Aaron Rodgers' Loser League Debut
From MVP to LVP. Life comes at you fast.
I wasn't expecting to write much about Aaron Rodgers in this column, for obvious reasons. This space is supposed to be about terrible football players; Rodgers is supposed to be in essays over in Quick Reads, not Loser League. Over the past five years, Rodgers has averaged 22.7 loser points per game, making him a terrible choice almost every week. Sure, he's good for four or five games a year where he scores better than the 18-point inactive penalty for quarterbacks, but even those are mostly 13- or 14-point days where Aaron Jones' dominance means Rodgers' arm isn't required.
Rodgers just doesn't have bad days—only twice in the past five years had he scored in the single digits. That's the kind of consistent performance you can expect from someone with a league-best 0.9% interception rate over the past five seasons; he just doesn't have enough meltdowns to be worth even considering as a loser pick. If you actually had Rodgers in your starting lineup in Week 1, I'm sorry, but you may not be fully grasping the concept of this contest.
You're also probably winning. Rodgers led all passers in Week 1 with his nightmare outing against the Saints netting him just two points. Rodgers threw two interceptions for just the second time in the past four years, and his 133 passing yards were his fewest since a 37-8 shellacking against the 49ers in 2019. That made him the lowest scorer by a wide margin on a day where there weren't too many low scores at the quarterback position. The defending MVP had just the 17th multi-interception game of his career, and only his third game with multiple interceptions and no touchdown passes. The Saints had him under constant pressure and they stuck to his receivers like glue, and the result was an offense not just stuck in neutral, but actively going in reverse half the time. The Packers didn't convert a third down until the fourth quarter, when Rodgers had made way for Jordan Love. This was an all-time terrible game from an all-time great passer.
We've talked plenty elsewhere on the site this week on what this means for the Packers going forward, but what does this mean from a Loser League perspective? Rodgers said all the right things about moving forward and saying it's only one game, but how often do great passers put up these sorts of one games? It's not at all unusual for someone who was a great passer to put up an elite Loser score; the Ghost of Peyton Manning had a four-interception day in 2015 which earned him -5 points. But the Packers aren't thinking of Rodgers as someone who used to be great; he's the reigning MVP! He's supposed to be leading a Super Bowl team this year, not polishing his Jeopardy! skills. Do these kinds of days happen for good passers?
I went back over the past six years of Loser League results to find the worst days by players who made the Pro Bowl in that season. If you're looking for hope, Packers fans, you may want to look elsewhere.
- Last season, Kyler Murray had a five-point day in Week 17, but he sat out most of the game with an ankle injury and only attempted 11 passes, meaning his low score was more about lack of opportunity rather than lack of skill.
- Week 14 of 2018 saw both Jared Goff and Mitchell Trubisky put up terrible games against one another—three- and four-point days, as they combined for seven interceptions and just one touchdown pass. (Yes, both Goff and Trubisky were Pro Bowlers in 2018. It was a dark time.)
- Ben Roethlisberger threw three interceptions against the Bills in 2016, but that was in a snowstorm. Plus, Big Ben didn't need to throw it all that much when Le'Veon Bell was picking up 236 yards on the ground. Roethlisberger had enough yards to get him up to five points, so better than Rodgers' day despite the extra interception.
- Carson Palmer had a three-point day in the 2015 NFC Championship Game as Carolina's swarming defense forced him into four interceptions and two fumbles. He still found the end zone once and had enough yards to put him ahead of Rodgers' day despite tripling Rodgers' turnover total.
- Derek Carr has had three- and five-point days as a Pro Bowler, both in Week 1 of 2015 and Week 14 of 2016. The former saw Carr leave midway through the game with a hand injury; the latter saw him victimized by half a dozen drops on his way to a 17-for-41 day passing.
- And then there's Teddy Bridgewater, who had two-, four- and five-point days in 2015. 2015 saw Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, Derek Carr, and Eli Manning all serve as replacement Pro Bowlers; the peak of the "no one wants to play in the Pro Bowl" era. But hey, at least we found a Pro Bowler with a day as bad as Rodgers!
