The NFL regular season is back and it did not disappoint. We saw a ton of close games, crazy finishes and outstanding plays all weekend, leaving us excited for what's about to come this season. In this article, I go through each game giving my take on some of the different things that stood out to me over the weekend from a fantasy perspective. In order to keep it brief - and save you all from hours of reading - I only talk about a few players from each game. If you have any specific questions, feel free to find me on Twitter @HeHateSteve. Without further ado, let's break down the action.
Denver Broncos 21, Carolina Panthers 20
It appears we were a year early on C.J. Anderson. Anderson displayed great power and speed all night against a good defense to the tune of 139 total yards with a pair of touchdowns. He has another juicy matchup against a banged up Colts defense next week, I expect another big game.
Demaryius Thomas injured his hip and received a 2nd opinion this week. Early reports are saying he’ll be fine for Week 2 but it’s something to monitor. Emmanuel Sanders will receive a nice bump in targets if Thomas were to miss any time this season.
I took a big L on Kelvin Benjamin in Week 1. I’ve been openly against drafting Benjamin due to his injury, snap count concerns and potential loss of targets to Devin Funchess. However, Benjamin looked great while receiving 12 targets, six receptions, 91 yards and a touchdown against a tough Broncos defense. Congrats if you ignored the noise, he appears to be a high-end WR2 this season.
Green Bay Packers 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 23
He didn't play the full compliment of snaps but Jordy Nelson looked good in his first regular season game since his ACL injury last season. He received a team-high nine targets, and turned one of those into a touchdown. When healthy, he's an elite option at the WR position. Much was made about Eddie Lacy going into the season but overall, I like what I saw. He looked like his old self with a nice 28-yard run, and hauled in a catch for 17 yards. He didn’t reach the end zone but I expect him to receive a lot of opportunities in one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.
Allen Robinson is going to single-handedly win weeks this year. He wasn’t efficient in this one but Blake Bortles sent Robinson 15 targets – most of anyone in Week 1 – and nearly scored a touchdown but the ball was a bit overthrown after Robinson battled through some contact. Whenever they needed a big play or got in trouble, Bortles was looking for #15. Up next, he’ll get a Chargers defense that gave up 363 passing yards to the Chiefs in Week 1.
Baltimore Ravens 13, Buffalo Bills 7
Not much happened offensively in this one outside of Mike Wallace’s 66-yard touchdown reception in the 2nd quarter. I believe Wallace will be a boom-or-bust play this season but he’s worth owning in most leagues as he had the 2nd-most snaps (44) of any Ravens WR. The Ravens backfield was a pure split as Justin Forsett out-snapped Terrance West 36-30. However, West did receive more carries (12-10) but rushed for less yards (32-41). It’s a situation to avoid in your lineups until someone emerges as the main guy. The situation could become even tougher when Kenneth Dixon returns from injury in a couple weeks.
The big news from this game is the reports of Sammy Watkins's foot not being 100% and Adam Schefter’s report that he may be “shut down” in an effort to get him healthy. Watkins and Rex Ryan have both denied that report and said they’ll manage his discomfort. The Bills are on a short week facing divisional foe the New York Jets on Thursday. Watkins has a chance to follow up A.J. Green’s big week against the Jets secondary, but with all the questions of his health, I would sit him this week if you have other viable options. If he plays, his upside is as high as anybody's but his foot could force him out of the game early.
Houston Texans 23, Chicago Bears 13
We all know DeAndre Hopkins is a stud but it was good to see Will Fuller burst on the scene with five receptions, 107 yards and a touchdown in his first career game. He’s a viable option in 12-team leagues, if still available, and will be one of the top waiver adds. His production can only help take some pressure off of Hopkins. Lamar Miller had a career-high 28 carries in his first game as a Texan and turned that into 106 rushing yards. He’s going to have a big year.
Alshon Jeffrey had four receptions for 105 yards in the first half. Unfortunately, he didn’t have another catch the rest of the game. As long as he’s healthy – which was an issue last season – he’s an elite WR1. Jeremy Langford played 54-of-56 snaps for the Bears Week 1. His usage, and lack of competition for touches, will keep him firmly in RB2 status.
Philadelphia Eagles 29, Cleveland Browns 10
Albeit in a plus matchup, Carson Wentz looked like the guy the Eagles traded up to build their team around. This is good news for Jordan Matthews, who picked up where he left off at the end of last season with seven receptions, 114 yards and a touchdown. The rookie will have his bumps in the road but Matthews should find himself in WR2 with upside territory all season.
Due to a shoulder injury to RGIII that will sideline him indefinitely, Josh McCown is now the starter for Cleveland and this is good news for Gary Barnidge. Barnidge didn’t have a catch in Week 1 but as we saw last year, McCown looked for him often in the games he started. Hold on to him for now and scoop him up if an impatient owner lets him go. Terrelle Pryor looked good Week 1 and appears to be a big part of their offense after leading the team in targets with 7. He should be owned in 12+ team leagues.
