Welcome to Vantage Points, a column I will be writing weekly during the NFL season as a window into every game of the week. With access limited more than ever this year and with no preseason games for us to put our own eyes on, I have the utmost respect for sportswriters covering the NFL on a daily basis, giving us a window into what these teams might look like and where their strengths and weaknesses — beyond the obvious — lie.
The purpose of this column is to highlight the work of those writers, but to also turn some of their observations into actionable fantasy advice. The goal isn’t just to highlight obvious angles, but perhaps some of the lower-end ones that could lead to fantasy advantages. I’m also taking advantage of watching press conferences and reading transcripts from coaches and players, as well as using stats to back up narratives and look for fantasy-relevant angles. I’ll also cover notable injuries.
I will publish this column twice weekly — on Wednesdays to preview the Thursday night game, and on Fridays to preview the Sunday slate.
All times are Eastern.
Tampa Bay at Carolina (Sun, 1 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Buccaneers…
While the Bucs got absolutely blown out by the Saints in their last outing, it’s hard to argue that the Tom Brady signing hasn’t worked out thus far. The Bucs are 5-3, they’re beyond relevant, and despite that significant bump in the road, they’re still Super Bowl contenders.
But overall, they’ve been kind of a disappointment for fantasy. Nobody has borne the brunt of that more than WR Mike Evans, who is just 34th among WRs with 13.3 FPG. But while injuries have played into that — most recently an ankle — coach Bruce Arians is adamant that it’s not all Evans’ fault. In fact, after last week’s blowout, Arians appeared to call out his veteran QB.
“Mike was open a bunch in that ballgame,” Arians said. “He didn’t get targeted, that was all. Mike was open.”
Arians’ quote — and more analysis of Evans’ struggles — are in this great piece by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Stroud highlights a particular play that NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah pointed out. Meanwhile, Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard, who covered Brady for years, seems to think Evans’ style doesn’t mesh well with Brady’s, based on this snarky-ish comment. Stroud’s article is a nice breakdown, and I’d recommend reading it.
One thing that could really get Brady back to going well would be more play action. Obviously, with the Bucs in such an early hole last week against the Saints, play action was less likely to be effective, and per Next Gen Stats, Brady used play action on just 7.3% of dropbacks in Week 9, the lowest of the year so far. Per NGS, Brady is top-five in most play-action categories, including completion percentage (73.0%), YPA (9.8), and passer rating (122.2). Those numbers are elite. His numbers on standard dropbacks, however, are not — 63.3% completion, 6.3 YPA, 90.5 rating.
Part of the reason the Buccaneers offense struggled so badly against the Saints last week was the offensive line breaking down — the line should be back in better health in Week 10 with LG Ali Marpet looking primed to return from a concussion.
What They’re Saying About the Panthers…
The big story for the week here is obviously the fact that RB Christian McCaffrey will not play because of an AC joint injury to his shoulder. That opens the door for Mike Davis to carry the load yet again. But CMC received some good news this week — according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport, there’s some optimism CMC could play next week. Hey, at least he’s missing a game against the Bucs, notorious for their ability to slow him down.
One thing we’ve mentioned on podcasts, in the Waiver Wire report, and throughout columns on this site is how creatively the Panthers and OC Joe Brady have been using WR Curtis Samuel this year — Samuel now has two games as a top-12 WR, one more as a top-24 WR, and one further as a top-36 receiver. That means he has the same number of finishes as a top-36 WR (four) as “#1” WR DJ Moore, who has had some trouble getting on the same page as QB Teddy Bridgewater, unlike Samuel and Robby Anderson.
Moore’s struggles have been a fantasy disappointment in a year that’s been overall very good for the Panthers. I thought the Charlotte Observer’s Jonathan Alexander did a great job breaking things down here.
Even in games when Bridgewater targeted Moore sufficiently, the two haven’t always looked like they were on the same page. Against Atlanta in Week 8, Moore finished with two catches for 55 yards and was targeted six times. However, both catches occurred on the game’s final drive, including half of his targets.
Bridgewater has thrown plenty of inaccurate passes to Moore. Other times when balls were on target, Moore has dropped passes.
Moore has caught only 56.4% of the passes thrown his way, 8 percentage points lower than his 2019 numbers. Of the 88 players with at least 25 catches this season, Moore is ranked 84th in catch percentage. He has been credited with six drops.
By comparison, teammate Curtis Samuel has caught 88.4% of his targets, and wide receiver Robby Anderson has caught 75%.
[Moore’s] arguably the Panthers’ second-best playmaker behind McCaffrey. He showed that in Week 5 against the Falcons, when he caught a short pass, shook his defender and took it 57 yards for a touchdown.
This season, though, Moore has been used more on vertical routes, as opposed to the primarily slants and intermediate routes in 2019. Offensive coordinator Joe Brady should find ways to get one of the Panthers’ best playmakers more touches moving forward, even if it includes jet sweeps, bubble screens and slants.
As we’ve written multiple times this year, and Alexander confirms, the thing we missed this off-season would be Brady changing Moore’s role, while Anderson — a traditional deep threat — has been running more short and intermediate routes.
The Panthers will be without LT Russell Okung (calf).
This Bucs receiving corps is a mess. I consider all three high-end WR3s at this point. It’s clear that Evans has been playing better than his numbers.
Davis is a reception-dependent RB2 in this matchup. Believe it or not, I think Samuel is the Panthers’ best fantasy WR right now. He’s a WR2, with Anderson and Moore WR3s.
Houston at Cleveland (Sun, 1 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Texans…
The big fantasy storyline to follow for Houston this week is whether or not RB David Johnson can play, as he is in the concussion protocol (coach Romeo Crennel called him uncertain to play on Sunday). That opens the door for one of the forgotten players on this roster, Duke Johnson to potentially step up and produce for fantasy. As of Friday, it’s looking unlikely for David to go.
Oh, and it’s a revenge game for Dookie. The Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson featured Duke in an article this week.
With the way Crennel talked about Duke this week, you wonder if this is an opportunity for him to command more snaps going forward.
“I think Sunday was a great example of what Duke brings to the table. He went in there after David got hurt, and he took I guess just about every snap. I think maybe he was out for two plays after that,” Crennel told reporters this week. “He took every snap, and that was blocking, that was running and that was pass receiving. He’s a productive runner. He’s got great vision. He’s got quick feet and he can make people miss. So, that’s what we expect from him going forward.”
QB Deshaun Watson agrees.
“There’s really no difference between the two. Both of them can catch. Both of them can run. Shifty, can make cuts and reads and things like that,” he said on Wednesday. “Once one person is out, the other person just rolls in and it continues to flow.”
