Football is finally back, and opening night was no disappointment. In what was supposed to be a Super Bowl rematch, it’s questionable whether you can even consider it just that based on the new personnel on both sides, more losses than anything.
Headlines entering the game were of course the redemption sought after by Cam Newton and the Panthers following their Super Bowl loss this past February. Returning was his #1 target from 2014 in Kelvin Benjamin, but how would he produce on a ‘limited’ snap count? We were set to get our first glimpse of new Broncos’ signal caller Trevor Siemian.
The Panthers entered the season opener as the favorites, and lived up to that label early on as they controlled the ball and took a 17-7 lead into halftime. Cam Newton was on and Siemian couldn’t get the offense into rhythm. The 2nd half was very different. The Broncos fought back as the defense woke up and rattled Newton. It ended in a 21-20 win for Denver as Graham Gano missed a 50 yard field goal after getting “iced”.
If you didn’t tune in this past Thursday, you missed one hell of a game. That’s where I come in. There were a handful of headlines I came away with from a fantasy football perspective. Check them out below and see if you need to make any changes to your roster.
Cam is Gonna Cam
Despite losing a couple key pieces on the defensive side of the ball, many were skeptical regarding Cam Newton’s performance in this Super Bowl rematch. Cam came out guns a blazing in this one as he was eager for redemption from February’s debacle. He started off hot in the first half as he entered halftime with 2 TDs while making his presence known on the ground as Carolina took a 17-7 lead into the 3rd quarter. It didn’t go as planned in the 2nd half, however.
After repetitive big blows to the head, Newton’s performance regressed and Denver gained confidence on defense. Still, Newton ended the week with 20 fantasy points and continued his dominance from 2015 – he looked like the MVP. Despite his poor finish, the reigning MVP solidified himself as one of the, if not the top fantasy QB for 2016 and very well will finish the week as a top 5 fantasy QB. If there were any doubts after drafting him early in your fantasy draft, that should’ve been put to rest. Denver will be one of the toughest matchups he faces all season – it should be smooth sailing from here on out, assuming his offensive line keeps him upright.
Kelvin Benjamin is Back
With all the worries about Benjamin’s “limited” snap count and if he could return to full health after last year’s ACL injury, he fully restored the confidence fantasy owners may have lost. It only took two drives for Benjamin to score a TD and he looked like Newton’s #1 target from the jump. He finished the game with 6 catches for 91 yards and 15 fantasy points. By my count, he was on the field for 51 offensive snaps as well, far exceeding his reported limit.
From here on out, there will be no question marks surrounding Benjamin, especially since Devin Funchess was nearly non-existent throughout the game – someone many thought could step up as the #1 WR on this team, including myself. Benjamin was clearly the top weapon on Carolina’s offense this past Thursday, and he should be an every week start and a reliable WR2 in 2016.
Devin Funchess Went Full Ghost
Of any player on the field in the season opener, there was no bigger disappointment than Devin Funchess. He caught only one pass the entire game for 9 yards. His snap count was much less than I would’ve expected (40 by my count) – especially with the reports of Benjamin being limited. Funchess was primarily on the field for running plays, excluding the final drive when Carolina was playing from behind.
The upside remains for Funchess who very well could catch on in weeks to come. This was a tough matchup as he went up against corners such as Chris Harris and Aqib Talib most of the time. How it stands, I wouldn’t feel confident inserting him into your starting lineup until he proves something, but don’t give up on him just yet.
C.J. Anderson Continues to Build Off Strong 2015 Finish
Last season C.J. Anderson was one of the most hyped running backs heading into 2015, his start did not live up to the hype, however. That isn’t the case this season. Anderson dropped a whopping 25 fantasy points on opening night which included both a rushing TD and receiving TD.
Usually I’m all about selling high after big performances. However, in Anderson’s case I’m all about keeping him. In any Gary Kubiak offense, the RB will produce, especially if you have Anderson’s skill-set. With an inexperienced Trevor Siemian under center, the Broncos will continue to feed Anderson the rock in the running game. Plus, he was given 5 targets in the passing game and hauled in 4 for nearly 50 yards. Anderson proved he can be a reliable RB2 in 2016 with RB1 potential.
Broncos WRs’ Production May Be in Jeopardy
While Trevor Siemian showed some flashes, he also proved he can’t be a reliable downfield passer. This hurts the stock of both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Both were given a healthy amount of targets, but were unable to warrant production to be given consistent starts in your starting lineup.
Thomas will continue to serve as the #1 target in Denver’s passing game, so he’s at least a FLEX option every week. In Sanders’ case, he looked like the go-to guy for Siemian early on, but you can’t expect that throughout the year. Overall what I gained from Thursday Night is the passing game for the Broncos will be up and down all season long. It looks like boom or bust for the Denver WRs in 2016. Start them with caution.