NFL Week 1 Hot Takes
Howard Bender offers up some hot takes on what went down during Sunday's Week 1 NFL games and how you should interpret for fantasy football purposes.
We still have the two Monday night games to go before we close the books on Week 1 of the NFL season, but it’s never too early to check in with some hot takes from Sunday’s games and see how the fantasy football community should react to some of the things they witnessed on the field.
Here are a few to ponder…
No Matter the Personnel, The Browns Are Always Going to Brown
With all due respect to the Browns faithful, the above statement appears to be true. The offense got a significant boost with the addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham and new offensive line coach James Campen. The defense is now being led by Steve Wilks and added pass-rusher Olivier Vernon , DT Sheldon Richardson , safety Morgan Burnett and second-round rookie corner Greedy Williams. And yet, the Browns scored just 13 points while allowing a whopping 43 to the Titans. How could this be? Didn’t they become an immediate contender with all the changes? Well, when your starting left tackle gets thrown out of the game for kicking an opposing player in the head and you commit 18 penalties for 182 yards, something tells me you’re far from being a winning club. You just can’t continually shoot yourself in the foot and expect to dance your way into the Super Bowl. This team needs to stop listening to their own hype and start buckling down. Until they tighten up on both sides of the ball, they will always fall short of expectations.
It's the Same Old Jets
Kinda. Sorta. Even with the addition of Le'Veon Bell and Jamison Crowder , the offense still needs some fine-tuning. Sam Darnold remains a work-in-progress, but there is certainly cause for hope, especially when you know the Bills defense is both strong and talented. But while the Jets struggled to put up points consistently, the real problem was how their defense crumbled like day-old coffee cake in the fourth quarter after an incredibly strong showing early on. The reason for their demise? It was the loss of C.J. Mosley that did them in. Mosley, the quarterback of their defense, made a spectacular debut with his new team, registering five tackles (four solo), two passes defensed and a pick-six, but was forced to exit the game in the fourth quarter with a groin injury. The defense wasn’t the same without him and they gave up 17 unanswered points, en route to a loss in their home debut. There’s a lot to like with this team, but clearly they lack the depth to overcome significant personnel losses and will remain mired in mediocrity until they do. It is, literally, the same old story.
Lamar Jackson is This Year’s Big Breakout
Jackson threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns in his 2019 season debut and all of Baltimore and the fantasy world couldn’t be happier. He stayed in the pocket, extended plays with his legs when necessary and very much looked the part of an NFL quarterback. While you can certainly attribute some of the growth to the normal maturation process of a second-year player, the change at offensive coordinator is a major factor. Greg Roman has had tremendous success with mobile quarterbacks and was expected to help guide Jackson just as he did with both Colin Kaepernick and TyRod Taylor . It’s very difficult to refute the reasoning, but, let’s all keep in mind the fact that the Ravens were playing the Dolphins, a team that has clearly given up and is looking towards next season’s drafts. Before you start anointing Jackson as the Ravens savior and be-all, end-all of quarterbacks, let’s see how he fares against a defense that won’t give up in the 2nd quarter.
Target Anyone Playing the Dolphins
While we won’t be engraving the Lombardi Trophy with anyone’s name from the Miami team, this club will serve its most desirable purpose as the league’s punching bag. Whether you’re in need of a defense to stream in fantasy, a wide receiver with a favorable match-up or just a team to pick against in a survivor pool, the Dolphins are your savior. They raised the white flag with their offseason trade of Laremy Tunsil and after Sunday’s 59-10 loss to the Ravens, we heard the players were ready to leave like rats on a sinking ship. If that doesn’t scream “we’re done with this season” loud enough for you, you might be deaf.
It’s the Year of the Rookie Wideout 2.0
Just take a look at that wide receiver leaderboard from Week 1 and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Marquise “Hollywood” Brown had four catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns, Terry McLaurin had five for 125 and a touchdown, A.J. Brown has three grabs for 100 yards and D.K. Metcalf had four for 89 yards. We haven’t seen that kind of rookie production since 2014 when Odell Beckham , Mike Evans , Allen Robinson , Brandin Cooks and Jarvis Landry grabbed center stage in the NFL. But before we go making it rain at Club FAAB for these guys, are we really sure about their ability to sustain this level of production? Marquise Brown and Metcalf certainly have the potential, but McLaurin’s Redskins are suspect at best and it’s very difficult to believe Marcus Mariota is going to be able to keep feeding the ball to A.J. the rest of the way.
