We’re halfway there, folks! Due to a combination of a limited set of games, diminishing interest as we get through the midseason, and a lack of meaningful stats this week, this edition will be on the shorter side. Truthfully, it was always a little wordy … kind of my thing. Babble. See? Just did it.
Week 9 brings us another bye-laden week of football. Six more squads (CHI, CLE, LAC, MIN, NE, PIT) get a mini-vacation and take a ton of quality fantasy options with them. Running backs get hit especially hard. No Jordan Howard, Melvin Gordon, Jerick McKinnon, Le’Veon Bell … not fun, especially this time of the year. Fantasy depth is depleted already, and it’s typically not a position where we can turn to the waiver wire for a body.
There has been considerable chatter about Larry Fitzgerald being traded. My understanding of the situation is that he won’t be dealt without a guarantee that he’ll play beyond 2017. The only way he gets traded without this guarantee is if he agrees to go to a legit Super Bowl contender. There’s enough mutual respect between Fitz and the front office to grant him some say in the matter. New England, anyone? KC, perhaps? Ultimately, expect him to stay in the desert.
21-0: Tom Brady‘s career record vs. teams quarterbacked by Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer and Andrew Luck.
Takeaway: It’s utterly inconsequential and even a little silly, but it is kind of cool for stats nerds. Obviously QBs don’t face each other or really have any direct impact on one another, yet it is kind of remarkable that none of those talented passers found a way to win in 21 tries. *shrug*
Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton has topped 300 yards passing in only two of his last 16 games.
Takeaway: In part, this comes down to Cincinnati playing decent football on the defensive side, which limits his need to chuck it all day, every day. The NFL average for QBs with at least 534 attempts last year was 272 yards, whereas Dalton checks in at 234 in his past 16. With all of these weapons in the passing game — remember, this team drafted a first-round receiver instead of fixing the offensive line — and Dalton continues to struggle for fantasy purposes.
Also see: Week 8 fantasy recap
324 carries: This one has long-range implications in mind. Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard is on pace for 324 carries. Only one back in each of the past two seasons has rushed more than 300 times (Adrian Peterson, Ezekiel Elliott).
Takeaway: We’ve seen what happens to RBs with a league-leading workload the next year (Elliott, suspension notwithstanding, has a shot to be that exception). Howard actually became STRONGER last year with more work. The young buck has the build to shoulder a hefty workload and even thrive. As long as he doesn’t inch closer to the 350-plateau, Howard should be just fine in 2018.
7 times in last 116 starts: The number of games Detroit Lions running backs broke the 100-yard mark while Matthew Stafford was under center. For perspective, seven different players rushed for 100 yards in Week 7 alone over the NFL. Ezekiel Elliott did it seven times alone in 2017’s regular season.
Takeaway: This is rather dull stat for fantasy, yet it has an implication for Stafford and some of his targets. The offense tends to extend the running game through a bunch of short-area passes (see Golden Tate, Theo Riddick). This stat line will continue to display such futility in the rushing game if the interior offensive line cannot progress. Also, some if it is by design (maybe even a little is resignation). As Cris Collinsworth pointed out during the telecast Sunday night, Riddick has just one career reception that has gone farther than 10 yards in the air. A better rushing attack can lead to more balance (7 teams less balanced this year; 1 team less balanced last year).
138 receiving yards: While the intention is not to take away from Steelers rookie WR JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s impressive Sunday night effort, a pair of defensive missteps, in addition to a series of odd play calls, led to his big night.
Takeaway: The huge yardage game was basically buoyed by one play that really shouldn’t have happened. He amassed 41 yards on the first play of the game, which was a blown assignment by Detroit’s secondary. On the long TD, the Lions struggled three straight plays to gain traction near the goal line and an injury timeout led to a failed, ill-advised call to go for the TD instead of kicking a fifth field goal for the lead. Then, on third and long, Detroit managed to let the rookie get behind them and split a Cover 2. To his credit going forward, Antonio Brown’s mere presence opens up half of the field for JSS.
423 yards, 0 TDs: Detroit’s Matthew Stafford threw for 423 yards but failed to connect on a TD strike. This was the third-highest yardage figure without a touchdown pass in NFL history.
Takeaway: Possibly the real fluke here is that Pittsburgh was allowing just a shade under 259 passing yards per game entering this contest, ranking as the top defense against the position. Nevertheless, despite allowing several chunk plays, the Steelers were nasty around the goal line.
87-yard TD: Los Angeles Chargers RB Melvin Gordon ran for an 87-yard score, which was a whopping 76 yards longer than any of his prior 13 career scores.
Takeaway: Gordon is not going to be confused with Usain Bolt anytime soon. Take plays like this with a grain of salt, appreciate it, but don’t expect it to be remotely close to the new normal. He’s a grinder, not a sprinter.
Fantasy trade targets: A few guys stand out to me as potentially wise acquisitions before your league’s trading deadline. Some of them might even be on the wire, depending on the size of the league. Buffalo WR Jordan Matthews is getting healthier and learning the playbook. He has a beautiful fantasy playoff schedule. It could be a good time to buy low on either Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper. Oakland’s closing stretch is among the easiest in fantasy for wideouts. Sterling Shepard also falls into this boat. There is some concern that he’s the only weapon and will not be able to beat doubles, however. TE Jack Doyle is has a worthy schedule, too, but wait a week or pay top dollar.
Here’s a thought: The Bears trade for Martavis Bryant to give Mitchell Trubisky someone — anyone — to catch a pass. The malcontent has one year left on his rookie deal and is worth the risk. Bryant is a good soldier for the better part of 18 months and there’s a long-term deal in the works. If not, cut bait. Besides, Trubisky needs to build chemistry with someone, otherwise it’s just another push of the reset button in the spring.
I want to believe: Calvin Johnson will be traded by the deadline, but I know better. The star wideout is known to be a man of his word. That said, I picked him up in a few leagues that had room for a total flier in the crazy chance he gets dealt.
Also see: Week 8 Tunnel Vision
Book it: The Philadelphia Eagles will replace injured veteran left tackle Jason Peters with disgruntled Houston Texans star Duane Brown to block for Carson Wentz. The only way this doesn’t happen by my estimation is if Seattle lures him away first.
It sure seems like: The New England Patriots should push hard to land Jarvis Landry in a trade with Miami. He’s in a contract year, and the Dolphins aren’t going anywhere. Dealing within the division is a rarity, and even more so when the Patriots are on the receiving end of talent.
I feel: The Vikings shouldn’t deviate from Case Keenum, even when (if?) they have the option to return to Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater. Sure, Keenum beat up the Browns, but he has been efficient enough to let the running game do its thing and lean on the defense.