-17. In other words, the differences in performance are negligible and Week 1 isn't a predictor of much of anything for the rest of the season.
On the other hand, there are some great Week 1's in history we can look back at together. The best of and a forgotten star for each year:
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Ah, the smell of a fresh season of Losers. Since I knew you'd ask, the worst Week 1 in the last twelve years? Jon Kitna's 2000: 6-of-13 for 54 yards and four interceptions. That's good for -4.8 fantasy points; the worst game altogether was, actually, by our patron saint, Rex Grossman, against the Vikings last year. He had -5.2 points; his Week 17 performance against the Vikings was a relatively strong -4.5.
Quarterbacks: Welcome back, Charlie Frye! By the time this column had been written, you and your -1 were dealt elsewhere, so any teams that benefited from this performance will be suffering penalties from you for the rest of your short career. Steve McNair's injury-aided disaster of a performance against the Bengals earned him a 2. I think he overthrew Derrick Mason by about two person-lengths at one point.
Running Backs: Steven Jackson got off to a slow start last year, but he got off to an even slower one this year. He had a 1, and with Orlando Pace gone for the year, his viability as an elite running back has to come into question. Jamal Lewis, whose viability as an elite running back is certainly not in question, only mustered a 2 against a good Steelers rush defense that had 28 points or so on the Browns. A bunch of players all had threes, most notably both Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister.
Wide Receiver: Sometimes, I wonder whether the 0.0 is even more impressive than negative numbers. There's something so stark about just being absolutely useless for a week. Lee Evans, if he's a Scramble reader, is also contemplating this at the moment. Lee, if you are reading, you're better than that. Peerless Price, maybe not so much. Eight players had a lone point. Two of them, Troy Williamson and Sidney Rice, were Vikings. I suspect we'll be seeing them more in this spot as the year goes along.
Kicker: Oh, it's a great way to start the season when you've got Sebastian Janikowski in your sights. Seabass wins the Losingest Loser of the Week this week with a -3. Don't miss three field goals. Nate Kaeding put up the ol' goose-egg.
2-1 last week
Ah, a solid start to the campaign. Of course, I bet on Jacksonville, which was foolish, and even picked them in a survival pool, which was even more foolish. My own fault, really. No video games this week, unfortunately.
Kansas City's down to bare bones at this point, and I'm not really sure Vegas has caught up to how bad they are yet.
A couple of sites have actually taken this line off the board with the injury issues in New York. I know the Giants are at home, but they're decimated by injury and up against a Packers team the projection system believes is underrated and breaking out upon the league, particularly defensively.
Boy, Indianapolis looked good last week. They've also been gotten off to a great start each of the last two years, and I have no qualms about betting against Tennessee.
44 comments, Last at 18 Sep 2007, 3:48am by Sid