WHAT I SAW: THOUGHTS ON WEEK 8 (PART 2)
This is part two of our weekly series that examines every game (see part 1 here)
Dolphins vs. Ravens
Misc. Observations: Something is rotten in Miami. They should change their name from the ‘Dolphins’ to the ‘Bumblebee Tunas’
QB: Move along, nothing to see here.
RB: Miami coach Adam Gase was reportedly furious at his team, and singled out Jay Ajayi for abuse. It’s true that Ajayi did not look good in a game where no Dolphin looked good, but it seems to me that much of his failure can be laid at the feet of the Miami offensive line. It’s hard to chunk yardage when you’re being hit three yards behind the line of scrimmage on every play. In any case, Gase turned his hissy fit into something more tangible, and now Ajayi is gone. Alex Collins had the football equivalent of a debutante ball this week. He’s a starter now boys, and ready for courting. Even with Terrance West and Danny Woodhead returning, Collins is likely to remain quite viable in fantasy, since he is not active in the passing game (and thus will not lose work to Woodhead and Buck Allen), and is much better than West (and thus will not lose touches to him).
WR: Jeremy Maclin was in fine form in his first game back, though he could have had a much bigger day had Joe Flacco not left early with a concussion. Maclin is reasonable to play against favorable defensive matchups but will need to see more volume to be an every-week starter. Neither Kenny Stills, nor Jarvis Landry could get much going in this route. Still’s role is set to evaporate when DeVante Parker returns next week.
TE: Benjamin Watson did score, but continues to receive vanishingly few targets.
Vikings vs. Browns
QB: Case Keenum threw more than one touchdown for the second time this year. Good boy Keenum, good boy. Deshone Kizer actually got to finish this game, which he hasn’t done since week three. That’s… progress.
RB: After a one-week flash, Latavius Murray went back to being a below-average nobody who averages 2 yards per carry and gets 20 of them (carries that is, he got marginally more than 20 yards). Meanwhile, Jerick McKinnon continues to look like the human equivalent of the Tasmanian Devil. Any reasonable person would expect McKinnon to start getting more touches soon, but he’s proven that he can produce like an RB1 even if he doesn’t. Someone must have put a little curry in Isaiah Crowell’s fish n’ chips. He ran spicy. Crowell has been trending upwards the past several weeks and may be a back to keep an eye on coming out of his week 9 bye, especially now that he’s started significantly eating into Duke Johnson’s share of the passing game.
WR: Through eight weeks, Adam Thielen ranks fourth among all WRs in yards per game, just below Julio Jones, Deandre Hopkins and Antonio Brown. Wow. Stefon Diggs is clearly still dealing with his injury and struggled to separate. Cleveland’s two running backs had as many targets as all receivers combined. Until this changes, no Browns receivers are likely to be useful in fantasy.
TE: It’s been three weeks since his last touchdown, so it was about time for Kyle Rudolph to score again. He’s settled in as a high-floor/low-ceiling TE play.
Chargers vs. Patriots
QB: On paper, Philip Rivers underperformed against the league’s most generous defense, in reality, the Patriots’ defense is looking much improved, and may not be an easy matchup going forward. Tom Brady has fallen off quite a bit for fantasy purposes over the past several weeks and is no longer in the top-5 quarterbacks in points per game. Still, with so many quarterbacks getting hurt this year, he’s still a high-end option at the position, even if not exactly elite this year.
RB: Melvin Gordon did not look nearly as good as his stat line suggests. His fantasy day was saved by an 87-yard touchdown, but owners would be wise to at least consider moving him ahead of a brutal slate of run defenses to finish out the year. Dion Lewis further cemented his role as the ‘back to own’ in New England, despite his anemic stat line (anemic that is, unless your league scores return yardage). His 17 touches were the most he’s had this season and are encouraging for his floor going forward. James White continues to be a high-floor/low-ceiling option who is a good bet to score between 7-9 standard fantasy points weekly. Rex Burkhead had a decent game, though his usage seems to be heavily game-plan dependent, making him a risky weekly play. Mike Gillislee’s name is mud in New England, he has no fantasy value barring an injury to one (or more likely two) of the backs listed before him.
WR: For the seventh week in a row, Keenan Allen almost scored. Positive regression is coming, my friends. Allen should be a top buy-low trade candidate over the Charger’s week-nine bye, as he is a solid bet to explode in the second half of the season. Travis Benjamin’s impressive 9 targets (8 more than he had last week) are not likely to signify a change with the Chargers, but rather a game-flow driven anomaly. Still, I’d rather have him over Tyrell Williams who is the clear fifth option in the passing game. Early season darling Chris Hogan has slowed down considerably of late, and he suffered a shoulder injury on his last catch of the game. Owners should monitor the situation over the Patriots’ week nine bye. Brandin Cooks was thoroughly shut down, averaging a pathetic 5 (!) yards per reception. The problem with Cooks is that he’s merely one talented player among many on this team, and the Patriots are perfectly happy to sacrifice him and throw to Rex freaking Burkhead is the situation warrants. Danny Amendola didn’t do much in this game, but he should see more usage should Hogan miss time.
TE: After trending upwards all season, Hunter Henry was little more than an afterthought in this game. This was merely a hiccup on his path to greatness. It has to be… right? Rob Gronkowski finally caught up to Chris Hogan and is now tied for most touchdown scores on the team with five. Look for him to continue this momentum after the bye.
