Week 1 fantasy football has past and every week I’ll be putting together my thoughts, notes, and general musings throughout the season. The hope here is that I can add some context to what you see in the box score or the stat-sheet if you didn’t get a chance to watch the games. Any suggestions or feedback, shoot me a message @NFLClark on Twitter.
Some quick nuggets before we start:
- No rookie QB starting in Week 1 of the NFL, hasn’t started since 2007 (I believe, Ian Eagle on the Steelers/Bengals broadcast mentioned that)
- I’m guilty of watching football and thinking about football, thoroughly through the lens of the offense. Week 1 is a reminder that, indeed, defense matters… a lot. Matchup consciousness has returned.
And now with those musings out of the way, here are my observations and thoughts on what I saw on Week 1. There’s a lot here, so feel free to use your browsers search function to find any specific player you’re looking for.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Washington Commanders
- The Jags split backfield is big question mark for us nerds, but we got some clarity in Week 1. James Robinson gets the start and continues to show us that betting against James Robinson is a losing move. It’s hard to look good playing for the Jaguars, but Robinson has found a way.
- Travis Etienne played 36 snaps to James Robinson’s 34. At times, Etienne showed the agility and speed that made him a first round pick in the 2021 draft, and he had some very, very suboptimal plays too. This isn’t a huge surprise with Etienne missing the entirety of his rookie season. The journey will be up and down for both these backs, but they’re both weekly starts/worth acquiring if they can be had on the cheap.
- Trevor Lawrence didn’t look very good. He had some bad missed throws, a reminder that the young QB has plenty of room to grow. It’s just Week 1, the verdict is, of course, still out.
- Christian Kirk looked good. He was getting open and the gameplan was clearly to get him the ball. He’s a steady-Eddie PPR weekly start, and he’s in the mix in non-PPR leagues too.
- Carson Wentz had a big fantasy day, taking advantage of all weapons around him. This was a prototypical ‘Good Carson’ game against this still-not-good Jaguars side. Wentz threw a couple of interceptions (they weren’t both egregious picks to be fair) and made a few great throws. Next week, in a tougher matchup against the Detroit Lions (weird to say that, eh?), I doubt Carson finishes inside the top 12 at QB.
- Hot-dang Curtis Samuel looked good out there. He had 12 touches, and the Commanders were deploying him both in the backfield as a runner and out wide as a receiver. Samuel should be a priority waiver pickup, in the 10-15% range for those WR-needy teams. Even though I’m not excited about the Washington offense in particular, Wentz clearly jives with Samuel.
- Antonio Gibson looked excellent, no big surprise, and he was—at least for now—back in the good graces of the coaching staff. He ran for 58 yards on 14 carries, and added 7 receptions for 72 yards on 8 targets. No reason we shouldn’t expect to see this moving along.
- Jahan Dotson may end up being a huge win for dynasty managers who overcame situation concerns and took Dotson at his extremely depressed rookie-draft price. The rookie had two receiving TDs, one of which was a beautiful, long TD pass that was probably about an eight on the difficulty-o-meter. While this is very promising for the rookie, it doesn’t get me excited about starting Dotson on any given week. He’s migrated up to the ‘injury fill-in, desperation play’ category. WR-needy teams should take a shot for around 3-5% FAAB bid. I don’t believe the Commander offense will support a third reliable fantasy option consistently.
- Terry McLaurin saved his fantasy day with a TD. Zero concerns about Terry, absolute weekly start.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
- The NFC South has a well-earned reputation for crazy divisional games, and this one surely lived up to that billing.
- Drake London is ready for prime time. He had a catch late in the 2nd half where he got popped, drew a personal foul call getting sandwiched by three Saints. He held on to the ball… beautiful play. Later in the 2nd half, he makes a nice catch on a crossing route, outran a mess of Saints, and then trucks cornerback Bradley Roby. Seeing London initiate that kind of contact puts all my concerns about his health at ease for me. London should be ranked as a weekly starter from here on out.
