Here we are at the midpoint of the regular season, and what a brutal Sunday it was. We saw superstar Le’Veon Bell go down with a torn MCL that will cost him the rest of the year. We saw tough-as-nails ironman Steve Smith tear his achilles, ending his season, but hopefully not his career. We saw the ultimate model of consistency Matt Forte suffer a knee injury, though he was at least able to walk off the field on his own. We saw Reggie Bush, who was ready to play a bigger role for the 49ers with Carlos Hyde sidelined with a stress fracture in his foot, suffer a season-ending ACL tear. Underrated handcuff RB Khiry Robinson left Sunday’s game against the Giants with what looked like a serious leg injury. In that same game, TE Larry Donnell was carted off the field with a neck injury. Quietly having a very nice season, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a thumb injury on his non-throwing hand in the first quarter against the Raiders and missed the rest of the game, except for a few plays at the end of the game after replacement QB Geno Smith came out after a hard hit. And, the most violent, frightening injury came in the late afternoon game, when Seahawks WR Ricardo Lockette sustained a concussion off a bone-crushing hit that left him on the ground motionless for several minutes. It initially appeared Lockette might have been paralyzed, but it was *just* a concussion. Hope he recovers well.
There were other smaller injuries throughout the day. After scoring a TD, Keenan Allen left the game with back spasms. Teammate Ladarius Green left the game as well, with an ankle injury in the first quarter. Calvin Johnson also exited early with an ankle injury, though he may have returned if the game wasn’t a blowout. Kendall Wright suffered a knee injury, and rounding out the injuries, last week’s out-of-nowhere sensation RB Orleans Darkwa left today’s game early with a back injury.
Now that we covered today’s fantasy infirmary, let’s get into what happened today (and Thursday).
Patriots 37, Dolphins 7
This was a “Dion game”… and an Edelman game… and a Gronkowski game… and a Brady game. The Pats picked the Dolphins apart. Tom Brady is in a class by himself right now, and there is arguably no safer fantasy asset than Brady. He was flawless – over 350 yards, 4 TDs, and no turnovers. By extension, Brady’s favorite targets are some of the more reliable fantasy options. Rob Gronkowski surpassed 100 yards for the second straight game and fourth time this season. He scored a TD as well and is on pace to score 14 TDs this season. After a rare quiet game (stuck on Revis Island) last weekend, Julian Edelman scored a couple TDs to go with 81 yards. Almost all of that came in the 4th quarter, but it’s worth noting he had a TD taken away earlier in the game because of a penalty on a teammate. After missing last week with an abdomen injury, Dion Lewis put on a clinic out of the backfield, catching for almost 100 yards and a TD. Meanwhile RB counterpart LeGarrette Blount finished with 72 rushing yards, but no TD. It can still be difficult knowing when to start Blount, but for now, there seem to be two scenarios where he is a must-start: 1) When the opponent has an especially weak running defense, and 2) When there is serious blowout potential. The Pats blew out the Dolphins, so you would expect this to be type of game where Blount would be more productive. But he still ran fine. Danny Amendola faded out of relevance with Lewis and Lafell back and Edelman’s finger not out of whack. Fellow WR Brandon Lafell added a meager 47 yards, but he should only improve with more reps.
After two blowouts under interim coach Dan Campbell, the Dolphins looked like they were for real. But what a reality check it is going into Foxboro. Every fantasy-relevant Dolphin was disappointing, even with tempered expectations. Lamar Miller‘s night was only salvaged by a short yard TD that capped off the Dolphins’ only impressive drive of the night. Ryan Tannehill had a few bright spots, but finished the game without a TD and struggled for the most part. Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews both had okay yardage, each finishing with over 60 yards, but the Patriots secondary is exploitable. This is the type of game, if you own a Dolphins player, to forget. Chances are, the Patriots were especially up for the game after how the Dolphins had taken the league by storm the previous two games under Dan Campbell. Miller owners, especially: the game flow was not in his favor, and he still managed an okay start because of the TD.
