The wait is finally over as Week 1 is finally upon us. For those unfamiliar, this column will be a weekly rundown of the point spreads, projected team totals and play calling splits for every game followed by bullet point data points and which plays I like and dislike from the game based on PPR scoring. The early season slate can be somewhat tricky to navigate when using an evidence-based approach. The NFL is inherently a fluid game. Things are in constant motion and trends have yet to develop in a way where they can create highly exploitable probability. As the weeks roll on, this look at evidence-based performance will grow more accurate, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw everything out of the window early on in terms of the previous year’s data as we can apply what we know existed for organizations in terms of performance and apply that to the changes in personnel they’ve made.
I’ve also thrown in the context key at the tail end of the column to explain player labels used for each game. It’s important to remember that context around player ownership and reliability. Labeling Antonio Brown a “bust” means something entirely different than it does for Torrey Smith. Without much more to hold us up, let’s hit the outlook at the opening week of games.
Pittsburgh vs. New England
|39.3%||Opp. Rush %||40.2%|
|60.7%||Opp. Pass %||59.8%|
- The last time Antonio Brown scored single digit PPR points was Week 17, 2012.
- Ben Roethlisberger's scoring finishes in 2014 without Martavis Bryant active: QB12, QB30, QB18, QB10, QB24 and QB23.
- Markus Wheaton scoring finishes in 2014 without Bryant active: WR28, WR32, WR58, WR47, WR75 and WR63.
- The Steelers only allowed four top-12 scoring running backs all of 2014 and Pittsburgh allowed just two rushers to reach 60 yards in a game from Week 8 on last season.
- Pittsburgh allowed multiple touchdown passes in 12 games, tied for the most in the league.
- From Week 5 through the end of the season, only four wide receivers (Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant) averaged more points per game than the 20.0 points averaged by Rob Gronkowski.
- Danny Amendola had 16.8 percent of the team targets (34), 17 percent of the receptions (23) and 16.9 percent of the team receiving yards over the final five weeks of the season for New England including the playoffs.
Bust: Brandon Bolden, Heath Miller (just four opposing tight ends hit 60 yards versus New England in 2014), DeAngelo Williams (this offense, Pats secondary and potential game script point towards this being a high passing volume game for Pittsburgh)
Editor's Note: For updated rankings, projections, exclusive columns, mock drafts and more, check out the Rotoworld Draft Guide.
Indianapolis vs. Buffalo
|41.7%||Opp. Rush %||40.3%|
|58.3%||Opp. Pass %||59.7%|
- The last Colts’ back to rush for 100 yards in a game was Vick Ballard back in Week 12 of 2012.
- Frank Gore forced a missed tackle just once every 7.6 touches. The third lowest of all backs with 200 or more touches.
- T.Y. Hilton's 10.3 yards per target were the highest in the league for all receivers over 100 targets.
- Buffalo allowed just .304 passing points per attempt to opposing quarterbacks last season, the fewest in the league.
- Just two quarterbacks (Tom Brady and Ryan Tannehill) finished above QB10 on the season facing the Bills last season and 10 finished as the QB20 or lower.
- Only twice did an opponent score more than 17 points against the Bills in Buffalo in 2014.
- Sammy Watkins ran 76 more passing routes than the next highest rookie receiver last season (Kelvin Benjamin) yet still finished seventh out of all rookie receivers in points per game.
- The Colts allowed 11 different opposing tight ends to score double digit points last season, tied with the Jets for the most in the league.
- The Colts allowed .604 points per rushing attempt last season, eighth highest in the league, but only faced the 17th most rush attempts per game.
- 33.3 percent of LeSean McCoy's carries last season went for five or more yards, the lowest rate in his career. This was after a career-high rate of 42.7 percent in 2013.
Bust: Sammy Watkins (stands to see Vontae Davis the most of this receiving unit), Percy Harvin (we have no real inkling on his usage), Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener (each caps the other’s ceiling and Buffalo allowed just two top-10 tight ends in 2014)
Reasonable Return: Andrew Luck, Frank Gore (no Marcell Dareus and this offense potentially creating a few layups keep Gore in high RB2 territory), Andre Johnson (will move around inside enough to avoid Stephon Gilmore the entire afternoon), Tyrod Taylor (the rushing totals will create a safe floor, but only if game script stays relatively neutral), Robert Woods (if Greg Toler is out, has best frequent matchup).
