What We Saw: Week 1

The QB List team recaps everything you missed while you were glued to the couch watching Red Zone

Bills @ Rams

Final Score: Bills 31, Rams 10

Writer: Brett Ford (@fadethatman on Twitter)

 

Football is back. Celebrate accordingly… Unless you drafted Cam Akers.

 

 

The defending Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Rams kicked off the season by hosting the incoming Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills in a Thursday night blockbuster at SoFi Stadium. Buffalo jumped out to an early lead but the Rams came battling to level the score, 10-10, before the halftime break. Buffalo dominated the second half, finishing the game with 21 unanswered points to claim the victory.

The Bills were the same team we remembered from last season’s playoffs. Aggressive, Dangerous, and fun to watch.  The Buffalo defense was dominant in the trenches, generating seven sacks and three turnovers against the reigning Super Bowl Champs.

Rams head coach Sean McVay surprised fantasy managers with his running back usage while Matthew Stafford honed in on Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee, practically ignoring new acquisition Allen Robinson.

 

Buffalo Bills

 

Quarterback

 

Josh Allen: 26/31, 297 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT, 2 Sacks | 10 carries, 56 yards, TD

 

Josh Allen opened the game with 10-straight completions, including a 26-yard touchdown strike to Gabriel Davis on a sneaky play-action fade. He threw his first pick of the game on his 11th pass attempt, a throw that bounced in and out of the hands of Isaiah McKenzie and into the arms of a Rams defender. This INT shouldn’t count against Allen’s stats.

 

 

He threw a second interception on a pass intended for Jamison Crowder, Allen was more at fault on this one, trying to squeeze the ball into a tight window, but Crowder still could have shown more effort to knock it down. In the second half, Allen ran hard, including a Derrick Henry-esque stiff arm and a rushing touchdown, and threw accurately, hitting McKenzie for a short score on a very similar play to the interception earlier in the game. He later hit Stefon Diggs for a 53-yard score.

 

 

Allen demonstrated why he was drafted as the QB1 this season, scoring over 30 fantasy points (by most scoring systems) to lead the Bills to a season-opening win. He was poised in his decision-making, accurate on his short and intermediate throws, and showed off his physical tools with some big throws over the top and power runs as well. Allen managers are feeling pretty good about taking him early in drafts.

 

 

Running Back

 

Devin Singletary: 8 carries, 48 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards

Zack Moss: 6 carries, 15 yards, Fumble (Lost) | 6 targets, 6 receptions, 21 yards

James Cook: 1 carry, 2 yards, Fumble (Lost)

 

Devin Singletary showed that he is the feature back in the Buffalo offense, playing the large majority of snaps, including some passing downs. Zack Moss was used primarily as a third-down back, catching all six of his targets, while James Cook lost a fumble on his first carry and was never heard from again.

Singletary finished with a 6.0 YPC and was the only Bills RB not to put the ball on the turf at any point throughout the game. He should be viewed as a solid RB2 option going forward, especially if he absorbs some of the passing down duties. Moss looked solid for most of the game, but fumbled in garbage time as the Bills tried to ice the game. Combined with Cook’s early game fumble, it will be interesting to see how Sean McDermott splits up the running back carries behind Singletary going forward.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Stefon Diggs: 9 targets, 8 receptions, 122 yards, TD

Gabriel Davis: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 88 yards, TD

Jamison Crowder: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 28 yards

Isaiah McKenzie: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 19 yards, TD

Dawson Knox: 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards

 

All three Bills wide receivers that were considered as draft targets in this offense caught a touchdown pass. Gabriel Davis found the end zone on his first target – a designed play-action rollout and one-man route, Davis was left wide open as the Rams’ defenders bit on the play fake and lumbered into the end zone for the first score of the game. He almost scored a second one but was tackled on the five-yard line after a 47-yard gain on a deep ball.

 

 

Meanwhile, Stefon Diggs received nearly all his targets in short and intermediate areas as he put his elite route running skills on display. He then burnt Jalen Ramsey for a 53-yard score in the fourth quarter in what appeared to be a blown coverage on the Rams’ back end.

 

 

Isaiah McKenzie dropped one of his early targets for an interception, but Allen came back to him later in the game on nearly the exact same route. It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine for the Buffalo pass-catchers however, as Dawson Knox was the odd-man-out, catching just one pass on two targets for five yards.

