What I Saw: Thoughts on Week 9 (Part Un)
Hello, my name is Sam and I watch every game every week together with my colleague Derek Frei. Here are my thoughts on some of those games. Just ctrl+f for a particular player or team you may be interested in, and remember that this should just be one of many tools you use to help make decisions. Feel free to let me know about needed corrections or simply post your reactions- we love to hear from our readers!
Bills Vs Jets
QB: Whoo boy, what a game. The Jets started off pretty run-heavy, but Josh McCown really took control of the game and lead the Jets to victory. McCown was rushing all over when receivers couldn’t get open, converting a 3rd down in the first quarter and then rushing for a touchdown on the same drive. McCown did have a near interception in the first quarter, but luckily for him, the Bills secondary decided not to play well Thursday night. McCown is definitely worth an add for bye-week fill-ins and injury relief- I for sure like him over Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, and possibly even Matt Stafford.
Tyrod Taylor was bailed out pretty hard by a Jets defense that made some costly mistakes just shy of the end of the game. He did have a great TD pass in the 2nd quarter, but the Bills were struggling most of the night with drops, a few bad throws by Taylor, and a lack of a rushing game. The Jets were pretty firmly in control of the game through the first three quarters and constantly sacking (7 times!) or pressuring Taylor and it wasn’t until the last several minutes of the game when the Jets committed a penalty on a 3rd down at the goal line that the Bills got a gimme for a QB sneak TD and finally started to look better. A second late touchdown came after the Bills managed to recover the onside kick twice (at first it was negated by penalty but they miraculously recovered the ball after a second onside kick in a row) and march down the field, making Taylor a full fledged garbage time miracle. Taylor seemed pretty frustrated by the Jets’ solid defensive playing after Jones went out, and even fumbled while rushing for a first down. I’m sure the loss stings, but if Zay Jones’ injury isn’t too bad and Kelvin Benjamin can ball out for the Bills soon, Tyrod has a great schedule ahead. Owners should be excited because apparently even when he plays badly for most of a game he can still somehow finish well.
RB: The Jets’ Bilal Powell and Matt Forte both looked great, which is weird considering Elijah McGuire somehow had the most rushes. McGuire was held to just 30 yards on 13 attempts, creating thoughts like “why are they giving him so many carries?” and “why don’t they just stick with the two of us?” in Powell and Forte’s heads. At least, I’d like to think so because McGuire just plain stunk for the most part and I’m not sure which Taco in the coaching staff is most responsible for playing McGuire so heavily. As it was, Forte had the best night of the three backs because of two TD’s, but he and Powell did about as well as each other with 77 and 74 rush yards between them. Powell had the better YPC and Forte had receptions- 4 for 19 yards while Powell did not, but it seems as though either of these guys could go off on any given night.
On the Bills’ side, LeSean McCoy is still LeSean McCoy and really his only problem is that sometimes the Bills do not have a game-flow that favors their run-heavy style and he isn’t used as much as I think he should be in the passing game. If McCoy could’ve taken a few more dump-offs, I feel like this would have been a different game altogether. He is still agile and a great play-maker in open space. There isn’t much else going on rush-wise besides McCoy and with the Bills defense giving up points the way they are, I would guess that McCoy owners are stuck in the unfortunate position of not being able to bench a special talent, but not necessarily reaping the rewards of that talent every week.
WR: The Bills’ Zay Jones (heretofore known as Zay-Jee) looked amazing to start. He was getting open at will and was a key part of the Bills’ offense before a nasty looking knee injury took him out in the 2nd quarter. He did come back for the second half and promptly reinjured the same knee and went out for the remainder. I hope that Jones can recover quickly, not just because I picked him up and lucked out with his TD but because he was the only Bills receiver that actually looked good. Deonte Thompson put up decent numbers after Jones was injured, but that seemed more like a result of the Jets playing deeper and giving up plays in garbage time than Thompson triumphing over adversity. However, if Jones’ injury keeps him out and/or Benjamin is started slowly while he learns the playbook, Thompson could be a good pickup just for his volume. After all, the Bills need someone to catch the ball and Thompson clearly can.
