Having the Eagles and Cowboys in the day games was bad, and having Tony Romo in my first-place-in-points NFFC league was worse. I did have Calvin Johnson in a couple key places, and the Bears late cover allowed me to digest my food. If you go 0-3, it’s Thanksfornothing.
What a bizarre day of football. At one point, I seriously thought I would go 0-8 against the spread in the early slate. (I went 3-5, before going 3-1 in the late/Sunday night games to go 7-6 so far on the week.) Then I thought two of my best teams were toast when I lost Devonta Freeman. (One won, and the other is a big favorite pending Monday night.) Essentially, I went through the bottom of the abyss and came out the other side. Nonetheless, I have some notes from the journey:
I can accept coaches sometimes make sub-optimal decisions on play calls and what to do given certain game situations, downs and distances. But Thursday’s contest was a display of cowardice and ignorance by which even Jim Caldwell and Dan Quinn would be astounded. Here are a few of the highlights:
The Sunday night game turned out to be pretty good in the end, but it took forever with all the penalties, injuries and reviews. At one point, the refs spotted a Russell Wilson third-down run too generously, calling it a first down. Bruce Arians challenged it, there was a review, and he won, so Seattle had fourth and inches. They handed it to the fullback, he was stopped behind the line initially, but turned around, planted his feet and fell backwards toward the line of scrimmage into a crowd of linemen. The refs again spotted the play a first down, Arians challenged again, there was another review, and because it was impossible to tell, the play stood – first down for Seattle, at exactly the spot it was erroneously ruled 10 minutes before.
What a frustrating game. I had Sammy Watkins going in two leagues and Brandon Marshall in one (I know he scored a TD, but he dropped a couple passes, including a deep one.) Moreover, I had the Jets -2.5. First they give up the TD due to a fumble on a kick return, then they make a great comeback, catch a break on a botched punt and fail to cash in from the five yard line. Of course, even had they scored they would have had to make the two-point conversion to cover. I’ll just pretend they scored but failed to convert.
I don’t have an overarching theme today, so let’s just dive in:
• The Giants won ugly, with their longest play from scrimmage a 24-yard pass to Odell Beckham. He saw 17 targets, but managed only 105 yards and didn’t score. No one else did much, and the Giants’ four-headed monster at running back is among the most useless in the league for fantasy purposes.
• Jason Pierre-Paul returned and looked pretty good, generating a few pressures. Can Giants fans give me a high-three? Too soon, I know.
• I actually cheered out loud when the Giants scored a meaningless defensive TD on a busted lateral during the last play of the game. I didn’t have the Giants defense anywhere, they had already covered the spread, but it was great anyway. Some people on Twitter pointed out it swung bets on the total from under to over. Talk about a horrible beat.
• The Bucs targeted Mike Evans a whopping 19 times, and while he went 8-for-152, it could have been much more but for a few bad drops.
• The Saints defense is terrible. Marcus Mariota, coming off a two-game layoff and missing his top receiver, passed for 371 yards, four TDs and no picks. Granted, one long TD was pure luck, a pass that should have been intercepted that bounced into Delanie Walker’s hands, but even without that Mariota had a big day. That followed Eli Manning’s six TD day last week. Cornerback Brandon Browner is like one of those hacks you dread playing against in pick-up hoops. How do you call fouls when every play is a foul? He gets flagged more than anyone in the NFL.
• That defense is a great tailwind for Drew Brees, however. Coming off his 511-yard, seven-TD game, he posted another 387 yards, three TDs and a rushing score. Brees spreads the ball around so much, his main receivers lack upside, though.
• Antonio Brown had 23 targets, 17 catches and 306 yards from scrimmage today. But with Ben Roethlisberger likely out for the foreseeable future, he’s not a top-five receiver going forward.
• DeAngelo Williams had 235 yards from scrimmage, and he and Brown destroyed the all-time record for YFS for two players on the same team in one game (h/t Scott Pianowski). Roethlisberger’s injury is likely a big blow to his value too.
• Derek Carr had only 6.8 YPA, but another 300 yards, four TDs and only one pick. He has arrived, and the case for ranking the Eli Mannings and Matt Ryans ahead of him is getting awfully flimsy.
