Fantasy football is back, and it’s as excruciating as ever. From injuries to goose eggs to surprise benchings to some truly terrible quarterback play, the season started with more of a thud than a bang.
As always, this article will focus on three key pieces of information from each of Sunday’s games. Since there’s so much to talk about in Week 1, I’ll try to focus on things that may have gone under the radar; you don’t need me to tell you that Bijan Robinson lived up to the hype and Tyreek Hill is a cheat code. Let’s get started.
Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons
- With 15 carries for 75 yards and two TDs, plus three receptions, Tyler Allgeier had a very productive fantasy outing despite clearly being the 1B to Bijan Robinson’s 1A. While Allgeier can’t be expected to produce many more top-five weeks or even out-carry Robinson many more times, he can certainly sustain flex value. There are clearly going to be plenty of RB touches to go around in this offense, and the 221-pound Allgeier seems to be the preferred goal-line back, playing all four of the Falcons’ snaps inside the 10.
- Miles Sanders saw six targets to Chuba Hubbard’s two, but Hubbard played 12 of the Panthers’ 16 third and fourth-down snaps. Bryce Young looked every bit of his Week 1 rookie status, and the Panthers’ coaching staff clearly wants to keep the pressure off him with plenty of handoffs and underneath targets, so both can eat, but Sanders should slide down your rankings.
- Desmond Ridder only targeted non-RBs eight times. Even for this unique Atlanta offense, that’s not sustainable. With identical 90.9% route participation rates, Kyle Pitts and Drake London both had the roles we were hoping to see, so while this was obviously not a good start for either, don’t fully panic yet. You probably have a better WR than London to start next week, but I’d roll Pitts out again given his upside and the state of the TE position.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns
- Eleven of Jerome Ford’s 15 carries came in the fourth quarter, which was garbage time, at least partially excusing his 2.4 yards per carry … but also indicating that this is 100% Nick Chubb’s backfield. Ford is a great handcuff, but not looking likely to carve out standalone value a la Kareem Hunt.
- Tee Higgins put up a goose egg, but his usage was encouraging. He saw a 25.8% target share, which was mostly made up of jump balls and deep routes down the sideline, leading to an insane 63.98% air yards share.
- Elijah Moore played 51 snaps to Donovan Peoples-Jones’ 66, but they ran the same amount of routes. Moore also saw six targets and two carries to DPJ’s two targets. He’ll need to fully pass up DPJ to be a reliable fantasy option, but I prefer Moore as a stash given his upside.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts
- I hope you read my Best Bets piece featuring the fact that Zay Jones was playing over Christian Kirk in three-WR sets in the preseason. That trend continued into the games that count, with Kirk running just 23 routes to Jones’ 33 and playing 20 fewer snaps. Jones is worth adding as the second target in an ascending Jacksonville offense, and you can safely send Kirk in the other direction.
- Where many were predicting a run-first approach from the Colts with rookie QB Anthony Richardson, that was far from the case. The Colts rank ninth in pass rate so far among all teams despite being in a competitive game throughout. If this trend continues, Richardson can be a fantasy QB1, and Michael Pittman (who caught eight of nine targets) will greatly outperform his ADP.
- Not only did Tank Bigsby have a mental lapse that led to a scoop-and-score by the Colts’ defense, but Trevor Lawrence’s lone interception bounced straight off his hands. Still, it was Bigsby who got back-to-back goal-line carries with the Jaguars down four in the fourth quarter and eventually scored the game-winning touchdown. Tank is not seeing enough volume to be fantasy-relevant at this point, but his claiming of goalline work would be a sizable blow to Travis Etienne’s fantasy value.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Minnesota Vikings
- Alexander Mattison saw an absolute bell-cow workload. He played 73% of snaps, including the majority on third downs and all inside the 10, and saw 14 opportunities to Ty Chandler’s four. If you can get him for cheap from someone disappointed in his 11 carries for 34 yards, do it.
