What I Saw: Thoughts On Every Game, Week 12
Chiefs Vs. Bills
QB: Whoo, boy, what a stinker for Alex Smith. Since the Cowboys first dismantled the Chiefs in week 9, their offense has been struggling. Smith’s passes were all over the place and only a few were downfield much. This is the same overly safe football that doesn’t do much against defenses that don’t allow it that we see often from the Chiefs, and it’s not something that ever seems to work. Smith’s one TD pass was caught behind the LOS from where Albert Wilson took it into the end zone by sheer grit and moxy. Smith needs to step it up and play like he did to start the season, or Reid will be facing more and more pressure to at least see what Patrick Mahomes can do. Tyrod Taylor, despite not scoring highly, looked much better in comparison. Taylor had close to the same yardage as Smith and they each only got 1 TD pass, but Taylor did his in 7 fewer attempts with no interceptions. His biggest knock at this point is really that the Bills want to run the ball more than pass it.
RB: Kareem Hunt is not getting the blocking he needs. He was met behind the LOS all night and barely made any yards. As long as the Chiefs as a whole are struggling, Hunt is likely to as well. LeSean McCoy looked a little better than Hunt, getting a few big-ish runs, but left the game with just 49 yards. It’s a little unsettling to see Travaris Cadet getting a fair number of carries, especially since he had a better YPC than McCoy. Still, I don’t think McCoy has any competition for the job.
WR: None of the receivers for either team looked especially good. Tyreek Hill is either being misused or Smith’s passes to him are just not catchable. The Chiefs have lost whatever magic they started the season with and that’s reflecting in all of the skill players’ stats. Zay Jones caught a TD and had a ton of targets, but his yards were pretty low, which is never a good thing. The Chiefs have stepped it up on defense the last couple games and played pretty tight coverage this week. If the Bills aren’t good enough to beat solid defensive play, weeks 13 & 16 vs. NE will be pretty tough, but I like Jones for weeks 14 & 15. None of the other receivers for either team seems to be playing very well.
TE: With so little offense, it’s really hard to say anything meaningful about Travis Kelce or Charles Clay. Both had pretty few targets, but Kelce’s day was hampered more by Alex Smith playing poorly than anything else. Clay had a pretty big catch in the second half, and lead the Bills in receiving, but it just wasn’t a game where a lot happened. Hopefully next week will be better for both of them.
Browns Vs. Bengals
QB: This game was actually a pleasant surprise for the Browns. That’s because DeShone Kizer did not throw an interception! That’s right, you heard that correctly, Kizer did not turn the ball over. He came close on like the first pass, but after that, he was pretty OK. Now Kizer still has a ways to go because he didn’t throw any touchdowns, either, but the Browns were moving the ball pretty well against their division rivals for the most part. He also threw for 268 yards, so it wasn’t a bad day. Kizer also rushed for a TD which made him a QB1, outscoring even Andy Dalton in standard. Dalton is also looking much better these last few weeks, throwing a couple TD’s even though he really didn’t need to do much.
RB: Joe Mixon balled out, which is why there wasn’t much pressure on Dalton to throw much. Not only did Mixon get a ton of yards on the ground, he caught a few passes to add over 50 yards. He looked great, and I would hope this leads to the Bengals featuring Mixon a bit more, but Marvin Lewis is sometimes as dumb with his game plan as Andy Reid, so it’s anyone’s guess if Mixon will be featured or get sub-10 carries next week. Isaiah Crowell also ran really well. He was just shy of 100 yards, but that was only on 16 carries. Duke Johnson, Jr also did ok, rushing 6 times for 35 yards and catching over 30 as well. The Browns’ run blocking is coming along and I would say they look like they’re on the up and up.
WR: With Josh Gordon’s looming return, I’ll be stashing Kizer on my bench. That would open things up a bit more for Corey Coleman as well, who was a big play threat and a dropped pass short of having a downright great day. The Browns definitely need more playmakers, so I’ll be tuning in to the Browns next week for sure. Lord knows, no other Browns WR can catch the ball. Ricardo Lewis is the worst receiver in the NFL for drops and Kenny Britt doesn’t even show up in every game. A.J. Green was the most targeted receiver for the Bengals, but he still only managed 66 yards. He wasn’t particularly necessary given Mixon’s domination, but the performance doesn’t make him look like a top tier WR. He hasn’t looked that way to me for at least a year, but I know all the “experts” will shout at me for saying that. I’m sticking with it anyway!
TE: Tyler Kroft caught another TD, but that was about it. I wish he was a bigger part of the game so I could get a better look at him as a pass catcher, but dems da breaks. Kind of the same thing with David Njoku. He and Seth DeValve limit each other’s values, but I hope that once Gordon returns, things will become more focused. They just need so many different pass-catchers that they use whoever is open and sometimes that’s Njoku and sometimes that’s DeValve.
