If I could accurately predict every relevant Sunday fantasy outcome, I wouldn’t be typing these words right now, and instead I would live in a gold mountain with several pet tigers. Since I have yet to develop either that ability or cloud psychokinesis, like the rest of you I will on occasion get a prediction laughably wrong. Long ago I stopped caring about this, as the court jester’s purpose is to entertain, and the denizens of the Internet only speak when you’re wrong, and there’s complete silence when a prediction is nailed squarely.
On a day when Robert Griffin III — fantasy’s leading point producer — had only eight rushing yards after averaging 66.9 per game, and Aaron Rodgers had his hind region thoroughly kicked by the Jaguars (seriously), there’s been plenty of laughing and failed predictions. That’s good, because laughing >crying. Always.
With that in mind, it’s onwards with our main observations/rants/statistical surprises from the nine early games in yet another week that has a horrendously unbalanced Sunday schedule. Seriously, NFL, give us more than just two late games.
Matt Ryan is still defining what it means to become “elite”
I’m not crowning Ryan with that moniker yet. In fact, I prefer if we never crown any quarterback with that label, because while a select group is deserving, calling any quarterback elite means that others remain anxious to become elite. But then the distinction gets watered down, and nearly meaningless. By definition, an elite group is one that’s small but significant. The more we discuss and even entertain the thought of allowing the likes of Joe Flacco to become elite, the less being elite means. Also, arbitrary offseason lists like the NFL Network’s Top 100 need to die 1,000 deaths immediately.
But I digress. What’s important is that if we’re proclaiming that a certain group of fantasy quarterbacks are elite, then Matt Ryan deserves to be in that discussion. He was close at the beginning of this year, and was at the top end of the second tier just below the likes of Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, etc.
In Atlanta’s 30-17 win over Philadelphia today Ryan threw only seven incompletions on his 29 pass attempts, finishing with 262 passing yards and three touchdowns. On the year that brings his passing yardage total to 2,018 after Atlanta’s seven games, a number that was at 1,681 at this point last year. But there’s been an even greater jump in his scoring, as with his three TD passes today Ryan’s now thrown 17 touchdowns, and at this point last year he only had nine.
Part of Ryan’s increased scoring is a product of a deep passing game, one that was still on display briefly today despite the at times horrid weather in Philly. Ryan connected with Julio Jones on a 64-yard pass that led to one of his scores. It was his second pass of 60 yards or more this year, already matching his total throughout all of last season.
Steep, swift growth is a common theme throughout Ryan’s numbers.
But what of Michael Turner?
Turner’s rapid decline is the most unsurprising development of the season. So you’re saying a 30-year-old running back is tumbling down a cliff and bracing to meet his death on a bed of jagged rocks? Huh.
This is how I picture the remainder of Turner’s relevance, which will also be the remainder of this season.
Yeah, not shocking stuff. But if there was a point when it became clear that the end is nigh, we watched it today. So we watched…history?
The Falcons scored 24 points in the first half, and led the Eagles 24-7 at halftime. Logically like any team that’s up by more than two touchdowns, Atlanta then desired to kill clock, and doing that requires running the football repeatedly. Unfortunately, the Falcons employ a lead running back who gets stuffed repeatedly, especially in short-yardage situations, which are supposedly Turner’s specialty.
He was given 24 carries, easily a season high (his previous high was 18 in Week 5). Yet he was unable to perform that basic clock-killing function, resulting in a final score that while still lopsided, it was far closer than it should have been. Turner finished with only 54 yards on an awful pace of 2.3 yards per carry. His 107 yards in Week 4 on 7.9 YPC now looks like a vicious outlier, as today marked the third time Turner’s YPC in a game has dropped below three this season.
Meanwhile, Jacquizz Rodgers needed only eight carries to finishing with 60 yards, most of which came on a 43-yard run when he showcased the kind of open-field burst that evaporated from Turner’s arsenal long ago.
Missing: Aaron Rodgers
Since there’s a prop bet for everything that’s ever happened in the existence of humanity, somewhere out there is a man who’s cashing a ticket. And on that ticket is a wager that reads something like this:
Who has more passing yards in Week 8? Blaine Gabbert or Aaron Rodgers?
