If you had asked me 2 months ago, I would have said that I would not be writing these awards this season. The pandemic put the season in doubt but here we are with the first week of the season done, with RedZone watched, YouTube highlights to get through the next day and UKD the first league checked for scores. (You have other LJASDASASDHJKASDs? - Ed)
It feels like this season might be a little different than the others as the league is entering its fifth year, and the start-up draft is having less and less impact on current rosters, not to mention we are getting away from certain owners who made terrible trades that weaken their team and strengthened others. If I had to predict a winner of each division I’d struggling for a dead cert and this week’s results showed that. The scores were bunched together, the defending champ got the lowest score, and the North scored the lowest combined points. The Fireflies have Kyler, CEH, and Jacobs to build around which is a far cry from what Michael started with and might be enough to take control of the Midlands division. The Pythons have Lamar, Ekeler, Henry and Hill which has taken them to the top of the South but Scott has been saying in the chat this week that he could sell or buy because everything seems a bit more balanced. This season has the potential to have the most drama and tension so far!
The Buzzsaw: Gateshead Spartans
Buzzsaw is maybe a little strong this week as previous winners have scores at least in the 140s, sometimes getting into the 170s and 180s but this week the “Buzzsaw” score was a lowly 123.96 from the Spartans. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be setting the pace in week 1 but the difference between the top score and the ninth score was less than 20 points, so it is not exactly running away with it. But being the highest scorer every week means you are a winner and you can’t say that for a particular score, you can lose with 140 points.
McCaffrey and Thielen put up their usual strong numbers with 27 and 28 points and combined with Aaron Rodgers getting 30.76, that is 70% of Chris’ total. The depth on the Spartans bench at the wide receiver position will mean that there might be some more Buzzsaws to come.
Gateshead Spartans - 🏆
Highest Point Scorer - Wigan Wombats
The top ten is full of names that everyone would expect which is a far cry from last season when the top ten ADP was in the hundreds! Five quarterbacks are in there, Wilson, Rodgers, Allen, Jackson and Murray which shows a trend, either a mobile QB or one hellbent on proving the world wrong is a good way to get points at that position. But the top spot was taken by a player that was traded for in the offseason, Davante Adams. It is always sweet when you get an immediate payoff from a trade and the Wombats must be feeling good this week. 14 catches for 156 yards and 2 TDs is a stat line that you love to see, and you get the hint that he and Rodgers are going to be like this all season.
Is anyone else sneakily impressed with the Raiders this season? They seem to have got themselves together and Josh Jacobs has gone from a “solid” player to a stud with 93 rush yards, 46 receiving yards from 4 catches and 3 TDs. You would be forgiven for mistaking that as a Barkley stat line! The Fireflies can build around a player like this and hope that his window does not shut before theirs.
Wigan Wombats – 🏆
Unluckiest Loser - Chippenham Beavers
To truly feel like an unlucky loser, you need to be one of the highest scorers of the week and still lose but this week the unluckiest loser actually scored the 6th highest score and that was the Beavers so they shouldn’t feel too hard done by. Only the Fireflies scored less than them and still won. What was shocking is seeing the Leopards propping up the scores with a week low of 82.76 points! Maybe the rebranding has disenchanted their players and fanbase? That score brought the average down to 110.6 points which meant everyone from the Fireflies and up scored better than average.
Chippenham Beavers - 🏆
Closest Matchup - Oxford Seahawks
Two very close matchups to start a season and divisional games are worth that little bit more in the race for a playoff position.
The Seahawks just edge past the Beavers by 1.54 points and you have to say that it was all down to Michael Thomas. He only managed 3 receptions for 17 yards which is not a stat line you would expect from the leader in yards and receptions last year especially has he played in almost all of the offensive snaps in this game. Just one more catch for 11 yards and this is a win for the Beavers. The Seahawks stay true to their colours and ride to victory on the back of Mr Unlimited who was the highest scoring QB of the week.
An honourable mention to the Chargers who only lost by 2.64 points. I was flip-flopping between Wentz (13pts) and Ryan (23.9pts) and we all saw what happened to the Eagles o-line against Chase Young, so I dodged a bullet there.
Oxford Seahawks – 🏆
Most Impactful Injury - Gateshead Spartans
The first thing that came to mind when I was thinking injuries was that hospital pass the Jimmy G threw to Kittle which meant he couldn’t protect his lower body. He was lucky that the leg wasn’t snapped in half so might not miss much time which is a relief to the Bandits as they only have Akins as a possible sub-in, so they need Kittle back ASAP.
Another TE that had a bad injury was Blake Jarwin and his season is done with a torn ACL, which is a shame as he could have been in for a step up season with the likes of Cooper / Gallup / Lamb taking coverage away and Dak playing for his payday. Now the Fireflies will be looking at their TE depth and seeing lots of names but little production, maybe Herndon is finally relevant?
Losing Michael Thomas with an ankle injury for any period of time is annoying (especially as it probably cost them the win this week), but the Beavers should be able to survive a couple of weeks with a combination of Woods, Brown and Gage and maybe Robinson if his future is sorted quickly. I’m not mentioned Lev Bell more than I have to as he is fading into irrelevance, and the Wombats are fine at the position without him.
The most impactful injury of the week I would say is Marlon Mack tearing his achilles and going on IR. The Spartans only have 3 plays tipped to even score points this week at running back as Freeman and Miller are free agents, Damien Williams is labelled as a holdout and Chris Thompson had a minor role for the Jags (no rushes, 2 catches). That means Chris is keeping his fingers crossed that Dobbins does not eat into Ingram’s work and Bill does not wake up on Sunday and decide it a Burkhead day. Saying all this, CMC could probably score enough for the entire position!
Gateshead Spartans – 🏆
Worst Decision - Chippenham Beavers
Given that two match ups were within 3 points, it was surprising to see not many glaring omissions from starting line ups in week one.
A couple that were interesting but did not make much difference or weren’t bad decisions: My Eagles benching Sony over Cohen and Gibson even though there was Monty hype and the Eagles D is normally good against runners; the Wombats starting Goff against the Cowboys over Cousins against the Packers; and the Leopards starting Kayden Smith (I admit that I had to check who he was) over Larry Fitz and Mike Evans.
The Beavers had to choose between 3 wide receivers that had been disappointing the year before. MVS didn’t step up and take the number two receiver behind Adams, Corey Davis was supposed to be what AJ Brown showed at the end of last season and N’Keal Harry was seen by some as the best receiver in the class when he came out. If Tom had selected either MVS or Davis, then he starts the season with an important divisional win, but he opted for Harry and a loss by less than a field goal.
An honourable mention for the Otters who put up a great fight against the Fireflies despite the fact that Shep has seven free agents on his bench, SEVEN! There is only so much your logo can do Shep, as good as it is.
Chippenham Beavers - 🏆