2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 1: Saints 38, Packers 3
I’m going to get right into this analysis, clinical-like…because I watched all the plays in detail here from the perspective of – did this really just happen? How did the Saints crush the Packers? Is Aaron Rodgers mentally done with the Packers, and thus this whole thing is about to fall apart…for NFL purposes, and for Fantasy purposes? Is Jameis Winston for real?
I’m not going to chronicle every play and lament certain details in the intro. I’m going to discuss things off the top ‘in general’, and you’ll have to choose to believe me or not because I can’t take hours to write this going through every moment/drive/play to give my evidence. So, with that…as your football physician, here’s what I walk away from this game tape thinking…
1) I’m not going to say the Packers were for sure the better team or that the Saints got totally lucky, but I will say everything that could go right for the Saints did fall in their lap…while most everything the Packers did blew up in their face. And as the bad luck unfolded, and the Saints kept extending their lead and their luck, which led to the Saints becoming more energized and the Packers getting more flustered/desperate as it went…and then they threw in the towel on the unlucky day.
If there were ever a perfect storm game…it was this one. And the Saints are better than I thought (especially on defense) and the Packers are worse than I thought (especially on the O-Line)…but the gap between them is not 35 points…and Rodgers 0 TDs/2 INTs and Winston 5 TDs/0 INTs is not the new reality.
There was so much good fortune involved in this game that I assume God bet the Saints -30.0 just to play a joke on the world at large. I’ll get into detail on some of what I mean by ‘luck’ or ‘good fortune’ in some of the player detail, but in general…the Saints converted some 3rd & longs that were not normal, while the Packers would have drives blown up by shaky penalty calls, or the right guy blitzing to the right space, almost as if they knew where Rodgers was going on a rollout every time. There were some horrific penalties called and other non-calls that was some of the worst officiating that happened Week 1 or will this entire season…and every key bad call went against Green Bay/for the Saints at the perfect time and every non-call went against the Packers/saved the Saints at the perfect time.
I’ve never seen a game so ‘willed’ by fate to make sure one team blew out another. The Saints played a good game, but they were gifted so many things it just energized them and demoralized the Packers.
2) The Packers have issues because their O-Line has been hit. They lost one of the best Centers in the game (Corey Linsley) to LAC in free agency – and is a main reason why Rodgers will bail in 2022 if he can. One of the worst things any GM did all offseason was let the key Center go who protected the league’s best QB to an MVP season in 2020. Also, the long time ace left tackle, David Bakhtiari is on PUP for 6 games. Arguably the two best OLs on the team from 2020 are gone and rookies are elevated, and other guys moved positions to cover for things.
When you have O-Line issues…your QB suddenly looks bad. On the other side of the field -- the Saints O-Line was spectacular, and thus Winston had a highly efficient day.
3) The Saints pass coverage was stunning in this game. Less time to throw for Rodgers mixed with very good coverage left Rodgers looking flustered and inefficient. If you wrote the opposite of that last statement, you get the Saints offense in this game…more time to throw for Winston mixed with so-so GB coverage left Winston looking comfortable and efficient.
4) The Packers offense is not as good as the 2020 version because of the O-Line issues, but they play the perfect team Week 2 to have their day – the Detroit Lions have no pass rush and have no coverage. I assume my best bet of the century is going to be Packers -10.5 over the Lions. It’s the wrong time for Detroit to go to Green Bay…the wrong time, the wrong team.
If the Lions give Rodgers fits, then this season is over. I think the Packers will drop 40+ on Detroit and crush them.
5) The Saints are not this good, but they’re better on defense than I ever imagined. They are now a run game and defense team, with Winston a ticking time bomb that will blow at the wrong times when he’s under pressure. I would say Carolina at home +3.5 over New Orleans, in a reversal of NO fortune week, is the other bet of the century, but Sam Darnold is awful…so, I’ll just ‘pick’ Carolina not bet it.
6) Watching all the little details fall one way to one team causing a rout that I thought would happen the other way (GB crushing NO), and seeing the underdogs go 9-5-1 or 10-6 ATS this week – I’m just going to ‘pick’ all the underdogs every week unless there is a very special circumstance. I’m tweaking my game projection models to favor taking the underdogs every week and assuming it will all work out like it has the past couple of years.
