Sunday October 19th, 2014

It has been a nightmare season in Ann Arbor, with the Wolverines suffering through an embarrassing year. If there’s any silver lining for the program as a whole, it’s that a handful of their alumni are making good in the NFL. While that’s expected of guys like Tom Brady and Taylor Lewan, the Wolverines certainly didn’t plan on hanging their hat on Denard Robinson. That could very well change after Sunday, and fantasy owners might be right there with them.

Robinson got a surprise start in Week 7 after Storm Johnson got the nod in Jacksonville’s first game without Toby Gerhart. After what Robinson did on Sunday, Gerhart may not be the starter when he’s able to return from his foot injury. The former Michigan quarterback rushed 22 times for 127 yards and a touchdown, and the Jaguars picked up their first win of the season, beating the Browns 24-6. It was easily the Jaguars’ most successful rushing day of the season, as the team entered Week 7 averaging a league-worst 69.5 yards on the ground per game. Robinson brought a level of explosiveness to the Jacksonville backfield that it has lacked all season, and one that the Jaguars are going to find hard to ignore going forward.

Catch up on everything you may have missed in NFL Week 7

This was not a timeshare situation on Sunday. Johnson got the second-most carries on the team with a grand total of six. Robinson was the man in the backfield, with Johnson giving him an occasional breather. The latter did get a goal-line carry at the end of the game, but Robinson has to be considered the go-to runner for the Jaguars after this performance.

Robinson is available in most fantasy leagues, and at this point of the season you’re not going to come across too many starting running back types on the waiver wire. The Browns had allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game to running backs through the first six weeks of the season, so he did carve up a weak defense. At the same time, he’s likely to be the most valuable commodity that’s widely available. I’d use most, if not all, of my remaining FAAB dollars to get him. There isn’t really anything to save it for with just six weeks remaining in the typical fantasy regular season.

With that, let’s get to the rest of the immediate reactions from Week 7 in the SI.com Fast Forward.

NFL
Week 7 superlatives: Murray shines again, Hoyer falls flat in Jacksonville

• The Falcons had a tough assignment at Baltimore on Sunday, and they did not answer the bell. Matt Ryan threw for just 228 yards, 5.2 yards per attempt and one touchdown, while the team ran for a total of 68 yards and put up just seven points in another disappointing performance. They were already down Sam Baker and Joe Hawley, and now Peter Konz could be out for an extended period, as well. Julio Jones was able to play through an ankle injury, but caught just five passes for 56 yards. The banged-up offensive line is definitely hampering this offense as a whole. It’s not going to keep you from starting Jones, and Roddy White caught nine passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, but the ceiling of this unit has been lowered significantly.

Torrey Smith has always been at his best when taking the top off the defense. Through the first month of the season, however, he had just a token number of deep targets. Joe Flacco has pushed the ball down the field to Smith with more consistency in the last few weeks, and the Maryland product has finally started to put up useful fantasy games. He caught a 39-yard touchdown pass late in the win over the Falcons, and now has seven catches for 132 yards and three touchdowns in the last two weeks. He’s a low-end WR3 for the rest of the season.

Owen Daniels led the Ravens with nine targets, catching six of them for 58 yards and a score. He’s not going to put up many huge games, but he’s such a consistent weapon for Flacco. Expect him to be a reliable TE1 more often than not.

NFL
Redskins bench Kirk Cousins in favor of TD-throwing Colt McCoy

• Hopefully Kirk Cousins didn’t start looking for a place near the Capitol or the White House or anything like that. After throwing his ninth interception of the season, he was benched for the one and only Colt McCoy. In Cousins’ defense, it’s not like McCoy did much better. The 70-yard touchdown he threw to Garcon was all on yards after catch, as the receiver busted a screen pass for a huge play. The mere fact that head coach Jay Gruden was willing to go to McCoy, though, says a whole lot about who will be the starter when Robert Griffin III’s ankle heals. There were reports that the Baylor product could be back as soon as Week 8, but he could more realistically be looking at a return in early November. If he was cut in your league after his injury, now would be the time to grab him.

• Outside of Garcon’s touchdown catch, he had just four grabs for 17 yards. He desperately needs Griffin to return.

Alfred Morris gets a bit of a pass for his underwhelming performance in what was a great matchup against the Titans because of an ankle injury he suffered in the first half. He was able to play through it, but chances are it was nagging him most of the game. It may not get much better for him against the Cowboys next week. He’ll be an RB2 for Week 8.

