Sometimes, fantasy players have it easy. We just want the points, the yards, the numbers. We don’t necessarily have to live and die with the actual outcomes of NFL games, if your Sunday experience is primarily defined by your fake teams.
I feel for any Bills or Vikings fans who went through the emotional turmoil of Sunday’s game at Buffalo. Oh, the Viking backers will surely savor the 33-30 overtime victory, and the game qualifies as an instant classic, albeit there were plenty of mistakes mixed in with the greatness. But given the ebb and flow of the game’s final hour, I wonder if the action was more torture or enjoyment.
Most of the stars answered the fantasy bell. Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs had a game of “Anything you can do, I can do better” — Diggs rang up a tasty 12-128-0 line, only to be outdone by Jefferson’s 10-193-1 detonation. Jefferson’s punctuation mark was his legendary fourth-and-18 reception to keep the Vikings alive, one of the best catches you’ll ever see:
The No. 1 receiver post has been an open ticket most of the year. Cooper Kupp wore that jersey for a while, but he’s been limited by poor quarterback play. Ja’Marr Chase got hurt just when he was spreading his wings. Tyreek Hill has been a monster most of the year, though he didn’t have his biggest game Sunday. Jefferson probably deserves the top spot for the moment, but this debate may never get settled. It’s a fun, loaded position.
If you needed backfield production in Buffalo, that box was checked, too. Most of Dalvin Cook’s day was defined by an 81-yard touchdown run, but we’ll take 22.10 fantasy points on any given Sunday. Touchdown deodorant carried Devin Singletary (13-47-2), leading to 15.2 points, his second-best outcome of the year.
Of course, quarterbacks largely decide who wins games, and Josh Allen and Kirk Cousins had their say, especially in the final minute of the fourth quarter.
The Vikings appeared dead when Cousins was stopped on a fourth-and-goal sneak attempt with 50 seconds left, turning the ball over at the Buffalo 1-yard line. But Allen couldn’t handle the ensuing snap, and the Vikings miraculously recovered the ball in the end zone, giving them a three-point lead.
Tyler Bass clicked on the chip shot, bring on the overtime — and more fantasy stats.
Minnesota posted a steady 12-play field-goal drive on the first possession of overtime, giving Allen his chance to match. But Allen ran out of answers in the red zone — after two lengthy runs and a couple of completions to Diggs, he threw a game-ending interception at the goal, into the hands of Patrick Peterson.
Buffalo’s no longer in first place in the AFC East, but the offense looks as fun as ever. Allen dealt with an elbow injury all week, but it didn’t seem to bother him on game day. Diggs continues to play like a first-round lock, Davis (6-93-1) bounced back after two messy games and Singletary has utility, especially during bye week season.
The Vikings go as Jefferson goes. Cousins somehow has just two 20-point games this year despite his strong supporting cast; he threw for 357 yards but just one touchdown against two picks at Buffalo. T.J. Hockenson snagged another seven catches, but they went for just 45 yards. At least he’s more involved than he was in Detroit.
Cook would land in the first round if we redrafted tomorrow; he’s scored touchdowns in five of seven games, and the Vikings treat him as a true bell cow. But is Adam Thielen finally slowing down at age 32? He’s sitting on just two touchdowns for the year, and he hasn’t topped 72 yards in any game. You rarely noticed him Sunday, a 5-49-0 showing on seven targets.
Buffalo and Minnesota aren’t perfect teams; far from it. But if Sunday stands as a Super Bowl preview, I’m certainly not going to complain.
• What is there left to say about Justin Fields? He’s the fastest guy on the field. He’s getting better as a passer, and better yet, his gifts as a runner will regularly allow him so many easy throws — just giveaway plays from a defense that’s petrified Fields is going to shred them on the ground. Go look at those recent Cole Kmet touchdowns again. Chicago’s defense is also a mess, which means the Bears carnival is alive and well. Good times.
• Apparently there is no matchup or game script that will push the Texans off of Dameon Pierce. He’s not exactly a league-winner, but he’s a reliable weekly starter at fantasy’s most critical position, and that’s good enough. His burst and vision jump off the screen every week.
• I don’t ask for much, I just want to see the Giants justifiably use Darius Slayton as their primary, featured wideout. The target share still isn’t where I’d want it to be — and of course New York rarely has a proactive passing offense, not that you need one against the Texans awful run defense — but at least things are trending in the right direction.
• D’Andre Swift is fantasy-unplayable until the Lions let him play something close to a full game. He’s used like a reliever who’s on a weekly pitch count of about one inning.
• Trevor Lawrence took too many sacks, but he continues to show improvement every week. And the Jaguars passing game featured the right guy, making Christian Kirk the constant focus (Kirk almost had a third touchdown, a drop inside the Kansas City 10-yard line). Travis Etienne is still underutilized in the passing game, but at least that’s trending in the right direction, too.
• The Colts and Packers didn’t light up the scoreboard, but at least they can be taken off the fantasy restricted list. That’s progress. It’s nice to welcome Michael Pittman back into the Circle of Trust, now that Matt Ryan is back in the saddle. And finally the Packers have one of their young receivers, Christian Walker, booted up to speed.
• And it was refreshing to see Jonathan Taylor have a smash game; he’s been taking all sorts of cheap shots from the Christian McCaffrey fantasy lobby. Sure, McCaffrey is a terrific player, not that we truly saw that Sunday night. But I can’t fault anyone who used an early 2022 pick on Taylor. Sometimes you make a good call and the runout kicks you in the shins. But Taylor can still make it up to you.
• Why did I not bet everything to my name on the Broncos-Titans under?
• Isiah Pacheco did fine as a runner and apparently was allowed to run some routes, though he’s still stuck on 13 receiving yards for the year. His upside is probably borderline flex play, maybe a low-end RB2 in some of the remaining bye weeks. But I don’t see much to get excited about here. Give the Chiefs credit, they didn't mothball Pacheco after an early fumble.
• No one is silly enough to suggest Colt McCoy is better than Kyler Murray, but the Cardinals probably benefited Sunday having a quarterback who ran some version of a conventional offense. Murray is like a talented-but-erratic point guard where you never know what his next move is. McCoy’s limited as a talent, but at least the other guys in the offense know what the snap-to-snap concept is. Perhaps this is just a roundabout way of suggesting the Kliff Kingsbury-Murray relationship looks irreparable.