BUMPS, BRUISES AND BOWOUTS
Kirk Cousins – Final straw
James Starks – Ankle
Trent Richardson – Hamstring
Philly Brown – Concussion
Pierre Thomas – Shoulder
C.J. Spiller – Broken Collarbone
Fred Jackson – Groin
Junior Hemingway – Hamstring
We’re entering the midpoint of the fantasy season and playoffs are only five or six weeks away. But what we’ve seen this past week are several teams almost inexplicably playing well below their normal level. It happens every year. Between weeks seven and thirteen, there will be trap games where bad teams win because their opponent gets caught trying to mail in a win. Maintaining a high level of focus, commitment and motivation every week is tough and almost every team will have one or two “trash games” where their effort and performance takes a temporary dive.
Player performances naturally decrease in such weeks and it more typically occurs in road games. This week the Falcons, Bengals, Panthers, Browns and Bears were much less than the sum of their parts. Next week there will be other teams but forecasting which ones are challenging unless a team is coming off a big, emotional win and seems ripe for a letdown.
Tre Mason is the new Zac Stacy. He never played until week six when he gained 40 yards on five runs against the 49ers versus eight carries for 17 yards by Stacy. By week seven, the veteran never touched the ball while Mason rushed 18 times for 85 yards and one touchdown in the win over the Seahawks. Benny Cunningham remains as the receiving back and scored once on his five receptions for 46 yards but the midseason rushing torch has been passed to Mason. He’ll be challenged with four road games in the next five weeks but he’s bringing Heisman-contender talent to the table.
Ryan Tannehill comes off his third straight game with two passing scores and he exceeded expectations with 277 yards in Chicago. That gives him a three game average of 266 yards and an upcoming schedule that faces the Jaguars, Chargers, Lions, Bills, Broncos and Jets. Tannehill is also adding 30+ rushing yards per week. If he’s still on your waiver wire, he’s worth a grab and stash if you have the room.
By now the Jaguars have spun through their entire depth chart looking for a decent running back but the search is finally over. Not only is Denard Robinson the final back on the active roster, but he ran for 127 yards and one score on 22 carries in the win over the Browns while Storm Johnson only managed 16 yards on six runs. This was the first time that Robinson was allowed more than nine carries in a game and the converted ex-quarterback showed more speed to the edge than any of his predecessors. He’s gained a bigger workload to be sure but that is tempered with his next opponents being the Dolphins, Bengals and Cowboys. But anytime a back can move into a fantasy relevant position at mid-season, he needs to be owned. He’s also ruined any possible value for both Johnson and Toby Gerhart.
Kirk Cousins was benched at halftime of the game against the Titans after throwing for only 139 yards and one interception. Colt McCoy’s first pass was a 70-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon and he went on to complete 11of 12 for 128 yards and the one score. The subtext to this is that there is nothing standing in the way of Robert Griffin III stepping back into the starting role and that could be as early as this week. Griffin had limited practices last week and has been aiming at the Dallas game this week to return. Check your waiver wire in case Griffin is there.
The absence of Stevan Ridley didn’t really change up the Patriots backfield. Shane Vereen (11-43) was both the leading rusher and receiver (5-71, 2 TDs) while Brandon Boldin was given just one late game catch and Jonas Gray ran three times for 12 yards versus the Jets. The darling of the preseason in James White remained inactive for the game. This is the New England backfield and could change in any or every week. But it is notable that Boldin was not the running back replacement for Ridley – Vereen was. At least until Vereen gets injured again and starts the guessing game all over again.
The Bills lost C.J. Spiller for the rest of the season and Fred Jackson is out at least the next two weeks but could be longer depending on how his groin responds to treatment. That leaves the Bills scrambling for a replacement and someone to cover for Spiller even once Jackson returns. Anthony Dixon ran for 51 yards on 13 carries after they left the Vikings game but he’s more of a special teamer and not considered the primary backup. The player sure to fly off the waiver wire this week will be Bryce Brown who they traded with the Eagles to acquire last spring. Brown impressed the coaching staff last summer and now gets a chance to do start his career. Unfortunately, the Bills face the Jets this week and then take their bye so Brown cannot offer a lot of help immediately but he can replace Spiller down the stretch and there’s no guarantee when Jackson returns or for how long.