Minnesota Vikings 25, Tennessee Titans 10
The concerns of Stefon Diggs were dismissed Week 1 after receiving a game high seven receptions for 103 yards. His production should remain the same regardless of who’s playing QB as he doesn’t have much competition for targets. Adrian Peterson had a rough game with 19 carries for 31 yards. This isn’t the end of the “Peterson Era”, just one bad game. I expect him to return to elite status next week against the Packers.
DeMarco Murray appears to be the bell cow as he out-snapped rookie Derrick Henry 50 to 21. While I expect Henry to cut into his snaps more and more as the season goes along, Murray has good matchups the next two weeks against Detroit and Oakland. He’s a solid RB2 for the time being. The Tajae Sharpe hype continued into the regular season after hauling in seven catches for 76 yards. He’s the WR to own in Tennessee and should be picked up if available.
Cincinnati Bengals 23, New York Jets 22
A.J. Green was absolutely dominant in this one with 12 catches for 180 yards and a touchdown. I believe Green will lead the league in targets this season and is a top-5 fantasy WR option every week. The Bengals didn’t run much but Jeremy Hill saved his owners with a touchdown. The schedule is tough the first few weeks but I believe he’ll be the back to own thanks to his ability to score touchdowns (21 in his career).
There was a lot of speculation that we’d see a split between Matt Forte and Bilal Powell but we did not see that Week 1 as Forte out-snapped (54-17) and out-touched (27-6) Powell. If the usage and volume remains the same, Forte finds himself in RB1 territory Thursday against a banged-up Bills front 7. While I expect better days for Decker and Marshall, Quincy Enunwa is an interesting waiver pick up in deeper PPR leagues. Played 63-of-71 snaps Week 1 as a sign the team will be using him in their three and four WR sets this season.
Oakland Raiders 35, New Orleans Saints 34
In a high scoring affair, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, Latavius Murray and Michael Crabtree all had productive days to reward the fantasy owners that drafted them. Jalen Richard burst on to the scene with a 75-yard TD run. In the preseason, it was believed DeAndre Washington was the handcuff to Latavius Murray but it appears Richard has taken that spot. If you want to swap out Washington for Richard, I see no issue in that.
As a Coby Fleener owner, I admit, I’m a bit worried after Sunday’s game. Drew Brees threw for 423 yards and 4 touchdowns while Fleener was on the receiving end of just one catch for 6 yards. While I’m worried, I’m not panicking and not dropping him as most TEs this weekend weren’t all that productive. My plan is to give the situation another 2-3 weeks to evaluate before deciding to cut bait or find an alternative. They paid him $36 million in the offseason, they’ll want to make it work.
Kansas City Chiefs 33, San Diego Chargers 27
Spencer Ware lived up to and exceeded our high expectations in Week 1. While there was talk of a committee, Ware dominated the touches with 18 touches – to Charcandrick West’s nine – for 199 yards and a touchdown. If Jamaal Charles doesn’t play again in Week 2, Ware is an automatic play even in a tough matchup against Houston. Even when Charles returns, it appears Ware has done enough to play himself into a committee going forward.
I really hated to see Keenan Allen go down with a torn ACL in the first half of this game. He’s a really good player and he was having a great start with six catches for 62 yards. Travis Benjamin should see an uptick in targets with Allen out and I see Tyrell Williams as a speculative add – not a must add – until we see how the situation pans out. That said, Dontrelle Inman led all Chargers WRs in snaps (58), someone to monitor in deeper PPR leagues.
Seattle Seahawks 12, Miami Dolphins 10
Christine Michael played more snaps than Thomas Rawls (58-22) and outgained him on the ground (66-32), however, Rawls only saw two less touches (17-15). Michael was more effective but I don’t believe he did enough to outright take the job from Rawls. I expect Rawls to have an increased workload – potentially the majority of the snaps – in Week 2’s game against the LA Rams.
Quick note, Russell Wilson suffered an ankle injury that appeared to really hamper his mobility in the 2nd half. Head Coach Pete Carroll and Wilson are both saying he’ll play against the Rams but it’s something to monitor in practice this week. To be safe, I’d get a backup plan to cover your bases in the event the injury lingers.
Arian Foster was the clear lead back in this one as Jay Ajayi was a healthy inactive for the game. He struggled to gain much on the ground against a tough defense but did do damage in the passing game with 62 yards receiving on three catches. He also dominated the snaps playing 46-of-53 and appears to be their 3-down back going forward. He’s a RB2 for me.
