Sunday Aftermath: Kyler's return, Bijan's breakout and much more

The summer narrative was silly but predictable: Do the rebuilding Cardinals even want Kyler Murray to play football this season? Of course they did. Sure, they tried to have their cake and eat it, too, by elongating Murray’s return to almost comical proportions, but you know who else should do that? Everyone. Players almost uniformly return too soon from major injury. Murray and the Cardinals decided to take 335 days.

Their reward? A QB1 finish and game-winning drive from their once and potentially still future franchise quarterback. It wasn’t just any QB1 performance. It was a Murray QB1 performance. He didn’t throw a touchdown, but he rushed for one, churning up 33 yards on the ground with the kind of Houdini scrambling that was his signature during the unfocused Kliff Kingsbury years.

And that’s what we hope we can find this time around: Focus. Not just from a famously-videogames friendly player, but from his coaching staff, as well. Kingsbury never seemed certain what he wanted this offense to be. Murray always seemed ambivalent about executing it. The result was a rather unseemly “horizontal raid,” an attack that was neither aesthetically pleasing nor terribly successful.

Bigger challenges lie ahead. The sad joke of the Falcons gives way to the high-flying Texans this week. The playbook will need to be further opened up. Murray’s knee will now be bouncing back from 60 minutes of Sunday football instead of 90 minutes of Wednesday rehab. This is still a roster that earned the No. 3 overall pick last year. But the ingredients — a deeper, more varied supporting cast, a soft schedule, good vibes from Murray’s return — are here for a fast finish in fantasy and the real life gridiron. Murray remains a QB1 wherever the games are played.

Five Week 10 Storylines

Bijan Robinson reaches 20 carries for first time in his career. Arthur Smith can hear the footsteps getting louder. The feds asking for his phones. He had to do something, anything to fend them off on Sunday. He was so desperate he … featured his first-round draft pick. Who responded with 95 yards on the ground and 106 yards from scrimmage as he easily out-produced the Falcons’ sorry quarterback tandem of Taylor Heinicke and Desmond Ridder. It’s almost like he should have been doing this all along. It still resulted in a Falcons loss, naturally, but as was the case with Jahmyr Gibbs in Detroit, this genie can’t be put back in a bottle. Smith has admitted Robinson was his best offensive proposition all along. Expect further commitment in Week 12 against the Saints if Smith survives the bye week with his job.

C.J. Stroud makes case for every-week QB1 status. You could be saying “duh,” but it remained an open question heading into Week 10. Consider it answered. The Texans were employing dull, conservative game plans before the Bucs’ pass funnel forced them to the skies in Week 9. Stroud’s spectacular results mercifully prompted a rethink, and the sides combined to produce the quarterback’s second straight top-four finish in fantasy. This, without No. 1 receiver Nico Collins. Now unquestionably the best quarterback in this year’s draft class, Stroud has a momentum-building schedule in vs. AZ, vs. JAX, vs. DEN. He has the chance to head into the offseason as the most-discussed young quarterback since Joe Burrow and perhaps even Patrick Mahomes.

Noah Brown has another explosive effort. One reason Stroud was able to keep his superstar momentum going in Cincinnati? A former Cowboys backbencher who *checks notes* now produces 150 yards every game? It at least now makes a little more sense why Tank Dell was losing snaps to this guy in training camp. A 6-foot-2 chip off the 2007 block, Brown is an excellent counterpoint to Dell and Robert Woods’ mid-area compiling, and at least for now, a consistent chunk-yardage gainer on the perimeter. This receiver corps isn’t going to be big enough for the four of ‘em after Nico Collins returns from his calf injury, but Brown has obviously forced 70-80 percent rostership, and his down-field ability makes him a potential week-flipper as a WR4.

Josh Dobbs keeps the miracle going. Week 10’s QB5 in fantasy, Dobbs propelled the Vikings to the NFL’s most unlikely five-game winning streak in recent memory. 23-of-34 for a turnover-free 268 yards and touchdown through the air, Dobbs added 8/44/1 on the ground, giving him a rushing score in four straight starts. Dobbs has emerged as the platonic ideal of a No. 2 quarterback, the emergency stop-gap nearly a third of the league is wishing it could find right now. Returns have a way of becoming diminishing with players in Dobbs’ position, but armed with an impressive supporting cast and adaptable coaching staff, he could keep the QB1 party going. The Broncos are an intriguing Week 11 matchup.

Alexander Mattison gives way to Ty Chandler. Mattison’s concussion helped, but the 2022 fifth-rounder was stealing carries even before Mattison went down. It’s been clear for some time now the Vikings would prefer a two-man backfield, and Cam Akers’ season-ending injury re-opened the door for Chandler after an unimpressive summer. Although Josh Dobbs is flying high at the moment, this is an offense that will undoubtedly have to lean on the ground game at some point. Myles Gaskin looms as a potential interloper, but Chandler needs to be 100 percent rostered as fantasy managers wait on this situation to play out. Chandler will be a no-doubt top-30 option if Mattison sits against the Broncos.

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Five More Week 10 Storylines

Lions’ backfield big enough for the two of Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery. There was a lot going on here — a lot of it production. 14/77/2 for Gibbs, 12/116/1 for Montgomery. As you have probably heard by now, there was a bit of role reversal, with Gibbs cashing in a pair of one-yard goal-line carries and Montgomery making a 75-yard house call. What you may not have heard is that Montgomery waved Gibbs back onto the field after he was being subbed out after carrying the ball down to the one. D-Mont also had a failed goal-line opportunity of his own. The switch has not suddenly been flipped. It’s just that coach Dan Campbell may not always remember if he’s left it on or off going forward. Gibbs goal-line work is now at least possible. That’s a big enough change to keep him locked into the top 20.