The backfield, though, hasn’t been nearly as rosy as the quotes paint it. As Aaron Reiss of The Athletic points out, the Texans rank last in FootballOutsiders rushing DVOA. That’s because, Reiss writes, David “has been miserable on early downs. His first and second down success-rate of 43.6 percent ranks 16 out of 17 running backs with at least 100 carries, making him one of the least-efficient high-volume runners in the league. And if that weren’t bad enough, he’s also averaging a career-low 0.9 yards per route run.”
Could Duke, with a big opportunity, steal some snaps going forward here?
Watson and the Texans will have to play against DE Myles Garrett this week — coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters Garrett (knee) is totally fine to go out of Cleveland’s bye.
Brown CB Denzel Ward, their best cover man, didn’t practice on Friday because of contact tracing, but is expected to play. If he doesn’t play, that’s a huge boost for Will Fuller.
What They’re Saying About the Browns…
NOTE: A Browns player tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, and the Browns are now contact tracing. Obviously, this could affect the scheduling of this contest.
Browns QB Baker Mayfield has been activated off the COVID-19 list. The understanding is that Mayfield didn’t test positive for the virus, but rather was a close contact.
Coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters this week that he believes Mayfield is “ready to ascend” and Mayfield discussed what he worked on over the Browns’ bye week.
The Browns probably have the NFL’s best backup RB in Kareem Hunt, but that doesn’t mean their run game has been anywhere near as effective as it was before Nick Chubb (MCL) got injured. Chubb is hopeful to be back this week, and with him, the Browns hope their elite run game returns. (For what it’s worth, we likely won’t know until Saturday or Sunday if Chubb will be activated off IR.)
According to NFL Research, the Browns ranked #1 in both rushing yards per game (204.5) and rushing TD (8) with Chubb in the lineup from Weeks 1-4. Without Chubb for the next four games, the Browns are 26th in rush YPG (95.5), and haven’t scored a single rushing TD. It’s a good week for Chubb to come back — the Texans have the NFL’s 32nd-ranked run defense.
Part of the reason the Browns’ run game has been struggling, though? G Wyatt Teller, PFF’s highest-graded guard so far this year, hasn’t played since Week 5 with a calf injury. He’s back in practice this week and could make his return. TE Austin Hooper (appendectomy) will be back, as well. However, swing OL Chris Hubbard is the player who tested positive for COVID-19, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garofolo.
It might not be sexy, but with Odell Beckham out, the Browns need someone to catch passes. And over the last three weeks, WR Jarvis Landry’s 35% targets per route run ranks behind only Davante Adams in the entire league (SIS).
The Texans have activated OLB Whitney Mercilus off the COVID-19 list, giving their defense a bump this week.
However, what’s up with CB Bradley Roby? The Texans’ top CB was benched last week for disciplinary reasons, which The Athletic’s Aaron Reiss writes was “because of disagreements regarding the team’s coverage scheme.” So while the Browns might not have the outside receivers to take advantage of it, it’s not great news for Houston that their best defensive back is apparently on bad terms with the team, even temporarily so.
If David doesn’t go, Duke is a solid RB2. Obviously, Ward being out — not expected — would be massive for Fuller.
If Chubb plays, I view both he and Hunt as RB2s. Hunt is a slam-dunk RB1 in this matchup if Chubb doesn’t go. Hooper is a middling TE start, and Landry is a WR3.
Washington at Detroit (Sun, 1 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Football Team…
The story for the Team is obvious right now — it’s QB Alex Smith, who is now the starter in Washington after it was in doubt if he’d ever play the sport again. But the Washington Post’s Les Carpenter argues that these next number of weeks will determine the future of Dwayne Haskins, who is now the backup with Kyle Allen (ankle) on IR.
“This is Haskins’s time. Not in the games but away from the cameras, on the practice fields and in the halls of the team’s practice facility. If Smith is getting a second chance at football after a devastating leg injury appeared to take his career away, Haskins is getting another opportunity after a very public demotion.
While a person with knowledge of the situation said the coaching staff was irritated with Haskins for not arriving at the building early, arriving late to some meetings and not preparing enough for games — leading to on-field mistakes — Rivera also did not want to give up on him. Two people familiar with the situation said Rivera was not interested in trading Haskins, hoping instead that his second-year quarterback would take the benching as a challenge.”
If you’re wondering why RB JD McKissic plays so much for the team — taking snaps from rookie Antonio Gibson — part of it is the obvious, in that McKissic is a great receiver. He has at least 6 receptions in four of his last five games, and he was targeted a whopping 14 times last week, with checkdown artist Smith at QB in a blowout. But The Athletic’s Ben Standig raises another point: Gibson’s blocking is lacking. Gibson was “blocking” Giant S Jabrill Peppers, who injured Allen, last week.
“McKissic is the safer play for the coaching staff on all fronts, but Gibson is the home run threat. Washington cannot afford him performing poorly in pass protection again, especially with Alex Smith now under center. But that also limits Gibson’s usage on third downs. Gibson played 25 snaps (46 percent) against New York, compared to 45 (83 percent) for McKissic.”
Gibson has been limited in practice this week with a shoulder injury but will play. Meanwhile, second-year RB Bryce Love’s 21-day window to return from IR for a knee injury is open. But he isn’t expected to play yet.
One of the cool matchups to focus on this week — Washington WR Terry McLaurin against Jeff Okudah, his former Ohio State teammate. McLaurin will be important with Dontrelle Inman (hamstring) missing another game.
Washington also might not have K Dustin Hopkins (groin) this week. The Team has Kaare Vedvik on the practice squad.
What They’re Saying About the Lions…
The Lions are thin at the skill positions without Kenny Golladay (hip), so one guy who has been getting more involved recently is TE TJ Hockenson, who has scored in four of his last five games and had 7/65 receiving in the game in which he didn’t over that span. Hockenson’s 9 end-zone targets rank #2 in the NFL, while he leads the Lions in every major receiving category.
Expect his success to continue this week… if he goes (he didn’t practice on Thursday because of a toe injury). Per SIS, the Team has seen 27% of all targeted throws against it go to TEs. Hockenson is listed as questionable.
It’s the second consecutive revenge game for Detroit RB Adrian Peterson. The Team released him surprisingly in August. Peterson has acknowledged he’ll be looking to prove himself to Ron Rivera and staff. “They will get to realize what they let go,” Peterson said. That’s not exactly music to the ears of fantasy players who have D’Andre Swift and realize that he’s the Lions’ best chance at creating explosive plays.
