Week 7 Observations

I spend most of my time on Twitter while watching the games, and this Sunday there seemed to be less engagement than usual – as if people had turned off their TVs and gone outside to enjoy the fall weather. I was also feeling that way (though it’s night time where I am.) I made a few snarky comments about coaches punting in obvious go-for-it situations, but it was barely even noteworthy. Cowardice is the rule, not the exception, and complaining about it feels good for a second, but gets lost in the ocean of other criticisms, right and wrong, of which no one can keep track. Imagine protesting actual injustice and seeing it swept under a similar tide of random, unrelated grievances, displaced animosity, public-relations spin and corporate co-option. The NFL generates apathy like nobody’s business.

• The Patriots annihilated the Falcons, who moved the ball, but came up short in most of the crucial situations. The Super Bowl hangover is hard to quantify, but losing the way the Falcons did had to be more than an ordinary one. Think getting blacked out, drunk-dialing your ex, posting your unedited thoughts on social media and wrapping your car around a tree. There’s no way the Falcons aren’t scarred from that.

• Tom Brady played well, with 8.6 YPA and no picks, but the Patriots offense isn’t the dominant, unstoppable machine it should be with Rob Gronkowski healthy and Brandin Cooks now integrated into the offense. But maybe the fog and the Falcons’ mistakes necessitated a more conservative game plan.

• Dion Lewis led the Pats in rushing on 13 carries, while Mike Gillislee had eight, Rex Burkhead six and James White four. White had five targets, Burkhead one. Bottom line, you probably can’t rely on any of these backs, and even if one has a decent game, there isn’t a ton of upside. Maybe White still has a floor in PPR.

• Julio Jones finally scored a TD, and he did it in a way – ripping the ball out of a DB’s hands – that makes you wonder why he hasn’t been heavily used in the end zone his entire career. Mohammed Sanu had 10 more targets, and is plainly the team’s No. 2. Taylor Gabriel is a gadget player.

• Devonta Freeman ran well on 12 carries, but the game flow wasn’t good. Matt Ryan played passably and had a couple nice scrambles, but the offense is a shell of the 2016 unit

• I had a good fantasy week, largely because I picked up the Chargers defense everywhere, thanks to Jerry Donabedian’s Streaming Defense’s article on the site. It was one of several he recommended, and before reading it I hadn’t really considered them.

• Hunter Henry is the Chargers’ best offensive player. He led the team with 73 receiving yards, but they need to get him more than five targets. Keenan Allen got seven, but only 41 yards. Tyrell Williams is droppable. His upside is modest, and there are too many mouths to feed. And not all that much food.

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• Austin Ekeler outproduced Melvin Gordon and eked out a TD catch, but it was a bad match-up, and I don’t see a major threat to Gordon’s workload.

• Trevor Siemian would be on the ropes, but Paxton Lynch is hurt, and the back-up is Brock Osweiler. Siemian was sacked five times, but it should have been six but for a bizarre roughing the passer call on Melvin Ingram. There was no helmet to helmet, and it obviously wasn’t a late hit because Ingram made the sack. Basically, the officials saw a hard hit on a quarterback and panicked.

• Demaryius Thomas did almost nothing but had an 80-plus yard gain wiped out by an offensive pass interference.

• Maybe the Steelers defense is really good. They held the Chiefs in check last week, and they destroyed Andy Dalton (4.7 YPA, two picks, four sacks). It doesn’t help that Joe Mixon got only seven carries (6.9 YPC), and the team continues to give away downs by starting Jeremy Hill.

• Le’Veon Bell had another 35 carries and three catches for 192 yards from scrimmage. The Steelers are working him like they have him in a re-draft fantasy league.

• Antonio Brown usually gets something. Martavis Bryant, not so much, and it turns out he still does want to get traded. I’m with Bryant here – he’s an elite talent in his prime. If the Steelers don’t have a use for him, set him free. Many teams could use a top WR. Unfortunately, even if it’s plainly in the interest of the league and its fans to have a superstar level talent showcase his skills – it’s the kind of freedom and individualism the league loathes. Accordingly, I’d be shocked if the Steelers – or another team by ponying up a second-round pick – granted Bryant his wish.

• JuJu Smith-Schuster looks pretty good in his own right, but with the defense playing so well, and Roethlisberger relying largely on Brown and Bell, there’s probably not enough to go around.

• The Giants defense played great for three quarters, but the offense just keeps them on the field too long, especially against a scrambling quarterback like Russell Wilson.

