NFL Week 14 Hot Takes
Howard Bender gives you the hot takes rundown from all the action fantasy football owners saw during Week 14 of the NFL season.
Thursday Night Football isn’t a game, it’s an omen. When Week 13 opened up with the enormous fantasy letdown that was the Cowboys/Saints game, we were disappointed. When that carried over into some Bizarro World fantasy week, we were hoping it was just a simple anomaly – a blip on the radar screen. When Week 14 opened up with an equally strange result – Derrick Henry rushing for 238 yards and four touchdowns – we should have taken notice and understood what we were about to go up against on Sunday. From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, here are some thoughts and hot takes from the weekend.
Why We Wait on Quarterbacks
Two of the top five scoring quarterbacks were Ryan Tannehill and Josh Johnson . No, seriously. Tannehill was under 200 passing yards until the Miami Miracle – a bizarre yet successful lateral play that gave the Dolphins a last-second win over the Patriots – gave him credit for a 69-yard passing touchdown to Kenyan Drake . Meanwhile, Johnson, who hadn’t thrown a competitive pass in the NFL since 2011, finished the day with just 195 passing yards, but he threw for one touchdown and then ran one in himself to close out the day with 45 rushing yards to pad his numbers. Even crazier is that head coach Jay Gruden has already announced Johnson as his Week 15 starter. Of course we’re not trusting either guy in our lineups here in the fantasy playoffs, but yet another reason to laugh off the notion of taking Aaron Rodgers , Tom Brady or Deshaun Watson in the early rounds of your draft.
One final thought on this – Josh Allen is going to be the first Buffalo QB to be viable in fantasy since Jim Kelly. For real. How long he actually lasts in the NFL is yet to be seen, but with another 101 rushing yards Sunday, Allen has now totaled 335 rushing yards with two rushing touchdowns over his last three games. People would give their right eye to see their friggin’ running backs post those kinds of numbers, let alone get them from their quarterback.
They Came from Nowhere
The quarterback position was the only place we saw some oddball high scoring. While we had some normalcy in the form of Christian McCaffrey , Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley , the running back position was riddled with touchdowns from players no one would have even thought of using outside some crazy, deep leagues. Dolphins RB Brandon Bolden scored twice against his former team in a “revenge game narrative” no one was discussing. Damien Williams walked away from the Chiefs game with two scores and way more fantasy points than anyone on that team. And then you wanna talk stolen cookies – Alfred Blue , James Develin , Zach Line , Trenton Cannon , Kenneth Dixon , Stevan Ridley and Zach Zenner also hit paydirt this week, rewarding no one. I hate to belabor a point, but how much of that fantasy football prep work in June helped you ouit here?
There’s a Reason They're Just Back-Ups
Always amazing when the hype train starts up and then derails as it tends to ruin fantasy seasons at the worst possible time. Heading into Week 14, the most popular plays were Jaylen Samuels , Justin Jackson , Austin Ekeler and Jeff Wilson . Owners who had handcuffed their starters with them were prancing around like proud peacocks while those who acquired them via waivers were ready to bench proven talent to get one of these hopefuls into their lineups. Ekeler had himself a decent day, rushing for 66 yards and a touchdown while catching two passes for 28 yards, but he suffered a stinger late in the game and is now questionable for Week 15. As for the rest…yuck. Samuels was supposed to see the bulk of the work and while his seven catches for 64 yards salvaged some of it, Stevan Ridley poached the goal-line work and the touchdown, leaving owners wanting/needing more. Wilson rushed for 90 yards on a whopping 23 carries, but never found the end zone or enough receiving work to make the day palatable and Jackson was…just gross. We have to remember that while opportunity is huge, if the overall talent is lacking, we’re never going to get the results we hope for each week.
And just to show you we’re not just picking on the running backs, anyone out there see the day Courtland Sutton had? Yuck!
Maybe Mike McCarthy Wasn’t the Problem?
Someone want to tell us why it was Jamaal Williams getting early carries in Green Bay and not Aaron Jones ? Seriously. Maybe it wasn’t McCarthy. Or maybe Joe Philbin should have been dumped right alongside McCarthy? We knew we would get a heavy dose of Aaron Rodgers with the change, but why are we still messing with the backfield? The Packers opened up their day with five-straight passing plays and when they finally handed the ball off, it was to Williams. In fact, Jones didn’t see his first touch until 12:28 of the second quarter and had just three touches in the first half. WTF? He managed to salvage his day with a 29-yard TD run in the second half, but this was crazy stressful, especially if you played Jones in DFS. Not sure who Williams has incriminating photos of inside the Packers hierarchy, but they need to pay the dude off and get him the heck off this roster.
