NFL Matchups - Week 1

Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots

Venue: Gillette Stadium(Foxborough)Thu. 9-7 @ 8:30 pm EDTOver/Under: 48

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Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots

Outcome: Chiefs win 42-27

Fantasy Player of the Game: Kareem Hunt, RB KC – 17-148-1 rushing, 5-98-2 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Tom Brady, QB NE – 16-36, 264 yards, 0 TD passing

The myth of a low-scoring Thursday night affair has officially been debunked as this was the highest point total of all the games played through Sunday night. Despite the loss of Julian Edelman, the Patriots still had a vast array of weapons and the Chiefs were certainly ready to take the reins off their big play-makers. Early on it looked as if the Patriots were going to cruise to victory, but following a fumble by Hunt, a crucial 4th-and-1 stand by the Chiefs defensive unit on their own 10-yard line helped take the crowd out of the game and allowed their offense to maintain the original game plan and put some points on the board.

Obviously, the big story was the performance of Kareem Hunt. He rebounded extremely well following a fumble on his first carry and it was refreshing to see Andy Reid stick with him immediately after it happened. We’ve talked about what Reid likes to do with his running backs and Hunt’s usage in this game was the perfect example. You should expect Charcandrick West to get some share of the workload, but this looks like Hunt’s backfield.

Let’s pump the brakes on the Alex Smith love here, people. He is still the same quarterback he’s always been and just because he had a strong debut this season doesn’t change who he is as a player. Simply enjoy his 368 passing yards and four touchdowns and hope you had him in a best-ball format because it’s highly doubtful any sane fantasy player had him in their lineup.

The final stat line of 7-133-1 for Tyreek Hill was fantastic, but just remember that 75 of those yards came on one play in which there was some busted coverage and the Patriots defensive backs had given up on the play. That’s not to say he can’t be incredibly effective each week, but there’s no need to elevate him to top-five wide receiver status.

It was kind of a lame duck day for Travis Kelce who caught five of his seven targets for a total of 40 yards. Bill Bellichick was very focused on stopping Kelce and the Chiefs knew it as they tried to get him involved on some gimmick run-plays throughout the game. Just focus on the fact that he had the second-most targets behind Hill and should continue down that path all season long.

The Chiefs lost safety Eric Berry to a ruptured Achilles tendon late in the game and it’s going to be real tough for them to replace him. Daniel Sorenson is likely the first one up and he actually saw the third-most snaps of all the safeties, including some playing time even when Berry was on the field.

It was a tough game for Tom Brady, but obviously nothing you need to get your panties in a twist over. He’s still working out the kinks with his receivers, much like we saw a few years ago when he was trying to get Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins on the right track. It shouldn’t be long before he and Brandin Cooks, who had a fairly quiet debut, are locking down big games together.

It looks like Danny Amendola is going to be that guy coming out of the slot to replace Edelman. Only problem now is that Amendola is in concussion protocol, so we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens before we really dive into what the Pats might need to do to get Brady some help.

Looks like Chiefs DC Don Sutton did a real nice job of neutralizing Rob Gronkowski, though we did see a couple of drops that shouldn’t have happened. Credit the Chiefs here, but it’s going to be tough for any team to replicate the scheme, especially once Brady and his receivers land on the same page.

The real issue this week, at least for fantasy owners, was the Patriots backfield. All of you who fell for that Boston Herald column that stated Rex Burkhead was in for a big night kind of got what you deserved. Mike Gillislee has always been tabbed as the team’s short-yardage back, so who else was going to see the goal line touches. James White handles the third-down work and Gillislee takes it between the tackles. Burkhead and Dion Lewis take a back seat to them in fantasy. Bellichick is notorious for mixing it up, but still, folks should have known.

The Patriots lost middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower to a knee injury; a sprained MCL to be exact. His status for Week 2 is still up in the air, but losing him would be a big blow for the Patriots defense. Kyle Van Noy will fill in for the time being.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions

Venue: Ford Field(Detroit)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 48.5

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Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions

Outcome: Lions win 35-23

Fantasy Player of the Game: Matthew Stafford, QB DET – 29-41, 292 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: David Johnson, RB ARI – 11-23-0 rushing, 6-68-0 receiving (injury)

This may have been the biggest upset of the week, as the Cardinals defense crumbled like day-old coffee cake. Maybe the wind was taken out of the teams’ sails when David Johnson left with a wrist injury, but if that’s the case, the defense needs some new leadership. The Lions may have given up 23 points, but credit their defense for the strong work against a usually potent offense; the run defense in particular.

The latest on Johnson is that he is seeing a specialist and the team will update his status once they get all the test results. Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the recovery prognosis could go one of two ways – 2-to-3 weeks or 3-to-4 months. The former, is certainly tolerable and fantasy owners who built solid running back depth can weather the storm. If it’s the latter, yuck. Perhaps there’s someone in your league looking to stash someone like Johnson for the playoffs, but I wouldn’t make a move until A. you know the exact timetable and B. you get a decent depth-back in return.

As for potential waiver claims, it looks like Kerwynn Williams is the primary handcuff, followed by Andre Ellington. Neither are really anything good and the Cardinals will probably just go with a committee unless one of them really sets himself apart from the other. Rumor has it the Cardinals could also turn back to Chris Johnson again.

