Wednesday was the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur.
As longtime readers may know, I'm Jewish. Now, I am what some would call a nonpracticing member of the Jewish faith, but hey, I've been bar mitzvahed, I celebrate the major Jewish holidays, I've seen Neil Diamond in concert seven times.
And Yom Kippur has always been one of my favorite holidays.
I'll let MyJewishLearning.com describe it: Yom Kippur is "the day at the conclusion of which, according to tradition, God seals the Books of Life and Death for the coming year. The day is devoted to communal repentance for sins committed over the course of the previous year ... in order that both the community and the individual be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year."
Or, as I described it to my 6-year-old daughter this past weekend, we ask for forgiveness for all the mistakes we have made in the past year, so that we may start anew with a clean slate, trying to do better in the future.
I am by no means trying to trivialize one of the most holy days in the Jewish religion, but the themes of forgiveness, of looking back and understanding where you were wrong, of acknowledging your own shortcomings with a hope and desire to do better in the future are universal themes.
Themes that, for example, might work well for a fantasy football columnist looking for an intro. Knowing that I would be spending serious time repenting for real-life sins this week, I thought about the calls I'd like back in the world of fantasy football. Situations that I'd like to illuminate now, so as to be helpful to you going forward.
And so, gentle reader, with that In mind, I declare Thursday, Sept. 20, the Fantasy Football Day of Atonement.
With time allowing me to reflect, I'd like to ask your forgiveness on ...
• Not being on board with Brandin Cooks as a star fantasy asset in Los Angeles. A talented but inconsistent fantasy option last season, he was coming to his third team in three years with a "start" percentage of 47.9 percent the past three seasons per Tristan H. Cockcroft's consistency ratings. I figured he'd be more Sammy Watkins decoy-ish from 2017, and I had both Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp higher. Yeah ... that was wrong. He has 246 yards in his first two games with the Rams (he had 213 receiving yards in his final five games with the Patriots). Sean McVay clearly knows how to use his new toy.
• Not seeing that the Bengals' passing offense would take a major step. I thought the offseason additions pointed toward a much more run-oriented offense, and watching Andy Dalton and A.J. Green last season had me thinking they were trending in the wrong direction in terms of their skill sets. Well. It's fueled, of course, by the four-touchdown game Dalton just had against Baltimore, but the Red Rifle has now played 16 games under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Here's the list of players with more touchdown passes in that time frame: Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. That's it. That's the whole list. Green has looked reborn and Tyler Boyd has emerged, running just one fewer route than Green this season and accounting for 46 percent of the Bengals' slot targets so far.
• Thinking a healthy David Johnson would be immune from a coaching and quarterback change. Arizona has 13 fewer offensive snaps this season than any other team in the NFL. The Cardinals have had the ball on offense less than the Buffalo Bills. DJ is 22nd among RBs in routes run. In his monster 2016 season, he ran more than 100 more routes than any other RB. It's unlikely to get better against Chicago this week.
• Making people who subscribed to ESPN+ and watch The Fantasy Show see Daniel shirtless all the time.
• Believing that when Le'Veon Bell tweeted this summer that he would play Week 1 and that when his agent said in an interview this summer that Bell would play Week 1, it would happen. I had Bell as my No. 1 player overall in the preseason because of that (I wasn't alone) and how long he had been an elite option. In 2016 and 2017, Bell missed five games and still had 78 more touches than any other player in the NFL in that span. I am all for players getting as much money as they can in the short window they have, but I believe he is ultimately making a mistake here. Either way, my mistake was not taking his risk into account when ranking him.
• For not thinking Matt Breida could be a workhorse back. You guys know I love his talent -- I literally banged a drum on TV for him all last season -- but when the injury to Jerick McKinnon happened, I cop to the fact that I backed Alfred Morris over him in my ranks. My concern was that I didn't believe Breida could shoulder the load and that Morris, who looked good in limited time last season and this preseason, not to mention being familiar with Shanahan's system, would be the one getting the majority of work, including goal-line work. It's early, so it remains to be seen if Breida can hold up under this usage, but considering he enters Week 3 leading the NFL in rushing, it's clear that Breida, not Morris, is the 49ers running back you currently want in your starting lineup.
