NFL’s Trend or Outliers


Photo by USA Today Sports

Week 1


By: David Connors @DConBlitz


Football is Back!!


NFL football has returned and it was not short on fanfare. From Will Lutz nailing his career longest field goal as seconds evaporate off the clock to Lamar Jackson smoking the Dolphins secondary for 5 touchdowns, NFL reminded us all why it’s America’s most-watched sport. Just like every year, craziness runs supreme in the week 1. Whether it’s due to lack of play by the starters in the preseason or new game plans catching opposing coaches by surprise, it seems every year, week 1 there is an outlier game by individuals and teams that cause overreactions. Remember when Kevin Ogletree caught 8 passes for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns in week one 2012? Don’t know who Kevin Ogletree is? That’s okay, few do. Just like every year, a few players broke out this season, and I am going to go game by game picking these out, then, use the context clues around the situation to determine whether it will be a trend or outlier.


Green Bay Packer vs Chicago Bears


Both offenses struggled: Outlier


Both teams did not use their starters in the preseason, and both teams were contesting against really good defenses. On the Packer offense, Aaron Rodgers was noticeably rusty. His timing was off to all his receivers including his primary target, Davante Adams. When Rodgers is motivated he is a generational talent, and the Packers defense has him motivated. For the Bears, the offensive line looked slow out of their stance, as well as, Nagy looked like he was outsmarting himself. The Bears are not going to be in many more 1st and 40 situations. This was another situation of a team that simply looked woefully unprepared.


Tennessee Titans vs Cleveland Browns


Browns Offense encourage fans to get their Brown Paper Bags Back Out: Trend

The Titans defensive line has talent with Cameron Wake and Harold Landry, but they looked like they were putting up minimum effort against the Browns offensive line. Baker Mayfield threw three interceptions because he was trying to force the balls before routes had time to develop. He was only averaging 1.6 yards before contact and still able to muster 2.7 yards after contact. Nick Chubb was a clear bright spot. The Browns also had 18 penalties for 182 yards, so hopefully, they can clean those up going forward too. I do not think this offense will be this abysmal going forward, but I do not think they will be top tier like many projected. I need to throw out some credit to Blitzalytics very own Cody Manning who called the Browns offensive woes during a preseason game against the Buccaneers. To hear more great takes from Cody check out his YouTube show Cody Talk NFL.


Titan Up!:


This will be broken down by player:


Aloha Marcus Mariota: Trend


I have always been a believer in Mariota’s talent when healthy, and the Titans have finally put some skill players around him. Last year will turn people off, but remember he was fighting nerve damage in his throwing arm and was peppering Corey Davis with targets. Now, he has Delaine Walker, A.J. Brown, and Adam Humphries added to his arsenal. If Mariota can stay healthy, he will be better than expected.


Captain Goose Egg, Corey Davis: Trend


For whatever reason, it looks like Corey Davis is going to be a bust. I loved his talent coming out of school but just cannot seem to put it all together. Hopefully, a different team can salvage his career. Hey Pittsburgh!


Welcome to the show A.J. Brown: Outlier


I think Brown is an incredible talent and will be a good player this year, but this game was an outlier. Most of his success came from defensive players out of position. He will not be 3 for 3 with 100 yards. He has decent speed, but his route running in the middle of the field is more of his wheelhouse.


Baltimore Ravens vs Miami Dolphins


Miami Dolphins, Tank for Tua?: Trend


The Dolphins obliterated their offensive and defensive line this offseason. Pretty much any player no longer on their rookie contract with value was shipped off. The Dolphins will struggle to put points up or stop offenses all season.


Baltimore Ravens Offensive Bonanza!


Broken Down by Player


Lamar was Remar-kable (17/20, 5TDs,): Outlier


These numbers are ridiculous, but a lot of his yards came from hitting a wide-open Marquise Brown who would proceed to take the ball to the house. Lamar also saw very little pressure in this game. He was sacked once and hit twice. He had time to drop back, go through his progressions, pull out a lawn chair, order a pizza, call his mamma, eat the previously order pizza, find a wide-open target, wait a little longer, then hit Mark Andrews who set up camp behind the Dolphins zone.


Marquise Brown was Money (⅘ catches, 2 touchdowns): Outlier


Marquise Brown most notable play was an 83 yard catch and run on a slant where the closest Dolphin was approximately 4-5 yards away from him. I am pretty sure offensive linemen could have caught 4 passes for 100 yards against the Dolphins on Sunday. Make no mistake, Brown is an incredible athlete who will make big plays and have huge fantasy weeks. The Ravens offense will even lend itself to Brown’s success by forcing opposing teams to respect the run, but Brown is still coming off a Lisfranc surgery and only played 12 snaps. He will not be a reliable weekly fantasy option.


