My Week 8 top 10 fantasy things to think about when we watch the slate of games:
1. Atlanta’s offense is top shelf in all the foundational metrics: yards per play (second), play success rate (third). The Falcons also vary very little from last year in three-and-out rate and third-down rate (11th, an overlap with success rate, which is more important). It makes zero sense they are down 10.4 points per game in scoring. I’ll be shocked if they don’t average 28 points per game going forward. So basically, everyone in this offense is a buy.
2. Dez Bryant isn’t the only horribly inefficient wide receiver on a team with a good quarterback. As I covered in my Wall Street Journal article on Thursday, maybe the Eagles have it right — pay a receiver a ton of money in Alshon Jeffery and make him the focus of the defense while you clean up with a veritable unknown (in Philly’s case Nelson Agholor, who is fourth best in yards per target). It seems defenses have taken the lead at the moment in shut-down corners vs. top wideouts. They’re better. And it’s not just Dez but DeAndre Hopkins, too, who similarly struggles to gain yards per target. Note I’ve been wrong about Agholor all year.
3. Is Jerick McKinnon even good? Let’s go to the advanced metrics. Since 2016 in yards before contact, he’s 2.23, which is between Christine Michael and Matt Forte. Latavius Murray is 2.24. After contact? 1.40, which is nearly Christian McCaffrey-land (1.22) and between Paul Perkins and Tim Hightower. And I’m not going to trash LeSean McCoy for being similarly bad after contact because he’s 3.40 before contact and there’s more than one way to beat a defense. What’s McKinnon’s way? I don’t see it. This year only, McKinnon is again near the bottom in after contact but much better (2.85, 9th) in before contact. He’s a RB 2/3 like Bilal Powell. In fact, I can’t see much difference between McKinnon and Powell in any way. Take that as a McKinnon insult or a Powell compliment — your call.
4. The big question in Chicago is how bad can an offense be to sustain a top-shelf fantasy player? Jordan Howard gets volume but the Bears score on 20% of their drives — that’s any kind of score. Over the last three games with Mitchell Trubisky, they’ve gotten into the red zone 0.7 times per game, about a third of what the worst teams average for a season. For the year, they have 12 touchdowns in seven games, a pace of 27 for the season. I will take the under. Let’s be generous and call them a 15-point per game team. Teams that average about that many points (15-16 per game) average 10.1 rushing TDs. The Bears then are expected to get maybe five or six more the rest of the year. Even if Howard gets them all (he won’t), how good can he be? Not as good as the market believes, nor you league, I will wager. Howard right now is my zeroBadQB poster boy.
5. Josh McCown, according to Stats LLC, is the NFL’s most accurate passer (his percentage of poor throws is the lowest). This makes Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse playable every week as sneaky WR3s that no one will fight you for. Anderson also has been targeted six times in the end zone, a lot for a deep threat. He has multiple ways to score. Anderson should be owned in way more than 24% of Yahoo leagues. Why trade for a WR when a guy like Anderson is in the same “who knows” bucket and free?
6. Why isn’t Christian McCaffrey working out? Skeptics like me thought it was going to be receiving volume, not lack of efficiency that did him in. And he’s been a total zero on the ground, too. A back like McCaffrey with most of his touches coming via the air should average at least six yards per touch. Guys like that this year are Chris Thompson (8.4), Duke Johnson (7.6), Alvin Kamara (6.2), James White (6.1). I’m not even counting Kareem Hunt (6.7), whose number as a primary runner is insane. The only primary receiving back near McCaffrey at 4.02 per touch is Buck Allen (3.92 prior to Thursday’s game). Okay, Ty Montgomery is 4.1 and an even bigger bust than McCaffrey. Some of this is McCaffrey but some is that the timing in the short passing game, especially when it comes to the screen game where it’s particularly underrated. Like a bad point guard, Cam Newton does not seem to have a feel for setting up teammates on these plays. The best at this: Drew Brees.
7. You can’t take Chip Kelly out of San Francisco given the 49ers are still the fastest pace team in the NFL. But you can take him out of the Eagles, now the fourth slowest. The slowest in order: Chiefs, Jets, Panthers, Eagles, Redskins. But note that the 49ers may just seem to be playing fast because they have more hurry-up plays given their winless record. So the key is winning teams that play at a fast pace: Bills and Patriots fit that. The only losing teams among the 10 slowest pace teams, the aforementioned Jets, and also the Bears and Bengals. If you need yet another reason to fade Howard, there it is. (And Howard is a good player but tied to an anemic offense)
8. You and I may think Joe Mixon not getting a second-half carry was stupid, but he has to bite his tongue about that. Now if Marvin Lewis gives Mixon the lion’s share of the workload, he looks like he’s weak in giving in to a malcontent and a rookie no less. Mixon seems atrocious at finding running room at a startling 1.34 yards before contact (he’s slightly below average after contact). Maybe it’s the line but the other Cincy backs, Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard, are averaging 1.96 yards before contact (combined).
9. Washington receivers are so bad that you have to stop questioning Kirk Cousins. He’s fifth in QBR, third in passer rating (107.2) and third in YPA (8.3). He’s posting these numbers with two starting wideouts (Terrelle Pryor Sr. and Jamison Crowder) who are reasonable drops in fantasy. That’s a testament to Cousins’ true skill level, which his coach and the team’s front office refuse to believe come contract time.
10. Scout-team wideout Martavis Bryant is droppable and my summer reminder that no player has come back after a long suspension to perform well remains operative. Don’t forget it next time. There will definitely be a next time with someone else. I don’t think it’s a lack of character that’s hurting Bryant. He just lost that something that made him special. I said it here in Week 2:
“(He) has long odds to come back from a year-long suspension. No one ever has. Of course, the sample is small. But maybe you can’t miss all that time and just pick up where you left off. That actually seems pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? And if you are 95 percent of what you were in the NFL, that doesn’t mean that you get 95 percent of your former production. It means you are just another guy or even out of the l
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