• For thinking I should apologize to my wife for watching episodes of "Homeland" on Showtime without her, because I'm not actually sorry for doing that. I mean, she fell asleep on the couch. What am I supposed to do? Pause it? It was at a really important part.
• For drafting LeSean McCoy. It was the 10th pick of the third round in a 12-team league and hey, Shady was coming off a two-season stretch during which he touched the ball 630 times. On a team devoid of playmakers, I thought the pure volume would make up for the lack of offensive efficiency. The Bills currently hold a minus-55 point differential and now McCoy is hurt. He has just 21 touches. Yeesh.
• For not banging the drum on Patrick Mahomes enough in the preseason. Look, he was in my big preseason "100 Facts" column with a bunch of positive stats. He also was on the preseason "Love" list. And this is part of what I wrote about him: "I love all the preseason chatter of concern about interceptions. All it does is keep lowering his already crazy-low ADP of QB20 (13th round). Mahomes is my answer to who is most likely to be this year's Carson Wentz." That's what I wrote in early August, all of which is correct and great, but man ... I still wasn't high enough on him. I should have screamed it from the rooftops. He is not a fluke, man. If we drafted today, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady would be the only QBs I'd take over him. And given Brady's age and Rodgers' injury, I wouldn't look at you sideways if he were the first QB off the board.
• For not inventing time travel because, if I did, I would use the technology to travel back in time to Jan. 26, 1992 and tell the young version of Matthew Berry to appreciate the latest Redskins Super Bowl win because he may never see another one in his lifetime. How do we lose at home to the Colts? Come on, guys. Insert your favorite shaking head GIF here. I'm partial to the Captain Picard one.
• For not realizing Javorius Allen would be a thing beyond just a handcuff. Because he's a thing. With an improved offensive line, actual wide receivers and a more balanced offense, I was looking forward to seeing Alex Collins pick up where he left off last season, when he averaged 16.3 PPG in the eight games in which he got 15-plus carries and had been top 12 in yards after contact. So far this season, Collins has just one more snap in the red zone than Allen and one fewer goal-to-go carry. Last season, Allen was on the field for 54 snaps inside the 15-yard line, a big number compared to Collins' 31 (and yes, I know Collins missed a game ... but he wasn't getting 23 snaps inside the 15 in that game).
• That Justin Bieber's "Sorry" keeps going through my head while I write this and, since I've mentioned it, I'm sorry that it will probably now go through your head all day as well.
Which preseason thoughts/predictions/draft picks do you want forgiveness for on this, the Fantasy Football Day of Atonement? Tell me on social media (I'm @matthewberrytmr on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram) and I will happily help in the process of you wiping the slate clean and starting anew.
Before we dive into this week's column, a few housekeeping notes:
First, a huge thank you to everyone who sent kind notes, emails, tweets and texts about Travis Anderson. If you haven't read his story, I highly encourage you to do so.
Travis asked me say the following: "Just pass along how much I appreciate everyone's support. When something like this happens and you are all the sudden living one day at a time, having all those positive, encouraging notes really helps. Dirt Merchants lost 95 to 86.52, 0-2 start for first time in years. Might just be that my mind is elsewhere."
The V Foundation, the Vikings and Kirk Cousins have all been in touch with Travis, as have many of you. If you'd like to reach out to Travis and offer support in his fight, please tweet at him. He doesn't tweet much, but he reads each one.
Finally, I appreciate all the feedback I have gotten on the new column format. Truly. I get way too many to respond to, but I read every one. People have overall been very kind as I try to work out this new weekly format, but one criticism that has cropped up some is that people find it hard to navigate and (surprisingly, at least to me) can't tell whether I am high or low on a player for the week. To me, that has always sort of been the beauty of the column. I present facts without comment, but the whole idea is that the facts lead you to the opinion I have of the player. But on a weekly basis I can see where, when you're just skimming for your guys versus a draft prep overview of lots of players, it might be tough.
As always, I suggest you check my rankings on Sunday mornings and watch Fantasy Football Now (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2) to get my definitive opinion on players, but I am going to try to organize it by player and position to see if that helps.
Remember, you can make stats say anything you want them to. So here are a bunch of facts, both positive and negative, about Week 3. Some are about players, some are about matchups, and not a damn one of them tells the whole story. What you do with them is up to you.
