- I was dead wrong about my home town Browns
- Sony Michel never had a chance Sunday night
- John Brown and Chris Carson easily outproduced expectation
I want to briefly recap what happened in Week 1 of the NFL and most importantly things that I got right, what I got wrong and some hidden stats beyond the standard box score that may show things that we shouldn’t overlook.
What I was wrong about:
The sides I was wrong most about:
- Cleveland Browns
Big time. Yes, I am a Cleveland fan, but I am as unbiased a fan as you can find. I knew the hype surrounding the Browns but also saw a national backlash from the media that led to almost every NFL analyst and writer fading the Browns in Week 1.
As someone who is typically a contrarian by nature, I thought the major matchup advantage with the Browns front four up against a makeshift Titans offensive line would tilt the edge in favor of the Browns. That didn’t happen and in fact, Mike Vrabel and the Titans did an excellent job using the Browns’ defensive aggression to their favor by calling misdirections and screens.
When the Browns cut the Titans lead to 2 late in the third quarter, the Titans brilliantly drew up a screen to Derrick Henry who essentially ended the game with a 75-yard TD.
In addition, Baker Mayfield and Freddie Kitchens were way too aggressive in their approaches and it played into the Titans defensive hands. The Titans were at their best when they threw on early downs. They produced a 0.64 EPA/Play (via @benbbaldwin and his shiny new Baldwin Box Scores) throwing on early downs against only 0.06 per play when running early.
- Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s always a risk fading Andy Reid, Pat Mahomes, and the Chiefs but I thought the Jaguars defense which was sixth in DVOA last season and added Josh Allen, could at least keep that offense in check. I was wrong. They got absolutely shredded and allowed 8.2 yards per play to the KC offense. The Chiefs offense was especially great on early-down passing and produced an amazing 68% success rate. Gardner Minshew was impressive in relief of Nick Foles and actually led the Jaguars to an 8.6 yards per play figure on offense. Much of that was in garbage time, however, when the Chiefs defense was relaxed in the second half.
The player props I was most wrong about:
- Dalvin Cook over 29.5 receiving yards against the Atlanta Falcons
Cook was awesome against Atlanta but unfortunately, it was on the ground and not through the air. The feeling was that this game would be tight and with the Falcons defense notorious for allowing targets to RBs (fourth-highest target share allowed in 2018 and 23rd in yards per attempt), I felt the bar was low to reach 30 yards. Unfortunately, the Vikings blew out the Falcons so quickly the game script led to only 10 total Kirk Cousins pass attempts.
- Sony Michel to score a TD
I am an unabashed Michel believer this season and as the main goal-line back for a top-5 offense, who is expected to face the easiest schedule in the NFL, I am all in on Michel. The Patriots were so explosive on offense that they produced three touchdowns of 20+ yards and didn’t run a single play from inside the 5-yard line of the Steelers. Overall a poor outing for Michel as he produced a terrible 20% success rate on the ground.
What I was right about:
The sides I was right most about:
- Houston Texans
We have gotten to the point where it’s a virtual automatic to back Deshaun Watson as an underdog, especially one of over three points. His passing splits in games when the Texans are tied or trailing have always been excellent. We know Watson always shows up in big spots, ever since his days at Clemson, and it was no surprise he’d have the Texans in position to win on Monday Night Football in the dome against a pass defense that was 22nd in DVOA last season. The Texans’ pass defense will get shredded much of this season but with Superman at QB, they should be in almost every game this season.
- Cincinnati Bengals
So, to be fair I wasn’t necessarily right on the Bengals in Week 1 but more so that the Bengals would be better than most think this season. As I wrote in my initial preseason futures article back in July, there was bound to be major regression in third-down defense and it showed in Week 1. Seattle was only 4/12 on third down on Sunday. It’s amazing Cincinnati didn’t win this game as they outgained Seattle 6.1 to 4.8 yards per play and Seattle was only able to muster 233 total yards. Seattle offensively produced only negative EPA results and Cincinnati had a higher EPA/Play than the Seahawks for the game. Look out for this Bengals team as we move forward and be cautious of this Seattle team.
The player props I was most right about:
- John Brown over 40.5 receiving yards against the New York Jets
Really this came down to the strength of Josh Allen, which is his arm. Jets CB Trumaine Johnson struggled mightily last year and came into the game with a bad hamstring injury which made him questionable. Seeing as there are no other major outside threats for the Bills, Brown was in a great spot with such a low yardage prop. Brown has historically been a main deep threat and he came through on Sunday with 123 yards on 7 receptions and 10 targets. His 70% success rate and 0.93 EPA/Play results were fantastic. Brown should be a hot waiver wire add in fantasy leagues this week.
- Chris Carson over 15.5 receiving yards against the Bengals on Sunday.
Sometimes coach speak is just coach speak and other times we need to really pay attention when a coach speaks. In this case, Seattle OC Brian Schottenheimer was telling the world that Carson will get targeted more often this season and he came through. Carson received a team-high 7 targets and caught 6 of them for 35 yards, easily clearing his prop. It wasn’t as if the Bengals defense were good defending running backs out of the backfield last season anyways, ranking in the top 10 in target share allowed and 31st in yards per attempt to running backs. Carson is undoubtedly going to be used often out of the backfield all season.