Life without Victor Cruz caused predictable struggles but the rookie Odell Beckham scored twice in his first start with four catches for 34 yards in the loss to the Cowboys. Larry Donnell was the most productive receiver with 90 yards on seven receptions though he lost two fumbles. Rueben Randle was the most targeted with nine passes he turned into six catches for74 yards. But this was on the road in Dallas and Beckham’s future is already looking brighter with success in his first replacement of Cruz. Donnell also looks to see increased work in the upcoming weeks.
Start planning this week before the rush. Only the 49ers and Giants are off now but in week nine, it will be the Falcons, Bills, Bears, Lions, Packers and Titans. And week ten contains byes for the Texans, Colts, Vikings, Patriots, Chargers and Redskins. That’s two weeks of freaking out for the unprepared when they go to set their lineups.
Percy Harvin’s absence may have not made a difference either way in the loss to the Rams but it is interesting that the team was only informed as they prepared to leave for St. Louis. Harvin was a known locker room problem and in two seasons with the Seahawks did very little. He never caught a touchdown and never gained more than 59 yards as a receiver in any game. Now with the Jets, his stock is even lower going to a team that consistently ranks among the worst passing offenses in the NFL. Harvin will offer special teams benefits. He’ll get more targets than in Seattle if only because the Jets fall behind early in most games. But only a sense of potential makes him fantasy relevant and that’s proven wrong since 2012.
Pay attention every day to the news. The 2014 NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, October 28th and Percy Harvin may not be the only high profile name swapping teams. This is a time that teams can get value for a player entering free agency in 2015. Some names rumored to be considered are Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson, Jermaine Gresham and Mike Williams. Even C.J. Spiller was also a possibility but was just lost for the season. There have been a high number of running back injuries throughout the league. Now is the time to get extra compensation for trading away a player if a team has more than enough depth. And where a player ends up is more important than who they are at this point in the season.
|NYJ 25, NE 27||This game was far closer than anticipated but illustrates how bad teams are not really that bad and the Patriots are not “back to their old selves” for more than a week or two. Geno Smith was never yanked from the game and ended with 226 yards and one score that ended up with Jeff Cumberland. Eric Decker led the crew with just four catches for 65 yards. Chris Ivory ran for 107 yards and one score on 21 carries while even Chris Johnson gained 61 yards on 13 runs. The Patriots never bothered much with running so that the “who replaces Stevan Ridley” was a moot point. Shane Vereen (11-43) stepped into that primary role and added a team high five catches for 71 yards and two touchdowns. The only other runner was Jonas Gray. Rob Gronkowski (5-68) and Brandon LaFell (4-55) fell short of expectations. Now the 1-6 Jets host the Bills and the 5-2 Patriots host the Bears.|
|ATL 7, BAL 29||The Falcons remain all kinds of bad whenever they leave Atlanta. Matt Ryan only managed 228 yards and one score that went to Roddy White (9-100) while Julio Jones (5-56) was held in check. The Falcons used four different runners to combine for 15 carries that gained 61 yards. No runner had more than eight carries. Joe Flacco threw for 258 yards and two scores. Torrey Smith (3-81, TD) and Steve Smith (3-67) helped move the ball while Owen Daniels (6-58, TD) had a big game. Justin Forsett (23-95) dominated the carries but Bernard Pierce (8-21) scored the lone rushing touchdown. Now the 2-5 Falcons return home to face the Lions and the 5-2 Ravens head to Cincinnati for a very big divisional game.|
|MIN 16, BUF 17||The Bills drove 80 yards in three minutes and Sammy Watkins caught a two yard touchdown with one second left to play for the win. Not a lot happened here. Jerick McKinnon ran for 103 yards on 19 carries and Greg Jennings (6-77) topped the receivers but the only score went to Cordarrelle Patterson who only had nine yards on two catches. Kyle Orton passed for 283 yards and two touchdown that both went to Sammy Watkins (9-122, 2 TD). The big news was losing both C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson and that could be the case for a while. Anthony Dixon (13-51) filled for both. Now the 2-5 Vikings head to Tampa Bay and the 4-3 Bills go to New York to face the Jets.|
