To quote the great Pepper Brooks, I feel shocked. The Chiefs didn’t just upset the Patriots on Thursday night—they mopped the floor with them. Here’s how it all went down.
1. New England sold out to cover Travis Kelce, opening lanes for Tyreek Hill and even Kareem Hunt downfield (Alex Smith can throw it deep—who knew?!). It didn’t help that $65 million cornerback Stephon Gilmore blew his assignment on Hill’s 75-yard touchdown while Hunt drew LB/DE Cassius Marsh in coverage on his 78-yard score.
2. The Patriots are at their best when they work fast by whipping quick-hit passes to slot receivers while going up-tempo with a no-huddle offense. But instead it seemed like Tom Brady was throwing errant deep balls against heavy pressure on third-and-long all night. That doesn’t happen with Julian Edelman healthy and it didn’t help that Danny Amendola, who is the next closest thing to Edelman, went down with a concussion in the second half.
4. Once the Chiefs pulled ahead in the fourth quarter, they were able to lean on Hunt, who was nearly unstoppable in the ground game. The Patriots have a penchant for erasing huge deficits (I’m assuming most of you watched Super Bowl LI) but it’s tough to come back, or even get the ball back, when the other team’s running back is breaking off chunk gains in crunch time.
5. New England’s play-calling was a bit odd, wasn’t it? One matchup I thought the Patriots underutilized was Terrance Mitchell on Brandin Cooks. Filling in for an injured Steven Nelson opposite All-Pro corner Marcus Peters (who mostly stays glued to the left side), Mitchell simply couldn’t keep up with Cooks, often resorting to holding or pass interference simply to keep Cooks in check. Yet Cooks only managed three catches on seven targets.
6. Thursday’s game was littered with missed opportunities for the Patriots. They were stuffed twice on fourth down and settled for two field goals inside the red zone. Malcolm Butler also hurt the Patriots with a pass interference that set up a Chiefs touchdown before halftime, shifting the momentum back to Kansas City.
The Patriots have a great chance to right the ship this week against a non-existent Saints defense and they have a history of responding well to bad losses (like the last time they lost to Kansas City in 2014). But perhaps they’re not quite the juggernaut we made them out to be. And maybe the Chiefs, who went 12-4 a year ago, deserve more credit for a brilliantly executed game plan as road underdogs against a team that’s won two of the last three Super Bowls.
Now let’s get to the Power Rankings.
1. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 3
Make that eight straight wins at home for the Packers against Seattle. All you Ty Montgomery truthers were proved right on Sunday. While Montgomery didn’t show much in the way of efficiency (2.8 yards per carry), his 74 offensive snaps led all running backs in Week 1. Green Bay hasn’t lost a regular season game since November 20 of last year.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 9
Spencer Ware combined for 239 yards from scrimmage over his final three games in 2016. Kareem Hunt topped that in his first NFL game (246), a feat so impressive it landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Tyreek Hill was given the pet name TyFluke by skeptics in the fantasy community after his surprise breakout last season. Well the joke’s on them. Only Antonio Brown and Adam Thielen topped Hill’s 133 receiving yards in Week 1.
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3. New England Patriots
Last Week: 1
Raise your hand if you expected Alex Smith to outplay Tom Brady in Thursday night’s season opener. Okay, liar. Brady’s 44.4 completion percentage was dead-last among starting quarterbacks in Week 1 while his 70.0 passer rating ranked 24th. Fantasy pundits spent half the summer debating Mike Gillislee’s role in New England’s offense. Thursday we finally learned the truth—he’s LeGarrette Blount 2.0 (three rushing touchdowns, zero receiving yards).
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 6
Martavis Bryant’s much anticipated return was a little on the underwhelming side (two catches for 14 yards). Le’Veon Bell was also understandably rusty after holding out all of training camp (47 yards on 13 touches). Antonio is still Antonio though (182 yards on 11 catches), and this T.J. Watt fella sure looks like the real deal. Jesse James’ two touchdowns on Sunday were more than he had in his previous 12 games combined.
5. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 5
A year away from football seemed to do Marshawn Lynch some good. Beast Mode looked refreshed in his Raiders debut, breaking five tackles while totaling 92 yards from scrimmage (76 rushing, 16 receiving). Amari Cooper drew a team-high 13 targets in Sunday’s win but finished with nearly as many drops (four) as catches (five). He hasn’t topped 80 yards in a game since Week 8 of last season.
6. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 2
Austin Hooper led all tight ends with 128 receiving yards in Week 1 and did it on just two catches. Julio Jones drew fewer targets than teammate Mohamed Sanu in the opener but still did Julio things, absorbing four-of-five targets for 66 yards with most of it coming in the first half (3-for-62 before halftime). Matt Ryan showed no lingering effects from last year’s Super Bowl collapse, hanging 321 yards on Chicago in Week 1.
7. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 7
It took three tries, but Dak Prescott finally got his first win over the Giants on Sunday night. Jason Witten continues his steady ascent up the NFL’s all-time receptions list. With seven more catches he’ll pass Marvin Harrison for fourth behind only Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Gonzalez and Jerry Rice. Including the playoffs, Ezekiel Elliott has now topped 100 yards rushing in four of his last five games.
