Week 3 Observations

I’m all for the NFL expanding to Europe, especially because I live there now, so in principle I think the London game is a good idea. I’m not sure why it needs to start so early, though. That creates 12 hours of NFL to watch on a Sunday which is too much even for a lazy person like me. There are only so many positions one can adjust to on the couch before malaise, backache and skin irritation from the fabric creep in. Full disclosure, I now catch the Sunday night game the following morning on rewind, so it’s only nine hours for me. But even that’s too much. They should start the game at 6:00 pm London time, i.e., 1 pm ET, along with the first wave of games.

 There was a lot of hype about the Jaguars defense in my circles after they signed Calais Campbell, A.J. Bouye and Barry Church, but I tend to fade offseason talk as teams and players often mesh or don’t mesh unpredictably. Through three games it looks like the talk might have been justified, something that should benefit Leonard Fournette and even Blake Bortles who can play more conservatively and responsibly as a result.

Speaking of which Bortles did not turn the ball over against a stout Ravens defense, threw only 31 times and for four touchdowns with solid 7.9 YPA. Tight end Marcedes Lewis, who hadn’t caught a pass through two games, scored three times, and Marqise Lee led the team with seven targets and 65 yards. Lee is the Jags’ WR to own, while Lewis was likely a fluke.

No one on the Ravens did anything of note except for maybe Alex Collins who could be the team’s best early-down back. But like last year when Kenneth Dixon and Terrance West were rotated almost at random, it’s not going to be easy to handicap this situation, and Danny Woodhead could be back at some point, too.

The Broncos run defense has been awfully stout the last two weeks, shutting down both Ezekiel Elliott and LeSean McCoy. Tyrod Taylor had a good game, though – 8.2 YPA, two TDs, no picks – but even he couldn’t find room to run.

Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders had another 24 targets between them. Both will always be relevant as long as the passing-game tree remains so narrow. Jamaal Charles outperformed C.J. Anderson this week, but had only nine carries – it remains to be seen what his ceiling is.

Ben Roethlisberger continues to struggle on the road – 6.0 YPA, one TD, four sacks, one fumble against the Bears. He’s an auto-start at home, but I’d use almost anyone over him when he travels.

Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell transcend Roethlisberger’s struggles to an extent (it affects them, but they’re still reliably good), but there’s no point in using anyone else on that team including Martavis Bryant except at Heinz Field.

Jordan Howard had a monster game, and there’s was never much reason to doubt him – as long as he can play through his shoulder injury. The Bears don’t have another early-down back, and Howard has been effective since he got the job, despite his ill-timed Week 1 drop that cost them the game. Howard even caught five passes. Tarik Cohen was also good, but he’s a change-of-pace and not a threat to Howard.

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The Bears receivers and Mike Glennon are unusable. It’s a matter of when not if Mitch Trubisky gets his chance this year.

The Lions got jobbed at the end of the game. On third-and-goal, they threw what was ruled a game-winning TD to Golden Tate, but on review they determined Tate was down inches short of the goal line. There would have been eight seconds left for the Lions to try again on fourth down, but because of the review, the clock had stopped, and before starting it again, it required a 10-second run-off, ending the game. Had the refs simply made the right call initially, the Lions would very likely have run one more play from the three-inch line. This also cheated me out of a cover, incidentally.

Matt Stafford is grossly overpaid. This game was only close because Matt Ryan threw three picks, one of which was taken to the house. Stafford managed only 5.9 YPA, the same as his meager showing last week against the Giants. Golden Tate is the only Lions receiver you can trust.

Julio Jones has a rare medical condition whereby the compounds used in end-zone paint cause him to vomit uncontrollably until he dies. This hasn’t been confirmed, but by application of Occam’s Razor it’s the most likely explanation for why he never ever ever scores a touchdown even though he’s 6-3, 220 and runs a sub 4.4 40.

Devonta Freeman is money in the bank every week.

Matt Prater is the NFC’s Justin Tucker.

Jacoby Brissett isn’t Andrew Luck, but he looks like a competent backup. He also added two rushing TDs.

Frank Gore scored a TD, but managed only 57 yards on 25 carries.

