Sometimes the rabble knows best. For years, fantasy football players and Seahawks fans have had a simple request for coach Pete Carroll: Let Russ cook. Let Russell Wilson be the quarterback the stat sheet has always said he could be. An explosive, ludicrously-efficient game-breaker who should be throwing as much as any player in football.
Carroll has always seen it differently, seeming to believe it was the very restrictions that everyone else loathed that made Wilson great. That Russell Wilson would not be Russell Wilson if he got to treat every play like the Seahawks were trailing in the fourth quarter. It wasn’t Twitter or the 12th man that finally got Carroll to change his mind, but Wilson. He spent the offseason telling anyone who would listen that he wanted that end-of-game energy on every play. He was granted his wish against the Falcons and the results confirmed what everyone besides Carroll suspected all along: Wilson can do this.
The Seahawks led by two scores nearly all afternoon — 14-3 in the first quarter and 28-12 in the third — and attempted only 20 rushes. That would be unthinkable for almost any NFL team, let alone Carroll’s Seahawks. As charted by Rotoworld’s John Daigle, Wilson passed on 15-of-25 first half plays. He dropped back to pass on 16-of-21 first and second downs before the break. In addition to the early-down passing there was pre-snap motion, play action, fourth down attempts. The biggest play of the game was a 38-yard touchdown to DK Metcalf on a 4th-and-2 in the third quarter where Metcalf was singled up on CB Isaiah Butler and the ‘Hawks trusted him to make a play.
It was the game we have always dreamed of, and a shot across the bow to Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson. If the Seahawks let Wilson play like this every week, he will be in the mix for QB1 overall status. Week 2 will be telling, as the difficulty level kicks up a notch from the woebegone Falcons. It will be Bill Belichick’s Patriots venturing to a fanless CenturyLink Field. Wilson, of course, has never been scared of the Pats before. He’s never been scared of anybody. Carroll finally stopped coaching scared on Sunday. If he sticks with it going forward, a coaching career that had been stuck in Wild Card neutral might finally get the championship capstone Wilson has champing at the bit to provide him.
Five Week 1 Storylines
DeAndre Hopkins goes ballistic in Cardinals debut. Hopkins has done a lot of things in the NFL, but he had never done that. Hopkins’ 14 catches were a new career high for a player who entered the proceedings with nine previous double-digit reception totals to his name. Unlike some of those early Texans efforts, Hopkins was wildly efficient with his 40 percent target share, converting 87.5 percent of his 16 looks for grabs. While there was fierce summer debate over Hopkins’ Cardinals upside, the outcome really should not have been a surprise. No. 1 receiver was a glaring weakness for a team that wants to be amongst the league leaders in pass attempts. They then aggressively addressed it with one of the most prolific target hogs in NFL history. 14 catches will probably be Nuk’s season high, but Sunday’s winning formula will not be changing. Coach Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray are going to do all they can to get the ball in their No. 1 wideout’s hands.
Cam Newton turns back multiple clocks in first start as Patriots quarterback. While you were too busy not benching Mitchell Trubisky because there “wasn’t enough time,” or something, Bill Belichick changed his entire offensive approach in one summer month. Running Cam Newton was back against the Dolphins, with his 15 carries the second most of his career and the most ever by a Patriots quarterback. Newton’s 75 yards on the ground were the most by a Pats signal caller since 1977. The Pats featured two-TE sets and flashed option runs. As a passer, Newton attempted only 19 throws, but his long-troublesome shoulder was not an issue. It all adds up to a quarterback who is immediately back in the QB1 ranks. Week 2 opponent Seattle’s defense has playmakers but an unimposing front seven.
