Here’s a quick rundown of the Sunday NFL games from a fantasy perspective.
This season starts with a great slate of Sunday games. There was a game on Thursday, but that was more of an extension of the preseason. Oh yeah, and did you hear about Antonio Brown?
Rams 30, Panthers 27
Great game, Game-of-the-Week contender. The Panthers don’t look much different from last year with Christian McCaffrey rushing for 128 yards and two scores and leading the team with ten catches for 81 yards. Unfortunately, that was about all that did well for the Panthers since Cam Newton ran for a net two-yard loss and passed for only 239 yards and no score. D.J. Moore (7-76) and Curtis Samuel (3-32) were next up but fell short of expectations or much fantasy value.
Jared Goff wasn’t that much better with only 186 passing yards and one to Tyler Higbee – maybe the only Ram player that never gets a fantasy start. Robert Woods (8-70), Cooper Kupp (7-46) and Brandin Cooks (2-39) had moderate production at best. The troubling part was that Todd Gurley ran for 97 yards and no score (most of that late in the game) and yet Malcolm Brown gained 53 yards and two touchdowns. Last season, Gurley would have produced all of the 150 rushing yards and both scores. The backfield split was the only new feature.
Titans 43, Browns 13
No one saw this beatdown coming. The Titans enjoyed several long plays like Derrick Henry’s 75-yard touchdown catch. He added 84 rushing yards and a second score. The rookie A.J. Brown (3-100) had a big debut including a 51-yard reception. Delanie Walker (5-55, 2 TD) defied his age and proved recovered from his injury-marred 2018. The Titans defense played very well and intercepted Baker Mayfield three times. Corey Davis had no catches. This wasn’t as big of an offensive showing as the score suggests.
Mayfield threw for 285 yards and just one score to David Njoku (4-37). Odell Beckham (7-71) and Jarvis Landry (4-67) were mostly bottled up and came to life later in the game when it was really already over. Nick Chubb ran for 75 yards on 17 carries and added three catches for ten yards. Not to ignore a great job by the Titans defense, but the Browns looked surprisingly out of synch and not nearly as potent as expected. Chubb was another player that had most of his success in the second half. This was a troubling start at home for an offense that had heightened expectations. The Browns were penalized 18 times for 182 yards. They just did not look prepared.
Ravens 59, Dolphins 10
Ouch. This was everything that was feared for the lifeless Dolphins. Starting out against the Ravens was never going to be easy, but there wasn’t any positive takeaway here. All combined, they rushed 12 times for 21 yards. They were down 21-0 in the first quarter and 42-10 by halftime. Preston Williams (3-24, TD) caught a mercy touchdown and Devante Parker caught a 49-yard pass. Those were the only remotely good plays. Hard to say what would be more appropriate stadium music – the theme for Bennie Hill or something more dirge-like.
Lamar Jackson threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns. He only ran three times for six yards. WHAT? Jackson completed 17 of 20 passes and even Robert Griffin went 6-for-6 for 55 yards and a score. Mark Ingram’s debut featured 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Marquise Brown’s first NFL game ended with four receptions for 147 yards and two scores. Mark Andrews (8-108, TD) caught every pass and built on the momentum of last year. It won’t always be this easy. But next week hosting the Cardinals may. This was equal parts of the Ravens looking great and the Dolphins never getting on track. And the Fins host the Patriots next week.
Falcons 12, Vikings 28
The Falcons had one of the worst rushing defenses last year and it has not improved yet. Dalvin Cook turned in 120 total yards and two touchdowns and looked great running the ball. The rookie Alexander Mattison (9-49) had equal success during the final mop-up. The Vikes lead 28-0 until they got bored in the fourth quarter. Kirk Cousins only threw ten passes in the entire game with 98 yards and one score as the result. Adam Thielen (3-43, TD) caught the score to salvage his day but Stefon Diggs (2-37) was as lucky.
Matt Ryan passed for 304 yards and two touchdowns trying to catch up and Austin Hooper (9-77) was his best option. Calvin Ridley (4-64, TD) and Julio Jones (6-31, TD) both scored in the fourth quarter but were shut down by the Vikings cornerbacks while they still cared. Devonta Freeman only totaled 31 yards. It is maybe the worst venue to start the season and certainly played out that way. The Falcons should bounce back at home against the Eagles next week.
Bills 17, Jets 16
This was the lowest-scoring game on Sunday, but that was no surprise. Devin Singletary ran for 70 yards on just four carries while Frank Gore turned his 11 runs into 20 yards which still makes no sense. Josh Allen ran for 38 yards and a touchdown while passing for 254 yards and one score with two interceptions. John Brown (7-123, TD) was the only receiver that scored or gained more than 40 yards. The Bills rallied from 0-16 to win but only because of Brown and finally realizing that Singletary is their best back.
