Lessons Learned – Week 10

by Al Scherer · Analytics & Advanced Metrics
tua-tagovailoa-fantasy-football

1) Thursday Breakdown – Dolphins… Too Little Too Late?

Last year, Miami’s 10-6 record belied both a middling offense and middling defense. The secret to their success was actually their league-leading 29 turnovers – the ‘Fins finished 9-3 when tied or winning the turnover battle.

With a healthy Tua Tagovailoa, rookie Jaylen Waddle, and what looked like an easier schedule, 2021 was supposed to be their next step up. But it hasn’t worked out that way.

With Tua on the shelf early this year and posting a No. 24-ranked Passer Rating when he was on the field, combined with the NFL’s worst rushing attack, their offense had been terrible. And the defense wasn’t any better, even bottom-4 against the pass, which shouldn’t happen when your cornerbacks are Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. But, after eight weeks, there they sat at 1-7.

After beating Houston in Week 9, the Dolphins hosted first-place Baltimore Thursday night. We all know Lamar Jackson does two things exceptionally well – run and throw the deep ball. Knowing the Ravens won’t hand off to their running backs, Miami elected to pressure Jackson, letting their cornerbacks and safeties manage the deep ball. Thursday night, it worked to perfection – four sacks and two turnovers (including a Howard Pick-6) later, Miami won their second straight.

While it’s too late for Miami to make noise this year, there are a few takeaways for us:

  1. -Tua’s improving – though his season-long Passer Rating is only 87.3, he’s been at least 95.1 in 3 of his last 4 games & has some great matchups coming up;

  2. -Jaylen Waddle‘s having an impressive rookie season. Waddle quietly leads the league in Routes Run and is top-12 in Targets, Receptions, True Catch Rate, and Yards After Catch. And he’s catching 70-percent of his targets.

  3. -The Dolphins DST is worth a flyer. DST scoring is about turnovers. Miami is starting to create them again and won’t face another high-scoring team the rest of the year.

Action:

Start Tua and Waddle going forward. The Miami DST is a worthy pickup, too.

2) Kliff, Colt, and Carolina Crush Cards!

Carolina’s offense has been awful both running and throwing the ball his year, sitting No. 26 in Yards Per Carry and No. 31 in Net Yards Per Pass Attempt. With Christian McCaffrey having played only three full games and Sam Darnold leading their offense, heading into Week 10 with a 4-5 record really wasn’t all that bad. Of course, their defense has been keeping them alive, giving up the third-fewest Net Yards Per Pass Attempt and second-fewest Total Yards Allowed Per Game.

Their Week 10 opponent, the Cardinals, have somewhat surprisingly been one of the league’s most run-heavy offenses – No. 2 in Rushing Attempts, No. 27 in Pass Attempts. With no Kyler Murray, no DeAndre Hopkins and no Chase Edmonds this week, leaning heavily on James Conner, who came in leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns, seemed a recipe for success.

But, no, Kliff Kingsbury’s Cardinals’ first drive was all about Colt McCoy. On his third straight drop back, Haason Reddick strip-sacked the backup signal caller, giving the Panthers a short field. They quickly cashed in on a Cam Newton keeper.

Next drive, on 4th and one at their own 42, as is fashionable in 2021, the Cardinals went for it. But, rather than hand the rock to the 233-pound Conner, Kliff asked his 35-year old, 216-pound QB to slam it in there.

To no one’s surprise – except maybe Kliff’s and Colt’s, that didn’t work. Another short field, another Cam touchdown.

This put the Cardinals quickly down two touchdowns against one of the stingiest passing defenses, without an offense able to come back. Result? As expected. The Cardinals never recovered.

Action:

Write this one off. When Kyler and crew return, expect Arizona to get back to normal. If Murray sits again, though, do the same with your Cardinals.

3) What to Make of these Patriots?

The New England Patriots are an enigma. Despite posting the 10th-most Points For and 4th-fewest Points Against, they sit at only 5-4 despite an amazingly-friendly schedule. Their five wins included two over the Jets, a 3-point victory over Houston, and one over the Sam Darnold-led Panthers. They’ve mostly won games they should and have lost the others. Today, though, they crushed the Browns.

Most important for us are the performances of their rookies.

