Realities and Illusions for Week Nine
I’ll be completely honest: I’m still not sure Julio Jones actually scored a touchdown. Yes, it did happen, so technically, it should be a reality; I saw it. But at the same time, I once swore I saw the Easter Bunny eating carrots in my house, so my eyes have often lied to me. I guess whether you believe Julio Jones, he who hasn’t scored a touchdown since 2017, finally found the end zone in Week Nine is up to you. Regardless, I have more clarity on the other realities and illusions of Week Nine, so let’s take a look.
Why the exclamation point? Because for the second straight week—and thanks to the trade of Ty Montgomery—the Green Bay running back led the team in touches. But more importantly, he out-snapped Jamaal Williams for the second week in a row, 43 to 31, in a game where the Packers had to throw often. While it was not an astounding Fantasy day—he picked up 76 yards on 14 carries, plus another two catches for 10 yards—there was a lot to like. He kept his streak of games averaging over five yards a carry alive. And despite a game-changing fumble that eventually sparked the Patriots’ victory, he wasn’t benched, as some running backs are post-fumble. Mike McCarthy, whether by necessity or realization, is finally trusting Aaron Jones, and he is at worst a dependable Flex going forward.
More like FitzMehgic
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Week Nine performance was akin to seeing the same magician’s Vegas set for a second time in the same week: there are still some mystifying moments, but a second look at the tricks is giving you a clear glimpse into the tells exposing the “magic.” That’s not to say he had a truly bad day: four touchdowns will do your points wonders, and has him at QB6 on the week. However, his real reality is the rest of his day: sub 300 yards and two interceptions, including a horrific one on the Bucs’ second drive. The reality here is that he is not the world-beater we saw Weeks One and Two; he’s more a just okay quarterback who, at times, will rack up garbage time touchdowns. He’s a useful bye week fill-in, but nothing more.
The Duke is Loose
All it took was for the Browns to remember they have one of the best pass-catching backs in the league was: trade their starting running back, fire their head coach and offensive coordinator and move up their running backs coach to offensive coordinator. That doesn’t seem too hard, right? Well, either way, those of you that held tight with Johnson—and maybe even started him thanks to bye week hell—were rewarded, as he led Cleveland in targets (nine), catches (also nine), yards (78) and touchdowns (two). That made him RB5 on the week in PPR leagues, ahead of the likes of Todd Gurley, James Conner, Melvin Gordon and James White. Is he going to score like that every week? Probably not. Does this usage push him towards must-start territory? Yes.
This is a Reality based on one play, but bear with me. If I told you Dalvin Cook was going to have a 70-yard run at some point this season as recently as a week ago, would you believe me? I’m not sure I would. Still, that’s what he did this week, and it was almost 75 yards and a score except he was tripped up just short. But to draw too much off of one run where he had a huge hole, Cook looked like the running back he was last year, absolutely exploding up the sideline. He didn’t do much else—he had nine more carries for just 11 yards—but that he got out of the game healthy and with a big play is what matters. After the Vikings’ upcoming bye in Week 10, those of you who held onto Cook should finally get some help in the latter portion of the season.
Maybe Brees CAN Just Throw to Michael Thomas
Maybe Michael Thomas can lend his phone to Drew Brees to call some of his other receivers, because it seems like they’ve lost touch (side note: how did Buck and Aikman not immediately pick up on this being a callback to Joe Horn’s celebration?). After throwing just 23 passes last week for only 120 yards, and gaining just 212 through the air the week before, Brees was finally able to be his usual self in a shootout with the Rams, completing 25 of 36 passes for 346 yards and four scores. But of those 32 attempts, almost half (15) went in Michael Thomas’ direction. While you can’t blame Brees, considering Thomas has a legitimate claim to being in the top three receivers in the league (he caught 12 for 211 yards and a score), Fantasy owners wish he would spread it around a little. Alvin Kamara is going to get his looks—he had five targets, second-most—but players like Tre’Quan Smith and Ben Watson, though they both had touchdowns, are very rarely targeted. While that could always change in a hurry, it’s hard to recommend any Saints receivers in the non-Michael Thomas division.
Cordarrelle Patterson… Running Back?
Just like Julio Jones’ touchdown, I’m not entirely sure I believe Cordarrelle Patterson, running back, ran all over the Packers’ defense on Sunday Night Football. But I’m looking at the stats right now, and it is confirming that I did, in fact, see him pick up 61 yards and a score on 11 carries. And that includes a drive where, after James White had to limp off with an injury, the Patriots ran the ball with Patterson four times, picking up 40 yards and a score. They used Patterson—who, again, is nominally a wide receiver but more a return specialist—to punch the ball in up the middle from five yards out. Bill Belichick, man. But regardless, Sony Michel got up to being a game-time decision, so the circumstances that led to Patterson’s breakout taking handoffs should be short-lived. He may be worth a stash in case Michel goes down again, but it’s also worth remembering this performance came against a very beat up Packers defense.
Don’t Run to the Waivers for Maurice Harris
The Fantasy Football equivalent of the Nigerian Prince scam email is when a no-name receiver randomly has a huge game, causing some less-thoughtful folks to run to the waiver wire and burn a high slot or some FAAB chasing the next hotness. Is it possible Washington receiver Maurice Harris becomes the real deal? Technically, of course. Is it likely? No. Harris saw more targets (12) than he had the rest of the season combined so far. With Washington down early against a weak Falcons defense and Josh Doctson still out, it was a perfect storm for someone to have a breakout day; it just happened to be Harris. Don’t bank on this happening again, including next week against another rough pass defense, the Buccaneers. Keep an eye on him, sure, but don’t expect much.
Jordan Howard Isn’t “Back”
Jordan Howard finished Week Nine as RB11 with 16.7 PPR points, his best total of the season. I am here to rain on your parade and tell you to not believe it. He picked up just 47 yards on 14 carries, but was able to punch it in twice, which ballooned his points total. I’m not going to discount scoring touchdowns, but it’s hard to recommend a running back averaging 3.5 yards per game just because he has scored in three straight games. He has still yet to break even 90 yards this season, a real blow to those who drafted him as their RB2. With a few days left before the Fantasy trading deadline in most leagues, this is a good sell-high opportunity. But otherwise, I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting him as anything more than a low-ceiling flex or bye week fill-in.
Ask any Fantasy expert, and the common assumption when Demaryius Thomas was shipped to Houston was that rookie Courtland Sutton would pick up a large portion of his target share. Jeff Heuerman’s unexpected breakout is a reminder that football is weird sometimes and you can only predict so much. Heuerman pulled in 10 catches on 11 targets for 83 yards and a score, easily pacing the Broncos’ pass catchers. He has had a couple of other decent games this season, but nothing like this one. Congrats to those Eric Ebron, Zach Ertz and Evan Engram owners who were left choosing between Heuerman and like Ben Watson and Chris Herndon and hit the bullseye blindfolded. But don’t be tricked into thinking this is the start of a trend.
Oh My God, They’ve Killed Kenny(‘s Targets)
Kenny Golladay, after a roaring start to the season (get it?), has dramatically cooled off ever since the Lions’ Week Six bye. In Detroit’s three games since, he has just seven total targets for six catches and 95 yards. The week before the bye, he had four catches on nine targets for 98 yards and a score. However, this dip has included matchups with the Seahawks and Vikings, which will slow you down. With Golden Tate out of the picture, Golladay should eventually see an upswing, even with two matchups against the Bears in the next three