“They threw me out, but I’m not writing back.” What a bar. What a way to cap off Week 1 of the fantasy football season. But we were already looking ahead after a few minutes Gene Smith dropping the hottest quote of 2022. Injury updates and reactions to offseason speculation immediately filled our timelines.
And we’ll see how accurate some of the analysis was when Week 2 begins tonight.
Battle for the AFC West begins when Chiefs host Chargers
Yet again, the NFL schedules set us up for a good night. Instead of a potential Super Bowl matchup, we get a future AFC playoff game. Patrick Mahomes looked unstoppable in unveiling his new Chiefs offense, but as you’ll see hit, Justin Herbert and the Chargers still have the firepower to match:
I’ve watched and rewatched this pitch more times than I care to admit. I don’t understand it. Not just the pass itself, but the decision to split two defenders and fit a ball in front of a third leaves me confused. And look at Herbert after the release He knew it was good before it got there Keenan Allenthe hands of
It’s hard to understate how much talent will be on the field during this game. But I will pay attention to a few things in the Chargers offense.
Last season, Los Angeles was sixth in early-down pass rate in neutral situations, at 56.8 percent. They opened in 2022 at 66.7%. But even though he’s a cyborg under center, Herbert’s aDOT on those plays was 5.5 air yards. For reference, Mahomes had a 6.6 aDOT in similar conditions on Sunday. So, you’d think the Chargers would be just as effective on the ground to get their offense going.
Los Angeles was 30th in EPA by rushing. In a way, theirs run blocking got worse. Kansas City held James Conner to a 40.0% rushing success rate and he claimed a touchdown to save his day. Austin Thank you may need a similar outflow. Or, the Chiefs could force the Chargers into a high-scoring affair.
Over on the KC side of the ball, life without Tyreek Hill looked easy enough. My long held belief was that the Chiefs could Frankenstein their front office into Hill. Instead of one guy doing multiple things, simple has several guys. It makes our jobs as fantasy managers difficult, but we quickly saw who had that “Tyreek Hill” feature on Sunday.
Hill was the team’s leading receiver in 2021, a position Mahomes targeted on 37.3% of his dropbacks. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman connected by most routes run from the interior. But Smith-Schuster’s 1.79 YPRR was much better.
Not surprisingly, Hill scored the most targets of 20-plus yards last year. Mahomes’ deep ball velocity has steadily declined as he’s seen more two-high coverages, but he’ll still swing for the fences when he gets the chance. Again, Hardman won some appearances. And, of course, Marquez Valdes-Scantling took a pass on a jet sweep to keep Kansas City’s penchant for pre-snap window dressing intact.
Everything is still there, just with new (and more) faces. The reports of the chiefs’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. But they still have a big test ahead of them.
The defensive front of the Chargers almost matched the The strike rate of tickets at 30.2%. Therefore, Derek Carr was 26th in EPA per game. The Raiders’ only explosive passing play didn’t come until the fourth quarter, a 31-yard to Darren Waller. Mahomes can handle pressure, but we’ll see if his new passing options can do the same.
Don’t bench these guys
I’m trying to keep my reactions from last week in check. It’s easy to get excited when a late-round guy shows up. But we only have a few days to make lineup decisions, and we can’t use hype as a reason to start someone. To help, I have a few guys worth starting with if you need a flex option.
Starting Everett (or feeling comfortable about it) shouldn’t depend on Allen’s availability (he is already excluded). I mean, sure, anyone can connect two dots and see more opportunities for Everett with one less option for Herbert. But we don’t know how the Chargers would fill an Allen-sized hole in their offense. So, let’s start with what we know:
At worst, Los Angeles eased Everett into the offense. His 17.4% TPRR ranked 15th among his peers (min. 4 goals). However, compare his usage to other tight ends on new squads. Evan Engram‘s TPRR was 11.4%. OJ Howard scored half goals, and I forgot Austin Hooper was on the Titans until the fourth quarter. In addition, Everett was effective with the looks he was given.
