September 23, 2021

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Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy Flops

28 min read
Scramble for the Ball: Fantasy Flops

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Andrew: Hello and welcome to Scramble for the Ball, where this week your humble Scramblerees anticipate being flagged at least three times for illegal hands to the face before the end of this article, even if it is just because we are facepalming so often as we review the referees’ coaches’ film from Monday night. This has been a year filled with bad decisions, and not only on the football field, but the past weekend seemed particularly egregious for some reason.

Bryan: The referees are doing a wonderful job demonstrating the need for full-time referees, extra video help, and a streamlined rulebook, so really, we should all be thanking them for the valuable service they provided all throughout last weekend’s games. In Green Bay, in Kansas City, and in Cleveland, they demonstrated the level of quality and competence we’ve come to expect from NFL officiating.

Andrew: And their fearless leader, Alberto Riveron. And the NFL head office. And the Competition Committee. And, come to think of it, at least 80 percent of NFL head coaches. It has been one of those years. Decades. Eh, centuries, probably.

Bryan: Can’t be centuries; we’ve only had one of them so far.

Andrew: Exactly. We’ve only had one century of NFL football, and it has been full of this stuff. We still make the most important measurement in the sport using an old dude’s best guesstimate and a metal chain, for pity’s sake. This is the 21st Century! And I’m pretty sure I just started writing completely the wrong article (spoiler!).

Bryan: We’ll put a pin in that, then, until our great Second Century Manifesto is ready for public consumption. We’re assuming that Roger Goodell will just accept all of our proposed changes right away, but he’s yet to return our calls for some weird reason. Surely, two guys on the internet can solve all of the league’s problems!

Or maybe I’m just living in a fantasy world.

That’s what we, in the business, call a segue.

Andrew: Since we started talking about bad decisions, I’ve felt the overwhelming urge to delete my fantasy team. I’m not sure why that would be; using two of my four keeper selections on Saquon Barkley and Hunter Henry must have guaranteed success, right? RIGHT?


Still, at least I’m not alone, and at least I have the injury excuse. Literally several people are in worse situations due to boneheadedly misjudging how their prize picks would perform, whereas literally 99 percent* of the average ESPN league is in a better situation through nothing but blind luck, hubris, and waiver priority.

* numbers may be slightly exaggerated for effect.

Bryan: You’re playing in some crazy league where punters score points and the Australian Football League’s scores affect you and points are tripled if scored in a power-up zone and all kinds of crazy things, right? So are you losing just by your weird, unusual rules, or is your team just terrible?

Andrew: I have the most points allowed in the league. I’m having one of those horrible years in which no matter what I do, Stefon Diggs is going to go off for three touchdowns the week I’m playing his team and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s fun. It’s a riot.

Bryan: This is why I’ve mostly shifted to daily fantasy, so disasters in previous weeks don’t really affect me going forward. Instead, I get all the joy of drafting the wrong guy, only every week instead of once in August! How fun!

Andrew: We might, uh, not be the guys to advise you on your fantasy team. You’ve probably sussed that much by now, but just in case there was any lingering doubt. What we CAN do is point at stuff that has already happened, make blind-squirrel guesses at the implications, and shout “a nut!” whenever, say, Chris Godwin rocks up and starts piling up numbers like we always said he would. (Seriously, “an ideal fit for [Tampa Bay’s] offense and their quarterback.” FOA 2017. You can check!)

Bryan: As a Scramble conversation grows longer, the probability of honorific paeons to Godwin’s success approaches one. That’s just Godwin’s Law for you.

Andrew: It helps that Godwin really is having not only a genuinely good season, but one in which he has significantly overperformed his ADP (average draft position, for the uninitiated). We’re about halfway through any semi-sane league’s regular season, so this is about the time we like to take a look back at the draft period and see what we can mock learn.

We do this by assembling a team of high picks that would have pleased anybody on draft day, but brought only despair and ruination once the games started. Then, just to rub salt and lemon into the gaping wound, we contrast the players you could have had without even needing to spend valuable draft capital acquiring them.