 

 

Diggs reinforced the idea that he is still the alpha wide receiver in the Bills’ offense, though Davis is slowly creeping up on him. The pair of pass-catchers are eerily similar to the Chargers’ tandem of Keenan Allen and Mike Williams from the past two seasons, with Diggs assuming the consistent role of Allen while Davis mirrors Williams’ red zone domination and big-play ability. Fantasy managers will have to keep an eye on Davis’ consistency going forward and hope that he can sustain his success and be less of a boom-or-bust performer that he has been in the past.

 

Los Angeles Rams

 

Quarterback

 

Matthew Stafford: 29/41, 240 yards, TD, 3 INT | 1 carry, 2 yards

 

Matthew Stafford was frequently pressured by a persistent Buffalo front. The Rams’ quarterback picked up where he left off last season, focusing in on Cooper Kupp and peppering him with targets, sometimes to a fault. He connected with Kupp for the Rams’ only touchdown in the second quarter, hitting his favorite target in the back of the end zone for a toe-tap touchdown.

 

 

After watching Stafford, it appeared as if he has not developed a level of trust with Allen Robinson yet. On one particular play, Stafford had escaped pressure in the pocket and had Robinson open beyond the first-down marker, but chose to keep the ball and run for the yard to gain instead, a strange decision from one of the… uh… less mobile… quarterbacks in the league.

Stafford threw three interceptions, but missed high on his intended target a handful of times, raising speculation around the health of his throwing elbow. Though, on one interception Stafford decided to try and look off the linebacker underneath and hit Kupp on the no-look pass. Remarkably accurate for a no-look throw, but a shade high and off Kupp’s hands for a pick.

 

 

Running Back

 

Darrell Henderson: 13 carries, 47 yards | 5 targets, 5 receptions, 26 yards

Cam Akers: 3 carries, 0 yards

Brandon Powell: 1 carry, 2 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 12 yards

 

Nobody panic. Cam Akers was in uniform and healthy, though how healthy we can’t be sure. He was given just three carries and didn’t receive any targets in the passing game (though one of his rushes was a backwards pass). Instead, McVay chose to go with Darrell Henderson as the feature back. Henderson was heavily involved, receiving 13 of the Rams’ 18 carries while averaging a respectable 3.6 yards per carry. Henderson also caught all five of his targets for 26 yards, finishing with 12.3 PPR fantasy points. Rookie running back Kyren Williams left early with an ankle injury and didn’t see any offensive action while Brandon Powell had one carry and one catch while also handling the return duties.

Akers’ lack of involvement is obviously concerning, but not surprising. It’s been well-documented that McVay has typically shied away from using a committee of running backs. In the past, he’s made a decision to go with one guy and stick with him throughout – it just so happened that he chose Henderson tonight. Akers’ situation is certainly one to monitor, but I’m not sure I’d go panic trading him just yet.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Cooper Kupp: 15 targets, 13 receptions, 128 yards, TD

Tyler Higbee: 11 targets, 5 receptions, 39 yards

Ben Skowronek: 6 targets, 4 receptions, 25 yards

Allen Robinson: 2 targets, 1 reception, 12 yards

Tutu Atwell: 1 target

 

Cooper Kupp is still an elite talent with elite usage and production within this Rams offense, just like he was a season ago. Kupp hauled in 13 catches on 15 targets, a 36.6% target share. Tight end Tyler Higbee was targeted 11 times, a 27% target share, but generated only five catches for 39 yards. Most of Higbee’s targets came on short and intermediate routes on the typical catch-and-fall-down plays that we see occasionally from tight ends.

Allen Robinson was a non-factor, receiving just two targets throughout the entire game. The closest Robinson got to making an impact was a garbage time jump ball lobbed up into the end zone on the Rams’ final offensive play that was knocked down for an incompletion and a turnover on downs. In the absence of Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek served as the WR3, pulling in four catches on six targets.

The good news for Allen Robinson managers is that the Rams’ shiny new toy was on the field for 64 snaps and ran 47 routes. The bad news – he got just two targets and the one catch he made was as a second or third option in Stafford’s progression. Maybe the chemistry will improve as the season goes on, those who drafted A-Rob in the fourth or fifth round certainly hope so.

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