Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire
Each week throughout the NFL season, our staff at QB List will be watching and reviewing all the games from every week and offering up our takes on the fantasy-relevant things that happened. Here’s what we saw in Week 3.
Browns vs. Jets
What a fantastic game. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Browns have finally broken their losing streak, ending 635 winless days. But maybe you didn’t get to see how spectacular of a win it was! Well, if you didn’t get to see it, I’m here to break it down for you.
How, exactly, did Baker Mayfield come to play in this game?
Well, this game started out really rough for both sides. It looked like a defensive battle as both teams struggled to get a first down. The Browns, in particular, were facing enormous pressure from what may be an underrated Jets defensive front. I’m ready to eat crow that QB Tyrod Taylor was not very good for the Browns because he was sacked and hurried repeatedly but that seems now to be the product of not throwing the ball well into tight windows. I say that because Taylor went 4-14 in the first half. A lot of his incompletions were inaccurate including two dramatically underthrown balls to WR Antonio Callaway which would have both been touchdowns.
Here’s one where you can see Callaway has to slow at the goal line to try to make a play, allowing Doug Middleton to also attempt to make a play and prevent the catch.
Here’s another one later in the game that is simply inexcusable.
Now, I don’t want to come off as a Taylor apologist- I’m certainly disappointed in Taylor’s play- but here’s a gif that shows exactly the kind of protection that Taylor was getting.
I’m saying it’s not really a wonder that Taylor justifiably felt harried the entire game and it showed in his play; No idea why the line blocked so much better for Mayfield (or seemed to) except that the excitement in the air was palpable and clearly lifted everyone’s play. In any event, Taylor was playing poorly enough that the crowd started chanting for Baker Mayfield to come out. Fate then showed Taylor a great mercy by giving him a concussion so that he could gracefully bow out and allow QB Jesus Christ Baker Mayfield to come out and take command.
This happened right before the half, and the Browns D made a quick 3-and-out so Baker came in right as the Jets punted to give the Browns a 2-minute drill. Mayfield’s arrival immediately changed everything. The energy in the crowd soared and Mayfield took charge of the up-tempo effort to drive the ball down the field ending in a field goal to give the Browns just 3 points against the 14 the Jets had scored by then. While they did not gain a touchdown, the offense was clearly better and the excitement continued to build. You could feel it in the air. And in the second half, Mayfield dominated. He was throwing into tight windows and making plays with his legs. He performed incredibly well, justifying his pick up as the #1 overall draftee and led the Browns to their first win of the season despite several key drops from his receivers. The Browns even used a trick play for a 2-pt conversion where Landry tossed the ball to Mayfield in the end zone just to show off (it was basically the Superbowl play stolen from the Eagles no matter what HC Hue Jackson says). If you were ever considering getting NFL Gamepass, it would be worth the free trial just to watch this game in particular.
I could literally make gifs of just about everything Baker did, but instead, I’ll just embed every play of his. Worth a watch, for sure.
How did Mayfield impact the receiving corps?
WR Jarvis Landry had a huge night. He received 15 targets which is about what I expect moving forward. Maybe not 15 every game, per se, but Landry will remain a target monster. Even before Mayfield came in, Landry was making big plays with incredible awareness of his surroundings. Check out this clutch 1st down.
Landry did have a drop late in the game, which thankfully did not change the game for the Browns, but it was uncharacteristic- maybe it just wasn’t a difficult enough catch because it came after this one which set up the Browns’ first rushing TD:
WR Rashard Higgins did catch all 3 of his targets and is turning into a very reliable receiver for the Browns but he is clearly behind Landry and Callaway. It’s possible that in a full game he could have FLEX value, but I doubt it. Rather, he is a competent real life receiver with too small of a role for fantasy relevance outside of the largest or deepest leagues. Instead, Callaway appears to be the solid #2. A big play receiver on the outside, Callaway is impressive so far this season. As mentioned, he could have had a huge night if not for Taylor’s poor passing, but he still had 10 targets and is the guy to own if you want a Josh Gordon type in this offense. He seems to have a low floor, but especially with Mayfield now in at QB, I think we will see some big games out of Callaway this season. For now, I love him as a WR3 with upside moving forward (bonus upside is that you have a great reason to watch Browns football if you have him in your lineup).
