It was evident that this was a game between two teams that didn’t use their veteran starters in the preseason. Both played sloppily offensively and made numerous mistakes. Ultimately, one great drive by Aaron Rodgers and a clinching interception by Adrian Amos gave the Packers the victory.
While Rodgers was able to earn the win, he had a very ugly start to this contest. In fact, the opening frame was the worst quarter of offense the Packers have suffered in 25 years. They had minus-12 yards of offense entering the second frame. Rodgers had no time to throw, and he tossed a couple of ugly passes, including one that was nearly picked. He didn’t have a completion until the 3:55 mark of the opening quarter. Green Bay even had to call a timeout after a TV stoppage. It was ugly, and it didn’t seem as though the Packers were prepared to play.
Rodgers, however, snapped out of his funk in the second quarter. He got into a rhythm, hitting Marquez Valdes-Scantling with a 47-yard bomb, which set up a touchdown throw to Jimmy Graham. That was the only touchdown of the evening, but that was all the Packers needed.
Ultimately, Green Bay moved the chains sporadically in the final three quarters, averaging 3.7 yards per play. However, the Packers were battling one of the top defenses in the NFL, so it’s understandable why numerous drives of theirs were disrupted by Chicago’s heavy pass rush, which got to Rodgers five times.
Rodgers, by the way, finished 18-of-30 for 203 yards and a touchdown. This might have been his toughest battle of the year, so I imagine Rodgers will have far better performances in the weeks to come.
Thanks to his 47-yard reception, Valdes-Scantling led the Packers with four catches for 52 yards. Davante Adams was next with four grabs for 36 yards. This was a disappointing stat line from Adams, who previously dominated the Bears. Still, the silver lining is that Adams saw eight targets, leading the team.
Rodgers’ sole touchdown went to Jimmy Graham. The aging tight end didn’t look decrepit, unlike last year, as he was able to haul in three of his six targets for 30 yards and a touchdown.
On the other end of the spectrum, what happened to Geronimo Allison? The young receiver started and saw plenty of snaps in the early going, but he must have done something to piss off Rodgers because he was benched in the second half. Someone named Trevor Davis played over him. I listed Allison as a droppable player in my Fantasy Football Add/Drop page.
The Packers predictably couldn’t run very well against the Bears’ stout front. Aaron Jones mustered just 39 yards on 13 carries. He suffered some sort of an injury at one point, but he didn’t miss action.
As for the Bears, they were also battling one of the best defenses in the NFL, but it didn’t help that they put together a very curious game plan. Rookie running back David Montgomery looked outstanding whenever he had his hands on the ball, yet Chicago gave him just six carries. Mediocre running back Mike Davis, for some reason, was given more touches than the dynamic rookie. And yet, neither back was given an attempt on a key third-and-1 near field-goal range in the opening half. Head coach Matt Nagy oped to give gadget receiver Cordarrelle Patterson a carry up the middle, and Patterson was predictably stuffed. This might go down as one of the dumbest play-calls we’ll see all year. It made absolutely zero sense.
This was just one example of Nagy’s poor play-calling. Anthony Miller wasn’t used nearly enough. Davis was featured too prominently. The Bears ran play-action even though they weren’t running the ball with their best back. In fact, the Bears ran 30 consecutive plays in which they didn’t hand the ball off at one point despite this game never being a blowout. Also, Nagy has to take some responsibility for the sloppiness. The Bears had so many crucial penalties. There was one instance where they had back-to-back-to-back infractions, resulting in a first-and-40. On another drive, Chicago was flagged for delay of game twice. Nagy didn’t use his starters at all in the preseason, and the Bears played like it.
And yet, all of this would be irrelevant if Mitchell Trubisky played well. Trubisky hit a few nice throws, including a pair of back-shoulder shots to Allen Robinson near the sideline, but his accuracy was lackluster otherwise. And “lackluster” is putting it nicely. He was 5-of-18 on throws of 10 yards or longer in this game. That’s not good. Neither was tossing 2-yard passes on third-and-10 situations, which is something Trubisky did twice.
Trubisky finished 26-of-45 for 228 yards and an interception, which was a desperate heave into the end zone. A couple of Trubisky’s passes were dropped, and he was battling an elite defense, but there’s no excuse for this abysmal performance. He should be better in his third year. Had the Bears selected Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes over Trubisky, they would have won this game.
Robinson was one of the few Bears offensive players who performed well. He made numerous terrific, back-shoulder catches. He hauled in seven of his 13 targets for 102 yards.
I mentioned Montgomery earlier. He looked special on a couple of his runs, including a 6-yard burst where he broke through and evaded some tackles. And yet, he had just six carries, while Davis had five, plus seven targets compared to one for Montgomery. The rookie gained 18 yards on six attempts to go along with a 27-yard reception. I’d say I would be shocked if his workload doesn’t increase going forward, but Nagy was foolish enough to use Davis over Montgomery in what he called the most important game of the year.
Tarik Cohen, meanwhile, was used at receiver regularly. He caught eight of his 10 targets for 49 receiving yards. I at least liked how the Bears utilized Cohen, but that was just a rare positive in a horrible night for them.
Bills 17, Jets 16
It’s crazy to believe that the Bills were down 16-0 in the first half, thanks to four turnovers, and yet were able to establish an incredible comeback against a great defense to get the victory. It looked like the Bills had no chance for most of the afternoon, but credit Josh Allen and Buffalo’s terrific defense for never giving up.
The trouble began for the Bills when Allen was strip-sacked by Jordan Jenkins. The Jets couldn’t capitalize with a score, but they found the end zone later when they pick-sixed Allen. It wasn’t completely Allen’s fault, as the slightly low ball popped out of the hands of Cole Beasley. Allen had another interception later in the opening half, but that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
While Allen wasn’t really responsible for the two picks, he made other mistakes. He should have been intercepted twice in the second half, but was lucky the New York defenders dropped his passes. With the Jets blowing chances to seal the game, Allen was able to lead a furious fourth-quarter charge, ultimately connecting John Brown for the go-ahead touchdown, thanks to some horrible coverage by Jets cornerback Darryl Roberts. It didn’t help that linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was having a spectacular game, left the field with a groin injury. His absence throughout the entire fourth quarter was one of the primary reasons the Jets blew their 16-0 lead.
Allen finished 24-of-37 for 254 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He also rushed 10 times for 38 yards and a second score. This could have been an uglier showing for Allen, but he’ll ultimately be forgiven because of what he did late in the afternoon. It must be noted that the Jets have one of the better defenses in the NFL, so Allen should have better total performances in the future.