Mark Andrews was a stud (8/8 catches, 108 yards,1 touchdown): Trend


Mark Andrews had just as many wide-open lanes as Brown, but he was the clear focal point of the passing offense of the Ravens. Lamar was clearly seeking Andrews out.


Atlanta Falcons vs Minnesota Vikings


Minnesota Vikings Raided, Pillaged and Plundered: Trend


The Vikings offensive line looks much improved from last season, and, Dalvin Cook looks healthy. Kirk Cousins may be criticized, nevertheless, he is a solid starting quarterback and should find success with the balanced Vikings game plan.


Atlanta Falcons were grounded:


Broken Down by Player


Atlanta Falcons Defensive Struggles: Trend


Dan Quinn’s defense is a pretty archaic system that focuses on the heavy zone. It can be done, but it requires a lot of talent in the middle of the field. The Falcons are going to be in shootouts this season.


Devonta could not get Free, man!: Trend


Freeman is not a “grind the yards” style of running back. He is talent out of the backfield but Dirk Koetter has more of a history of using a power rushing game. The last time he was the Offensive Coordinator for the Falcons, he leaned heavy on Michael Turner one year and Steven Jackson the next. Koetter tends to plan more passes to wide receivers rather than pass-catchers out of the backfield for his aerial attack as well. On top of this, the Falcons offensive line looks below average even before losing their first-round rookie Guard, Chris Lindstrom, to IR. Freeman will not be a reliable fantasy running back while in this system.


Atlanta Falcons could not let the ball fly: Outlier


The Minnesota fans created a hostile environment for the Falcons to play in. The Vikings defensive line asserted their dominance from the beginning of this game. With that being said, Matt Ryan looked out of sync for most of the game. He began to put it together towards the end of the game. He will continue to progress to midseason form. The defense should force the Falcons to air the ball as well.


Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets


John Brown’s siege on Jets defense. (7/10 catches, 123 yards, 1TD): Trend


This one is pretty self-explanatory. Josh Allen probably throws the ball farther than any other QB in the NFL and John Brown runs really fast. It will not be pretty, but they are bound to take shots at him all-day. Josh Allen and Robert Foster consistently hit last season, and Brown is a better version of this style of WR. It may not result in 7 catches a game, but expect for an average of 16-20 yards a reception out of Brown. Someone who is a history buff will get that heading.


Le’Veon rung the Bell of Success (17 carries, 60 yards, 6/9 catches for 32 yards, 1TD): Trend


Former scout and NFL analyst for the LockedOn Network, Matt Williamson, says a generational running back is like a great guitarist. If you close your eyes and just listen to the greats play you can tell who it is by the sound. When Jimi Hendrix or Slash strums you know it. If you take a great running back and put them in a generic jersey with no numbers you can tell the difference between Walter Peyton and Barry Sanders just by running style alone. Bell falls in that category, you can tell it's Bell running by his unique style that is often imitated but never duplicated. Bell is a great running back and the Jets will scheme ways to get the ball in his hands.


Jamison Crowder Chowing on the short routes (14/17 catches, 99 yards): Trend

Remember when there was a question about whether Jets HC, Gase, wanted Bell on his team or not. Well, there was never a question about whether Gase wanted Crowder. They paid him $35 mil. He is the perfect fit for what Gase does. Quick passes that are close to the line of scrimmage. Crowder will serve as Jarvis Landry-lite for Gase in a much better offense. It's no surprise Crowder just set the NFL record for most catches without surpassing 100 yards receiving. He won't catch 14 every week, but he will get targeted in this offense a lot. If I can take a moment to pat my own back, I was higher on Crowder for fantasy than the consensus all offseason.


Washington Redskins vs Philadelphia Eagles


Washington’s offensive success


Broken down by player:


Detective Case Keenum (30/44, 380 yards, 3TDs): Outlier


Case Keenum has a unique ability to buy extra time in the pocket. This talent led him to an incredibly productive year in Minnesota in 2017 behind their bottom-tier offensive line. With that being said, most of his success in this game came from lapses of focus in the Eagles defense. By the second half, the Eagles were able to clamp down and bring the Redskins offense to a halt.


Terry McLaurin becomes SCARY Terry (5/7 catches, 125 yards, 1TD): Outlier


Similar to Case Keenum, McLaurin caught the Eagles defense sleeping with his speed. By the 2nd half, McLaurin had all but disappeared. The offensive line in Washington is not good enough to block for long, downfield plays even with Keenum’s natural ability to create time. I think underneath pass-catchers like Trey Quinn and Chris Thompson will have far more fantasy value going forward.