• Instead of going to Oakland for his career to die, Michael Crabtree has been resurrected. He and Amari Cooper are essentially co-No. 1 WRs in a top-12 offense.
• Sam Bradford played well, but the Eagles did most of their damage on the ground – at least until the game-winning pass to Jordan Matthews in overtime.
• It’s almost as if Chip Kelly has only one plan, and that’s to exhaust the opposing defense with his team’s pace. If it works, the Eagles roll late in games. If it doesn’t, they struggle. It also necessitates a lot of running plays which more reliably wear defenders down. Otherwise, it’s hard to identify anything special.
• Dez Bryant is more or less back. It’s too bad he had to create his own points catching a hail mary, but he’ll get his targets. And Tony Romo should be back in Week 11. I’m not sure whether Cole Beasley’s breakout is something on which the Cowboys will build.
• Darren McFadden had 27 more carries and took a lot of hits, but didn’t look worse for the wear. Once Romo comes back, this could be a top-five offense and McFadden its feature back.
• Sammy Watkins caught all eight of his targets for 168 yards, including a beautiful 68-yard touchdown catch on the full run. He’s a top-20 WR going forward, and the upside is top-10.
• I didn’t watch much of the 49ers-Falcons, but I caught the mind-boggling decision by Dan Quinn to kick a field goal down four *at the one-yard-line* with three minutes and two timeouts left. Essentially Quinn decided that: (1) making the chip shot; (2) forcing the Niners to have a three-and-out; (3) driving back into field-goal range; and (4) making a second field goal was more likely than scoring a one-yard touchdown. And that’s not even considering the Niners would start at their own 1-yard line in the event the Falcons failed on fourth down.
• Devonta Freeman managed only 12 yards on 12 carries, but his 67 receiving yards and a score paid the bills. Freeman, Julio Jones (17 targets) and, to a lesser extent, tight end Jacob Tamme, are the only relevant players in the Falcons offense. No team in the league has its entire offensive output so densely concentrated.
• For all of Andrew Luck’s garbage-time heavy performances this year, his modest 252 yards and two TDs (7.0 YPA) against the Broncos elite defense was his best. Luck also had 34 yards on the ground, didn’t throw an interception and took only one sack.
• Apparently the Broncos signed Vernon Davis to motivate Owen Daniels. Otherwise, Denver’s output was meager as usual, and the team has no running game whatsoever. At this point, I’d put C.J. Anderson ahead of Ronnie Hillman, but it might not matter much.
• Carolina was up 37-14 with nine minutes left in the game, and somehow Green Bay had the ball at their four-yard line down eight with two minutes left. The same thing happened against the Colts last week, and the Panthers needed overtime to win that one.
• Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton had monster fantasy games, and it coincided with Davante Adams and Devin Funchess, two preseason risers when their teammates got hurt, finally becoming relevant.
• When Eddie Lacy struggled early last year, I compared him to Trent Richardson. By midseason, when he was playing well, I caught a lot of grief for that. Is it reasonable yet to ask for an apology? Apparently, he injured his groin during the game, but we’re in Week 9, he plays with an elite QB, and he’s been virtually worthless all year.
• I laid the points with the Pats for the first time in a while, and I have to say it felt good to be rooting for them to pull away rather than the underdog to keep it close. The Redskins actually might have covered had they not dropped at least seven passes (it was at six when I saw another drop and stopped counting.) Dion Lewis got hurt, and while he’s been great, I’d be shocked if it slows down this juggernaut.
• I called former referee turned penalty commentator Mike Carey “master of the obvious” on Twitter, but Yahoo!’s Andy Behrens rightly pointed out “master” was inapt. So we’ll go with “Student of the Obvious.”
I was all set to take the Bengals -11, but after talking to Dalton Del Don on the podcast, I changed my mind and took the Browns. My reasoning was I had been burned by the 49ers and Dolphins the last two Thursdays, and maybe my Bengals hunch was just based on my past trauma from backing (and watching) those two hopeless underdogs in standalone games. Besides, it’s usually correct to take the dog when the spread is double-digits, and I wasn’t going to panic and take favorites to avoid being on the wrong side of yet another blowout… Of course, as soon as I had locked in the Browns pick on Wednesday, I felt sure it was wrong.