Week 12 Observations

It’s amazing we’re still learning things about the teams and players. Who knew Jamaal Williams was actually good, or Brett Hundley might be an NFL starter after all? Or that Alvin Kamara was the greatest running back of all time? This is kind of like baseball in August when you can’t believe how long it’s already gone on, but you’re not even that close to done with it. One more week, we’re into the fantasy playoffs. A few weeks later we can put the regular season to bed. For now, we have to keep our eyes open to whatever small edge presents itself.

• There’s some bad coaching in the NFL, but Mike McCarthy, like Jason Garrett, is underrated in his terribleness. A 57-yard FG attempt up in the hardest-kicking venue in the NFL, up seven with three minutes left in the fourth quarter? It was 4th-and-18, so punt the ball, pin them back. The Steelers got the ball at midfield and drove down for a TD to tie the game at 21. Make no mistake, there were bad punts ordered by both teams on 4th-and-short, but this was one instance when they should have done it.

• Jamaal Williams isn’t bad. He runs hard, breaks tackles and can catch the ball out of the backfield pretty well. He reminded me a bit of Jordan Howard.

• Brett Hundley is a player. Who knew? He got 9.4 YPA against a tough Steelers defense on the road, three TDs and no picks.

• Davante Adams is just as good with Hundley as he is with Aaron Rodgers because Hundley doesn’t bother with Jordy Nelson. The tree is narrow in Green Bay for both the pass and the run right now. Only five non-QBs saw more than one touch.

• Ben Roethlisberger could be a monster down the stretch. For starters, he ran for 25 yards, meaning he’s completely a healthy, a rarity at this time of year, even if the rushing yards were a fluke. Second, he’s involving Martavis Bryant, and when Juju Smith Schuster returns, he’ll have the most dangerous receiving trio in the league. And finally, the Steelers lined up in shotgun after a PI in the end zone, i.e., on 1st-and-goal from the one. This hurts Le’Veon Bell somewhat, but the Steelers are throwing for the vast majority of their TDs.

• Don’t worry too much about Bell who had 20 carries and a whopping 14 targets and 12 catches.

• Antonio Brown had a 12-10-169-2 day. He’s the No. 1 receiver by 10 miles.

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• Blake Bortles had a good fantasy day thanks to two rushing TDs, but he’s a bottom-10 QB, and the Jaguars defense has to be beyond elite to do damage in the playoffs.

• Leonard Fournette is banged up, and his efficiency has cratered of late. Marqise Lee was largely shut down, presumably by Patrick Peterson, so Dede Westbrook led the team with 10 targets and six catches.

• Blaine Gabbert played pretty well given the opponent. He’s an ideal NFL backup. Maybe Ricky Seals-Jones is the real thing, though often third-team players practice together and have an instant rapport.

• Adrian Peterson had 20 carries and five targets. That’s still worth something.

• Larry Fitzgerald is toast against a good cover corner that plays man to man.

• Sean Payton gave away any chance the Saints had to win by kicking a field goal down 13 with 10 minutes left in the game. He compounded the error by punting on 4th-and-5 from his own 24, down 10 with eight minutes left.  Your defense isn’t automatically going to get a three-and-out. The other team might score again. It was time to push his chips in. Moreover, even if it failed, his defense could hold the Rams to a FG and still be down two scores. As it turned out, the Rams had a long drive that killed most of the clock and got the FG anyway.

• Todd Gurley is the poor man’s Le’Veon Bell – 17 carries, seven targets, four catches. But he made some very nice moves after the catch and is proving to be a quality receiver out of the backfield. Jeff Fisher not only squandered the talents of both Jared Goff and Case Keenum, both of whom are having great years, but didn’t get Gurley going as a receiver.

• Alvin Kamara is playing at a different level. If the NFL were college, he’d need to be drafted to a higher league. On one play he caught a ball behind him, spun away from the first defender for an extra five yards, then leapt over the head of the next one for three more. He also had a 74-yard TD run and caught all six targets for 101 yards and another TD.