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Cleveland vs. New York (AFC)
|44.7%||Opp. Rush %||40.3%|
|55.3%||Opp. Pass %||59.7%|
- In games the Jets were favored last season, Chris Ivory averaged 13.6 points per game as opposed to the 8.9 points per game he averaged as an underdog.
- Ivory forced 52 missed tackles, the fourth most in the league. All of the other three backs ahead of him had over 100 more touches than Ivory had on the season.
- Outside of his 358-yard, six passing touchdown game last season, Ryan Fitzpatrick reached 250 passing yards just three other times and threw multiple touchdowns just three times.
- Cleveland allowed just two quarterbacks to have a scoring week inside of the top-10 last season and allowed just a 57.1 completion percentage, lowest in the league.
- The Browns averaged 145.8 rushing yards per game (third) and 4.5 YPC (11th) with Alex Mack in the lineup. After his injury, they rushed for just 90.5 yards per game (23rd) at 3.2 YPC (32nd).
- Dwayne Bowe hasn't reached 100 yards in 39 consecutive games.
- Buster Skrine allowed five touchdowns while in the slot last season, most in the league.
Trust: Chris Ivory
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Carolina vs. Jacksonville
|40.1%||Opp. Rush %||46.0%|
|59.9%||Opp. Pass %||54.0%|
- Cam Newton has been a top-12 weekly scorer in just 12 of his past 30 games played.
- Jacksonville allowed the most plays of 25 yards or more in the league last season (45), while Carolina produced the fewest offensive plays of 25 yards or more at 25.
- Greg Olsen had eight top-6 scoring weeks at tight end, tied for the most of any tight end to go with six top-3 scoring weeks, two more than the next tight end.
- Jacksonville allowed 15 top-20 scoring running backs on the season.
- From Week 8 on last year, Carolina allowed just four top-24 scoring wide receivers.
- Also from Week 8 on last year, the Panthers allowed just three top-24 scoring running backs and just two backs to rush for 70 or more yards.
- Defenses facing Jacksonville posted 12 top-12 scoring weeks in 2014, most in the league.
- The Jaguars allowed four or more sacks in 11 games last season, most in the league.
Green Bay vs. Chicago
|43.6%||Opp. Rush %||41.8%|
|56.4%||Opp. Pass %||58.2%|
- Jay Cutler's teams are 1-10 in 11 career games facing the Packers. In those games, Cutler has completed just 57.1 percent of his throws with a 14 to 21 touchdown to interception ratio.
- Alshon Jeffery has yet to top 80 receiving yards against the Packers in five career games facing them.
- Martellus Bennett has scored in Week 1 in each of the past three seasons.
- Matt Forte's past four finishes against the Packers has been RB3, RB1, RB5 and RB20.
- Forte caught five or more passes in 14 games, second most in the league behind Antonio Brown.
- Chicago allowed a score on 47 percent of their opponent’s drives, highest rate in the league. Green Bay scored on 50 percent of their drives, highest in the league.
- The Bears allowed 12 touchdowns in the red zone last season to opposing tight ends, tied for the most in the league with the Jets.
- Over his final 10 games last season, Eddie Lacy's lowest scoring week was RB20 and he had six weeks in the top-6 of scoring.
- Lacy was a top-6 scoring running back in four of the seven weeks Green Bay was favored by a touchdown or more and a top-15 scorer in six of those games.
- Lacy has reached 100 total yards in nine consecutive games, longest streak for any active running back.
- Green Bay ran the most red zone plays in the NFL last season (11.9 per game). Chicago allowed the most red zone plays at 191 (12.0 per game), 23 more than the next closest team.
- Davante Adams averaged 6.2 receptions for 88 yards in the five games in which he garnered at least seven targets.
- Randall Cobb has scored in three consecutive games against the Bears.
