I’m not sure what to make of the Denver Broncos after this game. It’s a bitter division rivalry game, but once Derek Carr went down I figured the Broncos would dog pile on the Raiders and blow them out – but in reality, E.J. Manuel had a final drive opportunity to go down and win the game. It seems like every Denver game ends with the other team having one last chance to win the game in the final minutes but then the Denver defense rises up and slams the door shut.
My thing with that is -- why isn’t Denver slamming the doors shut from the word go? I just don’t think this team is coached very well. Simple game planning on offense and resting on laurels on defense is going to get them caught in the end – when in reality they could be the single best team in the NFL right now.
This Denver defense so good that they should be as good or better than the 2015 Super Bowl champ's defense. This should be a defense that sends shivers down every opponent's spine, and it does to a degree, but then you look up and they’re giving up too many easy plays and kinda lounging around turning the volume up and down as they desire. That’s a sign of a great unit but not the sign of a consistently great unit. If they ever find their focus on defense – they'd win the Super Bowl going away. I just don’t think that’s in the cards with Vance Joseph. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong but every time I see Joseph all I can think of is two things – (1) He has the face of a lottery winner who still can’t believe they won the grand prize jackpot of coaching the Denver Broncos. (2) He’s the guy who cut Kyle Sloter after two weeks of the preseason – doing so with his words…and was totally unnecessary to do so at that point. Every time he speaks I'm not impressed.
Denver has a ticket to the dance for being considered the best team in football, but it’s not a lock that they are the best. But they’re definitely in my top three.
As far as Oakland goes, as I speculated a few weeks ago – the kingdom is crashing. I was purely speculating a couple weeks ago that Marshawn Lynch's antics were going to divide the locker room and send a message to the un-serious players that Oakland is a place you can do whatever you want. When Marshawn Lynch and Michael Crabtree take control of your team and the players who are likely to follow them…there’s going to be trouble. Things are going to get sloppy. I’ve been musing about the possibilities of trouble for weeks but now I am hearing from a source that I have some trust in that there really is a locker room issue that is about the bubble up to the surface. Whether it has to do with Marshawn Lynch or not the Raiders have organizational chaos going on, apparently.
You take a team that is divided and now loses its one bright spot leader, Derek Carr, while at the same time another player that should be a leader, Amari Cooper, is going through on-field struggles – the season may be over before it begins with Oakland.
Fantasy player notes…
— As I was re-watching this game, I thought E.J. Manuel (11-17 for 106 yards, 0 TD/1 INT) looked pretty good. He’s not the disaster of a backup that Matt Cassel is but Manuel can’t help being himself. With an opportunity to win the game with four minutes left down 16–10 he drove the team to midfield and then took a shot deep and floated a ball into zone/prevent coverage and was easily picked off.
Manuel is not a total disaster but eventually his limitations are going to pop up at the wrong time.
Watching Manuel this preseason and then in this game, they have him do a lot of short drops and quick throws. And that works when the coverage is soft. It also means you have to have receivers who like catching short passes and taking hits soon after the ball is delivered. That favors Cordarrelle Patterson, who just happened to lead the team in receptions in this game. Patterson is inching its way towards WR3 status because he’s getting a little better treatment than Tyreek Hill has been getting lately. Patterson is lining up in the backfield multiple times and taking handoffs like a true running back, but he’s also become very reliable possession receiver who can make a tough catch and will fight through tackles.
If Michael Crabtree is out, I don’t know that Patterson wouldn’t be a viable WR3 with E.J. Manuel this week. Even if Crabtree plays, with Amari Cooper struggling…Patterson may start catching 4–5+ passes a game on short throws and take 1-3 handoffs. Don’t lose sight of him.
Patterson's last three games:
Week 4: 9.5 PPR points
Week 3: 1.7 PPR points
Week 2: 13.3 PPR points (57 yard TD run…more TD runs then LeSean McCoy this season)
— Speaking of Amari Cooper (2-9-0/8), you knew he was going to struggle against this Denver secondary. That was a given. Late in the game, he dropped another pass – his seventh credited drop on the season. Even the best WRs who see a million targets won't have seven drops credited in a season. Cooper has already hit that mark a quarter of the way into the season. Pretty soon he’s going to have more drops than catches.
I have no idea what’s going on with him. He was one of the most sure-handed, best WR prospects coming out of college I’ve ever seen. He was off and on terrific his first couple years in the NFL. Something has gotten into his head or something is going on off the field.
