Week 13 Observations

It was the first Sunday in nearly 20 years that neither Manning was starting at quarterback. Good riddance to both – I always disliked Peyton and his pitch perfect interview tone, both calculatingly self-deprecating and slyly in on the joke. The embarrassingly sycophantic media slobbering over him only made it worse. Let his great play speak for itself, Joe Buck, no need to act like he’s a genius for snapping the ball while the 12th defender still has one foot on the field.

The media and fans often mocked Eli, sometimes unfairly, and as a Giants fan, I appreciated his strong play during their two title runs. But he should not have been MVP of either Super Bowl, where his defense carried him both times, he’s a stat compiler with pedestrian per-play numbers, he’s been bad for five years running, and the media is lionizing him as though he were Joe Montana or Brett Favre. Eli’s awful play and the Giants lost season warranted a quarterback change, and Ben McAdoo, terrible as he is, made a call that should not have been especially controversial.

If you find yourself thinking Eli, who made more than $200 million during his career so far and has not to my knowledge been cheated out of a paycheck, was entitled to play out the year, irrespective of his performance, the team’s standing or the organization’s determination it wanted to change directions, ask yourself why. What is it about Eli that makes him an exception to the NFL’s largely meritocratic process for determining job status? If it’s that he’s “done so much,” “been there so long,” “been the face of the franchise,” etc., what does that really mean beyond that he did a job for which he was well compensated in dollars, glory and prestige? If you drill down into it, the answer will probably explain why you – and many others – are defending him from the natural (and overdue) consequences of five subpar seasons.

I suspect the idea is Eli is someone important, not some nobody who can just be demoted or fired on a bad coach’s whim. Important people aren’t subject to the meritocratic rules that are in full force for society’s plebes. If Geno Smith has one bad game, run him out of town! If Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler or Tom Savage are bad, we’ll ruthlessly drive them from the league. But if an important person like Eli gets canned, media and fans will rush to his defense. He’s a “made guy.” You can’t just whack a made guy.

It’s the same reason presidents don’t go to jail for starting wars on false pretenses, powerful officials don’t get charged for leaking classified information (when rank and file government employees do prison time for the same mistakes), why bankers don’t get charged with fraud for taking down the entire economy, but petty theft gets punished to the letter of the law. Important people are subject to different rules than the rest of us, and once we decide someone has that special status, it’s almost offensive to see him treated like common rabble. You’d think because most people are commoners they’d be up in arms about this disparity in treatment. And many are quite sick of it. But some have been convinced this state of affairs is not only necessary but actually the correct one, and their response is to aspire to achieve that level of importance and thus be exempt from the usual consequences suffered by ordinary people. As a result, they identify with “important” people even if they themselves would never be treated as such and have only a miniscule chance of ever becoming one.

I don’t think all of this is conscious. The propaganda just seeps into our belief systems over time as we see people above and below a certain divide treated differently, and we gradually internalize it. Which brings me back to Eli. If you can look at his subpar YPA, bad TD to INT ratios, and the team’s low offensive output the last two years and somehow argue at nearly 37 he’s still the team’s best hope for the future, fine. I think it’s a bad argument, but it’s one you can try to make. But if your case – which is what I’m hearing all over Twitter – is that he deserves to be the starter simply because of who he is, then you’re advocating for the NFL to treat him differently because of his status. That’s not just a bad argument, it’s a sign you’ve been had.

• The Seahawks held the Eagles to 10 points, but Carson Wentz still had a good game. While he overthrew a wide-open Nelson Agholor on one play, and also lost a bad fumble at the goal line, he escaped two 3rd-and-13s on the team’s lone TD drive to make brilliant throws on the move. He’s as dangerous as any quarterback in the league.

• I know the Seahawks defense was depleted, but Nelson Agholor was seemingly always open. He had a 12-7-141-1 line, and would have had more had Wentz not missed on that one throw. Alshon Jeffery went 6-4-61, and Zach Ertz had a quiet day before leaving with a concussion.

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• The Eagles carries were again split three ways, and no one was especially effective.

• Russell Wilson played mistake-free against a tough defense, but had a modest 7.3 YPA. He did throw three TDs.

