I didn’t think Andrew Luck could do it.
Nope, I didn’t think Luck could bring back the Colts from a late three-score deficit against Houston. Nah, I didn’t think Luck could throw for a career-high in passing yards despite a wonky shoulder and a compromised T.Y. Hilton. This was a fade for me, a bet-against. That 5.3 YPA terrified me, and an 84.8 rating doesn’t even get you started in Pinball 2018.
The juice of this lede was stolen by Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich, whose curious fourth-down gambit late in overtime led to Houston beating the Colts, 37-34. We’ll be talking about that one for a while. But in this moment, I’d like to focus on what the Colts offense was able to do.
Start with Luck, who completed 40-of-62 passes for 464 yards and four touchdowns. The attempts, completions, and yards all stand as new career-highs. Luck had to power Indianapolis through the air because the Colts couldn’t do a thing on the ground; 17 carries, 41 yards. No Indy back had more than 16 yards rushing.
Hilton did grab 115 yards on his four receptions, limited by a hamstring problem. Only six of Luck’s targets were in Hilton’s directions. Five teammates caught five or more passes.
One of those teammates is Nyheim Hines, who snagged 9-of-11 targets, good for 63 yards and a couple of touchdowns. If the Colts have to play offense this way, Hines looks like PPR gold.
Chester Rogers posted an 8-85-0 line on his 11 looks. Zach Pascal — honk if you drafted Zach Pascal this year — had six catches and a score. Eric Ebron left some plays on the field, but a 5-40-1 line is passable, especially in this season of spotty tight-end production.
No one wants to see the wonderful Hilton down for any length of time, and it sounds like Hilton won’t be ready for the quick Thursday turnaround at New England. But when Luck is locked in like this, I think maybe he can overcome the Hilton absence. Luck was as much a point guard as he was a quarterback Sunday, moving the ball around and giving his teammates chances to succeed. Welcome back to the Circle of Trust, No. 12.
Houston’s Deshaun Watson looks headed for a special season — if he can withstand the weekly pounding. Watson chucked for 375 yards and two scores and added 41 more yards, and another spike, on the ground. But Watson was sacked seven times and hit constantly, in part because of his spotty offensive line and in part because of his playmaker instincts (and relative inexperience). Fantasy owners love the bottom line for Watson, but he can’t play like this forever.
The Texans have one of the more narrow passing trees in the league, but they welcomed in a new member Sunday. In addition to the usual DeAndre Hopkins silliness (10-169-1) and Will Fuller’s weekly end-zone trip (4-49-1), rookie Keke Coutee absorbed 15 targets in his NFL debut. Coutee snagged 11 of those looks, good for 109 yards. Rookie wideouts are often guilty until proven innocent for our fantasy purposes, but perhaps Coutee — coming back from his own hamstring problem — is a quick study.
The Texans need all the receiving help they can get. Everyone else on the roster combined for a scant four catches and 48 yards. Alfred Blue (13-31-0 rushing) didn’t secure his one target, and Lamar Miller (14-49-0) wasn’t even targeted. Houston hosts Dallas and Buffalo the next two weeks.
The Aaron Rodgers Problem
There was a time where 298 passing yards and one score was an okay fantasy performance. You’d want a second score, but the yardage would carry you through.
Aaron Rodgers posted those numbers Sunday. He’s currently the QB17 for the week, and about to go lower. He was QB12, QB19, and QB5 the first three games.
The Packers just want the wins, of course. Green Bay left a ton of points on the field during a perfunctory 22-0 blanking of Buffalo, but Mike McCarthy isn’t giving any wins back.
Rodgers remains handy as ever; 31 rushing yards, just two sacks taken. His one interception was on Jimmy Graham. But Rodgers is also hobbling around each and every Sunday, clearly compromised from the Opening Night knee injury. We’re just in it for the stats, not the name brands. At some point, you have to consider benching him.
The schedule is friendly for now — at Detroit in Week 5, San Francisco in Week 6. There are points to be scored, yardage to chew up. But anyone who drafted Rodgers in the summer has to be sick on Sunday, watching so many cheaper quarterbacks tilting the pinball machine.
