by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter
Andrew: Hello, and welcome to Scramble for the Ball, where NFL Week 6 is now in the books. With a third of the season gone, we finally appear to be sifting the playoff wheat from the high-draft-pick chaff. The madness of the early weeks has subsided somewhat, BROCKTOBER aside, and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape.
Andrew: You are clearly more concerned about the health of the league's quarterbacks than I am.
Bryan: The health of the league's quarterbacks has been somewhat on my mind since the 49ers-Chiefs game. I can't imagine why.
Anyway, Week 6 is always a bit of an awkward spot. It's too late to do a lot of forward-looking analysis. We're still several weeks out from midseason, a great place to pause and reflect on what's happened to this point. The end of the season brings with it playoff matchups and year-long awards. Week 6 is ... well, it exists. It's not a great time for looking at regular football, making it a great time to look at fantasy football.
Andrew: This time last year, we were in the middle of a spell of quarterback carnage. Aaron Rodgers had just broken his collarbone, and Carson Palmer was about to break his arm. Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill had not played a game due to legacy injuries, each en route to a completely lost season, whereas Sam Bradford's knee trouble had flared up again and he finally left for the year in Week 5. Deshaun Watson would at least last until the buildup to Week 9, and Carson Wentz until Week 14, but the Year of the Backup made any discussion of fantasy implications seem even more trite than usual. Fortunately, this year has not been nearly so destructive.
Bryan Of course, just because this year has been lighter on the injury front (at least for quarterbacks) than 2017's deathmarch doesn't mean that your fantasy team has been safe. Plenty of players have, shall we say, failed to live up to their draft stock up to now, the halfway point in most fantasy regular seasons. I know you're in a crazy league where punters and long snappers and assistant trainers get you points, Andrew, but most of the rest of us are in normal leagues where some of the stars haven't shined as brightly as advertised.
Andrew: Long-snapper scoring. Now there's an idea.
Bryan: One point for every successful snap, -500 for every botched one. That should just about match the level of attention they get normally.
Bryan: To be fair, that's a better backfield than the Baltimore Ravens can put together at the moment. When you're in a league where you roster, what, 30 players? The depth becomes a little thin at the edges, one would imagine.
Andrew: I believe it's a maximum of 14 offensive players on our rosters, after you account for the positional restrictions (3QB, 4RB, 4WR, 3TE). The problem is that we have 16 teams, so when everybody's trying to start two running backs and some teams are on bye, the unfortunates are left scratching whatever nutrition they can from the dregs. The list of unsigned players is not pretty, so if you were unlucky enough to draft, say, Dalvin Cook and Devonta Freeman, after using one of your keepers on Le'Veon Bell, there isn't much you can do to recover. There's a lot of interesting strategy to fantasy football, but there's also a huge amount of simple dumb luck.
Bryan: This is why I've been doing a lot more daily and weekly fantasy over the past couple years. If your star player ends up blowing out a tire mid-game, you're not ruined for the rest of the season. The real skill in regular fantasy football comes from being able to manipulate the waiver wire, and it's something I'm just not good at! Instead, I always just get ruined when my studs come up lame, so I need my draft to go really well.
My draft never goes really well. But at least I'm not alone, there.
Andrew: Most of us aren't, but there are at least strategies you can adopt. Zero running back, in which you target valuable handcuffs and the waiver wire while you wait for the inevitable rash of injuries. (Usually a death sentence in my league, though Latavius Murray worked out well for me this week.) Position over player, in which you focus more on positions like tight end where the dropoff is steeper from the top starters to the lower-end guys. Do you exclusively target season-long production, or look for two guys you can alternate to play the matchup game?
Bryan: The snake-draft format is another bit of fantasy that I've grown less and less fond of over the years, to the point where my only normal league this season was an auction one. That allows for so much more strategy, and it's definitely something I prefer. I hate not getting the chance to draft some players just because I drew a bad random number to begin with; yeah, maybe I won't be willing to drop 40 percent of my budget on Tom Brady, but I enjoy at least having the option.
Andrew: Oh, we base it on previous season record, but I guess that only works because we've had the same 16 owners, give or take a player or two, since 2005.
Bryan: My keeper league fell apart two years ago as I was the only one interested in doing the work of, you know, running the dang thing, so yeah. If you can have that sort of continuity in a league, that's great -- it just seems to be more of an exception than the actual rule, as it were.
Andrew: The curse of keepers can also have its benefits and downsides. If one savvy owner picks up, say, Tom Brady and Antonio Brown, there's basically no recourse for the rest of the league until they retire. Or you could be me, and have Julian Edelman as one of my keepers last season, which was slightly less than ideal.
Bryan: We had a couple rules preventing that -- no more than one player kept per position (so no keeping Antonio Brown and Julio Jones, for example), and the cost growing every year to keep them, so it would eventually become unreasonable, and then impossible, to keep a certain player. But again, if your keeper gets hurt, you better hope your league has an IR spot, or else again, you're hamstrung by unlucky drafting.
