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Oct 28

Inside the Locker Room, NFL Week 8 Review: A look at Sunday’s action

Please note: we plan to expand on some of the points below, and more, live at 7pm Eastern on Monday via Google Hangout, so, check us out here at that time.

Yesterday, the New York Giants came away with a win and Eli Manning avoided the mistakes that plagued him all season, but let’s do our best not to mistake this as a good football team or one that boasts numerous reasonable fantasy options. Coming into the game Philadelphia’s red zone defense was allowing touchdowns at the 5th highest rate in the league and the Giants mustered just five field goals against them. While Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks got involved they weren’t anywhere near the top scorers at their position because no one found the endzone, and Rueben Randle disappeared.

Again, the real world conversation is going to be about how the defense has produced for New York over the last two games and allowed them to improve their position heading into the week off. However, just because we’re all feeling warm and fuzzy about the Giants (or at least, as fuzzy as one can feel about a 2-6 football team) shouldn’t mean that we overvalue any of their fantasy contributors. The best case scenario as an owner of anyone on this offense not named Manning may involve a trade that ships Hakeem Nicks out of town. He should be more productive in a new environment, while it would free up targets for the rest of the players involved. In Eagles news: their Quarterbacks weren’t very good either, meaning LeSean McCoy didn’t have a lot of room to run. Riley Cooper faded back to obscurity.

