Week 10 Observations

I wrote an intro complaining about how bad the games were Sunday, but I deleted it. It’s simply not breaking new ground, and why add boring commentary on top of boring games? You sit, you watch, you observe and you decide what’s actionable and what’s interesting. It doesn’t matter if I started doing some Sporcle geography quizzes during the afternoon slate.

• I wrote on Twitter after the late games that the Rams, Eagles and Saints were the NFL’s three best teams. After Sunday night, it’s hard not to add the Patriots. Their defense was still somewhat shaky – Denver moved the ball pretty well, but the offense methodically dismantled the Broncos defense in Denver. And Tom Brady took some deep shots, even if they didn’t connect.

• Brady’s 7.8 YPA, three TDs, no picks and one sack counts as a clinic in that environment. That Mike Gillislee was a healthy scratch bodes well for Brady’s fantasy stats, though it might simply have been the opponent (Denver has been very tough against the run this year.)

• Dion Lewis had 14 carries and a rushing score (as well as a return TD), while Rex Burkhead had 10. Using those two as the primary runners with James White as a third-down option gives the Patriots maximum versatility on very play. It’s possible Gillislee comes back against a softer front, but the offense is better when the backs are receiving threats.

• Rob Gronkowski and Brandin Cooks tied for the team lead with 74 receiving yards, though Cooks had 11 targets and Gronk seven. Both saw looks in the end zone, though neither converted.

• Apparently Martellus Bennett (recently rumored for season-ending surgery) was just fine, catching all three of his targets for 38 yards. It was a nice trolling of the Packers who released him.

• Brock Osweiler wasn’t terrible, though he threw a bad pick in garbage time just as Cris Collinsworth was making that very point. The problem with Osweiler-level QBs is there’s no margin for error. They never make an unexpected play or scramble out of trouble. With Cam Newton or Tyrod Taylor there’s something to offset a mistake. With Alex Smith there are so few mistakes. Even Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick types have some play-making ability. Osweiler stands in the pocket and offers nothing but the possibility of throwing an accurate pass. So even when plays reasonably well, as he did for most of Sunday night’s game, it can’t move the needle.

• The Broncos are a bad offense with a three-way committee at running back. Pass.

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• Emmanuel Sanders is plainly healthy and had a big game on 11 targets. Demaryius Thomas had eight of his own and a touchdown. The rest of the team combined for 13. The tree is still narrow.

• Why did Vance Joseph punt on 4th-and-6, near mid-field, down 18, with less than 17 minutes left?

• There were rumors swirling this week about how the Giants had quit. As someone who follows them closely, I assure you that was flatly false through one and a half quarters. Hopefully after the team gave up 11.5 YPA to C.J. Beathard and handed the 49ers their first win, Ben McAdoo doesn’t make it to Week 11.

• Eli Manning had 7.4 YPA and two TD passes, but he lost a fumble during a sack wherein he rolled the ball forward on the ground like he was at a bowling alley. It’s time to audition Geno Smith, who was set to start for the Jets before getting punched in the face during the preseason in 2015. It’s highly likely Smith is bad, but the team has six games to find out, and there’s nothing to be gained by sticking with Manning’s carcass. Of course, this will never happen, but it’s a no-brainer to move on from Manning at this point.

• Orleans Darkwa ran well on 14 carries and also caught two passes for 18 yards. He’s nothing special, but he’s decisive, hits the hole and runs hard.

• Sterling Shepard had a big game with 11 catches and 142 yards on 13 targets. Evan Engram had on 31 yards on nine targets, but caught another TD. Like the Broncos, the Giants have a narrow tree.

• Incredibly, backup TE, Garrett Celek, filling in for the injured George Kittle, caught a TD against the Giants, running their streak of TDs allowed to opposing TEs to nine.

• Carlos Hyde went 17-for-98, but Matt Breida got the 33-yard TD run. Neither was a factor in the passing game.

• Here’s a poll you can still vote on:

• Adrian Clayborn had six sacks of Dak Prescott. It’s one thing to have a great offensive line when everyone’s healthy, but depth is also important.

• Dak Prescott didn’t go much while getting dropped eight times and fumbling twice, but he managed 42 rushing yards and a TD.

• Dez Bryant caught four of eight targets for 39 yards. He still looks good after the catch, but he’s not beating anyone down the field.

