Mariota Wins Debut
The Battle of the Rookie QBs turned out to be a one-sided affair, as Marcus Mariota completed 13 of 16 pass attempts for 209 yards and four touchdowns in his Tennessee Titans debut. Mariota completed TD passes to four different receivers, including Bishop Sankey, who ran for another TD and totaled 86 yards from scrimmage, and Kendall Wright, whose 52 yard TD catch came less than two minutes into the first quarter. Of course, Mariota isn’t going to have the hapless Buccaneers defense to pick apart every week, but he was efficient and often looked like a polished veteran in the pocket.
The Titans play the Browns and Colts over the next two weeks, defenses that are better than Tampa Bay but not considered stout by any measure. Down the line, there are other matchups that look favorable as well, with the Raiders, Jaguars (2), Falcons and Saints all looking like potential good matchups for Mariota. If you’re streaming quarterbacks or still need a bye week replacement on your roster, Mariota is worth adding right away if he’s sitting on the waiver wire.
Tight Ends Make a Splash
The big story on the other side of the same game was the play of Buccaneers tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who caught five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Sefarian-Jenkins hauled in a five-yard flare to the corner of the end zone for his first TD, and he took a short pass on a crossing route 41 yards down the middle of the field early in the fourth quarter for his second score. He was just one of several tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski that had a huge Week 1 game. Travis Kelce had six receptions for 106 yards and two touchdowns, Tyler Eifert caught nine passes for 104 yards and two TDs, and Jason Witten caught a pair of touchdowns among his eight receptions for 60 yards. In fact, with two games still to play in Week 1, the tight end position has accounted for 22 touchdowns thus far, while wide receivers have accounted for just 19.
Most Fantasy analysts agreed during the preseason that the TE position was a vast wasteland after the Top 4 of Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Kelce and Greg Olsen. However, with Sefarian-Jenkins looking like Jameis Winston’s security blanket and Eifert, Witten, Ladarius Green, Jordan Reed and Darren Fells all making significant contributions right from the first snaps of the season, we could be looking at the makings of a big year for the TE position in Fantasy Football.
Running Backs Spinning Wheels
So far, this hasn’t been a good opening week for several highly ranked running backs, none more so than Denver’s C.J. Anderson, who managed just 29 yards on 12 carries against the Baltimore Ravens. Gary Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme didn’t look good at all; Broncos’ running backs managed just 2.8 yards per carry for the day despite a late surge by Ronnie Hillman, who ran for just 41 yards on 12 carries. Given the distribution of the touches among the Denver RBs, it’s quite possible that this is going to be more of a committee approach than most Fantasy analysts initially thought. It’s too soon to write off Anderson as a first round bust, but his Fantasy owners have to be a little nervous after such a poor first game.
Justin Forsett was ranked among the Top 10 RBs throughout most of the preseason. However, he managed just 43 yards on 14 carries and just 56 yards from scrimmage in total. Granted, the Broncos’ defense conjured up images of the old “Orange Crush” days, holding the Ravens to just 173 total net yards in this game. Better days are just ahead for Forsett, though, as the Ravens face the Raiders, Bengals, Steelers and Browns over the next four weeks. The Raiders allowed 396 total net yards to the Bengals this week, so Forsett is a terrific play for Week 2.
Dez Bryant Injured
As always, there were several key players injured during Week 1, most notably Dez Bryant, who can be seen here being supported while walking through the tunnel to the locker room with what was later diagnosed as a broken bone in his foot. Bryant will have surgery and miss 4-6 weeks. The loss of Bryant will boost the Fantasy value of WR Terrance Williams, who was already on many sleeper lists during the preseason. However, Lance Dunbar could end up being the bigger beneficiary, though, as he caught eight passes for 70 yards in the opener and clearly made things happen when got out in space. Cole Beasley also figures to see some extra targets as the speediest receiver on the roster now that Bryant is out. QB Tony Romo connected with Beasley five times for 49 yards, but Beasley dropped several passes and also fumbled the ball away once. Bryant’s Fantasy owners are going to need to hit the waiver wire this week. Some names to consider would be Kendall Wright (101 yds, TD), Jermaine Kearse (8 rec, 76 yds.), Percy Harvin (5 rec, 79 yds, TD), Donte Moncrief (6 rec, 46 yds, TD) and Rashad Greene (7 rec, 28 yds, TD).
Packers Not Jonesing for James
When the Packers lost WR Jordy Nelson during the preseason, the general consensus was that Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and one from among Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery and TE Richard Rodgers would emerge with increased Fantasy value. Ha! Then the Packers plucked James Jones off the street after he was kicked to the curb by the NY Giants, and in his first game back, he was incredible. Granted, we all knew that Aaron Rodgers would make a star out of someone, but Jones just didn’t seem like a likely candidate for career revival.
His last big season with the Packers was 2012, during which he caught 14 TD passes. Over the last two seasons, he dropped more than his fair share of passes. In 2013, he caught just 63 percent of his targets for a total of 817 yards and three TDs for the Packers. In 2014, he upped his catch percentage to 65.7 percent, but only tallied 666 yards and six TDs with the Raiders. Jones caught four passes for 51 yards and two TDs, and he almost caught a third but it was called back for a penalty at the line of scrimmage. Going forward, anyone who invested in either Janis or Montgomery can safely throw them back into the pool and make a claim for Jones, who likely went undrafted or may not have been claimed in leagues that allowed waiver wire pickups prior to Week 1. With Randall Cobb nursing a shoulder injury, Jones will remain a busy target for Aaron Rodgers. Don’t expect scores every week, but Rodgers will target him often enough to make him a solid flex option.