There’s a lot of stress in the ordinary week of a fantasy football manager. There are injuries and bye weeks and bad weather and surprise inactives and coaching whims and officiating mistakes. The ball bounces funny for all of us.
But sometimes you just have to focus on what makes you happy. And no one wants to make you fantasy happy in 2022 like the Detroit Lions.
We’re always on the lookout for a fantasy carnival, and this Detroit outfit might be a legendary one. The Lions lead the NFL in points scored and points allowed, which is a pretty nifty trick. And Seattle’s wild 48-45 win at Detroit on Sunday hit every high note for our fantasy quest.
It didn’t matter that the game was piloted by one ostensibly average quarterback (Jared Goff) and one legitimate journeyman (Geno Smith). It didn’t matter that Detroit was missing three cogs from its offense, stars Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift, plus solid veteran D.J. Chark. It didn’t matter that Seattle played two low-scoring games to open the season, before letting its hair down a bit last week.
Sunday at Ford Field, the teams combined for 93 points, 1,075 yards of offense, and 12 touchdowns. The Lions punted just twice, the Seahawks never did. The pinball arcade never closes. The points keep rolling in.
Astoundingly, every logical fantasy play in this game came home. All the main Seahawks answered the bell: Rashaad Penny ran for 151 yards and two scores, D.K. Metcalf (7-149-0) and Tyler Lockett (6-91-0) were liberally used, even tight ends Will Dissly and Noah Fant scored touchdowns. Smith finished with 320 passing yards and three total touchdowns (two air, one ground).
The Lions offense smashed even without its missing stars. Jamaal Williams was about as obvious a play as it gets — he’s fantasy-playable even when Swift is active — and he collected 108 rushing yards and two scores. T.J. Hockenson finally rallied off a slow start, binging for eight catches, 179 yards, two scores, even a conversion catch. In the great tight end drought of 2022, we love to see it. And if you had the gumption to try Josh Reynolds as a fill-in receiver, he did just fine: 7-81-1.
At the beginning of the year, we pitched Goff as a possible streamer QB or a good idea in Superflex. But maybe he’s legitimately inside the QB1 cutline, given how fun his offense is and how lousy the Lions defense is. Goff racked up 378 yards and four touchdowns in catchup mode, along with a pair of two-pointers (one run, one pass). The Lions are unlikely to challenge for a playoff spot, but it’s not Goff’s fault.
It’s a good reminder that in fantasy football, the names don’t matter. We just want the numbers.
On a day when Buffalo at Baltimore was billed as the fantasy buffet, Goff and Smith stole the show. They’re currently ranked first and second, respectively, on the Week 4 QB board (Josh Allen is third). There are plenty of surprise top-10 finishes as we hit dinnertime on the east coast — Daniel Jones, Zach Wilson, Matt Ryan and Cooper Rush have crashed the party. Jones got there largely through their willingness to run.
Penny currently sits No. 3 among running backs, Williams No. 4. And maybe we’re burying the lead — Hockenson is currently the No. 1 scorer in all of fantasy football for Week 4. Welcome to the party, pal. In total, the game accounted for four of the top six scorers as of this writing.
The sustainability of Detroit’s carnival will be tested in upcoming weeks. Detroit gets New England in Week 5, Dallas in Week 7, Miami in Week 8 and Green Bay in Week 9, along with a Week 6 bye. There isn’t a soft mark in that group, not on defense anyway. But maybe we should not sweat the matchups so much, just let Goff & Company cook.
The Seahawks travel to New Orleans next week, traditionally a tricky spot. After that, it’s the Cardinals, Chargers and Giants. It’s encouraging to see Penny taking over in this backfield — Kenneth Walker (8-29-0) was not effective in his return to Michigan. And while Smith is no Pro Bowl candidate, we just want him to be good enough to keep the offense on schedule, and to focus on Metcalf and Lockett. Lately, that’s been the case.
• Although the Giants have a credible offensive line, the unit otherwise is not supporting Saquon Barkley much. The receiver room is a joke. Daniel Jones, who has been okay given his lack of help, might be hurt. But Barkley has a mammoth, protected role, and at least there are some holes to run through. His explosion is back. Any running back can get hurt; if you walked into a fresh draft, you could take Barkley as RB1 and he'd probably never get past RB3.
