The NFL at large took a massive hit with Dak Prescott suffering a season-ending ankle injury on Sunday. It ends a magical offensive campaign from the Dallas Cowboys and likely sends them on a path toward an early draft pick in 2021. The question of where Prescott will be playing next will be an interesting thought as we continue through a season full of surprises. We saw yet another rookie wideout arrive this week and several offenses have changed course, giving us new perspectives on how to perceive their pieces going forward. Let’s take a look at the new developments through PlayerProfiler.com’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics.
Thursday Night Breakdown: Buccaneers Offense Uneven In Loss
The Tom Brady-led Bucs short-circuited a would-be comeback attempt on Thursday to fall to 3-2 against the somehow 4-1 Chicago Bears. Brady was tested by an above-average defense, completing 25-of-41 passes for 253 yards and one score. The Bucs receivers have been on a carousel of injuries all season long, with Chris Godwin missing yet another game.
Ronald Jones gained +41 rush yards over expectation tonight, moving into 4th place overall on the season (+97).
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 9, 2020
The team’s lone bright spot on the night was Ronald Jones, arguably the most talked about player of the offseason. He drew another start with Leonard Fournette “active but essentially out for the game.” Jones took advantage, consistently finding creases against a stout Chicago front four. This backfield looks to return to a hands-in-the-air committee in Week 6, so it will be hard to predict going forward.
Action: This is a good buy low spot for Chris Godwin if redraft players in your league are needing some immediate spike production from a player who is actually playing right now. Godwin led the team in targets when he last played back in Week 1 and will instantly raise the stock of this offense. He’s well worth sending a few offers out for.
Lesson Two: Deshaun Watson Freedom Tour
The Bill O’Brien era is thankfully, mercifully over. I wondered aloud on Twitter this week if the now unshackled Texans would get loose against a depleted Jacksonville defense. They did exactly that. Deshaun Watson recorded his first win of the season, pouring 359 yards and three scores on the Jaguars.
Better late than never for Brandin Cooks. He saw a massive 12 targets, reeling in eight for 161 yards and a touchdown a week after letting the entire world down. He played 49 snaps, the same number as Will Fuller, while Randall Cobb only played 36 snaps. It may be a welcome sign of things to come after being an afterthought in the offense before today.
Fuller had a modest day with a 4-58-1 stat line, but he’s been surprisingly consistent as Houston’s new WR1. A far cry from his big boom or big bust days days of old. He’s a locked in play every single week.
Action: The Texans lock horns with the divisional rival Titans next week. An opponent Watson has averaged 262 passing yards and 2.5 touchdowns against over their last four matchups. He will be a popular DFS play in both cash and tournaments, and I’m not the one to talk you out of him. Also, hope you followed along on Twitter as I touted Darren Fells in place of an inactive Jordan Akins.
Lesson Three: Chase Claypool Erupts (On Taxi Squads)
Kevin Colbert… how exactly do you do it? The Steelers GM had to be smiling as latest rookie wideout smash Chase Claypool went nuclear on Sunday with one rushing touchdown and three scores through the air. Claypool destroyed the Eagles defensive backs all day long, with Darius Slay occupying a combination of JuJu Smith-Schuster and an injured Diontae Johnson.
Claypool appeared to have an Antonio Brown-esque mind meld with Ben Roethlisberger, who is an unheralded Comeback Player of the Year bet with Alex Smith and Andy Dalton back on NFL offenses. The Notre Dame WR/TE hybrid touched the ball ten times, recording 111 yards to go along with the four scores. He’s a truly unique aspect of the Steelers offense that appeared back to full force on Sunday on the way to a 4-0 start.
Smith-Schuster led the team in with 57 snaps, but saw only five targets. James Washington was second with 53 snaps played and also saw five targets. Claypool played 52 snaps yet drew 11 targets, making the most of his work against a decimated defense. He deserves to be treated as an every-down player in this offense.
Action: Playing the guessing game with the Steelers wide receiver group only got tougher this week. A Week 6 matchup with the Browns should force another competitive matchup. All three of the Steelers’ top receivers will be interesting GPP options.
Lesson Four: Cowboys Offense Bound For Change
Dak Prescott suffered a brutal ankle injury on Sunday and was immediately taken to the hospital for surgery. He’s out for the season, and Andy Dalton steps in to helm what was the NFL’s more productive passing offense through four weeks. The receivers will take a hit, and Ezekiel Elliott will be the most likely beneficiary of the downgrade in QB play.
The Dallas defense doesn’t look to be turning it around regardless of opponent, so negative Game Scripts should be on tap for Dalton. The former Bengal came in cold, completing 9-of-11 passes for 111 yards to help Dallas limp to a field goal win. He did throw a perfect strike to Michael Gallup right against the sideline to secure the prerequisite field position. A welcome sight for all of us invested in these passing game weapons.
Action: The Cowboys take on Arizona next Monday night. It’ll be a soft first matchup for Dalton to see as a starter. The Cardinals offense is sure to keep the Game Script nice and ripe to see what he really has. The receivers can still be started with a fair amount of confidence. Especially with better options likely in short supply on benches and waiver wires.
Lesson Five: The Panthers Offense Might Be Better Without CMC
Teddy Bridgewater completed 27-of-37 passes for 313 yards and two scores against the winless, listless Falcons on Sunday. It was an expected spike spot for the Panthers offense, which has been plenty effective without Christian McCaffrey. Mike Davis has been a true plug-and-play replacement, gobbling up chunk plays on the ground and dumpoffs from Bridgewater.
145 catches for 1,146 yards
Mike Davis’ 16 game pace in the 11 quarters played since the CMC injury.
— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) October 11, 2020
The Panthers have utilized their playmakers in a way they haven’t since McCaffrey became fantasy’s most heavily used player. D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson make up an under-respected tandem. With the flared out Target Shares, 25.4-percent (No. 11 among qualified wide receivers) for Anderson and 23.2-percent (No. 19) for Moore entering Week 5, both are getting more opportunities to make big plays with their multi-faceted skill sets, including being YAC monsters.
Action: Davis is as close to a must-play in DFS as it gets until his price gets closer to McCaffrey’s. Week 6 brings a matchup with the Bears, who gave up over 100 rushing yards to Ronald Jones on Thursday night. He’ll be in my lineups again, I can tell you that. The Panthers are rolling.