It was another one of those bizarre Sunday Night Football games. I was once again watching a nationally televised solo night game with the Chiefs wondering if Tyreek Hill still plays for Kansas City. I mean, I’m pretty sure he does. I’ve heard rumors. I’ve got sources.
As this game wound down into the fourth quarter, the same thing happened to me as last Sunday – my son comes in and asks -- Do you want to make a late night trip to Wendy’s. Sure! I’m tired of watching Kareem Hunt get tackled in the backfield and Deshaun Watson throwing every pass incomplete to DeAndre Hopkins, so why not? What can I possibly miss in 10 minutes? I’ll just pause the DVR and watch Tyreek as a decoy, crying about it with a comfort food burger.
Unwittingly, I have the power to generate NFL offensive explosions by merely desiring a 'Dave’s double'. Last week, when I had the same exact circumstances, the Colts were pushing around Seattle in an 18-18 slugfest (I say, loosely). I left that game to go get a quick burger and J.D. McKissic becomes a star and Seattle scores like a thousand points. In this Week 5 Sunday night game, as soon as I left for grub – the two teams combined to score 31 points in the final nine minutes of the game.
We'll get into the player performances in the moment, but just a quick note on teams…
Some teams just have everything going their way for a stretch, and the Chiefs are one of those teams. I don’t dispute that the Chiefs are a top NFL team this season, but come on…they were on the verge of getting wiped out by Washington when all of the sudden every Redskins player got hurt, by the end of the game I think Washington had their punter and kicker having to play in the defensive backfield -- and they still almost beat Kansas City at KC. Before this game even got started, the Texans two top pass rushers got hurt right away…the optics of team leader J.J. Watt being carted off the field pretty much put it dagger in the Texans before things even got started. The Texans were reeling, Deshaun Watson could hardly complete a pass…but the next thing you know the Texans are making a move in the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs are good, but they’re not this good. They’re living with the angels right now.
I want to say the Texans are done for 2017, but I think they might be very much alive and don’t fully realize it yet. Part of that is the AFC South is getting turned on its head because of the quarterback injuries. No reason to fear the Colts as much and if Marcus Mariota misses another 1-2-3 games the Titans are in serious trouble as well. The Jaguars are the power in the division, but you can’t be that powerful as long as Blake Bortles is your quarterback. The AFC South is very much still in play for Houston. Why? Because of Deshaun Watson and the offense Houston is running. The Texans can survive without J.J. Watt like they did last year. They need only make adjustments on defense to support the offense, not the other way around now. NFL coaches are not used to facing a pure spread system run by a highly spread-experienced, mobile quarterback. It’s going to throw defenses for a loop for a while until they adjust. The Texans have a window to ride this thing all the way to the playoffs again this year.
Fantasy player notes…
— Let’s start with Deshaun Watson (16-31 for 261 yards, 5 TD/0 INT). A guy I did not think would be a very good NFL quarterback but now he’s the sensation of 2017.
Have you noticed the NFL is being more and more dominated by first-year players playing right away? What exactly are NFL coaches working on 20+ hours a day that they have to sleep on cots in their offices? What is so complicated about everything that used to require players needing 'redshirt' NFL years or 2-3 seasons to get acclimated? Why are rookies walking in right away and dominating – Dak Prescott, Jalen Ramsey…Deshaun Watson and Kareem Hunt in this game. They aren't just playing surprisingly well for rookies – they’re making a mockery of the NFL system imediately. Why?
As I’ve said for a couple years now – the college game so far advanced ahead of the NFL because in college they allow the talent to be talent. The talent at QB reads situations and decides whether to hand the ball off or keep it. The talent spreads out five receivers and decides whether to throw or run. Going away is the mindset in college that 'you’re just a running back' or 'you're just a wide receiver'…players are running the wildcat, running backs split out as flankers, wide receivers taking several handoffs. A lot of college football overall is about showcasing the talent – getting the ball in the hands of the talent and letting the talent be the talent. The NFL is all about old-school head coaches who learned physical football from their forefathers of the sport and continue to live in that tradition to their own demise season after season in the modern era. I don’t think rookies need any adjustment time at all – they’re not overwhelmed, they’re more shocked at how restrictive and overcomplicated things are made. You even hear rookies saying it out loud now.
You take young, talented athletes who have grown up since grade school in systems featuring their unique talents so that they’re beyond ready for the speed of the NFL game and you combine that with the fact that they’re not overpaid and complacent, so they’re giving 150% to prove themselves – when these rooks get a chance, the good ones walk right in and dominate if they’ve got a good head about themselves and land in a good NFL spot.