Patriots Vs. Dolphins
QB: Tom Brady is on a tear of late and shows no signs of stopping. He threw 3 TD’s in each of the last two games and 4 TD’s this game, destroying the Dolphins. That was on top of a rushing attack that couldn’t be stopped. Miami is in freefall, losing the last 5 games. Matt Moore had a rough day and did little to separate himself from Jay Cutler. He threw for over two hundred yards and a touchdown, but the Pats have been pretty tough on defense for the last several weeks, and Moore’s 2 interceptions show that. The Dolphins are hurting bad without a good QB.
RB: Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead destroyed the Dolphins on the ground just as badly as Brady did through the air. Burkhead had two touchdowns this game, one rushing and one catching and has really become a centerpiece of the Patriots’ offense. Lewis is right there with him, though. They both rushed with ease in this games as the Pats simply did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. Damien Williams, who I like the best in this backfield, was injured and probably won’t be back for at least a couple weeks, maybe more. Kenyan Drake is now the man, but he has not looked good and his 20 yards on 9 rushes and a fumble supports that view. Sure he got himself a touchdown, but it he doesn’t seem like a safe bet is what I’m saying.
WR: Brandin Cooks had a pretty good day. He’s looking fine as Brady’s #1 wideout with Chris Hogan out indefinitely. He looks good catching and he got a touchdown against MIA. Jarvis Landry had the best day for Miami, and that was with just 70 yards. Even though Landry is a great talent and Kenny Stills playing fairly well, Miami simply has too much liability under center every week. Surely someone from the Dolphins is at least a FLEX play every game, but it’s anyone’s guess who that will be from week to week. DeVante Parker did not look good.
TE: In a game where all the Pats’ offensive weapons were blowing things up, Rob Gronkowski was the most dominant. It was just another day for the giant-among-men, no big deal. Julius Thomas looked pretty ok. It was encouraging to see him get more than 50 yards and actually be involved in the offense. Next week he gets Denver, who usually defends TE’s pretty poorly, but again the lack of consistently good QB play will be a limiting factor.
Cardinals vs. Jaguars
QB: Wow, this was a really enjoyable game. Blaine Gabbert is a really good fill-in for the injured Carson Palmer, who may just retire at the end of the season. Gabbert does have some turnover troubles that need cleaning up, but otherwise he looks very competent under center for the Cards. If he continues to develop, you can go ahead and think of him as Case Keenum light. Blake Bortles I thought look just ok throwing. He didn’t end up with great stats, but there were at least a couple big drops that impacted his day, including a TD pass that really should have been brought in. He then was sacked and fumbled the ball though he did also recover it. His 2 rushing TD’s really brightened up his day in light of the Jags’ troubles through the air. Overall, It was a hard loss for Bortles and the Jags as the AZ defense played well and the Cards pulled off the upset. If Bortles can rush some more in coming games, maybe it’ll open things up again for everyone else.
RB: Adrian Peterson is getting more involvement in the passing game and that’s a good thing. The aging RB still has some juice in the tank and I think he looked pretty good against a decent run defense in the Jaguars. If the Cardinals’ WR corps can step it up a bit more, that will certainly help. It was an encouraging day for the Cards. Leonard Fournette, however, couldn’t get anything going. He was met frequently behind the line of scrimmage. His job isn’t in danger, however, because no one else did much either out of the backfield.
WR: None of the Cardinals WR’s looked that good. Jaron Brown’s lone reception, a 52- yard TD was the highlight, and Larry Fitzgerald got 8 targets, but Jacksonville’s secondary is just very good. You know who I like from Jax, tho? Keelan Cole. He did not have that big of a day stats-wise but he was very close to a number of big plays. Dede Westbrook was the story of the day as everyone has been holding their breath waiting to see how he performs. With 10 targets, but only 6 receptions and 41 yards, it didn’t amount to much. The Cardinals secondary didn’t give up any big plays, so maybe Westbrook will be able to do better against weaker defenses. It will be interesting to see how the two perform against Indy next week.
TE: Ricky Seals-Jones is really a pleasant surprise. Actually, the Cardinals’ using TE’s regularly is the biggest surprise, but RSJ now has a 3rd touchdown in just 2 weeks, and this week he got himself 72 yards to go with it. Now, every once in awhile a player emerges from nothing, as RSJ did, and gets about 3 really good games before defenses finally key in and adapt to the new threat, but next week is against the Rams who have played rather well against TE’s. Buyers beware. I won’t even mention the Jags’ TE because I don’t get paid by the word.
