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The fallout from the opening round of NFL games always creates a whirlwind of both disappointment and opportunity. The decisions we make this week and next will go a long way toward determining the level of success we will have this year or lack thereof.
Those who have been reading The Eyes of the Guru over the years have heard this before. The advice is always the same. Make decisions based on situations that can be explained, not just on the raw numbers from one week of games.
Flukes happen every week of the season. They just shine brighter in Week 1 because we are so hyped up and desperate to add that player that will win the championship for us. He might be out there; just be sure you're not the manager who cuts the guy who would have won the championship for you to pick up this week's shiny object.
Before I get into the teams, I want to mention something I noticed in Week 1. Compared to the last couple of years, more teams were fielding two full-time (85% or more) off-ball linebackers, and several teams that used mass rotations on the edge in the past kept their starters on the field for at least 70% of the snaps. One week does not make a trend, but it takes one game to get a trend started.
The Cardinals were not among the teams that had a pair of three-down linebackers, nor did the front line have anyone who played more than 60% of the snaps. Arizona fielded three safeties on 70% of the defensive snaps with K'Von Wallace as the third man. Kyzir White was on the field full-time at linebacker, while Josh Woods joined him on just 39 of 71 plays. Krys Barnes also picked up 19 snaps, so the team had two linebackers on the field roughly 82% of the time, but they are giving us one useful player at the position.
Dennis Gardeck jumped out to a great start, going 3-1-2 with a forced fumble. That will have him on a lot of waiver lists. Be aware, however, that Gardeck played 28 snaps. It was Zaven Collins who led the team's edge defenders in playing time, logging 42. For everyone thinking Collins might be another Haason Reddick, things are not looking good so far. Collins totaled two assists but saved his otherwise dismal point total with an interception and a fumble recovery.
The Falcons were in nickel on roughly 72 of 77 snaps, with corner Dee Alford as the fifth defensive back. As expected, it was Kaden Ellis calling plays in the huddle, but there are no worries for those who are counting on Troy Andersen. He was on the sideline for one play. Both players reached double-digit points, with Elliss having a slight edge in this one. It could easily go the other way in Week 2.
While both linebackers gave us decent totals, it was Jessie Bates who stole the show. At 5-5 with a forced fumble and a pair of interceptions, Bates was the game's top defensive back for the week. He is not going to give us multiple turnovers very often, but we have seen this kind of production from Bates in the past. Enough to know it was not a mirage. If he is available in your league, make Bates the top defensive back on your waiver list
The Ravens secondary is a M.A.S.H. unit already. They went into Week 1 with Damarion Williams and Travon Mullen already on IR and Marlon Humphrey sidelined with a sore foot. Add Marcus Williams to the list after he suffered a shoulder injury that will put him on the shelf for a while. Brandon Stephens (8-4) and Ronald Darby (6-1 PD) got the start on the corners and will continue to do so until Humphrey can return. They are both candidates to start for us this week against a talented Cincinnati offense that's looking to rebound.
Kyle Hamilton was quiet against the Texans, going 2-1 on the day. This had more to do with the game script that saw Baltimore dominate than Hamilton's play. He should have much better numbers against the Bengals.
Geno Stone (1-1) and Ar'Darius Washington (3-3-1 PD) filled out the secondary in Week 1. They should continue to see a lot of action going forward. Washington, in particular, is someone to keep an eye on.
After he missed much of the offseason with a sore hamstring, the biggest news from the Bills in their Monday night loss to the Jets was the presence of Terrell Bernard as the starting middle linebacker. Bernard went on to lead the team with eleven combined tackles. Only four of them were solo, but that, too, was enough to tie for the team lead. Thanks to an interception, Matt Milano managed more fantasy points in this particular game. The most important point is that both players worked on every defensive snap.
Vonn Bell's total of two tackles and one assist were a disappointment, but don't overreact. The only Carolina defenders with more than three solo stops were tackle Derrick Brown and defensive end Brian Burns. There was simply not much opportunity for the safeties. Bell logged every defensive snap and should be fine going forward.
Jeremy Chinn's numbers were a little better but still not great at 3-4-0. As expected, he was not on the field in all situations, seeing 73% of the action.
Just as we shouldn't put too much weight on Bell's lack of production in Week 1, neither should we get too excited about Derrick Brown's 8-1-1. Brown is a good option for those in tackle-required leagues and could have some value in formats that lump the positions together as well. One huge positive for Brown is playing time. He saw a 96% share of the pie in Week 1.
Jaycee Horn left the game with a hamstring issue. C.J. Henderson is in line to start at corner this week.
The Bears could be without Kyler Gordon for a bit. He left Sunday's game with a hand injury.
The Bengals and Brown played in a constant heavy rain. That probably had some effect on the box scores, but it seemed to bother the Bengals offense a lot more. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the matchup, or maybe it is just how they plan to roll in 2023, but Germaine Pratt saw 89% of the action while leading the team in both solo tackles and fantasy points. He is good in coverage, so it has never made much sense that Pratt did not play full-time in the past. He should be in line for another strong outing against the Ravens in Week 2.
