5 Things I care about
Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs connection
The Bills offense is simply exhilarating for both fantasy and reality. The Packers pass defense has actually been a good unit for most of the season. Josh Allen and co. still hunted for shot plays all night long, and the quarterback averaged 16 yards per completion on Sunday night.
When he hit, he hit big.
Stefon Diggs, as he always is, was the central figure on those shots. He was the only Bills receiver to clear 50 yards. He owned a 39.6 percent share of the air yards and 32% of the targets. Allen found him for his second touchdown of the night.
The Bills found plus matchups elsewhere, too. Gabe Davis didn’t come down with a big stat line but did pick up yards on a couple of catch and run chances. Running back James Cook got loose on a deep reception. Dawson Knox snagged a one-yard touchdown on an off-script route.
The Bills have plenty of guys but this offense is more dangerous than ever and it’s no coincidence that it’s also been more Diggs-centric.
Diggs is second in the NFL in receiving yards and is tied with Travis Kelce for the lead in receiving touchdowns. But more importantly than any stat, things just feel different for this duo in 2022.
Diggs is almost always open but Allen has also mastered the art of threading the tiniest of needles on high-degree of difficulty throws. Diggs knows just how to track them and when to expect the ball to arrive. Those unstoppable back-shoulder plays down the sideline are now littered in their portfolio. Diggs is the best route runner in the NFL but Allen has the arm talent to highlight his separation ability at every level.
Diggs and Allen are two peak talents intersecting at the prime of their careers. It is football perfection. This team will go as the Diggs and Allen duo goes. I think that will take them quite far.
A.J. Brown’s dominance
A.J. Brown’s move to the Eagles is so similar to when Stefon Diggs was traded to Buffalo. Everyone agreed those guys were good players in their former homes. But anyone who was watching film closely knew they weren’t just good players — they were elite receivers just waiting for the perfect situation to put it in the box score.
Brown is in that situation now and the whole world should acknowledge without question he’s a top-five NFL receiver.
Brown's ability as a separator has always been a little underrated because he shines so bright in highlight-reel areas. He’s dominant on contested targets and yards-after-catch opportunities. However, few players have been better at beating man coverage in the last three seasons than Brown.
He roasted the Steelers early for three touchdowns on go routes. His ability to run routes and earn separation was completely on display in this dominant performance.
Betting on just talent doesn’t always work at the wide receiver position. But betting on proven, elite-level talent has often been a victorious proposition the last few years.
Brown is that level of player; the latest example.
Andy Dalton starting for the Saints
Fantasy analysts were mostly all on the same page that Jameis Winston was the preferred option for fake football. If there are any members of that cohort still out there, you need to adjust.
Winston is certainly good if you have an offense littered with wide receiver talent and you just want a quarterback pushing it downfield. That is not the Saints' offense at this point. For what New Orleans has, Andy Dalton will more than suffice.
Alvin Kamara finally had the eruption receiving game that was always destined to arrive given his recent target workload. He had nine in each of his previous two games. Those are the type of results that will be more a part of the Dalton offense. Winston just doesn’t check it down at a high enough rate.
The only other pass catcher of real note in New Orleans is Chris Olave and he’s good enough to thrive no matter who is back there throwing. He can rip it deep with Winston in an aggressive downfield offense. He is such a good route runner he’ll create windows in the intermediate area for Dalton. He’s fine winning in either fashion.
For fantasy football and perhaps for the Saints’ real outlook, it’s clear: Dalton is the preferred choice.
Christian McCaffrey is the 49ers' sun
The trade package they gave up to get Christian McCaffrey was plenty of evidence their new world would revolve around him. Sunday’s game plan put it perfectly into reality.
McCaffrey was on the field for 81% of the snaps, handled 78% of the team’s rush attempts and 34.6% of the targets. You can’t really define workhorse any more clearly … or so we thought. The fact that CMC became the first player to throw, run and catch a touchdown since 2005 put a tidy little bow on it.
Forget what you thought you knew about the 49ers' offense: This is Christian McCaffrey’s team.
McCaffrey can perfectly execute any rushing concept Kyle Shanahan wants to run. He can be schemed catches and even when he’s not the primary read, Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick internal clock is going to find him with haste in the progression as the checkdown receiver. That was a huge factor in Sunday’s win.
They will look to get the ball in his hands as many times as possible and in any way possible. And teams might just be powerless to stop it.
Travis Etienne shining on sinking Jaguars
Over the last two weeks, Travis Etienne has been on the field for 80% of the Jaguars' offensive snaps with a 71% rushing share. He’s handled 38 carries for 270 yards and scored twice.
The James Robinson trade signaled it. His usage confirms it. This is all Etienne’s backfield.
It looked like his breakout season might be on hold or straight-up not in the cards in the first three weeks. Now, we’re fully in the middle of what’s clearly a huge season for Etienne. Things happen quickly around here.
The Jaguars have more questions than they’d like on offense. Especially since one of them revolves around their franchise quarterback’s turnover problem. But Etienne looks like an answer for them. He should continue to handle more work going forward.
5 things I don’t care about
The Packers passing game
Green Bay's running game was quite good against the Bills. It was to the point that despite being down multiple scores they were calling run plays over and over in the third quarter.
An Aaron Rodgers-led team behaved like Arthur Smith's Atlanta Falcons and you know what? I can understand it.
