Week 1 recap: Beyond the Box Score
- There is no other way to describe it other than that you just know when you are watching something special happen, it's a feeling you get that is hard to describe. Watching Peyton Manning operate in the NFL season opener last week, I got a feeling that I have only experienced one other time watching an NFL offense. It happened when I watched the New England Patriots offense in Week 1 of the 2007 season, a year in which Tom Brady set an NFL record with 50 touchdown passes. The Denver Broncos are on the brink of an historic season offensively, if Peyton Manning's seven touchdown performance didn't convince you of that already. The reality is that they just have too many weapons and one of (if not) the greatest quarterback of all time at the helm. Even without a running game, opposing defenses can't shutdown Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker on the outside and also hope to contain Wes Welker (the best slot receiver in NFL history) and Julius Thomas (who is the real deal folks) over the middle of the field. I realize that the game was a few days ago, so I won't say anything else, but I haven't had a chance to express that opinion on the matter anywhere yet, except on Twitter where you can follow me @GeorgeBissell. Now lets get to the rest of Week 1.
New England 23
- It wasn't a vintage Tom Brady performance, as the Bills pressured him early and often, but the Patriots made enough plays down the stretch to pick up a victory on the road. Free agent acquisition Danny Amendola has never been known for his durability and did little to shed his injury-prone reputation when he exited with a groin injury in the first half of his Patriots debut. Amendola returned to the game in the second half, gutting out 104 yards on 10 catches, including four catches on New England's final drive that set up a game-winning field goal. Amendola and rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins each received a team-high 14 targets. Rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld, a popular pre-season sleeper, was targeted only once and had the pass go off his hands for an interception. Julian Edelman showed that he is going to play a major role in the offense this season, especially in the red-zone where he hauled in a pair of touchdowns, finishing with seven receptions for 79 yards. Clearly Amendola and Edelman are Brady's most trusted targets, making it hard to trust anyone else in this offense at this point in the season.
- Stevan Ridley was benched after a pair of first half fumbles, the second of which was returned 74 yards for a touchdown by Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy. Ridley passed the baton to Shane Vereen, who took full advantage of his opportunity, rushing for a career-high 101 yards on 14 carries. The California product averaged 7.2 yards per carry and was also a factor as a receiver out of the backfield grabbing seven passes for 58 yards. Ridley's status is uncertain for the moment. LeGarrette Blount (seven carries for 15 yards) could get involved with goal-line duties, but don't rush to grab him off the waiver wire just yet.
- Fred Jackson has always had success in his career against the Patriots, which makes you wonder if his increased usage in this game (13 carries for 67 yards and four receptions for 41 yards) was a product of the matchup, or a sign of how the Bills plan to use him going forward. The warning signs that C.J. Spiller may not live up to his first round draft position are there. Spiller managed just 41 yards on 17 carries and the Bills haven't relegated the veteran Jackson to second fiddle just yet from a workload standpoint. As long as we're talking about a committee situation, Spiller is unlikely to get the workload necessary for elite level production outside of him breaking off break plays.
- Adrian Peterson broke a 78-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the season. It was like watching a movie when it happened, sometimes you just can't script this stuff. Unfortunately, he didn't exactly build on that effort, managing just 15 yards and a score on his next 17 carries. He did add four catches for 18 yards and a touchdown as well. What more can you ask for from the consensus number one player in fantasy football? The other note offensively for the Vikings was the emergence of Jerome Simpson, who snagged seven passes for 140 yards. Simpson battled injuries most of last season, but showed flashes when he actually got on the field. Meanwhile Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson combined for four receptions for 43 yards. Until we gauge Christian Ponder's go-to number one receiver, Simpson is worth owning and monitoring going forward.
- Right player, right time, right system. Reggie Bush fits perfectly with what the Detroit Lions are trying to do offensively and there was no better example of that than his 77-yard catch and run touchdown (the longest score of his career) off a beautifully designed screen pass over the middle of the field in the third quarter. Bush racked up 90 yards on 21 carries and 101 yards and a score on four receptions (eight targets) in his Lions debut. The only complaint fantasy owners could have is that backup Joique Bell vultured a pair of goal-line scores. Bush suffered a broken thumb and also pulled his groin in the victory, but as long as he doesn't miss any time, he is shaping up to be one of the best all-around players in fantasy football this season. Bell should not be on waivers in fantasy leagues. This goes triple for Bush owners.
- Just goes to show that touchdowns are the hardest thing to predict for a wide receiver. Detroit super-stud wideout Calvin Johnson finished the afternoon with a mediocre four catches for 37 yards, but had an apparent touchdown catch overturned on a replay when he reached the ball out over the goal-line and lost possession. If this becomes a trend, It's shaping up to be another frustrating year in the touchdown department for Johnson owners.
Green Bay 28
San Francisco 34
- Go back and watch the tape from the Baltimore Ravens' Super Bowl run last season and you will notice a recurring theme: when they needed a play, they went to Anquan Boldin. He was their best wide receiver last season, with all due respect to Torrey Smith. It is easy to understand their salary cap situation and the reasons why they felt they needed to trade him, but after watching Boldin catch 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in his San Francisco debut, it's hard to imagine he was only worth a sixth round pick. Colin Kaepernick had a monster game, racking up 412 yards and three touchdowns in a flawless performance. With Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis (six catches for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Week 1) making plays, Kaepernick and the Niners offense are going to be tough to stop for any defense this season.
- For Green Bay, not much has changed in Aaron Rodgers' neighborhood this season. He hooked up with Jordy Nelson (seven catches for 130 yards), Randall Cobb (seven catches for 108 yards) and Jermichael Finley (five catches for 56 yards) for touchdowns. The Packers offense is about as consistent as you can possibly get in the NFL right now.