Bryan: Almost equally importantly, we’ll try to figure out if those high-priced busts will still provide some return on investment in the home stretch — and if those low-priced superstars are the real deal, or flashes in the pan. Let’s see what we can see, shall we?

Note: The precise rankings will vary from league to league; we’re using a standard PPR scoring system and prorating players who have already had their bye. Your precise values may vary.


Andrew: Spoiler: Anybody who drafted Andrew Luck before August 24 probably gave up on fantasy football before the season even started. To those people, we say: stop having your draft so blasted early!

Anybody who held their draft after that has only themselves to blame for what happened next.

Bryan: In our stats and award predictions, I said that Baker Mayfield was my value pick to lead the league in passing touchdowns. He’s currently tied for 27th with five, alongside Daniel Jones and Josh Allen, just 10 off the lead. He’s making sophomore mistakes left and right, and that massive step forward everyone was projecting him to have has been more of a tip-toe. So, you know, that’s going really well, I think.

Andrew: Anytime you’re tied with a rookie you allegedly openly mocked in the opening month of the year, who didn’t even start the first two games, and who plays on one of the worst pass offenses in the NFC, you are probably not entirely happy with your situation. The Browns as a whole have been about as disappointing as we expected, but Baker has fallen well short of what even our underwhelmed selves anticipated. He’s the easy underperforming pick. The good news is that the second half of the season looks much, much easier than the first half.

Bryan: Well, not the next two weeks, at least — he’ll give his fantasy owners zero points next week on the bye, and then he plays New England and might give them even less. By the time the season evens out for him, those fantasy teams might be well out of contention. And then he gets a Vic Fangio defense that is finally coming together, the Bills, and the Steelers twice before the fantasy playoffs. Yeah, his fantasy postseason looks easy as pie, but that’s not gonna help you if you’re knocked out before that! He was drafted as QB4, and as it stands, he’s QB27 — not even good enough to start in most two-quarterback leagues!

Andrew: The sheer number of backups now forced into action means you could have had a few better options without nearly the same investment. Gardner Minshew is the obvious example there. That would not have helped in the draft though; not even those who suspected Nick Foles’ fragility expected Minshew to be this productive. However you could have had Lamar Jackson six spots after Mayfield, or taken a real chance on Josh Allen way down the quarterback pecking order.

Bryan: Allen was the last quarterback taken in most leagues — or, at least, the last QB Yahoo! lists with a large enough sample size to calculate an average — and he shouldn’t have been. Yes, we lack to smack Allen around a bit here, but he has made some progress in his sophomore season, and his running ability has consistently made him a much better fantasy option than real-life option. Like Mayfield, he just has five passing touchdowns — but he has added three more on the ground, too. He has been QB13 to this point in the year — not really someone to put in your starting lineup and forget about it, but a top-flight streaming option and bye-week replacement. He won’t win you fantasy games on a regular basis, but he won’t lose them for you.

Andrew: The other thing with Allen, though, is his schedule over the next few weeks gives him a strong chance to sustain success in both fantasy and real life. Miami twice, the charred remains of the Eagles secondary, Washington, Cleveland, and a home date with Denver. His playoff period looks rough, but if you could pair Allen’s Weeks 7-to-12 with Mayfield’s 13-to-16, you might well be onto something.

Running Backs

Bryan: 0RB drafts have been more and more popular in recent years — letting everyone else battle for the few remaining stud bellcows while you pick off the best players at other positions and cobble together a running back committee based on injuries and handcuffs and other players who slipped under the radar. Literally drafting zero running backs may not have been the best strategy this year — you’re talking Jamaal Williams, Wayne Gallman, and Raheem Mostert as the top available players, and only Williams looks like he’ll have a solid role going forward. Still, putting off the position for a while could pay dividends, if you were paying attention to the way the winds were blowing around the league.

