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. Unless stated otherwise, all stats are accumulated using Pro Football Reference, ESPN, or 4for4.com.
THINGS I KNOW
I know the Eagles are overrated. Philadelphia may have had the league’s best record going into its Sunday night tilt against the Seahawks, but let’s examine their schedule a little closer. In their ten wins, the Eagles have played one team over .500, beat a Zeke-less Cowboys and beat then-winless Giants and Chargers teams by three and two points, respectively. Overall, their opponents are now 45-75, and that is not including their two losses. (Philly got killed by the Seahawks on Sunday and lost to the Chiefs in week two before Kansas City fell off the face off the Earth.) I will give credit to the Eagles for winning nine-straight games with virtually no running game, but how far will that take them? It only takes a defense to stop the Eagles’ above-average receiving group to slow the rest of the team. Philadelphia’s remaining schedule certainly helps their playoff push, as the only opponent they’ll face over .500 is the Rams. But come January, do not be surprised if this Philly team does not last long.
I know Patrick Mahomes will not fix anything. We get it — the kid is talented. Mahomes is an athletic, but raw, quarterback with a cannon for an arm. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, fans demanding for Andy Reid to bench All-Time Scapegoat Alex Smith is not the issue that needs to be fixed. Especially after his 366-yard, four-touchdown game, Smith showed that he can be hot and the Chiefs still manage a loss.
The finger should instead be pointed at the once-proud defense that allows the third-most yards in the league and is dead last in first downs allowed. A reason could be the early loss of All-Pro safety Eric Berry, but things have only begun to spiral recently in Kansas City. Giving up 488 total yards to a team that is 18th in total points scored is not a promising sign. The top-six offense should not be messed with, and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy called all the right plays in his first game calling them on Sunday. Smith has proven over and over that he can effectively win games — with the help of his trio of offensive weapons, of course. Playing Mahomes will only hurt the locker room and reset a team that now needs to fight for a playoff spot. His time will come, but for now Mahomes should stay on the bench.
I know Josh McCown has become a reliable fantasy option. Speaking of Kansas City, McCown carved them up on Sunday en route to 331 yards passing and three total touchdowns. While it helps that the Jets offensive line did not allow a single sack, this 31.1-point fantasy performance is nothing new for McCown. It was his fourth game of 20+ points while keeping his touchdown streak alive. (Week four was the only week he did not score a touchdown, while in Week One his lone score came on the ground.) Interestingly enough, the only two games where he did not score more than 12 points were in those two weeks. Essentially, aside from two bad weeks, McCown has been consistently good all season. With an unpromising receiving core now ranked as one of the best in the AFC and three capable running backs, the New York offense is not looking as terrible as as we thought it would.
THINGS I DON’T KNOW
I don’t know why Jordan Howard underperformed. It is official: Howard is the most polarizing player in DRFN history. One week he earns praise, the next chastise. This week it is the latter. After an expected 3.9-point dud against the league’s best run-defense (Eagles), Howard had a prime opportunity to turn things around against the league’s worst run-defense (49ers). The results? 4.3 points. In the past two weeks, Howard has combined for 44 rushing yards on 20 carries and three receptions for eight total yards.
What makes this interesting was that Sunday was the first game since Week Eight where Howard saw more than half of his team’s snaps. This confuses me because Howard is a pure, brutal runner who can be just as effective with his feet as he is with his powerful body. Where he is ineffective, however, is passing situations. Howard really only gets used as a blocker and is not even the second receiving option out of the Bears’ backfield. Howard may finish the year in the middle of the pack, but his second-half of the season has been a complete disappointment.
I don’t know why Gronk wasn’t ejected. Thankfully, for the sake of morality and the strict standards the NFL has been imposing in recent years, Gronkowski was suspended for this cheap shot on a defenseless TreDavious White. White reportedly got a concussion from the hit, which Gronk was flagged for. However, isn’t this the type of hit the NFL has been trying to crack down on? An immediate message should have been sent by ejecting Gronkowski. While he rightfully apologized after the game, I still think Gronk should have been suspended at least two games.
