Pittsburgh Steelers @ Los Angeles Rams
Diontae Johnson returned, and Najee Harris finally scored his first touchdown of the season during Pittsburgh’s upset in Los Angeles on Sunday (with some help from the crowd). A controversial finish followed a first half that featured zero plays inside the red zone. Kenny Pickett had a quiet fantasy day but got a career-high 9.2 YPA on the road against a Rams secondary that had been playing well (they’ve allowed just one touchdown to a wide receiver all season). Johnson’s return was a big help, but George Pickens still led Pittsburgh in targets (eight) and yards (106). Both benefitted from Pat Freiermuth’s absence.
Jaylen Warren also ran in a touchdown, although he failed to score more fantasy points than Harris for the first time this season. Harris made some key broken tackles, and it’s important to remember their different roles when comparing his surface efficiency stats to Warren's. Harris will remain Pittsburgh’s lead back while healthy.
Matthew Stafford already has more scrambles in 2023 (10) than he did during the entire 2021 season and finished Sunday’s loss with a completion percentage over expectation (-19.7) in the third percentile. Puka Nacua saw five more targets than Cooper Kupp and led all wide receivers with 154 receiving yards in Week 7. Nacua was one of the best players on the field throughout the league and finished as fantasy’s No. 4 WR on Sunday.
Kupp committed two drops in the opening 20 minutes and somehow recorded just 29 scoreless yards at home against a Pittsburgh secondary allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. It certainly didn’t help that the game script led to just 29 throws from Stafford. Tutu Atwell saw just two targets, but scored a long touchdown on a pass intended for Kupp:
— NFL (@NFL) October 22, 2023
Darrell Henderson (18) and Royce Freeman (12) saw all 30 of LA’s RB carries, with the former scoring and the latter being more efficient. In fairness to Sean McVay, he essentially told us his plan at running back by the time Sunday arrived, although those who (over)bid on Zach Evans (like myself) would’ve appreciated the clarity a few days earlier. Freeman and Henderson will be flex-worthy depending on future matchups (next week they go to Dallas) while Kyren Williams is on IR.
Both Pickens and Johnson committed 15-yard taunting penalties, with the latter offsetting a long PI flag.
Pickett slipped on a huge fourth-and-short toward the end of the game, but the refs erroneously ruled it a first down by an inch. With no timeouts and just seconds outside of the two-minute warning, the play wasn’t reviewed. Apparently, the new “all fourth-down plays are automatically challenged” rule only applies if the offense is stopped because NFL. Yikes.
Brett Maher flashed back to last season while missing three kicks, including an extra point try. Both field goals were long, but he shanked the second badly. I’d rather have watched Bill Maher kick Sunday (in all seriousness, I’m curious if McVay would’ve gone for two had the Rams rightfully gotten the ball back and then scored).
Lamar Jackson had a monster fantasy game against a Detroit defense ranked third in DVOA. He had a season-high in passing yards (255) and three touchdowns by halftime. Jackson was nothing short of fantastic Sunday and could’ve had an even bigger fantasy game if not for the blowout. Baltimore had outgained Detroit 325-13 in total yards and led 28-0 with 7:49 left in the second quarter, as Jackson improved to 16-1 (and undefeated at home) during his career versus NFC opponents.
Gus Edwards played just one more snap than Justice Hill but was given 10 more carries. Edwards also punched in a goal-line TD and took his only target 80 yards (without scoring) while finishing as a top fantasy back in Week 7. The Lions entered allowing the fewest fantasy points to running backs this season.
Jahmyr Gibbs’ first rushing touchdown of his career came in garbage time but counted all the same to fantasy managers. The rookie enjoyed a season-high 86% snap share with David Montgomery out and secured nine-of-10 targets during a highly encouraging performance.
Brian Hoyer finished with a -14.6 CPOE (sixth percentile) and was mercifully replaced by Aidan O’Connell down 30-6 in the fourth quarter after throwing a pick-six. AO’C was better while facing a prevent defense, but Las Vegas needs Jimmy Garoppolo back fast. Hoyer got 4.0 YPA against a Chicago passing D that entered allowing the third-most yards and the second-most touchdowns this season.
Josh Jacobs managed just 3.2 YPC and had a TD catch overturned, while Davante Adams dropped a sure touchdown in the third quarter. The Raiders elected to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal the next play despite being down 21-3 in the fourth quarter. It’s unclear if Josh McDaniels is trying to win.
Adams saw 12 targets, while Jakobi Meyers saw 13 and scored a garbage-time touchdown (from AO’C). Hoyer shouldn’t have started Sunday.
Tyson Bagent had an average depth of target in the first percentile, as it was the D’Onta Foreman show Sunday. Foreman saw 19 opportunities and recorded multiple beastly runs while totaling three touchdowns. He finished as fantasy’s No. 1 RB by a wide margin in Week 7. Foreman appeared banged up late in the fourth quarter (it could be nothing), which suddenly looks well worth monitoring given his role and impressive performance Sunday. Darrynton Evans saw just two fewer carries and is worth stashing in fantasy leagues.
