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"FBG is the best fantasy football advisory service anywhere."
Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
The mission of this column—and a lot of my work—is to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality of football analysis. Football analysis—fantasy and reality—is often dramatized because there's a core belief that it's more important to entertain than to educate.
I don't live by the idea that it's better to be lucky than good. While I want to give you actionable recommendations that will help you get results, I prefer to get the process right. There will be a lot of people talking about how they were right to draft or start specific players. Many of them got the right result but with the wrong process.
The Top 10 will cover topics that attempt to get the process right (reality) while understanding that fantasy owners may not have time to wait for the necessary data to determine the best course of action (fantasy).
As always I recommend Sigmund Bloom's Waiver Wire piece which you'll find available on this page, Monday night. Bloom and I are not always going to agree on players—he errs more often towards players who flash elite athletic ability and I err more towards players who are more technically skilled and assignment-sound.
Straight, No Chaser: Week 10's Cliff's Notes
The article below will provide expanded thoughts and supporting visuals for the following points:
- Patrick Mahomes II returned to the field in a loss against the Titans. Although he showed some moments of rust during the first drive, he acclimated fast and delivered throws that evoked guffaws from fans, opponents, and teammates.
- You've probably seen Lamar Jackson's long touchdown run against the Bengals by now. His running was the icing on the cake. The actual cake is his skill from the pocket and passing prowess in the middle of the field. Remember this for 2020 when 7 out of 10 fantasy players and analysts will likely tell you before drafts that Jackson and his offense will be figured out.
- Much of the fantasy community is too apt to believe that elite athletic ability compensates for a lack of football skills. The year-one buzz about Courtland Sutton was a prime example of this overestimation of the physical in football. Tyreek Hill was the exception and with a healthy Mahomes under center, I show you what it looks like as a reminder when the next hot rookie arrives in the NFL and generates more buzz than he deserves.
- Kareem Hunt returned to the NFL this weekend and he looks as good as he did in Kansas City. The Browns integrated Hunt effectively into the offense and it leaves a Browns fan to wonder if it might be possible for him and Nick Chubb to coexist in Cleveland long-term.
- Despite the return of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler's return to a No.2 role, Ekeler is a dynasty buy. In addition to his underrated skills between the tackles, Ekeler's receiving skills are special, which is why his best player comparison might be Christian McCaffrey
- The Minnesota Vikings showed what it takes to slow down Ezekiel Elliott and once you see what's involved, you'll understand why it doesn't happen often.
- Kyle Allen displayed impressive pocket presence during the Panthers' final drive during a Lambeau snowstorm that leads me to wonder if Carolina already has its quarterback of the future.
- Dak Prescott (4th) and Matthew Stafford (9th despite missing this weekend and likely to miss 2-3 more weeks) are two quarterbacks I touted as draft day values for 2019 fantasy leagues. Prescott's ability to deliver from tight pockets and creativity when the defense destroys the pocket is laudable.
- Congratulations, Atlanta, your defense had a massive role in stopping Drew Brees and the Saints. I show why this perennial Fresh Fish headliner is no longer on ice this week.
- This week's Fresh Fish:
- Kansas City's field goal unit didn't lose this game on their own, but they earned a significant responsibility for a botched field goal that gave Tennesse the lead and a drive later, a blocked potential game-winner as time ran out.
- Don't sneak away from the fish stand, Damien Williams, your lack of ball security not only led to a return for a touchdown but also could re-open a door for a committee just as LeSean McCoy's fumble two weeks ago.
- Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken overthought a pair of red-zone sequences that led to a pair of field goals.
- Yes, I still believe in Chad Kelly and I didn't even need to watch the Colts game to know that signing Brian Hoyer as a buffer between Kelly and Jacoby Brissett would appear ridiculous on the field.
For those of you who wish to learn the why's, the details are below.
1. Patrick Mahomes II May Not Be 100 Percent But He's Still Better than 90 Percent of the League
After much debate about Mahomes' readiness to play, 2018's NFL MVP took the field in Tennessee. Despite a pair of close calls where Mahomes was inches away from delivering interceptions—including an attempt where he worked to his right and threw across the field to his left that crossed the line from bold to reckless—it took all of one drive for Mahomes to iron out the kinks.