2018 wasn't as bad as 2017 for unlucky drafting but, uh, there are definitely a few picks people would like back.
Andrew: There are more than a few picks everybody would like back. Shall we take a look?
Bryan: We shall. It's almost like we plan these things in advance and then try to make them seem like natural conversation points.
Andrew: That's right, it's time for the Contractually Obligated Fantasy Column (TM)!
Bryan: Let's take a look at the top, oh, dozen or so picks from each position, and see how they're doing.
Andrew: Deshaun Watson being the third-highest quarterback chosen baffled me at the time, and still baffles me. Yeah, he was great in six starts last year, but it was only six starts! Picking him ahead of Drew Brees is lunacy.
Bryan: KUBIAK loved him, as well. Watson was my pick for player most likely to be overrated in the staff predictions, which remains my one and only good preseason prediction to this point (oh god, Le'Veon Bell as the league's leading rusher…)
The other small-sample-size wonder, Jimmy Garoppolo, wasn't quite living up to his preseason billing before going down with a torn ACL against Kansas City, though I don't think fans were too miserable about his production until his knee went all ka-splooey. Carson Wentz drafters were also expecting a slow start as he came back from injury, though I think they would have hoped for a slightly faster start so far.
I guess Russell Wilson drafters would have to be least happy, non-injury division, right? Though Wilson is banged up to the point where he hasn't been scrambling, at all, for the past few weeks. Take away Wilson's rushing scoring, and he drops way down the fantasy totem pole.
Andrew: At least Watson, Wilson, and Wentz owners can look forward and hope that their guys will be up to speed for the fantasy playoffs. Garoppolo owners ... that's not so good, Al.
Bryan: Yeah, Garoppolo ain't doing anything unless you're in a keeper league, or one which gives points for handsomeness or rehab sessions. Of the six quarterbacks up there who have disappointed so far, though, I don't think we're looking at any of the Three Ws if we're trying to pick the most likely to bounce back. I think we're talking about Tom Brady, going from QB14 back into the top five to end the season. The Patriots have made these slow September starts a habit at this point in time, and they do seem to be winding back into gear now. Brady owners should probably worry the least, I'd say.
Andrew: After the visit to Chicago, the schedule also gets much kinder in theory. Getting Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon healthy and up to speed can only help. Of course, we aren't only interested in the top 12, because there are some extremely noteworthy absentees from our list:
Bryan: It's not surprising that Fitzmagic went undrafted; he was always a short-term solution, probably picked up by a bunch of those Wentz-drafters from the first list. It's safe to say that he outshined even the most optimistic projections, however.
Andrew: If you did have Fitzpatrick as your stand-in for Wentz, it's safe to say that you would have been happy with the outcome. Not nearly as happy, however, as if you picked up Patrick Mahomes with a mid-round pick.
Bryan: Mid-round, nothing. Mahomes was going in the middle of the 11th round in Yahoo! drafts; he was a late-round pick as a backup for most teams. A flyer, hoping that his potential would eventually pay off, probably towards the end of the season.
Andrew: ... the 11th round is a middle round in my draft. We have 22 rounds. Every time we discuss it here, I discover another way that my league is abnormal. This is why I don't really analyze fantasy football much: a waiver pickup in a normal league is a 16-game starter in mine.
Bryan: Yeeeah, most leagues stick to 15 or so rounds. Ish. Everyone from Wentz on up in that top-drafted list were going at least three rounds before Mahomes went, which makes him pretty much the fantasy steal of the year, as well as all the other awards he's likely to rack up. And he's not even the only top quarterback here; Matt Ryan didn't crack the top 12, either, and he has gotten off to a phenomenal start. Steve Sarkisian can't score in the red zone, right? Maybe a little more respect for the 2016 MVP, though he has admittedly been helped by an absolutely terrible defense.
Andrew: Matt Ryan remains a horribly underrated player by much of the football-watching population too, like his 2016 season was a bad quarterback having a career year rather than a decade-long top-10 quarterback being coached by the best offensive coordinator in the game (at the time, at least). So yes, Mahomes drafters will be very happy. Garoppolo drafters, not so much.
Are there any clear lessons we can take from this into future seasons?
Bryan: Don't overrate six-game starters. Overrate one-game starters instead.
Andrew: Hah. Sample size is definitely worth noting. If Watson could sustain last year's production, he might have broken the sport. (Jings, remember when people spoke like this about Colin Kaepernick?)
Bryan: Speaking of five- or six-game samples, be careful of the early high scorers. Take Mitchell Trubisky, for instance -- the major reason he's QB8 is that one six-touchdown performance. That's great if you're in a league which just cares about total points, but in a weekly league? He hasn't actually done you very much good. He has been QB20, QB17, QB31, QB1 and QB5 so far this season. Those first three weeks? He wasn't doing you any good whatsoever. He's probably the most likely of the Surprising Six to drop off, assuming we're not counting Fitzpatrick and his return to the bench.