TE David Njoku should also see better numbers moving forward. He was getting wide open in the middle of the field and Mayfield threw 1 or 2 TD’s to him in the preseason, so there is good evidence of chemistry. While he did only have 2 targets this game, I believe that he will start to reward owners for their patience beginning next week against the Raiders.
How did Hyde look?
I am more and more impressed with RB Carlos Hyde the more I watch him. I was never much of a fan of the 49ers, so I hadn’t really paid attention to him until the offseason and up to now, but he looks great. He still has no real competition and with Mayfield in and the offense elevated he is going to seriously come alive. Check this out-
He looks shifty and quick. And, more importantly, he puts in a big effort as evidenced by the first of his two touchdowns.
It’s hard to tell without going to the slow-mo replay, but Hyde pushed through 3 defenders, by himself, to get a final push into the end zone. If you have Hyde, congratulations because he is going to have a great season if he stays healthy. RB Duke Johnson Jr. is also worth a second look now. With the elevation of the offense, it’s possible that the Browns will sort of become normal and start to use a pass-catching back with great talent instead of wasting him.
See what I mean? When you make big plays for first down, that usually demands greater usage and we’ve all seen the Duke at work in the past making big plays in Cleveland. He did have a fumble after some great spin moves later in the game, but it seemed like he thought his forward progress was ended and he started to relax, or maybe just got kind of dizzy as the defender continued his spin. This play seems aberrant, however, and hopefully will not impact his role in the offense negatively.
A lot of people streamed the Cleveland defense and were rewarded. What’s the outlook?
I picked up Cleveland and will continue to play them regardless of matchup until further notice. After great performances against the Steelers and the Saints, and now creating even more turnovers against the Jets, it’s time to declare this defense legit. Really, you should downgrade WR2’s and under as well as their QB’s (outside of the elite) against the Browns for fantasy purposes.
I need help determining what’s more impressive between two things that happened this Week 3:
1) The winner of my survivor pool winning by picking the Buccaneers, Colts, and Browns
2) The Jets one-upping the Mets in fostering early season hope, and then cratering the fan base’s optimism
Early on, this game was an utter mess. The first three Jets drives resulted with 14 total yards of offense on 11 plays. QB Sam Darnold only completed 5 of his 12 pass attempts, averaging 3.75 yards per attempt. WR Quincy Enunwa was Darnold’s favorite target early on, catching 3 passes for 46 yards, which is more than the total passing yards Darold had in the first half. RB Isaiah Crowell was the only other Jet that was relatively productive in the first half, scoring twice on his former team in the second quarter, but even he cost his team 15 yards by pretending to wipe his butt with the football before launching it into the stands at FirstEnergy. The only positive thing I can say about that celebration is we now know for certain Crowell wipes front to back instead of back to front. Regardless of how ugly the first half of this game was, the Jets led 14-3 at the half.
The second half is where it got really Jets-y. Three turnovers, two punts, and a field goal in six drives. Enunwa only caught one more pass, and 2017’s favorite fantasy Jet WR Robby Anderson only finished with 2 catches for 22 yards, turning in his third disappointing game of the season (season line: 6 catches, 90 yards, 1 TD). QB Baker Mayfield made mincemeat of the Jets defense that held the Browns to 79 yards in the first half before he entered the game.
Every team is entitled to a bad day. It’s looking more like the QB Matthew Stafford and the Lions had just that on the year’s first Monday Night Football. I’m not saying the Lions are now a good team because they beat the Patriots. I’m also not saying the Jets are much better than they looked on Thursday. Realistically, the Jets are a young talented team that’s prone to a lot of mistakes (check the penalty yardage from the game), but they need to allow Darnold to make mistakes if they want him to develop into more than the game manager his fellow USC alum QB Mark Sanchez was.