Just a few weeks ago, Patrick Mahomes was the overwhelming MVP favorite, the Chiefs were undefeated, and fantasy managers were wondering why they didn’t go after the QB proactively in their summer drafts.
Alas, the NFL is a snow globe league. Things come at you fast. If you don’t like the scene right now, just wait about 15 minutes.
Week 6 offered another shuffling of the deck.
Mahomes is still a wonderful player and could easily end the year as the No. 1 quarterback and the MVP winner. But there’s competition at the top of the queue. Deshaun Watson and the Texans won at Kansas City on Sunday. Russell Wilson’s magic tour continued in a wild win at Cleveland. Which quarterback wears the yellow jersey now?
There was nothing glaringly wrong with Mahomes’s play in the 31-24 loss to Houston. He did have a couple of turnovers. Tyreek Hill returned with a big game (5-80-2, 10 targets), while Travis Kelce was ordinary again. For the second straight week, Mahomes came out smoking, then slumped for about three quarters. A sluggish ground game and a makeshift offensive line didn’t help. Andy Reid has things to fix.
Watson actually had a worse day passing the ball — a lower YPA, two interceptions, a lower rating, along with 280 yards and a touchdown. But those 42 rushing yards and two ground touchdowns pay a lot of bills, make for a lovely fantasy deodorant. And Watson deserved a juicier passing line — Will Fuller somehow dropped three touchdown passes, and DeAndre Hopkins also had a scoring drop. At least Watson didn’t take any sacks, his bugaboo from the opening quarter of the season.
Which team has the better skill players? It’s an open question. Reid hasn’t found a reliable pattern in his backfield, and his secondary receivers have been unreliable for a few weeks. As for Houston, Hopkins is too good not to break out eventually, Fuller is a weekly matchup problem, and the Texans are still getting regular contributions from Carlos Hyde (130 total yards, touchdown) and Duke Johnson (54 total yards, touchdown).
And let’s offer a nod to Wilson’s one-man flying circus, a stat barrage coming despite good-not-elite skill support. With all due respect to Tyler Lockett, he’s not in the class of a Hill or Hopkins. And sometimes it feels like Wilson has to overcome his team’s playbook, with OC Brian Schottenheimer a stickler for rushing and balance. But Wilson’s ability to produce no matter the structure or game situation cannot be debated. He rang up 295 passing yards, 31 rushing yards, and three total touchdowns at Cleveland, sparking the 32-28 comeback win. Wilson has 17 overall touchdowns and one piddly turnover through six games. This could be his season, his moment.
The screaming for Wilson should get louder and louder over the next month. Seattle draws Baltimore, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay coming the next three weeks — plenty of carnival potential there. Houston has the Colts, Raiders, and Jaguars — two of them on the road. Kansas City goes to Denver in a short week, then gets the Vikings, Titans, and Chargers — no easy matchups there.
Pick your guy. Choose your weapon. Get your calculators ready.
• Some will wonder why Lamar Jackson wasn’t incorporated in this week’s lead. After all, he jitterbugged to 152 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s win over Cincinnati, and rushing production is the nectar of the fantasy gods. I’m still waiting for Jackson to develop more as a downfield passer, especially outside the numbers. And as lovely as that rushing production is, it might not be a sustainable model for full-season dominance. Here’s hoping we see a healthy Hollywood Brown back next week.
• The Saints did just enough to beat a nasty, physical Jacksonville team, but Alvin Kamara was ordinary again. Maybe he wasn’t 100 percent (he was a late addition to the injury report) and things will bounce back nicely when Drew Brees returns, but I couldn’t use a lottery pick on Kamara if redrafting tomorrow.
• Every Falcons loss is starting to look the same. Matt Ryan pads the stats (especially in catch-up mode), Austin Hooper goes off, the Atlanta defense can’t get critical stops. This is the matchup you’re screaming for in the second half of the year, when the money weeks come around. This defense looks unfixable, and the offense is usually good enough to fight back.
Now back to the Matt Ryan Empty Calories Tour, already in progress. (And give me a big dish, please.)— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) October 13, 2019
Hooper might go down as a league-winner at tight end. The big-ticket items have not returned value. The O.J. Howard breakout hasn’t come through. And as always, the position has been littered with attrition. Hooper might be closer to a Jason Witten than a Kelce/Gronkowski type at tight end, but that doesn’t have to be a pejorative. He’s a damn good football player.
• The dumbest thing I heard all week was a snarky comparison of Peyton Manning 2015 to Tom Brady 2019. Yes, both quarterbacks are in their sunset seasons, carried by outstanding defenses. But while Manning had an indexed QB rating of 68 that year (awful; think Ryan Leaf territory), Brady is at 105 this year, still above league average. Is Brady a compromised player at this stage of his career? Sure. Is there some short-sighted grave dancing every time he throws a wayward pass? Of course. Try to stay level-headed, gamers.
• The Browns are a team with 100 problems, but Nick Chubb isn’t one of them. As a Chubb owner, how much am I worried about Kareem Hunt? Very close to zero percent.
• I certainly endorsed Hunter Henry as a proactive pickup, but there’s no way I could put him into a starting lineup right away, not unless I were backed into a corner. Injury Optimism is so rarely your friend. Henry wound up beating the expectation (on a partial share of snaps), and I can live with that.
• No one will miss Marcus Mariota, a man who will patiently wait for any pass rush to arrive. Maybe Ryan Tannehill isn’t the answer, but the Titans need to find out.
• The Vikings still want to play 1977 football, but given the narrowness of the passing tree, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs can still carry lofty fantasy expectations. Kyle Rudolph looks just about cooked, and there isn’t a third wideout to contend with.
• I’m not optimistic Arizona made the right hire, but the Niners have Kyle Shanahan, the Rams have Sean McVay, and the Seahawks have Pete Carroll. The smartest division in football is the NFC West. And do not mess with that nasty San Francisco defense, a unit that made Jared Goff and McVay look silly for three hours.
• A healthy Sam Darnold immediately makes the Jets a relevant team, in a 7-9 or 8-8 sort of way; they won’t get to that record now, but that’s what I’d expect over a full season. If Robby Anderson was on your waiver wire this week, look for a more competitive league. And yes, I’m still waiting on Chris Herndon, even as the waiting is the hardest part.
• Amari Cooper is more important to the Cowboys than Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas better hope its best target isn’t significantly hurt.
• Injuries and variance have you down? Start more players next year, and start more players, and start more players. Keep adding those flexes. The more inputs we add to the game, the less any screwball result can hurt us.