The NFL has been an entity since 1920. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified just two days before the American Professional Football Conference’s official founding on August 20, 1920. Woodrow Wilson was president.
In the thousands of games, billions in T.V. dollars and one World War since, a lot has happened. Something that had never happened before Sunday? A quarterback throwing for seven touchdowns while posting a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. The feat was accomplished by Nick Foles, a player 555 days removed from being the No. 88 overall pick of the 2012 draft, and making his ninth career start. You may know Foles from such other starts as “Week 7,” where he completed 11-of-29 passes for 80 yards (2.76 yards per attempt) before departing with a concussion.
But there he was 14 days later, not only posting the 35th perfect QB rating in NFL history, but tying the all-time record with seven touchdown passes in four quarters of play. Foles had more TDs than incompletions (six) against a Raiders defense that entered Week 9 having surrendered only 10 touchdown passes in seven games. No player had ever thrown for more touchdowns than incompletions in a game where they passed for at least 400 yards.
What does it all mean? First, that for all we know, there’s more we don’t. Foles was Rotoworld’s No. 14 quarterback for Week 9, just one spot ahead of his experts consensus rank. In other words, a player universally regarded as a QB2 — and coming off one of the worst quarterback performances of the season — had what could be reasonably argued as the greatest start of all time.
Second, Michael Vick’s job? Let’s just say it’s on thin ice. For the season, Foles now boasts a 13:0 TD:INT ratio, which he’s accomplished in 118 pass attempts. That is not to leave out his rushing touchdown. Vick, meanwhile, has gone 5:3 across 141 attempts, and has only one more score on the ground. No, Foles is not offering nearly as much as a runner. He has 42 yards on 12 attempts, Vick 308 on 34. But he’s generated twice as many touchdowns in roughly two thirds the snaps, and is outpacing Vick in every meaningful passing category. Foles equaled Vick’s season passing TD total in 30:46 on Sunday.
Is it possible it’s still a mirage? We’d venture anything is possible for a player who went from Foles’ Week 7 to his Week 9. But coach Chip Kelly will probably be inclined to give some rope to a player coming off one of the very best performances in the 93-year history of the NFL. Vick’s health could make the decision even easier. Vick felt a “pop” in his hamstring in last week’s loss, and could realistically be sidelined through Philadelphia’s Week 12 bye.
On top of everything else, owner Jeffrey Lurie has publicly stated that finding a franchise quarterback is the team’s No. 1 priority. At the very least, hasn’t Foles proven worthy of seven more games of evaluation? Especially when the alternative is an increasingly injury-prone 33 year old? The worst that could happen is a 4-5 team realizes he’s not the quarterback of the future and moves on. Barring injury or another 11-for-29 dud, Foles should — and likely will — be under center to stay in Philadelphia. A lot can happen in 93 years, but the same is also true of three weeks. Foles is a testament to both.
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1. Case Keenum
For his NFL debut, Keenum came within a whisker of beating the AFC’s best defense on the road. For his follow up, he came within a missed field goal of sending the division-leading Colts — a team that’s beaten the Broncos, 49ers and Seahawks — to overtime. He did so by relentlessly targeting his No. 1 receiver, finding Andre Johnson for nine catches, 229 yards and three touchdowns. But he didn’t just target Johnson, but target him downfield. It’s why Keenum averaged over 10 yards per attempt for the second straight game, and now has 11 plays of 25-plus yards in only eight quarters of play. It’s possible Sunday will go down as Keenum’s rookie high-water mark. The word — and film — is out to opposing defenses that this is a quarterback they have to take seriously. Ds are going to be cracking down on Keenum’s already-patented rollouts, while Arizona on the road in Week 10 is a particularly imposing matchup. But Keenum has all but buried Matt Schaub, and now has eight more games to turn his underdog story into a starting job for 2014.
2. Chris Johnson
CJwhateverK entered Week 9 averaging 2.39 yards per carry over his past four games and 46 totes, and 3.2 YPC on the season. The Rams represented the beginning of what was supposedly a soft stretch-run schedule. So did Johnson take advantage? Only to the tune of 23 carries, 150 yards and his first two rushing touchdowns of the year. The big day came amidst threats from the Titans coaching staff to start giving Shonn Greene 15 carries per game (he got nine). It also came against a run defense that’s made one-week stars out of many the past few seasons, but big days have been hard to come by for Johnson against any opponent. Now he gets a similarly soft Jaguars D in Week 10, and at least for one week, is back amongst the RB2s.
3. Tom Brady
Brady had his full deck of offensive weapons for the first time all year in Week 8. When he struggled anyways, it was — rightly — interpreted as a sign that his slump might extend to the “season-long” variety. Turns out, all he needed was another week. With Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski both seven days healthier and Stevan Ridley out of the doghouse, Brady unleashed 432 yards and four scores on the Steelers. The four-touchdown effort was his first three-touchdown effort of 2013, while the yards were a new season high by 116. Now he gets the Patriots’ bye week to heal up, and could be joined by passing-down back Shane Vereen — a massive upgrade over Brandon Bolden — in Week 11. It might already be too late for some of Brady's fantasy owners, but he's finally out of the QB 10-12 wilderness.
