Taking a quick rundown of the Week 1 Sunday NFL games with a fantasy perspective.
PHI 32, ATL 6
The question that comes out of this game is whether the Eagles are this good, the Falcons are that bad, or are both true? Jalen Hurts not only passed for 264 yards and three scores, but he added 62 yards on seven runs. Miles Sanders starts the year with 15 runs for 74 yards and four catches for 39 yards. The rookie Kenneth Gainwell debuted to 37 yards and a score on eight carries and two receptions for six yards. This was a solid win where everything worked. The touchdown passes went to DeVonta Smith (6-71, TD), Jalen Reagor (6-49, TD), and Dallas Goedert (4-42, TD). The rookie Smith already looks like the real deal. The Eagles get a stiffer challenge next week versus the 49ers.
The Falcons first game under HC Arthur Smith couldn’t have been much worse. Matt Ryan passed for only 164 yards and no scores. Calvin Ridley led the team with only five catches for 51 yards. Russell Gage failed to catch either of his targets. Worst yet, the all-universe rookie tight end ended with only four catches for 31 yards and most of that happened late in the already decided game. Mike Davis was mediocre with only 49 yards on 15 runs and shared with Cordarrelle Patterson (7-54). This is just the first game of the year under the new coaching regime, but there was almost nothing positive to take from this matchup. Now the Falcons have to head to Tampa Bay to face the reigning NFL champs.
PIT 23, BUF 16
This pairing was a defensive battle when they met last year. The Bills led 10-0 at halftime, but the Steelers were the only team that made adjustments at halftime. There were no offensive stars for the Steelers. Rookie Najee Harris debuted with only 45 yards on 16 rushes and added just one catch for four yards. JuJu Smith-Schuster was the leading receiver with only four receptions for 52 yards and Diontae Johnson (5-36) scored the lone Steeler touchdown. The defense is as good or better as it was last year, but the offense sputtered. That should change this week while hosting the Raiders.
The Bills made Zack Moss a surprise healthy scratch leaving Devin Singletary (11-72) to lead the backfield. Josh Allen was held to 270 passing yards and one score but added 44 rushing yards. Matt Breida was the No. 2 back with four yards on four carries, so perhaps Moss can get out of whatever doghouse he seems to have landed. Stefon Diggs (9-69) and Cole Beasley (6-60) were a disappointment since the Steelers took all the deep routes away. The Bills had the game in tenuous control but the Steelers came to life just enough to take the win away. The Bills open against perhaps their toughest defensive opponent and should be better this week in Miami.
NYJ 14, CAR 19
Two of the worst teams from 2020 met, and the result was predictably mediocre in scoring. The Jets under HC Robert Saleh still have a scoring problem but at least the rookie Zach Wilson debuted with 259 yards and two scores with only one interception. Both touchdowns went to Corey Davis (5-97, 2 TD) in his first start as a Jet. No other wideout mattered and Braxton Berrios (5-51) surprised while Jamison Crowder was inactive. The backfield was the expected mess with Tevin Coleman (9-24), Ty Johnson (4-15), and Michael Carter (4-6) combining for the same lackluster result we’ve come to expect from the Jets for the last several years. The rookie quarterback started slowly but warmed up in the second half, so will take some time to get this offense on track. The Jets host the Patriots this week.
The Christian McCaffrey difference was on display in Week 1, with 21 runs for 98 yards and nine catches for 89 yards. Sam Darnold faced his old team and threw for 279 yards and one score, plus ran in a touchdown as well. Darnold used McCaffrey, of course, but also his wideouts with DJ Moore (6-80), Robbie Anderson (1-57, TD), and Terrace Marshall (3-26), accounting for almost all other passes. The second year of HC Matt Rhule and OC Joe Brady starts out with their softest matchup of the year and only scored 19 points. It gets more challenging this week hosting the Saints.
MIN 24, CIN 27 OT
This was a great game to watch, more so for the hometown Bengals. Dalvin Cook only gained 61 yards on 20 rushes but ran in a touchdown and added six receptions for 43 yards. The Vikings trailed 21-7 at the end of the third quarter and battled back with Kirk Cousins passing for 351 yards and two touchdowns that both went to Adam Thielen (9-92, 2 TD). Justin Jefferson settled for 71 yards on five catches while K.J. Osborn surprised with 76 yards on seven receptions. The offense didn’t rush well but still passed for big yardage to the wideouts. The Vikes could have won this but Cook lost a first-down fumble on the CIN-38 and the Bengals used the final 1:48 to kick their game-winning field goal. The defense – still a problem. That’s not going to improve playing in Arizona this week.
