“We do on stage things that are supposed to happen off. Which is a kind of integrity, if you look on every exit as being an entrance somewhere else.”
The return of Kyler Murray and the continued emergence of Joshua Dobbs perfectly bookended one of the best weeks of fantasy in recent memory. Rarely is it this much fun to record.
Detroit Lions @ Los Angeles Chargers
In a game where the Lions were trying to establish themselves as Super Bowl contenders and the Chargers were trying to put themselves in the playoff mix, we got a little bit of everything in one of the most fun shootouts in years.
- Ben and I joke about the 75-yard TD run for David Montgomery. Their bruiser and short-yardage virtuoso notably lacks long speed, but he broke into the L.A. secondary on elite blocking and fought all the way to the end zone. Jameson Williams impressed with a TD-spring block some 50 yards down the field. The former first-round WR may be winning back the coaching staff and locker room with his hustle. Williams should have also scored a 10-yard TD on the Lions’ first drive, but it was negated by an unnecessary Taylor Decker penalty.
- Jahmyr Gibbs continued the breakout with his third-consecutive game cresting 25 points. He scored two short-yardage TDs, broke a 35-yard run, and made a series of tough grabs on his five targets. Blair made an offseason case for Gibbs as the equal to Bijan Robinson as a fantasy asset, and although the generational prospect got off to a much faster start, Gibbs has had the advantage recently. I’ve been positing Gibbs as a mix of Jamaal Charles and Austin Ekeler – an aggressive and unrealistic pairing, to be sure – and his recent performances live up to the hype.
- Amon-Ra St. Brown got off to a bit of a cold start in 2023, averaging “only” 17.6 PPG over the first month, but he’s hit the 30-point threshold twice in the last four contests. He’s up to WR7 on the season despite having played one less game. (He missed Week 5 with an injury, in addition to the Week 9 bye.) Moreover, St. Brown doesn’t require crazy volume to post magical performances. Against the Chargers, he caught eight of his nine targets, threatened L.A deep (114 air yards at a 12.7 aDOT), and flourished after the catch with 70 YAC. The balance inherent in his profile gives Detroit a trump card for a variety of game contexts and defensive schemes.
- On the Chargers’ side, Keenan Allen’s massive performance allows him to jump A.J. Brown for overall WR2 status. One of our favorite best-ball selections of 2023, Allen ranks No. 1 at the position with 64.2 reality EPA. He’s turned his 31% target share and 75% catch rate into a league-leading 73 receptions. He scored 40.5 against Detroit, already his second 40-point game of the season and fourth of his career.
- Quentin Johnston scored his first NFL touchdown and helped fantasy managers for the first time, although his line of 4-34-1 is still disappointing from a volume perspective. Of course, it gets both better and worse when you consider the plays that didn’t count. Ben and I discussed his ability to draw DPIs in this one. He drew three in a key two-drive sequence late, but arguably committed drops on all three, including one that might have gone for an 86-yard score.
Houston Texans @ Cincinnati Bengals
Who would you rather have to start your reality team, Joe Burrow or C.J. Stroud? After another stunning Stroud performance against the Bengals, that was our debate in this segment.
- Stroud didn’t have Nico Collins against a crafty Cincinnati defense, but it didn’t matter in this one with the Texans’ young superstar elevating Noah Brown to god-like levels. The former Ohio State receiver was a non-prospect coming out of college but stuck on the Dallas Cowboys roster from 2017 to 2021 despite logging only a single game with 50-plus yards. He started to emerge with four such games last season, but these last two weeks with back-to-back 153 and 172-yard performances have still been extraordinary. (I joked with Ben that maybe these results undermine Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s 347-yard Rose Bowl performance.)
- Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz again rounded out the receiving corps, but this was all on Stroud, who frequently extended plays and whirled away from defenders, only to complete no-look strikes down the field for key third-down conversions. Stroud also committed the game’s biggest gaffe, tossing a bad interception directly to a defender on third-and-2 with 3:41 to go. The ball was returned to the Houston 4-yard line and acted as the catalyst for a late 10-0 run that tied the contest at 27 with 1:33 to play. A week ago, I moved Stroud ahead of Burrow and Justin Herbert and up to No. 7 overall in my dynasty rankings. His reaction against the Bengals vindicated that call in my mind. Stroud calmly led the Texans to a game-winning FG and road win over one of the NFL’s power squads.
- Ja’Marr Chase was clearly less than 100% and drew only six targets – one less than Tanner Hudson – and yet his brilliance was on display with a 64-yard score that pulled the score to 20-17. But the Bengals put this game in the hands of their long-tenured veteran. With Tee Higgins out and Chase limited, Tyler Boyd went over 100 yards for the first time in more than a year and hit 12 targets for the first time since the 2020 campaign. Unfortunately, it was the catch he didn’t make that defined the game. On third-and-goal from the Houston 13 with 1:42 to play, Burrow hit Boyd with an end zone strike, but it clanked off his hands. Instead of going up 31-27, the Bengals had to settle for a tying FG.
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens
If they lose the battle for the AFC’s No. 1 seed, the Ravens may look back at this game as the pivotal moment in their season. Despite an early pick-six by Kyle Hamilton and a subsequent 39-yard TD run from Keaton Mitchell, Baltimore blew 14-0 and 31-17 leads in an apocalyptic loss to Cleveland. How did John Harbaugh and company let this happen?
