What a scrappy week of football! Haymakers abound, yellow hankies galore, and ejections aplenty … Week 9 was full of overaggression and cheap shots.
Shifting from the ugly to the glorious, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees set the NFL record for throwing the most TDs in one stadium at 225 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Week 10 marks a return to four teams on their bye weeks — Oakland, Baltimore, Kansas City and Philly. It is also a pivotal week for gamers looking to turn the tide in a final push for the playoffs.
32: The number of targets for DeAndre Hopkins in two Tom Savage starts in 2017.
Takeaway: That is insane. The 16 targets in each of the two contests are more than any of the Deshaun Watson starts. This is a great sign for Hopkins owners. He’s the best thing going in fantasy at his position right now, and gamers shouldn’t worry about last year’s disaster with a mostly Brock Osweiler-led offense. In fact, going back to late last year, Hopkins was targeted a whopping 17 times in Week 15 from Savage’s right arm.
138 carries: While with the Miami Dolphins, Jay Ajayi racked up 138 attempts without scoring a rushing TD. His longest run in that span was 21 yards. He scored a 46-yard touchdown on his fourth carry as an Eagle.
Takeaway: Reports suggested Ajayi was a malcontent in Miami with a balky knee, and Dolphins head coach Adam Gase alluded to players not wanting it enough without directly calling out Ajayi. Sometimes, as we’ve seen before and are currently seeing with Adrian Peterson in the desert, all it takes is a change of scenery. It also doesn’t hurt, in Ajayi’s case, the Eagles simply boast a more potent offense. After a week, this was a good move for both parties.
Also see: Week 9 fantasy recap
New York Giants rookie tight end Evan Engram has a touchdown in three consecutive games and has at least four catches in every game but one.
Takeaway: Last year’s darling, Hunter Henry, was the anomaly, not the rule. Historically, the position has been underwhelming in fantasy in Year 1. The average of the best tight ends since 2009 falls in the TE3 category for year-end statistical production. When giving advice, I have long been critical of rookie tight ends in fantasy football. Now, with two strong performances year over year, my inclination to say this is becoming a trend. The main reason for the change of heart is how tight ends are being used. Someone like Engram and, to a lesser degree, Henry get flexed into the slot and even out wide more than ever before. The days of inline tight ends is dwindling as teams are shifty to standup options who are capable of exploiting mismatches with a combination of size and speed. I still maintain the classic form of the position will struggle as a rookie more often than not.
Assorted RB production: Through nine weeks, there have been 59 separate games of players with 20-plus carries. There have been 100-yard rushing games in 2017 from those 20-plus-carry outings. Of those 59 games, 29 efforts resulted in a rushing score. Just under 50 percent of the 100-yard games also included a rushing TD. Adrian Peterson‘s career high and 2017’s tops of 37 carries in Week 9 was the sixth game this year with at least 30 carries by an individual. Le’Veon Bell represents half of those outings. Bell, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette are the only backs to have 100 rushing yards and a TD in more than one game. Let that sink in.
Takeaway: Well, it’s more or less an illustration of how erratic and limited successful rushing attacks have become in today’s NFL when broken down to the individual player level, which isn’t a shock to anyone. The days of the workhorse back have been coming to an end for some time now. We see this in this statistic: Only Ezekiel Elliott has 20-plus carries in seven games this year. The next closest back is Le’Veon Bell at five. It’s no coincidence those two backs were generally drafted as two of the top three players. Jay Ajayi, Fournette, LeSean McCoy and Todd Gurley all have four games with 20 or more totes. All of those guys were in the consensus top 22 of drafted players and first 11 running backs.
44.5 fantasy points allowed: Philadelphia Eagles running back Corey Clement was brilliant in Week 9, and newcomer Jay Ajayi also was productive. On the year, the Denver Broncos have allowed 10.6 fantasy points per game to an entire team’s worth of RBs. The NFL average this season is only 18.1.
Takeaway: The Broncos have struggled on offense since Week 2, but the defense has kept the team afloat. No running back had scored a rushing TD against them until Clement punched in two, and his receiving score was only the third against this group. Those aerial scores are a common result for defenses so strong at stopping wideouts and also is often found in teams stout against slowing ground gains. I won’t call his receiving TD a fluke. Three of the last 34 carries against them have scored, whereas none of the prior 149 had found the end zone. And it’s not like Denver was lucky to avoid facing prominent backs, either. Chalk this up to a bad day for Denver and an optimal showing for Philly.
42%, 56%, 72%, 100%: These four percentages represent, in order, the targets, receptions, yardage and touchdowns scored by Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton in just a third of his games this season. He has 65 targets, 34 receptions, 702 yards and three touchdowns in nine games. Over just three of those contests, Hilton has erupted for 27 looks, 19 grabs, 505 yards and all three scores.
Takeaway: The opponents were Cleveland, San Fran and Houston — a mixed bag. For as bad as the perception of the Browns may be, the reality is the pass defense has been rather solid in 2017. San Francisco has been a dumpster fire, but the Texans have been exploitable. Jacoby Brissett was sacked 10 times in those three games, so it’s not a matter of having extra time to pass leading to bigger plays. All told, this is an inconsistent offense with an relatively inexperienced quarterback. Ebbs and flows will exist in most passing games. They are amplified in this one, which makes starting Hilton all that much more frustrating. Unfortunately, games like Sunday show why we have to take the bad with the good for big-play stars like Hilton.
The last time Julio Jones dropped a ball in the end zone was Week 7 of the 2014 season, per NFL Network research.
Takeaway: Uncontrollable but frustrating no less. Also meaningless in fantasy, but it’s a fun stat that I felt was worth sharing. Jones has a beautiful schedule ahead and is, of course, a must-start in any situation. There will be better days to come.
There’s no coming back: Ben McAdoo can’t possibly return. The team has quit on him, and there isn’t enough talent left to finish with pride. I’ve addressed this before, and it’s rather impressive that he is still the head coach. … Although, Monday isn’t over just yet.
Here’s a thought: The Dolphins were absolutely better off without Jay Ajayi. I touched on this earlier, but he offers nothing in the passing game, and I’ve always thought Damien Williams was underrated. Toss in the versatile Kenyan Drake — a talent I’ve been high on for years — and Miami has a more dynamic backfield without the frustrations of Ajayi.
I want to believe: Josh Gordon has turned his life around. How many times can you be fooled and let down before punting, ya know? The quarterback play is another aspect to consider. Sure, Cleveland has struggled to field talent at the position, though there is ample blame to go all the way around, especially with DeShone Kizer’s poor decision-making. Gordon belongs on rosters but is assured to be overvalued.
Also see: Week 9 Tunnel Vision
Book it: Charles Clay will be dangerous in his return to the field. He has a chance to play in Week 10, but gamers should hold off one more week. The veteran has played through knee injuries before with success, and this offense is finding its stride. Adding Kelvin Benjamin only improves the explosive Clay’s chances of success. He does well on limited touches and has a nose for the goal line.
It sure seems like: Mike Evans and Jameis Winston both deserve a one-game suspension. Really, how was their combined behavior any better than what led to Marshawn Lynch’s one-game vacation? If you didn’t see, Winston provoked a fight by leaving the sidelines, but then it was Evans who jump into the situation and tossed punches. Don’t be shocked if either one is given a break by the commish.
I feel: This would be the best time to acquire Kareem Hunt, especially if your team has a lock on the postseason. He hasn’t scored in like 34 years now, and his value couldn’t be lower after progressive weeks of season-worst performances. Toss out feelers to see what it will take to land him. Remember to start low and work your way up with the magnitude of the offers.