The NFL season is back in business, which means 32 teams will be competing once again for the glorious Lombardi trophy. With football back, it gives us the ability to look at which stars shined the brightest and which tremendously underwhelmed.
In the first edition of this series, I will look at which players started off the first game of the 2018-2019 season on the right foot, and which ultimately disappointed their teams and fantasy owners. In a week where the Buccaneers pulled off an upset and the Browns tied, this was a very interesting Week 1 indeed.
QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick
“Fitzmagic” was alive and well in the city of New Orleans as Ryan Fitzpatrick started for the suspended Jameis Winston. In a game where the Bucs were 9.5-point underdogs entering the game, it seemed the Saints – led by Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara – were going to steamroll the visiting Bucs and get their first win of the season.
Cue the “not so fast” from Lee Corso because Fitzpatrick went off in this game, making the Saints defense look like the worst in the league. The former Harvard graduate threw four touchdowns with a 75 percent completion rating in the game.
While Fitzpatrick will be overtaken by Winston when he returns from his suspension, it is encouraging that the Bucs can turn to Fitzpatrick barring an injury from Winston. Dirk Koetter seems to enjoy the presence of the backup quarterback.
RB – James Conner
James Conner had an opportunity Sunday to make a name for himself while Le’Veon Bell still awaits his contract extension. The result: Conner was brilliant in his first start of the season. The 2017 third-round pick carried the ball 31 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Conner also flashed receiving out of the backfield making five catches.
The performance opened many eyes, including several fantasy owners in need of a workhorse running back. It even impressed Bell, who tweeted about the game with another emoji, but who really knows what he was referring to.
The fact of the matter is, Conner can flat out play. If the Steelers can’t sign Bell, they may be in good hands. They may even think about making a Khalil Mack-esque trade and give Bell to another team.
WR – Randall Cobb
Cobb has been one of the most up-and-down players in recent memory. When he gets into a rhythm with his route running, he is Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target. When he is not in rhythm, he looks lost out there.
When Rodgers went down early in the game on Sunday night, it looked as if fantasy owners would see another wasted year from Cobb. That all changed when No. 12 re-entered the game for the Packers in the second half.
Cobb had a brilliant finish, catching nine passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. The game-winning touchdown came off a 75-yard catch and run in the later stages of the fourth quarter. If Rodgers can remain healthy for the season, Cobb owners can R-E-L-A-X and trust the veteran wideout.
TE – Jared Cook
Before Monday night’s game against the Rams, nobody knew what to expect from new head coach Jon Gruden’s offense. Would he focus on Lynch? What would happen to Amari Cooper? During all of these questions, everyone forgot about Jared Cook.
Cook, a 31-year-old veteran, has bounced his way around the NFL, but has played solid football wherever he has landed. This stayed true against the Rams when the tight end had a breakthrough game for the Oakland offense, catching nine passes for 180 yards.
In a year where it seems that there are three main tight ends (Gronkowski, Ertz and Kelce) it is difficult to find a tight end that can produce even close to those three big names. Jared Cook is a player to keep an eye on in this Raiders’ offense.
QB – Jimmy Garoppolo
Coming into the season, many teams predicted the 49ers to surprise some people in the NFC. With Garoppolo’s amazing closeout to the 2017 season, it seemed that they had found their franchise quarterback in the former New England Patriot. That idea took a huge hit this weekend.
Garoppolo threw three interceptions and only completing 45.5 percent of his passes Sunday, never becoming comfortable in the pocket against the Vikings. Although it is only Week 1, it is a cause for concern that their quarterback turned the ball over three times.
We will see what “GaroppoGoat” truly is made of by the end of the season.
RB – Derrick Henry
Finally, it was Derrick Henry’s turn to take over the lead-back responsibility in Tennessee with DeMarco Murray’s retirement. That also took a huge hit, not just with Henry’s performance, but also the amount of snaps that Dion Lewis was a part of.
In his defense, Henry did have a phantom holding call bring back his long touchdown run in the game, but other than that one play he couldn’t get anything going. Henry finished with 10 carries for 26 yards, but watched Dion Lewis take 16 carries for 75 yards and one touchdown.
If Lewis continues to produce, we could see Henry on the sideline much more throughout the season. This would be another running back that failed to live up to his Alabama expectations. We are looking at you Eddie Lacy.
WR – Chris Hogan
This may have been the most frustrating “dud” of them all. Hogan had an opportunity to be the leading receiver in the team as Julian Edelman’s suspension allows more touches for Hogan.
The Patriots wide receiving core may be the worst it has ever been under Belichick, and one would expect Hogan to step-up and take control. This did not happen. Hogan caught one pass for 11 yards. A true disappointment from Hogan who was expected to be Brady’s new favorite target.
It will be interesting to see how much Brady throws to Hogan after an impressive Week 1 from Phillip Dorsett. Pair that with the fresh signing of Corey Coleman and Hogan may be struggling for catches this season.
TE – Travis Kelce
There is no denying that Travis Kelce is a top-three tight end in the NFL. There is a bit of concern when your franchise quarterback refuses to throw the ball in Kelce’s direction. Patrick Mahomes had a fantastic 2018 debut in his first full season as the Chiefs starter.
It seemed that everyone was reaping benefit from Mahomes being the starter. Tyreek Hill lit it up, Hunt had a solid game, but Kelce was not on the same page as his quarterback.
Kelce finished the game with only one catch for six yards. Fantasy owners were outraged with his production. If Kelce cannot turn it around, do not be afraid to pull the trigger on a Kelce for Jared Cook straight-up trade.