What I Saw: Thoughts On Every Week 1 Game
Hey there sports-fans. Each week I’ll be analyzing every NFL game and putting my thoughts here. I should have something to say about almost all fantasy relevant players, you may find Ctrl + F useful. We’ve got a lot of work to do, so let’s hop in.
Chiefs vs Patriots
The Chiefs are that annoying kid from school who always did their homework and liked taking tests. You know, Martin Prince types. They clearly prepared for months, and had an answer for everything the Patriots threw at them. I’m pretty sure Alex Smith was kidnapped before the game and replaced with a pod person who liked to play aggressive football. Smith took several deep shots, looked composed in and out of the pocket, and was accurate as a Phoenix weatherman (‘looks like it’ll be sunny and hot again tomorrow, folks!’) Given this, many fantasy managers scurried off to the waiver wires to lay a claim this week. Personally, I want to see more (a lot more, frankly) before I believe that Smith is a different quarterback than the one we’ve seen for the past decade or so. Anyone can have one good game, people.
Tyreek Hill did exactly what his proponents said he would. He lined up all over the field, he rushed, he spun, and he notably caught a long bomb for an untouched TD (his sixth in as many games). I was not a fan of Hill before the season, and I still believe he’ll be more bust than boom this year, but my attention has been piqued at the least. Travis Kelce had a relatively quiet night, though it was clear the Patriots were specifically trying to take him out of the game. Four other receivers caught passes in this game, but this is not a passing game that will support more than two fantasy ball-catchers. Let’s not lose our heads here.
The big story of the night was Kareem Hunt, who set all sorts for fantasy records for points scored by a rookie in their first start. Hunt is locked in as a clear fantasy RB1, but it’s unclear how much of his success he owed to his skill and how much he owed to the Patriot’s poor defensive play. It’s worth noticing that backup Charcandrick West scored a 20 yard touchdown untouched.
Tom Brady came out of the gates hot, marching his team down the field several times on the way to an early lead. Then it was like someone turned out the lights. I’ve been warning all preseason that there are several warning flags regarding Brady— hopefully you listened to me and didn’t pay a premium for him. The second half of the game was a carnival of horrors for the Patriots offense, and the blame rests squarely on Brady. He was inaccurate despite having ample time in the pocket, indecisive, despite having open receivers, and incoherent, making several costly mental errors. Still, had one or two plays broken his way, Brady would have had a decent fantasy day. It’s not time to panic, but be aware the second half of this game is not likely to be the last time we see Brady underperform.
Brandin Cooks’ stat line is a lie, disregard it. Cooks is worth every bit of his second round price tag— he was consistently open, targeted all over the field on short and long balls, and a primary read in the red zone. If not for some unlucky pass interference calls, Cooks could easily have had three touchdowns. This is your last chance to buy him at a reasonable price if you can. Danny Amendola took over the larger part of the Julian Edelman role, and performed pretty well until he left the game with a suspected concussion. He may be worth a flier while healthy. Good luck with that. Leading up to this game, there has been a lot of Chris Hogan Fanboyism. A lot of people lost their heads, thinking Hogan would be Edelman 2.0 despite all the evidence. Sure, he’ll have some big games, but so will all NE receivers. For now he’s looking like a bust. Rob Gronkowski had a relatively quiet game, though he did catch a touchdown that was overturned on review. Don’t worry though sports fans. As Ned Stark famously said, ‘The fiesta is coming.’
The same people who were overcome by Hoganity also outplayed themselves regarding the NE backfield. There is a ton of value to be had here, so it’s inexcusable that any fantasy analyst or player would dismiss the whole thing as a mere ‘dart throw’. Yes, there are four backs in play, and yes, they will all have big weeks and small weeks, but there is definitely method to the madness. Mike Gillislee is the undisputed early down and goal line back. Call him Blount 2.0. He will perform well during any game where the Patriots are winning, which should be most games this season. James White is one of the premiere passing down backs in the league who is winning an increasingly large amount of carries on first and second down as well. He is not a great bet to score in any given week, but his floor is solid, and if Amendola misses time he may well get a shot in the slot in addition to his rushing duties. Rex Burkhead is a good player, but lacks any defined role. He will have a handful of big games this year on limited plays but he is not someone who needs to be owned or started this year except in desperation. Finally, Dion Lewis is White’s backup, and is unplayable barring injury.
