Justin Jefferson blew up during his first game with Minnesota’s new coaching staff, as he had already recorded more fantasy points by halftime of the late games than any other non-QB in Week 1. Fantasy managers hoped Jefferson would slide into the Cooper Kupp role with Kevin O’Connell coming from the Rams, and the first game of this supposed role resulted in the most receiving yards in a half by a Vikings receiver in more than 30 years.
While there’s some concern Minnesota took its foot off the gas in the second half like Mike Zimmer might have, it’s also worth noting Jefferson’s first TD catch came during a fourth down in which the old staff likely would’ve kicked a field goal.
Jefferson was the story of a Week 1 highlighted by big fantasy performances from the league’s top receivers, and he’d be hard to pass with the top pick in PPR leagues right now.
Rodgers will bounce back, but down a couple of offensive linemen and Davante Adams, he’s unlikely to approach his stats from the last two seasons … Robert Tonyan didn’t have a big game, but he’s healthy and could quickly emerge as Green Bay’s top pass catcher. There were some real flops at tight end in Week 1, and Tonyan is available in more than 75 percent of Yahoo leagues. Go add him.
Considering AJ Dillon is three years younger and the favorite for goal-line work, it’s becoming increasingly clear Aaron Jones shouldn’t have been drafted ahead of him — let alone four rounds earlier.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
It’s usually safest to remain skeptical of any 31-year-old running back, but after holding him out throughout preseason and making Tyler Allgeier a Week 1 inactive, it’s clear Atlanta has big plans for Cordarrelle Patterson, who saw 27 opportunities Sunday. He was a monster before suffering an injury last season, and the same looks likely to be the case this year (Damien Williams left Sunday but later returned) … Despite not throwing a touchdown while facing one of the best defenses in football, Marcus Mariota was a top-10 fantasy QB in Week 1 thanks to 12 carries. Expect Mariota to be a top-12 fantasy QB while starting this season … Rough opener for Kyle Pitts truthers, however, including yours truly …
Down 26-10 in the fourth, Jameis Winston returned after briefly leaving injured and connected on two TD strikes to Michael Thomas to pull off the comeback win, as Jarvis Landry otherwise predictably had NO’s biggest receiving game given Atlanta’s top outside corners … It was an extremely discouraging game for Alvin Kamara, and apparently Taysom Hill is going to remain a thing despite the absence of Sean Payton.
I’ve defended Baker Mayfield playing through last season’s torn labrum and having played 33% of his career games in windy conditions, but he was absolutely brutal Sunday, finishing in the 22nd percentile in Completion Percentage Over Expectation during his revenge game … Familiar shaky Carolina QB play led to disappointing performances from DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey, who saw just 10 targets combined compared to Robbie Anderson’s eight … After ranking top-three in target% to tight ends over the last five years, Jacoby Brissett threw David Njoku’s way just once, although Amari Cooper wasn’t any better (2.8 yards per target). Donovan Peoples-Jones (11 targets) can be added in deeper fantasy leagues, but he has limited upside.
San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears
Trey Lance and the 49ers struggled during a game that might go down as being played in the worst weather conditions of the season that included Chicago having more punts than first downs during the first half. Lance missed throws, but fantasy managers love to see the 13 carries, and, almost comically, the weather turned unplayable the moment San Francisco needed to start passing.
Lance was not good, but extreme weather and a 35% pressure rate despite not getting blitzed provide excuses. Lance backers (cough, cough) should really start worrying if he doesn’t have a much better game at home versus Seattle next week … Just like Raheem Mostert last season, the 49ers’ injury-prone lead back — with a ton of fantasy upside — immediately suffered a major injury in Week 1. Jeff Wilson Jr. is available in more than 80% of Yahoo leagues and deserves an aggressive FAB bid (and Jordan Mason needs to be added in deeper leagues now as well) … Just like during last year’s matchup against SF, Justin Fields produced a highlight play that ended in sweet revenge for Dante Pettis.
Don’t drop Cole Kmet. The 49ers are a bad matchup for tight ends.
David Montgomery got 26 yards on 17 carries. Khalil Herbert got 45 yards on nine carries — it’s almost as if Herbert is a significantly better rusher!
