First of all, I would like to say goodbye to productive Sunday's around the house. NFL is back and I don't think I blinked once watching RedZone and key games on four different monitors. What I wanted to do with this article was go back and highlight a few things that stood out from the main games I focused on that we can learn from going forward into week two and the rest of the season. Let's get started.
Joey Bosa and Jason Verrett Injuries Really Hurt the Chargers Pass Defense
The first blow to the Chargers came in training camp in July when they lost their top corner, Jason Verrett, for the season. They then took and another big hit with Joey Bosa injuring his foot in practice in early August. There was hope he would return for week one but was eventually ruled out. He won the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2016 and over his first two seasons, has 23 total sacks in 28 games. With his absence, the Chiefs were able to double team Melvin Ingram(the other elite pass rusher) giving Patrick Mahomes time to throw for 246 yards and four touchdowns. The Chargers top corner, Casey Heyward, spent most of the day covering Sammy Watkins on the outside and shut him down as he caught just three balls for 21 yards. While Travis Kelce only caught one ball, Tyreke Hill was able to go off catching seven of his eight targets for 169 yards and two touchdowns.
While I don't think a one-game sample size is enough to draw a reasonable conclusion from, it will something to monitor going forward. They will definitely need to generate more pressures to take some pressure off the Verrett-less secondary. What I will be looking to target the most is teams with above average slot receivers as that appears to be their biggest weakness in the pass defense. They get the Bills next week so not too intrigued with that but the week three really stands out as they get an away matchup against the Rams and their three-headed receiver monster featuring Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods. And don't forget about Todd Gurley who was second among running backs with 788 receiving yards last season. Fire up the Rams in week three.
The Saints Defensive Struggles Boosted the Value of their Offense for Fantasy
It was a rough start to the season for the Saints defense that made huge strides from 2016 to 2017 going from 27th in total yards allowed per game to 17th last season. While their pass rush was nothing to get excited about, their secondary sure was as they ranked Top 10 in PFF's preseason rankings and were led my Marshon Lattimore who had five interceptions in his rookie season. The defense didn't record a sack or interception against the Bucs on Sunday and allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for a whopping 417 yards and four touchdowns. Mike Evans was able to haul in all seven of his targets for 147 yards and a touchdown after finishing with a dismal 52% catch rate in 2017. DeSean Jackson also had a day catching all five of his targets for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
What can we take away from this if the struggles continue? The first thing I see is that Drew Brees will almost be a lock at the quarterback position each week as they will need to score a ton just to stay in games. He ended up throwing it 45 times on Sunday, completing 37 of those passes for 439 yards and three touchdowns. His top target, Michael Thomas, also had a monster day catching 16 of his 17 targets(WOW) for 180 yards and a touchdown and while you would think the negative game script would affect the running back, think again. Alvin Kamara only rushed eight times for 29 yards but was able to punch two in the endzone and also caught nine balls on 12 targets for 112 yards and a third touchdown. We will now wait and see how they respond in week two against a new look Browns team that was able to put up 21 points on the Steelers.
Joe Mixon is the Man in Cinci and Andrew Luck is Back
A couple takeaways from the Bengals/Colts game starting with the Bengals backfield. Joe Mixon shared the backfield with Gio Bernard in 2017 carrying the ball 178 times to Bernard's 105 and was out-targeted by Bernard 60-34. The big question going into week one was whether that would be the case once again or the Bengals coaching staff would let Mixon take over. The latter proved to the case in week one as Mixon had 17 carries to Bernard's 1 and totaled 95 yards on the ground(5.6 per carry) with a touchdown. That wasn't even the whole story as Mixon also out-targeted Bernard 7-1 catching five of those balls for an additional 54 yards. The matchup is much tougher next week as the Ravens come into Paul Brown Stadium so we will have to wait and see if this continues. As of now, however, it appears to be Mixon's backfield 100%.
On the Colts side of the ball, I would have to say Andrew Luck is most definitely back. He completed 39 of 53 pass attempts for 319 yards and two touchdowns. What really stood out, however, was that he did not appear to be worried at all about his surgically repaired shoulder whatsoever. There was a point in the game where the Colts were 3rd and 7 and the Bengals had excellent coverage up so Luck took off and ran for the first down not sliding and taking a big hit. He also spread the ball around beautifully as well hitting nine different receivers, seven of them with multiple receptions. Rolling out two tight ends also worked as Doyle caught seven of 10 targets for 60 yards and Ebron caught four of five targets for 51 yards and a touchdown. TY Hilton led the team with 11 targets but ended up with just five receptions but did score. The Colts now go on the road to Washington to face a RedSkins team that ranks out as a worse secondary overall so we will see if Luck can keep rolling.
Thanks for checking out the article and if you have any questions you can hit me up in the RotoPros Slack Chat or on Twitter(@Jager_Bombs9). If you are not a RotoPros member yet be sure to get over to the site and get your FREE two-week trial. You won't be disappointed.