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Andy Richardson

Thursday Night Recap

Kansas City looking good

The NFL is back, like it never left. That's not really true; it seems like ages since we had a football game to watch. The thing that struck me the most was how clean everything was. I expected tons of penalties and injuries. Instead it was like any other game.

That's not to say that Sunday won't be a freakshow, or that maybe half the players who played last night will test positive for COVID-19 in the next few days. And last night there were actually some fans in attendance, which won't be the case for most games. But so far, so good.

QUARTERBACKS:

Patrick Mahomes was Patrick Mahomes. Finished with modest yardage because of the success the team had running the ball and Kansas City taking a 31-7 lead. But he threw 3 touchdowns and had a couple others dropped, both on throws not a lot of quarterbacks can make. If you're at all concerned about Mahomes I think it's that Kansas City's defense might be improved, so there will be other games like this one, where Mahomes doesn't have to do much in the fourth quarter. But I don't think you're regretting having selected him.

Deshaun Watson, in contrast, had you pretty worried for a few quarters. Wasn't putting up good numbers, lots of incompletions, took some hits. But once Houston fell way behind you had the sense he'd probably finish with some garbage-time numbers, and so he did. Long-term though, it's hard not to think he's going to miss DeAndre Hopkins, for his excellence in making contested catches. Neither Brandin Cooks nor Randall Cobb, on milk cartons for much of last night, are going to win that way. I have Watson in a couple of leagues and was pleased/relieved with the end result. But it was a lot harder for him to get there than it was Mahomes.

RUNNING BACKS:

Clyde Edwards-Helaire had a striking debut; nobody needs to be told that. Was interesting (and not entirely surprising) that he came off the field in passing situations, not because of any receiving limitations but wanting to have the veteran Darrel Williams in there for pass protection. Edwards-Helaire didn't catch a pass, while Williams caught both of his target. But as a runner, the rookie looked a little like Barry Sanders, with some sweet jump cuts and changes of direction, including a nifty touchdown and some other moves in traffic to pick up extra yardage. Got stuffed several times at the goal line and could easily have had 3 TDs; he's not a big guy and Houston's got some sure tacklers (J.J. Watt looked good, encouraging to see). But pretty clear Edwards-Helaire is going to have a big season/career; the guy who traded out of the pick in my dynasty league was texting me in misery last night.

David Johnson was a key Fantasy Index recommendation. It's too soon for victory laps, but felt great to see him do well last night. (Duke Johnson left with a leg injury of some sort.) Johnson's going to be a big part of the offense, and nobody with him in their lineup last night is regretting it today. Looked better than he has the last two years in Arizona, that's for certain.

WIDE RECEIVERS:

Big game early for Sammy Watkins, good game late for Tyreek Hill. Watkins is a frustrating player but give the guy his due, he finished strong in last year's postseason and started out very strong last night, catching a pair of touchdowns (one ruled short on review, so he scored again two plays later). Did this a year ago too so can't rule out the possibility he disappears for the next couple of months. But he's the clear No. 2 right now. Hill was quiet for most of the game but still scored and if you have Hill you know there will be the occasional quiet game and the occasional 60-yard touchdown.

Mecole Hardman operated as the No. 4 and caught 1 pass. The bright side is that No. 3 Demarcus Robinson dropped a pair of touchdowns and no one should be thinking he'll remain ahead of Hardman for long.

Props to Will Fuller, who caught 8 of 10 targets for 112 yards. One of the missed connections was an early drop, but he did a pretty fair accounting of himself as a No. 1 wideout. Brandin Cooks was at least playing, but maybe wasn't 100 percent; didn't show much separation, and he's not going to make contested grabs. Randall Cobb was a distant 3rd, not even being heard from until late in the game. Houston used some sets with two tight ends, and he's Randall Cobb; not a guy anyone should be counting on in a lineup.

TIGHT ENDS:

Nothing need be said about Travis Kelce. Houston had no answer for him early, most teams won't. If Mahomes hadn't stopped throwing much in the second half he'd probably have caught a dozen passes and multiple touchdowns.

I started Jordan Akins as my "cheap" starter in a Daily competition, that worked out. Had a nice open-field move on his first 20-yard reception and a touchdown late. Just 2 targets, alas; he'll get shutout some games (Darren Fells also had 2). Should Houston decide to feature Akins, he could be viable, especially in TE-premium leagues. But seems optimistic to think they'll do that. Fingers crossed. Pick up Akins for cheap if you can and have the bench room, but don't count on an expanded role.

KICKERS:

Ka'imi Fairbairn missed badly on his only attempt, from 51 yards. That's all I have to say about him. Harrison Butker did what you drafted him for. There will be games he'll only be kicking extra points.

DEFENSES:

Four sacks for Kansas City, and an INT; the garbage-time points hurt in points-allowed leagues. But pass rush looked good, coverage was mostly tight, and they'll score on a kick return at some point. Houston got some pressure on Mahomes and nearly had a pair of interceptions, one caught with one foot out of bounds and one kind of dropped. In general I'm only going to want to use Houston in games I think they'll win.

SUMMARY:

Just one game, but Kansas City looks like it's got an offensive rookie of the year contender, and a strong MVP candidate. As expected. They should run away with the AFC West at a minimum. Houston has a great quarterback and nice running back addition, and potentially a breakout No. 1 wideout in Will Fuller. But they're going to be one of three teams fighting for the AFC South.

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