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8. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 4
The Seahawks paid $5.5 million this offseason to see what Eddie Lacy had left. In Week 1 we got our answer: not much. Lacy’s tank looked close to empty on Sunday as he managed just three yards on five carries in his return to Lambeau Field. Most of us blamed Russell Wilson’s lackluster 2016 campaign on injuries. He seemed to have his legs back on Sunday (40 rushing yards) but still completed just 51.8 percent of his passes for 158 yards with no touchdowns and a lost fumble.
9. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 14
Ameer Abdullah saw a decent workload in the opener (career-high 18 touches) but disappointed by averaging just two yards per carry. Fortunately the Lions got better results from third-round pick Kenny Golladay, who broke out for 69 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Arizona. Expect him to be the top waiver pickup at wide receiver this week.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 10
Jacquizz Rodgers may not be the flashiest name in fantasy, but his volume should be strong while he fills in for Doug Martin. Rodgers averaged 105.4 yards from scrimmage on 23.4 touches per game in five starts last season. Five: that’s the number of receivers who have drawn more targets than Mike Evans since the start of 2015.
11. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 17
Nelson Agholor was a bust his first two years in the league but it looks like that narrative is about to change. With Josh Norman shadowing Alshon Jeffery for much of the day, Agholor broke loose for a career-best 86 yards in Sunday’s win over Washington. LeGarrette Blount’s receiving touchdown Sunday was his first since Week 5 of 2015.
12. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 8
Eric Decker drew plenty of looks from Marcus Mariota in his Titans debut (eight to be exact) but only snagged three catches for 10 yards. That’s not ideal but fantasy owners who entered the year with concerns about Corey Davis’ usage had to be pleasantly surprised with Sunday’s results. The fifth overall pick played 42-of-64 offensive snaps in the opener and led the team with 10 targets even after missing most of camp with a hamstring injury. That game also featured Tony Romo’s debut as a broadcaster and apparently the man’s a psychic.
13. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 23
This is kind of like the chicken or the egg argument—were the Vikings that good or the Saints that bad on Monday night? I’m guessing it was a little of both. Fresh off setting the NFL’s single-season completion percentage record, Sam Bradford shredded the Saints for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the opener. Dalvin Cook’s draft stock fell after tanking at the Combine, but he was brilliant in his pro debut, pacing Minnesota with 127 rushing yards on 22 carries.
14. New York Giants
Last Week: 11
Aside from a string of completions to Shane Vereen during garbage time, the Giants’ offense was practically non-existent with Odell Beckham sidelined Sunday against Dallas. Looking for a fresh start after bottoming out with the Jets last year, Brandon Marshall couldn’t find daylight in his Giants debut, reeling in just one-of-four targets for 10 yards.
15. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 12
The Broncos tried their darnedest to give away a 17-point fourth quarter lead but Shelby Harris wasn’t having it. His blocked field goal propelled Denver to victory in the game that made Sergio Dipp go viral (I’m with Bob Ley on this one, by the way). Not many fantasy owners were able to take advantage of Bennie Fowler’s two-touchdown game on Monday night. He’s owned in only 0.4 percent of ESPN leagues.
16. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 22
Christian McCaffrey showed promise in his NFL debut, tallying 85 yards from scrimmage, though veteran Jonathan Stewart out-touched him by a slim 20-18 margin. Meanwhile Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin were both bottled up in the opener, combining for just 43 yards on three catches. Expect the offense to improve as Cam Newton, who missed part of camp with a shoulder injury, continues to shake off the rust.
17. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 13
We all know Ryan Tannehill loves throwing check-downs to slot receivers, but that’s not really Jay Cutler’s style. So where does that leave Jarvis Landry? If there was any truth to the offseason trade rumors, he could be in for a rough season. Will reuniting with former Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase bring out the best in Julius Thomas? We’ll know soon enough.
18. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 20
Danny Woodhead was having a monster opening drive for Baltimore (four touches for 37 yards) before his body let him down yet again. His hamstring injury will open the door for Buck Allen, who led the Ravens’ backfield with 21 carries in Week 1. Jeremy Maclin registered a team-high 56 receiving yards in his Ravens debut, with most of the damage coming on a 48-yard touchdown strike from Joe Flacco.
19. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 15
So to recap, Carson Palmer was picked off three times in what should have been a cake matchup against a hapless Lions secondary, Arizona’s defense yielded 20 fourth-quarter points and David Johnson could be out until Christmas with a wrist injury. Oh, was I supposed to say something encouraging after that? Sorry guys, I got nothing.
20. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 27
Yeah, I’m the guy who wrote all those mean Jared Goff blurbs last year. But Sunday I had to break from tradition by giving Goff a rave review for his stellar work against Indianapolis. Not only was Sunday Goff’s first win as a starting quarterback (it only took him eight tries), but it was also his first career 300-yard game. Todd Gurley spent much of Sunday running into brick walls (2.1 yards per carry) but showed well in the passing game by registering a career-high 56 receiving yards.
21. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 16
All right Rob Kelley owners, let’s start with the bad news. Fat Rob tied Kirk Cousins for the team lead with 30 rushing yards in Week 1 (not great, Bob). The good news: his biggest threat, fourth-round rookie Samaje Perine, didn’t play a single snap. If you were crossing your fingers for a Josh Doctson breakout in Week 1, it didn’t happen. The 2016 first-rounder wasn’t targeted in the Redskins’ loss to Philadelphia.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 30
The Jaguars pretty much stuck to the script in Week 1, hiding Blake Bortles by running the ball down Houston’s throat with Leonard Fournette. The former LSU Tiger logged 26 carries in his debut, the most of any running back in Week 1. Another reason the Jags went run-heavy was because they lost lead receiver Allen Robinson to a season-ending ACL tear. With his contract up at the end of the year, it’s possible we’ve seen the last of A-Rob in a Jacksonville uniform.
23. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 24
Keenan Allen found the end zone in his first game back from a torn ACL while leading the team with 10 targets. Unfortunately, he was outgained by teammates Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin and managed a long catch of just nine yards. Melvin Gordon picked up where he left off last season, hanging 79 yards (54 rushing, 25 receiving) on a stingy Denver defense while also taking time to defy the laws of gravity.
24. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 19
Not an ideal start to the year for Michael Thomas. First he got Xavier Rhodes in Week 1 and look who’s next on the schedule: Patriots studs Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler. Adrian Peterson’s return to Minnesota was a quiet one (six carries for 18 yards), though he sure wasn’t quiet when coach Sean Payton had him riding the pine. If you were counting on AP for consistent fantasy production this year, I’d rethink that strategy.
25. Houston Texans
Last Week: 18
It takes quite an effort to make Blake Bortles look competent by comparison but Tom Savage managed to do just that in Sunday’s train wreck performance against the Jaguars. Well done, sir. Now it’s on to Deshaun Watson, who earned PFF’s No. 79 quarterback grade out of 88 qualifiers during the preseason. DeAndre Hopkins led all receivers with 16 targets in Week 1, but only managed 55 yards, which ranked 40th.
26. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 28
No team put up more rushing yards than the Bills in Week 1, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise—Buffalo has led the league in rushing each of the last two seasons. Mike Tolbert’s 12 carries Sunday were his most in a game since Week 15 of 2013. Jordan Matthews only caught two passes in his Buffalo debut but still led the team with 61 receiving yards.
27. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 21
While not as bad as his clunker against the Browns a few years ago, Andy Dalton was dreadful against the Ravens, committing five turnovers while completing just 51.6 percent of his passes. Sunday brought little clarity to the Bengals’ muddled backfield. Giovani Bernard played the most snaps (29) but that was dictated by a pass-heavy game script. Meanwhile second-round rookie Joe Mixon came out flat, totaling a mere nine yards on eight carries.
28. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 29
Corey Coleman disappointed during an injury-plagued rookie season but came to play in Week 1, absorbing five-of-six targets for 53 yards and a touchdown versus Pittsburgh. DeShone Kizer enjoyed a promising debut (20-for-30, 222 passing yards, 17 rushing yards, two total touchdowns) but will have to cut down on his sacks after being dropping seven times for a loss of 42 yards on Sunday.
29. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 26
Kevin White is becoming the NFL’s Greg Oden. If his shoulder injury ends up being a season-ender, he’ll have played just five games since entering the league as a first-round pick in 2015. If you drafted Jordan Howard to be your workhorse in fantasy, you’re probably sweating right now. Tarik Cohen outgained Howard by 47 yards in Week 1 and did it on three fewer touches (16 for Howard, 13 for Cohen).
30. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
The Niners were pretty much who we thought they’d be in Week 1. Pierre Garcon was a target hog (six catches for 81 yards on a team-leading 10 targets) while workhorse Carlos Hyde was limited to nine carries with San Francisco playing from behind. Suiting up for his fourth team in as many seasons, workhorse Brian Hoyer was predictably awful, throwing for 193 yards with no touchdowns and two turnovers.
31. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 25
Here’s how bad Sunday was for the Colts. Scott Tolzien threw two pick-sixes including one on his first pass from scrimmage (he almost threw a third but Donte Moncrief prevented it by committing a facemask penalty on Nickell Robey-Coleman) while Jared Goff diced Indy’s patchwork secondary (Vontae Davis was out with a groin injury) for a career-best 306 yards. Coach Chuck Pagano was also in midseason form, inexplicably choosing not to challenge what appeared to be a clear touchdown by rookie Marlon Mack in the first quarter.
32. New York Jets
Last Week: 32
The Jets made the Bills look like world beaters in Week 1, yielding an astounding 408 yards of offense while generating just 214 yards of their own including 38 rushing yards on 15 attempts. Josh McCown turned the ball over twice while Kalif Raymond muffed not one, but two punts. At least future Jet Sam Darnold had a good game Saturday against Stanford (316 passing yards, four touchdowns).
Biggest Jump: Vikings
Biggest Drop: Texans