Week 10 of the fantasy football season featured plenty of notable performances. What should we make of them? Matt Bowen and Tristan H. Cockcroft are here with analysis on the biggest performers — and duds — of the week.
Patrick Mahomes continues historic pace
In his return from a knee injury, Mahomes scored 29.8 fantasy points on Sunday behind his third career 400-yard and 15th career three-touchdown passing game, numbers that look all the more impressive if you consider that the opposing Titans entered the day affording opposing quarterbacks only 15.2 fantasy points per game. With that score, Mahomes now has 606.6 points through the first 25 career NFL starts, easily shattering Deshaun Watson‘s former mark of 564.3 for the most by any quarterback in history through that many starts. Remarkably, Mahomes was started in only 57.1% of ESPN leagues in Week 10, sixth-highest among quarterbacks. — Cockcroft
I’ll jump in here, too, on Mahomes. The Titans were down starting cornerback Malcom Butler, but this is still a pretty good defense in Tennessee. And Mahomes lit that group up. If you had any concerns about Mahomes’ movement skills or his ability to sling the ball around after his knee injury, his numbers today should’ve answered those. Mahomes completed 36-of-50 passes for 446 yards with three touchdowns. And I didn’t see any limitations to his game. He can still make those ridiculous second-reaction throws. — Bowen
In his Browns debut on Sunday, Hunt played 38-of-66 (58%) of the team’s offensive snaps and scored 14.4 PPR fantasy points, 0.3 more than Chubb. Despite that, Chubb’s performance shouldn’t warrant any worry amongst his fantasy managers. He played 53-of-66 (80%) offensive snaps, amassed 20 of the team’s 26 rushing attempts and was targeted four times, with those numbers falling right in line with his seasonal per-game rates (including Sunday) of 75% of the offensive snaps played, 19.3 rushing attempts and 4.0 targets.
It’s clear based upon Sunday’s usage that the Browns regard Hunt their passing-down back and Chubb the focal point of their offense, meaning that the only concern for the two should be game flow, something that shouldn’t be a huge issue looking at the final seven games on their schedule. Chubb remains a locked-in RB1 for me, but Hunt could have use in full-PPR formats as a flex play against some of these weaker upcoming defenses. — Cockcroft
I’ll add this, as the Browns did use personnel packages with multiple running backs. Get Hunt and Chubb on the field at the same time. That’s a game plan thing from Freddie Kitchens, and along with Hunt’s receiving production (seven receptions, 44 yards), it tells us that the running back is going to play a defined role for this squad. That meshes with Tristan’s note on Hunt’s PPR value. — Bowen
Darius Slayton‘s career day
Slayton enjoyed a career day against the Jets, scoring 34.1 PPR fantasy points, with his 10 catches exceeding his total in his previous four games combined (8). It was, however, the second time in his past three games that he scored multiple touchdowns, as he continued to strengthen his rapport with rookie QB Daniel Jones. Slayton, who was started in a mere 5.0% of ESPN leagues in Week 10 and remains available in 87.7%, is regardless not an easy player to add, since the Giants enjoy their bye during Week 11 before facing a tough matchup against the Bears defense in Week 12 (not to mention a somewhat difficult one against the Packers in Week 13).
It’s the fantasy playoffs schedule that looks so attractive for Slayton, with a pair of games against the Eagles and one apiece against the Dolphins and Redskins from Weeks 14-17 (and Jones to a lesser degree in two-quarterback leagues). That makes Slayton more of a situational add — you’ll need a roster spot to burn with his upcoming bye, and you’d be assuming that Sterling Shepard‘s (concussion) injury is indeed a season-ender. It’s a move I couldn’t make in a 10-team standard ESPN leagues, but would love to in any deeper format where I had the luxury. — Cockcroft
Lamar Jackson makes it look easy
Jackson was again outstanding, scoring 33.4 fantasy points while playing only three quarters of the Ravens’ 49-13 blowout of the Bengals. He enjoyed his fourth consecutive game with a rushing touchdown, becoming only the 17th quarterback since at least 1950 to enjoy a streak of at least that length, ran for at least 65 yards for the sixth consecutive game (longest such streak in NFL history) and pushed his season total for fantasy points to 237.6. That’s the fifth-most fantasy points by any quarterback in history through his team’s first nine games of a season. Jackson also now has 367.8 fantasy points in his first 16 career starts, which trails only Patrick Mahomes’ 410.1 and Cam Newton’s 370.3. — Cockcroft
Christian Kirk has three TDs
I expected Kirk to win underneath versus the Bucs secondary on quick game throws, screens, etc. That’s why he jumped up in the ranks for me this week as a WR2. But it was the deep ball targets from Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray — plus the sudden touchdown production — that allowed Kirk to rack up 37.8 fantasy points in PPR formats. Kirk got over the top of the Tampa secondary twice, and also cashed in on a red zone target from Murray to get six. Just a monster day for Kirk, who caught six of a team-high 10 targets for 138 yards and three scores. He simply played faster than the Bucs defensive backs.