- Andrew Luck didn't garner all of the attention that fellow sophomore stud quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick (technically his third season, but second as a starter) did in drafts this offseason, but he put together an impressive statline in Week 1 as the Colts took care of business against the Raiders. The comeback kid completed 18-of-23 passes for 178 yards and a pair of touchdowns (compiling a 95.1 QB rating) while also rushing for 38 yards and a score.
- Vick Ballard (13 carries) got more work than Ahmad Bradshaw (seven carries) on the ground. It doesn't appear like either player is going to have a truly significant fantasy impact at this point. The Colts are going to give both plenty of work, but this offense is going to rely on Luck to win games.
- I need to be honest for a second and give Reggie Wayne some credit. I was down on the Colts' aging wideout after being one of his biggest advocates last season. After tailing off in the second half of last year, I questioned whether or not Wayne could still be an elite wide receiver. Clearly I was wrong on this one. Wayne was excellent, catching eight passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. To be fair it was his best game since last November; it was the Raiders, T.Y. Hilton is still there and the veteran is 34. All of these factors give me reason to doubt Wayne going forward anyway.
- Terrelle Pryor was better than expected from a fantasy standpoint against the Colts. The former Ohio State star threw for only 217 yards and a touchdown with a pair of interceptions, but rushed for 112 yards, setting a Raiders record for rushing yards by a quarterback. Pryor isn't someone fantasy owners (even those in deep two-QB leagues) can trust just yet on a week-to-week basis, but he could develop into a useful option in the right matchup. The reality is that the Raiders' offense just isn't that good and if they continue to lose games like they did this weekend, at some point they have to find out what they have in their other quarterbacks. It's hard to imagine a better debut for Pryor, which puts him on the map for fantasy owners.
New Orleans 23
- Despite losing after a last second fourth down jump ball for tight end Tony Gonzalez was picked off in the end zone, the Atlanta Falcons offense looked outstanding in Week 1. All of the big names were productive, so there is no need to talk about them. But Roddy White is dealing with an injury, so Harry Douglas stepped up catching four passes for 93 yards on six targets. Douglas had some sleeper appeal over the last couple of years, but fell into a fantasy coma of sorts, failing to produce any real impact numbers despite opportunity. This time, Douglas may finally have some real value, especially if White can't get healthy. Douglas needs to be monitored in every league right now, if not owned in 12-team or larger leagues.
- After putting together the worst defensive season in NFL history last season, it is worth noting that Rob Ryan's defense was excellent for New Orleans in Week 1. Veteran safety Roman Harper is the IDP hero from the win, racking up three tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. Offensively, it was a mixed bag as really the only reliable players you can trust in your lineup every week aside from Drew Brees are Marques Colston, Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. Brees hooked up with rookie wideout Kenny Stills (one of my favorite "one dollar/value picks" this season) for a 67-yard reception, but you can't count on a big play every week, which hurts his value slightly. If you still believe in Mark Ingram (nine carries for 11 yards), please stop. It's not happening. What more do you need to see?
- Lamar Miller generated plenty of buzz in the fantasy community as a popular sleeper and did little to live up to the hype in Week 1, rushing for a paltry three yards on 10 carries. Adding to fantasy owner's pain, backup Daniel Thomas vultured a goal-line touchdown in the fourth quarter. It is too early to hit the panic button on Miller, but if he fails to rebound against the Colts (who gave up 171 yards on the ground to the Raiders this weekend), it will be time to lower expectations. If Miller owners are panicking, jump in and get him as a buy-low candidate.
- It was Brian Hartline (nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown on 15 targets) not Mike Wallace (one catch for 15 yards on five targets) who stepped up for Miami in the passing game as the ground attack struggled. According to ESPN's James Walker, Wallace was angry after the game and was reportedly limited due to the Browns' defensive gameplan which included safety help over the top to prevent big plays. Unless the Dolphins can find creative ways to get the ball in Wallace's hands, his big-play ability may not be much of an asset to his fantasy owners anytime soon.
- Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron may become the latest former basketball player (along with Denver's Julius Thomas) to go from intruiging developmental project to impact fantasy performer. Cameron led the Browns with nine catches for 108 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 13 targets. Cleveland's biggest problem, aside from failing to get Trent Richardson going, was quarterback Brandon Weeden, who threw three interceptions. There is plenty of promise with the Browns offense, but unless Weeden can take the next step, they may not realize their full potential.
- A.J. Green did exactly what you would expect, rising to the occasion in a tough matchup against the Chicago Bears' talented secondary featuring Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. Green reeled in nine passes for 162 yards and a pair of scores in the losing effort. Aside from Green, the rest of the Bengals offense can be described as pedestrian, especially on the ground where neither BenJarvus Green-Ellis (25 yards on 14 carries) nor Giovani Bernard (22 yards on four carries) did anything to distinguish themselves. Not much fantasy takeaway from the Chicago side of the football as both of their studs -- Brandon Marshall (eight catches for 104 yards and a score) and Matt Forte (50 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries) -- were solid.
- IDP alert: Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict (team-high eight tackles and an interception) lived up to his Week 1 ranking. That is all.
St. Louis 27
- The sleeper appeal has always been there with Jared Cook. Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery for a player to realize their potential. If Week 1 is any indication, Cook is slated to put up monster numbers with the Rams this year. The former Titan racked up 141 yards and a pair of touchdowns on seven catches. There is a real lack of depth at the tight end position right now, so Cook has an opportunity to step into the elite class at the position if he can continue to perform at this level consistently.
- Larry Fitzgerald caught two touchdown passes in the season opener after hauling in only four last season. Combined with eight receptions for 80 yards, well, what else is there to say other than thank you, Carson Palmer.