Fantasy football analyst Dalton Del Don delivers a game-by-game recap of all of Sunday's NFL action in Week 1, highlighting the highs, lows and everything in between.
The teams combined for a whopping 70 points in an instant classic that included this week’s top fantasy QB (Tua Tagovailoa) and WR (Tyreek Hill). The Dolphins had 16 explosive plays on offense, tied for the second-most in a game in nearly a decade. Tagovailoa underthrew multiple deep balls but finished with 466 passing yards and three touchdowns. That would've been the third-highest passing total in a game in 2022.
Tagovailoa led the NFL by a wide margin in YPA last season and got 10.4 in the season opener against a tough L.A. secondary. He wasn’t sacked despite Miami missing LT Terron Armstead. Game script (and playing indoors) helped, but Tagovailoa can easily throw for 40-plus touchdowns this season if the big three stay healthy on offense.
Hill was unguardable and recorded 215 receiving yards, which would’ve been the second-most in a game last season. He also pulled down two touchdowns in what might go down as the best fantasy game by a wide receiver in 2023. Hill has half as many 200-plus receiving yard, two-plus touchdown games as the rest of NFL combined since 2018.
Jaylen Waddle took a backseat but was close to a much bigger game. Hill and Waddle caught all their touchdowns when Tagovailoa was healthy last season (and zero in the other six games combined).
Raheem Mostert also scored, but his 12 touches were a disappointment.
While everyone is excited for Justin Herbert with Kellen Moore as L.A.’s new OC, 12 of the team’s first 14 plays were runs on the team’s opening drive (one was a called pass). Herbert’s 7.5 average depth of target was in the 34th percentile. Keenan Allen remained a favored target underneath, while Austin Ekeler and Josh Kelley combined for 32 carries to help LAC score 34 points.
Herbert (6.9 YPA) ran in a score and finished as a top-five fantasy QB anyway, but early returns suggest more of the same in Los Angeles. The Chargers had real success running Sunday against a Dolphins defense that stuffed the rush last season.
Ekeler, meanwhile, gets a boost if healthy. He was fantastic as always while seeing even more carries than usual before giving way to Kelly for much of the final 1.5 quarters. Kelley emerged as L.A.’s clear RB2 and could be worth aggressively going after on waiver wires (he's available in 96% of Yahoo leagues), barring Ekeler’s status.
Bijan Robinson made a nice move on a TD grab but got 10 carries to Tyler Allgeier's 15, who also scored two goal-line touchdowns. It’s not the split fantasy managers wanted to see, but the rookie secured all six targets and looked great. Robinson got 16 touches and saw two more targets than Drake London and Kyle Pitts combined.
London got a lot of cardio but finished with a goose egg, while Pitts was quiet other than one nice catch. Future game scripts will be different, but this is no doubt disturbing usage for London and Pitts.
Miles Sanders lost a fumble but saw his most targets (six) in a game since 2020, which is big news for his fantasy value moving forward.
Lamar Jackson attempted only 22 passes and lost three short scores to his running backs. Much bigger fantasy games are ahead.
J.K. Dobbins scored and saw three early targets before suffering a torn Achilles, ending his season. Watching Justice Hill score twice shortly after added salt into the wounds of Dobbins’ fantasy managers (like myself). And it appears Hill and Gus Edwards will form something of a committee to replace him moving forward — hardly an ideal alternative.
Zay Flowers was Baltimore’s WR1 right away, while Odell Beckham Jr. drew a PI on his first two targets and later pulled down a terrific grab. Rashod Bateman was Baltimore’s clear WR3. The passing touchdowns are coming in Baltimore …
Along with Dobbins, the Ravens suffered more than a few key injuries in the win.
C.J. Stroud was another rookie who struggled (-4.6 CPOE) making his first start, but at least he peppered Nico Collins with 11 targets.
Game script contributed, but Dameon Pierce saw his lowest snap share (49%) since Week 1 of last season. Pierce remained the lead back, but it's a concern after late rumblings suggested an evenly split Houston backfield (after Pierce dominated usage throughout the preseason).
