Week 9 Observations

What horrible day of football. The afternoon games were so boring until the tail end of Seattle-Washington, I could barely stay focused during the four-hour block. Even the end of the Redskins-Seahawks was drawn out to the point where I lost interest – how long can you make us wait for a likely doomed-to-fail Hail Mary?

• Mercifully I caught the condensed version of the Sunday night game this morning. There were 21 penalties accepted, and it felt like every play had a flag. Either these teams are especially error-prone, the officials were helicopter parenting or the NFL has too many rules. Probably all of the above.

• Jay Cutler looked good. It was a lot of dink and dunk, but he was accurate, didn’t make mistakes and would have had even more yards but for all the flags. It was against a weak defense, though.

• Julius Thomas, DeVante Parker and Jarvis Landry split targets evenly, and while Landry caught a short TD, the other two have more playmaking ability. Parker looked healthy his first game back from an ankle sprain.

• Kenyan Drake ran well and also caught six passes for 35 yards. Damien Williams had six catches for 47 yards, but isn’t as shifty as Drake, though the two split the workload fairly evenly.

• Derek Carr played well enough, but was victimized by some drops. The Raiders always seem to get one big play, this time a 44-yard TD to Johnny Holton. Otherwise, only tight end Jared Cook (eight catches on nine targets for 126 yards) did anything. Amari Cooper had nine targets but only 58 yards, and Michael Crabtree only four targets.

• Marshawn Lynch bulled his way to two TDs, after getting stuffed for most of the first half. He’s more or less still himself, but the Raiders don’t give him huge workloads.

• Adam Gase punted on 4th-and-5 down four with 10:51 left in the fourth quarter from the Raiders 47-yard line. It worked out because the Dolphins forced a punt on the next series (thanks only to some Raiders drops), but what was he thinking? This is the same guy who tried (and succeeded on) a surprise onside kick in the first half. Why try the onside kick with a low chance of success when you won’t go for it when the odds are so much better?

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• Despite the brutality of the watch, I was pretty satisfied with the backdoor push from the Dolphins who were getting three points.

• The Cowboys handled the Chiefs fairly easily, despite an amazing “Hail Mary” pass Tyreek Hill caught in the middle of the field and ran in like he was returning a short punt. Hill had only one other reception (nine yards) and four failed runs. I know he’s been useful for fantasy, but I don’t see him as much more than a Cordarrelle Patterson-type gadget player.

• Alex Smith finally threw an interception on a desperation fourth-down play. The Dallas defender should have let it drop because it was a turnover on downs anyway, and Smith could have remained blemish-free and more likely to challenge Tom Brady’s TD/INT ratio record.

• Kareem Hunt has gotten quieter and quieter as the season has worn on. Andy Reid gave him only nine carries and five targets for 61 total YFS. Travis Kelce had a modest day, too, but scored a short TD.

• Dak Prescott is a top-three fantasy quarterback the rest of the year, his main competition being Brady and Russell Wilson. And if Ezekiel Elliott is finally suspended this week, I’d put Prescott at No. 1.

• Elliott managed only 3.4 YPC, but broke tackles, moved the pile and scored a TD. He wasn’t involved in the passing game, however.

• Dez Bryant got squeezed before leaving the game with an ankle injury. It was Terrance Williams with the big plays (9-for-141), and Cole Beasley with the two short TDs. Bryant had only 73 yards despite receiving a team-high 11 targets. He’s more of a Tier 2, Michael Thomas-type now than what he was five years ago.

• Jay Gruden nearly blew this game by handing to Rob Kelley for the go-ahead score on 1st-and-goal from inside the one-yard line with a minute left. The right play was to sneak it to Kirk Cousins and tell him to aim for the one-inch line and run the clock down to 20 seconds left. The Seahawks had no timeouts, and the Redskins had two. It was surely worth one down to kill any possibility of a game-winning Russell Wilson drive. As it turns out, the Redskins defense held up, but it was a mistake.

• Kirk Cousins looked terrible for much of the game, but made some huge throws under pressure down the stretch. Apparently, producing in Seattle (especially without Earl Thomas) isn’t as hard as it used to be, but Cousins’ performance under duress was impressive. He still needs to target his outside receivers more, though.

