It's always a battle between perception and reality in the fantasy game. The rubber meets the road when you try and determine the breaking point between the two. Let me give you a few real world examples of what I mean.
That's the amount of games that one week of the NFL season takes up (1/16 is actually 6.25 percent, but let's get rid of that pesky decimal point). In baseball that would equate to 10 games played. In the NBA or NHL, we're talking five games. So let me ask you this. If Carlos Beltran goes 10 games without a homer, do you send him to the waiver-wire? If Ben Gordon fails to score 20 points in 5-straight games do you let him go? Would you give up on Joe Thornton if he didn't dish off an assist for five games? The answer to all of those questions is obviously no. So why is it in fantasy football that people are want to let things fly with a knee jerk reaction? Is it because of the fact that the season is only 16 games long so people tend to overreact to every little detail? Is it because of frustration? Did you lose in Week 1 because one of your “studs” laid an egg on you? Again, in the other sports you would be wise to exercise some caution, so why wouldn't you do the same thing in the NFL game?
In what follows I'm going to give some thoughts on some of the “busts” of Week 1. Again, I'm not saying they are busts, and I'm certainly not going to advocate moving on from any of the guys I'm going to write about. But based on what people have tweeted me, and what I've heard on my radio show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, the follow group of players cost many people their Week 1 match ups, and because of that they are drawing the ire of the fantasy world.
Eli Manning: 18-for-32, 268 yards, 0 passing TD, 1 INT, 1 Rushing TD
People were furious with Eli for his efforts in Week 1. I got news for you, it wasn't that different than a “normal” Eli performance. I know he didn't throw a touchdown, but while that is the only thing most people seem capable of realizing, it belies a number of other facts. First, he threw one INT which is actually slightly better than his career rate. With 114 INTs in 106 career games he has averaged 1.08 interceptions per game in his career. Second, Eli has never averaged more than 255 yards passing a game in his career. What that means is that if he kept up his 268 yard pace for 16 games that he would throw for a career-high 4,288 yards. Aaron Rodgers has only bettered that total once and Tom Brady only twice. Keep that in mind before you send Eli to Siberia.
Matt Ryan: 31-for-47, 319 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT
Again, a player done in by a lack of touchdown passes. OK, that's not going to help you to win your league, I get it, but to say you are disappointed with Ryan completely misses the point, doesn't it? If Ryan were to complete 31 passes each week he'd end the 16 game season with 496 completions, a total that would be 46 more than any man who has ever played the game (Peyton Manning completed 450 passes last season for the NFL record). If Ryan threw 47 passes a week he'd end the year with 752 pass attempts. Drew Bledsoe holds the NFL record with 691 attempts in 1994. If Ryan threw the ball for 319 yards a week he'd end the year with 5,104 yards passing. The all-time NFL record is 5,084 yards by Dan Marino in 1984. I know you need your QB to throw touchdowns to win in the fantasy game, but please, stop the insane talk that Ryan was a huge letdown in the first week of the season.
Jamal Charles: 10 carries, 56 yards, 5 catches, 9 yards, 1 TD
So let me see if I got this right. Charles averaged 5.6 yards a carry, is on pace for 80 receptions (he caught 85 passes the last two years) ,and is on pace to score 16 touchdowns this season after he scored eight times last season. So why are you ticked off? I will grant you that his effort was far below expectations against the Bills, but come on now. It's not his fault his team was throttled. Regardless, when the guy had the ball in his hands he was magical per his usual M.O. Charles will be just fine.
Chris Johnson: 9 carries, 24 yards, six receptions for 25 yards
Given his match up, and status in the game, his outing has been deemed a total failure. When a guy averages 96.3 yards per game on the ground in his career, how else could you view 24 yards rushing? However, logic suggests many things here. First off, its one game so you need to put the razor back in its sheath before you hurt yourself. Second, Johnson often has poor outings. For those of you with extremely short memories, let's look back to last season when Johnson ran for 1,364 yards. Last year he had games of 34 yards, 39 yards, and in Week 12 he ran for five yards. He still ended up posting pretty good numbers last year, didn't he? Third, just like the case of Charles, Johnson was a solid PPR option with six catches. If he kept that up all year he'd haul in 96 passes. In the history of the game there have only been 82 seasons with a higher reception total by a player at any position.
Frank Gore: 22 carries, 59 yards, 3 receptions for 19 yards.
