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Week 13 Observations
I’ve mentioned this before, but as the season goes on, your focus narrows. Survivor is gone, the Circa Millions is a personal testing ground rather than a prospective payout and more of my leagues are drawing dead or close to it. But my highest stakes NFFC Primetime team was alive and well, and naturally its fate will largely dictate whether I’ve had a good or bad week.
While I made a couple lineup errors (George Kittle over Pat Freiermuth, Trevor Lawrence over Daniel Jones), I made one very good decision: picking up the Browns defense. But at the last minute I noticed all the sources with which I double-check (Jerry Donabedian’s RotoWire column, Jeff Erickson’s Value Meter and Fantasy Pros) had the Bucs (on my bench) ranked (slightly) higher than them. I thought about switching it, but after the Gano/Foles disaster two weeks ago, I left it alone.
Twenty-five minutes into the game I was cursing myself. The Browns had one lucky interception that bounced off a receiver on the ground, zero sacks and were trailing 5-0 in the game. Then Donovan Peoples-Jones brought a punt to the house, and I could relax. If the Browns got me 10-12 points, that would be good enough, no matter what happened in Tampa Monday night. Plus, I made the Saints +3.5 one of my Circa picks, i.e., I expected it to be a tight game. But the Browns’ two defensive TDs in the second half en route to 30 points made my day. It also got me a lucky win in the Circa Millions on the Browns — it’s hard to cover a seven-point spread on the road when your offense doesn’t score a touchdown.
The Giants game was disappointing, of course, but epic. The craziest play in a game of crazy plays was when they had Taylor Heinicke on 4th-and-4, down seven in the fourth quarter, scrambling for his life, and he whipped a sidearm toss 20 yards down the field for a massive first down to preserve the drive. These were two teams that didn’t want to lose in a fight to the death. I should have been more upset when Graham Gano missed the 58-yard FG, but the game renewed my faith in them, especially given how undermanned they are.
I picked up Falcons safety Richie Grant in the Steak League, and he racked up nine tackles. That’s really the only interest I had in the Steelers-Falcons besides Pat Freiermuth who I wanted to do well in two leagues, but not so well because, as I said, I started Kittle over him in the Primetime. It’s weird how you root against your own players sometimes just to avoid regretting a bad decision.
Aaron Rodgers has had a tough year, but he’s more likely to inject himself with experimental pharmaceuticals than lose to the Bears.
I had Christian Watson on my bench for the fourth straight week. How do you start him over Christian Kirk, DK Metcalf, Travis Etienne or AJ Brown? Watson had one carry and three catches!
Justin Fields is healthy at least — getting him and Ja’Marr Chase back is huge for my Steak League team, but I’m still on the double-buyer ropes.
The Lions absolutely killed the Jaguars. I watched that entire game because I have Etienne, Kirk and Trevor Lawrence everywhere. The Jaguars offense picked it up a little in the second half, but the defense couldn’t get the Lions off the field. Every time Detroit had the ball it was an extended drive that ended in a touchdown. By the time the Jaguars got the ball back with two minutes in the fourth quarter, it was mop-up duty for the scrubs.
Lawrence got his leg bent awkwardly underneath him at the end of the first half, and I thought he might be done not only for the game, but the year. Luckily he was fine — that Primetime team has only him and Daniel Jones.
Etienne looked healthy after missing most of last week with a foot injury. But the Jaguars just didn’t have the ball enough. Zay Jones dropping a few key passes early didn’t help. And of course Evan Engram dropped a key would-be third-down conversion. The Jaguars front office obviously doesn’t follow me on Twitter and never listened to the Sirius XM show the past five years because otherwise they wouldn’t have signed him.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (12-11-114-2) was unstoppable. Every time I looked, he was catching a pass, converting a key third down. D’Andre Swift (14-62-1, 6-4-49-0) was also a big factor. Swift could carry you in the playoffs or get hurt in the first quarter and get you knocked out in the first round.
Jared Goff has played well of late, but it would be an obvious mistake for the Lions to commit to him. He’s one of the many mid-level QBs in the league who look good when he has a good offensive line and terrible when things break down.
I didn’t watch the Jets-Vikings, but it seemed like Red Zone was showing the Jets knocking on the door and falling short for about an hour straight. The Vikings are not serious contenders, either way.
