2021 Dynasty/Fantasy Game Analysis Week 7: Browns 17, Broncos 14 (By Ross Jacobs)
Cleveland came out firing this game and drove right down the field for a quick score. For a moment it looked like they would blow the doors off of Denver, but things settled down after that and they started just trying to grind out a win with their small lead. It might have cost Cleveland the game if Vic Fangio wasn't totally inept. Denver didn't try to do anything special with their season on the line and their pathetic attempt at a comeback fell short.
With half the Cleveland team out with injuries, this was the perfect spot for the Broncos to rise up and get a much needed win to right their season. How did Denver respond? With the same boring ass game plan and a grand total of 14 points. Congratulations. You lost to Case Keenum.
If it wasn't already incredibly obvious, Denver is done. Cooked. Finished.
They are absolutely terrible, and it's just a matter of time until Vic Fangio is fired. I know he's a great defensive coordinator, but it's become clear that good coordinators do not automatically make good head coaches. Head coach is much more about management and communication than anything else, and many of these guys just don't have those qualities because they are ex players or grew up in a warped coaching environment drawing X's and O's on flash cards in their spare time. The question is: will the Broncos learn from this experience and instead hire a Matt Rhule or Brandon Staley to replace him?
The one thing Fangio could try to do to save his job is replace Bridgewater with Drew Lock and insert Javonte Williams as a 70-30 lead over Gordon. It might not be enough. Lock might even be a downgrade over Teddy. But it's worth a shot to see. Fangio won't do it though, and that's just another sign that he shouldn't be head coach. Too safe, too risk averse. He'd rather lose doing the same old thing than try something new to potentially win.
The Browns, however, might have saved their season here. At full strength they are one of the best teams in the AFC, but they have to survive a few games on the ropes without all their stars first. This was a huge first step to doing that. They have division rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinnati the next two weeks though and really need to win at least one of those, preferably against the Bengals who suddenly look like the best team in the division.
If Cleveland can tread water until the team is healthier they might have a chance. Of course, the big injury is to Baker Mayfield and if he can't come back from a separated shoulder then I don't see how Cleveland has any shot in the playoffs. Keenum is good enough to get a few wins here and there, but he isn't leading them to the Super Bowl. I haven't heard a time frame on Mayfield yet, but it sounds fairly serious and he's going to be at risk of injuring his shoulder worse every time he plays.
--If you had D'Ernest Johnson (22-146-1, 2-22-0/2) congratulations. You probably won your week because of this one decision alone. There were a lot of fantasy analysts telling people not to play him, that he wasn't very good. RC and I were virtually alone in proclaiming how great DJ is, and we've been saying this for 2 or 3 years now.
I say that not to brag, but to point out an essential truth. Most analysts do not know what they are looking at. They use a couple of generic stats or watch a few highlight tapes and try to pass that off as expertise. The mainstream didn't have any combine data or fantasy trends to tell them that Johnson is a good player. RC and I don't operate like that. We watch these guys very carefully and relay what we see and that goes beyond “he got 100 yards so he's good.” We aren't perfect. Sometimes we miss things. Sometimes we are early on things or a player we really like never gets a real chance (like Johnson until this game). Sometimes a player develops and gets better after previously being much worse (like Josh Allen). In that case we will jump on board as soon as we see evidence of change. But we always have a leg up, an advantage over anyone using just analytics.
Of course, NOW the mainstream is announcing that DJ is a star, that Cleveland should trade Kareem Hunt or other teams should trade for DJ, as if they discovered his greatness here. Shocker, it takes a 146 yard game for most people to figure it out. Not at FFM. You were ready because we already knew well ahead of time that DJ was a Kamara-esque talent.
This is why FFM'ers consistently win every year. It's not because we are the best drafters and perfectly select every top performer. We don't “dominate the draft.” We just research and grind better than anyone else. We work the waiver wire and trade with more savvy than anyone else and we build small, incremental advantages into larger advantages over time. We hit singles and doubles that lead to scores while everyone else is striking out swinging for the fences. It's the consistent approach and it takes time and patience, but we always get there in the end.
Anyways, what was I saying? Oh yes, D'Ernest is a really good player and I'm happy for anyone that won their week because they picked him up. Definitely use him while he's hot though because Chubb will be back soon and take all the work. DJ probably did earn some more playing time after this, but I don't think we can expect him to take Hunt's old role. Coaches typically don't work like that. Either way I would just hang onto him and not try to flip him.
--On the other side of the ball, the genius Broncos managed to get the most talented rookie RB a grand total of 4 carries. There is simply no reason why Javonte Williams (4-20-0, 6-32-0/7) should have so few touches or be the secondary runner in a split with Melvin Gordon (8-18-0, 2-14-1/3). Unfortunately that's the reality we live in at the moment, and I haven't seen any signs of a change yet. It's always possible it could happen in a split second, but I think it's safe to move on from Javonte in redraft if you need the spot to take a stab at something more promising. If you have the luxury of waiting on him though it's a decent play. Few backup RB's are as talented as Javonte.
--Speaking of talented but underutilized players, Courtland Sutton (5-68-0/5) had another so-so day. He's sooooo good but just can't take the next step with Teddy at QB. It's possible Lock could give him a boost but not guaranteed, even if Lock ever gets on the field.
--Kendall Hinton (2-15-0/2) is such a nice little slot receiver but completely unusable for fantasy right now as the 3rd receiver in the rotation and Teddy at QB. He'll go back to the bench when Jerry Jeudy returns.
--Ditto for Noah Fant (5-39-0/7). I don't know for sure there will be a new starting QB in Denver next year (coughRodgerscough), but if they do get a good one this offense is absolutely loaded with studs and could become a top 5 unit awfully fast. Something to think about for dynasty.
--Sooooo...where are all the Odell Beckham (2-23-0/6) truthers now? Half of my twitter feed the last two weeks has been about how OBJ is still a megastar and Baker was holding him back etc etc. Guess that narrative is blown up now. Turns out that RC and I were right all along, that OBJ hasn't been good for multiple years now and that he's been dragging down this offense every time he's on the field because he's a selfish showoff diva that can't catch a football anymore. A smart organization would trade him before the deadline, but Cleveland knows they are still in the playoff hunt, so they won't do it out of misplaced fear that he's still their best WR.
--I have one more bone to pick from this game...one that nearly cost me a win this week. What the %&*#@! happened with Donovan Peoples-Jones?! Not one word is whispered about him being injured until literally 2 seconds after the game starts and I can longer change my lineup AND OBJ was talked about like he would be out all week and at the same time gets announced as a starter. I was forced to start DPJ due to the bye week situation and several other injuries, and of course I thought this was a safe play...apparently not! So to anyone else that started DPJ, you have my condolences. I got burned by that nonsense too.
--Hard to use anything else on Cleveland for fantasy while Keenum is starting. Jarvis Landry (5-37-0/8) is the only thing you can have any confidence in, but he's only usable as a ppr WR4-5 right now. This passing game already wasn't volume heavy with Baker and now it's not efficient with Keenum.
--Rookie CB Greg Newsome (3 tackles) is already so good. He and Denzel Ward are one of the better CB duos in 2021, but next year they might completely shut down opposing passing games.
Snap Counts of Interest
43 = Odell Beckham
42 = Rashard Higgins
38 = Jarvis Landry
29 = Anthony Schwartz
46 = Austin Hooper
42 = David Njoku
29 = Melvin Gordon
21 = Javonte Williams
47 = Courtland Sutton
47 = Tim Patrick
24 = Kendall Hinton