Fantasy Football Recap and Takeaways: Week 1
Week 1 isn’t completely in the books (this is being written in advance of the Sunday Night Football game and the Monday Night Football doubleheader), but it’s already been an interesting one that includes a tie and some lengthy weather delays.
Falcons 12 at Eagles 18 (Thursday)
The Eagles won their first regular season game in defense of securing the Lombardi Trophy. They had to wait a little longer than expected to start their title defense due to a weather delay (not the only one this week). Nick Foles started, and he was nowhere near his Super Bowl-MVP form completing 19 of 34 passes for just 117 yards. The Eagles eased Jay Ajayi into feature-back duties as the game went along. Ajayi dealt with a lower-body injury in late August, and Doug Pederson didn’t want to put too much on his plate. He ran well, though, and closed strong in the second half.
The Falcons continued their 2017 offensive form, and that’s not a compliment. After torching teams under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in 2016, they took a huge step back last year with Steve Sarkisian running the offense. The Falcons managed only 12 points, and they were dreadful in the red zone. Julio Jones piled up 169 yards receiving on 10 carries, but he failed to reach the end zone. It’s unlikely the Falcons will be this terrible on offense the entirety of the year. I mean, it’s not as if Philadelphia’s defense is a pushover. Regardless, those with hopes of the Falcons taking a leap in year two of Sark’s offense can’t be pleased with what they saw in Week 1.
Buccaneers 48 at Saints 40
This game sunk many in survivor pools, and I was among those casualties. The Saints were the biggest favorites of the week at -9.5 points, but Ryan Fitzpatrick had other plans. The Saints defense reverted back to pre-2017 ways, and Fitzpatrick shredded them for 417 yards passing, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions while taking zero sacks and even adding 36 yards rushing and a score. Peyton Barber was the true feature back, and Ronald Jones II wasn’t even active for the game. Mike Evans led the way in receiving for the Bucs with a 7-147-1 line, but DeSean Jackson (who suffered a concussion) wasn’t far behind at 5-146-2. Even co-starter Chris Godwin got in the act with a 3-41-1 line on four targets.
With the defense playing like garbage, Drew Brees turned the clock back to when he had to carry them. He erupted for 439 yards passing, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and took just one sack. Alvin Kamara rushed for only 29 yards on eight carries, but he scored two rushing touchdowns and busted loose for a 9-112-1 line on 12 targets. Michael Thomas was a monster reeling in 16 of 17 targets for 180 and a touchdown. Ted Ginn Jr. also reminded people of the chemistry he demonstrated with Brees last year by catching five of six targets for one touchdown.
49ers 16 at Vikings 24
Jimmy Garoppolo has now suffered his first loss as a starter for San Francisco. He threw three interceptions, and he completed under 50% of his passes. He did drop some dimes, though, including a beautiful touchdown pass to rookie Dante Pettis. He also demonstrated serious rapport with tight end George Kittle (5-90-0). Marquise Goodwin posted a goose egg. He exited for a chunk of the game due to a quad injury but returned later. The backfield work was split between Alfred Morris and Matt Breida, but the former had a pair of fumbles in the red zone, one of which was lost. It will be interesting to see if he continues to be trusted with red-zone work after those missteps. Additionally, Breida out gained him (51 yards from scrimmage to 38).
Speaking of backfields splitting work, Dalvin Cook carried the ball 16 times for 40 yards while adding six receptions for 55, but Latavius Murray also reached double-digit carries with 11 and led the team with 42 yards rushing. The Vikings offense has plenty of weapons, and they have the luxury of keeping Cook’s touches in check. Still, 21 touches in the season opener is nothing to sneeze at. Kirk Cousins debut went well behind Minnesota’s banged up line. He took three sacks and avoided turning the ball over, and he passed for 244 yards and a couple of scores while adding 26 yards rushing. Slot man Adam Thielen was the apple of his eye leading the team with 12 targets and 102 yards receiving while tying for the team lead with six receptions. Stefon Diggs played well, too, going 3-43-1. As long as Minnesota’s patchwork line can adequately protect Cousins, the offense is going to hum and produce fantasy goodies.
Bengals 34 at Colts 23
It was a slow start for the Bengals. They scored only 10 points in the first half, but they finished with 34. The defense chipped in with a score of their own, but the offense showed promise, too. Andy Dalton was sacked only two times and connected on six of eight targets to A.J. Green for 92 yards and a score. Tyler Eifert hauled in all three of his targets for 44 yards, and while John Ross only caught one of two targets for three yards, he made it count reeling in a fade for a touchdown. The leader on offense, though, was second-year back Joe Mixon. He rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and snagged five of seven targets for another 54 yards. Perhaps equally important, Giovani Bernard touched the ball just two times.