For the Jets, Robby Anderson continues to look like a great pickup. If you read my article from last week, you hopefully already picked him up. He had another TD which I expect to see a few more of for him through the season remainder, and the low yardage appeared to simply be due to game flow. McCown is playing well and Anderson is getting open easily and the two are very comfortable with each other. Kerley is now suspended for PED’s and Kearse is firmly behind Anderson, ASJ, and all three backs in usefulness (where he belongs).
TE: I’ll just go ahead and say that I’ve never been an Austin Sefarian-Jenkins truther. I feel like every year I hear that ASJ is the next coming of Gronk, but he continues to have limited upside. Sure, he’s a decent RZ target, and he has had some additional TD’s called back from penalties, but his yardage totals have yet to reach 50 yards. When he doesn’t grab a TD, he puts up awfully disappointing stat lines. When it comes to Bills’ TE’s, well, let’s just say we all hope Charles Clay will be back next week. Together with Zay-Jee (I know it’s not great as far as nicknames go, but I’m trying here, dammit!) and Benjamin should make Taylor an even better option for a QB ROS. Certainly no other Bills TE is doing anything.
Buccaneers Vs. Saints
QB: The Saints have something this season that they haven’t had for a very long time- a competent defense. Perhaps that explains why Drew Brees is only about average so far this season. Brees nearly threw a pick early in the first quarter and overthrow a wide open Ted Ginn just before the end of the 1st, but I don’t think Brees is fading in skill as a QB. Rather, I simply think Brees hasn’t needed to throw TD’s as much as he has in the past in order for the Saints to win. He threw for just two scores in this ugly affair, but will be a safe option again next week against the Bills who were just destroyed by the likes of Josh McCown. It could be a shoot-out if the Bills get their weapons in order and Taylor can pick them apart, but it could just as easily be another game of “control the clock” while the Saints get up ahead early. Lord knows the Saints pass rush is looking good every week while the Bills OLine just gave up a metric crap ton of sacks.
Jameis Winston, on the other hand, is not only trying and failing to play games through 4 full quarters like a big boy, but is playing about as poorly as he ever has. Winston has always liked throwing into multiple coverages for some reason, and was nearly picked on just the second drive of the game as a result. He also threw long bombs that could only be caught out of bounds and was charged with delay of game twice in the first half. The Bucs sat Winston through the second half and ostensibly will be keeping him out for another two weeks due to a shoulder injury, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the injury was all a smoke screen to cover for the fact that Winston simply sucks. Ryan Fitzpatrick took over in the second half but also couldn’t get much going, though he did throw one touchdown. By then the game was pretty out of hand and everyone on the Bucs’ offense seemed to be struggling, so it might not be fair to blame it all on Fitz. The Saints pass rush kept up plenty of pressure on Fitz preventing time for plays to develop or even for Fitz to make it through his progressions. Fitzpatrick is a quarterback with a bit of a checkered history. He had an incredible 2015 season with the Jets but became his same mediocre self again promptly in 2016. Even against a Jets secondary that is giving up big plays weekly, I’d be hesitant to put Fitz in my lineup next week, especially if Evans misses the game, which I expect.
RB: The Bucs’ Doug Martin had no room to run. It doesn’t help that the saints took control of the game with a special teams touchdown following a blocked punt that capped the Bucs’ first drive, but even before the game was completely out of hand, Martin was simply being met behind the LOS over and over. The Bucs’ were trounced so bad by the Saints’ run D that Martin was eventually benched while Payton Barber was given a shot. He did out-rush Martin, but it still wasn’t a great performance and I wouldn’t expect Barber to unseat Martin. The Saints simply dominated the LOS defensively. The Jets put a ton of pressure on the Bills last Thursday and limited McCoy due to getting up early and controlling the game clock. I would expect a similar event against the Bucs next week, making Martin or any other Bucs RB hard to trust as even a flex. Hopefully the Fitzmagic that threw 3 TD’s against ARI in week 6 is the one that shows up next week. If that’s the case, maybe Martin won’t have such a hard time remaining part of the game plan.