Think about the Texans – Deshaun Watson looked lost in the preseason, not because he’s a bad quarterback, per se, but he was trying to run Bill O’Brien‘s offense Built for a guy like Tom Savage. It doesn’t work for Watson. Of course Tom Savage was the logical training camp starter — because college kids are brought in to be the fodder of old-school coaches. They have to come in and adjust to what the head coach wants. So, of course, Deshaun Watson looks out of place and Tom Savage looks like a preseason genius – when everything is about the deceptiveness of the play design and all about precise timing/deception of the phonebook/playbook…the more experienced guy running ancient offenses is going to look like he knows what he’s doing versus the other guy. In college, they send in plays via pictures on boards on the sideline…and the QB decides a lot of what happens from the basic alignment called.
Credit to Bill O’Brien, when he made the switch to Deshaun Watson he also then installed the offense that Watson was comfortable with in college and that changes everything. It makes Watson more comfortable and NFL defenses aren't fully ready for it. They’ve studied O'Brien's offense for a couple years, and Bill O. isn’t doing what he has been doing. It’s going to work nicely for a while until NFL defenses adjust – as the team started to see yesterday…KC was all over them for three quarters+.
The Chiefs had mostly figured out how to thwart Watson. It’s not overly complicated. For all his athleticism and comfortableness running this offense, Watson is not a very good passer in the pocket. He locks on to DeAndre Hopkins to a fault. For three quarters, Watson couldn’t connect with Hopkins hardly at all -- and his passer numbers were terrible… Then all the sudden the Chiefs pulled away and Watson started heaving lucky desperation bombs all over the place. Several ill-advised passes that amazingly found remark.
I don’t think Watson is going to be the star they’re making him out to be. He’s on a hot streak as people try to figure out this game plan, and they eventually will (KC did last night) – just like the NFL figured it out with other spread QBs (RG3, Kaepernick, etc.). Watson is not the Holy Grail of the runner/passer spread QBs. He’s good. He’s comfortable with this scheme. He’ll put up nice fantasy numbers because he’s comfortable and because he’s willing to run. But there will be better versions of this to come.
I don’t know how long it will take before Watson’s numbers start a nosedive a bit, so I wouldn’t be in any rush to try to sell him off as if he’s going to blow up/bust. Because of his running ability and the fact that he’s in an offense he’s comfortable with – he’s going to put up nice fantasy numbers for a bit. I wouldn’t bet on him for the long term but I would love him for the short-term.
— Why have the Chiefs suddenly stopped featuring Tyreek Hill (4-68-0/6, PR TD)? Why do bees buzz? Who created God? Why do Shaq and The General have such a great onscreen comedic timing in commercials? There are several deep mysteries of the universe I don’t have answers for. This Tyreek question is one of them.
My best explanation is that Andy Reid, in his heart, wants to run the offense through this running back. He's old school. And Kareem Hunt has had a great start, the offensive line looks much improved, and the team is 5–0…confirming how genius Andy Reid is. And he doesn’t care about my fantasy football team.
When the Chiefs start losing games and will hit some turbulence soon enough, then we’re likely to see more Tyreek action. One of the beauties of having Tyreek in fantasy is that it doesn’t take much for him to be relevant. I want 10+ targets a game, but if I can get 6–7+ and the couple carries and returns – it’ll work over time. Hill was having a boring fantasy game, everyone was grumbling, -- and then in a lightning strike he returned a punt for TD; laughing all the way.
All I could think of while I was watching that is -- why doesn't Andy Reid want to see more of this? I get it when the Chiefs are up 2-3 scores, and they want to keep him in bubble wrap, but I don’t get it when the game is close. It’s just the way it is. The hopes of getting an explosive return from Hill every week, and like a record-setting season – doesn’t look like it’s in the cards yet. We may have to settle for 'very nice WR1' results not '#1 WR overall'.
The season is still young and Tyreek is circling the wagons around top WR status…one hot game and he could be #1 among fantasy WRs after next week. He has three TDs this season, pacing for 9+ TDs in 16-games. It's not a crisis, just we ache because there could be so much more with him.
-- All of us constantly pooh-poohed it, but Alex Smith (290-37 for 324 yards, 3 TD/0 INT) has to be considered fantasy viable. Hell, he's among the top 3-5 fantasy QBs season-to-date.
Before you get too excited, consider the schedule ahead – PIT-OAK-DEN-DAL-BYE-NYG-BUF. There's a lot of choppy water ahead in the schedule, but a few spots where you can stream. 11 TD/0 INT this season, but more importantly – he's been throwing for a lot more yardage…two 300+ yard games this season-to-date/278.2 yards passing per game. He's way better than Eli-Ben-Rivers-Palmer, a.k.a. all the ancient QBs of that ilk.