DJ Moore was tackled at the two-yard line on a run (originally ruled a touchdown) and also nearly scored in the third quarter but had the ball knocked out of his hands at the last second in the end zone. He saw a healthy nine of Bagent Zero’s 29 pass attempts.
It failed, but the Raiders attempted the best onside kick of the season:
The Browns outlasted the Colts with help from the refs in a wild 39-38 game that featured the most lead changes (eight) in a game in four years.
Deshaun Watson was fortunate his fifth pass of the game wasn’t his second interception, but a big hit on the play ended his day. Watson was cleared of a concussion, but the team is being extra cautious with his shoulder injury. PJ Walker was less bad after replacing him.
The Browns have won their last two games despite their quarterbacks posting a 0:4 TD:INT ratio. Cleveland quarterbacks have recorded a combined 0:7 TD:INT ratio since Week 3!
Amari Cooper didn’t see a target in the first half and had a quiet game despite Cleveland scoring 39 points.
Jerome Ford took his first carry 69 yards to the house but didn’t do much else before leaving with an ankle injury. Kareem Hunt played through his own injury and scored two touchdowns, including the game-winner on fourth-and-goal. Hunt saw goal-line work even before Ford departed and suddenly looks incredibly valuable. Pierre Strong would be worth adding in fantasy leagues should Ford miss time, as the Browns are among the leaders in rush attempts per game.
Gardner Minshew threw for 300+ yards and totaled four touchdowns against the league’s best defense. Minshew had thrived against man-heavy schemes throughout his career, but no one saw this coming. He got 13.3 YPA against a defense that had allowed just one of five quarterbacks to reach 200 passing yards this season (and none had reached 225). Minshew lost three fumbles but had two touchdown runs while improbably finishing as a top fantasy QB in Week 7.
Jonathan Taylor committed a drop but made a nice catch-and-run in the third quarter before rushing in a touchdown. Taylor played one fewer snap than Zack Moss but ran five more routes. Both got 18 carries.
Michael Pittman Jr. couldn’t secure a would-be fourth-quarter touchdown, but his quiet day got loud quickly with a late 75-yarder to the house. Taylor is moving in the right direction, while Moss remains well worth using in fantasy leagues as well.
The Browns got a fortunate illegal contact call during a turnover late in the fourth quarter followed by a questionable pass interference flag on a ball that didn’t look catchable out of the end zone. The two shaky penalties weighed heavily in this game’s outcome.
The Bills already have as many losses as they had all last season, while the Patriots scored more points Sunday than they had over their previous three games combined.
Rhamondre Stevenson secured all six targets (and had a long play in the fourth quarter called back by a penalty) but was given two fewer carries (nine) than Ezekiel Elliott, who also punched in a goal-line score. It’s a tough fantasy situation at an RB position filled with them.
Josh Allen’s aDot (88th percentile) suggests he was healthy enough, but it took 12 targets for Stefon Diggs to get 58 receiving yards. Diggs had his streak of 100-yard games end at four, but he made up for it with a nice touchdown in the fourth quarter. Allen missed an open Diggs for a 75-yard score in the third quarter and then had another poor throw go his way a few plays later.
Dawson Knox had a touchdown catch at the end of the first half nullified by penalty, while Dalton Kincaid emerged as a big part of Buffalo’s game plan. The rookie tight end led the team in receptions (eight) and receiving yards (75) in what’s hopefully the start of a bigger second half coming.
Washington Commanders @ New York Giants
Tyrod Taylor looked better than Daniel Jones again, while Sam Howell continues to take sacks at a historic pace (the Giants matched their prior season sack total by halftime). David Carr has the most sacks ever through his team’s first seven games with 43 — Howell is up to 40.
Saquon Barkley lost a fumble but looked healthy enough while also recording a TD catch.
Darren Waller’s second-quarter touchdown marked New York’s first TD in a month, first TD in the first half this season and first TD at home this year.
Brian Robinson saw his second-lowest snap rate (47.8%) of the season. A touchdown helped mask an otherwise disastrous fantasy day that included Chris Rodriguez getting just one fewer carry. The Giants had ceded 100+ rushing yards in every game this season until Sunday.
Terry McLaurin was held catchless in the first half, when Howell had as many completions as sacks. McLaurin secured a terrific catch despite taking an illegal hit and finally saw his first red-zone targets of the season (on back-to-back plays in the fourth quarter). Howell is a problem, but McLaurin is buy-low(ish) in fantasy leagues.
Kayvon Thibodeaux dropped the easiest pick-six of the season, but the Giants still won after entering averaging just 1.5 points at home this season.
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Falcons somehow won despite Desmond Ridder losing three fumbles, including turning a sure touchdown into a touchback. Ridder was actually good passing Sunday, but there isn’t a player looser with the football in the league.
