Finally, opening week of real action. There’s a lot to be overly excited about, that’s for certain. But there’s also plenty to keep a keen eye on as several players’ opening acts could have season long implications. Whether it may be a running back by committee approach, people recovering from injury, or playing for the first time without valued teammates, this is our first chance to see how the dominoes will fall when the points count. Keep an eye on these guys as things could quickly turn very ugly.
Browns and Eagles- Jordan Matthews
There is no denying that Matthews is far and away the most proven and productive wide receiver on the Eagles offense. But why are the coaches so intent on putting him in the slot? Are they really willing to hold Matthews on the sideline while second year guys Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham run terrible routes and drop pass after pass from a rookie quarterback who missed almost virtually all of the preseason with an injury he’s still not fully recovered from? Pardon the run on sentence there but it speaks volumes as to where this team currently is.
This is a confusing situation and we need to see how may routes Matthews ends up running and how many of those routes he is actually targeted in. If he sees minimal targets with average production it may be wise to test his trade value before things potentially get worse. This isn’t the Patriots offense where a slot man can catch 100 balls in a season. Matthews is running a high risk of losing serious work if the coaching staff holds true to their preseason remarks.
Bengals and Jets- A.J. Green
It seems that everyone and their mother were watering at the mouth to take Green on the tail end of the first round. People continuously note that having lost Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones means even more targets for Green. But simply playing devil’s advocate, can’t this also be seen as negative? With Tyler Eifert again dealing with injuries and missing more time, we don’t know if there will be an effective number two man. If there is no one to help Green, can’t defenses just roll triple coverage over onto him? Having single coverage on either rookie Tyler Boyd or Brandon LaFell with triple on Green seems like a risk defensive coaches would be likely to take until someone proves themselves. We’re not only looking to see how many defenders line up across from Green but also if any other receiver steps up to at least command a little attention.
Chiefs and Chargers- Jamaal Charles
This is a really simple implication to be on the look out for; How productive will Spencer Ware be? Does a great day at the office cut further into Charles’ currently downward trending value? Also, how often is Charcandrick West‘s number called? Is Charles now in a committee approach even when fully healthy? If Ware furthers his case to be more featured, it could end up being a huge indicator that the Chiefs may take it easy on Charles to have him for a playoff run. That’s great for Kansas City but not for owners who selected Charles in the first or second round. Every positive for Ware and West counts as a negative against Charles.
Bills and Ravens- Sammy Watkins
Here we’re just focusing on Watkins’ foot. If he comes out of the gate like a thoroughbred, then we’ll have to go ahead and move him up in our in season-wide receiver rankings. But, if he comes out looking sluggish and unable to cleanly cut or run precise routes then we may have a season long problem on our hands. It’s still amazes us here at RnF that people have hit the panic button on the Patriots’ Julian Edelman and his foot issues but have seemingly ignored Watkins who had a similar procedure but even more recently.
Lions and Colts- Matthew Stafford
Stafford’s week one performance could be the ultimate rise or fall situation of the 2016 season. This will be Stafford’s first NFL game without having Calvin Johnson on the roster. Yes, he has played without Johnson at times as Stafford has leaned on Golden Tate during injury weeks. But this is mentally different. Not having a 6’5″ monster/security blanket on the outside for 16 games for the first time in your entire career has to stick in the back of your mind. Even without the help of one of the all time greats, Stafford should still carve up the weak Indy defense. That’s why he’s listed, because he absolutely should. If he doesn’t then clearly something is wrong. If you can’t rely on Stafford to come through against the Colts then it may be hard to trust him anywhere else down the line. Stafford needs a big game to regain lost value.