Kansas City vs. Houston
|42.3%||Opp. Rush %||39.0%|
|57.7%||Opp. Pass %||61.0%|
- The Chiefs were the only defense not to allow a 300-yard passer last season.
- Brian Hoyer was a top-12 scoring quarterback just one time last season, and finished in the top half of quarterback scoring just three times.
- DeAndre Hopkins had double digit targets three times last season. He was inside of the top-24 in scoring in just one of those weeks.
- Kansas City allowed 4.7 yards per rushing attempt last season, the third most in the league, but allowed just four rushing touchdowns, the fewest in the league.
- 54.4 percent of Alfred Blue's carries last season went for two yards or less, the highest percentage of all backs with 100 or more carries on the season.
- Just 5.3 percent of Blue's runs went for 10 or more yards, the third lowest in the league behind Andrew Williams (4.6 percent) and Matt Asiata (4.3 percent).
- No team ran more times per game (34.5) or at a higher percentage (51.9 percent) than Houston last season. In the three games Arian Foster missed, they ran 46.4 percent of the time.
- 23.7 percent of Jamaal Charles' targets came in the red zone last season (14 of 59), highest percentage of any non-tight end in the league.
- After rushing for 25 or more yards 10 times in 2013, Alex Smith had just five such games in 2014.
- Smith has thrown for 300 yards just four times in 105 career regular season starts and just once over his past 34 starts.
Trust: Jamaal Charles
Bust: Brian Hoyer, Travis Kelce (coming off ankle injury, the highest any tight end ranked against Houston last season was TE9), Alex Smith (projected low scoring game on the road, there are better streamers)
Reasonable Return: Alfred Blue, DeAndre Hopkins (target volume against a rookie corner leaves room for a ceiling), Jeremy Maclin, Cecil Shorts (could be the biggest benefactor from Sean Smith’s absence)
Miami vs. Washington
|44.0%||Opp. Rush %||43.2%|
|56.0%||Opp. Pass %||56.9%|
- Washington allowed 15 touchdown passes from 25 yards or longer last season, most in the league.o Miami had just one touchdown pass of 25 yards or longer, fewest in the NFL and the Dolphins had just four non-red zone touchdowns last season, fewest in the league.
- In the 13 games he's played without Robert Griffin as the starting quarterback, Alfred Morris has carried 221 times for 794 yards (3.6 YPC) with just five touchdowns.
- In those 13 games, Morris has never hit 100 rushing yards and has posted a 4.0 YPC just three times.
- In Cousins' five starts last season, Pierre Garcon was the WR3, WR61, WR78, WR36 and WR11 (caught a TD from McCoy).
- DeSean Jackson's finishes in Cousins' starts last season: WR9, WR81, WR3, WR13 and WR52.
- Jordan Reed was targeted on 26.4 percent of his routes last season, second highest rate in the NFL behind Rob Gronkowski(27.9 percent).
- Robert Griffin was sacked 33 times on 265 drop backs last season. Cousins was sacked just eight times on 213 drop backs.
- Out of all backs with 100 or more carries, Lamar Miller ranked first in percentage of runs to go for five or more yards (43.1 percent) and fourth in percentage of runs to go for 10 or more yards (14.4 percent).
- Washington allowed just three 100-yard rushers last season, two were DeMarco Murray.
- 53.9 percent of Jarvis Landry's yardage came after the catch, highest percentage in the league.
- Washington allowed 10 top-12 scoring receivers; second most in the league behind the Eagles at 11.
Seattle vs. St. Louis
|41.7%||Opp. Rush %||42.3%|
|58.3%||Opp. Pass %||57.7%|
- The Rams allowed just nine passing touchdowns in the red zone last season, fewest in the NFL.
- Jimmy Graham had no catches of 30 or more yards last season.
- The longest completion the Rams allowed to a tight end last season was 28 yards.
- Both of these defenses allowed just one tight end each to reach 50 receiving yards against them last season and the Rams allowed just two tight ends to score against them all season.
- Seattle allowed just five touchdowns to wide receivers all season. The next closest team (Dallas) allowed 10.
