Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016. Tua Tagovailoa finished second in the 2018 Heisman voting, and won a National Championship the year before.
Why bring up these college memories now? Because the Miami at Baltimore clash on Sunday looked like one of those college pinball games, not an NFL matchup. First team to 40 gets the win. Defense is frowned upon.
Improbably, it was the visiting Dolphins who stole the decision in Week 2, scoring four touchdowns in the final quarter and recording a 42-38 instant classic victory, overcoming a 21-point deficit. Tagovailoa threw for all six Miami touchdowns, capping a 469-yard passing jamboree. Miami had some effectiveness running the ball early, but when the game got out of hand, it had to junk that part of the playbook. Team Tua traveled by air.
Tagovailoa certainly knows where his bread is buttered. He steered 32 of his 50 pass attempts to his two dynamic receivers, Tyreek Hill (11-190-2, 13 targets) and Jaylen Waddle (11-171-2, 19 targets). I suppose we should also note tight end Mike Gesicki (4-41-1) resurfaced after a lost summer and a quiet opener, but the Dolphins will go as far as Tagovailoa, Hill, and Waddle can take them. Enormous market share, it’s a glorious thing in fantasy football.
Hill and Waddle weren’t inexpensive in draft season, but they still might go down as bargains. Hill was commonly a second-round pick, but he’d land in the first round if we started fresh. Waddle usually slotted in Round 3, but that would bump up a round if we redrafted tomorrow.
Jackson’s game is a mix of throwing and running, and he did both things well Sunday. He’s certainly not the reason Baltimore lost. Jackson completed 21-of-29 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns, and he added a 79-yard touchdown run. The Ravens had 473 yards of total offense, and 437 of those yards were routed through their franchise quarterback. And like Tagovailoa, Jackson knew where to steer the ball — Rashod Bateman (4-108-1) and Mark Andrews (9-104-1) absorbed nearly two-thirds of the targets and were open all afternoon.
Let’s also be blunt about one thing — neither defense coated itself in glory here. The Miami defense didn’t register a sack or a takeaway. Baltimore did pick off two passes and collect one sack, but that’s little consolation win a day where you allow 27 first downs and 547 yards of offense.
If you squint a bit, you’ll find some fantasy fallers in this game. Chase Edmonds did fine on six touches (5-33-0, 1-8-0) but Raheem Mostert handled the ball 14 times (79 total yards). He's available in 57 percent of Yahoo leagues if that's of interest, but that could be a messy committee. Baltimore gave some early work to Kenyan Drake (6-8-0) and Mike Davis (5-4-0), predictably getting nowhere. When J.K. Dobbins is ready to go, the Ravens might not have a need for Drake or Davis going forward.
Miami returns home next week for a showdown with Buffalo, one of the signature games on the slate. Baltimore renews its long-standing rivalry with the Patriots, who banged out an efficient win at Pittsburgh on Sunday.
The Detroit Lions' fantasy carnival is glorious
For most of the early window, I envisioned the Detroit Lions in the column lead. Baltimore and Miami forced a change at the top, but that doesn’t diminish the scrappy Lions. Detroit is exactly what we want in fantasy, an offense that scores and a defense that doesn’t stop much of anything.
This is a full-blown fantasy carnival.
Detroit raced out to a three-touchdown lead in the first half, then withstood a furious Washington comeback. But in the end, fantasy managers are the winners. Jared Goff (four touchdown passes) was just good enough, and Carson Wentz got hot in the second half (three touchdown passes) after a shaky start.
I’m just about ready to draft any USC receiver for my fantasy roster, sight unseen. Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to be a slot machine, throwing 9-116-2 at Washington’s defense. St. Brown can run the entire route tree, win around the goal and he even had two long runs on creative touches, covering 58 and 10 yards. The Sun God would be a second or third-round pick if we reshuffled tomorrow; you landed him much cheaper on draft day.
One more thing about Detroit — this team has been an ATM at the betting window. Despite a 4-15 record over the last 19 games, the Lions are 13-6 over that span. Straight cash, homie.
Great teams win, legendary teams cover.
Wentz isn’t the easiest watch at times, but he’s working with some fun receivers. The Curtis Samuel comeback is real and it's spectacular (eight touches, 99 total yards, touchdown). Jahan Dotson scored for the second straight week, while Terry McLaurin had a steady if unspectacular 4-75-0 on eight looks. Even tight end Logan Thomas (3-37-1) found the end zone; he has a chance to force back into the top 12 at the position if he can prove he’s healthy.
Antonio Gibson needed touchdown deodorant to offset a sluggish day — 14-28 on the ground, 2-13 through the air. At least he punched in a touchdown. J.D. McKissic did his normal thing, seven catches for a modest yardage total (54 yards).
Detroit visits Minnesota next week, while Washington plays Philadelphia. Get a comfortable seat and get your popcorn ready, the offenses figure to dominate again.
• Chicago stole a win on opening day, and maybe it fooled them into thinking they could win games despite hiding its quarterback. I'm a believer in Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet, but until the Bears let the reins off second-year quarterback Justin Fields, this passing game is submarined.
• I understand why NFL teams have pulled back on preseason usage — no one wants a star player hurt in a practice game. But I don’t think it’s right to give first stringers zero snaps in the exhibition month. Denver didn’t use Russell Wilson in the preseason, and the Broncos have been extremely sluggish through two games.
Cincinnati didn’t have much of a choice after Joe Burrow’s appendectomy, but they’ve also been a mess through two weeks. Cincinnati’s already given up 13 sacks, which is partly on the offensive line, and partly on Burrow himself.
• I still don’t know what to make of the Jets quarterbacks, but between Garrett Wilson, Elijah Moore, and Corey Davis, that’s one heck of a wide receiver room. It’s a shame Davis can’t be traded to one of the receiver-needy clubs around the league — his old Tennessee team could use him, and same for the Colts.
Wilson is quickly making a case for the alpha role in New York. He has an absurd catch radius and plays with tangible confidence and swagger. A whopping 14 targets went his way at Cleveland.
• It's a shame to see Trey Lance's season end before it really got started, the third straight year he's faced that reality. We still have no idea if he can really play or not. But the Niners are one of the few teams that isn't instantly shipwrecked when the backup needs to play. Jimmy Garoppolo was 1-2 plays away from a second Super Bowl start last year.
• The Saints held Tampa Bay to 13 first downs and 4.0 yards per play and still couldn’t score a win, perhaps because Jameis Winston is playing with broken bones in his back. Benching Tom Brady was the right move today, and it will probably be the right move when these teams rematch in December. I don’t see Winston as a long-term answer in New Orleans.
• I missed an opportunity to pounce on the exceptional Damien Harris summer value; he’s still the primary back in New England, with Rhamondre Stevenson the secondary option. Both players ran well at Pittsburgh, but Harris had 17 touches to Stevenson’s 10. I also underestimated Bill Belichick’s ability to get a focused, high-level performance from his club after an ugly loss. Unfortunately, the New England passing game has very little consistency to it, other than Jakobi Meyers being a reasonable WR4 for PPR-based managers.
• Drake London has proven to be plug-and-play for the Falcons, but Kyle Pitts continues to drive us crazy more often than not. I still think the Pitts problem is more about Arthur Smith and Marcus Mariota, but it's not like that infrastructure is changing anytime soon.
• A.J. Dillon is a good football player, but Aaron Jones is a better one. Credit Matt LaFleur; he recognized his Week 1 usage error and established Jones from the jump Sunday night. Jones's second-round ADP is likely to be paid off come season's end.