Rich Hribar

The Worksheet

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The NFL Week 1 Worksheet

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Months and months of fantasy preparation were poured in and all of that work is about to be put to the test as Week 1 of the NFL season is finally upon us. The NFL is inherently a fluid game, with things in constant motion. What was yesterday isn’t always tomorrow in the middle of the season, so with a fresh start to a new season, taking an evidence-based approach is easier said than done. For those that have followed this article for the previous two seasons, you’ll know the accuracy ramps as we roll on, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw everything out from the past when looking ahead.


Still, the goal of this article is to provide a statistical snapshot for each game each week, running down weekly point spreads, team totals, play calling splits, and statistical bullet points on players and teams involved. Although we’re focusing strictly on PPR league scoring here as a baseline, there’s more than enough to spread around across formats. Also, while it’s not penned in a true start/sit column fashion, we’re looking to aid the weekly decisions you face. 


Carolina vs. Denver

-3   Spread 3  
22.3   Implied Total 19.3  
66.6 8 Plays/Gm 65.7 13
65.2 20 Opp. Plays/Gm 65.5 22
49.8% 2 Rush% 40.2% 17
50.2% 31 Pass% 59.8% 16
33.9% 2 Opp. Rush % 37.9% 7
66.1% 31 Opp. Pass % 62.1% 26


  • Denver and Carolina both allowed a league low 6.2 yards per pass attempt to opponents last season.
  • Trevor Siemian averaged under 7.0 yards per attempt in 19 of his 29 collegiate games at Northwestern in which he attempted double digit passes. He threw multiple touchdowns in just four of those games.
  • Demaryius Thomas was on a -1.4 reception and -15.4 yards per full game pace without Peyton Manning as his quarterback last season, while catching 11.1 percent less of his targets.
  • Emmanuel Sanders held a -2.4 targets full game pace without Manning at quarterback with an increased catch rate of 6.3 percent.
  • Running backs saw a league high 9.3 targets per game facing the Panthers last season.
  • Last season, Denver allowed a league low 24.5 yards per drive to opponents. When these two teams met in the Super Bowl, Carolina posted 18.2 yards per drive, 13.9 yards fewer than their average drive for the season.
  • C.J. Anderson had 27 touches against the Panthers in the Super Bowl, but 16 came in the second half with another 11 coming the 4th quarter while ahead.
  • Denver ran for just 60.5 yards on the ground in losses last season, the lowest total in the league.
  • His 9.1 fantasy points in the Super Bowl would've been Cam Newton's fewest points scored in a game last season.
  • The Broncos allowed just one 100-yard rusher and just three backs to eclipse 100 yards from scrimmage all of 2015. 

Trust: Greg Olsen (In a game that doesn’t project to feature a lot of scoring, trust options are thin, but because Denver is so good versus receivers, tight ends naturally get opportunities funneled to them)


Bust: Cam Newton (it’s unlikely you paired Newton with another quarterback in drafts and his rushing volume alone is more than capable of salvaging any week, but if we’re holding Newton to the expectancy of turning in weekly top-12 performances, this is a game where I don’t see a ton of avenues for him to hit his ceiling), Trevor Siemian (first NFL start coming against the NFC Super Bowl representative, hard to come in with any level of confidence),  Emmanuel Sanders (there’s not enough here for me to have faith in Siemian doing enough to support two viable fantasy options in the passing game), Virgil Green (there will be weeks to get Green into lineups, but not against Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and Shaq Thompson), Kelvin Benjamin/Ted Ginn/Devin Funchess (no team allowed fewer points to receivers than Denver in 2015 and their secondary comes back full strength)


Reasonable Return: Jonathan Stewart (far from an ideal paper play and Stewart is likely an RB3 for many rosters. In that case, there’s no need to push him into lineups, but I see this game going as the inverse for these two teams as the Super Bowl went, meaning Stewart should see enough second half volume to be floated as a flex option in a rough spot), C.J. Anderson (we know Denver wants to play this game tight and Anderson should be the focal point of making it happen. Carolina shouldn’t run completely with this one, keeping Anderson involved and he’s viable out of the backfield), Demaryius Thomas (while Denver is unlikely to score tons of points to float their skill players, the Panthers are starting two rookie cornerbacks. Thomas seemed to be the preferred target for Siemian in the preseason between he and Sanders)


Tampa Bay vs. Atlanta


3   Spread -3  
22.3   Implied Total 25.3  
63.5 21 Plays/Gm 67.1 7
65.3 21 Opp. Plays/Gm 62.2 6
44.7% 9 Rush% 39.2% 19
55.3% 24 Pass% 60.8% 14
44.6% 27 Opp. Rush % 41.8% 19
55.4% 6 Opp. Pass % 58.2% 14


  • Mike Evans was targeted on 32.2 percent of his routes with Vincent Jackson inactive as opposed to a 25.6 mark with Jackson on the field.
  • Atlanta allowed a rushing touchdown once every 20.8 rushing attempts, the highest rate in the league.
  • Only Denver allowed fewer collective fantasy points per game (24.9) to wide receivers than Atlanta (25.9) last season.
  • Doug Martin led the league in runs of 20 or more yards (14).
  • Martin averaged 5.2 yards per carry and 101 rushing yards per game in 10 games against teams in the bottom half of rushing points per attempt last season (Atlanta was 31st) as opposed to 4.1 yards per carry and 65.3 yards per game against defenses in the top half.
  • No team allowed more receptions per game (7.0) to opposing backfields last season than Atlanta.
  • Julio Jones has at least 90 receiving yards in four straight games against the Buccaneers and has scored 17 or more fantasy points in seven of his eight career games facing them.
  • Jones scored 114.4 points from the slot last season after scoring 107.1 points combined from the slot over his first four seasons to start his career.
  • Atlanta's defense had the lowest sack rate in the league last season at 3.3 percent.
  • 42 percent of Jameis Winston's fantasy points scored against the Falcons (15.9 of 38.1) last season came from rushing production.
  • Tampa Bay allowed only four top-12 scoring running backs all last year and only three running backs to hit 100 yards from scrimmage. Two of each were both times they faced Devonta Freeman.


