What I Saw: Thoughts On Every Game, Week 12, Turkey Day Edition!
Lions Vs. Vikings
QB: Case Keenum has finally come into his own as a QB. Despite pressure from the Lions on several plays, Keenum remained composed, got out of trouble while keeping his eyes downfield, and he even had a rushing TD this game. He’s having a stellar season and has definitely earned the right to QB this team for probably the remainder of the season. Matt Stafford had a bit of a rough game, which I suppose is understandable given how well the Vikings D plays these days. He also had a bit of an injury which he played through but surely must have impacted him, though that didn’t happen until the 4th quarter. It was a game where small mistakes stacked up all over the Lions offense, including a fumble attributed to Stafford but that was really Abdullah’s fault, and several off throws from stafford or just-missed connections to receivers. I do expect Stafford to bounce back, but maybe not next week against an equally stingy defense in the Ravens.
RB: Neither Ameer Abdullah nor Theo Riddick could make much happen. The Vikings played solid defense and neither did much either on the ground or through the air, even. Abdullah basically caused a fumble and Riddick missed a screen pass that pretty well killed a drive. The Lions simply need a better running back who can provide consistency from the backfield. Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon were a bit better, but not by much. Murray’s day was saved by a long 46 yard run for about half of his total yardage. He and McKinnon took turns ramming the ball down the Lions’ throats and into the end zone on that drive, but that was the best they looked all game.
WR: Marvin Jones, Jr had a great game, but he was about the only receiver for the Lions to do so. Despite being covered well, Jones simply out-played Xavier Rhodes and even Terence Newman. His two TD’s were beautiful to watch. Golden Tate did not do well this game. Part of it was solid coverage, and part was minor errors that mattered like when Tate gave up a 1st down in the 4th quarter by running backwards and then he had a chance for a huge play but Stafford overthrew him. Kenny Golladay had his 60-ish yards on a couple big plays as well, which seems to be his modus operandi these past few games. Golladay did handily out-snap TJ Jones, so he is firmly locked in as the #3, I’m just hoping to see him really break out sometime soon. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen both looked great this Thanksgiving Day, though Thielen out-performed Diggs by a bit. It could have been a big day for Diggs, but Keenum does not seem to be the best at downfield throws, missing Diggs on a couple efforts going deep. It’s good that Diggs hasn’t been forgotten altogether, though, in favor of the amazing Thielen who had an incredible 8 receptions.
TE: Kyle Rudolph was the highlight of the game for the Vikings. With 2 touchdown passes, it is far and away his best performance on the season. He only had 4 catches total, but it’s worth noting that he has value in the red zone for an offense that is increasingly finding itself there. Eric Ebron does not seem to me like a good TE. If you read my articles weekly, you can usually find me disparaging him. Despite somewhat regular use offensively, he’s starting to lose red zone targets to the other TE, Darren Fells who had a touchdown catch overturned, so maybe the Lions simply agree with me. Either way, I can’t recommend using him on your team unless you’re truly out of options.
Chargers Vs. Cowboys
QB: I don’t know what is a bigger story from this game: Dak Prescott playing rather poorly of late, or Philip Rivers and the Chargers finally playing well. Prescott has not looked good with Ezekiel Elliott absent. Prescott may not be entirely at fault for the team’s struggles, but he seems to be losing the mental game for the 1st time since he took over this team last season. Rivers had his best game of the season and that comes at a time when the Chargers are looking much, much sharper on both sides of the ball. It worked in his favor that the Cowboys actually stopped the run pretty well, forcing him to throw all day.
RB: Melvin Gordon had a pretty quiet day. The Cowboys really only seemed to be able to stop the run, because Rivers lit em up through the air while Gordon gained 65 yards on 21 carried, and Austin Ekeler carried 6 times for just 15 yards. Ekeler did much better getting dump-offs from Rivers. Ekeler won’t be stealing carries from Gordon any time soon, but it does seem like he’ll be the passing down back for the time being. Alfred Morris had a bit of a quiet night, but it was Rod Smith who actually got the rushing TD in the 2nd. They both had 9 carries, so now I’m wondering if Smith is on his way to taking over for Morris or maybe the Cowboys just want to see what Smith can do since they already know what Morris brings to the table. Seems like we’ll be seeing more of Smith in weeks to come.