Weather was a factor, but both Joe Burrow and Deshaun Watson struggled badly. Burrow’s -18.2 completion percentage over expectation was in the fourth percentile, and he was pulled with four minutes left. It was an impressive first game for Cleveland’s new DC, Jim Schwartz, but let’s give Burrow a mulligan after missing so much time due to his calf injury. Watson, meanwhile, saved his fantasy day with a TD run but was otherwise brutal yet again.
Ja’Marr Chase will blow up soon enough, but Tee Higgins somehow failed to catch any of his eight targets.
Jacksonville’s passing attack went quiet in the second half, but Trevor Lawrence continues to take the next step. Calvin Ridley followed his preseason hype with a big first game for the Jaguars, pulling down a career-high seven catches before halftime. Ridley just missed another long TD in the second quarter but unfortunately stepped out of bounds.
Anthony Richardson became the youngest QB to run for a touchdown since Michael Vick. Richardson was shaky as a passer, as expected (including a bad interception with five minutes left) but was a top-five fantasy QB this week anyway. His late injury is reportedly not serious.
Michael Pittman’s other 10 targets were quiet, but he made the most of this screen.
Travis Etienne had an electrifying TD run and recorded more than three catches (five) in the first game of his career. Tank Bigsby also punched in a goal-line score but had an otherwise rough debut. The rookie had an interception bounce off his hands and oddly lost a fumble that resulted in a touchdown.
Kirk Cousins threw for 344 yards (7.8 YPA) but committed three first-half turnovers during Tampa Bay’s upset. Cousins’ volume (44 attempts) remained high like last season, helping Justin Jefferson post another monster game at home.
Rachaad White acted as Tampa Bay’s clear lead back but looked a lot like the runner who finished last in RYOE (rush yards over expected) last season.
Chris Godwin had a quieter box score but iced the game with a great, late catch.
Chris Olave returned after briefly leaving and eased any concerns over a new QB. Olave is locked in as a borderline top-12 fantasy WR.
The Titans kicked a late field goal to go down one point — seemingly to cover the spread.
Kenny Pickett was awful after a flawless preseason, while Brock Purdy became the first QB in NFL history to log a 95.0+ Passer Rating in each of his first six starts. Purdy is HIM.
Brandon Aiyuk led all 49ers pass-catchers in receiving yards from Purdy last season and followed a preseason filled with hype by catching two touchdowns. Aiyuk was the No. 2 fantasy wideout this week and should be considered top-20 moving forward.
Drake Jackson matched his rookie season total with three sacks.
Imagine not selecting a kicker in the third round of the NFL draft.
The 49ers allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs last year, so give Najee Harris a pass.
Diontae Johnson missed a sure touchdown thanks to a bad Pickett pass and then left with a hamstring injury. He might never score a touchdown again. George Pickens’ fantasy value would get a boost should Johnson miss more time.
Sam Howell took six sacks behind a shaky Washington line, nearly leading to many dead Survivor entries. Howell was still a borderline top-12 fantasy QB, thanks to a nice TD run, but one could question Eric Bieniemy’s first game as offensive coordinator.
Brian Robinson dominated the backfield carries (19) but managed just 3.1 YPC in a plus matchup. Robinson also dropped a screen pass that almost led to a third-quarter pick and nearly fumbled in the fourth. Still, it was certainly encouraging that Robinson caught a touchdown and was given 16 more carries than Antonio Gibson, who saw half as many targets and lost a fumble.
Joshua Dobbs got the same YPA (4.4) as James Conner’s YPC, while Zach Ertz led Arizona with 10 targets that went for just 21 yards. Marquise Brown could use a change at QB or Kyler Murray to return yesterday. Considering their upcoming schedule, the Cardinals are a fantasy wasteland right now.
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Jordan Love tossed three TDs and badly outplayed Justin Fields in an ugly Chicago loss. Love got 9.1 YPA and finished as fantasy’s QB3 this week despite missing Christian Watson. Love missed throws and wasn’t quite as good (-5.5 CPOE) as his box score might suggest, but it was a highly encouraging performance nevertheless.