Drafting Todd Gurley Was a Mistake
What’s wrong with 14 carries for 97 yards? Nothing, right? Well, maybe not. Gurley saw the most work of any Rams running back, but when it came down to the red zone work, particularly inside the 10-yard line, he was nowhere to be found. Head coach Sean McVay kept his star running back on the sidelines, not once but twice while the offense was near the goal line and instead gave the touchdown carries to Malcolm Brown . That actually gave us two things to learn – 1. Gurley’s arthritic knee is definitely a concern of his coaches and 2. Brown is the handcuff, not Darrell Henderson. It’s tough not to overreact to something like this, but it wasn’t like Gurley rushed for 30 yards to get the ball down there and then replaced because he was tired. He was replaced because McVay doesn’t trust him to do the job right. Pay attention to what happens over the next game or two. If this continues, it might be time to get rid of him.
The Colts are Fine Without Andrew Luck
In a nutshell, yes they are. We’re not saying they’re in better shape without him, but while they didn’t win against the Chargers in Week 1, they played a very competitive game and forced overtime with a second-half comeback. Jacoby Brissett , once again, proved to be a solid game manager. He threw for 190 yards and two touchdowns, rushed three times for nine yards, extended plays with his legs when he needed to, found his receivers downfield and played mistake-free football. Marlon Mack wasn’t affected negatively by the change and, in fact, saw his second-highest number of carries in a game with 25 and turned them into a career-high 174 yards and a touchdown. As for T.Y. Hilton , he seemed just fine with 87 yards and two touchdowns while Eric Ebron maybe looked like he suffered, but he actually had a touchdown negated by a penalty so he was still being looked at inside the red zone. No, this offense isn’t better without Luck, but the drop-off isn’t nearly as significant as some people made it out to be and this team will still compete.
The Bengals Aren’t as Bad as Everyone Thinks
Every fantasy analyst said this team was going be atrocious. Their offensive line was terrible and then got worse as injuries piled up in the preseason, Andy Dalton was still under center and the loss of A.J. Green was going to have a significant impact. But a pair of long touchdowns to wide receiver John Ross assuaged any concerns people had and the Bengals played an extremely competitive game, falling just short to the Seahawks, 21-20. Hold the phone. What? They did what? And that’s a testament to what? Come on, people. This wasn’t the Legion of Boom they were playing and while Jadeveon Clowney was looking sharp in his new digs, neither the team’s secondary nor its pass-rush were anything to get too excited about. Defensive breakdowns in the secondary allowed the Bengals to stay competitive in this game, but they simply cannot live so dangerously and expect to keep winning. If the Seahawks don’t improve that defensive backfield, things could get ugly and fast.
Those Who Dissed Kyler Murray Will Regret It by Season’s End
He was easily the most polarizing player in fantasy sports when he was drafted by Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals with the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. You either bought in and loved him unconditionally or you hated him to your core and wouldn’t be caught dead supporting him, even in fantasy. But while the diminutive QB struggled at the onset of the game, he helped turn things around late, led the team to two fourth-quarter touchdowns and forced overtime while on the road in Los Angeles. How could a guy so bad, be so good? Heck of a question. One that could probably be answered some time soon, but probably not right now. Sure, he looked good in the fourth-quarter, but was it that or was it more the Lions choking at the end of the game and seeing their defense exposed as an overrated unit? Murray posted a strong total for fantasy owners in Week 1, but you’re going to have to reserve judgment until after we watch him in Week 2 while on the road in Baltimore. If he succeeds there, then we know we truly do have something special.
The Patriots Will Be Unstoppable with Antonio Brown
What? Who’s writing this stuff? Jon Impemba and Dan Malin? Come on. OK, so the Patriots embarrassed the Steelers on Sunday Night Football, closing things out with a 33-3 win and doing so without Antonio Brown , their shiny new toy. With the ground game showing little life, Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns while spreading the ball around to seven different receivers. He hit Phillip Dorsett twice for a pair of scores and found Josh Gordon on a 44-yard touchdown pass to the much-maligned receiver. He made a number of throws for more than 30 yards, a criticism he’s dealt with over the past few years, and looked like he could be a force to reckon with once AB struts onto the field. The weaponry is extensive and talented and regardless of whether it’s the ground game working one day and the passing attack another, this team is Super Bowl-bound once again. Of course, all of that could explode if the AB we watched over the past several weeks shows up one day and pisses off Brady or Belichick. Sit tight and see…