The first week of the NFL is officially complete. There was a lot of media hype and drama leading up to the first game last Thursday night between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears on. Now that the games are played, let’s look back at a few lessons learned for three NFL teams surrounded by media attention.
The Cleveland Browns and their preseason hype are grounded. It is fair to say the Browns are now humbled in their embarrassing loss to the Tennesee Titans last Sunday. When Cleveland signed superstar wideout, Odell Beckham Jr., the hype was “Superbowl or bust.” QB, Baker Mayfield, is flush with talent at wide receiver, running back, and tight end. However, Mayfield cannot perform when he’s getting sacked five times and throwing three interceptions, with a passer rating of 64.0.
The Brown had more total offensive yards (346 yards) than the Titans (339 yards). The difference between the Brown’s two touchdowns and the Titan’s five were the turnovers, one of which was a pick-six by Super Bowl XLIX hero, Malcolm Butler. More so, it looked like Baker was not remotely in-season form when hurried out of the pocket or taking the sacks. In the end, I believe this loss ultimately helps the Browns moving forward. It’s time to dial down the hype and play ball.
The Dallas Cowboys dealt with their fair share of preseason drama, with RB Ezekiel Elliot’s holdout and contract negotiations for QB Dak Prescott and WR Amari Cooper. Dallas fans breathed a sigh of relief when owner, Jerry Jones, finally made Elliott the league’s highest-paid RB. The season opener solidified the team’s need to pay Prescott.
The first game at AT&T Stadium against rival, New York Giants, was near perfect for the Cowboys. For Dak, it was perfect. He completed 25 of 32 passing attempts to seven different receivers for 405 yards, four TDs, and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Dallas legends Troy Aikman and Tony Romo failed to achieve that feat. It was a performance for the record books. The timing was also perfect for Dak. It is time to pay the franchise QB.
The Oakland Raiders suffered their share of preseason headlines. Superstar WR, Antonio Brown, led the drama with his helmet holdout, social media outbursts, confrontation with Raider’s general manager, Mike Mayock, and his eventual release from the team. The world was there to watch most of this upfront and personal on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” When Brown left, NFL pundits and analysts alike wondered how the Raider’s would respond with the loss of their centerpiece. Truth is, AB was never truly the centerpiece of the team.
The 20th ranked (per Pro Football Focus) offensive line was the centerpiece. QB Derek Carr was not sacked once during the game, allowing him to throw for 256 yards, one TD, and a 121.0 passer rating. Rookie RB, Josh Jacobs, had 24 total touches (23 rushes and one reception) for 113 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. Jacobs’ stat line was achieved against one of the league’s better front-line defenses.
The comeback story of Raiders TE, Darren Waller, came full circle on Monday night. He caught seven of his eight targets for 70 yards. He was lined up at TE and in the slot. Waller is going to have a breakout year. 5th year WR Tyrell Williams also stepped up as the team’s number one wideout. He caught six of his seven passes for 105 yards and a TD. Williams is a prolific talent, able to fill the gap the AB left.
Chiefs WR, Sammy Watkins, is an instant must-start. He was the highest-scoring fantasy player in half-point PPR leagues (42.30). With the unfortunate temporary loss of WR Tyreek Hill, expect Patrick Mahomes to lean on Watkins, again. It stands to reason that Sammy is not sitting on the wire in your league since he’s rostered in 91% of Yahoo leagues.
Chargers RB Austin Ekeler scored 36.40 fantasy points with 154 yards and three TDs. With Melvin Gordon’s holdout expected to last until midseason, Ekeler is a high-end RB2 until further notice.
RBs Derek Henry, Marlon Mack, Josh Jacobs, and Dalvin Cook proved worthy of their ADPs, so far. Bears rookie RB, David Montgomery, flashed his potential with his limited seven touches. Bills rookie RB, Devin Singletary, posted 98 yards on 10 touches. Devin is only own in 76% in Yahoo leagues. If available, he should be the top waiver wire pick up for teams shallow at the position.
Tonight’s top waiver-wire pickups are WRs are Marquise Brown, Raven (32%); John Ross II, Bengals (12%); Terry McLaurin, Redskins (6%); Tyrell Williams, Raiders (64%); and DeSean Jackson, Eagles (67%). For TEs, expect teams to stand in line for Darren Waller, Raiders (45%) and T.J. Hockenson, Lions (53%).
Finally, for all other fantasy players, it’s important to remember to avoid panic. It’s merely one game and fantasy studs should return to form. It’s around weeks three and four when panic truly kicks in for potential busts or injured players like Joe Mixon (RB, Bengals), Devonta Freeman (RB, Falcons), Derrius Guice (RB, Redskins), Tyreek Hill (WR, Chiefs), Cam Newton (QB, Panthers), Ben Roethlisberger (QB, Steelers), Jameis Winston (QB, Bucs), and Mitchell Trubisky (QB, Bears). Until then, fantasy players should sit tight.