Normally, there's a pretty easy threshold for determining the best fantasy players in a given week. Twenty fantasy points. On the bell curve of normal fantasy weeks, 20-plus-point games are on the far right, but far enough under the curve that you can group them together and divide them from the next tier down.
I'd estimate that, give or take, each week yields about 10-12 player-games with 20 or more fantasy points. And yet, through the late-afternoon games Sunday, there were four. Total. Only four players (or units, since one was a defense) managed even 20 fantasy points in standard scoring. Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Julius Thomas threw off the curve a little with the night game, but still, it was a chill day.
What does that mean? It means that fantasy scores on the whole will be lower in Week 1 than in typical weeks, and it means that my threshold for the best of the week has to be lower:
Best quarterbacks in Week 1
Matt Ryan, ATL (448 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, 15 rushing yards, 30 fantasy points)
Yeah, you have to lower your expectations in the rough-for-fantasy Week 1, but Matt Ryan posed no such problems for his owners, putting up a career-type game against the division rival New Orleans Saints. It was mostly second-half production after the Falcons managed only one touchdown in the first half, but all told, Ryan managed a 128.8 passer rating. It was a great performance for a Falcons team coming off a disaster season and needing a strong start to work on bouncing back this year.
Next game: The Falcons take on the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 2. Ryan picked apart the Saints' supposedly strong defense Sunday, so a unit with a similar reputation next week shouldn't bother him. You can't possibly expect 30 points again, but Ryan is firmly in fantasy starter status for now.
Andrew Luck, IND (370 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 19 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 25 fantasy points)
Fantasy Football Stats
Fantasy Football Stats
The two interceptions weren't great, but Luck still had a big game, even outpacing Manning. Luck finished fourth in fantasy points among quarterbacks a year ago, but only scored 20-plus points four times. If he can mix in a few more big-time games, he could potentially finish even higher in the rankings this season.
Peyton Manning, DEN (269 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, -3 rushing yards, 22 fantasy points)
Manning and the Broncos really called off the dogs after taking a 24-0 lead Sunday, almost to their detriment -- they had to fend off a late charge by the Colts as a result. Still, even having only gone all-out for half the game, Manning was the No. 3 quarterback across the league through Sunday. The old guy isn't really the Old Guy quite yet.
Next game: I mean, it doesn't really matter, but the Broncos play the Chiefs next Sunday. With the possible exception of a game against the Seahawks in Seattle -- and probably not even then -- Manning will be the No. 1 quarterback every week.
Jake Locker, TEN (266 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 14 rushing yards, 19 fantasy points)
See what I mean about a not-huge week? Sure, Locker and the Titans should look fondly at his performance Sunday, and it bodes well for the 2014 future of both the quarterback and the team, but it's insane that a 19-point day with only 266 passing yards was fantasy's No. 2 performance before Sunday Night Football. If Locker can stay healthy and reach this level of production going forward, the Titans could find themselves contenders in what looks to be a subpar AFC South.
Next game: The Titans host the Dallas Cowboys' putrid defense at 1 p.m. ET next week. Locker wasn't drafted as a starter in basically any league, but owners of, say, Cam Newton who are nervous about his status should look at Locker really closely, because anyone facing that Dallas defense is interesting.
Best running backs in Week 1
Marshawn Lynch, SEA (110 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 14 receiving yards, 24 fantasy points)
The people hyping Christine Michael and/or Robert Turbin in preseason had some reason -- Lynch is getting older, he's likely in his last year in Seattle, he had a holdout in preseason that is always worrisome. But Lynch doesn't appear to be slowing down quite yet, destroying a subpar Green Bay defense Thursday in a great performance, averaging 5.5 yards over 20 carries despite no rush of more than 21 yards. A big yardage average without any huge runs makes for a beloved stat line.
Next game: The Seahawks travel to San Diego for a Sunday afternoon game in Week 2. This Seahawks team looked incredible through one game, and if that's any indication, there will be a lot of running out the clock in the team's future. It can only mean good things for Lynch.
Le'Veon Bell, PIT (109 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 88 receiving yards, 24 fantasy points)
It was a huge game for Bell despite getting a first-quarter touchdown vultured by goal-line back LeGarrette Blount. He staved off the vulture in the second-quarter by running the ball in from 38 yards all by himself. Bell peaked at 139 yards from scrimmage last season as a rookie, but went for 197 Sunday. He might have played himself into obvious RB1 territory with this performance.
Next game: The Steelers travel to Baltimore on a short week, playing their rivals in a Thursday night game. The Ravens gave up 10 fantasy points to the Bengals' Giovani Bernard Sunday. Bell is already ranked ahead of Bernard, and is a must-start.
Knowshon Moreno, MIA (134 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 19 fantasy points)
It stood to reason that Moreno's production would fall off a good deal in Miami. His 2013 season in Denver was a career year, buoyed by a brilliant offense and Peyton Manning, and he was moving to a Miami Dolphins team that had a historically bad offensive line a year ago. That hypothesis might come to fruition yet, but it certainly didn't Sunday, when Moreno averaged 5.6 yards a carry across 24 touches. Similar to the Lynch point earlier, Moreno managed a high YPC despite no rush of longer than 15 yards.