Just a disastrous day for Carson Palmer who should have been able to pick apart the Lions secondary, save for Darius Slay who was supposedly shadowing John Brown. We had some obvious concerns early in the season last year, but Palmer managed to pick himself up by the bootstraps and posted some solid games. This year, we might not be so lucky. Drew Stanton, anyone? Blaine Gabbert?

It was a nice game for J.J. Nelson who caught five of six targets for 43 yards and a touchdown. With John Brown working primarily out of the slot, Nelson should get ample work on the outside. Of course, he still needs a decent quarterback to get him the ball.

The Lions offense started off slowly, but Matthew Stafford was both patient and methodical and ultimately found ways to beat the coverage. He still needs to spread the ball around a little more. Maybe Honey Badger had Marvin Jones locked up much of the time, but 12 targets for Golden Tate and just two for Jones is a little bothersome. Yes, he targeted Kenny Golladay seven times, but in truth, I’d like to see him take some of those 11 targets to the running backs and send them Jones’ way more. Or whichever of the top two wideouts isn’t getting the looks each week.

The tandem of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick wasn’t exactly productive and while the Cardinals run defense is solid, a net of 29 rushing yards between the two of them is unacceptable. Even if you add in the 22 yards Dwayne Washington picked up on six carries, it’s still a piss-poor total. The onus falls on Abdullah who needs to prove that he can be a reliable option out of the backfield. Injuries have hindered his progress and he is barely a flex play given the pass-heavy offense. Obviously it’s early and just one game, but still… 

Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Venue: Paul Brown Stadium(Cincinnati)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 41.5

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Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals

Outcome: Ravens win 20-0

Fantasy Player of the Game: Ravens Defense – 5 sacks, 4 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 0 pts allowed

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: A.J. Green – 5-74-0

Probably the easiest recap I’ll write this side of Miami/Tampa as the Bengals were a total disaster. The blame can fall squarely on the shoulders of the offensive line. There was no pass protection whatsoever and they were unable to open any running lanes for any of the team’s running backs. As a result, the ground game remained inefficient and Andy Dalton totally sucked as he threw for just 170 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. In truth, Dalton should really be considered the disappointment, but considering Green was a first-rounder in most leagues, his stat line was a major bummer.

The Bengals lost right guard Trey Hopkins late in the first half, so that was also a contributing factor to the struggles on offense throughout the rest of the game.

Terrance West was the dominant force on offense as the Ravens were true to their word in focusing on the run. He rushed 19 times for 80 and a touchdown before giving way to Javorius Allen (21-71-0) who helped kill the clock in the second half. Given the style of offense new coordinator Marty Mornhinweg likes to run, West should be looking at, what could be, his largest role in an offense right now.

The Ravens lost Danny Woodhead (hamstring) and recent reports say that he is expected to be out for a considerable amount of time. Allen should step into his role, but West is likely to be a serious beneficiary as there is little competition for his job.

The team is handling Joe Flacco with kid gloves at this point and they’re going to keep the pressure off him as he works his way back to 100-percent. Don’t expect big numbers out of him for some time and because of that, you can downgrade the wide receivers for the moment as well.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans

Venue: NRG Stadium(Houston)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 38

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans

Outcome: Jaguars win 29-7

Fantasy Player of the Game: Leonard Fournette, RB JAC – 26-100-1 rushing, 3-24-0 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Allen Robinson, WR JAC – 1-17-0 (injury)

 While everyone was focused on the narrative of a J.J. Watt-led defense facing Blake Bortles in Houston, the Jaguars defense showed the world that they’ve come to play this year. With names like Jalen Ramsey, Dante Fowler, Calais Campbell and Myles Jack on the roster, the Jags defense is loaded with talent and will give even the strongest of offenses a tough time. The pass rush was insane as they loaded up with 10 sacks, one interceptions and three fumble recoveries, one of which was taken to the house by Fowler. The defensive unit was certainly in the running for fantasy “player” of the game here.

Give it up for Leonard Fournette, who shook off a bad preseason and a foot injury to dominate on the ground against a normally stout run defense. The Jags offensive line graded out about average, but the man-blocking scheme suits the personnel and the big boys were able to open up some nice holes to create some running lanes for the rookie runner. Couple that with Doug Marrone’s and Paul Hackett’s affinity for power-running and you’ve got a system that really helps boost Fournette’s value.

The Jaguars lost Allen Robinson to a torn ACL and the wideout is done for the season. Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns each take a step forward on the depth chart.

On the Texans’ side, it was pure ugliness. Tom Savage looked horrible under center and all that talk about him being better than Brock Osweiler and taking the Texans offense back to the pre-Brock era was all a bunch of lip service. The play of the offensive line didn’t help, but Savage had trouble seeing downfield and held onto the ball for far too long at times. Hence, the 10 sacks. He was pulled from the game and benched in favor of Deshaun Watson, but the rookie really didn’t look much better. Perhaps, when Bill O’Brien gives him the starting nod for Thursday’s game, he’ll be more prepared after time spent with the first team at practice. Of course, he’s also now dealing with a bum ankle, so we’ll just have to wait and see. Either way, the quarterback position is a nightmare now and the offense is going to have massive issues moving the ball downfield unless it’s fixed.

