Thoughts on Pats-Dolphins and Week 1 NFL Takeaways: Newton impresses in debut

Week 1 was full of surprises. Of the 16 games this week, I only predicted 6 of them correctly. There were a number of breakout players as well.

The Patriots kicked off their season by taking down the Dolphins 21-11. Now, I thought the Pats would get out to a bigger lead in this one. However, QB Cam Newton was impressive. He is still running the ball like he did in his prime, and he appeared competent in the pocket as well. He is still a capable mobile QB and I’m glad the Pats brought him on board. The Dolphins struggled early, and they lost WR DeVante Parker to a hamstring ailment. With CB Stephon Gilmore turning focus to WR Preston Williams and TE Mike Gesicki drawing defensive attention as well, it was RB Myles Gaskin who was QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s secret weapon. The Dolphins backfield was expected to be a duo of between the tackles RB Jordan Howard and versatile change of pace RB Matt Breida.

Breida did not live up to expectations in his Miami debut, and Howard struggled against the Pats D. It was Gaskin who impressed on all 3 downs. From here, the Dolphins are expected to run a 3 way committee, but I expect Gaskin, a capable every down RB to lead this committee.

Newton’s strong debut could be telling about what we should expect for the Patriots season. Gaskin’s involvement has fantasy football relevance. I have provided a real life and fantasy takeaway for each of the other games below. Keep reading to find out what they are.

Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs

Prediction:

Actual Score: 34-20 Chiefs

Real NFL Takeaway: The Texans will regret the DeAndre Hopkins trade: WR Will Fuller V showed promise, and RB David Johnson looked good. But nonetheless QB Deshaun Watson struggled without his star WR.

Fantasy Takeaway: WR Sammy Watkins is still fantasy relevant: Watkins dropped more points than any other Chiefs WR or TE. I expect him to slot in as the #3 target behind WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce. Watkins looked far better than young WR Mecole Hardman despite failing to meet expectations in previous years.

New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills

Prediction:

Actual Score: 27-17 Bills

Real NFL Takeaway: The Bills will be even better this year with WR Stefon Diggs in the mix: The Bills nearly dethroned the Pats last year. This year, QB Josh Allen looks better and it helps that he has Diggs to rely on. This team could make a serious playoff run.

Fantasy Takeaway: Diggs might not be the clear top target right away: Diggs came to Buffalo thinking he’d be the true #1 receiver for the first time in his career. However, Allen still targeted WR John Brown frequently. It may take time for Diggs to develop chemistry and earn the #1 role.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

Prediction:

Actual Score: 38-6 Ravens

Real NFL Takeaway: The Browns still have a long way to go before competing with the Ravens: Don’t get me wrong, I think QB Baker Mayfield and his offense are capable of a bounce back. Just don’t think they’ll be competing for the division title anytime soon.

Fantasy Takeaway: Nick Chubb is not getting any more work than Kareem Hunt: I was expecting Chubb to pick up a majority of carries while Hunt focused on third down. Chubb and Hunt split pretty evenly, so that’s not a good sign for Chubb’s fantasy value.

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Prediction:

Actual Score: 27-20 Jaguars

Real NFL Takeaway: The Jaguars aren’t tanking for Trevor Lawrence: Okay, maybe GM David Caldwell was hoping to tank. Not on QB Gardner Minshew’s watch though.

Fantasy Takeaway: Minshew won’t just be throwing to WR D.J. Chark all game: Last year, Chark was by far Minshew’s favorite target. This year, he’s spreading the ball out more, relying on WRs Laviska Shenault Jr. and Keelan Cole as well. Chark owners should be cautious to start him this week.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Carolina Panthers

Prediction:

Actual Score: 34-30 Raiders

Real NFL Takeaway: The Raiders offense could be very good if they center it around Josh Jacobs: Sure, it was against Carolina. But Jacobs neared 100 rushing yards, had 46 receiving yards, and scored 3 TD. If the Raiders continue to center this offense around him they could make some noise.

Fantasy Takeaway: WRs Robby Anderson and Curtis Samuel could cut into WR D.J. Moore’s workload: Everyone was deeming Moore to be a consistent fantasy option. But the Panthers have more weapons this year and that could affect Moore’s fantasy value. He’s a little riskier than we thought.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington

Prediction:

Actual Score: 27-17 Washington

Real NFL Takeaway: Washington’s defense can help them win some games: Washington’s offense might very well be the league’s worst. But after giving up 17 points the defense stood strong to allow Washington to battle their way back. Rookie DE Chase Young led the defense, with 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Fantasy Takeaway: TE Dallas Goedert could be as good as, or better than Zach Ertz: As an Ertz owner, I’m not hitting the panic button yet. But Ertz isn’t the only Eagles TE that will produce good numbers for fantasy. If one of these guys gets hurt, the other could put up numbers we haven’t seen from a TE in a long time.

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

Prediction:

Note: This prediction was made before the Kenny Golladay injury occurred

Actual Score: 27-23 Bears

Real NFL Takeaway: Mitch Trubisky isn’t perfect, but could be a serviceable starting QB: Trubisky still looked rusty in this game. But the Bears won nonetheless, and unless Trubisky’s mistakes cost the Bears big time, I expect him to keep the starting job.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB Adrian Peterson will have a significant role on early downs: This backfield is a fantasy nightmare right now. Peterson is getting the bulk of carries, Swift is getting goal line work and some receptions, and Kerryon Johnson is in the mix too. Especially considering they will be playing from behind a lot, I’m leaving Lions RBs on my bench for now.

Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings

Prediction:

Actual Score: 43-34 Packers

Real NFL Takeaway: Aaron Rodgers might just be good enough to carry this Packers offense: Rodgers lacked weapons last year, and people assumed his struggles were due to age. His WR corps isn’t much better this year, but he just dropped 43 points against the Vikings. Rodgers is still good and can win games despite lackluster receiving options outside of Davante Adams.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB Dalvin Cook’s role could be different without Kevin Stefanski: Cook still dropped 20+ fantasy points, but most of those came from goal line work. He’s not getting the same target share he received with Stefanski, and QB Kirk Cousins is throwing the ball more in general. I don’t know if Cook will be the top 5 fantasy option he was last year, though I still think he’s a solid RB1.

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

Prediction:

Actual Score: 38-25 Seahawks

Real NFL Takeaway: The Falcons could struggle despite the strong offense: QB Matt Ryan and his elite WR duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were dominant in this game. But the Falcons also gave up 38 points. This offense looks strong but offense isn’t everything, and the Falcons could be in for a rough year if they don’t build around it.

Fantasy Takeaway: WR Calvin Ridley is the real deal and can succeed alongside Julio Jones: While Jones led the Falcons with 157 yards, Ridley had a 100 yard game of his own and scored 2 TD, for a total of more than 30 fantasy points. I’m one of many who has targeted Ridley and called him the next Chris Godwin. So far, Ridley is living up to the hype.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Prediction:

Actual Score: 16-13 Chargers

Real NFL Takeaway: Both these teams will need to rely on their defense: Both these offenses are undergoing a transitional period and there were some growing pains. In the mean time, defense will be what wins both these teams football games.

Fantasy Takeaway: Austin Ekeler might not have the same passing down role he had with QB Philip Rivers: In Indianapolis, we saw Rivers throw to RBs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines frequently. Back in LA, Austin Ekeler struggled from a fantasy perspective after catching just one pass. It’s possible Ekeler’s 2019 role had more to do with Rivers than raw talent.

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers

Prediction:

Actual Score: 24-20 Cardinals

Real NFL Takeaway: The Cardinals have improved significantly: Sure, the 49ers seem to have a bit of a Super Bowl hangover. But it appears QB Kyler Murray is ready to take the next step with WR DeAndre Hopkins in the mix. Watch for these Cardinals to post an impressive season.

Fantasy Takeaway: Larry Fitzgerald could very well be Arizona’s #2 WR: Fitzgerald has been in the league almost as long as I’ve been alive. But he could still be fantasy relevant. He’s no longer the top target here, but it appears the Cardinals are favoring their veteran WR over young Christian Kirk.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints

Prediction:

Actual Score: 34-23 Saints

Real NFL Takeaway: Even with all the weapons, QB Tom Brady is not quite what he was during his prime: Look, this is a very strong Saints squad, and I have confidence Brady can bounce back and lead the Bucs to a wild card. But prime Brady would’ve at least made this one competitive. Brady started to show signs of age in his last two years in New England. I still think Brady is a capable starter, but you can’t expect elite production at 43 years old.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB Leonard Fournette has to earn a bigger role, and it hasn’t happened yet: RB Ronald Jones II was the starter against New Orleans, and while Fournette struggled in limited reps against the Saints D, RoJo posted a nice performance. Fournette will need to bounce back against Carolina and outperform Jones to earn the lead role.

Dallas Cowboys @ Los Angeles Rams

Prediction:

Actual Score: 20-17 Rams

Real NFL Takeaway: The Cowboys are still flawed and the Rams might have what it takes to bounce back: I think the Cowboys looked good and should have won this game. But the Rams looked better on defense around DT Aaron Donald and CB Jalen Ramsey. QB Jared Goff’s receivers outperformed the Cowboys secondary. It didn’t help matters that TE Blake Jarwin and LB Leighton Vander Esch suffered serious injuries during the game.

Fantasy Takeaway: Malcolm Brown will at least start the season leading the Rams 3-way RB committee: RB Cam Akers struggled in his debut, and Brown looked like the best RB here. He will serve as the committee’s leader until Akers or Darrell Henderson emerges. Look to grab him off waivers this week.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants

Prediction:

Actual Score: 26-16 Steelers

Real NFL Takeaway: The Steelers front seven is on another level of greatness: We all know RB Saquon Barkley is talented. Well, this front seven held him to 6 yards on 15 carries.

Fantasy Takeaway: RB James Conner cannot be trusted to stay healthy: Some people started Conner saying a healthy Conner would dominate. Well, he’s not healthy anymore. He went down with an ankle injury early in the game and RB Benny Snell Jr. looked good in Conner’s absence. I’m starting to wonder if Conner will get his starting job back this time around.

Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos

Prediction:

Note: This prediction was made before the Courtland Sutton injury occurred

Actual Score: 16-14 Titans

Real NFL Takeaway: The Titans could be legitimate Super Bowl contenders: If Stephen Gostkowski didn’t miss so many field goals, the Titans would have won this easily. The offense looked as good as it was down the stretch last year, and this defense could be very good with edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney in the mix.

Fantasy Takeaway: WR Corey Davis never lost the job as the #1 WR: Sure, A.J. Brown was impressive down the stretch last year. But this game proved that WR Corey Davis is still fantasy relevant and it’s possible he’ll still be the #1 WR for the Titans. I like Brown as well; his playmaking ability and potential for red zone usage intrigue me.

Stay tuned for Week 2 coverage on this website and my social media in the next several days.

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