I am terrified to write this post on a Tuesday night. The last time I wrote a post on a Tuesday night it congratulated New Orleans and Tampa Bay and wondered what was happening with Carolina – only to have seven points in DeMarcus Lawrence stat corrections render my post ridiculous the following day.
As I write this, 8/16 (50%!) games are within 15 points, 4/16 (25%!) are within 5 points, and a ridiculous 3/16 games are within a SINGLE point. All three involve potential playoff teams. Man. It’s great for excitement and tight games, but man it’s weird to be waiting for a single stat correction to decide all of our fates.
Meanwhile, what did the week show us?
First, it’s HARD to be undefeated. Detroit and Buffalo had cruised through their schedules to point, obliterating all comers, and KC had taken advantage of a favorable schedule to cruise to 7-0 as well. Detroit was obliterated by Carolina. Buffalo took a punch from Cincy and barely surprised, and KC, for now, survived Houston by half a point on stat corrections.
Second, I say it every few weeks, but Oakland literally has the worst luck of any fantasy team ever – year after year. This week? After holding a comfortable lead over Baltimore heading into Monday night, the Raiders lost it in the third quarter when an errant Mitch Trubisky passed bounced through the open hands of what should have been a sure interception and ricocheted directly to Zach Miller in the endzone. At present reckoning, the Raiders have lost by a point. After a league leading number of losses by less than 10 points last year, the Raiders have already lost two games this year by that amount.
Third, parity is dead. Regrettably, the league is separating itself neatly (much like American society) into clearly delineated lines of have and have-not. Only a single decision (the mighty NFC South) has three teams at .500 and above. Only a single division (the mighty NFC South) has three teams within two games of the lead. And only two divisions (The AFC North and South) have two teams within a game of first place. Beyond that, a look across the league reveals a tale of division leaders running away, clear wild card teams, and teams competing for the first draft pick.
AFC East: Buffalo @8-0, no other team closer than 3-5.
AFC West: KC @8-0, Oakland at 5-3, nobody else better than 3-5
NFC East: NYG @7-1, nobody else better than 3-5
NFC North: Detroit @7-1, nobody else better than 4-4
NFC West: Seattle @7-1, nobody else better than 4-4
Competitive games. But not competitive seasons.
Game of the Week:
Buffalo Bills 234, Cincinnati Bengals 222: For a long time on Sunday, it looked like all three undefeated teams would go down to defeat. The Bengals rode 35 points from TY Hilton and 32 from the Burfict Storm to take a lead over the Bills. Buffalo punched back with 130 points from it’s defense, and in the irony to top all ironies, survived Cincy’s upset bid behind 42 points from AJ Mother ()&#$*(#$ Green – traded to Buffalo from Cincinnati for the immortal Da’Rick Rogers and a late first rounder. Youch. Buffalo stays undefeated, but a game Cincy team served notice that it is not going away any time soon. And potentially not any time late.
Jacksonville Jaguars: And that would be how you announce that you have staying power. After a pair of strong performances to get into first place, the Jags stay there with a convincing 230-201 win over resurgent Pittsburgh. As it has been all year, the defense powered the Jags to the tune of 135 points. Even more remarkable, though, is that the offense has gone from liability to at least moderately credible. Kareem Hunt, David Njoku, and Cooper Kupp make this one of the strongest draft classes in real deal, as Kupp and Hunt may well be the two best rookie skill players of the draft. Danny Amendola has also proved to be a strong role player and turned in 22 points. Jacksonville is playing some great football and at 6-2, could be very hard to beat. For the Steelers… well, 5 interceptions from the QB will doom just about anyone, but when you can put up over 200 points with that? And can point to Le’Veon and Jarvis Landry both on track? Pittsburgh will be just fine.
Minnesota Vikings: Now that’s the sort of game the Vikings were expecting a lot more of. 30 points from Dak Prescott, 18 from Kyle Rudolph, 17 from Duke Johnson, and 115 defensive points where 8/11 players got into double figures and Reshad Jones scored 27. That’s what Minnesota has been expecting. Why haven’t they gotten more of it? The can’t miss draft picks are missing. Another zero for consensus top 10 pick Laquon Treadwell mixes with a solid but uninspiring 12 for consensus top 10 pick Joe Mixon. The Vikings are close. is this the start of putting it all together in Minnesota?
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts looked hung out to dry in the pre-season. Luck was injured. Edelman was gone for the year. The offense looked historically bad. The defense looked like the epitome of mediocrity. After a 197-162 dousing of the 49ers, the Colts are all of a sudden sitting at 4-4, just one game out of the wild card, and actually in contention for the playoffs. The offensive players, particularly guys like Kamara and Gallman have been better than expected. The defense has risen above mediocre to become downright good (especially in a consistent secondary that averages in double figures), and the schedule hasn’t been fantastic. A sterner test awaits this week in Tennessee, but Luck is back soon… if they can hold off until then..
