Film Review: Better Late Than Never

Film Review: Better Late Than Never

This article is part of our Film Review series.

Jacksonville vs. Cincinnati

So someone finally convinced Marvin Lewis to stop the silliness with Jeremy Hill, but only on the condition that he be able to make John Ross a healthy scratch in exchange. This guy won't be coaching Cincinnati next year and his conduct in the meantime is so foolish that it's difficult to not wonder about his intentions. Is Ross the second-best wide receiver on the Bengals? He is. If ownership doesn't intervene on this then it means the parents aren't home. Bill Lazor may be an improvement over Kenneth Zampese, but that he called a quarterback draw on 3rd-and-four from the Cincinnati 48 was a disturbing thing to see. This house needs cleaning.

If Joe Mixon can't average three yards per carry against the Jaguars run defense, his odds of getting to 3.5 YPC before the end of the year is basically zero. His rookie season rushing average will be one of the worst we'll see, and prohibitively bad for historical comparisons, but it still looks like a largely non-applicable sample due to the poor blocking. There really aren't many plays where you see any missed opportunity on the part of Mixon. It's no solace to his fantasy owners for this year, but I'd be sending out bids in dynasty leagues.

This is apparently a hot take, but I don't think A.J. Green did anything wrong. That's in part because I'm generously reading Green's character, but I think the late shove alone made Jalen Ramsey fair

Jacksonville vs. Cincinnati

So someone finally convinced Marvin Lewis to stop the silliness with Jeremy Hill, but only on the condition that he be able to make John Ross a healthy scratch in exchange. This guy won't be coaching Cincinnati next year and his conduct in the meantime is so foolish that it's difficult to not wonder about his intentions. Is Ross the second-best wide receiver on the Bengals? He is. If ownership doesn't intervene on this then it means the parents aren't home. Bill Lazor may be an improvement over Kenneth Zampese, but that he called a quarterback draw on 3rd-and-four from the Cincinnati 48 was a disturbing thing to see. This house needs cleaning.

If Joe Mixon can't average three yards per carry against the Jaguars run defense, his odds of getting to 3.5 YPC before the end of the year is basically zero. His rookie season rushing average will be one of the worst we'll see, and prohibitively bad for historical comparisons, but it still looks like a largely non-applicable sample due to the poor blocking. There really aren't many plays where you see any missed opportunity on the part of Mixon. It's no solace to his fantasy owners for this year, but I'd be sending out bids in dynasty leagues.

This is apparently a hot take, but I don't think A.J. Green did anything wrong. That's in part because I'm generously reading Green's character, but I think the late shove alone made Jalen Ramsey fair game for an attack. Besides, it's not like Green was crushing his windpipe or anything. It was more of a sleeper hold.

I understand the general sense of excitement surrounding the imminent activation of Dede Westbrook from IR, but I don't understand why many in the fantasy community expect him to be a mainstream fantasy option upon activation. Blake Bortles is throwing fewer than 30 passes per game, and the trio of Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns, and Keelan Cole has 38 targets over the last two weeks. If those three are taking up two thirds of the targets right now, is the presumption that Westbrook will get some substantial share of the remaining third – which is to say, ten remaining targets? The running backs are going to get a couple of those. Marcedes Lewis, too. I can see Westbrook getting four-to-five targets per game, but not more than that. Then there's the matter of people overestimating his prospect grade, but maybe we'll get into that if I'm wrong about the target volume.

Philadelphia vs. Denver

There's a pretty strong chance that Doug Pederson is the best coach in the league right now. Yes, even over Belichick. The level of innovation in the Philadelphia offense is of a scale similar to Chip Kelly's arrival, and I don't know how you try to game plan or scheme for this team. Not only did the Eagles butcher a tough Denver defense, but they did it with an approach uniquely tailored to the matchup. There was no way for the Broncos to see it coming.

I have no doubt that Trey Burton would be a star fantasy tight end if he were starting for some team. He's a bit lighter than Jordan Reed, but probably an even more skilled open-field runner. Like Reed, Burton had his running skills sharpened by playing quarterback at times at Florida. Zach Ertz should be fine after the bye, though.