Andrew: The top lower-drafted target even before the season was obvious: Austin Ekeler has been perfectly productive in the absence of Melvin Gordon, and in fact has remained productive even following Gordon’s ineffective return. Gordon is one of the biggest underperformers, and a very predictable one at that. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Ekeler finishes the year as the top back in Carson, and Gordon is allowed to move on in the offseason. At the very least, Gordon has taken a significant hit to his value for the remainder of this season.

Bryan: It will help Ekeler out of the Chargers remain bad, as he has been keeping up or even out-touching Gordon when the Chargers have been behind and had to throw repeatedly. He has been too good to bury on the depth chart, though he’ll probably be more of a flex/RB3 player from here on out than the third-highest scoring back in the league. Still, not a bad haul for someone going in Round 9.

It also shouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see Matt Breida up here, especially once Jerrick McKinnon was ruled out for the season yet again. Yes, the 49ers’ backfield is brimming to excess, but the undrafted Breida has always fought his way into the starting lineup — even last year, he was averaging 5.3 yards per carry for a much worse 49ers team than this one. He’s not going to get you more than 15ish carries a game, and he has had his touchdowns cruelly stolen from him so far this season, but he’s giving you double-digit points per game so far. Even with Tevin Coleman back, Breida should remain a strong RB2 going forward as the 49ers are going to be running early and often all year long.

Andrew: Speaking of somebody who has had carries and touchdowns taken from him, another clear ADP underperformer is Kansas City’s Damien Williams. Williams was a popular pick as the guy expected to assume Kareem Hunt’s role from the beginning of last year, but he has instead split time with LeSean McCoy and even namesake Darrel. That was also quite predictable: even during the productive stretches of last season, the Chiefs never seemed quite entirely confident in Damien Williams, and there were rumors that he would eventually be supplanted by Darwin Thompson even before the McCoy acquisition. Williams will continue to feature in the Chiefs rotation, particularly on early downs, but other players are taking over too much of the receiving load at this point.

Bryan: If you’re looking for the most disappointing running back, however, you need to look towards Joe Mixon. Mixon led the AFC in rushing last season! He came on strong towards the end of last year! Football Outsiders Almanac 2019 touted his “massive fantasy football upside” and warned that you “should be prepared to pay for that,” even if we had a few concerns about his offensive line.

Andrew: We can’t dispute that his owners definitely paid for that, even if it wasn’t in quite the way we envisaged.

Bryan: Mixon is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. He’s averaging less than 45 yards per game. He has yet to find the end zone as a rusher, though he does have one receiving score to his credit. It’s not all his fault — that offensive line really is putrid, and Mixon is lucky if he has even a fraction of a lane to run through — but he has had fewer than 20 rushing yards in a full half of Cincinnati’s games. He’s still worth slotting in your lineup as a flex guy because he has that pop to pull off a big play here or there, but man, is he ever not a second-round-type player.

Andrew: By contrast, Carlos Hyde looked like nothing more than a castoff in August. Acquired by the Texans as they finally gave up on the ongoing disappointment of D’Onta Foreman, Hyde reunited with former Browns running mate Duke Johnson in Houston, and the pair have been far more effective than expected behind a significantly improved offensive line. If Hyde was taken at all in your draft, it was probably as a handcuff; he has actually performed to the level of a mid-tier starter, and certainly a solid RB2. There is little reason to expect anything different going forward; Hyde is happy, the Texans are happy, and Hyde is one of the few things this fantasy season that has made me happy too.

Bryan: And, of course, we can’t leave a list of running back disappointments without talking about Todd Gurley, who was my favorite to lead the league in rushing touchdowns this year, even with his ever-disintegrating knees. To be fair, he has found the end zone five times, so that hasn’t been a terrible prediction there … but he only has 270 yards rushing. He has been outrushed by the human mummy that is Frank Gore, by Kerryon Johnson, by the Sony Michel who is causing Patriots’ fans such a headache — and he’s doing it all as probably your No. 1 draft pick, not to mention the second-highest-paid back in football. Once again, he has had a “minor setback” with a quad injury that has turned into at least a one-week absence, and possibly more — he’s “day to day” as of time of writing. With Gurley, that usually means he’s secretly dead.

