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This has been a rough, odd fantasy season. Rapidly developing into the worst fantasy season of my career. I arrogantly think I can overcome any injury at any position but I think I may have gone a bridge too far…there’s so many injuries I don’t know whose fist is punching me anymore. I just know I’m getting punched…a lot. For weeks, I rested on travailing the tumult by saying, “As long as I/we have Brady or Rodgers…we got a fighting chance and then some.”
Now, I don’t have Rodgers.
I believe in building fantasy teams around elite QBs, especially in 6pts per pass TD leagues. I think the math bears out its importance and that all the fantasy analysts have not really considered the big picture when they echo each other with “Never draft a QB early” axioms. I think it’s key to take elite QBs when they present themselves…and am always sure to back them up in the preseason with what I think is a QB1-level QB like a Dak, Mariota.
I just lost Rodgers…and a lot of the time I look down the roster and when I see Hamstring Mariota, and I think…”I’m screwed.”
I/we’ve lost key FFM-artillery like Rodgers, David Johnson, Cameron Meredith, Spencer Ware (who would have enjoyed that nice early Kareem Hunt pop). It’s been blow after blow. Not small ones…huge ones. Rodgers and DJ together can carry you to a title…and did for many last season. Both are long gone right now. I’m/we’re scrambling.
My first reaction is to fold. The odds are too insurmountable to replace all these key guys and compete with the top guys in any fantasy league right now. When you play fantasy – you’re always in the negative. I know you are. I know I am. You see Leonard Fournette’s knee buckle and you don’t think – that’s probably a sprain…rather it’s “He just blew his knee out, I saw it. I’m screwed!” Big hit to Davante Adams’ head a few weeks ago -- ”He’s done. He’ll never play a snap of football again!” (next week 2 TDs).
We never assume the best or think things are possible in fantasy. No one ever says to me…”I’m just worried this is such a great matchup and I have great players so it’s a treat to decide on who to start among my guys.” Everything is always asked/couched in the negative – the opposing defense does this to my kind of fill-in-the-blank player or the head coach tends to do that to my player, etc. We’re all guilty of it. We’re trying to soft worst-case scenarios to land on the right decision…the guy with the best/least worst-case fears.
We’re not the only ones in our leagues having injury issues, QB issues, ‘who to start’ issues, who’s my RB2 issues, what the hell at tight end issues. Maybe, one person in the league is leading a charmed life right now…and has Kareem Hunt, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, Todd Gurley…life is great for them. Better than for us that’s for sure!
When you’re hit with injuries, your job isn’t to compare yourself to the top team…it’s to compare to the final playoff spot teams – and believe me, they have as many complaints about their squad. This fantasy game is dealing us really shitty cards right now (if you’re not 6-0/5-1/immune to all injuries so far)…but it means it’s not over for us 4-2/2-4/3-3 teams just losing Rodgers (or not)…and most 1-5 teams of any kind are not totally lost in a crazy season in a league where half the teams make the playoffs.
You’re 1-5 but have scored OK and have had one of the toughest schedules in your league? If 3-3 is the final playoff spot…you are only two games back with 7-8 weeks to go! A win next week and you the right things above you…you might be a game out of the playoffs after next week closes.
We just need to change our perspective on our broken down teams, where we have them – our job is to get this pile of junk team into the playoffs.
Our job is to keep bailing water week-to-week to see if one of our sluggish-start hopeful lights up, while we also find a gem off waivers out of nowhere, and maybe take a chance on a player via trade that we time just right. We have moves left try. The mission is to keep this team in the race. Be smarter than most every week. Sneak into the playoffs and try to catch fire once you’re there.
Isn’t always the way that your best team ever gets bounced in the playoffs unceremoniously by some junk team that snuck into the playoffs? We need to be that junkyard dog team that destroys others’ dreams this season.
We got plenty of time to quit/fold in a few weeks and/or build for next year. Any given week things get revealed, guys get hurt, new opportunities are given, formerly hot players get figured out by NFL teams. We have LOT’S of games still to play.
You know how MMA fighters practice and real-world execute fighting opponents when they are on their backs…fighting from a defensive/counterpunching or counter hold position? That’s many of us right now in fantasy. The opponent has us pinned to the mat on our back trying to hammer away on us…but there are maneuvers to take to block and reverse, and apply a hold that the aggressor will tap out on. Some of the most dangerous MMA fighters are what they can do from a defensive position – it starts by not panicking because you’re down for the moment.
