Week 14 Observations

I thought it might be a bad week, and in some ways it was. I’m 7-8 ATS heading into Monday night, lost my best bet (Chargers) got knocked out of the playoffs in one league and am a 2:1-ish favorite to advance in another pending Monday night. My NFFC playoff team with George Kittle and Amari Cooper blew up, but realistically without Kareem Hunt and A.J. Green, that performance is probably wasted. And the one team I had on bye also had Hunt as its first pick. It could have been worse, though.

I imagine some people started Jared Goff (180 yards, 4.1 YPA, four picks, three sacks, no TDs) thinking the Rams offense was match-up-proof, or like me benched the Bears defense (four picks, three sacks, one safety) because the match-up was bad. That’s unfortunate.

Mitchell Trubisky (110 passing yards, 23 rush yards, one TD, three picks, one sack, 3.7 YPA) was equally bad, sailing passes into the DBs’ hands without conscience. The Bears would be a tough out in Chicago, but I can’t see them having enough juice to win in New Orleans if it comes to that.

Todd Gurley (12-for-25, 7-3-30) never got going, and when that happens the Rams are in trouble. Brandin Cooks (7-3-22), Robert Woods (13-7-61) and Josh Reynolds (7-3-36) aren’t enough by themselves.

Jordan Howard (19-for-101) and Tarik Cohen (9-for-69, 4-4-20) are the Bears version of Mark Ingram/Alvin Kamara. Too bad they don’t have Drew Brees. Anyone remember all the preseason Trey Burton hype?

The Cowboys-Eagles was an all-time boring game for three quarters, then exploded in the fourth and overtime. The Eagles simply refused to chance a pass more than a few yards before then. Carson Wentz (7.1 YPA, three TDs, no picks, two sacks, one fumble) played well enough in a tough environment, and the refs robbed him of a long TD to Dallas Goedert (though the Eagles scored on that drive eventually anyway.)

Speaking of which, what a ref show down the stretch in that game. First, they took a beautiful catch and long run for a TD off the board on a beyond-weak offensive PI call, then they advanced the Eagles down the field with a ticky tack roughing the passer penalty. There’s no ideal solution to refereeing in a sport like football where so many plays are judgment calls, but the rule of thumb should be: “Always err on the side of omission, not commission.”

The Eagles are essentially knocked out of the playoff hunt and good riddance. Dak Prescott threw for 455 yards against them (8.4 YPA) and left another 100 or so on the table from missed wide open receivers. Prescott threw for three TDs, but had two picks, lost a fumble and took four sacks.

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Zeke Elliott had 113 yards rushing and a whopping 13-12-79 as a receiver. He’s every bit the PPR weapon that Todd Gurley is now. Amari Cooper (13-10-217-3) has been a monster since the trade to Dallas. He’s been the catalyst for the team’s run and worth every bit of an ever-later first-round pick.

I had the Eagles plus 3.5, so I was annoyed about the way the game ended, especially because the Cowboys didn’t need a TD to win it on the first drive. Had they gotten a first down at the five, they could have run out the clock with three kneel-downs and kicked game-winning field goal without the Eagles ever getting the ball.

I didn’t watch much of the Lions-Cardinals, but every day I’m more thankful the Giants drafted Saquon Barkley rather than trading down to draft Josh Rosen. And I get that Matthew Stafford is playing without Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, but 101 passing yards and 4.4 YPA?

The Raiders win was hilarious, in part because the Steelers held Ben Roethlisberger out of most of the second half and brought him back too late to put the game out of reach and also because the Steelers didn’t use timeouts on defense during the Raiders final drive, which should have cost them the game. Even so, Pittsburgh somehow got a huge play to Juju Smith-Schuster (12-8-130-2) to set up the game-tying field goal, but Chris Boswell slipped and he kicked the ball into the backside his own lineman. What a farce of a game.

Derek Carr (322 yards, 9.5 YPA, two TDs, no picks, four sacks) has actually played better of late, despite having no receivers of which to speak. Contrast his recent play with Stafford’s, and you can see how far the latter has fallen. It looks likely Carr will be the team’s quarterback next year, which I still think is a mistake, but maybe Jon Gruden sees a player who can thrive in his system.

Jared Cook (10-7-116) has been a top five TE, while Jordy Nelson (7-6-48) and Seth Roberts (7-5-76) are Carr’s top two wideout targets.

• Roethlisberger (9.7 YPA, two TDs, no picks, one sack) played great when he was on the field, and given he returned to the game, has to be likely to play against the Patriots next week. The Steelers incidentally are only 7-5-1, and their next two games are against the Pats and at the Saints. They draw the Bengals in Week 17, but 8-7-1 probably doesn’t get there, so they really need to beat New England at home.

Jaylen Samuels had only 28 yards on the ground but went 7-7-64 through the air. Stevan Ridley scored the TD, though.

