Watson rampaged to his his 15-touchdown, QB1 overall start on the back of a soft schedule, ripping the Patriots, Titans, Chiefs and Browns. That is not something that should be held against him. Do you know how many good quarterbacks fail to take advantage of golden matchups every Sunday? It’s easier said than done, especially for a rookie who began the season on the bench.
Sunday, Watson was to be tested. Road tripping to Seattle, he was tasked with solving a Seahawks defense allowing the fourth fewest quarterback fantasy points. Pete Carroll’s unit entered Week 8 permitting just 191 passing yards per game, and 5.6 yards per attempt. Enemy passers were completing only 55.6 percent of their throws, and had managed all of five touchdowns in seven games. Daunting stuff.
Not for Watson. He set about dismantling Earl Thomas and company from the opening whistle. Two and a half minutes and five plays. That’s how long it took Watson to find Will Fuller for a 59-yard touchdown. When the dust finally settled, he had 402 yards and four scores. In Seattle. As a rookie quarterback. Making his seventh start.
Watson was not perfect. He tossed three interceptions, one of which was housed for a touchdown. He also had lots of help. DeAndre Hopkins put the team on his back as much as Watson did. And the Texans, you know, lost the game. But this is a special player, perhaps a once-in-a-generation type talent. People scoffed when Watson’s college coach Dabo Swinney compared him to Michael Jordan. At least for one half of one season, it’s been apt. Watson has a 72-10 type matchup for Week 9 in the Colts, a “defense” allowing 290 yards per game and 8.9 yards per attempt. The QB1 overall on the season will be in excellent position to keep the train rolling.
Five Week 8 Storylines
Jordan Reed did what Jordan Reed does. In Week 7, Reed finally looked healthy, ripping down eight passes for 64 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. It was not to be. Untouched on a route he was not targeted on, Reed pulled up lame. It was not the shoulder, chest, ribs or toe injuries that bothered him earlier this season, but a new issue. Hamstring. That is, new for 2017. Reed has a long history of hamstring ailments, though none since 2015. It did not appear to be an overly debilitating strain. Labeled questionable, Reed tried to get warm on the sideline. He was then downgraded to doubtful before finally being declared out. Even if Reed does get cleared, fantasy owners will be best served looking elsewhere for Week 9. Reed has had a poor 2017 as he’s tried to play hurt. Vernon Davis is a plug-and-play option for fantasy owners left in a lurch (again).
Matthew Stafford throws for 423 yards … and zero touchdowns. This was the platonic ideal of a Matthew Stafford start, with the sound and fury of 483 yards of Lions offense resulting in just 15 points, all 15 of which came on field goals. How this was possible isn’t exactly clear. Stafford avoided turnovers, and completed 60 percent of his passes. He averaged a robust 9.4 yards per attempt. As has been a theme throughout his time under center, Stafford’s offense simply couldn’t make the necessary plays in the red zone. Astonishingly, this was Stafford’s second career start with 400 yards and zero scores. He’ll try to get off the schneid in Week 9 against the Packers, a defense he ripped for 732 yards and five touchdowns in two 2016 starts, reaching 347 yards both times. Naturally, both games were Lions losses.
JuJu Smith-Schuster explodes for 193 yards, waves goodbye to Martavis Bryant. Someone who did find the end zone in Lions/Steelers? Smith-Schuster, whose 97-yard score was the longest passing touchdown in Steelers history. With the Steelers facing a third-and-nine from their own three, Smith-Schuster put Quandre Diggs on skates, caught a perfectly-lofted ball from Ben Roethlisberger, split the safeties and was off to the races. The youngest player in the NFL is now up to 22nd in yardage (424), and is the first person in league history to score four touchdowns before his 21st birthday. He has also ended the Bryant debate, emphatically blowing by his disgruntled teammate on the depth chart. Ready to soak up targets behind Antonio Brown, Smith-Schuster will be an upside WR3 when the Steelers come off bye against the Colts in Week 10.
Jameis Winston has his worst start of the season. Coming off his best game of the year, Winston promptly had his worst. Maybe it was the wind, maybe it was his recently-aggravated shoulder injury. Whatever it was, Winston was flat bad in a must-win divisional contest with the Panthers. Winston was nowhere close to accurate, and was as mistake-filled as a typical DeShone Kizer outing. He made numerous inexcusable decisions, the worst of which was his lost fumble on a college-style attempted heave as he was getting sacked. That wasn’t the wind. That wasn’t his shoulder. It was a gaffe no NFLer should make. Winston can’t be trusted as a QB1 for Week 9 against the Saints.
Chris Hogan injures his shoulder. Hogan suffered the injury on his final catch of the Patriots’ win over the Chargers. He was spotted afterward with his right arm in a sling. Hogan has suffered a number of nicks and bruises this season, but has yet to miss time. This being the Patriots, we are unlikely to get a meaningful update any time soon, especially since Week 9 is the Pats’ bye. That bye, of course, could be the key to Hogan not missing any time. Fantasy owners can tentatively expect to have their touchdown-scoring WR2 available for Week 10.