WR: I don’t know for sure if Dez Bryant has lost a step or if his struggles are because of Prescott’s poor play, though I tend to rather think it’s the former. He seems to struggle with coverage these days, and Casey Hayward held him without a catch for the entire 1st half. He only managed 37 yards and will have to face Josh Norman next week. It’s going to be brutal. Terrence Williams also didn’t do much, though he does seemed to be locked in as the #2. If the Cowboys can get their game together, Williams might have some upside. Unfortunately that’s a pretty big if for now. Keenan Allen is finally doing #JustKeenanThings like being targeted over 14 times, catching 11 balls and making 172 yards to go with his TD which involved juke after juke on his way to the end zone. He looks incredible, congrats if you got him on your team. Tyrell Williams got his 2nd TD of the season, and might have the opportunity to do a little more since Mike Williams left the 1st quarter with a knee injury. M’Will may or may not miss time, and if he does T’Will could be worth a pickup as the Chargers would presumably involve T’Will more in the offense.
TE: Hunter Henry came away with 76 yards and TD after catching all 5 of his targets. He made some great plays and it would behoove the Chargers to use him a little more consistently from game to game. He certainly looked like he should be getting targets the way he was playing. Jason Witten finally saw some extended involvement in the ‘Boys offense. Unfortunately that was with a struggling Prescott so while he caught all 7 of his targets, he only gained 44 yards. It could signal increased use to help fill in for Elliott’s absence, but I wouldn’t use him in my lineup until the Cowboys can figure out how to play professional football again.
Giants Vs. Redskins
QB: Kirk Cousins is doing everything he can to win without surprise star running back Chris Thompson out. It wasn’t his best game, but the Giants seem to be playing much better on defense of late and his 242 yards and 2 TD’s were impressive given the 6 sacks he absorbed. I don’t know if the Redskins’ OLine has been practicing with the Seahawks, but it would certainly help if Cousins could get rid of the ball a little quicker. He doesn’t seem to have the best weapons with Thomas and Jordan Reed out. Dallas just got torched through the air, so perhaps next week will be better. Eli Manning did terribly. Just don’t.
RB: Samaje Perine, the last remaining back for Washington, seems to be thriving as the workhorse in DC. He gained 130 yards total this game and looks to be earning the role. He certainly looks much better than he did earlier in the year. Orleans Darkwa, who once looked like he had the backfield locked down, is now competing for nearly equal touches with Wayne Gallman, who ran a little better. It should be alarming to Darkwa owners that Gallman out-snapped Darkwa. Keep an eye on usage, but maybe there’s going to be a change in the backfield.
WR: Jamison Crowder looked great this game. That’s reflected in his 141 yards and a TD, and he seems to be the clear #1 for Washington. Josh Doctson has had varying amounts of hype, and he did get a touchdown as well this game, but he’s not getting good usage and he’s being handily out-played by Crowder. For the Giants, there really isn’t much going on. Sterling Shepard was out this game and he’s really the only one worth a darn with OBJ and Marshall out. Stay away from Giants receivers, especially with poor play from Manning.
TE: Evan Engram had a stinker of a game and looked pretty bad as he didn’t seem able to hold on to much of anything. Hopefully he can bounce back because the good Lord knows the Giants need him to. Vernon Davis probably should have had a big game, but for some reason the Redskins were just ignoring him all game or using him to block. It was kind of a shocker considering the Giants give up the most points to TE’s, Jordan Reed was out again, and Davis had been very involved in the offense with 26 targets through the previous 3 games. I have no reason for this, but hopefully if Reed stays out, the Skins will come to their senses and toss him the ball periodically.