What did the Sunday games tell us? And what not?
Patriots at Dolphins
The Patriots looked as terrible on offense as many had speculated. And now they may lose Mac Jones for a while. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are a 1a/1b duo, with Harris being the 1a, but not by a wide margin.
On the Dolphins side, Waddle and Hill are both fine. Hill gets the most looks, but Waddle has a lot of room to operate in. As expected, both of them will be fine this season. Chase Edmonds is the clear lead back, though that role does not carry a ton of value in Miami.
Jaguars at Commanders
The Jaguars did not look in much better shape than last year. Travis Etienne was a disappointment. That Robinson would out-touch him on the ground was to be expected, but 4 targets (of which he caught 2) were underwhelming.
Carson Wentz looked solid, and the Commanders have a fairly easy schedule, at least on paper. In the passing game, the target order was a bit of a surprise: Curtis Samuel → Antonio Gibson → Logan Thomas → Jahan Dotson → Terry McLaurin → JD McKissic. McLaurin saved his fantasy day with a TD, but his usage requires careful monitoring. If Jahan Dotson is available on your waiver wire, you might want to change that.
49ers at Bears
The game took place in pretty terrible weather, so there is nothing the result can tell us about the rest of the season for both teams. Even Tyrion Davis-Price being a healthy scratch doesn’t bear too much significance, as it looks like Eli Mitchell will miss time .
Browns at Panthers
Not a pretty game. Both QBs looked underwhelming, which did not come as a surprise.
On the Browns side, Chubb and Hunt continued where they left off last season. Chubb gets the majority of touches, Hunt the targets - and the TDs.
On the Panthers, the lack of involvement of CMC was surprising. Especially in the passing game, Mayfield ignored him, which led to one of the commentators asking if he actually knew who that big fella in the backfield was. CMC’s target share requires monitoring.
Colts at Texans
Rough start for Ryan and the Colts. Michael Pittman is the expected alpha target, though. Nyheim Hines got almost as many targets as Jonathan Taylor, a trend that I expect to continue.
As for the Texans, the big surpsise was OJ Howard. However, his 2 TDs came on his only 2 targets in the game. He will certainly not be able to do that in every game. Cooks is the expected alpha target. Dameon Pierce was a disappointment and got out-touched and out-targeted by Rex Burkhead, who appeared to be the clear 1a over Pierce in this game.
Eagles at Lions
Jalen Hurts did not show any progress as a passer. In 2021, he had a completion rate of 60.6% and 7.2 yards per attempt. Yesterday, it was 56.2% and 7.6 yards per attempt. Zero passing TDs, though at least no INTs as well. He did rush for 90 yards and a TD, though, so for fantasy purposes, he will keep working as long as the Eagles will continue to start him.
In the backfield, Miles Sanders has 2 problems. One, he is only the RB2, behind Jalen Hurts. Two, Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott factor in as well. At least, Sanders was efficient, with a 7.4 yd average and a TD. Question is if he can do that against better defenses as well.
The Lions were more or less as I expected them after watching Hard Knocks: improved, but unsuccessful. D’Andre Swift looked great and should have a strong season ahead of him. Jamaal Williams should be rostered as well. He’s the bruiser for short-yardage situations, but that includes goal line carries.
Saints at Falcons
The Saints got off to a slow start, but got better throughout the game. The same can be said about Jameis Winston, who was rock solid. Taysom Hill is still being used as a gadget player. Since he carries a TE designation, he might deserve a spot on fantasy rosters, though I would not start him before we saw more of him.
As for the Saints’ WRs: Landry got the most targets, Michael Thomas got the TDs, and Chris Olave made the best out of his 3 targets, catching all 3 of them for 41 yards. All 3 of them are a factor, and their individual results could change from week to week.
Alvin Kamara was a disappointment, but that could be owed to the game script, which saw the Saints trailing all the time. I wouldn’t overreact on this.
