Oct 21

Inside the Locker Room, Week 7 Review: A look at Sunday’s action

Saying that Jay Cutler was obviously hurt as he was helped off the field is a significant understatement. He left Chicago’s contest against Washington late in the first half with what appeared to be – and is being reported as – a significant groin injury. He had been a top 10 QB through the first 6 weeks and was getting plenty of QB1 love heading into the matchup with Washington, but, posted just 28 passing yards in first half. No worries, though – the Washington defense continued to be an all you can eat fantasy buffet as Josh McCown came in and threw for 204 yards in the second half, while Matt Forte went off. If he is out for a significant period Cutler will be missed on the field, but in terms of fantasy production it may not be detrimental to the rest of the Bears stars. Given how things went with McCown in the lineup today and noting that both Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery represent matchup problems for most opposing corners they should still be able to win battles for less-than-perfect balls. The loss of Cutler is likely the biggest story in terms of the Bears’ season, but it isn’t necessarily the biggest one from a fantasy perspective.

Two Running Backs combined for 6 TDs on the ground in Washington. Matt Forte should continue to see more of the endzone (Photo: Nick Wass/AP).

Two Running Backs combined for 6 TDs on the ground in Washington. Enjoying his time in Marc Trestman’s system, Matt Forte should continue to see more of the endzone (Photo: Nick Wass/AP).

The most noteworthy story, then, is just how productive Matt Forte has been and may continue to be throughout the season in Marc Trestman’s offense. His fantasy value in Trestman’s system – which both makes use of him in the pass game and as goal line back – is through the roof. He had just one multi-TD game over the last three years under Lovie Smith and maxed out at 6 TDs rushing during that span… double today’s output. Michael Bush didn’t have a carry. Under the previous regime the season would be vulture city, but, that doesn’t appear to be the case any longer. Forte’s 6 touchdowns and nearly 800 total yards put him on pace for the best season of his career, and a return to fantasy levels that he hasn’t reached since his rookie season. Back in 2008 he ranked as the #4 Running Back and #5 overall fantasy producer, and through seven weeks this year he is proving to be just as valuable. Look for the next QB in line, if it comes to that, to make use of Forte as a checkdown option while the team continues to feed him the ball in the run game. Perhaps you can curtail some McCown skepticism into an opportunity to get a hold of Forte in certain leagues… it’s worth a shot, there are few players that you’ll want to own more moving forward.

Onto the rest of the stories in our Week 7 Review:

  • The day started on an interesting note, with 2 DTDs (Carolina and Buffalo both on interceptions) before I’d even loaded the box scores. The day’s 3rd score came on an Atlanta fumble recovery. Good for the Falcons defense in particular to help out an offense with plenty of question marks coming into this one.
  • AJ Green picked up an 82 yard touchdown on a nice throw from Andy Dalton early, a harbinger of things to come as both Dalton and Matthew Stafford leaned heavily on their #1 targets in this one.
  • Nick Foles broke a run to the outside, and while he doesn’t run anywhere near as well as Vick, he showed great awareness – adding an extra 3 or 4 yards recognizing a block was in place as he was heading out of bounds. This was my first bullet of the day on Foles when taking notes. It turned out to be the only one worth writing. It’s amazing how Foles’ ugly game (completing just 37.9 percent of his passes) followed by Matt Barkley’s turnover fest helped heal Michael Vick’s hamstring. I spent some time discussing Brandon Carr’s development as a shutdown corner after last week’s handling of Pierre Garcon. It’s time to start taking him seriously against opponents top receivers, DeSean Jackson had just three catches for 21 yards on eight targets.
  • I was way too high on Foles in my weekly rankings, but after playing well against Tampa Bay last week there was little reason to see today’s meltdown coming. For those that are excited about Riley Cooper’s back to back strong outings there is plenty of reason to see next week’s fade back to obscurity coming. He did very little with Michael Vick at the helm early this season.
  • Austin Collie had a look on Patriots’ first drive and finished with 5 targets, which is worth noting in deep leagues… but… he hauled in just one ball.
  • Joseph Randle’s 12 yard gain in the first quarter was a nice run. Good vision, he hit the hole hard…
  • Geno Smith had a nice game against the Patriots – particularly when targeting Jeremy Kerley early, but this one did come against a severely undermanned Pats secondary. They are a different team in the defensive backfield without Aqib Talib.
  • Le’Veon Bell ran well for the Steelers. He gained 93 yards on 19 carries, his first impressive YPC outing of the season and a positive sign going forward.
  • One thing Mike Glennon is doing well is showing a willingness to throw it up to Vincent Jackson. On Jackson’s deep score he wasn’t particularly open, and the throw wasn’t particularly good, but the receiver made a play and scored – which is great news for the fantasy value of both players. Jackson finished the day with 10 catches and 2 scores on 22 targets (seriously, not a typo, 22 targets… it will be discussed more in our touches and targets piece).
  • Mile Austin still doesn’t look fully sharp/healthy running his routes, and Terrence Williams had another strong game… I was a strong Austin backer coming into the season, but I hope that this means a reshuffling of the depth chart on a permanent basis.
  • If for no other reason than a lack of legitimate options otherwise, we should have saw (some of) Harry Douglas’ day coming. I ranked him as a starter, but, actually bumped him down in the leadup to the 1:00 games, given concerns over coverage from Revis. He caught all 7 of his targets.
  • How do the Chargers fail to score/run out of clock on the goal line to end the first half? Seriously, how?
  • Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady left plenty of fantasy points on the field (real points, too…) a couple of times Brady missed Gronkowski when he was open, but the big TE looked a little rusty despite catching 8 balls for 114 yards. He struggled in particular on a few passes that could have led to scores where he either turned the wrong way or just didn’t come down with the ball. There are bigger days ahead for the duo. For whatever it’s worth, I took note of Gronkowski blocking on the punt team on one play (after having suffered his initial injury blocking with the field goal unit…)
  • Without explanation Chris Ivory took over the feature role from Bilal Powell this week, and he went over 100 yards on 34 carries. The per carry average wasn’t great, but, he didn’t produce a lot of negative plays and came up big for the Jets as they were trying to hold off the Patriots late. It’s hard to know if he’ll continue to be the starter, but, the timeshare took a dramatic turn this weekend. He was a solid chain mover all day, Part of that has to do with the new-found holes in the center of New England’s defense, but…
  • Doug Martin was hurt on an attempt at a leaping reception in the first half and Mike James filled in. With a short week, he could be worth a look for a tough matchup Thursday night against the Panthers.
  • Ryan Mathews had a nice game, topping 100 yards for the second week in a row, and capped it with his first rushing touchdown of the season. He had a number of looks inside the redzone as well, though, Danny Woodhead had RZ carries of his own, including on the first series, and scored an early TD. Philip Rivers was deadly efficient, again, throwing just four incompletions. Three of those came on passes thrown to Keenan Allen (3 for 6, for 67) but don’t sour on the rookie… he was the most targeted Charger again… Just when you write Eddie Royal off, he’s back in the endzone.
  • Cam Newton didn’t have much asked of him today (which is typically bad from a fantasy perspective) but he played well, throwing just two incompletions and getting Steve Smith into the endzone for the second straight week.
  • We addressed the injury to Jay Cutler, but Sam Bradford went down as well. The Rams injury is interesting from a fantasy perspective given the rumblings re: Tim Tebow, but also because Bradford hadn’t really been getting the most out of his fantasy weapons this year, despite posting sound ‘real’ numbers. Zac Stacy found the endzone for the Rams in his best fantasy game to date. He had a 25 yard catch and a 21 yard run had a couple of chunk plays in the first quarter; which we didn’t see a whole lot of in his first two starts.
  • The Jaguars are just a brutal redzone team. They really aren’t that bad on offense between the 20s. Chad Henne has thrown for over 600 yards the last two weeks, but, they’ll be underwhelming fantasy commodities until they figure out how to get it done inside the 20.
  • I didn’t see any of the Miami/Buffalo game, but, that doesn’t mean I can’t pass this judgement: if I’m seeing trade offers on anyone in the high RB2 range for CJ Spiller right now, I’m taking the deal. He had 9 touches for 7  yards today.
  • All of Roy Helu’s 3 touchdown runs came from inside the 20, including two plunges from three yards, which should be troubling for Alfred Morris owners. The shift toward Helu in certain situations started last week and was in full force today. On his first score, from 14 yards out, there were a number of very well executed blocks against the Bears defense. Helu just followed the zone blocks; the first 12 yards were uncontested.
  • I’d written Dwayne Bowe off as fantasy irrelevant and it’s not like his 66 yard effort is overly exciting but, with nine targets and several of the over 20 yard variety Kansas City showed a willingness to make use Bowe that  hadn’t previously been apparent… Jamaal Charles had another, standard, 100 total yard day with a touchdown – that’s 7 in a row. Count on it week in and week out.
  • Case Keenum had a strong debut all things considered. While the KC office sputtered, the defense picked them up late in the game, rolling up three key sacks of Keenum late in the fourth, including on Houston’s final drive. Otherwise, Keenum didn’t see a great deal of pressure and kept the Houston offense moving – particularly impressive given that the team lost Arian Foster for the day early and Ben Tate was limited as well. From what we’ve seen, he’s not a downgrade for the Texans offensive stars.
  • Alex Smith is doing enough to be a relevant QB2 as a passer, but I’m impressed with the way he is being used as a runner this year. Everyone in the building was faked out on Smith’s first half TD run – including, I think, Jamaal Charles who was on the opposite side of where the QB was attempting to hand off the ball.
  • Jake Locker turned it on late, and while Tennessee was never really in the game he’s a clear upgrade for their fantasy impact players. Chris Johnson wasn’t asked to carry the ball at all in the second half but his 39 yards on 9 carries represent one of his best per carry averages on the season and he had another long catch and run, finishing with over 100 total yards and a score. Nate Washington caught just 3 of his 10 targets but still had his most productive game since Ryan Fitzpatrick became the starter.
  • Colin Kaepernick played a fine game – he was efficient – and saved his fantasy day with a rushing score, but, as long as the 49ers win without him needing to throw, he’s not going to be an every week starter.
  • Jarrett Boykin put up a strong fourth quarter and his day could have been better – he had a 20 yard catch called back on a hold and was stopped one yard short of a touchdown before later picking up a score. The stat of note, though, is that he caught eight of 10 targets after pulling down just one of five last week.
  • Eddie Lacy had 27 touches and another 100 total yard effort with a score. He’s becoming, by virtue of volume and offense (though his strong play doesn’t hurt), the type of low-floor play you want as a RB1 every week.
  • Jordan Cameron was theKing of garbage time again. I said it last week, and it is somewhat troubling that Brandon doesn’t seem to look his way early in the game, but, fantasy points are fantasy points. Josh Gordon, meanwhile, was the King of nothing… which is more troubling. He was thrown to plenty it just seemed that the Packers had game planned well for him and the rain may have had an impact. The former is a problem for Gordon moving forward, if teams have figured out what the Browns are looking to do against them.
  • After throwing one of the uglier interceptions I’ve ever seen last week, Brandon Weeden made a horrible decision just after the two minute warning, throwing an underhand ball under pressure that would have qualified as a perfect beer league softball arc.

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