First of all, congratulations on your Week 1 fantasy victory if you were lucky enough to have the Baltimore Ravens prominently involved in your lineup.
Unfortunately, the Ravens won’t get another chance to play in Miami unless they reach Super Bowl LIV. But they do have another tasty matchup at home against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2. And there is still plenty of reason to “buy high” on Lamar Jackson, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Mark Ingram and Mark Andrews even after the schedule gets tougher.
We have to start with Jackson since, you know, he just lit up the entire league by completing 17 of 20 passes for 324 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
Obviously you can’t expect any repeat performances of that magnitude. But it was huge for Jackson’s future prospects because defenses will have to be more wary now about loading up the box to stop him from running.
And run he will. ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley insisted this wasn’t a case of Baltimore deciding to keep Jackson’s legs under wraps.
“Definitely not,” Hensley said. “The Ravens have said even at the beginning of training camp that there will be some games where Lamar Jackson will run the ball five times, and there will be some games where he runs the ball 20 times. They are not fixed to a number. They’re gonna take what the defense gives them. … And the Dolphins’ game plan was to not let Lamar Jackson run.
“Even after he was throwing two, three and four touchdowns, they still did not drop two safeties back deep. Lamar’s thing is he goes by his reads. And his read every time was to throw the ball. So it could change.”
Meanwhile, Hensley is even more bullish that Andrews (eight catches for 108 yards and a TD) and Ingram (14 carries for 107 yards and two TDs) can sustain their success on a consistent basis. He labeled them as the two most “dependable” fantasy options going forward -- based on their bargain value, anyway.
“Andrews was Lamar’s go-to receiver in training camp. It was surprising if Andrews didn’t catch a touchdown pass from Lamar at least once every practice,” said Hensley, who said that they developed a chemistry dating back to last season and that Jackson is best when throwing between the numbers -- where Andrews is his most reliable target.
As for Ingram, Hensley said backup Gus Edwards could vulture some touchdowns and some late-game work if the Ravens get a big lead. But he believes Ingram is going to be “as close to a workhorse back as they’ve had probably since Ray Rice.”
“This is a team that’s gonna be run-first, and Mark Ingram is going to be the featured back,” said Hensley, who said the reason the Ravens got Ingram in free agency was because new offensive coordinator Greg Roman loves experienced, dependable running backs.
Last but not least is Brown, the dynamic rookie receiver who caught four passes for 147 yards and two TDs while playing just 14 snaps.
You might have to be a little more patient with Brown, given that he is still recovering from a foot injury that wiped out his entire spring and part of training camp and the preseason. As Hensley pointed out, Brown didn’t even practice Friday of Week 1 and said after the game that he is still experiencing some discomfort. And even when Brown is fully healthy, Hensley doesn’t expect anyone to emerge as a true No. 1 receiver on a weekly basis in a group that also includes veteran Willie Snead and fellow rookie Miles Boykin.
But Brown can obviously do a lot with a little, considering his blazing speed and big-play ability. And he won’t be limited to just deep routes. Hensley said he expects a healthy dose of receiver screens and even some carries out of the backfield.
“They’re gonna get the ball in his hands,” Hensley said.
Now for our weekly tour around the league with ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters:
Rookie breakouts: Don’t miss this detailed breakdown on Brown and other rookie breakouts T.J. Hockenson, Terry McLaurin, A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf -- which includes insight from NFL Nation reporters and updated fantasy projections.
Buffalo Bills: Sean McDermott took issue with labels like “feature back” and “No. 1 back” this week, per Marcel Louis-Jacques. But it’s hard not to expect a similar playing time ratio after rookie Devin Singletary was so dynamic in Week 1. Singletary played 45 offensive snaps, while Frank Gore played 19.
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton took the blame for Thursday night’s offensive flop, saying “it’s hard to look defensive guys in the eyes.” But he said his surgically repaired shoulder and recently injured foot weren’t to blame, according to David Newton.
Chicago Bears: Jeff Dickerson wrote about “anti-diva” Allen Robinson, the Bears’ No. 1 receiver who quietly went about his business of notching another 100-yard game.
Detroit Lions: Hockenson’s 131-yard total was the most by a rookie tight end in his debut since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Michael Rothstein wrote that it’s clear that if the Lions' offense is going to be successful, it will be with Hockenson playing a large role.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson looked terrific Monday night with his arm and his legs. But Sarah Barshop asked the burning question after he was sacked another six times and made a couple of trips into the sideline medical tent: How many hits can Watson endure?
Indianapolis Colts: After running for 174 yards and the tying two-point conversion, there is “no question” Marlon Mack has established himself as a workhorse running back if healthy, Mike Wells wrote.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Michael DiRocco wrote about rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew, the sixth-round pick from Washington State with a fun-loving persona, 1970s-style mustache and “fearless” approach -- who now needs to save the Jaguars' season.
As for the Jaguars’ surprising Week 1 receivers, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley, DiRocco said there is a lot of excitement in the organization for Chark’s breakout potential as a downfield threat. But he doesn’t expect it to happen overnight -- especially with the change at QB. He thinks Dede Westbrook and Conley will be more consistent early in the season, with Minshew likely to rely on them for shorter and intermediate throws.
Kansas City Chiefs: Everything points to RB LeSean McCoy seeing a bigger role going forward, according to Adam Teicher, who writes that the Chiefs were considerably more effective running the ball and passing the ball when he was in the game.
Also from Teicher: WR Sammy Watkins already had predicted he would have the best season of his career even before Tyreek Hill got hurt and Watkins exploded for 198 yards and three touchdowns.
Los Angeles Chargers: Austin Ekeler sure looked like a leading man with 154 yards from scrimmage and the game-winning TD run in overtime in the Chargers’ first game without Melvin Gordon, Eric D. Williams wrote.
Also from Williams: Expect the Chargers to lean even more on WR Keenan Allen while TE Hunter Henry is sidelined by a knee injury.
Los Angeles Rams: Todd Gurley split more carries than usual in Week 1. But Sean McVay explained that Malcolm Brown scored two rushing TDs because “he was up in that series” – not because they intend to use him in goal-line work ahead of Gurley all season. And as Lindsey Thiry wrote, Gurley finished strong with 64 rushing yards in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans Saints: As ESPN’s Saints reporter, I wrote that Sean Payton wasn’t lying when he said he wanted to keep Alvin Kamara’s “pitch count” the same as at it was in years past. But Payton is also smart enough to keep feeding Kamara when he looks as fresh and dynamic as he did in a Week 1 nail-biter that required every bit of his 169 yards from scrimmage.
Oakland Raiders: Tyrell Williams was more than ready for his close-up as the Raiders’ primary receiver in the wake of all the Antonio Brown drama, Paul Gutierrez wrote.
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz "2.0" showed the improved patience and maturity that coach Doug Pederson talked about this offseason, Tim McManus wrote.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Coming off what he calls "my worst game ever," Steelers receiver Donte Moncrief will continue to play through a dislocated finger suffered in training camp, Jeremy Fowler wrote.
Tennessee Titans: Eddie George is still making an impact for the Titans, according to Turron Davenport. George’s relationship with fellow running back Derrick Henry helped to spark a late 2018 surge that Henry carried over into Week 1.
Davenport also wrote more on Brown, who has quickly earned QB Marcus Mariota’s trust.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins should be able to take even more advantage of McLaurin’s deep speed after they get tight end Jordan Reed back in the lineup, John Keim wrote.