NFL Fantasy Football: Week 1’s key performers

Could anyone top the performances we saw in Thursday night's game? Well, a few players came closer than others.

Week 1 was highlighted as much by some pretty good NFL fantasy performances as it was by some really disappointing results. Players who went undrafted made their claim to Week 2 waiver wire significance, while some coaches made moves that will surely throw more names into the pool. Let’s take a quick look at what went down in Week 1. 

The best offense is… a good defense? 

You might never see me start a weekly review article talking about defenses again, but let’s face it. It’s not every week that the top fantasy scorers are the guys who aren’t supposed to be catching and throwing the ball. But there were seven D/ST touchdowns scored Sunday, including two by the Rams against the hapless Colts. The Rams added a safety on the way to tying the Jacksonville Jaguars atop the Week 1 fantasy point totals. 

The newest Jaguar defender, Calais Campbell, set a team record for sacks in a game before halftime. The Jags totaled ten sacks, to go along with four turnovers, a defensive touchdown and only seven points allowed. Baltimore wasn’t too far behind, grabbing five turnovers in a shutout of Cincinnati. In fact, if I am doing the math correctly, only three teams failed to score more than last season’s fantasy D/ST points average. 

The three top defenses faced teams with offensive line problems, but they still forced the issue. If they are available in your league, you might consider adding the Jacksonville, LA Rams, or Baltimore defenses.

At least the quarterbacks scored… right? 

Quarterbacks got off to a slow start all around the league today. Matt Stafford was no exception, throwing a pick-six in his first attempt since signing his record-setting contract last month. After a couple of sluggish series, he recovered to toss four touchdown passes among 292 yards, good enough to lead all the Sunday quarterbacks. 

Aaron Rodgers got beat up by the Seattle Seahawks, but still managed over 300 yards and a touchdown to go with a really ugly interception early in the contest. 

But there was a lot of ugly among quarterback play this week. Andy Dalton threw four interceptions and lost a fumble. He couldn’t come up with enough yards or a score to climb out of the hole and finished with negative fantasy points. It was a total team effort, however. So, unless he follows it up with another dud on national television Thursday night, calls for AJ McCarron to take over are probably premature. 

On the other hand, Jacoby Brissett threw a 50-yard pass off the bench late in the Rams-Colts game and the Texans’ Deshaun Watson led a scoring drive after replacing Tom Savage at halftime. Both head coaches have interesting conversations coming up this week.

My reliable running backs… they did good?

The top two running backs off the draft board struggled in Week 1. David Johnson caught six passes for 68 yards, but only mustered 21 more on 11 carries before leaving the game with a wrist injury. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Le’Veon Bell was struggling to put up 47 total yards against the Cleveland defense. Neither running back scored. 

LeSean McCoy had a better day in Buffalo with 110 yards rushing and 49 more through the air. But it could have been so much better. Three times the Bills had goal-to-go from the one-yard line. Tyrod Taylor threw one-yard passes to Charles Clay and Andre Holmes, while Mike Tolbert ran the third one in. 

The new kids on the block thrilled their teams’ fans. Christian McCaffrey had a quiet, but effective, 85 total yards. Leonard Fournette carried 26 times for 100 yards and Tarik Cohen had 113 total yards and a touchdown for Chicago. Tarik who, you say? He is the 5’6” 188-pound running back I told you was a great sleeper last week. Along with Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt, three rookies were among the top ten running back fantasy scorers this week. And Dalvin Cook plays tomorrow. 

Seattle’s Chris Carson could emerge as the lead back in Seattle within a couple of weeks, too. 

And the receivers? 

Finally, some fantasy stability. The top receiver off the draft boards was the top receiver in Week 1. Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown had a nice day, hauling in 11 catches for 182 yards. Somehow, he did not score. Golden Tate went over 100 yards in Detroit, but it was his rookie teammate, Kenny Golladay, who snagged two touchdowns among four catches and 69 yards. 

Oakland’s Amari Cooper finally caught a red zone touchdown. The effort he made to beef up in the offseason paid off as he fought to keep his balance before carrying half the Tennessee defense on his back into the end zone. Then he dropped several other red-zone passes, so things are all back to normal on the west coast.

As many wide receivers hit 100 yards on Thursday night (Amendola-100 and Hill-133) than managed the feat in all the games Sunday. Kareem Hunt almost made it three on Thursday with his 98. 

But there was this tight end… 

Atlanta’s Austin Hooper doesn’t get many opportunities surrounded by the wealth of talent on the Falcons offense. But he certainly made the most of his two targets today, turning them into 128 yards and a touchdown. 

At least half of the top ten scoring tight ends today were undrafted in most leagues. Meanwhile, the top five of Gronkowski, Graham, Kelce, Olsen, and Reed failed to score and averaged about 30 yards each. 

Philly’s Zach Ertz was among the drafted tight ends in the top ten, catching all eight of his targets for 93 yards. 

First, you start with the D/STs… and now this? 

I have to mention a kicker. In Oakland, Giorgio Tavecchio took over for Sebastian Janikowski (on the IR with a bad back). Jack Del Rio explained that he did not consider bringing in any of the available veteran kickers because Tavecchio is left-footed, like Janikowski. To bring in a right-footed kicker would involve re-orienting the holder and long snapper.

All the kid did in his first professional game was hit both extra points and all four field goals, including a 50- and a 52-yarder. The long kicks looked like they would have been good from 70 yards. 

Keep up with the action

We’ll be watching the two games tonight. If you can’t watch, too, then come back to RealSport for all the fantasy-relevant details, along with other information you need to manage your NFL fantasy teams. 

Don’t forget to send any questions you have to [email protected]. Every Wednesday, we’ll publish the answers in our mailbag so you have everything you want to know!

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Pat Opperman


Pat recently retired from real life to watch sports and write. Look for references to games and events from ancient times as memories of an earlier Age of Sport tend to pop into his head.