Bears vs. Saints
QB: The Saints have a decent defense for the first time in many years, and this has negatively affected Drew Brees’ production since he has to throw far less than in past years.
RB: Jordan Howard is going to get 20 carries every game, which makes him a volume-based RB1 weekly, even if he doesn’t score. Speaking of scores, Tarik Cohen stole one this week. Even though his stat line has been decent in fantasy for several weeks, he’s not getting enough touches to have sustained relevance week to week. Mark Ingram continued his multi-week resurgence, but he fumbles twice and had at least one more near-fumble which may cost him carries in notorious fumblephobe Sean Payton’s backfield. Alvin Kamara has turned into a top end RB1 over the past several weeks, though his less-than-bellcow touch totals make him a riskier play than a more traditional back week to week.
WR: Tre McBride actually looked decent and could be a bye-week fill-in candidate. Michael Thomas has become a high-floor player who is unlikely to score in any given week. Increasingly, Ted Ginn Jr. is looking like the receiver to own in New Orleans, despite his low touch total.
TE: Zach Miller scored a touchdown, but landed awkwardly and dropped the ball. The touchdown was overturned, and he went to the hospital with amputation among possible outcomes. Absolutely terrible.
Panthers vs. Buccaneers
QB: Cam Newton failed hard against a soft Tampa Bay defense. He’s turning out to be about as boom-bust as a quarterback can be. Jameis Winston got hurt in this one, and played like someone had just killed his puppy—that is to say – distracted.
RB: Christian McCaffrey continued losing touches this week, barely logging nine total. He’s going to need more to be fantasy relevant, especially since he is not likely to ever rip off big plays (his longest rush this season was 11 yards). Jonathan Stewart had his first rushing touchdown of the season which was good, I guess. Still, like McCaffrey, he’ll need more volume to be anything other than a dart throw weekly. Doug Martin has continued getting bell-cow carries, which boosts his floor even on weeks where he doesn’t score.
WR: Kelvin Benjamin has had three decent fantasy games in the past four, and despite a poor outing this week he salvaged value from a late touchdown. Following Benjamin’s trade to Buffalo, Devin Funchess is expected to step up, with rookie Curtis Samuel moving into a full-time role. Regular readers know that I’ve been severely critical of Carolina’s passing game for quite some time. I’ll reluctantly play Funchess, but don’t bother picking up Samuel. Mike Evans fell prey to Winston’s mediocrity in this one, narrowly missing a long touchdown that was overthrown.
TE: Ed Dickson continues to prove weekly that he is no Greg Olsen. After this week, Cameron Brate has had at least 60 receiving yards in five straight games. Even on a bad team receiving poor quality targets, the guy is an upper-half TE1.
Colts vs. Bengals
QB: Andy Dalton continues to be a serviceable start against favorable matchups, though his offensive line (or lack thereof) caps his ceiling. After having exchanged heart-shaped lockets, Jacoby Brissett and Jack Doyle are BFFs (Best Friends Forever). They really have a special connection.
RB: Amidst trade rumors, Frank Gore posted by far his highest rushing total of the season. Still, Marlon Mack outproduced him fantasy-wise with a long receiving score. Mack’s big play ability makes him a bye week filler kind of guy, but he won’t have weekly relevance unless Gore is removed one way or another. Joe Mixon’s usage is slowly creeping up, not that it’s doing much good for his owners. Mixon had his third sub-2 ypc game of the season, which is abysmal. His day was saved with a 60+ yard catch, but there are plenty of warning signs. Don’t play Mixon unless you have to.
WR: T. Y. Hilton owners are SO HAPPY for Jack Doyle owners. SO. HAPPY. For the second week in a row, A. J. Green barely secured 3 receptions. It’s probably too early to be concerned, and Green was able to secure a score, but owners would have definitely liked to have seen better output given the favorability of the matchup. Bye weeks can make us do desperate things, and everyone who started John Ross watched in horror as he sat on the sideline all game. Fantasy is a cruel mistress indeed.
TE: Jack Doyle had an obscene 12 catches on 14 targets, and despite the fact that he’s a lousy football player with hands made out of church pews, he continues to be Brisett’s favorite target. Tyler Kroft continues to get enough usage to be a borderline starter weekly. 46 yards is a serviceable floor for a tight end.
Raiders vs. Bills
QB: A week after throwing for 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, Derek Carr has turned back into a pumpkin. Fantasy owners should treat him as they would any other squash. As Tyrod Taylor hits his stride to finish out the season, this game should be his new floor. Taylor is looking genuinely good, making smart choices and not turning the ball over.
RB: With Marshawn Lynch suspended this game, fantasy owners got to play roulette with DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. Washington ended up being the winner, though it could have just as easily been Richard, and in any case Lynch’s return next week makes both players fantasy bench fodder. LeSean McCoy continues to chunk yardage like
WR: Amari Cooper is getting more targets, though he’s still plagued by an ugly case of dropsy. Michael Crabtree is still the guy to own here. Zay Jones looked sharp in this one, clearly the best receiver on the team currently (though Kelvin Benjamin will be playing in a week or two).
TE: Jared Cook looked really good in this one, and is starting to feel like a low-end TE1.