Week 11 Observations

It was an unusual week for me as my wife and daughter were back in Los Angeles for Thanksgiving, while I stayed behind in Lisbon, preferring not to deal with a work week crammed in around two 18-hour door-to-door trips, eight-hours-time-difference-worth of jet lag and no ideal place from which to host the SXM show. Instead, I invited a couple friends over to watch the games, made some beef stew in a large crockpot (one of three dishes I know how to cook) and emptied out 90 percent of the alcohol I had on hand – three bottles of wine, half a bottle of Sloe Gin (a gift from a friend in the UK) and some actual gin. It was a civilized way to consume the games, irrespective of whom the Texans start at quarterback. 

 The Eagles annihilated the Cowboys who have been exposed the last couple weeks. And it’s not only missing Tyron Smith – though his absence has been huge – or Sean Lee or Ezekiel Elliott. Dez Bryant simply  doesn’t separate anymore, and the Cowboys don’t have other playmakers. Jason Witten is old and slow, Brice Butler is 27 and rarely sees the field, and Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are just average. There’s no danger for the defense. It also doesn’t help when your moronic coach punts down 14 with 18 minutes left in the game on 4th-and-2 from his own 47 yard line. Jason Garrett is underrated in his terribleness.

• It’s frustrating to root against Carson Wentz, as he has a knack for escaping what seem like sure sacks and making downfield throws. He was a game manager in this one, but did what he had to.

• Jay Ajayi is like Alshon Jeffrey – big-time talent, but one of many cogs in the diverse wheel that makes up the Eagles offense. Ajayi had 101 YFS, but only seven carries, while LeGarrette Blount had 13 carries and Corey Clement had six. Clement and Kenjon Barner scored the touchdowns. Because Ajayi is guaranteed neither a big workload, nor the goal-line carries, it’s hard to make a case for him. He’s not a great pass catcher, either.

• Jeffery led the team in receiving and scored a TD and a two-point conversion (thanks to a Jake Elliott injury), but had only seven targets. Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor each had five and Torrey Smith four. Game flow dictated modest passing stats, but only Ertz and Jeffery are remotely reliable,

• Dak Prescott had his worst game of the year – four sacks, three picks, one lost fumble, 4.7 YPA, no TDs. The Eagles defensive front is stout, and he was without Smith at right tackle, but he played poorly even under the circumstances. The Cowboys need to threaten down the field, and right now they’re not doing it.

• Alfred Morris had a solid game – 17 for 91, but the Cowboys never made it to the goal line, and he doesn’t catch passes. Rod Smith – 8-for-11 – got stuffed.

• Dez Bryant had eight catches for 63 yards, but on 14 targets. The Cowboys don’t target him down the field, and defenders were on him the moment he got his hands on the ball.

• The Patriots minus 6.5 were my best bet, and in retrospect should have been the best bet of the year. Their offense is humming, they faced a banged-up, bottom-of-the-barrel defense and were in an unusual site (high-altitude Mexico City), meaning the coaching staff’s ability to get its players ready would likely be an even-larger-than-normal factor.

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• Tom Brady had seven incomplete passes and took one sack. Otherwise, he had 339 yards on 30 completions, three touchdowns and no picks. For some reason the Patriots still had him on the field in the fourth quarter, and he took a shot to the knees, but seemed fine. It’s a hell of a risk for Bill Belichick to take, but he seems to do it every year.

• Brandin Cooks torched the Raiders for 9-6-149-1 and now has 20 targets the last two weeks. He’s a top-five WR.

• Danny Amendola, now healthy, also saw nine looks for a more modest 66 yards, but he caught eight balls and scored a TD. With Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan out, someone has to play white receiver for them.

• Rob Gronkowski had only three catches for 36 yards. He wasn’t needed given the game flow, but I wouldn’t be concerned about him going forward.

• Dion Lewis led the backs with 10 carries (for 60 yards.) Rex Burkhead and James White had five each. Lewis also led the backs in receiving with four catches for 28 yards and a TD. Burkhead had four catches of his own for 21 yards, and White failed to catch his only target. From Super Bowl hero to third fiddle.

• Stephen Gostkowski had a monster game including a 62-yard field goal in the altitude. That was worth 6.2 points in my NFFC league, i.e., he kicked a touchdown. But the Pats should have committed a delay of game penalty on purpose to give him a 67-yard try and the all-time record as the 62-yarder looked good by 10 yards.

• Stick a fork in Derek Carr. The Pats defense is playing better, but 4.8 YPA against them in good weather on a neutral site is terrible. His fantasy line was mildly redeemed by a garbage-time TD to Amari Cooper, but Carr’s average at best with an average-at-best supporting cast.

