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Mostly NFL Notes: Talking Matthew Stafford and a look around the league in Week 1

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I was down on Matthew Stafford entering the year, but there’s no question he played well Monday night. He completed 68.8 percent of his passes while getting 10.8 YPA and a 2:0 TD:INT ratio, even adding a rushing score and a two-point conversion against a Giants secondary that projects to be very strong. Stafford got just 6.9 YPA with a 13:13 TD:INT ratio over the final eight games last season, but it’s clear he’s taken to Detroit’s new offensive system a bit more so than Eli Manning has in New York. Stafford’s fantasy value is dependent upon Calvin Johnson staying healthy, but he looks like a weekly top-five QB start right now ...

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Is Manning done? Over his last 16 games, he’s gotten 6.5 YPA with a 15:26 TD:INT ratio. The offensive line is a problem, and this pick was a bit unlucky (although miscommunication remains a theme here), but Manning is now totally off the fantasy radar, and the Giants look like a prime candidate to start your defense against. If the new offensive scheme is going to help, it’s clearly going to take some time… Calvin Johnson had 164 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets. He almost scored a couple of other times as well… Larry Donnell and Jerrel Jernigan had 15 targets compared to nine combined by Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle. That’s not exactly good news for the latter two… Rashad Jennings had the second most receiving yards on the Giants and even stayed in at the goal line, converting a carry for a score. Despite the team’s struggles on offense, he’s going to be a weekly top-12 fantasy back as long as he holds up physically this season.

The Saints/Falcons game will likely be one of the 10 best of the season, although it might be forgotten about four months from now. What a game…In a contest that totaled 71 points, some fantasy owners had to be disappointed Drew Brees tossed just one touchdown, while Julio Jones, Steven Jackson, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston and Pierre Thomas got none...Thomas looks like a real monster in PPR leagues, and Mark Ingram looked good Sunday, but this remains a frustrating RBBC…Devin Hester’s 99 receiving yards were his most since October 25, 2009…I’m so glad I decided to go with Colin Kaepernick over Matt Ryan at the last second in a high stakes NFFC league. Ugh. Please let this be a reminder to all that I’m an idiot. Ryan, who got 10.4 YPA while completing 72.1 percent of his passes with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio while taking just one sack (for only a three yard loss) against a Saints defense that most project to be very good this season, was fantastic. He also ran for 15 yards after finishing with a total of 55 rushing yards all of last season…I said Brandin Cooks was overrated during my final season preview article, but man did he look good. It helped Kenny Stills was inactive, but I’m not using that as an excuse, as the rookie hauled in 7-of-8 targets for 77 yards and a score while adding 18 rushing yards on one carry. It became clear Atlanta focused its defensive scheme on stopping him during the second half. He’s small, but the rookie may very well live up to the hype…Atlanta became one of four teams to win while trailing by 10+ points in Week 1…Brees matched his season total all of last year when he threw an interception in the red zone during the third quarter Sunday.

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The Jets’ defense didn’t live up to my No. 1 ranking this week, but the Raiders’ first scoring drive was 28 yards after a Geno Smith pick, and their final one came with 1:21 minutes left in a game already decided (not that it all doesn’t count the same in fantasy terms). Derek Carr somehow managed a 94.7 QB Rating with a 4.7 YPA mark…Chris Johnson totaled 91 yards and scored, but he was facing a Raiders front seven that allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs last season, so sell high if that’s at all possible (this looks like a true committee, although to be fair, Johnson has been remarkably durable throughout his career, while Chris Ivory hasn’t)…Speaking of Ivory, he might have had the highlight play of Week 1, when he waived to the crowd at the 35-yard line during his 71-yard TD run, which nearly resulted in him getting tackled...Denarius Moore, who was once a thing, got eight yards on eight targets against a secondary ravaged by injuries…Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden combined for 26 yards on 13 carries. That’s not good, although this play by MJD was pretty cool