That said, Washington’s run defense was pathetic last week, getting carved up by the Giants’ Wayne Gallman and, in another revenge game, Alfred Morris of all people. The Athletic’s Mark Bullock broke down all the discipline issues the Team has had on its back end, and that Peterson will no doubt see on film. Washington has the NFL’s #1 pass defense by FootballOutsiders DVOA, but now is #17 in run defense.
So even though QB Matthew Stafford (neck) is fully expected to play for the Lions this week, I would anticipate a lot of handoffs. As per usual — The Athletic’s Chris Burke looked at how restricted the Lions’ offense was last week against the Vikings, with Stafford’s only downfield throw coming on the first offensive snap of the game.
Both McKissic and Gibson are RB2s, at least in PPR. McLaurin is a high-end WR2 in this matchup.
Keep an eye on Hockenson’s status. He’s a slam-dunk TE1 if he goes. Swift is an RB2, and Peterson a mild FLEX play given it’s clear the Lions coaches are thickheaded.
Jacksonville at Green Bay (Sun, 1 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Jaguars…
Obviously, Jaguar rookie RB James Robinson will continue to be an RB1, but we hope to see him a little bit more involved in the passing game this week, with scatback Chris Thompson having increased his role there.
The Packers’ tendency to play mostly zone — 78%, 3rd-most in the NFL per SIS — plays into Robinson’s skills as a receiver. Green Bay’s defense has struggled against RBs as receivers, giving up a 4th-highest 24% target share, a 2nd-highest 8.2 YPA vs. RBs, and the most receiving yards per game (59) to the position.
Robinson also has a 15% target share and 25 targets against zone coverage, while he has just a 2% target share and 2 targets against man coverage. The wrench is Thompson, who has run 121 routes to Robinson’s 100 when both are healthy, though Robinson has 28 targets to Thompson’s 23.
Robinson is one of the Jaguars’ few players to have fantasy value, but the hope is that rookie QB Jake Luton can help unlock more potential from WR DJ Chark, who as I’ve noted here has been frustrated with his lack of production with Gardner Minshew at QB.
The Florida Times-Union’s John Reid broke down what Luton’s solid first performance could mean for this offense going forward.
''Jake stepped into a divisional game and he never showed any nerves,'' Chark said. ''He just played football and did what was asked of him. He wasn’t afraid, he was fired up out there, he was excited.''
OC Jay Gruden thinks Luton’s bomb TD to Chark on the first pass attempt of the game created a domino effect for Chark’s big week.
“These guys want to get involved early, they want to feel part of the game and to get him the touchdown on the third or fourth play of the game was critical as far as a domino effect for the way he played,” Gruden told reporters this week.
It would obviously help Chark if Packer top CB Jaire Alexander (concussion) can’t play this week. He’s listed as doubtful.
Reid noted that Luton — who has a bigger arm than Minshew — could expand the verticality of the offense. And coach Doug Marrone thinks Luton’s approach could mean more work for guys like Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, and Collin Johnson down the stretch.
''We need to get him [Cole] going because he’s been really having a good year for us. Laviska [Shenault Jr.], we had a lot in for him and he, unfortunately, had the injury come up, but he’s made some plays,'' Marrone said. ''I think Collin has made the plays in practice, but we need to see it transfer over to the field, but he’s a young player, a first-year guy. So, I expect this week if Jake [Luton] continues to grow, I think those numbers could pick up.”
Shenault, however, will be out this week with a hamstring injury.
The Jaguars signed K Chase McLaughlin to replace Josh Lambo (hip), who is on IR.
What They’re Saying About the Packers…
I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that Aaron Rodgers is primed to have a good game this week.
First of all, he isn’t going to be under pressure — Jacksonville pressures QBs on just 23% of dropbacks, lowest in the NFL (SIS), and LT David Bakhtiari (chest) will play for the Packers. The Jaguars also play man coverage 48% of the time, 3rd-most in the NFL, something that is unlikely to change against Green Bay (opposing teams have played man vs. Green Bay 46% of the time, most in the league). And against man coverage, Rodgers is awesome — he’s thrown a TD on 17% of his pass attempts vs. man.
Who is Rodgers’ favorite receiver in man? Duh. Davante Adams. Adams has seen a 33% target share against man, with 26 receptions and 5 TDs. No other player on the Packers has more than 7 receptions against man coverage.
The Packers could get WR Allen Lazard back from a core muscle injury this week, however. He’s questionable.
"I'm excited about the possibility of getting Allen back, based on what he accomplished early in the season, the start that he got off to," Rodgers told reporters on Wednesday, via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky.
Though Packer RB Aaron Jones wanted to play weeks ago with his calf injury, he begrudgingly admitted this week it could have helped him to sit out.
Packer TE Marcedes Lewis, a longtime Jaguar, is still sour about finding out he was cut by seeing it on TV. So yes, it is a Marcedes Lewis revenge game, and he might have a bigger role this week if TE Robert Tonyan (ankle) can’t play — Tonyan was downgraded in week with the injury, which is not a good sign, and he’s listed as questionable.
Robinson is an RB1. Chark is a high-end WR2 with Alexander out, and you can also plug in Cole or Chris Conley as a desperation WR3 with Shenault out.
The Packers are obvious for fantasy, but you might be able to use Lazard as a WR3 if he plays, and Lewis could be a TD-dependent TE streamer if Tonyan can’t play and the Packers buy into the revenge angle.
Philadelphia at NY Giants (Sun, 1 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Eagles…
Nobody is going to deny that there’s a huge mental block with QB Carson Wentz right now. Stylistically, Wentz is playing like himself — he wants to extend plays, escape pressure, and create big gains down the field. The problem is those extended plays are resulting in impossibly stupid turnovers right now, which has never been a problem for him before this year.
According to Next Gen Stats, Wentz has 1 TD and 4 INT on dropbacks of 4 seconds or longer this year, with a completion percentage of 28.9% and a YPA of 3.4. Compare that to the last three seasons, when Wentz had 10 TD and 3 INT (total, so he’s already thrown more picks in these situations this year than the last three years combined). Our friend Ron Jaworski has more numbers for context.
One of the major talking points in Philadelphia media this week has been that Brett Favre, a close friend and former teammate of Eagle coach Doug Pederson, rehashed the tired argument that the Eagles should have kept Nick Foles over Wentz. It’s a tired argument that Wentz could put to bed for good if he cleans up his mistakes, but it’s not like Foles is lighting the world on fire in Chicago.