• There’s really not much to say about the Titans’ performance on Sunday. Quite simply, it’s hard to trust anyone on this team as long as Charlie Whitehurst is at the helm. If and when Jake Locker is able to return from his hand injury, we can revisit the fantasy value of the skill players on Tennessee. Until then, Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter are no better than WR3s (and Hunter is more of a WR4), and Bishop Sankey is an RB3/4.

NFL
Rams burn Seahawks with trick plays, upset defending champions 28-26

Zac Stacy was active for the Rams on Sunday, but you might not believe it if you just looked at the box score. He played just one snap and didn’t get a touch. Meanwhile, rookie Tre Mason turned in one of the best performances from a St. Louis running back this year, rumbling for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Stacy was listed as probable and did play last week, so we have to believe that he was at least close to 100 percent. Benny Cunningham reprised his role as the No. 2 back, but he got just two carries. We can’t be completely sure what the Rams will do next week, but we have to consider Mason at least a threat to be the feature back. He and Denard Robinson are going to be the most popular targets on the waiver wire this week. Mason has more competition in his own backfield, but he’s also on a better team with a superior line. I’d prioritize him over Robinson, but would go big to get either one of them.

• The Seahawks may have lost their second-straight game Sunday, but the offense sure looked good in its first game after the Percy Harvin trade. Russell Wilson threw for 313 yards, 8.7 YPA and two touchdowns, while running for 106 yards and another score. Doug Baldwin, the new No. 1 receiver in Seattle, caught seven of his 11 targets for 123 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin was likely added in most savvy leagues before Sunday’s action, but if he’s still out there in your league, he’s well worth adding this week. In a vacuum, however, I’d go for both Mason and Robinson first.

• Even though the Bengals were without A.J. Green, it was a surprise to see their offense fall completely flat against the Colts. Andy Dalton threw for 3.3 YPA, an embarrassing total in what should have been a neutral matchup for him. Giovani Bernard was a total no-show, running for 17 yards on seven carries and catching two passes for a loss of a yard. The Bengals host the Ravens next week, so life is not getting easier any time soon. Green, however, could return. That would open things up for the entire offense.

NFL
The Real Deal: Lions engineer massive comeback to move to 5-2

• The Colts are the quietest 5-2 team we’ve seen in a long time. They’ve now won five straight games, and it’s little mystery how they’re doing it. Andrew Luck has now thrown for at least 300 yards in six of seven games this year, and 340 or more five times. This week, he racked up 344 yards, 8.2 YPA and two touchdowns. He had plenty of help in his backfield, as Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 206 total yards. Of course, Bradshaw scored twice while Richardson did not find the end zone. Even when the latter has a good game, he finds a way to disappoint his owners.

• Look, there’s really no doubting or questioning Kyle Orton magic. You just enjoy it as it happens. Orton led a last-second touchdown drive, hooking up with Sammy Watkins on a two-yard touchdown pass with one second left on the clock to give the Bills a 17-16 win over the Vikings. Orton may not be a fantasy weapon himself, but the stability he has brought to the Buffalo offense has been a boon for Watkins. The rookie out of Clemson had nine catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday.

• It wasn’t all good news for the Bills, however. First, Fred Jackson had to be carted off the field after what appeared to be a serious groin injury. Later, C.J. Spiller suffered a broken collarbone, an injury that is likely to keep him out until December, if not for the rest of the season. Anthony Dixon ran for 51 yards on 13 carries on Sunday, and he’ll likely take over as the starter. Bryce Brown probably won’t be a healthy scratch again this season. As far as waiver priority, I’d say Dixon is on par with Tre Mason and Denard Robinson, while Brown is a step behind. I’d rank the first three Mason, Dixon, Robinson, but it is awfully close.

• So much for getting Matt Asiata more touches and Jerick McKinnon fewer, huh Mike Zimmer? McKinnon again led the Vikings, running for 103 yards on 19 carries. Asiata ran just six times, picking up 24 yards. McKinnon is officially the man in the Minnesota backfield, and is a low-end RB2 for the rest of the season.

Ryan Tannehill had one of his best games as a pro on Sunday, helping to lead the Dolphins to an upset win over the Bears in Chicago. Tannehill threw for 277 yards, 8.7 YPA and two touchdowns, and ran for 48 yards on six carries. Tannehill hit on his first 10 passes, and the Dolphins were able to keep the Bears at arm’s length all game. With a juicy matchup against the Jaguars coming next week, Tannehill could very well be a low-end QB1.

Lamar Miller got plenty of work on Sunday, running 18 times for 61 yards and a touchdown, and catching two passes for 22 yards. His owners can expect that sort of workload going forward, and that’s going to make him a reliable RB1 for the rest of the season.