• Ted Ginn is the team’s clear No. 2 receiver. He had 11 targets, seven catches and 71 yards. And Drew Brees missed him on a deep ball that would have been an easy TD. Michael Thomas went 8-5-52, another pedestrian day against a good pass defense.

• Drew Brees played okay, but again finished with modest stats – 246 passing yards, one passing TD. His year-end stat-line won’t fit with what he’s done the past 10 years.

• Goff put up another 354 yards and two TDs, taking advantage on injuries to the Saints secondary. With Robert Woods out, Cooper Kupp saw 11 targets (8 catches, 116 yards) while Sammy Watkins saw nine (4-for-82 and a TD.) Rookie Josh Reynolds went 6-4-37-1.

• Greg Zuerlein had another monster game. Opportunity plus accuracy, plus a big leg is the formula for kickers. In an environment with so much uncertainty, your kicker and defense matter more than ever this year.

• Paxton Lynch was seen sobbing on the sideline after being removed with an ankle injury. You can understand why – he went from possible to almost certain bust in this game, a career that probably won’t happen now. Trevor Siemian played great in relief against a terrible defense. He’s still probably the best option they have, though his upside is NFL backup.

• Derek Carr was responsible with the ball and managed 10.2 YPA and two TDs against a once-great Denver secondary. Carr was without Michael Crabtree (ejected, and likely suspended, for fighting) and Amari Cooper (early concussion) for most of the game. But it’s easy to play when the opposing QB is that bad.

• The only positive innovation of the Roger Goodell era is the recent rash of fighting. Who doesn’t love a good dust-up? Much better than waiting five minutes for a legalistic treatise on what is and isn’t a catch while your player’s TD is overturned. Much respect to Crabtree for not letting Aqib Talib get away with ripping off his gold chain. Not sure whey Crabtree was wearing a chain during the game, but if you’re wearing it, you have to defend it.

• The Broncos couldn’t run the ball at all. Marshawn Lynch ran hard for Oakland and scored, though he wasn’t efficient (2.6 YPC.)

• Why did it take a C.J. Beathard injury for the 49ers to audition Jimmy Garoppolo? Garoppolo came in for two plays at the end of the game and looked like Joe Montana, but it made no sense the Niners wouldn’t at least see who he was heading into the offseason and having one of the first few draft picks.

• Russell Wilson is still the No. 1 fantasy QB. Even in a game where the other team’s offense didn’t push him he had two TD passes and one TD run.

• Eddie Lacy had 17 carries for 46 yards and three catches for 15 yards. That’s fine against a league doormat, but I doubt the Seahawks can waste that many plays on him if they actually have to score. But he’s their clear starter for now.

• Paul Richardson led the team with a 7-4-70 line, while Jimmy Graham went 6-3-34-1. Graham is a TD machine given the way they target him at the goal line. Doug Baldwin was quiet – two catches for 25 yards

• Carlos Hyde wasn’t efficient, but seven catches and 16 carries will do. His prospects could improve should Garoppolo give the team a lift down the stretch.

• I took the Bears plus 13.5 in Philadelphia, thinking they’d smash it out with them. I was wrong.

• Carson Wentz actually wasn’t efficient (6.3 YPA), but he got his three TD passes.

• After a lull due in part to a hamstring injury Zach Ertz bounced back with a 12-10-103-1 line. Alshon Jeffrey went 9-5-52-1 and Nelson Agholor also scored on a recovered fumble in the end zone.

• LeGarrette Blount had 15 carries for 97 yards, while Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement had nine carries between them. It is what it is, and if you’re expected Ajayi miraculously to get 20 carries at some point, you’re likely to be disappointed.

• The only Bear to do anything of note was Dontrelle Inman with a 9-4-64-0 line. Mitchell Trubisky and Jordan Howard got stuffed.

• I had the Panthers minus 4.5, and I’m not ashamed to accept a cover on a senseless roughing the passer call to seal the game, a special teams and a defensive TD.