-- There's a Spencer Ware-esque pattern, a drop happening with Kareem Hunt (21-107-0, 3-9-0/5)…i.e. a quick splash to start a season then a fade as defenses see the game plan and as Chiefs' OLs get banged up. Last year, Ware was a top 2-3 RB for total yards in the NFL for the first 4-5-6 weeks of the season and on his way to a huge season it seemed…and then he slowly faded off. His targets declined and his ypc declined week after week.
Let's look at Hunt in the past three weeks, if you remove his late game 69-yard TD run Week 3 vs. the #32 run defense of the Chargers…a run occurring when the defense stacked the line for a last gasp stop. It's 'convenient' for me to do so, and it's appropriate to look at Leonard Fournette's 90-yard TD run this week the same way…but I have a reason for doing this with Hunt. The last three weeks for Hunt minus that one long TD run…
66 carries (22.0), 311 yards rushing (103.7), 8 rec. (2.7), 40 rec. yards (13.3), and 0 TDs
In PPR fantasy scoring that's = 14.4 FF PPG
Andre Ellington has 9 catches in each of the last two weeks, and he's averaging 16.0 FF PPG without scoring a TD either the past three weeks because of the pass game numbers. You think you’re missing out on the great Kareem Hunt…but if you land the right PPR RB, you're good. Duke Johnson and Andre Ellington aren't getting entire TV featurettes in the pregame, nor is every analyst rushing to proclaim how much they love him prior to the draft…but Duke-Ellington are right there with Hunt in recent output and available much, much cheaper.
Can you count on Duke-Ellington? I don’t know…can you count on Hunt? His numbers are slowing down…
If you subscribe to the Duke-Ellington theory (hey, trademark that) then acquiring Christian McCaffrey, Tarik Cohen like assets in PPR make a ton of sense.
-- You may have heard this during the game last night – Cris Collinsworth saying D'Onta Foreman (4-34-0, 1-3-0/1) leads the NFL in not going down to the first tackler/breaking tackles. I think that was the stat. It made me think of this – D'Onta Foreman would be equal to/better than Kareem Hunt if given the same push by his team.
Foreman is bigger, tested faster/more agile, has as good/better hands – if you're crying about not getting Hunt for dynasty…Foreman is much easier acquirable today and this same conversation in a year may be funny/prescient if Foreman is 'the guy' for Houston vs. Hunt as 'the guy' in KC.
That should strike you as sobering…but then that cash register sound should go off in your head, especially in dynasty. Because Foreman looks terrific, he's just not had the same push…yet.
-- Imagine you're me and having to sit and listen to Cris Collinsworth discover Dylan Cole (6 tackles, 1.5 TFLs) last night during the game as I've spent an entire preseason pushing Cole to the moon.
My question is this – why didn’t Collinsworth discover him before now? Wouldn’t you think if you were a seven-figure NFL analyst that all you would do is be educated about all things NFL? Plus, Collinsworth owns Pro Football Focus…why didn’t they catch this. And it's not 'he's pretty good' or 'they like this kid' – Cole is arguably the best linebacker and one of the five best defensive players from this draft (and went undrafted). That's critical info to have for IDP players…critical to have two months ago, not two hours ago.
Sometimes, I need to pat myself on the back.
Dylan Cole is a must own, a key part of your future IDP rosters. I've said it enough since August that it should already be that you own him -- but did you see that guy last night? I'm not sure he isn’t the single best defensive player from the 2017 NFL Draft.
I don’t care if Whitney Mercilus or J.J. Watt is out or comes back…Dylan Cole is the future of the Texans defense and IDP teams.
J.J. Watt? I'm not sure we'll ever see him play football again. That guy is taking a beating, physically. He has a career in politics or Hollywood if he wants it.
-- KC DB Terrance Mitchell (2 tackles, 1 PD) has at least one PD in every game this season, and leads the NFL in PDs with nine…most CBs won’t get nine PDs in an entire season. He's getting picked on being opposite Marcus Peters…and he's doing very well. He had Hopkins 'on lock' until it got to be backyard football-silly in the end.
Steven Nelson had a great, under-the-radar run for IDP numbers last season, but he's out for the year. Mitchell has better measurables/skills and might be that guy for KC this season.
-- You don't Will Fuller (2-57-2/3) is going to score 2 TDs every week this season and nor do I. We don't think he'll score a TD next week. No need to comment here...a nice hot streak that will crash soon. Trade him ASAP if you got 'em.
Snap Counts of Interest...
64 = Hopkins
59 = Fuller
55 = Ellington
56 = Lamar Miller
09 = Foreman
56 = Zach Cunningham
28 = Dylan Cole (36%...sick...what is Houston thinking?)
68 = Conley
46 = Tyreek
32 = Albert Wilson
55 = Demetrius Harris
39 = Kelce