A Story Told in Tweets: NFL Week 1

Why bother actually watching the games when you can learn everything you need to know about Week 1 from a series of embedded tweets?

We’ll start with the less-than-thrilling Thursday opener, which picked up right where the Super Bowl left off in terms of entertainment value. Of course, it was a different story come Sunday — a high-flying mix of shootouts and blowouts.

The good news for Bears fans? No missed kicks. The bad news? They didn’t score any more points after a first-quarter field goal.

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It wasn’t ALL bad news for the Bears. Allen Robinson continued his strong play from the end of last season, catching seven of 13 targets for 102 yards (7.8 YPT) in an offense that otherwise managed 3.9 yards per pass attempt. He’s the latest example of a player needing some time to regain his top form after returning from ACL surgery.

I’d like to see a data-driven study on this, but for now I guess we have to settle for broadcasters insisting it’s a thing. This explains why the Rams were so terrible early last season, right? Right?

I’ve been really harsh on Matt LaFleur, who was both predictable and stubborn last year in Tennessee. Contrary to popular belief, the failure wasn’t simply a matter of not giving Derrick Henry enough carries; it was a matter of being extremely predictable. The Titans ran more than 60 percent of the time with Henry on the field and passed more than two-thirds of the time when Dion Lewis was in the game. They had a 65 percent pass rate from 11 personnel and a 65 percent run rate from all other formations.The team also gave Lewis 214 touches, even though he averaged 3.4 yards per carry and 6.8 yards per catch.

I’m still skeptical, but LaFleur did mix things up Thursday by throwing the ball from 21 personnel (2 WRs, 2 RBs, 1 TE), with PFF showing five passes and six carries on the 11 snaps fullback Danny Vitale played. The use of a fullback and at other times a second tight end is bad news for the fantasy value of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison, but it should be a good development from Aaron Rodgers if LaFleur is willing to pass from 21 and 12 and run from 11.

Props to Jim for bringing this up — I was too busy hating on LaFleur to give him credit for a sign of play-calling improvement.

This was the big story from Thursday for fantasy football — Mike Davis and David Montgomery splitting backfield work, while Tarik Cohen (rather than Anthony Miller) served as Chicago’s slot receiver. The second part is more surprising than the first.

#RBsDontMatter (in real-life football). They definitely matter in fantasy football. Perhaps too much. Anyway, I don’t mean to be so harsh on David Montgomery — he was a reasonable enough third-round pick for the Bears. But someone needs to counterbalance the irrational hype, and for some reason (probably because I’m a jerk) I’ve decided that’s where I’ll found purpose in life.

It was nice of the NFL to let the Bears and Packers play a football game during the intermission of the Antonio Brown saga.

Mario brings up a great point that was lost in the bigger story — Jon Gruden and GM Mike Mayock had very different ideas about how to handle the Brown situation. This isn’t the last we’ll hear of a Gruden-Mayock power struggle, and it’s probably 50/50 for their marriage to make it to Las Vegas.

Andrew is a Jets fan. I can understand why he found this annoying, but at least he still had the Jets game to look forward to! And they were home against the Bills — what could possibly go wrong?

There are only so many snaps in  a game, even for a team that likes to push the pace and sling the ball around early in contests. The added competition for targets is obvious, but this could also get James White on the field more often if the Pats use more 11 personnel and less 12 and 21. Conversely, Sony Michel would be left with fewer snaps, though he’d presumably get a lot of scoring opportunities. The one clear winner? Tom Brady. Again. That guy…

I have Patrick Mahomes and Sammy Watkins (and also Travis Kelce and Damien Williams) in the same lineup in a redraft league. Did I send out a “1-0” text at 1:47 p.m. ET? I might have.

https://twitter.com/rotowiremario/status/1170749979843059712

To be clear, Mario posted the tweet after the first touchdown and before the second. I give him partial credit for helping my Ravens to the most dominant win in franchise history. I thought what we’d been missing prior to 2018 was a quarterback. A soothsayer doesn’t hurt either.

The Kansas City cornerbacks remain hideous. DJ Chark, Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook combined for 273 yard and three touchdowns, despite losing Nick Foles to a broken collarbone early in the game. I have a feeling sixth-round rookie Gardner Minshew won’t look so good next week in Houston (a bold prediction, I know).

Delanie Walker ended up having himself a day, but the larger point here remains. The past few years, Marcus Mariota was barely able to support one fantasy starter among his pass catchers. Even with better weapons, it’s hard to see how anybody will produce with regularity if AJ Brown, Corey Davis, Delanie Walker, Adam Humphries, Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry all are involved. Henry and Walker at least have their niches.

Yup, it was that kind of week.

Still going strong at 36 years old, Darren Sproles tied Miles Sanders for the team lead in touches (12), while Jordan Howard brought up the rear with eight. Yes, it was a three-way committee, but Sanders at least had a comfortable edge in snaps, logging nearly as many as Howard and Sproles combined (per ESPN’s Mike Clay). The rookie managed just 27 yards, with his best play (a 21-yard touchdown run) getting wiped out by a questionable penalty.

The final stat line (7-70-0 on 11 targets) wasn’t what we’ve come to expect, but it’s safe to say Beckham wasn’t the problem. The Cleveland offensive line crumbled to pieces, and Bake Mayfield eventually followed suit.

Gurley finished with a 15-12 advantage in touches, but it was Brown who got the goal-line work and a pair of touchdowns. The good news for Gurley owners? He did look healthy, and rookie Darrell Henderson took just one carry (with no targets). Gotta find those silver linings!

It was all Josh Allen early in the game, and ultimately Allen who won it late in the fourth quarter, but the Buffalo offense worked much better once the running backs got involved in the second half. Frank Gore finished with 11 carries for 20 yards, while Devin Singletary took four carries for 70 yards and caught five of six targets for 28 more. T.J. Yeldon? He finished the afternoon without a carry or target.

Along with safety Jamal Adams, the interior line and inside linebackers were intended to be the strength of a Jets defense that has serious questions at cornerback and edge rusher. The team lost one inside ‘backer, Avery Williamson, to a torn ACL during the preseason. Big-money offseason signing C.J. Mosley picked up the slack with an early pick-six, but later he left with a groin injury. The Jets defense is in trouble (what’s new?).

Yeah, the Jets blew a 16-point lead to the Bills…at home. Rough day to be a Jets fan, and an almost-as-rough day to be a member of the Adam Gase fan club (I think I’m the only remaining member).

Wow.

Not even gonna take the bait here. Oh wait, I just did. Kind of.

Hmmm

I would NOT want to be responsible for a waiver wire column this week. So many unexpected blow-up games.

Maybe it was just because of the blowout, but James Washington got a lot of action at the end of Sunday night’s 33-3 loss to the Patriots. He finished with 2-51-0 on six targets, which at least was better than Donte Moncrief (3-7-0 on 10 targets). This theoretical job battle never actually happened during the summer, but it seems like the Steelers should reassess.

 

To sum it all up: A lot of points were scored. Lamar Jackson is good. The team that will add Antonio Brown next week won by 30 points.

Good stuff. Unless you’re a Jets fan.