Aaron Jones had a weird game, seeing five carries during Green Bay’s first drive and then none for the rest of the half. He erupted for two scores in the third, but then sat the final 20 minutes after injuring his hamstring at the end of a touchdown catch on fourth down. A.J. Dillon would become an obvious must-start in fantasy should Jones miss time.
Luke Musgrave might’ve scored during a late 37-yard catch, but he fell down, and Romeo Doubs grabbed two scores while “limited."
Fields didn’t show progress, and DJ Moore suffered with just two measly targets as a result. Moore’s numbers this season are going to look a lot like they did in Carolina.
Khalil Herbert led all Chicago backs in carries and saw a career-high five targets (Fields targeted his backs far more than usual in Week 1, possibly in an effort to run less). But Herbert also rotated with D’Onta Foreman and watched rookie Roschon Johnson take over once the score got out of hand (passing downs). Game script will remain a problem if Fields doesn’t play better.
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
Jimmy Garoppolo won his Raiders debut thanks to two TD strikes to Jakobi Meyers in a low-scoring game. Meyers led Las Vegas in targets before getting shaken up late. Davante Adams still saw nine of Jimmy G’s 26 attempts and will be fine moving forward.
The jury remains out on the new Russell Wilson, who was missing Jerry Jeudy.
Javonte Williams didn’t have a big game but saw encouraging usage (19 opportunities) during his return from knee surgery. But Denver’s offense remains a work in progress.
First-year head coaches went 0-5 in Week 1.
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots
The Eagles held on to win a game that saw Mac Jones finish as this week’s QB2 in fantasy, while Jalen Hurts was barely top-20. Hurts didn’t erupt as expected against a man-heavy New England defense, but game script once again didn’t help (particularly an early Jones pick-six). Still, the Patriots’ defense deserves credit for holding Philadelphia’s offense in check.
Kenneth Gainwell dominated backfield touches for the Eagles, with D’Andre Swift given just two touches. Gainwell is a worthy RB2 or flex play for now.
Ezekiel Elliott cut into Rhamondre Stevenson’s carries and saw seven targets but lost a fumble. Stevenson encouragingly remained active as a receiver, securing all six targets.
Spend your FAB on someone other than Kendrick Bourne.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith turned in an ugly performance, while Matthew Stafford threw for more yards (334) than he did in any game last season, despite missing Cooper Kupp. The Rams entered with bottom-three ranked units almost across the board, yet won in Seattle easily. The Seahawks gained 12 total yards with just one first down in the second half! It’s a mild concern that the soon-to-be 34-year-old Seattle quarterback regresses this season.
Kenneth Walker looked healthy, but Jaxon Smith-Njigba was invisible during his NFL debut.
Puka Nacua tied for the league lead with 15 targets in Week 1 and needs to be added in all fantasy formats (he’s available in 95% of Yahoo leagues).
Kupp’s timeline is unclear at best, so Tutu Atwell can be added in deeper leagues as well.
Cam Akers scored and got 22 carries, but he managed just 1.3 YPC and lost two other touchdowns to Kyren Williams (and nearly a third). It appears that L.A.’s beat writers were correct when they predicted that Williams would be a big part of Los Angeles’ backfield in 2023.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
The Giants suffered the worst opening game shutout since 1999 with their 40-0 blowout loss. Daniel Jones didn’t get any help while taking seven sacks, but he now sports a career 3:9 TD:turnover ratio versus Dallas. Look for Dimes to bounce back next week in Arizona.
Dak Prescott wasn’t needed Sunday, as the Cowboys ran for three scores (Tony Pollard twice) and delivered a dominant defensive performance. More volume will be there for Dallas moving forward.
Saquon Barkley was nearly matched on the ground by his QB, while Darren Waller didn’t appear to be 100 percent while playing through a hamstring injury.
It was a night to forget for the Giants.