Detroit Lions 39, Indianapolis Colts 35
Marvin Jones led the Lions in targets in his first game with his new team with 10. Volume will be there for him to produce all season. Theo Riddick picked up where he left off last season with five catches for 63 yards and a touchdown. While I don’t expect the rushing numbers to continue (7 rushes, 45 yards, 1 TD), I do expect him to continue to be a low-end RB2 in PPR leagues all season. While there will be occasional dud games for the skill position players due to the nature of a spread-it-around offense, I believe Matthew Stafford’s performance Week 1 will be a trend. In Stafford's last seven games, he's thrown for 1,995 yards, 20 TDs, 1 INT, while completing 73.4% of his passes. He’s QB1 going forward.
Andrew Luck looked terrific in Week 1 after last season was riddled with turnovers and injuries. This game should be a sign of things to come due to the banged-up nature of their defense and struggles to run the ball consistently. The Colts will find themselves in a fair amount of shootouts and with the weapons around Luck, he’ll be an elite QB option most weeks. Phillip Dorsett led the team in receiving yards with 94. He’ll be inconsistent behind Moncrief and Hilton, but should be owned in most leagues. He’d be a high-upside WR2 if either of them were to miss time.
New York Giants 20, Dallas Cowboys 19
It was good to see Victor Cruz doing the salsa again in the end zone after missing nearly two years with a knee injury. Believe he’s more of a WR5 unless his targets increase but he helps Eli Manning’s value by having another reliable weapon. Sterling Shepard scored his first career TD; I believe this will be a trend with all the attention Odell Beckham Jr. will receive. Rashad Jennings received 18 of the 24 carries out of the backfield solidifying his status as their lead back. The offense has a great matchup against the Saints next week.
Dak Prescott looked fine in his first career start. It was unfortunate that they didn’t seem to push the ball downfield much. However, his fantasy day would’ve been different if the Dez Bryant's touchdown catch would’ve held up. I expect a better fantasy game from Prescott in Week 2. Ezekiel Elliott got the volume we wanted (20 carries) but not the production (51 yards). However, he did find the end zone and I expect him to only get better with each game he plays.
New England Patriots 23, Arizona Cardinals 21
Jimmy Garoppolo looked pretty good in his first career start, which I think eases our fears of New England’s skill position players going forward. Martellus Bennett had an unexpected quiet game but they needed him to help block against a tough Cardinals defense. He’ll still get opportunities when Gronk gets back as he’ll receive less attention from the defenses when they run their 2-TE sets. Chris Hogan is a nice waiver wire add this week as he appeared to be the clear #2 WR behind Edelman. His upside is capped a bit when Gronk gets back but he should be on rosters and is a potential flex play during the bye weeks.
My concerns about David Johnson losing snaps and touches were put the bed pretty quickly after Johnson played 58-of-61 snaps. He has a great chance to finish as the top overall RB this year if he remains healthy. Larry Fitzgerald is the safest Cardinals WR to start each week. John Brown and Michael Floyd will be a bit more inconsistent, and likely, alternate weeks of productivity. Despite his 1-catch performance, I still believe John Brown has a solid year. He’s a hold and could get back on track as early as this weekend.
Pittsburgh Steelers 38, Washington Redskins 16
As we expected, Antonio Brown was his dominate self and showed why he went #1 overall in most drafts this year. DeAngelo Williams is a top-10 RB any week Le’Veon Bell isn’t playing. Eli Rogers is a nice pickup in larger leagues. He’s the starting slot WR in an offense that likes to aggressively push the ball down the field. Markus Wheaton’s eventual return will cap some of his upside, however. Jesse James was the starting TE and played most of the snaps. This offense has so many weapons he’ll be tough to rely on but he has a chance to score every week thanks to his 6’7” frame.
This offense struggled a bit but showed glimpses of why I was so high on them going into the season. Kirk Cousins threw for over 300 yards and had 43 pass attempts. He didn’t find the end zone but bigger weeks will be ahead thanks to volume. Matt Jones looked recovered from his shoulder injury, unfortunately the game flow hurt his attempts. There will be weeks like this but he should receive more touches going forward. Chris Thompson is worth a flier in PPR leagues as he dominated the snaps in the 2nd half when the team was in catch up mode. He’s the preferred handcuff to Jones.
San Francisco 49ers 28, Los Angeles Rams 0
Game script set up well for Carlos Hyde as the 49ers look the early lead and were able to run the ball the majority of the 2nd half. Shaun Draughn did receive 21 snaps last night, he plays in their passing back role, leaving me to wonder how the snaps will look if the team falls behind early. Jeremy Kerley is someone to monitor after receiving a team-high 11 targets. Playing the slot WR position, he could find sneaky value as the beneficiary to Blaine Gabbert quick passes or dump offs.
Todd Gurley received 17 carries despite the Rams trailing most of the game, which was good to see. However, it’s fair to wonder if they continue to trail in games if he’ll be able to reach his value based on his 1st round ADP. I’m still a believer because of his enormous talent, though. None of the Rams receiving options interest me as I expect all of them to be inconsistent. Austin is more valuable in leagues that reward return yards.