The Colts makeshift backfield was largely ineffective, and Andrew Luck was forced to air it out 53 times as a result. After missing all of last year, he immediately bested 300 yards passing in his first start with a pair of touchdowns, one interception, and a couple sacks taken. A whopping nine players caught passes, but the team high for yards was 60 by Jack Doyle. Eric Ebron made his presence known in his first meaningful game for his new club with four grabs for 51 yards and a touchdown. T.Y. Hilton’s 46 yards left something to be desired, but he caught five passes that included a touchdown. He also led the team in targets with 11. That type of volume should eventually lead to some blowup spots for the speedy wideout.
Steelers 21 at Browns 21
Le’Veon Bell hasn’t signed his tender, but his absence wasn’t really a problem. James Conner carried the ball 31 times for 135 yards and a pair of scores, and he also caught five passes for 57 yards. If Bell hoped to prove he’s an irreplaceable piece of the offense, things didn’t go according to plan. Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster delivered the goods, but Ben Roethlisberger was a train wreck. Road Big Ben was no good, and that’s nothing new for him. Fantasy gamers should be mindful of his home/road splits going forward.
Tyrod Taylor was wildly inaccurate completing just 15 of 40 passes for 197 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Per usual, he was sacked a bunch — seven times to be exact. While many pundits like to point to his ability to limit turnovers as evidence of him being an above-average signal caller, his sack-taking woes are nothing new and undermine his lack of turnovers. He made up for the lack of passing production — at least from a fantasy perspective — with 77 yards rushing and a touchdown. Carlos Hyde was a bellcow, but as has been the case in his career, and inefficient one (2.8 yards per carry). The game stayed close, so that played to his advantage. However, in addition to his inefficiency as a runner, Hyde has Duke Johnson Jr.’s receiving chops working against him in contests the Browns are forced to play catch up. Taylor had tunnel vision for Jarvis Landry. The former Dolphin was targeted 15 times. He hauled in seven receptions for 105 yards. Conversely, Josh Gordon was targeted only three times for 17 yards. Popular breakout candidate David Njoku was targeted seven times, but he caught only three balls for 13 yards.
Bills 3 at Ravens 47
The Bills trailed 14-0 after the first quarter and 26-0 at the half. Buffalo was expected to be bad this year, but getting beaten by 44 points is remarkable for an NFL club. Nathan Peterman was horrendous and relieved by rookie Josh Allen. Allen was just 6 of 15 for 74 yards, so it’s not as if he lit the world on fire in relief. However, the Bills would be foolish to turn back to Peterman. Buffalo’s offense is a roaring tire fire that lacks playmakers. Compounding problems is that their offensive line is awful, too. It’s a fantasy wasteland.
Joe Flacco was leaned on heavily in the first half, and he looked sharp with his new weapons in the passing game. John Brown hauled in three of four targets including a touchdown. Michael Crabtree also found pay dirt and caught three passes for 38 yards. Even Willie Snead got in on the act wit a 4-49-1 line. Flacco’s stock is up in leagues that start two quarterbacks. Alex Collins squandered a good matchup. He somewhat salvaged the day with a touchdown run, but he also lost a fumble. Fumbles were an issue for Collins before his breakout last year, so it has to be at least a little alarming for gamers who have him on their team that he put the ball on the ground in Week 1.
Jaguars 20 at Giants 15
The Jaguars handled business on the road in the season opener, but the injury bug bit their oft-banged up back. Leonard Fournette left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. His status will need to be monitored, but there was optimism after the game about his availability next week. T.J. Yeldon is the answer to who Fournette’s primary backup is. He carried the ball 14 times to just one carry for Corey Grant. Blake Bortles was in his typical game-manager form, and he completed passes to six different players. Presumed No. 1 receiver Keelan Cole led the team with 54 yards receiving on three grabs, but the run-heavy nature of the offense caps his ceiling. Second-year wideout Dede Westbrook out targeted Cole six to four, and he parlayed his half-dozen targets into five grabs for 51 yards. Big free-agent signing Donte Moncrief hauled in just one of five targets for 14 yards. Yuck.
Saquon Barkley’s day started slowly, but his 68-yard touchdown run served as a reminder that one touch is all it takes for him to turn around a mediocre day. The do-it-all rookie rushed for 106 yards and caught two of six targets for 22 yards. Odell Beckham Jr. got back to being the alpha in the passing attack with 11 receptions for 111 yards on 15 targets. I personally witnessed at least one drop for second-year tight end Evan Engram, and his two grabs for 18 yards was just fourth on the team. Another poor showing like this and it will be hard to trust him as a starter in fantasy leagues.