Wentz should have more help this week — RB Miles Sanders (knee) and WR Alshon Jeffery (calf) are expected to make their season debuts. LG Isaac Seumalo and RT Lane Johnson could return to action in front of Wentz — the offensive line was a big problem for Philly last time out against the Giants. But if they get all their starters back (Johnson probably has a better chance to go than Seumalo), it appears the Eagles will be pulling LT Jordan Mailata out of the lineup, which feels like a mistake to me — Mailata, the former rugby player from Australia, has shown a lot of promise, even if he has struggled a bit in recent weeks. Philly should focus on developing him.
Hopefully, Philly doesn’t make the awful mistake of doing the same to young star WR Travis Fulgham simply because Jeffery is back. That doesn’t look to be an issue — Eagles beat writers, reading into Pederson’s comments, seem to think he won’t play much this week.
What They’re Saying About the Giants…
His season has been frustrating as all hell, and there’s no doubt that TE Evan Engram’s drop against the Eagles a few weeks ago — when he could have sealed the game — is a microcosm of his NFL career thus far. But for all the struggles, he’s still getting targets. Over the last three weeks, Engram has seen a target on 32% of his routes run, which is 5th in the NFL, and #2 among all TEs (behind only Darren Waller of Vegas).
The Giants have another player in the top 10 on that list, per SIS — WR Sterling Shepard has seen a target on 30% of his routes run over the last three weeks. These are the guys to whom QB Daniel Jones is gravitating.
It seems likely that WR Golden Tate, who was out last week for disciplinary reasons, will play this week. Tate suffered a knee injury late in practice on Thursday, but it’s believed to be minor.
One guy who won’t play is RB Devonta Freeman, who aggravated an ankle injury in Thursday’s practice and landed back on IR. That will open the door for the Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris show.
Carson Wentz isn’t the only QB in this game struggling on dropbacks of 4 or more seconds — according to Next Gen Stats, Jones has 0 TD and 3 INT on such dropbacks this season. Jones is having a weird season, all considered. He’s averaging 8.0 YPC, which if extended through the full season, would be the second-best QB number from the last 30 seasons, after Michael Vick averaged 8.5 YPC in 2006. But he doesn’t have a rushing TD… you might recall his best chance.
Jones is trying to beat an NFC East opponent not named “The Football Team” for the first time in his career this week. He’s 4-0 against Washington, but 0-5 against Philly and Dallas combined.
The Eagle offense, all of a sudden, is healthy. Wentz has been frustrating, but he’s a QB1 given his style. Sanders is back as an RB1, but Jeffery is barely a stash-worthy fantasy asset.
Engram is a TE1, Shepard and Slayton WR3s, and Jones a middling streaming QB option. Gallman is a low-end RB2 in a tough matchup.
Buffalo at Arizona (Sun, 4:05 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Bills…
After last week’s game against the Seahawks, Seattle coach Pete Carroll told reporters that the Bills essentially took him by surprise by not running the ball — Carroll mentioned the Seahawks’ plan was to stop the Bills’ run game, and Buffalo decided instead to just go crazy on Seattle’s weak secondary.
The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia did a phenomenal breakdown of the performance of the Bills’ offense and OC Brian Daboll last week. Daboll is clearly one of the best playcallers in the NFL when it comes to exploiting weaknesses, and boy did he find one with Seattle, exploiting Seattle’s predominant zone coverage with brilliant route concepts and great recognition from QB Josh Allen.
Don’t expect to see the exact same thing this week, though — the Cardinals play man coverage 48.3% of the time, 4th-most in the NFL (SIS). Seattle, rather, plays zone the 4th-most in the NFL (78% of the time).
The Bills activated TE Dawson Knox off the COVID-19 list. Knox told the Buffalo News that he had only mild symptoms even though it took a while to come off the list.
Bills WR John Brown (knee) is expected to play again this week. Brown has had a hugely positive impact on Allen when on the field. Per SIS, Allen averages 8.78 YPA with 11 TD and 2 INT with Brown on the field, and 7.25 YPA with 8 TD and 3 INT when he’s off it.
The Cardinals could be shorthanded in the secondary — S Budda Baker (groin) didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday, though DC Vance Joseph said he expects Baker to play.
What They’re Saying About the Cardinals…
The production of their backfield might not look like it, but according to SIS, the Cardinals lead the NFL with an average of 3.0 yards before contact on rushing attempts. A large part of that is QB Kyler Murray (4.9 yards before contact per attempt) but both Chase Edmonds (3.0) and Kenyan Drake (2.8) have had success in that department as well (or, in other words, have had big holes to run through). It makes you wonder what kind of success Derrick Henry — who averages just 1.5 yards before contact but 3.1 yards after contact — would be having in this offense.
The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia does see issues with running backs getting to the perimeter against the Bills, however, and he still saw push against their nose tackles. Will Kliff Kingsbury exploit that?
Drake (ankle) has been getting in some limited work in practice this week after missing last week’s game, so he has a shot to go. But it remains to be seen what kind of role he’ll have vis-a-vis Edmonds. Based on Kingsbury’s comments, it looks like Drake is a true game-time decision.
With the passing game, the Cardinals have been stretching the field a little bit more with WR Christian Kirk, who could have more room to operate again this week if the Bills choose to selectively match up top CB Tre’Davious White on WR DeAndre Hopkins (White has only occasionally matched up this year — he’s mostly been the Bills’ boundary CB). White is dealing with an ankle injury, but appears on track to play on Sunday.
Of course, Hopkins’ 3-catch performance last week needs some context — he also drew 4 pass-interference penalties for 61 yards.
Just keep rolling with the entire Bills’ passing game. Seriously, it’s on fire.
You might have a decision to make on Drake if you can’t wait until 4:05 Sunday. If he’s a true game-time decision and you don’t have a replacement from the late games, you may have to bench him. Kirk is a WR2 and Hopkins a WR1.
Denver at Las Vegas (Sun, 4:05 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Broncos…
I mentioned in last week’s Vantage Points column that I don’t think I’ve found a single player who is as beloved by his team’s beat writers — who typically do not have rooting interests — than Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay.
Now, those who cover the team believe it’s the lack of Lindsay early in games that is the reason for the Broncos’ slow starts. The last two weeks, QB Drew Lock and company haven’t gotten going until late in the second half. Could more Lindsay be the solution for that?
The Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla thinks so. Kiszla uses some archaic stats to make his case (like the old “when RB runs for 100 yards, team wins” crap), but he also got Lindsay to comment on not getting into a flow. Kiszla writes:
Every running back likes to get in the flow, with sufficient touches to instinctively feel where the wide-open spaces are in a defense on any given Sunday. I asked Lindsay the challenge of finding his rhythm in his role of No. 1B in this tandem.
