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.
Sorry there was no review last week. I had an ill family member.
1. Catch or no catch?
Do you know what passes for a catch anymore in the NFL? Because I sure the fuck don’t. I believe the refs blew that Pittsburgh-New England game because Jesse James’ knee was down and to my knowledge the ground can’t cause a fumble. When all that is needed is for the ball to cross the plane on a touchdown run, but receivers have to make the impossible happen on a catch, you just can’t help but pull your hair out on these plays.
I progressively get more confused about what constitutes a catch, specifically near the end zone as players reach out to break that plane. Ask Dez Bryant. Ask the Detroit Lions. It seems like every season we’re taught something new, or we are reminded of the worthless wording in the rule book that the inches and speed of the game defies. We’ve been all schooled now on how a ball “survives the ground” now, but did that explanation satisfy you? Even replay doesn’t convince me otherwise and trust me, and I say this as someone who has rooted against the Steelers his whole life. It just doesn’t pay to reach for the end zone anymore and yes, for the last time, that was a catch.
2. Brown goes down and the rest of the Week 15 injury report
Can’t go too far about week fifteen without talking about who was lost and likely affected those teams who started these players. Antonio Brown was the biggest name, as he suffered a partially torn calf muscle. He is done for the rest of the regular season, which puts him out of the fantasy season. The Steelers are banking on him playing in the playoffs assuming they can secure a first round bye. What does this mean for weeks fifteen and sixteen? Lots of action for Le’Veon Bell, Juju Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant. Ben Roethlisberger is still going to get big numbers but he just won’t get those sick, insane numbers where he pushes past 350 yards again. Here are some other big or key injuries of week fifteen:
• Patriots RB Rex Burkhead had just established himself as one of the guys to own in the playoff stretch of the season but he was lucky that he avoided what was believed to be at first an ACL tear. With the depth the Patriots have with James White and Dion Lewis, Burkhead won’t be missed too much if he’s shelved for the playoff run, but fantasy owners will want to see if either Lewis or White is still available.
• Broncos QB Trevor Siemian probably didn’t start in many week fifteen lineups but he was knocked out of the game with partial dislocation of his non-throwing shoulder. He finishes the season on the injured reserve. Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler returned to action in relief and pulled off a victory that no one was able to cash in on his performance.
• Cowboys LT Tyron Smith limped out of the game in the third quarter with a knee injury. For all of those Zeke Elliott owners who are ready to ignite him in week sixteen need to be mindful of Smith’s status moving forward because we all saw how poorly the Cowboys played without him earlier in the season.
• Titans WR Rishard Matthews was shaken up after making a catch in the third quarter but after being examined on the sideline, he was back playing and caught a touchdown in that same drive. If he did suffer something that could come up later this week, owners will want to check on his status in the next 48 hours before making a claim on the wire.
• The other big offensive injury of the week is Jaguars WR Marqise Lee whose leg got injured as he was blocking on a run play. His right ankle got rolled on by Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney and missed the rest of the game after. Jaguars highlights show that the team did’t miss a beat but Lee’s fantasy season could be over even with a mild sprain, he’d be out for at least one week.
• Ravens Jeremy Maclin injured his knee after a hard hit in the first quarter. He returned in the first half but was ruled out in the second half. Something to monitor for week sixteen.
• Another receiver that could be evaluated as the week progresses is the Packers’ Davante Adams who suffered a leg injury and a potential concussion after getting a helmet-to-helmet hit in the second half. Adams was held out for the rest of the game, and was missed, but one wonders how the Packers move forward if they are indeed on the outside looking in as far as the NFL playoffs go. Which brings us to…
3. What to do with Aaron Rodgers now?
Rodgers looked good then he looked bad. He looked good again and then just off… Still. 290 passing yards and three touchdowns are stats most will take, even with the three picks because most leagues don’t take off that many points for the interceptions. That will get better over time. But the real issue with Rodgers is how much do they push the final two games of the season. One needs to look at the playoff race.
It comes down to what the Falcons do on Monday night because if they secure a win, then all of the 8-6 teams are effectively eliminated from the race along with the 7-7 Packers. Mathematically, they’d still be in it, but then you’re also venturing down tiebreaker territory of who beats who if we’ve got several teams at 9-7. Rodgers was rushed back to go on a run and win out. If and when the Packers are done is there reason to leave Rodgers out there?
4. The Eagles will tread water with Nick Foles
I’m not about to say the Eagles will be just fine without Carson Wentz, but Nick Foles did fine riding around a car that was designed for Wentz. Foles got off to a slow start though (something that plagued him as a starter the first time he was in Philly) and that’s something that could change the game script in Philly. That changes how much the team is devoted to the run early in a game and that ultimately changes how the carries are distributed to Jay Ajayi and company.
5. Blake Bortles has slowly taken the next steps in quarterback evolution
It’s hard to believe it but Bortles has gotten better as the season has progressed and he could finish the 2017 season as a Top 10 fantasy quarterback. Consider that his Leonard Fournette is constant health concern (missing two games) and his backups are not easy plug and plays. He lost his two top receivers, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. As a result, it was widely considered that those two receivers help build up Bortles all this time.
