Fantasy Football’s Week 2 Under-Exaggerations

Last week, there were a number of candidates for fantasy football’s biggest OVER-exaggerations following week one, including:

5. Marshawn Lynch is not an elite fantasy running back.
4. Colin Kaepernick is the best quarterback in fantasy football.
3. Calvin Johnson is not the best receiver in fantasy football.
2. Eric Decker has been replaced by Wes Welker and Julius Thomas.
1. Geno Smith is the next great dual-threat quarterback for fantasy football.

After week 2, each one of these fantasy over-exaggerations were proven in Week 2 to be just that, over-exaggerations. Marshawn Lynch had an amazing bounce-back performance against San Francisco posting three total touchdowns (two on the ground, one through the air) proving once and for all that the NFC Champion 49ers’ were human after all.

In that same game, one of the NFL’s most popular fantasy quarterbacks after Week 1—Colin Kaepernick—plummeted back to earth against the division-rival Seattle Seahawks posting a mere 127 passing yards with zero touchdowns. Even NY Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith had a better game than Kaepernick in Week 2, and he was just short of awful against a thoroughly mediocre New England defense on Sunday. Fortunately, the hype train on Smith seems to have quickly derailed this year which may have saved a few foolish fantasy owners from making a trade or acquisition they would eventually regret.

Among the good news coming out of Week 2 was the re-emergence of Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson as a superior fantasy option. Broncos’ receiver Eric Decker also made a big leap back into the world of fantasy relevance as well, putting some doubts to rest for his owners.

Well, that’s enough recapping for Week 1. Week 2’s list will take a slightly different approach to evaluating the fantasy football fodder. Instead of analyzing the OVER-exaggerations throughout the league, this list will take a look at the UNDER-exaggerations in the NFL.

5. The Kansas City Chiefs look just OK at 2-0: Many people throughout the league are shocked to see the Chiefs sitting at 2-0. After all, they owned the NFL’s worst record last season. However, the fact of the matter is, they had an abundance of talent on their roster last season. The only clear issue they had was at the quarterback position and without consistency at the league’s most important position, no team can have success.

Now that quarterback Alex Smith and head coach Andy Reid have joined forces in red and yellow, Kansas City is looking more and more like a legitimate playoff contender. Though they have the unfortunate luck of competing with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos for their division, the Chiefs could easily find themselves in the Wild Card hunt this year in the AFC as their defense also looks nasty.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, this article will not be posted until Friday. Since the Chiefs played Thursday night against the Eagles, it is only fitting to update this particular post. While Kansas City’s offense was less than imposing against Philadelphia, they were led slow and steady by the running of Jamaal Charles and the game-managing skills of quarterback Alex Smith. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Chiefs defense easily disposed of one of the NFL’s most feared offenses as well. This team looks legit.

4. Phillip Rivers looks like a decent quarterback so far: It seems like an eternity ago when Eli Manning weaseled his way out of going to San Diego as the No. 1 overall draft pick, leaving the Chargers with Phillip Rivers as their apparent consolation prize. Looking back, it’s hard to tell who got the better of that deal in all honesty. Of course, Eli Manning has won two Super Bowl’s with the Giants, but it’s hard to say Phillip Rivers wouldn’t have done the same with that supporting cast. Unfortunately we will never know.

What we do know, however, is that Phillip Rivers suddenly looks like the guy he was five years ago. He has seemingly been rejuvenated by the arrival of head coach Mike McCoy and he now has more healthy receiving options than he has seen since the departure of Vincent Jackson. Eli may be the better quarterback in reality, but Rivers looks like the better fantasy option this season and may even work his way back into the discussion as a fantasy starter week to week once again.
3. Jim Harbaugh complains on occasion: The San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh has made a habit of using the media to his advantage. He made headlines prior to the regular season opener for entering into a war-of-words with Green Bay Packers All-Pro outside linebacker Clay Matthews.

Apparently, ever since Harbaugh anointed Colin Kaepernick the starting quarterback for San Francisco, it has been no secret throughout the league that the 49ers’ would run some form of the quarterback read-option, a college-based offensive philosophy which re-took the NFL by storm last season. Kaepernick is easily one of the more dynamic running quarterbacks the league has ever seen and his talents were certainly on display last year when he nearly led his team to a Super Bowl victory.

With all of its success, it should come as no surprise that teams have been scheming all offseason for a way to counter the read-option on defense. Clay Matthews offered up his game plan when he mentioned to the media that the Packers would hit Kaepernick “early and often” in their game in an attempt to make him think twice about running.

