It was a wild first week of the NFL season for both the offensive and defensive skill position players in fantasy football. And much like the guys who control the football, the defenders offered a few surprises as well. As always, Reading the Defense is here to look at the week that was and look ahead to what could be coming in Week 2.
Defensive line: How about a few Week 1 hosannas for the New York Jets defensive line? Playing without the suspended Sheldon Richardson, Gang Green's front did an outstanding job against the Bengals running game, limiting Cincinnati to 57 rushing yards while compiling seven sacks against Andy Dalton. We expected big things from Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams, but for Steve McLendon to land among the top five scorers in Week 1 was eye-opening. He's likely to take a backseat to Richardson going forward, but what a start.
Linebacker: If you don't know the name Kwon Alexander, it's about time for you to learn. The second-year Buccaneers linebacker introduced himself to the Falcons (and plenty of NFL fans) in a big way Sunday with 17 (15-solo) total tackles and a sack. It was quite a season debut after an intriguing finish to last season when Alexander averaged 10 total tackles per contest over his final three games. He could have his work cut out for him this week against a Cardinals offense that's certain to send players all over the field.
Defensive back: Before the season, I listed Damarious Randall as a potential IDP sleeper. While Randall did a nice job locking down Allen Robinson, it was teammate Morgan Burnett who posted the nice fantasy total. Nine total tackles and a sack against a still spry Jaguars offense could just be the tip of the iceberg for the veteran safety. Two seasons ago Burnett was a fantasy monster who finished as the top IDP defensive back. Could we see a return to the top of the charts? If so, this was a nice opening salvo.
Week 2 boomer
K.J. Wright, LB, Seattle Seahawks: This could just as easily be Bobby Wagner with the Seahawks set to face an anemic (anorexic?) Rams offense in Week 2. Los Angeles had no real strategy on offense in Week 1 other than to hand it to Todd Gurley or throw bubble screens to Tavon Austin and pray that several 49ers defenders fell down simultaneously. That prayer went unanswered on Monday night and is likely to fall on deaf ears once again in Week 2 versus an even better defense.
Week 2 buster
Khalil Mack, DL, Oakland Raiders: Mack put together a pretty nice line last week without even recording a sack against Drew Brees and the Saints. This week Mack is likely to face off against Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews quite a bit. While there are big expectations for Matthews this year, he was shaky at times in the Week 1 loss. If Atlanta knows anything, however, it's that they'll need to neutralize Mack in order to win. Look for Matthews to get plenty of help in keeping Oakland's QB-wrecker away from Matt Ryan in this one.
Week 2 sleeper
Danny Trevathan, LB, Chicago Bears: Trevathan made a nice impact in his Bears debut on Sunday. This week Chicago takes on an Eagles offense (read: quarterback) that didn't see a lot of pressure from the woeful Browns defense last season. Look for Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to turn up the heat on rookie Carson Wentz and that could mean sending pressure from different spots. Trevathan is likely to rack up a number of tackles in the middle of the field, but don't be surprised if Fangio turns him loose to go after the passer this week as well.
First down: Not much was memorable for the Los Angeles Rams in their reintroduction to the NFL on Monday night. The offense was atrocious and the defense had a tough time slowing down Blaine Gabbert and the Niners offense (yeah, I said it). Things got worse when Aaron Donald was ejected after making contact with an official, which came after he was flagged for a personal foul. The good news is that Donald isn't expected to be suspended for his actions and should be available for this week's game agaisnt the Seahawks. That's obviously big for the Rams, but could mean something for fantasy managers with Donald potentially trying to chase down a hobbledRussell Wilson.
Second down: We were all surprised a couple of weeks ago when J.J. Watt said he'd be ready for the season opener. However, we didn't get the usual dominating performance we're used to seeing from Justin James. But the Texans star said the Week 1 contest was just him "knocking a little bit of rust off" and that he's feeling good moving forward. That's not likely to make the Chiefs offensive line feel very good about the task in front of it this Sunday.
Third down:Titans head coach Mike Mularkey says he'd like to lessen the number of snaps defensive end Jurrell Casey takes in 2016. Mularkey's reasoning holds that as such a high-motor player, Casey could be more efficient with less time on the field. We'll see if that turns out to be the case -- or if the Titans even hold to that strategy at all -- but I tend to feel like more plays mean more opportunities for production. But that could also be why I don't coach the Titans.
Fourth down:Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier left Monday night's win over Washington with a knee injury, but the team is hoping that Shazier is just day-to-day. The Ohio State product was second on the team in total tackles this year and is expected to continue his progress again this season. Keep an eye on this situation as the week moves along as Shazier could have nice fantasy value this week against the Bengals dynamic offense.