Week 8 – AFC Game Analyst News and Notes

by Cody Carpentier · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

This new season-long mini-series is brought to you by the RotoUnderworld Game Analyst Team. The Game Analyst Team consists of over 75 individuals that chart and re-watch every snap from every game in the NFL between game end, and Monday afternoon. The guys you have generally not heard from before stop in to drop some tidbits from their weekly game charting process in hopes to give us a sneak peek into the depth of the games each Sunday. As the Head Game Analyst – I charted for two years and this idea was always in the back of my mind. People always share the broken-down, clean, processed reviews of games in the NFL. That’s not what this is. I asked everyone to gives me some Notes or Takeaways from their game this past week, and below are the raw responses I received.

Denver

Teddy Bridgewater was mostly held to quick and short to intermediate throws as well. He efficiently spread the ball around with all 7 players targeted receiving 3-4 targets today. Denver’s backfield continues to be a full committee with Melvin Gordon just barely out carrying Javonte Williams 10 to 9. Javonte Williams was able to show his ability to break tackles on a couple of plays but Melvin Gordon was able to convert his red-zone touches into 2 TDs. Jerry Jeudy looked fully healthy on his return from an ankle sprain but had a quiet day like the other Broncos pass catchers. – Jaylan Glenn

New York Jets

No QB1, No WR1…no problem! Mike White take a bow…. the first game Mike Lafleur was up in the booth calling plays as well. Michael Carter is a bonafide high-end RB2 with RB1 upside; his increased involvement has made him the “bell-cow” in this backfield. Also good to see Elijah Moore getting more opportunities as well. Mims got some valuable playtime with Corey Davis being out this week; he dropped a surefire TD but otherwise played alright. The ancillary receivers pulled their weight with some good production from Crowder and high-pressure catches from Cole and Berrios at times.

If the Jets were competing, I could see them make a go at a stronger TE. That is the most obvious glaring hole in this offense,….less 12 man sets this week than in weeks past (thank you, finally MLF),…..but getting a player that would pose some sort of threat in that role would open up some possibilities for this offense.

First Interceptions was a quick slant thrown high and deflected up…it happens, Mike White should have thrown it low and away. Missed his spot.

Second Interceptions was a quick throw to evade the blitzes, Michael Carter didn’t turn quick enough (not his fault, the route didn’t have time to develop), the ball bounces off his facemask and into a defenders hands.

I’d call both Interceptions unlucky, though they happen every game…it’s all in how you roll with the punches…..and the JETS were throwing some punches even with the turnover differential being against them all day.
Great game from Gang Green, good to see some fight in these dawgs – Austin Link

Buffalo

All in all, this was a fairly boring game.

The Bills possessed the ball for most of it, especially in the third quarter. The normal man-heavy Dolphins defense appeared to be playing more zone to not allow Allen and the Bills to get the matchups they wanted, nor take many deep shots. Much like the Ravens, the Bills go as Allen goes. Nothing surprising about the Big 3’s usage, Beasley (48 snaps / 29 routes / 13 targets / 0 TD), Diggs (51 snaps / 31 routes / 7 targets / 1 TD), and Sanders (52 snaps / 28 routes / 4 targets / 1 TD), as it seems to fluctuate game to game. However, I think the most interesting thing about this game was Tommy Sweeney‘s usage.

All the Twitter talk after Knox went down was how Gabe Davis would be getting a usage bump, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. BC sensation Tommy Sweeney had 53 snaps compared to Davis’ 29, while also running 22 routes to Davis’ 13, and was only out targeted by Davis by 1 at 5 to 4. Sure, Gabe had a TD, but that came on what looked to be a busted coverage by the Dolphins and an excellent play by Allen.

I see you, Tommy Sweeney! – Ryan Moloney

Denver

The Broncos did get the win in Week 8 over the Washington Football Team but this offense is still lackluster at best. Denver looked slightly better out there with the return of Jerry Jeudy and Albert Okwuegbunam. however they only put up a total of 273 yards against a sub-par Washington defense. Third down efficiency showed minimal improvement as they only converted 7 times on 13 attempts. In the 24 games played with Pat Shurmur as Offensive Coordinator, the Denver Broncos have scored a touchdown on just 1 opening drive. – Chuck Passe

Indianapolis

Jonathan Taylor is blossoming into the workhorse back we’ve known him capable of, right in time for a healthy O-line to pave the way. He ran a season-high 27 routes compared to Hines’ 16, the highest differential this season. Nyheim Hines is desperately clinging to the 2-minute role, playing a pesky 31 percent of snaps. 11 of Hines’ 16 routes happened during the 2-minute drill or 4th quarter. Fire up JT with confidence as a bonafide top 5 RB rest of the season.

