Ten Things We Learned in Week 1 (Fantasy Football)
Rejoice! Week 1 has finally arrived, and we can all enjoy both real football and fantasy football once again. Week 1 is always exciting because you get to see what teams look like as they go through many off-season changes, whether a coaching change, a player changing teams, or a flashy new rookie. Below are ten storylines that we saw unfold from Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.
1. Tom Brady is Everlasting
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defended their championship on opening night against the Dallas Cowboys. In typical fashion, Tom Brady keeps defying father time, and he looks every bit as good as he did last season. Brady finished the game with 379 yards and four touchdowns. He also led the Buccaneers to a game-winning field goal in the last minutes of the game as he has done in so many clutch moments throughout his career. The Buccaneers had some mistakes but looked the part of a Super Bowl contender once again after returning all 22 starters. While the receiving core of the Buccaneers may be a complex puzzle to solve all season, Brady should be a safe option with upside each week. Never doubt Brady until he gives us a reason to, and maybe not even then.
2. Dak is Back
Dak Prescott picked up where he left off last season before his ankle injury, throwing 58 pass attempts for 403 yards and three touchdowns. With the Buccaneers having such a stout run defense, many assumed that the Cowboys would throw a lot, but the question is, will that continue? Even if the heavy pass volume isn’t sustainable, Dak looked great through the air, throwing dimes. He looked confident in the pocket and didn’t seem skittish, and even took off running a couple of times. While he didn’t look particularly great on the ground, he showed progress and should be back to being an elite fantasy quarterback.
3. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase will be Just Fine
Joe Burrow‘s rookie season was cut short after his severe knee injury last November. Much like Dak, Burrow looked good and it seems he is on the right track to progressing as a quarterback at the NFL level. Burrow completed 20 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns in a win against the Vikings in overtime. Burrow also had a beautiful deep touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase. The deep ball has been a question mark for Burrow as he struggled with deep accuracy in his rookie season. It’s a small sample size, but it seems as though adding Chase may have helped.
Speaking of Ja’Marr Chase, the off-season talk was about his dropped passes in the preseason and a single report that he was struggling to get separation in camp. Well, I think it’s safe to say that the panic was a little exaggerated. Chase had five receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown. Chase also led all receivers in targets, receptions, and yards. So yes, maybe Chase was struggling to see the ball because it didn’t have white stripes, and perhaps he will have struggles throughout the season with drops, but let’s not forget that he was an elite prospect reunited with his college quarterback.
4. Brandon Aiyuk Missed Time Because of Injury
One of the mysteries from the opening week of the NFL was Brandon Aiyuk‘s usage against the Lions. Aiyuk played in the game but saw limited snaps, especially in the early part of the game. Speculation quickly began as to why Aiyuk might have been uninvolved in the offense; some analysts claimed it was due to being benched for performance in camp and preseason or that it was due to a lingering hamstring injury. David Lombardi of The Athletic cleared the air when he reported that Aiyuk “fell down the depth chart due to injury and not performance.” This is information that I’m sure many fantasy managers wished they knew as it seemed that Aiyuk was good to go. The good news is that this doesn’t seem to have been about performance, so once Aiyuk heals up, he should be back to the starting lineup.
5. The Eagles are Flying High
Jalen Hurts was just recently named the starter and has dealt with scrutiny with his passing abilities; however, he looked good today. Hurts completed 27-of-35 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns, including a nice touch throw to rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Hurts also produced on the ground, adding 62 yards rushing on seven carries. With Hurts’ rushing ability and an improved passing game, he should be scoring a lot of points for fantasy managers.
Last year’s Heisman winner DeVonta Smith seems like he will fill a hole that the Eagles have desperately needed. Smith led the Eagles in targets and yards, finishing with 6 receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown. Smith will likely lead this team in targets consistently and be a viable fantasy asset.
6. The Falcons aren’t Flying so High
The Falcons’ offense looked good in the first couple of possessions. Calvin Ridley had 2 quick receptions on the first drive for 27 yards and the offense settled for a field goal. The Falcon’s would again score a field goal on their next possession, but that is all the points they would get, losing to the Eagles 32-6.
Kyle Pitts‘ breakout got off to a slow start, and if you took the chance on him, you aren’t happy with the results of week 1. The good news is that he tied for the team lead in targets with Calvin Ridley with 8 and only had 1 less reception than Ridley. Don’t panic about Pitts yet, because the entire Falcons’ offense looked out of sync. This team will likely have to throw a lot to keep up in games, providing a lot of opportunity for Pitts and Ridley in the future.
7. Jerry Jeudy‘s Breakout Will Have to Wait
Injuries are always super unfortunate, and Jerry Jeudy will now miss time after getting his ankle rolled up on by a defender during the 3rd quarter against the Giants. Jeudy was having a great game and exited with six receptions for 72 yards. The good news is that X-rays taken were reported to be negative, avoiding any catastrophic injury. Jeudy now deals with a high ankle sprain that may keep him out a while, but he should return at some point and hopefully pick up where he left off.
8. Tua and Waddle are Back at it Again
College teammates Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle are now teaming up at the next level for the Miami Dolphins. The two had a couple of highlight plays against the Patriots, including a fantastic catch by Waddle, demonstrating great ball skills where Tua trusted him to get it in 1×1 coverage. Waddle had the 2nd most targets on the team and finished with four receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown. The Dolphins drafted Waddle with the 6th overall pick in the 2021 draft, so they likely have big plans for him, and Tua seems to trust him.
9. The Lions Offense Goes Through Tight Ends and Runningbacks
We finally got to see the new-look Lions’ offense under new head coach Dan Campbell and new quarterback Jared Goff. Throughout the entire offseason, we heard talk about the Lions’ backfield and how that might look. D’Andre Swift was the presumed starter but had some injury issues, so there were rumblings that he may be on a play restriction. Jamaal Williams ended up getting the start, but the two backs had an almost equal amount of opportunities. Swift had 11 carries for 39 yards and Williams had nine carries for 54 yards. Both were heavily involved in the passing game as well, with Swift receiving 11 targets and Williams having nine targets.
The Lions heavily utilized T.J. Hockenson and both Swift and Williams in the passing game. They accounted for 30 targets out of 56 (54%). The target share in Week 1 will likely be the case throughout the season too. Detroit lacks when it comes to a true wide receiver talent. Swift and Williams may both be fantasy-relevant if the splits continue between the two.
10. Matthew Stafford is a Perfect Fit for the Rams
One of the biggest trades recently was the Rams acquiring Matthew Stafford from the Rams. Stafford has had plenty of success in Detroit with some not-so-favorable situations through the years. Stafford has been a top 10 quarterback for fantasy in six out of 12 years. In three of the years he didn’t finish as a top-10 quarterback, he didn’t play an entire season. He is now in the most favorable situation he has ever been in during his career in the NFL. Not only does he have weapons to throw to, but he also has a competent coach who has proven success in elevating an offense. McVay wanted Stafford and paid a high price to get him.
Stafford completed 20 of 26 passing attempts and threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns, including a couple of deep touchdown throws. Stafford has the talent and experience to take this offense to a new level, and he will continue to do just that. His arm strength will lead to big plays, something the Rams lacked previously. According to this tweet by ESPN Stats & Info, Stafford’s two 50+ yard touchdown passes against Chicago in week 1 matches the Rams’ entire 2020 total.
Matthew Stafford has thrown 2 TD of 50+ yards tonight. That matches the Rams entire 2020 total. pic.twitter.com/XAsWeqdajM
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 13, 2021