How long have we all been waiting for this?
The NFL returns this week and we have so many things to look forward to. After months of prognosticating about a full season of football we focus our attention on this sliver of the season referred to as Week 1. We're talking matchups, injury reports and offensive schemes now and we're talking about all of them and more right here. But first, here are my thoughts on each game this week in 140 characters or less:
Here's the Storify version of Week 1 in a tweet - https://t.co/LwZo3uua9b— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) September 6, 2016
1. Does the Dak Attack work in the regular season?
Not only was Dak Prescott phenomenal in the preseason, there were few players more fun to watch. I'm sure the Cowboys were hoping that storyline would end when the preseason did, but the injury to Tony Romo means it carries on for the first half of the season. Now the question is whether the story continues on its present fairy tale arc or takes a Stephen King-esque turn for the worse.
Of course there's far more at stake in Fantasy than just the story of Prescott's career. Can Dez Bryant remain an elite option at receiver? Will the Cowboys become even more run-heavy and turn Ezekiel Elliott into the No. 1 overall RB? Is there enough volume in the passing game to support a second option?
We may not answer all of these questions in Week 1 but we will get our first glimpse into the Dallas Cowboys offense in the Dak Prescott era.
2. There are a few matchups worth avoiding, except with your studs.
More Fantasy points in Week 1?— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) August 29, 2016
- Miami Dolphins @ Seattle Seahawks
- New England Patriots @ Arizona Cardinals
- Carolina Panthers @ Denver Broncos
To be clear, I'm not benching Cam Newton or Rob Gronkowski unless I have another top option at the position. Greg Olsen is pretty close to a must start as well. After that I have trouble finding options I feel comfortable starting on any of these three offenses.
The Patriots in particular are in the unenviable position of playing a top-three defense with their backup quarterback. You may find yourself in a PPR league where you choose to use Julian Edelman, James White or Martellus Bennett, but I wouldn't feel great about it. It's Week 1, your bench should be deep. Find a similarly rated player with a much better matchup and roll with them.
3. Exotic. Smashmouth. Football.
I never thought Mike Mularkey would be bringing us the most exciting (or at least comical) new offensive term in the offseason.
But here we are.
Most of us giggled a little when we heard it and it's certainly been the focus of many jokes. What's no joke? The Titans' success on the ground in the preseason. DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry combined for 369 yards and five touchdowns on 55 carries.
If Mularkey has his way the Titans may reach that rush attempt number by play 60 in Week 1.
4. Bad teams playing entertaining football.
Sometimes we watch bad football for the pure joy of seeing people fail.
The "butt fumble" is a prime example. I mean, we are are after all, a society that procures great joy from watching YouTube videos of people falling down.
But that's not what this is about. These six teams face off in what could be not only compelling football but also a lot of Fantasy production. He's a quick thought on each game:
Cleveland Browns @ Philadelphia Eagles: I can't wait to see Robert Griffin III against Jim Schwartz's defense. I don't expect the Eagles defense to be firing on all cylinders early in the year, but Griffin doesn't have Josh Gordon yet either. This Browns offense could be sneaky good in Fantasy this year.
Detroit Lions @ Indianapolis Colts: The first thing that comes to mind here is the Marvin Jones vs. Golden Tate debate. If offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter gets his way, the Lions will execute enough plays for both to be successful.
Speaking of bad teams, the Vikings just might be one without Teddy Bridgewater.
Minnesota pulled off a very buzzy trade over the weekend, landing Sam Bradford from the Eagles for a couple of draft picks. But Bradford will likely spend at least Week 1 learning the playbook.
That leaves us with Hill, who hasn't started a game since 2014 and has only eight starts since 2010. Bridgewater's injury brought Stefon Diggs' hype train to a screeching halt, but at least in Week 1 I think the situation may bode well for Adrian Peterson.
NFL teams can rally around a backup quarterback for a game or two and that's exactly what I'd expect from the Vikings on Sunday. Peterson should be force-fed carries against a bad defense while the Vikings' own defense should come out fired up.
A physically dominant performance may be in the cards but that won't ease longterm concerns when the Vikings face more formidable opponents. Will Bradford matter in Fantasy? It's a crap shoot, really.
6. Rookie training camp darlings on the big stage.
I'm afraid there's still a little bit of influence from the incredible 2014 rookie class of wide receivers, but once again we're fired up about the youngsters. It makes sense because we've never seen these guys fail.
We'll start to on Sunday.
Sterling Shepard has a great opportunity in a good offense and Tajae Sharpe has quickly ascended to the top of the Titans' depth chart. Meanwhile, Michael Thomas was wowing all of us with one-handed catches and impressing his coach and quarterback by doing the little things well.
History tells us that most of these rookies are going to fail from a Fantasy perspective, but I'm anxious to get a look at the class in its first real game action.
7. Forget about your injury concerns.
I don't mean players who are currently injured. I'm talking about the "alleged" injury risks.
Players like Ryan Mathews fall in drafts because their owners are afraid they won't play 16 games. While I agree Mathews has a higher injury risk over a full season, when the sample is shrunk to a single game that risk becomes negligible.
Start your most talented players with the best matchups. In most scenarios that will include a player like Mathews.
8. Are last year's injured players 100 percent healthy?
#KCChiefs coach Andy Reid tells reporters RB Jamaal Charles may not be ready Week 1. They were planning for a by-committee approach in case.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 2, 2016
Jamaal Charles is the player everyone has been talking about, but he's far from the only injured player we'll be watching closely in the days leading up to Sunday.
Jordy Nelson hasn't made an appearance in the preseason and there are reasons to be concerned about whether he's all the way back. Arian Foster has played this preseason, but he hasn't looked like Arian Foster yet.
Making this all even more difficult is the new injury reporting system. Expect a lot more players to be listed as 'questionable' which means Sunday mornings are going to become more important again.
Maybe most importantly, pay attention to the beat writers on Twitter. Their reports and the tone of the coach's press conferences will be even more highly scrutinized with the new reporting system.
9. Father Time caught up with someone in the offseason. Who was it?
Every year it's someone.
Father Time remains undefeated, the only question is which great he'll catch up to in 2016. Adrian Peterson is a fine candidate if you wanted to assume he was actually human. I made that mistake last season. Larry Fitzgerald is a popular pick simply because of the competition for targets. Heck, it could even be another quarterback like Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
The most likely answer is Frank Gore, who has seemed to be in the grasp of Father Time for half a decade now. Gore hasn't missed a game since 2010 and has a very good matchup in Week 1 against the Lions.
10. Do the Steelers have a No. 2 in the passing game?
For now, the Steelers' passing game looks like a one-trick pony. Luckily for them that one trick is virtually unstoppable. While I am not concerned at all about Antonio Brown it will be interesting to watch Ben Roethlisberger and this offense function as they search for their No. 2.