“It is what it is. You can’t sit here and cry over it. You’ve just got to take advantage of the reps you’re getting,” Lindsay replied. “The fact is that when you get an opportunity, take advantage of it. When you sit there and wait for your opportunity, you can’t do nothing about it. You’ve got two really good running backs and hopefully they find ways to get us more involved.”
You have to think this will be the week for Lindsay to get going — the Raiders have the worst run defense in pro football, according to FootballOutsiders DVOA. And they placed ILB Cory Littleton on the COVID-19 list this week, to boot.
Broncos TE Noah Fant (ankle) has been practicing in full this week. He’s not 100%, but he’s been playing through pain. WR Jerry Jeudy (shoulder) has been limited in practice this week and should also play, though he’s listed as questionable.
However, right tackle could be a huge problem spot for Denver. Ja’Wuan James opted out before the season. His replacement, Elijah Wilkinson, is on IR. Wilkinson’s replacement, Demar Dotson, started the last five games but is questionable to go with hand and groin injuries. Dotson’s replacement, Jake Rodgers, suffered a shoulder injury in practice this week.
If Dotson and Rodgers can’t go, Calvin Anderson would have to make his NFL debut as a starting RT. Not ideal.
What They’re Saying About the Raiders…
This could be a big week for Raider TE Darren Waller. I mean, most of them are, but The Athletic’s Nick Kosmider broke down some of Denver’s struggles with opposing TEs. Kosmider writes:
Defending tight ends has remained a bugaboo for Denver. Quarterbacks have posted a 110.5 passer rating when targeting tight ends against the Broncos. Waller hasn’t been as explosive down the field as he was a season ago — he’s averaging just 7.9 yards per reception — but he’s already caught a career-high four touchdown passes.
The Broncos will need to account for Waller better than they did Atlanta’s Hayden Hurst, who caught a season-high seven passes against Denver last week, including a handful to convert third downs.
Have the Raiders figured something out with their run game? The Las Vegas Sun’s Mike Grimala takes a short dive here. Grimala writes:
Coming into Week 9 the Raiders were ranked 27th out of 32 teams in Football Outsiders’ rushing DVOA rankings, which isn’t a total surprise considering the team has been hit by a string of injuries and COVID-19 issues along the offensive line. But running the ball was supposed to be a strength this season, and until the last two weeks it has been more of a liability.
So, what’s changed?
Last week could be chalked up to a singular performance by Josh Jacobs, but on Sunday it was a team effort. Backup Devontae Booker led the team with 68 yards and averaged more than six yards per carry, and it was his 23-yard touchdown scamper that put Las Vegas on the board in the first quarter.
The offensive line was patchwork, with backups at both tackle positions, and Sam Young and Brandon Parker did their jobs in commendable fashion. Interior linemen Rodney Hudson and Gabe Jackson got their turn in the spotlight by pulling out in front of Booker and leading him into the end zone untouched on his scoring run.
Obviously, that offensive line finding a groove is the biggest issue, and Grimala saw that last week. The Athletic’s Ted Nguyen highlighted how the Raiders got to the perimeter with consistency against the Chargers. Nguyen notes how the Raiders exploited the fact that EDGE Joey Bosa was out with a concussion, despite being down two tackles (and it looks like the Raiders will be down both tackles again). Well, the Broncos don’t have Von Miller…
The Raiders run game is helped in large part by FB Alec Ingold, who had to go to the hospital last week after fracturing two ribs. Nobody ever got to be a fullback by being weak, and Ingold intends to play this week.
I think it’s a good week for Lindsay to get going. I just wish I could trust him more because he doesn’t catch the football. Fant is a low-end TE1 and Jeudy a WR3.
I think Jacobs is an RB1. Until I see more, I can’t endorse another Vegas back.
LA Chargers at Miami (Sun, 4:05 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Chargers…
How about this little tidbit from NFL Research — the matchup between Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa will be the first matchup in recorded history between two rookie QBs with a 100+ passer rating on 50 or more pass attempts. Pretty cool.
Of course, what people care about for fantasy is the Chargers’ backfield, after Justin Jackson got hurt basically at the start of the contest last week against the Raiders and put up a goose egg. Coach Anthony Lynn has already ruled out Jackson this week. So what will the RB situation look like?
Well, according to OC Shane Steichen, it might not be pretty… or at least not easy to figure out.
"It's the flow of the game," Steichen said. "You kinda go with it and see how it's rolling. See how guys are playing."
With Jackson out, the Chargers are down to Joshua Kelley, Troymaine Pope, and Kalen Ballage in the backfield. Pope was removed from concussion protocol this week, and two weeks ago, he appeared to give the Chargers the hard-nosed running that they wanted from Kelley. Meanwhile, Ballage played the best game of his career last week when pressed into action following Jackson’s injury.
Ballage is a freak athlete who has never been a particularly good football player, with even his college career at Arizona State buoyed by a couple of huge performances and not any sort of consistency.
"I think [Ballage] is taking the coaching," Lynn said. "I think he's better than what he was when he was at those places [Dolphins and Jets, who had Ballage earlier this year]. But it didn't surprise me when he went into the game and had some success. The young man has a nice skill set."
It’s a Ballage revenge game, by the way.
The Dolphins put LB Kyle Van Noy and DT Christian Wilkins, both defensive starters, on the COVID-19 list this week. Per PFF grades, Wilkins is the Dolphins’ best run defender on the defensive line, while Van Noy is the team’s best pass rusher. That’s good news for the run game and for Herbert. According to the Miami Herald, Van Noy is on the list because of contact tracing, so if that’s true, he at least has an outside shot of playing on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the injured Austin Ekeler threw some raw meat to the fantasy community on Thursday, tweeting that “the time draws near” for all his “fantasy owners that didn’t drop” him. Could he be back in Week 11?
What They’re Saying About the Dolphins…
The Dolphins frankly aren’t a particularly useful fantasy team right now — they don’t have a lot of talent at the skill positions. But after the Chargers got gashed on the ground by the Raiders last week, there are obviously interested fantasy players looking at Miami’s backfield for perhaps some low-end production.
It’s clear the Dolphins would like to eliminate as much Jordan Howard from their offense as possible. Howard averaged 1.9 YPC last week and his season YPC significantly rose to 1.2 YPC from .77 YPC before the game. Matt Breida was out with a hamstring injury last week. Myles Gaskin is on IR.
So Miami traded for DeAndre Washington last week, and gave a good bit of work to UDFA Salvon Ahmed against the Cardinals. Ahmed carries 7 times for 38 yards (more rushing yards than Howard has on 28 carries this season) and gave them, according to coach Brian Flores, “some juice.”
