So much happens in any given Sunday of the NFL season. It’s hard to keep track of it all. More importantly, it’s quite a lot to decide what we should value as signal and what we should just ignore as noise. In this space, I’ll go through all that I watched in Week 6 and give you the five things I care about coming out of Sunday along with five things I can’t muster up the emotional energy to care about.
5 things I care about
Chicago Bears offense puts together back-to-back strong outings. In no way was their Week 6 offering as squeaky clean as their breeze through Tampa Bay before the bye week, but the Bears have now stacked two 450-plus total-yard games. Miami isn’t the stiffest of test defensively, but this was a needed signal. Mitchell Trubisky certainly made a few throws that caused you to raise an eyebrow. He remained aggressive, however, and he averaged north of 10 air yards per attempt. With Trubisky stringing together positive signals, we can safely boost the stock of these Bears skill-position players. Trey Burton and Allen Robinson have touchdowns in back-to-back games and Taylor Gabriel cleared the century mark for the second-straight week. Tarik Cohen saw fewer touches (12 to 14) than Jordan Howard but was the clear leading asset in the passing game and scooted in for a 21-yard rushing score. It’s clear his dynamism must continue to be a focal point of this offense.
Philip Rivers being in the MVP discussion. Early favorites for the award would include Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes, with Tom Brady a lock to weasel his way in. However, we need to squeeze the Chargers quarterback into the discussion. Coming into Week 6, Rivers ranked top-three in passer rating and touchdown rate with a completion rate over 70 percent. Rivers’ Chargers throttled the Browns on the road in this game and the quarterback posted another economical stat line. The Chargers are never the most comfortable team to trust but are now 4-2 in the weak AFC and will face the Titans before their Week 8 bye before returning to dates with the Seahawks, Raiders, Broncos and Cardinals. Rivers should remain a safe fantasy producer. While Melvin Gordon may well be the most prolific scorer in the offense, the quarterback will always get better odds in MVP conversations. The veteran passer deserves to be in that group right now as the rising tide that raises all boats here.
Austin Hooper and David Njoku entering Sunday Night Football as the TE1 and 2 on the week. With how often we’ve bemoaned the state of the tight end position, seeing two young players we hope will make the leap at the top of the leaderboard is lovely. Week 6 was Hooper’s second-straight game with nine catches and over 70 yards. He’s had 22 targets in that span. Hooper might even get more opportunity in this elite offense going forward if Calvin Ridley’s (ankle) and Mohamed Sanu’s (hip) early exits from the game turn into extended absences. Njoku saw 11 targets last week and another 12 in Week 6. He has 13 receptions for 124 yards and a score during this stretch. At the tight end position, that’s more than enough to declare Njoku a hit in the Baker Mayfield era.
Ito Smith. It’s hard to say to what degree I care about Ito Smith but in some way, the feelings are there. Smith is clearly a gifted runner who can make people miss. He has three touchdowns in as many weeks and continues to show why the team wants him to have a place in the backfield. Perhaps he just remains a thorn in the side of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman backers as well as an occasional razor-thin dart throw due to the nature of this high-powered offense. However, with Freeman a massive injury concern playing on a bloated contract and Coleman set to hit free agency, Smith is a strong sleeper bet for 2019.
