San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions
The 49ers somehow scored 40-plus points yet were arguably the most frustrating fantasy team in Week 1, including but not limited to: Raheem Mostert exiting early, Trey Sermon a surprise DNP, and Brandon Aiyuk a complete no-show.
Sermon was a healthy scratch, as positive summer reports suddenly turned into Kyle Shanahan saying he’s not one of the team’s top-three backs out of camp after trading up to draft him. With Mostert unable to last one half before suffering his latest knee injury, rookie Elijah Mitchell is going to be an extremely popular waiver wire add. Mitchell was considered a steal in the sixth round by some thanks to strong workout metrics and looks a lot like Mostert running the ball. Sermon should be held in all fantasy leagues, while Mitchell should be added everywhere (and JaMycal Hasty should be grabbed in deeper formats).
Jimmy Garoppolo botched SF’s first snap of the season and lost a fumble, while Trey Lance tossed a touchdown during his first career pass attempt. Even in strong matchups (which should be plenty with the 49ers’ schedule), Garoppolo’s tough to use in fantasy leagues with Lance a threat to steal red-zone work. It’s another messy fantasy situation in San Francisco, albeit one that could turn into gold when/if the rookie QB fully takes over.
While Aiyuk was nowhere to be found (hamstring? Shanahan’s doghouse?), Deebo Samuel put up a career game with 189 yards and a touchdown catch that would’ve been the team’s longest pass play all of last season. Aiyuk could be a nice trade target should his managers panic; don’t forget how injury-prone Samuel and George Kittle have been, and this offense will change dramatically once Lance is QB.
Detroit went for it on fourth down twice in the first quarter, so maybe the coaching staff won’t be as shaky as feared. The Lions also showed quite a bit of fight, making it a real game after falling behind 38-10 … D’Andre Swift had eight catches and scored a TD despite being limited coming off an injury. He’s going to be an absolute PPR monster this season … T.J. Hockenson saw 10 targets and had a big game against a 49ers defense that held tight ends to the fewest fantasy points last season.
Hockenson would be my No. 3 fantasy tight end in a draft today.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen got just 5.4 YPA, a mark he beat in all but one game last season. It was a tough matchup, but he also lost a fumble and missed a handful of deep throws (including a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders for a would-be 50+ yard TD). Still, you love to see the 50+ pass attempts and nine rushes; expect a big bounce-back Week 2 from Allen.
Diontae Johnson turned 10 targets into just 36 yards but scored and most importantly returned after appearing to suffer a serious injury early … Najee Harris was the only RB to touch the ball for Pittsburgh and quickly finds himself in a smash spot in Week 2 at home versus the Raiders coming off MNF. Harris went fourth overall in a $20K buy-in draft over the weekend … The matchup didn’t help, but it’s still discouraging Devin Singletary managed just 11 rushes despite Zack Moss being a healthy scratch.
New York Jets @ Carolina Panthers
Zach Wilson dealt with offensive line struggles (LT Mekhi Becton left injured) and drops, while Sam Darnold and Robby Anderson hooked up for a long TD during their revenge game … The Jets backfield looks unusable in fantasy leagues, while Christian McCaffrey looked like the 2019 version. Only health could prevent a 1,000/1,000 season from CMC.
Much better days are ahead for Elijah Moore (don’t drop him), but Corey Davis looks like a legit top-20 fantasy WR moving forward.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
I guess that’s why a 1-15 team with Urban Meyer as head coach shouldn’t have been 3.5-point road favorites. The game script certainly didn’t hurt Trevor Lawrence’s fantasy stats, something that should be a theme throughout 2021 … Carlos Hyde saw nearly twice as many carries as James Robinson, and given his connection to Meyer and Ohio State (and the fact the coach signed him during the offseason and is proving to be a bonafide donkey), it’s a situation that doesn’t figure to dramatically change any time soon. Robinson will be better, but it’s not ideal he recorded just eight touches while facing a defense that yielded the second-most fantasy points to RBs last season.
Meanwhile, Mark Ingram somehow saw 26(!) carries with a TD run, while Phillip Lindsay and David Johnson each scored. Let me be the contrarian who says Houston likely won’t keep providing weekly fantasy value for three running backs. I’d let others spend their FAB on Ingram … Those who have Brandin Cooks should be rooting for him not to be traded, but few players in NFL history switch teams like Cooks … Pharaoh Brown pulled down a nice one-handed grab … The Texans are alone in first place in their division … This marked Meyer’s first-ever season-opening loss as a coach at any level.
Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans
The Titans have no pass rush, but Kyler Murray was fantastic while getting 9.0 YPA and five touchdowns on the road, providing further evidence last season’s second-half struggles were solely because of his shoulder injury … Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill badly missed Arthur Smith, as Chester Rogers somehow finished with more receiving yards than Julio Jones and A.J. Brown … Chandler Jones was one of Week 1’s best players, recording a whopping five sacks, although he’s still the second-best athlete in his family … A.J. Green shouldn’t be seeing more targets than either Christian Kirk (who will be a popular waiver wire add) and Rondale Moore moving forward.
Los Angeles Chargers @ Washington Football Team
After dominating while facing pressure during his rookie season, Justin Herbert was on fire on third downs Sunday (13-of-16 for 160 yards and a TD), as he continues to spit in the face of “sustainable” stats. After taking a cross-country flight with a 10 am start against a dominant Washington front, Herbert impressed yet again while throwing for 337 yards in the victory … Ryan Fitzpatrick was always a long shot to last 17 games, but he didn’t even make it a half. Taylor Heinicke got 8.1 YPA Sunday, reportedly outplayed Fitzpatrick in summer, and put up a better fight against the Bucs than any other team during last year’s playoffs, so it’s possible he’s not a downgrade if needed to take over.
