For the first time in the history of the Internet, a sports prediction has failed. Avert your eyes, children. But hey, at least I still have Josh Gordon for my fanboy love.
With that awkward introduction out of the way, it’s onwards with some reaction to the most notable performances and stumbles during the early games today, and the exploration of a philosophical paradox that is the existential existence of fantasy and reality.
You failed us, Matt
This wasn’t how it was supposed to end today, Matt Ryan. You’ve shamed the good name of this blog that always strives to maintain high standards of integrity and trust but never, ever posts anything that’s wrong in any way. We’re right 80 percent of the time, every time.
You’ll recall that we pushed Ryan as the most polite fantasy stud to ever assume such an illustrious title, and we weren’t alone. There really was no conceivable reason why Ryan wouldn’t throw for all of the touchdowns against a Raiders secondary that posed little threat, and came into this week as one of only two units still without an interception, while they allowed 283 passing yards per game.
So then of course Ryan threw three picks — two of which came on his first seven attempts — finishing with 249 passing yards and a touchdown for a meager total of 10 fantasy points. Why must you hate us with such fervor, Matt?
Where you at, LeSean McCoy?
The same headline nearly applied to Tony Gonzalez, who turned his sub par day into only moderately OK production with two late-game receptions to finish with 42 yards. But that’s still a vast departure from Gonzo’s per game average of 77.6 receiving yards, and is an especially steep stumble from his 123 yards last week. Same goes for Calvin Johnson, who redeemed himself during overtime against the Eagles and finished with 135 receiving yards. But midway through the third quarter he only had two catches on seven targets.
But what of McCoy? Maybe a knee injury and his brief absence (he missed two plays) is partly to blame. Or maybe the Lions just controlled the line of scrimmage consistently, resulting in repeated Shady stuffings (note: Shady stuffings are also delicious). Whatever the case, there are some growing involuntary shivers among McCoy owners after they used a top five pick on him. Through six games last year he was averaging 94.3 rushing yards per game, a number that’s now dropped considerably to 76.5 this year after his 22 yards on 14 carries today.
Dez Bryant continues to be a polarizing receiver for fantasy and non-fantasy folk
Long ago I accepted the fact that there are people in this world who do not share my personal interests and preferences. I like guacamole, while others may not. I drink red and white wine equally, while others feel the need to discriminate in their high class alcohol consumption. I think the fact that we as a society spend more than two seconds of our lives caring about the Kardashians or some vampire celebrity couple shows our rapid decay, while others are compelled to yell obscenities at people they don’t know and will never know because somehow a celebrity’s infidelity effects their existence.
There are also those who don’t play fantasy football partly because they think it forces the football fan to become something other than a football fan, and instead they’re just a fan of certain players. I’ve never agreed with this premise, and feel as though I can easily be both: an avid, passionate football fan, and someone who enjoys fantasy football, often to the point of an unhealthy obsession.
However, I understand the criticism, as there are fantasy footballers out there who have a focus which is far too central and singular. These fantasy managers see only the boxscore numbers and stats from individual players which have value once they’re converted into fantasy points. Just as he was two weeks ago, today Dez Bryant epitomized the player who produced and exploded statistically during the Cowboys’ loss to Baltimore, but his overall performance still featured equal parts brilliance and disappointment, with a glaring, game-altering mistake.
The disappointment today didn’t come in nearly as much abundance as it did two weeks ago, when Bryant dropped three passes despite finishing with a career-high 105 receiving yards. Today Bryant set a new career high, this time in receptions, catching 13 balls on 15 targets for 95 yards, showing that a high volume of work is key if the Cowboys intend to utilize his bruising frame in open space on short, intermediate routes. Those in PPR leagues are especially pleased with Bryant’s production today, and his upward target trend with 21 receptions over the Cowboys’ last two games.
But then there’s the reality of Bryant’s performance, and the ease with which he makes the difficult play that’s often overshadowed by the difficulty he brings to far simpler catches. That’s why those who don’t view the events of any given Sunday through the prism of fantasy will remember a very catchable ball on a two-point conversion attempt late in the fourth quarter today that thudded off of Bryant’s shoulder pads far more than they recall those 13 grabs.
Making that easy catch — a catch that’s well within Bryant’s abilities — likely would have sent the game into overtime, and the Cowboys wouldn’t have had to rely on a failed 51-yard field goal attempt. This is how the clutch narrative grows, and slowly Bryant is joining his quarterback as the two become leading purveyors of choke.
Josh Gordon is quickly rising up the Browns’ WR depth chart
Logically, that should happen when you’re a team’s best receiver. But logic isn’t a product that’s been produced very often by the Factory of Sadness.
Describing Gordon’s speed as elite feels like an insult to the word. He needed only three catches today to finish with 99 yards and a touchdown during the Browns’ win over Cincinnati, and the score came on a 71-yard bomb. He started today and has received increased playing time over the past two weeks with every Browns receiver not named Gordon or Greg Little in some kind of excruciating pain involving a leg muscle or bone. Over those two games he has 181 yards while averaging an incredible 36.2 yards per catch, and he now has back-to-back weeks with touchdown receptions or 60 yards or more.
The problem is that he could be more Ramses Barden than Brian Hartline in terms of his value as a rapidly emerging waiver wire buy. Once Travis Benjamin and Mohamed Massaquoi return, the Browns’ depth chart at wide receiver will become a muddled again, but given the boom value he’s provided and his apparent deep ball connection with Brandon Weeden, at the very least Gordon should retain some value as a flex play or possibly even a low-end WR3.
Shonn Greene wasn’t terrible for a full game
Earlier we observed a disturbance in the force, noting that through one half of the Jets’ eventual blowout win over the Colts, Shonn Greene appeared to be playing the part of a real NFL running back. Let’s quickly re-visit Greene’s day, because the final tally is like diseased fungus on which false expectations grow.
You’re well aware of Greene’s awfulness prior to today, and his utter disrespect for the running back position. But to review: he came into today with only 217 rushing yards, on just 2.9 yards per carry. Then thanks to plenty of garbage-time carries in a 35-9 laugher, he had 161 yards on 32 carries (5.0 YPC), and three touchdowns. That’s easily a career high in rushing yards, and carries too after he averaged 15.8 per game last year.
It all adds up to 34 fantasy points today, and more rushing yards for Greene than what he had in his previous three games combined (123). Last year he also only had six total scores, so today he’s halfway to that total in one game, and he has four overall, and we’re still two games away from the season’s halfway mark.
All of that means so very little for Greene’s fantasy value and outlook going forward.
Somewhere out there a Greene owner is itching to start him next week now, focusing solely on his yardage today, and using willful ignorance to disregard his high and very abnormal volume of work during nothing minutes in the second half as Rex Ryan kept feeding his lead runner, hoping to inject him with life, or some kind of RB serum. Then there’s of course the simple awfulness of the Colts’ run defense that we mentioned earlier, and the absence of Pat Angerer that’s contributed to the 135.8 yards per game allowed by Indy.