• The Bears were quite possibly the most disappointing team in Week 7. This is supposed to be one of the league’s best offenses, and yet, it could not get anything going at home against the Dolphins. Jay Cutler threw for 190 yards, 5.6 YPA, one touchdown and one terrible interception. Alshon Jeffery caught Cutler’s first two passes, and didn’t catch another the rest of the game. Brandon Marshall had six receptions for 48 yards. From a fantasy standpoint, the only person who delivered was Matt Forte. He had 109 total yards and two scores, and probably should have been featured on the ground a whole lot more. With each passing game, the idea of this being an elite offense becomes all the more laughable. Expect a heavy dose of Forte against the Patriots next week.

Matthew Stafford didn’t necessarily have a monster fantasy game, but he came up huge for the Lions without Calvin Johnson on Sunday. He threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including one to Corey Fuller with 1:48 left in the game to give the Lions a 24-23 win over the Saints. His two picks cut into his fantasy scoring a little bit, but it was about as good a game as could have been expected with Johnson inactive. He’ll likely be without his top receiver again next week before the Lions Week 9 bye. The matchup with the Falcons, however, should be good enough to make him a fantasy starter. If you do plan on rolling with him, or anyone in that game, don’t forget that it’s a 9:30 am ET start, with the teams playing in London.

Golden Tate took over as the No. 1 receiver, and caught 10 of his 13 targets for 154 yards. He will again be a slam-dunk play with Johnson likely out next week. Joique Bell had 67 total yards and a touchdown, while Reggie Bush had just 32 total yards after tweaking his ankle. The uncertainty with that injury makes him a risky play against the Falcons next week.

Drew Brees managed to put up a big game with Jimmy Graham (shoulder) serving largely as a decoy, but it’s clear this offense loses a measure of its red zone effectiveness with Graham at less than 100 percent. The good news, though, was that the team felt comfortable playing him in a limited role this week. He should be good to go when they take on the Packers on Sunday night next week.

Marques Colston took advantage of his increased role in the offense this week, catching six of his 10 targets for 111 yards. He would likely see those targets come back down, however, if Graham is more himself a week from now. Kenny Stills also had a big game, but that’s going to happen every now and again. He isn’t someone you should be too concerned about grabbing off the waiver wire this week.

Mark Ingram returned from a broken hand, but had just 26 yards on 10 carries. The big news is that he was clearly the top back, with Khiry Robinson getting just three totes. With another week to rest the hand, Ingram will be a solid flex option against the Packers next week.

Aaron Rodgers did what Aaron Rodgers does on Sunday. The league’s best quarterback completed 19-of-22 pass attempts for 255 yards, 11.6 YPA and three touchdowns in the Packers’ dominant 38-17 win over the Panthers. The Packers spread the love, as five different players hit paydirt. Randall Cobb led the team with six catches for 121 yards and a touchdown. Jordy Nelson got a season-low five targets, but he was still able to put up a big game by catching four of them for 80 yards and a score. Eddie Lacy carried the ball just 12 times, running for 63 yards and a touchdown. James Starks and Davante Adams scored, as well. The Carolina defense has been exposed all year, but Green Bay has come together and looks like one of the best teams in the NFC.

• One week after his best game of the season, Cam Newton came up short for his fantasy owners, throwing for 205 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He did add 41 yards on the ground, the equivalent of another passing touchdown in standard-scoring leagues, but it was still a lackluster performance. The Panthers welcome the Seahawks to Charlotte next week, and while the Seattle defense has been exposed a bit in recent weeks, this will still be a tough matchup.

Jonathan Stewart ran the ball decently in his return from a knee injury, picking up 55 yards on 14 carries. He won’t be a smart play against the Seahawks next week, however. There is just too much that could go wrong for him in that matchup to have enough confidence to make him a fantasy starter.

• Any time you break a record that belonged to Jim Brown, you’re doing something right. DeMarco Murray is doing a lot of things right, including running for 128 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in the Cowboys’ 31-21 win over the Giants on Sunday. Murray now singlehandedly holds the record for consecutive 100-yard games to start the season with seven, and is on pace for 2,086 rushing yards this year. On the off chance you’re considering selling him at this point, I wouldn’t accept anything less than someone like Jamaal Charles or Le’Veon Bell and an upgrade at another position.

• While Murray and the offensive line are understandably getting all the attention in Dallas, Tony Romo continues to turn in solid, steady performances. He threw for 279 yards, 12.1 YPA and three touchdowns in the team’s sixth-straight win Sunday. Dez Bryant had another big game, too, catching nine of his 12 targets for 151 yards. The Cowboys host Washington on Monday night next week. Washington has allowed the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. Romo will be an easy QB1 in that matchup.

