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 game where the Browns won their first game under new management, and was official beginning of Browns-mania in 2018...
2018 Week 10 Dynasty-Fantasy Analysis: Falcons v. Browns
This was no fluke…this was the Browns just manhandling the Falcons from the opening bell. Actually, I shouldn’t say ‘manhandling’ as that implies it was a physically dominating performance. No…more impressively, I should say that the Browns played a very smart, focused, detailed game led by the great one – Baker Mayfield. Honest to God, the Browns have looked better the last two weeks than they have in any stretch under awful, terrible, no good at coaching Hue Jackson for years. That guy will never coach in the NFL again after his Browns embarrassment. What’s that? He’s already been hired by Cincinnati in less than three weeks unemployed. Oh, NFL…you never fail to impress me.
Cleveland won 28-16 but it really wasn’t that close. The Browns were just the better team…halting their four-game losing streak and jumping up to 3-6-1. The way they are playing under Gregg Williams, and I apologize to Mr. Psychotic for doubting his head coaching skills, they might win 5-6 games this season. They are a ‘tough out’ right now.
Atlanta blows their three-game win streak and stumble big-time in their race to get back into the playoff hunt. This one hurt…pretty much costs the Falcons any shot at the playoffs. We project them 8-8 with a chance at 9-7 but more a chance to be 7-9.
May 2019 Notes: Atlanta would take on more defensive injuries and fall even further. The Browns were just beginning to shock the system...
Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Yes, let’s start this out with my new favorite player…Austin Hooper (10-56-1/11).
I think Hooper a sub-par tight end, and it offends my senses that he’s a starting NFL TE because I prefer the dashing and swashbuckling athletes like Evan Engram (giant 2018 fail) and O.J. Howard. Hooper runs like he’s carrying a piano on his back.
The one thing I love more than athletic freak tight ends…radically productive fantasy ones. Zach Ertz has no business being the best TE in fantasy, but he is (arguably). Austin Hooper is a slower version of Ertz, but while I shook my head at Ertz early in his fantasy career…I saw all these 7-8-10-12+ catch games popping in and out of Ertz’s game log and paid attention. I bought into Ertz 2017, and that paid off…but I wasn’t really sure about it – until it worked.
Suddenly, here comes Hooper…the turtle among TEs…9-9-3-3-10 for catches in games the last five games. I’m not going to ignore it. The only other time I’ve seen a pattern forming like this (besides when Gronk-Graham were in their hay day) was Ertz in 2015 and 2016 leading into 2017.
It could be a blip, but where I am suffering like a fool with Engram-McDonald-Njoku-Doyle-Graham…I’ll desperately buy Hooper at retail prices…I’ll buy at Chinese tariff jacked-up prices. I’m desperate aside from places I have Kelce-Ertz. Hooper is the new Haley’s Comet of TE hope…sure to have 2 catches for 17 yards and no TDs this week, but that’s about as good as Engram-McDonald-Njoku-Doyle-Graham do in a week anyway.
Hooper had a huge week last week, so the price is jacked and his owner won’t sell…unless you give them a TE they’ll buy as replacement (Gronk, Njoku, Graham, Burton, etc.) plus the ever desired heroin of fantasy…a running back – a good, excess running back of yours they need from you during this tough BYE week. You do an RB2-ish name + replacement TE for their Hooper + something decent), you might pull this off?
People are sick in the head for RBs and look at TEs as all bound to fail next week/replaceable with any old TE – they’ll move a TE even if they take a big hit in TE scoring…because they get the coveted, dreamy RB du jour that will help them sleep at night, so they don’t even notice the devastation they caused themselves at TE.
May 2019 Notes: From here, Hooper had 4 or more catches in a game in five of his last 7 games. In his final 12 games of 2018, Hooper averaged 4.9 catches per game. Sadly, only 4 TDs on the season, but in TE terms, that's 'average'. Is he next 'Ertz' or next 'who cares?' for 2019? We'll be examining that all summer.
-- OK, so maybe I was wrong about Nick Chubb (20-176-1, 3-33-1/3).
I thought he looked terrible this preseason and the first few weeks of the regular season but the last few weeks he’s just running through people. Chubb runs straight ahead, and tacklers just bounce off him like he’s a military assault vehicle at a local demolition derby. He’s showing the pre-knee injury skills again. I missed it, mostly, this season because I feared the worst from his early work.
Can’t win them all. It’s important to adjust the dials when needed and not go down with the ship on a wrong position. I have no benefit being wrong for weeks on end if I see something obvious. Kerryon Johnson I’m still skeptical, but Chubb looks a lot better, especially with this new Browns’ efficiency. O-C Freddie Kitchens might just have found a new career…we’ll see what happens when teams get enough tape on them/him.
May 2019 Notes: And yet both Chubb and Kerryon have their teams adding talented RBs to the roster still in 2019...you want to like them for FF, but they have a lot of depth chart pressure suddenly...
-- Baker Mayfield (17-20 for 216 yards, 3 TDs/0 INT) is getting totally ignored and dismissed because (a) the media doesn’t like him, at all…and (b) he plays for Cleveland.
In his last 4 games: 2.3 TDs/0.50 INT, 68.9% Comp. Pct., 238.0 yards per game
In two games with the new O-C: 2.5 TDs, 0.50 INTs, 74.2% Comp. Pct., 256.5 yards per game
Mayfield is going to be one of the greats and he’s just starting to happen. It’s near your last chance to get him on a cheaper/reasonable deal.
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-- Whose Mayfield’s preferred receiver?
No clue. I think Mayfield just reads every play and decides in-play. He throws to who is open, not via a script. He’s a rare QB talent.
He’s discovering the virtue of the RB leaking out of the backfield being open always because NFL teams never cover it despite it being the #1 trend in NFL passing games (*See: Saquon Barkley always open ever dump pass). Thus, Duke Johnson (4-31-1/4) is up for that ‘top target’ honor. Johnson has 3 receiving TDs in his two games under the new O-C.
Landry-Perriman-Callaway all had 2 catches each to co-lead the WRs. Shockingly low catch counts…against a defunct/horrible pass defense that Mayfield ripped apart by spreading things around.
May 2019 Notes: Duke Johnson kinda 2018-peaked here...he was about to fall off the map the rest of the way. The WRs would all go randomly up and down week-to-week. In 2019, Mayfield should have a set group of WRs he's working with all preseason leading into the regular season.
-- FYI, Deion Jones was activated by the Falcons…he’ll help the defense in general, but he’s also a top 10 IDP LB candidate right away.
-- Fantasy Playoff Notes for these two teams…
Weeks 14-16 vs. GB-ARI-CAR is not the easiest stretch for the Falcons finesse passing game. Even worse – two of those games are on the road in colder conditions likely. Matt Ryan may not carry you much further.
The Browns don’t have it easy either Weeks 14-16 – CAR, at DEN, CIN. That at Denver game could be a bummer for Mayfield, maybe.
May 2019 Notes: Never listen to me on Matt Ryan. If I think he's in for a good season...he flops. If I pronounce him dead to me, he's back throwing 30+ TDs in a season. His numbers did drop some late in the season, but not terribly.
Snap Counts of interest:
42 = Chubb
17 = Duke Johnson
09 = Dontrell Hilliard
39 = Callaway
36 = Landry
22 = Higgins
13 = Perriman
49 = Coleman
22 = Ito Smith
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