5 Things I care about
The Bengals are struggling to find a counterpunch
Cincinnati has failed to score 30-plus points this season and has scored 20 or fewer in three of five contests. The deadly fantasy offense we saw in 2021 has yet to emerge in 2022.
Through the first four weeks of the season, teams had been playing two high safeties against them, with one of those safeties clearly defined as the second set of eyes over Ja'Marr Chase. That had allowed Tee Higgins to have some big games, especially last Thursday night. When Higgins went down with an ankle injury aggravation, that option was removed from the table.
Higgins’ absence just helped shine a light on the issues that have haunted Cincinnati all season.
The Bengals had previously been banging their head against the wall trying to recapture the deep-ball magic they rocked with last year; it just wasn’t always there.
They tried something different in the face of the Ravens zone-heavy operation; it just didn’t work.
Joe Burrow averaged a measly 3.4 air yards per attempt against the Ravens, the lowest among any quarterback in Week 5. Obviously, that was in an attempt to help out the offensive line, which worked. Burrow was only under pressure on 13.5 percent of his dropbacks. They ended up biting their nose to spite their face. Burrow's life in the pocket was easier but the offense had no teeth.
Chase ended the game with 50 yards on 12 targets. He averaged 4.2 air yards per target. That’s just sad. The Bengals clearly tried to get Chase going in the short game but it was an overcorrection.
Zac Taylor and co. need to find some way for this offense to meet in the middle. They need to have the upside of Burrow and Chase hitting those vertical shot plays but that can’t always be your first and second move.
On the other hand, you can't then veer so sharply in the other direction that your star receiver gets a total of 50 air yards.
Just about everyone on the Bengals has been a fantasy disappointment, outside of Tee Higgins. Almost any model would tell you that guys like Chase and Joe Mixon are positive regression candidates. That can be true but the coaching staff has to find a counterpunch to the way defenses are playing them.
What we saw in Week 5 was not the answer.
The Rams can’t field a functional offense
We have reached untenable territory when it comes to the Rams offensive line. Outside of a full-on identity shift, Los Angeles has no shot to field a functional offense with the way their front five is playing.
It’s been apparent from the first whistle of the season that their line was going to be a problem. It’s only gotten worse as the games have gone on. The Rams have suffered injuries and dealt with mounting problems. The fact they’ve run into the ferocious fronts of the 49ers and Cowboys the last two weeks almost feels unfair.
Matthew Stafford was under pressure on over 44% of his dropbacks, fumbled twice and just 25% of his completions went for 10-plus yards.
That last point is the most important: It feels like this version of the Rams offense has neutered its quarterback. Stafford can't get a legitimate passing game going. His arm is well known to be his biggest weapon. We're watching that guy feed endless targets to running backs and little screen passes to Tyler Higbee, who averaged 3.7 air yards per target in Week 5.
Sean McVay needs to go back to the drawing board. We’ve seen him reimagine an offense in the middle of the season before. This might be his greatest challenge yet. The passing game is broken and the running game is laughably non-existent.
Until we see some sort of change for LA, we can’t even consider raising expectations for this unit.
Jaguars RBs might start to flip
James Robinson's comeback story has been awesome. He's a guy we should all be rooting for. However, it was clear he wasn't necessarily efficient on a down-to-down basis when you looked a little deeper into his rushing numbers.
Consequently, he emerged as a popular sell-high candidate in fantasy circles. I thought it might make sense to let him carve up the Texans and then try and to trade him.
Well, we know that didn’t work out.
For the second-straight week, Travis Etienne played more than Robinson. He was on the field for 53.4% of the snaps and ran a route on 55% of the dropbacks. Robinson didn't even get to 40%.
Etienne ended the game with 114 yards from scrimmage. He averaged 7.1 yards per carry. He’s making the most of his opportunities and, remember, this is essentially his rookie year after he missed all of 2021.
Robinson had rocketed up the fantasy rankings after his hot start to the season. Etienne looked like a guy left without a real clear role. Now, it appears things might settle back to where the second-year back might end up taking back the top job.
Marquise Brown’s big year
It feels like he's flying a bit under the radar because his team is not good but Marquise Brown is balling this year. He added to his totals with another strong game in a tough matchup against the Eagles.
Brown ranks sixth in team air yards share (39.5%) and 15th in team target share (26.6%). Those are the marks of a legit No. 1 receiver.
He’s primarily thrived as a short-area threat with just 8.5 air yards per target but he’s been making the most of it after the catch. He’s added an additional 4.0 yards after the catch per reception on average. His touchdown against the Eagles was a beastly open-field play.
The Cardinals offense hasn’t been firing on all cylinders this year. The team as a whole has been one of the weakest operations in the NFL. The Brown trade, however, is one of their few big wins in 2022.
With the way Brown is playing and some of the flashes this team is getting from a now-healthy Rondale Moore, perhaps there is hope for this squad when they get DeAndre Hopkins back. Brown should be allowed to move around more pre-snap and perhaps even get some slot looks when Hopkins is on the field.
That’s the one saving grace Arizona can hope for right now.
Carson Wentz leveling out
The Washington offense gave us some electric moments in the first two weeks. Then they hit a mega slump against two elite pass rush units in Philadelphia and Dallas. We should've expected a bump in the road when Carson Wentz went against those teams.
