What We Saw: Week 1

Atlanta Falcons vs. Minnesota Vikings

 

We made it! The first week of the season is here and we are here to help you avoid overreacting to the first set of games this week. Coming into Sunday I anticipated a nice offensive battle between Atlanta and Minnesota since they both return a lot of skilled players on offense and they would be playing in a dome. This game did not turn out as I expected but hey, it’s the NFL. Let’s take a look at what we saw:

 

Atlanta Falcons

 

Quarterback

 

  • Matt Ryan: 33/46, 304 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs

 

This was a sluggish performance by Matt Ryan as he was pressured for most of the game. The Vikings tallied seven hits on him and sacked him four times while he was running for his life most of the afternoon. The Falcons were shut out until the 4th quarter when Ryan found Calvin Ridley on a 4th and 5 from the 20-yard line on a beautiful fade route down the left sideline. Ryan then found Julio Jones on an endzone fade route towards the end of the game to salvage his fantasy day. The game flow was great for Ryan as he attempted 46 passes but since he was pressured most of the day he was unable to get into a rhythm. Look for him to bounce back next week versus the Eagles at home.

 

Running Backs

 

  • Ito Smith: 6 carries, 31 yards | 1 target, 1 catch, 9 yards
  • Devonta Freeman: 8 carries, 19 yards | 4 targets, 3 catches, 12 yards

 

Game flow was AWFUL for the running backs in this game as the Vikings quickly jumped up 14-0 in the first quarter and had as large as a 28 point lead. Devonta Freeman had 11 touches in this game but wasn’t able to showcase that he looks to be a safe RB2 most weeks due to the game flow. Ito Smith looks to be the clear handcuff to Freeman and could have a Tevin Colman type role if anything were to happen to Freeman. I’ll chalk this game up to an awesome defensive performance by the Vikings and look for Freeman to get on track next week versus the Eagles at home.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

  • Julio Jones: 11 targets, 6 catches, 31 yards, 1 TD
  • Austin Hooper: 9 targets, 9 catches, 77 yards
  • Calvin Ridley: 6 targets, 4 catches, 64 yards, 1 TD
  • Mohamed Sanu: 6 targets, 5 catches, 57 yards
  • Justin Hardy: 5 targets, 4 catches, 41 yards

 

There were lots of targets to go around for the whole offense in this one as Matt Ryan had 46 pass attempts. Julio Jones was heavily targeted coming off of his newly signed contract and he even found the endzone on a nice fade route against Mark Fields. If Julio continues to get this workload and can make it through the whole season, he could be a league winner. Austin Hooper did most of his damage in the second half on dump-off throws by Ryan but all in all, he could be a top ten tight end if he gets this much volume. Don’t expect 9 targets every week (or for him to catch all of them) but hey it’s the tight end position. Calvin Ridley should be able to build on this and be a viable WR2 – WR3 most weeks in a high powered offense. Mohamed Sanu is an underrated safe flex option in deeper leagues and I don’t think this is finally the year for Justin Hardy.

 

Minnesota Vikings

 

Quarterbacks

 

  • Kirk Cousins: 8/10, 98 yards, 1 TD, 2 fumbles

 

What a weird stat line from an NFL quarterback in this day and age of football. Kirk Cousins certainly underwhelmed if you started him in fantasy but hey, at least he didn’t get negative points. With Kevin Stefanski calling the plays for the Vikings now, it looks like they will be more of a possession type offense and it might hurt Kirk’s fantasy value. Last year, the Vikings played from behind a lot which led to a nice year for Cousins as a fantasy QB. This year, with the addition of Kubiak and Mike Zimmer calling the defense, if the Vikings get ahead it looks like they plan to run the ball a lot. This could hurt Cousins as a fantasy QB–and possibly his weapons–but I’m not panicking yet. Cousins did have a nice TD throw under pressure to Thielen on the first drive but that same pressure resulted in two fumbles.

 

Running Backs

 

  • Dalvin Cook: 21 carries, 111 yards, 2 TDs | 2 targets, 2 catches, 9 yards
  • Alexander Mattison: 9 carries, 49 yards

 

Well, well, well. Dalvin Cook might just be an RB1 after all. Watching him today reminded me why he was such a high draft pick and why fantasy owners were drooling over him this preseason. If the point of the Kubiak offense is to control the ball and hand it off to Cook as much as possible, he could very well live up to the draft price. The offensive line looked great run blocking for Cook while going up against a decent defensive front. If they can continue to create space for Cook look for him to be a matchup-proof RB1 when healthy. Alexander Mattison established himself as the handcuff to Cook and honestly a must-own fantasy option due to Cook’s injury concerns.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

  • Adam Thielen: 3 targets, 3 catches, 43 yards, 1 TD
  • Stefon Diggs: 2 targets, 2 catches, 37 yards
  • Chad Beebe: 1 target, 1 catch, 9 yards
  • Kyle Rudolph: 1 target, 0 catches

 

When your QB only throws the ball 10 times it makes for a difficult day at the office for the receiving corps. Adam Thielen looked like he was off to a great start on the first drive where he caught a 23-yard TD from Cousins after they were given a short field from a blocked punt. After that catch, Thielen only had two catches for 20 yards the rest of the game as the offense looked to control the game and tempo by running the ball. Stefon Diggs was designated active before the opening kickoff but barely did anything as again the offense was very run-heavy. I had my concerns about Kyle Rudolph coming into the year due to the presence of Irv Smith Jr. and after this game, a lot of owners may be looking to replace him for a hot waiver wire TE. I would hold another week as the Vikings go to Green Bay next week in what could be a game that the passing game would have to be more effective. Look for Thielen, Diggs, and Rudolph to put up more points next week.

 

 — Colin Weatherwax 

 

 

 

Michael Miklius

Mike is a lifelong Bears fan and unapologetic Mitch Trubisky homer. Twitter: @SIRL0INofBEEF

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