It was great to see Alshon Jeffery break out, even if it took some creative playcalling to get him open. A strong finish was almost certainly in store for Jeffery all along, but a big game against the Denver corners is its own category of momentum. He should have a big game against Dallas after the bye, and he might be a league-winner in the fantasy playoffs when he faces off with the Rams, Giants, and Raiders. There should be room for Nelson Agholor to make a nice impact along the same stretch, but after seeing four targets Sunday he's seen fewer than six targets in all but two games this year.

Impressive as the showing was for the Philadelphia rushing attack, Denver was too stunned and then resigned for the production of Jay Ajayi to be taken for a sign of things to come. Ajayi's per-play effectiveness will certainly benefit from the move to Philadelphia, but the more important takeaway is how he saw eight carries and LeGarrette Blount nine. You would expect Ajayi to take the lead there soon enough, but a weekly cap of around 12 carries might be the new reality for Ajayi. Corey Clement has been rotating with the first-team offense pretty consistently since he was called up from the practice squad, but it's still hard to see him providing predictable mainstream fantasy value with Ajayi and Blount around. His five touchdowns on 51 touches isn't sustainable, and outside of this blowout and the prior week's matchup with the helpless 49ers, Clement hasn't actually been productive on a per-play basis. I certainly think Philadelphia would be better off featuring Wendell Smallwood to whatever extent RB3 snaps are available.

Even though Brock Osweiler should have been intercepted on the drive, Denver's first possession might have been its high point of the day. If only there were a better quarterback available for signing. The good news for Demaryius Thomas is that Osweiler appears incapable of tanking him – Thomas has six touchdowns in eight career starts with Osweiler. It appears that Devontae Booker is ahead of Jamaal Charles on the depth chart now, and he may be mounting a threat to C.J. Anderson's starting workload.

New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay

Are Jameis Winston's struggles attributable to the lingering shoulder issue that knocked him out of this game and at least the next two weeks? It's a fairly urgent question for the Buccaneers, because there are some pretty big red flags on the horizon if not. If his insane pre-game speech didn't alarm you, you must be some kind of sociopath. DeSean Jackson didn't have any numbers to show for it, but he's still so tough to cover. He drew a defensive pass interference call in the first quarter. I like his chances for a big game against the Jets with Mike Evans suspended.

Doug Martin's goose egg was one of the most inexplicable developments of the weekend. It logistically seems difficult to pull off, but Dirk Koetter combined a flat offense with the objectively silly decision to pull Martin's snaps for Peyton Barber in a game that was still competitive. If Koetter's response to Martin's poor production was to consider Barber a plausible improvement, it's open-and-shut proof that he has zero ability to evaluate talent. It's time for Koetter to go. I guess that's been the case for a while.

It's difficult to resist hyperbole with Alvin Kamara, in the few instances where hyperbole is even possible. I thought he'd be a Charlie Garner sort of player before the draft, but even Garner didn't really get going until he left Philadelphia for San Francisco in his sixth season. Kamara is already one of the best running backs in the NFL, and it's not difficult to argue that he's the player the Panthers wish they got when they took Christian McCaffrey eighth overall. Kamara is getting a lot of the routes that used to go to Willie Snead, and as long as Snead stays back, Kamara should continue to post a uniquely high YPT for a running back.

I viewed Michael Thomas as a somewhat limited possession target prior to his draft, and then sheepishly retracted that assessment after a rookie season where he posted an explosive yards-per-target average in what was one of the most impressive rookie receiver seasons of recent memory. However, rather than the 9.4 YPT, there was more insight in his yards-per-catch average of 12.4. Thomas' YPT was explosive not because he played with much explosiveness, but rather because he caught such an absurdly high percentage of his targets (76 percent). So, it appears that Thomas is more of a Keyshawn Johnson than a Marques Colston.

If that's true, then pairing him with the giraffe-like Brandon Coleman in three-receiver sets leaves the Saints void of explosiveness outside of Ted Ginn, whose target volume is modest. Kamara's contributions as a pass catcher have masked the fact so far, but the Saints really need to get Coleman out of the lineup and Willie Snead back into it, or Drew Brees is going to hit some dead-end efforts when Kamara can't provide the heroics.