Mo Alie-Cox is primed for a breakout over the next month. Running his highest route total of the season, out targeting Doyle 19-6 over the last five weeks while scoring four TDs, Mo has capitalized on his opportunity and continues to siphon more work. With TY in the concussion protocol, the Colts should run even more 12 personnel to complement their Taylor heavy scheme and light WR depth. Look for Mo Alie-Cox to build on his resumé as a reliable red-zone weapon over the back half. – Jon Adams

Tennessee

The Titans had to go to plan B this week as the Colts stopped Derrick Henry, who only had only 68 yards on 28 attempts. Although later on Monday it was revealed that Henry had suffered a Jones fracture, which could explain his lack of burst, the Colts D-line still manage to break through the Titans O-line multiple times and delivered punishing blows to Henry at or behind the line of scrimmage.

With Henry being ineffective this needed to be a Ryan Tannehill to A.J. Brown game and it was. Despite Tannehill getting off to a shaky start when he threw two interceptions in the first quarter and a half (one which he got back because there was a defensive fumble), he had a good day going 23 for 33 with 265 yards and 3 TDs. After the 2nd interception, he found Brown on an out route that resulted in a 57 yard TD after Xavier Rhodes whiffed on a tackle.

After that point, Tannehill targeted Brown often with great results. The Colts did a good job at avoiding the big play with A.J. Brown but he’s still a beast and got plenty of separation from the Colts corners on medium-depth routes, and this resulted in a final line of 11 targets for 10 catches, 155 yards, and 1 TD. He was 9 for 10 for 98 yards after halftime. – Marc Nuzzo

Cleveland

 1. Nick Chubb vs D’Ernest Johnson

Chubb played 30 snaps (16 rush attempts for 66 yards) vs D’Ernest 18 (4 rush attempts for 22 yards and 1 touchdown).

Johnson ran 9 routes (3 in the slot) vs Chubb 6 (1 in the slot).

Johnson had 3 targets and Chubb had 1.

2. Demetric Felton played 8 snaps with 1 rushing attempt for 3 yards running 6 routes and 1 target (1 reception for 14 yards).

3.  TE is a complete mix and match

  Austin Hooper and David Njoku played 37 snaps, and Harrison Bryant played 23 snaps.

Hooper ran 15 routes with 2 in the slot: 6 targets for 4 receptions and 26 yards.

Njoku ran 13 routes with 2 in the slot: 3 targets for 3 receptions and 39 yards.

Bryant ran 8 routes with 1 in the slot: 2 targets for 2 receptions and 33 yards.

Overall, this team is ground and pound and would’ve liked to see Odell get moved before the trade deadline.  – Jason Hummel

Pittsburgh

Ben Roethlisberger – This week is my first deep dive into the Pittsburgh offense.

This was a grind-it-out game, which is exactly how both the Steelers and Browns wanted to play it. The Steelers are running shifts and/or motion on almost every play. This helps a veteran like Big Ben to diagnose the defense, but it also makes up for plenty of offensive deficiency.

Ben needs every advantage he can get at this point in his career. The pre-snap movement helps keep the defense off balance and gives a below-average offensive line a half-step advantage on the second level. If he gets a perfectly clean pocket, he can still make most of the throws with accuracy.

Most of the passing game is built around timing routes and short throws. If the pocket collapses even a little bit, there is almost zero chance that the offense runs on time.

We see this with 10:39 left in the 2nd quarter, as Ben tries to “escape” the pocket and looks like he is running with a piano on his back. He makes it about a step and a half before getting sacked. That said, there was a called rollout off of play-action to Ben’s right with 12:18 to go in the 2nd quarter where Ben rolls on a naked boot. He draws defenders to the middle of the field with his eyes and then hits Diontae Johnson with a strike 15 yards downfield. 

The point here is that Big Ben is obviously on his last legs. But if his offensive line can keep him clean, he can support his weapons to a degree for fantasy purposes, especially on short to medium throws and timing routes. It’s the lack of time the offensive line affords him and the declining arm talent that caps the upside of his pass-catchers. 

Diontae Johnson – It’s because of the offensive state of the Steelers that Diontae Johnson is their number one option. The passing game caters to a route running technician, which is how Diontae wins.

Speaking of timing routes, he gets a dose of man coverage on the last drive of the game.

With 1:48 left in the game, he lines up wide to the right of the formation with Ray-Ray McCloud in the slot on the same side. McCloud clears out his man running a go route and Diontae beats his man with an inside release. Ben hits him in stride and Diontae takes off for 50 yards. This is exactly how the weapons for the Steelers will have to achieve their upside. Taking advantage of Ben’s accuracy on the shorter throws and YAC. Johnson is the clear target hog in this offense. He had a team-leading 13 targets on the day, but 12 of them went for an empty 5 receptions and 48 yards until the 50-yard scamper. Johnson is a volume-based WR2 moving forward, without much room for upside beyond that.