So can we write off Week 1 as just the sort of bad day that could happen to any good quarterback? Not really, no. Essentially every other Pro Bowl passer to put up this sort of day in recent memory was either hurt, affected by severe weather, or of a clearly lower class than Rodgers generally hangs out in. We have never seen the reigning MVP faceplant so hard on his return to the field. There's no precedent for where we go from here. I have a sneaking suspicion that a Lions defense that gave up 314 passing yards to Jimmy Garoppolo is going to be precisely the sort of get-well prescription Rodgers and the Packers need. But I wouldn't R-E-L-A-X just yet, sports fans. I don't think Rodgers is actively sabotaging Green Bay's season in a Mossian attempt to work his way out of town, but I suppose you never know.
What a way to start off the return of Loser League! Gee, I hope all the weeks are this much fun.
Week 1's Biggest Losers
Worst of the Worst
Aaron Rodgers was, as mentioned above, worst of the worst with just 2 points. Was it his worst day ever? Well, technically, no. In Week 15 of 2005, Rodgers went 8-of-15 for 65 yards with an interception and two lost fumbles on a sack, good for -3 points. In Week 11 of 2006, he went 4-of-12 for 32 yards with a lost fumble on a sack and earned 0 points. Both of those were appearances off the bench, with Brett Favre pulled due to ineffectiveness and injury, coming in against ferocious Ravens and Patriots defenses who were having great days even by their already great standards. Basically, it was him playing the Jordan Love role from last Sunday, only doing worse than Love did in his brief cameo. Rodgers' Sunday had his worst score ever as a starting quarterback. Rodgers better hope that his lack of rhythm and decisiveness, even when given time, is a product of rust after sitting out much of the offseason. If not, well, uh-oh.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) September 12, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
If you were going to take an NFC North passer in Week 1, Andy Dalton would have been a more logical choice than Rodgers, and he would have paid off nearly as well, earning 7 points. Dalton's day was the platonic ideal of an average game from a great Loser League passer—just 5.4 yards per attempt with a pair of turnovers. Dalton didn't complete a pass over 10 air yards, and only attempted two; you can't put up big numbers if you don't even try to throw deep. Making matters even better for your loser hopes, the Bears put Justin Fields into the game a few times in the red zone, allowing him to vulture away even a chance that Dalton would be able to score. Current scuttlebutt has the Bears planning on sitting Fields until Week 4 at the earliest, so get your Dalton plays in before it's too late!
It was actually a pretty good week for passers around the league, as the only other single-digit scorer at the position was Matt Ryan and his 8-point day. This one I'm willing to chalk up to the offensive line as Ryan was hit nine times and sacked three more, and didn't have time to try anything deep. All the Calvin Ridleys and Kyle Pittses of the world won't help if your quarterback is embedded in the ground like Wile E. Coyote. And, considering the Falcons have to take on the Buccaneers and their pass rush this week, things might get worse before they get better for Matty Ice.
Jameis Winston ended up with the lowest projected score for anyone expected to start Week 1. And while he was limited to under 150 yards passing, which would normally be fantastic news for your squad, five touchdown passes does tend to sting just a tad. Winston's 30 points is a very low score for someone who found the end zone so often, but 1.5 loser points per pass attempt is not a ratio that's going to win you very many weeks.
Worst of the Worst
The good news for Saquon Barkley (2 points) is that he was medically cleared to participate in Week 1, which was up in the air after he missed nearly a year with a torn ACL. He looked healthy, too; he played about half the snaps, he wasn't being excessively rotated for other backs, he didn't shy away from contact or look like he was favoring one leg over another. That's all good, and I wouldn't panic if you roster Barkley in your fantasy leagues designed to identify good players. The problem was that Barkley only had 11 touches, as a combination of easing him into action and the Giants offense not being able to do diddly squat limited him to 26 yards on 10 carries. The explosion and power we're used to seeing from Barkley was not there, which is concerning, but I'd expect that to improve as he works himself back into game shape. I'd wager on Barkley being a temporary loser.
I'm not so sure about his fellow New Jerseyan back, Tevin Coleman (2 points). The Jets really do look to have a three-back rotation going between Coleman, Ty Johnson, and Michael Carter, and a one-week sample size has it not working out well for anybody involved. Coleman had just 24 yards on nine carries, and more shockingly, was not targeted once in the passing game. The Jets' offense looks to be bad enough that starting whichever New York manages to avoid the eight-carry penalty will be a solid option throughout the year, but good luck guessing which back will qualify in any given week! Johnson had the most snaps—35, compared to 17 and 16 for Coleman and Carter—but a lot of his time was spent pass-blocking as the Jets tried and failed to come from behind. Jets coordinator Mike LaFleur has learned well from his Shanahanian roots about terrorizing fantasy football players.
