There is no doubt the NFL is a passing league. But the league continues to push further into that territory. 2021 saw teams average 34 pass attempts per game. Excluding the Chicago Bears' paying homage to Knute Rockne's passing innovations, that number pushes to 36 pass attempts for 2022. Between 2015 and 2021, the league ranged between 15 and 29 50-attempt games. In 2022, that number is already 7, setting a pace for just under 40—a record.
The game of the week occurred in Miami, where the Dolphins topped the Bills 21-19. The Bills controlled the time of possession to a two-to-one advantage and held down Tua Tagovailoa's pass attempts. Missing time after a late hit that saw his head bounce off the turf, creating a back injury and heat exhaustion that caused him to collapse to the field dazed, helped hold down those numbers. Josh Allen used the time of possession advantage to set a career-high with 63 pass attempts, topping 400 passing yards and 40 rushing yards for the first time in a game. Most notable from the Bills' side was the passing game involvement from the running backs. Devin Singletary set a career-high with 11 targets and 9 receptions. In total, the Bills saw 17 targets go to the running back position, an extremely encouraging development for second-round pick James Cook. There were concerns about Allen's history of ignoring the running back position in the passing game with Cook; offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey slammed those shut, frequently lining Cook up as a receiver and utilizing him in the passing game.
Encouraging rookie running back usage also occurred in Metlife Stadium, where the Jets hosted the Bengals. Joe Flacco topped 50 passes for the second time in three weeks in a game the Bengals controlled, winning 27-12. Rookie Breece Hall topped nine targets for the second time in three games. Despite the Jets easing him in and utilizing a timeshare with Michael Carter, Hall has been a PPR standout, sitting at RB14 on the season. Hall has the talent everyone projected during the rookie draft season, and any injury to Carter could see him seize league-altering volume. The Jets currently sit bottom six in points allowed and face a brutal upcoming schedule with shootouts ahead though the return of Zack Wilson could alter the offensive attack.
Out west, Kyler Murray also set his career high with 58 pass attempts in a loss to the Rams. Most encouraging was Marquise Brown stepping forward and fleshing out his relationship with Murray. Brown saw a career-high 17 targets and converted on another career-high 14 receptions. Brown started his career as a deep threat for Lamar Jackson. Still, the involvement in Kliff Kingsbury's variation of the Air Raid offense shifts his profile, seeing more usage on schemed passing concepts that lower Brown's target depth and turn him into an elite PPR receiving option. Going towards this usage answers an essential question with the impending return of DeAndre Hopkins; the offense can work backward from expectation; instead of using Brown to clear out space for Hopkins, the team can use Hopkins' physicality vertically and clear Brown underneath. Instead of Brown shifting back towards a boom-bust option, he works very well in the modern NFL alpha receiver role as a player who can create quick separation.
Brown's old team, the Ravens, also answered questions about their offensive structure. This passing attack is Mark Andrews', with 13 targets and eight receptions. Andrews is now averaging 10.33 targets per game, an increase from his breakout 2021 that saw him average 9.7 after week five. This attack will remain low-volume with Andrews and 2nd-year Rashod Bateman the primary fantasy relevant options though Devin Duvernay was able to score for the third game in a row. The Ravens are stretching the field more than ever; Lamar Jackson has added nearly three air yards per attempt on top of his career average. Bateman has shown he is an NFL-caliber playmaker, converting long touchdowns in the first two games of the year, but he has fallen into Brown's old role as a boom or bust option. The return of J.K. Dobbins is the other story from this game, but he looked ineffective, and the Ravens ended the Kenyan Drake experiment. The most interesting, easily obtainable piece in this offense is Justice Hill, who carried six times for 60 yards. But the story of the offense is Andrews, who may be the best "win now" piece to acquire in a dynasty due to the positional advantage gained.
The only player who can currently match Andrew's production at the tight end position is Travis Kelce. The Chiefs were upset by the Colts; the Colts again showed never to underestimate a team backed against a wall. Jonathan Taylor continued his slow start to the season, but a takeaway was rookie tight end Jelani Woods showing physically in the red zone. The Colts have struggled to find tight end production and took Woods in the third round. His size shows out on the field, and the team trusting him in big situations projects nicely for his future. Despite the loss, the Chiefs granted some clarity to their confusing receiver situation. Targets were split almost evenly between Kelce, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. That's where the primary financial outlay lies on the team, and they have skill sets that complement each other. Given the value of Patrick Mahomes II' targets, consistent, predictable volume is longed for with this group, and narrowing it to just three would make managers' decisions much more accessible. But this comes with caveats, both Mecole Hardman and Justin Watson worked through injury designations this week, the team expressed interest in seeing rookie Skyy Moore get involved, and he fumbled a punt return opportunity, and the team lost. Both Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling will need to duplicate this volume to allow any level of comfort, but it looks like Kelce is the only reliable piece.
But dynasty managers may get the most relief from Atlanta's late game. Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts finally saw a mini breakout. Pitts turned eight targets and a 42% target share into five receptions and 87 yards. The rub is this game looked like what Arthur Smith would like to do weekly; with Marcus Mariota only throwing 20 passes in a game, the Falcons held the lead through most of the game. If the Falcons keep their target tree ultra tight between Pitts and Drake London, there is enough room to allow both to breathe and produce for fantasy. But as long as this is the structure, that margin will remain ultra-thin, as the worst-case scenario Bears illustrate.
The final story of Sunday was production from young receivers like Chris Olave (9-147) and DeVonta Smith (8-169-1) and overlooked veterans like Mack Hollins (8-158-1), DeVante Parker (5-156), Josh Reynolds (6-96), and Tyler Boyd (4-105-1).
Looking forward, Thursday Night Football offers up a great fantasy matchup with the Dolphins visiting the Bengals, elite quarterbacks will headline with the Bills traveling to the Ravens, and the Jaguars will travel to Philadelphia in a revenge game for Doug Pederson in two of the best early stories of the season.
This week’s group are four elite fantasy running backs. Can you place this production?
Revenge! A Dish Best Served On The Field
Revenge games of the week look at players or coaches who may be playing for a little bit extra.
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