Chiefs 45, Lions 10
If you just saw the score, you’d assume someone on the Chiefs offense went crazy, but that was not the case. Yes, Alex Smith had what will probably be the best game of his season. He only threw for 145 yards but he added 78 on the ground (49 came off of one run), with 3 total TDs. Travis Kelce and Jeremy Maclin both scored a TD, though neither one of them finished with even 50 yards. Most interesting was the continued emergence of Charcanderick West, who had his second straight good fantasy day. He had over 120 total yards and a TD. After his bye, he has a brutal matchup against the Broncos, but after that his schedule softens up. He has two matchups against the Chargers, owners of the worst run-defense in the league. After the Denver game, you may be able to snag him at a nice price. He could pay dividends if you make it to the playoffs.
Last week, the Lions fired offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and while that was no guarantee to improve the Lions offense, it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse. Turns out things could, in fact, be worse. The Lions looked horrible today under interim offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Yes, Jim Bob Cooter. The holes are glaring on the offensive side of the ball. The line can’t protect Matt Stafford, and he turns the ball over too much. The Chiefs concede the most fantasy points to WRs, but no pass-catcher on the Lions was able to get anything going. Calvin Johnson finished with a disappointing line of 85 yards today. Megatron’s longest catch of the day came late in the game, once the Lions were down 38-3. It was a 30-yard grab that left Megatron hobbling around with a bum ankle. Golden Tate’s disappointing season continues, as he notched just 59 yards off six catches. This team has no line and no running game. One can only hope that Cooter changes some things around during their upcoming bye week because clearly what they’re doing right now isn’t coming close to working.
Ravens 29, Chargers 26
The saddest story of the day was that Steve Smith’s season ended with a torn achilles. One can only hope it is not the end of his career as well. The 36-year old WR is one of the most toughest, most talented players in the league. There might not be a player in the entire league more respected that Smith, at least by the fans. He was having a great season and any real NFL fan wants to see him on the field again and playing in meaningful games. QB Joe Flacco had a nice outing with over 300 yards, one passing TD and one running TD. Though you have to wonder how much success Flacco can have in the second half of the year without his top weapon in Steve Smith. The offense already lacks playmakers. The guy who might get more touches is Justin Forsett. He had an average day, mustering only 69 yards on the ground. Frustrating for Forsett owners, when the Ravens got down to the one yard line, Flacco QB sneaked on 1st down for a TD.
At this point, there should be no doubt that Phillip Rivers is a top 4 fantasy QB. Really, he could finish as the best QB not named Tom Brady in fantasy. It’s a shame that the Chargers cannot put together a better team around Rivers. The defense is awful. Rivers is a great QB who is having one of the better years in his career, and yet, the Chargers are 2-6. First round pick Melvin Gordon has disappointed this season, both in real life and in fantasy. Though Sunday marked his heaviest workload of the season, Gordon only rushed for 54 yards off of 18 carries. Though it is somewhat encouraging he received so many carries, considering his fumbling woes to date. The Chargers put up 26 points, but neither Danny Woodhead nor Antonio Gates had strong games. Woodhead had his lowest output in receptions and rushes of any game this year. He is usually immune to game flow, and game flow was not really a factor here anyway, so I’m not sure why the touches were not there. For much of the week, it looked like Antonio Gates might not play because of an MCL sprain. He did play but only finished with 56 yards, while his TE counterpart Ladarius Green left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Keenan Allen also left the game early with an injury. Allen was having muscle spasms in his back, stemming from his TD catch. The fantasy star of the day for the Chargers was Malcom Floyd, the deep threat who came into the league the same year as Rivers. Floyd and Rivers are now in their 12th year as teammates. Floyd had 92 yards and 2 TDs, one of which came off a 70-yard bomb.
