2019 Dynasty/Fantasy Football Analysis: Week 11 – Browns 21, Steelers 7
Wow. Where to begin with this one? I know where I’ll end…with the late game play that erased everything about this game. I’ll open with game notes/team focus, move to the usual player notes…and then end on ‘the play’ and all the ramifications.
As for the game itself…about how I expected Cleveland to play this game/year – defensively stout and Baker Mayfield generating TDs. It seemed like a great win by the Browns, but it was another event they tried to muck up but overcame so many errors and held on to win. Credit to the Steelers, given it was a TNF game at Cleveland and it being a ‘body bag’ game…the Steelers were down just 14-7 with 5+ minutes left in the 3rd-quarter. For everything Cleveland threw at them, the Steelers hung around and had chances to make this a game…but they couldn’t overcome the relentless Browns defense/their own terrible offense. Then ‘the play’ happened and all of the 59 minutes of game play prior was forgotten.
It’s a win for Cleveland that feels like a massive loss. Had they ended the game without the controversy, we’d see a 4-6 team likely to beat Miami Week 12 and go 5-6 heading into Pittsburgh Week 13 with a chance to get to 6-6 and have a real chance to get to a 9-win season. It was all there for the taking…the season could’ve been turned around. Now, you assume the Browns will lose to either Miami (looking past/TNF hangover) or more likely lose to the Steelers at Pittsburgh in a game that should be refereed by prison security guards – that Week 13 game will potentially be uglier than this Week 11 one. Assuming the Browns are 5-7 after Week 12…they will likely finish with 7-8 wins.
However, if the Browns end up oddly rallying off this Week 11 thing…using it as an ‘us against the world’ reality, and they scuffle by Miami and then laser focus another win over battered Pittsburgh – the 6-6 Browns, with two games against Cincy to go, could very well get to 9-7 and hold wild card tiebreakers over Buffalo and Pittsburgh.
There’s also a long shot chance that if Cleveland can get to 6-6, by winning their next two games, they could beat CIN-ARI Weeks 14-15 and be 8-6 facing a possible 9-5 Baltimore team for the AFC North title in Week 16 (the Browns have a win at BAL already). I just do not believe the Browns can string several wins together no matter how great the schedule. I say they fall apart and go 7-9…but if they beat Miami, everything in the world could die with a Week 13 loss to the Steelers or change the franchise with another win over Pittsburgh...at Pittsburgh with the world watching, a hostile crowd and opponent – a win there could change franchise history/destiny. More on that in a moment.
Pittsburgh falls to 5-5, and if you assume they rally to thump CLE in Week 13…this Steelers team can get to 9 wins. A loss to Cleveland Week 13 pretty much ends their playoffs and might change the franchise destiny as well. The response by either team in Week 13 with CLE at PIT…it’s going to be historic/epic.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Famous last words…
I said I was done with Jaylen Samuels (5-26-0, 5-19-1/6) once James Conner (5-16-0, 1-6-0/2) returned because I hate how Jaylen is treated by Mike Tomlin. I wasn’t going to be all that excited if Conner got banged up again either. Well…
Conner tried to play through his AC joint issue but didn’t last long before he was pulled for the game. Now, it’s possible that Conner is on the shelf for another week and possibly the rest of the season. Predictably, I’ll come crawling back to Jaylen once again if I need an RB.
Hey, with all the RB issues going on in the world…what do I have to lose?
I’ll likely have Jaylen as a top waiver wire grab this week…and you might have been the one that dumped him last week when Conner got cleared. This is how it is with RBs late in the fantasy season…
Just note…Trey Edmunds actually led all Pitt RBs in snaps this game. A game where Conner was lost and the Steelers were down all game and needed to throw their way back in…and Jaylen was not in as much as Edmunds. It’s another reminder that – Tomlin does not like Samuels. If Bennie Snell is able to go, Samuels may be #3 in the rotation that doesn’t have Conner. Snell-Edmunds-Samuels could be coming. I won’t be as excited as normal if Conner is out. Jaylen will be a top ‘sell high’ for me going into Week 12, if Conner is out/gone, I’d about guarantee it.
-- If you would have told me a few weeks ago that Kareem Hunt (6-12-0, 6-46-0/8) WITH Nick Chubb (27-92-0, 0-0-0/1) healthy/playing was a better PPR RB, getting more respect from his coaches as a pass game weapon than Jaylen Samuels with Conner hurt/out – I would have assumed you were ill.