Lamar Miller was his usual average self, rushing for just 65 yards on 17 carries. He also caught two passes for 31 yards…..YAAAAAAAAAWN. The 3.8 yards per carry is lame and there’s just nothing inspiring about this guy’s game. Sure, he’ll stick as the lead back for now, but remember that he can’t handle a heavy workload and at some point he’ll start losing more and more touches to Tyler Ervin and D’Onta Foreman.

Give it up for DeAndre Hopkins who caught his first touchdown pass since December 4, 2016. He finished the day with seven catches on a whopping 16 targets for just 55 yards and the score. He’ll continue to have value as they force-feed him the ball, but with so much uncertainty under center, it’s tough to get excited about him.

The Texans lost Brian Cushing, C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Bruce Ellington all to concussions and with the short week coming up, it’s going to be tough seeing any of them back in time.

New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills

Venue: Ralph Wilson Stadium(Orchard Park)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 41.5

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New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

Outcome: Bills win 21-12

Fantasy Player of the Game: LeSean McCoy, RB BUF – 22-110-0 rushing, 5-49-0 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Bilal Powell, RB NYJ – 7-22-0 rushing, 5-17-0 receiving

In truth, this game was probably as boring as they come. The Bills biggest strength is their rushing attack and the Jets biggest strength is their run defense, so that was really the only battle to watch and as you can see by LeSean McCoy’s numbers, he had no issues whatsoever. He did incur some sort of minor wrist/hand injury and came out of the game which is why Mike Tolbert (12-42-1) was the guy who got the touchdown, but he came back in a few plays later and continues to carve up the Jets defense.

The Bills passing game was fairly mediocre as Tyrod Taylor really just spent much of his time handing the ball off. Tight end Charles Clay saw the biggest action (nine targets) and was left mostly uncovered on his touchdown. Many expect Clay to be the guy leaned on most heavily, but he’s always just two steps away from missing time with a knee injury.

Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews each saw a handful of targets, but again, it was all relatively unexciting. Matthews still needs to do more work getting on the same page as Taylor and Jones needs to see more targets to really get himself going. This offense does have some potential and will be interesting to watch against a more competitive defensive unit, but for now, make sure you’re not too reliant on anyone in this offense, save for McCoy.

The Bills lost cornerback E.J. Gaines to a bruised shoulder, an injury he suffered in the fourth quarter while making a tackle. He’s already listed as questionable for Week 2.

As for the Jets, well, what did you expect? The one player fantasy owners were relying most heavily on was Bilal Powell, who many had been drafting as a RB2. His disgusting stat line, as you can see above, did absolutely nothing for his owners and the concerns over the backfield split are real. Powell saw just 30 snaps to 35 for Matt Forte and it looks like the team will try to ride Forte until he breaks down. The heavy speculation on Powell was that the Jets would be playing from behind regularly and sit in pass mode the whole time, a situation which favored Powell, however, far too many people forget that pass-catching and pass-blocking are two things Forte does well.

The Jets passing attack is downright awful and Josh McCown is going to have a tough time leading this group. He was 26-for-39 for 187 yards and two interceptions and never looked comfortable. How could he? Two of his primary targets, Jermaine Kearse and Will Tye weren’t even with the team 10 days ago. Robbie Anderson saw eight targets, but he finished the day with just four catches for 22 yards. He’s nothing more than a deep home run threat and unless he catches a 50-plus yard bomb for a score, he’s useless.

Seriously, people. I’m not trying to be funny. When a diehard Jets fan like me tells you there is absolutely zero redeeming fantasy value to be had on this team, you should pay attention.

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins

Venue: FedEx Field(Landover)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 49.5

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Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins

Outcome: Eagles win 30-17

Fantasy Player of the Game: Nelson Agholor, WR PHI 6-86-1 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Robert Kelley, RB WAS – 10-30-0 rushing

This certainly wasn’t your typical NFC East battle as neither team was inclined to play good old-fashioned hard-nosed football. In fact, both teams abandoned the ground game pretty quickly as neither was very effective. Darren Sproles saw 34 snaps to 24 for LeGarrette Blount and 14 for Wendell Smallwood, but saw just two carries and eight targets while Blount had 14 carries and actually caught a one-yard touchdown. Smallwood wasn’t effective in either the passing or ground attack. Head coach Doug Pederson gave it a shot, but seemed much happier with the passing attack.

As for the Redskins ground game, Fat Rob and Chris Thompson saw almost the same number of snaps (33 for Kelley, 30 for Thompson), but it was Thompson who was the more impactful player as he caught four passes for 52 yards, including a fantastic effort breaking and evading tackles en route to a 29-yard touchdown. You’d like to think Thompson would push into a lead role, but his diminutive frame makes him less likely to be the guy to push between the tackles. Expect the split to continue and look for Kelley to improve as the season rolls on.

Carson Wentz saw the highlight reel on his 58-yard touchdown pass and rightfully so as he broke away from at least two potential tackles behind the line of scrimmage on that play and found Nelson Agholor just sitting there wide open downfield. He looked poised while in the pocket and looked every bit the part of a seasoned NFL quarterback. He threw for over 300 yards and while he did have one interception, there was very little to not like about his game.

Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, is giving as much validity to the “he’s a slow starter” narrative as he can. He and Terrelle Pryor (11 targets, six catches for 66 yards) are still working on their on-field chemistry and he was pretty much without Jamison Crowder who saw limited action while dealing with his hip issue. There were a number of drops and miscues throughout the day between Cousins and his wideouts, but you have to look at this more as a first step toward better production than a reason to avoid. Just keep that in mind and be patient. Yes, even you Josh Doctson owners. I don’t see him going unused all season with Ryan Grant stealing all his thunder. Nah brah.