Sam Darnold threw for 175 yards and one score to Le’veon Bell (6-32) who added 60 yards on 17 carries for a solid first game since 2017. Jamison Crowder was targeted 17 times and caught 14 for 99 yards and Bell was next with nine targets. No one else mattered on Sunday. Bell returned to 23 touches. No other back had more than two. Robbie Anderson was questionable and only ended with 23 yards on three receptions. The Jets got the lead and then just could not hold it. But at least Bell and Crowder are great additions to the offense.
Redskins 27, Eagles 32
Close game. Skins led 20-7 at the half and then fell behind 20-32 until late in the fourth quarter. Case Keenum passed for 380 yards and three touchdowns but Derrius Guice only managed ten runs for 18 yards as the Skins rushing offense never got going. The rookie Terry LcLaurin (5-125, TD) will be a popular free agent grab in many leagues. Chris Thompson led the team with ten targets that became seven catches for 68 yards as he reprised his third-down role from 2017. Adrian Peterson was inactive but that may not happen this week against the Cowboys.
Carson Wentz ended with 313 yards and three touchdowns thanks mostly to DeSean Jackson (8-154, 2 TD) and Alshon Jeffery (5-49, TD). Zach Ertz (5-54) also contributed but the offense was greatly aided by the 51- and 53-yard touchdowns by Jackson. The committee backfield was just as frustrating for fantasy owners as ever with Darren Sproles (9-47), Jordan Howard (6-44) and Miles Sanders (11-25) splitting up the load. Aside from the two long connections with Jackson, this was classic Eagles football – three running backs and eight different receivers.
Colts 24, Chargers 30
This wasn’t supposed to be nearly this close. Jacoby Brissett passed for a credible 190 yards and two scores that both ended with T.Y. Hilton (8-87, 2 TD) though no other receiver topped 35 yards. But Marlon Mack ran 25 times for 174 yards and one score. Thereby proving that spending high picks on the O-line for a few years really pays off, even when your star quarterback decides to hang up the cleats. Nice to see Hilton hold his value and great for Mack. Not much for any other Colt.
Philip Rivers threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns that favored Keenan Allen (8-123, TD) and Austin Ekeler (6-96, 2 TD) who also scored on his 12 carries for 58 yards. Melvin who? Justin Jackson pitched in 61 yards on seven touches but this was all about Ekeler. Hunter Henry’s return netted four receptions for 60 yards. The Chargers defense was much more accommodating than expected but the offense chugged along just fine without Gordon. For this week, anyway.
Bengals 20, Seahawks 21
Another game much closer than expected. Andy Dalton passed for 418 yards and two scores that both ended up with John Ross (7-158, 2 TD) while Tyler Boyd was held to 60 yards on eight catches. Joe Mixon only totaled 17 yards but left with an ankle injury. The Bengals could move the ball via the pass but just had no rushing support to maintain ball control. The only real surprise was Ross playing so well and Mixon struggling even before he was injured.
Russell Wilson was limited to 196 passing yards but threw two touchdowns. DK Metcalf’s debut led the team with 89 yards on four catches though the scores went to Tyler Lockett (1-44) and Chris Carson (6-35, TD) though Carson would also score on his 15 carries for 46 yards. Rashaad Penny was ineffective with only 18 yards on six runs and no targets. The Bengals defense played better than expected but at least Metcalf stepped up in his first NFL game and Carson continues to be perhaps their best weapon.
Tie Lions 27, Cardinals 27
This game was seemingly over in the fourth quarter when the Lions led 24-6. But the Cardinals reeled off 18 straight points over the final four minutes to force a 24-24 tie and both teams kicked a field goal on their first series. The tie ruined a solid showing by Matt Stafford who passed for 385 yards and three touchdowns. T.J. Hockenson set the all-time rookie tight end rookie yardage record with 131 yards and a score in his first game. Danny Amendola turned in seven receptions for 104 yards and a score while Kenny Golladay settled for four receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. Kerryon Johnson ended with 49 rushing yards on 16 carries and two catches for 13 yards but that mostly happened late in the game and was still disappointing.
The Cardinals sputtered badly for most of the game but then Kyle Murray got in synch and would end with 308 passing yards and two scores. He was only 6-of-16 for 41 yards and an interception at halftime. David Johnson ended with 137 total yards and one score while Larry Fitzgerald showed up with a vengeance at the end of the game and gained 113 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions. No other receiver gained more than 46 yards. Murray showed poise and accuracy when he finally got hot in the final quarter. It looked like a very long year for the Cards. The fourth quarter suggested that it will be interesting and competitive in any case.