Josh Jacobs and the Raiders continue to come alive post-McDaniels. Posting a new season high for carries the second straight AM (after McDaniels) week, Jacobs cleared 100 yards on the ground for the first time all year. He put the Raiders’ offense on his back against an elite Jets defense and guided the Silver and Black to a 2-0 record under interim coach Antonio Pierce. One reason for the increased production? NBC’s Melissa Stark reported Pierce's staff was, you know, calling some plays Jacobs actually wanted. That was apparently an idea that had eluded McDaniels. Jacobs has remained inefficient, while pounding the rock over and over again might not be a Week 11 possibility as the Raiders try to match points with the Dolphins’ elite offense, but Jacobs has unquestionably returned himself to the top eight at running back.

Tony Pollard keeps the door ajar for Rico Dowdle. As Jacobs re-ascends, Pollard keeps grinding his gears in neutral even in the most run-friendly of game scripts. The Cowboys led 28-0 at halftime and Pollard still failed to clear 15 carries, something he has not done since Week 3. Dallas scored seven touchdowns. None of them belonged to Pollard. Backup Rico Dowdle kicked up 12/79/1, looking explosive enough in the process that FOX’s Greg Olsen began to fret about the Cowboys running up the score. Whether he simply isn’t meant for these kinds of workloads or isn’t the same since his January leg injury, Pollard has flunked too many open-note tests to maintain RB1 benefit of the doubt.

Mac Jones finds further to fall. It was the real life equivalent of a videogame rage quit. Ice cold on the bench, Bailey Zappe wasn’t going to give the Patriots any better chance of conducting a game-winning drive against the Colts, but Bill Belichick couldn’t take it anymore. Jones had to go. Zappe also had somewhere to go: Nowhere. His game-ending pick was a worse mistake than even Jones could have dreamed of. But it was just the latest ending to an era of Patriots quarterback play that has been dying a slow death since early last season. The collateral damage has been every Pats skill player not named Rhamondre Stevenson. With all 32 teams active for Week 12 when the Patriots come off bye, Demario Douglas will be an uninspiring WR4.

Saints come to life after Derek Carr injury. It’s not a great sign for the future of the “Derek Carr, Saints franchise quarterback” project that upon his injury Jameis Winston instantly sparked a previously-slumping Chris Olave. Winston also provided two passing scores in two quarters of play, a number Carr has reached only three times all season. Winston, of course, also tossed two picks, reminding why this Saints coaching staff will never trust him, but his big-play shakeup put Carr on notice. Remember Olave and Rashid Shaheed, Derek? You need to start finding them down the field again. If you can’t, this is yet another Saints and QB2 season going nowhere.


1. Can the Chargers’ defense stop studying USC tape?

2. Is Josh McDaniels starting to get it?

3. Does Calvin Ridley know I have a family to feed?

Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)

QB: Russell Wilson (vs. MIN), Jordan Love (vs. LAC), Matthew Stafford (vs. SEA), Aidan O’Connell (@MIA)

RB: Devin Singletary, Keaton Mitchell, Ty Chandler, Darrell Henderson, Tyjae Spears, Zach Charbonnet, Leonard Fournette, Royce Freeman, Rico Dowdle

WR: Noah Brown, Demario Douglas, Brandin Cooks, Quentin Johnston, Jayden Reed, Elijah Moore, Khalil Shakir, Michael Wilson, Kyle Philips

TE: Luke Musgrave, Chig Okonkwo, Cade Otton, Michael Mayer, Tyler Conklin,

DEF: Commanders (vs. NYG), Lions (vs. CHI), Dolphins (vs. LV), Jaguars (vs. TEN), Chargers (@GB)

Stats of the Week

Trevor Lawrence has produced multiple touchdowns in just 2-of-9 appearances.

Via Dante Koplowitz-Fleming: The Ravens have trailed for just 28:46 of their first 10 games, the third best mark of the past 40 years. Of course, the two teams both directly ahead of them and behind them all started 10-0. Baltimore is 7-3.

By the same token, via ESPN Stats and Info: “The Browns trailed for 59 minutes, 20 seconds Sunday. No NFL team this millennium has won while trailing for that long in a game.”

Via Nate Tice: “The Texans offense recorded 17 explosive plays today against the Bengals. Tied for fourth most explosive plays by an offense in an NFL game since 2000.”

Via Marcus Mosher: CeeDee Lamb is the first receiver in NFL history to post three straight games of at least 10 catches for 150 yards.

Via Seth Walder:Sam Howell's past three games have been his three lowest sack rate games this season. All 6.4% (right around average) or lower.” Happy has learned how to putt.

Sunday was just the fourth 100-yard rushing performance of Devin Singletary's career. He had previously never bettered 110.

Awards Section

Week 10 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Dak Prescott, RB Brian Robinson, RB Jahmyr Gibbs, WR Keenan Allen, WR CeeDee Lamb, WR Brandin Cooks, TE T.J. Hockenson

Tweet of the Week, from Law Murray: Rich Bisaccia walked so Antonio Pierce could run.

Tweet of the Week II, from Michael F. Florio: Kyler runs like he has a mushroom in Mario Kart.

Patriot Way Happening of the Week: Pats OC Bill O’Brien “passionately pointing to the computer tablet” after Mac Jones’ back-breaking fourth quarter interception in Deutschland.