In The Shop league, Pops Watson is the big-picture idea man. He’s been around since God was a kid and nobody tends to call him out when he makes outrageous statements that may or may not have any basis in fact.
He’s come up with an interesting concept for our league – moving to a team quarterback format.
We’re only halfway through the season and quarterbacks are becoming an endangered species. From Andrew Luck being lost for the entire season to Aaron Rodgers being lost for the rest of the season, the fates of franchises have gone up and down based on the availability of their top quarterback.
With the emergence of mid-round guys like Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott, everyone seems to be looking for the next big thing in a hidden gem. But, Pops may have a point when you consider the amount of change that has taken place this year.
There have been the injuries. Aside from Rodgers and Luck, the Dolphins got Jay Cutler out of the broadcast booth because they lost Ryan Tannehill for the year. Houston likely has seen its season go up in flames with the loss of Deshaun Watson. Arizona is without Carson Palmer with a broken arm. Cam Newton, Joe Flacco and Jameis Winston entered the season with injuries and it has already taken a toll on Winston, who is expected to miss several weeks due to a right shoulder injury. Minnesota is playing their Plan C quarterback because Plan A (Teddy Bridgewater) still hasn’t played a meaningful game since Minnesota’s playoff loss to Seattle at the end of the 2015 season and Plan B (Sam Bradford) has chronic knee pain.
Then you throw in guys who have missed time this season with injuries, including Cutler, Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota.
Then you can add teams that have made QB changes because the starter has been brutal, like what we’ve seen in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver and San Francisco.
When Pops brought up the idea, most of the fellas just dismissed it as the ramblings of an old man who happened to have Rodgers on his roster and is salty about it. But, the more I’ve thought about it, the more he may have a point. Quarterback longevity is becoming less prevalent these days and, if we’re going to change the landscape of fantasy football with the infusion of the PPR element to make receivers more valued, why not go to team QB as a league staple. The way things are heading, teams are going to have to expect to have two starting options just by attrition.
- Last year, the Los Angeles Rams scored a league-low 224 points and 21 or fewer points 14 times. In their win Sunday, the Rams have 263 points through nine games, scoring 20 or more in seven of their games and 33 or more points in five games – putting them on pace to score 468 points – more than double their 2016 output.
- Indianapolis got a 20-14 win over Houston Sunday, which ended a dubious streak for the Colts. Their only two wins in the first half of the season came against Cleveland and San Francisco – the only two teams that haven’t won a game all season.
- Apparently Sean Payton holds grudges. With his team ahead 30-3 in the fourth quarter against Tampa Bay, Payton called a timeout to ice Tampa’s kicker on a field goal attempt, which he ended up missing on his second try. Sometimes bad blood runs deep in divisional rivalries and Payton wanted to stick it to the Bucs.
- You might want to place a bet on Arizona losing Thursday night against Seattle. In their eight games this season, the Cardinals longest losing streak is one game and their longest winning streak is one game. Their current win-loss ledger reads as follows: L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W. It doesn’t take a probability genius to project “L” for their next game.
- Let’s hear for the old dogs coming out from under the porch to flex their muscles! On Sunday two of the oldest, most venerable running backs in the league returned from the dead to help fantasy owners win games. Arizona hooked the plow on Adrian Peterson, who had a career-high 37 carries for 159 yards in the Cardinals win over the 49ers. Marshawn Lynch came back strong against Miami, rushing 14 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns in Oakland’s much-needed road win. It’s a young man’s game, but the old dogs can still get the job done occasionally.
The razor’s edge
- Slaying the Giants – No team has been a bigger disappointment than the New York Giants. As the only team able to own the Cowboys last season (at least during the regular season), there was a lot of talk that the G-Men were going to dethrone Dallas atop the NFC East. Then the losses started coming…and coming…and coming. On Sunday, New York got trucked 51-17 by the Los Angeles Rams at home and had the NYC media claiming Eli Manning needs to step aside and Ben McAdoo has lost his team. At least their early losses were close ones. In their last two games – both at home – New York has lost by a total of 75-24 and, if not for San Francisco and Cleveland, would be the worst team in the league. But, then again, everyone expected the 49ers and Browns to stink. Nobody expected this out of the Giants.
- Chef’s Salad – When Kansas City got off to a 5-0 start, it was hailed that the Chiefs had what it took to be a Super Bowl favorite in the AFC. They had a crucial win in New England and handed Philadelphia it’s only loss of the season. But since that 5-0 start, the Chiefs look eminently beatable. They’ve lost three of their last four games, got manhandled by Dallas and are allowing almost 400 yards a game on defense. Their slide has come at a bad time because for the entire season, Kansas City had laid claim to the No. 1 spot in the AFC playoff rankings. They’re still large and in charge in their division because nobody else can string together wins, but their loss Sunday dropped them from the No. 1 seed in the AFC all the way down to No. 3 and they’re heading in the wrong direction quickly.
- Four Falls of Buffalo – The Buffalo Bills had the chance to make a national statement last Thursday as they look to end their millennium-long playoff drought – the Bills haven’t made the postseason since 1999. The Bills are 4-0 at home, but you need to win on the road to be taken seriously. Not only did Buffalo lose to the Jets on Thursday, the 34-21 final score was much closer than the game actually was. From early in the second quarter until the game’s final five minutes, Buffalo allowed the jets to score 27 unanswered points and rush for almost 200 yards with three rushing touchdowns. The Bills road woes are a concern because, if New England once again wins its division, even if Buffalo ends its drought and makes the playoffs, they will be guaranteed to playing away from upstate New York.
