The Cardinals Offense is Legit
Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals beat the 49ers in San Francisco in their season opener in an exciting back and forth rally. The 49ers were favorited in this game as they are coming off a Super Bowl appearance and have a lot of continuity on both sides of the ball. However they were lacking some pieces on the offensive side of the ball, but that's not the offense I'm talking about today. The Arizona Cardinal's offense looked really good this week. They struggled to move the ball on a few drives, but it's week one after a restricted offseason so that was expected. After they got those few hiccups out, the Kyler Murray and the rest of this offense looked good.
Let's start with the elephant in the room, Deandre Hopkins. He had one of the best wide receiver debuts ever with 150 yards on 14 receptions and falling just inches shy of a trip to the end zone. Hopkins could not be covered by anyone on this 49ers defense with only two incompletions thrown towards him. The chemistry between Murray and Hopkins is already incredible and, after signing that massive extension, will only continue to get stronger. Aside from the stellar performance by Nuk, they also had some other solid performance.
Kyler Murray had 230 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception through the air. He also had 91 rush yards on 13 attempts and another touchdown on the ground. Murray really utilized his speed this game and looked great doing so. He never looked to run first aside from a couple designed run plays; he stood in the pocket looking to pass and only ran when he had to or had a great opening. The running back duo of Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds combined for 110 total yards and two total touchdowns, one of each of them. The running game aside from Kyler Murray wasn't the most efficient, but it got the job done. Deandre Hopkins was the only relevant receiver on this team in week one, but Kyler Murray will have to open in up even more in coming weeks and will allow other receivers (probably Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald) to become a little more fantasy relevant.
Las Vegas opened their season against the Carolina Panthers who appear to be in a rebuilding phase. The Panther's offense is more than capable of keeping up with this offense, but their defense couldn't stop a thing. This makes Josh Jacob's performance even more impressive as the Raiders should've been in an even more pass heavy game script as they either had a narrow lead or were trailing most of the game.
Jacobs finished week one with 139 total yards and three touchdowns. The Raiders finally started to involve him in the passing game which is even better for fantasy purposes. Josh Jacobs could easily out up this yardage every week if he's given 29 total touches, but the touchdowns will regress. He'll still have big games with multiple touchdowns, especially against weaker teams like the Panthers, but he won't be putting up over 30 points every week. The Raiders also face the Browns, Jets, Falcons, Dolphins, and Broncos who could all be great matchups for him.
Another part of Josh Jacob's success was the efficiency of the offense as a whole. Derek Carr had over 73% pass completion while not throwing any interceptions. He only had one touchdown pass, but he didn't need to do much more with Josh Jacobs rumbling away. The offensive line proved to be one of the best in the league right now and should continue to do so with a relatively favorable schedule. Josh Jacobs was great in his rookie year, but will be even better for the rest of his sophomore season.
The Bengals let go of long time starting quarterback Andy Dalton in favor of drafting rookie Joe Burrow from LSU. Burrow is coming off one of the best seasons in college football history with 60 touchdowns and a national championship. Although a quarterback is the most important position on a football team, there's no way a first year signal caller is going to turn around an awful franchise overnight.
Cincinnati has been struggling for years now and decided to move on from Dalton thinking he was the problem. In reality, Andy Dalton was probably the only part of this team that worked. Starting with the owner of the team refusing to spend any money, every part of the management is incapable of doing their jobs well. The Bengals lost week one to the Chargers in a very disappointing fashion. They had a touchdown ruled out then their kicker, Randy Bullock, missed a game tying field goal. Joe Burrow definitely had his struggles in his first game (as expected), but very few of them were his fault at all.
The offensive line continues to be in absolute shambles making Burrow have to either move on every play or get rid of the ball in less than a second. The coaching staff and play calling is still well below average, though Zac Taylor has potential to improve as it's only his second year with the Bengals. The defense finally looked decent, but the Chargers don't have a great offense with Tyrod Taylor at the helm of it. And finally, they need to move on from Randy Bullock. He's never been a great kicker and there's no reason to keep him. There are dozens of free agent kickers worth trying out and Bullock is very easily replaceable. The Cincinnati Bengals have been a mess of an organization and will continue to be one until the owner sells the team or he wakes up and decides to make big changes.
The New England Patriots lost the greatest quarterback of all time to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, so they replaced him with a polar opposite style quarterback. Tom Brady has never been one to move around much, let alone take off with the ball. Cam Newton looks to do that if his first two reads aren't open, sometimes even having designed runs. The last time we saw Cam Newton, he looked beat up and broken down. Now that he's had tons of time to heal up, he looks amazing in a Patriots uniform so far.
I know it's only one game but he outperformed everyones expectations, which weren't very high to begin with. Cam finished the game with 155 passing yards on 15 for 19 passing, with an additional 75 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns. In just one game as a Patriot, he broke the single game quarterback rushing record of the franchise which is pretty impressive looking back to how he played last season. Now it may be a bit of a stretch to say his is totally back to normal, but Newton looked good and played above everyone's expectations which is exciting to say the least. Everyone had some week one struggles, Cam included, so he could definitely return to his former self once he gets the last of the rust off. This is going to be an exciting season for Cam Newton and the Patriots.
The New York Jets continue to be the model of mediocrity. Mediocrity may even be a compliment in comparison to how they actually played this weekend. Not to discredit the Bills dominating victory, but the Jets couldn't do anything. They looked out of sync, unscripted, and unconfident in any of their decisions. The only passes Sam Darnold completed to start the game were shovel passes or dump offs. The Bills absolutely obliterated anything the Jets think they had going for them. Yes they had some injuries as well, but this was just straight up incompetence.