Samuels is one of the supreme pass catching RBs in the NFL, and Kareem Hunt is the one getting used as a quasi-WR…while Jaylen gets a mostly cold shoulder from his coach. You think Freddie Kitchens is an idiot…but he’s handling the backup RB opportunity/game planning way better than Mike Tomlin.
Hunt is a solid PPR RB2 option every week working half+ the game as a backup RB. It just seems like Kitchens is TRYING to make Hunt work in a role and Tomlin is doing everything he can to ‘committee’ Samuels, and in key passing spots he’ll have tugboat Trey Edmunds in over Samuels, no problem.
The Steelers have already promoted Kerrith White from their practice squad for Week 12…an interesting 3rd-down, satellite back who was drafted by the Bears this year and got nosed out due to a heavy RB depth chart in Chicago. White has some skills…and is another guy to take touches away from Jaylen because Tomlin doesn’t trust him for whatever reason.
-- The Steelers lost JuJu and Diontae in this game to head shots. The one on JuJu seemed inadvertent/just things that happen in games in the NFL…maybe. The shot Diontae was quite a bit cheaper…and got Morgan Burnett kicked out of the game…and was probably the foreshadowing, these JuJu-Diontae head shots and gone from the game events, of the late-game cheap shot to come on Mason Rudolph.
If JuJu and Diontae are out, it pushes James Washington (3-49-0/5) to a #1 role at Cincy Week 12. I’d be skittish of trusting Washington in a #1 role because he’s not ready for it, and not ready for that type of coverage…but it would be against Cincinnati and Mason Rudolph was already starting to default to JW the last few games, now it could be radical Week 12…like 10-15 targets in a game.
I assume one or the other or both of Diontae-JuJu will miss Week 12. The Steelers have already called Deon Cain up from their practice squad.
In this passing game it won’t matter much who is at WR and seeing targets -- I projected/wrote last week that all the Steelers’ WR starters were barely WR3’s at best because of the offense/Rudolph…which was on full display this game.
-- Odell Beckham (4-60-0/10) looked like he had a 40+ yard TD on the 1st-series for Cleveland in this game, but it was ruled a few inches short. The great OBJ extended his TD-less streak to 8 straight games…he has 1 TD on the season.
He has 6 TDs his last 16 games…7 TDs his last 22 games/last two seasons (2018-2019).
OBJ is a solid WR3, no different than JuJu-Diontae-Washington in a given week for Pittsburgh. It’s come down to that. He’s due for a nice game against Miami Week 12 though. Week 13 at Pitt…yikes. He’ll have 5 drops in fear of getting assaulted by the Steelers secondary.
-- Who was that TE that caught Baker’s late TD…that miracle catch in the back of the end zone? Princeton UDFA rookie Stephen Carlson (1-8-1/1)…an athletic (4.77 40-time, 6.97 three-cone at his Pro Day) TE-WR-H-back type at 6’4”/240.
It was Carlson’s first NFL catch, and probably the best catch of the Browns 2019 season…the type of catch OBJ makes in shorts with his headphones on in the pregame against air defenders. Carlson’s snaps are rising as Ricky Seals-Jones’s are falling.
If the Browns are going to start cleaning up their character in the locker room/on-field…Seals-Jones will be released soon. Carlson would elevate more and more as a receiver option. Nothing imminent for fantasy yet.
-- Baker Mayfield (17-32 for 193 yards, 2 TDs/0 INT, 1-1-1) threw for 2 TDs, had a 3rd TD pass reversed (to OBJ) that he QB-sneaked for a score. Baker looks fine but the OBJ-Landry, especially OBJ, receivers are not getting open often and he’s forcing the ball to OBJ too much and that’s a dead end most of the time. It was a nice three TD event for Baker, but just 53% Comp. Pct. and his last TD pass was an ill-advised miracle catch by Carlson. This offense/passing game still looks all out of sorts…with Baker extremely talented trying to make hay out of it every week.
MIA-PIT-CIN-ARI the next four weeks is a great opportunity for Baker to roll some numbers…but that PIT game could be brutal. I just hope Baker physically survives it to get to CIN-ARI.
-- Browns kicker Austin Siebert (0/2 FGs, 3/3 XPs) was 16-of-16 on FGs this season coming into the game…and then he shanked two FG-attempts in this game, helping keep the Steelers alive for a while in this game.