Giants vs. Rams

As is often the case, the fail was strong with the Giants in this one. Despite solid running from Orleans Darkwa, the Giants managed to sputter when they weren't occasionally stumbling into big plays. Darkwa has been convincing, though, and you have to like him against the 49ers this week after taking 16 carries for 71 yards. Wayne Gallman also ran well, but a lost fumble strengthened the case for Darkwa.

Tavarres King got the touchdown, but Sterling Shepard is the clear WR1 at this point, and Roger Lewis also played more snaps than King. King has a legitimate downfield skill set, but he otherwise lacks a breadth of skills and probably isn't a good bet to take the second wide receiver role at Lewis' expense. It's anyone's guess how much any of these three can do with Eli Manning averaging 6.1 yards per pass, but Shepard's target volume should stay stable, at least.

Actually, Evan Engram is the WR1 in this Giants offense. He's on pace for 824 yards and eight touchdowns, yet his heightened pace from the past month makes 1,000 and ten look more likely. In his last three games, the super athletic tight end has 212 yards and three touchdowns on 29 targets.

Tyler Higbee didn't do anything noteworthy on his touchdown reception – the Giants are just profoundly unable to cover the middle of the field. Higbee has promising prospect traits, but it may be time for the Rams did give more snaps and targets to Gerald Everett, who broke another long reception for 44 yards, giving him 198 yards on 15 targets. The Rams also gave him a red-zone carry that was negated by a hold.

It was interesting to see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie playing outside corner instead of nickel – perhaps we can expect this again if Janoris Jenkins should miss any more time. But that DRC was playing outside instead of the slot means that Cooper Kupp wasn't able to produce despite a good matchup. Kupp dropped a third-down touchdown pass on the first play of the second quarter. It was a tough play, but one a supposed sure-handed target should make. Kupp has a great sense of coverages and is generally promising, but drops have been an issue for him of late. Even if Sammy Watkins was seeing a good amount of DRC, it remains ridiculous that he isn't targeted more. He saw just two targets but is averaging 10.7 yards per target. Unless Sean McVay is playing some (very) long game where he pulls out a Watkins-heavy game plan close to the playoffs, the Rams are clearly content to use Watkins as a decoy to open opportunities for Kupp and Robert Woods.

Carolina vs. Atlanta

Even though it didn't work, the fact that Atlanta threw it deep to Julio Jones on its first drive set the tone for what was an improved offensive showing, and a flickering of the identity this offense had lost. Downfield strikes to Julio were the defining trait of last year's brilliant Atlanta offense, and establishing a credible downfield threat makes the field bigger for you as an offense. It clearly helped Matt Ryan get into a rhythm, too. They get a formidable draw against an underrated Dallas pass defense this week, but if the Falcons offense continues to find itself, matchups should become less relevant. Consider: despite catching six passes for 118 yards, Jones missed out on probably 110 yards and two touchdowns between three other just missed targets, including Jones' regrettable and memorable dropped touchdown target. Ryan's interception didn't appear to be a great throw either way, but Austin Hooper fell down as the target.

Devonta Freeman looked great, especially considering the opponent. If his workload goes back up, he should stand to reap major benefits if the Atlanta offense otherwise persists in its improvement. So would the formidable Tevin Coleman, but there's no reason to think this doesn't remain a 65/35 sort of split.

I'm not sure if the smallness of the Atlanta linebackers emboldened the rushing play calls for Cam Newton, but Newton was a monster on the ground in this one. Devin Funchess may be a bit raw in the meantime, but the 23-year-old will project as an eventually sufficient WR1 if he carries on his current trajectory. He showed real playmaking ability in this one, and getting the speed of Curtis Samuel opposite him really does open up new angles for this offense. Samuel was clearly the second wide receiver ahead of Russell Shepard.

Jonathan Stewart continued to make a strong case against himself, losing two fumbles and doing little otherwise. He has some anchor strength and balance, but his qualities end there. Christian McCaffrey had a breakout game as a runner, but his usage remained unconventional and gimmicky. If he becomes an effective pure runner, I doubt it's this year. Carolina's run blocking has been among the worst in the league.

