Sunday Late Games and MNF Week 1 Review
Week 1 is now in the books after two crazy games on Monday night. RG3’s return had good and bad moments, Chip Kelly’s offense seemingly put the NFL on notice, and the Chargers were up to their old tricks and blew another big lead late in the game. Below are my reviews from Sunday’s late games and from Monday Night Football. I will review my week one studs and duds tomorrow.
Cardinals @ Rams
There were two big stories to take from this game. First, Larry Fitzgerald is back as an elite option now that he has a competent QB in Carson Palmer. He had 8 catches for 80 yards and two scores. He is a must start as long as Palmer is healthy. However, there is no telling how long Palmer will be healthy because the offensive line is as bad as ever. He was sacked 4 times and under pressure numerous other times. Also, the running game was predictably non-existent. Rashard Mendenhall led the way with 60 yards on 16 carries. I don’t see him becoming a fantasy difference maker this season. Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd also had nice games, so the Arizona passing game should be fairly reliable this year.
For the Rams, Jared Cook finally lived up to the hyper and had an excellent game with 7 catches for 141 yards and 2 TDs and almost had a third. The interesting part will be seeing if this can be sustained on a consistent basis. He could end up being a fantasy monster because he is much more athletic than most TEs. Tavon Austin had a fairly quiet game with 6 catches for 41 yards. He should see more targets going forward, but I don’t expect him to dominate games right off the bat. Daryl Richardson received basically all of the carries, but only had 63 yards. He’s not a reliable fantasy starter at this point. The same goes for Sam Bradford-he had a nice game, but I wouldn’t bet on him producing at a high level. He would be a solid bye week fill-in, but nothing more at this point.
Packers @ 49ers
This game was probably the most anticipated matchup on Sunday, as it was a rematch from the divisional playoffs where Colin Kaepernick rushed for 181 yards and made himself into a national sensation. The Packers spent the offseason learning how to defend the read option, so people were anxious to see if they could stop Kaepernick. It wasn’t a huge surprise to me when the Niners barely used the read option in this game, as Kapernick was mostly a pocket passer. The Green Bay secondary isn’t the greatest and were missing Casey Heyward and Morgan Burnett, so Kap was able to pick them apart for most of the game. He threw for a career high 412 yards and 3 TDs, capping (no pun intended) the second best QB fantasy performance aside from Peyton Manning’s record day. Most of his passes went to newly acquired Anquan Boldin, who had a ridiculous 13 catches for 208 yards and a TD in his 49ers debut. Vernon Davis also lived up to the hype and had 6 catches for 98 yards and 2 TDs. If he continues to be a focal point in the passing game, he could rival Jimmy Graham for top TE honors. The SF running game was largely held in check. Frank Gore only managed 44 yards on 21 carries, but did have a crucial go-ahead TD. Backup Kendall Hunter was solid for the most part, with 6 carries for 24 yards. I don’t expect Boldin to have another game as dominating as this one, and he may even have a poor game against the Seattle secondary next week, but he may turn into a must start WR2, especially in PPR leagues. I would start Kap and Gore each week as well without hesitation.
On the Green Bay side, Aaron Rodgers was his usual elite self, making ridiculous throws that few others would attempt, let alone complete. He was locked in on Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson all day, and both eclipsed 100 receiving yards with a score. Jermichael Finley also had a TD, but dropped a pass that led to an interception. Rodgers should never be benched, as he can succeed even against the elite defenses in the league. Barring something unexpected, he is almost a guaranteed 15-20 fantasy points a week. Eddie Lacy’s debut was a mixed bag. He did have a two yard rushing TD, but he also fumbled early and was benched for a period of time. Unless he continues to fumble uncontrollably, he is definitely the workhorse back and should only get better.
Giants @ Cowboys
Only in Dallas will you reap the benefits of SIX turnovers and still somehow almost lose the game. Eli Manning was maddeningly inconsistent, as he threw three interceptions, but also had 450 yards passing and 4 TDs, three of which went to Victor Cruz, who had one of the best days of any WR. Brandon Meyers added a touchdown too and he will be a solid TE option all year. Hakeem Nicks looked quite healthy and showed how impressive he can be at full speed with 5 catches for 114 yards. A third Giants WR topped 100 yards, as Rueben Randle had 5 catches for 101 yards. A lot of the yardage was due to the Giants playing from behind all game, but Eli was able to throw against the Dallas secondary at will. Aside from the turnovers, the other thing to be worried about was David Wilson’s continue struggle with holding onto the ball and poor pass protection. He lost two more fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown. It really put the Giants in a bind, and he was benched for the night after the second fumble. He also has shown that he is quite poor in pass protection, and if he wants to be a three down back, he needs to fix that quickly. Da’Rel Scott came on in relief and was average. This is definitely going to cause the Giants to sign a veteran RB this week, and they are reportedly working out Brandon Jacobs, Joe McKnight and Willis McGahee. I would bet that McGahee gets signed since he showed the most last season. Wilson’s preseason hype could fade into oblivion if he keeps fumbling. Then again, Tiki Barber had the same issues earlier in his career and he turned out just fine.