Perhaps all Harbaugh did was respond to Matthews comments by complaining that the Packers’ linebacker was “targeting” his starting quarterback. However, it seems far more likely that the 49ers’ head coach was playing mind games with not only the Green Bay Packers and Clay Matthews, but the officials for the game as well. By calling attention to the comments that were made in such a public manner, Harbaugh effectively ensured that the officials would keep a vigilant watch over his quarterback throughout the game with penalty flags in hand.

Subsequently, the game hinged on a controversial personal foul penalty against Clay Matthews for hitting Kaepernick out of bounds. A bench clearing fight ensued and the 49ers’ were mistakenly awarded an extra down by the officials. Coincidentally, they scored a touchdown on the very next play (the extra play which shouldn’t have happened) and won the game by less than seven points.

In the end, the moral of the story is that Jim Harbaugh likely has a purpose for everything he does and says. It seems he got the better of this particular battle of wits with Matthews and it would not be surprising to see him continue his media-related antics throughout the season since it now seems to be a permanent part of his repertoire. Watch for Harbaugh to mince words again with the opposition in an attempt to gain the upper hand.

2. Robert Griffin III’s knee injury was a notable event in the NFL:
Last year, the entire world was able to bear witness to a rookie quarterback class of historic proportions. An unprecedented five rookies would begin the year as their team’s starting quarterback. Perhaps the most notable was No. 2 overall pick—and Rookie of the Year—Robert Griffin III.

Griffin was drafted by the Washington Redskins to be the franchise savior. He did an amazing job up until the end of the season when he sustained a career-altering knee injury. Griffin would end up sitting out only one regular season game and then come back to start the Redskins home playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. During that playoff game, Griffin re-injured his troubled knee forcing him to exit the game for evaluations. The prognosis was not good; Griffin would require surgery to fix the tears he sustained to his ACL and LCL.

Obviously this is a very serious injury for an athlete, but by no means is it career-ending with modern medicine and surgeries. However, RGIII’s injury sent shockwaves throughout the NFL which inevitably led to many teams re-evaluating the league’s most trendy new offensive philosophy, the quarterback read-option.

So far in 2013, this change in philosophy has been painfully obvious with certain teams. In fact, it seems like every team that used the quarterback read-option in 2012 has tried to steer clear of it so far this year, or at the very least they are cautioning their quarterbacks against keeping the ball. It seems that the thought of losing a franchise quarterback to injury has been enough to make even the gutsiest head coaches cautious.

For example, even the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton—who led the league in read-option plays in 2012—has seen a decrease in his carries this year. It seems these coaches are confident in their players’ ability to throw from the pocket. Most of them have every right to feel that way, particularly in the case of RGIII. However, the threat of running obviously brings a dynamic element to the quarterback position which can force defenses into mental errors. Therefore, the sooner teams get over their fear of injuring their franchise quarterback, the sooner these teams can get back to their successful ways.
1. Tom Brady just had a bad start to the season: The New England Patriots future Hall of Fame quarterback has been less than stellar so far in 2013. Some fantasy owners are quick to dismiss his poor numbers and simply chalk it up to a bad start. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that the 36 year-old is surrounded by fresh faces this year, and none of them seem reliable. Brady clearly looks disgruntled with the inconsistencies of the receiving core, and it was never more evident than during the Patriots’ win over the division-rival New York Jets.

Brady’s displeasure was caught in high-definition over and over by network cameras throughout the game as his body language told the story of the game for New England’s offense. Though they were able to come away with a three point victory, their 13 point total offensive output was less than comforting for a fan-base used to watching their team display offensive dominance on a weekly basis.

It is also possible that the All-Pro quarterback’s skillset is beginning to deteriorate slightly. While he still appears in good physical shape, the mental exhaustion associated with training another group of young skill position players and acclimating them to a very complicated offense may be starting to wear on Brady. He has nothing left to prove on the field and nobody would blame him for feeling the stress of a season which has already been plagued by media scrutiny over Aaron Hernandez’s murder indictment as well as a slew of injuries on both sides of the ball. Not to mention the fact that the front office made a couple of poor offseason decisions like allowing Wes Welker to leave via free agency without so much as a veteran minimum contract offer. It’s quite possible that this just isn’t the season for the New England Patriots despite their 2-0 start. It’s also possible that their on-field general is aware of it, only the weeks ahead will tell.