|MIA 27, CHI 14||The Bears are hard to peg and so far they have not won a home game. Jay Cutler only passed for 190 yards and one score that went to Matt Forte (6-60) and he also rushed for 49 yards on 12 carries for a second touchdown. But he was the lone player for the Bears with fantasy relevant numbers. Brandon Marshall was held to 48 yards and Alshon Jeffery only managed nine yards. Ryan Tannehill passed for 277 yards and two scores split between Charles Clay (4-58) and Mike Wallace (5-46). Lamar Miller ran for 61 yards and one score while Tannehill added 48 yards on six runs. Now the 3-3 Dolphins head to Jacksonville and the 3-4 Bears travel to New England.|
|NO 23, DET 24||Matt Stafford found Corey Fuller for a 5-yard touchdown with 1:54 left to play. Drew Brees spent eight more plays but only reached the Saints 40-yard line at the final gun. Brees ended with 342 yards and two scores with both Marques Colston (6-111) and Kenny Stills 5-103, TD) topping the century mark. But the return of Mark Ingram did nothing but make the backfield a three-headed mess with no runner gaining more than 26 yards. Jimmy Graham did play but did not make a catch of his two passes. Matt Stafford threw for 299 yards and two scores but two interceptions as well. Calvin Johnson was inactive but Golden Tate (10-154, TD) once again turned in a great game. Joique Bell (18-48) scored once but Reggie Bush only gained nine yards since his ankle was bothering him. The 2-4 Saints are reeling and now have to host the Packers. The 5-2 Lions head to Atlanta.|
|CAR 17, GB 38||Another one of those “what happened?” teams, the Panthers were trounced by the Packers and Cam Newton passed for just 205 yards and one score before later being pulled from the blowout. Jonathan Stewart ran for 55 yards for a great game (using CAR standards) and Greg Olsen caught eight passes for 105 yards. Kelvin Benjamin ended with 61 yards and a score on three catches. Aaron Rodgers was barely winded when he threw for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Eddie Lacey only rushed 12 times but gained 63 yards and a touchdown. Randal Cobb (6-121-1) and Jordy Nelson (4-80, TD) both had their standard big games. Now the 3-3-1 Panthers host the Seahawks and the 5-2 Packers go to New Orleans.|
|CIN 0, IND 27||Another one of those “what happened?” teams, the Bengals were never in this game at any point. Andy Dalton only passed for 126 yards and the Bengals ran for a combined 12 carries for 32 yards. This was a total beatdown. Andrew Luck threw for 344 yards and two scores while favoring T.Y. Hilton (7-107). Trent Richardson (14-77) ran great until he was injured but Ahmad Bradshaw (10-52) ran in the touchdown and he scored via a pass during his three catches for 36 yards. It all worked for the Colts on both sides of the ball. Now the 3-2-1 Bengals host the Ravens and the5-2 Colts head to Pittsburgh.|
|SEA 26, STL 28||Definite Game-O-The-Week contender if only because 31 other teams love to watch the reigning Super Bowl champions come to terms with not being “all that” and maybe just a little too full of themselves. The game kicked off with Marshawn Lynch upset because Percy Harvin still owes him $20 from lunch the other day and it turned into a far better game than anyone expected. The Seahawks were coming off a spanking by the Cowboys and would assumedly try to get back on track but not so much. Austin David threw for two touchdowns and 152 yards but no turnovers. The best receiver was Benny Cunningham with 46 yards and a score on five catches. Tre Mason is all the rage now that he ran 18 times for 85 yards and one score thereby making waiver hounds happy they grabbed him last week. But Marshawn Lynch only gained 53 yards on 18 runs and Russell Wilson set an NFL record by throwing for over 300 yards (313 yds, 2 TD) and rushing for over 100 yards (7-106, TD). Doug Baldwin (7-123, TD) came to life as did secret weapon tight end Cooper Hellfet (3-61, TD) who scored his first NFL TD and doubled his three year career catch totals. The Rams scored a touchdown with 5:44 left to play and the Seahawks drove the field and threw a touchdown to Baldwin with 3:22 left to play but were unsuccessful on the two point conversion. Tre Mason just ran out the clock. The 3-3 Seahawks have finally lost that smug little smile and head to Carolina while the 2-4 Rams travel to Kansas City.|
|TEN 17, WAS 19||Another close game that the scoreboard forgot. The Skins won after they benched Kirk Cousins and went with Colt McCoy who threw a 70 yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon on his first pass. This entire game was light on the fantasy points from both sides despite the fact that neither team actually owns a defense. Alfred Morris ran for 54 yards while Bishop Sankey ran for 56 yards. Charlie Whitehurst only passed for 160 yards and two scores that went to Kendall Wright (6-68, TD) and Derek Hagen (2-45, TD). This was pretty disappointing and now McCoy is apparently in play as the quarterback. The 2-5 Titans will return to host the Texans and the 2-5 Redskins head to Dallas. The least either team can do this week is allow their opponents to score more points.|
