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Mac Jones isn’t the main reason the Patriots are winning. Far more importantly for a rookie quarterback, he isn’t a reason they are losing.
This Patriots squad is fueled by Bill Belichick and ferocious defense. Only four teams boast a better defensive DVOA. J.C. Jackson and company have more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed, and are permitting a 75.7 QB rating against. They are one of seven defenses to permit fewer than 7.0 yards per pass, and have surrendered the second fewest rushing touchdowns (five). That is the engine of this team.
But Jones is proving to be an able conductor. The knock against Jones is that he’s “just” game managing. That is true. He is only game managing. Do you know how many rookies fail to even do that? See Lawrence, Trevor in Jacksonville. Like Lawrence, Jones does not have a strong supporting cast. Unlike Lawrence, Jones is providing efficiency while still mixing in chunk plays, even though his big-play threats are wideouts like Kendrick Bourne and every-once-in-a-blue-moon Nelson Agholor.
Jones is welcoming himself to the league with old-fashioned box checking. Taking what the defense gives him. Avoiding turnovers. Taking down-field shots when the time is right. If there’s a bugaboo, it’s that Jones likes to take some shots himself. Too often, Jones has not felt the rush and gotten blown apart on his blindside. That could land a man on injured reserve. It’s also just part of rookie life in the NFL. Such a divisive draft prospect that 49ers fans were prepared to picket when it appeared Jones would be the No. 3 overall pick, Jones is now Ja’Marr Chase’s only legitimate competition for OROY honors. It appears Belichick can indeed keep getting away with this.
Five Week 10 Storylines
Aaron Jones suffers sprained MCL vs. Seahawks, giving way to AJ Dillon. It’s actually a good outcome after Jones was in tears on the sideline, suggesting a totally wrecked knee. Instead it’s “just” the fourth MCL sprain of his career, one that will apparently sideline him only 1-2 games. Although a trip to injured reserve could still be in the cards, Jones will be back before the fantasy playoffs are through. In the interim, the Packers profile as one of the cleaner “insurance back” situations you will ever see. It will be AJ Dillon and not much else, giving the second-year power chugger RB1 upside as the lead back for one of the league’s most balanced, efficient offenses. Already 72 percent rostered in Yahoo leagues, Dillon will be scarce on waiver wires. He needs to be ubiquitous in Week 11 lineups.
Chiefs roll away the stone against the Raiders. The Raiders are not a cover-two team. Those shells, of course, are what have been slowing the Chiefs down. Rather than making the adjustment — it’s easier said than done — the Raiders stuck with their cover three zone and got blasted, humiliating themselves and getting the Chiefs “back on track.” (I’m sorry if I sound like an idiot trying to talk like a real FootballGuy™). So basically, there is an asterisk next to Patrick Mahomes’ five-touchdown performance, but it was still a powerful reminder: If you give this offense an inch, it will take a mile. I’m not smart enough to tell you what the Cowboys will do in Week 11, but I know they have been a smartly-run unit under Dan Quinn this season. The Chiefs are going to have to prove it all over again. They have at least proven to themselves they still have it in them when circumstance allows.
Rhamondre Stevenson runs all over Browns with Damien Harris sidelined. One week after leading the Pats in both rushing and receiving, Stevenson had his first 100-yard day on the ground, keeping the chains moving with gains of six, nine, 13, five, five, 18, 16, eight, five, five, five and 10 yards. Any time you are going for five-plus yards on more than half of your 20 carries, you are having a very fine day as an NFL running back. The trouble for Stevenson, of course, is that Harris will likely be back for Thursday’s short-week tilt with the Falcons, but Stevenson has at least made himself undeniable in this run-first offense. Even with Harris up, Stevenson will be worthy of FLEX-ing against an awful Falcons defense.
Cam Newton immediately makes his presence felt for Panthers. Newton scored touchdowns on his first two touches in Arizona. That, uhh, seems good. Newton was more lightly used the rest of the way, but the message was sent early in a blowout: Cam is going to be the starting quarterback, and even without a functioning shoulder, he is going to have more play-making juice than Sam Darnold or P.J. Walker. That is all this team needs right now as Christian McCaffrey returns to his otherworldly compiling role and the defense continues to ascend following Shaq Thompson’s return. Newton found the CMC check-down religion his final full season in Carolina in 2018, and has a much better supporting cast than he did last year in New England. That will provide a solid fantasy floor even if Newton’s arm renders real ceiling unattainable.
Baker Mayfield looks lost vs. Pats, tweaks knee. As Mac Jones was generating laudatory press, Mayfield was wondering who was going to take the blame for his awful performance now that Odell Beckham is out of town. Mayfield “generated” 73 yards on 21 passes, “good” for a putrid 3.5 yards per attempt. For the sixth time in nine starts, he managed one or zero passing touchdowns. This was even as fill-in RB D’Ernest Johnson held up his end of the bargain on the ground. After Mayfield’s knee tweak that seemed to be more of a mercy benching, backup Case Keenum threw for more yards in one quarter than Mayfield did in three. Playing hurt and lacking weapons in a run-first scheme, Mayfield’s only fantasy consideration at this point is not hurting the value of his running backs. Even for plus matchups like the ones he has in Weeks 11-12 in the Lions and Ravens, Mayfield is no longer on the streamer radar.