- Seattle allowed just 14 pass plays of 25 yards or longer last season, fewest in the league.
- The Rams have failed to score a touchdown in three of their past four games facing Seattle.
- In his past two games at St. Louis, Marshawn Lynch was the RB45 and the RB29.
- Just two of Lynch's 13 rushing touchdowns came on the road last season.
- Both of these teams allowed the fewest red zone opportunities per game at 2.4 trips per game.
- Just two opposing defenses had top-12 scoring weeks against Seattle last season; one was the Rams (DST7) Week 7 in St. Louis.
Trust: Russell Wilson (low projected overall point total involving two of the league’s best defenses. There’s nobody here that I love, but the weakest link in either defense is the Rams’ secondary)
Bust: Entire Rams passing game, Jimmy Graham
Detroit vs. San Diego
|35.6%||Opp. Rush %||44.3%|
|64.4%||Opp. Pass %||55.7%|
- Detroit allowed just .43 points per rushing attempt last season, fewest in the league. San Diego averaged just .43 points per rushing attempt on offense, 30th in the league.
- Seven different backs caught five or more passes against the Lions last season, tied with Atlanta for most in the league.
- Keenan Allen was targeted eight or more times in nine games. In those games, he was a top-24 scorer only four times.
- The Lions were 30th in road scoring at 16.1 points per game and scored more than two offensive touchdowns just once on the road all season.
- Detroit targeted running backs 28.5 percent of the time, highest percentage in the league.
- From his return in Week 10 on, Calvin Johnson was third in the NFL in targets (91), seventh in receptions (49), fourth in receiving yards (729) and sixth in touchdowns (six).
- 70.4 percent of Calvin Johnson's receptions went for 10 or more yards, the highest rate of all receivers with 50 or more receptions.
- Golden Tate had just three top-24 scoring weeks over that time span.
Reasonable Return: Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Golden Tate, Stevie Johnson and Keenan Allen (all safe floor options in a game that may feature 70 combined pass attempts), Ladarius Green (Detroit allowed nine top-12 tight ends in 2014)
Baltimore vs. Denver
|36.0%||Opp. Rush %||34.2%|
|64.0%||Opp. Pass %||65.8%|
- The last back to reach 100 rushing yards against the Ravens was Eddie Lacy (120 yards) back in Week 6 of 2013.
- In his seven starts last season, C.J. Anderson was the RB7 or higher six times with a low of RB17.
- Baltimore allowed 71.9 more passing yards per game on the road last season than at home, largest gap in the league.
- Over the final five weeks of the season when Denver down shifted their offense, Emmanuel Sanders was the WR34, WR39, WR49, WR5 and WR25.
- Demaryius Thomas had 11 games last season with multiple red zone targets.
- Justin Forsett ran for 10 or more yards on 17 percent of his carries. His 40 carries of 10 or more yards trailed only DeMarco Murray's 45 for the season. Murray had 158 more rushing attempts.
- Denver allowed just 29 runs of 10 or more yards, the second fewest in the league behind Detroit.
- Denver allowed six receiving touchdowns to running backs last season, 30th in the league.
- Over his past eight Week 1 games, Steve Smith has averaged 6.4 receptions for 100.4 yards with seven touchdowns. His finishes those weeks have been WR2, WR1, WR55, WR12, WR1, WR13, WR25 and WR4.
- The Broncos faced the most pass attempts in the league (641), but sported the sixth lowest passing points allowed per attempt (.366) in the league.
Reasonable Return: Steve Smith (even in a tough draw against Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, volume should be sky high), Crockett Gilmore (Denver allowed eight top-8 scoring tight ends a season ago), Emmanuel Sanders, C.J. Anderson (can’t fade a back favored at home on a team projected to score nearly 27 points, no matter how bad the matchup appears)
New Orleans vs. Arizona
|43.3%||Opp. Rush %||40.4%|
|56.7%||Opp. Pass %||59.6%|
- The Saints allowed .71 fantasy points per rushing attempt last season, the most in the NFL. Arizona averaged just .41 rushing points per carry, the lowest in the league.
