Relax, it was only week 1

Did you lose your first game in fantasy football? Don’t panic! It’s a long season, and there’s plenty of time to turn things around. No championships were won or lost in the opening week – unless you did something foolish like dropping an RB1, or an WR1, to pick up the flavor of the week off of the waiver wire. This is called going on tilt, and it will cost you dearly.

Going on tilt is a poker term used to describe someone who is letting their emotions affect the way they play. For example, if someone has lost a bunch of hands in a row, or suffered a bad beat, he or she might start playing recklessly. They make big bets, and raise others without the cards to support such aggressive actions. It never ends well for a poker player going on tilt.

In fantasy football, going on tilt would look like someone dropping Joe Mixon, or Nick Chubb, after one week because the running back had a bad game. I warned you repeatedly not to draft Mixon in the first or second round. But if you did, don’t compound your mistake and drop him, or trade him. You want to trade your fantasy player when his stock is up, not down.

I love to buy low and sell high. After all, I’ve been a financial advisor for thirty years, and I’ve traded individual stocks. Buy low, sell high has always been my mantra – in playing the stock market and fantasy football. This is a principle to live by but not a principle to enslave you. On rare occasions, there’s a time to cut your losses and sell low before things get worse.

But that time is not after one week of action. In the fantasy leagues I play in, there is a 13-game regular season and then the playoffs. You don’t need to finish in first place in your regular-season games to win the championship. You just need to make the playoffs. In a 10-team league, you qualify for the playoffs if finish in the top 4, or 6, spots depending on league rules. 

There’s a lesson I have learned, and it applies to fantasy football. Things are seldom as good as they seem, and they are seldom as bad as you might fear. If you are going to be successful in fantasy, you must learn how to control your emotions. This principle can be applied to fantasy sports, stocks and playing poker. When something goes wrong, stop and take a breath.

This also applies to life. It’s inevitable in your life that you will face adversity at some point. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, just wait. How you respond to that adversity will reveal character and determine your future. My years of experience have taught me the importance of not going on tilt in life. If you expect some things to go wrong, you have already baked that into the equation.

But I digress. Back to the subject that drew you to read my column. There were plenty of surprises, but some things seem to have stayed the same. The Cleveland Browns still look terrible. No lead is ever enough for the Detroit Lions. James Conner can’t stay on the field. Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers are still really good, but Matt Ryan is still the best garbage-time quarterback.

But some things were different. One was Cam Newton. Newton put up 25.7 fantasy points in his New England Patriots debut. He looked like his old self, not the 2019 version. His dual-threat ability was on full display, as he led the Patriots in carries (15) and rushing yards (75). Cam found the end zone twice, and he completed 15-of-19 in an efficient play-action passing game.

The Patriots’ former signal-caller, Tom Brady, looked far from his old self. He looked more like Jameis Winston, with just as many touchdowns (2) as interceptions. It’s probably not fair to compare Brady to Winston, or Newton yet. Tom Brady had to face the tough New Orleans Saints in his Tampa debut, while Newton had the always rebuilding Miami Dolphins in his opener.

Another guy who looked far from his old self was Rob Gronkowski, who seemed older and slower than he did the last time we saw him in the NFL. On the other hand, he looked older and slower in 2018, when he retired. Gronkowski, a future Hall of Famer, played second fiddle to O.J. Howard in his first game in Tampa. Gronk caught two balls for 11 yards and 3.1 fantasy points.

The Kansas City Chiefs got things started on Thursday night, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire put on a show. Nowadays, some fantasy owners just want to own Chiefs offensive players, but I’m not racing to the waiver wire to claim Sammy Watkins, who scored 21.5 fantasy points, with a 7-82-1 day. I remember that Watkins had 46.8 fantasy points in Week 1 last year. Cool your jets.

Rest assured that the only fans watching the second half of the Baltimore Ravens’ blowout victory against the Cleveland Browns were fantasy owners. As a Nick Chubb owner, I was concerned by the fact that he had only 11 touches in the game. I didn’t draft him in the second round to see 5.6 points after his name. But the game script explained much of that, so we’ll see.

The fact that Chubb’s team really stinks is concerning for his owners. I’m not trying to trade Chubb after one week, but I am trying to trade for Kareem Hunt. The Hunt owner in my league lost Michael Thomas to a high-ankle sprain, so I offered him Will Fuller because I’m deep in wide receivers. There is a risk that neither Chubb, nor Hunt will be an RB1 if the Browns’ are this bad.

My team that rostered Chubb also made a big bet on a Pittsburgh Steeler revival. In addition to drafting Chubb with the 18th pick, I took Conner with the 23rd pick and JuJu Smith-Schuster in the fourth round as my WR1. Fortunately, Smith-Schuster delivered with 24.9 points to enable me to win my first game of the season – in spite of single-digit output from Chubb and Conner.

As a Conner owner, adding Benny Snell from the waiver wire was a priority. I bid $11 of my $100 FAAB money to get him, and time will tell if he is worth it. Conner’s injury may not prove to be serious, but Snell is a true handcuff in a Steelers offense that gravitates toward a bell-cow RB approach, instead of the time-sharing approach. He’s an insurance policy for Conner owners.

Another popular waiver-wire target this week was Nyheim Hines, who garnered 27.3 points in the Indianapolis Colts’ loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The game started with Marlon Mack on top of the depth chart, but his season-ending injury flipped the script to Hines and Jonathan Taylor. As a Taylor owner, I’m happy with the turn of events but also added Hines off the waiver wire. 

I can see a path to Taylor, a rookie, carving out 300 touches this season, and that gives him top-five upside. But he’ll have to improve on his 2.4 yards per carry. The good news was that Philip Rivers threw him the ball six times in week one. However, Taylor will share time with Hines, which means that game script will determine who will have the bigger role each week.

The Jaguars, the Colts’ upside-minded opponent on Sunday, had an impressive performance from James Robinson. The rookie has suddenly emerged as Jacksonville’s lead back, playing 34 of 50 snaps. He carried the ball 16 times for 62 yards and caught one pass for 28 yards. I was surprised to find him on the waiver wire Wednesday in my ESPN league and added him.   

If you’re a Chris Carson owner, you’d better own Carlos Hyde, who was a significant part of the Seahawks’ offense in week one. Carson only rushed for 21 yards on Sunday but caught two TD passes to account for his 24.6 points. I’ve stressed the importance of handcuffing key running backs, and Hyde is only owned in 18 percent of Yahoo league and 11 percent of ESPN leagues.

If you invested a fourth-round pick on Amari Cooper, you probably feel pretty good about it after Sunday night’s game. Cooper led all Cowboy receivers in receptions (10) targets (14) and yards (81). He scored 18. 1 points without getting into the end zone. None of big three Cowboy receivers caught a TD pass. The loss of tight end Blake means more targets for this trio.

As you prepare for the second week of the NFL season, check your emotions at the door, review your stat sheets and study your lineup(s) now to determine your starters. If you have drafted a decent team, you should have some difficult choices to make on starts and sits. Don’t beat yourself up if you leave the wrong player on the bench, though. We all do it from time to time.

You can follow Thomas L. Seltzer, AKA Doubting Thomas, on Twitter @ThomasLSeltzer1.

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