The Bills had a curious game plan at the beginning of this contest, as they refused to run the ball. They had just three carries in the opening half, with Frank Gore handling all of them. Devin Singletary saw just one touch – a reception – which is something the Bills rectified in the second half. Singletary was given eight touches following intermission, and he made the most out of all of them. He rushed for 70 yards on four carries, while catching five passes for 28 receiving yards. His lone blunder was a drop. The CBS announcers marveled at how special Singletary looked. Singletary should have a much greater workload as his rookie campaign progresses. Gore, on the other hand, should see his workload diminish. He mustered just 20 yards on 11 attempts.
Brown, who caught the decisive touchdown, hauled in seven catches for 123 yards. He was the only Buffalo player with more than 40 receiving yards, as Beasley (5-40) was next on the stat sheet. Beasley dropped a couple of passes, and as mentioned, he was responsible for one of Allen’s interceptions.
Moving on to the Jets, this was not a very good performance from Sam Darnold. Like Allen, Darnold was battling one of the best defenses in the NFL, featuring second-year linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, who was flying all over the field. Thus, things should get better for Darnold later this season.
Still, Darnold had a chance to get the victory at the end. He had an open Robby Anderson deep downfield, but he overshot him. This was one of several occasions in which Darnold and Anderson couldn’t connect. On one sequence in the third quarter, Darnold skipped a pass to Anderson, then overshot him on the very next play. At any rate, Darnold’s comeback attempt concluded in disappointment, as he had some passes batted at the line of scrimmage, which was a problem for him throughout the afternoon.
Darnold finished a very disappointing 28-of-41 for only 177 yards and a touchdown. He never looked quite comfortable in the pocket. Buffalo’s great defense simply rattled him.
Le’Veon Bell had a strong debut for the Jets despite battling an elite defense. He gained 60 yards on 17 carries, while catching six of his nine targets for 32 receiving yards and a touchdown. The stats don’t tell the whole story, as Bell broke countless tackles throughout the afternoon.
With Darnold having trouble connecting to Anderson (3-23), Darnold was locked in on Jamison Crowder. The former Redskin hauled in a whopping 14 of his 17 targets for 99 yards. His lone blunder was a dropped pass. I don’t expect this sort of production going forward, as Anderson will be in easier matchups.
Ravens 59, Dolphins 10
Lamar Jackson looked like the greatest quarterback in the NFL in this game, but this performance should be taken with a grain of salt. Not only was he battling the worst team in the NFL; his opponent wasn’t even trying. I’m not sure if it was because the Dolphins knew their season was doomed, or if this was a reaction to the team trading Laremy Tunsil, but they did not display any sort of effort in the 2019 opener.
In addition to the expected missed tackles, there were plays in which multiple Miami defenders stopped moving. There was one play that stuck out to me. Down 28-3 in the middle of the second quarter, the Ravens recovered the ball off a muffed punt. Jackson capitalized by finding Miles Boykin in the end zone. Boykin was standing by himself, while several Dolphin players just stood in place, watching the Baltimore receiver catch the score. I have never seen a collection of players on the same team just stop playing. It was unreal, and if this is the sort of effort Miami will present each week, the team will need to be underdogs of 20-plus against every single opponent.
Jackson had an otherworldly performance. He hit his receivers with multiple bombs, and he didn’t even fire his first incompletion until there were three minutes remaining in the second quarter. That was his lone misfire of the opening half, as Jackson was 10-of-11 for 210 yards and four touchdowns by intermission. He ended up finishing 17-of-20 for 324 yards and five scores.
It would be nice if we could take this seriously, but the Dolphins missed tackles and stopped trying. This was a small sample size against players who quit on their organization, so we’ll need to see Jackson perform positively against real opponents over a longer span to deem him a success as a passer.
What we can determine is that Marquise Brown is fast. The first-round rookie displayed blazing speed in this game, zooming by bewildered Dolphin defensive backs. Brown ended up catching four passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns despite not playing the entire game. There was question about Brown’s health entering this season, but he proved his doubters wrong. He’s worth adding in all fantasy formats because he’s so talented. I’m concerned about his quarterbacking, but there’s no doubting Brown’s pure ability.
Mark Ingram rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns, doing so on just 14 carries. Ingram’s stat line would have been so much better had he gotten more than just five attempts in the second half, thanks to this being a horrible blowout.
I’m not going to spend much time on the Dolphins. They didn’t try, so why should I when talking about them? Ryan Fitzpatrick was 14-of-29 for 185 yards, one touchdown and a dumb interception launched into triple coverage. Josh Rosen eventually replaced him and tossed a pick himself on a lazy throw toward the sideline. Meanwhile, undrafted rookie receiver Preston Williams had some nice moments, catching three passes for 24 yards and a touchdown.
Chiefs 40, Jaguars 26
This game was a blood bath as far as injuries to major players was concerned. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Nick Foles all got hurt, and if that wasn’t enough, Myles Jack also left early, but because of an ejection. Jack seemingly wanted to fight everyone when he was tossed out, even his own teammates. Perhaps he was angry that he joined me in a heavy wager on Jacksonville, as it was apparent that the Jaguars didn’t have much of a chance, based on how Patrick Mahomes was playing.
It appeared as though Mahomes would have a chance to break the single-game passing record at one point, given that he accumulated 313 yards by halftime. Unfortunately, the Jaguars couldn’t quite keep up, so the Chiefs didn’t have to throw very much in the second half. Perhaps this was for the best, as Mahomes hurt his foot in the second quarter. He had to be helped off, and he even went into the dreaded blue tent. It looked like an absolute disaster, especially after Tyreek Hill was carted off after being tackled viciously by Jalen Ramsey. Somehow, Mahomes didn’t miss a single snap. He had his leg taped quickly and was able to return to the field. However, Mahomes didn’t look as spry as earlier, and it seemed like he was hobbling a bit. This is worth monitoring in the future, but perhaps Mahomes will be 100 percent by Week 2.
Hill, meanwhile, had to be hospitalized because the shoulder injury he suffered affected his sternum. He’ll miss a few weeks, according to media reports.
The Chiefs may have lost Hill, but they won this game and should get their star receiver back sometime soon. The Jaguars, on the other hand, lost their quarterback for quite some time. Nick Foles broke his collar bone, so he’ll be missing action for a while. It’s a shame for Foles, as his final pass was a terrific fade to D.J. Chark, who made a great over-the-shoulder grab. Sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew replaced him and misfired on just three of his 25 attempts. He was 22-of-25 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Minshew’s stats look great, but he was battling a poor defense playing prevent for much of the second half. Also, it must be noted that all but two of his passes were short tosses. Both deep throws were to Chark; one occurred when Tyrann Mathieu bit badly on play-action, while the other was a connection where Chark was wide open along the sideline. Minshew’s other attempts were close to the line of scrimmage, so I would not count on this sort of production continuing. Granted, those short throws were accurate, but superior defenses that are not nursing a big lead will have an answer. It must also be noted that Minshew was dreadful in the preseason, so with all that in mind, it’s hard to buy this performance as a sign of things to come.
