Now we’re getting generational. Kyle Pitts headed into the Falcons’ Week 6 bye with 9/119/1, but there were caveats. It came against the Jets, it was without Calvin Ridley in the starting lineup, it was in London, etc. etc. There is no real way to be a contrarian about 9/119/1, of course. You know something good players do? Have huge games against bad teams. But there were still some who insisted Pitts needed to do it again.
He did it again. The competition remained light in the Dolphins, but this time Pitts was operating with Ridley on the field. The alpha wideout drew 10 targets, turning them into 4/26/1. Pitts? He was funneled a more modest eight looks but produced 7/163. Those yards were the ninth most by any pass catcher all season.
Five of Pitts’ seven catches gained 20-plus yards. Two of them were highlight-reel stunners. First there was his one-handed, 39-yard reception as he was being blatantly interfered with by Eric Rowe in the dying moments of the first half. That set up a field. Then came his 28-yard, go route snag over Xavien Howard down the right sideline with 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter. That led to the game-winning field goal.
Pitts was plastering posters all over Hard Rock Stadium’s walls and they legitimately changed the game. With his game speed rapidly catching up to his actual speed, Pitts is taking advantage of his rare athleticism and freaky body control to show he really is “that dude.” It is making the Falcons watchable, ensuring Ridley will receive enough space to begin actually producing, and making fantasy managers who believed in Pitts’ rare ability early-round oracles. “Nice things” can seem hard to find lately. Pitts is a major exception.
Five Week 7 Storylines
Justin Fields bottoms out in Tampa. The Bucs entered Week 7 allowing the sixth most quarterback fantasy points. Only five teams had served up more passing yards. Enter Justin Fields, who made the Bucs a week winner on defense and himself unstartable in fantasy. Fields’ five-turnover fiasco was maybe the worst performance by any quarterback all season, and easy to see coming with a struggling rookie whose coaching staff refuses to make adjustments. Fields was never a pure dual-threat in college — he was always too good of a passer — but his legs were a genuine weapon, one he used to devastating big-play effect when called upon. “When called upon” has been never in the pros, with coach Matt Nagy refusing to break up the monotony with something that might actually gain some yards and put some points on the board. Not to remove the blame from Fields’ shoulders. The dude simply can’t pass right now, displaying stunning levels of inaccuracy and ineffectiveness. It is fair to wonder if the Bears might start stopping the fight at times, a la Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins 2020. With only two teams on bye in Week 8, it would be hard to look you in the face and say Fields could be superflexed against the 49ers.
Allen Robinson collapses along with his quarterback. As Fields has fallen apart, his No. 1 receiver has never left the station. A-Rob’s two-catch, 16-yard performance against the league’s most injured secondary was a dispiriting new low, if hardly a surprising one. Robinson has cleared 50 yards twice in seven games, with a “season high” of 63. If Robinson has not been helped by his quarterback play, he is also not making things any easier for his deer-in-headlights rookie teammate. Next Gen Stats charts Robinson as generating the least separation in the entire league, an average of 1.7 yards per target. If any signal caller has ever needed his No. 1 wideout to get into wide-open spaces, it is Fields right now. Robinson remains glued to opposing defensive backs as Darnell Mooney both gets more open (2.7 yards of average separation, a still not-great number) and does more with it (345 yards to 250). Dropping Robinson seems like a fast lane to sadness, but something needs to change by next week’s trade deadline. Robinson either needs a new team or a Week 8 breakout vs. San Francisco’s undermanned cornerback corps.
Michael Pittman continues his breakout in the rain. The two things missing from Pittman’s recent hot streak had been touchdowns and 100-yard efforts. He entered Week 7 with only one of each. Check and check. Pittman’s 4/105/1 basically single-handedly won the Colts the game, while his 57 DPI yards — it would have been 114 had he not caught a 57-yard bomb when he was being interfered with in the first quarter — were the biggest contribution that didn’t show up in the box score. Consistently making plays down the field for a quarterback in Carson Wentz who has rediscovered his deep ball confidence, Pittman is living up to his 6-foot-4 frame after a promising but inconclusive rookie year. T.Y. Hilton’s health is not going to matter for a sophomore who has become his team’s No. 1 receiver, and an excellent WR2 in fantasy.