• Jimmy Graham caught his ninth TD since Week 5. The Seahawks force-feed him at that goal line, and there’s no pass catcher more likely to score in a given week. Not Rob Gronkowski, not Antonio Brown, not DeAndre Hopkins. Graham has 12 targets inside the five-yard line this year. Only one other pass catcher (Gronk, seven) has more than five.

• Doug Baldwin led the team with a 7-5-84 line and just missed a TD when his foot touched the chalk a yard before crossing the goal line.

• Running back Mike Davis was a revelation. He ran harder and broke more tackles than Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls have all year, and he’s also an effective receiver.

• Jared Goff had a decent game, but with a defensive TD and four field goals, he didn’t have to do much.

• Todd Gurley led the Rams in rushing and receiving with six catches and 158 yards from scrimmage, but he didn’t score.

• Greg Zuerlein hit four more field goals including a 56-yarder. He’s now made 36 on the year with four games to go, a 48-FG pace. The all time record is David Akers with 44 in 2011. Plus Zuerlein now has six from 50-plus, making this the greatest fantasy kicking season of all time, pending the playoffs.

• With Adrian Peterson out, Kerwynn Williams had 16 carries for 97 yards. He’s probably at least as good as the current version of Peterson.

• Larry Fitzgerald continues to produce with a 10-10-98-1 line. While his biggest play was only 20 yards, he literally caught every ball thrown his way and scored.

• There’s not much I can say about the Saints running backs that hasn’t already been said. Alvin Kamara scored his first TD after taking a shot at the goal line, but calmly bounced off it and leaned into the end zone. At 5-10, 215, he isn’t easy to tackle, and he’s so dangerous as a receiver. The closest comp I can think of is Marshall Faulk. Mark Ingram is an inch shorter, and just as heavy, and he’s running like a modern-day Emmitt Smith. If you’re wondering what two of the greatest fantasy backs of all time would look like playing in the same offense, this is probably it.

• There really isn’t anyone else to discuss in this game. Drew Brees did the caretaker thing as he has all year, Cam Newton played decently and ran for 51 yards, Michael Thomas, Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey did more or less what they do.

• Geno Smith played decently under tough circumstances. Not the lack of receivers – actually Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard are pretty good. And not the opponent – the Raiders defense  – is terrible. No, it was the beyond predictable playcalling by Ben McAdoo/Mike Sullivan/whatever nutless monkey was dialing up runs on 1st-and-10 every series. Even on 2nd-and-1, they tried to run for a first down and got stuffed rather than using play action and taking a shot. Smith made some good throws, was victimized by a drop by Tavarres King and missed a wide open Evan Engram on one play. Smith is mobile, but doesn’t have the instincts of a Wentz or Wilson, so he’s less likely to do more than run hesitantly for a first down. He also lost two fumbles. It was more or less what I would have expected from Eli.

• Evan Engram will be a star. Forget the 8-7-99-1 line – he should have had even more had Smith seen him wide open in the middle of the field. Moreover, he made an Odell Beckham-esque one-handed grab over his head on the full run. Some quarterback and coach next year will have Beckham, Engram and Sterling Shepard who showed some speed and moves on a 47-yard run too.

• Orleans Darkwa is still the starter, and he salvaged an otherwise ugly day with a TD.

• Derek Carr played well without his two top receivers, getting 8.0 YPA and a TD with only one sack and no turnovers. (He threw one ball right into Landon Collins’ arms, but Collins dropped it.)

• Marshawn Lynch is still himself. He broke one long run where he was virtually untouched, but he also ran over and through defenders for some key first downs.

• Cordarrelle Patterson had a good game, catching all four of his targets for 97 yards, but he’ll be back to the pine next week when Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree return.

• Philip Rivers had a very quiet 344 yards passing, with only one TD and 19 total points for his team.

• Keenan Allen had his third straight huge game and has to be, I acknowledge grudgingly, a top-10 receiver at this point. Hunter Henry has also come on the last two weeks and is a top-10 TE. The Chargers have to realize their success depends in large part how heavily those two are involved.

• Josh Gordon had an 11-4-85 line in his debut, and it was impressive considering Casey Hayward was guarding him and several of the targets were uncatchable. He’s a top-20 WR going forward, with major upside.