- Punch Drunk Love – The Cincinnati Bengals have been known for two things during the Marvin Lewis era – making it to the playoffs and then losing in first round. But, coming off a 6-9-1 season last year, the Bengals dropped to 3-5 with a humiliating loss to Jacksonville that saw wide receiver A.J. Green ejected in the second quarter for a brawl with Jags d-back Jalen Ramsey. Whether frustration or not, Green’s punishment will be painful, but not as painful as the potential broken hand he could have suffered. When are NFL players going to learn that throwing a punch at a man wearing a protective helmet is much more likely to do damage to the bones in your hand than the face of an opponent? If nothing else, this incident speaks to the frustration of Bengals players and is likely going to be the flashpoint used to explain Lewis’ firing at the end of the season unless they can turn things around quickly – which currently doesn’t seem possible.
- Leonard Four-not! – At a time when organizations will seemingly look the other way on a player’s off-field actions if he has immense talent, the Jacksonville Jaguars took a hard-line stance with rookie running back Leonard Fournette, suspending him for Sunday game with Cincinnati for an unspecified breaking of a team rule. While it may have hurt fantasy owners – the Jags still rolled over the Bengals awful run defense without him – it’s refreshing to see a team taking matters into its own hands when it comes to discipline and letting players know that, regardless of how talented you are, if you don’t follow the rules, there are still consequences.
- Houston, You Have a Problem – At a time when Houston fans were healing from Hurricane Harvey and celebrating a World Series championship, the mood around the Texans is much different when budding star QB Deshaun Watson was lost for the season with a non-contact knee injury. Watson was setting the NFL on fire and making the Texans relevant despite the season-ending loss of J.J. Watt. But, Sunday’s home loss to hapless Indianapolis with Tom Savage unable to engineer the game-winning drive not only dropped the Texans two games out of the division lead, but a loss to Indianapolis (much less at home) is a tie-breaker disadvantage that will come back to haunt them if they can find a way to stay afloat in the second half. There are must-win games in Week 9 and that was one of them for Houston…and they lost.
- The Hangover – There has been a long-held tradition that the team that loses the Super Bowl stinks out loud the following year, despite typically being expected to return to the Super Bowl or at least defend their division title in the preseason. The Atlanta Falcons appear to be the latest team heading down that path. In Sunday’s 20-17 loss to Carolina, in which Julio Jones dropped arguably the easiest touchdown catch he will ever have, the Falcons still controlled their own destiny because all three of their losses were to AFC East teams. But, Sunday’s loss to the Panthers dropped the Falcons to 4-4 – behind both New Orleans (6-2) and Carolina (6-3). Atlanta can still right the ship, but are in a hole that is going to be very difficult to dig themselves out from.
- You Had to Know This Was Coming – After dropping two of their first three games, the Seattle Seahawks looked like a hot mess with one of the worst offensive lines in the league that seemed destined to cripple Russell Wilson. But, after a four-game winning streak, it seemed like all was right with the world. But, thanks to kicker Blair Walsh, the Seahawks’ unbeaten record at home fell in a 17-14 loss to Washington – a game most had all but locked into the win column for Seattle. In his career, Walsh has had a troubling history of missing field goals and extra points in bunches and the Seahawks got their first taste of that Sunday. In a three-point loss, Walsh missed three field goals – from 39, 44 and 49 yards. The kicks all looked identical, starting out straight and fading left and ending up outside the upright. Wins are precious in the NFL and when one player singlehandedly costs a team a game, it throws a glaring spotlight his way. What makes Walsh’s struggles so ironic is that they’re nothing new. His most glaring example is missing a game-winning field goal from just 27 yards that knocked Minnesota out of the 2015 playoffs. Who benefitted from that miss? Pete Carroll and the Seahawks. If nothing else, they should have known better and they have nobody to blame but themselves.
- Bottom of the Bay – There were a lot of people on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers bandwagon when the season started. They already had a defense worthy of keeping them in games and added talent on the offensive side of the ball that was going to make them a double-digit win team. Coming off their fifth straight loss after a 2-1 start, the Bucs are four games behind the Saints with a loss in hand and 3½ games behind Carolina with a loss in hand. The Bucs defense allowed 30 or more points for the fourth time this season and the third time in their last four and has scored 30 or more points just once – a 38-33 loss to Arizona last month. Just when it appeared as though Tampa Bay was going to make a return to the big time, 2017 has been as disappointing for them as any team in the NFL.
- At Least Weed Is Legal in Colorado (they need it) – The Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl just two years ago with an offense that struggled, but a defense that could dominate. They have maintained that reputation, but it is getting exposed far too often due to offensive problems. The Broncos haven’t won a game since Oct. 1 and have been outscored 124-52 in the last four games, including a 51-point beating from the Eagles on Sunday. The Broncos are 0-4 away from Denver and a date with a rested New England team Sunday night could be their biggest game of the season. Dropping to 3-6 would take all the wiggle room out of their season. It would likely require a running of the final seven games of the season just to make the playoffs, which Denver fans couldn’t have envisioned when the team was 3-1 and believing they had a starting QB in Trevor Siemian.