Austin Ekeler’s usage is a mixed bag. The lead is that Ekeler handled a career-high 19 carries. The disappointment is that he drew only one target. The concern is that he wasn’t used at the goal line. All of this could be transient, of course. It was one game for a team with a new quarterback. At the very least, the target floor should be higher, even if Tyrod Taylor isn’t going to check down at the same astronomical rate as Philip Rivers. I avoided the Ekeler RB1 train because I wasn’t sure about the carries. Those were there. There is still time for the other things to fall in place, even if rookie Joshua Kelley maintains goal-line duties. Ekeler will be in the RB12-15 range for a Week 2 showdown with the Chiefs where the Bolts’ game script will be far less forgiving than it was in Cincinnati.
James Robinson only Jaguars running back to handle a carry. One of my worst Week 1 ranks was slotting Robinson in as the RB42. My “thinking” was that the Jaguars’ game script would be so bad there wouldn’t be time to get the run established. Instead, they sprung the upset, and Robinson’s 16 totes were the only ones by a member of the Jags’ backfield. Robinson wasn’t scintillating — 16/62/3.9 is a JAG line — but with Devine Ozigbo (hamstring) out at least two more weeks, he is now a clear-cut top-30 back. Ultimately, Robinson is a 4.6 runner in an offense that probably still won’t be very good, but in a game where opportunity is king, he has almost all of it right now.
Blake Jarwin tears ACL in what was supposed to be coronation game. No preseason meant fewer fantasy bubbles burst by summer injury. Jarwin made up for it after a mercifully quiet Week 1 injury list, watching his right knee give out at the end of a second quarter route against the Rams. Jarwin had just one catch for 12 yards before going down. A disappointing blow for fantasy football value seekers will be survivable for a Cowboys Offense with one of the league’s deepest receiver corps, though they will now be forced to trot out some combination of Dalton Schultz and Blake Bell up the seam. Still only 26 and signed through 2023, Jarwin is worth keeping around in Dynasty leagues despite his paltry overall résumé.
Five More Week 1 Storylines
Josh Allen ups the Josh Allen levels to 11. It was a day of career highs for Allen against the pathetic Jets, with each of his 312 yards, 46 attempts and 14 rushes setting new personal bests. That should have made for a uniformly positive day, but Allen still left time for some Allen-ing. He lost a pair of fumbles as a rusher, under-threw one potential touchdown before over-throwing another and took a pair of third down sacks. That those miscues weren’t the lead in his game recap is progress in and of itself, but there still needs to be weeks where there are no major mistakes to speak of. Allen hinted at that possibility Sunday, operating more like a genuine playmaker than a toolsy quarterback who sometimes makes plays. He will have a chance to build off the performance in Week 2 against the Dolphins before a tougher Week 3 test in the Rams. After stupidly keeping Allen in the low-end QB1 ranks vs. Gang Green — I let too many visions of the Wild Card Round dance in my head — he will be a top-eight option in Miami.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss run to a standstill. As Allen set the tone on the ground, Moss and Singletary fought for his scraps. Singletary notched a small advantage in most areas. He out-snapped Moss 49-39, out-touched him 14-12 and out-gained him 53-27. The problem was the one area where Moss had the edge: The goal line. Moss handled the ball four times inside the five to Singletary’s zero, including a four-yard touchdown reception. If that usage holds going forward, Singletary’s RB2 candidacy will be dead in the water while Moss ascends to safe FLEX status behind lead runner Allen.
Marlon Mack’s torn Achilles’ tendon clears deck for Jonathan Taylor. Mack’s unfortunate demise would seem to leave nothing in the electric rookie’s way, but even before Mack went down Sunday, Nyheim Hines was serving as a stunning impediment, operating as the Colts’ red zone option. It would appear Philip Rivers’ third-down back obsession was not just an Austin Ekeler passing fancy. Taylor did help his cause with six receptions for 67 yards of his own, but he wasn’t ready for prime time as a runner, taking the rock nine times for an unsatisfactory 22 yards. Despite that disappointment, Hines will quickly fade as a threat on early downs. It’s in the passing game where Taylor must keep the pressure on. Hines’ pass-catching threat helped draw Taylor to a second half snaps standstill against the Jags. For now, Taylor is solidified as a high-upside RB2 while Hines has gone from PPR bench speculation to Tarik Cohen-style RB3 value.