Chark, who made the great catch described earlier, finished with four catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. Chris Conley (6-97) and Dede Westbrook (5-30) also scored. It’s difficult to trust this sort of production continuing because the Jaguars will play better defenses in most weeks, and I’m not a believer in Minshew.
The Jaguars want Leonard Fournette to handle the workload on all three downs. Fournette put in lots of work this offseason and looks to be in great shape. However, he didn’t get a chance to carry the ball very much because his team was well behind all afternoon. He rushed for 66 yards on just 13 attempts. He caught four passes for 28 receiving yards as well. Fournette also lost a fumble near the red zone when the game was still in doubt. With the score 23-13, the Jaguars gift-wrapped a touchdown to the Chiefs with three penalties following the turnover, including a stupid unsportsmanlike infraction.
Going back to the Chiefs, Mahomes finished 25-of-33 for 378 yards and three touchdowns. This may seem like a typical Mahomes stat line, but this was against one of the best defenses in the NFL, on the road. Mahomes is unbelievable. Assuming his foot is OK, he’ll continue to perform as the best real-life and fantasy quarterback in the NFL.
With Hill out, Mahomes will pepper Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce with even more targets than usual. Watkins led the way in this game with nine catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He won’t have this sort of production each week, obviously, but he’ll be a fantasy WR1 as long as he remains healthy and Hill continues to be out. The health is a big factor, as Watkins is currently a far different player now that he’s finally over all of his foot injuries.
Kelce, meanwhile, caught three passes for 88 yards. He should have posted a much better stat line, but one of Mahomes’ few bad passes of the afternoon slipped out of his hand when Kelce was open for an easy touchdown. Kelce appeared to score later, but was ruled out of bounds.
The Chiefs split the touches between their backs almost evenly. LeSean McCoy showed a great burst, gaining 81 yards on 10 carries. Damien Williams wasn’t as good on the ground – 13 carries, 26 yards – but he scored a touchdown and also caught six passes for 39 receiving yards.
Eagles 32, Redskins 27
The Eagles didn’t use any of their starters in the preseason, and they certainly played like it in the opening half. They were down 17-0 against one of the worst teams in the NFL, thanks to some horrid tackling efforts from Andrew Sendejo and Rodney McLeod, as well as some shoddy coverage that left pedestrian players wide open. It appeared as though Philadelphia would lose in absolutely humiliating fashion at one point.
And then, the Eagles remembered how to play football again. It began when Carson Wentz found DeSean Jackson for a 51-yard bomb, putting Philadelphia on the scoreboard. This occurred right before halftime, and it gave the Eagles much-needed momentum after intermission. The Eagles began dominating on the ground with their numerous backs, while Wentz continued to exploit Washington’s secondary. Wentz was a terrific 16-of-21 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
Wentz finished 28-of-39 for 313 yards and three touchdowns. The connection that he has with Jackson is real. Jackson has never played with a quarterback as talented as Wentz, and the early results clearly demonstrate that. Jackson caught eight passes for a whopping 154 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson hurt his team by ruining the opening drive with a stupid unsportsmanlike penalty, but he more than made up for it.
Aside from Jackson, Zach Ertz led the other Eagles in receiving with five catches for 54 yards. The other rookie tight end, Dallas Goedert, hauled in two of just three targets for 16 yards. Meanwhile, Alshon Jeffery (5-49) was the other Philadelphia receiver to reel in a Wentz touchdown. Jeffery also scored a rushing touchdown, which was a slightly backward pass.
Excluding the slow start, something the Eagles can be criticized for is their running back usage. Despite trading for a runner in Jordan Howard, and using a second-round pick on another, Miles Sanders, they gave Darren Sproles more touches than anyone else. Sproles turned his nine carries into 47 yards. Jordan Howard had just six carries, rushing for 44 yards. Miles Sanders actually had the most rush attempts, but didn’t get much work as a receiver out of the backfield. Sanders had just 25 yards on 11 tries, but looked much better than that. He had a touchdown wiped out by a penalty late in the game.
As for the Redskins, it’s safe to say that their offense exceeded expectations. Missing All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, lacking proven talent at receiver, and starting a journeyman in Case Keenum, Washington wasn’t even expected to reach double digits. And yet, the Redskins scored 20 points in the opening half. It didn’t seem like real life.
Things became normalized once the Eagles stopped blowing coverages and missing tackles, as the only points the Redskins put on the scoreboard following intermission was a garbage-time score with six seconds remaining that covered the spread for Washington. It’s worth noting though that Keenum, at one point in the third quarter, had Terry McLaurin wide open for a touchdown, but overthrew him.
Keenum finished 30-of-44 for 380 yards and three touchdowns. It would be difficult to believe that stat line had I not seen it myself. That said, Keenum’s second-half numbers were significantly worse, as he was 14-of-22 for 113 yards and a score following intermission, and even that was aided by garbage time.
The big take-away from the opener for the Redskins was the play of rookie receiver Terry McLaurin. The Ohio State product caught five passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, and his stats would’ve been so much better had Keenum hit him for a deep score when he was wide open. McLaurin is a terrific route runner, so it’s not a surprise that he performed well in his debut. However, this sort of production, considering the circumstances, was unexpected. McLaurin needs to be added in all formats.
Elsewhere in the Redskins’ receiving corps, Paul Richardson (4-36) and Terry Quinn (4-33) saw seven and six targets, respectively. Quinn also reeled in a touchdown, as did Vernon Davis (4-59), who started in place of the concussed Jordan Reed.
The Redskins couldn’t run the ball to salt this game away, as Derrius Guice mustered only 18 yards on 10 carries. Perhaps things would have been different had Jay Gruden not made Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch.
Vikings 28, Falcons 12
The Vikings were favored by just slightly more than a field goal in this game, yet the difference looked like the spread should have been 30 points. The Falcons couldn’t do anything positive against the Vikings in an absolutely disgusting one-sided affair. The final score of this game had the Falcons ultimately losing by 16, but this was a 28-0 contest when the Vikings took their foot off the gas.
Minnesota had an answer for everything the Falcons were trying to do offensively. When Matt Ryan dropped back to pass, he saw a swarm of pressure in his face and couldn’t find any open receivers downfield. When they tried to run the ball, Devonta Freeman was bottled up. When the Falcons hit some lucky gains to advance deep into Minnesota territory, the Vikings came up with some big plays to force some take-aways.
Meanwhile, the Vikings’ offense had its way with the beleaguered Atlanta stop unit. The Falcons, who refuse to upgrade their run defense every offseason for some reason, were trampled by both Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. They also failed to pressure Kirk Cousins, getting to him once.
Speaking of Cousins, the Vikings dominated this game so much that he only had to throw the ball 10 times. Cousins completed eight of those attempts for 98 yards and a touchdown. This alone would have disappointed his fantasy owners, but Cousins was able to rush in a touchdown on a sneak, which was set up by a pass interference flag that Adam Thielen drew.
