So, I was pretty sure that Tennessee was going to win this game and thus put their stamp on the AFC South. Instead, they got walloped – beaten so badly and had so many things exposed that I don’t know whether to believe that Tennessee is a title contender or a contender for last place in the AFC South. The last couple weeks of their play has opened up either possibility.
If you’re going to be taken seriously, you have to be able to beat a rookie quarterback along with facing a defense scuffling with injuries…also, arguably the worst offensive line in football. You either win that game or you should’ve ALMOST won that game, or had fluky circumstances which led to losing. Nothing fluky here -- Tennessee got exactly what they deserved. Marcus Mariota getting hurt nothing to do with this loss, this embarrassment.
Just when you want to bury Houston, they are the belle of the ball all of a sudden. The media got what they wanted – Deshaun Watson confirms their love of all things 'Alabama', 'Clemson', and 'Ohio State'. Because of the media, Watson will be coronated the best quarterback in this rookie class this week/this season…debate over. They hope we will all forget they had DeShone Kizer on the equal level. And because they all hate Mitchell Trubisky, they will spin everything Trubisky does to minimize him and to propagate Watson. You watch.
We’ve seen teams get righteously blown out one week as we laughed and danced on their grave, only to see the complete opposite happen the following week. Remember when the Jets got humiliated by Oakland in Week 2? One of the worst beatings of 2017? Since that game the Jets are 2-0 and Oakland is 0-2. Let’s not rush Houston into the Super Bowl just yet.
Fantasy football player notes…
— OK, let’s get into Deshaun Watson (25-34 for 283 yards, 4 TD/1 INT)...
What happens to Watson from here will be interesting. Does he sustain his hot level of play or does he stumble? If he sustains -- the media is gonna lose its mind. If he stumbles they'll give a little chuckle and go something like -- despite him being so great 'rookies be rookies' and I are going to have ups and downs.
Here’s what I think is happening with Watson, and it’s one of two things or possibly a third that makes this really interesting football study.
1) I think teams have psyched themselves out worrying about Deshaun Watson running so they’re not applying any pressure. They’re making the rookie beat them as a passer. Totally logical except once Watson started picking everyone apart passing, the defenses never adjusted. The Titans certainly didn’t. They rushed four and dropped seven back as Watson just sliced them to bits with quick hitters to receivers open by several yards. What’s going to happen when Houston/Watson is not facing two of the worst defenses in the NFL right now – New England in Tennessee? What happens when defenses adjust now that they have two full games of tape of this approach? Is this just an opposition adjustment thing?
2) Watson is basically running spread college offense and is paralyzing defenses with it. In a league used to traditional, predictable offenses -- Houston has smartly simplified the game and basically installed Watson's college offense. Letting him read-option and either fake it to run or fake it to make a quick pass. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and it will be the wave of the future in the NFL once we wash through all the ancient philosophies running around the NFL. However, Houston is not the only thing running a spread-type college offense. Tennessee has at times. Seattle does often. It hasn’t made their QB's unstoppable. It made our RG3 a god for about half a year.
Once NFL teams realize what Watson/Houston is doing, which they now have two games that clearly show them the plan, the opposition will game plan for this and then we’ll see whether Watson has another trick up his sleeve. The key to beating Watson will be making him a pocket passer.
I watched every throw specifically from Watson in this game, and he wasn’t bad. His tendency, just like in college, is to lock onto one option and make the throw blindly or take off running. In a sea of quarterback mediocrity in the NFL, this is not the worst plan in the world. Matt Cassel just locks onto one receiver and throws it but cannot leave the pocket and be a threat. Watson can…so it buys more time to throw or run. If I were in the NFL, it’s the offense I would run. Screw going to find the next Tom Brady. Just keep it simple like Houston has the last two weeks and what Chip Kelly was trying to bring it to the NFL. Colleges are spitting these new-age QB prospects out like the penny slots at a casino. It’s the easiest offense to design, plan, and find a QB to run. Jacoby Brissett doesn’t look so bad in the NFL, does he? Tyrod Taylor is a 'winner'. You don’t have to be Tom Brady to succeed in the NFL. You might struggle to win the Super Bowl, but you can win a lot with a smart, comfortable, mobile QB. That’s what Deshaun Watson is right now. He’s very comfortable running that style of offense. The question is – whether he’ll be as comfortable when the defenses specifically game plan for it and the defenses get tougher than what New England in Tennessee have shown for several weeks now.