• How in good conscience could the 49ers have George Kittle (9-7-210-1) sitting on 210 receiving yards in the first half and not have him break the all-time TE yardage mark of 214 set by Shannon Sharpe?

• Nick Mullens (332 yards, 10.1 YPA, two TDs, one pick, three sacks) played another good game, though I doubt he’ll push a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo for a starting job. Dante Pettis (7-3-49-1) was the only receiver other than Kittle who produced, while Jeff Wilson (23-for-90) led the way on the ground.

• Case Keenum (4.4 YPA) took the caretaking too far and seemed to miss Emmanuel Sanders. Tim Patrick (10-7-85) led the way, Courtland Sutton was shut down and Phillip Lindsay struggled for 30 yards and a TD on 14 carries, while going 7-4-21 in the passing game.

I made the Chargers my best bet, and when it was 14-3 in the first quarter felt pretty good about it. But the Bengals got pressure on Philip Rivers (7.6 YPA, one TD, no picks, two sacks) and played solid defense against the run. The Chargers seemed to miss Melvin Gordon whose running and screen-catching skills keep the chains moving, put Rivers in favorable downs and distances and wear down the defense.  The Bengals had the ball for nearly 33 minutes despite trailing virtually the entire game.

Jeff Driskel played decently in a caretaker role (170 yards, 6.3 YPA, no picks, three sacks, 12 rush yards), but Joe Mixon (26-for-111-1, 6-5-27)  was the centerpiece of the offense.

Keenan Allen (9-5-78-1) and Austin Ekeler (15-for-66, 5-2-28) were the only offensive skill players of note for the Chargers, and Ekeler left the game with a stinger, putting his status for Thursday’s game against the Chiefs in doubt. Justin Jackson could be in line for a lot of work should Gordon not make it back.

The Colts ended the Texans nine-game streak of beating average teams with big performances from Andrew Luck (399 yards, 9.7 YPA, two TDs, one picks and two sacks) and T.Y. Hilton (12-9-199.) Eric Ebron (8-4-65-1) scored his 13th TD too.

Deshaun Watson (267 yards, 7.0 YPA, one TD, no picks, five sacks, 35 rushing yards) didn’t do a ton, and an inefficient DeAndre Hopkins (10-4-36-1) scored the TD.

The Giants won 40-16, and the game was not as close as the score. The Redskins won the fourth quarter 16-0 with Kyle Lauletta and Wayne Gallman playing for the Giants. Lauletta failed to complete a pass in five attempts and threw a pick, so he didn’t exactly advance his cause for next year.

Eli Manning (9.0 YPA, three TDs, no picks, two sacks) put up good numbers with Odell Beckham out. He made an especially nice throw on the sideline to Corey Coleman (2-2-43), while Evan Engram (5-3-77) led the team in receiving and Sterling Shepard (6-2-17-1) scored. Manning is dead to rights in the face of any pass rush, and he threw one pass right into the chest of a DB who dropped it, i.e., he’s still Eli. Unfortunately, his cosmetic stats (7.6 YPA, 18 TDs, eight picks) aren’t terrible if you ignore the 43 sacks and elite weapons he has, and I could see the Giants rolling with him for another year if a no-brainer prospect weren’t available where they pick in the draft. Working against Manning is the Giants would save $17 million if they do the right thing and cut him.

Saquon Barkley had 14 carries for 170 yards and a TD and went 5-4-27, mostly in the first half. On his 78-yard TD run, he was separating from the DBs that were chasing him. He’s the best back in the NFL, and the argument between Nos. 2-4 (Elliott, Gurley, Kamara?) should be the more contentious one.

The Redskins are a disaster. Signing Mark Sanchez (2.7 YPA, 38 yards, two picks – one for a TD – and five sacks) to a team even nominally in contention was malpractice. Tape from this game should be Exhibit A in Colin Kaepernick’s lawsuit against the league.

The Saints started slow, but rallied in the second half. Drew Brees (6.5 YPA, one TD, one pick, one fumble and one sack) did not play especially well, but the trio of Mark Ingram (13-52-1), Michael Thomas (13-11-98) and Alvin Kamara (12-for-51, 6-5-36) at least got you something.

Jameis Winston (5.6 YPA, two TDs, one pick – on a last-second Hail Mary – and four sacks) didn’t get it done, especially in the second half. Winston salvaged his fantasy day with 47 rushing yards, though. Mike Evans (6-4-86) led the team, while Cameron Brate (4-2-12-2) scored both receiving TDs. Chris Godwin (10-1-13) led the team in targets, but had little to show for it.

The end of the Dolphins-Pats has been replayed widely enough that I don’t have to describe it in detail. Suffice it to say, it was arguably the most memorable play of its kind since the hook-and-ladder in the 1982 Dolphins-Chargers playoff game which I remember watching live at my grandmother’s house in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ryan Tannehill (265 yards, 13.9 YPA, three TDs, no picks, four sacks, 13 rushing yards) played a clean game, though much of his yardage came on that last miracle play. The Dolphins are somehow 7-6 and in the playoff hunt, but every week the way they score seems almost random. Maybe Adam Gase is designing some next-level schemes, and I’m too obtuse to see the method in it.

