Welcome to Toad’s Fantasy Football Weekly Review, where I summarize the aftermath of the past Thursday through Sunday games, but more importantly ten thoughts and their lasting fantasy impact.
1. The sound of the broken clavicle heard round the NFL and the rest of the Week 6 injuries.
• QB Aaron Rodgers (broken clavicle) – We’ve all seen it and we should all brace for the massive fantasy impact this has going forward. With respect to Brett Hundley, this will downgrade the sparkle and shine off of receivers like Jordy Nelson. At least until we see more out of Hundley. The thing is this injury has happened so far into the season that no one remotely close like Rodgers is available. DeShaun Watson for example evaporated in most leagues by week four.
For now, let’s see what Hundley can do. He’s been in the Packers’ complex offense for three years. So they have their man ready and given the weapons around him, Rodgers owners may want to take a flyer on him. I know I will be in one of the teams where I had Rodgers cemented as my weekly starter. This collarbone injury is significant though because it’s on Rodgers throwing side, unlike his 2013 broken collarbone, which was on his non-throwing side. Surgery is scheduled, but don’t expect a miracle return until at the earliest, week 14 or week 15 and that’s being extremely optimistic.
• QB Jameis Winston, (shoulder) – equally notable but much l less severe, Winston’s injury is not season-threatening. He might not even miss any time at all, but the thing we should note is how slow of a start the Bucs offense has been off to. Winston has not been the QB1 we expected him to be and we now know that his backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick is similar to Winston in that he takes unnecessary risks, is athletic enough, but can put up numbers despite turnovers.
• QB Trevor Siemian (shoulder) – had to leave for a few series but returned and should be fine in week seven.
• RB Leonard Fournette – twisted his ankle bad against the Rams but is expected to start in week seven against the Colts. He’s not missing out on a potential feast and he doesn’t appear to be feeling any long-term effects from the twist.
• WR Golden Tate is waiting on an MRI to see if he suffered an AC joint sprain in his shoulder. If so, he’s out for a couple of weeks. Proactive owners will want to ready a plan in case it’s the worst news. The Lions are on bye this week.
• WR Tyreek Hill – feared to have suffered a concussion against the Steelers, Hill did not experience one and will have to shake it off quickly for the Thursday night game against the Raiders.
• WR Emmanuuel Sanders (ankle) – This was an ugly looking injury that could have been worse but Sanders avoided the dreaded fracture and high-ankle sprain. So at the least, Sanders will miss week seven and put Bennie Fowler in the target mix, but there’s a chance his low ankle sprain heals in time to return in week eight or week nine.
• QB Teddy Bridgewater is back on the practice field this week, coming off the PUP list. With Sam Bradford’s knee still an issue and Case Keenum doing just enough to keep his job by default.
• Kicker Dustin Hopkins suffered a hip injury and is week to week. He had a great matchup in week seven but with being out for a week, his owners will need to stream someone new for a week.
2. Do you believe in Wentz and Agholor now?
I’ve talked up Nelson Agholor and Carson Wentz quite a bit this season and for good reasons. I marked Wentz as a start quarterback because of his ability to avoid the pass rush, extend plays and not be too fixated on any one receiver. The problem was, he didn’t have enough of an opportunity to open the playbook and he didn’t have different types of receivers to utilize. Having Alshon Jeffery has changed that, and teams have to defend the Eagles differently because of him. Wentz has had two seasons now to work with Agholor and while he had a rough rookie season, the extra season and work in the offseason has helped immensely.
Getting rid of Jordan Matthews, an oversized slot receiver, was another key move in Agholor’s development because it gave him an instant role, regardless if they wanted to use him on the edge opposite of Jeffery part of the time. Ultimately, that’s given Agholor a higher number of targets, as he’s averaging 5.0 targets per game through six games in 2017. That’s up from 4.375 in 2016, which was up from 3.38 in 2015.
Good quarterbacks develop young talent, which is why I think this is a good reliable QB-WR relationship developing regardless of what happens with Jeffery. Agholor has already caught more touchdowns than his first two seasons combined. The trust is building and defenses are forced to put their best cover guy on Jeffery, which has allows Agholor to grow and come into his own.
3. With Quarterbacks changes, expect target distributions to change too.
In the event that we see Teddy Bridgewater return in coming weeks, I feel I should remind fantasy owners that your receiver or tight end could see some changes in the targets coming their way. Sometimes we see receivers who practice with the second team more get an uptick in targets. Sometimes we see studs come back to Earth. Other times, the offense doesn’t skip a beat. Let’s look at who changed quarterbacks.
• Brett Hundley and the Packers – I already went over this situation in the injuries section but… the Packers–Vikings game ended with Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams with 10 targets each and the rest of the team receiving four targets or less. Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb could be affected moving forward.
• C.J. Beathard and the Niners nearly pulled off an upset, and although Pierre Garcon didn’t see a decrease in targets; tight end George Kittle received eight targets for second place. Aldrich Robinson and Marquise Goodwin were tied for fourth with five targets each. Brian Hoyer threw primarily to Garcon, Hyde and Goodwin.
• Under Kevin Hogan, the Browns went further back into the dark ages and Ricardo Louis led the team with seven targets, Kasen Williams was second with six targets, David Njoku and Duke Johnson each had five targets, but Hogan averaged just 7.0 yards per pass. Deshone Kizer was working with Rashard Higgins, Kenny Britt, and Seth DeValve more. It’s not made any cleared with head coach Hue Jackson threatening to change the starter every week.
