Bumps, bruises and bowouts
The Johnson injury could be devastating if it is more than a simple sprained wrist. Allen Robinson is gone and Kevin White is probably following him. But it wasn’t a huge week for injuries… yet…
Danny Woodhead – Hamstring
Allen Robinson – ACL (IR)
C.J. Fiedorowicz – Concussion
Kevin White – Broken collarbone
David Johnson – Wrist
Week 1, 2016
Before you dive into the free agent pool, look back at last season’s first week performers. The Top-5 running backs were DeAngelo Williams, C.J. Anderson, Spencer Ware, Theo Riddick and Carlos Hyde. The Top-5 tight ends were Jack Doyle, Julius Thomas, Dwayne Allen, Eric Ebron and Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Jordan Matthews and Will Fuller were two of the best wideouts.
Week 1 proved to be the season-high week for 34 players last year including almost all the above named. It is just one week. And often very unlike the rest to come.
Free agents to chase
Jared Goff, Carson Wentz, Alex Smith and even DeShone Kizer showed they deserved to be at least fantasy depth. But they aren’t worth spending big or early on. Let someone else in your league discover that Alex Smith has a big game in Week 1 every year and then morphs back into Alex Smith.
RB Tarik Cohen – He was electric in the preseason and was even more so against the Falcons when he totaled 113 yards and a score plus caught eight passes. He is only 5-6, 181 pounds so he won’t get much more of a workload but he already belongs in the world of reception-point flex starters.
RB Shane Vereen – People forgot that he had 59 catches in 2015 before missing almost all last year injured. He caught nine passes for 51 yards in the loss to the Cowboys and it appears that Eli Manning needs a quick outlet.
RB Kerwynn Williams – If David Johnson misses time, then Williams would get the nod. He’s no 1:1 replacement for the best back in the NFL but he scored once on Sunday and would get an easier schedule the next few weeks if that comes to be.
RB Javorius Allen – A deeper stash, Allen paired with Terrance West for the Ravens who split 40 carries between the two in the blowout win over the Bengals. Allen will be a 1B to West’s 1A and neither back caught any passes. But in softer matchups, Allen will carry value.
WR Nelson Agholor – His six catches for 86 yards was a career best this week and that included a 58-yard touchdown. His eight targets matched both Darren Sproles and Zach Ertz for team highs. The former first-round pick may actually be coming around.
WR Jermaine Kearse – He recently joined the Jets and yet led the team with seven catches for 59 yards. The Jets will need to throw a lot this year. They may not throw it that well, but at least Kearse already looks like the best they have.
WR Cooper Kupp – Hard to believe he wasn’t drafted but in smaller leagues it happened. The rookie led all Rams receivers with 76 yards and a score on four catches and that in a blow-out win where they did not need to throw much. He’s already one of Jared Goff’s favorite receivers and so far that means something this year.
TE Austin Hooper – There is a chance that he may have gone undrafted in smaller leagues. The second-year tight end broke out against the Bears when he led the Falcons with 128 yards on two catches with one score. The 88-yard touchdown was the longest by a tight end in franchise history.
TE Evan Engram – Rookie tight ends rarely do much and his debut was only four catches for 44 yards. But it is worth at least noting and tracking. The Giants look horrible on offense last night. There is a chance that Engram develops into a fantasy starter if only by late in the season.
WR Chicago – Kevin White broke his collar bone and is expected to be lost for the season (Part III). Josh Bellamy is his replacement but his absence may help Kendall Wright more since he is the only wideout left on the roster with any level of previous success. Then again, it could all go to Cohen out of the backfield. There is no immediate grab here, but there will be an opportunity starting next week worth watching.
Tight ends on the decline
Tight end scoring is always higher in the early weeks of the season. But Week 1 so far served up only five touchdowns scored by the position and two went to Jesse James. There were only six with more than 50 yards. None of the top tight ends – Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham or Tyler Eifert had more than 40 yards. And none of those scored.
Now what? Count to three before you cover?
The NFL is a passing league and teams score more points than ever. Except that is not true, at least not by the standard of Week 1. The league likes to play with the rules to produce more scoring since that makes everyone happy (except the defenses). Maybe a new rule is needed.
Granted, the Broncos, Chargers, Saints, and Vikings have yet to play. But there were only five 300-yard games by a quarterback this week. There were ten for Week 1 of 2016. And all but one were less than 325 yards. Seven of them topped 325 yards last year and Drew Brees had 423 yards (which he could, ideally, do again tonight).
There were ten 100-yard games by wideouts last year but just four so far. Passing stats are lower for this first weekend. Scoring and yardage were down all over. We can only hope it is an aberration and not the start of a terrible trend.