In short, make sure your highly-touted player isn't highly-touted because of one or two games, but that they can provide a solid level of performance throughout the season. You don't want a boom-bust guy as your primary starter!
Andrew: Speaking of boom-bust guys, how about we check in on Mr. Barkley?
|1||Todd Gurley||LAR||25.8||1||13||Jordan Howard||CHI||7.8||28|
|2||Le'Veon Bell||PIT||0.0||99||14||Jerrick McKinnon||SF||0.0||99|
|3||David Johnson||ARI||12.5||12||15||Joe Mixon||CIN||10.3||20|
|4||Ezekiel Elliott||DAL||16.2||7||16||Kenyan Drake||MIA||7.6||30|
|5||Alvin Kamara||NO||21.0||3||17||LeSean McCoy||BUF||5.5||45|
|6||Saquon Barkley||NYG||19.5||4||18||Alex Collins||BAL||10.1||21|
|7||Kareem Hunt||KC||16.5||6||19||Jay Ajayi||PHI||6.4||39|
|8||Melvin Gordon||LAC||22.1||2||20||Derrick Henry||TEN||4.3||56|
|9||Leonard Fournette||JAX||1.5||76||21||Derrius Guice||WAS||0.0||99|
|10||Dalvin Cook||MIN||3.1||62||22||DeMarco Murray||TEN||0.0||99|
|11||Christian McCaffrey||CAR||12.5||11||23||Lamar Miller||HOU||6.5||38|
|12||Devonta Freeman||ATL||1.5||75||24||Royce Freeman||DEN||7.9||26|
Bryan: The top running backs seem to be a lot safer than the top quarterbacks -- that's why they go so much earlier, of course. Um. As long as you're sure said top running backs will actually be playing football this season.
Andrew: The difference between a top running back and a mid-tier running back is much starker than that of two quarterbacks, too. You can't play the matchup game in nearly the same way when you need two players instead of one, as you do in most leagues, and there aren't many true every-down backs remaining. Most teams operate at least a platoon, if not a full committee situation. Only the Titans have really platooned quarterbacks this season, and that has not exactly worked out.
As a Saquon Barkley owner, I can also confirm that his boom-bust success rate numbers do not translate to boom-bust fantasy production. Barkley has scored at least 20 points in PPR every week this season, and even when his rushing numbers are down his receiving production more than makes up for it.
Bryan: He's giving Giants fans something to watch in a lost season, that's for sure. I think I'd still rather watch competent quarterback play, but that's just me.
Andrew: There's always next year. The misery for most fantasy owners takes the form of either Le'Veon Bell, whose holdout has lasted longer than most people expected, or Derrius Guice and Jerick McKinnon, whose knee injuries robbed them of a promising season before it had even started. Injury is a major risk at running back, and is the reason some people advocate the zero-running back approach. You could have had James Conner, Latavius Murray, and T.J. Yeldon instead of spending your draft capital on Bell, Dalvin Cook, and Leonard Fournette.
Bryan: The problem with the zero-running back approach is that you have to use your first-round pick on somebody. The non-running backs that were going in the first round on Yahoo! were Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, Odell Beckham, and Julio Jones. That's a 50 percent hit rate on getting a top wideout, there, while only Bell has flopped among the first-round running backs this year. Bell is a fairly unique situation, as well, and probably not one from which we can draw a ton of long-term conclusions.
In an auction draft or something, spending less money to get a flotilla of mid-tier backs makes a lot of sense, but when you have to use your first-round pick on something, a big-name top-tier running back is generally speaking a safe ... ish ... option.
Andrew: True. The only name in that list that looks truly out of place based on what we knew before the preseason is ... DeMarco Murray? Really? He retired on July 13! Surely no leagues were drafting that early? How on earth did he end up being taken that high?
Bryan: There's a problem with the data, there -- the average draft position doesn't count drafts in which you were not drafted. Yahoo!'s stats has a cutoff to avoid that one crazy guy who drafts Nick Mullens with the first overall pick, but Murray was taken in six percent of drafts, before and presumably just after his retirement. There's another lesson for you -- don't draft yer dang teams in July!
Andrew: If you must draft before Labor Day weekend, at LEAST make sure it's mid- to late August. So yes, anybody who drafted Murray as a top-24 running back will have had plenty of time to get over that fact before the league kicked off. And perhaps to pick up one of our sleeper options:
Bryan: "Hey, that dude's not playing! Let's pick up his backup!" is always a great strategy -- see James Conner, Matt Breida, and to a lesser extent T.J. Yeldon. As is guessing the winner in a crowded backfield correctly, like Phillip Lindsay or Kerryon Johnson. I'm not sure any logical path gets you to "Adrian Peterson, fantasy stud," though. Not in 2018.
