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2019 Dynasty/Fantasy Football Analysis: Week 14 – Steelers 23, Cardinals 17

December 9, 2019 10:08 PM
December 9, 2019 10:07 PM

2019 Dynasty/Fantasy Football Analysis: Week 14 – Steelers 23, Cardinals 17


I don’t even know where to begin here…

Likely, where I need to begin is in the offseason and reexamine this whole Arizona Kobra Ky angle. The concept was simple: Kingsbury’s offense + Kyler’s skills = fantasy gold all around. There are a thousand ‘B’ and ‘C’ players to work in fantasy…the ‘Bs’ and ‘Cs’ have ups and downs, and are available cheaper during downs to acquire or even get off waivers. We can get, sift through ‘Bs’ and ‘Cs’ all season…and those that get them right more than wrong, have better fantasy seasons.

There are only a few true, legit ‘A’ fantasy players out there…guys that make a difference almost every week. The guys you see your opponents using in their game against you, and you’re like, “Well, I’m screwed.” In 2019, that’s Lamar Jackson, Christian McCaffrey, Derrick Henry has made his way there, Deshaun Watson may be on that list, Mahomes-Tyreek were the centerpieces of that list in 2018 and since Mahomes’ injury they’ve not been ‘As’.

It’s a rare few players that are ‘As’ for extended stretches or an entire season -- Todd Gurley has been there, Ezekiel Elliott, Antonio Brown, David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Julio Jones, Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Gates to name a few.

I thought we had a real shot at a rookie ‘A’ at QB, a rare/impossible occurrence, with Kyler Murray working with Kingsbury. Murray was my #2 QB plan on my FF rosters, to be teamed with another more established QB…to buy time to see if Kyler was really this good. As other QBs died (Baker, Goff, Mahomes hurt), Kyler was showing sparks…and suddenly, by midseason, he was a main hope in various leagues to get over in 2019. After he destroyed Tampa Bay and then worked through the 49ers heading into his BYE a few weeks ago – we were all convinced Kyler had arrived.

Then he lays an egg vs. the Rams and then goes hot and cold vs. the Steelers the last two weeks, and he killed us…and now we’re worried.

What happened?

That’s the great autopsy question of the 2020 offseason. What happened and what will happen in 2020 season for fantasy? I can afford to have a QB fail or get hurt and put me having to replace them and suddenly Ryan Tannehill is carrying me through the playoffs…but my worst nightmare is when my trusted QB hopeful lets me down as my starter in key spots.

Any QB can have down fantasy weeks. Heck, Murray had a 3rd TD from five yards away in this game…he could’ve run it in or not thrown it right to T.J. Watt. This week wasn’t that bad, per se. But when I watched it back today, I’m sitting there watching the same thing happening over and over…Murray constantly getting flushed and he has no time to throw and he gets caught by defenders way too often for a guy with supposed 4.3+ speed.

I watch every Arizona offensive play this season like my life depended upon it. Either Kyler made surreal throws on the button unlike any young QB I’ve ever seen in my life…or Kyler was under duress and not much good happened (usually a sack). The worst was watching them in red zone. Between the 20’s, Kyler was an all-star. The closer to the goal line…the more issues it seemed. Not him, the entire offense/play calling.

As I thought about this game today, and rewatched it, I thought – this is not a Kyler issue. The arm talent is unreal. The O-Line is getting worse. The run game has died. The receivers are rarely open (but when they are, Kyler hits them with a laser beam) running the same tired routes over and over. The defense is the worst in football…opponents sustain drives forever in-between Arizona quick drives.

The truth is… As the Cardinals’ season goes on, they are getting worse not better.

The reality to wrestle with is… Kliff Kingsbury is probably the worst head coach in the NFL, telegraphed from his terrible college head coaching career. His teams always put up offense, but never get better over time.

I can live with a bad team with a ton of offense…it’s what I expected and wanted for fantasy. But this offense is bottom half of the league in performance and their defense is the worst. On top of that, the personnel moves and players that Kingsbury pushes or doesn’t – they don’t make any sense. The move to Kenyan Drake has been a disaster. The not-using David Johnson as a strictly pass game weapon is maybe the single dumbest move of 2019…fire him as a runner, fine, but the guy is the 2nd-best receiver talent on the team – you can use that if you have half-a-brain. The non-use of Andy Isabella is irresponsible.

I thought Kliff Kingsbury would be great for offensive numbers and bad at general coaching. Turns out, he’s a disaster as a head coach and his offense isn’t anything all that great. He can’t make things happen in garbage time…where I really thought he’d give us an edge.

I’m OK with a disaster at head coach, because that describes 20+ guys currently in the NFL. My worry now is that he’s so bad at this, he’s going to get run out of town after next season. I was hoping to get 3-4-5 years of sweet offense here…bad teams, but good offense. Now, I don’t know if we’ll get any great offensive fireworks with this clown…and then he’ll be gone in a year…for what? Probably the overcorrection hire – a Vic Fangio, heavy defensive type.

