Rob Gronkowski entered Week 8 as fantasy’s No. 5 tight end, but the question persisted: When will Gronk be back? 31 catches for 409 yards and four touchdowns through seven games is nice and all, but we’re not here for nice and all. We’re here for Gronk. Keg standin’, name takin’, touchdown scorin’ American badassery.
Any random old tight end can do 31/409/4 (see Delanie Walker). We want Gronk. Sunday, we got it. Gronk dropped nine catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns on the increasingly-hapless Bears. Gronk’s day was epitomized by his third-quarter rag-dolling of fellow professional football player Ryan Mundy. Gronk looked like a gargoyle, Mundy looked like a high schooler. It was glory for fantasy owners, and catharsis for Gronk. Three dominating scores: One for each of the major injuries that have derailed Gronk’s career since 2012. The touchdowns also served a third purpose beyond fantasy fireworks and personal peace of mind — a warning to the rest of the league.
Because Gronk hasn’t just brought himself back, but the entire Patriots offense. Tom Brady and the Pats bottomed out in their 41-14, Week 4 loss to the Chiefs, raising legitimate questions about the future of their seemingly-eternal dynasty. Leaving Kansas City, Gronk got on the plane back to Boston the owner of a 13/147/4 line through four 2014 games. Brady was sitting on a dismal 4:2 TD:INT ratio and 5.77 YPA.
In the four games since, Gronk has gone 27/411/4, putting himself on pace for 80/1,116/14, and resurrecting Brady’s numbers to 18:2 and 7.32, respectively. As Gronk has gone, so have the Patriots, and Gronk is going gangbusters right now. The looming threat, of course, is another injury. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t. In the mean time, just sit back and bask in the fact that somehow, some way Gronk is back. Neither failed surgeries nor back operations nor a torn ACL could keep him down. Gronk and the Pats will keep ascending for as long as his body lets them.
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Five Things That Went According To Plan In Week 8
The Rams’ use of a three-man committee at running back. It wasn’t our plan. But Jeff Fisher kept threatening that it was his, and he executed it to perfection in a game the Rams went on to lose 34-7. None of Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham or Zac Stacy could get into a rhythm as they rotated series, and the Rams’ ultimate reward was 19 carries for 84 scoreless yards against a run defense that had been coughing up 4.7 yards per tote. The Rams showed last week that they can compete with any team in football. They — again — showed Sunday that their coaching is a major reason they don’t.
Maurice Jones-Drew getting more work. Similar to the situation in St. Louis, this would have been our last plan, but it was Oakland’s grand Week 8 idea, and they stuck to it. MJD got seven touches after managing only 12 over his past three games, but while the workload was different, the production was not. Jones-Drew turned his seven looks into 14 total yards. This, against a run defense that came into the game surrendering five yards per carry and 21.9 fantasy points per week. It’s sad to say for a fantasy icon, but Jones-Drew is done. It’s really just that simple. It’s time for everyone, but especially the Raiders, to move on.
Donte Moncrief’s production in place of Hakeem Nicks. Nicks got the start in place of Reggie Wayne (arm), both in theory and actuality. It was Nicks out there opposite T.Y. Hilton, soaking up targets and snaps in the first quarter. But as anyone who’s watched Nicks’ 2014 could have predicted, he was brutally ineffective, and the Colts finally admitted as much after Nicks was the intended target on the first of Andrew Luck’s two interceptions. Moncrief caught his first pass four plays later, gaining 52 yards and blowing by Nicks on the depth chart for the second time in two games. The third-round rookie finished his day with seven catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, setting new career highs across the board. Yes, Moncrief did so against one of the league’s worst pass defenses, but it was that same defense that made Nicks look like the stiff he is. If Moncrief hasn’t bounded ahead of Nicks to stay, the Colts are doing something majorly wrong.
Martavis Bryant’s continued emergence as a red-zone threat. Mothballed for the season’s first six games, Bryant stung the Texans for 2/40/1 in his NFL debut on Monday, but that was just the warm up for his Sunday show against the Colts. The 6-foot-4, fourth-round rookie hauled in five catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns as Ben Roethlisberger piled up a preposterous 522 yards and six scores. Bryant easily won 1-on-1s on both his TDs. A towering figure in the painted area for a team that’s sorely lacked one, Bryant could be moving past Markus Wheaton on the depth chart.
Denard Robinson solidifying his role as the Jaguars’ No. 1 back. With his 18-carry, 108-yard day on the ground, Shoelace became the first Jags back since Maurice Jones-Drew in 2011 to post back-to-back 100-yard efforts. Robinson’s effectiveness waned as the game wore on and the Dolphins bore down on a struggling Blake Bortles, but Robinson has established beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s Jacksonville’s best bet at running back. He’ll be an upside RB2 going forward.
