Realities and Illusions for Week Seven
In a week when Cody Kessler replacing Blake Bortles was a Top Five crazy thing that happened, you would think it was a set of games heavy on realities and low on illusions. But no matter how majority chalk a week is, there will always be interesting performances to break down and clarify.
Not Bearing Down
Matt Nagy is finally living up to his offense genius-in-waiting hype, and is doing so by unleashing Mitchell Trubisky, much to the detriment of the Bears’ running backs. Jordan Howard is having a mightily disappointing season already, but with Trubisky throwing for 300 yards for the third week in a row, the odds of a bounce-back are continuing to slim. Non-Trubisky rushers (Howard, Tarik Cohen and one Taylor Gabriel rush) had just 53 yards on the day. Cohen was still plenty involved in the passing game, leading the team in targets with 12, while picking up eight catches for 69 yards and a score. With the passing game clicking and Howard continuing to struggle, the Bears’ offense is going to continue going to the air. It’s hard to drop Howard, but he should remain firmly on your bench, regardless of matchups going forward, until he proves otherwise.
Marlon Mack Truck
I suggested in my Week Seven Flexpert column that Nyheim Hines could still play a role in the Colts’ offense going forward. Marlon Mack must have heard I thought Hines could eat into his touches and set out to prove me wrong. Well, he’s convinced me; 126 yards and a score on 19 carries plus two catches for 33 yards and a touchdown will do that. The Mack Hype Truck is moving right along. Hines did have a solid day on the ground efficiency-wise, picking up 47 yards on five carries, but his passing game usage looks evaporated: just two targets, with one catch on a screen that went for a loss of five. Mack is a solid every-week starter, though you shouldn’t drop Hines; he’ll re-emerge as a strong PPR role if Mack goes down with another injury.
Help Me Nick Chubb, You’re My Only Hope
If you drafted Nick Chubb as a late flier, or picked him up after his huge game in Week Four, congrats on your newly-minted starting running back. Chubb looked solid in his debut as the lead rusher, even if it was against the Buccaneers. He registered more carries in Week Seven than the first six weeks combined, and picked up 80 yards and a score. He also gets a favorable schedule going forward. The Texans in Week 13 and Ravens in Week 17 the only Top 10 rushing defenses by DVOA the Browns face going forward. He’s an easy every-week start.
The Bust Took A Bus
Look, it’s really not all Deshaun Watson’s fault that he has failed to live up to expectations this season. The expectations were probably too high and the offensive line has hung him out to dry. He’s also made some bad decisions that got him lit up. Now he’s dealing with a bruised lung and injured ribs so severe that the Texans were concerned about the air pressure of a plane causing a problem, choosing to bus him to Jacksonville. And once he arrived, he had a very pedestrian, game manager-type day against the Jaguars, going 12-24 for 139 yards and a score. He did break his interception streak, but it was the second week in a row when he failed to top even 180 yards, and he also is rushing less and less. While he’s only now two weeks removed from four straight 300-yard performances, almost all of those performances also had flaws, and now he has some serious injuries. If you can find a replacement—say, Mitchell Trubisky or Jameis Winston—it might be time to sit Watson down, much like the Texans should.
Getting the Mostert Out of a Bad Situation
It took until last week, but maybe the 49ers have finally found a running back that fits into Kyle Shanahan’s plans in Raheem Mostert. Coming off a week when he had 12 carries for 87 yards out of nowhere, Mostert had another efficient week, gaining 59 yards on just seven carries, an 8.4 yards per carry average. The backfield tandem of Alfred Morris and Matt Breida simply hasn’t worked, so the fourth-year former special teamer should continue to see an increase in his work. Breida has also been dealing with an ankle injury that he may sit with soon and left the game on Sunday after re-aggravating it. It’s not time to plug Mostert into lineups yet, but he should be added in most moderately-sized leagues, and definitely owned above Alfred Morris.
The Kearse of Rookie QBs
Jermaine Kearse was not happy that he only saw two targets (no catches) in the Jets 37-17 loss to the Vikings. Coming off of a nine-catch, 94-yard week and an injury to Quincy Enunwa, Kearse was a popular bye week fill-in for Antonio Brown/Davante Adams/Doug Baldwin owners. But when a rookie quarterback is under center and facing a strong defense like the Vikings, odd things can happen. It was a bad day for Sam Darnold, who threw three interceptions to just one touchdown while completing just 17 of his 42 pass attempts. Still, a rookie QB can probably be persuaded by an upset veteran WR. With Enunwa’s injury expected to be a multi-week affair, Kearse should be more involved than the likes of Trenton Cannon and Chris Herndon going forward. He’s no more than a Flex play, but he should do in a pinch.
Weird Things Happen in London Games
And by that, I mean, “No, the Titans’ offense probably isn’t fixed.” For one thing, while the unit finally broke its streak of 10 quarters without a touchdown, it still struggled in the red zone, scoring just two touchdowns on five trips inside the Chargers’ 20. London games are already hard to parse because of to the weird travel scenarios, but add in the Titans playing a West Coast team and it’s hard to take much of the game seriously. It was nice to see Dion Lewis finally be relevant again with 91 yards on the ground and another six catches for 64 yards, but I’d rather try and sell than plug him into your lineup following their Week Eight bye. I’d also let someone else pick up Tajae Sharpe.
Being Better Than Bortles is a Low Bar
I’ll be honest: Cody Kessler looked better than I thought he would when he relieved Blake Bortles after the latter’s second fumble. Kessler is 0-8 as a starter, and he couldn’t guide the Jaguars to a win over the Texans, despite completing 21 of 30 passes for 156 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was also sacked four times. Doug Marrone hasn’t committed to a QB for next week yet. And while I’m not expecting anyone to rush to the waiver wire to pick up Kessler, his performance warrants mention as an illusion for the rest of the offense. Kessler over Bortles doesn’t provide a noticeable uptick in value for any of the wideouts, at least not right away, nor should it be a factor in the relative Fantasy success of Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon.
Mark Ingram Isn’t Broken
It was simply a matchup problem. The Ravens have an elite run defense, so the Saints went with Alvin Kamara more (though he also didn’t have a ton of success, outside of a touchdown). It was overall a quieter offensive performance for the Saints, with Drew Brees even failing to top 250 yards. After facing the Vikings next week, who have the ninth-best run defense by DVOA, it should be smoother sailing for Ingram on the ground for the rest of the season. While his stock probably hasn’t dropped too much, there’s always a chance the Ingram owner in your league is panicking (or will panic if he scuffles a little again next week), but he will be fine. That also serves as a message if you are the Ingram owner: he’ll be fine, and you can still start him with confidence. He’s still just a little rusty.
Neither is Tyler Boyd
After their 45-10 thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs on Sunday Night Football, I heard a new stunning Marvin Lewis fact: the Bengals are now 1-17 in prime time games with him as a head coach. In other words: a Bengals prime time game is always going to be a disaster, so it’s best not to overreact, particularly not about Tyler Boyd. He saw his fewest targets since Week One, and all of his catches came on one drive, which is obviously concerning. But outside of that first week and a sloppy matchup with the Dolphins, Boyd has been a solid Fantasy WR. You don’t have to start worrying about him yet, especially since the Bengals don’t have any prime time games remaining, and matchups with the Buccaneers and Saints over the next two weeks. Boyd should be able to get right back on track as the Bengals play their way towards another mediocre finish, meaning another season of Marvin Lewis in 2019.