Some weeks start badly, and you salvage them in the afternoon and night games. Week 5 was exactly the opposite.
We were 2-0 in the Supercontest with the Bills and Lions taking care of their business and then it was up to the Rams, Raiders and Cowboys in the late and Sunday night games, respectively. The Rams were the sucker side, we knew, but we thought it didn’t matter, and the Raiders, we felt, should have been able to hang on what was essentially a neutral site in Los Angeles. The Cowboys had a nutless coach, we knew, but so did the Texans. It’s probably fitting that game was a push.
One silver lining – because I lost both Le’Veon Bell and Leonard Fournette in one 14-team QB-flex league, and had Jameis Winston on bye, I was forced to start Isaiah Crowell, Robby Anderson and Wendell Largewood. Also, I was on a “camping” trip this weekend, so I missed Andy Behrens’ offer of Quincy Enunwa for the Bears defense. Had I taken it, I would have benched Anderson for Enunwa.
Incidentally, here’s the view from a local winery in the Douro region where we had lunch Friday:
• The Cowboys and Texans both urgently need coaching upgrades. Bill O’Brien actually challenged a Zeke Elliott catch and run that would have given the Cowboys first and goal from the five, won and sent them to second and one from the seven, arguably an even better situation for the offense. Instead of needing five yards to score, the Cowboys had three tries to get one yard (and likely more) to get a fresh set of downs even closer to the goal line. The Cowboys got stuffed on second down, but gained three yards on third.
• Jason Garrett, of course, punted on fourth and short from midfield with a few minutes left in overtime, essentially playing for the tie and granting the Texans a shot at a FG for the win.
• Dak Prescott looked okay, but Elliott led the team with seven targets, and no other receiver saw more than four. There’s never been a less ownable receiving corps in this pass-heavy era. Or a more ownable one from the perspective of opposing cornerbacks.
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• Deshaun Watson looked pretty good, put up 375 passing yards on 8.5 YPA and ran for 40 yards, to boot. He was sacked only once, but took some big hits on running plays, something that doesn’t bode well for his long-term health. His offensive line didn’t look that bad, though.
• DeAndre Hopkins had another 13-9-151 day. He’s the AFC Adam Thielen or more aptly, Thielen is the NFC Hopkins – a guy who does it every week. Tailback Alfred Blue had a big game as a receiver (8-8-73), tight end Ryan Griffin chipped in for 9-6-65 and rookie Keke Coutee (pronounced “QT”, I’m told) went 7-6-51-1, supplanting Will Fuller who caught only two short passes. Blue also had 20 carries in Lamar Miller’s absence, but for only 46 yards.
• The Rams won their game at Seattle by going for it on 4th-and-1 in their own territory rather than punting the ball back to Russell Wilson where a field goal would have beaten them. Sean McVay is the anti-Jason Garrett, and it’s one of the reasons why the Rams are the best team in the NFL. Of course, they didn’t cover because (1) The Seahawks ran roughshod over their defensive line; (2) Marcus Peters isn’t himself; (3) Their kicker missed a PAT; and (4) They lost two of their three receivers (Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp) to concussions. Maybe Seattle would have covered even if those two were healthy, but before even knowing the line (or who they play), I’m taking the Rams against the spread in Week 6.
• It looks like Jared Goff threw two picks, but one was a deflection at the goal line and the other was an end-of-the-half Hail Mary. Otherwise, he got 10.0 YPA in a hostile venue and threw for 321 yards without two of his top receivers for most of the game.
• Robert Woods, the last man standing, predictably had a good game with a 7-5-92 line through the air and 56 yards rushing. Unlike Cooks, Kupp had the courtesy to go 9-6-90-1 before leaving.
• Todd Gurley always produces – 22-77-3 and four catches for 36 yards. He’s like peak Emmitt Smith or LaDainian Tomlinson at this point.
• Russell Wilson was efficient (9.4 YPA) and threw three TDs, but attempted only 21 passes.
• Tyler Lockett went 5-3-98-1, someone named David Moore went 4-3-38-2, while Doug Baldwin caught only one pass for one yard. It seems likely Baldwin is not himself and acting more as a decoy.
• Chris Carson and Mike Davis looked unstoppable, breaking multiple tackles every time they touched the ball. Carson went 19-116 and Davis 12-68-1. Bizarre that the team drafted Rashaad Penny in the first round, only to make him third string.
• I don’t have much to say about the Cardinals-49ers game. Larry Fitzgerald isn’t a big part of the offense any more, Josh Rosen seems competent for a rookie and David Johnson largely has nowhere to go, but at least got some goal-line work (and two scores) this week.
• Matt Breida could be out with a sprained ankle, depleting the 49ers even further. The team’s leading receivers were the tight end (George Kittle, mostly on one play), fullback (Kyle Juszczyk) and the slot receiver (Trent Taylor.) Outside receivers Kendrick Bourne and Pierre Garcon had 80 yards on 19 targets between them. I suppose Alfred Morris could have a big role if Breida misses time.
