2019 Dynasty/Fantasy Football Analysis: Week 1 – Cardinals 27, Lions 27
*FYI, this is going to be another R.C. novel, so buckle up. If you’re new to FFM, you might wonder if I’m a lunatic and will I write about games like this on every game? Not as much! Just this game had a lot of meaning to it on a number of levels. Mostly, I bet the fantasy farm on Kyler in all formats since February. Most everyone reading this is vested in some way with him as a QB2 or highly drafted rookie draft pick. We bet the farm on him in some cases. A lot of farms are at stake. So many farms that John Cougar Mellencamp was probably organizing a benefit concert for FFM/CFM subscribers at halftime of this game…
Well, I don’t even know where to begin here… So, I’ll try to take you through my experience watching it. It will give you a taste of what my life is like. It is somewhat a taste of what life is like to some degree.
At 9:30amET Sunday, I was on a fairly big radio station/show in New York for a 3-4 minute quick ‘fantasy’ segment…to be their (this week’s) ‘fantasy guy’ for the Sunday morning football show. First opportunity to do such a thing. I had to bring my best, hot takes…because why else be on there? They reached out to me Saturday night, which meant I had about 12 hours to prep and get sick to my stomach over worrying about the performance (anxiety).
My hot takes, which were limited because prior segments had run long, were being shortened/bumped for Brian Billick (that’s going on the resume’!). I went with my best shot to get attention – Baker Mayfield was my top QB play this week and my top play at QB for the season.
Now, jump forward in time… You know how that tuned out. So, I’m sitting there at 4:30pmET, in my office, watching 5+ games at once and I’ll I can think about is Baker belly flopping in the early games. If I wanted to forget it, it was not happening because I had plenty of people contacting me that between Baker and Tyreek getting hurt, their seasons were already done no thanks to me. So, I had embarrassed myself in my NY radio spot debut. And, now, long time clients were already planning for 2020 given their 2019 was already over. I’m not kidding. They announced their season was over at 4pmET of Week 1. So, I had that joy going into the ARI-DET game a.k.a. the ‘Kyler better produce or your dead’ game.
Oh, wait… Rewind back to the morning radio show. After my Baker pronouncement, I kissed proper NY Giants’ ass, as was courteous for the NY setting (went heavy on my boy Evan Engram). And then after that, one last question from the host…who was my sleeper of the week? I knew that was a likely question coming. I had already submitted Devin Singletary ahead to the show producer, to play to the NY crowd. Plus, I believed it. I wasn’t sure if they would ask it, since my segment was getting cut short. They did. And I called an audible…
I went with my Kyler Murray pitch…that he would be an FF-play either because the Arizona offense came alive and was good for Kyler or it died, and they’d used garbage time to try to straighten it out. I don’t know why I called the Kyler audible, but I did.
Fast forward to about 6:30-7pmET (3rd-quarter of the ARI-DET game)…I wish I hadn’t called that audible on live radio. Actually, more like I wish I had never been born. First, the Baker bust. Then Kyler Murray couldn’t even complete a pass it seemed. I hung on every throw he made. Every completion was just a minor relief from the agonizing pain. Every misfire like a dagger being plunged into my soul. Surely, I’ll never be invited back on that radio show again! That was the least of my worries. I hate doing radio anyway, so I would have been fine being fired for ever (just never called back to appear again). I just felt embarrassed missing so wildly on these two guys…not just to the people of New York, but then to the entire FFM audience who didn’t go Mahomes but went Baker/Kyler to start this week/season.
It was easy not to forget about the FFM audience because by halftime of this game, I was hearing all about it. What a mistake I made backing Kyler. I should know better than to push a rookie like that. I was sent a list of all the players that could have been taken instead (I don’t get a list of the bad players we avoided, just the one gem player from each round that we magically missed for taking Kyler in the 6th-11th rounds of redraft).
