Separation. The first three weeks of the Real Deal Football season are critical to establish separation and pecking order. Since they are all double weeks, we’re now nearly halfway through the regular season, and we’ve eliminated some teams from contention already, while other teams are most of the way to a division title. In some ways, it is a merciful system because teams know early on whether to focus on contending or rebuilding. In other ways, it is a vicious system because a couple bad weeks early on (always a crapshoot in fantasy sports, particularly with injuries) really can do major damage to an otherwise good team’s shot at contention.
That said, it is only 6 games in, and most teams still have a decent shot to make up some ground in what will now turn in to a long season. So settle in, assume marathon pace, and enjoy the ride.
Games of the Week: Yes, that’s right, games. You always get premium content here at the Real Deal Report, and lots of it. And man did we have some games this week. Three amazing games, all between good teams with playoff hopes, all where both teams scored over 200 points, and all decided by 7 points or less. You can’t get better than that!
Cincinnati Bengals 226, Pittsburgh Steelers 219: This could also fall in the “are you freaking kidding me?” category for Pittsburgh. The Bengals got a stunning 118 points from Andy Dalton (37), Theo Riddick (18), Rishard Matthews (34), and Chris Johnson (29). And 15 more from some guy named Will Compton who apparently plays linebacker. I mean, are you freaking kidding me? And they STILL would have won except that Big Ben Roethlisberger went down early in the game with a sprained MCL and deep bone bruise which will keep him out for 4-8 weeks. Are you freaking kidding me? The net result is that the Steelers lose for the first time in something like 10 or 11 weeks and fall a game behind the startlingly lucky Baltimore Ravens in the North. Man.
Cleveland Browns 217, Oakland Raiders 213: Another significant upset in the AFC and another game where much of the scoring came from very surprising places. The difference being that in this game, it ALL came from very surprising places. The upstart Cleveland Browns set a franchise record for points to knock off the Raiders, paced by 26 points from Gary Barnidge, 22 from Marvin Jones, 19 from Karlos Williams and 24 from Nose Tackle Brandon Williams. Not to be outdone, the Raiders (still missing Eddie Lacy), got 35 points from the inestimable Preston Brown, 25 from Nose Tackle John Jenkins (those nose tackles!) and 34 from James Jones, who nearly combined with James Starks to bring the Raiders all the way back from a massive deficit on Monday night. In the end, however, Oakland couldn’t overcome key injuries and dud performances from Tyler Eifert (-0.25 points on an overruled touchdown catch) and 0.5 points from Davante Adams, who couldn’t seem to make up his mind about his health. Oakland deserves to be 6-0. Instead they are 3-3. Fantasy football really is brutal sometimes.
New Orleans Saints 206, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 205: This could have been an absolutely horrible week for the Saints, after the Carolina Panthers exploded out of nowhere to hang 295 on them. A double divisional loss on top of a difficult start could have put the Saints in a major hole. Instead, they found a way to survive a furious Monday night comeback attempt by Tampa Bay, who posted 45.5 defensive points on Monday night (27 from Jaye Howard!) with a Sam Shields interception of their own. Like the real life Eagles, they were nudged to victory by a massive Darren Sproles punt return for a TD, and, some might say even better, Jimmy Graham actually got footballs thrown in his general direction. For the Bucs, it was a missed opportunity, as Torrey Smith, Alfred Morris, Von Miller, Darrelle Revis, and Doug Miller COMBINED for less than ten points. The Bucs are still in the lead. But the Saints aren’t dead. And that has to be scary for both Tampa and Carolina.
Kansas City Chiefs: Look, I hate to do this. But I need ONE week to celebrate. I mean, my team scored freaking 304 points, I won two games by 140+ points, and vaulted into first place in the division. It can’t possibly go anywhere but downhill from here. So I’m going to give the Chiefs props. 38 from Cobb. 32 (and a WR TD!) from Maclin. 22 from Gore. 18 from Jordan Reed, who has stayed healthy for THREE CONSECUTIVE WEEKS. 23 from Everson Griffen. A combined 31 from Rashean Mathis and Brandon Carr!?! It was a perfect storm week for the Chiefs, who now have the most points scored in RDFL by a significant margin and a one game lead in their division. It can’t last. But damn it feels good!
Carolina Panthers: Speaking of rising teams and perfect storms… I mean, Damn. This was one hell of an offensive explosion, as the Panthers set the league record for offensive points in a week with 191. Yep. One hundred and ninety-one! It was so ridiculous that 27 from LeGarrette Blount and 21 from Mark Ingram didn’t even seem noteworthy because they get 56 from Steve “I’m 63 years old and somehow STILL better than Dwayne Bowe has EVER been” Smith and 41 from Greg Olsen. The sad part is that Zach Ertz and Robert Woods combined for only 14 fantasy points when their respective NFL teams scored 65 points. Can you imagine the score if this had gone off? Like with KC, this isn’t sustainable. But also like KC, the Panthers are suddenly at 4-2 with some key divisional notches in their belts.