Cardinals 34, Browns 20
The Cardinals continue to be a fantasy juggernaut. You could argue that they are the best fantasy situation besides the Pats. In fact, only the Patriots are averaging more offensive TDs than the Cardinals. Carson Palmer had a monster outing throwing for over 370 yards and 4 TDs with an INT. That, without breakout WR John Brown, who despite being active, didn’t play. In his place, Michael Floyd – it was a great day for Floyds – had a productive outing, scoring a 60 yard TD and catching for over 100 yards on the day. Larry Fitzgerald did his thing, also scoring a TD to go with 84 yards. Fitzgerald is currently a top 5 WR in fantasy and he should stay around there for the rest of the year. It was a little surprising to see Chris Johnson finish with 30 (!!!) touches, despite losing two fumbles on the day. Andre Ellington owners probably realize at this point that this is Chris Johnson’s job, and there’s no reason to expect that to change. Though you would still expect Ellington to receive more than three touches.
Despite three fumbles (lost one), Josh McCown managed a solid start with 3 TDs and over 200 yards passing. Travis Benjamin had his worst game of the year, only 26 yards receiving, and with the season at its midpoint, there will be plenty of people who will expect him to regress in the second half of the year. So far, Benjamin has been a good WR, who is getting lots of targets, so chalk this up to a tough matchup against one of the best corners in the league, Patrick Peterson. The other big weapon, Gary Barnidge continues to put up nice numbers. He scored again and is on pace to score 12 TDs this year. I really don’t know if he is someone to sell very high on, or if he will finish the year as a top 3 TE. There is nothing of note in Cleveland’s run game to date. Isaiah Crowell is nothing more than a desperate start right now.
Vikings 23, Bears 20
The Vikings have a real keeper in Stefon Diggs. Since starting, Diggs has averaged nearly 105 receiving yards per game. He has 419 yards in 4 games. He had just under 100 yards today and a TD showcasing his quickness. He runs great routes, but he is most lethal in open space. Once the ball in his hands, Diggs is an incredibly exciting player. You can see why Mike Wallace – who, by the way, had a doughnut today – compared Diggs to former teammate Antonio Brown. Diggs is a great WR2 for the rest of the year. There is no doubt he is QB Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite weapon. Bridgewater didn’t have a very good day – he threw for under 200 yards and had an INT to go with his TD to Diggs. While Adrian Peterson exceeded 100 yards, he has not scored a TD in the last three weeks.
The story of the day for the Bears was Matt Forte going down a knee injury, though the severity of the injury is not yet known. That would be a death blow to an offense that is already struggling. It would also probably mean even more looks for Alshon Jeffery, if that’s possible. Jeffery is a legit WR1 and in both games back, he has been over 100 yards with a TD. Martellus Bennett had a quiet day, and he would also be in line for increased usage if Forte misses any time. The guy to own if Forte misses time is Jeremy Langford, though I’m not sure anyone has seen enough of him to have any real expectations.
Bengals 16, Steelers 10
Both of these offenses are loaded, so it was surprising to see such a low-scoring game. Andy Dalton for the first time all year looked like… well, Andy Dalton. He has too many weapons on his offense for these games to be the norm though. He has been flawless all year long. This was just one bad game. Stay the course with him. The only Bengal with a really nice fantasy day was A.J. Green, stuffing the stat sheet with 11 catches for 118 yards and a score. The RBs, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill, weren’t successful. Although, Hill owners can at least take solace in him getting 15 rushes. The offense is not abandoning him, and it would be all that surprising to see him turn it around in the second half of the year. Breakout TE Tyler Eifert, who’s been a TD monster this year, also had a quiet day.
The story from this game is Le’Veon Bell’s devastating MCL tear that will sideline him for the rest of the year. Bell was probably the best RB in fantasy and Ben Roethlisberger had just recovered from his sprained MCL. It is really too bad because Bell is one of the most exciting, elusive players in the game. The NFL is less fun without Le’Veon Bell playing. His replacement DeAngelo Williams could (should?) be a top 10 RB for the rest of the year. He was the top overall RB scorer in the first two weeks of the year, while Bell served his suspension. Today, Williams had 71 yards off only nine carries. Bell’s injury will mean more looks for Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Both players had underwhelming days today, each ending up with just short of 50 yards, though Brown added a TD. Brown is a superstar and he was the top overall WR before Big Ben went down. And Bryant has proven by now, that he is physically dominant. Also worth noting is Heath Miller, who had his best game of the year with 105 yards off 10 catches. He and Roethlisberger have always had a good connection.