• DeShone Kizer has played a little better of late, and he’s an intriguing start next week against Green Bay, both because of Gordon and his own running ability. Don’t forget last year’s first-round pick, Corey Coleman, just came back a few weeks ago, rookie tight end David Njoku (6-4-74-1) has made highlight-reel plays a few times this season and Duke Johnson is one of the league’s better pass-catching backs.

• Joe Flacco actually had a credible game – two TDs, 7.5 YPA and 269 passing yards. Mike Wallace had the biggest chunk 8-5-116, while Jeremy Maclin had 8-4-41.

• Alex Collins went 15-for-75 and two TDs, and caught two passes for 23 yards. After going through Kenneth Dixon, Buck Allen, Danny Woodhead and Terrance West, the Ravens have settled on Collins as the clear No. 1.

• Matthew Stafford had a bad first half, but finished with 10.1 YPA and 292 passing yards before hurting his hand in the fourth quarter. X-rays were negative, and there’s a decent chance he’ll play next week at Tampa Bay.

• Marvin Jones and Golden Tate led the team in receiving as usual, with Kenny Golladay getting 44 yards on three targets.

• Theo Riddick started but couldn’t get going and yielded to someone named Tion Green. Green went 11-for-51 and a TD, so I suppose he’s worth a look should Ameer Abdullah miss more time. Riddick himself scored a TD and caught five passes for 41 yards.

• Blake Bortles looked like Steve Young against the Colts with 8.8 YPA, 309 yards, two TDs and no picks. He also rushed for 27 yards.

• Marqise Lee went 10-7-86-1 while Dede Westbrook went 9-6-78. They’re clearly the top two targets on the team.

• Leonard Fournette went 20-for-57 and a score, caught three passes for 22 yards and battled an ankle injury. It appears he’ll play through it, but he doesn’t look especially nimble.

• The Colts are a terrible team, and maybe I was wrong to think Jacoby Brissett had a future as a starter. I realize this was the Jaguars, but he’s been bad for a few weeks now.

• Andy Reid gave away the play calling duties, and it worked. Unfortunately, he neglected to fix the defense.

• Alex Smith lost again, but he’s in no imminent danger of losing his job to Pat Mahomes after putting up 366 passing yards, four TD passes, no picks and 70 rushing yards – largely on people’s benches.

• Travis Kelce had three catches for 90 yards and two TDs in the first quarter, but had only one catch for four yards the rest of the game, thanks in part to my jinx:

• Tyreek Hill, another player I’ve been down on, had a monster game – 9-6-185-2, 119 of which were on two long bombs. I compared Hill, unfairly, to Tavon Austin, but he’s got some DeSean Jackson in him too. He’s still missing the intermediate route running piece you need to be a true No. 1 WR, his blazing speed notwithstanding. Essentially, Hill is missing Keenan Allen’s skill set, and Allen is missing Hill’s. When you have both you’re Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham.

• Kareem Hunt went 9-for-40 on the ground and caught three passes for 23 yards, but wasn’t used much in the second half. For a player to go from being arguably No. 1 overall to irrelevance without being hurt, losing the job or losing key teammates to injury is without precedent in fantasy football. Think back to Week 4, and consider this is what it’s come to:

• Much respect to Marcus Peters for tossing an official’s flag into the stands. We’re all sick of being penalized by arbitrarily applied rules to which we never consented! He tossed that flag for us.

• Matt Forte is back and splitting carries with Bilal Powell and to a lesser extent Elijah McGuire. Good luck reading this one.

• Josh McCown is still playing at a high level in Week 13. He had a monster fantasy day thanks to two rushing TDs.

• It’s amazing Jermaine Kearse and Alex Collins have become so useful to their new teams when their old one is such a perennial powerhouse. Robby Anderson shows up every week. He’s a top-10 receiver.

• Trevor Siemian looked good for a minute in Oakland last week, but he was exposed again in Miami. The Broncos best quarterback is Brock Osweiler, it turns out. Siemian’s devolution took Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas back to the stone age.

• C.J. Anderson, not Devontae Booker, is still the main guy in Denver apparently.

• Kenyan Drake had a big game with 23-120-1 and three catches for 21 more yards. He’s the only game in town until Damian Williams returns, and maybe even after that.