Instead, he has developed three young receivers in Marqise Lee, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole and now add Jayden Mickens who came out of nowhere to score two touchdowns in week fifteen. Bortles has thrown seven touchdowns in the last three games. Good quarterbacks adapt to what they have and while the Jaguars play it safe while the defense establishes the tone, the plan has worked in spades and no one is talking about Bortles jeopardizing the season. In fact, they are firmly set as a playoff team and the likely AFC South division winner. As for Mickens, Cole and Westbrook, if Lee misses week sixteen with a sprained ankle, look to these young rookie receivers moving forward with the favorable matchups ahead. It will certainly make things interesting moving forward in seasons down the line should the Allens decide they want more money than Jacksonville is willing to give.
6. Jimmy Garoppolo is the 49ers gift to Robbie Gould
I don’t know how much stock should put into Garoppolo’s flash tryout but the results are clear, the Niners have moved the ball more efficiently and get deep enough into their opponents’ side of the field more regularly. Consider from October 15th and on, Gould had just one or two field goal attempts and just two games with more than one extra point. Since Garoppolo took over as the starter, Gould is 16 for 16 in field goal attempts in three games. Yes, the touchdowns aren’t coming but that’s because the lack of skill around him is showing through. But they’re 3-1 against equally bad teams, but it’s a step in the right direction and for Gould, it’s reminds the rest of the league that he still has it. And Robbie, you better buy Jimmy G a nice Christmas present.
7. The 12th Man doesn’t play defense or offense
The Seahawks are bleeding on defense, literally, they are the walking wounded. If finally caught up to them as they did not stand a prayer’s chance at stopping Todd Gurley on the ground who chewed them up for 21 carries, 152 yards and three touchdowns runs of 1, 1, 57 and he added a 14-yard touchdown grab as icing on the cake. This has all but strengthened the Rams hold on the NFC West and this could be the final nail on the coffin for the Seahawks if they don’t win out as the Panthers or Saints are ahead of them and depending on what the Falcons do on Monday night, Seattle could be on the outside looking in. The offense did no better, as Russell Wilson, who has been on a tear, played flat and couldn’t respond to the Rams’ onslaught. Home field is usually an added advantage for the Seahawks but they were tarred and feathered as the power in the division, at least for a year has shifted.
8. Smoke’em if you got them
Parity is strong in the NFL but the discrepancies of the haves and have not reared its ugly head in week fifteen with the blowouts. The Rams won by 35 points, the Jaguars won by 38, the Ravens won by 17, the Chiefs by 17 and the Vikings won by 27. If you owned and played any one of these team defenses, there’s a good chance they were a key difference maker in your box score. Streaming defenses is a great strategy, but there’s a reason why when you have a reliable one, you do everything to keep it (especially through the bye weeks by having two team defenses) because in most weeks they come through for you when it counts. By the way, among the top scoring fantasy team defenses headed into week fifteen, were the Jaguars, Ravens, Rams were the top three.
9. Greg Olsen is back
I’m sure I’ll have a few angry looks and stares from those who asked me about starting Greg Olsen. Believe me, I had him on my bench too and paid for it as I personally used Delanie Walker who scored a touchdown but also had a fumble and was largely ineffective as the whole Titans offense stinks right now, but I will stand by my decision (mostly because I still won) because heading into week fourteen, he had one catch for 10 yards over three straight games. I braced myself for a decent day, 60-70 yards, but 116 and a touchdown against the Packers who have been brutal against tight ends for a majority of the season? At this point you can go all in on Olsen, but some real risk takers cashed in this past week.
10. The sadness revisits the Chargers
There is no team, and I mean no team who can invent more ways to disappoint their fans than the Chargers. They specialize in manufacturing losses in soul-crushing ways. Just look at that 0-4 start. It’s filled with them. Heading into week fifteen, the Chargers were winners of seven of their last nine games and were hot. So what do they do? They totally hit a big fat rock in the middle of the road, which popped the front tire off and their chances at winning the division may have escaped them, worse yet, they are now clinging to a playoff berth and need help from other teams. Philip Rivers, who has had an unbelievable season, choked. Receivers dropped passes. Austin Ekeler fumbled. Casey Hayward was scorched. And boy, the defense’s lack of run defense again was their achilles heel as Kareem Hunt went to work on this team.
I’ll hand it to the Chargers, I didn’t think they had any business being this good in week one, but in five of their seven losses, were a combined 18 points. Whether it’s a a terrible special teams play or Rivers doing too much or a key injury to a receiver, some cruel troll is sabotaging this team on the field. There wasn’t a whole lot to learn from this other than to acknowledge that the Chargers are closer to being a playoff contender if they don’t get hit hard by free agency. They have one of the best pass rushes and secondary, making this one of the best defenses in the league. The offense is just scratching at Hunter Henry’s potential, it hasn’t even figured out how to utilize rookie receiver Mike Williams. It’s likely another season just out of reach for Rivers, but his eventual replacement needs to be on the burner.