Despite wearing a brace and dragging his knee throughout this week's practices and moments during games, Mahomes still performed like nothing we've seen before on a football field.
Shortstop turning the double play...— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 10, 2019
Point guard driving and dishing to the forward for the baseline dunk...
Patrick Mahomes II climbing the pocket and delivering a 20-yard jump pass on the mark for 50 yards YAC and TD. pic.twitter.com/x1fEbAgnzs
Yes, Brett Favre and Matthew Stafford were precursors to Mahomes but neither possesses the scalable flair. Dak Prescott made some throws on Sunday night while moving to his left that would have excited us three years ago but now seems expected for an athletic passer (more later). And Kirk Cousins even did his Elvis version of Mahomes' Chuck Berry on Sunday night with a 15-yard red-zone pass that was pretty good for a...prototypical pocket passer.
You know what I mean.
Mahomes was even better than his box score if you consider how well the Titans secondary performed. In case you weren't aware, Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler (recently on IR), and Adoree Jackson are a formidable trio with the right mix of athletic ability and smarts. Ryan and Ravens cornerback Marcus Peters are two of the smartest corners in the league and while Peters loses points for his occasional reckless applications of that intelligence on the field Ryan is a cagey veteran. Add safety Kevin Byard to this mix and they can even get a lot of good from the athletic but overaggressive Kenny Vaccaro.
Ryan and Jackson kept this game close thanks to their timing on near-perfect throws from Mahomes—passes delivered with unsettling ease.
Except... pic.twitter.com/amNHpY8j4m— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 10, 2019
The battle between Mahomes' pinpoint wizardry and the excellent timing and athletic ability of the Titans' tandem waged back and forth all afternoon.
But... pic.twitter.com/OqFEt8XFG6— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 10, 2019
In the end, Mahomes won the box score but the Titans won the game. The former is all that counts for fantasy players. Mahomes is back, which means dominance for Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, occasional WR1 weeks for Sammy Watkins, and frequent fantasy scratch-off weeks for Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson.
2. Note For 2020: Lamar Jackson's running Is the Icing, His Pocket Passing Is the Cake
The Lamar Jackson Revisionist History Campaign is already underway. Much of it is rooted in unintentional ignorance perpetuated by the media. If you're a casual fan who counts on a three- or four-letter network to deliver your football information, all you saw from Sunday's Bengals' game was Jackson's long touchdown run that looked like the arrival of the Michael Vick sequel.
It's a name you'll hear from the lips of former NFL players and coaches sitting at news podiums as their hair hardens into cement statues under the heat of studio lighting. Jackson is unstoppable because his running ability is unlike anyone else in the league.
Take the needle off the record.
Jackson's combined skills of running and passing, especially from the pocket, make him unlikely anyone else in the league.
I'm going to inject this into your veins because you'll likely read or hear in 2020 that opponents will figure out Jackson and once he's forced to throw the ball, he'll be exposed as a sub-par quarterback. All quarterbacks have flaws.
Aaron Rodgers can get lazy with his mechanics and baited into reckless play.
Tom Brady's accuracy and decision-making nosedives when forced to constantly move off the landing spot of his drop.
Pressure Mahomes off the edge and up the middle and he'll crossover to a reckless territory.
Force Russell Wilson to climb the pocket and deliver from a spot tight to his offensive line and his accuracy and decision-making diminishes.
Make Deshaun Watson throw opposite hash or intermediate and deep timing routes to the perimeter and your defense has the advantage.
Jackson, like Watson, lacks a high-velocity arm. They throw the ball well in the vertical game on routes where they can get air under the ball—fades, corner routes, deep crossers, and post routes—but the strong-arm throws that have been an essential part of the NFL Quarterback Canon for decades aren't their strength.
Now that much of the NFL has figured out that they all don't have to use the same Lego pieces and Lego Lands to have success—in fact, their differences from everyone else often makes them better—we're seeing them embrace different quarterback styles more often.