Texans 20 at Patriots 27
Deshaun Watson’s return to New England after his explosive showing there last year was far less impressive. He completed just half of his 34 attempts for 176 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He was without field-stretching receiver Will Fuller. Fuller was a limited practice participant all week dealing with a hamstring injury, and he was ultimately inactive. His return will help the offense, but Watson has a long way to go to quiet those cautioning for a sophomore slump that exceeds the inevitable regression from his unsustainable rookie work. DeAndre Hopkins posted a respectable 8-78-0 line on 11 targets, and Bruce Ellington went for 4-37-1 on eight targets and is a deep-league option in the event Fuller misses more time. Lamar Miller was the clear-cut feature back and rumbled for 98 yards on 20 carries while securing one of his two targets for 11 yards receiving.
Tom Brady wasn’t an otherworldly stud, but he did toss for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Hogan was quiet with one reception for 11 yards on five targets, but Rob Gronkowkski wasn’t. Those spending a top pick on Gronk had to be pleased with his 7-123-1 line on eight targets. Phillip Dorsett also shined catching all seven of his targets for 66 yards and a score. He’ll likely be a popular waiver claim. Rookie Sony Michel was inactive, and Rex Burkhead led the way with 18 carries and 64 yards rushing. He also caught one pass for five yards, but James White was an integral part of the game plan as well with four receptions for 38 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. White also rushed five times for 18 yards. New England will always mix and match their backs, but Burkhead drafters have to at least be somewhat pleased with his 19 touches.
Titans 20 at Dolphins 27
This was the other contest that featured weather delays. Marcus Mariota exited early with an elbow injury, and if he’s forced to miss time, Tennessee’s offensive pieces are unstartable. He wasn’t the only one bit by the injury bug. Tight end Delanie Walker is likely done for the season with a fracture dislocation of his ankle. So much for bruiser Derrick Henry being the goal-line back. Dion Lewis punch in a four-yard touchdown rush. Lewis was much better than Henry. The former rushed for 75 yards on 16 carries, and the latter churned out only 26 yards on 10 carries. Lewis also added five receptions on eight targets for 35 yards. The former Patriot is the team’s most desirable fantasy option, and while I declared all of Tennessee’s offense unstartable if Mariota is out, Lewis is in the low RB2/flex mix even if Blaine Gabbert starts.
Frank Gore earned co-starter status entering the season and led the Dolphins with 61 yards rushing on nine carries. Kenyan Drake paced the team with 14 rushes and turned those into 48 yards. He also added three receptions on four targets for 18 yards. Drake’s stock is down a bit with Gore siphoning work, but 66 yards from scrimmage isn’t horrible. It could also be worth kicking the tires on his availability in the event the owner who drafted him is panicking about Gore leading the team in rushing yards in the season opener. Ryan Tannehill attempted just 28 passes and threw a couple of picks, but the oft-sacked signal caller only took one sack and tossed a couple of touchdown passes. Kenny Still was hyper efficient posting a 4-106-2 line on five targets. No one else eclipsed 40 yards receiving.
Chiefs 38 at Chargers 28
Patrick Mahomes didn’t waste any time turning heads. He went 15 for 27 for 256 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and just one stack taken. He showed off his arm talent, and the superb efficiency he showed throwing to Tyreek Hill in the preseason carried over to game one. “The Freak” returned a punt for a touchdown, carried twice for four yards, and turned eight targets into a jaw-dropping 7-169-2 line. Cries of Hill’s big-plays being unsustainable should grow quieter going forward. Second-year back Kareem Hunt was the clear No. 1, but his 16 carries for 49 yards rushing were nothing to write home about. He also failed to secure his only target. Spencer Ware nearly matched him in yards from scrimmage with 40 (32 rushing and eight receiving) on only four touches (three carries and one reception). If Ware continues to play well, he could cut into Hunt’s playing time. It’s too early to panic, but Ware demonstrated that he’s at least a premium handcuff.
The Chargers posted yardage and fantasy goodies in bunches in a losing effort. Phillip Rivers completed 34 of 51 passes for 424 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. The backfield produced two backs who eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage. Starter Melvin Gordon rushed for 64 yards on 15 carries and added 102 yards receiving on nine receptions. Backup Austin Ekeler also showed off his skills with 39 yards rushing on five carries and 87 yards receiving with a touchdown on five grabs. Keenan Allen remains the top receiver and led the way with 108 yards receiving and a touchdown on eight receptions. Mike Williams was quiet most of the game, but he turned a half-dozen targets into five receptions for 81 yards. Conversely, Tyrell Williams caught just of five targets for eight yards, but one of those was a touchdown. If picking between the two going forward, I’d rather have Mike.