• Alfred Morris had 11 carries for 53 yards, Rod Smith had three for 14 and four catches for 15 more. Darren McFadden was a non-factor.

• Another modest day for Julio Jones – 57 yards on eight targets. Austin Hooper scored a TD and caught all six of his targets for 49 yards.

• Devonta Freeman left early with a concussion, and Tevin Coleman was passable – 20 for 83 and a score.

• Jared Goff had a quiet first half before exploding in the second. Robert Woods is clearly the team’s No. 1 receiver and flashed some big-play ability en route to a 10-8-171-2 line. Sammy Watkins caught a TD, but saw only three targets. Cooper Kupp caught six of seven targets for 47 yards.

• Todd Gurley is fantasy’s No. 1 player. Even though he had only 11 carries and didn’t score, he managed six catches and 136 yards from scrimmage. When you’re a workhorse back not dependent on TDs or even carries in a given game, you’re a monster.

• Tom Savage’s play can only be described as barbarous. Two picks, two fumbles and three sacks while getting only 6.1 YPA. DeAndre Hopkins caught seven of 14 targets for 111 yards, but he’s the only functional member of the offense.

• Lamar Miller ran well but had only 11 carries and one target. The Texans figure to be playing from behind a good deal, limiting the rushing upside. At least Miller doesn’t have much competition from D’Onta Foreman who had only 18 yards on seven carries.

• At least the Chargers covered the spread. Even that was in doubt when A.J. Bouye nearly took a Philip Rivers pass back to the house in overtime. Not even the Lions can touch the Chargers’ legacy in finding ways to lose games they had essentially salted away.

• The Chargers even partially blocked Josh Lambo’s overtime field goal, but it barely scraped through. On the previous snap, the Chargers committed a delay of game penalty that moved the attempt up five yards.

• Austin Ekeler outplayed Melvin Gordon but lost a key fumble late in the fourth quarter while the Chargers will trying to close out the game. Gordon had eight targets to Ekeler’s five, but Ekeler caught all five for 77 yards and two scores. And Gordon had 16 carries to Ekeler’s 10, but Ekeler had 42 yards to his 27. Expect Ekeler to continue to see run on passing downs at the very least.

• The defenses totally shut down both Rivers and Blake Bortles. And the Chargers held Leonard Fournette to 33 yards on 17 carries. Marqise Lee scored a TD and a two-point conversion, while Allen Hurns had 70 yards on nine targets, but was seen on crutches after the game.

• Case Keenum lit up the Redskins for three quarters before slowing down and throwing two picks late. Still, he had 10.5 YPA and two TDs. I don’t see the Vikings turning to the unimpressive Teddy Bridgewater in the near term, and I’m not even sure why it’s up for discussion.

• Adam Thielen had 166 yards and scored his second TD in two games. He gets a ton of targets and produces every week. Consider him a top-10 WR. Stefon Diggs had a long TD, but only five targets.

• Latavius Murray saw more carries and had more yards than Jerick McKinnon. Murray also scored a short TD, though McKinnon had two catches for 15 yards. McKinnon is probably the better back, but this is an even split.

• Vernon Davis and Jamison Crowder saw 11 targets and 76 yards each. Davis is a top-10 TE so long as Jordan Reed is out.

• Kirk Cousins played passably, but still can’t get his outside receivers involved. Former practice squad player Maurice Harris made an Odell Beckham-esque one-handed 50-yard TD catch, but saw only two targets.

• Samaje Perine led the team with 35 rushing yards after Rob Kelley got hurt. Chris Thompson had three catches for 41 yards, but has largely come back to earth. Kelley was on crutches after the game, so Perine might have another opportunity yet.

• Rumor had it the Bucs, like the Giants, had quit, but they handled the Jets at home. It’s impossible to know what’s going on with a team from the outside, so it’s usually best to treat hearsay about its psychological state as noise.

• Despite a terrible game last week, Doug Martin saw 20 more carries, but managed only 51 yards. DeSean Jackson and rookie Chris Godwin each had 10 targets in Mike Evans’ absence.

• Robby Anderson keeps making plays for the Jets. He’s a top-20 WR at this point.

•  For some reason the Jets don’t like using Bilal Powell in the passing game. With Matt Forte out, Elijah McGuire got seven targets and Powell only two.