And the game is much better off when there's diversity.
The data is another source that generates ambivalence about Jackson as a passer. Despite a 66 percent completion percentage and nearly 8 yards per attempt, the data-heavy analysts of our universe will cite his accuracy percentage in the deep game (23rd among quarterbacks) and sub-par accuracy against Kansas City and Seattle.
Let's be clear, Jackson is not an elite passer. And, if your analysis of his game is based on the stats tied to the NFL Quarterback Canon, it's likely that Jackson will never fit uniformly into that box. However, Jackson is a good passer, an elite pocket manager, and the raw data doesn't contextualize that Jackson's starting outside receivers are rookies—including one that has missed two games with an injury.
The deep game is dependent on timing and rapport that often takes more than a year to develop. Jackson has two rookie receivers starting on the outside and the main deep threat, Marquise Brown, missed most of the spring and summer rehabbing his foot and missed two games this year. Before we draw a definitive conclusion on Jackson as a vertical passer, we need to see him paired with starting-caliber, veteran receiver talents who are known for winning in the vertical game.
Until this happens, there's not enough data to do anything but generate points of conjecture.
Jackson and this Ravens offense would have been shut down if the only thing he could do was run the football or throw outside the pocket—another point of lazy analysis that instills unintentional ignorance in the public eye about Jackson's game. Jackson is an intelligent and poised pocket passer who manipulates coverage and displays rare placement of the ball in the middle of the field—a region where many touted young passers with traditional skills from the old NFL Quarterback Canon struggle.
Let's begin with the pocket presence. Jackson's skill climbing the pocket and delivering with bodies around him goes back to his years at Louisville. Against the Bengals—a bad secondary but still has a dangerous front four—Jackson steps so deep into the Tiger's jaws, he can see the bones of digested quarterbacks as he unloads this pinpoint post route to Brown.
This rapport should develop if Brown can stay healthy and the onus will be on Brown more than Jackson because the footwork, pocket movement, and poise from Jackson are all present in his game. It's simply about repetition with the receiver and additional development from Brown as a route runner.
Do not, I repeat, do not pay attention to nitpicking about Jackson's stance and mechanics. Jackson delivers repeatable accuracy with his mechanics in the middle of the field.
It's when he has to make wider turns to the sideline and throw with velocity where his mechanics can fail him a little more than it fails other quarterbacks. Throws to the perimeter that are determined late in the play (not late as in the timing of the throw but the decision to target an outside receiver is late in the order of a progression) are always technically difficult for quarterbacks. With Jackson's mechanics, his velocity and accuracy suffer more.
Jackson's offense is designed to target the middle of the field and it's difficult to defend because the offense is built around an option running game that can kill opponents with the perimeter running game. These facets of Jackson's throwing and running complement each other so well that, barring key injuries, it will take an opposing defense with tremendous athletes possessing great instincts (think multiple Derwin James-like options) to shut down this scheme.
However, we dwell on the running to the point that we overlook excellent pass placement—elite pass placement—from Jackson that will only become more frequent as he continues his development.
Although I've spoken with former professional wide receivers closer to my age who claim that quarterbacks rarely have the skill to intentionally place the ball to a specific shoulder to lead their receiver downfield, I've spoken with or listened to a number of younger current players who state otherwise. The game has advanced to the point based on what I've studied over the years that I side with the current generation of pros.
Jackson's throw above was intentional and brilliant. Combine his pocket savvy, toughness, and placement and you get this play that holds up as an excellent performance against any NFL opponent.
And if the pocket is too destroyed for even Jackson's high skill level, his mobility and release platforms are also intentional and brilliant.
No wide receiver or running back makes this throw, either.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Few QBs, either. pic.twitter.com/VpUqitdTav
I don't like showing this play because it risks playing into the unintentional ignorance that Jackson is a run-first quarterback who wins with back-yard plays outside the pocket. Jackson can win with these plays when the defense paints him into this corner and it's why these are picked for highlight reels. However, his game is rooted in pocket passing that requires reading and manipulating the field.
Jackson’s eyes: Middle, left, and throws to the right. In rhythm. pic.twitter.com/3RaOfd5rXQ— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Without seeing the All-22 of this play and having a conversation with Jackson or Greg Roman, I can't tell you for a fact that Jackson made three reads in rhythm and found his third option. Many of Baker Mayfield's work at Oklahoma and most of his good plays in Cleveland are what I call "faux progression reads," where the design of the pay is to make the defense believe the quarterback is reading the field but its window dressing for a one-read play. The look-off to one side is more embedded to set up a primary throw elsewhere.
While it's possible this is a faux progression play, there are three places Jackson reads the field before making the throw and he hitches twice during this play. Usually, these quick-hitting faux-progression, window-dressing plays don't have two reads and two hitches before working to the third option.
Jackson is processing the field quickly, precisely, and delivering accurately within the scope and strength of his supporting cast. As long as his outside receivers stay healthy this year and throughout the summer, expect Greg Roman to expand the vertical and perimeter games.
We may never see Miles Boykin get to exploit his perimeter timing routes (the strength of his game) with Jackson to the level that he's capable, but we don't see this from DeAndre Hopkins in Houston and his game is just fine. I'm not saying Boykin will become Hopkins for fantasy players but don't write off this passing game or Jackson as a one-year wonder as you read revisionist history next spring and summer.
3. Note For 2020: Tyreek Hill Is the Exception the Fantasy Community Overstates
Courtland Sutton is having a strong season as a second-year option. His athletic ability translates well to the field and it's helping him make highlight-reel plays against top competition. However, that athletic ability was not much different than it was in 2018 when the Broncos fanbase and media were abuzz with his exploits on the practice field.
Veteran Broncos cornerback Chris Harris told them to slow their roll because Sutton could effectively run maybe two routes and his technique as a pass-catcher had flaws that I and a few other draft analysts noted on his SMU film that had been left unaddressed. This story about the perception of Sutton's rookie camp and the reality of his subsequent performance embodies how often football fans overestimate the athletic ability of prospects when projecting performance.
Occasionally, a great athlete like Sutton can find himself in a scheme early on that exploits his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses to the extent that he has a statistically productive year. However, it's a rare occurrence.
Even rarer is the player with the physical skills to make choices that would not work for most players but will work for him. Tyreek Hill is this exception we're always overapplying to young prospects of athletic promise.
Another example: Tyreek Hill stop-start...holding Hill to 4-5 yards after a stop-start is an accomplishment for the defense.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 10, 2019
Another receiver gaining 4-5 yards after stopping his feet is an accomplishment for the receiver. pic.twitter.com/CBuV7LEF09
Another—good low-hands tech as well for Hill pic.twitter.com/6R0qQMvXEL— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 10, 2019
I remember Peter Warrick at FSU, a Heisman-winning receiver who could tilt the axis of the football field and force pursuing defenders to slide off the edge of its world when he made cuts. Warrick's vision and quickness were fantastic, but he wasn't remotely the fastest player in the NFL. When he tried stop-start moves, squaring up a defender after the catch before making a move downhill, or anything we saw from Hill above, the play was often over before it began.
Hill is the outlier and there are few outliers in this respect. Remember this between the NFL Combine through your fantasy drafts as every casual fan repeats the sound bytes from major media about young players you haven't seen yet.
4. Kareem Hunt's Return to the Field: Something Cleveland Did Right In A Major Way
First of all, I want to give props to Kareem Hunt for the work he's doing off the field to become a better person. I believe he's sincere about this work. Anyone who argues that Hunt deserves greater punishment for his deeds and that counseling, journaling, and focused meditation don't make you feel warm and fuzzy about Hunt, I understand.
I don't feel warm and fuzzy about Hunt, either. However, I appreciate the effort and can compartmentalize his work from what I'd like to see from our criminal justice system, which is a huge can of worms...and snakes.
On the field, Hunt looks like the player he was in Kansas City: vision, skilled movement, receiving skills, and a tremendous finisher.