Wide Receivers

Bryan: You know, I made it three years. Three years without falling into the memey-slash-ironic enjoyment of Baby Shark. Couldn’t have told you how it went. DJ Chark has ruined that for me. Thanks a ton, Jacksonville.

Andrew: I don’t even know where that meme came from. I’ve been singing that song at church camps since at least 2003. I do not understand the fuss and sudden popularity. Anyway, I think the most surprising thing about Chark featuring here is just how low he was valued in some leagues. I cannot imagine playing in a league where Chark went undrafted. I play in a league where Geoff Swaim was drafted, never mind Chark.

Bryan: Yeah, but as previously established, your league is crazy. Chark’s a guy you maybe consider taking in that 15th and final round because you live in Florida and want to root for the guys on your own team. Yes, obviously he’s going to get drafted in round 96 or whatever it is you do, but in most sane leagues, Chark’s a waiver wire guy — a waiver wire guy with big-play threat and a weirdly high level of chemistry with Gardner Minshew. It’s a good thing Minshew is going to keep that Jacksonville job, because Chark and Minshew are hooking up on all levels of the field.

Andrew: It’s not all Minshew. Even Nick Foles hit Chark with a touchdown back in the first half of Week 1, before his acromiocollapse. Chark was quite highly rated by KUBIAK — score another one for the FO Fantasy Package — and should have been on more people’s radar ahead of the fantasy season. He’s the top target on a team that has still to play the Bengals, Buccaneers, Raiders, and Falcons this year — two of those four during the fantasy playoffs — making him one of the most likely fantasy producers at this spot for the rest of the year.

Antonio Brown should not have been on anybody’s radar. I don’t think there was ever any danger of Brown keeping his head where it needed to be long enough to put up top-ten WR numbers. I had Brown as my top pick to underperform before the year, saying that he shouldn’t be the top receiver on your fantasy team. That grossly, grossly understated the brightness of Brown’s spectacular self-combustion. One week of production does not a fantasy season make, and 11 more weeks of nil points beckon.

Bryan: And Brown’s not the only Steeler (or ex-Steeler) to be having a hard time. JuJu Smith-Schuster’s problems aren’t really his fault, though — going from Ben Roethlisberger to Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges is going to harm anyone’s production. JuJu wouldn’t have been a second-round pick if the questionable state of his quarterbacking was known before the season started. He has been WR34 on the year so far, in large part because he has only found the end zone twice. I think he’ll recover some of that value as the season goes along and Rudolph gets more comfortable under center; he’ll get back into at least the top 30 and probably the top 20 in receiving yards before all is said and done. He won’t really give his fantasy teams quite as much value as they were hoping for, but I think they can count on him to be stronger going forward than he has been to this point

Andrew: It would be impossible for the aforementioned Chris Godwin to be stronger going forward, at least in relative terms, because Godwin is already fantasy WR1. As a Jameis Winston owner and long-time Godwin shill, I’m pleased that Godwin has been successful, but I do get the nagging feeling Godwin might just be really, really good at breaking up interceptions. Still, it’s hard to argue with the results, and games against the Falcons (twice), Cardinals, and Ramsey-less Jaguars mean he’ll have plenty of chances to add to his numbers.

Bryan: Don’t worry, Washington fans. Chark may be the undrafted fantasy receiver darling at the moment, but we’ve not forgotten Terry McLaurin. Whereas KUBIAK liked Chark, even if drafters stayed away, no one thought McLaurin was going to be a thing this season. Had he not missed Week 4 with a bum hamstring, he may well have passed Chark already. Playmaker has apparently whiffed hard on him; it projected him with 149 yards a season over his first five years. He nearly topped that in his first game, and he has yet to go below 50 yards yet. Only the Patriots, who are performing at an all-time great level, have kept him out of the end zone. Even as the rest of the team crumbles around him, McLaurin has earned his way into your starting lineup on a regular basis. OK, maybe not against the 49ers this week, but other than that.

