The Deep Route Fantasy Notebook features recaps and thoughts about the recent action in the NFL and its implications in fantasy football, along with weekly awards, draft spotlights, and other random tidbits.
THINGS I KNOW
I know the Falcons should be 1-3, not 3-1. The Falcons are two plays away from being last in their division. In week one, Jordan Howard dropped a ball at the goal line that would have given the Bears the win. In week three, Golden Tate’s touchdown was overturned after he seemingly broke the plane of the goal line. Of course, the Atlanta offense is still dominating the league; the Falcons are 6th in points scored and 4th in total yards. It is Atlanta’s defense, however, that has not lived up to expectations and almost cost the team two wins. So far, they are 18th in total defense and have given up the 13th most points. The defense will have to improve if the Falcons want a shot at making the playoffs again. As shown by how last season ended, an great offense can only take a team so far.
I know Deshaun Watson is a legit quarterback. Nine touchdowns through four games, two of which were on the ground? Watson is on pace for 28 passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns. Matt Schaub (remember him?) was the last Texans quarterback to match those numbers with 29 scores through the air… in 2009. Not to mention that in the past four years, the Texans have had four different quarterbacks lead the team in passing. In my pre-draft notes on him, I described Watson as an inconsistent passer, but I also stressed his superior ability as a leader and a winner. In other words, Watson had some issues while throwing but he always seemed to figure out whatever obstacle he faced. That obstacle included Alabama and the best defense in college football. Clearly, Watson has improved as a quarterback under Bill O’Brien (and having superstar DeAndre Hopkins) while showcasing the running and leadership abilities that the Texans coveted when they traded up for the former national campion. It has taken 15 years and countless quarterbacks, but the Texans look like they have finally landed their man. Houston, we have a quarterback.
I know the Lions defense makes the team Super Bowl caliber. The defense has averaged 14.25 fantasy points despite playing high-powered offenses like the Cardinals (before David Johnson went down) and the Falcons. The team is 3-1, though the Lions should have beaten the Falcons, and the defense is 4th in the league with only 17.5 points allowed per game. What really makes the Lions’ defense stand out is the unit’s turnover rate of 2.75 per game. Even better, the team scored a defensive touchdown in the first three games of the season. They say defense wins championships, and if the Lions keep up their superb defensive play don’t be shocked if the Lions finally make their first Super Bowl appearance.
I know the best fantasy owners adjust to big-time injuries. It happens every year. A big-time player, one that you spent a high draft pick on, goes down with an injury early in the season. This year it was David Johnson, though he is expected to return by week 10. Last year it was Adrian Peterson. Also every year, these injuries wrongfully diminish the confidences of fantasy owners who lost their star players. The biggest thing to remember: Don’t panic. Fantasy is supposed to be fun, so don’t let your entire football season be ruined because a guy got hurt. It is impossible to predict injuries, though some are more prone to them than others, so there is no need to kick yourself over picking a player who got injured. The best fantasy owners instead look hard for alternate options to fill that gaping void. Last season, when Peterson went down in week three, some owners picked up a rookie running back who just saw a 14-touch increase. His name was Jordan Howard, and he led many fantasy teams to victory en route to a Pro Bowl season. The point is, do not give up when the big names go down. Research and rebuild. Some may say fantasy football is all luck, but situations like these are when an owner’s true skill comes to the forefront.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know why some people thought Marshawn Lynch would return to Beast Mode form. He took an entire year off a football after retiring after the 2015 season. In that season, his skill and body drastically declined; he scored only three times in the seven games he saw the field. I know Lynch is two years removed from leading the league in rushing touchdowns, but there was just too much risk going into Lynch’s “triumphant return.” Clearly, that year off has not benefited Lynch. Through four games, he has 6.73 fantasy points a game and has seen his rushing attempts steadily decrease. Also, he has never played at least 50% of the teams as youngsters, and superior receiving backs, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have shared the backfield with Lynch. Now with Derek Carr’s injury, teams will look to stack the box and minimize Oakland’s running game. Lynch is a perfect sell-high candidate, but hurry before his stock drops even more.
I don’t know who is the Vikings running back to own. The Dalvin Cook injury devastated a Vikings team that so far looked pretty good. More importantly, fantasy teams across the world were devastated by Cook’s ugly injury. The question fantasy owners have now is which Minnesota running back should they pick up, Latavius Murray or Jerick McKinnon. The former is a year removed from scoring 12 touchdowns, and Murray makes a strong case. He has obviously performed well before and he is a much better runner than McKinnon. Murray’s 6’3, 225-lb frame suits him as he is a bruising back who is surprisingly agile for his size. However, he is not a great receiver, which is where McKinnon excels. Cook saw the most targets out of the three, but Murray rarely saw the ball. McKinnon has seen at least three targets per game and occasionally handles return duties. So who will take over Cook’s role? My money is on Murray, though McKinnon should see an increased usage in the passing game thus boosting his PPR stock. If I had to take one, I would take Murray just barely over McKinnon mostly because Murray saw nine touches to McKinnon’s two after Cook went down in last Sunday’s game.