We build/manage our wounded fantasy teams (that are in trouble) right now to compete with getting to and over a .500 record…not trying to catch the #1 seed team.
Just like the Packers will need to do now.
Why is it that the Packers’ season over? Granted, things might be a lot better with Aaron Rodgers but they are 4-2, tied with Minnesota…a team rocking Case Keenum at QB. You’re telling me that Minnesota with Case Keenum or broken Teddy Bridgewater is radically better than the Pack with Hundley? What if Hundley is as good as I scouted he might be a few years ago? I believed he was the best QB in his draft class – better than Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.
Hundley is bigger and faster, as an athlete, than Deshaun Watson. Before Dak Prescott threw 7 TDs and no INTs in his glorious rookie preseason and took the world by storm…Hundley did the same the year prior to Dak…and no one in the media cared.
What if Hundley is a really good QB from the option/quick pass style of QB play versus the traditional form? Sure, Mike McCarthy changing his offense has a 2% likelihood, but still…Bill O’Brien made the change.
The Packers found a running back in Aaron Jones. They have quality WRs. They are getting their O-Line back (hopefully). Maybe, they can get their secondary healthy. You think the Packers have no chance to win the division…but what if it is the Vikings that lose a top player themselves, like Xavier Rhodes? That would kill Minnesota dead. Maybe the Packers make it to the playoffs and face Dallas…who then has a suspended Ezekiel Elliott and that throws a wrinkle into it? All these injuries happening to Green Bay/your fantasy team…some of them are due to happen to others.
Brett Hundley is a solid QB prospect, underrated. He’s been with the team for three years. He knows the system and players. He now will get time with the 1s for more time than he ever has – and in 2-3-4 weeks he may be a revelation when in sync with them and the starting role. Off the top of my head -- Tennessee is dead without Mariota. All the NFC powers -- Atlanta, Carolina, Seattle, Arizona, LA Rams, Washington, Dallas (no Romo), New Orleans…all dead if they lose their established starting QB. They have total garbage as their backup QB. Hundley is a better QB prospect than anyone on the depth chart backing up QBs on all the teams I just listed – the Eagles having Nick Foles is the only other NFC power that could claim to have the top backup.
It’s not over for Green Bay because they were smart/lucky enough to land a promising backup. We have to do the same in fantasy if we lost Rodgers.
The Vikings have to feel very good right now. They beat the Packers, to have that in their pocket for tie-breakers. Their schedule the next two weeks is easy…should be two wins. It all looks good but they have a tough schedule after their Week 9 BYE. It’s going to be Minnesota and Green Bay to the finish in the NFC North, the vaunted Case Keenum and Brett Hundley battle to the finish. The Vikings have the edge due to defense, but if they lost Xavier Rhodes they would be reeling as well.
The NFL and fantasy football…the never-ending, unpredictable book you can’t put down because it’s never-ending and unpredictable. As I typed the initial draft of this opening…the Giants are killing the Broncos at Denver.
Anything is possible…
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- I went back and watched all of Brett Hundley’s (18-33 for 157 yards, 1 TD/3 INT) throws in this game, and it wasn’t as shaky as I thought it was live. Watching it live, I felt like Hundley was rushed and missing things. In reality, he was pretty calm/not over his head thrown into this game. Minnesota was blitzing because they could…testing the rookie to see if they could rattle him without half the O-Line there. They did in spots.
It was 0-0 after one quarter of this game. The Vikings then took a 7-0 lead in this game early second quarter, and Hundley answered back with a third-down smart strike to Davante Adams to tie the game. Minnesota answered that back with a TD to jump up 14-7…here’s where you could ‘miss it’ if you’re not studying it (that’s what I’m here for, so you don’t have to).
Right before halftime, on another third down play…3rd and goal, Hundley moved away from pressure beautifully and before getting popped made a smart toss/flip to Ty Montgomery over top of the blitzing front. Ty caught it and spun in and dived for a score. 14-14 and Hundley with two passing TDs on the vaunted Vikings defense!!! Upon further review, Ty dropped/couldn’t get full possession the ball after heading to the goal line…and it was reversed. The Packers settled for an FG.