Here are 50 facts you need to know before Week 3:
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
1. If you took 13 fantasy points away from Mahomes' two-week total, he'd still be QB2 this season.
2. Over the past 17 weeks (a full football season), the San Francisco 49ers, against whom Mahomes plays this week, rank among the bottom five defenses in passing touchdowns and passing yards allowed.
3. Fitzpatrick ranks fourth in average air yards per pass attempt this season.
4. He ranks second in number of deep TD passes.
4a. He has four touchdown passes of at least 35 yards this season.
4b. No other QB has more than one.
5. This week, he faces a Steelers defense that has allowed five touchdown passes that travelled at least 15 air yards.
6. The Steelers have also allowed the most completions of 20-plus air yards this season.
6a. This has nothing to do with the matchup, but is mind-blowing to me anyway: Fitzpatrick, a career backup in his 14th NFL season, at age 35, has the most fantasy points by a quarterback through two games ... since the NFL/AFL merger.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
7. In the 16 games under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Dalton has 3,434 passing yards, 31 TD passes and nine INTs, which adds up to 247.4 fantasy points in ESPN standard scoring.
7a. That would have been QB14 last season.
8. During that same stretch, the Carolina Panthers (Dalton's Week 3 opponent) rank 24th in yards per pass attempt allowed.
8a. And they rank 23rd in passing touchdowns allowed.
8b. Dalton is available in 78 percent of ESPN leagues.
9. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Stafford is averaging 2.54 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road.
10. Stafford has attempted 99 passes this season, his most ever through two games.
11. The Lions have dropped back to pass on an NFL-high 78 percent of plays this season.
12. They have gone 70 straight games without a 100-yard rusher, the fourth-longest drought in NFL history.
13. The Lions' defense is allowing the fourth-most points per drive.
14. Since the start of last season, the Patriots (Detroit's opponent Sunday night) have allowed the third-most passing yards in the NFL.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
15. In the first five games of 2015, Wilson was QB14 (QB2 the rest of the way).
15a. In the first five games of 2016, Wilson was QB21 (QB10 the rest of the way).
15b. In the first five games of 2017, Wilson was QB8 (QB1 the rest of the way).
15c. Wilson is currently QB16 through two games this season.
16. On Sunday, he faces a Dallas Cowboys team that, since the beginning of last season, is creating pressure at the sixth-highest rate.
17. During Wilson's career, no team has allowed pressure more often than the Seattle Seahawks.
17a. The Seahawks allowed six sacks in each of the first two games.
18. Howard and the Bears are five-point favorites against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
19. Since the start of last season, the Bears rank sixth in rushing percentage when up by at least a field goal.
20. When Chicago has had a lead of at least a field goal this season, Howard has had 26 of the Bears' 32 running back carries.
21. Since the start of last season, the Cardinals have allowed the fifth-most rushing scores.
22. So far this season, Lindsay has played 53 snaps and gotten 32 touches for 213 yards and a TD.
22a. So far this season, Broncos running back Royce Freeman has played 44 snaps and gotten 23 touches for 99 yards and a TD.
23. Lindsay is averaging 4.3 yards before contact per rush, second best in the NFL among RBs.
24. In both Broncos games this season, Lindsay has more second-half touches than Freeman.
25. It's been only two games, but the Baltimore Ravens (Denver's opponent this week) rank in the bottom 10 in the NFL in second-half yards per carry allowed (4.14).
25a. Doesn't matter for us -- I just think this is cool: Lindsay is the first undrafted player in NFL history with 100-plus scrimmage yards in his first two career games.
Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals
26. In 11 career games with 15-plus carries, Bernard is averaging 4.4 YPC, 112 total yards per game and 18.3 fantasy PPG.
26a. In Weeks 14 and 15 last season, when Bengals back Joe Mixon did not play, Bernard had 32.3 fantasy points and was RB16 in that two-week span.
26b. Over the past six games he has played, Bernard has 85.2 points (RB10 in total points during that stretch).
27. Since Bernard entered the NFL in 2013, he is top five among running backs in both receptions and receiving yards.
28. Since the start of last season, opponents are completing 81.4 percent of passes intended for running backs against the Panthers, third highest in the NFL.