As for the Falcons: Marcus Mariota’s skill set is limited. Cordarrelle Patterson is still the lead back. Damien Williams was a non-factor, and Tyler Allgeier didn’t even suit up. Drake London is the real deal, but needs a better QB before becoming a true fantasy asset. Kyle Pitts had no visible connection with Mariota whatsoever, catching only 2 of his 7 targets.
Ravens at Jets
Joe Flacco threw the ball a ton, 59 attempts in total. The target distribution said a lot about the Jets offense, though, and underlined why I recommended to stay away from all of their WRs and TEs this year:
Breece Hall - 10
Michael Carter - 9
Corey Davis - 9
Garrett Wilson - 8
Elijah Moore - 7
Braxton Berrios - 6
Michael Carter out-touched Breece Hall 10-6. For the moment, Carter appears to be the more startable RB, if you have no better alternatives available.
On the Ravens, Kenyan Drake got the most carries (11), but did not capitalize on it. The clear target leader was Mark Andrews (7), which should not have surprised anybody. Preseason sensation Isaiah Likely flamed out, failing to catch any of his 4 targets. Devin Duvernay was extremely efficient, catching all his 4 targets for 54 yards and 2 TDs. I would still start Rashod Bateman over him, though, unless Duvernay proves to be that efficient in every game now (he won’t).
Steelers at Bengals
What a completely insane game.
Trubisky’s skill set is limited, but at least he remained INT-free. Najee Harris’ day got cut short, though it does not look like he will miss a lot of time, if any at all. In his absence, his backup turned out to be Chase Claypool - didn’t see that one coming.
On the target side, the pecking order was Diontae Johnson → Pat Freiermuth → Chase Claypool. Rookie sensation George Pickens was a non-factor.
As for the Bengals: their o-line is still a swiss cheese. Joe Burrow avoided a multitude of hits, but only by surrendering the ball to the opponent voluntarily. 4 INTs and a fumble - yikes.
Ja’Marr Chase still is awesome, and could have been more awesome if the Bengals hadn’t failed to challenge a goal line catch that was incorrectly not ruled as a TD. Tee Higgins got concussed early in the game, but should not miss any time, and looks to be the clear #2 target in the game. If Hayden Hurst will see 8 targets in every game now remains to be seen, I’d keep my expectations tempered.
Oh yes, and Joe Mixon is the unquestioned workhorse back in Cinci.
Raiders at Chargers
The Raiders played worse than the score suggests. Watching the game, I was at no point under the impression that they could turn it around.
Josh Jacobs is still the lead back in Vegas. If Zamir White ever saw the field (I didn’t see him), he did not touch the ball. Jacobs should see the expected RB2+ season, and will see more usage in games with a friendlier script. Davante Adams is fine, there is no need to be concerned about him. Carr targeted him on 17 of his 37 throws.
On the Chargers side, Austin Ekeler is still the lead back, but gets relieved Sony Michel, Joshua Kelley and (surprise) 7th round pick Zander Horvath. Isaiah Spiller was a healthy scratch.
On the receiving end, Keenan Allen’s game got cut short after he injured his hamstring. It doesn’t look too serious, but he could miss a week or two. In his absence, 6 other pass catchers equalled his 4 targets. If that should become a trend, the Chargers could become fantasy poison this season. This needs more monitoring, though.
Packers at Vikings
This Cheesehead here is very sad that their season opener got cancelled and never happened.
Last year, they got slaughtered by the Saints in week 1. I was a lot less concerned back then, though, as they looked like a solid team that just had a terrible game. This year, they looked like a team that played within their capabilities, though. And that is a concern.
As expected, AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones operate as a tandem, both in rushing and receiving. Dillon got tice as may carries, but Jones got more yards out of his. I would regard them as 1a/1a for the moment, even if Dillon scored more fantasy points thanks to being the only Packer to find the end zone.