Giants 17, Cowboys 35
The Giants managed a fourth-quarter touchdown to make this look less like the beatdown that it was. Eli Manning ended with 306 passing yards but only one touchdown to Evan Engram (11-116, TD). Saquon Barkley totaled 139 yards but allowed Wayne Gallman to steal the cheap touchdown at the end of the game. Cody Latimer surprised with 74 yards on three receptions while Sterling Shepard only gained 42 yards on six catches. Barkley and Engram did almost all the work and that may not change next week against the Bills.
Ezekiel Elliott looked a little rusty and only ran 13 times for 53 yards and a score. But Dak Prescott threw for 405 yards and a touchdown to four different receivers. Both Michael Gallup (7-158, TD) and Amari Cooper (6-106, TD) broke the century mark and Randall Cobb (4-69, TD) gave the Cowboys three legitimate targets on every play. Most importantly, this is the first time that anyone saw what OC Kellen Moore’s offense looked like. The young offensive coordinator belongs on the sideline judging by the one game.
49ers 31, Buccaneers 17
Nice surprise. The 49ers took this mostly thanks to a defense that intercepted three passes and returned two for a score. Jimmy Garoppolo only threw for 166 yards and one score and George Kittle’s eight catches for 54 yards were easily the most by any 49er. Tevin Coleman (6-23) left with an ankle injury and Matt Breida (15-37) ended up with the most carries but no receptions. The win was big and it had very little to do with the offense.
Jameis Winston played like it was the preseason. He only threw for 194 yards and one score with the three picks. Chris Godwin (3-53, TD) salvaged his fantasy value with the score, unlike either O.J. Howard (4-32) or Mike Evans (2-28). The only positive was that Ronald Jones gained 75 yards on 13 carries and, for once, outperformed Peyton Barber (8-33). The new offense and tutelage by Bruce Arians should have left Winston with more than a 45.4 QB rating.
Steelers 3, Patriots 33
Be very afraid. The Pats have allowed a total of six points over their last two games which includes a Super Bowl. Ben Roethlisberger threw for 276 yards and one interception and Juju Smith-Schuster did well enough to catch six passes for 78 yards. James Washington was next best with only 51 yards on two receptions. James Conner ran for only 21 yards on ten carries but added 44 yards on four catches. The Pats feature a great set of corners so the Steelers were lucky enough to pass for 276 yards in New England. Sadly, Antonio Brown was not at the game because that would have at least made it all more interesting.
Tom Brady threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns before he ever plays with Antonio Brown. Phillip Dorsett turned four passes into 95 yards and two scores. Julian Edelman (6-83) and Josh Gordon (3-73, TD) also had solid showings but how much Brown waters down their stats remains to be proven. Sony Michel killed fantasy owners with only 14 yards on 15 carries. The backfield used all four running backs so the committee approach is in full effect. The Pats looked great passing and on defense. It’s just a matter of time for the rushing game to show up as well.
Chiefs 40, Jaguars 26
This is everything that fantasy footballers want to see. A much-vaunted defense – at home no less – unable to withstand the attack of a great offense even though they lost their star wideout at the first of the game.
Patrick Mahomes merely threw for 378 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. A QB rating of 143.2 while shredding one of the better secondaries on the planet. Sammy Watkins caught nine passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He caught scores of 68 and 49 yards in the first quarter and still turned in a third touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Travis Kelce was limited to three receptions but still gained 88 yards. Damien Williams ran for 26 yards and a score plus caught six passes for 39 yards just to make all his fantasy owners feel better about LeSean McCoy showing up (10-81). There was a nearly 1:1 split in carries and McCoy was the more productive so next week could be different.
The Jaguars only got five completions from Nick Foles before he broke his clavicle. Luckily, Gardner Minshew was impressive in the preseason and ended with 275 yards and two scores in little over three quarters of play. Chris Conley (6-97, TD) and D.J. Chark (4-146, TD) both excelled though even Dede Westbrook managed to score once on his five catches for 30 yards.
Leonard Fournette ran better than last year and gained 66 yards on 13 carries with four receptions for 28 yards. That’ll translate better when they are not almost immediately down by two touchdowns and give him more than 13 carries in a game. It will be odd to see the Jags become one of the lowest-ranked defenses after this loss. But the same phenomena is going to happen to anyone playing the Chiefs.