• Rob Kelley scored twice, but had 14 carries for 18 yards. He’s not the long-term solution. Chris Thompson had four carries for 20 yards and four catches for 11.

• Vernon Davis led the team in targets (9), catches (6) and yards (72). With Jordan Reed out, he’s a top-12 TE.

• Josh Doctson and Brian Quick made huge catches on the team’s final drive but otherwise weren’t heavily involved. The same was true of Terrelle Pryor minus the huge catches.

• Russell Wilson didn’t play well. He threw two huge (and avoidable) picks and had only 6.6 YPA. But he still had 297 yards, two passing TDs and 77 rushing yards, i.e., the fantasy stats should be there almost every week.

• Eddie Lacy started, but got hurt, and Thomas Rawls filled in and outperformed him, even contributing as a pass catcher. It’s hard to get excited about any Seattle back, but Rawls, pending C.J. Prosise’s possible return, has to be the back to own for now.

• Doug Baldwin went 7-for-108 and a touchdown on 12 targets. Jimmy Graham was the No. 2 with eight targets, five catches, 59 yards and another bad drop. Graham looks healthy, but his focus has been off.

• Blair Walsh missed all three of his field-goal attempts. I’d be shocked if he weren’t cut.

• Adrian Peterson got his career-high in carries with 37. Six weeks ago, you’d have gotten pretty good odds his highest-carry game was ahead of him. Peterson fumbled, something that’s long been an issue for him, but his workload is as safe as can be the rest of the way.

• Carlos Hyde caught nine of 11 targets for 84 yards and had 41 yards rushing on 12 carries before getting ejected for “fighting.” It looked more to me like he got shoved to the ground and didn’t do much else, so I doubt he’ll get suspended a la A.J. Green (see below.)

• So many in my Twitter feed hit the fainting couch after the fights that broke out Sunday (Besides Bengals-Jaguars and 49ers-Cardinals, there was also Saints-Bucs.) Fighting is such a bad look! Think of the children!

Seriously, in a game where players are getting brain damage on virtually every play, and Zach Miller nearly had to have his leg amputated after a hit, you’re worried about players punching each other in the helmet? I like it when players (not on my fantasy team fight.) For one thing, some of them like Andre Johnson a few years ago are good at it, and you wonder whether they should have a go at MMA.

• In my last remaining Survivor pool, I had used up the Seahawks and Eagles, and the Saints were 50 percent owned, so I took the Jaguars. Until the last minute when I heard Leonard Fournette had been scratched, and I switched to the Texans.

• Tom Savage’s play was positively barbarous. Even Bill Walsh would not be able to civilize him. DeAndre Hopkins still got his, though Will Fuller caught only two of eight targets.

• Jacoby Brissett and T.Y. Hilton had big games, thanks in large part to a play where no one touched Hilton down, and he got up and ran for a second long TD.

• D’Onta Foreman had more carries than Lamar Miller, but the latter was far more effective.

• It looks from the stat sheet like the Bengals ran only 37 plays, while the Jaguars ran 78. Is that possible?

• Marqise Lee was the only fantasy player on either side that did anything. I suppose he’s the Jaguars’ No. 1 WR.

• A.J. Green will likely be suspended for his fight with Jalen Ramsey. He’s no Andre Johnson, but this wasn’t bad. Unfortunately, after getting only one catch for six yards, he’ll probably have to sit out a home game against a beatable Titans secondary.

• Julio Jones ostensibly had a good game with 12 targets, six catches and 118 yards. But he dropped an easy long TD catch in the second half. Jones reminds me of Calvin Johnson during his last couple seasons – still good, but not the player he once was.

• Devonta Freeman saw only 11 carries. He’s had 12 or fewer since Week 4.

• Cam Newton completed passes to only three receivers: Devin Funchess, Christian McCaffery and Curtis Samuel. Talk about a narrow tree. Unfortunately, Funchess had 86 yards, and the other two less than 30. The team badly needs Greg Olsen back. Newton ran nine times for 86 yards and a score, though.

• McCaffery had 15 carries to Jonathan Stewart’s 11, and Stewart fumbled twice and managed only 1.9 YPC. Being a respected veteran has its perks, but Stewart has to be on the ropes.

• I went 4-3 ATS on the seven early games, but my losses were on the Broncos, Giants and Buccaneers. Good thing we don’t track margin of victory (or loss.) Apparently, garbage time scoring’s not just for losers.