Jets vs Bills
It’s no secret that the Jets are tanking this year with the hope of getting the number one draft spot for 2018. In this regard, I’m not sure how they’ll beat Indianapolis, but they’re determined to make it a close contest. Jermaine Kearse paced the receivers in targets with 9, which sounds promising until you realize that one Josh McCown target is worth approximately one fourth of a target from a real NFL quarterback. No Jets receivers need to be owned for the indefinite future.
Bilal Powell touched Matt Forte 12:9, which is not enough for even flex usage. These are carries plus receptions, mind you. Things are grim in this backfield. I’d bench both backs until one or the other starts getting significant usage.
The Bills should probably just rename their team The Buffalo Shadys this year. LeSean McCoy was the beating heart of this offense, and is on track to be a top-2 fantasy RB this year. In addition to Shady’s 22 carries, he also had 6 passing targets, which was the second most on the team. The top receiver on the team was none other than Charles Clay who was targeted 9 (!) times which was more than Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews combined. It would be easy to write this off as a one week anomaly, though Clay finished 2016 white hot too. In his past five games, Clay has averaged 7.8 targets a game for 56.4 yards and 1 score. Those numbers aren’t skewed by any big games by the way—Clay’s lowest target total during that timeframe was 6, and he scored in 4 of the five weeks. Given that Clay is almost certainly on your waiver wire, I’d pick him up if you don’t have an elite TE already.
Mike Tolbert has a cult following, and why not? He’s one of the league’s premiere TD vultures. Given that Buffalo backup RBs have averaged 9 TDs over the past two years, you could certainly do worse than Tolbert for a bye week filler or flex dart throw. #MeatTrain4Eva
Jaguars vs. Texans
Allen Robinson joined some other big names on the IR this week, leaving Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns to fight over the Jags passing game scraps. Of the two, I like Lee better.
Leonard Fournette led the rookie RB explosion this week with a gaudy 26 carries and 3 receptions. Dems bellcow numbers. More importantly, he had nearly four yards per carry against one of the toughest run defenses in the league. Wheels up, Fournette owners, wheels up.
Tom Savage had one of those games that is so bad, they yank the starting QB and put in the backup in disgust. Deshaun Watson came in and immediately started throwing to Deandre Hopkins on every play. If I were a betting man, I’d say there’s a good chance that we see a repeat of 2015 in Houston, with Hopkins succeeding under the weight of a thousand targets. All three tight ends got concussions in this game which, uh, was not great. No other wide receiver was even targeted. Yikes.
Lamar Miller picked up where he left off last year with a respectable (though boring) 96 yards from scrimmage on 19 touches. Owners, enjoy your vanilla RB2.
Steelers vs Browns
Ben Roethlisberger phoned this game in hard. He looked lethargic, and had several throws tipped. With talk about him retiring after this year, one wonders if he’s already got one foot out the door. Antonio Brown performed despite poor QB play, because of course he did. Martavais Bryant took a page out of Big Ben’s book this week. He dropped several catchable balls, pulled up short on a long route, and generally looked like he mixed up his Nyquil and his Dayquil. If you own him, you’ve likely payed a premium, and you’re not about to drop him just yet. Still, signs are not encouraging. Jesse James had a huge game, and looked good. He may be worth an add if you can get him for free, though it’s likely just a one-week outburst.
Le’veon Bell only had ten carries in a week where the Steelers were comfortable favorites to win. I’m not saying the team was trying to punish him for his recent holdout but… no… that’s the only explanation I can come up with. Stupid petty Pittsburgh.
Deshone Kizer did not have a flawless game by any means, but it was serviceable enough. On the receiving side, Corey Coleman flashed in exactly the way his owners hoped he would, showing skill, patience, and demanding targets from Kizer. Fire him up as a weekly WR2 with upside. Kenny Britt, however, was hardly targeted at all. In classic Britt fashion, he had as many costly drops as receptions. Feel free to drop him at your earliest convenience. Coleman seems to be the only receiver worth owning on this team for now.
