Los Angeles Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs won an ugly (for both fantasy and reality) game that served as a reminder of how quickly things change in the NFL. The league cleared its schedule for this Rams/Buccaneers matchup (the lone late afternoon start time this week), and it resulted in the teams combining for the most three-and-outs in the first half of any game this season. It also marked the first game of Tom Brady’s career in which he attempted 50+ passes without a TD strike before he found Cade Otton for a late game-winning score.
Brady took advantage of a Rams Prevent defense, going 60 yards in just 35 seconds during the final drive. But he still finished with a hideous 4.8 YPA despite Mike Evans and Chris Godwin both healthy and facing an LA defense that entered last in the NFL in QB hurries and hits. Brady has multiple touchdowns in just one of nine games this season. The GOAT belongs firmly on fantasy benches at this point.
In Brady’s defense, however, Scotty Miller had a bad drop in the end zone, which was at least the team’s sixth of the game. Otton’s TD grab was Tampa Bay’s first by a tight end this season, as they seem to be missing someone … Rookie Rachaad White saw more action out of Tampa Bay’s backfield as expected and will continue to do so, making the situation tough for fantasy. The Bucs rank last in the league in EPA/rush this season and get a tough Seahawks defense in Germany before a bye over the next two weeks.
The Rams’ RB situation is also a stay-away in fantasy leagues, with Cam Akers now back in the mix in an offense that managed -2 yards in the fourth quarter Sunday. Tissue swelling in his ankle and a healthier Bucs secondary couldn’t slow Cooper Kupp, who scored on the longest play allowed by Tampa Bay all season. Meanwhile, Van Jefferson suffered an ugly drop and remains catchless on five targets over two games since returning.
Outside of Kupp, Rams pass catchers managed 38 yards on 18 passes (2.1 YPT). Matthew Stafford has already been pressured more times this season than all last year. The Rams are getting the fewest yards per play in the NFL. They have a worse point-differential than the Commanders while playing two more home games than on the road. They just lost to this Tampa Bay team.
I’m beginning to think LA may not repeat as Super Bowl champs.
The Falcons averaged more yards per carry than yards per pass with Cordarrelle Patterson scoring twice in his return. Patterson impressed and had a third TD run called back in the third quarter … The Chargers ran five plays in the first quarter and didn’t record a first down until there were 12 minutes left before halftime … Gerald Everett suffered a bad drop to open the second half and failed to take advantage of LA’s top WRs being out (unlike Joshua Palmer, who recorded a career-high 106 yards) … Austin Ekeler wasn’t efficient but saw another nine targets and somehow scored his 10th touchdown over his last five games despite not seeing one carry inside the five-yard line this season until Sunday. He very nearly scored a third touchdown too. It’s also worth noting rookie Isaiah Spiller (available in 97 percent of Yahoo leagues) appears to have emerged from LA’s bye as the team’s new RB2.
Drake London had a rough game, getting just 3.3 yards per target and losing a crucial fumble late. The game actually turned on another play that included two separate lost fumbles … Marcus Mariota missed a wide-open Kyle Pitts late in the fourth quarter for a potential 73-yard touchdown. It’s also possible Pitts could’ve ran a better route, but a huge opportunity was missed either way.
Justin Fields ran for the most yards in a game (178) by a quarterback in NFL regular-season history, added three TD passes and finished as the No. 1 fantasy QB this week. Fields scored nearly 10 more fantasy points than any other quarterback despite throwing for just 123 yards (4.4 YPA), highlighted by an electrifying 61-yard TD run. Fields had a nice touchdown pass to Darnell Mooney, will benefit from newcomer Chase Claypool and just keeps getting better.
Fields will either be a top-10 or a top-three fantasy QB depending on matchups moving forward.
Claypool actually had a far more impactful game than his box score indicates. First, he drew a long pass interference flag, then he dropped a screen pass that would’ve gained many yards and, finally, he should’ve drawn another long PI flag late that would’ve put the Bears in FG range (the game ended one play later instead thanks to a drop by Equanimeous St. Brown).
Jeff Wilson Jr. recorded a TD catch during his Dolphins debut and out-touched Raheem Mostert. Wilson is available in 50% of Yahoo leagues and needs to be added in all formats, especially with Mostert one of the bigger injury risks out there … The Dolphins got help from a blocked punt that went for a touchdown, but the offense deserves a ton of credit for scoring at will (punting just once) in tougher conditions; the Bears had played far better defense at home, it was windy and the Chicago turf was a concern for the speedy wideouts. Tua Tagovailoa was a top-five fantasy QB for the second straight week and continues to pace the league in YPA. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have the second-most receiving yards by a duo over the first nine games in NFL history (Waddle drew a long PI penalty late that prevented them from being No. 1).
Joe Mixon scored the most PPR points (45.1) by any back in any game this season — by halftime. He finished with 200+ yards from scrimmage, five touchdowns and scored the most fantasy points by an RB in a game since Alvin Kamara in 2020. Mixon scored more than a third of his season’s fantasy points Sunday. Coming off a horrible performance against the Browns, it was a “get right” game for the Bengals and Mixon’s fantasy managers.
DJ Moore wasn’t targeted until late in the first half despite facing a decimated Bengals secondary, as PJ Walker may not be the answer after all. In fact, the Bengals had more points (35) than the Panthers had yards (32) at halftime, leading to Baker Mayfield starting the third quarter (he'll likely get another chance to start moving forward).