With Cousins completing only eight passes, the Viking receivers weren’t completely productive. Thielen (3-43) was at least able to score a touchdown, but Stefon Diggs (2-37) didn’t do very much.
I mentioned Atlanta’s inability to stop Cook and Mattison earlier. Cook rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries, while Mattison gained 49 yards on nine attempts. The Falcons have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, so this was not a surprise.
Going back to Atlanta’s offense, box-score observers may not believe how dreadful the Falcons were on this side of the ball by looking at the stats. Matt Ryan eclipsed the 300-yard barrier, going 33-of-46 for 304 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. However, most of Ryan’s yardage and both of his scores came in garbage time. Ryan didn’t have much of a chance because of the pressure he saw, but he wasn’t very good. One of his picks was on an ugly throw, as he released the ball off his back foot. He then lofted up a horrible pass into the end zone for his second interception.
Julio Jones (6-31) and Calvin Ridley (4-64) were the two Atlanta receivers who caught touchdowns in garbage time. They both trailed Austin Hooper on the stat sheet. Hooper, a very athletic tight end, is seemingly becoming a great player at his position, as he caught all nine of his targets for 77 yards.
As mentioned earlier, Freeman had nowhere to run. He mustered just 19 yards on eight carries. He also made a huge mistake, losing a fumble near the red zone when this was still a close game.
Rams 30, Panthers 27
Despite trailing by 10 at halftime, the Panthers were well ahead on the stat sheet. They had outgained the Rams by 31 yards and averaged 1.3 more yards per play. However, they were down by double digits because of numerous mistakes they made. It started on the opening drive, as the promising possession concluded right outside of the red zone when D.J. Moore lost a fumble. The Panthers then missed a 53-yard field goal, which would have been from 48 had there not been a delay-of-game penalty. And if that wasn’t enough, Cam Newton threw a stupid backward pass to Moore that hit the ground and was recovered by the opposition, setting up a Rams touchdown on a short field.
Whereas the Panthers were killed by their own mistakes, they couldn’t capitalize on some potential Rams blunders. For example, Jared Goff was nearly intercepted right before halftime because of heavy pressure, but Luke Kuechly couldn’t quite get to the ball. Todd Gurley fumbled the ball to open the third quarter, but Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein pounced on it before a Carolina defender was able to. And if that wasn’t an enough, another pass of Goff’s should have been intercepted, but cornerback James Bradbury dropped the ball.
The Panthers trailed for the entire game as a result of all of these blown opportunities, but they were able to keep things close because of Christian McCaffrey. The All-Pro back had a huge game against Wade Phillips’ defense, rushing for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while also catching 10 of his 11 targets for 81 receiving yards. McCaffrey single-handedly kept the Panthers alive, but Carolina’s constant, unforced errors ruined any sort of a chance for victory.
Newton’s aforementioned backward toss to Moore wasn’t the only turnover he was guilty of. Newton also threw a horrible interception in the fourth quarter when the Panthers had a chance to take the lead. His two give-aways set up 14 of the Rams’ 30 points, so he was mostly responsible for this loss. Newton had some bright moments, however, as he completed most of his passes. He finished 25-of-39 for 239 yards and the two turnovers. While the completion percentage is fine, Newton missed some lay-up throws he should have hit. Also, it’s worth noting that Newton barely scrambled, as it appears as though he’s not 100 percent. In fact, he didn’t log an official run until the 11-minute mark of the third quarter.
The two Panther receivers got lots of hype at various points during the summer. Curtis Samuel didn’t do much, catching three passes for 32 yards. Moore had the better statistical day with seven grabs for 76 yards, but his lost fumble at the beginning of the afternoon cost the Panthers at least three points, which ended up being the margin of victory for the Rams.
As for the Rams, Goff went 23-of-39 for 186 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Goff was very fortunate that he didn’t throw three picks. He also missed open receivers on several occasions. Goff seemed to lock in on Robert Woods too often, and he didn’t see open receivers downfield as a result. Based on how he played, Goff had no business winning this game. He can thank Carolina for gift-wrapping this victory for him.
With Goff locking in on Woods so often, it’s no surprise that Woods led the Rams with eight catches for 70 yards. Cooper Kupp (7-46) and Brandin Cooks (2-39) posted meager stats as a result.
The Rams told us that Gurley would receive his usual big workload. That turned out to be nonsense, as Gurley had just three more carries than Malcolm Brown. Gurley finished with 97 yards on 14 carries, while Brown gained 53 yards on 11 attempts. However, Brown, who ran with great power, vultured two touchdowns away from Gurley. That had to frustrate those who were foolish enough to select Gurley in the first round of their fantasy draft.
New Rams safety Eric Weddle took a knee to the head in the second quarter. Blood gushed out of his head as a result of this collision. If you haven’t seen what this looked like, you should do a Google search unless the sight of blood makes you squeamish.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I didn’t think the Browns would be as good as people thought they’d be because of high expectations and a questionable offensive line, but wow. I did not expect a 30-point loss to Tennessee.
A breakout year was expected for the Browns, but they killed themselves with 18 penalties for 182 lost yards and three Baker Mayfield interceptions. Tennessee capitalized on the mistakes, and new Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith called a great game using Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Delanie Walker to put points on the board.
The Browns moved down the field impressively on the opening drive with Mayfield distributing the ball to Odell Beckham and Rashard Higgins (2-46) and a good run by Nick Chubb. Dontrell Hilliard scored a touchdown to conclude the drive. The Titans responded with rookie wideout A.J. Brown torching the Cleveland defense for a 47-yard reception that set up a short field goal for Cairo Santos.
After trading some punts, the Browns’ defense gifted a drive to Tennessee as four Browns penalties were critical. Sheldon Richardson was called for roughing-the-passer penalty and then Richardson jumped off offsides on a third-and-4 to set up the Titans at the 6-yard line. A few plays later, Derrick Henry dived into the end zone to put the Titans up 10-6. Just before the half, Cameron Wake got to Mayfield for his second sack of the game, this time getting a safety on his 100th career sack. Tennessee took a 12-6 lead into the locker room.
To open the third quarter, Mariota connected with Brown on a crossing route, and the strong rookie rumbled down the field for a 51-yard gain, using his strength to shed blockers. Santos then drilled a 53-yard field goal to up the Titans up 15-6. Cleveland finally got moving late in the third quarter with Mayfield using Jarvis Landry (4-67) for two receptions for 57 yards to set up a short touchdown pass to David Njoku (4-37-1). The Titans answered immediately with a 75-touchdown pass on a screen to Henry that caught the Browns’ defense completely by surprise.