• Thielen had another 100-yard game, his fifth straight to start the year, a record in the Super Bowl era. Stefon Diggs, also proving to be among the more reliable targets in the league, went 11-10-91.
• Kirk Cousins and Carson Wentz both went over 300 yards, and 8.0 YPA, but the game was a defensive struggle from the start. Zach Ertz, arguably the No. 1 fantasy TE, went 11-10-110-1, and Wendall Largewood had three carries for 27 yards and three catches for 44 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. Alshon Jeffery (2-for-39) had little to show for his eight targets. Jay Ajayi, playing with a broken back, had eight carries for 29 yards and lost a fumble.
• Interestingly, Doug Pederson went for a two-point conversion, down 20-12, in the fourth quarter. It’s the right call because the idea is if you make it, you can win the game with at PAT after your next score, and if you don’t make it, at least you know to go for two should you score again. Basically, you’d have to fail twice (about 30 percent) in order to lose, but if you make the first one (about 45 percent), you win on the next score. Obviously, it’s better to have a 45 percent chance to win, a roughly 30 percent chance to lose and a 25 percent chance at overtime (miss the first, make the second) than simply taking your chances 50/50 in overtime.
• I watched more of the Raiders-Chargers than I care to admit, solely because the Raiders plus 4.5 were a Supercontest pick. At one point, Oakland was down 20-3 with a first-and-goal at the one and an entire quarter remaining. All the Raiders needed to do was score to cut it to 10, watch the Chargers play it safe by punting and backdoor cover 20-17. Of course, instead of handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch, Derek Carr scrambled around in the backfield before throwing an egregious, game- and cover-sealing pick.
It’s one thing for a QB to force the ball 40 yards downfield on 3rd-and-15 and throw an interception. On the spectrum of turnovers that’s essentially as harmless as an incomplete pass and a punt. Carr’s pick was on the opposite end – squandering second and goal from the one and essentially ending the game. It’s dumb that interceptions all count the same in the stat line, whether they’re Goff’s end-of-half Hail Mary or Carr’s season-destroying catastrophe.
• Amari Cooper was once again MIA, and we should probably get used to boom or bust games from him like most cornerback-sensitive wideouts. Martavis Bryant fumbled, but led the team with 91 receiving yards.
• Philip Rivers is still cranking – 12.6 YPA, 339 yards, two TDs, one sack and no picks. It was a clean game against a weak defense.
• Keenan Allen looks healthy again, going 9-8-90, while Tyrell and Mike Williams chipped in modestly with seven targets between them. Melvin Gordon is the poor man’s Gurley, always involved as a rusher and passer and usually productive.
• The Giants game was the worst of all worlds for me. I took the Panthers minus seven, didn’t have the stomach to go against my own team in Survivor (I’m on the Saints tonight, who surely will lose now), and the Giants lost anyway on a 63-yard field goal. In the process, Saquon Barkley might be injured (apparently it’s not serious, but we’ll see), and Eli Manning lived to fight another day despite two egregious picks.
• Manning managed 9.1 YPA and 326 passing yards, but Odell Beckham had to bail him out a few times by snagging high throws. One long TD to Beckham was actually a perfect ball, but more often than not, the receiver has to adjust to make the catch. Rarely does Manning lead the receiver or throw him open, and he’s just lucky to have players like Beckham and Barkley making plays for him.
• Barkley scored twice and went over 100 YFS for the fifth straight game. Only Kareem Hunt last year had more consecutive 100 YFS games to start a career, though Barkley left after scoring the go-ahead TD with an apparent back injury.
• Beckham went 14-8-131-1 and threw a 57-yard TD pass to Barkley. He also let a punt hit him while trying to block that resulted in a Panthers TD. Beckham is still a top-three WR.
• Speaking of awful coaching, why did the Panthers run the ball on 3rd-and-1 with no timeouts at the end of the game? It’s like Ron Rivera’s brain had a first-down-seeking script that malfunctioned and overrode the game-on-the-line mission. They were awfully lucky Graham Gano hit one of the longest field goals of all time.
• Cam Newton is spreading the ball around to his receivers, and with D.J. Moore’s role growing and Curtis Samuel back, it’s hard to handicap. Next week, he might have Greg Olsen back to. Christian McCaffrey is getting plenty of work – 17 carries and six targets. Plus, he finally scored.
• James Conner did his best Le’Veon Bell impression yet with 23 carries for 110 yards and two TDs, plus four catches for 75 more yards. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if and when Bell returns in three weeks.
• Antonio Brown went 13-6-101-1, while Juju Smith-Schuster did little besides catch an early TD.