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I took the Eagles in my Survivor pool, so watching them go down 17-0 at halftime (and that’s with Jacksonville missing two field goals) was beyond maddening. The Jaguars have a feisty defense and are coached well, but Chad Henne picking apart Philly’s D with no Cecil Shorts was surprising. The Eagles proceeded to score the next 34 points over the rest of the game, but I won’t pretend this win didn’t come with some luck. Nick Foles was sacked five times and committed one fewer turnover Sunday than he did all of last season…Moreover, the Jags were completely out of sorts during this fourth down TD run by Darren Sproles to finally get the Eagles on the board…Speaking of Sproles, his 11 carries Sunday were his most in a game since October in 2011. It’s at least somewhat noteworthy for LeSean McCoy owners (although on the flip side, it was nice to see McCoy have six receptions, which would have tied his season-high last year)...There’s a real chance Toby Gerhart gets 300+ rushing attempts and fewer than 1,000 rushing yards…Great game by Allen Hurns, but I’d still much prefer Marqise Lee moving forward.

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The Steelers were outscored 24-0 in the second half at home against the Browns until a field goal at the buzzer won the game Sunday…Just when I started to buy into Ben Tate, he leaves early in Week 1 with an injury. It’s almost as if someone who could never stay healthy in a timeshare shouldn’t have been relied upon as a workhorse…Terrance West, who was wholly unimpressive in the preseason, got 100 yards on 16 carries, but Isaiah Crowell was the back who scored both of the Browns’ rushing touchdowns. West is an obvious must-add if news on Tate’s injury proves serious…Speaking of ciphering TDs, LeGarrette Blount did so Sunday, but the usage of Le’Veon Bell (27 touches) compared to Blount (four) is highly encouraging for Bell owners, to say the least. He looks like a top-15 asset right now…Over his last 10 games, which includes three outings being shadowed by Joe Haden, Antonio Brown has 985 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Speaking of Brown, here he is kicking a punter in the face...Here’s safety Robert Golden throwing a 25-yard pass to cornerback Antwon Blake during a fake punt in a tied game on fourth-and-10 from Pittsburgh’s own 20 yard line in the fourth quarter…With 4:37 left in the fourth quarter in a tied game at Pittsburgh’s 35-yard line, the Browns elected to punt (they took a delay of game on purpose, which Dan Fouts suggested the Steelers decline, and while I understand that may make the punt easier, of course you accept the insanity of the Browns wanting to punt during this situation). Predictably, it resulted in a touchback, which was effectively a whopping 15-yard net.

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I agreed with the general thought Shaun Hill wasn’t a big downgrade from Sam Bradford, but that also meant the next in line was Austin Davis. He actually got 8.3 YPA compared to Hill’s 6.2, but it’s safe to say the Rams are in trouble at quarterback this season…I hate to say it, but Zac Stacy looks like a prime bust candidate this year…Eight players on St. Louis caught a pass Sunday against a Minnesota team that allowed the second most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers last season. Kenny Britt wasn’t one of them…I want to continue to hype Brian Quick after he secured 7-of-9 targets for 99 yards, but this passing attack may be a death knell…With 1:34 left in the fourth quarter, the Rams attempted a 46-yard field goal down 34-3. There are no words…The Vikings dominated, but they did so with Matt Cassel attempting just one of his 25 throws more than 15 yards downfieldCordarrelle Patterson had the sixth-most rushing yards in Week 1, and he got three carries. I’m beginning to think he might be good at football.

I expected Shane Vereen to have a better day as a receiver, but that was made up for by back-to-back goal-line carries in which he converted on the second one. His value varies greatly based on whether you play in PPR or not…I’ve been very vocal about how bullish I am regarding Tom Brady this season, but there’s no question he was shaky Sunday, especially in the second half. He got just 4.4 YPA on the day while losing two fumbles. Put differently, he failed to throw for 250 yards and tossed just one TD while attempting a whopping 56 passes. I still fully expect a big year from Brady, but his offensive line was overwhelmed, and his -0.44 WPA was the second worst mark of his career...Brandon LaFell hauled in zero of his six targets. I’m guessing Aaron Dobson is still hurt and wasn’t a “healthy scratch” in Week 1. If not, that was a pretty massive mistake…The Dolphins outscored the Pats 23-0 in the second half, as Miami won by 13 points despite its quarterback getting 5.6 YPA…Rob Gronkowski played 38 of 86 snaps yet led New England with 11 targets and will continue to be a top-three fantasy tight end on a weekly basis moving forward…Lamar Miller certainly didn’t play poorly, getting 5.4 YPC while securing 4-of-5 targets for 19 yards and a score, although he did lose a fumble. But Knowshon Moreno is the Miami back to start right now in fantasy leagues, as he gained 24 more yards than any other RB in the NFL in Week 1 against what projects to be a tough Patriots defense…The Pats are alone in last place in the AFC East.