  • Frank Gore had the big day that was anticipated against the Jaguars, and Kendall Hunter posted flex-relevant numbers in mop up duty. It started early, as Gore had four carries, 29 yards and a 19 yard TD on the 49ers first series.
  • Colin Kaepernick threw just 16 passes this week, a number that I roughly projected. He’s attempted more than 25 passes just once this month. Knowing that he wouldn’t ‘need to’ throw against the Jags, I didn’t expect much of a game. Yet, while he threw for just one score and 164 yards, he posted a big fantasy day via 50+ and 2 scores on the ground. His legs are what makes Kaepernick start worthy every week… Vernon Davis was left wide open behind the defense on a two yard touchdown thanks in large part to a well-sold play fake from Kaepernick to Gore. The big effect of the minimal volume will be on Anquan Boldin. He drew six targets today, but that’s his ceiling if Kap is throwing less than 20 balls a game.
  • Dez Bryant may not quite be the receiver Calvin Johnson is, depending on what side of the debate you fall on, but his catch over Darius Slay at the end of the first half might be the finest you’ll ever see. Athleticism to go up and get it, and strength to pull it in. His next TD was also impressive, with a gritty catch along the sideline and a 50 yard scamper. I’m not going to try to explain the sideline eruption(s), and I’m not expecting it to effect his value moving forward. Speaking of the other receiver in this game… Johnson was again uncoverable and should be ranked as WR1 league wide except ion the most extreme of circumstances every week. You may have noticed that he played fairly well. His 329 yard 1 touchdown effort was enough for Matthew Stafford to be a top 10 fantasy quarterback on his own this week… I don’t need to offer much else that you can’t tell from the way the game played out. As is generally the case, Reggie Bush was productive along with Johnson.
  • For whatever it’s worth, I’m still on Brandon Carr as a shutdown corner… just… not against the Lions apparently.
  • At one point in the first half Terrance Williams drew five consecutive targets from Tony Romo, catching just one of them. He struggled for most of the game until he broke loose on a 60 yard score (two catches, 10 targets). On the slant route which he caught after roughly 10 yards, the rookie displayed speed in escaping the initial tackle and getting downfield that Miles Austin doesn’t possess even when healthy. With a TD now in 4 consecutive games, it has to be his job moving forward despite the low catch rate.
  • Brandon Gibson wasn’t the original read on his 1st quarter touchdown but the knack he has shown for finding the endzone was evident. I’d pencilled him in for a story somewhere in our weekly wrap up. Unfortunately, it looks like he was lost for the season shortly after making the catch. The injury should have a greater positive impact on Charles Clay and Brian Hartline than it will on Mike Wallace.
  • It seems like every game – and I haven’t back checked – Alex Smith adds to his fantasy totals via a big play with his feet. He’s never been a guy I’d classify as immobile, but, he seems to have more flexibility and/or interest to take off and move this year in KC. His 23 yard scramble on a broken play in the first half won’t show on the box score but it was a big pickup to move the Chiefs into scoring range, which they’d make good on via an Anthony Sherman 12 yard strike.
  • Thad Lewis seems to have found his rapport with Stevie Johnson… Lewis started the game with a designed QB run behind Fred Jackson and produced a fumble deep in his own territory. After a quick stop and a 47 yard field goal miss it didn’t hurt them, though. On the subsequent drive Dan Carpenter missed from 50. Later in the first quarter Cameron Jordan, who was no lock to play for the Saints, forced another Lewis fumble on a sack. It wasn’t exactly a pretty start for Buffalo. Hartley later missed from 39. The wind inside the dome was crazy.
  • Jason Witten had a rush today… it has no fantasy relevance but it’s interesting all the same.
  • Lamar Miller had over 20 touches for the first time this year, and posted strong numbers to back it up. Daniel Thomas factored in, but this week that wasn’t to Miller’s detriment. Hopefully the Dolphins learned something re: their game planning moving forward. In the second half, as the team got away from the run, things fell apart as Ryan Tannehill was under constant pressure.
  • Stevan Ridley had another solid fantasy game though he received comparable workload relative to LeGarrette Blount. Either way, he’s back to being the same productive runner he was in 2012 and is a weekly start, even as New England’s offense has its continued hiccups. The final numbers for that offense would have looked better, as Rob Gronkowski had a long TD called back on a hold (an incredible catch). I’ve been talking up Aaron Dobson over Kenbrell Thompkins for weeks based on snap count and this week, with Danny Amendola in the lineup it became very real as Thompkins was held without a catch while Dobson made a few nice plays, including pro-level adjustments on his touchdown and coming back to the ball along the sideline late in the game.
  • The Giants punt coverage has been so bad this year the team decided to give the Eagles a TD without even bothering to punt, failing on the snap and allowing Philadelphia to roll into the endzone for a score. Statistically, this one will be put on their embattled special teams coach. In reality, of course, this particular play isn’t on the unit as a whole.
  • Ryan Broyles has struggled getting acclimated to the Lions offense this year, and he continues to look out of place on tape. Late in the first half Matthew Stafford threw a perfect pass to Broyles over the middle that would have guaranteed a field goal and perhaps gone the distance and it went – literally – right through his hands. I’d intended to turn this post into a ROS value on Broyles piece, but with his season looking like it is on the brink, instead I’ll say that Kris Durham’s value is through the roof. Indeed, Durham must be the guy to own after Megatron now that Broyles has been ruled out for the year.
  • Maurice Jones-Drew remains a unique talent, racking up 122 total yards despite the extremely lopsided score. If he winds up dealt at the deadline, his fantasy value would increase significantly in most venues. Jacksonville’s RZ offense failed twice (turnover on downs, no less) again today. They came into the day last in the league in redzone touchdown percentage scoring on just 25% of their possessions, a mark that is worst than the 2nd worst team by more than 14%. They move the ball reasonably well on a weekly basis between the 20s but the inability to score severely handicaps the value of any of their offensive weapons.