Frank Gore (12-for-92 and 24 yards receiving) made the Patriots look old and slow. Gase trolled the Pats with former back Brandon Bolden (2-60-2) while astutely saving Kenyan Drake (6-for-24, 1-55-1) for the last play of the game. Kenny Stills (9-8-135-1) was the No. 1 WR this week, but it could be anyone next week.

Tom Brady (358 yards, 8.3 YPA, three TDs, no picks, two sacks) played well, while the team struggled to run the ball (Sony Michel – 20 for 57 –  and James White – 4 for 13 – with James Develin of course vulturing the TD.) Rob Gronkowski (8-8-107-1), who looked like a centenarian hobbling after a cheetah, as Drake went in for the game-winning score, led the team in receiving while Josh Gordon (8-5-96), Julian Edelman (12-9-86-1) and Cordarrelle Patterson (3-2-51-1) also chipped in.

The Dolphins not only covered the 7.5-point spread, but won outright despite having two punts blocked in the game.

The Ravens had the Chiefs all but beat late in the game when on fourth down Pat Mahomes escaped pressure in the pocket, rolled out and heaved a pass down the field to Tyreek Hill to extend the drive. Mahomes finished with 377 yards (7.1 YPA), two TDs, one pick and three sacks.

Lamar Jackson largely did his job – 147 passing yards, two TDs, no interceptions and 71 rushing yards, but he did lose a fumble and had to leave the game with an ankle injury. Gus Edwards started and ran for 67 yards on 16 carries, but Kenneth Dixon (8-59-1 and 21 yards receiving) is taking on an increasing role.

Spencer Ware (15-for-75) ran effectively and caught five passes for 54 yards, but Damian Williams scored two TDs. Hill (14-8-139) led the way despite leaving twice due to bumps and bruises, and Travis Kelce (9-7-77-1) did his usual damage.

I expected more from Aaron Rodgers post-Mike McCarthy against the Falcons, but he put up a modest 196 yards (6.1 YPA), two TDs, no picks (setting the NFL record) and four sacks. He also scrambled for 44 yards. Davante Adams (11-7-81-1) had his customary output while Randall Cobb (6-5-43-1) made an appearance too. Aaron Jones got loose in the second half and finished with 17 -78-1 and 3-3-28 as a receiver.

The Judge, Ito Smith, out-carried and out-gained Tevin Coleman (11-for-60 vs. 10-for-45), and caught three passes to Coleman’s one. Julio Jones (11-8-106-2) is suddenly up to five TDs on the season after not scoring until Week 9.

Christian McCaffrey (16-63-2, 7-6-38) continues to carry fantasy teams. Cam Newton had another subpar game and is not even seeing goal line carries any more. Curtis Samuel (8-4-80), D.J. Moore (8-5-67), Ian Thomas (11-9-77) and McCaffrey split the bulk of the passing-game production, while Devin Funchess (3-0-0) was an afterthought.

Baker Mayfield had an efficient 238 yards (10.8 YPA), one TD, no picks and one sack. Breshad Perriman, one-time first-round pick who runs a sub-4.3 40 at 212 pounds, led the team with a 2-2-81 line, while Jarvis Landry (4-3-57-1, and 2-54-1 on the ground) also had a big game. Nick Chubb (13-66-1, 6-4-17) has crowded out Duke Johnson.

Josh Allen is doing what we thought Lamar Jackson would do, setting QB rushing records. He added another nine runs Sunday for 109 yards, giving him 335 rushing yards over the last three games. If you’re in a league where you score a point every 25 passing yards and 10 rushing yards, that’s the equivalent of 837 passing yards over that span, not even counting his 597 passing yards. Put differently, that’s like an immobile QB having 1,434 passing yards over three games or 478 passing yards per game. In real life, he threw no TDs and two picks while taking three sacks and losing a fumble. He also rushed for a score.

After big games in Weeks 11 and 13, Zay Jones went 9-3-22, with a couple bad drops. Robert Foster (8-7-104) led the team in receiving. LeSean McCoy left the game with a hamstring injury and Chris Ivory left with a shoulder injury, so Marcus Murphy might be their starter for Week 15.

Sam Darnold played well (7.1 YPA, 170 yards, one TD, one pick and no sacks) against a tough pass defense in a tough environment, after leaving the game temporarily with an aggravated foot. He did a great job escaping the rush and scrambling a long way on his TD pass in particular. There’s still hope in his case.

Isaiah Crowell got hurt early, so Elijah McGuire saw 17 carries for 60 yards and a score. Robby Anderson (7-4-76-1) was the team’s top target and leading receiver.