They could play this GB-NO game a hundred times and GB might win/cover 60-70 of them, but there would only be one of the 100…one of a million where the Saints win by 35. NFL games are so fickle on bad calls, no calls, ball bouncing the right way, guessing right or wrong on a blitz to change a drive, a dropped pass, etc. Trying to spend hours debating ‘the better team’ going into a week is fun but a waste of handicapping time – I mean, look at how the MNF game ended with BAL-LV. The game was decided by idiotic coaching, inches short of things on further review, guessing right on a play call/guessing wrong on a play call. I thought LV would cover, but they should’ve lost that game 10 times over…and also they should’ve won that game by more than they did, all at the same time.
NFL game outcomes are such random events we try to build complicated algorithms on to predict – but it might be better to just assume crazy will happen more times than not, and I might as well take the points since that seems to be the best bet over time.
Now, let’s talk about something a bit more predictable…player performances.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Is Aaron Rodgers (15-289 for 133 yards, 0 TDs/2 INTs) dead? Did he die here? Is he quitting on the Packers?
From the live watch, trying to process the disaster I was watching…I thought all those things going into it. I wondered about them. I started creating narratives in my head about them. But then I watched this game tape and realized that’s my Fantasy ‘sky is falling’ mindset trying to kick in. It’s nowhere near that.
There is a problem with the Packers ability to protect Rodgers. He is not going to have an MVP season behind this O-Line. When he gets David Bakhtiari back in Week 7 (hopefully) then things will turn. Until then, you are getting ‘good+’ Aaron Rodgers not ‘elite’ Aaron Rodgers.
However, he has Detroit Week 2…which takes good+ to elite easily.
Week 3, Rodgers faces the vacant 49ers secondary…that’s hope he can overcome their front seven by blistering their back 4.
Week 4…trouble vs. PIT, but you can’t really sit him.
Week 5…at CIN is fine. So is Week 6 at CHI.
If you get Bakhtiari back Week 7…then hosting WSH is bad but not as bad. Week 8 at ARI is not good. Week’s 7-8 are him facing the two best defenses in football. Week 9 is not easy at KC. Week 12 hosting the Rams is maybe the 3rd best defense in the NFL. Week 11 at MIN is a place you hate playing with the crowd noise.
From Week 12-17…all outdoor, colder weather worries to suppress the offense, possibly.
What I would do if I owned Aaron Rodgers…I’d get that good Weeks 2-3 or 2-6, and then look at moving sideways into a top QB in a better situation. That schedule from Week 5 or Week 7 on…the O-Line issues…I’d rather roll with Justin Herbert (among others) for that stretch, on paper.
As an aside…Jordan Love (5-7 for 68 yards,. 0 TDs/0 INTs) came into the game in the 4th-quarter when this was out of hand. There’s nothing to read into here because it was backups v. backups in unnatural circumstances. But note that Jordan Love will be the Packers QB in 2022, if not midseason after a Rodgers trade.
Oh, and Davante Adams (5-56-0/7) is fine…it’s just the bad game vibe , the great NO coverage, the limited time of possession, the 1st-team pulled for the 4th-quarter. Everything that could have gone wrong did. I suspect ‘Hulk Smash’ Week 2 for Davante v. DET’s secondary.
Oh, and the Rodgers will help his old friend Randall Cobb (1-32-0/1) narrative…hardly. Hard to help him if he can’t get open anymore. The bad O-Line PLUS the better WRs non-Davante are on the bench. Lazard should be starting over MVS and Amari Rodgers over Cobb. But this is what Aaron wants…and we’ll pay an FF price for it.
-- You want something Green Bay to worry about…OK, you got it: I told you all preseason A.J. Dillon (4-19-0, 1-7-0/1) was cause for concern for how much it cost to redraft Aaron Jones (5-9-0, 2-13-0/2)…and now it’s real.
You may think, well this game was a mess so they probably just shut things down and changed plans and put AJD into the game as it got away. No, my friend…that wasn’t it. In the same manner in which I was shocked to see Tony Pollard in the game prominently for whole series at a time over Ezekiel Elliott in Dallas’s Week 1…it was even more so shocking how much Dillon was in this game for whole series, and in key spots…and even in passing situations where the Pack was down and having to throw, and there was Dillon.