I get good and bad feedback all Sunday every season. It’s part of the gig when you live predictions in public. It’s still hard trying to process them accordingly…high and low. I don’t know how a real fantasy public figure like Matthew Berry does it. The constant ‘you’re an idiot’ catcalls…all over a fantasy week. But it’s mostly normal/I’m numb to it now. However, this was bad. Close friends. Long time private clients. Long time subscribers. The people I hoped would rally/be patient/keep in context/wait for my thoughts…they were the first with the pitchforks and looking for a lighter for their torches. The 2019 fantasy season was officially over for them. First Baker, then Tyreek is gone because his collarbone went up through his brain or whatever…now the topper – Kyler Murray is not only not ready for the NFL, he can barely complete a pass. The guy I bet heavy on in dynasty, redraft, best ball…did we need to cut him already?
I did have a few people come to my aid with ‘you can’t win them all’…which was a nice way to say, “Man, you were wrong.” At that point, I needed those not-unkind words/sentiment because I was reeling.
At the same time, my Mahomes people were drunk-texting me from their personal Week 1 FF celebration parties…unaware of the private hell I was going through watching ARI-DET the first three quarters. At least, I had a few friends left!
By halftime of this game, I thought I was sunk too. I didn’t see a reason for real hope. I was just praying that Kyler would get lucky and rack some stats so it wouldn’t be as embarrassing. From halftime through the third quarter and into the fourth – I contemplated if this would be my last season of fantasy football analysis. You think you take fantasy seriously? My family’s life depends upon it. If I’m wrong a lot/I’m just as random as the other experts…my business is gone. Ten+ years of credibility built up and a Week 1 Baker Mayfield game and 75% of a Kyler Murray Week 1 game had brought the business to its knees.
As Arizona muddled through the 3rd-quarter, I started wondering what jobs I could go back into. What would I enjoy doing free of the shackles of football/fantasy? No matter what resume of success I had built with football scouting…Kyler Murray was about to bring it all down like I was Enron. The fraud had been exposed!!
You worried about taking a ribbing from your league mates for a loss…I worried about what I was going to tell my wife and kids. They haven’t a clue about fantasy football. They were so happy I was asked onto some radio show in New York (which wasn’t a big deal but was to them not knowing football things). All they knew was people thought enough to invite me onto their radio show…then they know my office is closed from 10am-8pmET for football watching/gameday activities they really do not understand.
I emerged from my office at 7-730pmET-ish to go downstairs to tell my unaware wife of the doom that was unfolding. I got to steal her joy of her husband being on the big radio show for five minutes about 11 hours prior.
My story now pivots as to why I went downstairs to tell her stuff in the 4th-quarter of the Arizona game…
All the sudden, in the 3rd-quarter, like a lightbulb with a bad connection…there was a flickering in the ‘Air Raid’ offense…a flicker of hope. I started to see some not-bad things. Some near-miss moments. Things started to turn just a little bit. A glimmer of hope. And then Arizona kicked a field goal to go down by 15 with 11 minutes left. The announcers were flipping out on why they weren’t ‘going for it’ (a TD), but I understood the math…get down two scores, stop Detroit (as Arizona was playing good enough defense), and then get a score (and that seemed impossible watching this offense in action) and all the sudden the place would get alive…they’d be down a score with maybe six or so minutes left. A lot of ‘ifs’ after that FG.
I think I did irreparable damage to my shoulder in the world’s most aggressive Jimmy Connor’s first pump when Kyler threw that TD pass to David Johnson to cut the lead to 24-16 with 6+ minutes left. Happy for DJ, sure. Happy for Kyler, FINALLY! Happier for me. Kyler was starting to click. Life was in the offense. Life was in the crowd. Me being an idiot…the bleeding had at least stopped for the moment.
Arizona couldn’t stop Detroit after that. They were using timeouts, trying to preserve the clock. Detroit got a 1st-down in the midst of it. The plan wasn’t working, and then God intervened (for me) in this game. Detroit converted a 3rd-down to win the game, essentially, with 2:47 left and Arizona with no timeouts left. BUT Detroit called timeout a microsecond before the snap and they play was brought back. They then missed on the next play, and then BOOM a blocked/tipped punt and suddenly Arizona had the ball with 2:31 left at their own 40.
I felt like I needed support from the only person who was in a position to care about me unconditionally…I went down and interrupted my wife right after the blocked punt. I changed the channel on her TV, and she knew something was important. I had a commercial break to try to explain to someone who doesn’t know fantasy or my relation to why this Kyler thing was so important. I had to explain what had happened with him all game/all year of fantasy planning/what I said on the radio…and how bad he was in the preseason and the first half+ of this game…and basically, our lives kinda depended upon the next 2:30+ minutes. It was a lot for her to take in. No time for her to call a divorce attorney right then without me knowing. She could wait on that to see if Arizona made a comeback.