Seahawks 24 at Broncos 27
Remember all of the talk about Seattle’s renewed commitment to the run? Their backs Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny combined for 14 carries. Russell Wilson passed 33 times. The game was close throughout, so game script isn’t to blame. Denver was much better against the run than the pass last season, lost Aqib Talib via trade, and added Bradley Chubb in the NFL Draft, so perhaps this will prove to be a game-plan specific blip on the radar. Carson was the much better back with 51 yards rushing to Penny’s eight. Penny did slightly outgain Carson through the air with a 4-35-0 line compared to Carson’s 3-28-0 line. Despite losing No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin to a sprained MCL in the first quarter, Wilson flirted with 300 yards passing totaling 298. He added three touchdowns passes, but he also threw two interceptions and was sacked six times. It’s unclear how long Baldwin will be out, but the cupboards are mostly bare for Wilson without his top wideout.
Denver also equally split their carries between Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay. The two posted identical 15-71-0 lines as rushers, but Lindsay caught two of three targets for 31 yards and a touchdown. Expect Lindsay to be one of the most popular adds this week, but what most expected to be the Royce Freeman Show looks like a full blown committee. Case Keenum was far from perfect throwing three picks, but he did pass for 329 yards and three touchdowns while leading his team to victory. Bump Keenum up a bit in the quarterback rankings. Emmanuel Sanders has quickly distanced himself from the stench of a bad, injury-plagued 2017. The addition of Courtland Sutton in the draft allowed the team to kick him into the slot more often, and he erupted for a very efficient 10-135-1 line on 11 targets. Demaryius Thomas also reached double-digit targets with 10, and he turned those into a 6-63-1 line. Sutton didn’t have an eye-popping first game, but he did receive five targets that he turned into two grabs for 45 yards. It’s possible Keenum can run an offense that sustains three receivers, but Sanders has emerged as the best option of the bunch.
Redskins 24 at Cardinals 6
Alex Smith quickly endeared himself to Washington’s fans. He was 21 of 30 for 255 yards passing and two touchdowns, and, as usual, he even did some damage with his legs (14 yards rushing). Washington’s one-two punch of Adrian Peterson (26-96-1 and 2-70-0 on three targets) and Chris Thompson (5-65-0 and 6-63-1 on seven targets) was outstanding. Remarkably, Peterson and Thompson finished first and second in rushing yards and receiving yards in Week 1. Smith shared the wealth hitting seven different pass catchers, and six of them were targeted three or more times. Tompson’s seven targets actually led the way. Jordan Reed was the best non-running back pass catcher and hauled in four of his five targets for 48 yards and a score. None of Washington’s receivers cracked 35 yards receiving.
Arizona’s offense totaled only 213 yards. Sam Bradford was awful (20-34 for 153, zero touchdowns, and one interception). The running game was putrid, too. David Johnson ran for only 37 yards on a paltry nine carries, but he saved his day with a late rushing touchdown. He also caught five passes, but he turned them into only 30 yards. His nine targets are promising for future production, though. Larry Fitzgerald was the only useful member in the receiving corps. He tallied a 7-76-0 line on 10 targets. I was extremely down on him entering the season due to the history of receivers in their age-35 season or older, but he was basically the only bright spot in Arizona’s offense. Rookie Josh Rosen had a forgettable preseason, but if Bradford’s play doesn’t improve, he won’t be long for the starting job.
Cowboys 8 at Panthers 16
This wasn’t a pretty game, and it was ugliest for the Cowboys. Dak Prescott was terrible. He took six sacks and passed for only 170 yards. Ezekiel Elliott carried 15 times for 69 yards and a touchdown, and he added three receptions for 17 yards. It was a solid effort, but the sledding will get tougher if Prescott doesn’t step up and force opponents to respect the pass. The revamped receiving corps was led by slot an Cole Beasley. The veteran wideout caught seven of eight targets for 73 yards. Hyped rookie Michael Gallup caught his only target for nine yards, and free-agent signing Allen Hurns was targeted only three times and caught one ball for 20 yards.
The healthy return of Greg Olsen didn’t last long. Olsen injured his right foot and was seen on the sideline wearing a walking boot. He suffered a Jones fracture to that foot last year and played in just nine games. It’s unclear the extent of the damage to his foot, but it’s certainly disheartening that the foot injury is to the same one he hurt last year. Cam Newton passed for only 161 yards and zero touchdowns, but he also didn’t throw any interceptions and helped fantasy owners by rushing for 58 yards and a score. His yardage total on the ground led the team, and the workhorse talk in the offseason for Christian McCaffrey resulted in only 10 carries. On the plus side, he ripped off 50 yards on those carries — though, he did lose a fumble. McCaffrey also shined in the passing game and led the team in targets (nine), receptions (six) and receiving yards (45). It was a decent effort, but in addition to Newton scoring a red-zone touchdown, fullback Alex Armah also punched in a one-yard carry. Lost in Armah’s touchdown score, perhaps, is that McCaffrey was in the backfield at least. No, he doesn’t get points for being on the field when others score touchdowns, but being in on the goal line is favorable for his touchdown scoring outlook going forward.