What We Saw: Week 8
Browns vs. Steelers
Wow. What a stinker. The Browns Browns’d so hard on Sunday that, as I’m sure you’ve by now heard, both the head coach and the offensive coordinator were summarily fired, hopefully, to never work in football again. Good riddance to dead weight. The Browns were so bad on offense against the Steelers last week that it makes me wonder if they will secure another win on the season at all. The only plus is that it can’t possibly get worse. So… what happened?
QB Baker Mayfield started the day OK, but the Browns simply could not finish a drive. They did manage two field goals in the first quarter without allowing Pittsburgh to score, so I was so hopeful that they had a chance to win. But with receivers giving very little help, and Baker being pressured on just about every drive, that hope died rather quickly. It’s hard to dissect what really happened. The game plan was run heavy because Mayfield once again did not have much time to throw, and that remains the biggest struggle. Even with a coaching change, I can’t imagine Baker would have had a very different day without getting a big-body receiver and a speedster with good hands to take pressure off the only receiver of note on the team. Mayfield did throw two touchdowns, one of which came with under 10 seconds left in the game and went to a no-name TE, but it wasn’t even enough that I would say he salvaged the day. If you have Mayfield, may God have mercy on your soul.
Receivers Still Struggling
WR Jarvis Landry was once again a target hog with 12 targets. However, that amounted to a pathetic 39 yards on 8 catches. There simply was not the time for plays to develop and Landry, as talented as he is, is not a true #1 WR for a team. He is a complementary piece out of the slot. I suppose the bright spot, if any, was that WR Antonio Callaway made 5 whole catches, including a very tough TD catch while being wrapped up. It really does give me hope that his work reducing drops is going to pay off- he is sorely needed to take on a bigger role. WR Damion Ratley is not worth mentioning so I won’t even bother bolding his name.
Running Game Went… ok
I remain very excited for RB Nick Chubb. He may have only had 75 total yards from scrimmage, but he was facing a very tough Steelers defense. He did manage some big runs, but he simply looks good as a 2-down back. His limited involvement in the passing game does cap his upside, but overall Chubb was a bright spot last Sunday where the rest of the offense was a black hole. RB Duke Johnson, Jr, looked like he was poised for a big game. To start, he had back-to-back targets, but was kneed in the leg and had to go to the sideline. It looked like maybe a charlie horse injury, but he disappeared almost entirely for the duration of the game.
TE? What TE? DeValve? Who Is That?
TE David Njoku inexplicably was not involved at all in the offense. His lone target was in the end zone and he got a PI call that set up an eventual Callaway touchdown. There is no explanation for it that I have heard from anyone, and I cannot see why that was the case. TE Seth DeValve caught a TD pass at the very end of the game, and I have heard speculation that was to showcase him for trade bait, but that doesn’t make much sense to me since it was his first appearance in the game as well. Maybe he was just open because no one on the Steelers expected him to catch a touchdown, either. Who knows.
Defense Is Only Bright Spot, Still Can’t Do Much To Affect Wins
The Browns defense continues to generate turnovers that yield absolutely nothing for the team as a whole because the offense can’t move the ball. They’re playing so much in so little time given all the overtime games that it’s kind of amazing that they’re still performing as well as they are. If the offense could generate offense and help keep them off the field, the Browns could easily win games. But they can’t, so… Oh, well.
If I haven’t died of a broken heart, I’ll see you all for the game preview this Saturday. Aw, who am I kidding- this level of disappointment is nothing new. See you all this weekend!
Conner Continues Dominance Over Browns
RB James Conner rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries in week eight against the Cleveland Browns, and also added five catches on six targets for 66 yards to lead the Steelers to a 33-18 win. In two games against the Browns this year, Conner has produced 404 total yards and four touchdowns. Conner now has three straight weeks with two touchdowns and is a no doubt top-end fantasy running back every week. His performance has been so impressive that it seems inconceivable for RB Le’Veon Bell to return to his old workload when he returns to the team. A trade is looking more and more logical for the Steelers at this point.
Another Multi-Touchdown Day for Brown
With two touchdowns this week WR Antonio Brown continued his impressive touchdown streak, giving him a touchdown in five straight games and eight touchdowns in seven games on the season. He has reasserted himself lately as the top option in the passing game and continues to be one of the most consistent fantasy performers year in and year out. Brown finished week eight with six catches on eight targets for 64 yards and two touchdowns, a line that likely would have been better if the Browns had kept it more competitive.
Fantasy Disappointments in Passing Game
QB Ben Roethlisberger had a solid game, but his final numbers are probably mildly disappointing if you played him in daily fantasy, as he finished 24 of 36 for 257 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and was sacked one time. The Steelers have really settled into an effective high volume run game, which hurt Roethlisberger in the second half. Despite the Steelers’ new focus on offense, Roethlisberger remains an every week QB1 and will have even bigger performances in closer games.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster finished with a frustrating four catches on six targets for 33 yards against the Browns, with only one catch in the second half. He has recorded only 4 catches in three of his last four games, dropping him down to more of a WR2 lately. While he has clearly fallen behind Brown in the wide receiver target distribution, Smith-Schuster is still a valuable fantasy asset. Now might be a good time to send trade offers to his owners as there are better days ahead.
TE Vance McDonald only saw three targets for three catches and 47 yards, continuing his up and down track record this year. His good weeks are still enough to make him an every week starter in fantasy lineups. TE Jesse James has settled into a blocking tight end role.
Rookie WR James Washington was a healthy inactive this week, but neither WR Justin Hunter nor WR Ryan Switzer did anything of note. None are fantasy relevant at this point.
Pittsburgh Defense and Special Teams
The Steelers Defense was a disappointment this week with only two sacks in what looked like an excellent matchup. They did hold the Browns to 18 points and added a safety and an interception, but in most leagues, they were a low end starting option.
K Chris Boswell did not miss a kick, but Pittsburgh’s offensive efficiency limited him to one field goal to go along with four extra points.