Kevin Byard picked off Mayfield to set up the Titans in Cleveland territory, and a few plays later, Tennessee put the game away with Mariota tossing an 11-yard touchdown pass to Delanie Walker. Logan Ryan promptly picked off Mayfield, and Mariota turned that opportunity into another touchdown pass to Walker. In garbage time, Malcolm Butler produced a pick-six of Mayfield off of a tipped pass.
Mariota was 14-of-24 for 248 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brown (3-100) and Walker (5-55-2) led Tennessee through the air.
Henry was the engine for the Tennessee offense, running for 84 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown and adding a 75-yard receiving touchdown.
Mayfield was 25-of-38 for 285 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Nick Chubb ran for 74 yards on 16 carries. In his Browns debut, Beckham had 71 yards on seven catches.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Andy Dalton throws for 400 yards? John Ross is the best receiver ever? D.K. Metcalf out-produces Tyler Lockett? Can we pretend this game never happened?
Every year, there are some shocking upsets of Week 1 in the NFL, and the Bengals almost pulled one off in the coaching debut of Zac Taylor. Cincinnati almost knocked off the Seahawks on the road, with Andy Dalton setting career highs in completions and yardage. While the Seahawks got the win, if their secondary doesn’t play better, they’re going to be in big trouble in the NFC playoff race. On the positive side for Seattle’s defense, Jadeveon Clowney had a strong debut for the Seahawks, while Quinton Jefferson was superb.
The Bengals struck first late in the first quarter, with Dalton distributing the ball to get Cincinnati a field goal. Midway through the second quarter, the Seahawks got the ball at midfield and finally put a drive together, which ended with a short touchdown run for Chris Carson. The Seahawks’ lead didn’t last long, as Dalton hit C.J. Uzomah (4-66) for 36 yards and John Ross got open on a wheel route for a 33-yard touchdown.
Just before the half, Wilson connected with rookie D.K. Metcalf for a 42-yard gain, and Wilson hit Carson in the flat for a 10-yard touchdown. Dalton then laid out a deep ball for John Ross that should have been broken up by Seahawks safety Tedric Thompson, but Thompson mistimed his jump and did a poor job of tracking the trajectory of the ball. That allowed Ross to make a leaping grab before coasting 10 yards into the end zone with a 55-yard touchdown. That put Cincinnati up 17-14 at intermission.
It started raining before the start of the third quarter, and the wet ball made a difference right away. On the first play from scrimmage, Carson fumbled the ball away to set up the Bengals at the Seattle 30. However, Dalton gave it right back when the ball slipped out of his hand and defensive tackle Al Woods caught it in air for an interception.
A 35-yard screen pass to Gio Bernard set up Cincinnati for more points, but Randy Bullock missed a field goal that turned out to be a critical blow for Cincinnati. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 44-yard touchdown that was the winning score and Lockett’s only catch of the game. The Bengals answered with a field goal drive to cut the Seahawks lead to 21-20 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Seattle defense came up with a stop to secure the win.
Wilson was 14-of-20 for 196 yards with two touchdowns. Metcalf led the Seahawks in receiving with four receptions for 89 yards.
Carson had a fumble, but he ran for 46 yards on 15 carries with a score and caught six passes for 35 yards with a touchdown.
Dalton completed 35-of-51 passes for 418 yards with two touchdowns. Ross led Cincinnati through the air with seven receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
Bengals running back Joe Mixon suffered a leg injury in the third quarter and left the game. Bernard (7-21) was Cincinnati’s leading rusher.
Clowney had a fast start to the game with a near interception on a batted pass, some good plays against the run, and some pressure on Dalton. He came up with a clutch sack in the fourth quarter with Cincinnati driving. Considering Clowney had no training camp practices and was thrown into a new scheme without the normal offseason time to learn the playbook, it was an excellent debut. After a fast start from Clowney, the Seahawks’ best defender was Quinton Jefferson. He was all over Dalton and made plays in the ground game.
Chargers 30, Colts 24
One would assume that the Colts would have the special-teams advantage in this game. Adam Vinatieri is the greatest kicker in NFL history, while the Chargers were going with a backup kicker, Ty Long, because of an injury to their starter. Yet, Vintatieri was the person mostly responsible for this loss for Indianapolis.
Vinatieri missed an extra point, a 46-yard field goal and then a chip-shot attempt. And it’s not like weather played a factor; there wasn’t much wind, and Long drilled all of his kicks. It’s just a stark reminder that Vinatieri is 46 years old. It might be time for the Colts to search for a new kicker because they would have prevailed had Vinatieri drilled at least one of those errant field goals.
It’s a shame that Vinatieri ruined what would have been a nice victory for Jacoby Brissett. Andrew Luck’s replacement misfired on just six of his passes, going 21-of-27 for 190 yards and two touchdowns. He played very well, especially when considering that he saw more pressure than expected behind his elite offensive line. He took some untimely sacks in this contest, but was able to lead a fourth-quarter comeback to make up for all of Vinatiari’s misses. Unfortunately for Brissett, he never got a chance to possess the ball in overtime, as the Chargers scored a touchdown on their initial drive.
Brissett wasn’t the only player in the Colts’ backfield who performed extremely well. The Colts had plenty of success running the ball up the middle against the Chargers’ weak interior. Marlon Mack totaled 174 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Brissett certainly locked in on his lone, proven receiver. T.Y. Hilton caught eight of his nine targets for 87 yards and two touchdowns, one of which tied the game in the fourth quarter. Hilton did this in a very difficult matchup, so this has to be an encouraging sign for his fantasy owners.
Elsewhere in the Colts’ receiving corps, Deon Cain (2-35) was next on the stat sheet, followed by Devin Funchess (3-32), who got dinged up in this game. Neither of the tight ends was productive (Jack Doyle: 1-20; Eric Ebron: 1-8), but Ebron was robbed of a touchdown when an overzealous official ruled a pass incomplete when it was evident that Ebron secured the ball inbounds.
Moving on to the Chargers, Philip Rivers thrived versus an improving defense, finishing 25-of-34 for 333 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Rivers’ pick allowed the Colts to have one more chance to force overtime. The Chargers had the ball in the red zone, and Rivers locked in on a target in the end zone. However, safety Malik Hooker was able to make a ridiculous one-handed interception to set up Indianapolis’ tying drive.
Austin Ekeler caught two of Rivers’ touchdowns. He rushed for 58 yards and a score on 12 carries and also reeled in six catches for 96 receiving yards. Combined with Justin Jackson (6-57) running well, the Chargers won’t exactly be desperate for Melvin Gordon to return.
The only Charger who had more receiving yardage than Ekeler was Keenan Allen, who snared eight of his 10 targets for 123 yards and a touchdown. Allen dropped a pass in the second quarter, but that didn’t impact the Chargers’ scoring opportunities. Hunter Henry (4-60) also looked good. His stats should have been better, but he had a nice gain negated by a penalty.