|KC 23, SD 20||Definite Game-O-The-Week contender and it shows how inter-divisional games always go off differently than non-divisional. It also means now the AFC championship talk needs to be limited to the Broncos and Colts. Philip Rivers only passed for 205 yards and two scores but at least Antonio Gates (3-61, TD) scored once and Keenan Allen (6-58) had moderate yardage. Branden Oliver’s hot start last week turned in just 78 total yards at home versus the Chiefs. Alex Smith threw for 221 yards and one score with Dwayne Bowe (5-84) producing decent stats. Jamaal Charles ran for 95 yards and a score on 22 carries but only added 12 yards on two receptions. This game was tied with 1:51 left to play but the Chiefs drove from their own eight yard line to reach the SD 30-yard line with 26 seconds left when Cairo Santos kicked a 48-yarder for the lead. Rivers responded by immediately throwing an interception. The 3-3 Chiefs now how the Rams and the 5-3 Chargers head to Denver (cue piano music – “dum-dum-de-daaaaaaa ).|
|NYG 21, DAL 31||Here is the thing about the Cowboys. They are like your older brother who shows up every spring just to sponge off the family, rile people up and then disappear every December. Only when he shows up this year, he looks oddly better. And he helps around the house. And the neighbors suddenly love him. Mom and Dad are happy again. You know, in your heart of hearts, that this is not really your brother but the leaves are raked and he fixed the lawn mower and promised to take you to the Monster Truck Rally. Everything is going really, really well for some reason. No need to rock the boat about his real identity at least until after the Monster trucks. Whenever you bring it up everyone just says “shut your mouth, boy!” anyway. Tony Romo passed for 279 yards and three touchdowns while using Dez Bryant (9-151) and Gavin Escobar (3-65, 2 TD) who is a name to remember next year and not this year. DeMarco Murray was limited to only 28 carries this week and just one catch so the D-Train chugs along at the same speed and just became the NFL’s first runner to gain over 100 yards in the first seven games of any season. Eli Manning passed for 248 yards and three scores and two went to Odell Beckham (4-34, 2 TD). Larry Donnell (7-90) led the receivers and after losing two costly fumbles in this game he’ll be sure to have every defender try to strip him from now on. The 3-4 Giants go onto their bye and the 6-1 Cowboys host the Redskins. You know our brother never had a scar on…what?… okay I’ll shut up.|
|ARI 24, OAK 13||The Cardinals had little trouble dispatching the Raiders. Carson Palmer passed for 253 yards and two scores and Andre Ellington ran for 88 yards and added 72 more yards on six catches. Michael Floyd (3-47, TD) was the only other decent fantasy play. The Raiders were predictably bad with Derek Carr limited to just 173 passing yards and no receiver better than Brice Butler (1-55). Darren McFadden scored once on his 14 carries for 48 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for six yards on three carries and has to wonder why he bothers putting on a uniform. Now the 5-1 Cardinals how the Eagles for what should be fantasy fun time and the 0-6 Raiders head to Cleveland as the only winless team left in the NFL.|
|SF 17, DEN 42||Shocking as it was, Peyton Manning was able to break his touchdown record when he threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns leaving him with 509 passing scores as the new all-time record (until next week). Demaryius Thomas (8-171, 2 TD) was the top receiver in the NFL this week and even Wes Welker (3-50, TD) and Emmanuel Sanders (3-41, TD) also scored. Ronnie Hillman (14-74, 2 TD) took over the scoring duties in the second half so as to not make it look like Peyton was intentionally humbling the 49ers. Colin Kaepernick only threw for 263 yards and one touchdown but the only decent receivers were Steve Johnson (5-79, TD) and Brandon Lloyd (3-63). The rushing effort never took off and Frank Gore ended with only 20 yards on nine runs. Now the 5-1 Broncos host the Chargers and the 4-3 49ers go onto their bye.|
HUDDLE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Peyton Manning – He wasn’t the highest scoring fantasy player but plenty close and that’s true in almost every week. He’s broken Brett Favre’s touchdown record and will continue to bury it so that we may never see it broken in our lifetimes. If Manning plays one more season, he’ll no doubt own the passing yardage record as well. And for all his records and all his commercials and all his exposure, he still seems like a nice guy that you’d have for a friend. A really, really wealthy, famous friend.
