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Seven must-read fantasy football stats for Week 1

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I'm a film guy at heart, I'll admit. However, there's a ton to learn from the numbers as well. There's a tremendous amount of resources out there, and spreadsheets to compile. Here are some of my favorite notes from my stats research for Week 1.

The Broncos ranked an average of 27th in allowing fantasy point to tight ends over the last three seasons.

While a number of teams like the Bears and Cardinals are well-known for their inability to defend tight ends. However, the Broncos have been just as consistently poor at stopping that position over the last three years. They've never had a quality set of quality coverage linebackers or safeties. Their current linebackers, Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan, are better in run support and their best safety, T.J. Ward, is suspended for Week 1. So their personnel still does not stack up to the tight end position.

Another reason why tight ends thrive against the Broncos is because of their excellence at shutting down outside receivers. They've ranked an average of eighth in allowing fantasy points to wideouts the last three years. Perhaps we should look at non-receiver pass catchers when targeting sleepers against the Broncos.

The Broncos face the Ravens in Week 1, whose starting tight end is a relative unknown in Crockett Gillmore. While you may not know Gillmore, the Ravens think enough of him to name him the starter a year after spending a top 100 draft pick on him. He's also looking at a massive opportunity this season. The Ravens lost 184 targets in the offseason, and one of the main players assumed to take those over, rookie Breshad Perriman, is not ready to play yet. Especially early in the season, Gillmore could see a lot of passes go his way, with only Steve Smith and Justin Forsett as consistent threats to his share.

If you're a Julius Thomas owner, you might want to consider Gillmore as a Week 1 streamer. In daily fantasy this week, you're looking at many players trying to be contrarian by going with Richard Rodgers as their super value tight end play. The true contrarian thing to do would be playing Gillmore. He's likely to have less than half the ownership rate of Rodgers, because no one is talking about him. He's not a bad hail marry DFS play with this great matchup in stow.

The Rams finished in the top three in fantasy points allowed to tight ends in both of the last two seasons.

Jeff Fisher puts a premium at stopping the new wave of athletic tight ends, and clearly has an affinity for them with his Jared Cook obsession. The team also drafted long-limbed athletic linebacker Alec Ogletree to lock up opposing tight ends. That plan is finally paying off here the last two seasons.

Every game, all season

This and a matchup of one of the NFL's worst offensive lines against one of the best pass rushing units around, spells bad news for Jimmy Graham. It's unlikely many points will find their way to the scoreboard in this one, and history shows if anyone is getting over on St. Louis' defense, it won't be Graham. Of course, if you drafted him in season-long, you're obviously rolling with him; this is not a bench Jimmy Graham warning. However, in daily fantasy, Graham is the player I'm most comfortable fading. There's no reason to chase him at the top of the tight end list when other values are there to be had.

56.3 percent of Martellus Bennett's 16 touchdowns over the last three years occurred in the first three weeks of those seasons.

Perhaps the Black Unicorn really loves the month of September? It appears that way, because he almost exclusively gets into the end zone in that portion of the calendar year. While these sort of stats are often not predictive, there's good reason to expect it continues at least for the first week of this season.

When the Bears face off against the Packers in Week 1, their top three receivers will either be limited, or off the field with injuries. Alshon Jeffery, Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson have all missed time in the preseason and more recently with various injuries. Even if one or more of them do play, Jay Cutler is almost certain to lean on the healthy Bennett early and often.

The Packers have an excellent history of taking it to the Jay Cutler-led Bears recently, and this projects as another blowout. With Chicago chasing points, and their quarterback forcing the issue, Martellus Bennett is a good bet for double digit targets. As the only game in town, the Bears need him to.

The majority of daily fantasy players will be on Greg Olsen if they aren't bargain shopping at tight end. He's a fine play, but Bennett is a strong pivot play to make on Olsen and differentiate your lineup from the field.

Andy Dalton's passer rating against common (70.1) versus uncommon (104.6) opponents.