Bijan Robinson didn’t see his first (and only) touch of the game until 27 seconds were left, as he inexplicably disappeared on fantasy managers in Week 7. Robinson wasn’t feeling well but saw snaps throughout. Ridder comically targeted his fullback instead of an equally open Robinson at one point, and the QB promptly lost another fumble the next play. What a disaster.
Baker Mayfield struggled and threw a bad fourth-quarter pick in field-goal range, but at least he connected with Mike Evans for a 40-yard TD strike.
Rachaad White was predictably stuffed against a stout Falcons run defense.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle barely escaped while losing its first fumble of the year and matching its prior season total in giveaways (three). Geno Smith lost a fumble on his own and had another would-be pick-six dropped, but Arizona failed to take advantage and continued to struggle mightily in the fourth quarter.
Kenneth Walker ran for a season-high 105 yards but didn’t score in a prime matchup, as Seattle’s offense continues to not look right.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba caught his first touchdown with DK Metcalf sidelined. JSN committed a third-down drop late that could’ve potentially cost Seattle the game if Jason Myers didn’t nail a 48-yard field goal the next play, but the rookie led the team in targets (some even downfield!) in an encouraging development.
Arizona saw its left tackle get ejected thanks to contact with an official, although the Cardinals didn’t miss him when Joshua Dobbs ran in a score the next play. Dobbs has the most 20+ yard runs (five) among quarterbacks this season.
Zach Ertz suffered a crucial drop with five minutes left on third down, and the Cardinals would fail on a fake punt attempt the next play. Matt Prater missed a 34-yard field goal with the laces in.
You can’t stop Jake Bobo, you can only hope to contain him:
JAKE BOBO HAS JUST MADE THE MOST INSANE TOUCHDOWN CATCH YOU'LL SEE TODAY!
📺 FOX pic.twitter.com/lZaGVNieAE
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) October 22, 2023
That catch was surprisingly upheld upon review, possibly saving an absolutely epic day in Survivor carnage.
Green Bay Packers @ Denver Broncos
I’m beginning to think Jordan Love is a downgrade from Aaron Rodgers. Love produced two touchdowns over the final 17 minutes (after being shut out in the first half), but he’s gotten just 6.1 YPA with a 4:7 TD:INT ratio since Week 2. Denver’s defense has subtly been playing better lately, but this was still another discouraging performance from Green Bay’s QB.
Romeo Doubs won a battle with Patrick Surtain for a touchdown, while Jayden Reed ended up with a score not intended for him. Put differently, Love is lucky he didn’t have two more picks instead of his two touchdowns Sunday.
Aaron Jones saw half as much work as AJ Dillon, as he’s still not fully recovered from his hamstring injury.
Russell Wilson was accurate but had a quiet fantasy day outside of hitting Courtland Sutton for a touchdown.
Javonte Williams was given a season-high 15 carries while taking the lead in Denver’s backfield (no other RB saw more than five).
Los Angeles Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes had 321 passing yards by halftime and hit four different receivers for touchdowns Sunday, including Travis Kelce’s 50th of his career. Kelce led all pass catchers with 179 yards this week and is now averaging more than twice as many yards during games Taylor Swift has attended this season, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught a long score, but Rashee Rice remains by far the most intriguing Chiefs fantasy receiver. Rice also scored and led all KC WRs in targets.
Isiah Pacheco was surprisingly bottled up on the ground (long run of six yards) but made up for it with his first TD grab of the year late to help Kansas City secure the cover. He had another long fourth-quarter run negated by a holding penalty.
Justin Herbert continued to struggle while playing through a finger injury, as the Chargers were shut out in the second half. Herbert having to play so much out of shotgun is not ideal
Austin Ekeler appeared to bang up his ankle midway through the second quarter but played through it. A tougher matchup can be blamed for Sunday’s disappointing box score, but Ekeler also saw just two targets.
Josh Kelley’s longest run of his career went for a touchdown.
Miami Dolphins @ Philadelphia Eagles
In a season (and week) when AFC teams have mostly beaten up the NFC, the Eagles won emphatically Sunday night. Jalen Hurts committed two more turnovers (including a pick-six) but otherwise bounced back with a big performance in prime time. He remains a true cheat code during short-yardage situations, highlighted by multiple QB pushes Sunday night. Only three running backs have more rushing touchdowns than Hurts this season.
DeVonta Smith once again took a backseat to A.J. Brown, who finished as fantasy’s No. 1 WR this week. Brown saw a whopping 15 targets and tied the NFL record for most consecutive games (five) with 125+ receiving yards. He has more receiving yards this season than all Titans WRs combined. What a beast.
Tua Tagovailoa dealt with offensive line injuries and didn’t get the usual help from his running game. Jaylen Waddle also missed time while dealing with a back injury (he’d later return).
Tyreek Hill had a first-quarter touchdown catch called back by holding but later scored while double-teamed. Hill remains on pace to shatter the receiving yardage record, as this matchup featured two of this week’s top three fantasy scorers at wide receiver.
ESPN’s FPI curiously gave the 3.5-point underdog Dolphins a 59% chance of winning Sunday night’s game.