Week 4 Observations

We took a train back from Porto in the early afternoon, arriving home just before the London game kicked off. I made the call to skip it live and go to the Austrian kiosk in our hood that sells bratwurst, homemade sauerkraut and potato salad. Unfortunately, the world-class gelato place across the street from it had a line out the door, so we settled for the French ice cream place with the fake whipped cream on the way home. Big mistake. But getting food at the expense of the first three-quarters of the London game was the right call.
• I woke up and saw the Seahawks blew out the Colts and easily covered the 13-point spread. Or so I thought until I watched it. The Colts would have been ahead but for a pick-six until nearly the end of the third quarter. A fumble TD, and a couple big plays later, and the Seahawks ran away with it.

• With Chris Carson hurt, it looks like Eddie Lacy, who ran well late against a tired Colts defense, might be the man in Seattle yet. But C.J. Prosise missed the game, and J.D. McKissic, a small, quick back recently added to the roster, had a long TD catch (where he split two defenders to get the ball) and a long TD run. My money’s on Lacy if Carson is seriously hurt. Thomas Rawls was a healthy scratch.

• You can’t read much into an Andrew Luck-less Colts performance in Seattle. Just be glad other people watched it for you.

• It’s odd Denver’s run defense has been even better than its pass defense so far this year.

• Virtually no one did anything of note in the Denver-Oakland game except maybe C.J. Anderson who had 20 carries for 95 and four catches. Derek Carr got hurt, but apparently it was only back spasms.

• Paul Perkins got banged up, and the Giants found modest success (3.8 YPC, but relatively speaking it was huge) with rookie Wayne Gallman. He might well keep the job all year.

• Odell Beckham got hurt a couple times during the game, jamming a finger and tweaking his ankle, but he returned both times and led the team with 15 targets and seven catches.

• Evan Engram is tied with Rob Gronkowski for second in the NFL among tight ends with 30 targets. Engram’s averaging 6.7 YPT, Gronk 10.6.

• It’s well known I think Ben McAdoo is a moron, but despite the 0-4 start, he’s actually coached better this year than last. His play design on the Eli Manning TD pass to Rhett Ellison was excellent, and he hasn’t been afraid to go on fourth down this year. Why he ran Shane Vereen into the teeth of the defense on a short-yardage play is beyond me, however, and he’s still way too predictable with 1st-and-10 runs. I’d still like to see him replaced.

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• The Giants simply refuse to cover the tight end. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate had big plays, and the team has now yielded touchdowns to five tight ends in four games.

• Jacquizz Rodgers had a solid game. It’ll be interesting to see whether Doug Martin displaces him right away when he returns Thursday night.

• The Chargers simply don’t have a home right now, and it can’t be good for morale. The tiny 27,000-seat venue in which they play isn’t even full, and Los Angeles, one of the worst sports towns in the country, is barely adjusted to having one NFL franchise again, let alone two.

• Keenan Allen is a good receiver, but he’s not red-zone target, and he lacks breakaway speed to score from deep. Even after getting behind the defense for a 50-yard catch Sunday, he was caught from behind. On the bright side, he has 40 targets through four games, something that’s sustainable should he remain healthy.

 Tyrell Williams had a big game, but it was largely due to one 75-yard TD catch. He had only six targets, a 96-target pace, which sounds about right. He’ll be hard to time week to week, but if you leave him in all year, the stats will probably be there a la DeSean Jackson.

• Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley switched back to their original identities again.

• Wendell Smallwood seems to have taken over as the team’s pass-catching back from Darren Sproles. He also had 10 carries, though LeGarrette Blount had 16 and Corey Clement had 10 also.

• Zach Ertz is automatic this year – No. 2 TE on my board after Rob Gronkowski and ahead of Travis Kelce who has to deal with the whims of Andy Reid and Alex Smith.

• The 49ers passing game is a wasteland. Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Pierre Garcon, George Kittle – it’s hard for anyone other than Marquise Goodwin, who got concussed early on, to make more than a short catch.

• Carson Palmer should have a lot of volume with David Johnson out, and that pays the bills even if it’s not aesthetically pleasing. Jaron Brown saw 12 more targets and is emerging as the team’s primary non dink and dunk (Larry Fitzgerald) receiver. John Brown saw seven targets, a couple of them deep shots, so if he can get over the quad injury, he might be relevant yet.

• Andre Ellington had 14 targets, and is easily the team’s back to own, though he did have a couple drops.

• Marcus Mariota would have had a huge day but for his hamstring injury because he already had two rushing TDs, and would have had extended garbage time. Matt Cassel is basically the average man off the street right now.

• DeShaun Watson, like Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott, just seems to be born ready. Usually, you expect some struggles from rookie QBs, but some put on the pads and are good to go.

• DeAndre Hopkins is a lock to be top-three in targets, and now that he has a competent passer, he’s again a top-seven WR.

• How bad is the Ravens’ offense? I saw parts of this game on the red-zone channel, and every three minutes, the Steelers had the ball again. Why would they draft Breshard Perriman in the first round and never even make the effort to find out if he can play?