- With a 79% snap share and 19 touches, Rachaad White also had a workhorse role in Week 1 … but he scored just 5.9 fantasy points. He also continued where he left off in his rookie year with incredible inefficiency, posting a league-worst 2.4 yards per carry BELOW expected. As long as he maintains that role, he’ll have fantasy value, but I have to imagine UDFA rookie Sean Tucker will start nipping at his heels if this continues.
- A 14.1-point debut for rookie WR Jordan Addison is certainly promising, but I wouldn’t rush to insert him into your lineup just yet. For one, 10.4 of those points came on one play in which he simply ran straight through a confused Tampa defense. More importantly, he’s still clearly the Vikings’ WR3 behind K.J. Osborn, running 13 fewer routes on 22 fewer snaps … although Osborn did cost the Vikings late, so that may change sooner rather than later.
Tennessee Titans @ New Orleans Saints
- I have long defended Ryan Tannehill as an underrated, competent QB, but this week was indefensible. He was inaccurate all day and missed not one but two wide-open touchdowns, as both Chigoziem Okonkwo and Tyjae Spears were alone behind the defense. It’s just Week 1, but if Tannehill doesn’t get it together, it could be a long season for all Titans players.
- Rashid Shaheed will be a hot waiver pickup thanks to his 100-total-yard one-TD performance, but he’s not a priority for me. The explosive second-year player is clearly the Saints’ WR3, running 25 routes while Michael Thomas and Chris Olave both ran 32+, and I don’t see this offense supporting three WRs.
- Derrick Henry played just 48% of the Titans’ offensive snaps, his second-lowest since Week 3 of 2019 (and the only game lower was a 41-7 rout). As soon as this offense got even the slightest bit off-script, rookie Tyjae Spears would enter the game — he even replaced Henry for the Titans’ first snap following a false start. His continued usage and big-play ability in the screen game is encouraging, but the King could be boom-or-bust depending on if the Titans end up in negative game scripts.
San Francisco 49ers @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- I worried in my preseason 49ers preview that Christian McCaffrey would lose a significant amount of work to Elijah Mitchell … so far, I couldn’t be more wrong. Despite the 49ers being in control of this one from the opening whistle, CMC played 85% of snaps and had an 81% RB rush share, not to mention five targets. If this keeps up, he’ll justify his RB1 price tag.
- Repeat everything I said about Tannehill above for Kenny Pickett, except we have no prior evidence of him being a competent NFL QB. The 49ers’ defense is a threshing machine, but he was off target even when given time, including throwing behind Diontae Johnson on what should’ve been a walk-in TD.
- Unlike with CMC, I’m not quite willing to declare defeat on my preseason Brandon Aiyuk fade just yet. While he obviously had a huge game, he won’t score all of the 49ers’ receiving TDs every week and still totaled fewer snaps and routes than Deebo Samuel. If you can find someone who is buying into Aiyuk as more than a boom-or-bust WR3, I’d trade him now.
Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Commanders
- Zach Ertz tied for first among Cardinals in routes run and saw a whopping 10 targets, although he caught just six for 21 yards. Before you say that this is a one-off, remember that Ertz used to be an elite fantasy TE and even averaged 7.6 targets in his healthy games in 2022, fewer than only Travis Kelce and T.J. Hockenson. He’s certainly worth adding with that volume if you, like nearly every fantasy manager, need TE help.
- Speaking of 32-year-old tight ends who led their teams in targets … Logan Thomas. While he’s been a non-factor for the last two years, Thomas was the TE6 overall in 2020 and the clear TE1 for Washington in this one. However, I don’t recommend running to add him. In that 2020 season, he had an elite 90.3% route participation rate. On Sunday, that number was just 79.5%. That 11% drop may not sound like too much, but the highest finish by a TE with a route participation rate below 80% in 2022 was Brock Wright at TE38 with just 54.6 total points.
- If you’re looking for a deep-league bench stash, consider Michael Wilson. The rookie WR struggled with injuries in college and is a better prospect than his third-round draft capital would indicate. He tied Marquise Brown for the team lead with 31 routes on Sunday. If Brown is traded (as has been rumored) or Kyler Murray returns this season (as I consider likely), that role could easily turn into fantasy value.
