Week 8 Recap: Beyond the BoxScore
So I guess the battle of Dez vs. Calvin goes to Megatron, eh? Would you believe that Calvin Johnson's 329-yard game could have been even better? It could have. He was tackled at the three-yard line after an 87-yard catch and run, and then he was tackled at the one on two other drives. Yes, Johnson was five yards away from having a four-touchdown day. I guess his owners will just have to "settle" for the 35 or so points he gave them. While I won't dwell on Dallas' defense long (because Johnson can often be a purely unstoppable player), the Cowboys' coverages for Johnson were just silly. His first touchdown of the day -- a 2-yard slant -- couldn't have possibly been easier.
Reggie Bush left the field briefly with what looked to be a right shoulder injury, possibly a stinger, in the fourth quarter. That allowed Joique Bell to come in and vulture a one-yard score. However, Bush returned soon after and got a score of his own.
Dez Bryant was hardly targeted in the first half and caught just three passes. Terrance Williams was terribly inefficient with two catches on 10 targets. However, long touchdowns saved their fantasy line as well as Tony Romo's. The three touchdowns for Romo look nice, but consider what he has averaged through his past three games (going up against the Redskins, Eagles, and Lions): 56 percent completion rate, 231 yards, 1.6 touchdowns and one turnover. I'm not trying to sound the alarm here ( he should be a solid start in Week 9 versus a porous Vikings pass defense), however, he hasn't been the elite Romo we saw in late September or earlier this month.
Cowboys running backs Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar combined for 42 rushing yards on 19 carries. Neither player was a major factor in the passing game. DeMarco Murray should be able to return next week, and that should help everyone on this offense.
Yes, Bryant will get a lot of attention this week because he made a huge scene on the sideline, getting in the face of his teammates and coaches multiple times. Heck, it's even being teased on the local news. But that scene doesn't matter here, and I figure that will all be water under the bridge by next Sunday. What does matter is that he possibly made the catch of the year. On a five-yard fade, Bryant skied over cornerback Darius Slay and caught the ball with his left hand, then secured it by pinning the ball almost behind his head. Crazy.
Ryan Broyles' pro career is playing out like a Ray Charles song. If it wasn't for bad luck ....
In case you were wondering, the Chiefs can play their worst game of the season and still beat the Browns. While Alex Smith threw down the field a little more often, he still held the ball way too long and took six sacks. Jamaal Charles didn't score for the first time all season, and the entire fantasy world went on red alert when he left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter. But he returned briefly thereafter and looked fine. As expected, Dwayne Bowe turned invisible against Joe Haden -- one seven-yard catch on two targets. And that vaunted Kansas City defense was a large disappointment. It couldn't get much pressure on Jason Campbell and recorded its only sack of the day in the fourth quarter. It forced just one turnover.
Something to consider: The Chiefs' defense has shown some cracks in its past two games against Campbell and Case Keenum. After next week's meeting with the Bills, here is Kansas City's rest-of-season schedule: bye, Broncos, Chargers, Broncos, Redskins, Raiders, Colts, Chargers. I don't know what you can get for a defense, but this has been fantasy's best defense all season, and it is time to see if you can sell here.
Campbell stood tall in the pocket and delivered the ball with confidence. While I don't think he'll play this well consistently for the remainder of the season, Campbell is clearly better than Brandon Weeden right now. And that's saying something about Weeden. Josh Gordon torched the Chiefs' secondary most of the day and scored on a flea-flicker from 39 yards out. It looks like Gordon will be just fine with Campbell under center; he saw 10 targets. I'm a little more concerned about Jordan Cameron. His 81 receiving yards look good, but he was targeted just four times, catching all four. More than half of his yardage came during garbage time in the fourth quarter.
OK, I'm officially worried about Tom Brady. With Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola available for a home game versus Miami's bottom-10 pass defense, Brady completed 13 of his 22 throws, most of them of the short variety. He looked tentative in the pocket, and who knows if his finger and shoulder injuries impacted his performance? The Patriots leaned on the running game, which is probably a smart move since the Dolphins had allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs through seven weeks. Stevan Ridley scored again, and even LeGarrette Blount received 11 carries. But that left scraps for Gronkowski and Amendola. Neither of them topped 30 yards or six targets. Gronkowski remains a top-five option at tight end next week, but I don't know if Brady is a QB1 against Pittsburgh's stellar pass defense.