Texans 20, Titans 6
With Arian Foster out for the year, the Texans relied on the passing game. Brian Hoyer aired it out 35 times and had 2 TDs to go with 235 yards – and he had no turnovers. DeAndre Hopkins continued his superstar season. Everyone knows how good he is, and that will continue. The Texans figure to rely heavily on him even more without Foster. Nate Washington had his second straight effective fantasy outing too. Last week, he was over 100 yards with a pair of garbage time TDs. This week, he reeled in a 42 yard TD. He should stay in your starting lineup. The run game in Houston is totally average. Alfred Blue just isn’t a very good back.
What a dumpster fire the Titans are! Seriously, Delanie Walker is a solid fantasy TE. And Antonio Andrews got plenty of touches today, but this offense is just awful. The offense took a hit when rookie Marcus Mariota suffered an MCL sprain. Things got even worse today when Kendall Wright left with an injury too. Whatever Tennessee shares you own, own less. Seriously. Do less.
Saints 52, Giants 49
This was a Madden game played on level “Pro.” Neither team could get any stops. I mean, I don’t have to tell you that – if you didn’t see the game and just saw the score, you could figure that out. But still… Drew Brees was forty for fifty, with 511 yards and SEVEN TDS… and one pick. His first TD came off a cool flea flicker. Total video game numbers. Ben Watson had another great day, just shy of 150 yards and a TD. He is a legit TE start every week. Every Saints pass-catcher was start-able. Let’s see… Willie Snead had a pair of TDs and 76 yards. Marques Colston topped the century mark and had a TD. Even Brandin Cooks had 88 yards and 2 TDs! The only Saints owners who are really bitter are Mark Ingram owners. You mean to tell me the Saints scored 52 points and the biggest fantasy stud on the roster had 11 standard points?
Eli Manning wasn’t too shabby either. In Manning’s and Odell Beckham Jr.’s homecoming – remember, they are both from New Orleans, and they both played at the same high school (!!!) – they torched the Saints defense. Manning had 350 yards, 6 TDs, and no INTs. Of that, Beckham was responsible for 130 yards and 3 TDs. It was a nice bounce back for Beckham, coming off a poor showing last week. Shane Vereen added 60 yards and a TD out of the air, and Dwayne Harris had 2 TDs. The Giants run game was virtually nonexistent, and with the RB roulette going on in New York right now, the best strategy is to avoid entirely.
Rams 27, 49ers 6
It’s not premature to start wondering whether Todd Gurley should be the top overall pick in drafts next season. He has topped 100 yards in all four of his starts. He had 71-yard TD today. Just another day at the office for him. There’s really not much else to say about him. He’s a total superstar. Tavon Austin is very hit or miss – the type of guy who seems to go off when he’s on your bench and then dud when you start him. But he had two TDs, including one on a 66 yarder off a screen pass.
The 49ers are the worst fantasy situation right now. Carlos Hyde is out due to a stress fracture in his foot. Reggie Bush tore his ACL today after slipping on concrete. Why is the concrete not covered with anything? We saw Josh McCown slip on concrete last week. And the rest of the offense is plagued by stuff like this. Colin Kaepernick is having a horrendous year and there just aren’t many options on this offense. Anquan Boldin was inactive today with a hamstring injury, and the ‘Niners were unable to find the end zone at all. As with Tennessee shares… if you 49ers shares, stop it.
Buccaneers 23, Falcons 20
Despite an average day from Doug Martin on the ground, the Buccaneers upset the Falcons on the road. Jameis Winston had 24 rushing yards and a rushing TD to go with 177 passing yards and a passing TD. Vincent Jackson was inactive with a knee injury, so you’d expect Mike Evans to have a big day, but he was limited to 48 yards. Evans also left the game with a groin injury.