Alvin Kamara, one of the best ww pickups from early in the season absolutely dominated in this game. Mark Ingram rushed more often, with 16 attempts to Kamara’s 10, but Kamara nearly outgained Ingram in yards- 68 for Kamara compared to just 77 for Ingram. Moreover, Karmara shined with a two TD performance that was all him. He had a catch-and-run TD that involved jukes, broken tackles, and a heroic effort at the end of the second quarter. For his rushing TD, Kamara danced through the tackles and took it to the house like it was nothing. He’s also developing into a favorite target for Brees, not unlike the connection between Cousins and Chris Thompson from earlier this season. Congratulations if you picked up Kamara earlier in the season because he is going to be on a lot of championships teams. While multi-TD games are unlikely to repeat for really any player, Kamara is enough of a threat in every way that he makes a great weekly play. Ingram will continue to get his touches, but Kamara is the lightning rod for this team.
WR: The Saints’ Michael Thomas really seems like the only receiver to own in that wide receiver corps, maybe along with Ted Ginn if you go for that boom-or-bust flavor. It’s hard to fully account for why Willie Snead and Brandon Coleman are playing so poorly, but between the solid defense, the electric Kamara, and Ted Ginn’s use as the speedster, maybe there just isn’t call for two more receiving options. It certainly doesn’t help that Snead lost a fumble. Coleman far out-snapped Snead, but really neither is a great play right now.
The Bucs’ receivers are victims of poor QB play more than anything else. While it was a great defensive performance by the Saints’ secondary, Winston and then Fitzpatrick just couldn’t make anything happen. Not only were throws all over the place from Winston in the first half, but by the second half it seemed like everyone was just too frustrated and defeated to make much effort. That frustration boiled over when Winston seemed to instigate a fight with the Saints’ Marshon Lattimore, leading to Mike Evans shoving Lattimore to the ground from behind and trying to jump on him for a UFC-style ground and pound. It was a move that may have justified ejecting Evans for the rest of the game, but resulted in just a 15-yard penalty at the time and a 1-week suspension ahead of a juicy match-up with the Jets. If I understand it right, Evans can possibly appear and be allowed to play, but with the whole offense struggling, it might be better to find a temporary replacement, anyway. Adam Humphries would be the “beneficiary” of an Evans suspension from a fantasy perspective.
TE: The Saints’ Coby Fleener played like Coby Fleener and ended the night with just two targets and two catches for 14 yards. Fleener has not been of much use to the Saints for the past several weeks and I expect the trend to continue. The Bucs’ Cameron Brate is the TE to own if you’re going to own a Bucs’ TE, but it’s unlikely he will provide much value. Luke Stocker, the Bucs’ other TE who you probably haven’t heard of, was the one to catch the lone touchdown against the Saints when he got wide open in the Red Zone late in the game. Really, there probably isn’t much value in a Bucs TE until the offensive line and QB can play better.
Bengals Vs. Jaguars
QB: The Jaguars’ Blake Bortles is looking much better compared to the start of the season. He was throwing well, the O-Line was giving him time for plays to develop, he was showing poise in the pocket avoiding sacks and keeping his head up, and it helps that his receivers were catching the ball and making efforts to get all the yards they could. While Bortles is not quite at the level where I would play him on the bench outside of plus match-ups, he isn’t making nearly as many mistakes as he did earlier in the season. Really, at this point Bortles big limitations are a strong defense and a Jaguars commitment to the run.
Whereas Bortles is developing and showing renewed promise, Andy Dalton has a talent wasted on poor coaching, poor play-calling, and limited pass-catching talent. In Dalton’s defense, the Jaguars secondary has been playing incredibly this season, but 136 passing yards with no TD’s isn’t something that happens to competent teams with competent play-calling. Second half adjustments alone should have given Dalton something to work with, but Dalton also may have lost the mental game by the second half, so who knows if adjustments would have been enough.
