There are a lot of good things about the State of Florida. It has amusement parks that draw people from around the world. It has mild winter weather that attracts retirees from the north who want to enjoy their golden years at Del Boca Vista.
But, it looks painfully obvious that just one week into the season, one thing Florida doesn’t have is good NFL teams – and fantasy owners may be jumping ship in a hurry because all three teams are taking on water.
In the span of 24 hours on Labor Day Weekend, Miami set the tanking tone by trading away three of their best players – offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, linebacker Kiko Alonso and wide receiver Kenny Stills.
It gave a distinct impression that the Dolphins were intentionally weakening themselves this year to stockpile future draft picks and attempt to do a quick rebuild. However, those players who are on the 2019 Dolphins look on the verge of a mutiny in the “Tank for Tua Tagovailoa” mindset that seems to be gripping the front office.
The Dolphins didn’t get beat Sunday. They got humiliated.
Baltimore scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight drives, building a 49-10 lead five minutes into the second half on its way to a 59-10 caning – Miami has the ‘Canes, but the Dolphins were the caned.
Things are so bad that several players contacted their agents following the game looking to demand trades of their own. Players already want out. Things are bad…very bad…in South Beach and we’re only one game into the season.
In Tampa, the general consensus is that 2019 is the watershed “sink-or-swim” season for Jameis Winston. A talented player whose struggles over the last few years with both injuries and ineffectiveness (it led to brief Fitzmagic), it was thought Bruce Arians would be the cure. It didn’t look like it Sunday the 17th time the Bucs have lost in their last 23 games with Winston as their starter.
The Bucs lost 31-17 at home to San Francisco – 15 of those points scoring on two Pick-6’s of Winston – one in the third quarter that gave the 49ers a 20-7 lead and one before the two-minute warning with the Bucs trailing 23-17 with a chance to win the game.
Winston threw for just 194 yards and threw three picks for a passer rating of 45.4. There isn’t a backup plan at QB this time around. Unless Winston turns a big corner in a hurry, this song is getting stale and has been for a while.
The only Florida team fantasy owners were excited about coming into the season was Jacksonville. Not only did the Jags defense get lit up by the Chiefs without playmaker Tyreek Hill, but they also lost new QB savior Nick Foles to a broken collarbone – foisting sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew into the spotlight. He posted extremely good numbers – completing 22 of 25 passes for 275 yards with two garbage-time touchdowns when his team was down by 24 points in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs had done no preparing for Minshew. Why would they? Future opponents will. With their next two games against division rivals Houston and Tennessee and three of their next four away from Duval County, the Jags face a brutal stretch of their schedule that they will likely have to count on Minshew to lead the offense. The dream of Foles bringing his Philly magic to Jacksonville ended (for now) 10 minutes into the season.
There are a lot of good things about Florida. But, the state’s NFL teams aren’t one of them and things could get worse – a lot worse – for fantasy owners with their players on their rosters in the coming weeks and months.
Here is the Week 2 Fantasy Market Report:
The Ravens offense – Granted, Baltimore’s huge game (six touchdowns in the first half), came against a hapless Miami team, but there were a lot of strong showings. Lamar Jackson had a perfect passer rating, completing 17 of 20 passes for 324 yards and five TDs. New running back Mark Ingram ran for 107 yards on just 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. Marquise Brown made his NFL debut catching four passes for 147 yards and two TDs. Tight end Mark Andrews caught eight passes for 108 yards and a score. The value of Ravens fantasy players went up across the board, even if it was against a dismal Dolphins team.
Dak Prescott – Jerry Jones paid Ezekiel Elliott last week and has said a new deal for Dak is “imminent.” On a day when Elliott had just 14 touches for 63 total yards, Prescott had a perfect passer rating, completing 25 of 32 passes for 405 yards and four TDs (to four different receivers). While he will likely never be confused with Patrick Mahomes, the timing of arguably the best games of his career couldn’t have been better. His leverage for big money just increased and negotiations now favor his agent.
