In a week that gave us Tom Brady becoming the all-time wins leader, we were greeted with the ugly reality of football’s brutality when Aaron Rodgers was ridden to the turf and, with it, Green Bay’s playoff hopes appear dashed.
Sunday served as a reminder that: Sometimes Andy Reid gets too cute. The Arizona Cardinals reminded us of how awesome it was to play fantasy football in 2009. Matthew Stafford should be spotted a double-digit deficit to start each game. Pittsburgh is the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team. Cleveland isn’t any better with Kevin Hogan under center. Ryan Fitzpatrick is an impressive backup and lousy starter. Rodgers‘ injury aside, Green Bay suffers an inordinate number of injuries year after year.
The best stat line of Week 6 came from Houston’s Braxton Miller. He caught two passes for negative five yards and a touchdown.
One other noteworthy tidbit: Week 6 marked the fourth straight game in which Pittsburgh Steelers rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster topped Martavis Bryant in offensive snap counts. … it’s no wonder Bryant is asking for a change of scenery.
26 carries, 134 yards, 2 TDs: The 32-year-old Adrian Peterson‘s debut with the Cardinals was nothing short of impressive.
Takeaway: Even more so when we dive deeper into the data. The Buccaneers rated as one of the best teams against running backs. Entering Week 6, this defense (four games played), permitted one rushing TD in 93 attempts. RBs averaged only 3.2 per carry. Peterson went for 5.2 a tote. This was the ninth-strongest group at limiting big plays by the position, and only eight teams granted more rushing yards per contest. Taking it a step further, Arizona’s worst enemy was its offensive line before Sunday. Looking ahead, the Cards have the Rams in London (fantasy’s best non-PPR matchup) and then a bye week. San Fran, Seattle, Houston, Rams again … it’s a mixed bag but overall encouraging. And for those keeping score at home, I have been dead wrong on Peterson all year. Just sayin’….
12 touchdowns: Since the start of the 2016 season, no tight end has scored more times than Tampa Bay’s Cameron Brate‘s dozen trips to the Promised Land. He has scored four straight weeks.
Takeaway: The next closest guy on the list is Hunter Henry’s 10 total TDs. Brate has been nothing should of awesome, and his chemistry with Jameis Winston rubbed off on Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 6. Maybe, just maybe, the Bucs are coming to regret spending a first-round choice on tight end O.J. Howard this past spring. For gamers who haven’t caught on yet, Brate is a weekly must-start at this point.
Also see: Week 6 fantasy recap
46.2 percent: This is the number of targets to Oakland Raiders wideout Amari Cooper that have resulted in a reception. Among the top 50 receivers in targets, the league average is 61.1 percent. Cooper ranks 47th of those 50 receivers in conversion rate.
Takeaway: The upside is he caught five of six targets in Week 6 with Derek Carr back on the field. This brings his average up about seven percentage points and offers a glimmer of hope. Last year, Cooper landed 62.6 percent of his looks. So often, drops are a mental hurdle, as we’ve discussed in this space. I’m cautiously optimistic about his improvement, but he needs to do more than 28 yards with five catches. In Week 7, on short rest, he faces a KC — a defense that held him to 29 yards on five snares in 2016’s Week 14 after he went for a 10-129-0 line earlier that year.
58 consecutive carries: This is the stretch since New England Patriots running back Mike Gillislee last scored a rushing touchdown. He scored three times in the opener and another one in the following week before this four-game drought began.
Takeaway: It’s somewhat a situational issue — game flow is extremely important to a back like Gillislee. It also has to do with a lack of breakaway runs. Bill Belichick believes they will come in time for Gillislee, and so does this scribe. The worst part of this scoreless streak is that gamers will feel compelled to sit him, and you know the moment that happens he is going to explode. Stick with him as much as possible, if for no other reason but he has been consistently used just about 12 times a game in the past month. The odds of probability suggest eventually he’ll catch a break.
192: The number of consecutive passes by Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith without an interception. After Drew Brees threw two INTs in Week 6, Smith is the only quarterback in the NFL with at least 50 attempts and no interceptions thrown.
Takeaway: This is quite remarkable feat for Smith considering how much he has pushed the ball down the field this year. Last season, including a playoff game, Smith tossed a pick in five straight games to close out the 2016 season. In that stretch, he averaged 30.4 attempts per contest. Through six games, he has thrown it 32 times, on average, in 2017. In the ’16 window, he went for 7.2 yards per attempt, which is 1.3 fewer than this season. All of this sums up to Smith being playable in a pinch. His floor and ceiling are both drastically higher than in years past.
How many times will you see the New Orleans Saints hang 52 points and Drew Brees be held to 186 yards and two TDs? Craziness.