DRAMA 101 – SOMEBODY HAS TO LAUGH, SOMEBODY HAS TO CRY
|QB||Ryan Tannehill||325||2||QB||Jay Cutler||190||1|
|RB||Denard Robinson||127||1||RB||Giovani Bernard||16||0|
|RB||Stepfan Taylor||59||2||RB||Ben Tate||34||0|
|WR||Doug Baldwin||123||1||WR||Alshon Jeffery||9||0|
|WR||Kenny Stills||103||1||WR||Brandon Marshall||48||0|
|WR||Corey Fuller||44||1||WR||Julio Jones||56||0|
|TE||Gavin Escobar||65||2||TE||Jimmy Graham||0||0|
|PK||Nick Folk||13 pts||PK||Mike Nugent||zippo|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 135||Huddle Fantasy Points = 26|
Sunday’s Couch Commentary
This was a pretty low scoring weekend with only three games over 30 points and just one over 40 points. We’re seeing trap games and teams that are taking a nap in the middle of their season. Injuries continue to raid the starters from backfields. But while overall scoring is lower, nine different players scored two touchdowns.
This was a different sort of week with disappointments and surprises. The Game-O-The-Week honors the sort of week that we’ve had.
Browns 6, Jaguars 24
How does this happen? If any team would take the Jaguars seriously and prepare for them it should be the Browns. Apparently whipping the Steelers by 21 points made them think a vacation was in order. Last year Brandon Weeden passed for 370 yards and three scores in Jacksonville. All Brian Hoyer could manage was 215 yards and one interception. Ben Tate ran for 36 yards on 16 carries against the Jaguars. Andrew Hawkins (5-112) was the only notable Brown player.
The Jaguars won despite Blake Bortles (159 yards, TD) throwing three interceptions. Denard Robinson had his first game as a primary back and ran for 127 yards and a score on 22 carries. But the only decent receiver was Allen Robinson (4-60, TD).
The win means that the Raiders are now “IT” as the final winless team. The Browns were on a roll and beating good teams but could only manage two field goals against the Jaguars. What a waste. And hardly the last time we’ll see this for the season. Almost every team is going throw away one week and figure that teams like ARI, CIN, CLE, DEN, SEA and STL had their bye back in week four. Three of them were just upset.
But the NFL keeps going and the Dallas Cowboys continue their magical mystery tour wherein the man formerly known as DeMarco Murray apparently loves 30 carries every week and they do not affect him. It was said he can withstand that because he’s not had heavy use before. That is correct. BECAUSE HE WAS ALWAYS HURT BEFORE.
Bad Back Tony only has three interceptions over the last six games and not one was a final drive killer. The defense that ranked #32 last year lost star players and somehow because one of the best units in the NFL. It’s like there was a hole through space and time and the current Cowboys team was replaced by a group of alie….what?…what’s that? Jerry is from where?
Okay. I’ll shut up. Texas Stadium does look like a mother ship. That is all I am saying. I’m done now.
Now get back to work…