Hunt for seven pic.twitter.com/UtktJgSNKP— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Earnest Hun...Kareem Byn... pic.twitter.com/YCn6ySC6Yh— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
What impressed me most about Hunt's performance was the way the Browns integrated him into the offense. They did exactly what I hoped: Pair him with Chubb in the backfield and use him as essentially the fullback who, on any play, might be a downfield receiver paired against a linebacker.
Chubb and Hunt backfield. 21 for Chubb. pic.twitter.com/cx6TSLSkx6— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
OZ from pistol style I like. Hunt leads, Chubb cuts back and finished for oh, about 17 yards.— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Men at work. pic.twitter.com/3XUeR9iTKy
THIS...THIS...and more of THIS pic.twitter.com/jtaQFgjj7N— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Hunt said all the right things in the media about Nick Chubb, telling reporters that he was Chubb's biggest cheerleader (I've had that role before you, Kareem, but appreciate your celebrity endorsement). Still, you never know how true the words ring until you see the actions. The play above as a lead blocker backs up those words in a most technically-sound and unselfish way.
The Browns have two versatile Pro Bowl-caliber running backs active on its roster. And with Hunt, you can split him outside and generate respect from the opponent.
Hunt and Mayfield connecting in pivotal situation pic.twitter.com/V3X6c8dJub— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
If Mayfield trusted Hunt earlier in a similar situation, this game wouldn't have been as close.
I grew up watching Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack run roughshod over the AFC. As much as I loved Byner's game, neither runner from that backfield was as good as Chubb and Hunt. These guys mesh well and the integration of them into the offense is promising.
All they need is strong quarterback play.
Even without a consistent quarterback, Hunt is worth a PPR flex in your weekly lineups moving forward. If the Browns figure out the red zone offense (see below), Chubb might run away from the competition down the stretch as the MVP of most fantasy leagues. Don't count on it, but it's not impossible.
5. Austin Ekeler Is McCaffrey-Like
Melvin Gordon is back and performing well but if I'm the Chargers, Austin Ekeler is the higher priority to keep on the roster next year. Yes, Anthony Lynn has stated that he likes Ekeler more in a supporting role.
What else is he going to say to the media when Gordon has returned from a holdout? Are you really going to anger a player that you need this year and reduce him to a backup role when the backup (who might be as good or better) is used to being the backup?
Of course not. Listen, Gordon runs with more power than Ekeler and he's a fine receiver in his own right. Still, I'd rather build an offense around Ekeler because the superior all-purpose back and I can find a dozen competent runners between the tackles at a low-low price or the veteran minimum (still less than Gordon's wants) who can fulfill a short-yardage or close-out role.
Ekeler is not as good as Christian McCaffrey between the tackles and in the open field, but that's because McCaffrey is an elite athlete with rare vision. Ekeler is a notch below McCaffrey in these departments but that's still well above average for a contributor or starter at the position. It makes Ekeler a McCaffrey-like presence for an offense—especially when the Chargers showed the cajones to use him as a true wide receiver.
Check out this route from the slot.
Love this opening play Austin Ekeler. Not only for the throw and catch, but also the stones the coaches have to use Ekeler to his talents and continue expanding his game without wussing out that, “he’s an RB for a reason.” pic.twitter.com/lBXFt8zSIi— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 8, 2019
We think wheel routes and deep seam routes are the marks of a good receiving back. These are limited applications of route-running skills. The true sign of a running back with top receiver skills are timing routes on the perimeter and in the middle of the field. This play above is Marshall Faulk-like in skill.
Most teams won't risk the in-game repetitions to give a running back an opportunity to acclimate to these plays and it's a mistake. If the player shows a propensity to make these plays in practice, let him get used to in-game action so you can exploit this weapon routinely in your offense.
If I'm a dynasty player, Ekeler is a buy. He may not ever come close to McCaffrey's sustained production, but even after five weeks of Gordon in the lineup, Ekeler has been fantasy RB17 during this span while Gordon had been RB10—in standard, non-PPR fantasy formats!
Give me some of that.
6. Slowing Down Ezekiel Elliott: It's A lot of Work
How do you slow down a great runner like Ezekiel Elliott? It's a great ques...
Wait, what? You don't think Ezekiel Elliott is that good? He's a product of his offensive line and the data proves it?
If you think this, you're an idiot. No, not a complete idiot in every facet of life. Few deserve that kind of label. You possess the type of idiocy that results from heading down paths of study that generates myopic behavior to your own detriment.
Like getting so absorbed reading a fantasy article on your phone that you walk into a wall. You may be a genius but at that moment, you're an idiot.
No, I get it, you [think] you're being provocative and insightful in an academic sense when they're positing ideas backed with research on a minuscule area of a broad subject. Except, most of the academics know the context and application of their work and they don't publicize it by touting greater application and predictability than what's true.
Media and its misunderstanding of the information or an individual writer's willful desire for attention are more often the guilty parties.
But combine the skillsets and behavior of these two roles into one person and you get snake oil salesmen espousing questionable takes with the fervor of televangelists. Welcome to a small corner of fantasy football that willfully trolls for clicks based on its cult of personality, half-baked data, and limited technical and tactical understanding of the game on the field.
Back to this great question about stopping a back with Elliott's skills. Although some unrealistic Cowboys fans are steamed that the eighth-ranked (fantasy) running back for the Cowboys only has five, 100-yard rushing efforts in nine games this year, Elliott and his offensive line are truly a difficult matchup for opposing defenses.
The Vikings have a good enough front-seven to slow Elliott and we saw it happen on Sunday night. Here are the things Minnesota did to contain one of the elite backs in the NFL.
Get multiple penetrators into the backfield pic.twitter.com/HN3Hr6IiyB— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Force Elliott back inside on runs designed to go outside pic.twitter.com/AFthMpcGKr— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Multiple points of penetration, gap discipline, rallying to the ball, and beating offensive linemen to their designated points of attack are all easy-to-identify solutions in theory but they are difficult to execute play after play against a rushing offense like the Cowboys.
If you're a casual fan and you're skimming this column for the simple answers (and actually find this in your skimming...), no, don't worry about Elliott as a fantasy commodity down the stretch. It's difficult for opposing defenses to deliver what we saw from Minnesota on a consistent enough basis to stop him and this offensive line.
7. Kyle Allen's Impressive Pocket Play
Last week, I said that I'm not ready to speak to Kyle Allen's play beyond the fact that he's made some nice throws that have shown trust with his primary receivers on the perimeter. I was initially most impressed with the improvement I saw from Curtis Samuel and, most notably, D.J. Moore as perimeter route runners and pass catchers.
Footballguy Dave Larkin reached out to me a few weeks ago about Allen. A Panthers fan, Larkin thought I'd be impressed with Allen's play. Despite five interceptions in the past three weeks, I agree that Allen's debut as an NFL quarterback has been good.
I've been struck by his pocket presence. This sequence during the final drive of the Packers game highlights Allen's awareness, movement, and persistence in difficult pockets.
I haven't seen enough to endorse Allen as a long-term fantasy commodity, but this year's work will at least earn him respect as a solid backup who can keep a team competitive. This alone is worthwhile for fantasy players seeking desperation bye-week options in two-quarterback leagues down the line.
8. Dak Prescott Delivers
Two of the quarterbacks I touted with significance as extreme values this summer were Prescott and Matthew Stafford. Both are top-10 fantasy passers as of this week, and Stafford missed Sunday (and will miss the next 2-3 games with broken bones in his back). Prescott is a top-five option despite weekly griping from a contingent of Cowboys fans who would probably criticize New Testament God being too soft and pining for the days of Old Testament God.
As long-stated in these quarters, Prescott is a good NFL quarterback capable of top NFL production when equipped with strong surrounding talent. Where people get it wrong with this statement is that they think every quarterback can be a top producer with strong surrounding talent.
Hi, Baker Mayfield fans. How's that going for you right now? No, it's not the offensive line...
Anyhow, Prescott may not be the consummate technician or high-end anticipatory passer who Peyton Manning's opposing defenses with his pre-snap acumen but he reminds me more of former league MVP Steve McNair than any quarterback in this league right now. He's a rock in the pocket and accurate on difficult throws moving to his left—a prized skill for right-handed passers.