Lions 27, Cardinals 27
Kyler Murray looked like a No. 1 overall bust through three quarters. Arizona couldn’t muster any sort of offense, trailing 24-6 at some point. At halftime, Murray was 6-of-16 for 41 yards and an interception, which was a late throw toward the sideline. He also had another potential pick that was dropped. Arizona as a whole was gaining two yards per play, compared to 6.7 by the Lions. Murray had severe issues with Detroit’s pass rush, so he had to settle for short throws in between his inaccurate, deep hurls. He also had three passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
It seemed like the Cardinals would lose in blowout fashion, but Murray suddenly came to life. He torched Detroit’s defense, going 14-of-17 for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. This does not include a 45-yard bomb to Larry Fitzgerald to begin overtime, setting up a field goal. Thanks to a poor rules change by the NFL, the Cardinals had just two opportunities to score in the extra session. They, as well as the Lions, converted on one each, so this concluded with a tie.
Though neither team won or lost, the Lions have to feel like they suffered a defeat, as they blew a 24-6 lead. The Cardinals, on the other hand, “prevailed.” There seemed to be lots of excitement on the sideline, even as it appeared as though there would be no official winner. That said, the Cardinals really blew a chance to get the victory, as defensive back Tramaine Brock dropped a gift-wrapped interception at the conclusion of overtime, which would have set up an easy field goal.
At any rate, Murray finished 29-of-54 for 308 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was battling a tough defense, so the slow start was understandable. The hot finish was unfathomable when Arizona was struggling so much, but it has to present Cardinal fans with lots of hope for the future.
Despite playing with a rookie receiver, Larry Fitzgerald posted a strong stat line, catching eight passes for 113 yards and a touchdown. He made a deep, diving catch on third-and-long at the beginning of the fourth quarter, which seemed to be the catalyst for Arizona’s comeback. He saw one more target than Christian Kirk, who caught four balls for 32 yards and a two-point conversion. Rookie receiver KeeSean Johnson was also a factor with five grabs for 46 yards.
David Johnson looks rejuvenated off a couple of down years. Johnson rushed for 82 yards on 18 tries, all while catching six passes for 55 receiving yards and a touchdown. He had a 13-yard burst negated by a hold.
The Lions, meanwhile, have to feel bad for losing this game, but at least they know their first-round pick performed like a stud. There were flashes of Rob Gronkowski from T.J. Hockenson. The former Iowa tight end reeled in six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. Despite being a consensus late-round fantasy pick, Hockenson appears to be a legitimate fantasy TE1.
Elsewhere in the Detroit receiving corps, Danny Amendola caught seven passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, but those stats were enhanced by all of the injuries in Arizona’s defensive backfield. Kenny Golladay (4-42) also scored.
Matthew Stafford finished 27-of-45 for 385 yards and three touchdowns. This was a pretty stat line, but keep in mind that he had a very favorable matchup against Arizona’s reeling secondary. He also lost a fumble on a strip-sack and was lucky to not throw a game-losing interception at the end of overtime.
Kerryon Johnson had just five more carries than C.J. Anderson, which is a bit worrying. Anderson was the one on the field when the Lions were running out the clock. He also was given an early third-and-1 try, which he failed to convert. He gained 25 yards on his 11 attempts, while Johnson tallied 49 yards on 16 tries. Johnson saw a 12-yard scamper wiped out by a hold.
Cowboys 35, Giants 17
Jerry Jones has given massive contracts to Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith recently. Based on this performance, it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s currently drafting up a huge deal for his quarterback.
Dak Prescott had a terrific output in this game. He misfired on just seven attempts, going 25-of-32 for a ridiculous 405 yards and four touchdowns. None of these numbers were illegitimate, as he shredded the Giants with tremendous precision. One of his best throws was a great fade to Michael Gallup down the sideline. Another was a beautiful rainbow fade to Amari Cooper, who easily beat first-round cornerback DeAndre Baker off the line of scrimmage. But that leads me to my main take-away, which is that it’s difficult to trust what we saw in this game. The Giants, now without Olivier Vernon and Landon Collins, might have the worst defense in the NFL. They’re sorely lacking at every position and each level of their stop unit. I have a feeling that almost every quarterback who battles them this year will be able to perform on an All-Pro level.
Each of Prescott’s four touchdowns went to different players. Cooper (6-106), Randall Cobb (4-69), Blake Jarwin (3-39) and Jason Witten (3-15) all scored. Cobb’s yardage was just fine, but he set up a touchdown by getting a first down with a vicious stiff-arm when it looked like he would be stopped shy of the marker on third down.
The receiver who had the best output in terms of yardage was Gallup, though he failed to find the end zone. Gallup caught all seven of his targets for 158 yards in this contest. Again, it’s difficult to trust our eyes here because of how bad the Giants’ defense is, but Gallup looked good in brief action during the preseason, so it’s not a big surprise to see the sort of stats he posted.
There were reports indicating that Ezekiel Elliott would play 20-25 snaps in this game. Elliott, as a result, had as many carries as Tony Pollard, 13. Elliott predictably outgained Pollard, 53-24, and he scored a touchdown. Elliott should’ve had more yardage, but a 16-yard burst of his was negated by an illegal shift. That penalty and the low yardage were a disappointment for Elliott owners, who needed the touchdown to salvage their afternoon. However, Elliott’s touches will increase exponentially in the coming weeks.
The Giants, meanwhile, looked like they would be able to compete in this matchup when Saquon Barkley ran 59 yards on his first carry, setting up an Eli Manning touchdown pass to Evan Engram. However, Barkley was given just 10 more attempts after that (11 carries, 120 yards.) This was an extremely confusing game plan by the Giants, who refused to give the ball to their best player. And don’t blame the score; Barkley had just five carries in the first half, which he turned into 73 yards. The score was 21-7 at intermission – and 14-7 right before it – so there was absolutely no excuse for Barkley having five carries compared to Eli Manning’s 19 pass attempts.
This has been emblematic of the main problem the Giants have endured over the past few seasons. For some reason, they refuse to believe what everyone else knows: Eli Manning is done. That was evident in this game, as Manning’s 19 first-half pass attempts went for just 102 yards. He was lucky that he didn’t throw an interception, as he heaved up a ball up for grabs at the end of the opening quarter. Manning put together a good overall stat line – 30-of-44, 306 yards, one touchdown – but much of that came in garbage time. Manning needs to be benched as soon as possible. He stinks.
Speaking of garbage time, Daniel Jones was given one drive toward the end of regulation. Jones completed 3-of-4 attempts for 17 yards, but the drive ended when he lost a fumble. Jones was great in the preseason, but he had ball-security issues. This is not a surprise, given that Jones is a rookie, and it is correctable. If Pat Shurmur has a brain, he’ll start Jones next week.