Seattle vs. Washington

Kirk Cousins should have been intercepted on a first quarter pass to the right sideline, but Kam Chancellor for some reason opted to attempt a volleyball set rather than catch a floating tipped ball. Cousins wouldn't rattle despite taking a safety on the next drive and opening the drive after that with another sack. Terrelle Pryor drew an end zone pass interference call in the second quarter to set up the first of two Rob Kelley touchdowns. Pryor is Washington's best receiver regardless of whether Jay Gruden can tell. Although, Josh Doctson is a considerable talent in his own right, and he's the one with the usage right now, making him the easy fantasy pick between the two.

The opening of this game is a great anecdote to remind that, even among the less dumb coaches in the NFL, most NFL head coaches are guilty of poor judgment at the very least, and perhaps just aren't very smart otherwise. Rob Kelley has 4.7 speed to begin with, and entered this game questionable with an ankle issue. Why, then, would you put him back to return the opening kickoff? Did Gruden think that it would be the football equivalent of a changeup pitch, with the Seattle special teams prematurely attempting tackles, allowing Kelley to run 94 yards untouched?

Anyway, Kelley's production in this game was of course entirely dependent on game flow and field position. Fire him up whatever week you anticipate Washington having a half dozen carries to dole out with goal to go. It looked like Cousins had a low handoff, but Samaje Perine didn't help himself by being involved with a dropped handoff that Seattle recovered on Washington's second drive.

A dropped snap on first down and a questionable holding call on a third-down converting Russell Wilson scramble tanked Seattle's first drive. A first-quarter target to Tyler Lockett on Seattle's third drive would have been a pass interference call on anyone not named Josh Norman. Wilson narrowly missed Lockett on an end zone target later that drive, with the ball sailing out of bounds despite Lockett reeling it in. I still think Lockett is the wideout to target after Doug Baldwin, though Paul Richardson was more efficient with his targets in this one.

Kendall Fuller pretty clearly should have been called for pass interference on his interception. He 'made a play on the ball' but had to hit Doug Baldwin and knock him backward while the ball was in the air to do it. Fuller is very good, though.

Thomas Rawls ran hard after Eddie Lacy's injury, but by now we should know he's dependent on good blocking and can't create much himself. I still think C.J. Prosise is a great lottery ticket pickup at running back.

San Francisco vs. Arizona

Perhaps I was unfair to Drew Stanton. I kind of doubt it, but in this game at least he was okay. His long completion to John Brown in the first quarter was perfectly done. He missed Larry Fitzgerald later in the drive on what wasn't an easy throw, but probably should have been a touchdown in the red zone. Jaron Brown's touchdown reception later in the quarter was a fluky broken play – there's no insight to take from it.

Adrian Peterson doesn't have much speed or lateral quickness left, but his burst remains strong and he's running berserk. As long as Arizona is competitive in games, he should be in position to grind through a defense with good volume. You can tell he's still mad about the decline in his reputation over the last few years.

There's no shame in it, but C.J. Beathard is just a Trent Edwards type. The sum isn't as great as his parts, which despite a strong arm and above average mobility are undermined by poor field instincts and shaky accuracy. This offense could use Jimmy Garoppolo, and I don't even think Garoppolo is that good.

Marquise Goodwin really is incredibly fast – Patrick Peterson (4.38-second 40) had a two-yard head start after picking up Kyle Juszczyk's first-quarter fumble, but Goodwin closed the gap quickly once Peterson took to the open field. He's a player to target in trades, I think – I expect Jimmy Garoppolo to make a top-35 fantasy wideout out of him for however many games he starts. I also have some enduring optimism for Trent Taylor when Garoppolo takes over, though not so much that I'd add him now outside of 14-team leagues.

As he has pretty much every time I've seen him going back to last year, Carlos Hyde looked good in this one. I bet he shreds the Giants this week.

Dallas vs. Kansas City

It might be time to consider the possibility that the Dallas defense is actually good. People are finally noticing David Irving, who might be behind only J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald among interior linemen, and then Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence provide strong play at the end spots. Sean Lee and Byron Jones are top players at their respective positions, and the Cowboys corners are otherwise allowing just 7.2 yards per target to wide receivers.