Albert Wilson. Listen, anytime I can factually state that Albert Wilson exits the Sunday action as not just a WR1 but the second-highest scoring player at the position while playing with Brock Osweiler, I’m going to do just that. The #BertAlert onslaught that we got today was glorious. No, a recommendation that you should flex Wilson next week is unlikely to follow, but just let me have this one. However, he does get the Lions in Week 7…
5 things I don’t care about
Everyone’s “what to do with James Conner” questions. As soon as Le’Veon Bell elected to not show up for Week 1, all bets were off as to when he’d return. The common assumption is that he’ll return during the Steelers Week 7 bye, despite Adam Schefter’s report that he’s had no contact with the team. It’s important to realize that 99.5 percent of us in the football universe have the same amount of information, which is quite minimal. The only human who truly knows what will happen next is Bell himself. This situation has not followed any sort of plottable, logical path so far. It’s foolish to declare anything with much certainty right in this moment since nothing has gone to plan so far. The take from all this: hold onto James Conner. He has 221 rushing yards, eight catches and four scores on the ground over the last two weeks now that Pittsburgh’s secondary has been fortified with the returns of Joe Haden and Mike Hilton. There’s no talent issue here. You shouldn’t try to trade him because the odds he remains the Steelers starting running back for a few more weeks may be greater than you’d expect. The odds of you pulling the wool over someone who isn’t eyeing a Bell return in the near future are next to zero.
Dallas’ offensive eruption. The Cowboys thumped the Jaguars 40-7 and went into halftime up by 24 unanswered points. The game was never in question. However, we should all collectively pass on placing any sort of stock in a rebound by the Dallas offense. It was clear to anyone who placed eyeballs on this game that Jacksonville’s highly-touted defense was going through the motions. The Cowboys line blasted open massive holes and the Jaguars were slow to the ball. Dak Prescott eluded defenders in the pocket to create wide-open passing lanes downfield, especially to Cole Beasley (9-101-2 TDs) in the middle of the field. Even rookie Michael Gallup hauled in a “Saturday touchdown,” where he secured a spectacular catch but failed to land his second foot on the end zone turf. While the Cowboys players hit today, we can be comfortable approaching their passing game as a full-fade while regarding Ezekiel Elliott as more of a safe floor play at RB1.
Anything to do with the Oakland Raiders’ offense. The chickens of employing some the streakiest players at their positions in the NFL came home to roost in a big way. Amari Cooper was catch-less before leaving the game after a grizzly hit. He was the subject of trade rumors prior to kickoff. Jared Cook performed his trademark vanishing act. Marshawn Lynch was game-scripted out of his second-straight contest. Martavis Bryant laid claim to a meaningless 44 percent share of the team air yards. It all came to a head behind center as a beleaguered Derek Carr offered up a painfully poor performance behind an offensive line that let him get drilled by a Seahawks defense that ranked 24th in sack rate from Weeks 1-5. Carr’s completions averaged just 0.1 air yards, according to the Next Gen Stats player tracking data. That is not a typo. The Raiders paid for Jon Gruden’s decision to arrive in London on Friday afternoon, a mere 53 hours before their kickoff. If you have an upcoming wager of fantasy decision that involves the Raiders, take the opposing side.
Antonio Callaway’s volume. Once again, the signals were here for the enigmatic rookie receiver. Antonio Callaway drew 10 targets and saw a team-high 130 air yards. He piddled his way to just two catches for nine yards against a secondary that was allowing plenty of passing production coming into Week 6. The rookie reminded us why the Browns were set on reducing his playing time before Rashard Higgins sustained a knee injury and Derrick Willies went on IR. Drops and miscues have been a consistent theme of his rookie campaign. Usually, we should blindly follow volume in fantasy football like mindless hogs to the troth. Callaway’s rookie season is turning out to be an outlier to that rule.
Peyton Barber’s RB9 Week 6 finish. For the first time all season, a Tampa Bay running back posted a usable fantasy line. Too bad it wasn’t Ronald Jones, who some were willing to tepidly declare a deep sleeper heading into this matchup. Instead, Peyton Barber led the way and tacked on four catches and a receiving touchdown to his 82 rushing yard finish. Just ignore this. Tampa Bay finished with 41 pass attempts to just 14 running back carries. The Bucs defense will almost never find them in positive game scripts to emphasize the ground game. Any stat line against the Falcons and their shredded defensive middle of the field should come with an asterisk. Continue to chase and ride along with the Bucs as a voluminous and effective passing game, but don’t go chasing waterfalls with their backfield.