They are going to show up, right? Right?
Any team can have an off week. But usually, it is not Week 1 since they’ve had about five months to prepare for it. There were troublesome offenses for the Jets and 49ers but that was expected.
But the Bengals, Texans, Redskins, Seahawks, and Giants were flat. Uninspired. The Texans get a pass with all their flood-related challenges. And it is only one week. But the Bengals, Redskins, Seahawks, and Giants look like teams that need to sound an alarm.
NYJ 12, BUF 21
Both teams will have a down year but the Jets even more so. They rushed for 38 yards on 13 carries. Josh McCown threw for 187 yards and two interceptions. Newly acquired Jermaine Kearse (7-59) was the only Jet that mattered. LeSean McCoy totaled 159 yards but Mike Tolbert stole the touchdown. The biggest takeaway is that the Bills are no better and the Jets are even worse. The Jets next loss will be in Oakland while the Bills head to Carolina.
ATL 23, CHI 17
The win was expected but the Falcons only rushing for 53 yards was not. Austin Hooper (2-128, TD) and Julio Jones (4-66) were the best Falcons. Standard offering by Bears was spiced up with Tarik Cohen who led the rushers with 66 yards on five runs and led the receivers with eight catches for 47 yards and a score. Mike Glennon did little to suggest Mitchell Trubisky will wait until 2018. Falcons host Packers while the Bears drift to Tampa Bay.
BAL 20, CIN 0
The Bengals never showed up. Now they have a 3-way rotation for running back with no more than eight carries for anyone. Andy Dalton threw for 170 yards and four interceptions. The Ravens got 80 yards and a score from Terrance West. Jeremy Maclin (2-56, TD) was the best receiver and Joe Flacco only needed to throw for 121 yards to win this yawner. Maybe the Bengals thought the season started next week when they host the Texans. The Ravens face the visiting Browns for their first bye week.
PIT 21, CLE 18
Well, this was unwelcome. Sure, Antonio Brown kicked off the year with a moderate showing of 11 catches for 182 yards. But Le’Veon “I don’t need practice” Bell only gained 47 yards on 13 touches because he actually needs practice. Jesse James scored twice. DeShone Kizer’s first start had him run in a score and pass one to Corey Coleman (5-53) which was nice to see. Nothing else happened in this game. The Steelers host the Vikings this week and the Browns play in Baltimore.
ARI 23, DET 35
These Cardinals look like they have an aging quarterback and wide receiver. Carson Palmer passed for 269 yards and one score with three interceptions. David Johnson was held to only 23 yards on 11 runs but caught six passes for 68 yards before leaving with a wrist injury. Matt Stafford played like the highest-paid player when he threw for 292 yards and four scores on what should be a good secondary. Golden Tate (10-107) had a big opener while Kenny Golladay (4-69, 2 TD) will be a free agent darling this week. The Cards play in Indianapolis this week while the Lions travel to face the Giants.
JAC 29, HOU 7
The flood was understandably more distracting than motivating. The Texans were so bad that rookie Deshaun Watson’s time seasoning and learning the game from the bench only lasted about an hour. He wasn’t great but he threw a touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins (7-55) which was more than what happened last year. The much-maligned Blake Bortles only threw for 125 yards and one score while Allen Robinson was lost for the year after one catch. Leonard Fournette’s debut wasn’t Hunt-esque but with 124 total yards and a score on the road in Houston, it exceeded expectations. Now the Jags will host the Titans and the Texans have to go to Cincinnati.
OAK 26, TEN 16
Solid game by the Raiders that says they’re better this year. Marshawn Lynch (18-76) was good in his un-retired debut. Derek Carr threw for 262 yards and two scores mostly to Michael Crabtree (6-83) and Amari Cooper (5-62, TD) like always. The Titans did not run as well as usual with only 69 rushing yards and no scores from the running backs. Marcus Mariota ran for the only touchdown and relied equally on Delanie Walker (7-76), Rishard Matthews (5-71) and Corey Davis (6-69). The Raiders keep it rolling by hosting the Jets this week while the Titans have to play in Jacksonville.
PHI 30, WAS 17
Did not look good for the Redskins at home. Robert Kelley only ran for 30 yards on ten runs. Kirk Cousins threw for 240 yards and one score to Chris Thompson (4-52, TD). Terrelle Pryor (6-66) debuted to a better than he was in the preseason. Carson Wentz threw for 307 yards and two scores with Nelson Agholor (6-86, TD) the biggest surprise. LeGarrette Blount only ran for 46 yards on 14 carries. At home, the Skins should have looked better. The Eagles defense appears improved. Now the Skins play the Rams while the Eagles head to Kansas City.