3) If Deshaun Watson succeeds, sustains overtime – it’s going to signal the new era of football has completely arrived. Gone are the days of Tom Brady and Drew Brees. 'In' is Deshaun Watson and Marcus Mariota. It’s so much easier to just run the offense out of the shotgun, run/fake to the running back, have the quarterback read option or drop back to pass once everyone’s frozen by the run possibility. It doesn’t take a giant playbook. It doesn’t take complicated audibles. It puts the game in the hands of the talent — everything is about the athleticism and skill of the quarterback.
I think it will be the future, and the future is now in college football…and that’s the reason why I think Lamar Jackson from Louisville has a much better chance in the NFL than people realize. Just using Jackson as an example.
If an NFL team is willing to build around these non-Tom Brady, mobile QBs then they can roster two of them and just keep switching out instead of paying one guy $100 million deals and locking into them for 5-10 years because they once had a decent season as a passer and your petrified if you’ll ever find a better QB – i.e. Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, Sam Bradford, etc. Where everyone else spends all their money and puts all the chips in on one position (QB), the NFL future can be inexpensive spread option QBs and go spend the money on the line, both offense and defense.
A lot of how fast the future is arriving depends on how successful Deshaun Watson is. He’s not my favorite one of these types of QBs, but he’s not bad. DeShone Kizer is bad. Deshaun Watson as I spread quarterback is pretty good. As a pocket passer he is terrible. I really thought Bill O’Brien would force him to be Tom Brady more. Credit to him he did not do so and it may have saved the Texans season.
For fantasy, I think you can trust Deshaun because the running totals are worth their weight in gold. The only reason anyone gives a rip about Cam Newton is because he runs for Fantasy points (or used to). Watson has been pushed into a very comfortable system that allows him to do what he did in college. Turbulence is ahead based on the schedule so I wouldn’t write him down and ink as a guarantee success from here, but I wouldn’t rule it out. It's going to be fascinating to see what side of this debate wins out. And if he continues to succeed in all of football is going to change within the next 1–3 years. Chasing Sam Donald and Josh Rosen will be ridiculous compared to locating a great spread quarterback. If Watson fails, however, it’s more fuel to go the Sam Donald and Josh Rosen route.
And just for the record, again, Sam Donald has to be one of the worst star/can’t miss QB prospects I’ve seen in my mini studies. More on that next season of College Football Metrics.
— One of the things that caught my attention as Watson ran this read option spread was that he looked so much better, so much more natural with D'Onta Foreman (13-45-0) running with him. It would make sense on so many levels. They would’ve worked together on the second team offense all preseason. Plus, Foreman is from the new are and Lamar Miller (19-75-1, 4-56-1/5) is from the old. Plus, Miller is wildly mediocre while D'Onta Foreman is one of the best running backs from this draft.
I think everyone in Fantasy sees that Foreman has a nice role, but they’re going to be paralyzed from loving him because of the presence of Lamar Miller. I get that. Investing in the future, dynasty – Foreman is the guy you want. If I had to do it again, knowing what I know now, I would’ve taken Foreman more than I did Samaje Perine. Houston seems to understand what Foreman brings to the table and are treating him with some level of respect. Perine feels like a guy who Jay Gruden would cut rather than develop. Foreman will be in the same boat had he been taken by the Redskins.
I see Foreman being groomed for the future and he is the perfect read-option weapon to run with Deshaun Watson. Samaje Perine is going to wind up in a traditional offense with the running back destroyer Jay Gruden and having no quarterback in 2018 when Kirk Cousins leaves. I really thought the Redskins would push Perine this year, and they may still, but it looks far from it right now. Foreman is much closer to the prize then Perine…despite the fact that Perine sits behind the worst starting running back in the NFL.