Risky PK for Week 12 for those in need, and then at PIT Week 13 is a terrible place for kickers to work anyway. Not a great projection ahead.
-- This was a solid game by the Steelers defense…it’s just Baker Mayfield is a very crafty/talented QB despite all the garbage going on around him. Week 12 at CIN is going to be great for the Steelers-DST and then the rematch with CLE is probably a strong bet that they play as tough/physical a game as they will all season. At Arizona Week 14 is dicey and then Weeks 15-16 BUF-NYJ is a nice finish.
The Steelers-DST is still very viable for the rest of the season.
-- My Browns-DST call for weeks and weeks…a call for the schedule stretch Week 9 on…this Week 11 Browns-DST was what I was looking for/what we got here – and then they ruined all the outlook losing their 2nd-best defensive best player (Myles Garrett) the rest of the season (Denzel Ward is #1).
The Browns-DST is viable with MIA-PIT-CIN the next 3 weeks, regardless of Garrett…but nowhere near as hot as it could’ve been. The Browns are deep on the defensive front, they can overcome this against weaker QBs…like they will face the next three weeks. Olivier Vernon could return Week 12 at just the right time…
-- OK, the Myles Garrett incident…
As for the act itself…rest of the season suspension is a minimum for me. I would extend it to the entire 2020 season + the rest of 2019. I’ve seen some crazy football things in the heat of the moment, but that one may have taken the cake.
It seems like a little less of a big deal because Garrett didn’t make full contact with the helmet, and with God’s blessing on Mason…it was the spongy part of the back of the helmet that came down on him. Had Garrett come down with full force and the top part of the helmet came crashing down direct shot to Rudolph he could’ve broken his skull or his face, and/or given him brain damage, etc. It was like shooting a gun to kill someone in rage, but they person only hit the murder target in the arm. They meant to kill them, but they had bad aim…the intent was to kill, and that’s what should be punished. Garrett had every intention to seriously hurt Rudolph with a weapon and a player unprotected. A lifetime ban, for a guy who has a high amount of late hit penalties, is not out of the question here.
Imagine if Garrett did all this to Tom Brady (or Mahomes, or Lamar, or Deshaun, or Brees), and connected with full force and knocked Brady out for the rest of the season – what would the proper penalty be then? I think that somehow Garrett could get away with a lesser penalty, in part, because he half connected with his vicious attempt, it was luckily the softer part of the helmet…and then no one cares about Mason Rudolph. It’s like a form of racism/sexism/whatever ‘ism’ you want to use…this feels a little less dire or punishable because ‘Who cares about Mason Rudolph?’ QB-ism? I don’t know what you call it -- but a half-connected shot + Rudolph seems not as bad as fully connecting with the hard part of the helmet + a shot to a QB we all respect.
Isn’t that sickening that this weird feeling on Mason makes it not matter as much so that it’s not as big a deal to hurt him type of subconscious thinking is a part of this, whether we want to admit it about ourselves or not? I really think the NFL has to consider a major penalty here…longer than just the rest of this season. They won’t, in part, because there will be lower outrage because ‘it’s just Mason Rudolph’ is swaying public opinion subconsciously.
Mason Rudolph should not and will not press criminal charges. Why? Because in a sport of real tough humans, in a combat sport…they don’t want to just to court to fight battles. Rudolph didn’t get seriously hurt, the damage is all done to Garrett’s reputation and 2019 season, the high road move is to let the NFL deal with him. It’s almost a gentleman’s code not to sue another player for something on the field. Which is why this is so egregious by Garrett…who thinks to get a helmet off and then use it as a weapon? Take the helmet off and then throw it 20 yards like it’s a trophy you collected…dumb, but we’ve seen that happen before. However, no one thinks to use the empty helmet as an attack weapon against a helmetless player. It’s against the unwritten code among players. If Garrett swung the helmet at a helmeted player in the heat of the moment…definite penalties but not as big a deal. To attack a defenseless/helmetless player with it…not even his own teammates will defend him.
As for Mason Rudolph, he instigated it a bit…but Garrett was causing trouble in that scrum/pile at the same time. Rudolph trying to get his hands on Garrett’s helmet to yank it or pull it off, we don’t know what he was doing…and it didn’t warrant his own helmet taken off and getting assaulted with it. I wouldn’t suspend Rudolph.