RB: The Bengals’ Joe Mixon looked very average in this game. He did score the lone touchdown for Cincinnati, and was finally being used as the feature back, but he really wasn’t able to get much going. He rushed 13 times for 31 yards. The Bengals will have a lot of soul searching to do as the season drags on for them because of how bad they’re playing. For the Jags, this is still Leonard Fournette’s backfield. Not only did TJ Yeldon cough up a fumble early in the 1st quarter, but Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon combined for 31 touches and just 111 yards. There were times when each made some big plays, but neither is a threat to Fournette who was held out of this game for disciplinary reasons.
WR: This was another ugly game in the way the Saints/Bucs game was ugly. The Bengals’ AJ Green got into a post-play fight with the Jags’ Jalen Ramsey. It was a simple touch that quickly escalated into AJ Green going full gangsta and headlocking Ramsey from behind, throwing Ramsey to the ground and then going for that same ground and pound that Evans was trying for. Green got a couple shots in, though I’m sure Ramsey’s helmet took the blows easily. That was after Green had just 2 targets and 1 reception for 6 yards. Personally, I’ve never looked at AJG as an elite receiver. He is too easily shut down by good corners to be considered elite. I think of Green as a very good, but not great receiver. In that way, off-season comparisons of Washington’s Terrelle Pryor to AJ Green make even more sense, because Pryor is not a great receiver either.
TE: The Bengals’ Tyler Kroft was the lone bright spot in this game for the Bengals. It was a weird day where Kroft caught just two passes and still managed 79 yards, accounting for over half of Dalton’s passing yards. If or when the Bengals get their game together, Kroft will have much more value. Marcedes Lewis would be the TE to own for the Jags if there was one to own, and certainly 6 targets is encouraging. He looked pretty good when he did come down with his three catches, gaining 49 yards. You could do worse if you needed a bye-week filler or injury replacement, but note that the 6 targets was a season-high for Lewis- buyer beware.
Ravens Vs. Titans
QB: The Titans’ Marcus Mariota looked good, despite a poor stat line and an interception. The Ravens defense has been playing well lately, which accounts for most of Mariota’s down game, but I think lesser defenses and more designed rushes will raise Mariota’s number. Cincy may be able to contain him, and PIT will be a tough match, but weeks 12-15 should be feasts for Mariota. If you can stream a more favorable QB in the next couple weeks I would, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it if you can’t find a replacement as Mariota’s presumed rushing yards should at least provide a safe floor similar to Tyrod Taylor’s.
Joe Flacco, on the other hand, did not look good. He looked OK for most of the game but he just couldn’t help making several bad decisions, two of which lead to interceptions and a few others which lead to sacks or penalties for grounding. Flacco’s an old pro, and I certainly hope the Ravens can make adjustments to improve their passing game, but I don’t anticipate Flacco being a great fantasy option this season. He is, however, a better bet than Dalton or Winston/Fitzpatrick.
RB: The Ravens’ Alex Collins is a great RB. Unfortunately, the Titans’ run defense was just a little bit better than the Ravens’ run blocking. Collins had quite a few impressive runs, but ultimately 13 rushes yielded just 43 yards. I don’t think Terrence West will be much of a threat to Collins, and the Ravens certainly have a good enough defense to keep games close, so my hope is that Collins has more game like week 8 than like week 9. Flacco just needs to tighten up his play a bit and I think Collins will do fine. Javorious “Buck” Allen was much worse on the ground, but the passing game is his which led to 7 catches. He was stuffed at the 1 yard line, which makes me wonder why the Ravens even bother using him in the Red Zone for rushes, but he did catch a nice touchdown midway through the 4th quarter.
On a supposedly run heavy team like the Titans, you might think two running backs of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry could be supported. However with the Titans it seems more like two running backs are simply hurting each other’s value. It doesn’t help that the Titans only rushed 17 times compared to 28 passing attempts, but neither Murray nor Henry is reliably rushing for many yards. Against the Raven they combined for just 35 yards on 17 rushes, and Henry lucked out with a touchdown late in the second quarter.