• Michael Crabtree saw 11 targets, but had only six catches for 51 yards. Cooper saw seven targets but had little to show for them except the late TD. Seth Roberts had nine targets for 36 yards.

• Marshawn Lynch ran well (11 carries for 67 yards), but as usual saw a modest workload. He also caught a pass for 10 yards.

• Andy Dalton eked out 6.2 YPA and three TD passes (with no picks) in Denver, an upgrade from what he’s done for most of the year. A.J. Green salvaged an otherwise bad game (nine targets, 50 yards) with a late TD.

• Joe Mixon has been a paragon of inefficiency this year, and that didn’t change against a stout run defense – 20 carries for 49 yards, two catches for zero yards. It’s his job at least.

• Brock Osweiler didn’t lose the game, but he did nothing to win it, either. Expect Paxton Lynch to see an audition as soon as he’s deemed ready.

• C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker split carries, with Anderson scoring – and also fumbling in a key spot. Booker had five catches for 54 yards, though, to Anderson’s two and 19. Jamaal Charles was a non-factor.

• Emmanuel Sanders had eight targets for 15 yards. Demaryius Thomas caught five of nine for 64 yards and a TD.

• I had a good fantasy day, in large part because I picked up the Chargers defense everywhere. I knew they were good, and they’d be a tough matchup for a rookie QB on the road, but five picks in the first half and two defensive TDs were a nice bonus.

• It’s inconceivable Sean McDermott would start Nathan Peterman next week. If he did, I’d expect the team to mutiny, and he knows that. Benching Tyrod Taylor was obviously a mistake, but sticking with the decision for Week 12 would be coaching suicide.

• Somehow LeSean McCoy had a big game in the blowout, 126 YFS and two TDs. Kelvin Benjamin got hurt again, and the Bills just don’t have many good alternatives. Zay Jones led the team with four catches for 68 yards.

• Philip Rivers had a solid game, thanks mostly to Keenan Allen who went 13-12-159-2. Allen won’t beat many teams deep (his long was 29-yards), but he’s the AFC’s Michael Thomas – a player who will catch most of what’s thrown his way.

• Top-10 draft pick Mike Williams had eight targets, though only five catches for 38 yards. His involvement in the offense is growing, however. Hunter Henry caught only two of five targets for 25 yards.

• Melvin Gordon saw 20 carries, but again was less efficient than Austin Ekeler. I doubt their roles will change much by season’s end, but maybe Ekeler goes from 30/70 to 35/65. Ekeler is also the better receiver.

• I have to admit 7.2 YPA, two TDs, one interception and one sack, Tom Savage’s numbers Sunday, were more civilized than I expected.

• If we’re grading on a curve DeAndre Hopkins gets an A for his 9-4-76-1 line with Patrick Peterson defending and Savage throwing the ball. Bruce Ellington was useful in PPR with six catches on seven targets for 63 yards.

• D’Onta Foreman was unstartable, put up a monster game and now is likely out for the year with a torn Achilles. Lamar Miller, who struggled (22-for-61) has even less competition for the job.

• Blaine Gabbert put up good fantasy numbers – three TDs, 257 yards, 13 rushing yards – and his 7.6 YPA was solid. But he threw two picks and took two sacks.

• Adrian Peterson was throttled – 14 carries for 26 yards, and he offers little as a receiver. His upside the rest of the way is modest even if David Johnson doesn’t return.

• Larry Fitzgerald had a strong game, catching nine of 10 targets for 91 yards and a score. His long catch for the day was only 22 yards, though.

• Someone named Ricky Seals-Jones, a backup TE, caught two TDs. He probably played with Gabbert during the scrubs portion of practice.

• So much for Andy Reid being a genius off the bye week, Alex Smith being a different player in Year 13, the Giants having quit on the season or the Giants allowing TDs to TEs every week. Narratives are true until they’re not. It reminds me of the Bertrand Russell warning about inductive reasoning: it’s like a man jumping off the Empire State Building and counting the windows as he falls. When he gets to 80 he says: “So far, so good!”

• After a monstrous start to the year, Kareem Hunt has crashed to earth. He’s probably still a top-12 player the rest of the way, but the Chiefs look like the team we thought they were before they beat the Patriots in Week 1.

• Travis Kelce didn’t score, but he had eight catches for 109 yards, albeit on 14 targets. Tyreek Hill caught all seven of his targets, but for only 68 yards. I still doubt Hill’s ability to be effective running intermediate routes.

• Sterling Shepard was scratched with an illness, Evan Engram caught only one of six targets, and Eli Manning inefficiently spread the ball around to 10 different receivers.