IND 9, LAR 46
The absence of Andrew Luck may make a difference. Scott Tolzien and Jacoby Brissett took turns proving that. A profound difference. Their only touchdown was fourth-quarter slop for Marlon Mack. T.Y. Hilton did well enough to gain 57 yards on three catches. The Rams looked vastly better on offense than the last five years under Jeff Fisher. Jared Goff threw for 306 yards. Todd Gurley totaled 96 yards and a score. Additions of Cooper Kupp (4-76, TD) and Sammy Watkins (5-58) were effective. Now the rudderless Colts host the Cardinals while the Rams welcome the Redskins.
CAR 23, SF 3
Cam Newton looked plenty rusty though he threw two touchdowns. Only ran six times for three yards. Christian McCaffrey totaled 85 yards but Jonathan Stewart gained 82 yards and scored on a reception. Kelvin Benjamin (1-25) was quiet after a promising preseason. The 49ers offense remains in first gear with Pierre Garcon (6-81) and Carlos Hyde (77 total yards) as the only two fantasy relevant players as expected. Now the Panthers host the Bills and the 49ers head to Seattle where it is not going to get any better.
NYG 3, DAL 19
Odell Beckham’s agent just started thumbing through Bentley catalogs. Apparently, Beckham is not only the best offensive player on the team. He’s kind of the only one. The Giants ran for 35 yards and passed for just 220 on 29 completions. Much of that came on one drive. Brandon Marshall appeared on the second to last play to catch one pass. Shane Vereen caught nine “Here! Take this!” passes. The Giants defense played well but eventually, Ezekiel Elliott ran for 104 yards and Dak Prescott threw for 268 yards and a score to Jason Witten. Dez Bryant was held in check and Dan Bailey scored 13 points. Now the Giants host the Lions and the Cowboys head to Denver.
Huddle player of the week
Kareem Hunt – And it isn’t even close. The rookie was thrust into the primary role when Spencer Ware was lost for the season. He responded by running for 148 yards on 17 carries, catching five passes for 98 yards and scoring three times. His 47.6 fantasy points ranked ninth best by any running back over the last ten years. His 246 yards is the all-time NFL record for a player in his debut. And it happened on the road against the reigning NFL Champs.
Drama 101 – Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry
|QB||Alex Smith||371||4||QB||Tom Brady||267||0|
|RB||Tarik Cohen||113||1||RB||Le’Veon Bell||47||0|
|RB||Mike Tolbert||54||1||RB||DeMarco Murray||60||0|
|WR||Kenny Golladay||69||2||WR||Allen Robinson||17||0|
|WR||Cooper Kupp||76||1||WR||Kelvin Benjamin||25||0|
|WR||Danny Amendola||100||0||WR||Jamison Crowder||14||0|
|TE||Jesse James||41||2||TE||Tyler Eifert||4||0|
|PK||Giorgio Tavecchio||3 FG 5 XP||PK||Adam Vinatieri||1 FG|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 137||Huddle Fantasy Points = 27|
Sunday’s couch commentary
It wasn’t enough that the scoring felt low this week. But the only teams that scored more than 30 points were the Chiefs, Lions, Rams, and Rams (they deserve to be mentioned twice).
Over half of the teams so far failed to break 20 points. Week one is often different than the rest of the year but in the past, it has been because teams and players score more than usual. This time – the defenses have been putting in the work.
Chiefs 42, Patriots 27
How could it not be this game? The Pats were favored by eight points.
This was a very close game and the Pats led 27-21 going into the fourth quarter. But Kareem Hunt scored twice more including a 78-yard touchdown catch. Even Charcandrick West scored once. The Chiefs have a great defense but this was all beyond expectations. Well beyond.
Tom Brady still has not thrown a touchdown. Aside from the concussed Danny Amendola, no Patriot receiver caught more than three passes. No running back ran for more than 45 yards though Mike Gillislee would score three times. He was the talk of this game until the fourth quarter when Hunt went nuclear on the Patriots. For the non-Patriot world (which is admittedly sizable), seeing Hunt racing up and down the field at Gillette Stadium was more than a little entertaining.
Alex Smith had his traditional Week 1 blow-up game but even then Travis Kelce only gained 40 yards. The Chiefs only seem to have two weapons – Hunt and Tyreek Hill. And so far no one can stop either.
It was great fun to open the season in a surprising fashion. A star was born with Hunt’s big night. The Patriots are still going to be just fine. Now that the 19-0 grin has been slapped off their face, they’ll get back to work.
We’ve still got 16 more weeks of catastrophic injuries, breath-taking performances, player breakouts and team crash-and-burns. Every week won’t contain a shocking and record-setting performance by a relatively unknown player.
But at least this one did.
Now get back to work…