Week 1 kicked off with a resounding thud in the matchup between the Packers and Bears on Thursday night as both teams’ offenses fell flat on their faces. Before we dive into this week’s Thursday night contest be sure to check out Ian Hartitz’ Week 2 WR/CB Matchups piece and Josh Norris’ rookie report.
Thursday Night Football
Hopefully we will see a better game this Thursday after last week's dud. The Panthers host the Buccaneers as 6.5-point favorites with a total of 50. The markets are souring on the Bucs’ ability to score points as the total has moved down one point since opening and the spread has moved from six to 6.5 or seven depending on the sportsbook. This gives us implied team totals of 21.75 for Tampa Bay and 28.25 for Carolina.
Jameis Winston and the Bucs struggled mightily against the 49ers in the blistering heat last weekend. Winston threw three interceptions and completed 55.6 percent of his passes in their loss. He couldn’t find any kind of rhythm and got multiple touchdowns overturned as well as tossing two pick-sixes. This was an offense that had three pass-catchers well inside the top-100 of Fantasy Football ADP but didn’t live up to their billing in Week 1. Unfortunately for those invested I’m not sure this is the best spot for a bounce-back. Carolina’s defense allowed 30 points last week against the Rams but were able to dial up a decent amount of pressure on Goff. That could be an issue for Winston as he panicked under pressure in Week 1. Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and OJ Howard should still be started but another poor outing should start to make fantasy owners sweat. The running back trio of Ronald Jones, Dare Ogunbowale, and Peyton Barber is a full on running back by committee. Jones and Barber have been splitting early down work with Ogunbowale taking on the pass-catching role. None are startable right now in fantasy on an offense that looked lost in Week 1.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers sneakily put up 27 points in Week 1. Newton was largely ineffective, completing 25-of-38 passes for 239 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. In addition, he only had three rushing attempts for negative two yards. I’m not a “running backs matter” guy by any means, but Christian McCaffrey looked incredible. He racked up 128 yards on 19 attempts and added two scores just on the ground. He added 81 yards on 10 receptions through the air. McCaffrey is a top-3 fantasy play regardless of the matchup for the rest of the season after playing 100 percent of their snaps and being utilized frequently (11 week one targets) in the passing game. After an entire offseason of the deafening “Curtis Samuel is the WR1” movement, DJ Moore out-targeted him 10-to-4. Moore looks to have settled into that No. 1 role with Samuel the third or fourth option behind Moore and McCaffrey, and potentially Greg Olsen as well. Olsen is currently questionable for Thursday’s game against the Bucs after suffering a back injury against the Rams. Based on Samuel's projected target share, he's a fringe flex play in this one. The Bucs allowed 31 points in Week 1, but 14 of those came on pick-sixes. They didn’t look as bad as most projected them to be, but no one really looked all that good in that game. If we were to entirely erase Week 1 from our minds I’d expect a shootout where the Bucs lose by three points. It’s just tough for me to entirely ignore the disaster that was Jameis Winston last week.
Prediction: 27-23 Panthers
Chargers Injury Woes Continue
Wednesday was a rough day for the Chargers as TE Hunter Henry suffered a tibia plateau fracture to his left knee and Mike Williams didn’t practice with a knee issue. Henry is expected to miss 4-6 weeks optimistically and the coaches are just hoping to get him back at some point this season. Williams’ injury has been deemed “week-to-week” and ESPN’s Josina Anderson added it’s “unclear” if he plays in Week 2. Even Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said he’s “absolutely” concerned about Williams’ status for Week 2. If Williams is unable to go, this would open up a massive target void for Keenan Allen. Using the injury tool at TheQuantEdge.com, Keenan Allen’s target share when Mike Williams played was 22.8 percent, and without him it jumped above 30 percent. That was still with capable pass-catcher Tyrell Williams on the team as well. Even in what projects to be a slower-paced game against the Lions, Allen should be fired up with confidence in season-long leagues and daily fantasy formats.
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Quincy Enunwa Out for Season, Career in Question
This is another tough break for a talented player with loads of potential. After missing all of 2017 with a neck injury Enunwa will now miss another full season with something similar. Head coach Adam Gase wasn’t willing to admit Enunwa was going to hang it up but it would be incredibly impressive to see him return in 2020. The Jets traded for Demaryius Thomas with the foresight that Enunwa would be out for the season. Thomas is now expected to line up in three receiver sets with Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. All three players figure to see a fair amount of targets but Crowder will almost certainly lead the team after catching 14-of-17 Week 1 targets against Buffalo. We’ll have to wait until Monday Night to gain a better understanding of the dynamics after Enunwa’s departure.
Tyler Lockett (back) didn’t practice on Wednesday. He was held to just two targets in Week 1 against the Bengals and is now struggling with a new injury. It’s unclear whether he’ll be good to go for Week 2 and we’ll likely know more on Thursday and Friday. … NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Tyreek Hill (clavicle) will be sidelined 4-6 weeks. Hill wasn’t placed on injured reserve but it’s certainly possible if his rehab isn’t going well. Sammy Watkins is now the WR1 in Kansas City. … Broncos RT Ja'Wuan James (knee) is expected to miss "several weeks." He was one of their biggest offseason additions and now won’t be able to help turn around the Broncos after their abysmal outing against the Raiders. … A.J. Green (ankle) is out of his walking boot and ran on a treadmill Tuesday. Green is making great progress in his recovery but is still expected to be sidelined a few more weeks. Tyler Boyd and John Ross will continue to feast on targets in Zac Taylor’s new-look Bengals Offense. … NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports there is a "real chance" Antonio Brown (legal) plays Week 2 unless the NFL steps in. At this point we could start our own news site that only focuses on Antonio Brown. It looks like a 50/50 shot Brown’s placed on the commissioner's exempt list prior to New England’s Week 2 cakewalk matchup against the Dolphins. … Raiders placed S Johnathan Abram (shoulder) on injured reserve. Abram was looking like a steal in the draft early on and his hard-hitting ability will be missed against the Chiefs in Week 2. … Sterling Shepard (concussion) is not practicing Wednesday. This is a bad sign for his potential availability in Week 2 against the Bills. If he’s unable to go, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley would soak up the majority of targets. … Coach Zac Taylor said Joe Mixon (ankle) remains day to day. There’s a chance he practices on a limited basis the rest of the week and then suits up on Sunday, but that remains to be seen. If he were to miss the game, Giovani Bernard would assume the starting role.