After all the preseason preparation and analysis, Week 1 has come and gone, and we all realize that all the theories we had at the start of the season mean nothing.
Let’s start with the last game that was played in Week 1. The Minnesota Vikings were everybody’s darling during the preseason because they were getting stud running back Adrian Peterson back and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater improved so much during the second half of his rookie season.
Peterson did not look like the King of All Running Backs as he rushed for 31 yards on 10 carries and instead looked, dare we say, tentative. Bridgewater completed 23 of 32 passes for 231 yards, but he looked like a bit of a clown when he ran into his own offensive lineman while trying to escape San Francisco 49ers pressure.
On the other side, Carlos Hyde played the role of superstar after rushing for 168 yards and two touchdowns against what is supposed to be a tough Vikings defense. Is Hyde the real deal, or is he a one-hit wonder?
We will try to separate fantasy from reality—pun intended—with our Week 2 projections.
Skill Position Rankings
Aaron Rodgers was at the top of our quarterback rankings a week ago, and while he was dynamic against the Chicago Bears with three touchdown passes and superb accuracy, he is not at the top this week because he goes up against the Seattle Seahawks defense.
That gives Drew Brees a chance to head to the top of the class, as he gets to face what looks like a disastrous Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.
Drew Brees footwork should be recorded and studied by future QBs.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) September 13, 2015
It would have been one thing if Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans eked out a win over the Bucs in Week 1, but that’s not what happened. Mariota destroyed Tampa Bay with a Week 1 rookie performance not seen since Fran Tarkenton and the expansion Minnesota Vikings destroyed the Chicago Bears in their first game in 1961.
Brees is probably licking his chops already at the thought of going up against the Bucs and their weak Cover 2. Brees threw for 355 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals, and that defense is quite dangerous.
Brees may be good for 400 yards and three scores as the New Orleans Saints come home.
While our eyes were opened by what we saw—or didn’t see—from Peterson, we are not going to downgrade him completely.
As a matter of fact, we still believe in him and will chalk his nothing performance against the 49ers to rust and a very emotional effort by the 49ers playing their first game for new head coach Jim Tomsula.
Peterson gets to run against a divisional foe in the Detroit Lions, and that team folded up after a great start against the San Diego Chargers. If Peterson can get one or two good runs early, he could find his form.
But the running back we really like this week is Marshawn Lynch going up against the Green Bay Packers. While the Packers want some revenge after blowing last year’s NFC Championship, Mike McCarthy has a mature team that realizes a win here will not overturn last year’s title game.
The Packers certainly want to win their home opener, but their run defense was atrocious against Chicago. Matt Forte chewed them up for 141 yards on 24 carries, and Lynch should be able meet or exceed those totals.
The Packers could not set the edge any time Forte went outside, and Lynch will punish them for that weakness.
Among the receivers, it’s hard to find a better opportunity than the one that Julio Jones has this week against the New York Giants.
New York played a credible defensive game against the Dallas Cowboys in the season opener up until the final drive, and that’s when they folded easily and Tony Romo led the game-winning drive.
Now the Giants have to rebound from that painful Week 1 loss to dealing with Jones, who was unstoppable against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night with 11 catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
— NFL (@NFL) September 14, 2015
Unless the Giants suddenly find an explosive pass rush, Jones will have another brilliant day.
Mariota may not be a sleeper for much longer. He definitely woke up a lot of fantasy players with his eye-opening performance against Tampa Bay. Mariota demonstrated maximum efficiency in completing 13 of 16 passes for 209 yards with four TDs and no interceptions.
He is not a magic man, but he fits an NFL offense, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt is the perfect creative leader for him. Mariota will get to confront a Cleveland Browns defense that struggled to contain Ryan Fitzpatrick of the New York Jets last week, and he will find a way to put up the fantasy points once again.
— Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) September 15, 2015
Maybe not four touchdowns, but he he will throw for at least 250 yards with two or three scores.
We’re not convinced that Hyde is going to be the answer to the Niners’ needs in the running game despite his sensational showing on Monday night. However, he has a favorable matchup this week when San Francisco plays at Pittsburgh.
The Steelers defense got exposed in the loss to the New England Patriots. New defensive coordinator Keith Butler’s personnel was quite confused throughout the game against the Patriots, and that seems understandable because Pittsburgh let Dick LeBeau leave and they have installed a new system.
— Ray Ratto (@RattoCSN) September 14, 2015
Hyde showed explosive quickness against what is supposed to be a good Minnesota run defense, and he could have another big day here if the Steelers aren’t prepared.
Based on their play in Week 1, they won’t be.
Robert Woods should be able to exploit a very soft New England secondary. The Buffalo Bills’ No. 2 receiver will be singled up throughout the game as New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia has to be concerned with quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s speed leaving the pocket and No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins.
Woods has good hands and can get open all over the field. He caught just two passes for 27 yards against the Indianapolis Colts in the opener, but things open up for him here.
Last week we told you about Seattle rookie Tyler Lockett and his eye-catching speed, and he rewarded those who took the Seattle defense/special teams with a punt return for a touchdown.
This week, we are making a strong “buy” recommendation for wide receiver James Jones of the Green Bay Packers. Dumped by the Oakland Raiders and the New York Giants, the Packers picked up their former receiver after Jordy Nelson’s season-ending injury, and he had two catches against the Chicago Bears.
While we realize the Chicago defense has serious deficiencies, Jones and Rodgers have been on the same page for years, and this partnership works.
Tyler Eifert is a gifted tight end, and that’s great news for Andy Dalton, who needs all the help he can get. Not only does Eifert have reliable hands that allowed him to catch 9-104-2 against the Raiders, but he can also go downfield and outrun defensive backs.
A big hunch here on running back Chris Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals. While Andre Ellington has not been ruled out of this week’s game against Chicago, it doesn’t look good, and he may be out a few weeks with a knee injury. Johnson may no longer be a 2,000-yard threat, but he should be able to pick up 80 yards or more against the Bears, and we will pick him up off the waiver wire.
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