The Atlanta Falcons followed Houston’s lead, coming alive in a big way after removing their head coach from the equation. Matt Ryan looked like his old self, getting someone named Julio Jones involved in a 40-burger over the Minnesota Vikings. It was the start of a strange day in the NFL streets, and here we go to break it all down using PlayerProfiler.com’s advanced stats, metrics, and analytics.
Lesson One: Ryan & Julio Reborn
The Falcons responded in a big way after axing their head coach and general manager this week. Both moves were long overdue for a team stuck in a years-long Super Bowl hangover. In interim HC Raheem Morris’ first day in charge, Atlanta leaned on what’s been the strength of the team for years: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones soul-reaving opposing defenses. Only this time, they even have top-12 talent Calvin Ridley on the other side.
A now-healthy Jones saw 10 targets, more than doubling his four-target efforts of the last two games. He looked good as new on a bunny hop pass from Ryan where he did all the heavy lifting for a 40-yard catch-and-run score. His presence made the day even easier for Calvin Ridley, who is fantasy’s WR1 pending the primetime games. He’s scored or surpassed 100 yards in every game but one this season.
Action: The offensive success should continue against a Detroit Lions team missing several top secondary men. The Falcons triple stack won believers a lot of money this week, and it’s not a bad idea to double down next week with the defense still refusing to stop anyone.
Lesson Two: Derrick Henry Defying Logic
It’s trendy to “take away his long run of X yards and he doesn’t look that great,” when evaluating some running backs. In the case of Derrick Henry, it truly doesn’t matter. It’s hard to compare him to other backs in the league and hold him to the same standard when he looks and plays different than them. Henry demolished the Texans for over 200 yards and scored twice in an overtime thriller against the Texans.
Derrick Henry: 174 of his 212 rushing yards occurred AFTER contact pic.twitter.com/n45yYsfdtb
— PFF (@PFF) October 18, 2020
Henry has scored twice in three straight games. He’s the win condition for Tennessee more often than not. His weekly 20-ish touch floor makes for typically high-floor, high-ceiling performances. This is especially true when the Titans offense has been cooking like it has recently, with Ryan Tannehill playing similar to his record 2019 level.
Action: The Titans face off with the Steelers next week. The Steelers defense has been as advertised, which could reduce Henry’s ownership in what could be a sneaky shootout. Pittsburgh lost star LB Devin Bush Sunday, which would make it easier for Henry if and when he reaches the second level. He’s among the highest-ceiling plays each and every week.
Lesson Three: Miles Sanders Produces, Goes Down
Miles Sanders went over 100 yards on the ground against the Ravens on Sunday, but was forced out by a knee injury in the fourth quarter. He again made most of his hay on a long run, but his knee bent awkwardly on the tackle and he is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. It’s troubling for the Eagles, who have been without any playmakers on offense outside of Travis Fulgham.
Sanders has made it work in spite of his carries coming down in every game this season. He’s been buoyed by long runs and a couple targets each week. It’s not the type of volume we like to see from a player with Sanders’ all-purpose skillset, especially when the Eagles have lacked explosiveness dearly on the offense.
Action: Keep your eyes open for Sanders’ injury outlook, as the Eagles play again on TNF and Boston Scott and Corey Clement would be startable assets in deeper leagues if Sanders can’t go. The Eagles have a bye in Week 9, so we could have a situation where Sanders is shut down until Week 10 or even longer if his MRI comes back poorly. It’ll be important news for waiver claims in this crucial part of the season.
Lesson Four: D’Andre Swift Breakout Game
D’Andre Swift was the latest rookie breakout in a season chock-full of early returns on rookie investments. Swift got more than double his season total in carries (14), responding with 116 yards and two short scores. Adrian Peterson still got 15 carries, of course, and turned them into 40 yards and a score. That’s Patricia-ball for you, and Swift will have to garner more volume to give us confidence in him as an RB2 play going forward.
Swift was top-10 in the league in Fantasy Points per Opportunity before Sunday’s breakout performance, proving his touches create positive results. Matchups against the Falcons, Panthers, and Texans in the next month are prime time for Swift to continue parlaying his touches into chunk plays on the ground and through the air. His time is coming.
Action: The Lions take on the Falcons next week. Atlanta has been the defense du jour to target all season, and this game is no different. Swift is an infinitely more dynamic player than Peterson at this point, and unleashing the rookie against Atlanta could be all we need to pump up Swift’s stock to every-week starter status. This could be the last week to get Swift at bargain basement prices in DFS.
Lesson Five: Keeping the Faith on Jonathan Taylor
The faithful are holding strong, but they’ve yet to be truly rewarded for riding with Jonathan Taylor. The rookie saw 12 of Indy’s 15 carries on Sunday and caught four-of-four targets for 55 yards. The Colts were in catchup mode early in this one, and it was encouraging to see Taylor receive only two fewer targets than Nyheim Hines. He would’ve had a better day had Trey Burton not come in to vulture away a one-yard rushing score.
Jonathan Taylor’s weekly share of backfield touches in Indy's last four games: 40% < 45% < 70% < 72.7%.
— John Daigle (@notJDaigle) October 19, 2020
Jordan Wilkins was essentially inactive for this game, which aided in Taylor’s monopoly in the rushing game. Taylor should be receiving 100-percent of the rushing share on this team, and he’s shown in every game that he gives the Colts the best chance to produce on rushing plays. The Colts are top 10 in rushing plays per game and Taylor had seen 19 (No. 9 among qualified running backs) Red Zone Touches heading into this game, converting three of them for scores. We’ve got to keep betting on this athletic phenom and hope the Colts eventually realize they’ve got a blue chip asset on their hands and use him accordingly.
Action: The Colts have a bye in Week 8. This is going to be the last week to buy “low” on one of dynasty’s most high-ceiling assets. Matchups against the Lions, Texans twice, and Raiders in the final stretch could see Taylor making his case as a premium bellcow back on a team that’s seen lackluster quarterback play throughout the first half of the season.