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.
With the big bye weeks behind us, we had an interesting week ten where the contenders and pretenders drifted further apart and a handful of teams showed that just because they’re down, they’re not out. We got a few more big injuries which have changed the fantasy landscape for the better and the worse. Let’s take a look back at what tidbits of information week ten taught us.
1. Injuries mount up in Green Bay and the rest of the key Week 10 injuries.
Packers RB Aaron Jones was carted off with a knee injury against the Bears. It was later revealed that Jones has an MCL injury and will miss a minimum of three weeks, and potentially up to six weeks. That bit of bad news looked to benefit RB/WR Ty Montgomery who had a breakout game, but re-aggravated a rib injury he sustained earlier in the season. There’s no timetable on Montgomery, but the next man up is Jamaal Williams who needs to take some big leaps in being able to fill the hole left behind Jones and Montgomery. Without a proper run game, Brett Hundley’s progress as the Packers’ starting quarterback could be even slower.
• Falcons RB Devonta Freeman took a big hit to knock him out of the game on Sunday, and is now on concussion protocol and is looking like he’ll miss week eleven. Tevin Coleman owners, you know what to do.
• Texans WR Will Fuller might have re-aggravated a rib injury from earlier in the season after taking a big hit by Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner. He was already on the steep decline without Deshaun Watson but this injury makes him droppable.
• Colts QB Jacoby Brissett suffered a concussion and is now locked in protocol. Scott Tolzien replaced him for only one series during the game but we shall see if he misses time.
• Browns QB DeShone Kizer left the game with the Lions after taking a big hit in the third quarter from Lions cornerback Quandre Diggs. Cody Kessler filled in and will be the starter for yet another change at signal caller for Cleveland. Even more damaging for the Browns though is losing Jamie Collins whose knee bent badly trying to make a tackle and will now miss the rest of the season with an MCL injury. This will impact their run defense greatly.
• Adding insult to injury in Arizona, Cardinals QB Drew Stanton sprained his knee and will miss 1-2 games. Blaine Gabbert is the new starter unless Stanton can quickly recover.
• Steeler’s CB Joe Haden fell badly on his left leg in a collision with Donte Moncrief; it was later revealed that he broke his fibula and is out indefinitely, downgrading the Steeler’s secondary some.
• Redskins RB Rob Kelley crumpled up after a pileup and will miss multiple games thanks to a knee and ankle injury.
• Bengals top cornerback Adam Jones suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter and missed the rest of the game. He is now in protocol.
• Let’s not forget one last CB, Seahawks’ Richard Sherman who suffered a non-contact season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon and is out for the rest of the season. Sherman is Seattle’s best cornerback and a big part of the Legion of Boom. Newly acquired left tackle Duane Brown left the game with an ankle injury and did not return.
2. Cowboys are in deep trouble
One last big injury from week ten is Cowboys LB Sean Lee, who was the latest domino to fall for the Cowboys suffering a hamstring injury and his presence was greatly noticeable in the blowout loss to Atlanta. He is going to miss at least two games. Of course before the game, the Cowboys were dealing with losing many key parts including starting tailback Ezekiel Elliott who will miss at least three more games before he gets another hearing. The biggest injury and loss was left tackle Tyron Smith (groin) and the Falcons’ Adrian Clayborn lit up Smith’s replacement Chaz Green for six sacks! Dak Prescott was sacked eight times total and they ditched the run game early.
Alfred Morris had 53 yards but just 11 carries. He was given the ball six times in the first half, so it’s hard to evaluable Zeke’s replacements during his suspension. Unless Smith can come back, the Cowboys are facing aggressive defenses over the next two weeks with the Eagles and Chargers. Weeks sixteen (Seahawks) and seventeen (Eagles) won’t be pretty either. The NFC East title will probably hinge on this week’s matchup but if the team doesn’t have at least Smith back in the fold soon, Dallas could be out of the playoff picture all together.
Week eleven could be a bad matchup for the Cowboys across the board and even more depending on what the Cowboys are able to fix.
3. Forecast the rest of the season before you make waiver claims
This is a general rule but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded. Something I say often is to make sure you are adding a player you can see starting in some scenario. If you’re getting a backup, make sure it’s a handcuff situation, like Tevin Coleman. But to take it a step further look at your receivers and running backs. Can you see yourself putting them in your starting lineup or are you just filling out your roster?