It’s about time to start worrying about Matt Ryan. If you didn’t see the game, you’d think he was fine – about 400 yards and 2 TDs and a pick. That’s not bad, right? But he fumbled twice and lost one of them. The fumbles came in the red zone, and if not for a late rally, Ryan would have had an awful line. A few weeks ago, he looked bad in New Orleans, but still managed an okay fantasy start. Same thing today. Just remember: Tampa Bay is one of the worst passing defenses in the league (as is New Orleans). Tampa is one of the softest defenses for QBs in fantasy and Ryan was lucky to salvage a nice day. He should have feasted today. Julio Jones had the type of monster performance his owners were used to seeing earlier in the year. He had 162 yards and a TD. Surprisingly, TE Jacob Tamme eclipsed 100 yards and also had a TD. Superstar RB Devonta Freeman had over 100 total yards, but was scoreless for the second straight week.
Raiders 34, Jets 20
In Derek Carr’s best game to date, he tossed for 333 yards and 4 TDs, without a turnover. The Raiders are a legitimate offense when Carr plays like that. Despite the monster performance, it wasn’t Amari Cooper who benefitted. He was stuck on Revis Island, while Michael Crabtree had 102 yards and an amazing TD. After a couple of weak games, Latavius Murray now has back to back solid performances. Though he didn’t find the end zone, Murray had his second game over 100 yards. Coming into the day with only four catches, Andre Holmes scored two TDs today as well.
The Jets have been hit hard by injuries the past couple weeks. Last week, Chris Ivory dealt with a tight hamstring injury. He played today, but had an atrocious 15 carry-17 yard game. In the first quarter, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a non-throwing hand injury that sidelined him. Geno Smith filled in and threw for over 250 yards and a couple TDs, but there is no question this offense is better with Fitzpatrick running it. Brandon Marshall had yet another game over 100 yards, though he suffered toe and ankle injuries that required an X-ray. The severity of his injuries are unknown.Eric Decker had himself a very Decker-like line, posting 60 yards and a TD. He has 5 TDs in eight games this year. He is a nice flex just about every week.
Seahawks 13, Cowboys 12
The Seahawks offense has been a mess all year. That didn’t change today. Russell Wilson had another underwhelming fantasy day, and Marshawn Lynch did as well. Again, there is no pass-catcher to start with confidence in Seattle. Jimmy Graham led the way with 75 yards off 7 catches, but in general, it’s a good idea to steer clear of Seattle pass-catchers. This game did not have a lot going for it on the offensive side of the ball.
The Cowboys desperately miss Tony Romo. The offense can’t get going without him. In his first game back, Dez Bryant had only two catches for 12 yards. It was a brutal matchup against Richard Sherman, and Matt Cassel did not help. Darren McFadden got workhorse-like carries, but Seattle’s defense was too tough for Run DMC to have a productive day. He still had over 100 total yards though and looks to be the RB to own moving forward in Dallas.
Broncos 29, Packers 10
Anyone who says they expected the Broncos to have 500 yards of offense tonight is lying. Though Peyton Manning finished without a TD, he looked infinitely better than he has all year. He was throwing deep and his arm did not look as shot as it has. Demaryius Thomas had his best outing to date with 168 yards, while Emmanuel Sanders had his worst outing this year with only 22 yards. Most shockingly, both Denver RBs played well! Finally, C.J. Anderson showed up! He scored and surpassed 100 yards for the first time all year. Meanwhile, Ronnie Hillman scored twice. If the Broncos offense is balanced like this, they could turn things around. Their upcoming schedule is very soft.
The real story of the night though was the Broncos defense, which kept Aaron Rodgers to 77 passing yards. The Broncos defense is the best in the league and its secondary stymied the Packers. No Packers WR totaled more than 27 yards… TWENTY SEVEN! Randall Cobb had 27 yards, James Jones had 2, and Davante Adams had 8. Cobb has struggled lately, but at least tonight, the entire offense should be given a pass. The Broncos are the best defense, and it’s not even close. Eddie Lacy actually looked decent. He scored a TD and was running pretty well. He was just hurt by game flow more than anything. Get to the buy low window while you can.