Six weeks ago when the 2013 NFL season started — the last time you saw your loved ones — there was little reason to expect any surprises from the San Diego Chargers, or for them to make you say “woah!” or “wowzas!” or “heyo!” or whatever other incoherent sound your body makes when something so moves you.
They had a rapidly aging tight end in Antonio Gates, and a running back in Ryan Mathews who could surely injure himself while stumbling off a curb. Worse, they had a quarterback who was getting increasingly wayward, and had just thrown a career single-season high of 20 interceptions. Even worse, the support for that scatter-armed quarterback was rapidly dwindling, with Danario Alexander gone for the season before it started, and Malcom Floyd would soon follow.
Yet, in mid October the Chargers are respectable and average at 3-3, with their most recent win to even that record coming last night against the Indianapolis Colts. Those two adjectives were a far off dream at one point, and the Chargers’ return to relevancy has of course been powered by an unlikely source who was once buried on their wide receiver depth chart.
You’ve become acquainted with Keenan Allen by now, yes? If this world was fair and just, he’s the wide receiver who likely would have been a first-round pick last spring or at least something much closer to it. But instead he fell to a bargain third-round level due to a knee injury, giving Rivers a deep and athletic target with great leaping ability at a significantly lower price.
Following the aforementioned injuries, Allen was the proverbial next man up, which is football coach speak for “these guys are broken and you’re not so go get ‘em kid and please don’t cost me my job OK thanks”. So what’s happened since he assumed a starting role three weeks ago? Numbers have happened, lots of them.
- Allen over the first three weeks: three receptions for 30 yards
- Allen over the past three weeks: 20 receptions for 302 yards
That stretch of brilliance includes his 107 yards on nine catches (a season high) last night in the Chargers’ 19-9 win, and he’s doing it all at a pace of 15.1 yards per catch. He’s rapidly ascended to become Rivers’ top option, which was glaringly evident Monday when Allen’s receiving yards weren’t at all even a little bit close to the next Chargers pass catcher behind him (Danny Woodhead at 47 yards, and we have to go even further back to find Vincent Brown at 31 yards as the next wide receiver).
So here’s my question to you: since this is now the third straight week Allen has gone boom, why is he still criminally under-owned? Allen is currently available in 64 percent of Yahoo leagues and — wait for it — 94 percent of ESPN leagues, rates that are about to rise dramatically after his 33.5 fantasy points over the past two weeks. If you need more convincing that you should be putting a claim in on him now, Allen was targeted 12 times last night, which was stupidly ahead of Woodhead’s five.
It was nice and all that the Chargers added a running game last night too, and we had the rare sight of Mathews doing what we expect of him when his body isn’t wounded. He was cutting once and pounding holes hard, which resulted in 102 yards on 22 carries. Yep, that’s swell, but it changes little as he remains a flex or low-end RB2 option who will offer six-to-eight fantasy points per game (even after last night’s production he’s currently averaging 6.9 points per game).
Allen is the glistening gem you want here, at least until the football gods and their hatred for all things Chargers take him away from us too.
More notes, stray thoughts, and other such randomness
Let’s check in on Philip Rivers being weird
Yep, still weird…
Somehow in the year 2013, Rivers may have accomplished the rare Internet feat of being equally or even more Philip Rivers-y when the picture isn’t moving.
Optimism is a wonderful thing
Later on today I’ll have my usual waiver wire manifesto, and this week after the death pit of injuries yesterday, damage control will be the focus. The most concerning possible breakage right now is tied to Jimmy Graham and his left foot.
Despite being shut out Sunday during the Patriots-Saints classic in which show ponies arrived to save the day, Graham still leads all tight ends in receiving yards, and it’s not close. Through six games Graham has accumulated 593 yards (which is well ahead of Jordan Cameron’s 466 yards), and he’s done it at a pace of 16.0 yards per catch while being a target monster, logging two games with +15 looks.
Graham and Peyton Manning share the title of most dominant fantasy player at any position, which is why even a one-game absence for the Saints tight end is the sort of thing that makes many lost souls assume the fetal position immediately.
The optimist will point to the Saints’ Week 7 bye falling at the perfect time, while also dancing a jig following this report from Chris Mortensen last night.
Saints TE Jimmy Graham is still having left foot evaluated but sense of optimism he will return after this week’s bye.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) October 14, 2013
The pessimist will echo the deep inner thoughts of Mike Florio, noting that often no news is bad news with a player of this stature on a Super Bowl contending team, especially when the injury required an MRI. It isn’t a difficult leap to go from optimism to delusion.
The word on Randall Cobb isn’t a good word
There was no truth dodging or trickery yesterday with Randall Cobb, the Packers wide receiver/everyman who left their win over Baltimore after a low hit by Ravens safety Matt Elam. When we last saw Cobb he needed the assistance of crutches to hobble around the sideline, so those of you who spent an early-round pick on him and were happy if not overjoyed with his 75.6 receiving yards per game (378 yards overall) knew horrible things were forthcoming.
And here we are. As was first reported by Tyler Dunne of the Green Bay Press-Gazette yesterday, Cobb is expected to miss the next six-to-eight weeks with a fractured fibula. On the longer end of that timetable he’ll return just in time to maybe give you some pleasant holiday cheer, surfacing on Dec. 15 for a game against the Cowboys.
The problem, of course, is that now as a distraught Cobb owner who’s involuntarily shaking you have to prepare for that worst-case scenario, and it’s pretty bad. That Packers-Cowboys game is in Week 15, a time in the fantasy calendar when the regular season has concluded, and leagues are in semi-finals. So you now have to find a way to exist without your WR1 for the next two months while still qualifying for the post-season money making time.
That’s not fun, and the end game here is that for many of you who can’t afford to have an inactive player occupying an valuable roster spot, Cobb is about as relevant as Michael Crabtree, and maybe even less so. Again, I’ll explore the waiver wire replacement options later today, but as far as the Packers’ offense is concerned, Jordy Nelson clearly benefits the most with more targets coming his way, followed closely by James Jones and then Jermichael Finley. The desperate add for deep leaguers is Jarrett Boykin, the second-year wide receiver who had his first catch of the season after Cobb left. It wasn’t a short one either, as Boykin’s speed and secondary busting led to a gain of 43 yards.
The inevitable Brady TD pass Techmo-ing
Are these getting overdone and predictable? Well, let’s answer that question with a question: planking is still cool, right?
Whatever, I refuse to let them die. Call me a viral curmudgeon I guess, if such a thing is possible.