— I think you absolutely need to plan for Marcus Mariota missing at least this week. The Titans can try to scuffle out a win against Miami this week without Mariota and let him heal up to be ready for the upcoming AFC South battles. The moment Tennessee signed Brandon Weeden was the moment you knew Mariota wouldn’t play this week, and it’s also the moment you knew the Tennessee Titans are not going to win much of anything this year.
You want to give Mike Mularkey the benefit of the doubt. You see the Titans had assembled some talent and have a good team because Mariota is a very good quarterback. However, you can't take the Mularkey out of Mularkey. He’s just the wrong guy to head up your NFL franchise.
If you have an offense based on a mobile read-option quarterback like Marcus Mariota, why would you have Matt Cassel as his back up? Then add Brandon Weeden to back him up? It makes no continuity sense. Cassel is the worst starting quarterback in the NFL right now and it’s not even close. E.J. Manuel and Blake Bortles laugh watching Matt Cassel play.
That was Tennessee’s choice, no one forced them into this. They know Marcus Mariota has a history of injury. You know mobile quarterbacks have a history of injury. So what do you do? You purposely back him up with Matt Cassel. Tennessee deserves to lose every game Cassel starts, they deserve to blow winning this division, and Mike Mularkey will deserve to be fired at the end of the season. All that talent going to total waste because they don’t address the backup quarterback situation properly.
That’s why I’m always sensitive to having a great QB2 in any fantasy league I’m in. You know how much I value the quarterback in fantasy whereas all of the other fantasy experts scoff at it. I can overcome those things as long as I have Brady or Rodgers. If I lose them and try to add Andy Dalton off waivers in a crisis – my season is basically over. Tennessee is taking that same risk.
— I really focused on DeMarco Murray (7-31-0) to watch his handful of carries in this game because something doesn’t seem right with him. He doesn’t look terrible, I just don’t know what it is. His legs seems fine but there’s no room to run or he’s just not got something in him to pop himself lose.
Whatever it is, outside of that one long run again Seattle, Murray has looked mostly terrible the season. I shouldn’t say terrible – mostly ineffective.
If you have Murray you are kind of stuck. Stuck hoping things turn around. Mariota being out this week or just hampered may be a beautiful opportunity this week. The Titans, playing a weak Miami defense, could just try to run 50–60 times with Murray and Henry. They may have a great game, finally. In fact, the schedule favors a break out for Murray if there is to be one. At Miami, Indy, and at Cleveland the next three weeks. We’re about to find out if it’s a Murray issue or whether the schedule can cure it.
— So good to see IDP Dylan Cole (5 tackles, 1 sacks, 1 INT TD) lead the Texans in tackles, plus grab an interception and race it in for a TD. It’s actually the second time he’s taken a defensive play in for a score but his last one was called back for a penalty.
I’ve been crowing about this all preseason about how phenomenal Cole looks -- and he finally got more playing time, albeit in a blowout. There will be brighter days to come with Cole. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up to be the best linebacker for IDP out of this NFL draft class…and he wasn’t even drafted.
— Before you get too excited about the Texans defense having a good game here – consider how their season has gone so far.
Week 1 -- destroyed by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Week 2 -- they squashed the Cincinnati Bengals right before the Bengals fired their OC, and then suddenly got good on offense after.
Week 3 -- they got torched by the Patriots but that’s not uncommon.
This week they gave up 14 points in a half to Tennessee, a pace for 28 allowed…and maybe more ahead had Mariota stayed around. The Texans dominated Matt Cassel for a half -- which is what every defense will do.
Basically, the Texans have dominated a Bengals offensive plan that was about to be fired and squashed Matt Cassel for a half. I would not preclude the Texans defense as a great fantasy play ahead. They will likely struggle with the Chiefs this week, but you can use them against the Browns in Week 7. Then a BYE in Week 7…a mixed bag post-BYE.