What We Saw: Week 14

The QB List staff catches you up on everything you missed during Week 14 of the 2020 NFL season.

Falcons @ Chargers

 

Turnovers galore! Matt Ryan and Justin Herbert’s QBRs are crumbling under attacks by ruthless secondaries. There are heroes on both sides. Balls are flying everywhere, but mostly into the hands of opposing defenders. In a stunning move, the fiendish rookie QB, Justin Herbert, has swept into the Falcons’ end of the field and set up a field goal attempt for Chargers kicker Marvin Badgley. As the Falcons’ attempt to flee SoFi Stadium with a valuable victory, Badgley leads a desperate mission to help the Chargers finally steal a close game…

 

Atlanta Falcons

 

Quarterback

 

Matt Ryan: 21/32, 224 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTs, 2 sacks | 1 carry, 3 yards

 

Ryan looked shaky today, never getting truly comfortable under center. He took 2 sacks but could have easily taken more, as he was constantly under pressure from the Chargers’ front seven. Ryan took 6 QB hits this week, including 3 from Joey Bosa. The pressure caused him to throw several interceptions, including an ugly one that was thrown into triple coverage in the end zone. Ryan stalled in the second half, relying heavily on Calvin Ridley to move the ball up and down the field. There were just a handful of throws that went towards receivers not named Calvin Ridley in the second half. Some of Ryan’s struggles can be attributed to the fact that Julio Jones was unable to play, but ultimately it came down to Ryan’s poor decision-making and the Falcons’ inability to run the ball that caused the Falcons to get shut out this week. It doesn’t get any easier next week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

Running Backs

 

Ito Smith: 11 carries, 42 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards

Todd Gurley II: 6 carries, 19 yards | 3 targets, 2 receptions, 12 yards

 

You may be wondering: “What is this running game?” Unfortunately, I am just as much at a loss for words as you, reader. Even when the going got tough with Matt Ryan tossing pass after pass to the Chargers’ secondary, the Falcons didn’t feel comfortable handing the ball off. Even when the ball was handed off, the Falcons were barely able to get anything going. That can be attributed in part to the Falcons missing starting left guard James Carpenter and starting right guard Kaleb McGary. Ito Smith was faster and more explosive than Gurley, which is likely one of the reasons that Smith received the majority of the carries. However, Gurley was out there on the final drive and received a target before Matt Ryan threw his 3rd interception of the half, so it’s hard to find much to be excited about in this backfield. Neither should be started if you have the choice.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Calvin Ridley: 12 targets, 8 receptions, 124 yards, 1 TD

Russell Gage: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 82 yards | 1/1, 39 yards, 1 TD

Laquon Treadwell: 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards, 1 TD

Hayden Hurst: 3 targets, 1 reception, 7 yards

 

One of the reasons the offense stalled so much was the distribution of targets among the receiving corps. Ryan looked for Calvin Ridley first, second, and third. That’s why 2 of Ryan’s 2nd-half interceptions were on Calvin Ridley targets. Ridley would have had a fairly good day without Russell Gage, but it sure did help that Gage tossed him an absolute DIME for their first score of the half (highlight below). Gage also racked up some chunk yardage and put together a nice fantasy day for those that needed to start him, accumulating yardage points and passing points. Gage saw lots of coverage from rookie Kenneth Murray Jr. and avoided the Chargers’ top corners, which likely helped his stats. Gage is a slot receiver and has not typically benefitted from Julio Jones’ absence, so don’t expect Gage’s target share to always be this high.  Outside of Gage and Ridley, this offense was an absolute wasteland for fantasy points. Hayden Hurst barely had any targets; when he was targetted they were for short gains. Treadwell had a nice TD reception, bowling over a Chargers defender en route to the end zone, but that was his only target of the day. No one else in the receiving corps had more than a single target. When Julio Jones is out, this offense is going to run through Ridley and maybe a bit through Russell Gage. Otherwise, there’s no one else worth starting.

 

 

Los Angeles Chargers

 

Quarterback

 

Justin Herbert: 36/44, 243 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 1 sack

 

Herbert had a decent fantasy day, as the Falcons opted to bring plenty of pressure up front in the same way that the Bills and Patriots did against Herbert last week and the week before that. With that pressure, Herbert felt comfortable dumping the ball off to his running backs and picking up the short yardage that he was given. Herbert averaged just 5.5 yards per completion, his second-lowest mark of the season. The key for Herbert to return to fantasy superstardom is being able to look further downfield, attempting just 7 passes over 10 yards. He also didn’t add anything on the ground, continuing his 3 game streak of less than 10 yards rushing. While he doesn’t need to carry the ball often to make a difference, some of Herbert’s best games this season have come when he has been able to add a new dimension to the offense with his legs. To his credit, Herbert did spread the ball around fairly well, with 4 receivers seeing more than 5 targets this week. He found 4 different receivers on the final drive downfield, setting up Marvin Badgley’s game-winning kick. The Chargers get the Raiders next Thursday.

 

Running Backs

 

Austin Ekeler: 15 carries, 79 yards | 9 targets, 9 receptions, 67 yards

Kalen Ballage: 7 carries, 14 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 6 yards

Justin Jackson: 3 carries, 9 yards | 3 targets, 3 receptions, 10 yards

 

Like I said earlier, Herbert was very happy to dump the ball off to his running backs, especially Austin Ekeler. Ekeler is now fully involved in both the running and passing game, with the occasional carry given to Ballage and Jackson. Ballage was used in short-yardage situations, and if there was a goal line touchdown to vulture, Ballage probably would have been the one to vulture it. Even without a touchdown, Ekeler racked up over 20 PPR points and rewarded fantasy managers who held onto him. If teams continue to bring the pressure on Herbert as teams have begun doing, expect Ekeler to continue to rack up the yardage and the receptions. Ballage and Jackson will be nothing better than dart throws going forward, needing a touchdown or two to be fantasy relevant.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Tyron Johnson: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 55 yards, 1 TD

Keenan Allen: 11 targets, 9 receptions, 52 yards, 1 TD

Hunter Henry: 8 targets, 6 receptions, 41 yards

 

Herbert was able to spread the ball around, with Allen acting once again as the safety blanket. However, as mentioned earlier, Herbert was forced to look to the short passes and get the ball out of his hands quickly to avoid the pressure from the Falcons’ front seven, which added up to plenty of catches but relatively little yardage. Allen had an average YPC of just 5.8 (his lowest mark of the season), so his upside was fairly limited; Allen still had a pretty solid fantasy day thanks to the TD.  Tyron Johnson was the downfield threat this week — picked up a long of 25 yards — and made a nice play in the end zone for his first TD of the season (see below). Hunter Henry rebounded nicely from his 1-catch dud last week, picking up 6 receptions and averaging 6.8 yards per reception. Henry has now gone 3 games without a TD reception and is no longer the redzone threat he was with Philip Rivers under center, so adjust accordingly. Keenan Allen has now taken on that role with Justin Herbert holding the keys to the offense.

 

 

— Adam Sloate (@MrAdster99 on Twitter)

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