What if Hundley had two passing TDs in the second-quarter…would that make you feel better about Hundley?
The Packers didn’t score a TD (or point) in the second half, but the Vikings couldn’t score a TD either…they just added three FGs. The Vikings did took advantage of Hundley’s interceptions.
Hundley had three INTs in this game…one a tipped pass in coverage that popped up to a defender trailing the play. One late in the game looking for a red zone TD but he got hit on the play and it altered the pass up for grabs. Hundley had one not so great interception…the other two weren’t ‘bad Hundley’.
As I re-watched this, I saw signs that Hundley is going to work just fine. He had several nice timing throws with receivers…the kind starting QBs have with their main guys. Hundley was blitzed or blocking broke down all game – he took several massive hits. He kept taking hits and getting up. He kept having purple people pressuring all around him and he just slid around the pocket to find the opportunity to make throws. He’s a legit QB. He has experience with this team but not with the starting group. Give him a week or two and I bet he’s up to speed. In fact, his high-end mobility may help the Packers’ lack of blocking. I think the Packers will challenge the Vikings to the end for the NFC North because Hundley is a pretty good…and will get better as he goes on.
For fantasy, Hundley is a wild card. The smart money is to bet that Mike McCarthy is Mike McCarthy…the coach innovation forgot. One of the luckiest humans on the planet inheriting Aaron Rodgers. If McCarthy sticks Hundley in as Aaron Rodgers 2.0…then Hundley is a QB2 with little hope of QB1 upside.
However, if McCarthy adapts the offense and runs a spread attack like Houston has done with Deshaun Watson, only Hundley is not a runner by trade…just a better athlete than Watson as measured at their NFL Combines, then Hundley can make people pay as a Dak Prescott type QB – smart, high character, college successful, preseason successful, quick decision passes, mobile when they have to but prefer to pass because they can.
In three seasons at UCLA, Hundley started all three years and compiled 75 TDs/25 INTs with a 67.4% completion rate in his career. He also ran for 30 TDs over three season, but he’s not really a runner, per se.
College Football Metrics subscribers…go back and read what I wrote in 2015 about Hundley. If I get the notion, I may post it here on the new site for FFM subscribers…as consolation for those who lost Rodgers this week.
Hundley can play. I just doubt McCarthy knows how to build the offense to suit his needs.
— What effect is Brett Hundley going to have on this Packers’ wide receiver trio? It’s a little more nuanced than this, but let’s assume Hundley‘s worth a 33% reduction in passing output…we are talking about Aaron Rodgers here after all. It’s not like any backup could come in and get close to the numbers Rodgers could push with his longtime receivers.
Jordy Nelson (6-60-0/10) had a league-leading 14 TDs last season, I would suspect he would be on a pace for like 9-10 TDs in a season with Hundley. It may be even worse for Jordy because there is a special connection between him and Rodgers and some of that is meticulous timing near impossible to replicate with a backup right away. Jordy’s 100+ yard game probabilities will dry up as well. He might be lucky to hit 70+ in most games.
Davante Adams (5-54-1/10) seems to have a decent working relationship with Hundley just based on this particular game. Adams works a style more favorable to a backup quarterback – he is more athletic and works deeper downfield. Not as many tight window throws to Adams, per se, and more ‘put it up for grabs’ opportunities. Adams was second in the league last year among wide receivers in TDs with 12 — now you’re talking 8 TDs…one every other game if you’re lucky. His WR1 hopes fall more to a WR2 with a possible fall to WR3.
Randall Cobb’s (3-28-0/3) outlook is worse than anyone else’s in this trio. Cobb was already the least productive fantasy guy of the group, plus he works in the style over the middle where Hundley may not be as comfortable to go right off the bat. You have to Hundley has nowhere near the reps with these guys as Rodgers has. Now, he has to make up for lost time.
— Another reason that Green Bay‘s receiving numbers will take a hit goes beyond any obvious drop-off from Rodgers. You also have to factor in the head coach – he’s a guy who is absolutely in love with himself as a run game play-caller. If it wasn’t for Aaron Rodgers, Mike McCarthy would probably be from the Doug Marrone school of offense – hopes he never has to throw the ball ever.