She then became the world’s biggest Kyler fan. She didn’t know who Kyler Murray was prior.
We watched as Kyler moved the team down the field, threw a huge (in terms of the moment) TD pass, and (the most overlooked part of this) then converted the two-point conversion and got the tie. I knew that all happening got me off the hook of being the world’s biggest Kyler-idiot. But I wanted more. I was feeling it now. I was feeling Kyler about to happen. I wanted more numbers in OT. I wanted the win, another TD pass or run for a TD…I’m not picky.
I got the next best thing, two possessions in OT…enough to get him up over the 300+ yard bonus for people and just a good-looking debut number overall. My wife and I celebrated the not having to shut down FFM moment by her going back to watching Downton Abbey reruns for the thousandth time and I raced to the office to watch to see if my prediction that the Patriots would destroy Pittsburgh would help me feel even better. Chaa-Chinggg!!
I share all that story so that you know – I take this just as serious as you. More so. You lose a game if I’m wrong…but I lose credibility and then, possibly, a career. All the while people doubting and throwing darts at you on social media. I feel the pain just like you watching it live. I feel the joy as well.
Also, I share that story to plead with you to have some patience. You watch Kyler (or Baker or Trubisky) and ache over every throw. A good throw is OK/fine, a bad throw is everyone on TV jumping down their throat and making it seem like everything is the worst. Kyler started to ‘get it’ after three quarters into his first NFL game. You condemned him by halftime. You were so sure he was doomed. You were wrong. And that’s OK but realize…you’re doing that to your fantasy teams when you lose, especially Week 1. You swing too far too fast in the moment. You see a result you don’t like, and you start throwing a hissy fit. This game of fantasy…not every week is golden. Sometimes you draft a team, and a key player gets a clavicle through the heart or something in the first half of the first game of the year. When that happens, it’s part of this FF game. You wanted an NFL GM experience…sometimes ‘shit happens’. The best laid plans, and then a curveball, an injury. You gotta learn how to take a punch!
Not only take a punch, but then how to punch back. I’ve been doing this for 10+ years. I see it ALL THE TIME. People take a slight slap and then start flailing away with wild counterpunches that make no sense and leaves them exposed to getting knocked out by a real punch…more so they end up flailing and punching themselves in the process. We don’t have to win Week 1 to win a fantasy title. The whole first 1-2-3-4 games of the season is a sorting out process on fixing what we need to, taking advantage of the panicked.
You can’t take advantage of the panicked if you are the panicked.
With that being said, I needed to go back and watch this game again in intricate detail because my live watch was so racked with emotions, beating my own self up…my recollections of what happened were likely jaded or off-base…so emotional, so worried about every Kyler moment and fearing he may have been lucky, etc. So, as I do, I re-watched it and ready to report out what I think I saw.
Non-Kyler, high-side game reaction…
Kliff Kingsbury has to be given a lot of credit here. And it maybe he was just lucky…and it was only through a series of God-like miracles did they tie and shoulda won this game. I mean, who comes back from 18 down in the 4th-quarter after barely being able to get a 1st-down through three quarters and multiple quarters in the preseason?
Kobra Ky kept pushing the offense/plan. Kicked a FG to cut it from 18 to 15 when most people wanted him to go for it just because they thought this was a lost cause anyway. Kingsbury’s plan of overplaying the run and keeping the WRs contained deep and trying to bait Detroit into beating them with running into the run front and working the slow tight ends…it pretty much worked. They gave up some T.J. Hockenson activity, but you pick that poison out of all the choices. The Arizona defense, down to their backup CBs…they played as well as you could hope here.
Matt Patricia just moved one step closer to being the first head coach fired in-season…as the rookie head coach (Kliff), that the entire establishment hates, and the rookie QB – they outsmarted the Belichician head coach and tied a game they should’ve lost by 30+.
OK, let’s talk Kyler. And I guess there were other players in this game as well…
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- OK, so all emotions aside…how did Kyler look really?