Keep your eyes out for more Jordan Reed updates. He played 55 snaps in this one, but reports of lingering pain and issues with the big toe have led to speculation that he is dealing with a fracture at the base of the toe. If that’s the case, this is not an issue that will just disappear overnight and we all know how Reed handles injuries. Tread lightly.

On the injury front, the Eagles lost cornerback Ronald Darby to an ankle injury. It looked pretty nasty when it happened and on the replay it looked like his foot was just dangling at the bottom of his leg. He’ll miss the next 4-to-6 weeks but, on the bright side, there was no major ligament damage and he is expected to make a full recovery.

Atlanta Falcons vs. Chicago Bears

Venue: Soldier Field(Chicago)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 48.5

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Atlanta Falcons at Chicago Bears

Outcome: Falcons win 23-17

Fantasy Player of the Game: Austin Hooper, TE ATL – 2-128-1 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Julio Jones, WR ATL – 4-66-0 receiving

While the Falcons may have won this game, a lot of credit has to be thrown the way of the Bears as they played a strong game and actually could/should have won the game. Mike Glennon should have added two more touchdowns to his totals but there were two key drops, one at the goal-line by Jordan Howard who took his eye off the ball before making the catch and one in the end zone at the very end by Josh Bellamy. The defense kept them in the game and did a good job stifling the offensive efforts of the Falcons for the most part. The secondary dropped the ball, so to speak, on some coverage which enabled Atlanta to move downfield at some crucial moments, especially on Austin Hooper’s touchdown.

We may as well just start with Hooper here as he’s been my choice for a breakout campaign throughout the preseason. How do you not love this guy? He’s got the size and speed to dominate from the tight end position and while he only saw two targets all game, he certainly made the most out of both. The Bears somehow left him completely uncovered early in the fourth quarter when Matt Ryan hit him on a pass that went for close to 30 yards and Hooper then rumbled the rest of the way, en route to an 88-yard score. His stiff-arm on the Bears defensive back was a great display of his strength as he just shoved the guy down like some schoolyard bully at recess. A few plays later, Ryan found Hooper again for a 40-yard completion which brought Hooper’s yards-after-catch to 83 on the day. Only Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown had more.

Overall, the Atlanta passing attack struggled against the Bears surprisingly strong defense. Julio Jones saw some heavy coverage which led Ryan to look more for Mohamed Sanu who had a team-high nine targets. Taylor Gabriel (3-36-0) was relatively ineffective as well. Obviously the unit will jell as the season progresses, but this was pretty disappointing considering the expectations walking into the game.

The Falcons ground attack was stifled for the most part as Devonta Freeman was held to just 37 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and Tevin Coleman had just 16 yards on eight carries. Many are pointing out that the Falcons don’t play as well on grass as they do on turf, but that hardly seems to be a wrothy excuse here. My concern to start the year was that new OC Steve Sarkisian was going to employ more man-blocking, but it was tough to discern that from just the one game. Further film study is needed and we also need to see how they fare against the Packers in Week 2, but this is definitely a situation worth monitoring. They’re back at home next week, so we’ll also try to debunk this “playing on grass” theory as well. I know what the history says, but really…are both backs going to be held down by a softer ground? Here’s hoping they won’t be.

For the Bears, there was a lot to like in this first week. Again, they could have won this game and Glennon’s 26-40, 213 yards, one TD day could have looked a whole lot better. It’s tough to do when you don’t have any receivers as this group is still dealing with the loss of Cam Meredith and now they lost Kevin White to yet another injury. White suffered a fractured scapula and is expected to be placed on IR. No word if he will be designated to return, but Donte Moncrief suffered the same injury and tried coming back after five weeks. He was completely ineffective and actually re-injured himself, so look for the Bears to just end his season early….again.

The big story for the Bears, however, was the play of running back Tarik Cohen who had five carries for 66 yards and caught eight of his 12 targets for 47 yards and a touchdown. With the injuries to the receiving corps, the Bears need to get more creative with their weaponry. Cohen is just 5-foot-6 and 180 lbs, so working between the tackles is not going to be his thing. But he can be used extensively in the passing game as we saw, so you can expect some added third down pass-catching work and also watch for him to line up in the slot while Kendall Wright and Josh Bellamy handle the outside.

Cohen is definitely a play-maker and will be a highly-coveted free agent in fantasy this week, but Jordan Howard owners do not need to worry about him losing carries or snaps. Cohen may spell him when he needs a breather, but the team cannot afford to lessen the workload of one of the best offensive weapons. Howard racked up 52 yards on 13 carries and, again, could have had more if not for that goal-line drop. Expect him to remain the bell-cow back while the team works Cohen into the game plan in other areas.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns

Venue: FirstEnergy Stadium(Cleveland)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 46.5

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

Outcome: Steelers win 21-18

Fantasy Player of the Game: Antonio Brown, WR PIT – 11-128-0 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Le’Veon Bell, RB PIT – 10-32-0 rushing, 3-15-0 receiving

Who says Ben Roethlisberger can’t play on the road? While the Steelers narrowly escaped with the win here, Big Ben was 24-for-36 with 263 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. It wasn’t the be-all, end-all of games for him, but the effort was strong, it exceeded expectations and left him 21-2 in his career against the Browns. The fact that he did it without much help from Le’Veon Bell is also worthy of note.

