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.
Week eight was a disappointment and a revelation in many ways. We get to see some players step into the spotlight while others continued to disappoint. We also saw a flurry of trades before the deadline. The mid-season trade is usually a rarity in the NFL but not so in 2017. Also the quality of the players moved, at least in their potential is what’s most striking about these trades. The injury report is much shorter than usual but a few key ones to note.
1. Our thoughts go to Zach Miller and the rest of the Week 8 injuries.
• Bears TE Zach Miller had the most gruesome injury of the week, dislocating a knee trying to secure a touchdown against the Saints and tore an artery. Surgery was successful as doctors attempted to save his leg, not just the knee. That’s how serious it was. Lots of healing and monitoring this situation. Rookie Adam Shaheen will be the next man up.
• Redskins TE Jordan Reed left his week eight contest with a sore hamstring. Water is wet, the sky is blue, Jordan Reed is hurt again, what else is new? If this injury holds up then Vernon Davis is the TE1 in reserve waiting.
• Patriots WR Chris Hogan is going to miss a few weeks with a shoulder injury, which moves Danny Amendola’s needle in the upward direction. New England also lost their right tackle, Marcus Cannon so that could mean tougher sledding for the Patriots run game and Tom Brady’s pass protection.
• Ravens QB Joe Flacco is in concussion protocol after that vicious hit he took by Kiko Alonso. He was having the best game of his season but playing the Thursday game last week should give him a few extra days recovery if needed.
• Browns RB Duke Johnson left the week eight London game with a concussion in the 4th quarter and is in the middle of concussion protocol. There’s no reason to rush him back, in fact there’s no offense to rush him back to so don’t bother.
2. Are the Dolphins conceding the season with the Jay Ajayi trade? What about the Kelvin Benjamin trade?
It certainly look like it to me. It’s not like Damien Williams or Kenyon Drake were backups that were burning to get carries and just needed more reps. Ajayi certainly was having a down season after last year’s breakout campaign but this was a shocker. Perhaps losing Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler to injuries was enough for Adam Gase to realize this wasn’t their year. They look much worse than the Jets and Bills this year and they were supposed to be one of the teams aiming for a playoff spot before the season starter. Gase lambasted Ajayi in front of the media after the loss to Baltimore but it’s one thing to anger your head coach, and then it’s another thing to be traded.
Neither the passing game nor the run game impressed this season. If Jarvis Landry is moved too, then the Phins have definitely moved onto to 2018. Unless you’re in a deep 12 or 14-team league, there’s no reason to add either Dolphin running back despite the added volume. Williams is the early down back while Drake is an oversized third-down back. If you’re in a shallow league, leave them be until you see what they can do. If the needle wasn’t already pointing straight down for all Dolphins players before week eight, it’s there now for week nine and beyond.
And yes, at the last minute, we just found out that receiver Kelvin Benjamin has been traded to the Bills from the Panthers in exchange for 2018 third and seventh round picks. They too much feel like their grip on the 2017 season is lost if they’re trading away their best receiver, who has disappointed since coming back from a torn ACL two years ago, and this certainly makes Tyrod Taylor suddenly more exciting as he joins Jordan Matthews and Deonte Thompson (slides opposite of Benjamin while Matthews stays in the slot). Stock goes further down for Cam Newton and Devin Funchess sees a slight uptick.
In Major League Baseball, we see teams who are buyers and sellers at the trading deadline, and because the magnitude of some of these players moved, we are getting the same feeling in the NFL. We’re only at the halfway point of the season, so to see teams mail it in, or to tank or pass on an opportunity to turn it around is a strange phenomena. Maybe it’s the Halloween trade deadline date, but something strange is going on.
3. The new Eagles backfield starring Jay Ajayi and LeGarette Blount
I am sure Blount owners were about the only fantasy owners that had a gripe about today’s big trade. But here’s how I see this trade working out. Blount is going to start at least one or two more games. Then we’ll see Ajayi be given a split of the carries. Now neither Blount nor Ajayi catch the ball particularly well so Wendell Smallwood’s role is not diminished that much as the third down back, but in the end I think Blount loses carries as a result and Smallwood moves to a third down specialist. No Eagles running back is likely to dominate now, and instead will specialize according to the game flow and situation. The Eagles may also be trying to protect Carson Wentz a little so that way he’s not needing to win every game with his arm.
4. The Jimmy Garoppolo trade and the dominos that fall
Wow, in a shocking move, the Patriots shipped off Jimmy G to San Francisco and he will probably slide into the starting role soon, if not in two weeks, maybe three. They traded a second round pick in 2018 for Garoppolo so the ship probably sailed for Kirk Cousins. So what does Garoppolo have? He’s got Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida right behind him. Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin on the outside with some young and promising tight ends.
And wouldn’t you know it, the Niners found out what the everyone else who’s had Hoyer. He’s just not good enough to be an NFL starter. Maybe he’ll land in Miami, or gulp, back with the Browns. Maybe he’ll end up back with the Patriots because…
The Patriots are flying dangerously without a proper backup now, having traded Jacoby Brissett and Garoppolo off. I would have thought that they would have kept him to be the eventual heir to the QB once Tom Brady retired but perhaps the future hall of fame is going to try and make good on his desire to play a few more years.