Evan Engram had two great performances against the Cowboys last year, and that trend continued in this contest. Engram caught 11 of his 14 targets for 118 yards and a touchdown. Cody Latimer (3-74) and Sterling Shepard (6-42) were next on the list. An odd exclusion is Barkley, who caught only four passes. It’s an absolute joke that Barkley was given just 15 touches in this game. It’s as if Shurmur and his staff forgot that he was on the roster.
49ers 31, Buccaneers 17
Jameis Winston got tons of hype entering the season. I understood the arguments, but couldn’t quite go there myself because of Winston’s lacking intelligence. To be frank, Winston is a clown, and he’s not capable of having consistent success as a passer in the NFL. Despite Bruce Arians “coaching him up,” Winston had an atrocious performance against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.
Winston failed to crack the 200-yard barrier despite throwing 36 times, and he heaved three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Sadly, Winston’s night could have easily been far worse, as two of his other passes were dropped picks. He also horribly overthrew Chris Godwin for what should have been a gain of 20 yards and then fumbled. He was fortunate that a teammate of his recovered the loose ball.
Winston finished 20-of-36 for 194 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He’ll get more chances to start because Tampa’s backup is someone named Ryan Griffin, but there’s a legitimate chance that Winston will be benched with more outings like this one.
Though Winston was a train wreck in this game, he was robbed of a couple of touchdowns, as two potential scores to Cameron Brate were wiped out by penalties. Poor Brate finished the game with a meager stat line, catching two passes for eight yards. The other tight end, O.J. Howard, secured four grabs for 32 yards. Howard was far worse than Brate, as he was responsible for two turnovers (one fumble; another a drop that bounced into the arms of a 49er.)
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Godwin led the team with 53 receiving yards on three catches, along with a touchdown. Mike Evans (2-28) had a very disappointing stat line.
It was very surprising that Ronald Jones had a strong performance in the season opener, to say the least. Jones gained 75 yards on 13 carries. The numbers are legit, as Jones ran with good speed and power. He appears to be in much better shape this year, and he’s worth an add in your fantasy league.
Despite the 49ers winning this game, there’s definitely plenty to be pessimistic about regarding their chances moving forward. Both coaching and quarterbacking are both concerns.
As far as the latter is concerned, Jimmy Garoppolo had a poor stat line despite the great matchup, going 18-of-27 for 166 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Garoppolo had two scores to George Kittle wiped out by penalties, but he had some interceptions that were dropped. His pick was returned for six, as he was confused by Tampa’s coverage. Garoppolo will need to perform better against stronger opponents, or the 49ers will lose most of those games.
The coaching, meanwhile, is the reason why Dante Pettis didn’t play. Kyle Shanahan criticized Pettis for some reason right after the preseason was complete, even stating that Pettis wasn’t a lock to make the roster. Pettis was barely used in this game, as he caught his lone target for seven yards. Shanahan told the media after the game that Pettis would need to “earn more time out there,” whatever that means. It’s not a good look that Shanahan has benched his best wide receiver for no apparent reason.
San Francisco’s best receiver – a non-wide receiver – is Kittle, who caught eight balls for 54 yards. As mentioned earlier, two touchdowns of his were wiped out by penalty, so he could have put together a huge performance.
The 49ers suffered injuries to their top two running backs, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida. Coleman (6-23) hurt his ankle, while Breida (15-37) went into the locker room and returned later. If Coleman is out a while, Raheem Mostert will be worth picking up. Mostert looked great against Tampa’s strong run defense, gaining 40 yards on nine carries.
New 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander was ejected in the first half for a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit on Winston. What he did could warrant a suspension, as it’s almost a miracle that Winston wasn’t concussed.
Patriots 33, Steelers 3
The Patriots have owned the Steelers over the years, but it’s never been like this. The Steelers are often competitive, but they weren’t anywhere close to New England in this latest version of their rivalry. The Patriots dominated, which is scary, considering that they didn’t even have Antonio Brown available yet.
There was question about how New England’s offensive line would perform without left tackle Trent Brown (free agency) and center David Andrews (injury) missing from last year’s stellar blocking unit. If this game is any indication, Tom Brady will be one of the least-sacked quarterbacks this season. Brady was barely touched against a Pittsburgh defense that features a great front and T.J. Watt rushing from the edge. Left tackle Isaiah Wynn, who was making his first career start, was outstanding on the blind side.
Thanks to the elite protection, Brady posted a great stat line. He finished 24-of-36 for 341 yards and three touchdowns, serving as the winning captain in Draft Kings Showdown lineups. There was no stopping Brady, who reportedly is housing Brown while the star receiver looks for a place to live in New England.
Phillip Dorsett won’t have much of a role when Brown joins the team, which is a shame, given what he did in this contest. Dorsett caught all four of his targets, leading the Patriots with 95 yards and two touchdowns. Josh Gordon (3-73) caught the other score, while Julian Edelman (6-83) was his usual, productive self.
Sony Michel owners had to be distraught watching this game, as their running back mustered only 14 yards on 15 carries. The Steelers have a great run defense, so Michel should perform better in the upcoming weeks.
As for the Steelers’ offense, it’s hard to say if they were more dreadful than the defense. They couldn’t sustain any drives, thanks to poor play-calling and many mistakes. The Steelers, for some reason, punted on a fourth-and-inches near midfield in the opening half and later called an outside toss to James Conner on a third-and-1. They even opted to kick a field goal at the New England 1-yard line.
When they weren’t running horrible plays, the Steelers weren’t functioning properly. New No. 2 receiver Donte Moncrief was abysmal, dropping two passes, one of which was in the end zone. Ben Roethlisberger was almost as awful, missing easy throws, launching passes off his back foot, and being lucky to avoid turnovers. Roethlisberger saw a potential interception dropped by a New England defender and a fumble in the red zone recovered by a teammate.
Roethlisberger finished 27-of-47 for 276 yards and an interception, but don’t be fooled, as those numbers are inflated by garbage time. At halftime, Roethlisberger was just 9-of-14 for 65 yards.
JuJu Smith-Schuster finished with six catches for 78 yards, but that was a mirage. He had just two receptions at halftime, as most of his production came at the end of the game when the Patriots weren’t trying as hard. This was not a surprise, as Bill Belichick has erased one aspect of an opposing offense for countless years.
With Smith-Schuster bound to be covered tightly, another Steeler receiver had to step up, and that didn’t happen. Moncrief saw 10 targets, yet he reeled in just three of them for seven yards, as he continued to be one of the least-efficient receivers in the NFL. James Washington (2-51) caught a 45-yard bomb, but that was it. Vance McDonald (2-40) saw his only receptions come on the final drive.
James Conner couldn’t find much running room against new England’s usually potent rush defense. He mustered only 21 yards on 10 attempts.