Isaiah Crowell isn’t particularly talented, but you’re not buying him for his talent. The scores will come as the team finds their rhythm. Notably, Duke Johnson Jr. did indeed line up exclusively as a receiver, as was hinted in preseason. Disappointingly he was virtually ignored, even when wide open. Perhaps he will begin to pick up targets as Kizer settles into the role, only time will tell.
Cardinals vs Lions
Shadenfreud. /ˈSHädənˌfroidə/ Noun
- Pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune.
- The sound of 11/12 fantasy managers giggling in unison like little girls when consensus draft pick 1.1 David Johnson receives a multi-week injury in the first game of the season.
The Arizona Cardinals picked right up where they left off in 2016. This is not a good thing. Carson Palmer made several questionable yips, and frequently yipped wide open receivers. If he doesn’t yip this soon, the whole team is totally yipped. Larry Fitzgerald was downright heroic in this game, and Palmer owes him a foot rub and some apology chocolates for all the uncatchable balls he vomited Fitzs’ way. Notably, JJ Nelson out produced John Brown. Not sure if this is a trend, but it’s worth watching.
As mentioned above, David Johnson left the game with a wrist injury and early reports suggest he’ll be out for a while. Kerwynn Williams is worth an add as a volume play, but don’t expect Johnsonesque numbers from him. I’d spend up to 20% of your FAAB on him if you’re desperate for short term RB production. Andre Ellington will never take over a three down role, so forget about him.
The Lions started slow, but then it was as if someone flipped a switch. If you squinted real hard, you might have sworn Matthew Stafford had morphed into Aaron Rodgers, complete with play extending hero-ball wizardry. Golden Tate had an obscene 10 receptions, he’s going to be a high floor play week to week. Marvin Jones graciously donated his receptions to Tate. He did get a touchdown, but he’ll be worthless on weeks where he doesn’t score. Tread with caution. Popular sleeper Eric Ebron had a pathetic nine yards on two receptions. Time to count your losses, amigos. The real story was Kenny Golladay, who gained 69 yards on seven targets with two scores. This was no fluke, you need to make a serious attempt at acquiring him if he is on your waiver wire. I suggest spending up to 20% of your FAAB.
Ameer Abdullah looked better than his stat line belies, but this just isn’t a team that is likely to support a solid fantasy RB. Elite scatback Theo Riddick hauled in the second most receptions on the team after Tate, but only gained 27 yards. Like Jones, he’s going to hurt you if he doesn’t score.
Falcons vs Bears
The Falcons performed decently enough against a surprisingly good Chicago defense. Preseason sleeper favorite Austin Hooper saved his owners with two incredible catches and a long touchdown. Still, the problem with Hooper was never his skill, but his target share. In this regard, his two receptions were not encouraging. All other receivers split work, I wouldn’t own anyone aside from Julio Jones.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman did their usual Kriss Kross routine, though they struggled a bit against Chicago’s stiff front 7.
It’s official: Kevin White is a porcelain doll clothed in flesh. To the surprise of approximately no one he’s already broken something or other and is likely out for the year. Lo siento, amigo. Lo siento. The rest of the Bears receivers gave us little reason to believe that any of them will be fantasy relevant this year.
Jordan Howard had a good game (though he dropped a critical pass that sealed the Bears loss at the end). Of more interest to you and me, Tarik Cohen proved himself to be the real deal. Cohen lined up often as a receiver, and he paced the team in receptions and in yards from scrimmage. Here’s the kicker, he created most of that production for himself. The kid is seriously skilled. You need to do what you can to lock him down if he’s on your wire.
Raiders vs Titans
The good news: Amari Cooper was targeted three times in a row in the red zone, which would have been unthinkable even last year. The bad news: he didn’t catch any of the three targets. His owners better pray that Oakland doesn’t just go back to Michael Crabtree and Seth what’s-his-face. Speaking of Crabtree, he paced the team in receptions and yards and looked like he hasn’t lost any steps. He’s not going anywhere. Jared Cook the perennial tight end disappointment was productive and looked pretty sharp. He may be someone to keep an eye on.