• Jay Cutler wasn’t great, but he didn’t need to be given his opponent. Kenny Stills has supplanted DeVante Parker as the team’s deep threat even with Cutler under center.

• Much respect to Adam Gase for executing an onside kick with the game well in hand. I want teams with my fantasy players on them to score as many points as possible in 60 minutes. If the other team doesn’t like it, it should play defense – or recover the kick. Honestly, I’m still for the idea of the coach having a giant chess king next to him which he can tip at any time and end the game. If you want to tip it, tip it. Otherwise, be prepared for the onside kick.

• I had the Texans plus seven, and I was set until Derrick Henry decided to run for a 75-yard TD rather than just sliding for the game-sealing first-down. But I can’t complain about that too much because, as I just said, I want my fantasy players to score as many points as possible, and that’s what he did (for someone else.)

• Tom Savage actually threw for 365 yards on 7.4 YPA and is now fit to take tea with the Queen of England. It also shows the Titans are not serious contenders, but we knew that already.

• DeAndre Hopkins saw 14 more targets, but had only eight catches for 80 yards. With C.J. Fiedorowicz concussed, Stephen Anderson went 12-5-79-1. Andre Ellington caught five of six targets for 56 yards, limiting Lamar Miller’s upside as an all-purpose back.

• Marcus Mariota’s unspectacular fantasy season continues, though he ran for a TD at least. Henry and DeMarco Murray split carries – 11 apiece – with Murray getting two catches.

• Jamaal Williams might have been a difference-maker in the fantasy players – another 100-yard game and a TD – but Aaron Jones returned for one carry in overtime, the game-winning 20-yard TD. I don’t know what the split will be next week, but I have to imagine Jones will cut into Williams’ workload.

• Brett Hundley had 3.8 YPA against the Bucs. Case closed. (Worked better when Case Keenum was the object of my derision in years past.)

• Jameis Winston played well in his return with 270 yards, two TDs and 8.4 YPA. He did take seven sacks, however.

• Peyton Barber ran for 102 yards in place of Doug Martin, but he’ll probably do no better than split carries when Martin returns.

• Mike Evans bizarrely had only two catches for 33 yards on six targets against a weak pass defense. Cameron Brate had only six targets and two catches also, but both were for TDs.

• Jimmy Garoppolo looks like the real deal. He managed 293 yards and 7.9 YPA against a tough defense on the road, and his one interception was actually taken out of the hands of his receiver. Marquise Goodwin caught all eight of his targets for 99 yards, and Trent Taylor caught all six of his for 92.

• Robbie Gould got revenge on the Bears with five field goals, the entire scoring output of the 49ers and just enough to win the game 15-14.

• The Vikings shut down Matt Ryan (6.0 YPA, zero TDs) in his own building. One week after going 15-12-253-2, Julio Jones had a 6-2-24-0 line. Last year, Jones’ 300-yard game was bracketed by two sub-30 yard games too.

• Devonta Freeman had 12 carries for 74 yards, while Tevin Coleman had eight for 22. Coleman had six targets to Freeman’s two, but their split is more or less back to normal.

• Case Keenum was a solid game manager with two TDs, 229 yards, no picks and 7.6 YPA. Jerick McKinnon and Kyle Rudolph caught the TDs, but Adam Thielen led the team with a modest 51 receiving yards.

• Latavius Murray continues to outperform McKinnon on the ground, but McKinnon had five catches and the TD. Murray had three catches.

• It felt odd laying 8.5 points on the road against a non-doormat, but after an early-season respite the Patriots are back to their auto-covering ways.

• LeSean McCoy ran well, but otherwise, there’s nothing to say about the Bills except that without Tyrod Taylor, this might be a bottom-five team. Apparently, Taylor avoided a serious knee injury.

• Tom Brady didn’t do much, but the Patriots smartly ran it often against a Bills defense that’s far better against the pass than the run. Both Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead had good games.

• Rob Gronkowski was the only pass-catcher of note, and he went 11-9-147, while concussing a defenseless DB after the play was over. He’ll likely get a well-deserved suspension. (For selfish purposes, I hope it’s the one-game variety, harming all the teams that have him in Week 14, but returning him to my one team that has him in Week 15 that’s likely to get a bye, pending tonight’s game.)