Everett’s 2.35 YPRR puts him comfortably in the top five, with half of his goals coming while the Chargers were in scoring position. The Chargers’ willingness to move him around (slot, wideout, backfield) in his first game hints at their plans. I’d start him over the fringe top 12 options on Thursday night.
I feel vindicated about Clyde Edwards-Helaire after sunday The Chiefs deployed him as a rusher and receiver as we all envisioned, with two touchdowns to keep our hopes alive. But he was not a one-man army.
McKinnon matched Edwards-Helaire in snaps (27), but McKinnon’s 22.2% targets per route run (TPRR) rate was greater than Edwards-Helaire’s (20.0%). McKinnon also had a higher EPA per rush while the game was still competitive (0.3 to 0.15). His only downfall was being absent in the red zone, but we cannot wait for a similar scenario this evening
McKinnon was a one-for-one swap with Edwards-Helaire in Week 1. At 30 years old, his 13.6 YAC per reception was in line with his younger counterpart (14.0). Kansas City will need breakout games to keep up with Los Angeles, and McKinnon still has the juice. If you need help at RB, look to McKinnon.
Don’t twist it. I’m not trying to chase touchdowns here. Hardman shivered in the end zone after most Cardinals fans had left the stadium. Additionally, he had just 16 receiving yards on the day. But his usage caught my attention because the Chiefs will have to use all their weapons to get a win tonight.
Hardman saw a target on 24.0% of his routes in Week 1. Muhammad targeted only Travis Kelce and Smith-Schuster at a higher rate. The types of goals were also interesting.
Hardman led the team in red-zone targets (3) and tied Smith-Schuster in deep targets, with the rest of his targets coming in the short area of the field. While he mainly stayed on the perimeter, it took into account his box volatility. But that didn’t stop Mahomes from looking Hardman’s way.
My only concern is his route participation, as he ran on just 25 of Mahomes’ 41 dropbacks (the fewest among full-time players). However, Hardman secured a 28.3% air yardage share in the opener. He will be less popular due to his footprint, but is worth a shot if you need some punch in your lineup.
Let’s wait a week and see how things go
On the other hand, I don’t want to overreact to a one-game sample. I’m still holding on to some preseason stories that I couldn’t reconcile with last week’s performance. Maybe Week 1 was a sign of things to come, but I’ll keep these guys on my bench for now.
The offseason story for Palmer was he is Allen’s replacement. His 10.0 aDOT aligns with where Allen usually runs. When Allen missed time last season, it was Palmer who took over the coveted slot role for the Chargers. And yet, we didn’t see more work for the sophomore after Allen exited the game.
The positive spins are that he ran the second most routes and was the only WR with a red-zone target for Los Angeles in Week 1. However, Palmer and DeAndre Carter divide the slot role by three targets each. And Carter was the more productive of the duo with downfield versatility.
Palmer looks like another cog in the Herbert machine. I would have preferred more time to gain some clarity even in what we expect to be a high-scoring contest.
Maybe I’m the stubborn one here. Regardless, I need to see more of Pacheco. Boxscore scouts will quickly point to his yardage as a reason to start him. Okay, cool. I’d be happy with 12.2 points from a late player as well. But let’s be real about his results for a minute.
Pacheco’s first touchdown didn’t come until the Chiefs’ third drive as the last man in the rotation. He gained two yards on two carries (with one goal-line attempt). We didn’t see the rookie again until the fourth quarter when the score was 37-15. With the game in hand, Pacheco picked up 60 of his 62 yards as Edwards-Helaire took a seat, and McKinnon took a meaningless carry on their final drive. It’s hard to see a similar game scenario in TNF.
Pacheco did nothing to change his status on Sunday. He was the least effective of the trio on the ground (0.01 EPA per attempt). In addition, he did not score a single goal on only four routes. I would wait another week for more clarity on Pacheco’s role going forward.