I’ve been playing around with the new OpenAI technology the last few days where you can ask it to write a story based on whatever parameters you give it. I wonder whether I should aid its learning because it’ll probably become a force for evil. But this morning I discovered how to put it to good use:
Daniel Jones played a great game other than a fumble on the first drive. Of his six incompletions, a couple were drops, and a couple spikes to stop the clock. He also ran for 71 yards.
The Giants defense stepped up huge in the second half and overtime. The one blemish was that game-tying TD drive that only got extended because of Heinicke’s amazing 4th-and-4 scramble throw.
I wasn’t thrilled when the Giants punted on 4th-and-3 from midfield with two minutes left in overtime — playing for the tie was weak. But after an unblocked Kayvon Thibodeaux drilled Heinicke at the goal-line, suddenly the punt was genius.
Graham Gano’s 58-yard field goal attempt was dead on, but just short. As I said, it was disappointing, but I got my money’s worth.
Maybe I’ve been underestimating the Eagles.
Keep an eye on tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo (5-4-68-0). The guy makes plays almost every game, and the Titans don’t have many options.
The Broncos-Ravens game was a bum fight.
Lamar Jackson getting hurt early is a killer for some people, though I imagine he was on a few benches against Denver. I faded him this year because I was worried about him getting hurt, and I was wrong for three weeks, right for the wrong reason for 10 and now maybe right after all.
Deshaun Watson was rustier than I could have imagined. He was throwing the ball at the feet of his receivers and made a terrible decision on his pick in the end zone. If only there were a way he could relax.
The Rams just needed to get rid of Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Darrell Henderson, Aaron Donald and Matthew Stafford to field a competitive team.
What if Cam Akers (17-60-2) were the league winner in the playoffs? He won’t be, but it seemed only a few weeks ago he had less chance of a career resurrection than Aaron Hernandez.
There are so many great receivers in the NFL these days: Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Cooper Kupp, Stefon Diggs, AJ Brown, Tyreek Hill — these are all-time players. I even have to take the L and include Davante Adams (12-8-177-2) who despite turning 30 later this month has been every bit as good away from Rodgers.
Geno Smith and DK Metcalf (8-8-127-1) took awhile to get in sync, but now Metcalf’s getting targets down the field. Tyler Lockett (12-9-128-1) is producing almost every week too.
Jimmy Garoppolo is out for the year, and we’ll see how much it matters. The 49ers are great everywhere else, so maybe Brock Purdy can pull a Nick Foles. It’s not ideal if you have Kittle, Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk to have to find out during the fantasy playoffs, though.
I didn’t watch too much of the Dolphins-49ers, but every time I looked Tua Tagovailoa was in trouble or throwing a pick. It’s not easy facing the 49ers after losing left tackle Terron Armstead.
Tyreek Hill (14-9-146-1) has 1,379 yards with five games left to play. He’s on pace for 1,942 yards, putting Calvin Johnson’s record (1,964) in play. Of course Johnson did his in 16 games.
Joe Burrow had a good game, but it would have been a lot better had Tyler Boyd not dropped an easy, wide open touchdown. The Bengals will be dangerous again in the playoffs.
I could see Samaje Perine (21-106-0, 7-6-49) cutting into Joe Mixon’s workload even after Mixon is cleared. Speaking of which, Mixon had that one monster game and has mostly been a bust otherwise even if the overall stats look okay.
Ja’Marr Chase (8-7-97-0) looked awfully spry coming back from his hip injury.
Imagine if Patrick Mahomes had the 49ers (or even Steelers) skill players rather than his own. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the Evan Engram of wideouts.
There’s not much to say about the Cowboys-Colts. Tony Pollard (12-91-2, 3-2-15-0) is peak Jamaal Charles efficient, though.
Jonathan Taylor (21-82-0, 4-3-21-0) looks fine, but he’s stuck in a bad situation.
Incidentally, I was 2-2 in the Circa Millions, losing with the Pats and Titans (my standbys) and winning with the Browns and Bengals. I have the Saints +3.5 tonight.
Which team’s recent first-round QBs would you prefer — Sam Darnold and Zach Wilson or Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manziel?