- Olamide Zaccheaus had himself a day. The stat line doesn’t reflect a big pass interference call he drew late in the 3rd quarter which set up a Marcus Mariota goal-line QB keeper for a TD. I wouldn’t bother adding O-Z unless I was just absolutely desperate, and he was free. The Falcons offense appears improved, but you’re well within ‘hope-and-a-prayer’ territory starting Zaccheaus.
- Kyle Pitts had a terrible day. I have no concern about this being a trend.
- Marcus Mariota played ok, he certainly did enough for the Falcons to win. He paid the price with several big hits on designed QB runs. If this is the plan for the Falcons, we’ll be seeing Desmond Ridder sooner or later.
- Jameis Winston looked out of sorts until the Saints, down 16 with about 12 minutes left in the 4th, started sending the receivers deep. Once Winston started chucking it to his embarrassment of riches receiving corps, things looked great.
- We have another must-start TE to add to the top five. While Taysom Hill only saw one target (and caught it), he had a few snaps as a wildcat QB, punching one in for a TD, ended up with four carries for 81 yards (a long of 57) on the day. I’ll bid 20-25% for Hill even if I don’t need TE help.
- Unless head coach Dennis Allen and OC Pete Carmichael start drawing up a ton of screens or other intentional Kamara touches, Alvin Kamara’s fantasy football glory days are behind us. Winston doesn’t look to check down like Drew Brees. Kamara is still an absolute stud, but with Taysom Hill siphoning red-zone looks and Winston’s infrequent check-downs, things don’t look great.
- Winston locked on to Jarvis Landry and that was reflected by the number of targets and catches Landry made. Landry is well worth a 10-15% waiver bid as he’s still leaving corners in the dust on the reg.
- Michael Thomas did his best Chris Carter impression this week, ‘he only catches touchdowns’. Thomas made it through the game unscathed, looking good out there. It is concerning that Thomas was a forgotten man for so much of the game, but if you’ve bet on Thomas to this point, no reason to back out now.
- A couple nice plays from Chris Olave, a good opening salvo for the rookie. He’s not really redraft relevant for the time-being.
Cleveland Browns @ Carolina Panthers
- It looked like Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski had his team ready to play, while Matt Rhule’s Panthers looked amateurish far too often. While the Panthers looked unprepared, it seems like there is plenty of low-hanging fruit for improvement like, say, giving Christian McCaffrey more touches.
- On the other hand, this is about as good as it’s going to get for the Browns with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.
- The Browns will go as far as Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt take them, which, amazingly in today’s NFL, may be enough to keep the Browns in the hunt for a wildcard playoff spot. Both Hunt and Chubb are weekly starts.
- Jacoby Brissett, even under the circumstances, shouldn’t be ‘the plan’ at quarterback. He offers no value, and he torpedoes any hope of fantasy value from the Browns pass catchers.
- Baker Mayfield didn’t look great, but he didn’t look lost out there. He’s not relevant in 1-QB leagues, and he’s likely gone in your 2-QB leagues. It looks like he’ll be able to support some fantasy production for those around him at least.
- Christian McCaffrey had 43 of 53 snaps. He did CMC things on highly frustratingly limited touches. The lackluster fantasy performance is, hopefully, an anomaly. He got you a TD in down performance, salvaging the day. Even though this Week 1 wasn’t spectacular, I have zero concern with CMC moving forward.
- Robbie Anderson lives! This is very much one of those ‘Week 1 things to keep an eye on’. Mayfield seemed to prefer throwing to Jarvis Landry over Odell Beckham Jr. in Cleveland. Might he prefer Anderson over Moore? Moore managers certainly hope not. Anderson is worth a 3-5% waiver bid if you’re a WR needy team.
- Robbie out-targeted DJ Moore eight to six… but we should also keep in mind that Anderson got behind the defense for a huge TD reception. So, the box-score doesn’t tell the whole story here. Moore was on the field for all 53 snaps for the Browns offense. The buy and sell window for Moore is likely wide open.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions
- This was a really fun game to watch.
