Philip Rivers is a strong candidate for NFL's Most Improved Player so far (USAT)
It didn’t take long for Justin Blackmon to make an impact, even if his 67-yard touchdown came on busted coverage. Over his last four games dating back to last season, he’s racked up 24 receptions (on a whopping 45 targets) for 387 yards and three touchdowns. It’s also positive news Chad Henne will be the team’s starting quarterback moving forward, likely regardless of Blaine Gabbert’s health. Blackmon should be considered a top-20 fantasy wide receiver right now…Sunday marked the first time Maurice Jones-Drew got more than 3.0 YPC in a game this season, when he managed 4.1 against a Rams defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this year…Chris Givens was open for a long touchdown but Sam Bradford under threw him, so it was hardly all his fault, but the WR secured just two of seven targets for 16 yards. Meanwhile, rookie Tavon Austin has averaged 6.8 yards-per-catch this season…A few days after trading Eugene Monroe, Jacksonville lost this year’s No. 2 overall pick LT Luke Joeckel to a season-ending ankle injury. Fans might as well put their orders in now for Teddy Bridgewater jerseys.
Early in the third quarter, the Rams jumped offside during a Jaguars FG attempt on fourth-and-goal from the five-yard line. After moving half the distance to the goal, Jacksonville decided to go for it, which unfortunately resulted in Gabbert getting intercepted in the end zone, eliminating one of the main benefits of going for it there (even if you don’t score a TD, you get a huge field position advantage)...Zac Stacy looked pretty good before getting banged up and should be the Rams’ No. 1 back moving forward. He’s in a poor setup, so expectations need to be held in check, but Stacy could easily be a viable flex option down the stretch. Over the rest of 2013, I’d take him over the field when it comes to St. Louis running backs. Speaking of which, the Rams are the only team in the NFL without a rushing touchdown this season.
Kansas City entered having allowed an NFL-high 5.4 YPC, so it was especially disconcerting to see Chris Johnson run for 17 yards on 10 carries. Still, at least he added this impressive play, even if it was a bit of a fluke…Kenny Britt has gotten a mind-blowing 2.4 yards-per-target this season…We are nearly a third of the way through 2013, and Donnie Avery is on pace to finish with 973 receiving yards while Dwayne Bowe is on track to end up with 586. Speaking of Bowe, his lack of awareness led to him stepping out of bounds on a 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter. Had he stayed in bounds (which he seemingly should have), it would have almost certainly resulted in a 66-yard touchdown…Not only does Jamaal Charles lead the NFL with four carries inside the five-yard line (tied with DeMarco Murray, Maurice Jones-Drew and Jackie Battle), but his three targets inside the five are the second most in all of football, behind only Wes Welker (four).
Remember my previous comments on Chris Givens and his ineptitude in Week 5? Well, I suggested to my wife to start him over Rueben Randle on Sunday morning (seriously, I suck at lineup decisions). Naturally, Randle, who had totaled six catches for 61 yards over the previous three games and hadn’t scored this year, went off for 96 yards and two touchdowns (his day actually could have been even bigger, as he was targeted relentlessly, especially deep). Four of Randle’s five career TDs have come against the Eagles…Nice to see Hakeem Nicks still has a pulse. Of course, it should be noted Philly has allowed NFL-highs in receptions (93), receiving yards (1,207) and receiving TDs (11) to opposing wideouts this season…Tough break (albeit not totally unexpected) for owners of Michael Vick, who was running like crazy before suffering a hamstring injury that’s going to cost him multiple weeks. At least the transition to Nick Foles may not be a deathblow to DeSean Jackson, who continues to put up big numbers. I doubt many are desperate for a QB, but maybe Vick owners are. Either way, Foles is worth an aggressive FAAB bid for any fantasy owners in need of a QB.
Tom Coughlin inexplicably accepted a penalty turning an Eagles’ fourth-and-four at midfield into a third-and-20. This seemed bizarre at the time (Chip Kelly has been anything but aggressive during his early stages of NFL coaching, and this was the first quarter, so a punt was almost assured), and of course, Coughlin’s decision looked a whole lot worse after Michael Vick ran for 34 yards and a first down on the ensuing third down play. The drive ultimately resulted in one of Alex Henery’s five field goals Sunday…The Giants scored more points (seven) over the first four minutes than they had during the first quarter in their other four games combined (six)…Eli Manning has completed just 51.4 percent of his passes while getting 6.3 YPA and being picked off seven times during the fourth quarter this year…David Wilson’s TD celebration was impressive, but he continues to be one of the most frustrating fantasy players in 2013, suffering a neck injury shortly thereafter. And seriously, how was this not ruled a safety?
