I’ve spent all summer looking forward to NFC West Football. The couple Matthew Stafford-Sean McVay in Los Angeles. Shane Waldron, a new offensive coordinator, takes over in Seattle. Kyle Shanahan and all of his toys in San Francisco.
To be clear, it’s not that I missed stars like Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. But sometimes I wondered if Murray was too reliant on running and breaking plays and not as reliable in his pocket as needed, and I also had great reservations about head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Kingsbury had no winning seasons in their first two Arizona campaigns and reached 12-13 in the last two years at Texas Tech, despite a guy named Patrick Mahomes behind his QB. (There was also 2-7 years at Texas Tech when Mahomes was a part-time quarterback.) Of course, the NFL is a snow globe league. And after seeing Arizona light up the sky in Tennessee on Sunday, I’m open to re-evaluating that club.
Let’s be fair, the Tennessee defense looks like a nightmare. But Murray and Friends helped keep things looking bad on Sunday, rolling 22 first downs and 416 yards offensive. It added up to a 38-13 blowout, an absolute beat-the-traffic special. The result was never questioned.
Murray was Fantasy’s top scorer until the 1pm ET wave, and he mostly did it with his arm. He completed 21 of 32 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns, against an interception. He was accurate, he was patient, he threw with anticipation and challenged all levels of the field. And no one questions the cannon he wears in his right arm.
Murray threw in a roaring touchdown for a good measure, despite only climbing 20 yards that day. This is a more sustainable plan for future success – run occasionally but toss most of the time. Murray made quite a highlight band in two seasons, but there is still room for him to grow as a complete player. Maybe a spike will come in year three.
Murray didn’t force the ball to anyone, even though the amazing Hopkins did well on eight goals (6-83-2). The hype sleeper Christian Kirk grabbed all five of his looks, good for 70 yards and two scores, and Rondale Moore (4-68-0) was loose a few times.
Chase Edmonds has the best backcourt and hits James Conner in total yards (106 to 53) and yards per touch (6.6 versus 3.3). Both players hit the ball 16 times, Conner only on the ground.
The Arizona supporters will like the next two weeks on the schedule, hold a gettable Minnesota defense next week, then travel to Jacksonville in week 3. Jacksonville’s defense was embarrassing for the Houston Texans of all people on Sunday.
Seattle’s 28-16 win at Indianapolis wasn’t quite as explosive, but you know the story of Russell Wilson by now – we often accept efficiency over volume. Wilson only tried 23 passes against the Colts, but they were high octane – 254 yards, four touchdowns, 11.0 YPA. And if Wilson gets the ball in the end zone, we’ll know who’s likely to get those passes – Seattle has one of the tightest distribution trees in the league. Tyler Lockett (4-100-2) made noise with two early scores and DK Metcalf (4-60-1) rose after the break. The new tight end Gerald Everett had the other touchdown, although he was only targeted twice.
Back to the narrow distribution – Seattle’s backcourt was dominated by Chris Carson (16-91 in rushing, 3:26 in reception). If we ignore Wilson for a second, Carson was the only other Seattle player to carry the ball more than twice. There aren’t many bell cows in the NFL these days, but Carson definitely looks like that.
The dangerous Seahawks host disorganized Tennessee next week – talk about a pinball match – then travel to Minnesota in week 3.
Let’s be clear beforehand, Kyle Shanahan is a great offensive spirit. But the 49ers could be a tricky landing spot for fantasy managers this year; perhaps the team with the largest gap between real-life value and fantasy value. Although San Francisco scored 31 points in the first half and a 41-33 win in Detroit, the Niners round-up was riddled with potholes.
For Raheem Mostert’s day, nothing but bad luck can be blamed; he suffered an early knee injury and that was it. But Trey Sermon’s pre-game health scratch came as a shock as Brandon Aiyuk barely played. Aiyuk didn’t start the game and wasn’t targeted for the day.
Meanwhile, rookie Eli Mitchell did well (19-104-1), JaMycal Hasty scored a touchdown on a rogue goal-line chance and Trent Sherfield received a touchdown. Deebo Samuel (9-189-1) ran the purest of the known Niners, despite losing a late fumble. George Kittle (4-78-0) did his best with five targets.
Jimmy Garoppolo finished with big numbers and threw for 314 yards at a leaky Detroit Secondary. But Garoppolo also lost some snapshots to Trey Lance; Ultimately, both players threw a touchdown pass. At the moment, no position is fanciful with this team.
Perhaps Sermon will play next week, especially if Mostert needs several weeks to rest. But sometimes choosing Shanahan usage patterns is an exercise in frustration. The Niners head to Philadelphia next week.
• Maybe it was the new uniform number, but Sterling Shepard looked sleek and lithe as he negotiated 7-113-1 against Denver’s strong defense. I’ve always felt that Shepard had a chance to be a fantasy staple for every week if health only played a part; maybe this is his year. He’s a receiver Daniel Jones legitimately has a relationship with.
• The Patriots offensive did a lot of good, albeit with a loss to Miami – New England had a healthy lead in yards and first downs. Mac Jones showed a keen pocket awareness and a keen sense of where to find a clear and calm area to deliver from. He surpassed Tua Tagovailoa and probably deserved to make his debut. The only thing wrong about Damien Harris’ day was the late fumbling, but I don’t think the Patriots will put him to shame for it. He’s too good.
• It took Corey Davis a while to arrive as the # 1 real target, but now he’s here. Let’s hope Zach Wilson gets better as the season progresses. But even with Wilson taking his lumps at Carolina, Davis cobbled together a snappy 5-97-2 seven-goal day. He’s now a sophisticated gamer who can do anything in the route tree. He will dominate the goals in New York.
• So much for Adam Thielen’s touchdown regression tour – he scored twice in Cincinnati and grabbed nine of his ten goals. He’s still in a mind-melding with Kirk Cousins, and the Vikings have one of the league’s narrowest utility trees. Nobody went into Draft Day expecting another 14 spikes from Thielen – that’s what you expect from almost anyone – but something in the 8-9 range was reasonable, with another double-digit season plausible. We are all the more pleased when big-play receivers score points from afar, but it is Thielen’s ability to score points at nearby targets that prove to be sustainable year after year.
• So wonderful the Big 3 in Kansas City too, I worry about this offense if something happens to Travis Kelce or Tyreek Hill (of course, an injury to Patrick Mahomes would be a kill shot, but some players are just irreplaceable). This offense would benefit greatly from a third dynamic running back or receiver; perhaps Clyde Edwards-Helaire can finally get there. I stopped waiting for Mecole Hardman to be anything but a specialty receiver. A Marvin Jones-type addition would have done wonders for this depth chart.
• Washington is one of the few teams in the league that couldn’t lose much when the No. 2 quarterback has to play. Taylor Heinicke threw a scare into the Buccaneers in last year’s playoffs (the only quarterback who can claim that), and he didn’t seem scared by the moment of the surprise appearance on Sunday. Regardless of the QB, I remain optimistic about Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Logan Thomas and this general offensive.
• The Steelers did next to nothing right on the offensive, but they stole a game from Buffalo thanks to their stingy defense and a special one Team touchdown. Chase Claypool had a 25-yard run and Najee Harris was released in one game for 18; the other 19 carries 32 yards collected for the day. Roethlisberger looked his age every day as he battled for rhythm and functional space against a Buffalo defense that no one thought was special. Say this for Diontae Johnson; Despite having a modest 5-36 day, he at least got into the end zone and continued to command targets (10 for the game, about 30 percent of the team’s total).
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