Andrew: Peterson's revival has been ... I won't say "entertaining" to watch, because that involves watching more Washington football than is good for anybody's health, but curious to monitor from afar.
The other big deal here is guessing correctly which back will emerge in New England, because there's always one and nobody is ever quite sure who it will be in advance. When that guy does emerge though, big fantasy numbers are often the result.
Bryan: This is why the "draft a bunch of them in the middle rounds" strategy exists. You're not going to get every pick right, because trying to outguess notoriously indecisive and/or secretive NFL coaches is a recipe for disaster. You might end up taking an Alfred Morris rather than a Matt Breida as the replacement for Jerrick McKinnon, for instance, or decide that Royce Freeman looks set to come out of Denver's muddled backfield. Logical choices, just, you know. Wrong. But hit on one or two, and all of a sudden you're in the proverbial catbird seat.
Andrew: Again, the lessons are simple: get your stud in the first round, take a few swings in the middle, and don't hold your draft before the end of the Fair Fortnight ... which means nothing to you, I now realize ... before the first preseason game!
Bryan: I'm more of a Fair PUBG sort of guy myself.
Andrew: Such is your Destiny. Duty calls!
Wide receiver has perhaps seen the biggest non-injury hodgepodge of any position this season.
|1||Antonio Brown||PIT||14.0||4||13||Larry Fitzgerald||ARI||3.6||87|
|2||DeAndre Hopkins||HOU||13.5||6||14||T.Y. Hilton||IND||6.9||44|
|3||Odell Beckham||NYG||10.3||22||15||Doug Baldwin||SEA||2.2||109|
|4||Julio Jones||ATL||12.0||16||16||Amari Cooper||OAK||5.8||58|
|5||Michael Thomas||NO||13.2||7||17||JuJu Smith-Schuster||PIT||11.7||17|
|6||Keenan Allen||LAC||8.7||28||18||Demaryius Thomas||DEN||8.5||30|
|7||Davante Adams||GB||15.3||3||19||Golden Tate||DET||12.4||12|
|8||A.J. Green||CIN||12.9||9||20||Jarvis Landry||CLE||7.9||39|
|9||Mike Evans||TB||12.9||10||21||Josh Gordon||CLE||4.4||75|
|10||Tyreek Hill||KC||17.1||1||22||Allen Robinson||CHI||8.0||36|
|11||Adam Thielen||MIN||15.9||2||23||Brandin Cooks||LAR||9.7||24|
|12||Stefon Diggs||MIN||11.3||20||24||Chris Hogan||NE||5.7||59|
Andrew: These rankings make less sense than a dancing Kirkcudbright Centipede. They're all over the place!
Bryan: And these are PPR rankings, which are supposed to even out some of the randomness you get in receivers! The value in receivers is so touchdown-dependent; Julio Jones is having a fine actual season, but he can't find the end zone, and so he's down in the middle of the muck. Ditto Odell Beckham, though the crafty drafter would have realized that the Giants' offense was going to be a disaster area before the season began. These are players who deserve to be in any top-ten receiver ranking system, but fantasy laughs at you. Laughs at you! With any luck, by the end of the year, these sorts of things will even out, but "luck" seems to be the operative word, here.
Andrew: Luck, such as having the guy you drafted as the Browns' No. 1 receiver be traded to the Patriots in the early going, and now have a fantasy playoff slate catching passes from Tom Brady against the Dolphins, Steelers, and Bills instead of from Tyrod Taylor/Baker Mayfield against the Panthers, Broncos, and Bengals?
I have always struggled to pick fantasy wideouts. I never seem to judge when to pick the top guys, so they're always off the board before I have the running backs and other positions I want, and then I struggle to figure out who of the next dozen will be productive (Adam Thielen, Golden Tate) or completely bomb (Larry Fitzgerald, Amari Cooper). I always end up scouring the waiver wire week-by-week, trying to grab a fluke performance from somebody who's going to pile up garbage yards in a blowout. Compare that to our list of guys who are in the top 24, but weren't drafted there:
Bryan: Who saw Kenny Golladay getting off to a sophomore surge? Who would think Calvin Ridley would be a more consistent red zone threat than Julio Jones? How did John Brown become a deep threat in his move to Baltimore? These are the questions which ultimately make fantasy both exciting and utterly, utterly frustrating.
Andrew: I did, at least, grab Cooper Kupp on KUBIAK's advice, and I have not been disappointed ... at least not until the past two weeks, when he left consecutive games with injuries. I'm not even sure what lessons to take from these lists. If I had taken a Ravens receiver, it would have been Michael Crabtree rather than John Brown. The Seahawks receiver to own ought to have been Doug Baldwin, not Tyler Lockett. I thought Golden Tate and Marvin Jones had the 1-2 roles sewn up in Detroit. DeSean Jackson is almost assuredly a product of Fitzmagic, and will see that rank drop as Jameis Winston's sample grows.
Andrew: The Saints achieved that with running backs last season.