— Edgar Salmingo, Jr. (@PanthersAnalyst) September 12, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
The Cowboys didn't exactly spend a lot of time establishing the run on Thursday, much to the fury of Mike Florio. This meant Ezekiel Elliott (3) spent more time pass-blocking than anything else. And he was significantly better as a pass-blocker than a runner, too, as Tampa Bay held him to 2 or fewer yards on six of the 11 carries he actually got. When not being stuffed, Zeke actually looked pretty nice picking up blitzes and allowing Dak Prescott time to throw the ball. The world's highest-paid fullback!
We advised you last week to take Melvin Gordon, which was looking like a great pick late into the fourth quarter. Gordon was sitting on 10 carries for 31 yards with 17 more receiving yards, a solid, four-point day. And then, on his last touch of the ballgame, the Giants defense parted, allowing him to race 70 yards into the end zone, bumping him up to a 17-point day. Heartbreaking. Instead, it was Javonte Williams (4) who ended up being the low man in the Broncos' backfield. At least our suggestion of Najee Harris (4) worked out better, as he had the sort of long day behind a porous offensive line that we prophesized beforehand.
James Conner (5), Carlos Hyde (5), Tony Jones (5), and Leonard Fournette (5) round out your low scorers.
We already mentioned Melvin Gordon, so we'll instead highlight Jamaal Williams here. Williams got more work against the 49ers than expected thanks to DeAndre Swift's lingering injuries, but still—eight targets? In four seasons in Green Bay, Williams only received eight targets twice, and Williams hits that number in game one in Detroit. With 50 yards on both the ground and in the air, not to mention a touchdown during the Lions' furious comeback attempt, Williams clocked in at a painful 16 points.
Worst of the Worst
All hail the Goose Egg Brigade, the squadron of zero-point legends that make up the bread and butter of any successful Loser League team. We induct three rookies into the brigade this week, though unusually, all of them did manage to catch a pass. In descending order of yards gained:
- Nico Collins only had three official targets, catching one pass for 7 yards, but he could have had more. However, he had a touchdown taken off the board after one of the softest offensive pass interference calls I've ever seen.
- Dyami Brown caught one of his four targets, ending up with -2 yards on the day. Brown's supposed to be a deep threat, but his only catch was on a screen that ended up going nowhere. However, he was interfered with once deep; those 35 yards don't count for fantasy purposes.
- Elijah Moore had the worst day here, dropping two targets, including what would have been a 50-yarder early. However, he had a 22-yard reception nullified by penalty, as that's the main component of the Jets offense at the moment.
All three rookies flashed some potential, which is more than you'll usually see out of the Goose Egg Brigade. Potential and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee.
Zach Wilson threw an absolute dime to Elijah Moore on this incompletion. The ball placement is jaw dropping. pic.twitter.com/LMzOExovQU
— JUN (@jetupnationcrew) September 12, 2021
Other Loser Leaders
If your quarterback has a bad day, you're probably not doing great as a receiver. The Packers saw both Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling end up with just one point, with MVS managing only 17 receiving yards on eight targets, the least efficient day of the week. Damiere Byrd was likewise limited by Andy Dalton's dinking and dunking; he managed to catch all three passes thrown his way, but was held to only 19 yards, thus earning one point as well.
Courtland Sutton, Tyrell Williams, Mecole Hardman, and Kendrick Bourne round out your one-point scorers.
Christian Kirk only had six touchdowns in 2020 and was fighting for the Cardinals' third wideout slot all preseason long. That sounds like a good risk versus reward target there, even if we had Tennessee projected with the worst defense in football. Well, one of the reasons the Titans were projected so low was an inability to cover receivers, and Kirk took advantage by catching all five targets for 70 yards and a pair of scores. His 19 points will at least cause me some pause when evaluating the Arizona passing game going forward.
Worst of the Worst
Michael Badgley and his league-best -6 points? Well, they were mostly wasted. Badgley wasn't on any roster on Thursday, was signed to the Titans' practice squad on Friday, and was promoted to their active roster on Saturday when Sam Ficken went on injured reserve. Because of the awkward timing, the only way you had Badgley on your roster this week was if you had picked him up when he was with the Chargers and then not adjusted your roster since then. Which is a pity, because Badgley's rough training camp became a rough Week 1. I'm willing to blame the blown extra point on the Titans struggling to line up for it; a new kicker brought in with zero prep time can create some confusion there. Missing the 43-yarder at the end of the half wide to the left, however, is on Badgley. He was waived on Monday, in what is the least surprising news that has ever happened.