Aaron Rodgers was picked off three times inside the Lions’ two-yard line (twice in the end zone), nearly matching his total over the last five years despite playing indoors against a Lions defense allowing easily the most YPA (7.8) and points per game (32.1) in the NFL. Rodgers hasn’t reached 7.0 YPA in five straight games and faces tough Cowboys and Eagles defenses in two of the next three weeks. In fairness to Rodgers, he’s playing through a real thumb injury and led Green Bay in rushing Sunday while watching Romeo Doubs, Aaron Jones and Christian Watson all leave with injuries.
Doubs exited after a 17-yard catch on GB’s first offensive play of the game, and he reportedly left the stadium in a boot and on crutches. Allen Lazard would benefit for as long as Doubs is sidelined. AJ Dillon would become a fantasy must-start should Jones miss time, but it’s no longer a league-winning move like it seemed before the season … Jamaal Williams is touchdown-dependent, and it sounds like D’Andre Swift won’t be fully healthy again anytime soon. Rodgers’ red-zone interceptions really hurt Amon-Ra St. Brown’s fantasy managers Sunday (game script led to just 26 pass attempts by Jared Goff).
Travis Etienne and Davante Adams both scored twice, with the latter racking up 17 targets. Adams had a big game and easily finished as fantasy’s top wideout this week. Lawrence’s struggles in the red zone seem like good news for Etienne’s fantasy value, as he was fed in scoring situations Sunday … The Raiders have more blown 17-0 leads (three) than wins (two) this season and fell to 0-5 on the road with the loss to a team that had just played in London last week.
Sam Ehlinger struggled badly (3.6 YPA) like most young quarterbacks when facing Bill Belichick, and the lack of targets to Deon Jackson was as disappointing as Michael Pittman’s box score. The Colts had minus-four passing yards late in the first half in a game in which the teams combined to total just 324 yards … Mac Jones missed a wide-open Rhamondre Stevenson for a big gain, but the RB still led the team with seven targets and secured a nice one-handed grab for the second straight week (this one for a touchdown). Stevenson nonetheless had a quieter game than many DFS players expected thanks to New England being down three offensive linemen and JJ Taylor unexpectedly stealing 10 carries (including at the goal line).
Josh Allen was the third-highest scoring fantasy QB this week thanks to his running, as he struggled mightily against a surging Jets defense that picked him off twice. Nyheim Hines was invisible during his Buffalo debut, while Michael Carter and James Robinson are forming an even timeshare in New York … Garrett Wilson had secured all seven targets for 84 yards one minute into the second half when he hobbled off after a catch. The impressive rookie wideout returned shortly thereafter but had just one catch for eight yards over the final 29 minutes. Still, it was yet another noteworthy performance by Wilson, considering he drew a target on 36% of Zach Wilson’s passes and accounted for 60% of the QB’s passing yards. Wilson is so clearly an alpha … Imagine this Jets roster with Justin Fields (and if Breece Hall didn’t get injured and Elijah Moore was still alive).
Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Commanders
Justin Jefferson continued to be targeted (13) at an extremely high rate when Kirk Cousins is under pressure, resulting in his first touchdown catch since Week 1 and a celebratory plane ride home. T.J. Hockenson impressively recorded his season-high in catches (nine) just days after getting traded to the Vikes. Minnesota is somehow 7-1 with Cousins getting a lowly 6.6 YPA this season. Good luck to the Vikings playing the Bills coming off a loss in Buffalo next week … A late touchdown catch saved Dalvin Cook’s fantasy day, while Curtis Samuel pulled down one of the plays of the day with a TD catch in triple coverage … Terry McLaurin continued to dominate targets (nine) with Taylor Heinicke, but it was disappointing to see Antonio Gibson get just three opportunities in the passing game with J.D. McKissic sidelined.
Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
Kenneth Walker scored twice in the fourth quarter and was the top-scoring back not named Joe Mixon this week. He entered ranked last among all backs in success rate (basically saying he had been relying on big plays) but was plenty effective Sunday against an Arizona defense that was allowing the fourth-lowest EPA/rush this season. K9 simply runs different, and his 26 carries and four targets both marked career highs Sunday. He’ll be a first-round fantasy pick in 2023.
Credit to a Seattle defense that entered ranked first in DVOA since Week 6, as they held the Cardinals at home to just 4.3 yards per play (which would be last in the league this year). Rookie corner Tariq Woolen made me quickly regret using DeAndre Hopkins in DFS (although DHop would’ve had a second touchdown late if not for a Robbie Anderson false start) … Seattle ended up winning comfortably despite a Geno Smith pick-six … Kyle Murray took five sacks, committed his seventh fumble over the last seven games and is getting just 6.0 YPA this season. Murray’s running still gives him plenty of fantasy value, but I’d rather have Justin Fields moving forward (both in the NFL and fantasy leagues).
Tennessee Titans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes attempted a whopping 68 passes, just two short of Drew Bledsoe’s NFL record. The volume helped him become fantasy’s No. 2 scoring QB this week despite getting 6.6 YPA with just one TD pass. Leading the team in rushing by a mile didn’t hurt either … Kadarius Toney recorded a catch on the game’s first play but was otherwise quiet during his KC debut, as Travis Kelce and JuJu Smith-Schuster combined for 29 targets … Conversely, no Tennessee receiver recorded a catch, as the Titans had negative passing yards after halftime (including overtime) one week after attempting just one pass over the final two quarters. It’s a testament to Derrick Henry and coach Mike Vrabel for nearly pulling off the upset with such a raw quarterback up against Andy Reid coming off a bye.
The Titans entered as the biggest underdogs ever as a team with a five-game winning streak and held an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter despite Malik Willis unable to complete a forward pass. The Titans were somehow the No. 2 seed in the AFC entering the night. Vrabel, Pete Carroll, Brian Daboll and Robert Saleh (among others!) are going to make voting for Coach of the Year difficult.