Fantasy Football Booms and Busts, Week 12: Mike White smashes in 2022 debut

The New York Jets have built one of the most interesting young rosters in the NFL. The defense is already nasty and formidable. The offense has interesting skill talent, especially at the wide receiver position. All that’s been missing with the 2022 Jets is a quarterback — which is a little like saying a steakhouse is wonderful except for their lousy steaks.

But maybe Mike White is here to save the day.

White started in place of Zach Wilson on Sunday against Chicago, and White’s 2022 debut was gorgeous. He completed 22-of-28 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns. He didn’t turn the ball over and he was sacked just once. The Jets racked up 466 yards of offense, easily their best output of the year — and a seismic jump from last week’s 103-yard clown show against the Patriots.

We have to temper some of the White enthusiasm — the Bears have one of the five worst defenses in the league. This was a cushy landing spot. But they don’t hand out wins or big passing days at the airport; you have to earn them. White did a nice job with play-action, stuck a few tight-window throws, and didn’t miss when his receivers had separation.

Scout the highlights for yourself, see what you think. I certainly was impressed.

Mike White immediately made Garrett Wilson a fantasy factor again, giving the Jets passing game hope. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike White immediately made Garrett Wilson a fantasy factor again, giving the Jets passing game hope. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Garrett Wilson was the big winner in the passing game, snagging five catches for 95 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Wilson’s first score was a defensive bust, the second score a showcase of his elite talent. Wilson also secured a crisp slant pass on New York’s second snap of the day, a harbinger of the White-to-Wilson connections to come. It was a blast to watch Wilson spread his wings; he plays with an infectious joie de vivre, and can win on so many different routes.

White only targeted Elijah Moore twice, but they went for a 40-yard chunk and a 22-yard touchdown. Not long ago Moore was begging his way off the Jets roster; he’s back in play now, especially if the target share grows in coming games.

Tyler Conklin didn’t light the world on fire, but 3-50-0 is a playable line in the Great Tight End Drought of 2022. Conklin received a couple of easy pitch-and-catch completions when the Jets put White on the move. Boot action — it’s so pretty when it works.

White targeted 10 teammates for the day, and only Wilson had more than three looks. If the distribution remains this wide, perhaps Wilson is the only pass-catcher we can trust in New York. But at least we have some hope with this passing game, a unit that looked dead a few weeks back.

White is not a pedigree prospect, of course. The Cowboys took him as a fifth-round pick in 2018, but he was cut after spending one year as a third-string quarterback. The Jets added White in 2019 and subsequently waived him several times, shuffling him between the practice squad and the active roster. If the rest of the league had interest in White, any team could have landed him cheaply on multiple occasions. No one nibbled.

White isn’t guaranteed to keep this starting gig through the season, though he’s never going to be benched if he continues to produce. Perhaps the upcoming schedule works to his benefit. The leaky Vikings defense waits next week — the same unit that made Mac Jones look like a Manning brother on Thanksgiving. Buffalo will be a challenge in Week 14, but everyone envies a Detroit date after that.

The Jets backfield has a lot of moving parts. James Robinson was a surprising healthy scratch on Sunday, clearing the runway for Michael Carter, but Carter injured his ankle and had just eight touches. Ty Johnson (78 total yards, touchdown) was the beneficiary of the Carter injury, and unknown Zonovan Knight (14-69-0) picked up some clock-killing work. Knight did have one fumble, though the Jets retained the ball.

So we’ll have backfield detective work to do for the next few days. But so long as the White-to-Wilson show remains in the air, the Jets are welcome on one of my main TVs. This should be a fun team, and a dangerous playoff opponent.

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Speed Round

Josh Jacobs dominated the day and I can’t think of a player I was more wrong on before the season (though several contenders exist, believe me on that). Nonetheless, if I could roster any running back moving forward, Austin Ekeler looks like the No. 1 guy. He’s scored 12 touchdowns and he’s sitting on 98 targets, which is 25 more than second-place Christian McCaffrey. If your league has any kind of PPR component, Ekeler is breaking the game. His scoring will be a lot more consistent than Jacobs's, too.

• Is the glass half full of half empty for Isiah Pacheco? You love 22 carries and he even had a catch, picking up 17 more yards. He had a slew of red-zone work but only scored once, and he averaged a modest 3.3 yards a carry. With a dreamy game-script setup, Pacheco currently sits as the RB15 this week. Not every opponent will be this overmatched.

Treylon Burks continues to look the part of a first-round pick, and while Tennessee will never be a throw-first offense, at least Ryan Tannehill is a plus quarterback. Along with Wilson and Christian Watson, we’re seeing some rookie wideouts pick up their games in the second half.

• Meanwhile, Dameon Pierce continues to be submarined by all the problems in Houston. Pierce has a chance to do something useful next week against Cleveland’s leaky run defense, but after that the schedule gets nasty again (Dallas, Kansas City, Tennessee). Pierce also hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 5.

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• It wasn’t much of a day for tight ends, where no one saw ten targets, no one scored more than one touchdown (Dalton Schultz did get two Thursday), and no one who was inside the Top 12 cutline entering the week had more than 57 yards. Travis Kelce had a quiet for him 4-57-1 line, and he’s still the TE4 entering Monday’s play. The recent injuries at this position have left fantasy managers scrambling, and a number of NFL teams are content treating this as a platoon position.

• Sometimes being a heavy favorite can be a fantasy curse, as Miami showed us Sunday. The Texans didn’t fight back much, which led to the Dolphins, quite reasonably, pulling several prominent starters early. The Dolphins also had a defensive score (stealing a possession from its offense), a tight-end troll score (hiya, Durham Smythe), and an injury to starting tailback Jeff Wilson. Tua Tagovailoa would have sailed over 400 yards and challenged for 500-plus against a different opponent.

Of course, be careful what you wish for. The challenges are coming for Miami during a treacherous three-game road trip: at the Niners, at the Chargers, at the Bills. The Patriots are also looming in Week 17.

• That's the best I've seen Trevor Lawrence play, negotiating an inspiring comeback against a strong, and well-coached, opponent. The Jaguars don't have bad skill talent, but this receiver room still lacks a true alpha. Perhaps Calvin Ridley can be that man next year, or maybe Jacksonville can draft into a target hog. A healthy Lawrence can probably have Andrew Luck's career, and there's the potential for something better than that.

• All we wanted from Sam Darnold was to make DJ Moore relevant again, and not give the game away after the Panthers grabbed a lead. Check, check. A 10-point lead over the Broncos is like a 21-point lead elsewhere. If not for some charitable officiating, Denver would have finished with three points. It's sad to see Russell Wilson's game deteriorate to this level. The Broncos are so unwatchable, they're probably going to force NBC to flex away from Patrick Mahomes in Week 14.

• Every team in the NFC South has a losing record. Carolina is the longest shot to win, but I'm rooting for those guys. They play hard every week. Maybe Darnold can be the game manager Baker Mayfield never could be. The defense isn't bad, the offense has some fun skill players. They're the poor man's version of the Jets.

• If not for one glorious afternoon against the Raiders, Alvin Kamara would be sitting on zero touchdowns. The Saints probably could have run 200 plays Sunday and not crossed the goal line. Kamara enters his age-28 season next year and could be looking at a league suspension. The Saints don't have an obvious path towards solving their quarterback problem. If Kamara does anything in December and gives you a keeper-league window to sell without giving him away, I suggest you take advantage.