Joe Burrow returned from his severe knee injury of 2020, and while he only ran once, he threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns with a solid 128.8 QB rating. He is back. The rookie Ja’Marr Chase was plagued with drops in the preseason, but he hung onto five passes for 101 yards and a score in his debut. Tee Higgins (4-58, TD) scored to salvage his fantasy value but Tyler Boyd (3-32) was the odd man out with Chase playing. Joe Mixon roared back to life in Week 1 after a disastrous season. He ran for 127 yards and a score plus added four catches for 27 yards. The Bengals let the Vikings mount a comeback to tie the game in regulation and then got lucky with the fumble recovery that led to the winning field goal. They head to Chicago this week to face a better defense.
JAC 21, HOU 37
There’s just no good way to spin this for the Jaguars that faced the woeful Texans and made them look like a top NFL team. The critics of HC Urban Meyer were rewarded with plenty of ammo to use. The Jags trailed 34-7 at the end of the third quarter to the Texans. James Robinson (5-25) was a star last year but journeyman running back Carlos Hyde (9-44) was used more often. Trevor Lawrence’s first game ended well enough with 332 yards and three touchdowns, but most of that came from late-game gimmees. D.J. Chark (3-86, TD), Marvin Jones (5-77, TD), and Laviska Shenault (7-50) were the leading receivers, so Lawrence threw downfield instead of dumping the ball off. But that was likely the softest matchup of the year and it was not remotely close. This week, the Jags host the Broncos.
The Texans were in an unusual situation on Sunday when both their defense and offense worked well. Tyrod Taylor passed for 291 yards and two scores, while Brandon Cooks (5-132) started the year with a bang. Tight end Pharaoh Brown (4-67) followed up on his impressive preseason as the next best receiver. Newly signed Danny Amendola (5-34, TD) scored as did demoted David Johnson (3-18, TD). The backfield enjoyed surprising success with Mark Ingram (26-85, TD), while even Phillip Lindsay (8-25, TD) managed a touchdown. The takeaways are that Ingram and Brown are the two surprises, but the Texans home opener went against an opponent that did not seem prepared. This week, the Texans travel to Cleveland where it won’t go nearly so well.
SEA 28, IND 16
The Colts offense looked no better than last year. Carson Wentz threw for 251 yards and two scores but most passes went to Jonathan Taylor (6-60) and Nyheim Hines (6-48). Zack Pascal was the top wideout with two touchdowns on only four receptions for 43 yards. The Seahawks secondary prevented Wentz from going deep which was the one aspect that the Colts hoped he could bring to the offense. Taylor ran for 56 yards on 17 runs while Hines gained 34 yards on nine carries. But the offense moved the ball mostly on the backfield either running or receiving the ball. That’s not going to help this week when the Rams visit with an even better defense. It’s also troublesome that the Colts’ defense looked much worse than expected in this home game.
The Seahawks were in midseason form. Russell Wilson did almost anything that he wanted, completing 18 of 23 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns with a 152.3 QB rating. Tyler Lockett (4-100, 2 TD) and DK Metcalf (4-60, TD) remained the most-used outlets. New tight ends Gerald Everett (2-20, TD) used his height in the end zone for his score. Chris Carson ran for 91 yards on 16 runs and added three receptions for 26 yards while taking all but three carries for the backfield. The Seahawks looked very polished on the road against one of the better defenses of last year. They host the Titans this week, which should be even less challenging.
ARI 38, TEN 13
The Cardinals looked scary good. And they were on the road versus a team that made the playoffs last year. Kyler Murray passed for 289 yards and four touchdowns, and ran in a score as well. DeAndre Hopkins (6-83, 2 TD) and Christian Kirk (5-70, 2 TD) led the receivers while the rookie Ronald Moore debuted with 68 yards on four catches. The backfield workload was split between Chase Edmonds (12-63) and James Conner (16-53), and both were effective. Edmonds added four catches for 43 yards. This is just one game against a bad defense, but the Cardinals offense couldn’t look much better than it did. And Murray was just unstoppable. The Cards host the weak Vikings defense this week, so expect more of the same.
This is yet another game that begs the question – are the Titans this bad or the Cardinals that good? Derrick Henry at home was held to only 58 yards on 17 carries. Ryan Tannehill has upgraded targets and yet only passed for 212 yards and one score. A.J. Brown (4-49, TD) and Julio Jones (3-29) actually trailed Chester Rogers (4-62). There was just nothing happening in the passing game and Brown’s lone touchdown salvaged an otherwise dismal day for the entire offense. The Titans have little time to figure out what went wrong since they play in Seattle this week.