However, Flores mentioned one thing about Ahmed that makes me think he won’t get significant snaps just yet. “There is a protection play that stands out for me that I thought could’ve been better. I don’t know if anyone else saw that one,” Flores said. And oh boy, do coaches hate when their RBs can’t block.
Breida has a shot to play this week (he’s questionable), and obviously Washington is available now (he couldn’t pass all the COVID protocols in time to be ready for last week). So this backfield is an official mess.
The Chargers will be without DE Joey Bosa (concussion) again, and absence was one of the major reasons the Raiders had success in the run game. It’s also fantastic news for Tua Tagovailoa. But for the second straight week, COVID will cost Tua live communications with his QB coach.
The Dolphins are wearing their throwback uniforms this week. Make them permanent, please.
The Charger backfield is an absolute mess. I consider all three — Kelley, Pope, Ballage — as FLEX options. I think I like them in that order. Pope caught the ball well two weeks ago, which is a good sign for him.
I would prefer not to play any Dolphin outside of WR DeVante Parker. If Breida goes, he’d be my favorite of the Miami RBs, with Ahmed second.
Seattle at LA Rams (Sun, 4:25 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Seahawks…
The story for the Seahawks this week is the backfield — will Chris Carson or Carlos Hyde play?
“Chris is ahead of Carlos,” coach Pete Carroll said this week. Carroll said that Carson would run in practice this week, but he evidently didn’t do enough to even earn a “limited” designation on Thursday or Friday. So for now, it’s looking like DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer will lead the backfield again this week. (Homer has been limited in practice this week with a knee injury, as well.)
Carson’s injury has frustrated fantasy players, but I implore you, don’t be this idiot threatening to fight a guy because he’s hurting your fantasy team. Both Carson and Hyde are questionable.
If the Seahawks need more RB depth, they signed Bo Scarbrough to their practice squad this week. The Rams, meanwhile, are expected to get a big boost defensively, with DT A’Shawn Robinson making his Ram debut.
Don’t expect top Ram CB Jalen Ramsey to shadow DK Metcalf outright, as he said this week, but he will certainly match up to him a lot. The Rams haven’t been using Ramsey as an exclusive shadow corner much this year, so that wouldn’t be a change from the first half of the season.
What They’re Saying About the Rams…
Obviously, you’re expecting to see a ton of points in this game — only the Bills and Cardinals have a higher projected total than this contest. And for fantasy purposes, the instant instinct is to look at the receivers. That’s a good place to start.
The Seahawks’ 281 receiving yards per game allowed to WRs is the most in the NFL by 65 yards per contest. And 66% of that yardage, per SIS, is to slot receivers. The Rams run both Cooper Kupp (91%) and Robert Woods (81%) out of the slot for the vast majority of their routes. Kupp will be the chalkier play, but Woods has a nice go of it too. The Los Angeles Daily News broke down the season of Kupp so far, which doesn’t seem to be going as smoothly as we’ve come to expect.
Of course, the matchup will be defined by how QB Jared Goff plays. I don’t know how much you read into stats coming off a bye week, but Goff’s haven’t been particularly good of late. According to NFL Research, over his last four games coming off a bye week — including Super Bowl LIII — Goff has 1 TD pass to 4 INT, with a QB rating of 61.8.
But just how different is the Seahawk defense from the Legion of Boom heyday? Seattle has already allowed more points (243) and passing yards (2897) this season — in eight games — than they did in 16 games in 2013 (231 points, 2752 passing yards), per NFL Research.
Heck, Ram coach Sean McVay has had his way with Pete Carroll’s Seahawks even with better Seahawk defenses, as The Athletic’s Michael-Shawn Dugar points out. And in addition to the Seahawks’ struggles defensively this year, they also have injuries on that side of the football. CBs Shaquill Griffin (concussion/hamstring), CB Quinton Dunbar (knee), LB KJ Wright (ankle), and DE Benson Mayowa (ankle) are all questionable at best to play.
Meanwhile, we have to keep an eye on Ram RB Darrell Henderson, who has been limited in practice this week with the thigh injury that cost him the second half of the Rams’ Week 8 game, prior to their bye. The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue says Henderson will play, but there’s a chance he’s not 100%. The Seahawks seem likely to activate run-stuffer Snacks Harrison from their practice squad.
The Seahawks aren’t making anything easy on us here. We probably need to wait as long as possible to decide on this backfield.
I like the Ram passing game across the board, and Henderson is an RB2 if he goes.
San Francisco at New Orleans (Sun, 4:25 PM)
What They’re Saying About the 49ers…
This article takes me basically three full days to write every week, so I have to admit I’m pretty stoked when a beat writer I respect does a lot of the work for me, and NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco is as good as it gets when you want to know what’s going on with the 49ers.
He did a fantastic piece this week on players to watch in this key matchup.
First of all, he thinks WR Richie James, who had a big game for the shorthanded 49er WR corps last week, has earned more snaps going forward. The 49ers are expected to have Kendrick Bourne and Brandon Aiyuk off the COVID list, so their group is deeper than last week against Green Bay, but Deebo Samuel won’t play.
“James came through with nine catches for 184 yards and a touchdown. It was the 49ers’ best day for a wide receiver since Anquan Boldin had 208 yards receiving against the Packers in the season opener of 2013.
Samuel will not be available for the 49ers on Sunday, so James and Aiyuk will start against Saints cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins. James is more comfortable in the slot, but he showed he can win on the outside, too.
He has earned the right to get on the field to become a more-significant contributor for as long as he remains with the 49ers.”
By the way, the Saints have allowed the 7th-most FPG to WRs out of the slot, but just the 23rd-most to outside WRs. So if James is more comfortable in the slot, maybe he can keep his performance up.
Maiocco is also projected a big game for RB Jerick McKinnon. The 49ers will not have Raheem Mostert or Tevin Coleman in this one (Mostert is apparently close to returning).
“McKinnon had a light workload a couple weeks ago when his legs started getting tired. He got the start in Week 9 against the Green Bay Packers and looked fresh and ready, so coach Kyle Shanahan stayed with him over undrafted rookie JaMycal Hasty.
McKinnon should benefit from the extended break to get a lot of work on Sunday against the Saints, too.”
Maiocco thinks the 49ers will look to exploit LB Kwon Alexander, whom they just traded to the Saints, in coverage with McKinnon.
What They’re Saying About the Saints…
The Saints are one of those teams that have pretty much avoided constant storylines — I write this column every week, and when it comes to their opponents in this one, the 49ers, I’m writing something different every week, and it’s hard to catch up.