• Eli Manning makes Sam Bradford look like Dan Marino. Manning was checking down on 3rd-and-10 to a three-yard route. They weren’t even faking trying to get a first down. It was positively Joe Flacco-esque.

• The Roger Lewis era was awesome. Expect Sterling Shepard back after the bye.

• Evan Engram is a top-five TE. He saw 12 targets, and his size/speed combo makes him more like Julio Jones than Rob Gronkowski.

• The Dark Horse is the favorite to keep the team’s starting running back job. How that’s not Orleans Darkwa’s nickname is beyond my comprehension. Likewise, that Jesse James is not “The Outlaw” and Aaron Judge not “The Executioner,” shortened from “Judge, Jury and Executioner,” is similarly baffling. It’s on a par with Tim Tebow not being named Christian Ponder, Steve Howe Phil Coke and Pete Rose Mookie Betts.

• Neither Eddie Lacy nor Thomas Rawls ran very well, but Rawls seems to have more spring in his step. C.J. Prosise might be back one day.

• Russell Wilson seems to pick up his game around midseason every year, and this was but one example. Doug Baldwin looks healthy again and is back to being a top-10-ish WR.

• The Giants simply refuse to stop a tight end from scoring a TD. Even after they left Jimmy Graham wide open for a long score, and Graham dropped the ball, they rebounded nicely by allowing him to catch a short TD near the goal line, keeping their streak going to seven games. They simply will not be denied. Graham has had some horrendous drops this year, but I think he’ll have a big second half.

• Zeke Elliott was racking up yards and TDs like his season could be cut short at any time. (I’d still bet against him being suspended this year – there’s no urgency to do it – but I’m probably in the minority.)

• Das Prescott is like Russell Wilson if Wilson had a good offensive line. Prescott had 9.3 YPA, three TDs, no picks, 26 yards rushing yards and a rushing score. Dez Bryant got a TD on 10 targets, but game flow cost him a bigger day.

• C.J. Beathard neither looks like an upgrade from Brian Hoyer nor the future of the franchise. It can’t hurt to give him a few more starts, though. Carlos Hyde got another 14 carries and four catches – he’s earning his draft slot.

• It sucked if you had Dan Bailey going – it was an ideal matchup for an elite kicker.

• Joe Flacco in Minnesota was about as hopeless as Manning against Seattle. The Ravens’ lone TD came in garbage time. There’s really nothing else to say about this game from the Ravens’ side, except that Justin Tucker is the greatest kicker of all time, and second place is a 10-way tie.

• Latavius Murray vastly outperformed Jerick McKinnon (18 for 113 and a TD) to (14 for 47), but McKinnon had three catches for 10 yards. It’s a timeshare, albeit a two-man one that should be pretty good.

• The Dolphins were down 17-0 to the Falcons and won 20-17, then 28-14 to the Jets and won 31-28.

• Jay Cutler was playing pretty well when he got hurt, but Matt Moore came in and put up nearly identical stats. Even if Cutler’s injury isn’t serious, it’s 50/50 he ever gets the job back, i.e., he might be making a “trip to Belize” with Carson Palmer.

• Jay Ajayi works awfully hard with so little to show for it. It’s encouraging he caught three passes for 26 yards though.

• With DeVante Parker out, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Still combined for 20 targets, 13 catches, 178 yards and three TDs. It’s unclear whether Parker will be back in time for the Thursday game against the Ravens.

• Josh McCown is competent. He’s been better than Manning, Dalton, Flacco and Ryan so far this year, though his game-sealing pick was ill-timed.

• The Jets spread the ball around a lot this game. Matt Forte led the team with 41 receiving yards, Bilal Powell was next with 40, and Austin Seferian Jenkins caught another TD, though had only 21 yards receiving.

• The Cardinals were getting blown out anyway, but Drew Stanton was Matt Cassel-esque in his relief appearance of the likely done for good Carson Palmer, who should eventually get elected to the “Hall of the Above Average.” Palmer’s injury has to hurt the Cardinals receivers, not that anyone but Larry Fitzgerald had done much to this point.

• Adrian Peterson’s 11 for 21 line was more in line with expectations, and Stanton’s arrival isn’t going to help him game-flow-wise. I suppose it might keep David Johnson out, though.

• Todd Gurley is a rock – another 106 efficient yards and a TD, with four catches for 48 yards. He’s a top-five overall player.

• Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp have been the most consistent Rams receivers, but don’t sleep on Sammy Watkins who got five targets and 42 receiving yards. The Rams are off this week, but they have the Giants and Texans, two exploitable secondaries, in Weeks 9 and 10.