Larry Fitzgerald – The future Hall of Famer started his 16th season with a bang, catching eight passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. Given his declining production last year, many thought the Cardinals kept him around with the new-look offense out of loyalty. But, Kyler Murray was laser-focused on Fitz, who led the team with 13 targets, including a poorly thrown slant pass in the end zone that should have been a TD. After looking hideous for three quarters, the Air Raid Offense erased an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit and Fitzgerald was front and center. It may not return him to his former glory, but Murray knows a Hall of Famer when he sees one and will likely keep trying to feed the beast as the season goes on, making Fitzgerald a shocking bargain receiver for those who landed him for pennies on the dollar on draft day.
Sammy Watkins – The Jags defense, especially the cornerbacks, are viewed as among the best in the game, but, without big-play threat Tyreek Hill, who is going to miss a few games with a collarbone injury, Watkins had the game of his life. He caught nine passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Hill was the only other wide receiver with two receptions and none of the wideout crew had more than two targets. Watkins was targeted 11 times. It’s still a question how long Hill will out (a safe guesstimate is a month or more), Watkins and a guy like speedy rookie Mecole Hardman are now suddenly and firmly on everyone’s fantasy radar.
DeSean Jackson – There is no more dangerous deep threat in the game than Jackson. His problem has always been consistency. He will put up massive numbers in four or five games a year and be very pedestrian in the rest. No player other than Randy Moss and Jerry Rice has scored a higher percentage of touchdowns from 40 or more yards and, now teamed with Carson Wentz, D-Jack made a statement on his return to Philly. A 51-yard TD got the Eagles on the board after falling behind 17-0 to the Redskins and his 53-yard score in the third quarter gave the Eagles the lead to stay. Jackson owners who play him every week will be frustrated when he strings together two or three games with little to no production, but it was games like Sunday that always tempt fantasy owners to keep him in their lineups every week for fear of missing out.
The Bears running backs – There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Bears backfield heading into the season with the addition of rookie power back David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen. But, in Week 1, Cohen was used strictly as a receiver (eight receptions, no rushing attempts) and Montgomery had just six carries for 18 yards. Throw in Mike Davis (five carries, 19 yards) and you have three RBs splitting time. In the fantasy world, if you have three running backs sharing time, you don’t want any of them in your lineup.
Cleveland’s Hype – Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker channeled Dennis Green’s infamous “crown their ass” speech after the Titans’ 43-13 dismantling of the Browns in their yard. Baker Mayfield threw three picks and, in the final 17 minutes of the game, Cleveland was outscored 28-0 – three touchdowns from Marcus Mariota and a Pick-6 by Tennessee’s defense. For all the hype that has followed Cleveland into the 2019 season, this was a humbling that wasn’t expected. With five of their next seven games on the road, the Browns are going to have to show up a lot better than they did in front of the Dawg Pound Sunday or all their fantasy stars will suffer along the way.
The Steelers offense – There is no shame in losing to the Patriots on their home turf. But, it was how New England dismantled the Steelers that has to be cause for concern. Ben Roethlisberger had a passer rating of just 65.6, James Conner had just 21 yards on 10 carries and the Steelers defense got lit up by Tom Brady to the tune of 373 yards and three TDs. The mantra of the Steelers was that they may actually be better without Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell – the backbone of their offense the last several years. A national TV audience disagreed.
Melvin Gordon – Gordon thought he had leverage on the Chargers to prompt his current holdout, but the front office dug in its heels and said Austin Ekeler could do the job if Gordon didn’t want to show up for work. All Ekeler did Sunday was run 12 times for 58 yards, catch six passes for 96 yards and score three touchdowns. Nothing undercuts leverage like having your backup crush it. Gordon may want to swallow hard, show up at the team facility ready to go and hope he can reclaim his share of field time, because Ekeler showed that he deserves to be on the field for more than simply as a change-of-pace/receiving back.
The Falcons offense – Minnesota has one of the best three-level defenses in the league with star players at all three depths. But, what the Vikings did to Atlanta’s offense and defense was troubling in that they made it look so easy. Dalvin Cook couldn’t be stopped – to the point that Kirk Cousins played the entire game and only threw 10 passes because his team opened a 28-0 lead before calling off the dogs and allowing a couple of garbage time/prevent defense touchdowns in the final 10 minutes. Stats were padded late. Throw in the likely season-ending loss of first-round guard Chris Lindstrom to a broken foot, a sketchy offensive line took a big step backward and other defenses may find a way to attack the Falcons like Minnesota did – attack early and never look back.