Surely the payout would have been astronomical for Gabbert, because quarterbacks who have a torn labrum — even if it’s on their non-throwing shoulder — don’t usually survive against the league’s best pass rush. Also, quarterbacks who have only logged one game with over 200 yards don’t out throw Rodgers. It’s illegal.
But there was our little Sunshine, chucking for 303 yards to Rodgers’ 186. I understand many things to be true about that number for Rodgers, most importantly that passing yards is a poor metric to judge the quality of a quarterback, and that he was playing without both of his top receivers (Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings). Yet given the depth and talent among the Packers’ pass catchers beyond those two with James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jermichael Finley, a decline in the sailing deep balls from Rodgers that were caught may have been expected, but not one that’s nearly this drastic.
Thankfully, Rodgers still had two touchdown passes in a disturbingly close Packers win (24-15), and he salvaged a woeful game against the league’s 24th-ranked pass defense that was giving up an average of 264.5 yards weekly prior to this game. Still, it was a resounding fantasy disappointment, as Rodgers finished with a very pedestrian 15 fantasy points, significantly down from his per game average of 22.
For some perspective on how un-Rodgers this game was, he’s now only had eight games in his career with less than 200 passing yards (70 starts), three of which came when he was taking his pounding as a first-year starter in 2008.
Matthew Stafford reappears at the most unexpected time
A week ago, one Matthew Stafford had only 5.7 yards per pass attempt against the Bears, making us wonder if we’d ever see 2011 Matthew Stafford again. Like a long lost high school friend whom we now associate with those days when we dressed almost solely in black spikes because we were so anti-conformist, we had seen enough of Stafford this year to begin believing that the elite — sigh, that word again — megaman had faded, or at least left us briefly.
So today there was very little chance that the chucking and running and scoring and #winning Stafford would re-appear against the Seahawks, right? Right. We knew this to be true because last week Bears cornerback Charles Tillman shut down Calvin Johnson, handing a blueprint to Richard Sherman. He then used it for his own Megatron pulverizing — because that’s how space robots roll, yo — limiting Johnson to just 46 yards on three catches. Then there was also the matter of the Seahawks defense beyond Sherman, a unit that had only given up six passing touchdowns prior to today, and eight in total.
None of it mattered. Stafford scored four touchdowns (three passing, one running), equaling half of the touchdowns given up by the Seahawks for the year. In one game, by one offensive player.
Given his output last week against a strong defense but one that’s actually a little worse statistically, you weren’t crazy if you benched Stafford today. You’re going crazy now after he posted 31 fantasy points when his 352 passing yards are added in, but when we also factor in the Seahawks’ pass rush (19 sacks), opposing passer rating (74.2), and the fact that Stafford neglected to remember the basic skill of setting his feet before passing last week, turning to a better matchup on your bench if it existed must have been appealing.
Our deepest, sincere condolences if you followed that basic logic, because this has been another reminder that fantasy football is where logic dies.
Chris Givens makes history
Rams fans — both of you — must be wondering why their team’s ownership chose to cross an ocean to be reminded they’ve assembled a group that resembles kindergarten kids in snow suits while on a field with the Patriots, when they could have easily done that demonstration at home in front of empty seats. At least NFL fans in London are prepared for the Jaguars next year after watching a 45-7 disaster.
But keep that chin up, because at least the Rams made some history today, and not of the negative variety. With Danny Amendola injured (he’s coming back next week), blokes named Chris Givens and Brandon Gibson have shared time as Sam Bradford’s top target in recent weeks, with Givens emerging as one of the game’s best ever rookie deep threats.
Nope, that’s not completely fabricated narrative hyperbole crap by some asshat writer looking for a storyline like, say, Cam Newton’s supposed rage twhen a teammate scored his touchdown. It’s filled with truth, and nothing but the truth. When Givens caught a 50-yard touchdown to give the Rams their only lead and their only points, he became the first rookie to have a +50 yard reception in five straight weeks, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
What’s even more remarkable is that he’s done that with a very minimal workload. In two of those games Givens’ catch of 50 yards or more was his only catch of the game, and today since he hurt his toe shortly after his score (of course he did…#rams’ed), he finished with a moderate three receptions. Overall during his streak Givens has only 11 receptions for 324 yards, an incredible pace of 29.5 yards per catch.
He’s out Josh Gordon-ing Josh Gordon, and he’s available in 98 percent of Yahoo leagues.