Next game: The Dolphins travel to Buffalo for an early-afternoon Sunday game. Moreno isn't exactly a must-start, but another game like this and that might be changing.
Best wide receivers in Week 1
Allen Hurns, JAX (110 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 23 fantasy points)
No one thought this was coming. Hurns led the Jaguars in catches in preseason, and he was gaining attention leading up to the season. And sure, Cecil Shorts was inactive. But anyone who predicted that an undrafted rookie from the University of Miami would be the NFL's leading wide receiver in Week 1 was Allen Hurns' mother. The rookie caught only four balls, but three of those completions were for at least 26 yards. It was a great performance from someone most fantasy players hadn't heard of in July.
Next game: The Jaguars play a Washington team with a bad defense at 1 p.m. ET next Sunday. Shorts is likely to be back on the field, and Marqise Lee also had a decent game, so Hurns might not get as many looks as he did Sunday. He's not a fantasy starter quite yet, but he needs to be added in every league.
A.J. Green, CIN (131 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 19 fantasy points)
In Week 10 last year, Green caught a Hail Mary pass at the end of the fourth quarter for 51 yards and a touchdown. It gave the Bengals a chance at a win against the Baltimore Ravens and took Green from a "meh" fantasy day to a monster one. Sunday was almost the same thing, when Green caught a 77-yard touchdown pass inside the game's last five minutes that gave the Bengals the win over the Ravens and changed Green's stat line from "five catches for 54 yards" to "six catches for 131 yards and a score." That's a heck of an improvement.
Next game: The Bengals host the Atlanta Falcons Sunday. That's pretty irrelevant, and there's no reason to think any particular team or matchup would make Green anything other than a fantasy must-start.
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN (102 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 26 receiving yards, 18 fantasy points)
Yep, that's a wide receivier with 80 percent of his yards coming on the ground. So far in his career, Patterson hasn't done much of anything according to conventional wisdom, and Sunday continued that. The fantasy darling through the preseason lived up to the hype in the Vikings' beatdown of the St. Louis Rams, and he even out-gained Adrian Peterson by 27 yards.
Next game: The Vikings host the New England Patriots Sunday. I think I was the last holdout on Patterson, wanting to see him do it this season before buying in. Well, he's done it. Patterson is officially a fantasy performer.
Best tight ends in Week 1
Julius Thomas, DEN (104 receiving yards, 3 touchdowns, 28 fantasy points)
We all knew what Thomas could do, and even then this was crazy. Thomas scored three touchdowns in the second quarter alone in Sunday's win over the Colts, single-handedly taking the score from 3-0 to 24-0. Thomas finished third among tight ends a year ago, with 144 fantasy points on the season, and Sunday's 28 points still marked a career high.
Next game: The Broncos host division rival Kansas City Sunday. The Chiefs' defense isn't what it was a year ago, and it looks like the Broncos might be close to its vaunted status. Thomas is a must-start every week.
Vernon Davis, SF (44 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 16 fantasy points)
Davis had two touchdowns before the end of the first quarter, and the 49ers had the game well in hand around the same time. They moved to the run at that point, so Davis only had four catches in the game, but the damage was done. There were worries that Davis' usage would fall off with Michael Crabtree ostensibly healthy and Stevie Johnson added to the fold. It's possible that will still happen with Crabtree not fully healthy Sunday, but Davis is shaping up to be a strong performer for 2014.
Next game: The 49ers host the Bears on Sunday Night Football next week. If Crabtree is for some reason still limited, Davis is a definite top-tier tight end. Even if Crabtree is fine, Davis is still a must-start.
Greg Olsen, CAR (83 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14 fantasy pints)
The Panthers tight end led the team in receptions and targets Sunday. He is the best receiving option the team had, and that becomes even more true when you consider the fact that he was a good safety blanket for replacement quarterback Derek Anderson. Olsen scored his touchdown on a 5-yard pass in the second quarter, but continued his production throughout the game.
Next game: The Panthers host the Lions at 1 p.m. Sunday. It looks like Cam Newton will be back, but even if he is, he might not be at full strength, and Olsen will continue his security-blanket status. He doesn't have the upside of a guy like Julius Thomas, but Olsen is still a fantasy must-start in the majority of leagues.
Best kicker in Week 1
Matt Bryant, ATL (3/3 FG, 4/4 XP, 18 fantasy points)
Bryant is in his sixth year as the Falcons' kicker, and his 13th season in the NFL. As a Falcon, he's offered strong performances, converting at least 84 percent of his field-goal attempts every full season in Atlanta. Last year, the team's struggles meant Bryant didn't get his usual number of opportunities, but if the Falcons are back to being good this year, he'll be a high-end kicker.
Best defense in Week 1
Houston Texans (6 points allowed, 2 fumbles recovered, 3 sacks, 20 fantasy points)
The Texans were really helped by a struggling Washington offense, and by their own improvement off of last year. The injury to Jadeveon Clowney hurts going forward, with the rookie possibly sidelined 4-6 weeks, but even without their No. 1 draft pick, the Texans' defense will be an imposing unit this season.