Snap share comparison (before starters pulled): 64% Jones, 36% Dillon
Touch count share for the game: 7 Jones, 5 Dillon
I’m not saying Aaron Jones is a bust…but he’s very much at risk of being just a nice RB2 – with the pressure that if Dillon gets hot, as we know he can, it could be more of a 50/50 situation ahead.
This was Week 1…and this was the plan (some kind of Jones-Dillon rotation) before things fell apart, and while things were falling apart. I was shocked watching it back.
-- Was this a reformed Jameis Winston (14-20 for 148 yards, 5 TDs/0 INT, 6-37-0)?
It was a lucky Winston…which he’s getting so lucky that I wonder if we should all just ride with the blessings or soul-selling path he is on. Winston barely had to do anything in this game. He couldn’t have had but 3-4 times where he had to sit in the pocket and be a real QB…and faltered most times he had to.
Winston was flushed from the pocket several times and somehow avoided all defenders and turned 3rd & longs into 10-15+ yard runs with nothing but green grass to run to. He also threw a terrible pick in the red zone at one point, but then the biggest horse $#!& penalty for roughing the passer was called…so erase the turnover, put them closer to the end zone, and he then threw a lucky pass for another TD…that should’ve never happened AND been a pick…AND it may have turned the game back to some GB hope to get back ion. Instead, it extinguished the Pack...it was that kind of day.
I don’t see Winston doing anything he hasn’t done before…just played it safe behind a heavy run game…14 completed passes vs. 39 runs. And most of the completed passes were easy pitch & catch short stuff. It was a perfect storm for Winston…a perfect game plan in the perfect situation with everything going right that could go right.
-- Who was Winston throwing to on his 14 completed passes?
Not Marquez Callaway (1-14-0/2)…as I feared/warned. Callaway caught the very first pass of the game, and no more the rest of the way. Jaire Alexander ate him up/Winston is the wrong QB for Callaway’s skillset.
Juwan Johnson (3-21-2/3) looked good as a big/tall target option. Johnson still looks choppy as a tight end…too herkie jerky on routes and catching the ball, but I could be nitpicking too much. He made a nice leaping catch/nice radius grab for a TD for JW here and secured an easy one later. I shouldn’t be too against him, but I fear he’s the wrong guy to work with Winston consistently…that Adam Trautman (3-18-0/6) will be a better worker for Winston’s style…but JJ is good for red zone work for sure.
Deonte Harris (2-72-1/2) is money if they get him the ball, but there was no need to run his special bubbles and jet sweeps with the Saints just running roughshod over the Packers. When they called on Harris…he was open and making grabs. He’ll see more targets when the game script is more normal.
-- Tony Jones (11-50-0, 1-3-0/1) ran the same plan as Latavius Murray used to. He got good touches here because they ran the ball so much. He’ll be 6-12 touches per game as the game dictates…not really that FF-worthy with AK alive and dominating touches.
-- Let’s talk about three defensive things from this game…
1) The Saints coverage in this game was extraordinary…even when Marshon Lattimore was out for some snaps with a hand injury. This is a better-than-I-expected defense who took it to a weakened O-Line, lazy/presumptive Packers offense.
Facing Darnold, Mac Jones, D Jones, Heinicke the next four weeks is potential DST gold.
2) One of the reasons the Saints secondary was so ‘wow’ – rookie CB Paulson Adebo (3 tackles, 1 INT) played like a shutdown corner…or at least not anything like a rookie. What a draft pick by New Orleans. Adebo looked beyond his years. He was a higher rated CB prospect for us pre-Draft, but I didn’t think he’d be this good this fast.
Lattimore-Roby-Adebo takes the Saints from suspect in the secondary to one of the best secondaries in the NFL, potentially. All aboard the Saints-DST hype train.
3) Krys Barnes (8 tackles) just gets tackles. I keep saying it like every week since he debuted last season, but the guy just gets numbers. He is a threat to lead the league in tackles this season.
Snap Counts of Interest:
51 = Trautman
12 = Juwan Johnson
52 = Callaway
27 = Deonte Harris
18 = Lil’Jordan Humphrey
23 = Kaden Elliss
23 = Zack Baun
40 = Davante
39 = Lazard
36 = MVS
15 = Cobb
28 = A Jones
16 = AJ Dillon
45 = Kamara
22 = Tony Jones