While it certainly helped there was no George Kittle and Elijah Mitchell left injured, I’ll take the L when it comes to Deebo Samuel’s rushing projection. He’s already 14% to last year’s carry total, and Mitchell isn’t returning any time soon. This year’s Deebo appears to be Deebo again (minus some targets).
If you had the Bengals in Survivor, you’ll likely never forget Week 1 of 2022, which included Cincinnati very nearly winning despite Tee Higgins leaving early, committing five turnovers and missing two kicks inside 33 yards (thanks to a mid-game injury to the long snapper) while running more plays than any team in 20+ years. Ja’Marr Chase benefitted from Higgins’ departure and had this touchdown catch ruled short, which inexplicably wasn’t challenged by Zac Taylor; and that wasn’t even his worst coaching decision of the day!
That honor goes to punting to the Steelers mid-field with 20 seconds left on the play clock with 1:04 remaining in overtime … As expected, Samaje Perine was the clear backup to Joe Mixon, who encouragingly saw a career-high nine targets … Mitch Trubisky looked far too much like Ben Roethlisberger, with Pittsburgh WRs suffering as a result … Najee Harris suffered a foot injury and left the locker room wearing a boot. Jaylen Warren is available in 95% of Yahoo leagues.
The Lions somehow scored 35 points with Jared Goff getting 5.8 YPA, as D’Andre Swift ran wild but saw a modest three targets and lost two goal-line scores to Jamaal Williams. It was both an impressive and sneakily worrisome first game for Swift, who also saw a significant drop in receiving production after a play caller switch down the stretch last year ... Amon-Ra St. Brown saw a 32.4% target share despite Swift and T.J. Hockenson’s presence, so he looks locked in as a top-15 PPR receiver.
Durability remains a concern, but AJ Brown (nine first-half targets!) would be a first-round fantasy pick in PPR leagues today … After not scoring all of last season, Miles Sanders was one of four Eagles to run in a touchdown Sunday. The TDs were nice, but not only do Philly RBs have to compete with an elite rushing quarterback, but the Eagles also have a full-blown three-way committee in their backfield … It looks like it’s going to take a Brown injury before DeVonta Smith is worth starting in fantasy leagues, while only health can prevent Jalen Hurts from finishing as a top-three fantasy QB this season.
Both quarterbacks struggled badly, although that didn’t stop Michael Pittman Jr. from exploding like many expected … Alec Pierce dropped a touchdown, Nyheim Hines was stuffed late at the goal-line with Jonathan Taylor on the sidelines and the Colts missed a field goal in overtime to help end many Survivor entries. Indianapolis hasn’t won a season opener in nine straight years … Any concerns about the Colts easing Taylor’s workload quickly ended, as he received a league-high 31 carries and saw seven targets during his first game with Matt Ryan … Rex Burkhead was a lot more than Houston’s passing-down back, out-snapping rookie Dameon Pierce, 49-19. Burkhead remains highly unlikely to last a full season at 32 years old, but Pierce needs to be on fantasy benches in the meantime.
Actually, the same could be said for all Texans outside of Brandin Cooks right now.
New England Patriots @ Miami Dolphins
It appears Bill Belichick wasn’t playing rope-a-dope during the preseason, as New England’s offense is truly a mess. The Patriots also committed the most cowardly punt of the season so far. Especially with Ty Montgomery involved in the backfield, it’s best to keep all Patriots on most fantasy benches for now … Jaylen Waddle getting 69 yards and scoring was nice, but he had just one game during his entire rookie season with fewer than the five targets he saw when sharing the field with Tyreek Hill for the first time.
Joe Flacco attempted a whopping 59 passes and had an average depth of target (4.9 yards) in the bottom-five percentile (19 targets to RBs Michael Carter and Breece Hall, who also lost a fumble during his debut) ...Rookie Garrett Wilson had a better game than Elijah Moore, while Devin Duvernay also surprised by scoring more fantasy points than Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman (who also had a long TD) … The Jets have little reason not to see what they have in Mike White until Zach Wilson is ready to return … Baltimore’s backfield remains a stay away.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Washington Commanders
Carson Wentz finished as a top-three fantasy QB, rookie Jahan Dotson finished as a top-15 PPR receiver and Antonio Gibson was a workhorse three-down back in Week 1 — just as we all predicted throughout summer.
