Booms and Busts: Aaron Rodgers brings James Jones back from the fantasy dead

Roto Arcade

So the Raiders didn’t need James Jones and the Giants didn’t want James Jones. That’s fine. Maybe the only person with the key to unlock Jones is the master himself, Aaron Rodgers.

Chicago fans have permission to skip our opening item. Rodgers continued his dominance over the Monsters of the Midway on Sunday, throwing three touchdown passes against just five incompletions in a 23-attempt Picasso. The final was 31-23, Packers, though it felt more lopsided than that; a late Bears touchdown trimmed the margin. Rodgers didn’t have any sacks or interceptions, and walked off the field with a snappy 140.5 rating.

[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Still not too late to sign up for a league]

A mere reciting of the stats doesn’t do justice to the game Rodgers played. When his receivers weren’t gaining separation, he nonetheless found tiny windows, completed the passes anyway. That’s how you throw your receivers open, that’s how you negotiate space in the NFL. And that’s what separates the rare elite quarterbacks from everyone else.

James Jones had two touchdowns in the opener. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
James Jones had two touchdowns in the opener. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Jones caught all four of his targets, good for 51 yards and a couple of scores. He’s only owned in 28 percent of Yahoo leagues, but that number will spike Monday. Randall Cobb also caught all his targets, finishing with a quiet 38 yards and one silly touchdown grab. The Bears secondary all but ran Cobb out of the stadium on the scoring route – an interference flag immediately fell – but Rodgers and Cobb weren’t to be denied.

The only killjoy to the Green Bay passing game: Rodgers and Davante Adams aren’t locked in yet. Four of the five incompletions came on passes intended for Adams – the second-year wideout finished with just 59 yards on eight targets. Alas, better days are ahead. Anyone who gets opportunity in this offense can’t help but emerge as a fantasy factor.

In other Sunday fantasy booms . . .

Alex Smith and Travis Kelce, QB/TE, Chiefs: In one of my Superflex leagues, I actually benched Smith for – oh, it doesn’t matter – because I was afraid of what J.J. Watt and Co. might do to the Chiefs. Watt showed up, of course, but the “and company” is still running around aimlessly. Smith posted a clean 22-33-243-3-0 line, with no turnovers and just two sacks, as the Chiefs cruised to an easy 27-20 victory. And Kelce secured all six of his targets, good for 106 yards, two scores, one highlight-film football punch, and three hours of beasting. Baby Gronk is growing up before our eyes.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears: Okay, so he turns 30 in three months and some people are concerned a cliff season could be in the offing. If that’s the case, we saw zero evidence of it from the opener. Forte bobbed and weaved his way to 166 total yards on 29 touches, looking like the same difference-maker we saw last year in the Marc Trestman offense. The other Chicago backs combined for just five touches. This is still Forte’s town.

Jets Offense: With Geno Smith out of harm’s way, the New York offense actually looked like a professional outfit during its 31-10 beatdown of Cleveland. Chris Ivory rumbled for 100 total yards and two scores, Bilal Powell tacked on 78 yards in a support role, and Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker both scored touchdowns. Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t asked to do anything fancy (15-24-179-2-1), but a 95.7 rating goes a long way when the Jets defense (five takeaways) is on the other side.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: Houston used two different quarterbacks in its home loss to the Chiefs, but Hopkins was dominant throughout (9-98-2, on 13 targets). If the Texans get adequate QB play this fall, Hopkins could be headed to the Pro Bowl. And if the Texans can’t negotiate the pocket  well, Hopkins might have a monster season anyway. He’s uncoverable. 

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans: Four touchdown passes, three incomplete passes, a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating  how's that for a career-opening start? Much like the Redskins of 2012, the Titans played possum in the preseason, kept things basic and conservative – then unleashed a world of hurt in Week 1. Mariota's athletic ability was on display in the rout at Tampa (he looked fine in the pocket, too), and it looks like Tennessee's offense could be a fun take this season. 

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions: It didn't take long for No. 21 to show up, and show off. Abdullah definitely has the joystick mode. He finished with 94 total yards and a touchdown on just 11 touches in Detroit's loss at San Diego; better things are ahead. 

Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals: The pro-Gronkowski crowd was having quite a sack dance after Thursday's explosive opener, but the tight ends who played Sunday (for the most part) got in on the fun, too. Eifert was Sunday's biggest tight-end star, snagging nine passes for 104 yards and two scores in a laugher at Oakland. Wouldn't you know it, Andy Dalton (115.9 rating) can still play solid football when his entire receiving corps doesn't get hurt on him. 

On the flip side, some of your Sunday fantasy busts . . .

Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers: I figured Olsen would be targeted early and often as the only legitimate Carolina receiving option, but he turned in an invisible one-catch, 11-yard afternoon on a mere three targets. To be fair, Olsen did make one splashy play – a first-quarter touchdown pass that was overturned by a phantom pass-interference call. After that, Cam Newton logged in with his receivers and running backs in the passing game. And to make matters worse for Team Olsen, a slew of tight ends found the end zone in their Week 1 openers.

Colts Offense: Every auto-start Indianapolis player came in under expectations, in part because Buffalo’s nasty defense took control of the game and steered the 27-14 upset. It didn’t help that Frank Gore and T.Y. Hilton both left early with injuries. The Colts offensive line simply couldn’t block the Bills for most of the day  in exotic and unexotic packages  and Andrew Luck had one of his worst games (two picks, 63.6 rating), though he did throw two late touchdowns.

Hilton is probably going to miss multiple weeks with his bruised knee, which means Donte Moncrief (6-46-1 on 11 targets) and Phillip Dorsett (2-45-0, three targets) will be glittering waiver targets. The Colts host the Jets a week from Monday.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: He wound up with 87 total yards on the day, which doesn’t sound so bad, but his rushing line was ugly (17 carries, 41 yards) and the Bills parceled out rushing touchdowns to Karlos Williams and Boobie Dixon. McCoy did have one scoring run washed-out by penalty, but given that two Buffalo blockers were blatantly holding on the play, we shouldn’t give any credit for that. 

And while it does help the rushing game to play with a mobile quarterback, keep in mind the mobile QB will take some of the pie, too. Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor rushed nine times for 41 yards, most of it coming on one 31-yard scamper. 

At least McCoy's owners got something out of their afternoon. Sammy Watkins was in decoy mode for Sunday, taking a bagel on three piddly tatgets (take a bow, Vontae Davis). Meanwhile, Percy Harvin secured all five of his opportunities, including a 51-yard scoring rainbow at the end of the first quarter. 

Broncos Offense: Denver will take the 19-13 victory over Baltimore, but the entire offense struggled in this one. The Broncos stumbled to victory without an offensive touchdown; four Brandon McManus field goals (two of them bombs, covering 56 and 57 yards) and a defensive touchdown accounted for the points. 

The Baltimore DBs sat on the short routes and dared Peyton Manning (24-40-175-0-1) to throw over the top; for the most part, Manning couldn’t do it. Ronnie Hillman outplayed C.J. Anderson (and his sore toe) not that anyone ran to daylight (the team went for a paltry 2.8 a carry). Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas (and his sore hand) combined for 15 catches, but they netted a mere 125 yards. The Broncos don’t have much time to sort things out; they visit the Chiefs on Thursday night. 

The Ravens don’t get a pass, as their offense was even worse. Joe Flacco averaged a scant 3.7 yards per attempt, no receiver had more than 25 yards, and Justin Forsett managed a mere 43 yards on 14 carries. Credit Denver’s excellent defense, sure, but the Ravens have plenty to fix before Week 2’s game at Oakland. 

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