The Chiefs entered 2014 as a team clearly due to regress, losing multiple members of their offensive line while facing a much tougher schedule. They were also missing Dwayne Bowe (suspension) in Week 1, but few could have foreseen Kansas City posting just three points midway through the fourth quarter at home against the Titans. Alex Smith’s 36 rushing yards led the team and were nearly twice as much as Jamaal Charles’ 19. Obviously, don’t go selling Charles low now, but this team might struggle to win six games this season (losing Derrick Johnson for the year doesn’t help)…Nice to see my man-crush Justin Hunter immediately lead Tennessee in targets (eight) despite not starting. He’s going to be a difference maker in fantasy leagues this year…Despite recording 94 catches last season, Kendall Wright already has half as many TD catches this year after one game…They didn’t convert, but props to the Chiefs for going for it on fourth-and-5 at their own 40 with 1:26 left in the third quarter down 17-3…This was the first time Smith threw more than one interception in a loss since October 14, 2012.

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Mike Nugent attempted the fewest field goals (22) among all kickers who played in 16 games last year. He had five in the first half Sunday…Joe Flacco may have thrown for 345 yards, but it took 62 attempts, while Bernard Pierce got 2.3 YPC and was benched after losing a fumble. The Bengals’ defense is good, but this Baltimore offense continues to be shaky…Consider me someone who didn’t expect Steve Smith Sr. to catch an 80-yard touchdown this season, but when it comes to long scores, this A.J. Green one was pretty sick…I still have faith in Torrey Smith this year, but it’s a little discouraging to see him get seven targets compared to 30 by Steve Smith and Dennis Pitta combined…With eight seconds left in the first half at Cincinnati’s 15-yard line, Flacco took a sack, which was incredibly bad considering Baltimore had no timeouts and the pressure wasn’t immediate.

Arian Foster is going to be an RB1 for as long as he’s healthy…It’s a bummer Jadeveon Clowney will miss 4-to-6 weeks…I picked Alfred Blue as a deep sleeper this year, but I can’t say I predicted he’d score a touchdown on a blocked punt…Since Nov. 3, Alfred Morris has scored three touchdowns. Teammate Darrel Young has scored four…After leading the NFL in targets last season, Pierre Garcon saw 12 Sunday, although that again didn’t result in a TD…I’m beginning to think Jordan Reed is injury prone…J.J. Watt had a sack, defended a pass and blocked an extra point. He also forced three plays that lost yards in the fourth quarter. He’s good at football…DeAndre Hopkins’ long score came on something of a busted play, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he outperformed Andre Johnson this season.

C.J. Spiller getting more than twice as many carries than Fred Jackson and finishing with 3.5 YPC compared to 8.7 isn’t exactly what I expected. Of course, Anthony Dixon also added 60 yards on five carries. It’s almost as if Chicago’s defense struggles against the run…E.J. Manuel, who looked terrible in the preseason, prompting Buffalo management to give all the money to Kyle Orton, completed 72.7 percent of his passes while getting 7.9 YPA. The Bills pulled off this upset with Sammy Watkins getting just 31 yards on four targets…Martellus Bennett continued to produce with Jay Cutler under center (he was much better last season with him compared to Josh McCown), while Alshon Jeffery had as many yards as Brandon Marshall in half as many targets, although both were banged up Sunday, with Jeffery not playing during the fourth quarter or overtime.