WR: The Titans’ Rishard Matthews had the best game of all the Tennessee receivers, but he only caught 4 of his 7 targets, one of which was a touchdown pass. Corey Davis had 5 targets, but was only able to come down with 2 catches. Again, I think this is more the impact of playing against a solid defense. The next two weeks offer the same challenge in that way, but weeks 12-15 offer enough upside that I believe both Matthews and Davis are worth holding. Eric Decker had the other WR TD of the game, and it does lead one to wonder if the Titans want to get Decker more involved in the red zone. Decker has been a good target for other teams and his crossing route for the TD was very well run, but for now that would be a speculative add and there are almost certainly better spec. adds to be made.
Jeremy Maclin had a pretty good day for the Ravens, drawing 9 targets and hauling in 8 of them for 98 yards. Maclin seems like he’s back in form and if Flacco can stop making so many mistakes, Maclin could have a lot more upside. At this point, I’m buying Maclin. Mike Wallace had 7 targets, but only caught 4 of them for 19 yards. One of those was a touchdown, but Wallace can’t be trusted with as low of a floor as he has. Flacco actually attempted a whopping 52 passes, which means there was plenty to go around this game. Breshad Perriman had 7 targets as well, but didn’t do much with them either. For now, Maclin is probably the only receiver to own.
TE: The Titans’ Delaney Walker had a really solid game. He caught all 5 of his targets for a team high 79 yards and made it look easy. He is averaging over 6 targets per game, but he does have limited upside with 0 TD’s so far this season. Benjamin Watson for the Ravens drew 10 of Flacco’s 52 attempts, but his 7 grabs were only good for 41 yards so it’s hard to say how much value Watson actually holds. Maxx Williams caught 3 for 3 for 29 yards, but this just isn’t an offense good enough to warrant playing a Ravens TE.
Rams Vs. Giants
QB: The Rams’ Jared Goff continues to impress. He has had some shaky play throughout the season, as all young QB’s do, but he really turned up the heat this game, destroying the Giants to the tune of 311 yards and 4 touchdowns on a mere 14-of-22 passes. The Rams as a whole have been playing very well, such that Goff was sat midway through the 4th quarter for backup Sean Mannion. The Giants continue their spiral into oblivion with Eli Manning completing barely more than half of his 36 passing attempts and a lot of those missed passes are on Eli Manning. The second Manning is in clear decline, and I think the Giants are going to start looking at QB replacements in next year’s draft. Head Coach Ben McAdoo has also mentioned that they may throw in some other guy at QB just to get a look at him (I’m paraphrasing).
RB: The Giants’ Orleans Darkwa started this game red hot. His first two carries, which were the first two plays of the game, went for 5 and then 29 yards. There wasn’t much beyond that, however, as the rest of Darkwa’s 16 carries took his total up to a paltry 71 yards. Game flow was very much not in his favor as the Giants were trounced heartily, but Darkwa is the clear leader of the backfield now, especially after Wayne Gallman coughed up a fumble in the 2nd quarter.
The Rams’ Todd Gurley, on the other side of the ball, is looking match-up proof. Not only did he chunk yards against a supposedly stout run defense, but he made a tremendous effort to get his first touchdown in the 3rd quarter and he made it look easy when he rushed easily into the end zone later in the 3rd quarter. Gurley nearly had a 3rd touchdown but was brought down just shy of the goal line and it went to a receiver.
WR: The Rams’ Robert Woods had a great day with relatively limited action. Woods really got things moving for the Rams when a series of penalties backed the rams up leading to a 3rd and 33. He received a short pass which he then ran the rest of the 52 yards into the end zone. It was a beautiful play and really marked the beginning of the end for the Giants. Just a few minutes later, Sammy Watkins would burn the Giants’ Landin Collins and catch a perfect pass from Goff in stride for a 67 yard touchdown. That was about the only play Sammy made this game, but given how one-sided it was, it’s not really surprising. As I mentioned earlier, Goff only even completed 14 passes. Woods is the pretty clear WR1 for this team, with Watkins looking like a possible boom-or-bust big-play receiver similar to Ted Ginn. Cooper Kupp is also a fair bet for FLEX numbers as he turned 5 targets into 3 catches for 54 yards and looked like a regular part of the offense. Kupp almost had a TD, as well, but it was just a little high and went off Kupp’s hands.