Adam Gase doesn't know how to play call and get the ball to his playmakers. The offensive line continues to struggle, but Adam Gase insists on calling plays that take a little bit of time to develop. Or he runs Le'Veon Bell between the tackles where he can't find a hole (because there is no hole). The front office needs to do a better job on getting the right personnel, but Gase needs to utilize what he has much better than he currently is. I felt like I was watching the 2019 Jets all over again with how inefficient this team was and how they were completely unable to move the ball. The New York Jets should enter a rebuild instead of just being at the bottom of the league for years to come. They can keep Joe Douglass, but everyone else has got to go.
The Eagles were dominant in the first half of this game and were up 17-0 nearly until half time. Once Dwayne Haskins threw that touchdown to Logan Thomas, this game took a massive turn in the other direction. The Washington Football Team started to dominate this game, putting up 27 unanswered points. Most of this turn around can be credited to this team's defense. The offense struggled early on and finally got in stride, but the defense (specifically the defensive line) looked incredible.
The Washington Football Team finished week one with eight total sacks and three fumble recoveries. Carson Wentz and the Eagles had absolutely no answer for what this defense was throwing at them. To be fair, the right side of the offensive line was undrafted rookies as well as a couple of injuries on the right side. The Eagles also went into the game without Miles Sanders and lost Boston Scott during the game. Philadelphia should be used to these types of injuries by now, but they couldn't overcome it this time around. Carson Wentz was under pressure seemingly every single play and couldn't get any momentum in the second half.
In the next few weeks, the Football Team faces some below average offensive lines like the Cardinals, Giants, Browns, Lions, and Bengals which should allow them to feast again. The Cardinals have a much better and healthier team than the Eagles do so it will be a more difficult task, but with a mix of Chase Young, Ryan Kerrigan, Daron Payne, you name it, they will get pressure on every single quarterback they face. Even later in the season, they face the Panthers, Seahawks, and the Eagles again, they should be a startable defense for the entire year barring injuries. Any time one your players goes up against Washington, you may have to think twice about starting them if it's not Christian McCaffrey or Russell Wilson.
The Baltimore Ravens started their season with a very favorable matchup against the Cleveland Browns who have (once again) started their season off with a loss. The Ravens were absolutely dominant and Lamar Jackson could not be slowed down let alone stopped. Jackson had an 80% completion percentage and threw for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He was also the team's leading rusher, but it was only for 45 yards on the ground. Coming off a playoff loss, following his MVP season, Lamar Jackson is looking to win and will not be stopped this season.
Lamar Jackson will be looking to have another MVP level season, although he probably won't win it as the NFL loves a breakout player. Unless the Steelers bounce back with Big Ben (assuming he's healthy), the Ravens have this division locked up for the 2020 season. The Browns were held to just six points following Baker Mayfield's struggles against this elite defense. If this is any indication of how the Brown's season is going to go, they can already be written out. The same goes for the Bengals. They lost in a nail biter against the Chargers who had a horrible offensive performance under Tyrod Taylor. Joe Burrow didn't look incredible, but the rest of that team is horrible.
The Steelers are the only real competition for the Ravens this year and that's only if Big Ben can return to his former self. Lamar will be a weekly starter for the entire season no matter the matchup. His rushing baseline makes up for any challenging secondary, and his passing looked even more improved from last season. Quarterbacks rarely finish as the number one fantasy quarterback two seasons in a row but if anyone is going to do it, it's Lamar. The defense is amazing, but the offense is even better. Baltimore has a relatively easy schedule with a few difficult games in there (Steelers, Patriots, Chiefs, Texans), but the last stretch of the season looks really nice. Lamar Jackson will win people leagues come fantasy playoffs.
Although they faced a weak Giants team, Pittsburg looked pretty good last night. In 2019, they had every piece they needed to get to the playoffs except for a quality starting quarterback. Even without one, the Steelers still finished 8-8 and had the seventh seed, which would've put them in the playoffs this season. Big Ben looked healthy as he threw the ball 32 times for 229 yards and three touchdowns. James Conner went down (again) and Benny Snell Jr. filled in nicely, rushing for 113 yards on only 19 carries. The player who gained the most from Big Ben's return is Juju Smith-Schuster.
Last season, the third string quarterback play was not enough to sustain a quality receiver, but Juju also had struggles with injuries. Rookie receiver Diontae Johnson was outplaying him last season and everyone started to count him out. To open up this season, Juju caught all six passes that were targeted at him with two of them going for touchdowns. The yardage wasn't there as he only had 69 receiving yards, but he didn't have to do much with how well the ball was being spread around. Those two touchdowns really helped Juju Smith-Schuster regain his confidence and he should continue to be a regular start in fantasy.
The big question now comes in the running game. Is James Conner healthy? Will Benny Snell Jr. earn the starting role? It may be time to move on from Conner if he has to miss even more time in his career. He was a great comeback story after beating cancer and making his way to the NFL, but he's detrimental to the team with his injuries. Benny Snell Jr. looked incredible last night and couldn't be stopped.
Their defense picked up right where it left off as well. They allowed nearly 300 passing yards, but came away with two interceptions and three sacks. The real story of this game is that run defense. They held Saquon Barkley six yards on the ground. Off 15 attempts. This is in part due to the horrible run blocking offensive line, but the Steelers were there on every single play. Bud Dupree and Cam Heyward were destroying this offensive line on every play. T.J. Watt had a great game too, coming away with an interception. This entire team will have fantasy production in 2020, but James Conner should probably be benched until he proves he can stay healthy (which has yet to happen).