On the receiving end, Christian Watson looked terrible. Romeo Doubs was more efficient, I’d call him the one-eyed among the blind. We will have to re-evaluate their WR corps in 2-3 weeks, when hopefully Lazard will be back as well. Robert Tonyan could be a thing again this season.
As for the Vikings, Justin Jefferson is the expected alpha target and will enjoy a great season. Thielen is fading and is not startable any longer. KJ Osborn got as many targets as him, though he did not capitalize on his opportunity. He will get more, though. I’m sticking with my projection: Osborn will out-score Thielen this year.
Giants at Titans
Surprise, surprise: Brian Daboll did not turn Daniel Jones into the new Josh Allen in just one offseason. He threw only 21 passes, despite his team trailing most of the time. As a result, the Giants’ pass catchers all looked terrible. Richie James got the most targets behind Saquon (who had a terrific day), and Sterling Shepard saved the fantasy owners who were bold enough to start him by catching a TD.
So did Chris Myarick. Never heard of him before? Same here, and I guess it will be safe to not put him on your watch list. Kadarius Toney was targeted a whooping zero times, but got 2 carries out of the backfield. I’m sticking with “avoid the Giants WRs like the plague”.
Same for the Titans’ WRs. Rookie sensation Treylon Burks got out-targeted by rookie nobody Kyle Philips. And out-scored by backup RB Dontrell Hilliard, who caught 2 TDs on 4 targets.
Which also made him out-score Derrick Henry, who had a pedestrian day, carrying the ball 21 times for 82 yards. He did start slow last year as well, so there’s no need for concern yet. But it is worth noting that Henry was no factor at all in the passing game. He saw only a single target and was unable to haul it in.
Chiefs at Cardinals
I said that Patrick Mahomes may only be the #5 QB this year. Let me rephrase that…
Mahomes looked stellar as ever. As expected, he did pass the ball around a lot, targeting at least 10 different players. That could pose a fantasy problem for all Chiefs’ pass catchers, except for 2: Travis Kelce.
And Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who caught 2 TDs. Now I would not bet on that happening every week, but it did not look like pure coincidence, either. On the ground, CEH got out-touched by 7th round rookie Isiah Pacheco, and Jerick McKinnon saw 1 more target. But CEH still made the most out of his opportunities.
As for the Cardinals, James Conner was their clear RB1, both on the ground and through the air. That did not lead to a huge volume, though, as the Cards looked lackluster. Hollywood Brown found himself out-targeted by 9-6 by Greg Dortch, who still did not look like he needs to be rostered, though. Especially since Kyler Murray showed little to justify his grand new paycheck.
Buccaneers at Cowboys
Oh boy… I get it, we should not overreact on week 1 results. I am ready to make an exception for the Cowboys, though. They looked terrible, even before Dak went down with an injury that will cost him about half the regular season.
I do apologize for selling CeeDee Lamb as a top 5 WR this year during the preseason. His 11 targets were a healthy number. The fact that he hauled in only 2 of them wasn’t. A big part of Lamb’s failure was the fact that the Cowboys deployed Noah Brown as WR2. And that guy is so slow that he does not require any special attention from the defence.
That Mike McCarthy is a terrible HC is not exactly news, so I probably should have ranked the entire Cowboys offense down a lot more than I did. The only player I would not abandon right now is TE Dalton Schultz, who had a solid night, and should not suffer too much from the new QB, no matter if his name will be Cooper Rush or Jimmy Garoppolo.
But all other Cowboys skill position players need to be benched.
On the Bucs’ side, we cannot draw too many conclusions from this game. Tom Brady looked rusty, and his o-line allowed the Cowboys to hit him 4 times. If that continues to happen, it will be a concern. I wouldn’t bet on it, though.
Other than that - Leonard Fournette is the lead back, Mike Evans is the alpha target, Julio Jones is a factor, Chris Godwin injured his hamstring, and Cameron Brate is not the new Gronk. We’ll see over the next 2-3 weeks what that means in details.