- New Orleans allowed at least one rushing touchdown in 13 games last season, most in the league.
- In the seven games after Keenan Lewis was injured last season, the Saints allowed a top-18 scoring WR in every game except one.
- The target per route percentage for the Arizona receivers in Carson Palmer's six starts: John Brown, 24.2 percent, Larry Fitzgerald 17.9 percent, Michael Floyd 13.2 percent.
- Just 5.9 percent of John Brown's targets last season (six of 102) came in the red zone last season, the third lowest percentage in the league of all players with 50 or more targets on the season.
- In Carson Palmer’s five complete games last season, he was the QB5, QB16, QB13, QB10 and QB7.
- After the Saints Week 6 bye, Mark Ingram handled 73 percent of the New Orleans carries and had seven top-20 scoring weeks four inside the top-10.
- No team allowed a higher yards per carry (5.6 yards) than Arizona did over the final six weeks of 2014.
- Drew Brees was inside the top-10 scoring quarterbacks just three times on the road last season, but in the back half of quarterback scoring just twice.
Reasonable Return: Drew Brees (safe floor, limited ceiling on the road), Brandon Coleman (will have the opportunity to make plays in this game), John Brown (low touchdown ceiling limits the strength of his reliability), Michael Floyd (if he’s a full go, gets matched up the most often with Delvin Breaux), Andre Ellington (relying on pass catching to carry floor with Mike Iupati and Bobby Massie out, even in a soft matchup), Ben Watson
Tennessee vs. Tampa Bay
|46.9%||Opp. Rush %||43.8%|
|53.1%||Opp. Pass %||56.2%|
- These two teams ran the fewest offensive plays in the league last season.
- Just six rookie quarterbacks have ever scored 20 or more fantasy points in Week 1. Just 12 have ever scored more than 15 points.
- Tampa Bay allowed just one 100-yard rusher all season. Tennessee had a rusher reach 75 yards in a game just one time.
- Just two of Bishop Sankey's 170 touches came on third down last season.
- The Buccaneers allowed 15 top-20 scoring receivers and nine top-12 ones.
- Seven different tight ends caught five or more passes against Tampa Bay, third most in the league, but just three tight ends scored all season against them.
- Tennessee allowed seven 100-yard rushers last season, most in the league.
- The Titans allowed 14 top-24 scoring receivers and 11 different wide receivers to catch seven or passes in a game last season.
Reasonable Return: Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston (both rookies get a light draw, but limited scoring and natural inexperience should limit both of their ceilings), Mike Evans (if fully healthy would move up a tier against soft secondary missing Jason McCourty), Delanie Walker, Austin Seferian-Jenkins (the Titans allowed 11 touchdowns to tight ends last season)
Cincinnati vs. Oakland
|40.8%||Opp. Rush %||46.2%|
|59.2%||Opp. Pass %||53.8%|
- Oakland punted on 55.6 percent of their possessions last season, most in the league.
- The Raiders ran 69.2 percent of their offensive plays while trailing, highest rate in the league.
- Jeremy Hill ran for 140 or more yards in four games last season, tied with DeMarco Murray for the most in the league.
- 58 percent of all top-12 scoring running backs came from teams that were favored and projected to score at least 21 points.
- Andy Dalton has averaged 2.4 more fantasy points per game against bottom-half pass defenses in his career. Oakland was 17th against the pass overall last season, but allowed the fifth most passing points per attempt in the league at .477 points per pass.
- Cincinnati allowed just 10 top-24 wide receivers last season and seven of those players scored a touchdown in the game.
- In Oakland, Derek Carr averaged 15.8 points per game, and put up all four of his top 15 performances. Away from Oakland he averaged just 8.9 points per game with a high finish of QB18.
Bust: Latavius Murray (sets up to be the first of many game script nightmares for Murray owners), Derek Carr (even with favorable home splits, the Bengals’ secondary has a big advantage here), Tyler Eifert (sets up for Dalton to work the boundaries and Hill to do heavy lifting)
New York (NFC) vs. Dallas
|43.5%||Opp. Rush %||39.9%|
|56.5%||Opp. Pass %||60.1%|
- The Giants allowed 70 rushing plays of 10 or more yards, most in the league.