Despite the Michael Thomas saga, things have been pretty quiet for the Saints this year, so I appreciated The Athletic’s Katherine Terrell taking a step back to look at the big picture here.
Terrell notes that the Saints’ schedule is looking pretty favorable for the second half here, which should set up well for fantasy as the Saints are getting healthier around QB Drew Brees.
She also believes that RB Alvin Kamara should be in the MVP conversation — he matters, Terrell writes:
“People might look at numbers and dismiss any chances of him competing for MVP or at least Offensive Player of the Year. But anyone who has watched Kamara in 2020 understands that his value isn’t in statistics or records. The Saints have been able to lean on him in almost every situation. Had he needed to do more against the Bucs, he almost undoubtedly would have, but the Saints were able to find a number of other options.
When the offense struggled at times this year, Kamara could be counted on to make at least one spectacular play. The Saints MVP was once Brees year in and year out, but Kamara has been the engine that keeps the offense going this year. He’s truly the Saints’ most valuable player right now and should be considered for more.”
She’s not breaking any news there, but I thought Terrell’s observations on WR Emmanuel Sanders were illuminating.
“Sanders’ stats won’t jump out on a page right now (six games, 30 catches for 342 yards and three touchdowns). He’s also had only one 100-yard receiving game (12 catches for 122 yards against the Chargers). But everything has to be taken into account, including two games missed after Sanders tested positive for COVID-19. That’s in addition to a slow start as he was still wading his way into the offense.
Pencil in a big second half of the year for Sanders, especially now that Michael Thomas is back from his injuries. With teams needing to account for those two, as well as Jared Cook and Kamara, it’s no wonder the offense exploded last week with everyone back in the lineup. Fans have been waiting a long time to see what everyone would look like if they could just get on the same page.
So far, so good. If Sanders stays healthy for the remainder of the season, he could certainly put up some big numbers.”
For San Francisco, I think Aiyuk and James are WR3s, while McKinnon is a high-end RB2.
Sanders could carve out a role as a weekly WR3 here for the Saints, if Terrell’s observations hold true.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (Sun, 4:25 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Bengals…
The story of this game is obviously going to be pressure for QB Joe Burrow and the Bengals. The Steelers have pressured opposing QBs on 44% of dropbacks this year, most in the NFL per SIS.
Burrow has been sacked on 22% of the dropbacks on which he’s been pressured, 3rd-highest in the NFL. And when he faced the Eagles a number of weeks ago — a defense that pressures the QB at a 3rd-highest 40% rate — Burrow was sacked 8 times. Obviously, this is a problematic spot for Burrow.
According to NFL Research, Burrow is the eighth rookie QB since 1950 to face an unbeaten team in Week 10 or later. The only win — those rookies are 1-6 — came from Mark Sanchez in 2009, when the 14-0 Colts pulled their starters with a lead in the second half, as they were more concerned with staying healthy than going undefeated. So history is not on Burrow’s side here… at least in terms of a victory.
The positive for Burrow this week is he’s likely to get LT Jonah Williams (stinger) back in the lineup, and the Bengals were impressed with third-year man Billy Price’s return to the center position, which obviously helps Burrow if it continues. He might not have RB Joe Mixon (foot) though — the fact that he’s coming out of the bye and hasn’t been able to get in a full week of even limited practice sessions makes it pretty obvious they’ll be rolling with Giovani Bernard again. Mixon is officially listed as doubtful.
Steeler slot CB Mike Hilton (shoulder) is listed as questionable after missing a handful of games. If he misses again, that’s obviously a boost for Tyler Boyd.
One thing to keep note of: Bengal WR coach Bob Bicknell isn’t making the trip because of COVID-19 related issues. Hopefully, Bicknell is healthy and is just a close contact of someone who tested positive.
What They’re Saying About the Steelers…
The big news for the Steelers this week was that QB Ben Roethlisberger injured both his knees last week and then ended up on the COVID-19 list as a close contact of TE Vance McDonald, who tested positive for the virus. There is every expectation that Ben will be ready to play the Bengals in Week 10.
The one question surrounding the Steelers’ offense — presuming Ben is able to play as expected — has been the ice-cold run game with RB James Conner. What’s going on there?
The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette doesn’t have answers, but he certainly doesn’t think benching Conner for Benny Snell or Anthony McFarland is one. Bouchette writes:
McFarland hasn’t shown a whole lot, and they should absolutely stay away from giving him the ball in short-yardage unless it’s second-and-short and they want to try something different.
It’s not yet a trend, but not being able to run against that Cowboys defense that averaged 170.9 yards allowed on the ground per game has to be somewhat of a red flag. I think the Dallas front dominated the Steelers line, and I think falling behind 13-0 had something to do with it. Plus, why they had Conner on the sideline in the first half and ran McFarland and Snell three straight times in short-yardage was puzzling.
Reading not-so-far between the lines, Bouchette seems to think they’re forcing other backs into the equation when they should be trying to let Conner get into a flow. Additionally, Bouchette thinks the Steelers’ offense has operated better this year when Roethlisberger is calling plays “on the fly,” and not OC Randy Fichtner.
Burrow is a low-end QB1. He’s been putting up numbers, But I’m afraid of the beating he’ll take here. Gio is a high-end RB2, and if Hilton doesn’t go, Boyd is a high-end WR2.
I wonder if Pittsburgh will use this week to get back to basics and get Conner going, especially since Ben hasn’t been able to practice all week. He’s a RB1.
Baltimore at New England (Sun, 8:20 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Ravens…
There’s obviously something wrong with the Ravens’ offense. Part of it — perhaps the biggest part — is the offensive line, which ranks just 16th in run blocking and 23rd in pass blocking per FootballOutsiders. That was after finishes of 3rd and 8th, respectively, a season ago.
Everything this season is restricted to the middle of the field for Baltimore, which is clearly making the offense easier to defend. And it’s the major reason WR Marquise Brown has been a massive disappointment. Only 22% of Brown’s snaps have come from the slot (PFF), and QB Lamar Jackson just isn’t throwing the ball outside the numbers.
Moreover this week, the Patriots’ preponderance of man coverage (57%, highest in the NFL per SIS) is bad news for Hollywood. According to SIS, Brown has just a 13% target share and 3.2 YPT against man coverage, while he has a 29% target share and 9.9 YPT against zone. Jackson has 23 TD and 0 INT against man coverage dating back to last year, but he’s a pretty cautious thrower vs. man, averaging 6.9 YPA. His favorite receiver in man concepts is Mark Andrews, who has 6 of Lamar’s 23 TDs the last two years.