It’s not a bad time to start forecasting your players to see how well they’ll do in the home stretch into the playoffs and then the playoffs themselves. Let’s take the Rams for instance. They have a very interesting remaining schedule that includes the Vikings, Saints, Cardinals, Eagles, Seahawks, Titans and Niners. The next four games in particular are of interest to me because the Vikings are solid defensively, and I’ve been talking about how improved the Saints are all season. The Cardinals could be a big offensive boost for the Rams in week thirteen and in week fourteen are the Eagles who are great at stopping the run. They have holes in the secondary but, remember, they have Ronald Darby back now so they’re not pushovers against the pass as much as they were earlier in the season. The Seahawks follow up the Eagles but we shall see how losing Richard Sherman affects them in a month’s time.
What does all of this mean for the Rams? The arrow is going to be down on Sammy Watkins in three of four games. The same could be said about Gurley against the Vikings, Saints and Eagles. Maybe the Seahawks. The emergence of Robert Woods though could take that concern away though, as his arrow stays level. Cooper Kupp and Tyler Higbee could see more work. Jared Goff is probably not an elite QB1 but he may be able to maintain 200+ yards and two touchdowns through this rough spot.
4. Broncos defense is elite no more
It was not apparent after the month of September but after five straight games of lackluster play, the Broncos Team Defense and special teams are no longer worth holding onto. They’ve lost five straight games and have allowed points of 17, 21, 23, 51, and 41 in that span. It’s an ugly trend that doesn’t appear to be improving anytime soon. They have just a total of 10 sacks over these past five games with just three takeaways. That’s not an elite group, since they are not scoring enough permanent fantasy points to offset the points they’re allowing. They’re also getting burned on special teams coverage, allowing two touchdowns. Each year there are always elite defenses worth holding onto all season, but this year, Denver is not one of them.
5. The tale of two halves
The second half on the NFL season is always different than the first half and a snapshot of the week ten standings shows a different landscape than the beginning of October. For example, the Jets and Bills have more fight in them than I had originally thought but murmurs of a down season for Bill Belichick and the Patriots were premature, especially thinking defensive coordinator Matt Patricia wasn’t going to make adjustments on defense. They had the personnel all along, they just needed to put it together.
The rest of the AFC is shaking out to how it was originally drawn up with Pittsburgh taking firm control of the AFC North, the Titans and Jaguars neck and neck for the South and in what has become the least competitive division, the AFC West has a wide chasm between the Chiefs and the rest of the field. Even the Chiefs have come back to Earth, losing three of their last four. The biggest surprises are the Texans, Colts, Dolphins and to a lesser degree the Broncos thanks to injuries to their franchise quarterbacks. There are only a few teams that are truly out of the playoff picture but you can tell those that are joining the Browns in the offseason. The teams to watch are the Raiders, Bills, and Chargers to see if any of them can get hot enough to make the teams above them sweat.
The biggest surprises are in the NFC where the Vikings, Saints, Eagles, and Rams, yes, the Rams are all exhibiting a balanced attack on offense, backed up by quality defensive units. Carolina could enter that conversation as they are right in the hunt, but consistency is their downfall. The Falcons, Seahawks, Redskins, and Lions could all be second half teams to make a run, but they all glaring weaknesses and some ground to make up. Meanwhile the Cowboys and Packers are holding on but need to overcome key injuries and suspensions.
The teams not able to turn it around are the Giants and Cardinals, due to injuries, but also underperforming and bad coaching.
6. Remember The Titans
Speaking of defenses, one unit that’s could be a streaming choice or one on the rise is the Tennessee Titans. A lot has to do with their schedule and the quality of players that they’re facing but they’ve got the Steelers this week and that’s a big challenge. They did just allow a rushing touchdown to Joe Mixon this past week, but, starting in week twelve, the Titans face the Colts, Texans, Cardinals, 49ers, Rams and Jaguars. That Rams game in week sixteen is looking like an ugly one too, but take note of those other teams.
Why would I zero in on the Titans? Well to start, they’ve done an above average job on running backs. Only three running backs have been able to get at least 75+ yards rushing. No back has been able to gain 80 or more yards though and most finish the day short of 50 yards rushing. They do struggle with dual threat backs.
How good are the Titans against the pass? Average at best. On the plus side they’re giving up just 6.5 yards per attempt (7th in the NFL), they have nine interceptions (10th), but here’s the bad. They’ve given up 17 touchdowns (Tied for 25th) through the air, with just 14 sacks (Tied for 28th) and they’re giving up 236 yards per game. So how does this help you?