With the 49ers defense up next, Kirk is going to slide back down in the ranks. Going back to Week 9, Kirk caught only 2-of-5 targets for 8 yards against San Francisco. However, Kirk’s numbers today are a reminder to take the positive matchups with wide receivers in your lineup. — Bowen
David Johnson not fantasy relevant … again
In 55 previous NFL games, Johnson had never been shut out … until Sunday. His zero PPR fantasy points gave him his second miserable score in the past four weeks — he also scored 0.2 points in Week 7, but played only three snaps — and while the matchup (the Buccaneers, who sport by far the league’s best run defense to this point) and Johnson’s limited snap count (45% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps) played a part, both factors influence his rest-of-year value.
The Cardinals have Kenyan Drake (and potentially Chase Edmonds) available to ease Johnson’s workload, and the injury might coax them to limit him for the remainder of the year, meaning he’ll be susceptible to upcoming poor matchups against the 49ers (Week 11), Rams (Week 13) and Steelers (Week 14). This just isn’t a RB1 right now, and if his practice weeks don’t progress smoothly, he might not be a RB2 some of those weeks, either.
Saquon Barkley has a rough day
Barkley concluded Sunday’s action with 13 rushing attempts for 1 yard, becoming only the seventh player since at least 1950 to carry the football at least that many times while amassing a yard or fewer. And for only the second time in a full game in his career, he was held beneath 10 PPR fantasy points (8.1).
Daniel Jones’ inconsistent play and fumbling issues have caused the Giants to play a fair share of their games from behind, and while that might suit a good pass-catcher like Barkley, his fantasy production just hasn’t shown it: He has averaged only 15.3 PPR fantasy points per game in his five games played that Jones started, compared to 23.7 when Eli Manning started. — Cockcroft
Cooper Kupp gets shut out
The Steelers defense is playing very well, but did anyone see Kupp getting completely shut out today? He saw four targets, and finished with zero grabs. Chalk that up to the Pittsburgh pass rush — which rattled quarterback Jared Goff — and sticky coverage versus Kupp in the secondary. The Rams offense never established a rhythm in the passing game, and the Steelers took away the inside crossing routes where Kupp usually makes his money. Up next for Kupp? It’s the Bears defense on Sunday night in Week 11. — Bowen
Here’s how unusual Kupp’s donut on the fantasy scorecard: In the 13 seasons for which snap-count data is available, he’s only the 36th player at any position to play 90%-plus of his team’s offensive snaps (he played 91%), be targeted at least four times (4) yet score zero PPR fantasy points. That’s an average of fewer than three per season, and most of the individuals who previously did it were far from household names in fantasy. Kupp, meanwhile, was started in a whopping 79.2% of ESPN leagues in Week 10. — Cockcroft
Aaron Jones carries the Packers
Thanks to his second career three-touchdown game, Jones tallied 27.3 PPR fantasy points in Week 10, the fourth time this season that he has scored at least 25 points. He’s now the No. 2 scorer among running backs for the year with 211.3 points, though the No. 3 scorer, Dalvin Cook, has played one fewer game. Interestingly enough, Jones didn’t garner a single target in this game, unusual for him after he totaled 37 in his previous six games combined, though it probably helped that he was facing a Panthers defense that has struggled far more against the run than the pass.
Jones will now enter his bye week before returning for a difficult matchup against the 49ers, but he does have one of the more fantasy-friendly schedules in the month of December. He remains a legitimate weekly RB1. — Cockcroft
Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST continues to dominate
For the sixth consecutive game, the Steelers’ defense/special teams scored double-digit fantasy points, their 22 pushing their season total to 109. That’s the second-most by any D/ST this season, behind only the Patriots’ 168, though the 49ers (107) will have a chance to catch and/or pass them on Monday night. Still, the Steelers will conclude Week 10 among the top three at the position, with the fourth-place team (the Rams) resting at 80 points, illustrating just how well this defense has played.
Even better: The Steelers have one of the most fantasy-friendly D/ST schedules the rest of the way, with games against the Browns (twice), Bengals, Jets, Bills and Cardinals. If this is your defense, you have to feel pretty secure in locking the Steelers in for the duration. — Cockcroft
Ronald Jones II: We can all see that Jones gives the Bucs more juice at the running back position, right? I think Bruce Arians is on board as well, after Jones out-snapped Peyton Barber 38 to 20 on Sunday. Jones finished with 106 total yards and a touchdown on 19 touches. And the majority of his production came in the passing game, as he caught 8-of-8 targets for 77 yards. With the Saints on tap in Week 11 — and four teams on a bye — Jones is going to be in that RB2/Flex discussion in my ranks. — Bowen
Marquise Brown: I don’t want to give out high-fives for beating up on the Bengals secondary, but I do like seeing Brown back in the mix for the Ravens pass game. After catching 3-of-4 targets for 48 yards in Week 9 versus the Patriots, Brown hauled in 4-of-4 targets for 80 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. Even with the 49ers and Steelers still on the schedule, Brown’s deep ball speed and explosive play ability put him in the WR3 discussion as a high upside/low floor play. — Bowen
Kenny Golladay: Golladay managers got some relief late he caught a jump-ball throw from backup quarterback Jeff Driskel for a 47-yard touchdown. But I have some concerns for Golladay’s production moving forward if Matthew Stafford is down again next week versus Dallas. Sure, the targets will still be there for Golladay in a Lions offense that simply can’t generate consistent run game production. But if Stafford isn’t throwing the ball, Golladay has to drop down in the ranks as a mid-tier WR2. — Bowen
O.J. Howard: In a matchup against a Cardinals defense that has been ripped up by opposing tight ends all season, Howard caught 4-of-7 targets for 47 yards and a score. That’s a decent line, and Howard did make a nice grab on a seam ball throw from Jameis Winston. However, the touchdown came on either a busted coverage or poor communication from the Arizona secondary (maybe both). Given that the Bucs play the Saints next week, Howard will once again be ranked as a low-floor TE2 for me. — Bowen
Drew Brees: Yes, that was a prime matchup for Brees against a sub-par Atlanta defense. But with pass protection issues, and New Orleans’ inability to finish drives, Brees had just 11.5 fantasy points. That’s a bust. However, with Tampa on the schedule next week, I’m still going to rank Brees as a top-five QB. — Bowen
Christian McCaffrey: McCaffrey’s 26.1 PPR fantasy points gave him 272.5 for the season, the third-most by any running back through his team’s first nine games of any season since at least 1950. Using non-PPR scoring, McCaffrey’s 224.5 fantasy points are the ninth-most by a running back during that same time span. — Cockcroft
DJ Moore: After catching 9-of-11 targets for 120 yards against the Packers, Moore has now seen at least eight targets in his last five games, and he’s gone over the 100-yard receiving mark in two straight. Moore’s lack of touchdown production (only one touchdown catch this season) knocks down his value a bit. But the steady volume will keep Moore in the WR2 mix again in Week 11 versus the Falcons. — Bowen
Patriots players balance uncertainty in planning return to town – New England Patriots Blog
Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. First checkpoint for players: To quarantine or not to quarantine, that is the question for Patriots players this week.
The simple math highlights how Tuesday represents the first checkpoint for the team in an unprecedented year.
The current expectation is that players will report for the start of training camp on July 28. With Massachusetts instructing all non-essential travelers to self-quarantine for 14 days — unless they are coming from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York or New Jersey — that means almost everyone on the roster would need to arrive by Tuesday to ensure an on-time, healthy start to training camp.
Unless, of course, they are allowed to skip that step, as is the case for the New York Jets, New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. That could make sense given that consistent testing is expected for members of all teams.
Regardless, that it is even a point of conversation reinforces how the 2020 NFL season is a true wild card.
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Coach Bill Belichick sometimes says that when a player has the football in his grasp, he holds the fate of the entire team with it. That can now be expanded, with the coronavirus, to include the idea that every lifestyle decision by a player, coach or support staffer can impact the fate of the entire team.
Players have noted the uncertainty of the situation, with defensive backs Devin and Jason McCourty saying on their most recent “Double Coverage” podcast that they are awaiting more clarity on protocols.
There’s always the possibility that players could opt out of the season, but Jason McCourty hinted that wasn’t a likely scenario for him.
“I’m going to be 33 this season, so a year off from football would probably mean I’m watching from now on, to be honest with you,” he said.
Asked about the season ahead, and what it would mean to win a Super Bowl, Devin said: “I think it will be different, because we don’t know if it will be a full season or not. So I think this is going to be one of those years when all sports is just going to be an asterisk. But I think overall a championship is a championship, and if you can win a championship through all of this going on, it will be an unbelievable accomplishment. This is going to be one of those years that people talk about for a long time … so I think it will be legendary whoever wins a championship this year.”
2. Cap space provides in-season insurance. With Saturday’s news that the Patriots settled compensation grievances with Antonio Brown ($4 million cap credit to team) and Aaron Hernandez ($2.25 million cap credit to team), it increased the team’s cap space to $7.79 million. So an obvious follow-up question is: What might the Patriots do with it? More than anything, I think it provides valuable in-season insurance to react to an emergency-type situation or a possible trade opportunity down the line. The Patriots have been tight to the cap all offseason, so this is obviously a much-welcomed cushion for them.
3. Michel has been back in town: Some Patriots players have already returned to the area, getting a head start on their quarantine, with running back Sony Michel falling into that category. He is recovering from offseason surgery on his foot, and as a rehabbing player is allowed to use the team’s facilities, which he’s been taking advantage of for several weeks now. Michel posted a picture on his Instagram that shows him without a walking boot.
4. More on Cam/N’Keal connection: What led quarterback Cam Newton and second-year receiver N’Keal Harry to work out together last week on the West Coast? I’m told Newton initiated the contact with Harry. Now, after a couple of days together, it would be interesting to hear if Newton saw any similarities between Harry (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and former Carolina Panthers receiver Kelvin Benjamin (6-5, 245), as both are bigger than the prototype at the position, relying less on speed and more on technique and physicality. Benjamin had developed a nice early rapport with Newton in Carolina, totaling 136 catches for 1,949 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons (2014, 2016).
5. No Cam news conference scheduled: When the Patriots officially announced the signing of Newton on Wednesday, one of the natural follow-ups was when New England might get its initial firsthand look at Newton in a (virtual) news conference. Nothing is scheduled at this time, which possibly could extend to the scheduled start of training camp this month. When it does happen, the contrast between Newton and Belichick could be fun.
6. Mahomes’ deal sparks Bledsoe recollections: The Chiefs’ 10-year contract extension with quarterback Patrick Mahomes was unusual because of its length, but not unprecedented. Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, of course, had signed a 10-year contract in March 2001. At the time, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said, “I saw this as an opportunity to sign one of the greatest Patriots for the rest of his career.” Of course, no one could have predicted what would unfold — Bledsoe’s serious injury, Tom Brady‘s emergence, and Bledsoe ultimately traded to Buffalo the following season.
7. Explaining 13% incentive in Cam’s deal: When ESPN’s Field Yates was first to break down the specifics of the one-year contract Newton signed with the Patriots, the presence of $250,000 for playing 13% of the offensive snaps stood out to some as unusual. But it is easily explained. Because Newton played in 12.6% of the offensive snaps last year, the Patriots don’t have to initially count that $250,000 against the salary cap, as it is considered a not-likely-to-be-earned incentive. So in essence, they are borrowing $250,000 until Newton hits that threshold. This is similar to what they did last year with linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. In that deal, Collins could earn a $500,000 incentive for playing 91% of the snaps, which wasn’t a coincidence because he had played 90.65% of the snaps the year before.
A full breakdown of Cam Newton’s contract with the Patriots, which includes $3.75M in playing-time incentives and a maximum value of $7.5M if the team wins the Super Bowl. pic.twitter.com/TGSVEJ3P0Z
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 9, 2020
8. Cam’s contract in context: How modest of a contract did Newton sign with the Patriots given his credentials? According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, the following are the contracts with the lowest totals of guaranteed money for MVP-winning quarterbacks since 2000:
Newton: $550,000 (2020)
Steve McNair: $6.1 million (2004)
Rich Gannon: $11 million (2002)
Kurt Warner: $11.5 million (2000)
9. Patriots were ready with Cam’s jersey: The Patriots waited about three months before finalizing the jersey numbers for veteran free agents they reached contract agreements with back in March. With Newton, the delay was about a week, and here’s one notable benefit for the franchise by moving quickly: Locking Newton to No. 1 allowed for immediate jersey sales, with his jersey one of the first items that pops up on the team’s online Pro Shop.
10. Thuney deadline approaches: Wednesday marks the deadline for the Patriots and franchise-tagged guard Joe Thuney to reach an extension, or Thuney will be locked in to the $14.78 million tag for the 2020 season. None of the 14 players across the NFL who were assigned the tag have had their contracts extended. Will the deadline spur action? Or is the lack of extensions a preview of what to expect? While acknowledging anything is possible with Thuney, I lean toward the latter.
11. Did You Know: Julian Edelman enters the 2020 season in second place on the Patriots’ career receptions list with 599. Wes Welker is the all-time leader with 672 receptions.
Patriots settle compensation grievances with Antonio Brown, Aaron Hernandez
The New England Patriots have settled compensation grievances with Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez over the past week, which creates notable salary-cap space for the team, league sources told ESPN.
The Patriots had owed receiver Brown $9 million, and as part of the settlement, he will instead receive $5 million, per sources.
The settlement is notable, as some experts viewed the Patriots’ chances of recouping any money as low. The Patriots gave Brown a $9 million signing bonus on Sept. 7, and half of it was to be paid on Sept. 23, three days after they cut him. The other half was to be paid in January.
In addition to that $4 million credit on the Patriots’ cap, the club received a $2.25 million credit after settling a long-running compensation grievance with the late Hernandez, per sources.
The salary-cap space is significant for the Patriots, who have been tight to the league’s limit.
Earlier this week, prior to restructuring the contract of running back Rex Burkhead, the Patriots were down to less than $500,000 in space. The club now has $7.79 million in room under the salary cap.
Sources — NFL, NFLPA expected to meet Monday about return terms
Clarity is coming soon about whether NFL players will report to training camp and salvage a season.
Sources say the NFL and NFLPA management councils are expected to meet Monday in hopes of agreeing to terms on a return to work.
The players held a call Friday, during which leadership said they would have more answers early next week.
Negotiations and counterproposals between the league and players are happening frequently each week as training camp is a little more than two weeks away.
Players want frequent testing (every day) and no preseason games, while the league wants testing less frequently than the players (like every other day) and two preseason games.
A source told ESPN that players and the league were close on agreeing to working conditions and that momentum for at least some preseason action exists, with a one-game format also being discussed. The source added the players would likely get concessions as a result of preseason play.
But all that has not been finalized yet, and there are other issues to hash out.
Acclimation period: Players want a slow ramp-up from working out to taking the practice field to avoid unnecessary injuries and to get comfortable in the new working environment.
Opt-out clauses for players: What happens to a player’s contract if he decides to sit due to COVID-19 concerns, and does he get an accrued season?
Whether trimming the 90-man training camp rosters to avoid unnecessary contact is the right thing.
Equipment modifications: Players are lukewarm about wearing masks over their helmet bars, while the NFL has been working with Oakley on a yet-to-be-revealed design.
Economics: How to share lost revenue, with players knowing they have to take a loss somewhere to offset the lack of fans in the stands, but the league’s offer to place 35% of salaries in escrow is considered a non-starter.
Both sides want camp and want to play, so the goal is to get there and survive the probable initial wave of positive tests, then manage expectations from there.
“Get the 16 games on TV,” a source involved told ESPN. “That’s the main goal.”
If there are fans in the stands, the league standard for all 32 team will be for fans to wear face masks, while the league is hoping teams can have socially distanced fan days inside stadiums for training camp.
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