I’ve had my doubts about Marshawn Lynch, but he did look pretty beasty. I loved the little front-flip he did after missing a reception. Sometimes it’s the little things. Jalen Richard slightly out carried and slightly out produced Deandre Washington. These are not real handcuffs, leave them on the wire.
The Titans were some sort of bizarro-Ravens this week. Usually among the league leaders with their unique brand of ‘exotic smash-mouth’ football, the Titans threw the third most passes in the league and were near the bottom in total rushing attempts. Corey Davis looked very good, despite some speed bumps. His arrow is straight up as he develops trust with Marcus Mariota. Delanie Walker paced the team in receptions and yards, making a powerful counterargument against the ‘too many mouths to feed’ narrative. Rishard Matthews also produced and looked good. I’m not sure how Tennessee is going to support these three on a weekly basis, but as of now, I can’t pick one over the others. The odd man out was Eric Decker who was apparently targeted 8 times (though it really, really seems like that stat is wrong). Decker did have some red zone targets, but it’s clear he won’t have any value at all unless he scores this year.
Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry split carries 2:1 and both looked serviceable, if not spectacular. Marcus Mariota vulture the only rushing touchdown which I’m sure felt super-duper fantastic to Murray owners. The run game was quite different from the Titans’ approach last year, fantasy owners should be intently watching this next week to see if this new pass-heavy offense is the exception, or the rule.
Ravens vs Bengals
So we all know that the Ravens were the throwingest team in the NFL last year, and many owners invested in pieces of the passing attack under the assumption that not much would change. You’d better sit down, I’ve got some bad news… The Ravens tied for the most rushing attempts on the week, with 42, and had the fewest passing attempts in the league, a mere 17 (with only 9 completions). Much of this was probably due to game flow, but still, it’s concerning to be sure. Jeremy Maclin made the most of his two catches, but if volume doesn’t increase he’s going to be extremely boom/bust this year. No other receivers are worth addressing at this time.
Despite getting around 20 carries each, neither Terrance West nor Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen did anything to distinguish themselves. I like West as a weekly volume play, especially now that sir Danny Woodhead has gone ahead and gotten his inevitable season-ending injury out of the way (may he rest in peace).
The Raven’s defense has earned a quick mention here. They were utterly dominant—not only shutting the Bengals out, but doing so on the back of 5 sacks, 4 interceptions and a fumble. This crew is fearsome. If they’re available on your waiver wire you know what to do.
I have very little to say about the Bengals offense here. I’d like to imagine that Andy Dalton’s owners spent the weekend staring at their phone with the same face they might make if someone killed and ate their beloved childhood pet in front of them. A.J. Green’s owners need to spend some time in tearful gratitude before a merciful God lest he follow Dalton into the pit of despair next week. Tyler Eifert makes his money on red zone targets, of which there were none this week, so his poor performance was not surprising.
All three running backs showed some flash, though notably Giovanni Bernard paced both Jeremy Hill and Joe Mixon in rushing attempts and yards. No one could have ever predicted that.
Eagles vs Redskins
Carson Wentz has clearly taken a step forward from last year, to the point where he probably doesn’t need to be on any waiver wires after this week. His touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor in particular was a thing of beauty to behold. Speaking of Agholor, he didn’t suck. No, you read correctly, Mr. Concrete Oven-Mitt himself caught every catchable ball. It was strange and disorienting, and it made me uncomfortable. Alshon Jeffrey got Josh Norman’d. But, uh, at least he’s healthy? Expect him to bounce back next week. Zach Ertz picked up where he left off late last year at the team’s top receiver and Wentz’ first look. If he’s still available in your league, it’s time to snap him up.
With one of the more cluttered backfields in professional football, many of us were watching with interest to see how things would shake out in Philly. Contra pre-season usage and coach speak, Legarrette Blount was the clear rushing leader. Blount is not good at football, but he doesn’t have to be, considering the holes he’ll be gifted. Still, he’s going to need more than 14 carries weekly to produce viable fantasy numbers. Darren Sproles looks like he’ll have a similar role and similar production to previous years. The odd man out is Wendell Smallwood, who is probably droppable at this point.