Saints 30, Texans 28
This was an exciting game that went back and forth in the second half, as Drew Brees and Deshaun Watson exchanged thrilling passes. There were even two lead changes in the final minute, with the Texans going up by one before Brees put together a blazing-fast drive to put Wil Lutz in position to drill the decisive kick.
Both quarterbacks were fantastic. Beginning with Watson, he hurled several deep bombs in this game, initially connecting on a 54-yard heave to Will Fuller. On his final drive, he hit DeAndre Hopkins with a 38-yard connection, then drilled newcomer Kenny Stills with a 37-yard heave into the end zone. Hopkins was 20-of-30 for 268 yards, four touchdowns (three pass, one rush) and an interception on a deep shot to Hopkins. There was a scary moment in this game where Hopkins injured himself on his touchdown run. He landed on his back and had to be taken to the blue tent twice. He was also getting a back massage at times during the evening. However, Watson proved that this was not a problem, as he was able to engineer a furious drive to put his team ahead with about half a minute remaining in regulation.
When the Texans scored that final touchdown, I instantly thought that they left too much time on the clock. That’s because the Saints had Brees, who was surgical in the second half; he went 16-of-20 for 210 yards and two touchdowns following intermission. Brees found Ted Ginn for 15, then connected with Michael Thomas for 11, then found Ginn once again, this time for nine, to set up Lutz’s game-winning field goal.
Brees had even better passing stats than Watson, going 32-of-43 for 370 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The pick came early, as Brees tried to make something happen in the red zone, but was intercepted by Whitney Mercilus, who had an incredible game. Brees, however, became more unstoppable as the evening progressed. The Texans have a great defense, yet had no answer for him.
Thomas and Ginn were instrumental on the final drive, and they led the team in receiving. Thomas caught 10 passes for 123 yards, while Ginn snatched all seven of his targets for 101 yards. However, neither caught Brees’ touchdowns. Those went to Tre’Quan Smith (2-26) and Taysom Hill. New tight end Jared Cook didn’t have a great outing, catching just two of his three targets for 37 yards.
With Mark Ingram gone, Alvin Kamara was on the field more frequently than usual as the Saints were trying to run out the clock. Kamara gained 87 yards on 13 carries, while also catching seven passes for 72 receiving yards. Latavius Murray (6-43) didn’t see as much work as Ingram, but he scored a touchdown.
As for the Texans’ play-makers, DeAndre Hopkins led the receivers with eight grabs for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He was terrific, save for a couple of plays in which he got his hands on Watson passes, but couldn’t reel them in. They were hard catches, but Hopkins typically comes down with those. Will Fuller (2-69) corralled a couple of deep passes, but saw just three targets, while Stills (3-37) was almost the hero of the night.
Carlos Hyde is a terrible runner, but he looked much better than expected. He gained 83 yards on just 10 carries. Duke Johnson saw one fewer carry, tallying 57 yards on nine attempts, while also catching four of his five targets for 33 receiving yards.
There was a horrible call in this game, which is worth discussing because the NFL emphasized better officiating in the wake of the disaster that occurred in New Orleans during the NFC Championship. And yet, they screwed up big time just prior to halftime. The booth automatically reviewed a call while there was a running clock. They overturned the play, but ruled that there should be a 10-second run-off. They actually penalized the Saints with a 20-second run-off by accident, which would have been bad enough if that was the only blunder. However, a 10-second run-off occurs when the clock goes from stopped to starting. The clock never stopped, so there shouldn’t have been a 10-second run-off in the first place.
It’s absolutely ridiculous that incompetent officials screwed up so badly in two facets. This wouldn’t have happened if plays weren’t automatically reviewed in the final two minutes of each half. Coaches should always be allowed to challenge, rather than rely on automatic replays.
Raiders 24, Broncos 16
It was unclear what sort of emotional reaction the Raiders would have entering this game. Would they be energized by playing on Monday night in front of their rabid fans, as they usually are, or would they succumb to being deflated about the Antonio Brown situation? I imagined that the Brown drama would serve as a distraction for Oakland, but that stance couldn’t have been more incorrect. Instead, the Raiders played with enormous passion and led throughout the entire evening as a result.
There were four Raider players who stood out offensively. First and foremost, Josh Jacobs was a stud. He became the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson to accumulate 100 net yards and score two rushing touchdowns in his league debut. Jacobs broke tackles throughout the entire evening, ultimately trampling Denver’s disappointing defense for 85 yards and two scores on 23 carries. He also caught a 28-yard pass, which featured countless broken tackles.
The second Raider who performed well was Derek Carr, who was unbelievably accurate in this contest. He shredded Denver’s talented secondary with pinpoint accuracy, misfiring on just four occasions. He was 22-of-26 for 259 yards and a touchdown. Carr was amazing, though it should be noted that the Broncos were missing their talented slot cornerback, Bryce Callahan. Still, it’s not a surprise to see Carr improve, as he’s being coached up extremely well by offensive coordinator/quarterbacks guru Greg Olson.
The other two Oakland players who showed out were Carr’s top receiving options. New receiver Tyrell Williams was explosive, catching six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, tight end Darren Waller, who was one of the MVPs of training camp, caught seven of his eight targets for 70 yards. If you need a fantasy tight end, don’t hesitate to scoop up Waller.
Moving on to the Broncos, they looked lifeless compared to their opponent, as the Raiders were playing with so much more passion, perhaps in an attempt to prove that they can win without Brown. Of course, it didn’t help that Denver’s offense took a big loss when star right tackle Ja’Wuan James was knocked out with an injury in the opening half. The Broncos had severe problems blocking on the right side without James.
Joe Flacco suffered as a result. He finished with a nice stat line, going 21-of-31 for 268 yards and a touchdown, but considering the matchup, he should have posted better numbers. Shoddy protection prevented him from doing so, as sustaining drives proved to be difficult without James, particularly in the red zone.
If there’s a silver lining in this loss, it’s that Courtland Sutton had a dominant performance. He caught seven of his eight targets for 120 yards. He looks like he’s going to be an excellent receiver in the NFL. And speaking of excellent wideouts, Emmanuel Sanders secured five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown, all while drawing an interference flag. Conversely, DaeSean Hamilton dropped an easy ball in the end zone that was tossed right into his lap.
The Broncos split touches among Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman almost evenly. Lindsay had just one more carry than Freeman, 11-10, and Freeman actually outgained Lindsay, 56-43. However, most of Freeman’s output came on a 26-yard burst that concluded with a violent helmet-to-helmet collision with Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley that resulted in Conley being taken off the field in a stretcher. Nevertheless, Denver’s misuse of Lindsay was curious, to say the least.
This, by the way, was not the only instance of poor coaching on Denver’s part. The Broncos appeared to be discombobulated at times, taking senseless delay-of-game penalties and wasting timeouts. They were better in the second half, but it didn’t look like Vic Fangio was ready for prime time.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.