Falcons fully commit to Cordarrelle Patterson coming out of bye. Bye weeks are convenient narrative builders. If you do something different coming out of one, it must be some grand adjustment. With that caveat in mind, the Falcons came out of their bye and let Patterson out-touch Mike Davis 16-4. Davis had previously never logged fewer than 15 touches or nine carries this season. C-Patt has now taken the rock 14 times on the ground in back-to-back contests, and continues to see every high-value backfield touch in this improving offense. Being used like a poor man’s Austin Ekeler, Patterson’s RB2 juice is now undeniable, even in weeks where there are not six teams on bye.
Chiefs crash and burn, Patrick Mahomes avoids concussion. No one can accuse Mahomes of not regressing to the turnover mean. While the Chiefs’ defense has justifiably taken the brunt of the criticism, Mahomes is now up to 11 giveaways after that number was 15 over the past two years combined. At the risk of excuse making, Mahomes seems to be pressing as the defense leaves no room for error and no one steps up on offense behind Travis Kelce and a banged up Tyreek Hill. It got him a concussion evaluation on Sunday, one he thankfully passed. Putting the team on his shoulders is an understandable impulse, but one Mahomes is going to have to curb if the Chiefs are going to get their playoff hopes back on track. Despite his recent struggles, Mahomes remains the QB3 by average points in fantasy, and could be back to No. 1 after meeting up with the Giants in Week 8.
Five More Week 7 Storylines
Sam Darnold continues to collapse in New York. Benched against one of the worst teams in football, Darnold is now in the “weekly votes of confidence” stage of his Panthers captaincy. It was a good, but preliminary, sign when Darnold ripped the soft early portion of Carolina’s schedule. It has been an awful, telling development as he has circled the drain against even vaguely competent competition. Darnold is completing 56.3 percent of his throws over his past four starts, posting a 4:7 TD:INT total in the process. He has taken 15 sacks and averaged 5.61 yards per attempt. This has been with Christian McCaffrey on the shelf, but it is not exactly reassuring when your quarterback becomes one of the worst players in the league without his running back. With Darnold’s salary fully guaranteed for 2022, he is going to have a long leash for this still-rebuilding team, but fantasy managers don’t have to be as patient. Even for soft spots like this week’s date with the Falcons, Darnold is officially out of the streamer mix.
Zach Wilson injures knee in Patriots’ latest rout of Jets. Wilson will miss 2-4 weeks with a strained PCL. It could have been much worse after a late hit from the Pats’ Matthew Judon crumbled Wilson into the Gillette Stadium turf. As it is, the injury absence will at least have the benefit of allowing Wilson a mental reset. Few have been worse than the No. 2 overall pick this season, who has four touchdowns against a league-leading nine interceptions. Wilson has been battered for 19 sacks in six games. It is trite to suggest Wilson will learn more from sitting than playing, but it’s not like he will learn nothing. Sit back, take a deep breath, observe the speed of this game from the sideline and hopefully come back better in a month’s time.
Jimmy Garoppolo fails his final audition. If you can’t spot the 2020 Carson Wentz in the room, you’re the 2020 Carson Wentz. As 2021 Wentz gave the ball away only once in Santa Clara’s swirling wind and rain, Garoppolo looked like he had never before handled an NFL football, tossing two ghastly interceptions and seeming entirely incapable of gripping the ball. Not that Garoppolo is great at that even in the best of times. He is now up to six 2021 turnovers to go along with just seven touchdowns. Critical Garoppolo mistakes have been in far greater supply than big plays as the Niners have faded from playoff relevance. He is putting together a demonstration reel of why the 49ers traded up to No. 3 overall for Trey Lance. Of course, Lance himself appeared even less ready than Garoppolo in Week 5, but there is no reason for a 2-4 club to continue this charade. It’s time to rip off the Band-Aid and let the rookie sink or swim.