- Deshaun Watson started the game 1-for-8 with a pick-six and sack. That stretch featured two-play, four-play, and three-play drives, along with a weird FG drive on the back of Jerome Ford and multiple penalties. He got to 2-for-11 before executing a pair of additional FG drives, but the half ended with Cleveland unable to take advantage of a Lamar Jackson pick. The second half only featured three Cleveland drives, but they went TD-TD-FG, with an additional pick-six of their own mixed in. Watson took four total sacks and averaged just 6.3 yards per attempt, yet he battled with 37 rushing yards and came through in the clutch.
- The Browns kept it concentrated in this one, with Amari Cooper (9), David Njoku (9), and Elijah Moore (7) monopolizing targets. No other player earned more than one. Meanwhile, Cleveland leaned into Ford’s thrashing, punishing style (17-107-0). The starter once again appears healthy but did lose the goal-line carry to Kareem Hunt.
- How did the Ravens blow this game? Well, start with their reluctance to deploy their biggest weapons. In part due to three splash TDs (the pick-six, Mitchell’s scamper, and Odell Beckham’s 40-yard TD), Baltimore only ran 50 total plays. They averaged a yard per play more than the Browns but were outgained by 67 total yards. That scant play volume was a bad fit with Jackson’s inaccuracy. He completed only 56% of his passes, threw two picks – including one of the backbreaking variety – and was sacked three times. After sprinting out to multiple big leads, the Ravens tried to manage the game, but Gus Edwards gained only 24 yards on his 11 carries. That’s hardly a huge investment in his portion of the running game, but it’s still a stark contrast to Mark Andrews’ four targets and Mitchell’s complete lack of involvement in the second half. It’s an especially poor choice because you simply cannot run on Cleveland.
Ben and I also covered the Seahawks’ escape against the Commanders and Arizona’s signature win against a flailing Atlanta club. Ben’s weekly takedown of Arthur Smith includes some stats you don’t want to miss.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
This felt less like a professional sporting event and more like an intrasquad scrimmage where all of the talent is on the starting roster.
- Colm notes that CeeDee Lamb is the first receiver in NFL history with 10 or more catches and 150-plus yards for three straight games. Last week we argued that Lamb had moved into the Justin Jefferson tier in fantasy, and I moved Lamb up to No. 8 overall in my superflex dynasty rankings. He responded with a rushing TD early and a receiving TD late as they successfully massaged the outcome to help him hit these thresholds. His performance brought a little bit of everything, and that included one-handed catches while being interfered with. During this epic three-game stretch, Lamb leads the position with 535 air yards and 163 yards after the catch. It’s unfortunate that his second matchup with Washington comes in Week 18, but Lamb still has the fourth-best remaining WR schedule.
- I broke down Tony Pollard’s full-season struggles in last week’s Zero RB Universe, but it was shocking to see them continue against the Giants, who were third-worst in RB FPOE allowed over the last five weeks. Unlike Lamb, the Dallas bell cow was rested in the blowout, allowing Rico Dowdle to show off as a runner (12-79) and score the short-yardage TD. The backup came in with an elite broken tackle percentage (14%) and again looked better than Pollard.
- Dak Prescott needed only three quarters to go over 400 yards passing with five total TDs. He’s the easy QB1 across this same three-week stretch, and also ranks No. 1 in EPA/snap (0.27). If you read Mat Irby’s offseason Cowboys preview, you knew to buy Mike McCarthy’s controversial self-elevation to offensive playcaller.
- Tom DeVito completed 13 of 27 passes for 86 yards. He targeted 10 different receivers, effectively mocking New York’s offseason plan. You know the old saying, if you have 10 receivers and they cannot gain 100 receiving yards . . .
San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville had a chance for a statement win at home after the bye, but were thoroughly unmasked instead. The Jaguars were on a five-game win streak in which . . .
- . . . Trevor Lawrence averaged fewer than 20 fantasy points per game, threw only six TD passes, and generated an aDOT of only 6.9.
- . . . Calvin Ridley averaged fewer than 11 fantasy PPG, managed a 20% target share, scored a lone TD, and gained 32 total yards after the catch.
- . . . Travis Etienne averaged 3.8 yards per attempt and a 57% designed gap rate (albeit with strong peripherals – 16% evasion, 31 FPOE). The Jaguars came into Week 10 with bottom-10 numbers in multiple run-blocking metrics.
Doug Pederson may have rescued Lawrence’s career from Urban Meyer, but the Super Bowl-winning head coach appears overmatched by this new era of defensive evolution.
The Jaguars had no answers on either side of the ball but gained a small moral victory by ending Christian McCaffrey’s TD streak. Of course, every other member of San Francisco’s Big 4 found the end zone, and Brock Purdy posted his sixth performance with at least 20 fantasy points. With 50 fewer attempts and a disadvantage in rushing yards, Purdy has scored almost 40 more points. These two QBs reside on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of 2023 value relative to ADP.
New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings
Colm and I also break down Dobbs’ first true start for Minnesota, and the ridiculous first-half performance from T.J. Hockenson. Dobbs came into the week in a virtual dead heat with trendy QBs like Prescott, Goff, Sam Howell, Justin Fields, and Purdy, but how high does he climb in this offense and with Justin Jefferson returning? Would you prefer him to Jackson, or maybe even Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa?
Good luck tonight, and if you need 30 points from Javonte Williams in the shocking Denver upset . . . well, that would be a good result for plenty of my teams as well. Don’t miss last night’s episode of the RotoViz Report, as Michael Hitchcock joins Hasan Rahim and Blair Andrews.