Five More Week 8 Storylines
Andrew Luck seeks further opinions on his surgically-repaired shoulder. Luck went under the knife in January. The team insisted from the get-go that he would be ready for the season, if not much sooner. So you could say it’s a concern that the sixth-year pro is “still in pain,” and “seeking further opinions to figure out why.” (Via FOX’s Jay Glazer.) The Colts tried to downplay their self-announced news of a setback two weeks ago, but the team has proven to be the worst source of information on Luck’s health. At this point, he’s doubtful for 2017, and questionable for beyond. Missing over a year with shoulder surgery would be well outside the realm of typical, especially for a 28 year old.
T.Y. Hilton is placed on the trade block. Speaking to Luck’s uncertain timeline is the fact that the Colts have apparently made his No. 1 receiver available. It’s stunning news for a variety of reasons. Hilton is still only 27, and signed to reasonable salaries through 2020. The Colts have close to zero weapons behind him. Hilton hasn’t been the best teammate this season, getting into it with his own offensive line, but it’s hard to believe that would get him sent packing. GM Chris Ballard has evidently decided that his roster is so bad it has no hopes of competing in 2018, and must begin accumulating as many draft picks as possible. Even if that is the case, Ballard is highly unlikely to find a fair deal for Hilton before Tuesday afternoon’s deadline. Hilton should remain a Colt.
Jamison Crowder coming back from the dead. A popular summer fantasy pick, Crowder entered Week 8 with 19 catches for 149 yards, a disaster for fantasy owners. Then, with everyone’s attention focused on Josh Doctson, Crowder erupted for a season-best day, snagging nine balls for 123 yards. The yards were a new career high, while the catches tied his previous career mark. He played 56-of-59 snaps (94.9 percent). The breakout was impossible to see coming. Maybe it was the result of the wet and windy conditions in Washington, though Crowder’s production didn’t just come in the short area of the field. It also came both before and after Jordan Reed’s injury. With the Redskins’ season on the line, perhaps Jay Gruden is beginning to commit to his known commodities. The encouraging day still calls for a “do it again” attitude in Week 9.
Ezekiel Elliott dominating once again. For the second straight week, Elliott ran over the opposing defense, turning a career-high 33 carries into 150 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore back has 373 yards from scrimmage over his past two games, and five scores. Now the waiting game begins. Elliott’s stretch run fate is in the hands of Judge Katherine Failla of the Southern District of New York. She will decide later Monday if Elliott is granted another temporary injunction as his neverending appeal of his six-game suspension makes its way through the legal system. If her answer is “no,” Elliott will head to the suspended list immediately, leaving Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden to form an unpredictable committee for Week 9 against the Chiefs.
Zach Miller suffers horrifying injury. Making a spectacular catch for a touchdown (later overturned), Miller’s leg gave out in sickening fashion as he came down in the end zone. To be blunt, it was one of the more gruesome injuries we’ve seen on a modern football field. The eye test apparently matched the reality, as ESPN reported Monday morning that doctors were trying to save Miller’s leg. Unfathomable. Miller is a 33-year-old journeyman who has been through a lot in his career. Hopefully he can get right for his post-playing life.
2. Does Sean McDermott grow more powerful the more players you take away from him?
3. You need to lose a game. Who do you call, the Chargers, Lions or Giants?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Cardinals (@SF), 49ers (vs. AZ), Lions (@GB), Raiders (@MIA)
Stats of the Week
Six. That’s how many targets all-NFLer Julio Jones received in East Rutherford. The Falcons managed to slip by the Jets — avoiding getting swept by the AFC East — but this offense is in legitimate crisis. If you’re an NFL coordinator who can’t get Julio Jones the ball against the New York Jets, you should not be an NFL coordinator.
Four. That’s how many snaps Willie Snead played against the Bears, catching zero passes on zero targets. Sadly, Snead is droppable across the board.
Speaking of droppable, Terrelle Pryor was on the field for just 19-of-59 plays, catching 0-of-1 targets. He was out-snapped 47-19 by Josh Doctson. It’s hard to give up the ghost on Pryor’s upside, but it’s even harder to see him having fantasy value any time soon.
Tweet of the Week, From Adam Levitan: You just need to see it.
Message of the Week: Le’Veon Bell to Joe Mixon: for someone who feels they can do “way more” than I can, sure seems like u wanna be me! tryin to mimic my run style, my 1st down celebration
The This Isn’t Actually Real, Right? Award: The Bills’ assemblage of Week 8 pass catchers, which included Andre Holmes, Brandon Tate, ex-Cardinals QB bust Logan Thomas, Jack Nicklaus’ grandson and a fullback who calls himself “Tub of Goo.”
The We Really Need To Add These Guys’ Pictures to Madden, Guys Award: The Bears’ receiver corps.
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