You hate to suspend Maurkice Pouncey, and while every player and fan and teammate now hates Garrett for his actions…they all respect what Pouncey did. I get Pouncey’s action but kicking a player while he’s down, no matter what he did – not cool. Not good optics. The league had to do something, or future retaliations could get worse. I totally agree with/understand Pouncey’s actions, but I agree the league had to do something.
Getting off light…was Browns DT Larry Ogunjobi. I would’ve suspended him for three games like Pouncey as well…or two weeks to get him past the rematch in two weeks. What Ogunjobi did was the 2nd-worst thing of the event. After Rudolph was hit by the helmet, he then smartly got away looking for a ref and was standing there 5+ yards away with his hands raised up in disbelief with no helmet on and idiot Ogunjobi came over and hit Rudolph blindside. I could almost give 1-2% grace to defending Garrett with ‘heat of the moment’. What Ogunjobi did 30+ seconds later, to a QB with no helmet standing 5+ yards away not involved in the melee or a threat at all…Ogunjobi with plenty of time to think went up and hit a standing still, helmetless Rudolph blindside for no reason. How is that only a game suspension? What if it were Tom Brady who was standing there without a helmet and was hit in the back like that? The whole league would turn on that player/Ogunjobi. Instead, crickets. Again, because Mason Rudolph is considered a disposable cup by the football analysts.
If I were the NFL head, I would suspend Garrett through 2020 season and then let him reapply for 2021 and we’ll see if he warrants getting back in. I would have suspended Ogunjobi minimum 3 games. Pouncey, I would have gone two games…just to get him past the rematch game, which is going to be a gang warfare game. I would then start a full investigation into whether the Browns were coached into this a la Gregg Williams. I don’t think they were, because I don’t think the Browns coaches have any control over the players in Cleveland. You can’t say Kitchens is the worst head coach and is letting the players run the team…you can’t say that all season -- and then think he could gin them up/direct them to become cheap shot artists for a game. I think it’s the ‘no parents to discipline the kids’ outcome here in Cleveland…the players are unaccountable and are not listening to any coaching because they don’t have to. The bad elements among the players run the team. It happens in football and in normal businesses without leadership. And it’s not just Cleveland that this happens with in the NFL. The players are more important than the coaches in most organizations and the coaches are not great human managers once they are not in control of this weird business in the NFL. It’s easier to coach college kids with autonomy than to coach multi-millionaires with agents making 2-20x what the ‘manager’ is. You want to talk about a ‘culture change issue’ – the Cleveland Browns are the definition.
What was the real cost to Myles Garrett here? Potentially $50+ million dollars. Garrett was going into the last year of his deal in 2020 season. He would’ve been signed early with a mega deal for sure in a few months. Like a $60+ million guaranteed type deal with $100+ million at stake overall. He might get half of that now. If he’s suspended through 2020, then in 2021 he has to put in some time of service in and then maybe by 2022-23 he’s hitting free agency. It might be 3-4 years from now (not 3-4 months like it was going to be) that he might have some contract hope/leverage…if he’s suspended for all of 2020 as well. No more endorsements. Loses prime years. Is thought to be a potential liability to sign long-term. It’s a potential economic and career disaster.
Garrett is a different type of cat…he might retire from this. He was a #1 pick and has already made $15M or so from his deal already. I think he comes back for his final year of his deal, cashes that check, and then may walk with the shame of what happened…again, he is a different, sensitive (the knock on him at the draft), not all-football kind of guy. Even his teammates will likely give him a cold shoulder.
If/when he is to return, he would be a target in every Browns-Steelers game. Cleveland needs to bring him back post-suspension and then trade him away. I wouldn’t want to count on an expensive new deal Garrett for years to come. I could see Garrett folding on himself and never being the same guy. The Browns had an emerging great defense and hope for a strong finish to the season, and a future top pass rusher to rely upon. Now, that’s all blown up in their face. A major loss for the Browns future.
And I think the ramifications of this event are not just with Garrett, and his loss to the team.
The owner is the real problem, thus the constant chaos that happens year-after-year under Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam. He should sell the team, and then the Browns can start fresh. What I suspect will happen will be much, much worse…and it will affect things for fantasy/dynasty ahead.
My theory of what COULD happen from here…
1) Owner Jimmy Haslam will be appalled by all of this and unless the Browns win out and go to the playoffs, if they fall short – Haslam will fire Freddie Kitchens (the fall guy for all this), probably no matter what. He will then fire the GM John Dorsey for putting this locker room disaster together and hiring Kitchens in the first place.