• Orleans Darkwa had 20 carries and saw four targets. It wasn’t pretty – only 90 YFS, but he scored the game’s lone TD. He’s the unquestioned full-time starter.

• Drew Brees finally had to make some plays, and he did to the tune of 385 yards (9.4 YPA) and two TDs. He did throw a pick and took two sacks, but led the Saints to an overtime win.

• The Saints receiving tree is still fairly narrow even with Coby Fleener getting involved this week. Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn and Alvin Kamara saw targets on 26 of Brees’ 41 attempts.

• Mark Ingram (155 YFS and a TD) and Kamara (122 YFS and a TD) are both top-10 PPR backs right now. Ingram has a case for No. 1 overall.

• Kirk Cousins had a monster game (10.2 YPA, three TDs, zero picks, two sacks) on the road against an improved Saints defense. He also finally got something from an outside receiver as Josh Doctson had four catches for 81 yards.

• Samaje Perine broke through with 23 carries for 117 yards and a TD and one catch for nine yards. With both Rob Kelley and now Chris Thompson (broken fibula) likely out for the year, Perine should see a heavy workload.

• Funny that there was even talk of replacing Case Keenum (7.4 YPA, one TD, zero picks/sacks) with former game-manager Teddy Bridgewater.

Adam Thielen broke out last year with a whopping 10.5 YPT, but he’s kept up his elite efficiency with 9.5 YPT this year.

• After it looked a few weeks ago like Jerick McKinnon was clearly the back to own in Minnesota, Latavius Murray has crushed it the last couple weeks, scoring two more TDs and running more efficiently. McKinnon is still the pass-catching option, however.

• Jared Goff simply couldn’t get it going in Minnesota. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he didn’t complete a single pass of 25 yards.

• Robert Woods caught eight of 11 targets for 81 yards before suffering a shoulder injury that’s not believed to be serious. He’s the team’s clear No. 1 receiver. Todd Gurley had a modest game, though he had 15 carries, four targets and scored a TD.

• A healthy Ryan Fitzpatrick is far better than an injured Jameis Winston, and honestly I don’t think there’s much different between the two healthy versions. The same can be said for Matt Moore and Jay Cutler, incidentally.

• Congratulations for those who waited on Doug Martin. He’s an average back running behind a weak offensive line.

• For God knows what reason Adam Gase started Damian Williams and barely used Kenyan Drake.

• Moore’s favorite target is Kenny Stills who had 180 yards, including a long TD. Jarvis Landry also had 95 yards and a score, while DeVante Parker, Jay Cutler’s guy, caught four of nine targets for 26 yards. Parker was shoved to the ground in the end zone on Cutler’s first pick – it should have been an obvious PI – but it was uncalled.

• Mike Evans had 10 targets, while no one else had more than five.

• The Packers are terrible, but the Ravens defense is legitimately good – right there with the Jaguars.

• There are only three players really worth mentioning in this game: Alex Collins (20 carries, seven targets, four catches), Jamaal Williams (18 carries, six targets, four catches) and Davante Adams (10-8-126.) That Devante Mays lost a fumble is good for two reasons: (1) It solidifies Williams (whom I have in two places) as the team’s feature back; and (2) it makes it less likely we’ll have to spell check yet another version of D(a)(V)ant(e) any time soon.

• Mike Wallace, and Jeremy Maclin will have roles, but there’s little upside given the way the team plays, and Danny Woodhead (six targets, five catches) should be useful in PPR.

• I keep taking the Browns ATS, and they keep finding Chargers-esque ways to blow the cover. This time, it was a fumble-six with a minute left. Still wasn’t as bad as having CLE +5.5 in this game.

• Corey Coleman had a nice game in his return, especially given the opponent. He’s clearly the team’s No. 1 receiver, though it’ll be interesting to see what happens if/when Josh Gordon comes back. DeShone Kizer, who also get points with his legs, could be an option in the fantasy playoffs.

• Duke Johnson had a nice game, but hurt his shoulder. Isaiah Crowell got stuffed.

• Leonard Fournette was a game-time decision but managed 128 yards (4.0 YPC) against the league’s toughest run defense. He said his ankle will be an issue the rest of the year, however.

• Marqise Lee had nine targets, Dede Westbrook six. Neither did much with them, but Westbrook seems like the team’s No. 2 WR.

• Jordan Howard has quietly lived up to his early-second round draft slot. Tarik Cohen, who had nine carries and four catches, also scored. Adam Shaheen caught all four of his targets, including a TD.

• Matthew Stafford had 299 yards and 9.6 YPA but spread the ball around, with no receiver having more than seven targets. Marvin Jones led the team and caught a TD, but Eric Ebron (four catches, 49 yards) was also involved and is in danger of becoming just relevant enough to let you down again.