I don’t know why the Bears benched Mike Glennon in favor of Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears suck, and it is no secret. Yes, they beat the Steelers at home and they should have beaten the Falcons, but every good team has a bad game. Those wins do not mask the atrocity that is Chicago’s roster. The only good, young players they have are both running backs (Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen). This evident lack of talent explains why the Bears are 29th in points scored and have allowed the 6th most points so far this season. So why would the Bears want to throw a rookie quarterback into the fire that includes one of the toughest divisions in the NFL? Let’s be clear: Mike Glennon is terrible. He is 29th in QBR and is tied for third in interceptions, which he has thrown more often than touchdowns. Again, it is an obvious benching, right? Wrong, the Bears need talent badly and will only contend for a top pick. Let Glennon sink the ship so next year the Bears can have a more experienced quarterback, and a top talent, preferably a WR to help a team that leads the league in drop rate. I like Trubisky to an extent, which is that he should only start when ready. I do not know if his time has come or if he is being forced onto the field, but either way Mitchell Trubisky will be challenged early against a very good Vikings defense. Talk about a bad first impression.
I don’t know why gray face masks are popular. I am a huge uniform fanatic, and it actually enrages me that some teams find it acceptable to wear gray face masks when there is NO gray in their color scheme whatsoever. I get it if the Lions or Cowboys don them because they have gray/silver as a primary color. Which teams don’t have gray anywhere in their color schemes? The Cardinals, Colts, 49ers, and Giants. What are they thinking?! Their gray face masks stick out like a sore thumb; the face masks make no sense. It is like, say, the Patriots having a yellow face mask. What makes the situation worse for those four teams is there are cooler options available. Imagine the Cardinals with a red or black face mask (preferably red). The 49ers would rock a gold or red face mask. The Colts have terribly boring uniforms but a blue or the famous white face mask is a tremendous upgrade over the out-of-place face masks they have now. Even the Giants could go red, white, or blue with their patriotic color scheme, but don’t get me started on those stupid gray pants.
Every week I’ll talk a little about a college football player who I think will, or will not, make a great NFL player. This week, I’ll be highlighting Bryce Love
Bryce Love has quickly burst on to the college football scene by leading the nation with 1,088 rushing yards. Love’s trademark is his blazing speed coupled with excellent quickness and elusiveness. Even though he is just below 200 pounds, Love runs with surprising power and body control. Love has not been used much as a receiver, but he is a dangerous threat anytime he gets the ball in his hands. The biggest improvements Love must make is his pass-blocking, but that is a teachable trait. Bryce Love is quickly running his way to Heisman contention, and soon he should join another loaded running back class in April.
Early Projection: Late 1st round
The ‘Hands’ Award: A.J. Derby
This one should really be the ‘Hand’ Award. Just look at this smooth catch. Hhe literally palmed the ball, so it was a legit one-handed catch and not one of those “one-handed” snags where the receiver caressed the ball in his arm. Great play for Derby’s first career touchdown.
The That-Would’ve-Been-Bad-Award: Seahawks
The over/under for the Seahawks–Colts game on Sunday night was 13 points. At halftime, the 1-2 Colts were winning 15-10. In Seattle. This was expected to be a blowout, and thanks to a 22-point third quarter the Seahawks destroyed the spread. Can you imagine if the Colts had kept this close, or actually won? Fans would be calling for Carroll’s head. Losing to Jacoby Brissett at home? There would have been no excuse for that, especially with a healthy Seattle roster. Luckily for Seattle, and unfortunately for my fantasy team, Russell Wilson looked more like Russell Wilson and led the team to a 46-18 victory. Things were looking terrible at half, but the Seahawks finally showed up in the second half of the game. If not, a Colts’ victory over the Seahawks would have only added to a hectic Sunday.
The Kind-of-Karma Award: Graham Gano
Quick history lesson: Tied at 29 in Super Bowl XXXVIII, then-Patriots kicker Adam Vinateri nailed a 41-yard field goal to seal the team’s second championship in three seasons. The team the Patriots beat? The Carolina Panthers. Thirteen years later, Graham Gano nailed a 48-yard field goal to beat the Patriots in Foxborough, 33-30. Nice to see the Panthers finally got their revenge against the Patriots, albeit on a much, much lesser scale. Another quick historical fact: The only person who played in that Super Bowl and the game on Sunday was none other than Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
The Super Fan Award: These guys
Man, British people are awesome. More people should wear matching singular costumes of their favorite team. Imagine when the Rams play the Cardinals in London on October 22nd…
ONE LAST THING
There is nothing right about what Cam Newton said in his press conference on Wednesday. If you have been living under a rock, take a look at it. It looks much worse than when you first hear or read about it. There is absolutely no excuse for Newton on this one, even after he released a lengthy apology video on Thursday. While Newton said all the right things in that video, he can not undo his actions. Newton has been a very outspoken player who considers himself not just a football player, but an “entertainer.” I get that Newton might want to take advantage of the spotlight on him as a starting quarterback and former MVP, and whether he is dabbing or dressing like a modern-day Mad Hatter he is always at center stage. So what was he thinking? No one knows, and I doubt anyone will ever know. From a football standpoint, I do believe a huge distraction like this could affect his on-field performance. The most important thing from Cam’s comments though are not how he plays on the field but what he believes off of it, and the reality is some people, including multimillionaire athletes, still look down upon women in the sports industry.