- Lions come out guns blazing! Great run by D’Andre Swift, good run by Jamaal Williams… and then we see the Lions doing Lions things, an absolute easy pass dropped by DJ Chark followed by two consecutive false start penalties in the red-zone.
- Unlike the Lions of yesteryear, Detroit recovers and still punches it in for an opening drive TD.
- Much to the chagrin of those Swift managers, Williams does an exceptional Mike Tolbert ‘TD vulture’ impression. Swift reminded us that when he’s healthy, he can be one of the best backs in the league.
- Jamaal Williams should be rostered on his stand-alone value. He got a decent workload and got some goal-line work. This is repeatable for both the Lions and Williams. If he’s out there on your waiver wire, he’s worth a 4-8% FAAB bid and the roster spot.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown saw 12 targets for 8 catches, and got a TD. Volume is king in fantasy and that was on display here. Watching the game, his 64 yards receiving seems much more representative of his performance than his substantial PPR total.
- DJ Chark had a couple of drops, and a couple of plays where he and Jared Goff were not on the same page. Late in the game, as the Lions are mounting a comeback, Chark makes a beautiful, contested touchdown grab. This little blurb on Chark perfectly summarizes the player Chark has been in the NFL. Chark is one of many desperation-play type receivers, someone to pick up if you’re desperate at WR.
- Jalen Hurts seemed to be making excellent decisions about when to run and when to stick with the play. He hasn’t become a pin-point passer in the offseason, but he made the defense pay dearly for blitzing and not staying dedicated to keeping him in the pocket.
- AJ Brown is playing like, and the Eagles are playing him like, the super-stud WR he is. Brown appears unusually large, unusually thick in an NFL that is, more and more, going with smaller quicker receivers. Nothing exemplifies this more than Brown quite literally dragging cornerback Will Harris for about a dozen yards after a big catch down the sideline in the waning minutes of the first half. Brown and Hurts put to bed any ‘new place new face’ concerns.
- Miles Sanders running angry, and oh thank the football gods, Sanders got a goal-line carry. Sanders had 38 snaps, Kenneth Gainwell 23, Boston Scott 14.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
- Damien Harris, 22 snaps, Ty Montgomery, 20 snaps, and Rhamondre Stevenson, 14 snaps. Of course, the lone Patriot touchdown pass goes to Montgomery who everyone started. Harris is likely the only startable Pats RB for time being, but Montgomery has just been moved to the IR. So… ?
- Not a great day for Mac Jones. He throws a bad pick early—the corner is draped on the WR, deflects the pass, and safety Jevon Holland comes over to make the interception. It’s just Week 1, but the Pats offense may be as bad as the beat writers told us it would be under Matt Patricia.
- Jakobi Meyers, still really good. He made a couple of really amazing plays in this game. Meyers isn’t a weekly must-start, but he’s the kind of receiver depth you’ll appreciate when injuries and bye weeks roll around. The lethargic Patriot offense limits Meyers’ high-end range of outcomes. Meyers is a low-ceiling start, but his production is pretty bankable.
- You know how the Niners made everything look easy for Jimmy Garoppolo? We saw a lot of that with Tua Tagovailoa today. Tua didn’t post a bevy of creative plays and big-time throws, but he showed perfectly capable of matriculating the ball down the field. In a 12-team league, Tua’s likely not a factor. If you insist on having a backup QB, Tua is a fine choice.
- Chase Edmonds opened the game as the starting RB and looked dynamic as the lead back. The problem with Edmonds has been durability, but if he’s able to hold up, he looks fantastic in this offense.
- Raheem Mostert chipped in a couple of nice plays as well, a ‘good for the Dolphins but fantasy irrelevant’ observation. Mostert is the injury away guy in Miami if you have the roster space.