• I suppose Alex Collins is the Ravens back to own, but Javorius Allen is still the pass catcher in the backfield, and there won’t be a ton of red-zone chances. This offense is dragging down even Justin Tucker.

• Never use Ben Roethlisberger on the road. He wasn’t even terrible Sunday, but the production as always was modest at best. Le’Veon Bell, on the other hand, is less venue-sensitive. He had 35 carries and six targets.

• The Jets running game tore up Jacksonville’s vaunted defense, but a lot of it was on two plays (one of which the defense thought Bilal Powell was touched down and let him run by himself to the end zone) and the other a 69-yard run by Elijah McGuire. Take those away, and the Jets had 112 yards on 29 carries. Obviously, every carry counts for all teams’ totals, but it wasn’t as dominant as it looks on paper.

• McGuire should get more run even after Matt Forte comes back, but I could see the Jets waiting until later in the year because they’re the Jets.

• Leonard Fournette is the Todd Gurley of the Jaguars. They lean on him for everything, and as long as he holds up, he’s in for a big year, efficiency be damned.

• Marqise Lee was quiet, though in fairness Blake Bortles had just 4.0 YPA. Bortles did dish out a nice hit on a DB who tried to tackle him on a run, though.

• The Patriots played defense in only one game this year, on the road against the Saints oddly enough. Otherwise, they made Alex Smith look like Dan Marino, launched DeShaun Watson’s career, and single-handedly fixed Cam Newton.

• The Panthers defense might be legitimately good. It held Tom Brady to 6.8 YPA at his home stadium in a shootout.

• Newton was a great buy-low last week because the sample of his fantasy greatness was far bigger than that of his slump, and he’s still in his physical prime. Too late now after a massive game, both in total output and efficiency. And he also ran for 44 yards and a score.

• Devin Funchess (two TDs) and Kelvin Benjamin (104 yards) were both relevant in the same game, albeit without Greg Olsen, but Christian McCaffrey (six carries, four catches) had a smaller role. I’m not sure whether that was the New England defense keying on him, or the Panthers realizing that Newton needs to throw downfield more and scramble to be successful.

• The New England offense is an awful lot of dink and dunk. James White had 10 more catches, and Danny Amendola had six.

• Mike Gillislee needs to score to have any relevance whatsoever.

• Maybe the Vikings miss Sam Bradford after all, though in fairness, as Scott Pianowski pointed out before the game, the Lions defense has been better this year. Losing Dalvin Cook for the year won’t help the Vikings, either. I imagine Jerick McKinnon is the player to get, though Latavius Murray could see most of the goal-line work,

• Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen manage to get theirs even when the overall output is low. Thielen looked like he was hurt late in the game.

• I was out on Ameer Abdullah this draft season because of Theo Riddick’s presence and a possible lack of goal-line work, but he looked good against a stout Vikings defense, breaking and eluding tackles for extra yards.

• Todd Gurley is becoming a workhorse almost on the scale of Le’Veon Bell/healthy David Johnson. He had 23 carries and seven catches, and was efficient on both fronts. He’s a top-five overall player right now.

• Jared Goff played okay, but it’s odd he’s not even targeting Sammy Watkins.

• Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t been as efficient as last year, but his involvement in the passing game is making up for it.

• It took the coordinator change and a matchup against the Browns, but the Andy Dalton I expected to see this year is finally back. And Tyler Eifert’s and ninth overall pick John Ross haven’t been hurt.

• The Bengals simply cannot run the ball, no matter how they set up their committee. Gio Bernard and Joe Mixon are factors in the passing game at least. Jeremy Hill should already have been dropped.

• Duke Johnson might be the only Browns offensive skill player worth having at this point. Isaiah Crowell is an average back on a well below-average offense.

• With Julio Jones and Mohammed Sanu out, Tevin Coleman had a huge role, and Austin Hooper finally got some looks. The Falcons would be smart to make heavier use of both going forward even when Jones and Sanu return.

• Charles Clay is far and away the Bills No. 1 receiver, especially now that Jordan Matthews is out for a month.

• While teams like the Cowboys and Rams are leaning ever more heavily on their primary backs, the Bills are easing up on LeSean McCoy for some reason. McCoy still had 20 carries and three targets, but they’re not running him into the ground.

• I watched only the last quarter of the Saturday game, and I don’t have much to say about it. The Dolphins haven’t had a home game yet because Week 1 was postponed by the hurricane, Week 2 was in Los Angeles, Week 3 in NY and Week 4 in London. All while trying to integrate a QB who missed most of training camp while being retired. I tend to think they’ll come around. Then again, Jay Cutler – who looked incredibly relaxed for someone getting shut out and strip-sacked – could be done.

• Alvin Kamara had a big game, and with Mark Ingram healthy and playing well, there’s just no role for Adrian Peterson.

• Michael Thomas will have a fine season, but he’s more peak Anquan Boldin than a bona fide superstar in my opinion. He’s too slow.