T.Y. Hilton caught seven of nine targets for 153 yards and a TD, showing he needs merely competent QB play, not necessarily Luck, to perform.

So much for the Rashard Higgins era. Kenny Britt was the top wideout, but Duke Johnson led the team in receiving and also had a 19-yard TD run. Johnson will be valuable in PPR all year.

DeShone Kizer isn’t ready to be an NFL starter, but his rushing yards and TDs make him viable in fantasy against weak defenses.

No more “Case closed” or “Cold Case” jokes this week about Case Keenum. (My joke about how if my last name were Case, I’d name my kid Justin, you know just in case, still holds up, however.) Keenum lit up the Bucs, supporting a massive game from Stefon Diggs and a solid one from Adam Thielen. If Sam Bradford misses more time and Keenum has another good couple games, it’s hardly a no-brainer to give Bradford the job back, especially when you consider Keenum’s struggles last year in context (Jeff Fisher was his coach.)

With Keenum proving to be competent, Dalvin Cook’s stock goes back up. He had 169 YFS and a TD.

We shouldn’t hold Mike Evans’ inefficiency – 12 targets, 67 yards – against him too much, given the matchup. But he was inefficient all last year too.

Why draft O.J. Howard that high if you’re only getting him one target. The Giants are complete idiots, and even they get Evan Engram targets.

Jacquizz Rodgers isn’t doing anything to turn Doug Martin into Wally Pipp.

The Patriots defense apparently can only stop Drew Brees in New Orleans. Alex Smith and DeShaun Watson in Foxboro is too much to ask.

Watson spread the ball around to eight different receivers rather than solely throwing to DeAndre Hopkins this week.

D’Onta Foreman caught two passes for 65 yards and had eight carries for 25 more. Lamar Miller was the more effective runner, however.

When Mike Gillislee doesn’t score, he’s worthless.

Brandin Cooks finally got the involvement he deserves, and with the game on the line, no less. I don’t see how the Patriots ignore their most explosive player going forward. Chris Hogan also scored twice, but lacks Cooks’ quickness and breakaway speed.

Tom Brady had another five TDs and 378 yards. A season for the ages might yet be in store.

The Patriots probably should have lost this game, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien did something so moronic, it boggles the mind even to contemplate. Up two points with 2:28 left on the Patriots 18, O’Brien on 4th-and-1 kicked a short field goal to go up five. A one-yard gain effectively ends the game, but O’Brien thought he’d rather take his chances kicking off to Tom Brady and playing defense. While this is not as bad as doing it up three (in that case the field goal doesn’t even beat you), O’Brien gave away a ~60 percent chance to win on one play in order to defend against the TD rather than the FG. Put differently, O’Brien had two ways to win (get the first down, prevent the FG) and traded it for one (prevent the TD.)

For those who argue he trusted his defense, that’s not true. If he trusted his defense, then he’d have known that it was worth giving his offense a chance to win it outright because his defense could prevent the Patriots from driving into field-goal range in the event the fourth-down play failed.  Instead, he didn’t trust his defense to prevent the field goal, so he gave up on winning the game with his offense to give them more leeway, a move that not surprisingly failed against arguably the greatest quarterback of all time.

Maybe the Jets are a garden-variety bad team and not the all-time terrible one we assumed simply because they cut some high-priced veterans before the year.

DeVante Parker finished with a nice 10-8-76-1 line, but most of that came on the team’s final drive in garbage time. His value depends on Jay Cutler and the Dolphins having a credible offense, something I assumed was the case until Sunday. Jay Ajayi is in the same boat. My inclination is to write this off as a one-time anomaly, but Cutler was retired as of six weeks ago.

Josh McCown had a good game, but for whatever reason doesn’t throw to Bilal Powell. I don’t want to take too much time analyzing the Jets because I’m not sure it’ll be predictive. For all I know Elijah McGuire could start going forward.

Are the footballs juiced this year? How else does Jake Elliott (cut by the Bengals) hit a 61-yarder with the game on the line?