Haslam is constantly firing everything, so now he has real reason to do so in January 2020…and he will.
2) Haslam will have no real plan of GM and head coach to replace them with. Working for Haslam has become toxic and only people with no other hopes of running a team will come here to steal a paycheck/early termination money. The next group hired in will be worse/as bad as the last. And no college coach with options and respect would be caught dead going to Cleveland…only Bruce Arians, Rex Ryan type loudmouth fake tough guy coaches will want to go take a paycheck and still be in the game/spotlight in Cleveland.
3) Haslam will hire a disciplinarian head coach in response to show everyone how he has cleaned things up. They will over clean it with a supposedly NFL-league office respected John Fox, Jeff Fisher, Marvin Lewis, etc. It will not be anyone who is pro-offense or pro-Baker. In fact, they will be sent to work with the mandate of running a tight ship…not pressing the offensive envelope…and not consulting Baker.
4) Baker Mayfield, I think, by his wording/talk/body language after the game…I think he had his ‘Come to Jesus’ moment here and realized it’s never going to work in Cleveland. His future is not worth it. Him in Cleveland ahead will be a bad fit/no win proposition…like any employee who hates their boss/company needs or wants to go…Baker will be like Jalen Ramsey or whomever – forcing their way out of the employer. And he will be able to, possibly quite easily.
If the Browns undergo a new-new-new-new rebuilding plan, with a taskmaster coach…Baker will be seen as unneeded and unwanted. GM John Dorsey is protector/advocate. After a poor statistical 2019, with a new head coach who wants the focus on him and not Baker, then Baker is expendable in the right deal…and especially if he quietly goes to management right after a new coach/GM is hired and says, “I’ll play out my contract but I’m not re-signing here.” With all this chaos…it opens the door to Baker v. Haslam/Cleveland…and Baker isn’t a fun guy to be around when he doesn’t like the surroundings.
The Browns should trade Baker before the get egg on their faces with Baker wanting to leave, publicly. Baker won’t hold back verbally. You don’t want to get on the wrong side of Baker. I’ll bet Baker goes to them privately and asked to be traded next year…and then when they won’t acquiesce, the idiot team will leak his request…and then Baker will go full Donald Trump on them in the public eye.
If this path (I just stated) starts to become a reality, and Baker is caught up in it…there are serious fantasy ramifications…
It means 2020 is going to be a mess for Baker for putting up numbers. I loved Baker for 2019 because I knew he was running the show. Freddie Kitchens was there to make Baker happy, and thus Baker was the offense. When John Fox or someone of that ilk takes over…he won’t be allowed to run his offense. And he won’t be happy about it…and you won’t be happy about if for fantasy/dynasty.
The super bright future for Baker…a bright that was dimming a bit as it was this season – it could go pretty dark ahead – all because of this one Myles Garrett event setting off a domino effect…a terrible owner could be set off to overcorrect the problem and cause all new problems. If that one play never happens…we aren’t having this conversation, but this one play…it’s huge. It’s going to change the entire Browns organization, for the umpteenth time, in 2020. Not for the better has to be the bet when betting on Jimmy Haslam making changes.
Baker Mayfield owners in dynasty leagues…now, we’ve got an issue to worry about. We probably have to see what happens first. A lot can change just by the Browns going on a 3-4-5 game win streak and maybe making the playoffs in 2019 (farfetched but not impossible). A lot can change if Jimmy Haslam gets fed up and sells the team to a reasonable new owner. But just note…I’m going to start bracing myself for Baker Mayfield as no longer one of the QB apples of my eye for the future because the stink of playing for Cleveland is too strong a thing to fight…too tough to bet on for fantasy, sadly. Our hope would be – he forces his way to a dome team with good management/pro-offense in the future. Why do I see Baker Mayfield as the Drew Brees replacement in 2022? That would change the fantasy landscape…
This one play…it may have changed Cleveland football for the next 5+ years, potentially. Possibly for the good, but most likely for the bad…like a more of their dark ages a la the Hue Jackson years. It’s not ‘bad luck’ when your franchise is terrible under ever-changing coaches and GMs.
Snap Counts of Interest:
51 = Chubb
39 = Hunt
42 = Dem Harris
27 = Ph Brown
12 = Stv Carlson
11 = Seals-Jones
29 = Higgins
10 = Hodge
01 = Ratley
63 = J Washington
44 = Holton
36 = Tevin Jones
35 = Edmunds
25 = Samuels
13 = Conner