The Washington Redskins looked like the literal embodiment of a particularly debilitating hangover. Kirk Cousins spent much of this game getting hit or being about to be hit. Terelle Pryor was an early and consistent Cousins target, but the two were rarely on the same page. Jordan Reed was looking a step slow (thanks, no doubt, to his broken toe), and Jamison Crowder was completely shut down by the Eagles fearsome slot secondary. Some guy named Ryan Grant outplayed them all. For shame.
Washington was down early, and barely even tried to run the ball. Rob Kelley didn’t give them a reason to. Chris Thompson was the beneficiary of all the suckage around him, expect his role to revert to normal as the supposed studs on this team get their heads right.
Colts vs Rams
As long as Scott Tolzien is starting at Quarterback for the Colts, go ahead and treat all skill players as if they’ve had season ending injuries. Even Marlon Mack (sorry, Mack truthers).
The Rams shaved off their team moustache and celebrated the end of the Jeff Fisher era by aggressively not sucking. Jared Goff has come a long way since last year, and he generally looked like he belonged in the NFL. HE spread the ball around to great effect, but the main targets were of course Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp. Watkins has a decent bet to flirt with WR2 value this year, but Cooper Kupp looked very much like the receiver to own in LA. Kupp’s volume will probably need to come up if you want to get consistent production out of him. Still, the rookie clearly has talent.
Todd Gurley looked every bit a RB1, equally deadly on the ground and in the air. He could have had a better day than the stat sheet suggests—he had some big gains called back due to penalties. I’m interested to see him play against the rabid run defenses of the NFC West.
Panthers vs 49ers
The panthers rolled out a new offense this year, and it’s going to cause some fantasy tears. It is well known that Cam Newton is one of the worst passers in the NFL. Regardless, he’s found success by running the ball. As he’s accumulated concussions and other ailments that come with taking running-back style hits, it has become clear that Cam can’t run forever. The coaching staff knows this, and so they’ve changed the game plan.
Step 1. Send Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, and Greg Olsen downfield.
Step 2. Ignore them.
Step 3. Make nice short throws to the rookie.
Yes, Christian McCaffrey now appears to be roughly two thirds of the Carolina offense (for good or ill). He was the top receiver in targets and receptions, and second in receiving yards. This is in addition to his 18 carries on the ground. McCaffrey looked good at times and like a rookie in his first game at others. He should improve each game. Amazingly, McCaffrey’s 18 carries were the not the most on the team this week. Jonathan Stewart may well prove to be one of the steals of the draft if he continues to get bell cow carries like he did this week. Giddyup.
After an electric preseason, the 49ers were disappointing. Pierre Garcon proved himself to be the target magnet that many predicted entering the season, which bodes well for his value this season. Marquise ‘did you know he was in the Olympics?!’ Goodwin will be a budget Desean Jackson type this year and may prove to be a worthy Bye-week flyer if you have a high tolerance for risk. HE had two deep targets that both could have gone for long touchdowns—one he dropped and the other was slightly overthrown. George Kittle the rookie tight end had a handful of targets but they were of the low quality low yardage variety. Yawn.
Carlos Hyde easily paced the backfield in carries and targets, but he still only had 9 carries in a game where the 49ers were trailing for pretty much the whole thing. This may prove to be a concern, because if Hyde needs the Niners to be ahead to see decent usage, he may be waiting a while.
Seahawks vs Packers
The Seahawks have the worst offensive line in the league, and it’s not even close. Russell Wilson literally looked like he was under pressure immediately on every single snap, completing only half of his already low 27 pass attempts for a mere 158 yards and no touchdowns. Wilson did pace the team in rushing, which elevated his fantasy performance to ‘pathetic’ when it would have otherwise been ‘Daltonesque’. Owners are now presented with a dilemma—Wilson has always had distinctive early/late season fantasy splits—stinking it up in September (16.48 fantasy points per game over the past four years) before catching fire in November/December (20.9 PPG). If you’ve already invested the draft capital, I would work on getting a backup (perhaps Philip Rivers or Carson Wentz?) till Wilson finds his sea legs. True, Wilson gets SF at home next week but I’m telling you, don’t risk it till the leaves start falling off the trees.