Philadelphia Flew like an Eagle: Trend


This is a really good offense with a ton of weapons. The Eagles are deep at every skill position. They have a top tier offensive line and Carson Wentz is an elite quarterback. As far as fantasy implications go, I would be concerned about having any wide receiver as a staple starter in my lineup. Doug Pederson has so many weapons that he will have the ability to develop specific game plans based on the defense they are playing. If the Eagles have the Giants, who are big down the front, then you will see DeSean Jackson and Zach Ertz targeted downfield. You could see the smaller corner of Arizona challenged with size with Alshon Jeffery and so on and so forth. The Eagles offense will be a versatile group.


Los Angeles Rams vs Carolina Panthers


The Vulture King, Malcolm Brown: Trend


Todd Gurley looked fantastic! He was making clean cuts and was explosive, but the Rams know his knees are a ticking time bomb with no timer. Gurley is the straw that stirs the Rams offense and McVay will conserve him when he can. The Rams got out to an early lead and look dominant. Once that happened, we saw a heavy dosage of Malcolm Brown. Brown saw 11 carries to Gurley’s 14. Then, when the Panthers started coming back, which brought Gurley back in the backfield. Brown will also see a lot of goal-line work where there are a lot of bodies falling on each other. Gurley will still be a solid fantasy starter, but his upside is capped.


Cam Newton? More like Cam Nothing (25/38, 239 yards, 1INT, 3 carries, -2 yards): Outlier


Cam Newton just has these games. He is still coming back from a foot injury, and just like many other veteran quarterbacks that played a minimum amount of snaps in the preseason, he looked rusty. Cam is still Cam. The running production will return, as well as, having players like McCafferty and Moore who can take dump-offs to the house.


Kansas City Chiefs vs Jacksonville Jaguars


Yes to every question about Kansas City Chiefs: Trend


Can Mahomes go ham against any team...yes! Will Watkins be a WR1 while Hill is out...yes! Will LeSean McCoy and Damien Williams put up solid production with limited work...yes! Can Andy Reid and the Chiefs beat up on any defense...they are not even sure what the word defense means? (they can't even play defense themselves)

Minshew water his Garden of Success (22/25, 275 yards, 2TDs, and 1INT):


Outlier


I do not want to discount what Minshew did coming in as a late-round rookie quarterback that nobody talked about and be poised. However, unless he plays the Chiefs defense every week, he will not move the ball quite with that much ease moving forward. Chris Conley was getting wide open in the secondary. It also is not the Jaguars ideal game plan to be letting the ball fly like that. The Jaguars got behind early, but are going to want to play a more conservative, ball control game. Either way, it was awesome to see the rookie have immediate success.


Conley and the Chark (Conley-6/7 catches, 97 yards, 1TD; Chark-4/4, 146, 1TD):


Outlier


Just like Minshew, this simply is not the way the Jaguars want to play football. The Chiefs got out to an early lead, forcing the Jaguars to play catch up. Chark is an incredible athlete, and will get behind defenses again, but not at the same rate as he could against the Kansas City Chiefs week 1.


Indianapolis Colts vs Los Angeles Chargers


Jacoby Brisset and the Colts offense goes full biscuits week 1: Trend


This is a very different Indianapolis team than the team Brisset lead in 2017. GM Chris Ballard has done a brilliant job stockpiling early picks and utilizing them to rebuild the offensive line allowing Marlon Mack a ton of space to work in Frank Reich’s system. The balanced attack, in turn, benefits the passing game with Brisset, who is a very capable pass thrower. This offense will not take a huge step back without Andy Luck, and fantasy football players who were able to grab Colts players at a discount are not going to be disappointed with the exception of Eric Ebron. Jack Doyle was on the field for more than double of Ebron’s snaps including RedZone snaps.


Charger Defense got Macked: Outlier


Marlon Mack lit up the Chargers defense to the tune of 174 rushing yards and a touchdown. This looked more like poor tackling and poor technique upfront by the Chargers defense. As the Chargers defense gets healthy and into midseason form, they will lock this down quickly. The Chargers still have one of the most talented defenses in the league and it will not give up this much run often.


Cincinnati Bengals vs Seattle Seahawks


Tiger Blood Offense! Trend


Bengals Head Coach, Zac Taylor, has not been shy about the fact he wants to create a pseudo-McVay offense in Cincinnati, and if you squint really hard, you can see it. Mixon can play the Gurley role, Ross will play the Cooks role, Boyd will play the Kupp role, and Green would play the Woods role. The quick read offense should be the most Dalton friendly offense he has ever been in. The offensive line is worrisome, but they will probably be in the negative game script which should bend itself to fantasy production for your team.


Throw a Fish to a Player


The Seahawks offense will be broken down by player


Seahawks Leader in Targets...Carson?: (15 carries, 46 yards, 1TD, 6/7 catches, 34 yards, 1TD): Trend


Chris Carson was the target leader against the Bengals. Carson will not be the consistent target leader, but Pete Carroll and the staff raved all preseason about how much Carson has improved as a pass-catcher. The Seahawks want to play run-heavy offense. They will use Carson in quick hits to keep the defenses from just attacking the run game.