Honorable Mentions: Tennessee Titans, Carolina Panthers
Detroit Lions: When you are the consensus NFC Super Bowl pick and expected to death march through the conference slate, this counts as a thud. 170 points in an uninspired 65 point loss where only two players on the team (Tyreek Hill and Leonard Floyd) broke 20. If this wasn’t fantasy, I’d point to the coaching and how hard it is to maintain motivation over the long season. Look, Detroit is going to be fine. I still think they are the Super Bowl favorites. But this was a chink in their facade of invulnerability, and a huge boost to the prestige of Carolina, who rode 23 points from rookie RB Aaron Jones to a 234 point performance and, potentially, home field advantage throughout the postseason.
LA Rams: Welp. Fair or not, when you haven’t been a competitive team for a long team, when you start to string together good games, you have to go out and prove it in a show me game. Not so much. The Rams showed us they don’t quite belong after laying a 40 point offensive egg – of which 22/40 points came from Marqise Goodwin. Besides him, only two guys hit double digits as the Rams rode Marcus Mariota’s injury to a brutal 118 points, and left a winnable game against division rival Seattle on the table. Now at 4-4 and behind on the tiebreaker, LA faces a likely insurmountable climb back towards contention.
Philadelphia Eagles: It was a game effort from the Birds of 2017, but it simply wasn’t to be. Injuries to Derek Carr and Ty Montgomery have scuttled a once promising season for Philadelphia, but just as much the rest of the offensive cast never quite showed up. The Eagles are 29th in the league in total offense, and trailing such worthies as Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. A 3-5 record and four game deficit against the league leading Giants is too much to overcome, and the Eagles have wisely turned their attention to 2018 – and hopefully scoring some points.
Dishonorable Mentions: New York Jets, Green Bay Packers
Games of the Week:
Arizona Cardinals vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Last week’s game against Philadelphia was an elimination game for the scuffling Cardinals. And while the red birds eliminated the green ones, it can’t be said that they passed the test with flying colors. Even if they are colorful birds. It’s more like the colors crawled morosely over the ground and staggered drunkenly across the finish line about two hours after the race officially ended. Coupled with a win, it was decidedly inconclusive. So they get another shot. Arizona gets Tampa, whose season mojo has completely changed after their devastating stat correction loss to Carolina. Instead of 4-1, the Bucs are now 4-4 and in last place, with their season in serious danger of slipping away. Like Arizona – Philly last week, the winner of this game lives to fight another day. The loser… well… doesn’t. Arizona gets Matt Ryan back from the bye, but loses Shady McCoy. It could be tough.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Cincinnati Bengals: The Seahawks get a chance to continue to run away and hide in their division, while the Bengals reward for playing Buffalo so tightly is a date with the 7-1 Seahawks. The Bengals remain an enigma – only 14th in fantasy points, mediocre on offense, mediocre on defense, and forced to start Ryan Fitspatrick at QB – and yet only a half game out in the AFC North. Seattle, on the other hand, makes no secret of it’s secret sauce – offense. Though the bye week, and the subsequent loss of a lot of starters on both teams makes this one a lot more questionable than it otherwise would be. Even strength, I go Seattle. On a bye? Tough to say.
Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints: New Orleans may be the only team approaching Oakland for sheer bad luck. Denied an undefeated season by stat correction, denied a victory over Carolina and the division lead by stat correction, the Saints now have the good fortune of catching Detroit coming off it’s first loss in a long, long time. The Lions will be vengeful, bitter, and fired up. The Saints will be without Jimmy Graham, Darqueze Dennard, and Jeff Heath. Doh.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Tennessee Titans: Tennessee enters an obvious trap game with decidedly mixed feelings. On the one hand, they are solidly 6-2 and boast a top 10 defense. On the other hand, they just lose OBJ for the year and are somehow tied with a high-flying Jacksonville Jaguars team that has come out of nowhere to give aggressive challenge. Indy wasn’t supposed to compete with Indy. But Indy has been competing with other teams. The Titans should win this game. Need to win this game. But in their first contest without OBJ? And still down Sam Bradford? This one has will require some serious mental fortitude.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Kansas City Chiefs: One of the few old fashioned battles between division leaders happening in an underwhelming week 6 slate, Pittsburgh is in the midst of a rather brutal slate of games (Baltimore, New Orleans, Jacksonville, KC, Cincinnati, Detroit). How’s that for a tough six game sled? 1-2 thus far, and facing a stern challenge from the rival Bengals, Pittsburgh can’t afford to overlook the Chiefs this week. Fortunately, neither team is particularly burdened by bye weeks, meaning that this should be a fun one!
Good luck in week 6 everybody!