During a game in which Wentz threw for 300+ yards and four touchdowns, it was discouraging to see Terry McLaurin record just two catches on four targets … Christian Kirk should be treated as a top-15 fantasy WR moving forward … Trevor Lawrence missed a wide-open Travis Etienne for an early score and then again for another long gain soon after. Etienne responded with a bad drop on an easy would-be touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, then fumbled in the red zone right afterward in a game to forget for Jacksonville’s QB/RB duo … James Robinson looked a lot better than Cam Akers during his return from Achilles surgery, and he’s going to remain a real problem for Etienne’s fantasy managers.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Arizona Cardinals
Patrick Mahomes was amazing during his first game of the season without Tyreek Hill, also keeping his word that no Kansas City WR will be reliable in fantasy leagues; despite Mahomes finishing as fantasy’s QB1 and facing the league’s worst cornerbacks, no Chiefs WR reached 80 yards or saw more than eight targets. Meanwhile, both RBs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Isiah Pacheco impressed during a game KC somehow got 33 first downs on 66 offensive plays, as Arizona thought it was a good idea to blitz Mahomes more than any game of his career ... A garbage TD helped, but Marquise Brown was still one of the week’s bigger busts given the matchup (DeAndre Hopkins and Rondale Moore were out, while Zach Ertz was limited in a game with this week’s highest total) … Eno Benjamin has massive upside as James Conner’s clear backup and needs to be rostered in all fantasy formats. He’s available in more than 90% of Yahoo leagues.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
While Aaron Rodgers appeared to badly miss Davante Adams, the same wasn’t true for Las Vegas’ new receiver. Adams led the league in Week 1 with 17 targets, finishing as the No. 3 fantasy WR despite an off game by Derek Carr. Meanwhile, Hunter Renfrow didn’t see a target in the first half of his first game sharing the field with Adams … No Chargers player saw more than four targets, and eight other receivers recorded a catch before Mike Williams despite Keenan Allen leaving early. DeAndre Carter made more noise Sunday, but Week 1’s developments look positive for Josh Palmer moving forward … Given his usage, Austin Ekeler is going to have an extremely difficult time living up to his ADP.
New York Giants @ Tennessee Titans
Saquon Barkley led the league in carries (31) and rush yards (164) in Week 1, with this run longer than any Giants play from all of last season:
Oh baby that’s so nice to see from Saquon. pic.twitter.com/r4JGm3NWFA
— Jesse Moeller (@JMoeller05) September 11, 2022
He also led New York in targets. No longer hampered by an ankle injury or recovering from ACL surgery, Barkley’s juice looks back; now we just need him to stay healthy.
Imagine drafting Derrick Henry ahead of Dontrell Hilliard ...
All joking aside, Hilliard was easily the most valuable fantasy backup RB getting ignored until late (if at all) in fantasy drafts. Hilliard is good, will continue to have a major passing down role at a minimum and is available in 99% of Yahoo leagues … Rumors proved true regarding Kadarius Toney falling out of favor with the Giants’ coaching staff, as Sterling Shepard suddenly looks like New York’s No. 1 receiver … In yet another upset that ruined Survivor entries, the Giants successfully went for 2 down 20-19 with 1:09 left after being outscored 79-0 in the final two minutes of halves last season. Meanwhile, the Titans have already lost as many games decided by three points or fewer than all last season (when they finished 6-1).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys managed just 3.8 yards per play and lost Dak Prescott for 6-8 weeks to a hand injury in a nightmare game to open the season for Dallas. CeeDee Lamb saw double-digit targets as expected, but they resulted in 29 scoreless yards, and he’ll now have Cooper Rush throwing to him for the foreseeable future. Already in real trouble having Noah Brown as the team’s No. 2 WR and missing LT Tyron Smith, the Cowboys season appears finished before it’s even started. What a disaster.
Leonard Fournette looked terrific, and Rachaad White looks like his clear backup, although Tampa Bay is down another offensive lineman with LT Donovan Smith suffering an injury Sunday night. Chris Godwin also left injured and will miss time, while Julio Jones made a bigger immediate impact than Russell Gage during their first game catching passes from Tom Brady. The Bucs won handily Sunday night, but plenty of fantasy questions remain unanswered regarding Tampa Bay’s passing attack.