With the first of two bye-mageddon Sundays down, the smaller selection of games had a lack of scoring in the 1:00 slate. But by the time 4 p.m. rolled around, the points and intrigue were flying.
"Flash" Gordon: Among those fertile fantasy offerings was San Diego-Tennessee starring of course, Melvin Gordon. Is there a running back having a more unsung season of greatness than the former Badger? His 261 combined yards with a touchdown was fantasy gold Sunday.
First, let’s have a tip of the cap to Danny Woodhead, whose well-timed season-ending injury helped make Gordon’s season possible. Woodhead was syphoning off touches from Gordon relentlessly last year, thus keeping his fantasy relevance under wraps. Once Woodhead was injured, the Chargers coaching staff was forced to use him more, thus discovering his full-service awesomeness.
Gordon is third in rushing yards but tied for the lead in touchdowns with nine, and he has almost 300 more receiving yards with two more scores. The rest of the road looks like a path to a fantasy title.
Going forward he has the Dolphins (30th vs. the run), Texans (28th), Buccaneers (24th), Raiders (20th) and in Week 16 for most league’s fantasy championships -*drum roll* the Browns! (31st). His only tough matchup will be the Panthers (No. 3) in Week 14.
A Dolphin Tale 2: Despite only three games, Jay Ajayi’s path to Canton argument looks pretty airtight. As a famous dog puppet comedian once said, “I kid, I kid.” Ajayi’s streak of 200-yard games is over, but his 111 rushing performance against the No. 2 rushing defense of the Jets was legit - especially as he helped drain the clock late grinding out yards. Ajayi is here to stay and looks like Miami’s first true franchise back since Ricky Williams - and not just because of their similar coifs.
There are only so many ways to apologize, but personally I prefer my crow with salt and pepper. The biggest nod to Ajayi also is born out of a passing game that lacks inspiration and a terribly average Ryan Tannehill (he of 149 yard passing fame Sunday), making him the focus of an average at best offense. Owners lucky enough to count him on their rosters, ride him as long as you can.
One bad Buc: Although there might be plenty of misery to go around when it comes to the Tampa Bay running game, through the air is a different story. Mike Evans might be the best fantasy receiver not named Julio Jones.
Evans’ eight receiving touchdowns leads the NFL and he is fourth in catches and fifth in yards. This season Jameis Winston has arrived as a top-10 fantasy QB and Evans has put his sophomore slump behind him to become elite. Sure he had a ton of garbage production Thursday in the Falcons blowout but his 11 catches came off 17 targets showing how central he is to the entire offense.
Even better, Evans and the Tampa passing offense face an amazing late season stretch of defenses including the last-ranked Saints TWICE, repeat, TWICE in the fantasy playoffs. For example: Week 13 - Chargers (26th vs the pass), Week 14 - Saints (32nd), Week 15 Cowboys (15th) and Week 16 - Saints.
I know, right?
The not Brandin Cooks award: The rise of Michael Thomas for the Saints seems to be connected with the decline of Cooks. Thomas, who missed week 1 due to injury, is ascending and has five touchdowns in his last six games.
The pump the brakes award: To me, for correctly calling the David Carr phenomenon as something to not count on - but merely as a lineup wrinkle dependent on matchup. Carr had back to back games with one scoring pass each week prior to Week 8’s 5-TD explosion. Yesterday his numbers were anemic as Latavious Murray came back to life and led off the offense in a surprise win over the Broncos.
The don’t call me James Jones Award: To Devante Adams who I originally incorrectly pegged as a low target, boom or bust start in the Packers’ passing game. Boy was I wrong, as Adams’ high usage has been a bright spot during a trying time for the up and down, RB-less Pack. Adams has 25 catches the past two weeks before slowing down Sunday with only four - but still managed to find the end zone with his third touchdown in three games.
The sneaky QB start of the week: Collin Kaepernick. Teams struggling with QB situations (I see you, Blake Bortles owners) look no further. Kaepernick might be doing most of it in garbage time for the outmanned 49ers - you know, like the second quarter - but he is more than capable to run a Chip Kelly spread offense even without many offense weapons to help him. Kap came close to 400 yards passing yesterday and even though it was against the Saints defense, he is averaging about 2 TDs passes a start and has a nice upside with rushing yards.
The most muddled backfield award: Ladies and gents, do yourself a favor and avoid the Philadelphia running game. Picking the right running back week to week is like playing Russian roulette with Ryan Mathews scoring the lone TD on the ground yesterday (among his whopping five carries) while Darren Sproles led in attempts and Kenjuan Barner got a goal line touchdown - what? Also appearing was Wendell Smallwood. Thanks Doug Pederson, us fantasy owners hate you back. Who do you think you are, Mike Shanahan?
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