Other Loser Leaders
We suggested you take Matt Ammendola last week, and it worked out for you. Oh, Ammendola saw plenty of game action … but as the emergency punter after Braden Mann sprained his knee. So while Ammendola punted for the first six times in his career at any level, he has yet to actually get to kick a field goal—you know, what the Jets are actually paying him to do. As New York went for two-point conversions after each score, Ammendola's very odd day earned him 0 points.
Other kickers with one- or two-point days: Josh Lambo, Graham Gano, Greg Zuerlein, Ryan Santoso, and Cairo Santos.
Joey Slye was the only kicker to finish above the penalty this week, stepping in for the injured Ka'imi Fairbairn and taking his role in the juggernaut that is the Houston Texans offense. Normally a conference-leading scorer won't produce huge numbers for a kicker, as extra points only cost you one a pop. But not only did the Texans score a lot, they were stopped just often enough for Slye to add three field goals to his ledger, giving him 13 points on the day; the worst of all possible worlds.
Week 1 Contest Results
Well, we're all excited here to see just who came out on top in Week 1, who will win our first set of prizes. I've got the results here, our first winner. It's—and I hope I'm spelling this properly—it's an "Aaron Schatz," who I believe is some sort of disc jockey from Massachusetts.
Yes, believe it or not, technically our first winner is our own head honcho Aaron and his squad, Aaron Schatz has a Posse. Aaron's team of Andy Dalton, Ezekiel Elliott, Najee Harris, Nico Collins, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Matt Ammendola scored a league-best 16 points. Aaron has been participating in these leagues since before Football Outsiders was a thing, so I can assure you, in his long career as an analytically minded football stats guru, this is not the first time he has been called the biggest loser.
But obviously Aaron can't actually win the prize, so the Football Outsiders shirt and the FO+ annual subscription will go to the team in second place. And it was a close race indeed. We actually had a tie at 20 points each, and a tie at 68 points for all 10 players, meaning we had to drop to the second tiebreaker: raw quarterback score. And so, by a hair, Joshdubow squeaks out BD to be our first actual weekly winner. Yes, for those in the know, that's AP Raiders reporter Josh Dubow. Josh's starting combo of Andy Dalton, Carlos Hyde, Leonard Fournette, Kendrick Bourne, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Matt Amendola matched BD's Dalton/Najee Harris/Nyheim Hines/Nico Collins/Darnell Mooney/Amendola lineup step for step. Both had one player hit at least the penalty, points-wise—Josh saw Zack Moss be listed as inactive just before game time, while BD had to suffer through Corey Davis' two-touchdown day. In the end, though, the difference came down to backup quarterbacks. Josh went with Jimmy Garoppolo, who scored 17 points. BD went with Zach Wilson, who scored 18. So, basically, Trey Lance coming in and throwing one touchdown pass gave Josh the victory in Week 1 by the tiniest of margins. A true nailbiter.
Josh and BD are both out to a great start in the season-long contest, as well. Hot on their heels are the rest of this week's top five:
4. TheSniper1325 (21 points)
T5. JHParker (22 points)
T5. Awfnkelstein (22 points)
T5. Drizzling Shits (22 points)
I also encourage everyone to give their team a name, so you too can force us to publish things like "Drizzling Shits" in celebration and honor. As a reminder, you can change your team name at any time by clicking the orange pencil at the top of your lineup page.
You can check your results and the rest of the Loserboard here!
Plays For Week 2
Each week, I'm picking some players I feel will be particularly likely to put up terrible numbers based on their current matchups.
If there's one thing we learned from Week 1, it's that the concept of the touchdown vulture has graduated to the most important position on the rorste. Even if your offense marches up and down the field, you can still have an excellent day if some hotshot rookie comes in and steals your red zone opportunities. With that in mind, I'm riding the cold hand in Andy Dalton, who was the quarterback of record on the top nine teams of Week 1. I know Cincinnati isn't the world's toughest matchup, but Dalton's complete lack of anything resembling a downfield passing attack against the Rams has to count for something. As an additional bonus, there's always the chance he gets pulled from the game after hitting the requisite 10 passing attempts. Justin Fields is going to be called into action sooner rather than later, and if there is a midgame passing switch, you could well hit the Loser jackpot.