Antonio Gibson had a lost fumble inside the five that turned the game around, but 20 carries while leading the team in targets (five) is a big win for fantasy managers. J.D. McKissic saw one target … One oddity in a day full of them was Austin Ekeler getting goal-line carries yet not seeing a single target. Herbert’s target percentage to running backs (25.4%) last year would’ve led all QBs over the last three seasons. Go figure.
Terry McLaurin made an incredible grab ... Larry Rountree appears to be LA’s RB2 and is well worth stashing in all fantasy leagues, especially with Ekeler’s tender hammy … Down 4 with six minutes left, WFT punted on fourth-and-7 from LA’s 40 and never got the ball back.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons
Jalen Hurts looked fantastic; a top-five fantasy QB season is his floor … Matt Ryan flopped in a favorable matchup, with Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts both tanking along with him. The Falcons now go @TB, @NYG, Wash over the next three weeks in a tough start to the season … Cordarrelle Patterson no doubt looked like Atlanta’s best running back, but he’s still highly unlikely to ever be treated like a workhorse … Kenneth Gainwell would be a monster if Miles Sanders went down … DeVonta Smith is going to put up a huge rookie season if health cooperates ... Up 13-6, the Eagles wisely went for 2.
Seattle Seahawks @ Indianapolis Colts
Russell Wilson makes it look easy, going on the road and tossing four TDs with 250+ yards on just 23 attempts. What a ridiculously pretty deep-ball thrower. The NFC West is going to be some race this season … Jonathan Taylor managed just 3.3 YPC but had a touchdown called back by penalty and most importantly was highly involved in the passing game. Taylor led the Colts in receiving yards, and his seven targets were more than any game during his rookie campaign. Taylor remains my No. 4 (the same percentage Taylor reportedly got his body fat down to during the offseason, coincidentally) fantasy RB moving forward.
Minnesota Vikings @ Cincinnati Bengals
Kirk Cousins threw for 350+ yards and two scores but was outplayed by Joe Burrow, who showed none of the expected rust while returning from major surgery. Burrow got 9.7 YPA, and the Bengals committed no turnovers over five quarters against a Vikings defense that’s expected to be among the best in football. Ja’Marr Chase had a big NFL debut and immediately ended any concerns about his preseason drops … Tee Higgins was on a cart at one point, but it turned out to only be cramps … Dalvin Cook was fine for fantasy managers but got just 3.1 YPC and lost a crucial (and controversial) fumble in overtime.
Cleveland Browns @ Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes had his largest ever regular season comeback during Week 1’s victory and is now 11-0 with a 35:0 TD:INT ratio in September throughout his career … It was a bit surprising Odell Beckham Jr. didn’t play, but hopefully Cleveland was just being cautious … Travis Kelce scored two touchdowns, but it’s Tyreek Hill’s 15 targets that were eye-opening. He’d be a real threat to Davante Adams as fantasy’s WR1 with an increased target share this season … Meanwhile, Mecole Hardman saw just three looks in his new role as the team’s WR2.
Something tells me Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s ADP shouldn’t have been higher than D’Andre Swift’s.
Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots
Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones played fine in a low-scoring game that featured rookie Rhamondre Stevenson benched after losing an early fumble only to later see Damien Harris lose an even costlier one with the game seemingly won. It wasn’t all bad, as Harris ran for 100 yards (even saw three targets) and had a nice TD run nullified by penalty. He should be a strong fantasy RB2 option moving forward … Jakobi Meyers is still searching for his first NFL touchdown but is going to have plenty of PPR value throughout the season.
Denver Broncos @ New York Giants
Teddy Bridgewater is a clear upgrade over Drew Lock, while Daniel Jones had a solid fantasy game given the matchup … Saquon Barkley was limited as expected during his return from knee surgery and with the Giants playing Thursday night in Week 2, while Melvin Gordon showed surprising speed during his 70-yard TD run ... KJ Hamler dropped a would-be 50-yard touchdown, but his value is pointing up after Jerry Jeudy suffered a high-ankle sprain. Noah Fant and Courtland Sutton’s values also get an upgrade, while Tim Patrick can be added in deeper leagues. Jeudy once again appeared uncoverable Sunday and was on his way to a top-15 fantasy-WR type season if not for the unfortunate injury. May I suggest he turn to Chad Johnson’s school of treating ankle injuries … Sterling Shepard continued his impressive summer play with a big game, highlighted by a 37-yard touchdown.
Green Bay Packers @ New Orleans Saints
Aaron Rodgers struggled mightily (4.8 YPA), while Jamies Winston had the fewest passing yards (148) by a QB with five TD passes in the modern era. None of those five touchdown tosses went to Marquez Callaway, whose ADP shot all the way up to No. 77 overall in NFFC Primetime drafts. Callaway saw just two targets, but I wouldn’t drop him just yet … Alvin Kamara has already matched last season’s number of games with 20 carries, while Aaron Jones somehow finished with fewer than 10 rushing yards … Deonte Harris had a nice long TD catch but isn’t worth breaking the bank in free agency while seeing just two targets.
Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford got 12.3 YPA while hitting numerous big shots downfield during a highly impressive Rams debut that also saw him throw for 321 yards and three scores. Stafford doesn’t have the same fantasy upside as other QBs who run, but he should finish among the league leaders in TD passes this season … Allen Robinson turned 11 targets into 35 yards, while Darnell Mooney was worse.
The sooner Justin Fields takes over as Chicago’s starting QB, the better.
David Montgomery got 6.8 YPC against a Rams defense that allowed the fewest yards per play last year, although he saw just one target to Damien Williams’ five … Darrell Henderson dominated LA’s backfield and will likely continue to do so until an injury strikes, making Sony Michel a highly valuable bench stash.