I don’t know what to think about Ryan Shazier’s injury. It is cruel. It is beyond unfortunate. It is unavoidable. Forget that he was a rising star on an up-and-coming defense. Shazier was simply doing his job, and we can only hope that he makes a speedy recovery to his healthiest form.
PLAYER TO WATCH FOR: Peyton Barber
Sound the alarms: This is the guy to add right now. While his 23-carry, 102-yard performance may be due to Doug Martin’s absence, Barber proved that he is the back the coaching staff trusts as Martin has been inconsistent all season long. Any guy getting over 20 carries this late in the season deserves a roster spot, though be cautious in case Martin does end up stealing snaps. (Spoiler: I doubt it.)
PLAYER TO IGNORE: Tion Green
I swear I did not type a random name here. You probably had no idea who Green was until he scored a goal-line touchdown on Sunday. The fifth running back in a crowded backfield, Green only saw touches due to injuries to multiple Lions’ running backs. His 11.1-point performance will probably be the highlight of his season.
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 Lamar Jackson
The former Heisman-winner is a polarizing prospect. As a passer, he has a lightning-quick delivery, though there are certainly some accuracy questions. As a runner, he is lightning-quick with his feet, and his athleticism is on display every play. There is no doubt Jackson can make an impact on the ground, but right now I would not be surprised if Jackson stays and/or falls in the draft, both due to more pure passers available. Early Projection: 3rd-4th round
The ‘Hands’ Award: Evan Engram
Stop saying every one-handed catch reminds you of Odell Beckham. ODB did not invent the one-handed catch, but his rookie teammate sure made a beautiful one on Sunday. Not only did Engram legitimately palm the ball, but he did so over his own and the defenders’ heads before falling down.
Uniform of the Week: Los Angeles Chargers
In case you haven’t noticed from my past articles, I adore the Chargers uniforms. All of them. Especially this Color Rush/Throwback combo. The dark blue and white fits perfectly with the vibrant yellow and royal blue backdrop. I probably sound redundant, but these might be my favorite threads in the entire NFL. Shout out to those vibrant yellow face-masks, too.
The Madden Award: Tarik Cohen
Forget the fact that Cohen is a literal “Human Joystick,” but this is a play straight out of Madden. Any Madden player can admit to completely reversing field on a kick/punt return at least once, and most of them can tell you they’ve succeeded. For a few seconds on Sunday, Cohen convinced me I was playing a round of Madden rather than watching an actual game.
The Early Hanukkah Award: The fan who caught the flag from Marcus Peters
Here’s the full incident, but our guy gets his spotlight 38 seconds into the video. The entire scenario is a whirlwind of ridiculousness, but my biggest question is how Andrew Siciliano is in New York and on my TV screen at the same time. Oh well, Mazel Tov, “Andrew!”
ONE LAST THING
One of my favorite pastimes, along with fantasy football, is following the NFL Draft. I have done multiple mock drafts over the years and have experienced some mild success (In 2015 I correctly predicted 12 out of the first 17 picks). It’s still very early in the draft evaluation process and I do not have much information, but below I decided to do a top-10 mock based on what I would do. (The order is based off of current standings.)
4. Broncos – Josh Allen
6. Bears – Quenton Nelson
This is a very loose mock, as I have not done enough scouting yet. What I do know is that three teams are desperate for a quarterback (Browns, Giants, 49ers) and two teams could use one soon (Cardinals, Jets). Therefore, I see all-star talents like Williams and Fitzpatrick falling out of the top five picks. As of now, I am not sold on any quarterback yet, and while I like Darnold as a person more than Rosen, I slightly favor Rosen as a thrower. Of course, that could easily change. Another notable observation is that Saquon Barkley is a different level of good. I know Barkley has slumped in recent weeks, but it is hard to accomplish much when there are 8-9 defenders keyed on you the entire game. Barkley is still the best running back prospect I have ever seen and he deserves to be selected first, but he likely will not (unless the Browns trade, again.) Also, I am becoming more and more convinced that Quenton Nelson will become an outstanding NFL player.