I'm also taking Jimmy Garoppolo for the same quarterback-vulture related reasons. Garoppolo just threw for over 300 yards and still scored better than the penalty thanks to Trey Lance coming in and stealing a touchdown from him. The 49ers are not going to be throwing for 300 yards a game on a regular basis, and quite a few of Jimmy G's yards came from finding a wide-open receiver, or watching as a cornerback forgot the basic rules of playing defense. The Eagles' defense is several rungs above what Detroit has to offer, so there should be somewhat rougher sledding up ahead. Plus, Lance stole his touchdown without a full week of practice due to a banged-up thumb. With a full week to scheme, and with the 49ers missing Raheem Mostert for the rest of the year, could we see a larger Lance package this week? I'm not betting against it.
Other promising picks: Tyrod Taylor (@CLE), Sam Darnold (v. NO)
We're already hearing rumors that Damien Harris could see his role reduced after losing a fumble late last week, but Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled as well—the Patriots can't send them both into the doghouse, right? Well, it's a Bill Belichick world, and he'll send anyone to the bench if he's not happy with them. I expect J.J. Taylor to eat into Harris' workload against the Jets, sending Harris' 23 carries from last week plummeting. Our top running backs this week were those who just barely squeaked over the eight-carry threshold to avoid the penalty; that could well be Harris this week.
I do not expect the Houston offensive explosion to continue outside of Jacksonville. Even against the overmatched Jaguars front, Mark Ingram managed just 3.3 yards per carry. Admittedly, that was into a bunch of loaded boxes; Ingram was a little better than his raw stats would indicate. But that also means David Culley is willing to slam Ingram into a bunch of loaded boxes! I like Ingram to avoid the penalty against the Browns without adding a ton of extra value from, y'know, successfully moving the ball.
I'm going with a little bit of a riskier pick with the third slot: Latavius Murray, one of the 2016 All-Stars the Ravens have brought up to fill out their gutted running back room. Murray ended up with the most carries for Baltimore against the Raiders, and yet did much less with those carries than Ty'Son Williams. A game against the Chiefs could get out of hand early, forcing Baltimore away from the run game and risking Murray hitting the penalty, but I think there will be enough early-down bruising for Murray to get his share of ineffective work in.
Other promising picks: Ronald Jones (v. ATL), James Conner (v. MIN), Tevin Coleman (v. NE)
We saw what New England's new-look offense will look like with Mac Jones at the helm, and it involves spreading the ball around a lot. No one receiver got 25% of Jones' targets in Week 1 as the Patriots worked to get everyone involved. I expect the Patriots to throw significantly less against the Jets because, well, it's the Jets; they'll be running clock in the fourth quarter. So I'm taking Jakobi Meyers, who led New England with nine targets but could only turn them into 44 yards. His 4.9 yards per target looks very enticing from a Loser perspective, earning him just four points this week, and that might be on the high end of his potential going forward.
The Falcons' offense has yet to prove they can keep Matt Ryan upright. Keeping Matt Ryan upright is vital to a working passing offense. We're looking for players from a broken passing offense. Yes, your honor, all signs point me to Russell Gage. Gage is a bit of a riskier pick; he picked up the penalty in Week 1 because he was only targeted twice. He didn't do squat with those targets, however, and I suspect Todd Bowles will spend most of his coverage efforts handling Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts. Ryan will have to throw the ball to someone, assuming he's not embedded in the turf.
Chris Conley also picked up the penalty in Week 1 with only two targets against the Jaguars. This was, in part, because the Texans had the opportunity to run out the clock in the fourth quarter. I do not expect them to have that same opportunity against the Browns. I could see working a Tyrod Taylor-Conley stack as a bit of zigging against Week 1's results, and I do love making my contrarian plays.
Other promising picks: Robby Anderson (v. NO), Darnell Mooney (v. CIN), Jamison Crowder (v. NE)
To score a lot of points as a kicker, you need to have opportunities to kick field goals. I do not expect Cleveland to be stopped on a regular basis against Houston, and so Chase McLaughlin won't have a chance to hurt you. Watch out for his hamstring, however, and be prepared to make a switch if necessary.
To score a lot of points as a kicker, you need to have opportunities to kick field goals. I do not expect Detroit to make a ton of trips into Packers territory on Monday, and so Austin Seibert won't have a chance to hurt you.
Other promising picks: Graham Gano (@WAS), Josh Lambo (v. DEN)