Tony Romo played fairly well, but was in obvious discomfort after getting sandwiched between two Giants defenders. It looks like he has bruised ribs, but should be able to play as long as he can manage the pain. He ended the game with a shade over 250 yards passing to go with 2 TDs and one interception. Both TD passes went to old stalwart Jason Witten. If Witten actually gets more goal line targets this year, he could turn in a monster season because he will catch 100 passes as usual. He could easily finish in the top 3 for tight ends with additional scores. Miles Austin led the Cowboys with 10 catches for 72 yards. I had a feeling people were sleeping on him in the preseason, as his ADP was way too low. Games like this prove that point, but he needs to stay healthy as well. Dez Bryant was the focus of the Giants secondary and therefore had a quiet game with 4 catches for 22 yards. This was probably an aberration, but he also suffered a sprained foot and that is an injury that may linger. He luckily appears to have avoided the dreaded Lisfranc injury. DeMarco Murray had a good game, as he had 86 yards on 20 carries to go along with 8 catches for 39 yards. He is super-talented, but needs to stay healthy in order to remain a top fantasy contributor, and that is something he has been unable to do so far.
Eagles @ Redskins
The return of RG3 had everyone drooling with anticipation. Most people were curious to see how mobile he would be after another ACL surgery, and if not playing at all in the preseason would affect his game. The opening possessions are something Redskins fans want to forget. RG3 looked tentative in the pocket and didn’t put a lot of zip on his throws. He was inaccurate and also looked to be hobbling at times. It was obvious that he didn’t full trust his knee yet and it wasn’t until he was down 33-7 that he started to play better. His stat line ended up looking fairly decent, as he threw for two TDs and 329 yards, but the first half was forgettable. It was bad enough where I actually was hoping Shanahan would bench him to save him from himself. If he comes out no worse for the wear, this could actually be a benefit, as it showed everyone that he can play well as a pocket passer. It’s tough to gauge the rest of the offense because the entire second half was glorified garbage time. Leonard Hankerson reaped most of the benefits by catching two TDs, but Pierre Garcon also had a solid game with 7 catches. Alfred Morris had a fairly poor game aside from his rushing TD, as he fumbled his first snap and then fumbled a toss from RG3 that went for a safety. He only had 12 carries, but this was mainly because Roy Helu played a ton of snaps in the second half because there were obvious passing downs. I would expect Morris to get his normal workload next week and be back to his normal RB1 ways.
Chip Kelly’s rapid-fire offense was a huge question mark coming into this game. Many wondered if it could success at the NFL level, or if it was merely a gimmick in the college game. For one game at least, the hype was for real. The Eagles offense looked unstoppable at times. DeSean Jackson had a great game with 7 catches for 104 yards and a TD. If he can be more consistent this year, he has a ton of upside and can easily be a WR2. Michael Vick showed flashes of his 2010 form, but he also took a bunch of hits that still make me wonder when his next injury will occur. At this point, I can’t see him changing his style, so if you own him, enjoy him while he is healthy but it’s best to have a capable backup ready for what seems like the inevitable missed games. The big story for Philly is LeSean McCoy. He had a whopping 31 carries and almost had a career high in rushing yards. This isn’t sustainable, but he has proven to be one of the most talented backs in the league. If the Eagles offense can even be 75% as efficient as they were last night on a weekly basis, I would rank McCoy as my #2 overall back behind Peterson. I took a chance in drafting Arian Foster ahead of him in my keeper league, and I have a feeling I am going to regret it.
Texans @ Chargers
The late game on Monday night was pretty surprising to me. I didn’t give the Chargers much of a chance, but Philip Rivers played like it was 2009 and threw for four TDs, two of which went to Eddie Royal. Royal only had one other catch in the game, so it’s hard to trust him on a weekly basis. In fact, the targets were spread out evenly, so it doesn’t look like there is a true top receiving just yet. Antonio Gates was the leading receiver with 49 yards and 2 catches, but it looks like his days as an elite fantasy option are completely done. Ryan Mathews teased owners once again with a receiving TD, but he was bottled up in the running game, as he had only 33 yards on 13 carries. At least he made it out of the game healthy though, that’s always a plus. The Houston D is very good, so it was encouraging to see San Diego be able to put up 28 points on them. I thought they would score 10 or less against the Texans.
For Houston, Matt Schaub had an outstanding game, with 3 TDs and almost 350 passing yards. Two of his TDs went to Owen Daniels, who for some reason has been a fantasy afterthought. He definitely caught the attention of owners everywhere with his performance. Andre Johnson started his season off with a bang, as he erupted for 12 catches and 146 yards. He didn’t get in the end zone, but that type of performance should satisfy his owners. Arian Foster made his debut and as expected, he looked rusty. He managed 57 yards on 18 carries and failed on two short first down conversions, one of which led to a turnover on downs. Ben Tate looked more explosive, but it’s still clear that Foster will be the workhorse, especially once he rounds into shape. He also had 6 catches for 33 yards, which is an added bonus in PPR leagues. The fact that he had 24 touches and that was considered “light” bodes well for his workload and scoring opportunities moving forward.