Chidobi Awuzie was in the starting lineup, but he split time with rookie D.J. Turner almost equally. Awuzie is the team's clear starter when healthy, so we should see his workload increase going forward.
Both strong safety Nick Scott (4-7) and free safety Dax Hill (5-1 Int.) put up good numbers in Week 1. That production is enough to land them on a lot of waiver lists. I am not going to disagree with that, but keep in mind that what we saw versus Cleveland was not the Bengals we are going to see the rest of the season. If Vonn Bell and Jesse Bates were not productive behind that front seven over the last two years, I'm not sure Scott and/or Hill can be either, at least not with any consistency. Pick one of them up if you are in need but I would look for other waiver options first.
Before you panic or get down on your Cleveland defenders, keep in mind that the Bengals offense was horrible in Week 1. That said, there are both positive and negative takes from the Browns' defense.
On the positive side, Cleveland went with a three-man rotation at defensive end. Alex Wright was the fourth to see a few snaps, but his role was very limited. Meanwhile, Myles Garrett was on the field for 73%, while both Za'Darius Smith and Ogbo Okoronkwo saw more than 60% of the action. It would be nice to see a pair of 70% guys, but a 70 and two 60s is a lot better than what we were getting from most teams last year. Smith was quiet against Cincinnati, while Okorokwo turned in a 2-1-1.
The optimism at defensive end is trumped by pessimism for the linebacker position. No Cleveland linebacker played more than 43 snaps or 77%, and the guy most of us expected to be the best fantasy option, Anthony Walker, played 33 or 59%. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had the best numbers with a pathetic 2-1. Because he has been highly productive in the past, Walker gets a spot on the bench but should probably stay on our rosters for at least one more week. If you have anyone else from this group, cut them and move on.
Dallas took a page out of the Eagles' playbook with seven sacks against the Giants. Like last year's Eagles, five players contributed at least one, and also, like the 2022 Eagles, the Cowboys used so many players in the rotation that it's hard to trust anyone other than Micah Parson in our lineups. Demarcus Lawrence went 1-0-1 but saw just 30 snaps, Dorance Armstrong was 3-0-2 on 18 plays, while seven other defensive linemen all saw at least 17 snaps. Parsons (57%) was the only one to exceed 50%, and he played some of those at linebacker.
A lot of teams showed two full-time off-ball linebackers in Week 1. Dallas was not one of them. In fact, they didn't even give us one. Damone Clark got the call in the middle as anticipated, but he played 66% of the snaps and was quiet in the box scores at 2-3. Leighton Vander Esch posted a respectable 6-0 despite playing two more snaps than Clark. We might point to the blowout win as the reason neither player saw more action, but the fact is, the only backup to get on the field at either position was Devin Harper who logged three snaps.
Josey Jewell (1-5) and Alex Singleton (4-4) were disappointing in Week 1, but there is no reason to believe that will continue. Both were on the field for at least 90% of the action but the Raiders didn't provide much opportunity. Las Vegas barely averaged over two yards per carry on their 20 rushes, and their running backs and tight ends combined for four catches. Jewell and Singleton should fare much better going forward, starting this week versus the Commanders
Denver is thin at safety after Caden Sterns, who was the top backup at both positions, was carted off with a knee injury on Sunday and is done for the year.
Zach Allen didn't exactly fill up the stat sheet at 2-3, but it is noteworthy that he played 94% of the snaps. He is a good player and that much opportunity is going to pay dividends more often than not.
The Lions played nickel on 73% of their defensive snaps. After all the talk about how much they love Brian Branch, it's surprising the number is not higher. Branch wasted no time making an impact on a pick-six, but he had just two tackles and an assist to go with it. That, and the fact he played just 68% of the snaps, is reason for a little concern.
Detroit played a lot of linebackers against Green Bay. Alex Anzalone was in the lead role, going 5-1 with a pass breakup on a 94% snap share. He was the only linebacker to see more than 27 snaps. Derrick Barnes played 27, Jack Campbell 25, and Malcolm Rodriguez 14. The good news is that Campbell had a role and stood out. Hopefully, that will lead to more playing time soon.
Kerby Joseph was so-so on the stat sheet at 3-0, but he looked good on the field. He's not going to put up great tackle totals on most weeks, but this defense is going to make plenty of big plays, and Joseph will have his fair share of them. Both he and C.J. Gardner-Johnson logged every snap in Week 1.
Detroit moved their defensive linemen around a lot. Defensive ends Aiden Hutchinson, Charles Harris, and John Cominsky all lined up inside at times. Hutchinson was a wrecking ball, no matter where he started.
Green Bay Packers
Quay Walker recorded a pick-six, then promptly left the game with a concussion after a big hit at the goal line on the play. Considering it was late enough in the game for him to have played 49 snaps, Walker's tackle totals of 1-3, were not very good. If he is your guy, keep an eye on his progress through protocol and be ready with plan B just in case.
Rashan Gary was active in Week 1 but is being eased back into action slowly. The Packers used a six-man rotation on the edge, with Kingsley Enagbare leading the way in playing time with 41 snaps (55%). Gary played 12.
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Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE