Ten Things We Learned in Week 12 (Fantasy Football)
Whether you want to call it Tyreek Hill week, the week of the Denver Disaster, or the week that ended your fantasy season, it was interesting one way or another. The Covid testing finally had some big effects that are still in limbo, and Denver was the first team to truly be dismantled by it since the season started. Watching a receiver try and suit up behind center sounds more fun than it looks, and I feel bad that he was even in that position. Tyreek Hill was the other big storyline this week, as he flirted with the record books in a 200+ yard first quarter. I didn’t personally have a lot of success this week, but I sure hope the rest of you did! Let’s take a look at what we learned in a bizarre week twelve:
Antonio Gibson Has Truly Arrived
Sometimes the preseason hype actually pays off, and other times it pays off in a huge way in front of a nationally televised audience muttering “Who the heck is that guy?” through a mouthful of turkey. Antonio Gibson rumbled for over 120 yards and three impressive touchdowns during the Football Team’s dismantling of America’s team on Thanksgiving. Gibson now has 5 touchdowns in his last 8 games, and he’s tied for the lead league in endzone trips in his rookie season. There was a lot of excitement about Gibson in the preseason once AP got cut, but I never expected him to deliver in this big of a way. He has crept into the conversation as a top thirty draft pick in 2021 even though his quarterback situation couldn’t be much worse. He’s an ascending dynasty asset and a player I’d be looking to increase my exposure to in every format possible.
Baker Mayfield is Not Good
I did my best to defend Baker earlier in his career, but at this point, I don’t have much left to say. He’s inaccurate, jumpy, and makes terrible decisions. There isn’t a concrete explanation for what happened after his rookie year, but for some reason, his performances have dropped off on a near-weekly basis. The Browns have a strong rushing attack which has vaulted them into the playoff hunt, but they will need Baker to figure things out to have any chance at going any further than the first weekend. I’m not holding my breath based on what I’ve seen in the past year and a half, but anything is possible in this league.
The Rookie of the Year Award is a Two-Horse Race
Justin Herbert is likely a shoo-in for the crown this season based on his exceptional play all year long, but don’t count out Mr. Jefferson in Minnesota just yet. Justin Jefferson is one of the most impressive receivers in the league right now. Not just rookie receivers, but receivers. He is a truly unique talent on a team that was left with an opening after they traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills. Jefferson is on pace to finish in the top ten for receiving yardage in 2020 which is an astounding feat for a rookie. He runs crisp routes, dominates after the line of scrimmage, and has eye-popping secondary metrics that all point to the same conclusion. Justin Jefferson is a stone-cold baller. I still think Herbert deserves the award overall, but Jefferson will be a talking point all offseason long.
AJ Brown is the Grownest Man in the League
Brown is widely considered one of the most unique athletes in the NFL, but every time he houses an inside slant I’m impressed all over again. Guys like Brown, Metcalf, and Julio are the type of players that don’t look like they’re even moving that quickly when they fly by linebackers, but they always do just that. Brown got off to a slow start this year but has climbed back into the upper echelon at his position. For those of you that don’t know this, Brown and Metcalf were actually teammates in college at Ole Miss. There are probably cornerbacks that still have nightmares about squaring off against that duo, even if they didn’t dominate the box score as much as you’d think while they were there. Dynasty managers who are debating between the two have a tough task in front of them, but if you ask me – I’ll take Brown. Metcalf has the better quarterback and the higher volume passing attack on his side, but Brown is a better route runner and his long term ceiling is slightly higher in my opinion. I’d be happy with either one of those guys on my team, and I’m ecstatic to watch them ball out for the next ten years.
The Lions Have Finally Had Enough
Detroit parted ways with Jim Caldwell because he wasn’t helping the team take the next step past simply aiming to sneak into the playoffs. It was a reasonable move considering the ceiling of the team didn’t appear to be rising with Caldwell at the helm, but in hindsight it’s frustrating. Patricia comes from the classic football guy mold, which centers around defensive firepower and an established running game. The Lions have not had either in the three seasons he’s been in charge. As a matter of fact, they’ve regressed in almost every area of play, including their win/loss record. Patricia overstayed his welcome by about ten games this year, so it was no surprise to see the Lions finally say enough is enough. They also let go of their GM Bob Quinn, in a move that signaled a near restart for the entire franchise. In my humble opinion, until there is a change in ownership, I wouldn’t hold my breath in Detroit.