The Giants pass defense held up again – after holding Stafford to 5.8 YPA, it held Carson Wentz to 5.7. But the normally stout rush defense got run over by both Wendell Smallwood and LeGarrette Blount.

Eli Manning showed a pulse in the second half, thanks in part to a long catch and run by Sterling Shepard and some artful work on the end-zone sideline by Odell Beckham. But the ball to Shepard was perfectly placed, and Manning got the ball out of his hands more quickly.

Zach Ertz had another 10 targets and a score. With Travis Kelce doing nothing this week, Jimmy Graham off to a slow start and both Jordan Reed and Greg Olsen hurt, Ertz is arguably the No. 2 TE right now.

I was a huge Cam Newton backer this summer, but after a 6.4 YPA showing with three picks and four sacks against the Saints, even I’m worried. Three games is a small enough sample, but Newton’s been terrible, faced easy competition and is coming off an equally disastrous 2016. He’s also missing Greg Olsen and possibly Kelvin Benjamin. Christian McCaffrey was the team’s leading receiver, and Devin Funchess might be its top wideout going forward.

Penny-slot Ron Rivera actually punted on 4th-and-5 from the Saints 35, down 24-6 in the third quarter.

There’s not much to say about the Saints – they did the job, and Drew Brees and Michael Thomas put up the requisite road numbers their ADPs require.

If you want to buy low on Derrick Henry, now’s the time as he played through a thigh bruise, DeMarco Murray is healthier than we thought (hard to have a 75-yard TD run on a bad hamstring) and Mike Mularkey said Murray’s still their starter. I’m not necessarily saying you should, only that if you wanted to, you finally could.

Russell Wilson finally had some time to throw, and he put up a 373 and four line with 26 rushing yards. Doug Baldwin has a groin injury, the severity of which is unclear, but Jimmy Graham got involved, and C.J. Prosise was used as a downfield receiver a couple times.

Joe Mixon is the Bengals’ starter – 18 carries to Jeremy Hill’s and Gio Bernard’s combined 10. While Mixon’s production was nothing special, he passed the eye test, running with quickness and power.

Andy Dalton failed to notice some open receivers and also missed some throws, but he put up much more credible numbers, and John Ross should add another dimension when he comes back. A.J. Green usually produces on the road, and this was no exception.

• Geronimo Allison had a big game, including the 72-yard catch to set up the game-winning chip shot in overtime. He’s not especially fast, but if Randall Cobb remains out, he’s the team’s slot receiver. Jordy Nelson no longer operates downfield, but he catches touchdowns.

Ty Montgomery had 12 targets and eight catches, but only 15 yards receiving.

Kareem Hunt is playing at a different level than the other running backs this year. He’s the No. 1 overall pick right now.

Tyreek Hill scored a long TD on a busted coverage but I’m still not sold on him as a No. 1 WR. Maybe after Week 8 when he has eight TDs, I’ll come around.

Only start Hunter Henry in even weeks. The Chargers don’t throw his way in the odd ones.

Travis Benjamin is suddenly back in the mix – he got eight targets, five catches and 105 receiving yards. With Antonio Gates refusing to go away, Keenan Allen healthy, Tyrell Williams around and first rounder Mike Williams coming back soon, there are a lot of mouths to feed in the Chargers passing game.

What a seismic correction for the Raiders. Derek Carr had just 3.8 YPA, two picks and four sacks, and the team had only 150 total yards, most of which were in garbage time. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree (8 targets, 2 catches, 13 yards between them) were both non-factors.

• Chris Thompson had a huge game, but eight carries and seven targets are probably his ceiling. At 5-8, 191, Thompson doesn’t have the frame for a heavy workload, and he was injured often earlier in his career. The early production has been great, but so was Tevin Coleman’s last year.

Samaje Perine had a chance to establish himself, but he fumbled, and Mack Brown had to finish off the game. Even before the fumble Perine wasn’t doing much 19 carries for 49 yards. Rob Kelley’s job doesn’t appear to be in much danger when his ribs heal.

Josh Doctson made an appearance with a 52-yard TD catch over a smaller DB. He could get more work because Terrelle Pryor (four targets, two catches) isn’t clicking yet with his new team.