Lamar Miller doubled Daniel Thomas' carry count, 18-9, as the Dolphins backfield really presented more questions than answers yet again. Miller and Thomas rotated series; with Miller getting the first snaps, he saw more action as the game went along and the Dolphins were forced to throw. Of course, it was Thomas who caught a touchdown. Both ran well, but Miller looked better. Unfortunately, I have no idea what this means for his future prospects. Don't forget that Miller had a game before the Dolphins' bye in which he played on about 70 percent of the snaps, then came back and saw less field time than Thomas in Week 7. Thursday's game against Cincinnati is not an attractive setting for either player as more than a flex.
Both tight ends in this game should have had better statistical days. Gronkowski had a 30-yard touchdown erased by an offensive holding penalty. Charles Clay let what could have been a 33-yard touchdown pass go right through his hands.
Speaking of tight ends, Jimmy Graham is a must-start until he needs to undergo an amputation or something. His partially torn plantar fascia kept Graham on the field for a small fraction of the plays, but it was enough for him to score twice. He was so limited, he didn't even dunk over the crossbar on his first touchdown. But yeah, the dude is still a major threat even while limping around.
Five touchdowns for Drew Brees. Two of them went to Kenny Stills from 69 and 42 yards out. That's what Stills is: a big-play, boom-or-bust weapon. He boomed today, but keep in mind that he caught three passes on only four targets. And Lance Moore returned after a few weeks away to score. He's worth watching on your market for the time being.
And yet, we have a couple of major questions with this offense. Marques Colston put up another useless line -- three catches, 18 yards. He hasn't even topped 20 yards since Week 4. I can't believe it, but he's only a low-end WR3 in 12-team leagues at this point. Would I drop him? I'd consider it. Brees isn't even giving him many chances to produce -- 11 targets in the past three games. Then there's Darren Sproles, who received exactly zero carries and caught four passes for an astounding zero yards against the Bills. Yep. A doughnut for Sproles. Even Khiry Robinson got seven carries. I'm more willing to overlook this performance as Sproles has pretty much been a fine RB2 in PPR leagues all season. But in standard leagues perhaps he's only a flex option. He's given you at at least seven points only once since Week 1.
Fred Jackson averaged about three yards per touch, but he salvaged his day with a fourth-quarter score on the goal-line. Stevie Johnson limped his way through the game and posted a seven-catch, 72-yard, one-touchdown line; it was impressive given his circumstances. He'll be on the WR3 radar next week against a Chiefs defense that has been getting beaten by opposing No. 1 wideouts lately.
Simply, these teams are awful. I'm sure the Eagles would have been a little less awful if Michael Vick was right, but he was nowhere near ready to play in this game. He could hardly run, and the Eagles pulled him in favor of Matt Barkley after three fruitless series. Right on cue, Barkley fumbled on his first series deep in the Giants' red zone. The boo birds were out in Philly about midway through the first quarter during this mess. With Vick back on the mend and Nick Foles not even cleared to practice yet following his concussion, Barkley might actually have to start in Week 9 at the Raiders. Dare I recommend the Raiders' defense as a sneaky fantasy start?
LeSean McCoy gained 65 yards on 19 touches. Defenses will be focused squarely on him for as long as Barkley has to play, but he's still a RB1. DeSean Jackson caught eight passes, but his longest gain was just 13 yards. At least Barkley targeted him nine times in about three quarters.
The points in this one came from Giants kicker Josh Brown and a muffed kickoff return by the Eagles defense. Eli Manning didn't commit any turnovers -- although he had some close calls -- but that's the best compliment I could pay his performance. Victor Cruz led all receivers with 86 yards. Peyton Hillis didn't start, but rumbled to 70 yards on 20 carries. You can probably drop him with Andre Brown and Brandon Jacobs expected to return after the Giants' Week 9 bye. Rueben Randle was held without a catch on one target. It's probably an outlier, but down games are to be expected from the No. 3 wide receiver in such a dysfunctional offense.
This game (at least for the 49ers) played out almost exactly as everyone imagined. Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick ran all over the pitch in London. Vernon Davis scored. San Francisco's defense dominated. We didn't really learn anything, although it was nice to see the Niners keep calling Kaepernick's number for running plays.
Justin Blackmon's owners were surely miffed after his four-catch, 31-yard game, but he'll be fine. Duds will be in the mix with either Chad Henne or BlaineGabbert at quarterback, but he is still an immense talent. Maurice Jones-Drew set personal season-highs in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage -- 75 and 122, respectively. Fantastic. That performance should give his owners a greater chance of selling high. This might have been his apex. He still looks very slow.
It's a shame the good people across the pond had to pay to attend this one.