5. Martavis Bryant just watched his replacement score a touchdown
In this business, everyone can be replaced. NFL football is a game played by fast kids who can tackle and/or catch. If you’re a player who doesn’t qualify under one of those descriptions, then you have someone who fits that is waiting in the wings. Martavis Bryant is a freak of nature, but he’s not so special that he has leverage in this latest episode of the reality show, NFL Divas. Should they be passing to Bryant more? Sure. Should he be catch the few balls being thrown to him? Absolutely. Well, as a healthy scratch, Bryant watched from the sidelines and may have seen his days in Pittsburgh flash before him as JuJu Schuster-Smith takes one 97 yards to the house. It’s been a crazy week for the rookie. He’s had his bike stolen, then returned. He’s had his twitter tapped by Mia Khalifa. Yes, the youngest player in the NFL has had quite the week but he might have the last laugh and so could you had you started him this past weekend. If not, see if you can add him because he’s out there in a lot of leagues.
6. The Saints… DEFENSE is more reliable than their Offense.
The Saints offense has been all or nothing this year. They either run up the score to the high 20s to the mid 30s, but in the four of their seven games, New Orleans has been held to 20 points or less. They’ve re-dedicated themselves to the run after trading Adrian Peterson and believe it or not it’s the defense that has impressed us the most en route to a 5-2 record. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore has shortened the learning curve quickly and joined the elite conversation. Fellow corner Ken Crawley has played well too. Just imagine if Delvin Breaux had been healthy all of this time. He broke his fibula in the preseason and is being sprinkled in slowly but forget about the Saints’ defense being pushovers. They also have 19 sacks on the season and nine interceptions plus three touchdowns on defense/special teams.
7. Case Keenum is causing a quarterback controversy
Well not really. Keenum is actually in a good position. Sam Bradford’s can’t stay healthy and Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t played football in 1-2 years. He’s not going to be ready right away and who knows how many weeks until he’s ready to start. The Vikings are now 5-2 with Keenum as a starter and this is without Dalvin Cook and a backfield of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. And the Vikings lack a true No.1 wide receiver. So Keenum has exceeded expectations and is a serviceable streamer in select matchup play or is serviceable in a two-quarterback league. Think about what other quarterbacks are out there, and then consider that Keenum in the last three weeks, is playing better than Trevor Siemian, Jameis Winston, Cam Newton. If he continues to complete over 60 percent of his passes and can get you at least two touchdowns per game (he’s not quite there yet consistently) then Keenum could lead this team into the playoffs.
8. Did you forget about these players?
Some players to be aware of that could change your fortunes or strengthen your bench in the second half. You might recall some of these names as they were injured in the preseason or shortly into the 2017 debut. RB Danny Woodhead practices and is eligible to play November 19 against the Packers. He figured to be a big part of the Ravens’ attack and his versatility made him a desirable flex play. He might not find a spot for your roster in his first few weeks back but there’s still a lot of unrest at that RB position in Baltimore, Woodhead, if he can remain healthy, can stabilize it.
TE Greg Olsen is expected to return too around Week 12, and would upgrade a bunch of folks’ tight end position very quickly if the timing is right. He’s Cam Newton’s most reliable target and if there’s anyone who could use his services it’s Newton and his fantasy owners. While everyone is scrambling to decide if Jared Cook, Tyler Kroft, or Ryan Griffin is the streamer of the week, you could be stashing Olsen for the playoffs.
9. Restock those stale receivers
Have you been holding onto those Redskins receivers (Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, or Ryan Grant) for too long? Maybe you have a Niners’ receiver that’s not named Pierre Garçon. A Cardinals receiver not named Larry Fitzgerald? Still have a Cleveland Brown on your team? There’s a load of receivers that you can reload your roster with that you can at least envision yourself starting rather than growing mold and mildew on that far end of your bench.
• JuJu Schuster-Smith (PIT), Robby Anderson (NYJ) and Paul Richardson (SEA) all have more upside than anyone above and I can almost guarantee that at least one, if not all of them are probably available on your waivers.
10. Where’s the beef in Seattle and Houston
In what was the game of the week, the Seahawks barely slipped by the Texans in a barn burner of a game. While I’m beginning to run out of superlatives for DeShaun Watson, he defied any mystique the Seahawks defense had over rookie quarterbacks. Even Richard Sherman said it was the best performances he’d seen against them and that’s high praise.
These two teams mirrored each other as it was all on the arms and legs of their quarterbacks. Both running games were either ineffective or non-existent. That’s something to note moving forward because given all the touches that Lamar Miller is getting, he just doesn’t seem to get much in return, at least on the ground. Meanwhile, in Seattle, not a single back carried the ball for more than six carries and none of them went over 10 yards rushing. The acquisition of Duane Brown does help greatly, at least in protecting Russell Wilson’s blindside.
Something else I want to highlight that many Monday morning articles might overlook is the feat that Watson performed against the level of defense. The Seahawks haven’t looked as good as in prior seasons, but they’re still an elite group. However, on the other side, the Texans have not played good defense in consecutive weeks. They’ve given up the following points total as a team defense: 23, 9, 36, 14, 42, 11, and 35 to the Seahawks. Seattle always tends to play better as the season progresses, but for the Texans, they are no longer a reliable team defense moving forward and that’s the real reason they’re in third place in their division. If the standings ulimately show that 2017 is a step back, 2018 is looking like a return to the top.