Aaron Rodgers decimates Vikings. You would like Aaron Rodgers when he’s angry. Maybe all the “credit” belongs to the Vikes’ joker secondary, but Rodgers turned in the kind of effort he had only 1-2 times all last season. Rodgers’ line — 32-of-44 for 364 yards and four touchdowns — would have been even more explosive had Marquez Valdes-Scantling not dropped a walk-in 61-yard touchdown. “Angry Aaron” now gets another showcase spot in a Lions “defense” that couldn’t prevent Mitchell Trubisky from throwing three second half touchdowns on it. Call it fickle, call it what you want, but Rodgers will immediately find himself back in the QB1 ranks for Week 2.
Sam Darnold has his most dispiriting start yet. There were many layers to Sunday’s Jets fiasco, but Darnold’s play was certainly the most concerning. What I wrote in Darnold’s post-game blurb tells the tale: Playing with one of the league's worst supporting casts behind a revamped line that had little time to gel, Darnold made one bad decision after another, none worse than his interception. Rolling left on a third down, Darnold threw across his body into a crowd, and it was justifiably picked off. Darnold has zero help in any phase of the game — the Jets' rushing attack was nonexistent as usual — but he did not appear capable of rising above his circumstances. The Bills are one of the best defenses in the league, of course, but things will not get any easier against the 49ers in Week 2. This is already an offense in crisis.
1. Can’t the people just enjoy their pandemic survivor pool without Philip Rivers having to instantly ruin it?
2. How did Matt Patricia not resign on the spot after allowing Mitchell Trubisky to throw three fourth quarter touchdowns against his “defense”?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Ryan Tannehill (vs. JAX), Philip Rivers (vs. MIN), Kirk Cousins (@IND), Teddy Bridgewater (vs. TB), Tyrod Taylor (vs. KC), Mitchell Trubisky (vs. NYG)
RB: Malcolm Brown, Nyheim Hines, Joshua Kelley, Chase Edmonds, Darrel Williams, Chris Thompson, Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Lamical Perine, Josh Adams, Myles Gaskin, Corey Clement
WR: Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Parris Campbell, Allen Lazard, Preston Williams, Jalen Reagor, Robby Anderson, Laviska Shenault, Brandon Aiyuk, Russell Gage, Scotty Miller
TE: Eric Ebron, Logan Thomas, Jack Doyle, C.J. Uzomah
DEF: Titans (vs. JAX), Cardinals (vs. WFT), Bucs (vs. CAR), Giants (@CHI), Bengals (@CLE), Rams (@PHI)
Stats of the Week
17-11. That was Kareem Hunt’s touch advantage over Nick Chubb as the Browns spent the afternoon playing from behind. That is unfortunately going to be a 2020 theme, though the Bengals are a less forbidding Week 2 matchup.
John Daigle with the nugget we had been hoping for on Mark Andrews: “Prior to Sunday, Mark Andrews had never played more than 57 percent of the Ravens’ snaps. He was in on 71 percent (including a 73.1 percent slot rate) in a game Baltimore benched their starters in the final quarter.”
Tweet of the Week, from Eric Stangel: We all agree that what Tom Brady did in today’s game undoes his entire legacy in New England, right?
Evergreen Jets Tweet of the Week from Bills reporter Joe Buscaglia: This is embarrassing.
The Dignity Health Sports Park Memorial Award: Philip Rivers bringing his Rivers ways to the Colts in one of Week 1’s most inexplicable results.
The Maybe You Should Have Just Caught Your Walkoff Touchdown Against The Bears Award: D’Andre Swift.
The We Barely Knew Ye Award: N’Keal Harry fumbling out the back of the end zone.