Chase Claypool This might be an unpopular opinion, but Chase Claypool is the most talented wide receiver on the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had the same amount of snaps as Diontae Johnson (66), ran the same amount of routes (36), but yet was only targeted 5 times. Those 5 targets went for 4 receptions and 45 yards. That’s good for 9 YPT (yards per target). Johnson had 7.5YPT, but if you remove the quick slant at the end of the game, he checks in at 4YPT.

For all the love that Diontae Johnson gets, in my opinion, he is nothing more than a glorified possession receiver full of empty calories.

The talent in this receiving core lies with Claypool. The Steelers seem to realize this, by running him in pre-snap shifts and motions throughout the game. It sets an easy end-around for Claypool with 3:18 remaining in the 1st half. He had 2 carries on the day, which leads me to believe that Pittsburgh does not know how to truly utilize Claypool in the passing game. Either that or they aren’t confident that Ben can get him the ball on longer developing plays. His talent and physical prowess show up with an exclamation point with 12:28 left in the game.

From the 16-yard line, Claypool runs a little inside hitch route from the slot and Ben hits him at the 11-yard line. Claypool, looking like the Incredible Hulk, tells the first tackler to just get off, and then almost drags 4 Cleveland defenders into the end zone. He finally runs out of juice at the 2-yard line, but this is grown man stuff. For two years now I’ve wondered why his Target Share trails Johnson’s, and until the Steelers get a better signal-caller with a better arm, this share will remain the same. We need to follow the volume for fantasy, and as a result, Claypool is best served as a WR3 with limited upside due to Ben’s deficiencies. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. 

Pat Freiermuth – Holy crap. This kid is the real deal. He popped a little in Week 6’s Seattle game with the most targets in his career with 7. Well, the Steelers went back to the well and fed their rookie tight end with a second helping of 7 targets. Freiermuth had the 3rd most snaps of the Steelers pass catchers with 54, and his 7 targets were the second-most on the team.

But there are a couple of things that you will not see in the box score.

The Steelers made a concerted effort to get their young stud involved. On the first drive, he was the only player targeted, and he received 3 of them. They are obviously trying to establish a rhythm with him. He received a target from the 22-yard line, just before the Steelers were forced to kick a field goal. If you combine that target with both targets he received from the Browns’ 2-yard line, that gives him 3 targets in the red zone. Pittsburgh is looking for him when it counts. His short touchdown catch was ridiculous and everyone has seen it on all the highlight reels. But the play you won’t see that is another example of Freiermuth’s great athletic ability comes with 4:25 left in the 3rd quarter.

The Steelers line up with an empty backfield, three receivers to the right, Diontae Johnson on the left boundary of the formation, and Freiermuth in the left slot. Johnson runs a 10-yard hitch, which effectively clears his man. Freiermuth just runs a simple out along the line of scrimmage. This play design shows a lot of confidence in Freiermuth to just make something happen on his own. He does, emphatically. He makes a charging Grant Delpit miss with a great movie and then busts up the sideline for a 22 yard gain. All YAC.

The Steelers know what they have here. You should too. With 7 targets in 2 straight weeks, including money looks near the goal line, Freiermuth needs to be universally owned. He is an easy top 10 TE moving forward and could crack the top 5 in TE points from week 8 through the rest of the season. Go get him.

Najee Harris This is just me saving the best for last.

Najee is a beast. We all know this. But there are a couple of things that need to be pointed out.

First of all, Najee literally looks like a rocket ship on his touchdown run. That is the result of the Steelers building their entire offense around this kid. The Steelers always want to win now, and pushing their chips in on this type of talent in the 1st round of the draft is the best way to complement their quarterback before he qualifies for social security next year. Najee only averaged 3.5 yards per carry, but they kept feeding their young workhorse to protect Big Ben and slow the game down.

Here is how I know the Steelers will maximize Najee’s involvement in their offense. He only had 3 targets, with an average target depth of -2.67 yards. The box score is showing you a couple of screens and a dump off. What the box score will not show you is the way in which he lines up outside and his ability to run routes. He was not targeted when lining up as a receiver, but when you have a running back checking in at 6-1, 232-pounds that can look like a polished wide receiver when running routes, that is a rare trait.