29. Since the beginning of 2017, opponents are completing 83.6 percent of passes intended for RBs against the Packers (the Redskins' opponent Sunday), which ranks second highest.
29a. Thompson ranks third in the NFL with 19 receptions this season.
30. Redskins QB Alex Smith has thrown 65 of his 76 passes this season within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
31. Smith is averaging 5.4 air yards per attempt this season, third lowest in the NFL.
31a. The Redskins are three-point underdogs in a game with a 47.5-point over/under.
31b. In terms of PPG, Thompson is RB10 since the beginning of last season.
32. This week, Drake plays a Raiders team that, through two weeks, has allowed the second-most rushing yards to opposing RBs.
33. Oakland has allowed RBs to average a league-high 4.13 yards per carry before first contact this season.
Theo Riddick, Detroit Lions
34. Riddick leads the Lions' backfield in snaps this season.
34a. He is sixth among RBs in receptions this season (14).
35. He plays 50 percent of snaps when the Lions are trailing.
35a. The Lions are seven-point underdogs in a game with a 52.5-point over/under.
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
36. The Cardinals are averaging just 47.0 plays per game, fewest in the NFL.
36a. Last season, the fewest plays per game run by a single team was 57.9 by the Bengals.
36b. Two years ago, when Johnson was RB1, the Cardinals averaged 67.9 plays per game, second most in the NFL.
36c. In 2016, Johnson led all running backs in receptions (80) and receiving yards (879).
36d. He also led the NFL in fantasy points when trailing, and also when trailing by double digits.
37. This season, the Cardinals have yet to hold a lead and Johnson is running about half as many routes per game as he did last season.
37a. He has also lined up as a wide receiver only four times in two games.
37b. In 2016, he averaged 11.3 snaps per game lined up in the slot or out wide.
38. In 2016, Johnson led the NFL in rushing yards outside the tackles (463), averaging 6.3 yards per carry on those rushes.
38a. In 2018, Johnson has carried the ball outside the tackles just three times in two games for a total of 3 yards. In all, 86.4 percent of his rushing attempts have been between the tackles.
39. Since Week 15 of last season, no WR has more fantasy points than ... Smith-Schuster (120.2).
39b. The Buccaneers, whom Smith-Schuster faces Monday night, have allowed 10 different receivers to score at least 20 points since the beginning of last season.
Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions
40. Golladay is being targeted on 19.2 percent of his routes.
40a. He leads the NFL in routes run this season.
40b. Please see Nos. 9-14.
41. The Denver Broncos (whom Crabtree faces on Sunday) have allowed the fifth-fewest WR points since the beginning of last season.
43. Not one of them caught more than five passes in a single matchup.
44. Last week, in Aaron Rodgers' first full game after suffering his leg injury, Graham led qualified Packers by recording a reception on 19.4 percent of his routes.
45. This week, Graham faces the Redskins, who are a bottom-eight defense against tight ends since the beginning of last season in both yards and touchdowns.
46. Since the beginning of last season, only Graham has more red zone fantasy points than Rudolph.
46a. In that stretch, the Buffalo Bills (Rudolph's Week 3 opponent) have allowed a league-high 67 drives to reach the red zone.
46b. Since the start of last season, Buffalo is a bottom-10 defense versus tight ends.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers
47. Kittle leads the 49ers in targets this season (13) and is tied for sixth among all TEs.
48. The Chiefs, whom Kittle faces Sunday, have allowed the fourth-most points this season (65).
48a. In the process, they've given up 40 fantasy points to opposing TEs (third most in the NFL).
49. Since the beginning of last season, only three times has a TE totaled more than 67 receiving yards against the Houston Texans, Engram's opponent on Sunday.
49b. Only Arizona has fewer red zone trips this season than the New York Giants.
50. When Odell Beckham Jr. is out, Engram has a 29 percent target share in the red zone.
50a. When Beckham is active, Engram has a 15 percent target share in the red zone.
50b. Beckham will be active Sunday.
Matthew Berry, The Talented Mr. Roto, would like to atone in advance for whatever advice is wrong this week, too. He is the creator of RotoPass.com and one of the owners of the Fantasy Life app and FantasyLife.com.