• Mitch Tribusky who is really working on a limited playbook completed just nine passes on Sunday and targeted Dion Sims, Zach Miller, Tarik Cohen and Kendall Wright the most, while Mike Glennon was trying to work former receiver Deonte Thompson, Josh Bellamy in with Miller, Cohen and Wright. Just know that Sims had six targets after the first four games, now he has 13 total after just two games with Tribusky under center. Does this mean to pick Sims up? No, Tribusky isn’t even getting 20 completions in a game. But this does illustrate how different quarterbacks mean different relationships with receivers.
4. Hot pickup of the week is… Jerick McKinnon
If you’ve followed this column or me over the last few years, then you’ll know that there are some players that I’m not a fan of. Alfred Blue, any Browns quarterback, DeSean Jackson and no matter how many times he gets a chance, Jerick McKinnon. And yet, I’m here to to admit that he’s worth owning after week six.
He’s splitting carries with Latavius Murray (who could be one of the worst free agent signings of the season) and is out-gaining Murray by a landslide. Plus, McKinnon is getting passes thrown his way too. Monitor the QB situation moving forward, but McKinnon may have proven that he needs the lion’s share of the touches moving forward.
5. Jacksonville’s weaknesses were exposed in Week 6
Every scenario that the Jaguars didn’t want to happen did against the Rams. The Jaguars allowed Todd Gurley to run on them like Bilal Powell did. And despite having a strong defensive effort against the Rams and nearly repeating the kind of defensive effort put in against the Steelers, running the ball and good defense was not enough.
Blake Bortles was required to make plays and make up a deficit that was more than one possession. Bortles was pressured to give offense on demand and could not produce. Unless Bortles rediscovers his 2015 version of himself, this game script could be one that repeats itself against competitive teams.
6. Derek Carr is back, but the Oakland offense isn’t fixed.
The good news is that Carr played an entire game and appears to not have any effects lingering pains from his back that could slow him down. Still, there’s real problems with the way they’re using Marshawn Lynch, who has just one game of over 13 carries. Lynch needs the ball, and he needs it a lot, especially late in the game against a weary defense.
As a result, nothing is opening up for Derek Carr because defense know they’re not going to run the ball. It should be no coincidence that the Raiders have not scored more than 17 points in each of their four losses. Carr in the meantime, in the four-game losing streak has not reached the 200-yard mark three times. The other game he didn’t play.
7. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara can co-exist
Some may have been hesitant about what the Saints’ backfield would be post Adrian Peterson trade. Not me, because I thought a lot was clarified. If you know what the Saints like in their running backs, it’s speed, versatility, and pass protection. Peterson was never going to be pass catcher that Kamara already was. And let’s face it, even in Sunday’s game between the Cardinals and Bucs, Peterson is no longer speed AND power anymore. He’s just power.
Peterson added a different element, which is why the interest was there from week one, but he never fit into what Sean Payton wanted to do. Looking back at that week one loss, with that footage of Payton and Peterson arguing about how much to run the ball said everything that needed to be said. Ingram looked like he was back in 2016 form and Kamara is better than what Tim Hightower was. This Lions’ defense was no joke, so hats off to the Saints for recognizing where changes needed to be made.
8. So what does that do for Adrian Peterson and yes, Phil Dawson?
We finally saw Peterson getting the volume he should have gotten when he returned from injury. He can still be a grind for a defense to stop. The Cardinals passing attack is much more wide open than the Vikings’ passing attack ever was and the difference paid dividends. I’ll admit, I was wrong about Peterson going to Arizona and has thus earned his way back into the high end RB2 conversation. The question is, can he do this against the Seahawks and Rams whose defenses carries a bigger reputation than that of the Bucs. Can he simply do this again? The Cardinals’ offensive line is still a wreck, so don’t think this game wipes that board clean.
9. The New York… Jaguars?
It took the Giants losing their top four receivers, including their best offensive player, to finally wake up the defense and play the kind of game we’re used to seeing out of them. As I expected, the Giants passing attack went almost exclusively through rookie tight end Evan Engram. I did not expect the offense to go through fullback Orleans Darkwa though and that was an eye opener.
On the flip side, not having Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie opened the door for Demaryius Thomas but the Giants run defense that we saw last season, finally showed up, holding the Broncos to 46 yards on 17 carries.
This doesn’t give me much confidence in anyone but Engram and the Giants’ DST, moving forward, but again, why did it take this long under these dire circumstances to light a fire under the Giants? I don’t think it gets any prettier than this though, and the Giants will join the Jags in game script, which does net results in the win column, just not in the box score. We’ll see if they can play like this consistently.
10. The Patriots are living dangerously.
On offense, New England’s run game continued to divide fantasy owners and with Chris Hogan hurt, the passing attack relied on Rob Gronkowski to single-handedly break down the New York Jets who let the game slip away. But something that needs to be highlighted.
We’re six weeks into the season and the Patriots are still giving up over 300 yard games. This is the third time that they’ve allowed a 350-yard passer and multiple touchdowns. I thought Josh McCown would have a good game, and one could argue that they had a touchdown taken away from him, which would’ve given him three scores instead of two. I honestly didn’t think he’d do THAT well.
This is an alarming bad habit for the Patriots who usually turn the defense around at this point of the season. Even with a slow start, there are signs of addressing the weaknesses. If the Patriots can’t stop the McCown, that can only raise the rankings of the following QBs on the horizon: Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Trevor Siemian, Derek Carr and Jay Cutler and Tyrod Taylor.