For those disappointed by Bell’s performance, what did you expect? The guy missed almost all of camp on a holdout and is far from being game-ready right now. In fact, you were warned on this site and on the Fantasy Alarm show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio about this. I also caution you to grab James Conner and stash him if you’re a Bell owner. We’ve seen far too many soft-tissue injuries suffered by guys who missed training camp and if you watched how tentative Bell was on a number of plays, you can imagine that he’s thinking about it as well.

Antonio Brown is a stud. There’s really no other way to say it. His performance is always top-notch and he is always reliable. Just look at some of his catches in this game. He can go across the middle and rack up yards after the catch and he can beat the corners down the sideline without batting an eye.

It looks like Steelers tight end Jesse James is out to prove to head coach Mike Tomlin and OC Todd Haley that he is very much “varsity enough” and will do what he can to provide his QB with a reliable target from the position. The team brought in Vance McDonald via trade, but he’s still learning the playbook. Expect James to keep pushing to hold onto the starting tight end job.

For the Browns, rookie QB DeShone Kizer looked solid in his debut. He made a few mistakes such as holding onto the ball for too long which resulted in seven sacks allowed by the Browns and he misread the coverage on his lone interception by T.J. Watt, J.J.’s little brother. Still, he hung in there pretty well and managed to spread the ball around to eight different receivers. Look for him to continue learning on the job and watch for the improvements. He’ll still make some mistakes, but so long as he continues to minimize them, that’s all you can ask for at this point in time.

 The ground game for the Browns was a little disappointing as Isaiah Crowell only rushed for 33 yards on 17 carries, but the Steelers were heavily focused on stuffing the run. With a rookie QB under center, you have to force him into those typical mistakes and taking away the ground attack is Mission: Critical in accomplishing that.

Oakland Raiders vs. Tennessee Titans

Venue: LP Field(Nashville)Sun. 9-10 @ 1:00 pm EDTOver/Under: 50

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Oakland Raiders at Tennessee Titans

Outcome: Raiders win 26-16

Fantasy Player of the Game: Derek Carr, QB OAK – 22-32, 262 yards, 2 TD passing

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: DeMarco Murray, RB TEN – 12-44-0 rushing, 2-16-0 receiving

In the battle of two of the top young, rising quarterbacks, the edge went to the Raiders as Derek Carr utilized his array of weapons to move the Raiders up and down the field. He also leaned on a very supportive ground game, though there was definitely one point where he should have leaned a little more on his running backs. After Marshawn Lynch picked up a critical first down inside the Titans’ five-yard line, Carr threw three consecutive passes to Amari Cooper and failed to reach the end zone. Cooper dropped the first pass and the defense broke up the other two. While Cooper owners can be happy about the heavy red zone targets, the Raiders will obviously readjust their play-calling to ensure they score the next time instead of settling for a field goal.

Lynch looked fresh in his efforts this week as he rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries and caught one pass for 16 yards. Had Carr put the ball in his hands inside the five, the stat line could have looked even juicier for his fantasy owners. It shouldn’t come as any surprise to see Lynch perform well early in the season. The real question is whether or not he has the stamina to carry that kind of a workload throughout the year. I’ll be watching even more closely once we hit Week 5 and 6 to see just how fresh he looks after a few weeks of getting hit.

While Cooper led the team with 13 targets and Michael Crabtree led in catches and receiving yards, Seth Roberts continued to be a solid option out of the slot. He saw just one targets, but he obviously made the most of it with a 19-yard touchdown catch. Expect his targets to increase as the season rolls on.

Nice debut for new Raiders tight end, Jared Cook who caught all five of his targets for 56 yards. Expect him to continue being utilized in this fashion and look for him to have a much better season than he did when he was with Green Bay.

Marcus Mariota threw for 256 yards and ran three times for 26 yards and a touchdown, so the day was decent, though not great for fantasy owners. As expected, he leaned heavily on Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews as they combined for 12 catches on 18 targets for 141 yards, but the real surprise was the 10 targets for rookie Corey Davis. With the hamstring issue he dealt with in camp, he didn’t have too much time to work with Mariota, but that didn’t seem to stop him. Six catches for 69 yards in his debut is nothing to sneeze at. Save your sneezes for the Eric Decker who only had three catches for 10 yards on eight targets. He’ll try to work more with Mariota to get on the same page, but with so many other targets, it might not come to fruition for another week or two.

Not much to say about the efforts of DeMarco Murray who racked up just 60 all-purpose yards. The Raiders defense did a nice job containing the Titans ground game and neither Murray nor Derrick Henry were able to get anything going. They certainly won’t be held in check all year, but it was not an auspicious start for him or his fantasy owners.

The Titans tried opening the game with an onside kick but failed to recover it and gave the Raiders outstanding field position to start. The error put them in an immediate 7-0 hole as the Raiders capitalized on the lame-duck call by Mike Mularkey.

Give it up for new Raiders kicker Giorgio Tavecchio who was 4-for-4 in field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder to open the third quarter. He also converted both extra-points. With Sebastian Janikowski on IR with a back injury, Tavecchio will be able to assert himself in the starting role and just might even supplant the veteran if he continues to kick well.

