The circus has left town for Adrian Peterson. I’m calling it. I believed this before Monday night but I consider it confirmed. You knew Peterson would be at this best for his first game in another uniform against his former team and in the city he called his NFL home for 10 years. The result was just six carries for 18 yards and no touchdowns.
And here’s the thing: It was totally predicable.
Let’s look at the revenge games of running backs in the all-time top 20 in rushing yards when they first appeared against their former team after turning 30. The games were researched using the Pro-Football-Reference database.
100-yard games left
Emmitt Smith ARI
LaDainian Tomlinson NYJ
Edgerrin James SEA
Marcus Allen, KC
Thurman Thomas, MIA
Fred Taylor, NE
Steven Jackson, ATL
Corey Dillon, NE
Adrian Peterson, NO
You can see that Peterson performed, incredibly, at EXACTLY the median projection for attempts, yards and touchdowns. And you can also see that these performances are typically a sign that the end is near. Yes, Marcus Allen was an exception in a situational role mostly through his mid-30s in Kansas City, even after his quiet game against the Raiders and his arch nemesis, the now deceased owner Al Davis. And Corey Dillon had some gas in the tank, as he proved in his first game against his former Bengals teammates.
But even factoring those two backs in, along with Emmitt Smith who somehow managed two more 100-yard rushing days, the over/under for Peterson to crack the century mark again for the rest of his career is exactly 0.5 games. So if he does it once, that’s more than expected.
Peterson also has no real functionality in the Saints offense, which is predicated on having running backs who can excel in the passing game. He was only on the field for nine plays and six of them were runs to him. So, not much deception. Combine a declining talent with telegraphing the play call and you have a recipe for disastrous efficiency.
Hopefully, you don’t own Peterson. If you do, you’re probably going to reject this post-mortem. I’m really calling out here to Mark Ingram owners. Monday night was awful. But you had to know you were going to have to live through the Peterson experiment for at least three or four weeks. When Peterson fades away completely or is released (not by any means a stretch given his stare down with Sean Payton over his lack of snaps), Ingram will be a top 15 running back for certain in a Saints offense that should be high scoring as it always is with the incomparable Drew Brees. And even if the Saints defense is as bad as ever, Ingram is productive in the passing game as he showed in Week 1, too. And if you don’t own Ingram, I’d be making a call to the owner in my league who does. You might be able to get him for a guy like Chris Carson (not a real-life starter yet) or anyone who showed a pulse last weekend.
Different story in New England
Like with Peterson, people are questioning Tom Brady at age 40 the season being able to lead the Patriots offense as capably as we believed in light of his Week 1 stinker against the Chiefs.
I’m not worried at all about Brady given that NBC compared his release now and in 2006 and his release now is, somehow, even faster. And his arm strength was certainly good enough on the long strike to Brandin Cooks. I think the Patriots were just caught thinking that points weren’t going to be a priority and that they were going to function more as a ball-control offense once they moved out to the big lead. Then they weren’t able to get the momentum back after the Kansas City offense exploded in the second half. Remember, Brady could have easily had three TD passes given there were two pass interferences in the end zone and Gronkowski let a ball hit the ground (says the NFL) that he usually catches. If Brady struggles in New Orleans this week, it’s okay to worry. I put the odds of that at exactly 3%.
The bigger question for the Patriots is how we prioritize their running game. To me, Mike Gillislee is clearly the No. 1 guy because he’s getting TDs and the bulk of the carries in probably the highest-scoring offense in football. He’s a solid RB2 right now.
James White has the other defined role and should be a 80-carry, 70-catch player. Maybe 100 and 70. Those totals have been equalled or exceeded only 14 times the past 10 years. You need at least half-point PPR to make this work as a top 15-to-20 running back. But that is at least flex worthy even in standard. White should be projected as a top 25 going forward. It’s really important to note his rushing attempts this week to see if Week 1 was a fluke.
You can’t play Rex Burkhead right now until he does something and gets volume. At least then, he’s a plausible start, regardless of the eventual outcome. Dion Lewis should not even be rostered, though he is a good player. He just has no real functionality on this team.
My podcast partner Scott Pianowski says that many people are dropping Chris Hogan or at least thinking about it. I respect Scott’s sense of the market more than anyone. This was a bad day for Hogan owners but he got targets, was on the field virtually every snap and was even utilized as a runner. If you think the Patriots offense is going to look that bad all year, yes, Hogan is a drop. But we all know that won’t be the case. So Hogan to me is still in the top end of that WR3 tier given his QB and offense and I would jump at adding him if he ends up on the waiver wire.
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