This was a bad outing if you look at the rushing total, and the lack of end zone dancing sealed Gore's fate in Week 1. Still, let's turn that frown upside down. The last four years Gore has averaged 49 catches a season. Three receptions times 16 games equals 48 receptions. Second, though his YPC mark was an atrocious 2.7, the good news is that he carried the ball 22 times proving to everyone that his injured hip is fine. Last season he exceeded 22 carries just twice, so clearly there are no concerns in San Francisco that his body is up to the task of handling a heavy workload in 2011.
Shonn Greene: 10 carries, 26 yards
Oh I'm just kidding. There's no way to sugarcoat this one – his performance was abysmal, and given his lack of track record compared to a guy like Chris Johnson, there is rightfully some real concern here. The good news though is that the Jets likely wont throw 44 passes in another game this season, so Greene should get plenty of looks in the running game.
Dallas Clark: 4 receptions, 39 yards
Face it everyone, you're going to have to reset expectations for Clark this season for a couple of reasons, the first being that Peyton Manning is not throwing him the ball right now. With Kerry Collins under center, it's debatable who will become the number two option in the passing game for the Colts behind Reggie Wayne. Was the yardage total from Clark disappointing? Of course it was. But where you aware that he has averaged 43.6 yards per contest for his career? Or how about the fact that 39 yards a week would lead to a season of 624 yards? Why do I mention that? Do you know how many times in his eight year career Clark has gone for 625 yards or more in a season? The answer is twice. One last diddy. Four catches a week would lead to a season of 64 receptions for Clark. Again, he's only bettered that mark twice in his career.
Jermichael Finley: 3 receptions, 53 yards
A whopper of a letdown in Week 1 for most people who were/are thinking that Finley has a Pro Bowl season in him. Could that still happen? Of course it could. Some perspective for everyone. Despite a letdown effort against the Saints, Finely still caught 53 yards worth of passes. Fifty three, times 16, would equate to 848 yards receiving. In the first 32 games of his NFL career Finley averaged 32.8 yards per game for a 16 game total of 525 yards. Secondly, do you know how many tight ends caught enough passes to eclipse 848 yards last season? The answer is three – Jason Witten (1,002), Vernon Davis (914) and Chris Cooley (849). Maybe that first week for Finley wasn't that disappointing after all?
Larry Fitzgerald: 3 receptions, 62 yards
First off, the team won. Second, Kevin Kolb looked poised and in control of the Cardinals offense throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Third, because of all the attention paid to Fitzgerald, Jeff King had a 48 yard touchdown catch and Early Doucet caught three passes for 105 yards an a score (the TD was a 70 yard play). Now that matters little to anyone who started Fitz, and I get that, but keep this in mind; in 2010 Fitzgerald had four games in which he caught three or fewer passes. He still ended the year with 90 catches. Larry also had five games in which he failed to reach 45 yards and he still finished the year with 1,137 yards. It was a rough day for Fitzgerald, but by the time it's all said and done, he will be just fine.
Roddy White: 8 receptions, 61 yards
Someone actually called into our show on Sunday night to tell us that “White cost me my week.” To which I responded, huh? Again, all anyone seems to look at is touchdowns. Sixty one yards a week would lead to 976 yards receiving and that would be a letdown for a guy who has gone for at least 1,153 yards each of the last three seasons. However, his one game pace would equate to 128 receptions which would be the second best total in the history of the game (Marvin Harrison caught 143 passes in 2002). I'm fairly certain a week like this one didn't cost anyone their weekly match up.
So what do I suggest? It's an eight letter word – patience.
Players sometimes start off slow, sometimes fast, but in the end what do we always say? Start your studs. If you did, despite tough match ups in Week 1, you got 149 total yards and two touchdowns from Ray Rice (vs. the Steelers), and five catches, 90 yards and a touchdown from Miles Austin (vs. the Jets). It's the same thing with the players listed above. You can panic, overreact, and trade your guys for .80 cents on the dollar. Or, you can do the prudent thing, tell yourself and it's only one week, and stay the course. Also, remember this. There was a reason that you spent your second round draft pick on Frank Gore this season, and why Mike Tolbert or Cedric Benson went four or five rounds later. Gore is a better football player, in a better situation, and one with more upside. One week of football, remember just 6.3 percent of the season, doesn't change that one iota.
Stay the course.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.