Indianapolis Colts vs. Los Angeles Rams

Venue: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum(Los Angeles)Sun. 9-10 @ 4:05 pm EDTOver/Under: 41.5

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Indianapolis Colts at Los Angeles Rams

Outcome: Rams win 46-9

Fantasy Player of the Game: Los Angeles Rams Defense – 4 sacks, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 2 DTD

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: T.Y. Hilton, WR IND – 3-57-0 receiving

Expectations for the Colts were ridiculously low with Scott Tolzien under center and an offensive line in complete disarray. Not sure what the team was even thinking this offseason. Everyone seemed to know Andrew Luck wasn’t going to be ready for the start of the season and the team did absolutely nothing to improve their quarterback situation. Trading for Jacoby Brissett would have been fine had it happened two months ago, but he looked just as lost out there having had the playbook for maybe a week.

As a result of the crappy quarterback situation, everyone struggled on the offensive side of the ball. Frank Gore couldn’t get anything going and the receivers’ performances were all pretty sub-standard. If you want a silver lining, it can be found in rookie running back Marlon Mack who carried the ball 10 times for 24 yards and a touchdown in short-yardage situations. The 2.4 yards per carry average stinks, but again, given the offensive line, you take what you can get.

For the Rams, it was the defense that shined brightest with two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a barrage of pressure on the Colts quarterbacks. This unit should be solid all season long, but let’s also keep in mind who their opponent was this week.

Jared Goff looked comfortable out there, though perhaps being staked to an early lead aided in his confidence-building. He spread the ball around nicely, hitting eight different receivers, and had a really nice connection with both Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp. The latter led the team in both targets and receiving yards while also hauling in his first NFL touchdown.

Todd Gurley put the past behind him as he definitely looked better in his 2017 season debut. He had 40 yards on 19 carries and found his way into the end zone early. He could have had a second, but he got his bell rung near the goal line and was taken out in favor of Malcolm Brown who vulture the touchdown. Gurley never broke any big runs and the 2.1 yards per carry stinks, but the Colts defense was certainly focused on him as they stacked the box early and waited to see what Goff could do. Whoops! As this passing attack continues to jell, Gurley should start seeing a whole lot more running room.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers

Venue: Lambeau Field(Green Bay)Sun. 9-10 @ 4:25 pm EDTOver/Under: 50

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Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers

Outcome: Packers win 17-9

Fantasy Player of the Game: Ty Montgomery, RB GB – 19-54-1 rushing, 4-39-0 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Russell Wilson, QB SEA – 14-27, 158 yards passing, 2-40-0 rushing

In what was expected to be a shootout, this game was all sorts of disappointing from a fantasy perspective. We can definitely blame the Seahawks’ struggles on that horror show of an offensive line and obviously Seattle’s defense did as much as they could to keep the Packers offense in check. Overall, it was actually a tough decision to pick a Fantasy Player of the Game here.

The honors go to Ty Montgomery for a few reasons. Number 1, I don’t have much faith in him as being the starting running back all season long and 2, my analysis in the Week 1 DFS Watch List and Playbook was pretty spot on as the game script really helped him thrive. Aaron Rodgers threw 42 times and given the pass-heavy scheme, it was a better match for Montgomery who is definitely a better pass-catcher than he is at going between the tackles.

Jordy Nelson doing Jordy Nelson things. Solid day for him with seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

Really nice to see Rodgers getting the ball to Randall Cobb as much as he did. The short-passing game was a solid plan given the Seattle secondary and hopefully they don’t just ignore him moving forward as they’ve done so often in recent seasons. The 13 targets were the most he’d seen in a game since Week 6 of last season.

Again, everything about Russell Wilson’s game and poor performance can be attributed to the offensive line. He was on the run the entire time and never got the time to find his receivers downfield. As a result, everyone suffered.

If you want the silver lining here, it can be found in Chris Carson who led the team with six carries for 39 yards. He also caught one pass for 10 yards and after watching just how bad Eddie Lacy looks and how ineffective C.J. Prosise was, it would appear that Pete Carroll is leaving this job open and could be Carson’s for the taking. Watch closely and when you’re putting in all those waiver claims for Tarik Cohen and Kerwynn Williams, use Carson as a contingency pick.

Oh, and just for the record, Jeremy Lane’s ejection was total crap. He never threw a punch. Kudos to all the refs who are on high-alert for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but come on…you gotta really see the play if you’re going to bounce someone.

Carolina Panthers vs. San Francisco 49ers

Venue: Levi's Stadium(Santa Clara)Sun. 9-10 @ 4:25 pm EDTOver/Under: 45

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Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers

Outcome: Panthers win 23-9

Fantasy Player of the Game: Jonathan Stewart, RB CAR – 18-65-0 rushing, 2-17-1 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Brian Hoyer, QB SF – 24-35, 193 yards, 1 INT passing

The Panthers executed their game plan extremely well and the defense did a solid job containing the 49ers revamped offense, ruining Kyle Shanahan’s debut. Turnovers were the biggest factor here as the Panthers capitalized on an interception and a fumble recovery to score touchdowns off the 49ers gaffes each time. The Panthers offense had a couple of turnovers themselves, but the defense did a great job negating any impact.

Cam Newton had a pretty efficient game as he passed for 171 yards and two touchdowns while throwing just one interception. He’s got an array of weapons at his disposal now and should be able to stay out of harm’s way so long as he releases the ball quickly.