- Alec Ingold watch… On the first drive, Alec Ingold was deployed as a full back and TE role, and he was targeted a couple of times on this drive already – Next drive Ingold gets a short-to-go carry and picks up a first down. He didn’t have a huge day, but saw 20 of 60 snaps. This is more of a fun, football observation than a fantasy relevant nugget.
- Miami didn’t look unstoppable. A lot of things bounced the Dolphin’s way in this opener, but they ALSO made a heck of a lot of plays on both sides of the ball. The Mike McDaniel tenure is off to a good start.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals
- Time to start Kenny Pickett!
- Mitch Trubisky isn’t doing anything to elevate the guys around him. If it’s going to be such a struggle for the Pittsburgh offense, you might as well take your chances with Pickett in there.
- Chase Claypool out-snapped every offensive skill player (58 snaps) not named Mitchell Trubisky (63 snaps). Claypool had six carries for 36 yards, including a rush inside the +5 yard line, he had six targets for four yards, a quiet fantasy day.
- Najee Harris had a Lisfranc injury (a sprained foot… sort of) early in the pre-season but was reportedly fully healthy to begin the year. Najee says he’s playing in Week 2, but I’ll still be putting in some FAAB bids Jaylen Warren in the 10% range.
- Jaylen Warren won the backup running back role in the pre-season, and he ended up getting 23 of 63 total snaps. He didn’t look especially amazing out there, but neither did the incredibly talented Najee Harris. Both Najee and Jaylen averaged 2.3 yards per carry (per PFF).
- Pat Freiermuth led the Steelers in receiving yards and had ‘the big play’ in the last minute of overtime. If you drafted him, you’re starting him, and Week 1 went pretty well for the young TE.
- Diontae Johnson had a huge, one-handed reception for the ages in overtime. He had a bad fantasy day but saw a ton of targets. The Steelers offense as a whole is holding back Johnson as he showed he is still a baller in Week 1.
- I would say the Steelers defense looks like an obvious “avoid” early in the season, but TJ Watt had to leave the game late with an injury. If he misses time that hyper-disruptive pass rush evaporates.
- Despite the tough loss, Bengals fans and fantasy managers who’ve invested in the team shouldn’t fret. Sometimes offenses just look like they couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat, and that was simply not the case in this game. The Steelers defense was disruptive for five quarters. The Bengals O is in good hands.
- Outside of a middling score from Tee Higgins, who left the game in the… 2nd(?) quarter with a concussion, Cincy’s big stars had fine fantasy outings.
- Ja’Marr Chase reminded everyone that he is truly a game-changer. The Bengals offensive line looked bad, but the Steelers D should get the lion’s share of the credit for that. Unfortunately that might be all we get to see from TJ Watt this year after he left the game late with what may turn out to be a serious injury.
- Hayden Hurst was involved in the offense, 8 targets, 46 yards on 5 receptions. He’s a ‘throw a dart and hope’ TE, but he is on a fantastic offense where defenses should rank him as the 4th or 5th threat. He’s worth a 2-5% FAAB bid if you’re still searching for your TE.
- Joe Burrow looked both excellent and not-so-great in the face of an absolutely killer pass rush. A lot of things bounced the Bengals way last year, and that was certainly not the case in this game. However, I think the real Joe Burrow is likely somewhere in the middle of these extremes, with a big lean towards the ‘he’s really good’ end of the spectrum.
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
- Rex Burkhead had a frustrating number of snaps and carries. Burkhead got what was there but isn’t doing the dynamic things we’re seeing from Dameon Pierce (even when Pierce isn’t picking up big yards). Texans fans and Pierce drafters hope the coaching staff will give the electric Pierce a bigger slice of the backfield pie.
- Something to watch… If the Colts offensive line is really good, then the Texans D-line will be a force to be reckoned with this season. I won’t make that declaration yet, but this is on the radar.