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• Andre Williams disappointed in his second start, running for 51 yards on 18 carries. The Giants have a bye next week, and Rashad Jennings is expected to return from his knee injury Week 9. If that is the case, it will have been an uneventful run of fantasy relevance for Williams.

• Odell Beckham got six targets on Sunday, but he made the most of them by catching two touchdowns. Rueben Randle led the team with nine targets, and Larry Donnell checked in with seven, catching all of them for 90 yards. Beckham may have been the one to score twice Sunday, but Randle and Donnell still look like the primary options in the Giants’ passing game.

•The Chiefs pulled off an impressive win on Sunday, going into San Diego and leaving with a 23-20 win. Jamaal Charles totaled 107 yards from scrimmage and found the end zone once, and Dwayne Bowe came up with a number of big catches, finishing with 84 yards. At some point, and we have probably arrived there, the fantasy community is going to have to acknowledge the Travis Kelce breakout may just not be coming. He’s always going to be, at worst, a borderline starter, but he just doesn’t get enough looks in the offense to consider him a top-five guy at the position.

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•Branden Oliver had another nice game, at least from a yards-per-carry standpoint, running 15 times for 67 yards. Ryan Mathews (knee) still has yet to do anything in practice, so Oliver could end up holding onto this job for a while. He’ll be a solid RB2 against the Broncos on Thursday night in Week 8.

•Philip Rivers also likely ceded pole position in the MVP race to Andrew Luck, and could be running behind DeMarco Murray and Aaron Rodgers, as well. He picked up just 205 yards, 6.6 YPA and two touchdowns while getting picked once (though that was on his last pass of the game) in San Diego’s second loss of the year. He has been unable to make much happen with Keenan Allen, who had six catches for 58 yards. It has been one of the bigger surprises of the season, given that they were such a lucrative combination last year. The Chargers have been one of the best teams in the NFL so far this season, but I find it hard to believe they couldn’t be a more dynamic offense by trying to get the ball to Allen down the field with more regularity.

•The Raiders showed us the dangers in trusting a bad offense on Sunday. A group with Derek Carr, Darren McFadden and Andre Holmes is going to put together a nice game every now and again, but it’s just not going to happen with that much consistency. The typical Raiders showed up on Sunday, with only McFadden (55 total yards, one touchdown) putting up fantasy starter’s numbers. Holmes caught just three passes for 34 yards, but he remains a low-end WR3 for the rest of the season.

•Andre Ellington had a monster day, running 24 times for 88 yards and catching six passes for 72 yards. However, Stepfan Taylor ran for 40 yards and vultured two touchdowns from Ellington. Sometimes the fantasy forces of nature are on your side, and sometimes they aren’t.

•Carson Palmer didn’t light up the scoreboard, but he has brought a measure of stability back to this offense. He threw for 253 yards, 8.2 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and one interception, as the Cardinals moved to 5-1 on the season. Michael Floyd had just three catches for 47 yards, but he got in the end zone for the second straight game. His fantasy value was on life support with Palmer out, but he looks like the solid WR2 he was expected to be during the preseason.

•Peyton Manning needed two touchdown passes to tie Brett Favre's all-time record of 508, and three to become the record holder himself. It took him all of 13 minutes to tie Favre, and he had the record to himself within the first half. All told, Manning finished with 318 yards, 12.2 YPA and four touchdowns, and the Broncos cruised to a 42-17 victory over the 49ers. Demaryius Thomas was on the receiving end of touchdown Nos. 509 and 510, and finished with eight catches for 171 yards. In his last three games, he has 26 receptions, 521 yards and five touchdowns, which comes out to 82.1 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues. Heading into Week 7,  Antonio Brown and Jordy Nelson were the only receivers to score that many points all season.

•​Ronnie Hillman had 74 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, while Juwan Thompson carried the ball just six times. There's no doubt that Hillman is in control of this backfield while Montee Ball is out with his groin injury.

•​The 49ers couldn't put together a drive until late in the first half, and were all but out of the game by time they took possession of the ball the first time after halftime. They're not built to chase down a big deficit, especially against one of the most prolific offenses in the league. Frank Gore was largely phased out of the gameplan, running just nine times for 20 yards. Colin Kaepernick threw for 263 yards, 6.7 YPA, one touchdown and one interception, and the Broncos sacked him six times. He isn't nearly as effective when he's in predictable passing situations for nearly the entire game. The Niners weren't able to rely on the read option, as the Broncos did not have to really respect the run for essentially the entire second half. That makes the 49ers one-dimensional, and the pass the lesser of their dimensions. They have a bye next week, but there truly is not a player on this team that is a slam-dunk fantasy starter every single week.

 

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