My job is not to B.S. you. (or me), because we need to be ‘right’ and ‘right now’. We need to react fast to the ever changing landscape. I have to remove the emotions…watching this game with the sweet comeback was great TV that it can sway emotions but also being worried that I am so FF-tied to a guy that I want to be right on/hold onto my cards, so to speak, sometimes beyond when I should.
I’m not setting you up with that lead in. I’m just making sure you know I am going into this trying to prove myself wrong not trying to prove myself right. Let me give the good and then the bad and then what I think we should think here…
*When Kyler Murray is ‘missing’ things/not connecting he’s usually not missing by much. He’s throwing the ball to receivers that are in motion/sprinting and he’s throwing it to their hands in perfect stride a lot. Not just little 5-8-yard crossers, I mean a guy veering from the inside breaking 15-20+ yards toward the sidelines and a DB step-for-step on him but he has a half-step and Kyler throws it where only the receiver can get it like it was nothing. I’m not sure I’ve seen a QB, especially a young QB, especially a rookie debut QB who has such lethal accuracy…it’s like a more aggressive Russell Wilson. Kyler is the what Russell Wilson could’ve been in a different time/era.
A lot of QBs are micromanaged to plays/a playbook throw. Pat Shurmur coaches them to throw safe/short. Sam Darnold can only throw to within five yards. Jameis Winston and Josh Allen can’t hit anybody anywhere with any consistency. Murray, playing in an aggressive ‘go for it’ offense, and is making Hall of Fame throws…and it’s just his first game. Imagine what will happen when this all slows down for him?
*Speaking of throws that just missed downfield. I’d say Murray lost out on about 100+ yards passing and 1-2 more TDs by inches in this game. Just a little too hard for the receiver to catch on the run and covered tight, but the throw was a dime right at their hands in stride. Multiple red zone trips and a few goal line opps that were just missed for a passing TD or a rushing TD (Kyler tried to run for a TD on 2nd & goal but was forced out of bounds). He was on the cusp of popping a 30-40+ point fantasy game in his debut. How would you have liked that?
*Kyler checks down nicely on 3rd & long, and you want that. Almost every 3rd & 15+ (and there has been too much of that so far), the opposing DBs drop back deep and five receivers jet out and Kyler dumps it to David Johnson (which DJ owners want) or he hits a (left) wide open receiver 5+ yards away and lets them try to make a play and just goes off the field and takes the punt otherwise. He doesn’t try to be a hero…that’s a veteran move. And it’s good for fantasy. A bunch of safe completions/yards. Not as likely to get picked.
Get this… After the half, the TV truck flashed a graphic…the average 3rd-down distance for the two teams was Detroit 5.8 yards (manageable) and Arizona (17.1 yards). You’re asking Murray to be a magician but he’s behind the 8-ball all game due to too many penalties and some sacks. If that gets cleaned up by 25-50% going forward and Arizona gets into more 3rd & manageable, then the opposing defense has to play properly (not just prevent, taking away the homeruns) and Arizona can attack for home runs better.
*Murray’s skillset he showed (here and in college) + what this offense wants to be…if it gets clicking, like it did 4th+ quarter here…it’s 40-Minutes of Hell football a la the old Arkansas Razorbacks basketball dominance. Defenses will get so gassed that Arizona may be losing every halftime and win every game in the 4th-quarter.
Kingsbury has never backed off the plan. 58 throws here. He is not going to magically change up and have a big run heavy offense next week. Its…go-go-go. They may never win, but that’s going to be awesome for fantasy – and that’s been my whole love affair with wanting in on Kyler. If Miles Sanders becomes the lead back for the Eagles…who gives a shit? There’s literally 1-2 RBs that spring up on fantasy waivers as good as Sanders every other week. If this offense clicks with Kyler…it will be ‘holy shit’. You only get so many chances at ‘holy shit’ in fantasy. Sorry, but the S-word was appropriate for what I’m trying to convey here.
*His interception in this game…dumb. I’ve seen a million QBs try to do that, to get cute. He tried to make a play and got caught. I don’t know if he had 1-2 other risky throws at all this game. Everything he does is the right read and on the money whether over the middle, and/or to stationary or moving targets, whether covered or wide open. He has overthrown open receivers, but rarely do I see him throw to a covered receiver where you go…what were you thinking?