Andrew: Our other disappointment ties into the quarterbacks mentioned above: Odell Beckham is assuredly still a starter in your three-WR fantasy lineup, but boy has he disappointed relative to expectations. Mayfield’s struggles have limited Beckham to just a single touchdown, and though he does have four six-catch games and two 100-yard outings, that isn’t quite the production people were hoping for when they drafted Beckham in the first couple of rounds. As we mentioned when discussing Mayfield before, Cleveland’s schedule does get easier after they play New England. You’ll just have to hope you’re still in contention by the time you reach that point.

Bryan: Mayfield would probably be doing better if his receivers could catch; both Beckham and Jarvis Landry have dropped at least three balls this year. One-handed catches are good, but try two-handed catches, Odell.

Tight End

Andrew: The final position worth looking at in any real depth is probably tight end. I’m leaning more and more into the idea that tight end should be combined with wide receiver in most leagues, because this is a spot where you either grab one of the handful of top guys or you’re stuck playing matchups with the dregs for the rest of the year. The dropoff is precipitous: TE10 (Jason Witten) has less than half the points of TE1 (Austin Hooper), and even a theoretically solid starting option such as Gerald Everett (TE12) has barely half the total of TE2 (Mark Andrews). The difference between the haves and have-nots is probably wider here than at any other position.

Still, we were able to pick out a couple of overachievers. Mark Andrews has outperformed his draft position (ADP TE14, ranks TE2 in PPR) as Lamar Jackson’s favorite target. Will Dissly wasn’t drafted at all after missing most of 2018 with a major injury, and ranked as a mid-tier starter (TE8) before meeting the same fate this year. Luke Willson might be a nice addition as a replacement for Dissly, but he isn’t going to get you anywhere close to those top few options. Andrews should be productive as long as he remains healthy, as the recipient of a plurality of Lamar Jackson’s targets.

At the other end of the scale, O.J. Howard was a high-profile pick as the fourth tight end off the board, but he was so unproductive through the first six weeks that frustrated fantasy players were posting Missing Person memes and bemoaning his retirement on Twitter. Howard even ranks marginally below teammate Cameron Brate, with Brate’s two touchdowns overcoming Howard’s large yardage advantage. Together, the pair would be TE9 — a solid starter — but apart, they are basically useless to your fantasy team, even with a number of easy defenses on the back half of the schedule.

Kickers and Defense

Bryan: Why are you drafting kickers and defenses? Why on Earth would you do such a thing? Don’t you know there are actual, factual position players you can use those picks on? Even if you had taken the Patriots’ defense this year, which is paying dividends with unprecedented fantasy scoring to this point, it’s still a bad process to be doing that. You can find perfectly good kickers and defenses streaming from week to week, and even if you prefer to stick with one good one, you can find them on the waiver wire without wasting a valuable draft pick.

Take defenses. San Francisco’s defense was drafted an average of 13th in Yahoo! leagues — and the standard Yahoo! league has 10 or 12 teams in it. If they were drafted at all, they were, on average, a backup defense. They have been the second-best fantasy defense in the league by a wide margin, and you could have almost assuredly picked them up on the waiver wire as long as you’re not in one of Andrew’s crazy deep leagues. People drafted Atlanta’s defense higher! Atlanta has been by far the worst fantasy defense in the NFL, assuming we’re all in agreement that Miami does not field an NFL team. Don’t draft defenses!

And don’t draft kickers! Stephen Hauschka was the ninth kicker taken; he has attempted six field goals all year long. Zane Gonzalez was undrafted and has already attempted 19, as Kickin’ Kliff Kingsbury has given him NINE attempts of less than 30 yards. Don’t draft kickers!

Contrasting Fortunes

Andrew: So we have “don’t draft kickers, don’t draft defenses, and don’t draft known numpties” as our three key points of advice here. We’ve focused primarily on guys who weren’t injured, because injuries are generally unpredictable and it’s rough to base fantasy drafting on injury projections. Do we have any other safe conclusions, aside from Chris Godwin being magnificent?