• Matt Ryan took six sacks and lost a fumble. He was eventually relieved in the blowout by Matt Schaub and was seen heading to the x-ray room after the last sack.
• Devonta Freeman had eight carries in his return, but the Judge (Ito Smith) scored at the goal line. Austin Hooper (12-9-77) and Mohamed Sanu (7-4-73-1) led the team in receiving, while Calvin Ridley (5-4-38) and Julio Jones (9-5-62) were relatively quiet. Jones has yet to score a TD this year.
• Sam Darnold completed only 10 passes, but three were to Robby Anderson for 123 yards and two TDs. Anderson is one of the league’s best deep threats, and it’s nice to see the Jets finally use him. Quincy Enunwa had no catches despite five targets, and Terrelle Pryor caught a 20-yard TD late on his only look.
• Isaiah Crowell annihilated the Broncos, going 15-219-2. Bilal Powell was also productive with 20 carries for 99 yards, though he lost a fumble.
• Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman were both efficient as usual, but game flow limited their work. Devontae Booker caught five of six targets for 59 yards, further cementing himself as the team’s pass-catching back. Case Keenum threw for 377 yards and two TDs, but was only moderately efficient (7.4 YPA), took four sacks and tossed another pick. Demaryius Thomas led the team with a 6-5-105-1 line, while Emmanuel Sanders saw 14 targets for only 72 yards.
• The Jaguars slowed down Patrick Mahomes somewhat, but it’s hard to tell given Blake Bortles four picks and five sacks which put the game out of hand early. Mahomes threw two picks and didn’t throw a TD, but he still had 313 yards, 8.2 YPA and a rushing TD.
• Kareem Hunt had 82 rushing yards and a TD, but only one catch for seven yards. Game flow hasn’t been that conducive to Hunt being a major pass catcher. The Chiefs trio of top targets (Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins) all were modestly productive, splitting Mahomes passing output fairly evenly.
• Bortles threw for a whopping 430 yards in extended garbage time, spreading the ball to six receivers, all of whom got at least 55 yards but none of whom exceeded 76.
• T.J. Yeldon had 122 YFS and a score and could be in for plenty of work with Leonard Fournette still hurt, and backup Corey Grant now out for the year.
• Mason Crosby had a game for the ages, missing four field goals and his only PAT. Mike McCarthy, in perhaps his only shrewd move of the game, got Crosby one last chance in garbage time to restore his confidence. Given that Crosby made the kick, I’d expect him to keep the job, but he’s undoubtedly on the ropes.
• Aaron Rodgers exploded for 442 yards and three TDs and seemed to move well, though he lost two fumbles.
• Devante Adams went 12-9-140-1, which was unsurprising given the injuries to Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb as well as the game flow. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Jimmy Graham saw double-digit targets, with the former scoring the TD, though Graham was targeted at the goal line. Equanimeous St. Brown didn’t let the lack of targets bother him, putting up a 5-3-81 line.
• The running game is still a three-headed monster with McCarthy unwilling to commit to one of them.
• Matthew Stafford had a quiet game, thanks to game flow and two short TDs by LeGarrette Blount. Blount’s and Theo Riddick’s specialized roles greatly limit Kerryon Johnson’s upside, though Johnson led the team with 12 carries for 70 yards.
• Kenny Golladay’s breakout continued with a 9-4-98-1 showing. Golladay had another long TD called back on a hold.
• The Browns throttled Joe Flacco – 5.3 YPA, zero TDs, one pick and two sacks. John Brown and Michael Crabtree saw a lot of targets, but didn’t do much with them.
• Baker Mayfield threw for 342 yards and a TD on 8.0 YPA against a tough defense. He threw one pick and took five sacks, however.
• David Njoku is emerging as a key target for Mayfield along with Jarvis Landry. Rashard Higgins was the most efficient target, putting up a 4-3-66-1 line. Antonio Callaway saw five targets, but for only 22 yards.
• Despite Nick Chubb’s monster game against the Raiders, he saw only three carries for two yards Sunday while Carlos Hyde had 17 for 63.
• The Bengals outscored the Dolphins 24-0 in the fourth quarter, thanks to two defensive TDs to win the game and cover the spread. It was an ugly game all around, though A.J. Green had his usual 10-6-112 and Joe Mixon had 22 carries for 93 yards and three catches for 22 yards and a TD in his return. With Gio Bernard out, Mixon is going to be a major workhorse.
• Kenyan Drake saw only six carries to Frank Gore’s 12, but Drake went 11-7-69-1 as as receiver. No other Dolphins’ pass catcher had more than six targets.
• Marcus Mariota’s road struggles date back to last year, and Sunday in Buffalo was no different – 5.0 YPA, no TDs, two sacks. Josh Allen wasn’t any better, though he ran for a score. LeSean McCoy had 24 carries for 85 yards and caught two passes for 23 more if you want to reach for an offensive bright spot.