Bryan: Running backs are more consistent than receivers! You've only got two running backs you're cycling through, the Rams trot out three or four pass targets on every play.
Andrew: There's the 2014 Broncos, with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. Then I suppose you could go back to Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. The thing is, though ... Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods are fine players, but Harrison and Wayne they are not. Heck, I'm not even sure they're Thomas and Sanders. Sean McVay is a magician.
Bryan: There's also another connection between the 2014 Broncos and those mid '00s Colts that springs to mind, and it's not Jared Goff.
Andrew: Wait, I got this one ... it's Jacob Tamme!
Bryan: Tamme was also on that 2016 Falcons team which broke all sorts of offensive records. The key to all offensive innovation over the past 15 years, Tamme deserves to be rostered even in retirement.
Andrew: To further your point, Brandin Cooks is also in the top 24, while Todd Gurley is the No. 1 running back. The production of this Rams offense is astonishing. Sure, injury is about to depress Kupp's numbers, but bear in mind that Kupp is still in the top 12 despite no receptions in his past six quarters. That's a quarter of the season so far!
Bryan: So, our fantasy lesson of the season is ... draft everyone and everything attached to Sean McVay, right?
Andrew: Sounds good to me. Oh, and grab Andy Reid's top running back and top two pass-catchers, including tight ends. You'll have no competition for any of those players, it'll be fine.
Seriously though, the one tactic with which I have found success is grabbing the top receiver on a bad team that I expect to be playing catch-up a lot.
Bryan: Marquise Goodwin, still available in 55 percent of leagues prior to last night's showing ...
Andrew: Fantasy football, unfortunately, is one of those pastimes in which it is possible to be strategically sound, make what appear to be good decisions, and still have things turn out horribly. Consider this potential draft haul:
|1||Le'Veon Bell||RB||PIT||0.0||He may one day sign his franchise tag|
|2||Keenan Allen||WR||LAC||8.7||Just one touchdown all year; sluggish start|
|3||Jerick McKinnon||RB||SF||0.0||Torn ACL|
|4||Jay Ajayi||RB||PHI||6.4||Torn ACL|
|5||Chris Hogan||WR||NE||5.7||Invisible, losing his role as fourth option to Josh Gordon|
|6||Delanie Walker||TE||TEN||0.9||Dislocated ankle|
|7||Jimmy Garoppolo||QB||SF||8.5||Torn ACL|
|8||Denver DEF||DEF||DEN||9.5||Just six takeaways; only once held a team below 20 points|
|9||Sammy Watkins||WR||KC||6.4||Somehow the only guy in Kansas City not producing|
|10||Jamaal Williams||RB||GB||5.0||Dictionary definition of disappointment|
|11||C.J. Anderson||RB||CAR||3.4||Single-digit touches per game|
|12||Tyrod Taylor||QB||CLE||7.2||Pronounced "Backup"|
|13||Dez Bryant||WR||DAL||0.0||Still unemployed|
|14||Danny Amendola||WR||MIA||3.5||Yet to score a touchdown or have more than 59 yards in a game|
|15||Chris Boswell||K||PIT||5.2||Three missed FGs and three missed XPs, no long FGs yet|
Bryan: I mean, I'd criticize taking a defense in the eighth round, but that's where the Broncos were going. Everything else seems to make a lot of sense at the time, but, uh ...
Andrew: You know what I'm going to say here ... we play IDP, so I have no clue where a defense should go in anything. We did play team defense in the Stone Age, and that was always the last two rounds or so, but all I knew at the time was "get Pittsburgh!" and that has been somewhat less effective a strategy since the heyday of Troy Polamalu.
Bryan: Also, I'm not at all salty that two of the top seven picks are 49ers. No, of course not, why would you ask that question, that's a ridiculous question.
Your theoretical receiving corps isn't terrible, mostly thanks to a lack of widespread injuries at wideout so far this season, knock on wood. Dez Bryant was definitely an "optimism" sort of pick, but hey, he was visiting teams, and he has a big shiny name. The three ACLs, with the dislocated ankle to boot, are a real pain, and you just KNOW someone drafted both McKinnon and Garoppolo in the hopes that the red and gold would rise again, rather than being one of the four teams essentially eliminated at this point.