And yet another issue — predictability. For an offense that took the entire NFL by storm last year, it’s probably shocking that Jackson told Rich Eisen this week that opposing defenses are calling out the Ravens’ plays before the snap.
If the Ravens are finally going to throw the ball outside the numbers, this would be a good week to do so — it looks like Patriot CB Stephon Gilmore (knee) could miss the game, as he’s listed as questionable. If he goes, he isn’t likely to be 100%.
The Ravens cold have RB Mark Ingram this week, listing him as questionable after managing his ankle injury all week. He participated in practice in full on Friday, an “encouraging” sign (in quotes not because I want Ingram to be hurt, but because this three-man RB rotation has been as discouraging as it gets for fantasy).
What They’re Saying About the Patriots…
The Patriots are a horrifically boring team right now, so having something interesting to write about from a skill-position perspective has to make their beat writers excited. That’s probably why Doug Kyed put out such a detailed breakdown of the Week 9 breakout performance for Cam Newton’s new favorite receiver — Jakobi Meyers.
Where did Meyers excel last week against the Jets? Well, everywhere, according to Kyed. He writes:
Not only was Meyers getting tackled a lot, he was also used heavily as a blocker.
The Patriots went into Monday night’s game with just one tight end, Ryan Izzo, and one fullback, Jakob Johnson.
So, Meyers lined up as a pseudo-flex tight end on 11 second-half running plays, banging bodies with defensive backs and linebackers. The Patriots have used Julian Edelman in a similar manner in the past.
Meyers caught all seven of his targets for 101 yards while also drawing a holding penalty against man coverage. He caught five of seven targets for 68 yards against zone.
Meyers caught eight of nine targets for 121 yards as the Z-receiver, one of two targets for 20 yards as the X-receiver and three of three targets for 28 yards while drawing a holding penalty from the slot.
Meyers isn’t the biggest, fastest, strongest, quickest or most agile receiver, but he’s savvy at finding space in zone coverages, and he’s got enough of those traits to gain separation at the top of his routes.
Meyers averaged 4.08 yards of separation Monday night, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. The league average is 2.85 yards of separation.
So Meyers can win anywhere against a Raven secondary that still has slot CB Marlon Humphrey on the COVID-19 list and Jimmy Smith (ankle) unlikely to play.
Patriot RB Damien Harris has been limited in practice this week with the chest injury that cost him the second half of last week’s win over the Jets. That likely means he’s on track to play. The run game should be a little easier for the Pats if Raven DT Calais Campbell (calf) is unable to go.
The Ravens are pathetic right now, though you have to suck it up and play Lamar. Even if Gilmore doesn’t play, Hollywood is a WR3. If Ingram goes, I don’t want to play any of these backs.
With all the injuries on the Ravens’ defense, you can talk me into Newton as a QB1, Meyers as a WR2, and Harris as a low-end RB2.
Minnesota at Chicago (Mon, 8:15 PM)
What They’re Saying About the Vikings…
The hottest player in all of football right now is Viking RB Dalvin Cook, who has been slate-breaking good the last two games, allowing Minnesota to play exactly as it wants to — run-first, run-heavy, run-often. Mike Zimmer has admitted as much.
But as the Twin Cities Pioneer-Press’ Chris Tomasson points out, the Bears have been the bugaboo matchup for Cook in his NFL career so far.
In three games against the Bears, Cook has just 34 carries for 86 yards (2.5 YPC). This is a Bear defense that held Titan RB Derrick Henry to 68 yards on 21 carries last week. Cook could have an advantage if DT John Jenkins (calf) doesn’t play this week, but he didn’t play last week against the Titans either and the Bears still shut down Henry.
Viking TE Irv Smith (groin), who scored 2 TD last week, is looking like he’s going to play based on comments OC Gary Kubiak made on Friday.
What They’re Saying About the Bears…
In an effort to spark the stagnant offense in Chicago, Bear coach Matt Nagy is ceding playcalling to OC Bill Lazor this week.
It’s pretty funny that all the talk in Philly this week is about how Brett Favre said the Eagles should have kept Nick Foles over Carson Wentz, because I’m pretty sure the Bears would take that trade and throw in a stake of the franchise to do so. (They might even pay extra for Philly to take Mitchell Trubisky in the deal.)
This column from NBC Sports Chicago’s JJ Stankevitz explains what’s going on in Foles land.
We’re six starts into the Nick Foles era and the Bears indeed have an identity – just not the one anyone wants. It’s an identity of being an awful, unwatchable catastrophe of an offense. But we’re not hearing “it needs to happen sooner.” We’re hearing “give it time” or “trust the process.”
Still? We’re still giving it time?
We were sold on it not needing to take time with Foles. The reason the Bears traded a fourth-round pick for him, and guaranteed $24 million to him, was because he was supposed to be the best Trubisky insurance policy on the market. He was supposed to be the guy Nagy could turn to at the first sign of trouble, able to step in and steady an offense relatively familiar to him.
And so the Bears did everything they could to get the quarterback they wanted, a sentence that has so rarely worked out for this franchise in recent memory (see: Glennon, Mike; Trubisky, Mitch; Cutler, Jay).
I’m not sure the Bears would be in a better place with Cam Newton or Andy Dalton right now, on Nov. 12. The offensive line is an absolute disaster thanks to a prophetic lack of offseason investment in it. Few quarterbacks could have legitimate, sustained success playing behind that group right now.
But at least those other quarterbacks only signed one-year contracts. Foles will be with the Bears in 2021 and will hamper the team’s already slim chances of freeing up enough money to pursue one of the good quarterbacks who may potentially become available (like Dak Prescott). The Bears are again stuck in quarterback hell, the same place they've been for most of our lives.
It’s a pretty scathing takedown from Stankevitz, one that you don’t often see about a guy who has the respect Foles has around the league, but it’s hard to argue he’s wrong. Things aren’t perfect around Foles and he isn’t even the biggest thing wrong in Chicago, but he is part of the problem right now, which isn’t ideal for the Bears’ hand-picked QB.
As of publication, Bear RB David Montgomery has not practiced and is still in concussion protocol. If he doesn’t go, Ryan Nall would likely be the top back here, but it’s a Cordarrelle Patterson revenge game.
The Bears also haven’t had TE Cole Kmet (groin) practice this week.
Minnesota is the same team every week for fantasy, though you can hope that their opponents keep it competitive so Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson actually get targets. Smith is a TD-dependent TE streamer.
For Chicago, I don’t know if I’d be jazzed about playing any of these backs, especially since we need to wait on Montgomery’s status.