I actually like “Girls,” but this SNL skit killing it was pretty funny.
The Saints are 100 percent legit and a Super Bowl threat, that much is clear. It’s a little weird that despite that, it hasn’t resulted in a reliable fantasy RB (outside of PPR formats) and a No. 1 WR who’s on pace to score just three touchdowns this season. Of course, Drew Brees is a monster, and Jimmy Graham is making a mockery of the league, somehow hauling in 14-of-15 targets for 235 yards over his past two games. Rob Gronkowski holds the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end with 1,327. Graham is on pace to finish with 1,898. He became the first tight end to ever win the Offensive Player of the Month award in September…With 46 seconds left in the first half, New Orleans elected to go for it on fourth-and-one from Chicago’s 27-yard-line. The aggressiveness resulted in a touchdown two plays later. Moreover, with 6:41 left in the fourth quarter, the Saints lined up to go for it on fourth-and-one at their own 47-yard-line in a clear “trying to draw offside” situation. A Brees hard count happened to lead to just that…Over the last two games, Alshon Jeffery has hauled in 15 catches (on 24 targets) for 325 yards and two touchdowns, looking quite good in the process. There was some preseason buzz regarding the sophomore wideout, but as someone who projected to be no better than the team’s third or fourth option on offense, I didn’t totally buy in. But the Bears’ defense has been a huge disappointment, and Brandon Marshall is getting a ton of attention from opposing defenses, so Jeffery’s situation looks a whole lot better than expected. And he’s taken full advantage, as Pro Football Focus has graded Jeffery as the fifth-best WR so far in 2013. His emergence should also lead to fewer double teams for Marshall down the road as well.
Robber with gun sticks-up bodega, employee fights back with a machete.
Joe Flacco has a 2:6 TD:INT ratio over the last three games, although that hasn’t hurt Torrey Smith’s production, as the third-year wide receiver is on pace to finish with 1,779 yards (he only has one TD on the year, but realize Miami hasn’t allowed a single score to a WR this season. No other team has allowed fewer than two)…Nice to see Ray Rice score twice, but at some point his 2.9 YPC mark becomes worrisome. Rice has forced two missed tackles this season, which is tied for 46th among running backs…Who’s been the bigger fantasy bust, Lamar Miller or David Wilson? I guess the right answer is probably “both”…This fourth-down conversion late in Sunday’s game by Ryan Tannehill was legit. However, the Dolphins then inexplicably spiked the ball with more than a minute left! Did I mention they were down three and at Baltimore’s 34-yard-line? They didn’t have any timeouts remaining, but a play absolutely needs to be run there. Unsurprisingly, what followed was a 57-yard field goal miss with 33 seconds left. 33! Good thing they spiked in such a hurry.
Sorry, I just can’t help myself. Here’s another Drive-Thru Prank.
Marshawn Lynch was fantastic, breaking a ridiculous nine tackles Sunday (he leads the NFL in this category with 25 this season), gaining 102 yards on just 17 carries. Russell Wilson gained the same amount of rushing yards on just 13 carries, as he continues to be one of the best running quarterbacks in football, even if it’s yet to lead to a touchdown. Wilson’s fantasy upside is capped while playing for an offense that has attempted the second fewest pass attempts in the NFL (the 49ers are the only team with fewer), but he’s remained plenty useful regardless thanks to his legs (and Wilson never takes big hits. He’s terrific at avoiding them)…There’s the monstrous game many have been waiting for by T.Y. Hilton…Golden Tate’s first worthwhile fantasy game of 2013 could have been even bigger, as Wilson missed him late in the first half on what would have surely resulted in a touchdown…Since joining the Colts three games ago, Trent Richardson has averaged 3.0 YPC while adding one catch (on five targets) for six yards. He’s going to remain plenty fantasy relevant as a workhorse for a good team, especially with Ahmad Bradshaw unlikely to play again this season, but Richardson doesn’t look like anything close to resembling the value of a first round NFL draft pick.