Oh, and speaking of that dump-off, this play is almost as impressive as Najee’s “Saquon-esque” airborne touchdown leap. He lines up flanking Big Ben to the left in a shotgun look, runs a shallow choice route against man-to-man coverage vs. Cleveland linebacker Anthony Walker. Ben hits him in stride, he easily outruns Walker using a stiff arm, and then delivers punishment to Browns corner Troy Hill, reminding me of old Walter Payton runs. Najee is the total package and I have a hard time ranking him outside of the top 3 running backs in dynasty at this point.  – Teddy Roth

Tennessee vs Indianapolis

Where to start… Derrick Henry out for the season is the biggest blow we’ve had to fantasy thus far. I don’t see Jeremy McNichols even replicating 50-percent of what Henry was producing.. and that’s even if he sees his role changing. McNichols will get a bigger workload of course, but Adrian Peterson is the one to add in this situation. Regardless if he will be efficient, he will get the touches.

Gimmie A.J. Brown... No seriously. After a rough first few games, Brown is EATING defenses alive. With the Henry injury, Brown will be a weekly top 10… scratch that top 5 play for the rest of the season. He has the talent. He is finally healthy. And now, the situation is in his hands with Tennessee likely to switch to a more pass-heavy script moving forward.

Jonathan Taylor had a day against the Titans with 122 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the final minute of regulation to bring the game to overtime. With Derrick Henry likely sidelined for the remainder of the fantasy season, my money is on Taylor to finish as RB1 in Fantasy Football. Earlier in the year, there were questions on Taylors “workhorse status” due to a seemingly strict carry count and a (re)emergence of Nyheim Hines.

In hindsight, this might have just been the new formula for top RB’s in Fantasy Football. I don’t want Taylor to eclipse his season-high 18 carries in week 7. In fact, 15 touches seem like the correct number. We need him healthy to ride us to the championship. Also, if you are a Taylor owner and Hines is available on your wire, just bite the bullet and grab him. Handcuff season is around the corner.

While Taylor did his thing on the ground, the real star of the show was Michael Pittman Jr, with over 30 PPR points and eclipsing his best fantasy day to date.

If I were had Pittman, I’d be looking to sell high. I don’t think he will replicate his 10 Catch, 2 TD, and 86 Yard stat-line again this season. But if no one is biting, I’d happily keep this stud. WR 2 the rest of the way.

Carson Wentz should be the top QB streamer this week on the wire. I’d play him with confidence. He looked good in this showing. Well.. good enough to not lose you a week. He also gets the Jets and Jags next. Ahmed Hassan

fantasy-football-dynasty-league-rankings

Cleveland

I meant to note more details but got crunched on time. The Browns continue to throw so many screens and to all position groups. Odell is nonexistent, and the entire scheme is running and short to intermediate crossing routes. The play designs are great though. I think Stefanski is building an offense around what he has to work with. Bad wideouts, three good tight ends, and a hurt/erratic QB kinda has his hands tied. They should have won the game, but a few missed 4th down conversions killed them. – Andy Miller

New England

Damien Harris showed bell-cow ability once again. He ran for 80 yards on 23 carries, led the team in backfield routes, and played 41 of 77 offensive snaps (53.24-percent)which also led the backfield.

Mac Jones is looking better and better. His intermediate accuracy is good, but he’s just not quite locked in with the receivers downfield. You can tell it’s coming. Jones is going to start connecting downfield and light up the scoreboard soon.

Jakobi Meyers led the team with nine targets, but could only convert 4 into receptions. He led the team in snaps and continues to be the team’s number one option. Calling my shot, the Meyers touchdown game is next week. Money-back guarantee.

The return of N’Keal Harry limited Kendrick Bourne‘s snaps, seeing only 22. However, Bourne managed to earn 7 targets on 16 routes (43.75-percent Target Rate), time the team lead with 4 receptions and finish second on the team with 38 receiving yards.

N’Keal Harry had an interesting return. He played 32/77 snaps, third-most of NE receivers. He also ran 16 routes, tied for third on the team with Kendrick Bourne.Matt Babich

Houston

Not a lot to take away from a blowout like this. The majority of the production for the Houston players came in garbage time in the whole 4th quarter against mostly backups.

After trading away Ingram, Houston mixed in 4 RBs – Johnson, Burkhead, Phillips, and Lindsay fairly evenly. I don’t want to own any of these guys if they’re all only gonna get single-digit touches on a terrible offense.

The 2 rookies for Houston, Nico Collins and Brevin Jordan, are interesting though. I’ve got Jordan stashed in dynasty, and although his production came in garbage time, he got his first career snaps and looks very good.
Collins is worth a stash in deeper redraft leagues. He looks good. Maybe Tyrod can get him more targets. – Keiran Lanham

Miami

Tua was under fire all game, I don’t think he is as broken as people think, just has to make desperation plays all throughout. I notice when charting Miami the receivers are constantly in contested catch situations, lacking in separation. Not sure if its scheme related(predictability) or on the pass-catchers, but it just seems they are more closely covered, occasionally as a result of a late pass. – Josh Frazin

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