Fantasy Football Early Advice: Brown emerges, Kaepernick fades
Your turn, Tampa Bay.
The Jaguars won their first game of the season Sunday, thus escaping the ignominy of the 2008 Lions and 1976 Buccaneers, the only winless teams since the NFL-AFL merger. Despite entering the game in Tennessee as 12-point underdogs to the Titans, the Jaguars never trailed, jumping out to a 7-0 lead just 90 seconds into the game and never looking back. Interestingly, no one on the team stood out as a fantasy performer.
Although they racked up 29 points, only Maurice Jones-Drew scored more than 10 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. Cecil Shorts had just four targets, catching two of them for 42 yards. Few started Chad Henne -- not even in two-quarterback leagues -- but if you did, he gave you all of 180 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Outside of Jones-Drew, the team's best fantasy performer was its defense, as it racked up four turnovers and a touchdown, though it did surrender 27 points.
No matter how they got their first win, the Jaguars should enjoy the fact that they'll avoid an unfortunate spot in NFL lore. And yet, they still have so little to offer the fantasy community.
Let's get to the rest of the Week 10 news:
So much for easing Andre Brown back into the offense. The Giants insisted that they wouldn't overload Brown after the back missed the first eight games of the season because of a broken leg, then proceeded to feed him the ball 30 times in a 24-20 win over the Raiders. Brown rewarded the coaching staff with 115 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Peyton Hillis had five carries for 21 yards and lost a fumble. It's safe to say who will own this backfield for the remainder of the season.
The question is how should fantasy owners value Brown now that he's ensconced as the Giants' starter? He looks like a true workhorse who will get most of the work in the middle of the field and all of the goal-line carries. That's a great start. The Giants' passing attack has struggled all season, and that should result in them leaning on him a bit more than they would have Hillis or Brandon Jacobs. They also have a relatively friendly schedule the rest of the way, with dates against Green Bay, Dallas, Washington and San Diego remaining. Add it all up, and Brown is an RB2 for the rest of the season.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery each had big games for their owners. Marshall put up seven catches for 139 yards and two touchdowns, while Jeffery had nine grabs for 114 yards. However, if not for a seeming bout of stubbornness from Marc Trestman, they could have had even better days, and Matt Forte may have found a whole lot more room to run.
Jay Cutler made his return to the field from a torn muscle in his groin a few weeks ahead of schedule and looked great in the first half, completing 12-of-16 passes for 148 yards, one touchdown and one interception. When he came out for the second half, though, he clearly was not moving as well has he had previously. When he failed to step into a third-down throw on Chicago's first series, it looked like Trestman had no choice but to replace him with Josh McCown. That is not what happened.
Cutler kept on limping back out to the field, obviously at less than 100 percent, and the Bears offense sputtered in the first half. It managed just three points before McCown came in for the final drive, and even that was set up by a Chris Conte interception that gave them a first-and-goal. McCown led them down the field for a touchdown, but the two-point conversion try came up short, ending the game.
It was bizarre to see Trestman allow a hobbled Cutler to continue to play, especially since the offense couldn't move the ball after having three great drives in the first half. Marshall, Jeffery, Forte and Martellus Bennett owners are right to wonder how much better their games could have been if McCown had played most of the second half.
We have discussed Colin Kaepernick in this space before, but now it's time to take it to another level. After his absolute no-show against the Panthers, he should no longer be considered anything more than a glorified fantasy backup.
Kaepernick completed only 11-of-22 passes for 91 yards and an interception. He ran four times for 16 yards, rounding out his totally ineffective day. Yes, the Panthers have become one of the best defenses in the league, but this was a truly dreadful performance from a quarterback who was expected to make "The Leap" this season. We'll discuss Kaepernick in greater detail later this week when the coaches' tape is available. At this point, the only reliable offense on the 49ers comes from Frank Gore. He played another great game Sunday, picking up 82 yards on just 16 carries against Carolina's stout front seven. If he doesn't get any support from Kaepernick soon, his production could be compromised, as well.