1. Ryan Mathews
For the first time since early last season, Mathews entered Week 9 the subject of high expectations that weren’t a hope and a prayer. Coming off his first back-to-back 100-yard performances since December 2011, Mathews was squaring off with a Redskins defense allowing the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs. How did he respond? By getting seven carries in a game the Chargers lost in overtime. Why Mathews got only seven totes in a contest that was close throughout is a bit of a mystery, but his role isn’t. Thanks in part to his past failures, the Bolts don’t trust Mathews as more than an early-down pounder, and an early-down pounder isn’t what they wanted in Washington. It’s our latest humbling reminder that no matter the opponent, Mathews can’t be trusted as more than an RB3.
2. Darren McFadden
That should just about do it for McFadden’s contract drive. Adhering to DMC’s law — whatever can go wrong will — McFadden made it all of five carries before re-injuring his hamstring in the “same spot” he did in Week 4. Even without one of the league’s lengthiest injury histories, McFadden would be a poor bet to suit up in Week 10. With it, he’s a virtual certainty to sit out against the Giants, and quite likely to miss Week 11, as well.
3. Arian Foster
A man whose laundry list of ailments is beginning to rival McFadden’s? Foster’s. Playing through a hamstring injury, Foster departed without so much as a carry after his back flared up on Houston's opening drive. It means he’ll have touched the ball just four times in 27 calendar days if he’s active against the Cardinals, and will be at risk of aggravating two different injuries. Even were Foster to get healthy in time for Week 10, he’ll be squaring off with a run defense allowing only 3.5 yards per carry and 88.3 yards per game. The sell-high window on Foster is closed, and unlikely to be re-opened.
1. Now maybe play that kind of defense on the road, Jets?
2. Greg Schiano, who will write the forward to your book “There’s More Than One Way To Lose A Game”?
3. Indy, next time you face Andre Johnson, maybe roll some coverage his way?
Stats of the Week
Redskins FB Darrel Young scored as many rushing touchdowns Sunday as LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice have all season.
Speaking of Rice, he entered Week 9 averaging 2.81 yards per carry. He exits it averaging 2.67. That’s second-to-last among all qualified rushers. Only former teammate Willis McGahee (2.62) has been worse. Interestingly, current teammate Bernard Pierce is third worst at 2.71.
Terrelle Pryor leads the NFL with eight rushes of at least 20 yards.
Pryor’s 7.7 yards per carry also leads the NFL, though one player would be tied if he had enough rushes to qualify: Andre Ellington.
Andre Johnson’s three touchdowns Sunday were more than he had scored in his previous 20 games combined.
The All Sell High Team: QB Nick Foles/Case Keenum — We’re avowed fans of both players, but this is the classic “they’ll never be more valuable.” If you’ve got Foles or Keenum behind a Rodgers or Stafford, by all means, don’t wait a week to make a move. As Foles has proven, you never know what might happen week to week. RB Mike James — James had a great game, becoming the second straight back to run all over Seattle’s supposedly elite run defense. But this is an unproven player on a bad team, and nothing — least of all, workloads — can be taken for granted on a weekly basis. If James is your RB4/5, turn him into a WR2/3. WR Roddy White — This may seem like a sell low, but in reality, we have no idea what White will provide upon his apparently imminent return. Two days removed from his 32nd birthday, White is returning to matchups against the Seahawks and Darrelle Revis, and doesn’t have Julio Jones to deflect defensive attention. With many fantasy owners looking for late-season saviors, they could be willing to pay a pretty penny for White’s name and past production. Selling now is a risk — it’s hard to bet against a player like Roddy White — but a gamble worth taking. TE Tony Gonzalez — Gonzalez again proved that he remains physically capable of being a high-end TE1 in the first half of Sunday’s loss, catching five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. After the break, however, he again showed why he’s a weekly dice roll, getting held to one grab as the Panthers rolled extra coverage his way, ignoring the Drew Davis and Darius Johnsons of the world. The focal point of every opposing defensive coordinator, Gonzo’s stat lines are going to be hard to predict.
The All Buy Low Team: QB Philip Rivers — At this point in his career, Rivers is the kind of player owners will look for any reason to panic over. Two interceptions in a loss are as good as any. If you’re not as shored up as you’d like at quarterback, send out some feelers and see if you can get a locked-in QB1 on the cheap. RB LeSean McCoy — Let’s be real — Shady won’t be cheap. But with just 147 rushing yards over his past three starts and only two total touchdowns since Week 3, he’ll be cheaper than he should be. WR Josh Gordon — Perhaps the most wrongfully doubted player in fantasy football, Gordon’s owners will again be in a panic after he caught just three passes for 44 yards in Sunday’s win. Take advantage and make him your new WR1/2 at a WR2/3 price. TE Jordan Cameron — The same is true of Gordon’s teammate. Cameron’s owners stopped believing in him the second Brian Hoyer went down for the season, but Cameron hasn’t stopped producing. Don’t dramatize his one-catch Week 9. It was a bad game. Every player has them. Cameron is and was a top-five tight end.
Week 9 Fantasy All Pro Team: QB Nick Foles, RB Zac Stacy, RB Chris Johnson, WR Andre Johnson, WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Riley Cooper, TE Rob Gronkowski, TE Jimmy Graham
Most Absurd Moment of Week 9: This throw from Jeff Tuel should suffice, wouldn’t you say?
Least Valuable Player, Non-Jeff Tuel Division: Ray Rice, what are you doing with your life?
Get well, Gary Kubiak and John Fox. Get gone, Richie Incognito.