Andrew: As an alternative to the above, you could have had the following, and been relentlessly mocked by your competitors right up until the games started:
|1||Robert Woods||WR||LAR||13.1||Sure, draft the one-year wonder in Round 1.|
|2||Carlos Hyde||RB||CLE||11.9||In a backfield with Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson?|
|3||Emmanuel Sanders||WR||DEN||12.2||A 31-year-old wideout coming off an ankle injury?|
|4||Cooper Kupp||WR||LAR||12.7||Don't double down on one offense; it's unsustainable!|
|5||Matt Ryan||QB||ATL||25.5||The Falcons can't score in the red zone!|
|6||James Conner||RB||PIT||19.2||Le'Veon will be back any minute.|
|7||Patrick Mahomes||QB||KC||27.0||Sure, go with the guy with one career start.|
|8||Isaiah Crowell||RB||NYJ||13.0||Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire should outsnap him.|
|9||James White||RB||NE||12.9||The Patriots just drafted a first-round back!|
|10||Matt Breida||RB||SF||11.7||McKinnon's the bell cow and Alfred Morris has the history with Shanahan.|
|11||Calvin Ridley||WR||ATL||12.0||A rookie, second-fiddle to Julio, and the Falcons can't score in the red zone!|
|12||DeSean Jackson||WR||TB||13.8||Coming off of his worst season, losing snaps to Chris Godwin?|
|13||Eric Ebron||TE||DET||11.4||Detroit's write-off, with a quarterback with no arm.|
|14||Jason Myers||K||NYJ||11.7||You mean the guy who couldn't stick around in Jacksonville?|
|15||NY Jets DEF||DEF||NYJ||15.9||Your draft is terrible, next time, use the auto-drafter|
Bryan: This is a classic example of process versus results. When you have great results despite a terrible process, you shouldn't be showered with praise for it -- see the Buffalo Bills, both last year and, to a lesser extent, this year. When you have terrible results despite a great process, you shouldn't be too hard on yourself. But man, is it ever infuriating when you follow all the best practices and spend hours poring over KUBIAK and ADP rankings and projections and draft strategies, only to have your uncle-in-law's cousin's roommate's boyfriend's boyfriend roll into town, draft people using a draft mag from 2014, and come out smelling like roses.
Andrew: At least he isn't using that draft magazine to build his actual real-life roster. Like, say, a certain former broadcast-returned-head-coach. I am confident that such a man would not come out smelling like roses, in either the literal or figurative sense.
Bryan: See, in my version of fantasy football, the Raiders are led by a curmudgeonly troll who is constantly snapping at people from under his bridge, while the orcs that make up his defensive line grumble about his management strategies and children-eating policy. It's really quite entertaining, and probably more likely to produce results on the field than whatever the heck Jon Gruden thinks he's doing.
Andrew: Either the Raiders saw Gruden on Monday Night Football and thought, "that's all a persona; he's only pretending to be like that," which is horrifying; or they saw Gruden on Monday Night Football and thought, "that's exactly the personality we need as our head coach," which is even worse.
Bryan: If our Loser League had a coaching component, Gruden would be a definite first-round pick.
Andrew: But Loser League doesn't ... nevermind.
Loser League Update
Quarterback: Do you know the Peter-Man (the Peterman?) The Peterman! Everyone's favorite interception machine came in for an injured Josh Allen, and while he did throw a touchdown pass, he also put up a pair of interceptions in only 12 pass attempts, ending up with a score of 3. Peterman currently has a 79 career pass attempts and has thrown nine interceptions -- and that's not including the three attempts and one interception he had in the playoffs last year. His career interception rate is 11.39 percent, 78th-worst all time among players with at least 50 pass attempts ... and the second-worst for any quarterback since the passing rules were eased in 1979. Only Rich Campbell, a Packers backup in the early '80s, has a worse rate, on only 68 career pass attempts. Peterman is making history -- and it looks like he'll get another start.
Running Back: Royce Freeman has been getting single-digit touches for most of the year, just missing the penalty. This week, he had nine carries for 22 yards and wasn't targeted in the passing game at all. Freeman even out-carried Phillip Lindsay for the first time (non-ejection edition), though he still underperformed him. That's worth 2 points.
Wide Receiver: A sextet of Goose Eggers to highlight this week. Allen Hurns and Donte Moncrief both went catchless in the Dallas-Jacksonville game. Antonio Calloway, Jarius Wright, J.J. Nelson, and Jordy Nelson were all held under 10 yards. Nul Points, the lot of you.
Kicker: Some weeks you're the hero; the next you're the goat. Graham Gano, coming off a game-winning 63-yard field goal, missed an extra point against Washington, ending up with -2 points. Compared to recent weeks, that's a pretty tame loser league leading kicker, so good job, NFL Kickers As A Collective Unit.
Check your team's score and the leaderboard here!
Keep Choppin' Wood: The Buffalo Bills signed former Browns starter and former Cardinals and Panthers backup Derek Anderson last Tuesday, ostensibly as a mentor for youngsters Josh Allen and Nathan Peterman. Now, Anderson might be thrust into the starting lineup within a fortnight of joining the team. There are two reasons for this: 1) Josh Allen is injured. 2) Nathan Peterman keeps doing stuff like this:
— NFL France (@FirstDownFR) October 14, 2018
That is Peterman, taking the snap and dropping back, all the while staring directly at his intended receiver. When he lets it go, Johnathan Joseph is all over the route and immediately jumps it for the pick-six. It's not really Peterman's fault -- he's an inexperienced backup thrust into action by an injury, who clearly does not belong on an NFL field -- but the one thing you absolutely cannot do in that game situation is gift the opposing defense points, and that is exactly what Peterman did.