While the Rams played extremely well, the Giants did not. Despite starting off looking OK, things simply went south fast after they fell behind. Not only were Manning’s passes frequently off target, but there were a number of drops that just killed morale. Every mistake the Giants made was another of the thousand cuts leading to their untimely death. Tavarris King seemed to get open frequently and might have had a second touchdown if Manning had not overthrown the ball so badly. He and Sterling Shephard would be the ones to own if you hated yourself enough to take stock in the Giants.
TE: The Giants’ Evan Engram continues to satisfy fantasy owners. He drew 10 targets from Manning, but only pulled 4 of them down. He still ended with 70 yards and a TD, and dare I say he looked good doing it. Engram is actually the only Giants player I wouldn’t mind owning because he seems to do rather well for a TE. In contrast, The Rams are not making as much use of their TE’s. It’s true that Tyler Higbee caught a touchdown, but that was one of just 2 targets. Higbee would still be worth some consideration next week because surely the Rams won’t keep up such a ridiculous TD to touches ratio and will pass more than 22 times.
Falcons Vs. Panthers
QB: The Falcons’ Matt Ryan finally put up some points. It was just shy of 20, but Sunday’s game against the Panthers was a good reminder that he really can still pass. While it was a much better performance than his 2017 average, it could have been much better except for a TD pass that Julio Jones didn’t reel in when it really looked like he could have. I’m hoping this game marks a turning point for Matty Ice, because he really is fun to watch.
Cam Newton, on the other hand, probably should just be a running back because he is terrible as a QB. His day was saved by a season-high yardage in rushing and a gimme TD at the goal line. Even against Miami next week, Cam is hard to trust, especially without Kelvin Benjamin. He’s simply not an accurate passer.
RB: The Falcons’ Devonta Freeman looked much healthier this game. Hopefully he is over his shoulder injury. He still didn’t do much against one of the toughest run defenses on the game, but neither did Tevin Coleman rushing-wise. Coleman did have a TD catch to salvage his day, but both backs may struggle against Dallas next week. It’s hard to say since Freeman and sometimes Coleman have both performed well in the past even against stout run D’s.
For the Panthers, Christian McCaffrey may finally have come of age. He managed his first NFL TD, and gained a season-high 66 yards. He also out-snapped Jonathan Stewart mightily and is clearly the back to own, though really no one on the Panthers is very exciting at the moment.
WR: The Falcons appear to have taken my advice from last week, as Matt Ryan attempted to pass Julio Jones the ball 12 times. Unfortunately, Jones only caught 6 of those passes. Fortunately, that was still good for 118 yards. As mentioned earlier, Julio could have easily caught a 30-some-odd-yard touchdown, but just barely missed. That play could have made the difference, too, as the Falcons only lost by 3 points. Mohamed Sanu had a pretty nice touchdown, but everyone not name Julio Jones is just playing for scraps.
The Panthers are clearly missing Kelvin Benjamin, but the bigger problem really is and always has been that Cam Newton is not a good quarterback. He’s got a ton of swagger, but while his gyrating hips are making passing difficult for him. Devin Funchess has been the biggest beneficiary of Benjamin’s departure, but rookie Curtis Samuel seems to be rising as the second. It may take some time for Samuel to develop and Cam’s playing won’t help much, but Samuel could be worth a stash.
TE: I think I’m right about Austin Hooper. While he did get another 6 targets, this time it only turned into 3 grabs for 36 yards. I think that will be about average for Hooper moving forward as all of the teams he faces for the rest of the fantasy season play well against TE’s. No Panthers TE is currently worth a mention IMHO.
Thanks for tuning in, I will see you all next week!