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Eddie Lacy didn’t have a huge game, but he’s Green Bay’s clear workhorse, especially with Johnathan Franklin fumbling yet again. Another concussion may very well end his season, so he’s not without risk, but if a fantasy draft were held today, Lacy would be worth an early second round pick. I’m not sure he’s valued as such in the trade market right now…Calvin Johnson’s surprise inactive status Sunday not only killed his fantasy owners, but it also hurt those who have Reggie Bush, as Detroit’s offense became much easier to defend as a result. Johnson is likely the most important non-QB player in the NFL (with J.J. Watt and maybe Adrian Peterson the other candidates)…It’s nice of Randall Cobb to produce a 67-yard rush during the rare game in which he doesn’t light it up as a receiver…The Lions have now lost 22 straight games on the road against the Packers.
I liked LeGarrette Blount (and recommended starting him to anyone who would listen) this week quite a bit, so his performance was highly disappointing. He saw just three touches after losing a fumble with eight minutes left in the second quarter, but while I’d like to call that bad luck, he’s been extremely fumble-prone throughout his career, so I can’t exactly say this scenario shouldn’t have been factored in. Between Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and now this, it’s safe to say the New England backfield has pretty much killed me this year…While playing limited snaps, Danny Amendola still led the Patriots with nine targets. In the unlikely event he stays healthy, I’d be surprised if he wasn’t a top-15 fantasy WR…Over his last four games, A.J. Green has recorded just 199 receiving yards and one touchdown. Andy Dalton is becoming more and more of a problem…Props to Cincy for going for it on fourth-and-goal from the one-yard-line with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter…Tom Brady’s streak of 52 consecutive games with a TD pass (just two shy of the NFL-record) was broken, as he lost to the Bengals for the first time in his career. He deserves plenty of blame, but what happened to New England’s offensive line? Put simply, they were dominated Sunday.
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Cam Newton has typically played better later in seasons than earlier, but he currently sports a 6:5 TD:INT ratio and most worrisome, has attempted just 20 rushes in 2013. It looks absolutely insane that he was taken before Peyton Manning in many fantasy drafts (not that I would have called you crazy at the time). In fairness, Newton is dealing with a poor offensive line and a receiving corps that had a bunch of drops Sunday, and he should be considered a “buy-low” opportunity if possible right now…Andre Ellington sure looks good, getting 6.7 YPC and as a weapon as a receiver, but he simply won’t see enough playing time (behind an awful offensive line) to be fantasy relevant in all but the deepest of formats…Larry Fitzgerald has one fewer touchdown compared to last in 11 fewer games, but his expected bounce back campaign with a real QB this season has actually been quite disappointing. Fitz is on pace to finish with 77 catches for 922 receiving yards.
The Broncos/Cowboys game will almost certainly go down as the best of the 2013 season, as the NFL rarely sees 99 points scored, let alone during a contest so highly in doubt until the very end (speaking of which, why didn’t Dallas let Denver score a touchdown there?)…Knowshon Moreno is one of the bigger injury risks in football, but if he’s somehow able to stay healthy, he sure looks like a top-15 fantasy RB. I’m probably underselling that, actually…The Broncos somehow scored 28 points by halftime Sunday with Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker combining for zero catches. Speaking of Welker, the diminutive WR caught three passes in the end zone during his entire career with New England. He’s caught five already over his first five games with Denver. That’s pretty crazy…This Peyton Manning bootleg was pretty good, resulting in his first rushing score in five years.
Quarterbacks are 95-2 when recording a 130+ QB Rating while throwing at least 30 times in a game. The only two losses have both been by Tony Romo (of course). While his late pick was bad and plays into the general opinion of him being a choker, Romo deserves credit for having one of the best games ever, and I’m not just saying that just because he was a major reason I won my home league this week. Seriously, look at this play. Forget Romo’s low YPA earlier in the year, it’s clear his ribs restricted him from throwing deep, which is no longer an issue. To call Romo an enigma is an understatement, as he somehow has the highest QBR in the fourth quarter since 2006 despite also throwing the most interceptions in the 4th/OT with the score tied or leading by seven points or fewer…The Cowboys are 1-7 when Dez Bryant scores multiple times. Somehow I don’t think his fantasy owners care…In case you weren't aware the Broncos’ 51 points Sunday were as many as the Jaguars have scored all season, Denver’s official Twitter account let you know.
