The NFL season is finally underway and Week 1 is in the books. What did opening weekend tell us about players and what should bettors do with that information? Here is our NFL Week 2 trends roundup.
This stock up/stock down Week 2 report lists eight players who are on the move.
NFL Week 2 Trends: Stock Up
Elijah Mitchell, RB, San Francisco 49ers
After Raheem Mostert went down with a knee injury, rookie Elijah Mitchell was the guy. While his production was exciting (104 yards and a touchdown), the real trend here is the workload he shouldered. Once he stepped into the role, he took 19 of the San Francisco 49ers‘ 26 carries post-Mostert.
While Kyle Shanahan keeps decisions close to the chest (see: Trey Sermon, below), we do know San Francisco is a meritocracy. Mitchell showed he’s capable of being a successful ball carrier in the NFL, even if it was against the Detroit Lions. While still a longshot for Offensive Rookie of the Year, Mitchell becomes an interesting player to at the very least keep an eye on.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Los Angeles Rams
Under Jared Goff, the Los Angeles Rams‘ No. 1 receiver was a mystery. Not only would Kupp and Robert Woods flip-flop that role year to year, they flip-flopped week to week. That is, until Matthew Stafford made the announcement to the world that Cooper Kupp is his guy to the tune of 10 targets, 108 yards, and a touchdown. Even the Sunday Night Football crew repeatedly reminded viewers of Kupp and Stafford’s close bond.
The issue behind Kupp’s production last season was an exceptionally low touchdown rate for his target volume (three scores on 124 targets). Also encouraging was how Kupp was used– his 10.8 yards per target exceeds his career average of 8.8 (7.9 in 2020). Sean McVay appears ready to let Stafford sling the ball downfield (his 14.7 air yards per attempt ranked first this week) and Kupp will frequently be on the receiving end of that.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers
Widely regarded as the best running back in the NFL, how can CMC be trending upward? For those with fantasy football interests, he finished the week as the top-scoring running back. That’s not much of a surprise as McCaffrey essentially lives at the top. But the most amazing part is he completed the feat with zero touchdowns.
Coming off an injury-riddled season, maybe there was some hesitancy for CMC to still be the completely dominant back he’s been the past several years. After all, there’s an end to every running back’s prime, right? Apparently not this year– McCaffrey hauled in all nine targets for 89 yards while also adding 98 yards on the ground. His odds to win Offensive Player of the Year currently stand at .
Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
Just a few short weeks ago, Goedert appeared on the “trending down” section of this report. Alas, he’s on the other side now. On five targets, Goedert recorded 42 yards and a touchdown. It was very nearly two scores, but he came up about a yard shy. Even with counterpart Zach Ertz on the field, Goedert was the go-to tight end for the Eagles.
Ertz left their Week 1 game early with an injury that’s cast doubt on his Week 2 availability. Even so, when Ertz was on the field, he was targeted just two times. The balance of power is clearly shifting to Dallas Goedert not only being the top target among the tight ends, but potentially a top target for the team as a whole.
NFL Week 2 Trends: Stock Down
Trey Sermon, RB, San Francisco 49ers
Rookie Trey Sermon may have been the most surprise inactive of Sunday morning; the news broke just hours before kickoff. Even stranger, it wasn’t with an injury designation. Rather, it was on the basis that Kyle Shanahan just didn’t feel he was one of the team’s top-three backs. Instead of filling in for a soon-to-be injured Raheem Mostert, Sermon watched from the sidelines in street clothes.
Worse yet, rookie Elijah Mitchell capitalized on his opportunity with 108 yards and a touchdown. While Sermon will likely suit up in Mostert’s absence (he was declared out for the season on Tuesday), it’s clear there’s at least one back ahead of him. So much for the darkhorse rookie, at least for the immediate future.
Tennessee Titans offensive line
When it comes to assessing the Titans, there’s plenty to be disappointed about in Week 1– their secondary, Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry, the list goes on. The biggest concern, however, was the offensive line’s performance. The Arizona Cardinals‘ defense has steadily improved over the past couple of seasons (relatively), but they looked like the Rams Week 1.
Arizona’s Chandler Jones eviscerated the Titans’ offensive line for five sacks and a forced fumble. Tannehill was pressured on 31% of dropbacks (seventh-most), hurried 13 times (fifth), and hit six times (second) on Sunday. PFF ranked Tennessee second-worst in pass blocking despite rostering Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan. Moving forward, there has to be a clear improvement or this team is in major trouble.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
As bettors try not to overreact to Week 1 performances, it’s hard not to want to distance yourself as far from the Atlanta Falcons as possible. Against 2020’s seventh-worst pass coverage team– the Eagles (per PFF)– Matt Ryan posted just 164 passing yards and led his team to zero touchdowns. It wasn’t a scheme issue, as Philadelphia blitzed Ryan just four times; however, the offensive line allowed a 30.8% pressure rate (eighth-most).
Going down with the Week 1 ship went Calvin Ridley, who finally goes into the season out of the Julio Jones shadow. Ryan fired the third-most percentage of “bad throws” (26.5%, as deemed by Pro Football Reference) and was 29th in on-target throw percentage (per Pro Football Reference). Even Arthur Smith wasn’t able to salvage the Falcons’ abysmal Week 1 offensive showing.
James Robinson, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
After Travis Etienne was placed on the season-ending IR, the Jaguars backfield supposedly belonged to James Robinson. After all, Robinson accounted for nearly 96% of the team’s total carries a year ago. Notions that new coach Urban Meyer didn’t want Robinson as the RB1 were largely forgotten immediately following Etienne’s injury. Turns out, we should have listened to Meyer’s draft more.
In Week 1 against 2020’s worst run defenses, the Houston Texans, James Robinson received just 35% of the team’s running back carries. Last year, his lowest mark was 85%. If that continues in NFL Week 2 trends, that’s incredibly worrisome, considering this is twice that Meyer is taking a firm and clear stance against Robinson. Maybe he entered the doghouse from Day 1, but Robinson should be faded in every facet imaginable this season.