Week 10 observations ...
• Last week, Nick Foles asserted his control over the quarterback job in Philadelphia. This week, he proved why he should be trusted as a QB1 for the rest of the season. Foles passed for 228 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Eagles' 27-13 win over the Packers. He again connected with Riley Cooper and DeSean Jackson, as that pair combined to catch seven passes for 182 yards and all three of Philadelphia's touchdowns. He now has 16 touchdowns and no interceptions, threatening a record Peyton Manning set earlier this year when he threw 20 scores before his first pick of the season.
With the Eagles 5-5 and tied with the Cowboys for first place in the NFC East, it's essentially impossible to fathom them going back to Michael Vick at any point this season. Furthermore, they have a great schedule going forward. They host Washington next week before a Week 12 bye. They finish the fantasy regular season with a tough matchup against the Cardinals, then get the Lions, Vikings and Bears in the fantasy playoffs. Against a slate like that, Foles should easily be a top-10 quarterback over his final six games.
• Jake Locker had been generating some solid QB2 buzz, but it appears that has all but dissipated. He suffered what might be a lisfranc injury, and that would all but end his season. Take Ryan Fitzpatrick's success on Sunday with a grain of salt. While he threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns, he did so against the Jaguars, one of the worst defenses in the league. He rates outside the top 20 at the position for the rest of the year, and that means you can ignore this situation.
• Terrelle Pryor also generated a ton of second-half QB2 buzz, but to pull off that role you have to be able to pass with some consistency. After Pryor's third straight game without a passing touchdown, I'm not so sure he can do that. The Giants have been playing better of late, but Pryor should not be let off the hook for his 122-yard, one-interception performance. He completed 11-of-26 passes, totaling just 4.7 yards per attempt. While he was able to salvage his fantasy output with a rushing touchdown, he ran for just 19 yards. The Raiders still have games with the Texans, Titans, Jets and Chiefs remaining. That makes Pryor an awfully tough start most weeks for the rest of the year.
• As for Pryor's counterpart in Week 10, Eli Manning is, much like Kaepernick, nothing more than a glorified fantasy backup. Going up against the same team that Foles lit up for 406 yards and seven touchdowns, Manning threw for 140 yards, one score and one interception. He connected with Victor Cruz on just three of 10 targets, continuing what has been a terrible season for the Giants' passing offense. The presence of Andre Brown could help a bit down the stretch, but you should not be considering Manning unless you're in dire circumstances.
• Other than the touchdowns, Case Keenum's numbers from Sunday don't look all that gaudy. He completed 22-of-43 passes for 201. However, he didn't throw an interception, and totaled 19.34 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues against a strong Arizona defense. After seeing him have success in those conditions, I'm ready to consider him a solid QB2 option for the rest of the year. The Texans still have two games remaining with the lowly Jaguars, as well as individual matchups with the Raiders, Colts and Broncos.
• It has been a while since we've done this, so let's take a moment to appreciate the greatness of Peyton Manning. It was expected that he'd have a big day against the lackluster San Diego defense, but rarely can a guy rip off 330 yards and four touchdowns with such ease. He's up to 3,249 yards and 33 touchdowns this season, and looks like a mortal lock for the fifth MVP award of his career.
• While the matchup with Seattle was tough, it's time to write off Steven Jackson as anything more than an RB3 or flex for the rest of the season. He looked slow and gained a dreadful 11 yards on nine carries. Atlanta is in total disarray, and that's a terrible situation for everyone on the offense. The Falcons had to abandon the run thanks to a huge deficit, but it's not likely Jackson would have done a whole lot more if he had additional carries. What's more, he seems to have lost juice as a receiver. He caught just three passes for nine yards on Sunday and hasn't been a weapon catching balls out of the backfield this year. This was not the change of scenery he envisioned when he signed with the Falcons this offseason.