Indianapolis Colts: It appears I spoke too soon. Just after I called out the Colts for abysmal early season play and suggested that cold, hard reality was setting in, they go 2-0 within division and rattle off a 218 point week. The offense still stunk outside of Luck and Edelman, but the defense turned in a nice 137 point performance behind Dwight Lowery (28). 6/11 players posted double figures, and the Colts are back at .500. They still can’t score. But they might not need to in a division that suddenly looks wide, wide, wide open. The problem is that the division has Brandon Weeden throwing it the football. So even though it might be wide open, you wonder who is going to win it.
Honorable Mention: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions (again), Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens (again), Cleveland Browns
Tennessee Titans: They say that one of the difficulties facing young teams is learning how to win. There’s a stability to veteran, championship caliber squads that younger teams sometimes simply lack. Exhibit A: The Tennessee Titans. How do you react to moving into sole possession of first place in the division? Not by scoring 131 points and getting blitzed by the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts – a combined 3-7 besides these games. The game was a brutal reminder that this team is still young and inconsistent – there will be days that the rising stars will score 131 on offense alone. And then there will be days like this. The division, as we’ve noted, is still winnable. But these were two games the Titans really could have used.
Green Bay Packers: Ok… Green Bay is in trouble. This team has scuffled in the past and had the occasional bad week in years past. But they’ve always bounced back quickly. After getting blown out by KC and dropping a moderately close game to Dallas, the Packers find themselves at 2-4, 4 games behind the high-flying Lions in the division and two games out of the wildcard race. Quarterback has been a disaster for Green Bay all year, and DeMarco Murray’s injury situation hasn’t helped at all. I suspect Green Bay will be a decent team when the injuries get cleaned up – but at this point, it may almost be too late in a tough NFC.
Houston Texans: At 2-2, with some decent performances on the first two weeks, the Texans were a solid tweener squad. A pair of wins and a nice week could have vaulted them into contention in the winnable AFC South. Instead, Houston showed its true colors with a 125 point stink bomb that dropped it to 2-4 and strongly suggests that the Texans are more pretender than contender. The loss exposed a few of Houston’s fatal flaws (namely a lack of offensive contributors when Hyde and Jameis aren’t contributing) and a lack of depth on the Defensive side. It could be argued that a great game from Joseph Randle would have helped things had he been in the starting lineup. But Houston simply doesn’t have enough weapons to compete until Carlos Hyde, Jameis Winston, Donte Moncrief, and others are really ready to step up to the plate – something that looks much more likely to happen next year than this year.
Honorable Mention: Pittsburgh Steelers (Roethlisberger), Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos
Games of the Week:
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s been a LONG time since Pittsburgh has looked up at anyone in the standings, and it is not a stretch to say that the Steelers have looked like the better team, scoring 60 more points than Baltimore and doing it without Le’Veon Bell for the first two weeks of the year. But Baltimore has been undeniably good even as it has also been undeniably lucky – and the Ravens catch their rivals without a Quarterback. This still feels like the Steelers division, but if Baltimore can capitalize and take a 2 game lead with the tiebreaker…
New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills: Ka-boom. Now this is a game. The 6-0 Giants vs. the 5-1 Bills. An in-state rivalry with possible super bowl ramifications. The G-Men have been one of the best teams in the league so far, but the Bills are coming off a 275 point romp behind 60 points from A. J. Mother. ($)&#*()$#. Green. Man that guy comes up every week! He won’t do THAT every week, but with Latavius Murray and Derek Carr playing as well as they have been, they may not need to. The Giants face QB uncertainty for almost all of their big receivers, with Romo and Roethlisberger out, Luck potentially out, and whoever starts for the Texans not being very good. Should be an interesting show!
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Back to division rivalries, this should be a good one. The league leading Buccaneers were 1.5 measly points away from an unblemished perfect record and a two game lead in the division. Instead, the Panthers, riding high after an insane week, can catch them with a win this week. The Bucs need more from Josh McCown to hold off Johnny Football, and also need guys like Alfred Morris to do much more than they’ve been doing. For their part, the Panthers seek to prove that last week’s explosion wasn’t a fluke – particularly guys like Steve Smith and Mark Ingram
New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys: The battle of scuffling powerhouses takes place in the Lone Star state this weekend as struggling Dallas meets struggling New Orleans. Both teams were expected to contend for a Super Bowl berth this year, and while neither team has been bad… neither team has quite appeared to be that good, either. This game could revolve around Drew Brees, who is uncertain for this week’s matchup. The winner will be well-positioned to keep pace in the fight for a playoff berth, while the loser might find itself in some more serious trouble.
Good luck everyone! And whether you are buying or selling, enjoy the unpredictable marathon that is RDFL! Who knows? Maybe your team will make like a superhuman Kenyan and win!