As someone who had thrown a pick-six in three straight games, it seemed highly unlikely Matt Schaub would throw another one Sunday night, which made it all the more insane he did so during his first pass. T.J. Yates is not the answer, but it’s hard not to say Schaub isn’t undergoing a major crisis right now…Houston has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season, ceding just 37 receptions and 411 yards (the next lowest is 500 by Tampa Bay), so Anquan Boldin’s down game can be forgiven, especially given the game’s trajectory…Eric Reid looks like the real deal, but I’ll admit, I sure look wrong about my preseason worries regarding Arian Foster…As a 49ers fan who was at this game, there’s some concerns even during the 34-3 victory. After three quarters, Colin Kaepernick had completed just 4-of-13 passes for 45 yards. Moreover, San Francisco is averaging just 1.1 yards per read-option play this season.
Review of the Week: I’m introducing a new segment this week, which involves me reviewing a TV show, album or movie. And the first installment is FX’s “The Bridge,” which I would have graded an “A” (if not an A Plus) over its first six episodes. But then it completely fell of the track (to say the least). I’ll try not to give away many spoilers, but the main excuse for this tragic downfall has been it was forced to import the serial killer theme from its foreign adaptation. Only that part was actually quite intriguing until the disappointing reveal (and subsequent aftermath). And while Andy Greenwald can scream until the cows come home about its encouraging future (I agree the final two episodes were better after the serial killer storyline was mercifully wrapped up, but they still were nowhere near the amazing opening arc. And the final scene of this season was about as cheesy as it gets), one has to at least wonder if Greenwald wasn’t a bit overly optimistic after having the showrunner on his podcast. I have never gone from being so high on a TV show to so down on it in such a quick time than “The Bridge.”
I’m as surprised as anyone, but Terrelle Pryor looks highly intriguing and like a possible answer at QB for Oakland long term. No way would I have signed Josh Freeman if I were them (in other words, I give Pryor a far better chance at being successful moving forward than I do Christian Ponder, so Freeman ended up in a better place for two franchises). Seriously, Pryor has a lot of promise…Charles Woodson tied an NFL record when he scored a defensive touchdown for the 13th time in his career…Midway through the third quarter, the Chargers somehow picked up a first down during their field goal attempt that was blocked…Philip Rivers played his worst game of the season Sunday night, yet it still resulted in a highly productive fantasy performance, as he topped 400 yards for the third time in his last four games while also tossing multiple touchdowns. Rivers has completed a remarkable 73.8 percent of his passes this season while getting 8.4 YPA and taking just eight sacks (with zero fumbles). He’s on pace to finish with 5,152 passing yards this year, which would rank as the fourth-highest all time…Keenan Allen was a third-round pick who’s seen 15 targets over the past two games, resulting in 195 yards and a TD (he had another score that was questionably overturned Sunday night). With Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out for the season and Eddie Royal’s hot start coming to a predictable screeching halt, Allen is the favorite to lead SD’s WRs (although to be fair, Vincent Brown finally showed something this week) in targets moving forward. Antonio Gates looks the best he has in a long time, but in this environment, Allen is absolutely now fantasy relevant.
Monday night’s game was good regardless, but it also had a lot of fantasy and Survivor ramifications, not to mention those who backed Atlanta in teasers (this includes myself, who had them as the final third of my Packers/49ers/Falcons trio)…At 1-3 and in primetime, this sure seemed like a game in which Atlanta would show up, but instead Matt Ryan lost back-to-back home games for the first time in his career. Of course, this didn’t seem like an effort/bad luck type performance. The Falcons have a struggling offensive line, while the Jets have a dominant looking defense. The bigger surprise was Geno Smith and New York’s offense, as the rookie QB completed 80.0 percent of his passes while getting 10.0 YPA with a 3:0 TD:INT ratio (and a 147.7 QB Rating)…Atlanta’s Week 6 bye can’t come at a better time for Roddy White’s fantasy owners…This Jeff Cumberland catch was one of the craziest plays of Week 5 …I like Bilal Powell, and he still dominated work Monday night, but the returns of Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson are going to be a drag on his fantasy value…I can’t handle the way Jon Gruden pronounces Tony Gonzalez’s name…With eight seconds left in the first half, the Falcons went for it on fourth-and-goal, resulting in a pass interference call (a brilliant penalty by the Jets, I might add). With one second left, Atlanta elected to go for it again, this time from the one-yard-line instead of the five, and while I won’t claim I had a problem with it (although Atlanta’s recently well-publicized problems in short-yardage versus the Jets’ awesome run defense sure can be easily second-guessed here), the ensuing run that was stuffed looks worse when you consider it negated the usual advantage of being aggressive here, as there was no field position advantage gained since the following result was halftime…This Julio Jones one-handed catch in which he was interfered with was about as sick as it gets.