LAC 20, WAS 16
This was a close-fought, low-scoring game, and the Chargers likely won thanks to Washington losing their quarterback at the start of the game. Justin Herbert threw for 337 yards and one score and saw surprising success with his wideouts. Keenan Allen (9-100) and Mike Williams (8-82, TD) both turned in big performances and new tight end Jared Cook (5-56) already became a factor. Austin Ekeler never caught a pass but scored on his 15 runs for 57 yards. Larry Rountree handled the No. 2 back duties but that only meant 27 yards on eight carries. But it is a positive that they clearly settled on which back is next behind Ekeler. The Bolts host the Cowboys this week, so the passing offense should continue to move their offense.
Washington lost Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first quarter and that thrust Taylor Heinicke into the starting role. He only threw for 122 yards and one touchdown, but completed 11 of 15 passes for a 119.3 QB rating. The competition between the two quarterbacks was real this summer and there is minimal drop-off with Heinicke if Fitzpatrick’s injury causes him to miss future games. Terry McLaurin led the team with four receptions for 62 yards while Logan Thomas (3-30, TD) scored the lone touchdown. Antonio Gibson ran for 90 yards and added three catches for 18 yards. The quarterback upgrade to Fitzpatrick didn’t last long and the offense looked no better than it did last year.
CLE 29, KC 33
What a great game that checked all the fantasy football boxes. The Chiefs fell behind 10-22 at the half but reeled off 33 second-half points just like expected. The Browns were in this until a final-minute interception by Baker Mayfield ended their chance. He passed for 321 yards playing without Odell Beckham but used ten different receivers. David Njoku (3-76), Jarvis Landry (5-71), and the rookie Anthony Schwartz (3-69) led the receivers. Nick Chubb scored twice on his 15 rushes for 83 yards and added two catches for 18 yards. Kareem Hunt (6-33, TD) also scored and the Browns’ offense looks formidable if they can rely on the run. Hosting the Texans this week should be very profitable for both Chubb and Hunt.
The Chiefs fell behind, but that’s rarely a reason to worry. The Browns defense held Clyde Edwards-Helaire to only 43 yards on 14 rushes but he owned all but one carry for the backfield. He also added three catches for 29 yards to help salvage his fantasy value. Patrick Mahomes has his standard game, mounting an impressive comeback and finishing with 337 yards and three touchdowns passing, and of course, the additional rushing score as well. NFL defenses still haven’t noticed that all he uses are Tyreek Hill (11-197, TD) and Travis Kelce (6-76, 2 TD). The Chiefs head to Baltimore this week where they will probably fall behind, mount a comeback, and then win the game.
MIA 17, NE 16
The Patriots should have won this game, but lost two fumbles by their running backs. Rhamondre Stevenson lost his after a first quarter catch and was never seen again. Damien Harris lost his on the MIA-11 yard line with three minutes left and the Patriots offense never saw the ball again. Harris was effective with 100 yards on 23 carries and two catches for 17 yards. Mac Jones debut produced 281 passing yards and one score, with no turnovers. He was never sacked, so overall it was a solid opening against a good defense. Nelson Agholor (5-72, TD) was the top receiver and Jakobi Meyers (6-44) had a team high nine targets but lacked the success than he had in the preseason. The new tight ends also showed up with Jonnu Smith (5-42) and Hunter Henry (3-31). Playing at the Jets this week should help everything look better.
The Dolphins won more by their defense, and there wasn’t any offensive star other than maybe the rookie Jaylen Waddle who posted four catches for 61 yards and a touchdown, while DeVante Parker ended with four receptions for 81 yards and no score. The duo were the only receivers with more than 30 yards and Tua Tagovailoa only passed for 202 yards and one touchdown. He also ran in a score as well. Myles Gaskin (9-49) shared the backfield with Malcolm Brown (5-16) and Salvon Ahmed (3-4), which will limit him each week. The Dolphins were fortunate to kill the Patriots’ final drive with a fumble recovery. They’ll need to be better this week when they host a wounded Bills team.