Patriots Take Step Forward
Tom Brady and the Patriots aren’t all the way back yet, but Sunday’s 38-7 romp over Miami was a step, maybe two, in the right direction.
Brady threw for 274 yards and three scores, offsetting a couple of messy picks. James White, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson caught the touchdowns — the Patterson score was a 55-yard bob-and-weave, added by some messy Miami defense. Sony Michel added 112 rushing yards and a score.
The meat of the New England passing tree was left wanting. Josh Gordon caught both of his targets, good for 32 yards. The Patriots are better for his inclusion, but it’s not like he went bananas. Chris Hogan was targeted just once (1-25-0), and Rob Gronkowski had a quiet 4-44-0 day before suffering an ankle injury. Other than Brady, Gronk is obviously the team’s most irreplaceable commodity.
Julian Edelman is eligible to play Thursday against the Colts. He might not be a difference-maker at age 32 (and off a busted ACL), but this offense is still missing ingredients. The slot machine and option-route specialist will be welcomed back heartily and should be targeted liberally.
Trubisky, Bears obliterate hapless Bucs
The peskiest thing about Pinball 2018 is how it makes us question statistical bonanzas. Normally we’d see a quarterback post a six-touchdown game and 354 yards on just 26 passes and we’d rave. Mitchell Trubisky does it against Tampa Bay and we shrug, wondering what it all means.
The Bears had their way in the 48-10 rout, racing to a 38-3 lead at halftime. Trubisky had five touchdown passes at intermission; a record-setting day was in play before Matt Nagy called off the pups. Trubisky also rushed for 53 yards on three carries.
Five different players caught touchdowns, with Taylor Gabriel hitting a pair. Tarik Cohen (174 total yards) finally showed the potential we’ve been dreaming about, while Jordan Howard (11-25-0) went nowhere on the ground. Check the video and see for yourself — most of these touchdowns were a triumph of design and a statement about how sorry Tampa Bay’s defense is. But Trubisky still had to deliver accurately, and he did.
The Buccaneers get a merciful bye in Week 5 (I have a bye as a 14-point favorite), then it’s back to battle. The Falcons should light these guys up in Week 6. Baker Mayfield against Tampa Bay in Week 7? Sign me up. Cincinnati and Carolina follow after that.
I suppose the baton has been passed back to Jameis Winston; Ryan Fitzpatrick played poorly Sunday (49.8 rating), Winston marginally better (two picks, though 16 completions on 20 attempts). Winston could be back in the QB1 discussion the rest of the season, as he works with a bunch of talented weapons, and tries to offset what the Buccaneers are giving away on the other side.
Rosen gives Arizona a Chance
Josh Rosen didn’t post pinball stats in his starting debut (15-27-180-1-0), and he didn’t even get a win — Seattle left town with the 20-17 victory. But Rosen represents a step up from Sam Bradford, and he helped push David Johnson (22-71-1; 3-41-0) back into fantasy relevance. No, it doesn’t sooth anyone who picked DJ first or second overall; maybe that will go down as a draft-day blunder. But Arizona at least has theoretical upside with Rosen in the saddle.
Iowa Connection Shines for 49ers
George Kittle was high on my sleeper list this summer (thanks, Behrens), but all bets were temporarily suspended when Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt last week. After all, Kittle did little with C.J. Beathard last year — no matter that they both attended Iowa together. They didn’t show much rapport as rookies, and it made you wonder if Beathard simply wasn’t good enough to produce at the NFL level.
For one week at least, that’s not a problem. Beathard looked competent in Sunday’s 29-27 loss at the San Diego Sockers, err, Los Angeles Chargers; the sophomore chucked for 298 yards and a couple of scores. And Kittle was the main target, snagging six balls for 125 and a touch — including a gorgeous 82-yard touchdown.
Although the Niners targeted nine different players, there isn’t much in this passing tree. Marquise Goodwin keeps getting hurt. Pierre Garcon is on the back nine of his career and is allergic to the end zone. With a host of tight ends hurt and/or struggling, Kittle looks like a Top 5 or 6 option going forward.