Bryan: At least when it comes to running backs, you can indeed find value late, though the middle of the draft is a sweeter spot than scrounging through the undrafted bin. Look for disgruntled stars holding out — it would have given you James Conner last year and Austin Ekeler this year. Look at those late injuries, like to Jerrick McKinnon, and find the guy the coach turns to and trusts when everyone else is down. You can find that value later, especially if you’re in the back half of the first round.

If you’re in the front half of the first round, just go get CMC or Saquon Barkley. Don’t overthink these things too much.

Oh, and get you a quarterback who can move on the ground, even if their passing makes you want to cover your eyes. Those kinds of players can produce far above their perception as quarterbacks — not just Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, but Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson have outperformed their draft day rankings, in part because they can boogie. Just try to avoid the Marcus Mariotas of the world.

And listen to Andrew when he yells at you for three years about some random wide receiver, geez.

Andrew: That’s the kind of fantasy advice we can all get behind. Even if it does get you a regular spot in the Loser L — wait, wrong segue.

We leave you with two teams of deeply contrasting fortunes, and a look at the best and worst of Week 6.

The All-Overdrafted Team   The All-Underdrafted Team
Pos Player Team Avg
PPR/G Pos Player Team Avg
QB Baker Mayfield CLE 50.6 11.6 QB Josh Allen BUF 130.2 16.6
RB Joe Mixon CIN 20.0 9.2 RB Austin Ekeler LAC 100.3 22.6
RB Todd Gurley LAR 20.3 15.2 RB Matt Breida SF 114.6 13.4
RB Damien Williams KC 25.5 10.7 RB Carlos Hyde HOU 123.4 11.1
WR Odell Beckham CLE 14.2 13.2 WR Chris Godwin TB 42.0 24.2
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT 16.8 11.5 WR DJ Chark JAX N/A 18.8
WR Antonio Brown NE 25.0 16.1 WR Terry McLaurin WAS N/A 18.8
TE O.J. Howard TB 52.1 4.8 TE Will Dissly SEA N/A 12.3
K Stephen Hauschka BUF 124.0 4.4 K Zane Gonzalez ARI N/A 9.7
DEF Atlanta ATL 123.8 1.3 DEF San Francisco SF 127.6 14.0
TOTAL 98.0 TOTAL 161.5

Weekly Awards

Keep Choppin’ Wood

Week 6 gave us so, so many candidates for this spot that it was a genuine challenge to pick a winner. The standard of officiating was so bad that we had three individual crews nominated. The Rams saw Oakland’s beautiful halfback ground toss from last week and just had to emulate it. Jimmy Garoppolo threw the sort of red zone interception you can only learn from sitting behind Tom Brady for four seasons. The Chiefs intercepted Deshaun Watson, then promptly fumbled the ball back to the Texans in the red zone (more on that in a moment). The Falcons continued to develop their innovative Cover-7 scheme that actually covers nobody. Two separate players blamed the sun for their failures — and one of whom was playing indoors. The standout play, however, leaping ahead of all the others, came from Ravens tight end Mark Andrews:

Now we do have to admit, Andrews has a habit of doing this kind of thing, and it often provides highlight-worthy plays. Nor does he intend to stop after this one setback. Still, we have seen several examples lately of the type of misfortune that can befall players who try to hurdle their opponents, and Andrews was fortunate that this occurred against the hapless Bengals rather than a legitimate professional football team.

John Fox Award for Conservatism

Sunday’s earlier-than-early London game was far too early for the Buccaneers, whose best play on their opening four drives was the punt that Ray-Ray McCloud fumbled back to them. That led to a three-play drive for their only score of the first two-and-a-half quarters. Trailing 27-7, the Buccaneers faced fourth-and-6 from the Panthers 36 — exactly the sort of no-man’s-land in which more and more teams are making the smart decision to try for a first down. Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers, knowing they needed three scores to make a competitive game … kicked a 54-yard field goal, leaving them … still needing three scores to make a competitive game. At least they didn’t miss; that alone marks progress from recent years.

Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win the Game

The Rams may have lost to a superior team on Sunday, but they can also argue that they were desperately unlucky, snakebitten even, in doing so. They lost their starting right guard, Joe Noteboom, for the season, and starting safety John Johnson for potentially an extended period. Then there’s fourth down: against the 49ers, the Rams went for it on fourth-and-6 or shorter four times, and failed. Every. Single. Time. Both of their runs were stuffed. Both of their passes were incomplete. We credit Sean McVay for having the good sense to go for it, even if the calls did not work out on the day.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching

Now, we here at Scramble do like it when teams go aggressive. And down 24-10 late in the second half, we can approve of going for a fourth-and-4 rather than kicking a 38-yard field goal. While we’re not buying into concepts of “momentum” here, maximizing your points on scoring opportunities in what looked like a potential shootout is big! We only have two small quibbles with Doug Pederson’s plan. Firstly, with no time-outs remaining and just 20 seconds left in the game, you’re limited in the sorts of play calls you can make; without a timeout in your back pocket, you may want to just kick the field goal and take the points rather than come away with nothing. But, I mean, you can trust Carson Wentz to throw a quick out to the sideline and gain some yardage, which brings up quibble two — a fake field goal? You want Jake Elliott making your big fourth-down pass? And it wasn’t even a super-cleverly designed fake, either, as only one receiver was out in a pass route, nowhere near the sidelines or end zone. I get that the Eagles saw something the Vikings did on tape, and you have to give the Vikings credit for reading it and adjusting, but wow, no. You want more than one option on a play like this.

‘Running Back Roulette’ Fantasy Player of the Week

Your humble Scramble writers picked up plenty of Aaron Jones shares in daily fantasy after his fantastic Week 5. That was sparked, in part, by the absence of Jamaal Williams, who had missed the previous two games with a concussion. Considering Jones’ success and the lingering effects of the injury, you could have expected Williams to have a relatively light workload. Instead, it was a 50/50 split, and Williams turned in a huge night — 104 yards on the ground, and 32 yards and a score through the air. Williams should be owned in all leagues now.

Garbage-Time Performer of the Week

I am going to hijack this award to complain about my fantasy team for a moment, OK? Great, glad we’re all on the same page. While the Eagles got a bit off the deck after Minnesota’s first-half eruption, the game was pretty much a foregone conclusion for the latter half of the fourth quarter. Zach Ertz, who was kept fairly quiet during the competitive portion of the game, caught a pair of deep balls in a row, for 17 and 20 yards. The 4.7 fantasy points that gave his fantasy owners — like Bryan, for instance — would have been enough for some people — like Bryan, for example — to win close fantasy matchups, by a little under 1.5 points. Unfortunately, Ertz fumbled on that second reception, causing some people — like Bryan, ever so possibly — to lose their matchups. Dangit, Zach…

Comfort in Sadness Stat of the Week

Thus far, by our numbers, Daniel Jones has been worse than Eli Manning. That is not entirely unexpected: Jones is a rookie, Manning a 15-year veteran. Jones has been without Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram during portions of his time as the starter, whereas Manning missed only Shepard during his brief stint at the beginning of the season. Jones did, however, throw the first touchdown pass the Patriots defense has allowed all season on Thursday night, a 64-yard strike to Golden Tate. Jones has already enjoyed several highlight moments, and the performances of the young quarterback should provide reason for optimism during what is likely to be a long winter for another below-par Giants team.

Game-Changing Play of the Week

With 49 seconds left in the first half, Deshaun Watson was picked off by Juan Thornhill in the end zone. Never mind that it was fourth down and Thornhill should have just knocked the ball down; the Chiefs’ high-powered offense was going to take the lead, up 17-16, with all three timeouts left. It was the perfect opportunity to pick up at least a field goal before the half and gain some breathing room, and who would you rather have than Patrick Mahomes under center in this kind of situation? Well, Charles Omenihu had other plans.

Heck of an effort by Benardrick McKinney, hustling to get the recovery — there are seven players closer to the ball when it is stripped, and a pair of Chiefs linemen were right on top of it. Instead, McKinney digs it out, Watson scores the next play, and the Texans enter the half with a 23-17 lead. Maybe the Chiefs don’t score on that drive with a gimpier Mahomes, but it’s at least a seven-point swing in a game the Texans won by seven; a huge, huge defensive effort.