Week 5 provided a very “eh” type of performance in an otherwise beatable matchup. Wentz ranked 15th in EPA per dropback on the week (heading into SNF). That about perfectly encapsulates his day.
He made some big throws to Dyami Brown of all people but the offense too often went stale. The end of the game was truly troubling. Wentz finally threw the game-sealing interception at the goal line but he tried to lose that game for Washington at least three times on that drive.
He’s just such a maddening player.
The Commanders are now 1-4 with a veteran-laden team and a proven coaching staff. Wentz has been a net negative too often and isn’t elevating the number of excellent players in the receiving room.
I wonder how long it will be until we see a younger guy like Sam Howell get a shot to run this offense.
5 Things I don’t care about
Any Ravens pass-catcher besides MANdrews
As long as Rashod Bateman is out, we don't need to strongly consider any of these Ravens wideouts.
Devin Duvernay made some nice plays and Lamar Jackson missed him wide-open on a deep route in the second half. However, the Ravens continued to rotate their receivers even without Bateman.
Mark Andrews ran a route on 92% of the team's dropbacks. No one else checked in above 80%, which was a problem for Bateman in Weeks 1-3 prior to his Week 4 injury. Duvernay's targets per route run (26.9%) and target share (25.9%) look pretty similar to Bateman's. He just slid into that role.
I think people who were calling Bateman a bust coming out of Week 4 are insane. He had a good Week 1, an excellent Week 2, a slow Week 3 and got hurt in Week 4. That’s volatile but all these guys produce like that. Welcome to the wide receiver position.
MANdrews is going to dominate this passing game as long as he's healthy. However, there's still more than enough room for Bateman to get his when he's healthy. We just have to hope it's not serious and he comes back from this injury soon. We saw in Week 5 that no one else is going to compete to steal his work, even if Duvernay is a pretty good player.
Gabe Davis’ targets per route run
Gabe Davis was in the NFL's basement when it came to targets per route run (9.5%) heading into this week. It was easy to make the excuse that he wasn't healthy and that's why he'd been so uninvolved the last two weeks. You could see when watching him; he just didn't look right.
Everything looked all good in Week 5, though.
Davis hauled in two deep passes that went for touchdowns en route to a MONSTER game. He caught just three passes total but man, did he make them count. He looked explosive and healthy for the first time since Week 1.
Davis is never going to be a highly targeted player. Not with Stefon Diggs and a plethora of other interesting receivers around. Davis' skill set also doesn't lend to being a high yards-per-route-run player. But it really doesn't matter.
All we care about is him running a full complement of routes in the league’s best passing offense. He’s one of the best nine-route threats in the league because of his speed, size and ball skills. Davis is the ultimate “you need to ride the waves” player.
Live with him through the lows, love him during the highs. It’s worth it.
Michael Carter vulturing TDs
It was certainly frustrating to watch Breece Hall rip off monster plays only to have fellow running back Michael Carter punch in a pair of one-yard touchdowns right after. The fact that Hall was on the field with Carter on both of his scores makes it worse.
It would be better just to ignore that bummer of a reality.
The more important note here is that Hall made those monster plays at all. Hall collected 100 yards on just two catches and averaged 5.4 yards per rush. I’ve been obsessing over his air yards per target marks for the last three weeks on the Yahoo Fantasy Football Forecast and his skills in the downfield receiving game were on display in Week 5.
Hall is a uniquely talented running back in the pass-catching game. He looks like the most explosive player on an offense that is quietly loaded with good young talent.
Carter isn’t going away. He’s a good back too. It doesn’t matter though. Hall is a back worth betting on the rest of the way.
The Giants' roster
The Giants might have the most bizarre offensive roster in recent memory and yet, this unit works and the team overall is 4-1.
Running back Saquon Barkley is the lone star. Man, he might be the lone above-average skill-position starter period. He's been electric this year. He played 66% of the team snaps in Week 5 despite missing time with a minor shoulder nick. Once he returned he punched in the eventual game-winning touchdown.
The rest of the skill-position group is made up of a quarterback who had his fifth-year option declined, no established player at tight end and a wideout room that’s been stung by injuries and/or poor play to all of their imagined starters.
And yet, Brian Daboll has this unit playing really well. He should be the front-runner for coach of the year. Don’t forget about the actually play-caller here either, offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. Expect him to be a big name in the head coaching hunt this offseason.
We might not be close to a position where we want to start any of these passing game players in fantasy. But we will be someday. This Giants staff gets it.
Jakobi Meyers disrespect
Jakobi Meyers is the best wide receiver that (seemingly) no one cares about. If any other receiver went out and collected 111 yards and a touchdown on eight targets from his third-string quarterback, he'd be the talk of the industry.
That’s precisely what Meyers did on Sunday. I bet almost no one talks about it.
All he does is get open and reliably catch the football. What more can you ask for? Meyers missed Weeks 3 and 4 but don't forget: He rang up the Steelers for 95 yards on nine catches in Week 2.
Meyers isn’t flashy but no matter who else the Patriots bring into the pass-catching rotation, he just hangs on to the top role. He’s emerged as a trusted player for a variety of quarterbacks throughout his career.
His start to the 2022 season is a sign of things to come. When Mac Jones gets back this team will at least be able to have predictable competency behind center. Meyers can take advantage of it. He might not be a star but he's a player more people need to recognize, especially as everyone obsesses with the "next" great big slot receiver.
Meyers is already here.