*Consider this was a rookie in an aggressive offense that had not done jack squat back to the preseason and after three quarters here. The national media turned on him. Fantasy sentiment had turned on him. Everyone thought ‘it wasn’t going to work’. And if you were in the ‘well, the playbook was just vanilla in the preseason’ camp…by the 3rd-quarter of this game you abandoned that notion. So much failure. So much criticism. So much frustration. And what did a rookie QB just go out and do? Went out and almost had a Disney movie comeback. You have to have a lot of guts, balls, chutzpah, whatever you want to call it to be so frustrated and shake it all off and never lose composure or the game plan and drop dimes and lead a comeback in the NFL.
Once Kyler was rolling, the Lions could hardly stop him.
*I don’t see this ‘Air Raid’ getting people open all over. I expected more options for Kyler to expose. Instead, it’s like every receiver is tightly covered and Kyler has to be a surgeon to complete passes.
The good news on that is…that’s what Kyler did, was a magical surgeon throwing the ball -- and less than a handful of QBs in the NFL today could so the same…and Kyler doing it in his rookie debut.
Maybe with time, this offense becomes the Harlem Globetrotters of open options…and I see the potential for it, but I haven’t seen it for real yet. Kyler is not being helped by this offense yet.
*Kyler is not running the ball as much as I expected. He did try to run for a TD but was forced out of bounds a yard shy. He took 1-2 planned runs, and one late looked like he might be gone for a 30+ yard run but he got grabbed after 12-yards. I saw fast, but I didn’t see ‘wow’ Michael Vick 2.0.
Part of the genius of Kyler, for fantasy, I hoped, was the running tallies. I’m worried that he’s going to be a self-imposed limited runner and takeaway some of that super high-end fantasy goodness. Maybe when the offense starts going and opening up it will give Kyler more running opps. Didn’t see it as a plan here. Didn’t see Kyler take off either…and that’s not a bad thing overall. He’s not Josh Allen…so afraid, no vision, run the moment the first read is not open. Murray isn’t looking to run…that’s good and bad (for FF).
I was more impressed the more I watched the second time around…and just taking time to drink in all that happened. A rookie just did this. 18-point deficit, three scores down with 11+ minutes and he pulls off a minor-miracle. Really, they should’ve won it. That last TD with 2+ minutes left and no timeouts…just boom-boom-boom and then the two-point conversion like it was a layup! Subtly brilliant.
I am now totally convinced we got the right fantasy guy here. A weapon of mass destruction, potentially. Possibly the only guy who can take on Mahomes for fantasy (we’ll see if Mayfield cares to join us). When this offense really clicks…it’s 300+ yard games, multiple TDs, and some running goodness all in one delightful package.
…I just don’t know if it will happen like that Week 2…or 3…or 4. I just know ‘it’s coming’ more consistently, to some degree. It may need more weeks to settle in. Even if the ‘Air Raid’ is crap…Kyler is going to work on volume alone. He’s just too good to fail. He might have failure games, but over time…this is going to work. He’s a great talent at QB. Had he played Miami this week…he might be the cat’s pajamas today in fantasy. His schedule doesn’t have cupcakes until midseason.
At Baltimore Week 2…do you start him? I don’t know. He might score 12 points…he might score 42+ points for fantasy. I’m really not sure. I just know the big days are coming…just waiting to get grabbed. And that’s making me feel good again. I was like you…looking for the cyanide as the 4th-quarter was starting in this game. Now, I put that back in the medicine cabinet until I hear Tyreek is going to miss the entire season.
-- There were other players in this game, believe it or not. I’ll try to keep it more brief now or I’ll never get to the other games…
David Johnson (18-82-0, 6-55-1/7)…no more ‘but that O-Line’ talk. As this offense gets better, DJ is a YUUUUGE winner. This was D.J. in a bad Kyler game…just 19 FF points, 25 PPR.
Ladies and gentlemen, may I reintroduce you to…DJ3K!!!! The 3K is the number of TDs he might score in this offense. Welcome back! We missed you these past two seasons.