With so much focus on rookie Christian McCaffrey, far too many people are forgetting about Jonathan Stewart. Big mistake as he is a much better fit in OC Mike Shula’s power-running offensive scheme. He saw just 29 snaps to 47 for McCaffrey, but he saw the majority of carries and was actually the one who caught a touchdown pass, something everyone had McCaffrey pegged to do. As for McCaffrey’s overall day, it was pretty up and down. He had some nice efforts as he rushed 13 times for 47 yards and also caught five passes for 38 yards. He did, however, lose a fumble in the fourth quarter, so don’t go trading your roster for him just yet.

Disappointing efforts from both Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin, but they should still remain the heavy favorites for targets throughout the year. Russell Shepard was the guy who found the end zone; a 40-yard TD pass and he finished the day with 53 yards on two catches. Curtis Samuel was nowhere to be found.

As for the 49ers, it just wasn’t jelling for them. Hoyer made some crucial mistakes and they failed to build any real momentum against the Panthers defense. He dealt with a heavy pass rush and was sacked four times on the day. Both Carlos Hyde and Pierre garcon had decent days, but with neither finding the end zone, both disappointed their fantasy owners. It’s a work in progress, people, so don’t dismiss this team just yet. It was a tough match-up and they’re still trying to get everyone on the same page.

New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys

Venue: AT&T Stadium(Arlington)Sun. 9-10 @ 8:30 pm EDTOver/Under: 46.5

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New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys

Outcome: Cowboys win 19-3

Fantasy Player of the Game: Ezekiel Elliott, RB DAL – 24-104-0 rushing, 5-36-0 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Brandon Marshall, WR NYG – 1-10-0 receiving

If you’re a Cowboys fan, then you should be relatively happy with the overall performance. If you’re a Giants fan, you’re probably still banging your head against the wall and writing nasty letters to head coach Ben McAdoo. The Giants defense did all they could do as they spent far too much time on the field due to an anemic offense. Like really anemic. The ground game, led by a very disappointing Paul Perkins, managed just 35 total rushing yards and when Shane Vereen is your leader in both targets and receptions, you know you’re doing it wrong. The Cowboys defense didn’t even look like they had to try too hard in this one as the only sustained drive the Giants had was in the third quarter and that one ultimately stalled, yielding just three points.

Without Odell Beckham, Eli Manning looked lost with regard to his downfield throws. Brandon Marshall was rarely seen and his lone catch came towards the end of the game in a useless situation. It was nice to see Sterling Shepard used more often but there’s a definite fear that he won’t see the proper targets once OBJ returns to action.

For the Cowboys, it was a solid effort all around. With Janoris Jenkins blanketing Dez Bryant most of the time, Dak Prescott did a great job redistributing some of the targets to Terrence Williams and tight end Jason Witten who had a strong game with seven catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Ezekiel Elliott looked solid against a decent Giants defense as he posted a 100-yard game and was also active in the passing attack as well. He didn’t find the end zone, but given the volume and the output, he was still a strong option for fantasy despite the less-than-stellar match-up.

Dallas CB Orlando Scandrick suffered a broken bone in his hand during the game, but the Cowboys haven’t ruled him out for Week 2 just yet. Should Scandrick miss time, you better give a long, hard look at the Broncos wideouts next week. 

New Orleans Saints vs. Minnesota Vikings

Venue: U.S. Bank Stadium(Minneapolis)Mon. 9-11 @ 7:10 pm EDTOver/Under: 47.5

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New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings

Outcome: Vikings win 29-19

Fantasy Player of the Game: Stefon Diggs, WR MIN – 7-93-2 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Michael Thomas, WR NO – 5-45-0

What a debut for the Minnesota Vikings! There were a ton of fantasy owners on them this week given the struggles we’ve seen from the New Orleans defense, but it’s tough to imagine anyone thought it was going to be as good as it was. New OC Pat Shurmur had everything running at optimal levels here from the strong ground attack to the intense passing game. In total, the Vikings threw down 475 all-purpose yards, three touchdowns and three field goals. In addition to that, the Vikings defense kept the New Orleans offense in serious check, to the point where they just couldn’t move the ball with any sort of consistency. While the score was just a 10-point differential, it really wasn’t that close.

Sam Bradford was everyone’s GPP darling and he delivered in style, going 27-for-32 with 346 yards and three touchdowns. He looked strong throughout the game and it’s obvious that his connection with Shurmur is incredibly strong. Remember, the two worked closely together when Bradford was with both the Rams and the Eagles, so the two have had quite the time setting up this offense together.

Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, again, delivered the good in this one. Thielen racked up the majority of his yardage between the 20’s and he’s proven to be a fantastic security blanket, especially on third downs. Diggs has the ability to go across the middle as well as down the sidelines. Bradford is giving him serious looks inside the red zone as well which should bear fruit on more than just a regular basis.

Obviously, the focus was on the receivers, but let’s not count out tight end Kyle Rudolph who caught all three of his targets for a total of 26 yards and a touchdown. If you watched the MNF broadcast, you heart John Gruden clamoring over Rudolph each and every time the Vikings got inside the 10-yard line. Between him, Diggs and Thielen, this passing attack is on fire.