• Josh McCown continues to play well, even against good defenses. Robby Anderson is a top-12 receiver too. Jermaine Kearse apparently just needed to be liberated from Seattle and Russell Wilson to team up with McCown.

• The Jets’ three-headed RB committee is pretty worthless. Jonathan Stewart got a TD, but otherwise wasted 15 plays for 29 yards. Christian McCaffery was far more efficient, but saw only seven carries.

• With Greg Olsen hurt again (it’s possible he returns next week), Devin Funchess (12-7-108) is the only game in town. It’s a low-output game, but still.

• Cam Newton had a quiet game, though his rushing TD made it barely serviceable fantasy-wise. But completing only 39 percent of your passes against the Jets is poor.

• The “draw them offsides” on 4th-and-short tactic is annoying. Just go for it or don’t. There should be a rule against wasting everyone’s time. It’s bad for the product.

• I had the Dolphins plus 16.5 and they lost by 18. I knew they needed to get to 20 to cover, and they couldn’t quite make it. Matt Moore is just an average backup, and the Patriots defense crushed him for seven sacks and two picks.

• DeVante Parker doesn’t exist when Moore’s under center, so he needs Jay Cutler back asap. Jarvis Landry led the team with a 9-8-70 line, and it went down from there. Kenyon Drake came on for the injured Damian Williams and should be the starter for the foreseeable future with Williams out.

•  Tom Brady uncharacteristically threw an interception, but he offset that with four TDs and 8.1 YPA. Rob Gronkowski for an 8-5-82-2 line, and Brandin Cooks, a top-five WR, went 7-6-83-1. Rex Burkhead scored twice, once on the ground, and once through the air, though Dion Lewis led the team with 15 carries for 112 yards.

• Why were the Chiefs 10-point favorites over the Bills even after Tyrod Taylor was named the starter? Every once in a while Vegas makes an obvious mistake, and it is what is seems.

• Tyrod Taylor did what he had to, but until Kelvin Benjamin gets healthy, there’s not much to like in the Bills passing game. Zay Jones caught a TD, but he had 33 yards on 10 targets.

• LeSean McCoy struggled against a weak KC run defense, but Kareem Hunt was even worse against the Bills terrible run defense (11 carries 17 yards, one catch, nine yards.) Hunt’s fall from fantasy superstardom is as precipitous as it comes from a healthy player.

• Tyreek Hill led the Chiefs in receiving with 41 yards on 11 targets. Alex Smith is who we thought he was before the year, and the Chiefs, even though Andy Reid denies it, have to be thinking about Pat Mahomes before the division slips away from them.

• Marcus Mariota seems off. The Titans won the game, but he threw two more picks and only on TD against a bad defense. Delanie Walker was his only pass catcher of note, with 63 yards and a TD.

• Derrick Henry out-rushed DeMarco Murray 79 to nine, but Murray got the short TD and three catches for 33 yards. Henry’s the better back at this point, but their roles aren’t likely to change.

• Jacoby Brissett didn’t do much, and neither did T.Y. Hilton. The only Indy pass catcher of note was Jack Doyle – 8-7-94-0.

• Joe Mixon broke out against the NFL’s top run defense with a 23-114-1 line, and he added three catches for 51 yards. A.J. Green had a modest 8-5-66 line.

• Corey Coleman led the Browns with 64 yards on eight targets, but it should be interesting to see what happens when Josh Gordon presumably comes back in Week 13

• Trying to time Julio Jones has been a fool’s errand, but if there’s one team he destroys it’s the Bucs. Even so, 15-12-253-2 is an absurd line. The other obvious play (not that I used him), Tevin Coleman, went 17-97-2.

• No one on the Bucs did anything of note because both their TDs were scored by Peyton Barber who was unstartable and had a 5-7-2 line. Mike Evans is just a guy this year, and the Bucs aren’t freeing DeSean Jackson deep.