Five More Week 10 Storylines
Bills finally get deep passing game going in rout of Jets. Coming into New Jersey, Josh Allen had averaged fewer than 6.0 yards per attempt in back-to-back games, and under 8.0 in three straight. How does 13.1 sound? Against the Jets, it’s bad news if your offense isn’t doing whatever it wants. Allen was doing whatever he wanted, finding Stefon Diggs for gains of 57, 23 and 43 yards and Gabriel Davis for strikes of 49, 36 and 20. The Bills were so focused deep that Cole Beasley played fewer than 10 snaps, though that may have been injury related. At least for one week, it was mission accomplished deep. Allen will have an excellent shot at a hot streak against a Colts defense serving up more big plays than usual in 2021.
Russell Wilson positively dreadful in return from injured reserve. One end zone interception isn’t cool. You know what is? Two end zone interceptions. Wilson was as bad as possible in his return from injured reserve, completing 50 percent of his passes, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt and providing zero points in a critical conference loss. It was eerily reminiscent of the Seahawks’ aimless offensive performances down the stretch of 2020. It came against a solid defense in a tough environment, but Wilson will need immediate answers in Week 11 against the Cardinals. If it’s another dud, we may have to re-evaluate how much of the blame we have heaped on Wilson’s coordinators for his inconsistent play the past two years.
Jared Goff helps set football back 50 years in Lions’ tie with Steelers. Listen, we know Jared Goff isn’t getting any help from his supporting cast. But there are two kinds of quarterbacks. Those who elevate their teams, and those who need to be elevated. Goff falls decidedly in the latter camp, a fact that Rams coach Sean McVay finally lost patience with after four seasons. You can still make a Super Bowl if you’re in Group B, as Goff did in 2018-19. But just as your ceiling is harder to reach with that kind of signal caller, the floor falls out harder and faster than you could ever imagine. That is what we are witnessing now with Goff in Detroit, the final exposure of a quarterback who could probably be an elite, Dalton-ian type backup, but who will always be an unwatchable disaster of a starter when he doesn’t have the horses at receiver. Benching Goff for David Blough isn’t going to make the Lions better. Just don’t be surprised if it’s a psychic break increasingly desperate coach Dan Campbell decides he has to make.
Antonio Gibson revives in Football Team’s upset of Bucs. Gibson went into Washington’s Week 9 bye on a low. He came out of it … sort of on a low? But also easily a high? It was that kind of day for Gibson who looked healthier even though it wasn’t reflected in the box score vs. the Bucs’ elite run defense, save for two precious RB1-making touchdowns. Those scores fueled Gibson’s first top-12 finish of the entire year, an astonishing statistic considering the opponent and the fact that this summer’s RB12 by ADP had not actually missed a game yet. The only way for a shin to get better is rest. Gibson finally got that. The easiest way to go on a hot streak is a soft schedule. Gibson won’t have that in Week 11 vs. Carolina, though things do lighten up afterward with the Seahawks and Raiders. Perhaps it will be better late than never for this uber-talented sophomore.
Dallas Goedert suffers concussion in Eagles’ win over Broncos. Goedert had two catches for 28 yards in the first quarter but paid a heavy price on the second, getting lit up on a 3rd-and-12 conversion for the first documented concussion of his professional career. In his absence, the Eagles once again busted out the road graders on the ground and kept DeVonta Smith going through the air. If Goedert can get cleared for Week 11, it will be for a tough date with the Saints’ pass defense.
1. Will the committee investigating Lions/Steelers have subpoena power?
3. Does the Washington Football Team have paperwork proving it actually signed Curtis Samuel?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Daniel Jones (@TB), Justin Fields (vs. BAL), Tua Tagovailoa (@NYJ), Mac Jones (@ATL), Cam Newton (vs. WFT), Jimmy Garoppolo (@JAX)
RB: Rhamondre Stevenson, Jordan Howard, D’Onta Foreman, Boston Scott, Patrick Taylor
WR: Kadarius Toney, Darnell Mooney, Marquez Callaway, Bryan Edwards, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Ben Skowronek (pure flier)
TE: Tyler Conklin, Dan Arnold, C.J. Uzomah, Gerald Everett, Cole Kmet,
DEF: Dolphins (@NYJ), Panthers (vs. WFT), 49ers (@JAX), Jaguars (vs. SF), Eagles (vs. NO), Jets (vs. MIA)
On Bye: Broncos, Rams
Stats of the Week
The Eagles are averaging 209 yards rushing in three games since Miles Sanders’ injury. That is compared to 117 in the seven games before Sanders was hurt. Sanders is eligible to return this week, but it will be interesting to see if he can reclaim No. 1 duties from Jordan Howard.
Meanwhile, the Titans are averaging 2.4 yards per carry and 68 rushing yards per game since Henry’s injury. D’Onta Foreman is the only Titans back showing anything at all, and it’s not much.
Via Rich Cimini: “The 2021 Jets are the first team to allow at least 45 points three times in a four-game span since the 1966 Giants.”
Ryan Griffin ran the second most routes of any tight end in Week 10. Don’t believe the truth.
Tweet of the Week, from Browns fan Dylan Scott: Somebody on the Browns Reddit compared this team to the 2011 Giants, so that is our current stage of grief.
Tweet of the Week II, from Lions beat writer Chris Burke during Lions/Steelers setting the game of football back 75 years: Where's Bane when you need him?
The What Exactly Happened Here Award: Marcus Johnson leading the Titans with 100 receiving yards in New Orleans.