Fantasy Football Booms and Busts: Bengals hit the jackpot against Falcons in Week 7

The first NFL window on Sunday in Week 7 wasn’t particularly fantasy friendly. Five of the seven games went under the total. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn’t handle the hapless Carolina Panthers. The Green Bay Packers still look broken. The Detroit Lions carnival might be dead.

But let’s give thanks for Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals. They want us to be happy.

Burrow went bananas against the Falcons, chucking for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone. Burrow ultimately settled for 481 yards on the day, adding a fourth touchdown on the ground. He’s separated himself as the No. 1 quarterback of the week.

When Burrow has a big game, it means several fantasy options are going to pay off. The Bengals have a condensed target tree. Ja’Marr Chase broke the game for the second straight week (8-130-2) while Tyler Boyd added 8-155-1. Tee Higgins didn’t have his signature game, but a 5-93-0 return is fine. And we’ll take 6-48-0 from Hayden Hurst, given how ugly tight end is this year.

Ja'Marr Chase was one of several Bengals to deliver for fantasy managers on Sunday. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Ja'Marr Chase was one of several Bengals to deliver for fantasy managers on Sunday. (Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Joe Mixon was held to 3.4 yards a carry, but he still collected 20 touches, 91 yards and a score. That’s fine. Backup Samaje Perine touched the ball just four times.

Cincinnati started the season slowly, perhaps because of Burrow’s summer appendectomy or the addition of several new offensive linemen. Burrow was sacked 13 times in the first two games, both losses. But things have jelled nicely since, in part because the protection has improved, while Burrow has sharpened his game.

The schedule looks fun, too. Cleveland and Carolina come the next two weeks — below-average defenses. This is a wheels-up offense going forward. The Bengals then take their bye in Week 10.

The Falcons don’t have a bye until Week 14, but Arthur Smith could use a timeout right now. The Atlanta head coach has no idea how to unlock the downfield playmakers in his offense. Although the Falcons trailed for almost a full three hours at Cincinnati, Marcus Mariota attempted just 13 passes.

Some of the blame is Mariota’s of course — he took three sacks, and his limited upside is why the Falcons insist on being so run-heavy. But given the game script, it’s a sin to give Drake London just one target. Kyle Pitts was thrown to five times, but they didn’t amount to much (three catches, nine yards).

No one in the Atlanta backfield had much running room Sunday, though Tyler Allgeier made the most of his volume (16-50-1) and took a roll of touchdown deodorant. The lone passing touchdown was a fluky 75-yard pass to Damiere Byrd.

In a year with more fantasy bricks than right answers, the Falcons look like another one of the wrong-answer teams.

Speed Round

• It was easy to laugh off one Parris Campbell blowup game, but two in a row earns some credibility. The Colts also threw to their backs proactively, perhaps to the detriment of their tight ends. Either way, this looks like it could be Matt Ryan’s last season.

• Mike Vrabel is at least a Top 5 coach, maybe a Top 3 coach. The Titans are back in business at 4-2, despite injuries, and other than Derrick Henry, this is fantasy nowhere.

Lamar Jackson hasn’t been sharp in a month. The Ravens don’t merely want Rashod Bateman to be great, they need him to be great. Sunday was a step in the right direction for Bateman, at least.

• I wanted to see a prove-it game from Gus Edwards before viewing him as a fantasy starter; reasonable, given the kid gloves J.K. Dobbins was handled with. Alas, Edwards immediately stepped into a featured role, and while he'll never catch many passes, he has tons of goal-line equity. For all of Jackson's physical gifts, his touchdown runs are generally home runs, not the short Jalen Hurts vulture type of stuff.

• Who’s more broken at the moment, Tampa Bay or Green Bay? Tom Brady at least has better infrastructure around him, though Mike Evans is also on his own back nine. Maybe one of these teams gets fixed, maybe neither team does. I would’t count on both teams solving their ills.

• The Dallas-Detroit game wasn’t as lopsided as the final score suggests; the teams were even in yards per play, and Dallas merely had 18 more yards overall. A Jamaal Williams fumble at the goal — his first fumble as a pro — was the key play, but Detroit overall had five turnovers.

Ezekiel Elliott took what looked like a kill shot to his knee but was no worse for wear. He’s like a starting pitcher in this offense, logging the heavy innings, while Tony Pollard comes in like a relief pitcher, throwing 99 with his hair on fire. The Cowboys are winning, so nothing is going to change. At least Pollard is holding stand-alone fantasy value. Remember when we thought A.J. Dillon could do that?

• When I tabbed Aaron Jones as a perfect second-round pick, the idea was that he’d be heavily targeted in the Green Bay passing game. Some weeks the Packers have gone away from this completely, Sunday they probably threw to Jones too much. But in a reasonable world, he should see 5-8 targets a week. He’s the best offensive option they have.

Brian Robison looked okay behind a Washington line that isn’t anything special. But I’d like to see more work in the passing game; his two targets Sunday were his first as a pro. Taylor Heinicke didn’t play well, but he got a win — he’ll keep the gig for now — and he forced the ball to Terry McLaurin. That puts McLaurin back in the circle of trust, even if Heinicke winds up being a poor man’s imitation of Jameis Winston.

Wan’Dale Robinson was headed for a big day before leaving with an injury (Week 7 was an awful injury week). Darius Slayton has two usable lines sandwiched around a no-show, but the Giants are unlikely to ever truly feature him. It’s possible no wideout in this offense is playable past a high-end WR4, given that the team is winning games with its current approach.

• No one was surprised to see Travis Etienne surpass James Robinson, but this should be a 60-40 or 70-30 (at most) split. Robinson finishing with zero carries and one target Sunday doesn’t really make sense.

• Hate to see Breece Hall — a superstar talent — get hurt, likely a torn ACL. But Michael Carter becomes an instant every-week starter now that he’s back in the pilot’s chair. New York’s defense is good enough to keep games competitive, and Zach Wilson isn’t getting better. Heck, he might be regressing.

Dameon Piece is getting his touches no matter what game script Houston falls into. He’s schedule proof. A number of contenders should phone the Texans on Brandin Cooks. He’s just what the Chargers or Packers need (Green Bay is unlikely to recognize or act on this; heck, they’d bring back Jordy Nelson before they made a logical move).

Isiah Pacheco picked up a start and it was reasonable if you picked him up, too. But his upside is likely capped given that Kansas City still wants to use three backs, they occasionally run de-facto running plays to their pass-catchers around the goal, and Pacheco is rarely used as a pass-catcher himself.

• I surely don't see Deebo Samuel cratering, but it's plausible he'll be less of a slashy type of player now that Christian McCaffrey is San Francisco's new toy. Samuel had just one carry Sunday.