The fantasy studying and planning for 2020 this offseason…a lot of it will center around whether Kingsbury can turn this into a mediocre team or better. If they aren’t terrible, this so-so offensive pace stays intact. If he dies like this next season, he’s gone and the GM with him after 2020.

There’s hope…because that SF-TB-SF stretch was terrific, and promising. It looked like we were getting there.

There’s concern…because after that three-game pop, the growth halted and now we’re all running scared. Arizona should have won this game, but penalties and turnovers and no run game and no blocking did them in again. All that, and they still had a chance to win in the end, and they fell flat on their face again.

The Steelers beat another poorly coached team by a TD for the 3rd week in a row (CIN, CLE, ARI). They have been living with the angels for weeks, but they keep winning – winners of seven of their last 8 games. I have no idea how they are doing it, but they do…so it is my interpretation issue that’s the problem.

Mike Tomlin might be a genius with what he has pulled off this season. All these wins with a backup and then a 3rd-string QB, and the near losses have been impressive looking back…took the Ravens to OT, lost at SF by 4pts, shoulda beat the Seahawks but lost by two in Week 2. If Big Ben were healthy…might this be the best team in the NFL?

All that praise, and I think the Steelers are going to get walloped by the Bills at Buffalo this week. I’m going heavy on that game, so I’m sure the Steelers will win by 50. If the Steelers lose to the Bills, they fall to 8-6 and will be fighting off the Titans for the final wild card. A battle they probably have the best path to get through. I project the Steelers to finish 10-6 and be the final wild card over Tennessee in the AFC, but it’s very fragile…because the Titans could battle Houston for the division and kick the Texans into the wild card discussion. The Steelers have work to do and the Ravens not needing Week 17 might be the final stroke of good luck for Pittsburgh in 2019.

Arizona falls to 3-9-1 and could be on their way to ending the season on a 9-game losing streak. Week 15 vs. CLE is their only hope for a win from here it looks like. But everything is getting better as we go…right, Mr. Kingsbury?

The owner is stuck… If he fires the GM, he signs Kingsbury’s death certificate in a year (no NFL GM would want to have KK and Kyler with the power the hold). The owner has to bring back the GM/friend of Kliff for another year to see if this works out…if they are still awful in 2020 – a lot of changes could happen.


Fantasy Player Notes…


 -- If you lost your FF playoff this week, we’re all like, “Stupid Kyler Murray…that guy sucks!” I get it. I’m mad too.

Then I look and see his last five games of TD passes: 2-3-2-0-2. Not bad at all.

Total TDs in those games for him: 2-3-3-1-2…2.2 TDs per game. That’s pretty good.

9 TD passes the past 5 games against mostly top 5-10 defenses/playoff teams over the past month+ (SF 2x, LAR, PIT).

He’s still the #10 FF QB in PPG on the season (4pts per pass TD) and if he throws that TD pass in the end zone to his guy and not T.J. Watt, in this game, then Kyler is #8 among QBs in PPG…an extra TD run away from being in the top 5.

The issue, lately, for FF, has been…under 200 yards passing three games straight. He can’t work the deep ball as well because he’s getting sacked at a more radical rate the last 3 games…now the most sacked QB in the league.

What if we’re just some O-Line play away from getting full Kyler-mania?

If this entire offense can look this crappy of late, look clunky in the beginning of the season…and still Kyler is 20 fantasy pts away (think of all the missed red zone opps early on) from sitting #5 for the season among QBs for FF in PPG.

Kyler hasn’t been bad. You’re not mad at ‘bad’. We’re all upset for a different reason…we saw the glimpses, the stretches of brilliance when this was working and we wanted more – and we keep getting a heartbreak instead of efficiency the last two weeks and the pain is real, and makes us want to have the pain stop.

That’s why I try not to engage in sweeping statements about what I’m going to do or not do NEXT YEAR in fantasy after a playoff loss, etc. (like…I’ll never draft another rookie QB again, or I’ll never do ____ again!!). Don’t waste breath on your 2020 proclamations after a disappointment. Your perspective is warped. I don’t want my scouting and strategy to be based on my instant reaction to wanting (mental) pain relief. It’s not fair for me to judge Kyler on every single bad/non-great thing because I got mad after a loss. Stepping back from it…it’s not been bad. And, statistically, it’s getting better as the season goes. I just got thumped by Jameis Winston in the playoffs and I want to take it out on someone.

We’ll break it all down this offseason with more perspective and time.


 -- If you watched this game, you know the moment I yelled my loudest expletive…

Kingsbury graced David Johnson (3-19-0, 2-34-1/2) with more playing time, and some routes in five-wide…and whaddya know – a TD catch/play that I’d dare say 99% of the RBs in this league could not make.

