For most fantasy football players, Sunday marked the first full day of action since Saturday, December 24, 2011.
In the 260 days since that Week 16 Saturday, we have: watched the 2011 NFL preseason; dissected the NFL draft; researched free agent acquisitions, coaching changes and preseason training camps; participated in (at least) one 2012 fantasy football draft; peppered friends and experts with “who should I start” questions.
Yesterday, finally, we got to set our lineups and then spend our Sunday glued to a TV or computer, or in my case, both.
Ahh, Week 1. There’s nothing like it. We finally get to see the on-field results of all those off-season efforts, and in almost every case we are going to end up with either a win or a loss. If you finished the week with a “W”, a hearty congratulations to you. If you ended up on the losing side of the ledger, you have my sympathy and some advice — keep calm and carry on.
Losing in Week 1 sucks. There is no other way to put it, BUT, you have to realize that it is only one week of a long season.
While I am not aware of any fantasy football league which awards championships after week 1, your moves as an owner heading into Week 2 can have long-term effects on the success you have for the remainder of your season.
First of all you need to step back and take an objective look at your league. We get so focused on our team and on our matchup that we can fail to look at what else is happening around the entire league. Make a note of every team’s score in their week 1 matchup and then see where your total falls.
In one of my leagues I took a Week 1 loss by less than a point. While I hated getting the “L” when I looked at the other scores I noticed that only two teams in the league scored more points than I did in Week 1 – I just happened to be playing one of the two. I could have very easily finished the week with a “W” had the schedule fallen differently. It doesn’t change the fact that I lost, but realizing this helps me keep the loss in perspective.
The next thing you need to investigate is how each of the teams in your league scored the points that they did. I’d guess that no owner left Julio Jones on their bench yesterday, but I’d bet more than a handful of teams went to bat without Adrian Peterson. It is very likely that lineup selection had a significant impact on the point totals you see for every team, both positively and negatively.
For those teams that made “good” lineup calls (I’m looking at you Michael Bush owners) pat yourselves on the back and use all the resources you can to repeat it again next week. If you didn’t make a good lineup decision (for me it was sitting Stevie Johnson in just about every league I own him in) realize that over the course of the season, the real trick is to simply make more good decisions than poor ones. Given that we have no previous games to look back at, Week 1 is the absolute toughest to predict – don’t beat yourself up about it.
Once you’ve looked at your league from the helicopter-viewpoint, you must then look closely at your own roster. It is important to be objective when reviewing your first week’s performance though – remember, you drafted these players for a reason. One bad week shouldn’t necessarily be a reason to change your strategy, or your players.
It is very tempting to see an amazing week 1 performance and want to chase that player on the waiver wires. There can be a few problems with this mentality, however.
First, any player can have a fantastic game; putting together quality starts across an entire NFL season is another thing altogether, and lots of week 1 wonders simply don’t pan out. Be cautious and ask yourself if this player and his situation projects the same across the entire season, or was it possible Week 1 was just a “perfect storm”?
Second, to add a player, you almost always need to drop a player.
While it may be possible to have a player you don’t truly care for on your team, most of the players in your lineup are players you specifically targeted on draft day. Just because one of your players didn’t have a good day doesn’t mean they won’t bounce back and be a high performer during the season.
Looking back at 2011, here are a few players and their corresponding week 1 performances, and subsequent 2011 finish:
Matt Ryan – 24th QB in week 1, finished 8th
Eli Manning – 19th QB in week 1, finished 6th
Marshawn Lynch – 43rd RB in week 1, finished 6th
Chris Johnson – 28th RB in week 1, finished 9th
Steven Jackson – 27th RB in week 1, finished 10th
Percy Harvin – 76th WR in week 1, finished 8th
Larry Fitzgerald – 49th WR in week 1, finished 6th
Brandon Pettigrew – 19th TE in week 1, finished 6th
Vernon Davis – 18th TE in week 1, finished 8th
Granted, there are all sorts of reasons that a player may have an off day, but the important thing is that lots of players rebound with solid seasons after having a lousy week 1.
We wait so long for opening week to finally arrive that many owners overreact to the results. Before you place a waiver claim, before you look to package that stud who didn’t perform well in a trade offer, take a step back. Look objectively at your Week 1 performance with respect to your league and the other teams. Consider that the season is 13 or 14 weeks long, and you’re almost certainly going to lose a game or two along the way. Week 1, in that respect, is no different than Week 8.
Finally, while I am not advocating standing pat with your roster if there are significant opportunities for improvement, or if you’re dealing with an injured player, I am suggesting that sometimes the best Week 1 review strategy is to keep calm and carry on. There will be plenty of waiver wire pickups in the weeks ahead…best of luck as you go.