- I wouldn’t blow my FAAB wad on O.J. Howard despite his 2-TD performance. Howard is worth a cheap bid if you have the roster space, though, as the Texans are not exactly flush with explosive playmakers.
- Jonathan Taylor did a ton of good work in this game, and had a strong statistical performance even if it wasn’t a visually stunning performance.
- Michael Pittman is rounding in to a big time, No. 1 receiver. He’s getting looks in the red-zone, and he’s making plays when he gets the chance. This isn’t a big surprise, but it’s great to get that confirmation.
- It’s tough to take too much away from these divisional matchups in Week 1. Maybe the Texans will be a little better than we thought, and maybe the Colts may not be quite as good as we thought?
Tennessee Titans @ New York Giants
- Who had ‘Dontrelle Hilliard’ as the AJ Brown replacement?
- We had plenty of interesting questions heading into this one, and we started to see some answers… maybe.
- Derrick Henry put up 82 rushing yards on 21 carries. He had one target, no receptions. Henry got a direct-snap, shotgun carry on the goal-line, but problems with the snap and a good push from the Giants stuffed that try. Henry didn’t appear lethargic or slow in the first game of the season, of course he’s never been a super quick-twitch guy. I’ll bet what you thought about Henry before this game is what you think about him after it.
- Robert Woods, man… Woods had a catch on 2 targets for 13 yards. The line pretty well matches what we saw on the field. The Robert Woods hopefuls (I’m looking in the mirror here), sure hope this isn’t a trend.
- Treylon Burks had some nice catches, 3 receptions on 5 targets for 55 yards. This is heartening after a rough run-up to opening day for the rookie. He took a step toward being a worthy WR3/Flex start in Week 1.
- The real fantasy star of the week was Saquon Barkley. Barkley broke a couple of huge runs where he turned on the speed and looked elite. Outside of those big plays, though, Barkley looked his old, pre-injury self. He was quick, ran tough, and had plenty of those serviceable four yard runs that looked good.
- If you played Kadarius Toney you are fuming at his seven snaps. If you drafted and sat him, you liked what you saw on his two carries. One of Toney’s carries was an end-around-WR-pass. The play didn’t go quite as planned. Toney made the best of a broken-down play, pulling it down and shaking a half-dozen guys out of their shoes. It was a play that shows up in the box score as a two-yard rush, but it was a highlight-reel worthy effort. I’ll be benching Toney until we see his usage improve.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
- Josh Jacobs got the start and had the most RB snaps (35). A pretty ‘meh’ day for the Raider rushers.
- Any concern about Davante Adams going to a new team and quarterback were pretty well put to bed. Adams got the star treatment, getting lots of targets, and targets in the end-zone. He’s still in the ‘may threaten the WR1 overall’ category.
- Derek Carr made a few excellent throws, but he threw more than a couple to the other team, too. Three sacks, two TDs, not a great day for Carr who was under a ton of pressure from the pass rush. Carr is a good fantasy backup, but that’s it for now.
- Hunter Renfrow had a quiet day. Its not a great sign for but is surely too early to give up hope on Renfrow as a nice WR3/Flex option.
- Keenan Allen looked like his old self before injuring his hamstring early in this one. There is optimism Allen will not miss too much time. Boo at injuries!
- Seven Chargers had four targets. No one had more than four.
- Gerald Everett had a couple of very nice plays and finished around the TE four-ish in a middling week for the position.
- Mike Williams gets his first catch of the day in the fourth quarter… With Allen exiting early in the first quarter, well that’s not great for Williams managers.
- Khalil Mack had three sacks, Bosa had 1.5. That may turn out to be quite the combo for Los Angeles if they can both stay healthy.
San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears
- I have a hard time drawing too many conclusions from what I saw in this one. Elijah Moore left the game early and has been placed on IR. The waiver wire feeding frenzy for Niners running backs has begun.
- UDFA Jordan Mason was on the active roster for Week 1 whereas third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price was a healthy scratch. It looks like Jeff Wilson Jr. will get the nod in Week 2. All of these guys should be in your plans on the waiver wire.