George Kittle is What Gronk Used to Be
Oddly enough, George Kittle ’s franchise record-breaking day of 210 receiving yards came on the same day Rob Gronkowski returned to form and caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown of his own, but that shouldn’t detract from the changing of the guard we are witnessing at the tight end position. Sorry, Gronk, but we’re done with you. There’s a new sheriff in town and Kittle is his name. Seven catches for 210 yards and a touchdown was the final tally, and Kittle looked like an absolute beast out there. He posted a 30-yard YPC on the day which was highlighted by a 52-yard catch-and-run and an even more impressive 85-yard TD catch. The wide-bodied tight end was chugging down the field and while he eluded some tacklers, there was a distinct feeling that no defensive back or safety even wanted to get in his way. The guy was like a freight train, reminiscent of how Gronk used to look before he got old and broken.
Weather Always Matters
There was some serious panic going on before the Saints/Bucs game as everyone learned Wednesday that heavy rain was expected and all that fantasy deliciousness would be washed away. The fantasy world was salivating over Drew Brees , Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas facing a horribly porous Tampa Bay defense while, on the other side, folks were lining up to get their shares of Jameis Winston , Mike Evans , Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries as they were supposed to counter in the same form that had the Bucs upsetting the Saints 48-40 in Week 1. Granted, we weren’t expecting a repeat performance, but we also weren’t expecting such a nightmarish slop-fest when the rain wasn’t even coming down much during the game. The field conditions we not ideal in this game and that’s where the fade should have come in. Alvin Kamara was slip-sliding away, receivers continuously lost their footing and fell down while running their routes and the fantasy production was less than stellar. Jameis Winston couldn’t grip the ball or make an accurate pass and when he did, Chris Godwin dropped it. It was just pure ugliness. We tell you not to overreact to the weather – not to freak out because they’re calling for heavy winds – but it cannot be ignored completely. When it’s been raining all day in a particular area, take note of the field and the issues everyone can have. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
Elijah McGuire helped ice the game for the Jets and had 67 rushing yards and a touchdown to lead their backfield. With Isaiah Crowell sidelined, McGuire gets a slight boost to his fantasy value. Of course, the Jets face the Texans next so you’re not going to want to use him at all.
Sitting T.Y. Hilton this week was like falling for the banana in the tailpipe. All week long it was a struggle with the shoulder injury and Hilton was a game-time decision. Then he woke up early on Sunday and declared himself to be just fine. We’ve all been fooled by that before, right? You game-plan away from it all week long, then they dangle that carrot (or banana) in front of you so that you play him and watch as he’s nothing more than a decoy, right? Some decoy – 199 receiving yards. WTF?
So Matty Ice is his nickname because he is suddenly capable of playing in freezing cold weather outside the safety of the dome in Atlanta? I mean, a 265-yard total isn’t eye-popping, but the three touchdowns made him vastly more productive than any of us gave him credit for.
By the way, the Washington Redskins could be the absolute worst team in the NFL right now. The worst.
People are going to say, “If Cam Newton ’s shoulder is in such bad shape, why would Norv Turner have him throw 42 times in a game?” No clue, really. Not sure what they were trying to prove. The way to beat the Browns is on the ground and they had almost twice the number of passing plays as they had rushing, so the loss alone indicates the Panthers’ stupidity.
Looks like it was the raiders who ruined Amari Cooper and not the other way around. His work with Derek Carr was nothing short of atrocious outside of maybe one or two strong games. With Dak Prescott , he's apparently an elite talent. Keepr league owners are going to have a field day with that questionable protect.
And finally, if you’re on-board with this new NFL with all the fancy passing and high-scoring offenses, just remember – defense wins championships. Just as the Rams who got schooled by the Bears defense last night. The Chiefs also needed OT to beat the Ravens and had Baltimore actually had a QB who could pass the ball properly, they would have won too.
Now I have to go brace for Jim Bowden’s excessive “How ‘bout them Cowboys.” Kill me now.