We like to say the NFL is a snow globe league, where variance is king. But there’s something to be said for form holding, for the stars showing out.
And eventually, that’s what we got Sunday, when the Chiefs traveled to Washington.
On paper, it seems like the easiest call of the week. The NFL’s best offense against one of the worst defenses? Get ready for pinball scoring. Kansas City fooled around for about a half — as this team is wont to do — and actually trailed the hapless Football Team into the third period before straightening things out.
After that, it was the Patrick Mahomes show. You’ve seen this movie before.
Only Mahomes can throw for 397 yards and two touchdowns and have the NFL public shrug — it wasn’t his sharpest game. He had a couple of interceptions, both likely the fault of teammates. A handy 31 rushing yards is a nice fantasy bonus. The Chiefs produced plenty of fantasy winners in the 31-13 victory.
Mahomes targeted his main guys liberally, when they were available. Tyreek Hill missed some snaps with a quad injury, but he played plenty, galloping through and around the WFT for nine catches, 76 yards and a touchdown. Travis Kelce also got banged up — an upper-body injury cost him some snaps — but otherwise, he was open most of the day (8-99-0, 11 targets). Hill and Kelce ended the game near the top of their respective positions scoring wise, where you’d expect them to be.
Mecole Hardman’s game looked familiar — a mistake here, a splash play there. He secured one 49-yard-catch, but perhaps could have scored on the play with a better decision post-grab. He also lost a fumble. The Chiefs still don’t know what they’re getting from Hardman on a week-to-week basis.
Darrell Williams had a strong fantasy line, relying on volume. He needed 21 carries to grind out 62 yards, but two touchdowns make for the strongest deodorant. He also caught three passes for 27 additional yards. Jerick McKinnon (four touches, 15 yards) didn’t get in anyone’s way.
Washington flops in smash spot
On the other side of the ball, the Washington offense was shockingly ineffective against the lousy Kansas City defense. Popular streaming pick Taylor Heinicke managed just 182 passing yards and 4.7 YPA, the type of no-show that could cost him the starting job when Ryan Fitzpatrick is ready to return. Heinicke did skim eight passes in the general direction of Terry McLaurin, but little came of it (4-28-0).
The one streaming pick WFT clicked on was tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (4-58-1), and in a full PPR format, J.D. McKissic was useful (8-65-0). Antonio Gibson had one 15-yard run, otherwise struggled to break free; his other nine carries went for 29 yards. He also aggravated his shin injury.
Heinicke needs to show something at Green Bay next week, with Fitzpatrick’s return looming. The Chiefs should keep the points and yards flowing, with the Titans and Giants next on the schedule.
Jonathan Taylor, league winner?
You don’t want to go overboard after watching the Colts throttle the Texans. Houston obviously is one of the two or three worst teams in the league. But it looks like the Colts are getting things together, and had they not somehow lost last week at Baltimore, they’d be 3-3 right now.
Having T.Y. Hilton (4-80-0) back on the field opens things up, especially for teammates. It also created a wider target tree — Carson Wentz looked to nine receivers on just 20 pass attempts — but at least the offense was more efficient.
Jonathan Taylor had a dropped pass and just two first-down carries (no good excuse on that), but he busted off an 83-yard run in the second half and eventually plunged in for two short touchdowns. If the Colts will commit to Taylor just an eyelash more — 18-20 touches weekly would be nice — Taylor has league-winning upside.
The Colts get a good litmus test next week, when they travel to San Francisco and take on a formidable, and rested, Niners defense. After that, it’s a fun slate of games — the Titans, Jets, and Jaguars come to Indianapolis on consecutive weeks.
• Touchdown deodorant, efficiency, call it what you will — DeAndre Hopkins coaxed 19 fantasy points from four targets. His target count this year reads as such: 8, 4, 6, 7, 9, 4. So much for the Hopkins who used to be targeted 10-plus times before the team bus unloaded.
I suppose it’s possible his opportunity will make a strong comeback, but the Arizona offense has multiple weapons and doesn’t have to force the ball to anyone. If Hopkins is on your roster, I’d make it known you want to trade a receiver, then see if an opponent brings up Hopkins first.
• The opposite of Hopkins is the Cooper Kupp story in Los Angeles. Consider Kupp’s weekly target counts: 10, 11, 12, 13, 10, 12. The seven touchdowns, call those a fluke if you want. The targets aren’t going anywhere. And those are Matthew Stafford/Sean McVay targets, plated in gold. If we redrafted tomorrow, Kupp would belong in the first round.
• The Bengals defense is quietly legit — it stood seventh in DVOA before Week 6, and it stuffed everything Detroit tried to do Sunday. It was also encouraging to see the Bengals use Joe Mixon in the passing game, something they hadn’t done much before this week.
• There are still dozens of problems with the Jaguars, but it was encouraging to see them prioritize their three best healthy playmakers: James Robinson, Marvin Jones, and Laviska Shenault.
• One week after being Miami’s featured target, Myles Gaskin was mothballed again — five carries, seven touches. To be fair, he was targeted six times. There is no discernible pattern in this backfield.
Oddly, the Dolphins don't take their bye week on the heels of the London trip. They host Atlanta (off their own bye) next week. Curious. Miami doesn't get a break until Week 14.
• Baltimore steered rushing touchdowns to all three of its legacy backs — Devonte Freeman, Le’Veon Bell, and Latavius Murray. But with no one getting ten carries in this backfield — and with Lamar Jackson’s rushing skills always a mouth to feed — it’s impossible to start any of these veterans.
• Give the Chargers offense a mulligan. Everyone has a flat note or two over the course of a long season. I’ll rank them all proactively against New England next week. (The Patriots have good personnel on defense, but it's not the 1985 Bears or the 2003 Buccaneers; good team will score on this team. Dallas moved the ball easily Sunday, and should have dispatched of the Patriots long before overtime.)
• Despite trailing for the entire second half, the Bears only threw 27 passes against 26 runs. Khalil Herbert (19-97-1, 2-15-0) had the backfield to himself, and I’m thinking he’s better than Damien Williams, anyway. Herbert had a second touchdown wiped out by a questionable penalty.
• Kadarius Toney was headed for a big afternoon before aggravating his ankle injury in the first half. He has superstar written all over him, absurd body control and remarkable quickness. Toney's emergence has Odell Beckham 2014 tinges to it; both were first-round picks who weren't healthy at the start of their first year, and both have the grace of a ballerina and the gears of a sports car. Mind you, Beckham 2021 doesn't remind anyone of Beckham 2014.