- Trey Lance looked really hesitant. I wrote earlier that Jalen Hurts was making great decisions about when to cut loose and run, well, Lance looked like he was struggling with those calls out there. There are usually plenty of options at QB on the waiver wire for most leagues. I’d be giving those options a hard look heading into Week 2.
- Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery both look pretty good rushing for the Bears. What little work there is for this backfield may end up getting split pretty evenly, something like Montgomery 55% and Herbert 45%.
- Justin Fields has everything on his shoulders and that’s just not fair… with that said, Fields was certainly the best QB on the field this day. The whole game was chaotic, but Fields appeared to have taken a step forward in the offseason, looking relatively comfortable under fire.
Baltimore Ravens @ New York Jets
- Even though the Ravens were only up 3-0 with 3 minutes to go in the first half, and the score was a not-embarrassing 24-9, this one was all Ravens.
- JK Dobbins doesn’t play, and Kenyan Drake gets the start. We see why Kenyan Drake was a castoff as he does absolutely nothing of note.
- Lamar Jackson looked patient in the pocket, and that is reflected by his, for Lamar Jackson standards, minuscule rushing yardage total of 17 yards. The big storyline for the Ravens offense was the deep passing attack. It seemed to me that Lamar was making more of an effort to stick in the pocket. If the Ravens pass-catchers can adjust to Jackson’s new dogged patience, we might see Russell Wilson-esque scramble drill production out of Baltimore. Jackson threw for touchdowns of 25, 17, and 55 yards.
- Is Devin Duvernay destined for a Tyler Lockett-like season? I had him in a few leagues and I’ll bid 5-10% on him where I’m weak at receiver.
- Mark Andrews made a couple of plays, handing in what his fantasy owners hope is the low-water mark for his fantasy season.
- Michael Carter got the start and first series at RB. He ended up being the ‘lead back’, out-snapping Breece Hall 50 to 38. Both backs were on the field together for a couple of plays.
- Breece Hall had a rough first game, playing second-fiddle to Michael Carter and coughing up a fumble early in the 4th quarter. Hall got back in the game later, though – so no fumble freeze-out. Hall looked like he belongs in the NFL. No surprise there, but it’s nice to see it all the same.
- Oh boy, Garrett Wilson. Not a huge day statistically, but the rookie looked electric out there. Wilson played about half the snaps, something that Jets fans will want to see change in Week 2. Wilson got a late target in the end-zone and couldn’t make a play on a catchable ball. Womp womp. With under two minutes to go in the fourth, with the game well out of hand, Wilson got a couple of ‘goal-line’ targets, and he showed his inexperience on them. Still, I like that the Jets took the opportunity to get him some of those high-leverage looks in his rookie debut.
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
- Justin Jefferson, my goodness. That should settle any questions about how Jefferson will be used in the new offense.
- Dalvin Cook is looking as spry as ever, and he had great usage in this one with 5 targets (3 catches) and twenty carries. Not a huge fantasy day, but he’s still one of the best backs in the league.
- Kirk Cousins did just fine, very typical Cousins. Kirk may be a nice placeholder for those concerned Trey Lance owners out there.
- AJ Dillon and Aaron Jones were the only bright spots for the Packers.
- Not a good day for Aaron Rodgers, and the Vikings pass rush had a lot to do with that. That isn’t surprising for a team missing their top two tackles, and that certainly isn’t helping the post-Adams era.
- Rodgers’s interception toss came late in the 2nd half, trying to make something happen late. It wasn’t a great play, but it wasn’t a killer mistake. He fumbled and lost it early in the 3rd quarter. Rodgers was under fire all day,
- We didn’t learn much about the receiver situation in this one unless the lesson is there will never be a good answer. I’ll bet we get some clarity on this as the season goes on, but for now, the Packers’ receivers are ‘a hope and a prayer’ type starts.