The Packers hit a few big plays for touchdowns. Romeo Doubs won a contested catch in the end zone and even snagged another for a big gain in the second half. Hopefully, that helps him get out of Rodgers' doghouse. Samori Toure caught his second pass of the season for a touchdown on a broken route when Rodgers bought time in the pocket. It's not a good sign that Toure is seemingly the first receiver to make a huge play for Rodgers when he was improvising.
Other than that, there's nothing to write home about here. The passing game was more of the same we've seen. Blanketed receivers, low percentage throws and frustration. The commentators made a point to note that Rodgers was having to get guys lined up and feed them the play in the two-minute drill due to a lack of experience together. There's some truth in that because of injuries but guys like Doubs and Sammy Watkins (man, what a mess) were expected to play big roles on the outside.
Green Bay knew they were running out a questionable group and they bet things would be fine. They lost that bet.
If the Packers view themselves as serious contenders — and if they don't, then what are we doing here — then they need to make a change. We'll see if there's a big swing by Tuesday's deadline. History shows us not to get our hopes up.
DJ Moore’s start to the season
DJ Moore has a 35.9% target share since P.J. Walker took over as the starter and Steve Wilks as the interim head coach. The Panthers' offense has looked better during this stretch than at any point during the first five weeks. It doesn’t have to be that hard.
The Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson trades certainly cleaned up the target pecking order and have been a factor in the volume boost for Moore of late. However, I can’t help but think this is also thanks to Walker stabilizing the quarterback play and the vibes improving sans Rhule.
After all, remember when Rhule’s public comments about the wide receivers not getting open — patently untrue at the time — forced his star player into this uncomfortable exchange?
Remember when Matt Rhule created this discussion? https://t.co/OwO0Wc3U8U
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) October 30, 2022
Moore has finally been putting up the stats we excepted the last couple of weeks. He was massive on Sunday with six catches for 152 yards and what should have been the game-winning touchdown on an improbable deep reception. Moore’s celebration penalty pushed the PAT back but a professional kicker should have been able to make that one. Moore made massive plays all afternoon and is back on the every-week radar in fantasy.
I don’t care how bad Moore’s season started. That was all Baker Mayfield’s fault. I care about how he finishes as we get close to the Panthers likely welcoming in a first-round rookie quarterback in 2023.
Broncos WR ADP gap
I always found the gap between Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy on basically every fantasy platform’s ADP to be a bit fishy. I was down on the whole offense but I was confused as to why there was a perceived big difference between the two receivers.
Sutton got off to a better start but over the last three weeks, Jeudy leads the Broncos with 25 targets. Sutton isn’t even in second place. That would be rookie tight end Greg Dulcich with 17.
Even during Sutton’s good statistical start, the offense was bad. Personally, I don’t think you can funnel a good passing game through a receiver who struggles to separate. The Broncos are proof of that.
I’m not sure any of the players in this aerial attack are going to be fantasy heroes. I feel more confident by the week that the perceived gap that existed between Sutton and everyone else will be smaller — if one exists at all — by the end of the year.
Miami pass-catchers not named Hill, Waddle
Playcallers make things occasionally a little too complicated; good offense can simply be, “How many times can I get it to my good players?” That’s especially true when you have multiple dynamic threats. The Dolphins absolutely check that box.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle own a combined 54.8% of the Dolphins’ target share and 67.1% share of the air yards on the season. It’s a beautiful thing.
Hill has been unbelievable for the Dolphins. Any thought that he was a product of Kansas City or Patrick Mahomes is completely done. Hill is on pace for a 2,000-yard season and he hasn’t even been playing with his starting quarterback all year. This feels like a legacy-cementing season for him.
When everyone is healthy, it’s tough to stop Miami. These guys are just too good. And it’s not like they rely on too many guys. It’s just about the core players — and that’s all that matters.
Ezekiel Elliott’s contract
It must be frustrating to be Mike McCarthy.
His bank account probably makes it easier to look the other way but almost any coach would go crazy if their owner is out there giving answers on playing time in the postgame locker room. Any coach would look at Tony Pollard’s performance today and think, “Maybe I need to get this guy more involved.
This particular head coach might never get the chance to even consider it.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said RB Tony Pollard’s impressive performance in start Sunday vs. Bears won’t impact RB Ezekiel Elliott’s role when back from knee injury. “We’re going to go as Zeke goes.” pic.twitter.com/W5Qmto4ptC
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 30, 2022
I understand part of the intense commitment to Zeke. He is legitimately better than Pollard in pass protection and he’s not washed as a runner. Elliott is good on the “grinder carries” in between the tackles and short yardage. There’s something to the idea that his performance there and Pollard’s usage on more “space carries” inflates the latter’s lead in yards per carry and other metrics. Elliott is not going to destroy them or hold them back much when he’s out on the field.
However, Pollard clearly brings a ton of juice to the table. It stood out to me watching this game that Pollard found a lot of success running between the tackles on traditional plays. He wasn’t grinding it out like Zeke. He was ripping off explosive plays on between-the-tackles rushes. Some of that might be thanks to the Bears defense but Pollard deserves a lot of credit.
The Cowboys have to look beyond the contract and Elliott's contributions to the team over the years and get Pollard more reps in the traditional run game. He just offers too much.
You don’t have to take Elliott completely out of the rotation. Perhaps you run a committee that goes drive-by-drive or series-by-series. Figure something out — or at the very least, entertain the possibility of Pollard leading the committee.