• Kenny Pickett gives the Steelers a chance. Maybe two of the picks were not his fault. He's going to make mistakes, but so what? Mitch Trubisky has a very low ceiling. Might as well give yourself a chance and let Pickett learn by playing, which is much better than making him wait and delaying any development. So long as he doesn't have the confidence smacked out of him, it's the right move. And you have to press play on George Pickens now.
• I wanted to see the Bills commit to Devin Singletary for two straight weeks, which they did. That's a circle of trust event. Josh Allen is still their goal-line back, but at least Zack Moss and James Cook are hardly touching the ball.
• I suppose Cordarrelle Patterson was limited for health reasons, but his value takes a shot given how good Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley looked. Meanwhile, Marcus Mariota was joltingly bad, and Arthur Smith seemed to lose confidence in him. Drake London might have a capped ceiling, and this team, sadly, is not equipped to take advantage of Kyle Pitts. Pitts is too good to be a bust, but he's more likely to be TE 10 than TE 3 or 4, where he was proactively drafted.
• Somehow the Cardinals comfortably won a football game and I actually like their offense less after the result. Then again, what does beating Baker Mayfield's Panthers really mean? Mayfield is capable of sinking D.J. Moore, and Christian McCaffrey is struggling to tread water. OC Ben McAdoo has culpability here, too.
• Josh Jacobs had a huge game in a Raiders victory. Sound familiar? A lot of backs are game-flow dependent, but Jacobs needs Las Vegas to win to hold value. For his career, he has 26 touchdowns in 22 Raiders wins, and four touchdowns in 25 Raiders losses. That's stark. Oh, and Jacobs has never caught a touchdown pass. Unless you see the Raiders back in the playoffs, I use Week 4 as a possible sell-high window.
• If I knew for sure Derrick Henry will keep this proactive passing role, I'd easily consider him a first-round staple going forward. The Titans are late to the idea that it's smart for Henry to occasionally be tackled by the small guys on the defense, not the behemoths in the middle of the line.
• The Packers had two rogue touchdowns on Sunday, but most of the usage and yardage went to a core four of Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Romeo Doubs, and Allen Lazard. Ignore Christian Watson's touchdown — he hardly played otherwise. Green Bay's offense lacks the upside of previous seasons, but no Aaron Rodgers team is going to be bad, and his support players might prove to be better than initially expected.
• All anyone wanted with Justin Jefferson was some creativity in the offensive design, and a commitment of volume. The Vikings steered into that Sunday, and despite Kirk Cousins missing several throws, they scored a victory. Adam Thielen and Irv Smith were the only other targets to get more than two looks, which is good for our purposes. Dalvin Cook looked like what he is, a running back playing hurt.
• Chris Olave is special and his fantasy value is inelastic — it doesn't matter who the quarterback is. Jameis Winston isn't ideal, though he'll throw those YOLO balls, and Andy Dalton isn't a long-term solution. But the Saints could start Archie Manning tomorrow and I'd still want to use Olave.
• Javonte Williams is likely to miss significant time and maybe the season, which might actually be good for Russell Wilson. Not that you want to lose talented guys, but this will be the Wilson offense forward, and at least Wilson brought back his useful improvisation skills the last two weeks. Melvin Gordon has been a walking mistake all year, but he has to play now. And although Mike Boone is probably a JAG, he deserves waiver-wire attention, too. Usage is usage, and any backfield that simplifies down to two players has to be taken seriously.
• For three quarters, Zach Wilson played like he'd never been coached. But he rallied in the fourth and stole a win against a respectable team, even if the Steelers are down this year. New York's line seems to have moving parts every week, but the skill talent can elevate Wilson. I see a wide range of Wilson outcomes — we really have no idea if he's good or not — but I'm excited to find out.
• As much fun as the James Robinson comeback has been, his first three games were largely dependent on breakaway runs, and that's not really his game. His success rate was a little disappointing. I think I was justified to project the Jaguars would use Travis Etienne proactively in the passing game if they fell into a negative game script, but Jacksonville trailed for long stretches at Philadelphia and showed no interest in Etienne as a receiver. Maybe they know something we don't.
• I've long been a Mo-Alie Cox fan,so maybe I shouldn't quibble on a day when he scores two touchdowns. But the Colts want to use three tight ends, which messes up the fantasy value of all of them. Matt Ryan used to be a quarterback who could throw to his tight ends, but it wasn't his featured style. His current reliance on the between-the-numbers jumbo targets underscores his erosion as a player.