If Michael Crabtree is out and E.J. Manuel is the quarterback, it might help Cooper to see a lot of short safe throws to get into a rhythm. However, if Amari has something bigger he’s dealing with it won’t matter.
In redraft, Amari is about two weeks away from being dropped – can you believe it? In Dynasty, I would hold him on a deeper roster and let him try to figure this out or I would wait another week or two to see how bad this market bottoms out and try to get Cooper thrown into a deal at .10–.20 on the dollar and just sit and see if things around. If he turns back around…you’re talking about one of the best WRs in the NFL. However, there’s a flood of great WRs entering the NFL…and they come a lot cheaper than Cooper for an NFL team. Cooper's NFL career is in a fragile state.
I try to get Cooper thrown in on deals on a WR3-3.5 valuation or 'pass' because I honestly don’t know that a 'turn' is coming. It’s something in his head -- so you never know. This is not a coaching plan thing or targeting thing, it’s something none of us can predict will ever change. But if it does it could be a nice payoff.
You know what’s going to happen in 2018, right? The Patriots give up like a fourth-round draft pick for Cooper and have a WR group headed by Brandin Cooks and Amari Cooper, then both will fire on all cylinders as the Patriots destroy more defenses.
Isn’t that the way these things go?
— Let me say this for what it’s worth, actually let me say it again for the 3rd–4th week in a row… Trevor Siemian (16-26 for 179 yards, 1 TD/0 INT) looks terrific.
And again, I don’t know that this offense is going to push him into amazing fantasy heights, but I think he'll flirt with low end QB1 numbers.
They are not playing it safe with him. He’s dropping back to pass and looking downfield – it’s just that a guy like Jared Goff has a better playbook/coach working with him.
I don’t know what happened this game with Siemian – he had 114 yards passing in the first quarter and I thought he was going to throw down 300+ easily. He ended up with just 179 yards passing. That’s my fear with Vance Joseph and the structure of this team. Once Denver secures a lead, Vance Joseph goes into old-school, running game mode.
Whatever numbers Siemian puts up, just note that he’s a legit franchise quarterback. Not the best of the bunch but he’s legit. He’s also not as likely to get in to shoot out because of this Denver defense so it tempers his fantasy numbers a bit.
— Demaryius Thomas (1-11-0/5) certainly isn’t helping Siemian go to any next level. Every time I watch Denver games back during the week, I look at Thomas to see why he’s not getting touchdown opportunities. One of the big reasons is -- he’s never really open. I mean, he’s a professional receiver and knows how to get open in short distances and secure passes, but going down the field – I don’t know what happened to him physically or mentally but there’s always a defensive back stride for stride with him. The Broncos have to use gadgets to get Thomas the ball. He catches the ball nicely and it’s difficult to stop after the catch but he’s no longer a star receiver anybody scared of, he’s become 'just a guy'. Typical game: 4-6 catches, 40–70 yards, and more times no TD and getting one.
— Another reason I don’t like Vance Joseph as a coach – Jamaal Charles (5-33-0, 1-14-1/1) looks absolutely fantastic. I'd give Joseph a pass if he’s just being cautious and try not to wear out his older star, but I know that’s not the case. I know it’s because he likes smash mouth football like most fake tough guy old-school coaches do. He wants the rumble 3–4 yards at a clip with C.J. Anderson versus trying to break games open with game-breaking players.
I’m writing this note to you because for everyone that’s looking at various NFL teams #2 RBs hoping the starter falls in some way shape or form – Jamaal Charles may be the best non-starting or be out there. If Anderson ever went down, I think Charles might lead the league in rushing from that point on. He looks that good. And Vance Joseph is that out to lunch it appears…because he’s not pushing it at all.
Even Tony Romo was flipping out in the game as to why they were getting Jamaal Charles more touches.
— A.J. Derby (4-75-1/6) had a nice game here, including a phenomenal one-handed catch for a long TD. I’m not sure that this is a sign of anything to come but rather – one of the best ways to attack Oakland is to utilize your tight end. And that’s what happened here.
— Corey James (10 tackles, 2 TFLs) is starting to get consistent at ILB. His tackle counts since Week 1: 4-7-11-10…9.3 tackles per game the past three weeks.
Snap Counts of interest…
53 = Cooper
50 = Seth Roberts
33 = Patterson
42 = Virgil Green
29 = A.J. Derby
44 = Anderson
11 = Charles