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*Pre-editor post (forgive any typos)
The Computer said the Steelers were going to win this game…but I started to disbelieve. I thought, like probably most of us, that the Patriots would do what they always do – rise up and beat the Steelers, right the seasonal ship, and go off to win the Super Bowl against whatever NFC team none of us thought they would beat.
…and then they lose.
To the Steelers? Of all teams.
And they look ineffective and worn down.
Are they really dead for sure? We’re going to kill them off for losing a fluke ending game to Miami and a close game with Pittsburgh?
I’ve thought this is the worst Patriots team in a decade+, but a lot of teams are fading down the stretch. How have the Saints looked the last 3 weeks? The Rams? The Chiefs?
I’m not inclined to write off the Patriots winning the Super Bowl yet. It’s as simple as…if all the NFL analysts are pronouncing them dead – I’ll take opposite of them because it’s usually right go opposite the crowd. But as weak as the Pats look right now – it’s still Brady, Belichick, solid talent/roster, etc. I would not be shocked at all if the Patriots won the Super Bowl (beating PIT along the way to do it).
New England lost and falls to 9-5 and are in danger of losing their BYE but a couple things are going to happen to help them. First, their schedule ensures two wins to finish – hosting BUF and NYJ. The Pats should finish 11-5. They need Houston to get a 5th loss, and Nick Foles, the Patriots nemesis, might take care of that this week by dropping the Texans to loss #5 – then NE owns the NE-HOU tiebreaker.
If New England is the #2 seed – you don’t think they could win the AFC? They’d likely face Houston and then KC. You ready to bet Patrick Mahomes (or more to the point…Andy Reid) against Bill Belichick in a winner goes to the Super Bowl game?
The Steelers likely made the playoffs with this win…how much into the playoffs depends upon whether they can upset the Saints this week. Assuming the Steelers lose at NO, they would then beat Cincy Week 17 to wind up 9-6-1…either a #6 seed wild card or #4 seed AFC North champs. I’m projecting AFC North champs, but it’s all very fluid with what the Ravens will do (we think the Ravens end up 9-7 or 8-8).
Don’t you just love this time of year? All the surprises and twists and turns and key matchups down the stretch?
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Welp…I told you. Since the summer… Since I predicted James Conner would be starting for a while and Le’Veon Bell was likely to hold out as long as possible – I also said Jaylen Samuels could wreck the James Conner party at some point. It took while, but just like with most football things…give me enough time…and my scouting will be right.
You saw it.
Jaylen Samuels (19-142-0, 2-30-0/2) is better/more talented than James Conner. At worst, you can argue they’re both good/legit. You can’t argue ‘Conner is clearly better’.
You can’t, but the Steelers will.
If I know my NFL…the Steelers coaches will not take this lying down – they went all-in on Conner right away. They held Samuels back from even getting a snap most of this season. They were forced into finding out that Jaylen Samuels, who never took more than 12 carries in a game in college…who never got any real in-game experience from the Steelers…who only played because the Steelers had no choice. – in the biggest game of the year against their biggest rival, Samuels ran for 142 yards, tallied 172 total yards and the for the first time the Steelers stopped falling to New England. They won…in large part due to Jaylen Samuels.
How will that be repaid? Simple…as soon as Conner can go, they will rush him back in barely let Samuels touch the ball. NFL coaches make these mistakes ALL THE TIME…they are single worst judges and developers of young talent walking the earth.
Because NFL coaches are also weak-willed, pawns of the media and fans and ‘survival’ – eventually they will have to pull Samuels back into the equation, but they won’t do it willingly/purposefully or early. They’ll lose games rather than open their mind up. It’s their playbook and depth chart set in stone and what guys get to work the earliest…not the player’s talent that wins games.
The fans follow what they’re fed by ESPN and NFL Network, so they’ll assume going back to Conner is logical…but when it doesn’t look as good as Samuels – unrest will happen. Not yet, but it will happen down the road.
Conner is ‘questionable’ to be back this week. I don’t think he will be back, and we’ll get another Samuels start and then they go back to Conner. If Conner is back this week…it will be FF chaos because we don’t know how ready Conner is, they face a tough Saints run defense, and don’t know how much of a split might there be?
Conner is going to try to rush himself back…he knows the problem more than anyone – Samuels is more talented than he is. Conner has to get back and squash this story or millions of future dollars will go up in smoke. If Conner can hobble back -- he will. The Steelers don’t want you to think about their stupidity all year holding back Samuels, so they want Conner back as well…and squash this Samuels story. If Samuels becomes a star, right here…right now – we’ll all be asking, “Why weren’t they pushing Samuels back when they were losing all those games weeks ago?”
I’m intrigued to see how this plays out this week. I think Conner will be held out – because if he returns and looks gimpy, it will raise holy hell why Pittsburgh didn’t just go with Samuels. They want to go Conner badly…but it’s a mistake to push it. It will be Samuels in a tough matchup Week 16 and then Conner rolling in for the easy matchup vs. Cincy in a week.