If you watched it live it was so amazing, another Kyler throw that went 20+ yards that I dare say 99% of the QBs in this league couldn’t make on the regular – a laser beam just over the top of two defenders and one of them jumping to knock it away but missing by about 6” inches…and perfectly hitting DJ right in the middle of his body for the TD grab.

Most RBs cannot make that catch because they cannot get open like that – this was Johnson running a route like a WR, breaking it off deep and getting open…then Kyler seeing it and throwing a homing device to him without effort and DJ making the catch with bodies obstructing his view and trying tip it…Johnson never lost focused and caught it like he was playing pitch-and-catch with his five-year old son.  

My expletive, you ask? Why the %$#$@%^@%**$^%@$# are you not using Johnson as a primary receiver and completely change this offense, this passing game into something lethal!!!??? You have the league’s best back from three+ years ago who is a former WR, who has hands like DeAndre Hopkins and is a mismatch nightmare – and it dawns on no one that he could solve the passing game woes? That he could be the X-factor in the red zone?

That’s why I’m worried about EVERYTHING here going forward on Kingsbury…because how big of an idiot can you be? Fire DJ from running the ball, fine, but you’re sitting here with a god of a receiver…a 6’2”/220 monster with all-world hands, and it never dawns on you to make this ‘a thing’.

No people are more allergic to success than NFL head coaches, I swear. DJ could change the world here, but you don’t want to mess with this precious ‘system’ that’s been soooo great this season, especially in the red zone.

And speaking of things that aren’t working… Are we done with the Kenyan Drake (11-37-0, 3-30-0/3) experience? One good game on a few hot touches against the 49ers a million years ago, and duds ever since – and, yet, he’s still the primary lead RB? Are you trying to have your offense look stupid? This offense IS the coach, he’s made it that way…so when it looks stupid, it confirms the thought on the coach running it.

I keep thinking, NFL head coaches and entire staffs, many making seven-figures…they cannot be this stupid. Oh, contraire…

If you see David Johnson on waivers…you might pick him up as a long shot in redraft. I think he might win this job back – he looks much better and Drake is failing.

…but that’s what a smart person would do, so assume Kingsbury to do the opposite.


 -- Speaking of things that make no sense…

Jaylen Samuels (7-16-0, 2-19-0/2) was starting here it looked like and came out hot and then the four-man rotation hit and Jaylen kinda disappeared.

If I were an NFL head coach, I’d rotate 3-4 backs too…but if I had the Steelers’ backfield – I would lead with Samuels. Tomlin leads with Bennie Snell and then goes Kerrith Whyte (5-41-0, 1-9-0/1) after the first series.

If you wanted to not feature Samuels, I guess I understand…but then on a critical 3rd-down passing moment, in this game, I saw Trey Edmunds in…per usual. That’s like having David Johnson available and not using him on a critical 3rd-down passing play either. Oops…sorry, that’s exactly what Arizona does. And the Steelers.

When the Patriots have a critical passing down…James White is not on the bench for Sony Michel, is all I’m saying.


 -- Christian Kirk (8-85-0/9, 1-4-0) had a nice game against a good defense. SF-TB-SF-LAR-PIT…Sherman, Ramsey, Haden…it’s been a tougher road. CLE and SEA the next two weeks is more a chance for him to have killer fantasy weeks/TDs.

WR1 in PPR in 2020. Except, Ramsey is now in division 2x a year + whatever the 49ers are bringing.


 -- I want to love Diontae Johnson (6-60-1/8, 1-16-0, and a PR TD) more for Weeks 15-16, but I saw enough here. No, thanks to this offense. This was the worst offense facing the worst defense…the Steelers’ chance to shine and Devlin Hodges (16-19 for 152 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) throws for 152 yards on mostly all short dump passes.

Diontae will never be this open again, and Hodges had a hard time making it work. Diontae took lemons and made lemonade.

James Washington (4-33-0/4) has been playing great and he saw only 4 targets again. He was the A.J. Brown of the last few weeks…big FF games on low targets/off 1-2 big plays. Prime spot here and JW only saw 4 targets.


 -- There were comments in this game that Kingsbury admitted/told the game announcers that he wants to get Andy Isabella (1-5-0/1) the ball more.

One target.

13 snaps.

Nice job.

Did I mention I have concerns about Kingsbury?



Snap Counts of Interest:


58 = Kirk

55 = Fitz

26 = Byrd

17 = Cooper

13 = Isabella


39 = Drake

22 = DJ

11 = Edmonds


28 = Samuels

24 = Snell

08 = Whyte

03 = Edmunds


About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is a fantasy football player analyst for Fantasy Football Metrics and College Football Metrics. 

Email rc4metrics@gmail.com

Learn more about RC and the Fantasy Football Metrics system >>