This one comes from Joe Goodberry who writes for Cincy Jungle, a Bengals blog. He noticed the wide disparity in Andy Dalton's performance against common and uncommon opponents:

Goodberry defined common opponent as team's Dalton faced within the last year or division rival, and uncommon as those who the Bengals had not played in the last two years. The difference between Dalton's performances against the varying styles of opponents was stark. We all know of his limitations as a passer, and it's likely that the teams who frequently match up with him do too. Of course, that is just one potential explanation, but regardless, the numbers bear out a clear reality.

Cincinnati's Week 1 opponent, the Oakland Raiders, fall into the uncommon opponent category. The two teams haven't met since 2012; Dalton's second season.

The Raiders top two cornerbacks are T.J. Carrie (seventh rounder) and D.J. Hayden (draft bust), and their free safety is Eagles castoff Nate Allen. Dalton was a top-five fantasy quarterback in 2013 with a litany of healthy weapons. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert are all back in the fold for this season. Expect Dalton to have a big opening to the season, much like many of these other games against uncommon opponents.

Currently, Andy Dalton is owned in only 13.7 percent of NFL.com leagues, and these numbers add up to him having a locked in QB1 week. If you're streaming quarterbacks, Dalton is clearly the best way to go. He's a rock solid DFS play, and one that is easy to stack with the next player on this list.

A.J. Green recorded an average of 12.5 fantasy point at home versus 18.4 percent on the road over the last three years.

Hat tip to 4for4.com's Chris Raybon for this one. Most wide receivers' -- and football players in general -- statistics are positively correlated with playing at home. The Bengals' A.J. Green is a clear outlier, with every single one of his raw stats getting a boost in road games. Perhaps there is a positive correlation with the Andy Dalton versus uncommon opponents stats posted above. Either way, it appears we should expect more out of Green when he's playing outside of his comfort zone.

We're expecting this trend to continue on Sunday. Week 1 sees the Bengals travel to Oakland, who will be assigning either T.J. Carrie or D.J. Hayden to cover Green. Odds are, they'll assist him in continuing his road dominance. When you consider Green's Week 1 DFS value in comparison to other players (Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, etc.) in his redraft tier, he's a must play due to the immense relative bargain.

Derek Carr targeted Davante Adams on 29.2 percent of his attempts at Fresno State from 2012 to 2013.

I don't present you this stat to say anything fantasy relevant about these two players. Rather, I'm interested on its effect on Amari Cooper. Carr displayed a tendency to have "only eyes for you" symptom when it came to Adams, his top target in college. He got jittery under pressure, and would often lock into Adams waiting for him to just come open.

In the preseason, Carr showed some of those same tendencies when it came to Amari Cooper. The rookie will no doubt be the No. 1 receiver in Oakland, and Carr's already shown a preference for looking his way. Even in poor matchups, as his Week 1 tilt with the Bengals is, we can trust Cooper to have a safe target floor. The Raiders figure to be behind plenty this year, and in need of passing to catch up. When those situations are in progress, history shows Carr will look to what makes him most comfortable. That player is Amari Cooper.

After becoming the starter in Week 11, C.J. Anderson had the most rushing TD (8) and the 3rd-most rushing yards (677) over the remainder of the season

Some people still doubt Anderson, and I don't know why. Perhaps because the ghost of Montee Ball passed through the waiver wire this week we're once again reminded of failed Broncos running backs past. However, the film shows, and the stats back it up, that C.J. Anderson is the one to break those failed trends.

When Anderson got on the field, he played like a top-five NFL running back. Down the stretch last season, no other running back played better than Anderson, from a statistical stand point. With Gary Kubiak's offense in town, he should have a dominant full season in store. Anderson's decisive, cutting style with power fits right in with the Kubiak mold. The fact that he can catch passes out of the backfield gives hope that Anderson could have an Arian Foster-type season, and he produced on that level at the end of 2014 to cement that case.

I haven't seen many folks talk up Anderson as a DFS play for Week 1. He does not have the best matchup in Week 1 against the Ravens' always stout fronts, but Anderson proved he was matchup proof at the end of last season. The Broncos figure to beat the Ravens, and that means plenty of rush attempts for Anderson. Even if it is shoot out, the Broncos star is game script proof. Play him this week as a potential pivot move in DFS, and you should do the same every week in redraft leagues.


Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB. Football is back, that is all.

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