Panthers Vs. Jets
QB: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Cam Newton is not a good QB. His throws were so far off this game that only Stretch Armstrong could catch ‘em. It would have been a disastrous day for Carolina if not for two DS/T scores to take back the lead. Josh McCown, however, is really good right now. He made a ton of great throws and I’m kind of sad they didn’t win.
RB: A week after he finally broke 100 yards rushing, Jonathan Stewart was held to less than 2 ypc. It was ugly for the veteran. He did have a TD to buoy his week, but boy what a stinker. Luckily for the Panthers, they have Christian McCafferey, who can play football. CMC looks good all around. I really like Bilal Powell the best of the 3 running backs in this god forsaken committee. Elijah McGuire continues to get at least a few carries per game, but he just doesn’t look good. Matt Forte also ran rather poorly. No, the Jets need to stop the silliness and just use Powell with either Forte OR McGuire as COP (Change Of Pace).
WR: Devin Funchess grabbed 7 of his 12 targets for over 100 yards. It’s a good thing he did, because he’s about the only WR the Panthers have left. Kelvin Benjamin has been traded and Curtis Samuel is on IR. Somebody else is going to have to step up. Not an easy task when your quarterback can’t hit you standing still with no one else around. Robby Anderson continues to make me so sad I didn’t grab him a week earlier like I was seriously considering. He had an amazing day with a bunch of great grabs and was rewarded for good play with 2 touchdowns. Jermaine Kearse finally remembered how to run and catch at the same time, and he certainly has a plum matchup next week, but darn it if I can’t trust him.
TE: Greg Olsen is back, and promptly out again. He looked pretty good before injuring his foot, but that’s probably a minor injury and in all likelihood, he was pulled as a precaution. He’s also looking good again on the field and should have had a much better day except that Cam played like this all day. Austin Seferian-Jenkins should spend the next week of practice with a helmet that has “DUNCE” written on it. Not only did he drop a TD pass that looked like he caught it and threw it away too quickly in celebration of his TD (I only watched the condensed version, so I didn’t get to see the slow-mo replay), but he also “dropped” another TD pass by losing control of it without actually dropping it, similar to his “fumble” against the Patriots. Crazy day for ASJ and both plays made a huge difference for the Jets, who lost this week. Maybe next week he’ll catch more than 2 of 7 passes (not likely).
Rams Vs. Saints
QB: Jared Goff is getting to be a lot of fun to watch. He threw over 300 yards and a couple TD’s. He did have a couple bad passes, one of which was intercepted, but he is looking like he’s coming on strong and I hope he has a long career as a top QB. Drew Brees is no longer used to having to pass his way to the “W”. That’s unfortunate because even though the Saints wrecked the Rams on the ground, the Rams offense was better and Brees wasn’t able to put the team on his back like he used to. He’s still a good real-life QB, but hopefully you’ve all moved on from him in fantasy for the season.
RB: Todd Gurley is one of my favorite players to watch, and not just because I own him. He is truly an elite talent and now that the Rams have a good passing game, it’s just getting more exciting every time he touches the ball. I get the same joy from watching Alvin Kamara. Kamara is unreal every time he gets the ball, weaving his way through traffic and just out-playing everyone. He’s so much better at football than everyone else that he really just seems like a pro among amateurs. It’s pretty crazy how poorly he is covered and how many tackles he breaks. In contrast, Mark Ingram had a pretty quiet day. It’s a rare thing for Ingram these days, but the Rams were able to hold him to just 31 yards. If the Saints get down against Carolina next week, it could be more of the same.
WR: After Robert Woods went down with a multi-week injury, I tried to pick up Cooper Kupp, who I knew would be big. Alas, I wasn’t able to snag him from waivers, but I did at least guess correctly. With a couple of the Saints’ best corners out with injuries, Kupp feasted to the tune of 8 catches for 116 yards. Sammy Watkins played well, too, with 86 yards and score he brought in on a slant route beating 1-on-1 coverage. My guess is that these two will become somewhat of a dynamic duo now that Woods is out, at least until teams realize the Rams finally don’t suck for realsies. Michael Thomas, in a rare show, was out-gained by Ted Ginn, Jr. This was likely a result of specific coverages as Thomas is still the better receiver, but the Rams’ secondary is no joke, holding Thomas to 52 yards and Ginn to 71. I’m not one to believe in revenge games, but I will point out that Ginn came from Carolina and will play them next week.
TE: Tyler Higbee had a few good grabs, but he’s not important enough in the Rams offense as a whole to have much value, and Coby Fleener’s biggest knock is that he’s Coby Fleener. Look elsewhere for your TE.