Prescott escape and a little Mahomes-like pic.twitter.com/7Blxqhv49g— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 11, 2019
Prescott did this work against a defense that's rare with its blitz choices and kept the Cowboys in the game. Yes, fans believe that quarterbacks are responsible for losing close games, but Prescott kept this game close when the Vikings effectively shut down Elliott and ran roughshod over Dallas' defense.
Prescott also has the wisdom to listen to Amari Cooper and work with whatever solutions the talented receiver brings to the table. Common sense in hindsight, but if it were so obvious, an emerging team like Oakland would have embraced the receiver.
Prescott represents the diversity AND production of quarterback play in the league that's laudable.
9. Congratulations Falcons Defense, You're Not Fresh Fish This week!
If you asked any fantasy writer, and most football writers, if they believed the Falcons defense would do enough to stop the Saints offense in pivotal moments this weekend, they would have laughed at you. Include me in that bunch.
The Falcons earned that last laugh, thanks to coverage sacks and creative pressure schemes that forced Drew Brees to eat the football.
Falcons Defense!!— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) November 10, 2019
Two strong plays to foil Brees late pic.twitter.com/1VXcEmvo3S
Atlanta likes playing for Dan Quinn and they're fighting for him. Dirk Koetter's return as the offensive coordinator has been rocky but the ground had its best effort of the week. Clearly, this is a team in transition and while I doubt it happens, I am wondering if Quinn earns another season.
With Carolina and Tampa Bay as four of its opponents during the next seven weeks and the Saints, 49ers, and Jaguars as the other three, Atlanta has the offense to compete if its line continues to show signs of gelling in the run game. If the defense can deliver like it did this weekend, we might have lost our most obvious Fresh Fish special.
10. FRESH FISH: Week 10
Fantasy football is a cruel place. We're always searching for that weakest link. While we don't want anyone facing the wrath of Hadley, we'd love nothing more than having our players face an opponent whose game has come unglued on the field.
In the spirit of "The Shawshank Redemption," I provide my weekly shortlist of players and/or units that could have you chanting "fresh fish" when your roster draws the match-up.
Special of the Week: Chiefs Field Goal Unit
Punter and holder Dustin Colquitt mishandled an iffy snap on a field goal attempt late in the fourth quarter, leading to an intentional grounding call and a subsequent touchdown drive that gave Tennessee the lead. The Chiefs drove the field in the waning seconds only for the front seven to of the field goal unit to give up a blocked kick to end the game.
Special teams can kill seasons. Let's move onto additional specimens from the fish market:
- Damien Williams: Let's not hang Kansas City's loss solely on the kicking unit. The Titans stripped Damien Williams and returned the fumble for a score. Williams had seemingly shut the door on a Chiefs committee when LeSean McCoy fumbled a few weeks ago. Now? We may see a committee once again.
- Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken: Clevelands' offensive brain-trust had a sequence of eight red-zone plays against Buffalo and came away with no points. Then another red-zone sequence that didn't earn a touchdown. Cleveland's staff overthought the entire play-calling exercise trying to trick the Bills and instead, tricking itself—running Chubb without a lead blocker, running Chubb without a lead blocker towards the weak side with receivers in two-point stances against equal numbers on the defensive side, and low-probability fade routes. Get a fullback or a tight end, and road grade.
- Brian Hoyer and Frank Reich: Yes, I'm a Chad Kelly wonk until Kelly proves beyond all possibility that he's a nutcase or incompetent as an NFL quarterback. While most of my Footballguys compatriots stand to reason that inserting Hoyer as a buffer between Kelly and Jacoby Brissett is an indicator that any admiration for Kelly's game based on film must be misplaced, I believe in trusting my process. So far, the process tells me that, on the field, Kelly was the superior talent to Hoyer and signing Hoyer was a mistake rooted in paranoia about thrusting Kelly into the fray too early. I didn't watch the game yet, but RSP contributor, J Moyer told me Hoyer was awful. I trust Moyer.
Thanks again for all of your feedback with this column. Good luck next week and may your bold call come true.