How about that record-setting debut for running back Dalvin Cook? He totaled 127 yards on 22 carries, erasing Adrian Peterson’s old Vikings rookie record for rushing yards in a debut game. Cook looked like he had a bit of trouble finding running room early on, but once Bradford started clicking with his receivers and the Vikings used their spread offense, the running lanes opened up in a big way. The only criticism I really have is that I wish Shurmur wouldn’t have Bradford in shotgun formation for such a high percentage of plays. It’s a lot tougher for a running back to build momentum when he’s six yards behind the line of scrimmage before he even touches the ball. If Bradford sits under center more, then Cook can get the wheels turning first and then get the ball. He’ll have a much easier time pushing past the defensive line.

As for the Saints, well, let’s get those Drew Brees on the road criticisms in. He still threw for 291 yards and a touchdown, but you know his fantasy owners are already chirping. Fear not, Brees owners, he’ll be just fine and will have no problem connecting with his receivers down the line.

The Saints ground game, on the other hand, doesn’t look like it’s going to be fine unless Sean Payton makes a better decision on his running backs. Granted, they abandoned the run pretty quickly but the carry distribution doesn’t allow for much momentum to develop. Alvin Kamara led the way with seven carries while both Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram had six apiece. It was certainly a tough match-up against a strong Vikings defensive line, but when the three combine for just 43 yards, there’s a problem. Pay close attention to how things shake out in Week 2 because only then will you have an understanding of which guys need to be on your roster and which ones you should be shopping in trades.

Against this Vikings secondary, the Saints receiving corps just wasn’t able to do much. Michael Thomas got shut down in a big way and there wasn’t enough from Ted Ginn, Tommy Lee Lewis or Brandon Coleman to warrant drawing coverage away from Thomas. In fact, it was tight end Coby Fleener who posted the best receiving day with five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. It might take Brees a game or two to really click with the secondary wideouts, so while I wasn’t a huge believer in Fleener taking a step forward this season, I’m changing my tune right now.

Los Angeles Chargers vs. Denver Broncos

Venue: Sports Authority Field at Mile High(Denver)Mon. 9-11 @ 10:20 pm EDTOver/Under: 42

   Weather

Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos

Outcome: Broncos win 24-21

Fantasy Player of the Game: Bennie Fowler III, WR DEN – 3-21-2 receiving

Fantasy Disappointment of the Game: Hunter Henry, TE LAC – 0-0-0

It’s only fitting to cap off the NFL Week 1 excitement with one of the more dramatic finishes to the games. After leading 24-7 through the first three quarters of the game, the Broncos appeared to take their foot off the gas a bit and before we knew it, the Chargers put up two quick touchdowns and started driving down the field for a third. They got within field goal distance and it set the stage for rookie kicker Younghoe Koo to tie the game, which he did…almost. Koo was successful in his first attempt but the old last-second time out called by the Broncos sideline wiped out the three points. The Chargers lined up again for the re-kick, and of course…because I have Koo on virtually every team…defensive end Shelby Harris muscled his way through and got a hand on it to give the Broncos the win in the end. Aggravating? Only if you’re a Koo owner/Chargers fan. If you’re a Broncos fan, you dodged a bullet and can celebrate the divisional win.

Trevor Siemian played a nice game in his season debut. Not a phenomenal game, not even a great game, but a nice one. He threw for 219 yards with two touchdowns and one interception and also ran one in as well. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers and averaged 7.82 yards per attempt. Can he continue this? Well, I don’t know. He needs to show the consistency is there and needs to command control of this team just as he did in the preseason. Give me a few more games like this, and I’ll change nice to great.

While Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders dominated the targets, it was Bennie Fowler III who garnered all the attention inside the red zone. Fowler didn’t post big numbers at all, but if you were playing the Monday-Thursday slate and were looking for a punt play, Fowler came up crazy big for you. It seems unlikely that we’ll see something like this again, but I’m not going to rule it out completely just yet.

Jamaal Charles looked pretty good in his Denver debut, despite fumbling late in the game, as he spelled C.J. Anderson for 10 carries and 40 yards. The Broncos said his snaps would be limited and they stuck to it, but at least he was productive with the workload he received. We’ll have to see if they’re going to increase his snaps as the season rolls on, so if you’re a CJA owner, you should probably be prepared for the possibility. Not saying you dump Anderson who looked solid with 81 yards on 20 carries, but maybe you work on your running back depth just to stay prepared.

Melvin Gordon had a decent game – 18-54-0 rushing, 5-25-1 receiving – but the Chargers offensive line needs to get a bigger push on the defensive line to get Gordon some more running room. Denver’s run defense was their Achilles heel last season and it didn’t look all that great in this game, but Gordon’s numbers could have been a lot better had the o-line pushed more.

Welcome back, Keenan Allen! A little disappointing with only five catches on 10 targets, but he had 35 receiving yards and hauled in a key fourth quarter touchdown. I expect his on-field rapport with Rivers to re-ignite and will be looking for him to start dominating. Paired up with Tyrell Williams? Oh baby! That could be a fantastic 1-2 punch here and we haven’t even gone into the depth with Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams and Dontrelle Inman.

Looking for Hunter Henry during Monday’s game was like the worst Where’s Waldo book I’ve ever read. I get it. The Chargers want Antonio Gates to get his touchdown record. But really? Not one single target Henry’s way? Nothing? The guy played 23 snaps to 39 for Gates and didn’t see a lick of action. The only thing we can hope for is that Gates gets his touchdown and walks away from the game. Yeesh!

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