Five Things That Didn’t Go According To Plan In Week 8
Shane Vereen’s party in the Patriots’ backfield. It’s incorrect to say we should have known better, because we did know better. Everyone and their mother was leery of things not being what they seemed in the Patriots’ backfield in Week 7, where Vereen out-touched backups Jonas Gray and Brandon Bolden 17-3. But paranoia wasn’t enough reason to keep Vereen out of lineups as an RB2 against the Bears. Alas, that nagging gut feel was right all along. Vereen’s eight touches were nine fewer than Gray’s, while he was out-gained 86-45. But here’s where things really get weird: Despite the limited day at the office, Vereen still had ample opportunity to hit fantasy pay dirt, getting five touches inside the Bears’ 12-yard line, including two inside the two. He simply couldn’t execute, leaving behind bitter disappointment and an all-too-familiar “welp, who knows what will happen next week” vibe to the Pats’ running-back corps. Vereen never stopped being a boom-or-bust RB2, even if we momentarily tricked ourselves into believing otherwise.
Doug Martin boosting his value, trade or otherwise. Martin entered Sunday’s (latest) loss averaging 2.89 yards on 139 carries. He exited it averaging 2.86 yards on 149 carries. All in all, Martin managed 26 score-less yards on 12 touches against a Vikings defense that came into Week 8 surrendering the seventh most fantasy points to enemy running backs. An increasingly ineffective and nick-prone product of the Bucs’ former regime, Martin is in grave danger of falling behind third-round rookie Charles Sims (ankle, I.R./return) upon his Week 9 activation. Even fellow holdover Bobby Rainey may now be ahead of Martin on the depth chart. Perhaps a trade out of the football abyss would do Martin some good, but it’s unlikely his tires will draw many kicks over the next 24 hours.
Michael Floyd’s big day against an Eagles defense that bleeds fantasy points to receivers. Bleed, the Eagles’ secondary did, but it was to Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. Floyd bafflingly drew only four targets, three of them exceptionally deep, with the Cardinals refusing to involve him at the short-to-intermediate levels. Floyd now has just seven targets over his past two games, and 19 catches for 353 yards and two touchdowns on the season. Floyd’s game-breaking ability has been on display whenever he’s gotten the ball this season, but the issue apparently will not be forced in the desert. That leaves Floyd as a boom-or-bust WR2 when he has the talent to be in the WR1 conversation.
Marshawn Lynch eating against the Panthers’ league-worst run defense. Lynch’s day wasn’t objectively bad — 14 carries for 62 yards — but not what was expected for an angry back against a unit permitting 5.3 yards per carry. Lynch’s presence was most clearly felt when he was targeted at the goal line, only to have the pass clang off his hands for a Russell Wilson “interception.” Playing amidst reports that he won’t be back with the Seahawks next season, it’s quite possible Beast Mode was distracted. Whatever it is, Lynch has now failed to find the end zone in three straight games, and is averaging a modest 4.3 yards per carry. His first and only 100-yard day on the ground came in Week 1. The Raiders represent an excellent Week 9 antidote, but so did the Panthers in Week 8.
Zach Mettenberger jump-starting the Titans’ offense. Mettenberger finished a palatable 27-of-41 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his NFL debut, but only because he was allowed to pad his stats deep into garbage time. Mettenberger displayed scattershot accuray, and was lucky to escape with only one pick. Of course, none of this should be considered surprising for a sixth-round rookie. The jury is very much out on whether Mettenberger will improve or further depress the fantasy value of Tennessee’s intriguing corps of pass catchers.
1. Will Mike Smith become the second coach to leave London with the lousiest souvenir of all — a pink slip?
2. Is the Jets’ quarterback controversy really just one long 54-year continuum?
3. Sammy Watkins, how long were the fields in the ACC?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
Ben Roethlisberger’s 522 yards against the Colts’ Vontae Davis-less secondary were tied for the fourth most all time, while his six scores were a new Steelers record. I’d say he out-performed his No. 15 ranking this week. Ben is now on pace for a career-high 4,760 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Blake Bortles has thrown multiple interceptions in 5-of-6 appearances this season. He’s thrown multiple touchdowns in 1-of-6.
Week 3. That’s the only time Randall Cobb has been held out of the end zone this season.
Most Absurd Moment of Week 8: The Lions’ walkoff delay-of-game penalty in London.
Most Grandpa Moment of Week 8: J.J. Watt ripping Zach Mettenberger for taking a few selfies. You’re intense, J.J. We get it. Not everyone else is as intense. It’s not a bad thing. Take a deep breath, sack a quarterback and lay off the rook’s social-media habits.
The For Oh Heaven’s Sake Award: Matt Schaub throwing an interception on his first, and thus far only, pass attempt of 2014.
The This Was Legitimately More Interesting Than The Game Award: The pigeon grazing about the Dolphins/Jaguars game.
Stephen Tulloch Tribute of the Week: LaMarr Houston suffering a potentially season-ending knee injury celebrating a sack of the backup quarterback in a game his team was losing 48-23.
Tweet of the Week, from Marcus Vick on his brother’s play Sunday: Damn bruh u missed a wide open read (two emojis). Make the east (sic) throws
When The Historians Look Back On This Week, They’ll Say: The folly of human coaches — long since eradicated — was on full display in the Lions and Falcons’ then-unique trip to London. (The entire league, of course, is now based in London). Coaches Jim Caldwell and Mike Smith (his actual name) took turns trying to give the contest away before Detroit’s “field goal kicker” — see attendant glossary for a more thorough definition of the antiquated term “field goal,” a play last allowed in 2029 — booted a game-winning, 48-yard try. No one involved was satisfied, while fans were left with more questions than answers, a common phenomenon in that day.
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