With that in mind, I continue to see little correlation between the quality of Kareem Hunt's running and his fantasy output. Anecdotal anomalies are the best explanation for his disappointing numbers in the past month, I think. Even with this disappointing stretch, he's still on a remarkable pace of 1,600 yards and eight touchdowns rushing to go with 64 catches for 662 yards and four receiving touchdowns. He's going to light up the Giants after the bye.

Tyreek Hill saved his otherwise sparse production with his remarkable hail mary touchdown, but he had a good shot at another one in the first quarter, when he lost track of an Alex Smith deep ball. He also drew a defensive pass interference in the third quarter. Travis Kelce is so good that it's probably fair to question whether there's a meaningful distinction between him and Rob Gronkowski at this point, even when equalizing for health. That he was outproduced by De'Anthony Thomas is a compelling reminder that Demarcus Robinson is not particularly good.

You couldn't tell by looking at the box score, but this wasn't an easy game for Dak Prescott, who made a few more risky throws than usual while dealing with an effective Kansas City pass rush. He had to break a tackle attempt from the imposing Allen Bailey while escaping the pocket to secure his rushing touchdown in the second quarter. There's no need to chase Terrance Williams' production in this one – his numbers were from a combination of scripted plays and busted coverage. He didn't create anything. It was a disappointing game for Dez Bryant, who couldn't capitalize against a weak Chiefs corner rotation and left the game injured to boot. He dropped what would have been a third down catch in the second quarter after catching linebacker coverage out of the slot. Brice Butler didn't help his case for more snaps by dropping a third-down target in the slot in the second quarter.

Ezekiel Elliott was, as almost always, automatic for the most part. The Chiefs don't give up receiving yardage to backs, and they were gunning for him in the run game, but he can usually grind out a nice total even if the big plays aren't there.

Miami vs. Oakland

Victory aside, Derek Carr's limitations as a downfield passer held back Oakland in this one, a matchup where Miami's corners netted better results than their actual effectiveness should normally dictate. On a first quarter first-down completion to Jared Cook, it looked like Carr may have missed the opportunity to hit a separated Amari Cooper on an out-and-up on the same side of the field. What an above average quarterback could have turned into a 38-yard touchdown was instead a 13-yard first down. Oakland would kick a field goal on the drive. Cooper still looks good to me, but Carr couldn't get the ball to him in this one. Cooper did drop what looked like about a 16-yard catch in the fourth quarter, though, which resulted in Oakland punting from their own end zone. Michael Crabtree is definitely the more reliable player. He drew an end zone pass interference call in the fourth quarter.

Cook continued to play very well. He finally seems to have a role that truly suits him, playing a healthy number of snaps as a wide receiver rather than an in-line route runner. The drops will always resurface eventually, but in the broader view he has good upside as a size/speed specimen playing wide receiver snaps with tight end classification in fantasy. I have no idea why Seth Roberts is on the team.

Marshawn Lynch ran the same as he has all year, but this was the first spot where he got the usage sufficient for churning out fantasy production. Given Oakland's general approach this year, this might go down as his best fantasy day of the season. Jalen Richard played more snaps than DeAndre Washington, but it sure seemed like Washington got more snaps early in the game.

Jay Cutler played well enough, but his numbers were largely the work of the matchup. He remained a checkdown machine, though a more accurate one than what I'd previously seen this year. Jarvis Landry had a 19-yard catch in the first quarter negated by an illegal formation penalty. Julius Thomas posted strong numbers, but he doesn't look nearly as athletic as he used to. DeVante Parker might not have been fully healthy, but his one-handed catch on the sideline in the fourth quarter was nuts. He's been extremely reliable this year, even if not as explosive as hoped.

I'm still skeptical of Kenyan Drake's vision, but he ran with more power than I expected. If he has space, he'll produce. Defenses that play with sound gap assignments might give him trouble, but he appears to have exceeded my Brandon Tate comparison nonetheless. Damien Williams is a weird player – he's big, fast, can block and catch, and he shows good anchor strength, but his per-play explosiveness has always lacked, perhaps due to a lack of quickness. Both Williams and Drake getting more snaps has proved good for Cutler, in any case, as they're both much better checkdown targets than Jay Ajayi was.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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