Long term…the Samuels story will haunt Conner’s value/career. It’s why I’ve had him as the #1 sell of all dynasty assets the past few weeks. Conner cannot escape Samuels…and Conner is not more talented. They should be in a ‘split’ or ‘hot hand’ – and that will kill both their FF values ahead. For a while. It will be a big 2019 fantasy story line.
-- News hitting today that Josh Gordon (1-19-0/2) is stepping away from football for a bit…which may mean ‘forever’. I hope between Gordon and Martavis Bryant we learned a valuable lesson…these guys with multiple, repeating issues – the 95%+ odds are they will never get ‘right’.
For some reason we romanticize the 5% chance they’ll be clean/great again. Rare is the case where that happens. Gordon gave so many ‘sell high’ spots the past 2-3 years because people love the 5% story…the allure that they’ll buy an A+ for a ‘B’ price tag, ignoring all the ‘F’ risks.
You didn’t want to sell Gordon as a ‘D’ or ‘F’ value…what was the point? But when he raced back to ‘B’ or ‘B+’ value you should’ve told Howie Mandel you were hitting that big red button…leave the $750,000 case on the board and walk away with $250K offer. Sorry, I was watching the new Deal or No Deal today.
For fantasy, no Gordon this week/the rest of this season – and I want it to be a Cordarrelle Patterson (3-20-0/3) opportunity, but I know it won’t be. Why won’t it? Patterson has done EVERYTHING right all season and been great when given the chance. Catching TD passes, being a lead RB for a week, being a kick returner and special teams guy – he’s a weapon. But CP always gets sporadic chances while Belichick rolls out the red carpet for Josh Gordon. Best player plays my ass. The NFL player usage and scouting are an absolute joke (see: Samuels v. Conner).
I could complain for paragraphs about it -- but that’s not profitable. Playing it for profit is my game. No Gordon means small bumps for Hogan-Gronk-Rex-Patterson, but not enough to change the game big on any in an obvious way. No one is the real ‘winner’ off this…just everyone gets a few extra touches.
I would be interested in Patterson as a sleeper play in deep leagues or DFS – just in case the Pats do wake up.
-- I’ll bet everyone reading this who owns James White (2-12-0, 5-25-0/7) is (a) flustered/pissed at his usage since Rex returned, and (b) thinks this is the week the Patriots HAVE TO turn back to White.
I think the same thing.
When White has a TD in a game this season…the Pats are 6-1, and 3-4 when he doesn’t.
When White has 70+ total yards in a game this season…the Pats are 7-1, and 2-4 when he doesn’t.
When White touches the ball (carry or catch) 10 or more times…the Pats are 9-1, and 0-4 when he doesn’t.
Your eyes tell you life is better with James White for the Patriots offense…and so do the numbers. It’s just Josh McDaniels is awful, so you never know what will happen.
-- A lot of people turning on Gronk (2-21-0/5) this week in the fantasy media…
Now, they realize he’s been tailing off for two seasons?
OK, fine…but if you don’t have Ertz-Kelce-Kittle…who’s so much more of a great play at TE hope than Gronk? A week ago, he was ‘back’ then this game everyone now realizes he had been weak all year+? Let’s slow down on the Gronk hate – he should’ve been hated late last year into this year.
He has 4 TDs in his last 15 regular season games…he’s fast becoming Jimmy Graham bad/overrated.
-- James Washington (3-65-0/4) and Eli Rogers (4-20-0/4) mattered this game.
Rogers…I have no idea why he races right into the starting lineup after being out for forever. He’s not that talented but the Steelers LOVE him.
It must have made Washington pissed because he had a huge/great catch in this game and had his best game of the year.
Neither matter for FF in 2018.
Washington will have a solid future someday when Mason Rudolph takes over.
You realize in like two years, this will be Mason Rudolph with Jaylen Samuels and JuJu-Washington at WR for the Steelers, right? You wont even recognize this team in two years. Antonio Brown will be a Patriot…or Brown.
-- I keep mentioning Pats rookie CB J.C. Jackson (6 tackles, 1 PD) because he may be a reason why the Patriots win the Super Bowl, oddly. Just when they needed someone to step up – Jackson may have developed into a trusted/starting #2 CB for the Pats at just the right time.
I bet a $1 Jackson picks off Josh Allen this week.
-- Week 16 Outlook…
Pats hosting Buffalo looks good for most things, but the Bills have a great pass defense so limited Brady but maybe a boost to easy-toss passes to James White. Gotta love the Pats-DST vs. Josh Allen in a big spot.
Steelers at Saints…the Saints defense has been awesome lately. One of the best in the league the last 5+ weeks. Not sure it will be a big day for Ben or related items. Hoping they do a Ben-Jaylen a la Brady-White in the passing game.
Snap Counts of Interest:
61 = A Brown
60 = JuJu
44 = J Washington
28 = Rogers
40 = Samuels
06 = Ridley
26 = White
22 = Michel
16 = Burkhead
05 = Patterson