Streaming Quarterbacks is a Risky Proposition This Year
Let’s pour one out for all the people (including myself) that sent in the Carr this week. It was an embarrassing performance against the Falcons for the entire Raiders franchise, but Carr in particular took a beating. He fumbled three times and threw a pick, compiling an eye-popping .6 points in total (and no, that’s not a typo). Last week a lot of people were on Matt Ryan against New Orleans, and he threw up a stellar 5 points. Picking quarterbacks late is definitely the strategy you want to go with in normal formats, but weeks like this remind you why streaming quarterbacks can be quite risky. This season in particular has seen more ups and downs than most at the position, so hopefully it’s a one-season issue that won’t scare us into reaching in our 2021 fantasy drafts. By the way – next week we will all probably ride with Ryan Tannehill, so let’s hope the week thirteen recap is happier.
Joe Brady Deserves More Praise
The Carolina Panthers made an exciting hire this offseason when they brought in Joe Brady, and it’s paid off in a big way. Brady ascended to the top of many coaching lists when he orchestrated one of the best offenses in college football history at LSU, and his meteoric rise has continued in the NFL. Teddy Bridgewater was widely considered a safe quarterback who lacked a big downfield arm, Christian McCaffrey has been absent most of the season, and their defense is significantly below average. Yet somehow, things have been impressive on the offensive end. Brady has improved Carolina’s yards per game, yards per play, points per game, and passing game efficiency. They consistently compete every week regardless of their opponent, and if Brady isn’t snatched away for a head coaching job in 2021, they should be a sleeper playoff contender with McCaffrey back in the lineup and a full offseason to continue their improvement. The Panthers’ record isn’t impressive, but Joe Brady, in particular, deserves a lot more praise than he’s currently getting.
The Buccaneers Struggle Against Quality Opponents
Tampa Bay has one of the most exciting offenses in the league on paper, and the undisputed best quarterback in history behind center. Brady has had a pretty strong season this year, but one trend that’s following him and the team he leads has become increasingly clear. The Bucs have not been able to compete at a high level with the top tier teams in the league with much consistency. They have two convincing losses to the Saints, an inexplicable loss to the Bears, and back to losses to the Rams and Chiefs to finish up November. Even though the game with Kansas City was close, it didn’t feel close by any stretch. Their only quality victory over a playoff team came against the Packers back in week six. Brady has not looked good as of late, and he completely disappeared in both games against New Orleans. A lot of people list Tampa Bay as a super bowl contender, but something drastic will have to change for that to become a genuine reality, even if they end up in the playoffs. When push comes to shove, the Bucs have gotten shoved more times than they’ve pushed.
Without Drew Brees, the Saints Aren’t Marching in Fantasy Lineups
Since Taysom Hill took over the offense, Alvin Kamara has been a shell of himself from a fantasy standpoint. Michael Thomas is barely worth starting in any capacity this year, but Kamara was consistently elite up until the Hill experiment began. Denver is a solid defense, but what concerns me the most is the lack of priority from Hill and the offense, in general, to get the ball in Kamara’s hands. This week Latavius Murray got a lot of work, and Hill stole two touchdowns near the goal line which are usually Kamara’s area of expertise. If you have Kamara on your team you’re starting him, but expectations need to be tempered if Drew Brees isn’t able to return for fantasy playoffs.
The Bears Offense is Hopeless
In fairness, I didn’t just learn that this week. The Bears have been abysmal on offense all season long regardless of who is behind center. Somehow the football overlords granted Chicago a great start to the season, but I don’t think there has been a 5-1 team with less confidence behind them. Nick Foles has hardly been an upgrade on Mitch Trubisky, and the quarterback competition carousel is never good for a team, especially at the professional level. Trubisky got another crack at the job by default this week, and he did just well enough to wonder if it’s him or the offense that really stinks. Ultimately I think the answer is both, and I don’t see a path to improvement for either anytime soon. The Bears will have to start fresh eventually at the quarterback position, or at the very least – figure out a way to turn Matt Nagy back into the protege people pretended he was. The running game is ugly, the passing attack is worse, and the defense is forced into a dominant performance or a loss. I hope they can turn it around offensively to allow us to appreciate the defense as we should, but that simply isn’t going to happen in 2020.