We love football. We love it to such a degree that we spend months of the offseason debating concepts, constructing narratives and making statistically grounded cases for projecting what will happen in the upcoming season. Much of this becomes common thought; accepted truth long before it happens.
Then Week 1 happens and some if not most of it gets blown straight to hell. Other times, what we expected actually comes true.
Here, as we enter the 2019 NFL season after months of previews, we’re ready for the big reveal. Week 1 will be the long-awaited true look at what these teams will be this coming season. It’s just the first chapter but it’s the first real datapoint we’ll add to our portfolio in months.
Make no mistake, there are countless reveals that will tilt the fate of NFL teams and fake footballers alike. We could list any number of storylines here. However, these are the seven reveals I am most excited to witness in Week 1 of this NFL season. If you have more, let me know on Twitter or Instagram: @MattHarmon_BYB.
Todd Gurley’s workload
We’re all familiar with the late-season fall from grace experienced by one of the true power brokers in fantasy football last year. The question all offseason has been what the workload looks like coming into 2019.
We’re about to find out ... sort of.
My stance all along has been that Todd Gurley could either be a fast starter and slow finisher, slow starter and hot finisher, or something murky week-to-week. The Rams made sure they are insured no matter what happens. Adding exciting rookie Darrell Henderson and retaining Malcolm Brown gives them options for when they want to take it easy on Gurley.
Not only could Gurley’s value drastically change coming out of Week 1 based on his workload, how we view his backups may quickly shift. For whatever reason, Brown consistently went more than 100 picks after Henderson all draft season. After a slow preseason, Henderson looks like a mere spot player. If Brown approaches 10 touches behind a limited Gurley, he’ll be one of the hottest pickups heading into Week 2. You might want him already on your roster when this big reveal happens.
Lamar Jackson’s passing status
Lamar Jackson’s ADP finally caught up to a spot that reflects his potential ceiling. For the 100th time, if he even approaches 700 rushing yards he’s almost a lock to finish as a high-end QB1. He settled in at the fringe of the Top-10 quarterbacks after going outside the top 15 for most of the offseason.
In Week 1 we’ll finally get our first real data point as the Ravens take on the Dolphins. It should be a cakewalk matchup for Jackson. If he can string together a strong passing game, he’ll be rocketing toward every-week starter status at a bloated position in a hurry.
Miles Sanders’ placement in the backfield
We’re always after new potential RB2 options in fantasy. Often these players emerge from seemingly muddled backfields on obviously tremendous offenses. Rookie Miles Sanders of the Philadelphia Eagles certainly applies.
Sanders reportedly enjoyed a strong training camp and passed the eye test in the preseason. While the Eagles may well use a committee approach in their backfield, it’s not just clear that Sanders is the best player of the bunch, he’s also the one they’re most invested in. Value savant Howie Roseman made a Hail Mary trade attempt to acquire Melvin Gordon as a one-year rental with a light package that included Jordan Howard. You don’t dangle players in trades that you have big plans for this season.
It won’t be long before we see Sanders leading this backfield in touches every week. Hell, it could even be this week. He gets a dream spot to prove himself, as the Eagles are 10-point home favorites over Washington. If Sanders truly impresses, it will be tough for him to lose his hold on the top gig.
Cam Newton’s comfort amid revamped weapons
Reports from training camp held that Cam Newton’s deep ball was back. He enters the 2019 season pretty healthy after a mild foot scare in the exhibition campaign. It’s full systems go for Newton as he enters a dream spot.
The 2019 version of the Panthers is more intriguing on offense than in any other year under Ron Rivera’s watch. Norv Turner is coming into his second season after a strong coordinating debut. The pass protection is improved. Christian McCaffrey is an established star. D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel both bring legitimate breakout appeal to a receiver group that hasn’t boasted flash in eons. Hell, even Greg Olsen is healthy coming into the year.
If you’ve followed me at all this season, you’ve heard me incessantly honking about how this is, by far, the best offensive ecosystem that Cam Newton has ever played in as a pro. Now we get to see it and find out if the results match the hype. Should that be what’s truly revealed, this could be a league-deciding type of offense.
The Vikings’ actual level of commitment to the run
Every coaching move the Vikings made this offseason seemed to be hellbent on achieving the desires of Mike Zimmer to run the ball 40 times per game, for whatever reason. Gary Kubiak was brought in to lord over offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who was installed late last year after Zimmer grew tired of John DeFilippo’s pass-happy ways.
Week 1 will mark the first time we see that commitment put to the test. The Vikings will welcome the Atlanta Falcons, who should be one of the better offenses in the NFL this season. Atlanta should boast the type of team that can force any other out of its run-heavy shell. The Vikings have the horses in the receiving corps to give chase.
On the other hand, the Falcons have struggled to stop running backs on an annual basis in the Dan Quinn era. Atlanta allowed the most catches to running backs in each of the last four seasons and ranked 30th, 20th, 28th, and 25th in run defense DVOA during that span. If that trend continues into 2019, perhaps Week 1 just affirms that this show’s lead actor is indeed Dalvin Cook.
A real glimpse of the Cardinals offense
It’s been said over and over again and yet it bears repeating: One of the most crucial reveals coming in Week 1 will be the unmasking of the Cardinals offense. The unit played vanilla football in the preseason, as countless fantasy backers have noted.
The dreams many have of Kyler Murray wrecking the league in a progressive, modern offense captained by Air Raid maestro Kliff Kingsbury may not be realized right away. But we could start to peel the layers back to the design beyond just the skeleton offered in the preseason. It’s a virtual lock that we’ll see something different in Week 1, more clues to what Kingsbury believes a new-age offense should look like. The results will be less important than the process of what this team does.
A rush to judgment will be quick, no matter what happens, from all those who have an agenda or preconceived belief of how the Murray and Kingsbury experiment will work out. Nuance and a deeper dive than just absorbing the raw numbers will be advised.
The quarterbacks in 49ers @ Buccaneers
Two slightly embattled quarterbacks who still appear to have the faith of their respective teams will face off on Sunday. Jimmy Garoppolo will return to the NFL scene and hope to re-capture the sparkle he possessed coming into 2018 before a torn ACL swept him away while a backup passer stole the show.
Jameis Winston will finally take the reins of Bruce Arians’ offense as he battles for a long-term commitment from the Bucs.
Neither Garoppolo or Winston faced even mild competition in the offseason for their starting job. There’s plenty of reason why their teams should hold out hope for them, especially Garoppolo, whose resume is lighter but also offers less back-breaking mistakes. Yet, there is some degree of pressure here and neither is a true “sure thing” as we stand here today.
What comes out of their Week 1 showing will matter not just to the stock of these players but those around them. Each of these offenses is littered with breakout players like Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Dante Pettis, while being anchored by established positional elites like Mike Evans and George Kittle. There are casts of appealing ancillary options for both, as well. All of these pieces need stable quarterback play, something these two should be capable of providing in the proven systems of Arians and Kyle Shanahan.
Both Garoppolo and Winston get cakewalk game scripts to start off 2019 on the right foot. This game carries a 51-point projected total, the third-highest on the Week 1 slate. Any slip-ups in this “test” would be cause for some worry.