Unsurprisingly, Brock Osweiler was not the solution to Denver’s quarterback problems. I guess sometimes you have to hit Brock bottom to get the simian off your back. Expect last year’s first-round pick Paxton Lynch to receive an extended audition.

• Carson Wentz was undaunted against the tough Denver secondary, throwing four TDs and no picks, despite missing Zach Ertz. He’s the midseason favorite to win league MVP.

• Alshon Jeffery wasn’t especially efficient (84 yards on 11 targets), but he caught two touchdowns against Aqib Taleb.

Corey Clement led the team with 12 carries and scored twice, but Jay Ajayi stole the show with tough running and a long TD. He’s peak Marshawn Lynch, but unfortunately, LeGarrette Blount (nine carries) is still around as well as Clement. I’d expect Ajayi to lead the committee, but that might be 12-15 carries per week with a risk of Blount vulturing some at the goal line.

• I understand why people expect me to destroy Ben McAdoo every week, given I said things like this last year. But everyone gave him a pass then because the Giants were winning. This year everyone realizes how terrible he is, so there’s nothing for me to add. It’s not simply about not kicking a man when he’s down, but also not belaboring the obvious.

• Last year’s top two QBs prospects are living up to their draft slots. Wentz might be the favorite for MVP, but Jared Goff is a darkhorse. (That’s not to confuse him with “The Dark Horse” who plays running back for the Giants.) Goff had 14.1 YPA, four TDs, no sacks and no picks, as close to a perfect game as one can play.

•  Todd Gurley wasn’t efficient, but he scored twice and caught two passes for 45 yards. It wouldn’t be crazy to draft him No. 1 overall for the rest of the year.

• Robert Woods had two TDs, and Sammy Watkins had a 67-yarder, his only catch of the game.

• Orleans Darkwa had 16 carries for 71 yards, outproducing backup Wayne Gallman who also lost a fumble. The Dark Horse’s feature-back role should not be in jeopardy against the 49ers in Week 10.

• Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram more or less were Eli Manning’s co-No. 1’s with Engram catching the TD. Manning became the seventh QB in NFL history to eclipse 50,000 passing yards, proving beyond any doubt he’s the ultimate compiler. He’ll probably get into the Hall of Fame, though, because of it (the two Super Bowls) and nepotism.

• As each game goes by, I keep thinking: “Maybe the Saints defense is good,” then I start Jameis Winston and Mike Evans in DFS against it. Maybe I should take it more seriously.

• Winston and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick who spelled him after he got hurt, did nothing against the Saints, managing less than 5.0 YPA collectively. Winston could miss some time given he aggravated his AC joint sprain and never looked right from the start.

• Mike Evans did nothing and might have earned a suspension of his own against the Jets. In fact, no Bucs receiver eclipsed 25 yards.

• Doug Martin had eight carries for seven yards and was replaced by Peyton Barber for much of the second half. It’s unclear who will get the work going forward, or whether it’s work from which anyone can conceivably benefit.

• Drew Brees was efficient and accurate, but because of his defense, didn’t have to do that much. He attempted only 27 passes.

• Alvin Kamara had a monster game, scoring twice and catching six passes for 84 yards. He lost a fumble, however, and Mark Ingram had more carries (16 to 10.)

• Michael Thomas had another unexceptional 11-8-65-0 line, while Ted Ginn went 5-4-59 and scored a 36-yard TD.

• Joe Flacco attempted 52 passes and got 5.0 YPA. The dink and dunk philosophy is like a disease. I did appreciate the final drive for the cover, though.

• Jeremy Maclin had a good game, and on the rare occasion he’s completely healthy, he’s their No. 1 WR. Mike Wallace caught a late TD, but otherwise didn’t do much. The Ravens tried to get Breshard Perriman (seven targets) involved but without much success.

• The Titans bottled up Alex Collins and Buck Allen, but Allen had seven catches for 44 yards.

• Marcus Mariota did what he had to against a good defense, but we’re still waiting for a big game. He had only three rushes for six yards.

• Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews led the team in receiving. Eric Decker scored a short TD, but Corey Davis saw five targets and is the better bet going forward. Neither DeMarco Murray nor Derrick Henry did much, other than the short TD Henry scored.