Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire
There is a special glory in Week One of the NFL season. It is a warmth from the reassurance as you make eye contact passing a stranger in the mall after RB Alvin Kamara scores his third TD of the young season. Oh how I have missed the secret smile as you notice the table across from you also seeing RB Joe Mixon is, indeed, carrying the load. And then there’s the unbridled joy of getting to tell your friends DE Khalil Mack’s stat line from his first game as a Bear.
Week 1 of the 2018 season brings a lot of feelings. And it’s not just the back-to-back weddings I’ve attended on Saturday + Sunday this weekend that have me all misty-eyed. Football is back and yes, the only way I know that is from the bathroom line at the reception today — what a beautiful sight to see a line of people escaping their dance partners for a few moments to check in on their fantasy bois.
Today is the day we get to live. Today is also the day we die. Today, our relationship with QB Marcus Mariota is forever changed. Sorry to the Anthony Miller truthers out there. And the Jamaal Williams brigade. Any other day and the Taywon Taylor experience would be playing loudly in my heart — but today is not like other days. Today is opening day, and today the rubber hits the road.
I know the proper approach for you owners whose teams did not put up that 100-point performance like you dreamed up is to be cautious; don’t jump to any irreversible conclusions, right? And what about you high scoring bois? Is your fantasy team the greatest juggernaut your league has ever seen? All I can say is this: when the rubber hit the road, and Red Zone switched over to a new highlight, did you know Alvin Kamara was scoring again, or did you just hope? Did you spend your afternoon with the non-stop midwest twang of Scott Hanson hoping he was going to quick cut to your boi streaking down the sideline?
Today, football was no fantasy. All the Anthony Millers and Taywon Taylors and Jamaal Williams of the world stepped out of our Reddit threads and onto an actual field where strong men tried to stop them from doing their jobs. The rubber hit the road, and at the end of this week you either know your team stands a chance, or you’re just hoping. With that, here are 3 things I absolutely loved from opening day:
It’s no longer the September 2017, which means I did NOT just draft QB Nathan Peterman in my Dynasty league.
My roster and my conscious are clear in 2018. The most WTF game of the 1 pm slate brought us the Bills at the Ravens and a final score of 47-3. It also brought us mana from gif heaven with Nathan Peterman starting against an NFL defense. This Bills game, juxtaposed by the Dolphins victory against a 2017 AFC playoff team, may reset the worst-team discussion of the early season. Furthermore, the game may also reset fantasy lineups and betting strategies moving forward. QB Lamar Jackson’s ascendancy to Ozzie Newsom’s throne was put on hold, as QB Joe Flacco made the city of Baltimore forget about the Orioles season in ONE QUARTER.
Let’s be clear about this: RB Le’Veon Bell is nowhere to be seen [except on twitter]. The Steelers and Browns tied today. The Bengals got a W dominating the trenches against a team that hasn’t been tough in that department in years. If this Ravens team can keep Joe Flacco on the straight and narrow, there might be something here for us vultures. All uncouth jokes aside, RB LeSean McCoy is not an easy man to stop — that Baltimore defense is legit. As long as these games are competitive, names like WR Willie Snead, WR Michael Crabtree, RB Alex Collins and even a healthy TE Hayden Hurst will see touches from an offense that the fantasy public has largely ignored the past few seasons. I know I am paying attention.
Khalil Mack is the man.
Can you imagine being passed over for a promotion at your job, and the next week go on national television and give a performance that proves to everyone that you were right and your bosses were wrong? Khalil Mack still has to daydream, as his elite QB-level cap hit was outdone by surprise surprise an elite QB. In some Jedi-level mind games, Mack’s incredible performance was somehow the internet’s story of the night in a game that the Bears lost and the Packers won. Don’t get me wrong — Mack is unbelievably talented and the Bears D will be a force this entire season, but the only 20+ million dollar player who left his stamp on winning the game was Aaron Rodgers. Mack’s performance, in some bizarro world, may have helped prove Jon Gruden’s point: elite defensive stars are great, but QB play should always be the thing you pay the premium for.
Just between you and me, I agree with you, not Jon Gruden — it’s not a zero-sum game, you can pay Mack and QB Derek Carr together all the same, but still. Pretty nuts to get a game like this with an outcome like this on opening weekend. Spoiled we are. And spoiled are the Davante Adams owners of the world.
All hail the good young bois
This was an incredible weekend for some of the biggest storylines of our offseason to face an immediate test: RB Saquon Barkley vs. Jags D, QB Patrick Mahomes vs. Bosa + Ingram et all, QB Jimmy Garoppolo against Minnesota D, and the aforementioned Mack against an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers O. Let’s not forget about QB Deshaun Watson’s return for the Texans or tonight’s look at Gruden’s whisperings in Carr’s ear.
Like I said: rubber, meet road. Saquon did Saquon things — he was hovering around 2.2 YPC until he broke off a very impressive 60-yard touchdown run. I saw some really intelligent runs mixed with opposing athleticism from Saquon, but I also saw that Offensive Line struggle to give him any space to shine. Get it together, Nate Solder.
Mahomes was the truth. 256 yards and 4 TD’s. Didn’t need to include turnovers in his stat line as there were none. This Chargers defense is scary, and Mahomes and company handled their business on the road putting up gaudy numbers and proving they are still the class of the AFC West. So TE Travis Kelce and RB Kareem Hunt let you down. They let me down, too. But DAMN does Mahomes inspire hope that as teams will gameplan for his connection with WR Tyreek Hill, and for WR Sammy Watkins’ big body downfield, that Kelce and Hunt will have their days in the sun, too. Heck, Kelce had 6 targets to Tyreek’s 8. In another world, he could’ve been the boi scoring points for you and me. All I know is with Mahomes in there at QB1, I’m feeling great about the Chiefs skill players moving forward.
And my boi, Jimmy G. Oh Jimmy. You deserved better than to open the season on the road against the Vikings D. No fun was had by anyone west of the Rockies while watching this game — dropped passes, missed throws, and Red Zone woes (I’m the QBList Dr. Suess). My focus in this game was on Garoppolo and Cousins, and I left with this thought: both are incredibly talented QB’s who should put up points for their teams as the season progresses but the difference between them lies with WR Adam Thielen + WR Stefon Diggs. Jimmy G may have had some great offseason chemistry with WR Marquise Goodwin, but that dude wasn’t on the field for 3 of the 4 quarters yesterday. His leading receiver was TE George Kittle and typing that made my Dynasty roster die a little bit inside. Yes, this was an incredibly tough test for Jimmy G’s 2018 opener, but with inexperienced receivers and an RB1 already down for the season, does this offense have the pieces to make Kyle Shanahan’s offense truly go? A look beyond the numbers showed an offense capable of moving down the field against an elite defense — I just wish I didn’t have to go beyond the numbers to find some fantasy silver lining.