• Chris Ivory was a popular pickup with Leonard Fournette out, but it was left-for-dead T.J. Yeldon with 137 YFS, two catches and a TD. Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee both had solid games, and Blake Bortles managed 12.7 YPA and 330 passing yards while playing in hitter’s counts.

• The Colts should be using Marlon Mack more than Frank Gore, but they’re the Colts, and Chuck Pagano is their coach.

• T.Y. Hilton’s stock dropped after Andrew Luck’s latest setback puts him out at least another month. Granted, the Jaguars are a tough opponent, but Jacoby Brissett, who took 10 sacks, is struggling.

• I wrote in my Beating the Book column that in my heart of hearts I preferred the Saints minus 5.5, but I was taking the Packers out of principle. Big mistake. The Brett Hundley fantasy hype was also overblown – just 3.5 YPA, 87 passing yards. Hundley did have a rushing score, but the passing floor is low.

• Aaron Jones had a monster day, likely the lone bright spot for the Packers this year after losing Aaron Rodgers. Stick a fork in Ty Montgomery.

• It was obvious the Packers receivers would fall off with Rodgers’ injury, but this was worse than I had imagined. Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams are no longer top-50 players. And it doesn’t take much to be a top-50 player in this environment.

• Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara is arguably the best one-two punch in the NFL right now. Kamara is the ideal PPR specialist in that he’s not only highly efficient as a receiver, but he’s getting significant carries.

• Michael Thomas saw 11 targets for 82 yards while Ted Ginn saw seven for 141. Thomas is still the No. 1 target, but he’s slow, and the Saints don’t force-feed him in the red-zone, either.

• Cody Kessler has got to be the Browns quarterback going forward, not because he did anything special, but because he’s the only non-disaster. Incidentally, I dropped Kessler, Kenny Stills (two TD) and O.J. Howard (two TD) in a 14-team, QB-flex, 2-TE league this week.

• The Browns can’t run block, and it’s unlikely to get better with star LT Joe Thomas now out. Maybe David Njoku is worth a look, but he had only five targets and two catches Sunday. Ten of the team’s 22 completions went to running backs.

• It’s troubling that Marcus Mariota could manage only 6.0 YPA and zero TDs against the Browns. Or that Derrick Henry had 13 carries for 13 yards, and DeMarco Murray only 3.3 YPC on 18 carries. Eric Decker was a non-factor, and Delanie Walker (10 targets seven catches) got hurt in the fourth quarter. Corey Davis is still hurt, so maybe rookies Taywan Taylor and tight end Jonnu Smith will have bigger roles.

• Ryan Succop appeared to miss his first sub-50 yard field goal in 55 tries, but Hue Jackson’s untimely timeout re-heated him to kick the game winner and keep the streak intact.

• I took the Panthers minus three and a half in Chicago because I didn’t see how the Bears offense would score points. Of course, their defense scored both TDs and also shut down the Panthers.

• Cam Newton reverted to his early season form – 6.2 YPA, two picks, a fumble and five sacks. That two of the turnovers were returned for TDs especially hurt. Newton is running like he did in the past, though.

• Christian McCaffrey is a target and catch machine, even if he doesn’t do much with them.

• Mitch Trubisky attempted only seven passes, but he had 15.3 YPA thanks to Tarik Cohen’s 70-yard catch. As bad as the Panthers offense was, the Bears’ was considerably worse, amassing only 175 total yards, and that’s not subtracting for Trubisky’s four sacks. Only one Bears wide receiver landed a pass, Tanner Gentry for eight yards.

• Jameis Winston had a monster game with 387 yards and three TDs against a tough pass defense. He did lose a fumble and throw a pick, though.

• It was nice to see O.J. Howard get involved, though it would have been nicer on my roster. It’s important for your sleepers to get off to good starts because it’s tough to hold onto them if their breakout happens in Week 7. (And this is in a 14-team, two-TE league)

• Mike Evans has been steady, if not the target monster from last year. DeSean Jackson and Cameron Brate were also involved.

• Doug Martin managed only 49 yards on 20 carries, but no one else saw more than two.

• Tyrod Taylor had a strong game with 8.1 YPA, 263 pass yards, a passing TD and 53 yards on the ground. LeSean McCoy lost a fumble, but had 91 rushing yards, two TDs and five catches for 31 yards.

• Deonte Thompson, recently released from the Bears, caught all four targets for 107 yards, while tight end Nick O’Leary had two catches for 58. I’d still prefer Jordan Matthews, who had only three targets, two catches and 10 yards, if I were forced at gunpoint to use a Buffalo pass catcher.