Takeaway: Scoring three defensive TDs — which no team has done since 2011 — is the obvious reason, but the question that really demands an answer is whether this defense is legit. Two games can be tossed out of the window, while three other efforts were respectable against better quarterbacks. I lean fluke, because the Saints had the bye week to prepare, and Matthew Stafford has been a human pinata the past three weeks. He was sacked 12 times in two games entering this one, and New Orleans was able to take him down five times after having 11 sacks entering the game.
1 TD in last 57 catches: It is difficult to believe this is Julio Jones‘ past 10 regular season games. He scored thrice in the playoffs last year, but this season has resulted in zero trips to the end zone. He scored in Week 17 last season and that was his only score over a 57-catch span.
Takeaway: There have been injuries mixed in through this streak. To see him step up in the playoffs — you’d think when defensive focus is at its highest — but not find his way this year, it makes this even harder to explain. Gamers might be able to land him on the cheap. I’m not sure it is fair to call this a “fluke,” but it seems like a slum that should be broken this week with the way the Patriots yield fantasy points.
21 carries for 117 yards: New York Giants RB Orleans Darkwa ran roughshod over the Denver Broncos in Week 6. Melvin Gordon, LeSean McCoy, Ezekiel Elliott and Marshall Lynch COMBINED for 95 yards against this D.
Takeaway: Denver had a bad night. It happens. Both sides of the ball were not playing as sharply as possible, and the Giants clearly wanted it more. This isn’t to take anything away from Darkwa. He is running as tough as anyone and has been effective in every game but one. Denver remains the top defense of running backs in fantasy on a per-game basis, and no other team has prevented a rusher from scoring on the ground this year.
Fair warning: The Cardinals-Rams game in London this week will feature several fantasy-relevant weapons, which is unfortunate. Those games are so difficult to project, and it’s nearly impossible to know how teams will react to the trip. In situations like this, keep it simple. Don’t get cute with fringe players. We have only two teams on bye (DET, HOU), so you won’t be forced into too many uncomfortable lineup calls.
Here’s a thought: We’ve seen the last of Drew Brees being a dominant fantasy quarterback. It’s not that he isn’t capable of it but rather won’t be asked to do it all alone. The Saints have found a gem in rookie running back Alvin Kamara, and as long as Mark Ingram is healthy, Sean Payton will call his number. Aside from Michael Thomas, there isn’t a threatening receiver on this roster. In five appearances, Brees has one 300-yard day. As long as this defense continues to play well, he will not be asked to chuck it all day and night.
I want to believe: Brett Hundley will be better going forward. He was thrust into the lineup without practice reps as the guy. Now, the third-year pro has a grasp on the system, a talented weapons cache, a wise coaching staff, and a mentor in Rodgers. The offensive tackles took a beating on the injury front again, so that is worth watching in the short term. Upcoming games: Saints, bye, Lions, Bears, Ravens, Steelers. That will get him through Week 12. Consider six weeks probably the absolute earliest Rodgers could return, assuming he does at all. Forget Hundley as a standalone fantasy tool. Hope he can at least keep Jordy Nelson and Co. afloat.
Also see: Week 6 Tunnel Vision
Book it: Despite word from Adam Schefter saying sources expect Dallas to roll with Darren McFadden while Zeke is suspended, Alfred Morris will remain involved. It has the makings of a committee approach, especially with how well Morris has run and the discrepancy between their receiving skill sets. DMC is a fine pass protector, too, but he’s also fragile. Limiting his work is wise. It also is probably why we haven’t seen him this season — Dallas’ coaches knew this suspension was looming and wanted to keep McFadden as pristine as possible without encasing him in ember. The schedule isn’t exactly tantalizing, and fantasy owners may want to keep expectations low for both backs.
It sure seems like: Tyrod Taylor could be a worthwhile fantasy play this week. The Bills are coming off a bye week and host the Buccaneers’ pass defense that has been deconstructed by every quarterback not named Mike Glennon. The worst game against them was his 19.1 fantasy points. The elephant in Taylor’s room is whether he has enough at his disposal to rack up points. It depends. If Jordan Matthews is back this week, which seems unlikely, the answer inches closer to yes. The athletic passer has the legs to help offset a dearth of targets. Consider him with Deshaun Watson and Matthew Stafford on the bye. Maybe the Bills should look into acquiring Martavis Bryant.
I feel: it is kind of bizarre that it took the 49ers to fall to 0-5 under Brian Hoyer before a 4-for-11 passing effort was all Kyle Shanahan needed to see before moving on (permanently, we’ve since learned) to rookie C.J. Beathard. What was Shanahan afraid of by avoiding Beathard entering Week 1 … that the team would, oh, I don’t know, go winless through six weeks? It’s not like Hoyer was getting blown out, either. Stranger, all we heard was how great it was to be reunited with Shanny the Younger and his former quarterback. The 49ers have at least been competitive under Hoyer, and while I get that he isn’t the future, then what was the point of starting him in the first place? Coaches make peculiar decisions sometimes, and it’s just another reiteration of how silly “coach speak” looks in hindsight.