One way to take pressure off of Hundley, and your defensive issues, is to run the ball a lot more. You could see this happening because by mistake the Packers discovered their third-string running back has enough talent to lead the league in rushing with enough carries. Don’t forget that – the Packers best pure running back was deemed a third-stringer to start the season…and absolutely nobody was talking about him.
Ty Montgomery (10-28-0, 1-3-0/3) is good…as is Aaron Jones (13-41-0, 1-1-0/4). It’s a nice little RB-duo you can rotate in and out. Mike McCarthy gets to live out his dreams of running attack centered around Eddie Lacy or whomever without Aaron Rodgers constantly messing it up by being an elite passer.
Both Montgomery and Jones could be fantasy viable in this duo, but the likelihood is they split into each other enough to where neither is confident to use for FF week to week. If I had to bet on the winner between them – I’d bet on Aaron Jones…as in taking a cheap shot that Jones may just be the lead running back from here on in and have a shocking season while Montgomery supports him in short yardage or just get hurt again, per usual.
— I think Minnesota has resolved who it’s lead RB is…and it’s Jerick McKinnon (16-69-1, 5-30-1/6). However, Latavius Murray (13-28-0, 1-9-0/1) was starting and taking quite a workload for being the nowhere near as talented backup to McKinnon.
Jerick McKinnon is the kind of guy that could help restore or destroy your fantasy 2017. I have maintained for years that McKinnon was one of the single most underutilized, underappreciated assets just sitting waiting to be launched. McKinnon is like a mini-me David Johnson with the running skill/patience of Le’Veon Bell. Terrific hands and off the charts athleticism. It only took Mike Zimmer three years and a Dalvin Cook injury and a Latavius Murray failure to seize the job, AND a McKinnon instant spark last week to force this change to happen. I’m not 100% sure that Zimmer will even stick with it. I think at the first sign of trouble Zimmer will move to supplant with Murray. The problem is the results keep forcing Zimmer to McKinnon right now, I’m sure he hates that.
I say McKinnon could save you 2017 because he is a phenomenal talent. McKinnon failed to seize the job last year because the Vikings had a worse offensive line than the L.A. Rams did in 2016…any RB would look terrible running behind it. The Vikings O-Line is so much better this season. If you watched the last two weeks of the Vikings, there’s no denying McKinnon is a super talent. He’s also going into free agency at year’s end -- so this could be a great situation.
— Not that it matters, but the last couple times I’ve seen Laquon Treadwell (3-51-0/4) get a few targets – it looks like he knows what he’s doing. I’m so used to him being ignored or failing that I don’t realize it’s him making the catch at times. It happened a couple times this game – where Treadwell had a really nice catch and move after the catch and for a second I thought it was Stefon Diggs, and then my brain processed that and reminded me that Diggs wasn’t playing/active, and it had to go through the mental Rolodex to figure out who it was out there that looked so good -- it was the forgotten Treadwell.
Treadwell has an amazing one-handed catch in this game but it wasn’t just that it was the way he moved with purpose, a bounce…the way he softly, confidently cradled passes in…I’ve seen it in flashes back to the preseason but this was his shining moment of catches in a game.
I don’t trust Mike Zimmer. I don’t trust Case Keenum. I can trust them against a terrible Green Bay Packers defense missing half of its starting secondary. Outside of that, upcoming matchups may not be as fortuitous.
Long-term, deep dynasty…you might want to stake a cheap position in the depleted Treadwell. I think I am seeing something…but I don’t think we’ll see it much in 2017.
— Green Bay LB Blake Martinez (11 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 PD) is turning into a Pro Bowl linebacker/IDP force…our top ILB prospect from 2016 is really taking a step forward in 2017. Not only is he that passing game elite coverage guy, but his run stopping ability has really advanced. The Packers have some nice young pieces on defense but they can never keep any of the group healthy for any period of time it seems.
— It doesn’t get much better than this for DST’s coming up – the Minnesota Vikings next two weeks of schedule before their BYE = Joe Flacco and then whatever Cleveland is going to try to start at QB. Should be two wins and heading into that BYE riding high on the hog.
After the BYE, the schedule is not so favorable – Cousins, Goff, Stafford, Ryan, Cam, Dalton, Hundley.
Snap Counts of Interest...
72 = Thielen
44 = Treadwell
38 = Floyd
44 = McKinnon
33 = Murray
43 = A. Jones
20 = Ty M.