GB 3, NO 38
I’m sorry, what did you say? The Packers won in New Orleans 37-30 last year, so this was a bit of a surprise because the team formerly known as the Packers just never showed up. Aaron Rodgers passed for 133 yards and two interceptions. Davante Adams led the team with five catches for 56 yards. Aaron Jones gained nine yards on his five carries. Every team has a trash game each season (or more). But it is unusual when it is a Super Bowl contender in their first game. The Packers host the Lions this week, so it will should look better. But this was just an embarrassment.
The Saints won by 35 points and the defense never scored. But the win was much more about a Saints defense that shut down the Packers. Jameis Winston threw for five touchdowns, but only 148 yards. Alvin Kamara ran for 83 yards but only caught three passes for eight yards and a score. Deonte Harris (2-72, TD) ended the game with a 55-yard touchdown catch. Juwan Johnson turned three catches into 21 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Jones (11-50) took his first run at being the No. 2 back with success. The defense was dominating and if they can continue, then the offense doesn’t need to do much. This week in Carolina, chances are the defense again rules the game.
DEN 27, NYG 13
The Broncos’ offense all worked together in their first game with Teddy Bridgewater as the starter. Facing the Giants did not hurt. The backfield did split carries with Javonte Williams (14-45) and Melvin Gordon (11-101, TD) taking turns. Gordon’s 70-yard touchdown run with four minutes left pumped up his stats but so far, there’s no reason to expect either back to become a clear primary rusher. Bridgewater threw for 264 yards and two scores but no receivers did much. Jerry Jeudy (6-72) was the best but left with what is thought to be a high ankle sprain. Noah Fant (6-62) was also involved. The Broncos start to the season has a light schedule and they’ll head to Jacksonville this week before hosting the Jets.
The Giants start 2021 with an effort that was just as bad as any of last year. Daniel Jones threw for 267 yards and a score thanks to Sterling Shepard (7-113, TD) as the only notable receiver. Saquon Barkley returned and the Giants were completely transparent when they said their star running back would be eased back into playing. Barkley only gained 26 yards on ten runs and caught one pass for one yard. But Devontae Booker (4-7) was no better. This week in Washington doesn’t promise to be any better.
CHI 14, LA 34
Benching Justin Fields made sense for this opening day buzz-saw that was never going to end well. And it did not. Andy Dalton threw for only 206 yards and one interception despite trailing for the entire game. No receiver totaled more than 45 yards and Allen Robinson was held to only 35 yards on six catches. David Montgomery was the lone bright spot with 108 yards and a score on 16 rushes. But the Bears just experienced their worst venue of the season, and should see more success hosting the Bengals this week.
The debut of Matt Stafford went very well. He threw for 321 yards and three scores that included scores of 67 and 56 yards against a good Bears defense. Darrell Henderson was effective rushing for 70 yards and a score on 16 runs and he added a 17-yard catch. Cooper Kupp (7-108, TD) and Van Jefferson (2-80, TD) both scored on bombs while Robert Woods drew the most coverage. He ended with only three catches for 27 yards but scored the final touchdown. Tyler Higbee (5-68) was the second most targeted receiver though that reflected the Bears secondary. It was a solid win and everything worked well. This week, the Rams visit the Colts who had trouble finding their defense last week.
SF 41, DET 33
The game totaled 74 total points. Who cares how or why?
This was a beatdown until the 49ers quit trying when they reached 38-10 in the middle of the third quarter. Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 314 yards and one score but also watched Trey Lance throw one pass for a touchdown. The rookie was used on only three plays, but still impacted Garoppolo. Deebo Samuel blew up for a career-high nine catches for 189 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Aiyuk was active but shockingly never drew a target and was at times replaced by Trent Sherfield (2-23, TD). HC Mike Shanahan later said that Aiyuk’s whiff was due to a lingering hamstring issue and that Sherfield earned the playing time. Odd way to treat the No. 1 receiver of 2020. Raheem Mostert injured his knee on his second carry and left the game. But the 49ers had Trey Sermon inactive and ended up using Elijah Mitchell (19-104, TD) which throws the backfield into an even less clear situation. The 49ers travel to Philadelphia this week.
Jared Goff threw for 338 yards and three scores which mostly came late when the 49ers were already packing up to leave. T.J. Hockenson (8-97, TD) led the receivers, but running backs D’Andre Swift (8-65, TD), and Jamaal Williams (8-56) were proof that the Lions wideouts are going to struggle to matter this year. No wide receiver gained more than 23 yards in a game where they trailed badly from the second quarter onward. The backfield was the expected split with Williams (9-54, TD) and Swift (11-39) combining for mediocre production. The Lions travel to Green Bay where the Packers won’t be as generous with trash time production.