John Fox Award for Conservatism: On the first drive of the second half in Cincinnati, the Bengals were set up with excellent field position thanks to a 51-yard kick return by Alex Erickson. A four-yard run, two incomplete passes, and a T.J. Watt penalty later, they faced fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 40-yard line. This is the back edge of the no-man's-land in which the offense is too far away to kick a field goal, but too close for an effective punt. The downside of going for the conversion is lower here than in almost any other segment of the field, so even conservative coaches will often attempt to convert in short-yardage situations. Marvin Lewis is no ordinary conservative coach. He chose to punt, not trusting his offense to gain 1 yard in a situation with very little downside. Following the punt, which was fair caught at the Pittsburgh 12-yard line, the Steelers drove 85 yards for a field goal, so we're confident that Lewis considers the decision worth it. We, however, most certainly do not.
Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching:: Ever since the NFL brought back instant replay in 1999, it has just given coaches another way to screw up game management. Enter the latest example, one Michael Pettaway Tomlin. Tomlin turned what could have been an easy win into a close one through his mismanagement of the red hankey. Tomlin burned a challenge midway through the second quarter, challenging a spot call on a third-down play backed up inside his own 20. Spot challenges are notoriously hard to win, and the reward (hey, you're still backed up inside your own 20!) was probably not worth the risk of the challenge. Also, uh, Ryan Switzer was pretty clearly down before the first-down marker anyway. To no one's surprise, the refs kept the original ruling on the field, and the Steelers were forced to punt.
Now down a challenge, Tomlin faced another key choice in the third quarter, with the score tied up at 14. James Conner appeared to score a go-ahead touchdown, but was ruled down at the 1. Replays seemed to indicate that yes, Conner had scored -- but challenging would mean the Steelers couldn't challenge anything else all game, and hey, first-and-goal from the 1 is a guaranteed touchdown, right? Tomlin opted not to challenge, the Bengals defense stiffened up, and the Steelers were held to a field goal. Pittsburgh won because they were the better team, but their coach made it really tough for them this time.
"Bear Killer" Fantasy Player of the Week: Brock Osweiler's first career start in Denver? A 17-15 victory over the Chicago Bears. Osweiler's first start in Houston? A 23-14 win over the Chicago Bears. And now, his first start in Miami? A 31-28 win over the Chicago Bears. Osweiler threw for a career high 380 yards against Chicago in a surprise start that essentially no one in fantasy circles ended up benefitting from, due to the late nature of the swap from Ryan Tannehill. Admittedly, a huge chunk of those yards were yards after the catch, but this is fantasy football; it all counts the same.
— NFL (@NFL) October 14, 2018
Blake Bortles Garbage-Time Performer of the Week: The Giants are toast, so they're likely to have many, many more garbage time opportunities this season. That means Saquon Barkley might run away with this award this season, because good lord, the man can run. Barkley ended up with 229 yards from scrimmage in the Giants' wet thud of a game against Philadelphia, with 82 of those yards coming after the Giants were already down three scores. He also added this garbage-time touchdown, which did much more for his fantasy owners than it did for the Giants.
— New York Giants (@Giants) October 12, 2018
'Comfort in Sadness' Stat of the Week: In Sunday's 40-7 trouncing in Dallas, Jacksonville's leading receivers were Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole. For the season, Jacksonville's leading receivers are Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole. Westbrook is a 2017 fourth-round pick, whereas Cole went undrafted in the same year. Both burst onto the scene late last season, after injury deprived the Jaguars of preferred starters Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Cole in particular has over 1,000 yards in his past 16 regular-season games, whereas Westbrook has only made 13 regular-season appearances but has also piled up over 700 yards receiving. The Jaguars have many issues, particularly on offense, but they have a strong recent history of scouting and developing young receivers. Cole and Westbrook have already produced like one of the league's top starting tandems, helping to make up for the losses of Robinson, Hurns, and Marqise Lee. Now if only they could get the same consistent production from their quarterback ...
Game-Changing Play of the Week: Oh, you could pick about half a dozen things from the ending of the Miami-Chicago game. There's the afore-linked 75-yard scamper by Albert Wilson, tying the game at 28 with three seconds left to go. There was the leverage penalty on Jonathan Bullard on the ensuing extra point, meaning Miami got to kick off from the 50 (even though they didn't try the uber-bold surprise onside kick). There's the Tarik Cohen fumble with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, giving the Dolphins one more opportunity to win in regulation. There's the Kenyan Drake fumble going into the end zone in overtime. There's the Jason Sanders 47-yard field goal as overtime expired, snatching victory at the last possible second for the Dolphins. Rarely do we see a game see that many twists and turns in less than 15 minutes of game time, with both teams having chances to put the game away on multiple occasions; it was drama of the highest order.