Of the last seven games, the Texans, Cardinals, Niners and Jaguars could all be favorable matchups, provided they continue stopping the run.
7. The Curious Case Keenum Strikes Again
I pointed out a few weeks ago that Keenum is 1) playing well enough to be a spot starter and 2) will make it difficult to take out regardless of the health of Teddy Bridgewater. The reality is that Keenum has led the Vikings to a 5-2 record as a starter and a two game lead on the NFC North. The Vikings have averaged 25.6 points in that span. In week ten, Keenum threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns against the Redskins. That’s the first time a Vikings quarterback has accomplished 300 yards and four touchdown passes since Brett Favre did in 2009.
8. Who woke up the Panthers?
What a difference a running game makes in Carolina. The Dolphins being a respectable run defense just got pummeled by Panthers’ rushing attack, mainly Cam Newton’s 95 yards, Jonathan Stewart’s 110 and Cameron Artis-Payne’s 68. Thought to be dead, the Panthers offense finally woke up and put it all together as it was envisioned in the off-season. 294 yards came on the ground alone, with an additional 254 through the air. A lot happened in this game but this game was like a throwback to 2015 and Newton took it upon himself to make things happen on every play. He spread the ball evenly as five different receivers had at least five targets, no more than seven. Curtis Samuel and Russell Shepard were each targeted seven times, for those interested, but it was Devin Funchess, Christian McCaffrey and Ed Dickson in the red zone.
It gives us food for thought as they head into the week eleven bye. Week thirteen is the rematch with the Saints in New Orleans. Circle that game. The Kelvin Benjamin trade could bring this team back to that Super Bowl run a few years back. The Panthers are now 7-3, 4-1 on the road. With Greg Olsen coming back, perhaps someone gave up on Stewart too early, it might be good to see if you can get a piece of this team moving forward. It’s not without its faults, but if this team can play like this or give this much effort each week then the NFC is about to get real interesting.
9. Tight ends are better home grown
Free agency and switching teams is always a tricky thing in fantasy football. We can easily get caught up in the excitement of the potential that we forget about the time it takes to get acclimated and integrated into an offense, no matter how good you are. Sometimes it can work, like Alshon Jeffery in Philadelphia. Other times, like in the cases of Mike Gillislee or DeSean Jackson the disappointment is great.
Tight ends especially are one position where it’s better to trust a young player or longtime second-team tight end who is suddenly thrusted into the starting role thanks to injury than a solid player playing in his first year with a team. It takes a rookie or free agent tight end at least a full season or two offseasons and a full season before you start realizing if it’s a good fit.
Look at Garrett Celek last week, playing in his 6th season and was targeted six times, pulled in four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Coming into week ten Celek had seven catches for 74 yards and one touchdown. Tyler Kroft is another serviceable low-end starter who has taken advantage of a few matchups but his 26 catches for 291 yards and three touchdowns are still better numbers than the following 2017 Free Agent TEs:
Julius Thomas, Dolphins, 25 catches, 41 targets for 260 yards and two touchdowns
Dwayne Allen, Patriots, 1 catch, 11 yards, and one touchdown
Martellus Bennett, Packers, 24 catches, 38 targets, 233 yards and zero touchdowns
O.J. Howard, Bucs, 14 catches, 22 targets, 227 yards and three touchdowns
David Njoku, 19 catches, 38 targets, 198 yards, and three touchdowns
The only exception to this rule is Jared Cook of the Raiders, who has been targeted 55 times, pulled in 49 catches for 499 yards, but one touchdown. Of course, like every year, he’s dropped his fair share of touchdowns and been tackled shy of the goal line too many times to count. But that’s been the way he’s played since he entered the league.
10. Melvin Gordon owners need to handcuff Austin Ekeler
Something troubling that Melvin Gordon owners may not want to hear is that they need to slap a handcuff on rookie running back Austin Ekeler, who finished with 119 total yards from scrimmage including five receptions for 77 yards and two touchdown catches of 28 and 22 yards. That’s enough action to make any Gordon owner sweat and with the Chargers’ record dipping closer and closer to futility, we might see more of Ekeler in the home stretch. If you have room, it might be wise to add him as insurance. Just ask all of those Devonta Freeman owners who wished they had Tevin Coleman right about now.