DK Metcalf is a beast (4/6 catches, 89 yards) Trend


The Seahawks offense want to use a heavy run offense with a lot of shots deep. If someone were to go to a lab a build the perfect wide receiver for the Seahawks, it would be DK Metcalf. Metcalf is 6’3”, can run in a 4.30 40-yard dash, and looks like a superhero

doing it. I think he will consistently catch deep passes all year.


Detroit Lions vs Arizona Cardinals


TJ Hockenson set receiving yard record for a TE making their debut (6/9 catches, 131 yards, 1TD): Trend


Hockenson is much further along as a developed TE than any other rookie TE. He is an excellent blocker and can play receiver from any part of the field. There is no reason to take Hockenson the field. He will not get to play a secondary as bad as the Cardinals every week but should continue to be a key component of the Lions offense.


Danny Amendola roared in his Lions debut (7/13 catches, 104 yards, 1TD):


Trend


This one I think is more Trend than an outlier. Just like Hockenson, he will not see this level production, however, Stafford has had a career on targeting the slot. Amendola can still create separation. As long as he is healthy, he will get 6-9 targets a game.

Kingsbury revived Larry Fitzgerald (8/13 catches, 113 yards, 1TD): Trend

Larry Fitzgerald was still a very productive wide receiver last season, just stuck in a very unproductive offense. With the Kingsbury offense, the Cardinals will run a lot more plays a game which will give Fitzgerald a lot more opportunity.


San Francisco 49ers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers


49er defense found gold: Outlier


The 49ers have a much improved from 7 than they did in 2018, but the secondary is still void of talent outside a 31-year-old Richard Sherman. Two out of the three interceptions looked more like an atrocious decision by Winston than a great play by the 49ers. Better QBs will have better days against the 49ers.


Buccaneers offense could not plunder for booty: Outlier


Jameis Winston just has these games. He is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the NFL, and this week he was Mr. Hyde. I will caution with this, that offensive line is bad Their inability to block will make them vulnerable all year. However, for fantasy purposes, sacks and interceptions will put them in negative game scripts forcing the Buccaneers to air the ball. Better days are ahead for your Buccaneer players on your fantasy team.


New York Giants vs Dallas Cowboys


The Dak-street Boys Want it That Way:


Broken down by player


Cobb and Michael Gallup all over the Giants secondary (Cobb-⅘ catches, 69 yards, 1TD; Gallup-7/7 catches, 158 yards): Outlier


Both Gallup and Cobbs will continue to have productive seasons, but a lot of their success came from poor CB play from Deandre Baker. Janoris Jenkins played great while Baker looked like a rookie CB playing his first NFL game and Kellen Morre dialed up plays to exploit him.


Can’t hold back Dak (25/32, 405 yards, 4TDs) TBD


Prescott put up a clinic against the Giants secondary, but Dak’s weapons were getting instant separation on Deandre Baker. The Giants safeties were out of position for 3 different downfield connections, nevertheless, Dak made a lot of throws that were placed beautifully on the receiver's hands. His first few drives, his throws were off target, but by the third drive, Prescott looked in sync with anyone in a Cowboys jersey. I believe Dak will take another step in his development this season, unfortunately, he will not get easy windows to throw through like he had against the Giants every week.


Pittsburgh Steelers vs New England Patriots


Tom Brady played like long hair Tom Brady (24/36, 346 yards, 3TDs) Trend

I just assume Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the New England Patriots will be successful until the end of time. There are many reasons why one would think their run is in its twilight, but at this point, the Patriots reign coming to an end is a unicorn. I believe in the heart it's real, and I will see one, someday, I just have not seen it yet.


Steelers offense looks rusty: Outlier


The Steelers skill positions have taken a significant downgrade with the departure of Gollum….no wait, Antonio Brown, I get them confused. The Steelers current pass-catchers struggled against the Patriots secondary, however, better days are ahead. The Steelers still have a top tier offensive line, and they will not have to play the Patriots secondary every week.


Houston Texans vs New Orleans Saints


*there were no surprises in this game*


Denver Broncos vs Oakland Raiders


All of a sudden, Courtland Sutton (⅞ catches, 120 yards) Trend


Sutton played a lot of snaps lined up against Gareon Conley who played a decent game, nevertheless, Sutton was able to create separation and make contested catches. He looked like a star wide receiver. Unfortunately, he will be plagued by below-average quarterback play.


Darren the Wallerus (Waller ⅞ catches, 70 yards): Trend


Last year the Oakland offense funneled through Jared Cook. Many thought it was a product of lack of talent besides Cook, but it looks as though Gruden’s offense will rely on the Tight End position for production. According to Waller’s Sparq score, his is in the 75th percentile in athletic ability. He is a very talented player that the Raiders will utilize.


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