Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Time to panic or Week 1 antic?

2RT40P2 Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) is sacked by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals offense struggled in Week 1: Fantasy managers might be panicking after investing significant draft capital in this offense but expect them to get into rhythm soon.

• The Chicago Bears deployed a running back by committee: Unfortunately for Khalil Herbert, he didn’t stand out in comparison to D’Onta Foreman and rookie Roschon Johnson.

Dallas Goedert received just a single target in the Eagles season opener: Despite a lack of target volume, Goedert played over 90% of snaps with a significant route participation rate.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Week 1 of the 2023 NFL season was a wild one, as always, with lots of surprises in terms of snap share, workload distributions and efficiency. Here are five stats highlighting various fantasy disappointments from Week 1 and a temperature check — is it time to panic, or just a Week 1 antic?

WR:CB Matchup Chart

QB Joe Burrow finishes Week 1 as the QB28 (out of 30)

In most fantasy football leagues, Burrow was likely drafted somewhere in the first four rounds, but he didn’t play up to the hype in Week 1 after completing just 45.5% of pass attempts for 82 passing yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. That yielded the second-lowest PFF passing grade for a single game in Burrow’s career. Despite all of the bad stats that defined the day, there are a few reasons to believe fantasy managers shouldn’t be too panicked about Burrow right out of the gate.

Remember, Burrow missed the bulk of training camp and the entirety of the preseason. Then, there’s also the idea that the Browns seem to have Burrow’s number, going 1-5 against the divisional rival over the course of his career. His efficiency has suffered when facing the Browns in nearly every metric in comparison to his career average — from completion percentage to passing touchdown rate to yards per attempt, it’s bad news across the board. In fact, Burrow hasn’t exceeded 17 fantasy points in any of his last four games against the Browns, with fewer than 10 points in two of those, specifically.

Burrow was forced to knock off the rust on the road against a divisional rival, which he’s generally struggled against. It’s nothing that can’t be cured by matchups against the Los Angeles Rams, Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals in the weeks to come.

Temperature check: Week 1 antic

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Najee Harris had just six total carries in Week 1

The fantasy football community was already tepid, at best, when it came to the Steelers' run game, and the total and complete absence of the run game in Week 1 won’t help matters much. As it turns out, while fans were debating whether Najee Harris or Jaylen Warren to receive carries in the season opener, the answer was actually “neither.”.The team completely deviated from the run entirely, totaling just 10 carries as a team – the fewest ever in a game under offensive coodinator Matt Canada and tied for the fewest in the Mike Tomlin era, dating back to 2007. It was an odd one for the Steelers, to say the least, and it stands to reason that the rushing volume was an outlier.

Despite the concerns, there are other stats that should have fantasy managers willing to head back to the Harris again in Week 2… even if they were burned this week. Though Harris split more early-down work with second-year RB Jaylen Warren in this outing, he still played the bulk of the team's offensive snaps, receiving a 66.7% market share on RB rush attempts.

Fantasy managers should be cautious with Harris but should also feel decent playing him again in Week 2 given the Steelers’ matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Despite general inefficiency throughout his career, Harris’ bright spots have generally come against the Browns, as he’s averaged just under 20 PPR points per game against Cleveland thanks to scoring a touchdown in each of his four career games against the team.

Temperature check: Week 1 antic… but tread lightly

Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert splits snaps nearly evenly with rookie Roschon Johnson and D’Onta Foreman

To this point in his career, Herbert has given the analytics community a lot to like in terms of projecting his production with a full workload. He led the league with 5.7 yards per rush attempt in 2022 while ranking top-10 in PFF elusive rating, so fantasy managers were hopeful he'd see an uptick in workload with the offseason departure of David Montgomery.

Though Herbert led the Bears' running backs with 10 carries, the offensive snap distribution was split almost perfectly evenly between him, rookie Roschon Johnson and free agent signing D’Onta Foreman. He totaled 10 rush attempts for 29 yards to start the season, and his 61.9 rushing grade in Week 1 ranked last among the three running backs, as did his 0% missed forced tackle rate, 2.9 yards per attempt and 1.7 yards after contact per attempt. Johnson looked the best among the three, even earning several opportunities as a pass blocker, where he was effective. It will be difficult to trust Herbert even as a low-end flex play moving forward given the usage and inefficiency we saw in Week 1.

Temperature check: Time to panic

Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins was held without a catch

There might be a little bit more panic on this one than usual, particularly right off the back of reports emerging that Higgins isn’t in the Bengals’ long-term plans after Burrow's record-setting extension. Higgins caught exactly zero of his seven targets in Week 1, emerging as one of the week’s most disappointing performances in fantasy football for all of Week 1 considering how highly he was drafted. 

This entire Bengals offense, including Burrow and fellow WR Ja’Marr Chase, struggled in Week 1, but Higgins’ usage should have fantasy managers feeling encouraged for what's to come. Higgins ran 36 routes on the week and was targeted on 19.4% of them, including two contested-catch opportunities. As discussed above with Burrow, this Bengals team has generally struggled against the Browns and the time without Burrow through training camp and the preseason didn’t do anything to help the cause. Expect this offense to get into a rhythm with some more reps, with Higgins bouncing back against a few of the delightful matchups to come over the next several weeks.

Temperature check: Week 1 antic

Philadelphia Eagles TE Dallas Goedert was targeted on just 2.6% of his team's receiving snaps

You may have seen a few missing posters with Goedert’s face on them from concerned fantasy managers after a whopping 0-0-0 season opener. Goedert registered just a single target on the day for his first catchless outing in the Jalen Hurts era. After fantasy managers paid up for Goedert, drafting him in or around the fifth round, there might be a bit of panic regarding his production moving forward. 

Despite going without a catch on the day, Goedert played 93.4% of Philadelphia's offensive snaps in Week 1 while ranking sixth among all tight ends with 39 routes run. Even more encouraging is the fact that he wasn’t losing work to other tight ends. The Eagles had three tight ends active in this game, including Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra, neither of whom received a single target, running six total routes combined. Goedert’s low target rate was a massive anomaly after averaging 5.0 targets per game over the regular and postseasons since Hurts took over as the full-time starting quarterback in 2021. As a starter in such games, Hurts has averaged a 21% target share to the tight end position, signaling there should be a bounceback from Goedert very, very soon.

Temperature check: Week 1 antic


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