- Dallas ran on 69.4 percent of their first down plays, highest in the league and well above the league average of 51.9 percent.
- No team ran more pass plays in the league over their final nine games than the Giants did at 43.6 per game.
- Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams each rushed for over 4.0 yards per carry in just three games last season.
- The Giants carried 58 times for 193 yards (3.3 YPC) in their two games against the Cowboys last season.
- The Cowboys allowed just three top-12 scoring receivers last season, two were Odell Beckham.
- Beckham has 75 or more receiving yards in nine consecutive games, longest current streak in the league. The next highest is three games.
- In fact, he's gone over 90 yards in all of those games. If he goes over 90 yards to open this season, it will be an NFL record for consecutive weeks reaching that mark.
- In Dez Bryant's past three games against the Giants he was the WR17, WR7 and WR4 for the week.
- Terrance Williams was targeted on just 14.5 percent of his routes in 2014, the fourth lowest of all qualifying receivers.
Bust: Rashad Jennings (if he doesn’t do work early, he may not at all), Victor Cruz (untrustworthy health at this stage still), Rueben Randle (untrustworthy performer at this stage still), Dallas backfield (with no clarity, could be a sum of parts that is greater than one individual)
Reasonable Return: Eli Manning, Larry Donnell (highest yardage total came against Dallas last season, both Cruz and Randle limited recently), Shane Vereen (game script and matchup favor him of the backfield group), Terrance Williams (if there’s a secondary that give up big plays, it’s this one), Jason Witten
Philadelphia vs. Atlanta
|42.6%||Opp. Rush %||43.4%|
|57.5%||Opp. Pass %||56.7%|
- Eagles quarterbacks combined for eight 300-yard passing games, tied for third most in the league.
- Atlanta allowed nine 300-yard passers last season, most in the league.
- Philadelphia quarterbacks also combined for 11 games with multiple touchdown passes, tied for fourth in the league.
- Quarterbacks on teams projected to score more than 24 points averaged 18.1 fantasy points and 1.9 passing touchdowns per game.
- Atlanta allowed 14 top-20 scoring backs and eight top-10 ones in 2014.
- The Falcons allowed 19 rushing touchdowns to running backs, the most in the league.
- Matt Ryan has thrown for 250 or more yards in seven consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league.
- Julio Jones has reached 50 receiving yards in 24 consecutive games.
- DeMarco Murray has had 15 or more rushing attempts in 21 straight games. The next highest is seven by LeSean McCoy.
- The Eagles allowed just four backs to reach 80 rushing yards in a game last season and just one 100-yard rusher.
- Length of Roddy White's TD catches last season: 2, 24, 4, 5, 2, 1 and 4 yards.
Bust: Roddy White (matchup is right as Philadelphia projects to struggle with interior receivers more this season, but health and performance red flags are mounting), Tevin Coleman (hope the passing game sets up scoring opportunities)
Minnesota vs. San Francisco
|43.9%||Opp. Rush %||40.7%|
|56.1%||Opp. Pass %||59.4%|
- Torrey Smith hasn't reached 100 receiving yards in 26 consecutive games played.
- Mike Wallace has reached 100 receiving yards eight times over his past 60 games played.
- Over his final six starts last season, Teddy Bridgewater completed 68.9 percent of his passes, second in the NFL over that span behind only Tony Romo (71.3 percent).
- Over eight season openers, Adrian Peterson averaged 19.3 carries for 102.9 yards per game with nine total touchdowns.
- Vernon Davis was targeted on just 11.3 percent of his routes, 55th out of all tight ends.
- Minnesota allowed just four top-12 scoring tight ends last season.
- Colin Kaepernick passed for at least 250 yards just three times all of 2014, the same amount as Geno Smith, Robert Griffin, Blake Bortles and Mike Glennon.
Trust = Set him in your lineups this week
Bust = Player to underperform season average
Reasonable Return = On par with seasonal average