• Chris Johnson, why must you torment the fantasy world? After a huge game against the Rams in which he ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns last week, all signs pointed to another monster day for Johnson on Sunday. After all, the Jaguars had allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs entering Week 10. So what did Johnson do? Well, he ran for 30 yards on 12 carries, obviously. Consider him a matchup play most weeks. The Colts have been tough on opposing running backs this year, so I could see having him on the bench next week.
• Time for our weekly check-in on the situation in Buffalo. C.J. Spiller, you fooled me. I thought you were back after last week's performance. I told people you were back, I recommended you as a starter, and did all of the attendant hyping of your status this week. And then you run for 23 yards on eight carries. Fred Jackson picked up 55 yards on 12 carries, so he didn't exactly knock it out of the park either. Ultimately, this remains what it has been most of the year. These guys should be considered at the RB2 level, and that likely means only one of them can reach that height each game. As such, it's hard to feel good about starting either of them, though if you own them they're likely one of your three or four best options.
• Let's move on to everyone's favorite running back timeshare in a much warmer part of the country. The Panthers' DeAngelo Williams outpaced Jonathan Stewart in terms of carries this week, toting the ball 13 times to Stewart's eight. Stewart outgained his counterpart, 46-41. However, it was Williams who got the touchdown, and therefore the more productive fantasy day. Stewart still is the back to own in Carolina. While both will have significant roles for the rest of the season, Stewart has rushed for more yardage in each of the last two weeks. It's hard to imagine the breakdown of carries not evening out as Stewart works his way back to full strength.
• We have one more timeshare situation to check on in Arizona. Rashard Mendenhall returned from a toe injury this week and ran for 42 yards on 13 carries. Andre Ellington outperformed him again, notching 55 yards on 11 carries. Though Mendenhall led the team in touches out of the backfield, 11 carries represents Ellington's highest total when both backs have played this season. It's safe to say it also represents his floor for the remainder of the year. Mendenhall's presence means Ellington won't get near 20 touches in a game, but he can do enough damage with 15 to be considered a strong flex every single week.
• Since we did this up above with Peyton Manning, let's take a minute to appreciate three guys who don't get enough love in this column because, quite frankly, they're too good. Alfred Morris racked up 139 yards on 26 carries against the Vikings. LeSean McCoy had 155 yards on 25 carries in Green Bay. And Marshawn Lynch trampled on the Falcons for 145 yards and a score on 24 carries. If you own one of these guys, chances are you're having a very nice fantasy season
• You'd be hard pressed to find someone in Philadelphia happier than Riley Cooper with the move to Foles. He had three catches for 102 yards and two scores Monday, and has been a legitimate No. 1 receiver with Foles under center. In the four games started by Foles in which Cooper has played this year, he has 18 catches for 449 yards and six touchdowns. At this point, it would be foolish to expect his production with Foles to all of a sudden fall off a cliff. Consider him a WR2 for the remainder of the season.
• Golden Tate had a day on Sunday, catching six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. It was a pretty safe bet that one of Tate or Doug Baldwin would get to 11 fantasy points, as we covered in the Cheat Sheet over the weekend. The Falcons have allowed at least one opposing receiver or tight end to get to that level every week this season. As for Tate and Baldwin's immediate futures, you'll need to check the status of Percy Harvin this week. While the team has no reason to rush him back, early signs indicate that he could make his season debut against his former team, the Vikings, next week. The Falcons, meanwhile, play the Buccaneers in Week 11. Vincent Jackson is already a starter, but you might even want to consider Tiquan Underwood.
• Count me among those not exactly getting too excited about Tavon Austin's huge game. While he posted more than 30 fantasy points in standard scoring leagues, the big takeaway here is that he still got just three targets on Sunday. The difference is that two of them went for a combined 138 yards and two touchdowns. Unless that convinces offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to feature Austin as a bigger part of the offense, don't expect him to continue ripping off long, somewhat-fluky touchdowns. It wasn't as if Schottenheimer was unaware that Austin was on the roster until Sunday, or didn't know what his skill set was. If he were going to have a major role in the offense, it would have happened already. I'm selling.
