Texans, Saints Trade Punches in MNF Thriller

Nick Mensio

Week 1 saved its best game for the first tilt of Monday night’s doubleheader. The Texans hopped out to a significant early lead on the heels of a helicopter-esque Deshaun Watson 21-yard rushing touchdown followed by a DeAndre Hopkins two-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter to put Houston up by a pair of scores. But the Saints answered back with a Drew Brees-to-Taysom Hill 10-yard touchdown hookup followed by a second Hopkins touchdown from 16 yards out and then a Brees-to-Tre’Quan Smith 14-yard score. These offenses traded punch after punch in the second half of this thriller, and the only thing really missing was touchdowns from the Saints’ star offensive playmakers. Both Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas had well over 100 yards each, but neither was able to find the end zone. Below are some individual takeaways from a few players on both offenses.

Latavius Murray was a favorite target of mine in summer fantasy drafts. He was mixed in early and often, drawing three early targets in the first quarter. Murray never saw another target after the opening two series, but his usage was encouraging. The Saints had a number of plays where Kamara was flexed out wide with Murray in the backfield. Murray ended up capitalizing on one of his eight touches for a 30-yard touchdown run. Normally the Saints won’t be chasing points like they were Monday night, so eight touches is likely Murray’s weekly floor. He remains a solid RB2/FLEX play headed into Week 2 against the Rams. The Saints want to run the ball, and Murray should slide into Mark Ingram’s old role at 10-14 touches per game with TD upside.

In the Texans’ backfield, Carlos Hyde got the start and opened the game with a nine-yard run. He was ripping off chunk gains all night and looked pretty good on his 11 touches with a long run of 20 yards. Fellow newcomer Duke Johnson was targeted five times and ran the ball another nine times to accrue 13 touches to Hyde’s 11. Houston really seemed to love Hyde as the early-down grinder between the tackles with Johnson also playing a significant role on pass downs and in hurry-up mode. That limits the upside of both backs, especially Johnson if he is going to split carries. Hyde looks like he needs to be owned in 12-team leagues. Johnson will be a borderline RB2/3 in a tougher draw against the Jaguars in Week 2.

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Will Fuller made the catch of Week 1 on his first of two targets on the night, leaping over the top of CB Eli Apple and coming down with a 54-yarder. It was also nice to see Fuller come up healthy and stay in the game despite the hard landing. Two targets was disappointing on a night Watson attempted 30 throws, but bigger games are ahead for Fuller the farther he gets removed from his torn ACL. Fuller gets a tough draw against the Jaguars in Week 2, but Sammy Watkins had no issues running roughshod through the Jacksonville secondary this past Sunday.

All the usual suspects put up big numbers in the 30-28 final. Watson had four touchdowns and 308 total yards, including 40 on the ground, and was the best player on the field. He did, however, absorb six sacks after taking a league-high 62 last year. Hopkins had over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns, making a couple phenomenal catches, especially late in crunch time. Thomas and Kamara both had over 100 yards but no scores. Brees threw for 370 yards and two scores.

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The second game of Monday night’s doubleheader, an AFC West tilt between the Broncos and Raiders, wasn’t as exciting until a late surge by the Broncos. Denver’s offense really struggled in the red zone, settling for two short field goals. One came after a brutal DaeSean Hamilton drop in the end zone on third down that should have been an easy nine-yard touchdown. Joe Flacco looks basically washed at this stage of his career. Emmanuel Sanders looks the opposite of washed despite a late-2018 Achilles’ tear. He scored the Broncos’ lone touchdown en route to a 5-86-1 line. Courtland Sutton was a house to take down after the catch, piling up 120 yards on seven grabs. Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman essentially split the backfield work right down the middle. Neither projects as much more than a low-end RB2. On the Oakland side, the Raiders were up for the challenge despite all the Antonio Brown drama surrounding the team. Derek Carr was surgical, completing 22-of-26 passes and finding new No. 1 wideout Tyrell Williams for six catches, 105 yards, and one touchdown. Darren Waller looks like a legit upside tight end for fantasy purposes. The Raiders were working the ball to him on screens and down the seam, featuring his athleticism. Waller led the team with eight targets. Josh Jacobs didn’t have any flashy plays on the ground, but the first-rounder converted his goal-line looks with a pair of touchdowns. He’ll get a boost when starting OGs Richie Incognito and Gabe Jackson return to the lineup. The Raiders obviously plan to feature Jacobs after giving him 24 touches in the win. Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington combined for just three touches. Hunter Renfrow was a complete non-factor. Ryan Grant played ahead of him behind Tyrell Williams. Renfrow can safely be cut wherever he was added ahead of this game.


Injury Roundup

Tevin Coleman was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain following his early exit from Week 1 against the Bucs. Coleman is now expected to miss multiple games, but he will avoid injured reserve. In his absence, look for the Niners to turn to Matt Breida as the lead back, though Raheem Mostert and possibly even practice-squadder Jeff Wilson will mix in behind him. Mostert is worth grabbing in deeper formats, while Breida should be owned in every league possible. Breida showed last year he can produce when given the opportunity.

Sterling Shepard ended up in the league’s concussion protocol Monday after experiencing symptoms following the Week 1 loss to the Cowboys. If he actually has a concussion, Shepard will be in a race to get ready for next week’s date with the Bills. If Shepard sits, this already-narrow offense will be even narrower with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram simply dominating the majority of the offensive looks. Engram dominated in the opener.

Derrius Guice reported some discomfort in his non-surgically-repaired knee after the Week 1 loss to the Eagles and has been diagnosed with a meniscus issue. Guice will be shut down for a couple weeks, putting Adrian Peterson back in the mix after being a Week 1 healthy scratch. Peterson should handle all early-down work, while Chris Thompson gets the majority of the third-down, pass-game, two-minute, and catchup-mode snaps. Thompson is the far more attractive fantasy option in a Redskins Offense that will play from behind often.

Quarterback & Running Back Quick Slants

Joe Mixon sprained his ankle in the Week 1 loss to the Seahawks, but it sounds like he avoided a major injury and even may have a chance to play Week 2. … Baker Mayfield is fine after undergoing X-rays on his hand and wrist. Mayfield will look to rebound against the Jets. … The Jaguars placed Nick Foles (collarbone) on injured reserve and acquired QB Josh Dobbs from the Steelers for a fifth-round pick. Dobbs will back up rookie Gardner Minshew in Foles’ absence. … Jerry Jones says an extension is “imminent” for Dak Prescott. … Todd Gurley said he “felt good” coming out of the Week 1 win over the Panthers.


Wide Receiver & Tight End Quick Slants

Greg Olsen (back) missed practice Monday ahead of Thursday night’s tilt with the Bucs. It may have been a maintenance day. Olsen saw nine Week 1 targets. … Devin Funchess was placed on injured reserve after breaking his collarbone in Week 1. He’ll miss at least eight weeks. Deon Cain and Parris Campbell are next up on the depth chart. … Michael Crabtree is expected to be active for Week 2 against his former Ravens teammates after sitting Week 1. … Patriots released TE Lance Kendricks to make room for Antonio Brown. … JuJu Smith-Schuster had X-rays done on his toe after the Week 1 loss to the Patriots but is believed to be fine. … Will Dissly (knee) is uncertain for Week 2.

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