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The Buccaneers entered 2014 as a buzzy team while Carolina was one of the clear candidates to regress and maybe in a big way. So naturally, the Panthers win in Tampa Bay, even without Cam Newton. Carolina’s defense remains legit, as its now held its last 16 of 17 opponents to two TDs or fewer…The Panthers’ running backs continue to be stay aways in fantasy terms, while Doug Martin’s status is up in the air…Kelvin Benjamin sure looks good. Bump him up your weekly rankings. He’s probably the favorite to win OROY right now…It seems Josh McCown isn’t very good, although his setup remains conducive for success. But let’s go ahead and chalk up his run last year as a fluke and the rest of his career is the baseline in which we should expect going forward. I mean, he did this Sunday…With 10:50 left in the third quarter, Ron Rivera challenged a four-yard gain on a first-and-10 play. Let’s put aside the instant replay showed he would be clearly wrong (he was), this is beyond bizarre. Let’s measure the risk (losing a timeout and a possible challenge down the road) vs. the gain (four yards on first down). Riverboat Ron!

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The 49ers had the ball 94 seconds in the first quarter and yet exited with a 21-3 lead…Colin Kaepernick got 8.7 YPA and tossed two touchdowns but finished with just 201 passing yards. Don’t expect that to be the norm this season, as the 49ers’ defense is vulnerable, even if Sunday’s outcome disguised it (I’m the biggest Tony Romo fan you’ll find, but he played horribly)…Romo will be better, as will Dez Bryant, so buy low if that’s in any way possible…It’s not often you see a team score zero points in the second half, punt twice as many times as its opponent and win by 11 points…Most were calling for Vernon Davis to regress after catching 13 touchdowns with just 84 targets last season, but he hauled in two more scores Sunday with six looks and had a 45-yard gain called back on an extremely questionable penalty. San Francisco is going to have to throw the ball more than ever since Jim Harbaugh came aboard, and Michael Crabtree continues to battle injuries, so maybe VD can remain a top-five TE…With 30 seconds left in the second quarter at their own 20-yard line, the Cowboys ran the ball (and then let the play clock run out). Brilliant! What’s more likely here, an 80-yard TD run with the defense in prevent mode, or a fumble? I’ll never understand this (although I can’t say I’m surprised since Jason Garrett was involved)…I love Frank Gore, and he might be the best blocking RB in all of football, but Carlos Hyde looks noticeably more explosive.

A 31-10 Broncos lead with less than 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter suddenly became 31-24 with the Colts having the ball in Denver territory. The comeback ultimately fell short, but it was a nice backdoor cover for those who bet on Indy…Julius Thomas had three touchdowns in the first half and remains a top-25 fantasy asset…Montee Ball got just 2.9 YPC but was the clear lead back and was impressive during his TD run. Consider him a top-six fantasy back moving forward, at worst (I’d also still keep Ronnie Hillman as his handcuff despite him being inactive Sunday night)…I’m a big T.Y. Hilton fan, but he’s scored in just one of his last 11 games, a span in which he’s racked up 107(!) targets…Meanwhile, Hakeem Nicks reached paydirt Sunday night for the first time since December 9, 2012…I’m not sure which position player is better than his counterpart, Dwayne Allen over Coby Fleener or Ahmad Bradshaw over Trent Richardson, but both are obviously superior.

Longread of the Week: The Other Side Of The Story

The Chargers are making a habit of blowing big leads during Monday night season openers, with their latest coming after being up 17-6 in the fourth quarter…Over his last 10 games, Carson Palmer has gotten 8.4 YPA with an 18:9 TD:INT ratio. His 29 rushing yards Monday night were the most he’s had in any game during his career (at age 34) and 26 more than he accrued all of last season. It’s not going to be easy staying healthy facing the Seahawks, Rams and 49ers for 40 percent of his games, but Palmer has a bunch of weapons and is clearly thriving in this offense now that he’s grasped it (and Arizona’s defense might take a step back this year), so he’s a weekly fantasy option…Andre Ellington surprisingly looked healthy. Start him as you normally would moving forward…Antonio Gates secured 6-of-10 targets for 81 yards but had an important drop and generally looked slow. And this came against a Cardinals defense that was historically bad against tight ends last season, yielding a whopping 16 touchdowns to the position. Still, it’s clear it will take a Gates injury for fantasy favorite Ladarius Green to become a factor...Michael Floyd looks like a developing star, while Larry Fitzgerald didn’t see his first target until late in the game…Ryan Mathews was mostly quiet, but he managed 60 yards on 14 touches and scored a TD against an Arizona front seven that allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs last season.

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