• It might be too little, too late, but it's time to downgrade even further the outlook for all the receivers on the Giants for the rest of the season. In addition to the aforementioned problems of Manning and Cruz in what should have been a good matchup, Hakeem Nicks tallied a modest seven receptions for 86 yards. If the Giants couldn't have success against the same defense that allowed seven passing touchdowns last week, it's hard to get excited for them in any matchup. Consider Cruz a WR2 and Nicks a WR4 for the remainder of the year.
• Appreciating the Usually Unmentioned, Wide Receiver Edition: Thanks to a late Hail Mary, A.J. Green finished with eight catches for 151 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens. After being held in check by the Bears in their last three matchups, Calvin Johnson went for 83 yards and a pair of scores. Demaryius Thomas had a monster day, catching seven balls for 108 yards and three touchdowns. Antonio Brown kept chugging right along, catching six passes for 104 yards. Consistency is key, and these four deliver week after week.
• John Carlson is back among the fantasy relevant. Filling in for the injured Kyle Rudolph on Thursday, the former Seahawk caught seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown. He's worth grabbing if you're needy at the position, as Rudolph is expected to miss at least three more games due to a broken foot. The Vikings have the Packers and Bears in their next two games, two pass defenses that have really struggled this season.
• Another guy the tight end-poor can turn to in a pinch is Green Bay's Brandon Bostick. He caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown while getting the start in place of both Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless. The quarterback situation without an injured Aaron Rodgers is obviously less than ideal, but Scott Tolzien looked at least competent when he entered the game for Seneca Wallace. I'd only pursue Bostick if I truly needed help at the position, so if that describes you, feel free to put in a waiver claim.
• Delanie Walker made the most of a great matchup on Sunday, catching four passes for 62 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars. Don't get too excited, though. He had been hanging around the three-catch, 40-yard territory for weeks before drawing the Jaguars. I liked him as a starter this week, but that was all because of the matchup. The Titans get the Colts on Thursday night next week, and they've allowed the seventh fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends. Walker is on the fringes of starting territory for Week 11.
• Tyler Eifert finally had his chance Sunday, as Jermaine Gresham was inactive because of a groin injury. He made just about the least of it, catching three passes for 55 yards. Just one of those catches was in regulation. He had a chance to put himself on the radar if Gresham is forced to miss time. He failed to do so.
• It was an odd week in which most of the big-name tight ends were quiet, while the lesser-known guys stepped up and made plays. Take Rob Housler, who caught four of his five targets for 57 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Like many of the guys listed here, Housler can be considered a TE2 and used in the right matchup, but he's not someone to roll with every single week.
• After the Panthers' performance against the 49ers on Sunday, it's safe to say Carolina has a defense to start every week, regardless of matchup. It forced two turnovers, sacked Colin Kaepernick six times and held San Francisco to nine points. Frank Gore ran for 82 yards on 16 carries, but the Panthers kept him out of the end zone, becoming only the third team to do so this year.
• We may have a surprise fantasy defense emerging in St. Louis. The Rams had five turnovers, three sacks and a touchdown against the Colts on Sunday. They had two takeaways and two sacks against the Titans last week, and held the Seahawks to 14 points while sacking Russell Wilson seven times two weeks ago. The Rams have a bye next week, but have friendly matchups with the 49ers, Cardinals and Buccaneers remaining. If you can stash a defense, you might want to consider them.
• Or, you might want to consider the Bills. Yes, the Bills. While they haven't been the greatest defense in the world, they get the Buccaneers in Week 14 and the Jaguars in Week 15. Those are the first two weeks of the playoffs in most fantasy leagues. This isn't to suggest going away from an established defense to grab the Bills. However, if you've been playing the defense carousel all year, the Bills could be a great play for you in the playoffs.