Houston Texans @ Baltimore Ravens
- Zay Flowers is one of the stories of the week, with an absurd 47.6% target share in his rookie debut. Feel free to do a happy little dance, gloat in your group chats, and plug him into your lineup if you drafted him … but temper expectations. Mark Andrews coming back will change this offense, and a lot of Flowers’ usage was gimmicky, with five of his nine receptions coming on screens and one more on a forward pitch that was essentially a run play.
- This was not a good week for Dameon Pierce, who played just 49% of snaps thanks to a combination of Devin Singletary and Mike Boone, with Boone in particular seeming to be the Texans’ preferred back in passing situations. Pierce will still have good weeks in better game scripts, but he’s looking more like a flex than the RB2 he was drafted as.
- I don’t have a very confident pick in terms of who the J.K. Dobbins replacement is. Justice Hill scored both goal-line TDs following Dobbins’ injury, but Gus Edwards was nearly as involved. Melvin Gordon will likely be promoted from the practice squad to further muck up this backfield. If you have to choose, take Hill, who did see that goal-line work and is the pass-catcher of the bunch, but don’t expect too much.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
- The Packers reportedly decided to get Aaron Jones more involved at halftime. He touched the ball on five of their next eight plays (spending two on the sideline catching his breath after taking a screen 51 yards) for 68 yards and a touchdown … then caught a 35-yard TD on fourth down on their next drive. He limped off after that second score and didn’t return, but reportedly could have if the game was close. Assuming he’s good to go, Jones might be able to unlock an elite RB1 ceiling in this post-Rodgers Green Bay offense.
- Roschon Johnson had ZERO first-half touches. On the other hand, he tied for the team lead with seven targets and scored a touchdown, generally looking good when he was on the field. His role should expand as the season goes on … but it has a lot of expanding to do before he becomes a viable fantasy play.
- Luke Musgrave was a couple of stumbles away from an absolutely huge game. Still, the rookie TE led the Packers in routes run and hauled in three of his four targets for 50 yards. He’s a priority add if you need a tight end.
Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos
- You can safely cut Marvin Mims. Even with Jerry Jeudy inactive, he ran just 10 routes, easily less than Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Brandon Johnson. Meanwhile, the Sean Peyton Broncos’ offense doesn’t look particularly transformed from its putrid 2022 self. Mims could still emerge later in the season, but there’s so much going against him at this point that there have to be better options on your waiver.
- I’m going to recommend buying high on Jakobi Meyers, who is hopefully okay following a nasty hit to the head that finished his nine-catch two-TD Raiders’ debut. When he makes it out of the concussion protocol, Meyers should return to what he does best: dicing up defenses through the middle on intermediate routes. This, not so coincidentally, is also what Jimmy Garappolo does best, and Jimmy G looked Meyers’ way an incredible 10 times on just 24 routes in Week 1.
- Javonte Williams played more snaps and saw more touches than Samaje Perine in Week 1, but Perine actually played more passing downs and more in the red zone. Many were hoping this could be an Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram dynamic duo, but this offense needs to be good first. Otherwise this will just be a frustrating committee of two flex options.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots
- Kendrick Bourne was the Patriots’ clear lead receiver in this one, running 54 routes and racking up 11 targets. However, I wouldn’t prioritize him too heavily on waivers. For one, DeVante Parker is coming back and could be the Patriots’ true top option. For another, those 11 targets translated to just a 20.37% target share, as the Patriots threw the ball a ton this week. Even if (as it certainly appeared by the end of this contest) JuJu Smith-Schuster is a non-factor, Bourne may struggle to consistently dominate targets in a suddenly crowded receiving room with sixth-rounders Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte both looking solid.
- They may have won this game, but the Eagles’ offense looked out of sorts, at one point going three-and-out on four straight possessions in the first half and finishing with a -0.15 EPA per play. Head Coach Nick Sirianni blamed the sluggishness on not having played their starters in the preseason, plus the rain and the Patriots’ defense couldn’t have helped. Assuming they bounce back next week, this is a non-issue … if they don’t, then it’s time to worry.