Miles Sanders carted with ankle injury. Just as rookie head coach Nick Sirianni was finally reading his pamphlets on the running game, Sanders went down near the end of the first quarter of what proved to be another dismal loss. In his absence, Boston Scott actually out-carried Kenneth Gainwell, though the rookie pass catcher unsurprisingly out-gained Scott 61-29. Gainwell will be the only back worth betting on in this moribund offense if Sanders misses Week 8, which seems all but certain. It does appear that Sanders has avoided a season-ending ailment, but an injured reserve stint could make him difficult to hold onto. Those spots are precious in leagues that have them, and how much could Sanders’ already too-small role grow upon his return?
Rhamondre Stevenson scratched, Brandon Bolden has a day as pass catcher. Going by the box score, Stevenson had his best game in Week 6. Going by Bill Belichick, he had his worst. That’s because Stevenson whiffed on a pass block and allowed his quarterback to get broken in two. Not ideal! Probably not worth making him a healthy scratch over, but those are the rules in New England, and more of us should have seen it coming. I didn’t, thinking the Pats’ alternatives were too lacking. Bolden simply laughed as he posted 6/79/1 in the “James White role.” It is hard to see him giving it back to Stevenson any time soon. The Pats tried it once this season and didn’t get the results they were looking for. It is time for re-draft fantasy managers to move on.
1. What is the funnier score: 31-5 or 54-13?
2. Why do I get the feeling Trey Lance’s knee will magically be fine this week?
3. Why does Kyle Shanahan think only players taken after the 100th pick practice well?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Carson Wentz (vs. TEN), Tua Tagovailoa (@BUF), Daniel Jones (@KC), Ben Roethlisberger (@CLE), Trevor Lawrence (@SEA), Taylor Heinicke (@DEN), Mac Jones (@LAC)
RB: Kenneth Gainwell, Rashaad Penny, Brandon Bolden, Boston Scott
WR: Kadarius Toney, Hunter Renfrow, Marquez Callaway, Michael Gallup, Rashod Bateman, DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Jamison Crowder,
TE: Evan Engram, Cole Kmet, Jared Cook, C.J. Uzomah, Mo Alie-Cox, Dan Arnold, Foster Moreau
DEF: Bengals (@NYJ), Bears (vs. SF), Chiefs (vs. NYG), Eagles (@DET), Falcons (vs. CAR), Seattle (vs. JAX), Lions (vs. PHI)
On Bye: Baltimore, Las Vegas
Stats of the Week
Five. The Texans’ number of points. There is no more perfectly Texans point total.
NBC Philadelphia’s Reuben Frank sums up the Eagles’ defensive horrors: “In the Eagles' first 1,285 games, they allowed eight quarterbacks to complete 80 percent of their passes. In the Eagles' last five games, they have allowed four quarterbacks to complete 80 percent of their passes.”
The Patriots have a +60 point differential in two games against the Jets and -21 in five games vs. everyone else.
This one definitely feels right, via the Action Network: Kyle Shanahan is 10-21-1 against the spread as a favorite as head coach.
Tweet of the Week, from Mike Wilkening: Matt Nagy has had two “surely he can’t survive as Manchester United manager” games already this season and it’s not even Halloween.
Eagles Tweet of the Week, from Bo Wulf: Every possession a new low.
Fact of the Week, from Robert Mays: The Bucs defense has so many takeaways in this game that they're repeating coordinated celebrations.
Bears Fact of the Week, from Adam Hoge: On the first interception, Justin Fields quick snapped the ball because they told him in his headset the Bucs had 12 players on the field. He thought it was a free play. Second week in a row that has happened.
The Everything Is In Its Right Place Award: A Jared Goff end zone interception sealing a loss in Los Angeles.
The 2014 Odell Beckham Award: Ja’Marr Chase.