Usually ‘as goes the quarterback, so goes the receivers’ is a bankable aphorism, and it certainly applies here. WR1 Doug Baldwin’s spits mirror Wilson’s. Baldwin didn’t have a terrible day, all things considered, but he won’t be winning you fantasy matchups for a couple of months yet. Paul Richardson flashed some serious potential in this game and made it clear he is the clear second WR in Seattle. Tyler Lockett is not worth owning. Jimmy Graham owners probably watched this game through their fingers—he was scary-bad. Graham dropped multiple catchable balls including an inexcusable third down ball where he was wide open on the sideline. To be fair, even elite atheletes have bad days. We know what Graham is capable of, and he should turn things around soon.
Eddie Lacy’s ‘revenge’ against his old team was fearsome to behold, but perhaps not in the way he would have wished. Lacy ran like a grandma in the rain weighed down by one too many grocery bags in the supermarket parking lot. C.J. Prosise wasn’t targeted at all in the passing game (strange for a supposed ‘passing down back’, and he looked average in his handful of rushes. With Thomas Rawls sitting out, rookie Chris Carson got his big chance. Carson clearly outplayed Lacy and Prosise, though it’s concerning that his most impressive play was one where he somehow turned a sure 10-yard loss into a 3-yard gain. No offensive coordinator should be punching the air in victory over a 3-yard gain, but such is life in Seattle with this O-line. Keep an eye on Carson if you like, but remember that Rawls won’t be out forever and is better than Carson when healthy.
The Seahawk’s defensive line is as good as the offensive line is bad. Aaron Rodgers was able to squeak out a respectable fantasy line, but only just. Jordy Nelson did what Jordy nelson usually does, which is fine. Davante Adams and Martellus Bennett were both busts (though it is worth nothing that Adams was shadowed by shutdown corner Richard Sherman for most of the day.) Bennett was never going to be a solid TE option. Green bay already has a ton of mouths to feed, and they haven’t fielded a fantasy relevant tight end in ages. I’d cut bait sooner rather than later. The real story out of green bay is one Mr. Randall Cobb, who paced all green bay receivers in receptions and yards. As long as he’s healthy, Randall will be the number two in Green Bay this year, and will be a good bet to score weekly. Buy now while you still have a chance.
Ty Montgomery did well against a tough defense, and received 23 total touches, which is by far the highest total of his career in Green Bay. Wheels up, sports fans.
Giants vs Cowboys
With Odell Beckham Jr. out for the week, New York quarterback and perpetual disappointment Eli Manning made his three-and-out face early and often. Some expected Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, and rookie Evan Engram to benefit in the absence of Beckham, but instead, the offense struggled to get anything going. Of particular concern is Marshall, whose 1 catches on 4 targets surely had his owners screaming obscenities at their TVs. It’s clear that Marshall is worthless if the Giants aren’t in the red zone (and maybe not even then! Who knows?). Running back Paul Perkins looked good in his few touches, but he’s simply not going to be fantasy viable unless the Giants take an early lead. Good luck predicting when that will be.
Dak Prescott picked up where he left off last year— cool and clinical. Dez Bryant owners are not going to be overly happy with his fantasy performance, tbut they shoul;d be encouraged that Dak tried to force-feed him the ball in the red zone, even at the expense of Ezekiel Elliott. Dez will produce going forward. Terrance Williams led all receivers in yardage, and made some unusually clutch plays. He’s worth keeping an eye on as a potential fantasy startable player who is almost certainly on the waiver wire. Jason Witten continued his preseason dominance, pacing the cowboys in receptions and hauling in the only touchdown of the night. Prescott seems to have bonded with him in much the same way that the baby velociraptor bonded with the old crazy guy in Jurassic Park, with the same age differential too. I see no reason to believe that Witten can’t keep up this pace all season, and he’s now firmly on my TE1 radar. He needs to be owned in every league. Finally, Cole Beasley, the popular preseason sleeper and flamboyant redneck did little of note (unless you count this freaking catch).
Concerns about Ezekiel Elliott’s tough run schedule this year seem overblown. Zeke spooned his way to 140 total yards from scrimmage against a very good Giants defense. Expect more of the same going forward. It’s worth noting for you handcuffers that Alfred Morris took exclusive backup duties in this game.