Mac Jones has been unflappable. His 8.0 Accuracy Rating leads the league. His 59.7-percent Pressured Completion Percentage is No. 2. He leads all rookie QBs in Accuracy Rating, Catchable Pass Rate, Total QBR, and True Passer Rating. Apparently, 14 NFL teams felt they didn’t need his services, opting to head into 2021 Week 10 led by Mike White (in relief of Zach Wilson), Jared Goff, P. J. Walker, and Jimmy Garoppolo. Jones was amazing once again in Week 10, completing 19 of 23 attempts for 198 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Rhamondre Stevenson was the talk of the the preseason, leading the NFL in rushing and lighting up August highlight reels. But, as so often happens, when the regular season lights went on, the rookie went to the bench. He wasn’t even active in Weeks 2-4, started getting some work in Week 5, and posted 106 yards on 12 touches in Week 9. When starter Damien Harris missed Week 10, Rhamondre took 20 carries for 100 yards and 2 scores, and 4 catches on 5 targets. His work today helped the Pats crush the Browns, who, heading in, had been the league’s No. 2 rushing defense in Yards Per Attempt.

On a side note, congrats, Jakobi Meyers!! Now with 198 career catches, he finally has a touchdown! It was nice to see half the team run across the field to celebrate his score today!

Action:

Hopefully you’ve been following the advice of PlayerProfiler and rostered both Jones and Stevenson. If you haven’t, it’s probably too late.

4) Is Russell Not Right or Are The Packers the NFC’s Top Super Bowl Contender?

Russell Wilson wasn’t supposed to be back yet. His performance suggests he wasn’t. Either he is not healthy yet, the Seahawks are really that bad or the Packers are really that good. Actually, it’s probably all three.

Wilson completed half his pass attempts today for 161 yards at 4.0 Yards Per Attempt. He threw two interceptions, was sacked three times, and was shut out for the first time in his NFL career – in his 167th game. So, we can focus on today’s performance or take the prior 167 as a buying opportunity. Seattle has a few decent matchups coming up and fantasy playoff games against Chicago and Detroit. When everyone else panics, we must stay calm and take advantage.

On the other side of the field, you’ve got to hand it to the Pack, who completely shut down Seattle, holding onto the ball for 40 minutes. Green Bay has yet to give up a 300-yard passing game despite playing most of the season without Pro Bowl corner Jaire Alexander. Had Aaron Rodgers been better inoculated, they’d be the only 9-1 team in the league. The Pack might be without Aaron Jones, who is believed to have sprained an MCL today, for most if not all of the rest of the fantasy season, but they seem to be doing just fine with A.J. Dillon. They will be fine even if those of us that have Jones on our rosters won’t.

Action:

Buy low on Russell and the Seahawks. On the Packers, every offensive contributor is already rostered. See if the Green Bay DST might be available, though. And, check your options before starting any passing game options against Green Bay’s DST.

fantasy-football-dynasty-league-rankings

5) Lions vs Steelers? Wow, That was Ugly!

No, it wasn’t a win but, for fans of Detroit, for the first time in almost a year, at least it wasn’t a loss. One step at a time, right? In one of the ugliest games in a long time, the Lions celebrated a tie with the Steelers. It was only fitting that the Lions’ best chance to win the game, a 48-yard field goal attempt in overtime… fell short.

For Pittsburgh, there was no silver lining. We all know how bad Ben Roethlisberger has looked this year. Despite being gifted a 2.07 (No. 8) Receiver Target Separation, he’s posted a 69.6-percent (No. 25) Clean Pocket Completion Percentage, a 30.3-percent (No. 31) Deep Ball Completion Percentage, and 6.6 (No. 27) Yards Per Attempt. Add to that 24 (No. 2) Interceptable Passes and Steel City fans were asking for anyone else. Well, that’s what they got today. In Week 10, facing the Lions, owners of the league’s worst pass defense based on Net Yards per Attempt, it took Mason Rudolph 50 pass attempts to gain 242 passing yards and one score. Without Tony Corrente this week, Pittsburgh looked as bad as Detroit.

For the Lions, there actually was a silver (and blue) lining.

On a team with no quarterback and no receivers, D’Andre Swift managed to put up 130 rushing yards against the Steelers. As a team, they did manage to put up 229 yards rushing and two scores. Heading into today’s game, he led the league in Target Share, Receptions, and was No. 2 in Receiving Yards. He is No. 3 in Yards Created. He’s a star but, because of his team, get less attention than he deserves.

Action:

In dynasty, overpay if doing so can get Swift onto your team. Offload any and all parts of this Steelers passing game.