Trust: Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman (while Tevin Coleman received enough first team work in the preseason to throw a wrench in Freeman seeing 20 plus touches, Freeman’s receiving prowess is more viable for sustaining offense than Coleman’s rushing against the underrated Tampa Bay rush defense from a year ago), Doug Martin


Bust: Mike Evans (Desmond Trufant began shadowing at the end of last season and could do the same here. I am not running from Evans in lineups still, but he has posted just one top-20 scoring week in four games facing the Falcons to start his career. Even when he posted a 5/61/1 line against Atlanta last season, it was good for just low-end WR2 totals), Jacob Tamme (he had one incredible game and one down one against Tampa last year, but Mohamed Sanu may not leave many other targets available outside of Jones and Freeman)


Reasonable Return: Charles Sims (between Atlanta’s soft front and their linebackers in coverage, Sims should turn in a solid flex floor), Matt Ryan (volume should be here as Ryan threw 45 passes in each of the meetings between these two last year, but we just need to see his touchdown totals bounce back before we start anticipating ceiling moments as he threw multiple scores just six times last year and three or more just one time), Jameis Winston (even with Tampa running their offense with more pace this preseason than last, I expect QB2 numbers from Winston this weekend given Atlanta’s stingy defense of receivers, expecting Martin to have success and Vegas having the Bucs with one of the lower team totals of the weekend), Mohamed Sanu (pass attempts should be in abundance to have enough left over for Sanu), Vincent Jackson (could have the passing game run through him by default to open the season and if Tampa fails to run the ball adequately, gets an added bonus)


Minnesota vs. Tennessee


 -2   Spread  2  
 21.5   Implied Total  19.5  
60.5 31 Plays/Gm 61 28
63.0 13 Opp. Plays/Gm 62.8 12
48.9% 3 Rush% 38.0% 22
51.1% 30 Pass% 62.0% 11
41.0% 16 Opp. Rush % 46.0% 29
59.0% 17 Opp. Pass % 54.0% 4


  • No team faced fewer passing attempts per game last season than the Titans at 31.4 and no team attempted fewer passes per game than the Vikings at 28.4.
  • Minnesota averaged 25.4 pass attempts per game in wins last season (30th) while attempting 35 passes in losses. That 9.6 attempt per game increase was the 7th highest disparity in the league last season.
  • Despite facing the fewest number of passes, the Titans allowed a touchdown pass once every 14.8 pass attempts, better than only the Saints at 12.1.
  • The Vikings averaged 15.2 more rushing attempts and 90.2 more rushing yards per game in wins rather than losses last season, the largest margin for both in the NFL.
  • Adrian Peterson had 20 or more touches in 12 games last season, the most in the league.
  • Stefon Diggs was a top-30 scoring wide receiver in five of the seven games in which he eclipsed just five targets.
  • The Titans averaged 21.3 points per game with Marcus Mariota active last season as opposed to 10.8 points per game without him.
  • Per Pro Football Focus, Tajae Sharpe was targeted on 34.3 percent of his routes this preseason, while Andre Johnson, Rishard Matthews and Harry Douglas averaged a 25 percent target rate combined.
  • Although he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry on runs behind or off tackle on 110 attempts, DeMarco Murray averaged 4.6 yards on runs guard to guard last year, behind only Spencer WareThomas Rawls and Adrian Peterson for all backs with 50 or more such attempts. That 1.8 yards per carry loss was the biggest difference for any running back that qualified for both fields.
  • After Mike Mularkey took over for Ken Whisenhunt in Week 9, 56 percent of the Titans' running back runs were run from guard to guard. 


Trust: Adrian Peterson (this game features two of the slowest paced teams from a year ago, but Peterson should dominate touches out of the box with the Vikings transitioning from the loss of Teddy Bridgewater)


Bust: Delanie Walker (Minnesota allowed just three tight ends inside of the top-10 weekly scorers all of 2015), Shaun Hill/Sam Bradford (not a poor matchup, but unlikely that whoever starts will be asked to do any real lifting), Tajae Sharpe/Rishard Matthews (hard to vault anyone in this passing game above fringe WR3 status against this secondary), Marcus Mariota (starting quarterbacks facing the Vikings finished in the bottom half of weekly scoring 10 times last season), Derrick Henry (hard to gauge his true pitch count or if he’ll see any pass catching opportunities)


Reasonable Return: Stefon Diggs (even with the forced quarterback change, Diggs has a strong enough matchup to use him as a WR3/flex), DeMarco Murray (familiar scheme change already appeared to reinvigorate Murray in the preseason. Pass catching ability gives Murray some safety if game script becomes unfavorable), Kyle Rudolph (Tennessee allowed nine top-12 scoring tight ends and 11 touchdowns to the position a year ago. Rudy is a lower end play if you’re thin and chasing a score)


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Rich Hribar is a husband, father, sports meteorologist and a slave to statistics. A lifelong sports fan and fantasy gamer. You can find him on Twitter @LordReebs.
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