If you’re new…I am the scout who discovered DJ (I mean, went all-in, head-over-heels, back in college and pushed him for dynasty rookie drafts much like I did Kyler this year). I get to claim him and have all the proof I planted my flag here first.
-- It’s BEYOND clear that Larry Fitzgerald (8-113-1/13) and Christian Kirk (4-32-0/12) are the two main targets for Kyler.
For Fitz…sorry that I doubted you. You’re arguably the greatest WR in the history of football and you look like you got 2-3 more years left. I’ll never doubt you again. Murray was the story, but really…Larry Fitz was the real MVP for some of the brilliant catches he had (on perfectly thrown balls by Kyler that many others could not catch but Fitz can).
I was watching the last parts of this game thinking the same thing Kyler was I bet: https://youtu.be/qwszQiNmS8o?t=40
For Kirk, he was the all-attention target for Kyler before the 4th-quarter surge. Kyler’s intent/1st-love is Kirk. There is room for two in this offense for fantasy. Kirk is one of the great ‘buy lows’ going into Week 2…your possible Tyreek replacement guy. …and many of you already have him is the great thing!!!
KeeSean Johnson (5-46-0/10) is this guy = 5 +/- catches, 50 +/- yards, and no TDs. Reliable hand, not great for fantasy.
You know who will take this offense to a whole other level? The missing piece of this 40-Minutes of Hell? Andy Isabella. He didn’t play a snap on offense in this game. He is still weeks away, and then he’ll magically appear, and you’ll want in on it.
-- Yes, there were Lions’ players in this game…
The world is going loco for T.J. Hockenson (6-131-1/9) but I know they didn’t really watch this game. I know THEY’ve really not seen more than 2-3 minutes of TJH’s work in their lives. I know all THEY know is what they’ve been told by whomever started this bad copycat game.
I’m not saying Hockenson is bad, but he’s nothing special. In this game, he was left open/on loose coverage often because Arizona was willing to let Detroit try to beat them with Hockenson. His first catch for 28 yards was a broken coverage play catch and run. His 23-yard TD catch was Stafford under pressure moving around and just flung it to an open/standing there TJH in the end zone.
It wasn’t like he was burning coverage or a big part of the game plan. He just slips out of blocking and if not covered, he’s an option. It may be that way all the way to the Pro Bowl for him, but this is not Kittle-Kelce-Gronk-Engram. It’s Hooper-Ebron-Henry type work. Might not be bad for FF.
-- I want to not buy Danny Amendola (7-104-1/13) either. Arizona had a weak secondary they were trying to cover up by overplaying Golladay-Jones and just letting Detroit try to work in-between that. A good setup for Amendola. Not sure he launches big, consistently for FF. He might be Stafford’s BFF WR…we’ll see.
-- This is the typical stat line I have in mind for Kerryon Johnson (16-49-0, 2-13-0) game to game. C.J. Anderson (11-35-0) came in on a lot of 3rd-downs and is the better goal line worker, etc. Not good for Kerryon ROI this year.
-- Matt Stafford (27-45 for 385 yards, 3 TDs/0 INT) played good ball here, but Arizona was a great matchup. I’d trade Stafford into a Goff or Big Ben if he’s your QB2. If you could get away with it.
-- IDP report…
Lions’ SAF Tracy Walker (9 tackles, 1 TFL) really played well this game. Think about him for those in deeper roster IDP need at DB. He looks like 100+ tackle season for sure. Plays the pass well too…has great reach/long arms.
Lions LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (4 tackles) is a deep sleeper…he should be getting more playing time than he is. He played 58% of the snaps. He’s a talented tackler.
Get this…for Arizona: ILB Joe Walker (5 tackles) started but Haason Reddick (6 tackles) played more snaps. Dennis Gardeck never saw a defensive snap…just blocked a punt and saved the game is all. It’s near time to just give up on my Gardeck dreams, I fear.
Snap Counts of Interest:
85 = Larry Fitz
83 = Kirk
78 = Byrd
68 = KeeSean Johnson
5 = Sherfield
22 = Maxx Williams
14 = Ch Clay
52 = Reddick
36 = Joe Walker
64 = Hockenson (73%)
51 = Jesse James
50 = Kerryon
26 = CJ Anderson
63 = Jhalani Tavai