The game was for possession of second place in the AFC, and now the Texans have the tiebreaker should it come down to that. I doubt it will, but that doesn’t mean the win isn’t huge for the Texans. The Colts picked up a big upset win over Kansas City two weeks ago, and that could have been a major feather in their cap down the stretch in the AFC South. Instead, the Texans have matched it, and that could easily end up being the difference in the division when the dust clears.

Weekly Predictions

Money-Back Guarantee Lock of the Week
All picks are made without reference to FO’s Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Records to Date
Andrew: 4-2
Bryan: 3-3

Bryan: Against Detroit, Aaron Rodgers showed off pretty much every stellar throw in the book, some of which didn’t even require the referees to give him extra downs to perform. While I doubt the boys in black and white will be quite as helpful to the Packers this week, I’ll still take Green Bay (-6) at home against the well-rested silver and black. I’m not on board with the Raiders actually being good yet, though they are better than I thought they would be before the season. I trust that this one will at least be played on a full-length field, rather than the 80-yard edition we saw in preseason!

Andrew: That -3 line for the Jaguars in Cincinnati is enticing enough for me to double down on a team I wouldn’t normally even consider as road favorites. The Jaguars aren’t as bad as I expected, even though their defense has dropped off considerably from the peak of its powers, and even at 2-4 they can claw their way back into contention with a couple of wins in the next two weeks and a strong run after the bye. No such optimism exists for the Bengals, who would be the worst team in the AFC if this was any kind of normal season. Heading into their Week 9 bye without any wins is a very real prospect, and I wouldn’t bet against their game against the Dolphins being the first-ever battle of two 0-14 teams. Jacksonville (-3) at Cincinnati.

Double Survival League

Bryan: Our second head-to-head matchup of the year came down to one of the five remaining players who pre-date Football Outsiders. The Cardinals seemed to have put everything away before the Falcons came roaring back in the second half … and then Matt Bryant shanked an extra point, and the Falcons lost by one. That’s two weeks in a row one of us has lost to the other on a last-minute kick that made Arizona winners. No more Arizona games! They’re too stressful!

Andrew: The strategy for this has definitely become more about who the team is playing than about the quality of the team itself, and I’m yet again picking two teams I don’t think very highly of in a vacuum because they’re playing terrible opponents in an atmosphere. Buffalo is nice and obvious, because they’re playing Miami and we want in on that action early and often.

Jacksonville has a hypothetically trickier trip to Cincinnati, but the Bengals have been both inept and insipid this season: certainly very bad, but not nearly as interesting a flavor of bad as the likes of Washington or Miami. For that reason, I’m doubling down on my Lock of the Week: Minshew Mania took a hit against the Saints, but the defense kept the game competitive and that should be more than enough to overcome the far inferior Bengals.

Bryan: OK, yes, I’m taking Buffalo. I think you can pretty much pencil in “Miami’s opponent here” in all but three weeks: the weeks they rematch the Bills and Jets as we can only pick each team once, and the one week we have to pick Miami themselves. They only other exception for me will be Week 14, because I’ve already used the Eagles, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be beating up on the Dolphins all year long.

I hate my other pick, though. I’ve already used San Francisco (v. WAS), New England (v. NYJ) and Dallas (v. PHI). I don’t want to take the Seahawks against Lamar Jackson. I’m saving the Giants for their Miami game. I’m saving Green Bay for their Washington game. That leaves me pretty low on options, so I’ll gamble on well-rested Chicago at home against New Orleans. I don’t particularly like it, not with matchups against the Chargers, Lions and Giants still on their schedule later, but I’ve already excluded everyone I’m remotely comfortable with. At least Andrew’s Bears pick failed against the Raiders, so it’s not ground lost if I’m wrong.

Bryan selects Chicago; Andrew takes Jacksonville and both take Buffalo

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