Saints vs Vikings
Despite spending much of the night blanketed by shutdown corner Xavier Rhodes, Michael Thomas still had a healthy target share and decent yardage. If you own him, don’t panic. Coby Fleener had a big game, and should continue to produce for the first three games with Willie Snead suspended. Fire him up. Ted Ginn Jr. is always a danger for a long touchdown, but if he doesn’t score this stat line is about the best one can hope for.
Adrian Peterson went viral during this game when he stared daggers at coach Sean Payton’s neck and mouthed the words ‘I love you’. In any case, Peterson is clearly the caboose in this RBBC train. Coming into this season, conventional wisdom said that rookie Alvin Kamara would be the passing down back, and Mark Ingram would be the early down grinder. In practice, the two split carries and targets evenly, with Kamara outgaining Ingram on the ground and Ingram outgaining Kamara through the air. For the moment, I’d much rather own Ingram, though we could all benefit from some clarity going forward.
Not content to merely beat New Orleans in a football game, Sam Bradford devoured their souls. Consistently making accurate throws and shredding the Saints’ secondary. At one point he made what may legitimately be the best pass in the history of NFL football. Stefon Diggs had a huge coming out party, and the smugness from those of us who have been high on him for the past two years nearly suffocated the twitterverse. If Diggs can stay healthy, he has a legitimate chance to be a top-5 wide receiver in 2017. Adam Thielen was second to only Antonio Brown in receiving yardage league-wide this week and it didn’t feel like a fluke. Folks, we may have one of the premiere WR duos in the league here. 2016 tight end bargain Kyle Rudolph was absent for most of the game, but he did pop up long enough to get a touchdown which was encouraging.
Rookie Dalvin Cook had a slow start, but he finished strong getting bell cow carries. The fear before the season began was that Latavius Murray would be leeching goal line carries from Cook. Alas, the first chance he got, Murray fumbled the ball, and he finished the game with two carries. Cook is a bonafide RB1 going forward with top-5 upside.
Chargers vs Broncos
I feel like we were promised the football equivalent of Taco Bell from Trevor Siemian in his first game of the year. Instead, he gave us Chipotle. I really like Chipotle. Siemian looked calm and composed, making accurate throws and finding the open man. He ran a couple of times, notably getting a rushing touchdown, which was new for him. His lone interception was not his fault. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders fell into their usual patterns with Thomas having a wide open pass bounce off his numbers at least once and Sanders having not one, but two long TDs slip through his fingers. Something named Benny Fowler finished what they couldn’t. He had two scores but this was a fluke, you can safely ignore him going forward.
CJ Anderson was the clear leader in the backfield, and he looked fully healthy, which is a very good thing. Anderson owners could have had a much bigger day, had he not been stuffed on a goal line carry early on (which went to Fowler on the next play) and had he not had a later touchdown called back on a penalty (again, Fowler scored on the next play). Jamaal Charles did get some chances, but they came mostly when Denver had a three score lead, and it was a Charles fumble that opened the door for a late LA rally. He didn’t play again after that.
One year after leading the league in interceptions, Philip Rivers looked calm and composed as he faced one of the league’s elite pass defenses. His one interception looked like it should have been negated through a pass interference call, but alas, it was not. Keenan Allen was targeted early and often, despite the fact that he was cruising in the vaunted Denver ‘no fly zone’ where cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aquib Talib live. Allen is a safe bet to finish as an WR1 this year, and he elevates Rivers to upper-mid QB status. Tyrell Williams was the clear number two target, and he’ll have some big games. Travis Benjamin had a nice long TD and was targeted on another deep shot, but he’ll be very boom-or-bust week to week. Antonio Gates played nearly all of the TE snaps at the expense of Hunter Henry who did not even have one target. Henry will probably get more and more work as the season progresses, but he will not be consistently startable until Gates retires or gets injured. Sorry Henry truthers, you rolled the dice, and you lost. By the way, Gates is extremely likely to score a touchdown in week 2 against Miami at home. He only needs one more touchdown to tie the all-time record at his position.
Melvin Gordon shocked us all with his electrifying performance. He subjected the Broncos front line to repeated battery, as he charged through them. I’m positive he’s going to be a top tier back this year. Ion. Wire. Power. Nuclear.