- Ezekiel Elliott is a minor problem for Rhamondre Stevenson. Rhamondre played a very respectable 72.5% of the Patriots’ snaps, including every single third and fourth down and both snaps within the 10-yard line. Stevenson can easily provide value at his post-Zeke-signing depressed ADP if that continues.
Miami Dolphins @ Los Angeles Chargers
- Durham Smythe is officially on the fantasy radar. He led the Dolphins with 42 routes (seven more than either Tyreek Hill or Jaylen Waddle) and caught three of his six targets for 44 yards. Looking at the key stats that determine whether a tight end can be a fantasy contributor, his route participation of 89.4% was elite, but his 42.6% of snaps inline and 7.3 ADOT were just okay. Still, on an offense this good, he’s at least worth monitoring.
- The much-hyped arrival of the Kellen Moore offense in Los Angeles wasn’t quite what we all expected. Instead of bombing it downfield, Justin Herbert’s 7.5 ADOT was slightly below average, and the Chargers ran the ball on over half of their plays. To be fair, that running attack was supremely effective, as Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelley both averaged over five yards per carry on 16 attempts. Especially now that Ekeler is reportedly dealing with an ankle injury, Kelley is a must-add given his apparent role in this new-look offense.
- Third-round RB De’Von Achane was a healthy scratch this week, while UDFA standout Chris Brooks did not play a single offensive snap. This left Raheem Mostert to dominate snaps and touches, with Salvon Ahmed seeing about 30% of each. In games, of which there should be many, where the Dolphins have a lead, expect Mostert to be an RB2 with touchdown-based RB1 upside — he played all 10 of the Dolphins’ snaps inside the 10-yard line.
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
- Once again, Cam Akers and the Rams are pushing to be the absolute weirdest committee in the NFL. Akers started the game and touched the ball four times on the Rams’ first drive … but those were his only four snaps of the whole half, while Kyren Williams saw 26. Still, Akers somehow ended up with 22 carries to Williams’ 15, in total carrying the ball on 22 of his 28 snaps. Williams, unsurprisingly given those numbers, dominated routes, as well as two targets and two red-zone TDs. This is a unique situation, and we saw last year how this backfield can completely change from week to week … but for now, Williams is a priority player to target on waivers and potential flex play, while Akers should be in one of the final spots on your bench.
- All four of the Seahawks’ first-half offensive possessions resulted in at least a field goal attempt. Then they lost their two standout second-year tackles (Abraham Lucas didn’t return after halftime, while Charles Cross was carted off after just three snaps in the third), and everything fell apart. Not counting a nine-yard Zach Charbonnet carry in the dregs of garbage time, they totaled just three yards in the entire second half. Both injuries are reportedly minor, but any more missed time for either or both tackles is a huge downgrade to this offense.
- While everyone is (rightfully) targeting Puka Nacua and even Tutu Atwell, consider the guy getting them the ball. Matthew Stafford was one of just a few quarterbacks to look good on Sunday and managed 14 fantasy points despite throwing zero touchdowns (the Rams ran it in three times from inside the ten). In deep 1-QB or any 2-QB league, he could be a sneaky option, although Week 2 against the 49ers’ defense could be rough.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
- This was a prime-time game, so you probably already know this, but if you somehow missed it, this game was a disaster. It’s hard to take away much from a game that was essentially over in the first quarter, but one thing is obvious: The Dallas defense is insane, and any non-stud players against them should likely be on your bench.
- The Giants’ top WRs appear to be Isaiah Hodgins, Darius Slayton, and Parris Campbell (in the slot). Rookie Jalin Hyatt saw the field as well, playing 80% of his snaps outside, meaning he is likely a threat to Slayton or Hodgins if he emerges as the season goes on.
- Jake Ferguson saw six targets on just 14 routes. On the bright side, that’s a bonkers targets per route run rate. On the other hand, that’s not enough routes to trust him, especially given he spent nearly 70% of his snaps on passing plays in-line. Target other options if you’re looking for TE help.