• I get the feeling Andrew Luck has played his last snap as a Colt. With Jacoby Brissett playing well – 9.3 YPA, two TDs, one pick against the Steelers – and owner Jim Irsay questioning Luck’s willingness to play, I imagine Luck will be moved for draft picks this offseason. Luck can’t be happy in Indy, and teams would line up to offer first-round picks and more if Luck’s shoulder checks out this offseason.

• Ben Roethlisberger played passably for a road game, and one in which Le’Veon Bell – 26 for 80 – couldn’t get going. Juju Smith-Schuster made the big plays and caught a TD, while Antonio Brown had a modest 7-3-47 line. When you can’t trust Antonio Brown, the WR position is really hurting.

• Chester Rodgers led the team with a 6-6-104-1 line. The rest of the team’s receivers struggled against a tough Pittsburgh secondary, except for Donte Moncrief who had one target that resulted in a 60-yard TD. That T.Y. Hilton was a game-time decision with a groin injury didn’t help.

• Marcus Mariota gets by, but there’s more upside to his game than he’s shown. The 51 rushing yards were nice, but he’s got to pair them with bigger plays in the passing game. That could happen with Corey Davis (10 targets) getting more involved. Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker are steady, especially for 2017’s unpredictable environment.

• Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray are still in a 50/50 timeshare on the ground, though Murray scored all three TDs and caught all four passes.

• Andy Dalton played passably, but hasn’t lit anyone up, and that was the case even with A.J. Green breaking a short throw for a 70-yard TD late. Brandon LaFell led the team in targets for some reason.

• Joe Mixon scored another TD, but got only nine carries.

• It’s amazing the Browns blew the cover despite getting 12.5 points.

• Matthew Stafford went for 249 yards and three TDs, almost all of it in the second half. He took four sacks and threw a pick, though.

• Golden Tate was the only Lions receiver with more than three targets. He’s a top-10 wideout too. After a huge game last week, Marvin Jones had one catch for 22 yards. Ameer Abdullah saw only 11 carries, but ran well, while Theo Riddick went four for 34 and caught a short TD.

• DeShone Kizer had a good fantasy day with seven rushes for 57 yards, but he threw a third-and-goal pass well out of the end zone, managed only 6.3 YPA and gave away points at the end of the first half when he audibled to a QB draw with no timeouts for God knows what reason. It looks like his job the rest of the way, though.

• Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson both ran well, with Johnson also catching six passes.

• Both Aaron Jones (knee) and Ty Montgomery (ribs) left the game, so Jamaal Williams got 20 carries, but racked up only 67 yards. That was more than Jordan Howard who had only 54 on 15 carries.

• Mitchell Trubisky played well with 8.5 YPA, a TD and no picks. He took five sacks, though. Brett Hundley had a similar stat line and took three sacks.

• Bears coach John Fox made arguably the worst challenge of all time. Bears running back Bennie Cunningham hit the pylon with the ball, but was ruled down short of the goal. Fox threw the flag, and replay showed Cunningham lost control of the ball before touching the pylon with it. Hence, it was ruled a fumble through the end zone for a touchback. So Fox won the challenge and cost the team a turnover and 19 yards of field position, to boot.

• Davante Adams is the only Packers receiver to own. He had an 8-5-90-1 line, while no other Packer receiver saw more than four looks.

• Recent acquisition Dontrelle Inman led the Bears in receiving, catching six of eight targets for 88 yards. He has to be considered their No. 1, for what it’s worth. Josh Bellamy caught the TD, but hauled in only two of seven targets. Kendall Wrong is merely a short pass catcher.

• Drew Brees is playing well and even had a rushing TD, but the days of him getting anywhere near 5,000 yards and 30 TDs are long gone in this new offense.

• Michael Thomas got his (10-9-117), but the running backs do all the scoring in New Orleans. Ted Ginn did next to nothing.

• If you started both Saints RBs the last few weeks, you’d be crushing it. This week they went 33-237-4 on the ground, and Alvin Kamara went 5-for-32 in the air. Ingram had three of the TDs, and he’s probably the favorite to lead the league in TD scoring from this point on.

• The Saints defense shut down Tyrod Taylor (3.1 YPA) entirely. LeSean McCoy ran well (8-for-49), but the game got out of hand early. Kelvin Benjamin had six targets, three catches and 42 yards, so they’re at least trying to involve him.