  • Drew Brees’ pass to Kenny Stills for 69 yards (his 2nd career TD) in the second quarter came after Saints had racked up fewer yards of total offense in the 25 minutes preceding. That’s why you never count them out, particularly at home. Stills wound up with two scores, giving him three in his last two games. From there, the team turned it on, including Jimmy Graham’s big day in light of his plantar fascia injury. Graham had just three targets and clearly wasn’t deployed ‘as normal’ but he’s too big of a weapon to worry about any of that when he’s in the lineup. You’ll have the added concern of checking the inactives every week if you’re a Graham owner but his rest of season value is just fine.
  • Lance Moore was welcomed back in a big way, catching a 15 yard touchdown running down the middle on 3rd down and staying involved in the offense throughout.
  • Darren Sproles did not have a carry, and caught four balls for 0 yards.
  • I’m not taking anything away from Terrelle Pryor’s 93 yard touchdown to open the game for Oakland, but, the entire Steelers defense bit on the read option. Every player not in coverage went left, Pryor went right, game over. It’s that type of play – and the Raiders’ willingness to call it – that makes him relevant every week. Darren McFadden scored one of his two touchdowns on a direct snap. Again, Oakland’s deployment of each player should have a positive impact on their value moving forward, even if DMC didn’t finish with overwhelming offensive numbers despite the touchdowns. Pryor, likewise, struggled beyond his big TD run throwing two interceptions but the Raiders didn’t need to ask much of him in the passing game.
  • Next up in the quarterback cavalcade for the Browns, Jason Campbell, didn’t hurt the fantasy value of any of the relevant pieces (all two of them) of the Browns offense. Cameron posted 81 yards and Gordon made five catches on 10 targets. With a 39 yard touchdown on a flea flicker Gordon bounced back in a big way against the Chiefs after a down week in Week 7. In other Browns news, Fozzy Whittaker has stolen all of Chris Ogbonnaya’s fantasy relevance but I’m not sure that we should care week in and out about either of them.
  • In a game where he suffered an injury and missed time Jamaal Charles still totalled more than 100 yards. He didn’t score, for the first time all year, but his consistent use – and production – in the Kansas City offense is the type of low ceiling proposition that makes him my top RB over Adrian Peterson moving forward. The touchdown helps make this apparent, but, I’d rather own Dexter McCluster than Dwayne Bowe moving forward.
  • I bumped Peyton Manning down my rankings considerably this week in light of his ankle injury (he came in at 3, and finished at 7) and while I can’t prove that it had an impact on his performance, the ball continued to come out wobbly – and he produced four turnovers. Manning and the Denver offense are still the top unit in fantasy by far, but it is important that we adjust our projections slightly as the team is coming down off it’s torrid pace to start the season. Of note: Manning has thrown an interception in each of the last four games after going pick-free during the first four. Now, Manning wound up with four touchdowns and a solid fantasy day, but, that seemed to be more a function of Washington wilting than Denver turning it on.
  • Robert Griffin III threw some seriously dangerous throws against the Broncos. While he’s gotten himself back to fantasy relevance in recent weeks, he’s still not ‘real world ready’. None of his deep balls really had a shot, either. To make matters worse, despite the juicy matchup, he did nothing against Denver and was intercepted twice. Part of the reason for that was the intense pressure that the Broncos applied. With Von Miller’s return the team may be ratcheting up the pressure moving forward, making them less of a gem matchup moving forward. The fourth quarter of this game was tough to watch, as the teams played hot potato with the football on the way to 10 total turnovers in the game. Despite RGIII’s struggles Jordan Reed again drew a huge number of targets – 14 – and gave a very useable fantasy TE line. Alfred Morris did his part, too, while Roy Helu was fairly quiet.
  • Montee Ball scored a touchdown and ran reasonably well on 11 carries. He may have done enough to permanently stay ahead of Ronnie Hillman on the depth chart.
  • Le’Veon Bell had an interesting fantasy week, saving his day with a touchdown, but posting a per carry average of just 1.8 on 13 totes. He ran for a nice average last week, but, didn’t score.
  • I’ve been touting Marvin Jones in recent weeks but my ranks haven’t really caught up with my opinions. It’s time for him to be owned in all leagues. I’m not saying I saw his four TD day coming, of course… anyone that says they projected even half his point total is lying, but there isn’t a debate any longer that he’s the second option in Cincinnati ahead of Mohamed Sanu. His four scores all came on a different style of catch, too. The same story goes for Andy Dalton who outperformed our expectations by a considerable amount. No QB had posted more than 20 fantasy points against the Jets until today. Giovani Bernard produced his second consecutive dud game, though it had more to do with the game context than anything else. The same goes for Chris Ivory. He split work with Bilal Powell this week but it is hard to know whether that was a result of game context than anything else – with the Jets trailing by a big margin from the outset Powell fit the situation better than Ivory.
  • There was a lot of Andy Dalton has turned the corner talk today… and… obviously he was extremely productive in a tough matchup, but, let’s not get carried away. He has 3 touchdowns or more in 3 consecutive games and warrants consideration as QB2+, but, before that he went two games without a score so he’s not the type of high floor play you want to rely on week in and out.
  • Andre Ellington showcased big play ability that hasn’t been seen from Rashard Mendenhall all season. While I remain convinced that he won’t ever draw a huge workload (today’s 17 touches are more than I expected), his performance this week – made notable by an 80 yard score in the first half – should cement him as the preferred option in the Cardinals backfield even if Mendenhall remains the starter.
  • Drew Davis’ TD came late against the Cardinals (I won’t call it garbage time, but, well… it was garbage time) but he was consistently targeted all game. It was hard to know exactly what to expect of any of the Atlanta offensive players given the way their first game of the post-Julio Jones era played out last week, but his relative use should look more like this week than last moving forward. Atlanta won’t throw the ball 60 times every week of course, but he’s in for WR2 targets until Roddy White returns and likely a fair amount of work even when the vet gets back on the field. Harry Douglas, meanwhile, saw 17 targets. Again, that number is going to decrease in a typical game as a result of passing volume alone, but, he put up big numbers for the second straight week and is a weekly WR2 for the time being with Matt Ryan throwing him the ball.
  • In case it was missed, Steven Jackson was awful in his return. Moving forward, I’m not sure what to make of the game, but we should know in the week ahead if Jackson was still dealing with the effects of his injury or not.

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