The Dolphins beat the Bears with a game-winning FG in OT! pic.twitter.com/pgdqZfQ7Zh
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) October 14, 2018
It could also have major impacts on the playoff races in both conferences. The victory means the Dolphins stay even with the Patriots atop the AFC East, with each team having roughly a 45 percent chance of winning the division outright, per our models. The Dolphins have the easiest schedule remaining per DVOA, but to take advantage of that, they do have to actually win some of these games they have no business of winning (like, when Brock Osweiler has to start, for example). If the Dolphins can win the Week 14 return match, they could easily end up tied with the Patriots at, say, 10-6 and end up taking home the AFC East crown on tiebreakers. Meanwhile, the loss for Chicago puts a real crimp in their chances to catch the Rams for the top seed in the NFC. The loss is somewhat mitigated by the relatively poor performances of Minnesota and Green Bay to this point in the season, but the Bears can't afford to let too many more of these games slip away; they're the games contenders are supposed to win.
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Andrew: This ... could be going better. I console myself with the knowledge that I am tending to pick winners, at least; just not winners who cover the spread. This week, there are two games that I like more than most, so I'll settle for the one with the lowest spread. The Carolina Panthers were terrible in Week 6 against a mediocre Washington squad. Passable on defense, sure, but dire on offense. The Eagles are much better than Jay Gruden's men, and come into this game off the mini-bye that is the consolation prize for playing on Thursday last week. Add that all up, and I'll take Philadelphia (-5) over Carolina.
Bryan: At least you still have the Double Survival League going for you. In recent weeks, I've had success with the "pick the team coming off of an embarrassing loss" strategy, so let's keep that rolling here with Chicago (+3.5) hosting New England. Part of Chicago's struggles against Miami was the ankle injury to Khalil Mack; he appears healthy and ready to roll. I also like Mitchell Trubisky to have a good day against New England's 19th-rated pass defense, while Chicago's top pass defense should stand at least a chance of slowing the Pats down. I don't know if Chicago has enough juice to actually stop the Patriots completely, but I imagine it will be closer than the average fan might expect.
Double Survival League
Bryan: Last week saw both Andrew and I bank points the other one missed out on earlier in the year. Andrew had Minnesota rumbling to a fairly easy win over the Cardinals; that gives him a key point as I had already lost the Vikings in that massive upset against Buffalo. On the other hand, Andrew's Week 3 pick of Houston over the Giants comes back to haunt him here, as Houston did squeak out a win for me this week against, uh, Buffalo again. I pick against Buffalo a lot.
Andrew: This is the point in the schedule at which strategy really begins to dominate. Do I take contenders for the almost-guaranteed wins and just assume my losers will actually lose, or do I hope to squeeze out more wins by trying to get every team into a reasonably favorable matchup? Without giving too much away, this week I'm trying to get winnable games in for two teams I don't necessarily fancy as much as some others. Miami has a glaring and obvious question hanging over their quarterback situation, but whether quarterbacked by Brock Osweiler or the ailing Ryan Tannehill, a generally improved Dolphins squad should be capable of beating a wildly inconsistent Lions team in Florida.
My other team is Arizona, purely because of schedule. I had the Cardinals penciled in for Week 8 against San Francisco, but there are too many other matchups I like next week. Following that, it's very tough to find a win in the back half of their schedule, which leaves me with this week's Thursday night visit from the struggling Broncos. Vance Joseph's men have been dreadful on defense over the past two weeks, and the defense is meant to be the relative strength of the roster. I don't think Arizona will pull up too many wins between now and January, but a home game on a short week means they should at least have a chance in this one.
Bryan: I pick against Buffalo a lot, and that's going to continue this week. Indianapolis is the only 1-5 team which can still claim it has the ghost of a chance to be a playoff contender this year, thanks to the weak starts by the rest of the AFC South. If they lose to Buffalo, starting either Derek Anderson or Nathan Peterman, at home, their 2018 is just done, and they can go join the 49ers, Cardinals, Raiders, and Giants flipping through the draft magazines. I think they do survive another week here; it may, in fact, be the game I'm most comfortable calling. Plus, hey, it would get me a much-needed banked point, as Andrew backed the Colts when they fell to the Texans back in Week 4. Gotta claw back turf where I can get it.
The N.Y. Jets over Minnesota is very much not an ideal choice here, but it's one I feel I'm obligated to make. There's still half a dozen games left where I'd favor the Jets, and some of them -- Week 10 against Buffalo, namely -- would feel like safer bets than taking on a still-contending Vikings team. All of those weeks, however, have matchups I like better than sticking with the Jets. A lot of the other, safer-looking eligible teams for me have issues of their own -- who starts in Miami? Do I really want to waste the Chiefs against a potential playoff team? Do I really want to take the Chargers in the weird early slot in London? Washington in a tight divisional matchup? Tampa Bay against a feisty Cleveland team? Chicago at home against the Pats?. No. I hate this pick, but I feel sort of forced into it by the schedule, so fingers crossed.
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