I'm going back through some team notes from games last season, and in the following/current year I like to pick a few teams and post all their game recaps in order and make a few, quick new year/season observations -- and it gives us some spring/summer reading material when football news is slow.
The first team I selected to post from 2018 season -- the Kansas City Chiefs (see all on FFM). The second team we're going to walk through -- the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns are wildly interesting...now. It's interesting to go back and walk through the season, because it was so sad to start...because they almost beat PIT-NO right out of the gates, but Hue Hue'd it all up and his rightful punishment was soon to come. Then, just when it looked like they would fall with lovable sociopath Gregg Williams at the interim helm...the Browns became a real team, and almost got themselves into the playoffs -- they would have won 10 games and made the playoffs had the Browns canned Hue after the 2017 season and started Baker from day-one, as I probably pointed out over/under a hundred times in the game recaps all last season. So, let's re-look at the Cleveland Browns' wild 2018 campaign.
Now, enjoy the opening week...the one where they were down two scores to Big Ben/James Conner for 3+ quarters, then it started raining cats & dogs, and they almost came back and won but missed gimme field goals at all the wrong times and settled for a (then) shocking tie in OT with the Steelers.
2018 Week 1 Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: Steelers v. Browns
Here’s how bad Cleveland is, again, potentially, it looks like (and yet they’re being hailed conquering heroes for their tie) – for the first 53 minutes of game play, there was not a lot of rain, it was a normal-ish game condition (just wet) and the Steelers took a 21-7 lead despite Big Ben having 3 picks in the first half of the contest.
For 53 minutes, the Browns could hardly move the ball or complete a pass it felt like. Tyrod Taylor was sacked (7 times) in most critical spots. The Browns O-Line is weak. Their defense was good but not ‘wow’; the Steelers moved the ball fine with a backup RB.
In the final 7 minutes + OT, the rains started up. The Steelers fumbled in their red zone. The Browns got a quick TD. The Steelers couldn’t sustain a drive after that and the Browns came back with a quick score to tie the game in the span of a few minutes. 53 minutes of domination wiped out in 3-4 minutes.
The Browns got the ball back again near the end of regulation, with a prime chance to win, and Tyrod got picked off. With a chance to win with an FG with 0:27 left in OT…the Steelers blocked the FG.
If you wanted to see a team under a curse trying to win a football game – this was the living definition. Lost in all this – the Steelers pretty well dominated/the Browns are bad. It took a fluky last few minutes in the rain to wipe that reality away.
May 2019 Note: This tie, this lost easy 'win', kinda help cost the Steelers a division title 16 weeks later.
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- The fantasy story of the game was James Conner (31-135-2, 5-57-0/6), obviously. He was fine, but I didn’t see any ‘wow’ events or anything. Conner is a very solid RB, not a future star, per se, unless he gets 36 touches a game, like he did here.
Part of this is being the main RB on a good offense. Part of this was the OT/heavy touch counts (unsustainable). Part of this is the Browns are a weak opponent. Part of it may have been the rain/wet conditions.
Conner feels like an A+ talent today, but he’s a ‘B’ (at best)…in a good situation.
Jordan Howard is the far superior RB talent. I mention that because you can get JoHo for Conner quite easily in some leagues…people, by and large, hate/dismiss Howard (and everything Bears). Howard is available at a bargain this week – take advantage, Conner in house or not. Howard is going to push to lead the league in rushing, again. Conner won’t.
Jaylen Samuels, where was he? No clue. They have to get him involved. They can’t keep pushing Conner all these touches. It may have been the weather conditions, I don’t know. We’ll see Samuels (or someone) soon to help. Then we’ll see if Samuels can make some hay here.
No Samuels in Week 2 and then I assume the Steelers are enslaved to Conner…the ‘power runner’, ‘smash mouth football’ that NFL coaches live their alter egos out with.
May 2019 Note: I was the lead dog, nationally, in pushing the 'Conner starts for weeks as Le'Veon holds out' narrative...I was all over Conner in August for fantasy, as were almost all the FFM subscribers following along that theory. It paid off big, but early on I saw value in moving Conner in redraft for better names to take out the risk. Howard-for-Conner deals seemed like a good idea after Week 1...it became a good idea after the halfway point of the season, but still not that great. Fortunately, not many Conner deals were made as people held to see another week -- and at this time we were all living week-to-week with Conner, with Le'Veon rumors flying every day for most of the season. I was also pining for Jaylen Samuels to enter the picture...I didn't get that for many weeks into the season, but when I did...
-- Josh Gordon (1-17-1/3) returns, didn’t start, but played the 2nd most snaps of any Browns’ WR…69 snaps in all, a full game essentially. He saw all of 3 targets.
He caught a TD pass…only when Joe Haden was hurt, and the Browns attacked the new CB with an alley-oop in the red zone to Gordon. Other than that moment, you may not have realized Gordon was even playing.
May 2019 Note: It wouldn't be long before he was a Patriot.
-- Carlos Hyde (22-62-1) is the lead dog at RB, but man was there nowhere to run. The Steelers have a good+ defense and the Browns are dysfunctional on offense.
Nick Chubb (3-21-0/1) got into the game at one point, and his first run was for -1 yard. Fitting. Chubb later had a seam and ran straight for a nice gain. Other than that, hesitant, dancing Chubb was here again. I want nothing to do with Nick Chubb for the current or future.
May 2019 Note: I was so anti-Nick Chubb from his preseason work, but he flipped a switch a few weeks later and I bought back in but I was late to the party. I passed on Chubb early and missed out on his cheaper acquisition days.
-- T.J. Watt (10 tackles 3.0 sacks 4.5 TFLs) was on fire in this game. Part of it that Watt is the most talented ‘Watt’ in the NFL now, and some of it – the Browns are going to allow this type of activity because they are not good.
-- IDP Jon Bostic (9 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 2.5 TFLs) had a game in his debut as starter. Solid, not special…lots of tackles available in a run heavy game that went to OT.
May 2019 Note: This was about the peak for Bostic, and the Steelers would struggle to find a great ILB to plug up the middle all season. Thus, the Devin Bush trade up/draft pick.
-- Myles Garrett (6 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 TFLs) was a menace at various times. He’s going to get 14-16+ sacks this year…he’s just too good not to.
May 2019 Note: Just missed...13.5 sacks last season.
-- After the Steelers face MYreek (Mahomes+Tyreek) in Week 2, they then get – Fitzpatrick, Flacco, Ryan, Dalton, BYE, Tyrod?, Flacco, Cam, Bortles, Keenum. All favorable matchups or in the so-so ones, not super-duper high-end QBs/offenses.
The Steelers have a strong ‘B’ to ‘B+’ defense with the best schedule of any DST until Week 13 (Week 13 on: Rivers, Brady, Carr, Brees). They are arguably the single best DST to own (Patriots want to be in that discussion too) in fantasy for the next 12 weeks, less Week 2. Worth sitting on this week as a 2nd-DST and then dropping your Week 2 rental and going PITT the rest of the way (BYE Week 7).
May 2019 Note: The Steelers DST was decent but no amazing during this stretch.
Snap Counts of Interest:
78 = Njoku
38 = Fells
06 = DeValve
47 = Hyde
41 = Duke Johnson
81 = Landry
69 = Gordon
54 = Higgins
15 = Callaway
11 = James Washington
07 = Ryan Switzer
04 = Chubb
89 = Sean Davis (100%)
74 = Terr. Edmunds
59 = Bostic
40 = Burnett
84 = Myles Garrett (100%)
79 = Ogunjobi
62 = Kindred
51 = Jamie Collins
35 = Peppers
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