With three weeks in the books, there is a lot of variance from team to team in terms of where they sit. For some teams, especially those that have schemed and played as generally expected, the first three weeks give us some confidence in what to expect going forward. For others, especially those that have looked different than expectation or suffered significant injuries, we're far less confident and left to speculate about what the story of their 2019 season will ultimately be.
Of course, for both classes of teams, things can change in an instant. NFL seasons are full of twists and turns, and there are always new trends to uncover. Let's find the signal.
Data is typically courtesy of Pro Football Reference, RotoViz, the RotoGrinders Premium Usage App, airyards.com or PFF. Always feel free to hit me up on Twitter @YardsPerGretch with any questions about anything I covered or to ask my thoughts on something I glossed over. That is some of my favorite feedback, because sometimes it's something I've missed.
Here are some important statistical acronyms to know for Stealing Signals:
Green Zone - Inside the opponent's 10-yard line.
HVT - : for running backs, all receptions and all touches inside the 10 yard line.
TRAP - : for running backs, the percentage of all touches that are not high-value touches.
WOPR - : a metric created by Josh Hermsmeyer, it balances team share of targets and team share of air yards. Because a player's WOPR is a share of his team's overall opportunity, it's important to consider team volume as additional context.
RACR - Receiver Air Conversion Ratio: also created by Hermsmeyer, RACR is calculated as total receiving yards divided by total air yards. Similar to yards per reception or yards per target, but per air yard instead.
Jaguars 20 - Titans 7
- Snap notes: Leonard Fournette - 100% (+3%), Dede Westbrook - 80% (-7%), DJ Chark - 70% (-12%), Chris Conley - 70% (-15%), Marqise Lee - 28% (+28%), James O'Shaughnessy - 78% (+12%), Dion Lewis - 52% (+2%), Derrick Henry - 48% (-2%), Corey Davis - 74% (-9%), Adam Humphries - 68% (+11%), A.J. Brown - 50% (+5%), Tajae Sharpe - 49% (-4%)
- Key stat: Leonard Fournette - 9 high-value touches (Derrick Henry - 2)
We expected to be in for a snooze fest Thursday night, so it was mildly interesting when we got some early fireworks with 14 first-quarter points for Jacksonville. The hot start was aided by a muffed punt that gave Jacksonville a short field, and I saw the live over/under as high as 47.5 for a game that had closed under 40. The final scoreline was well under both numbers.
Leonard Fournette finished with a respectable 15-66 rushing line, with a long run of 69 yards late and minus-3 yards on his other 14 carries combined. After his first 16 touches, he was averaging fewer than a yard per touch, remarkably poor efficiency.
But he also became just the third running back to post a 100% snap share in a game this year, joining Christian McCaffrey and Le'Veon Bell, and continued his strong passing game usage. He finished second on the team with 8 targets, catching 6 for just 26 yards. He may not pass the eye test on a play-by-play basis right now, and the big run certainly saved him from a poor performance, but there are very few backs who can lay claim to the type of volume he's seeing.
By comparison, Derrick Henry is seeing a similar number of touches and has easily outperformed Fournette in Fantasy thus far. But he's not nearly as involved in the passing game, and played fewer snaps than Dion Lewis in Week 3. I noted last week he had a bad drop on a checkdown, and he added another bad drop in Week 3 on what could have been a big play on a designed screen. It's notable they've run at least one screen play for Henry in each game, but seven targets through three weeks does not have him on pace for a meaningful bump in receiving production this year.
Henry out-touched Lewis 18-4 and reached paydirt in the fourth after a Marcus Mariota scramble and a tacked-on penalty set Tennessee up with a first-and-goal from the 1. Henry now has a 1-yard touchdown run in each of the first three games this season; since the merger, the record for 1-yard touchdown runs in a season is 11, and just seven players have had 10 or more in a season. The majority have played on elite offenses, which Henry does not.
It's certainly a positive Henry gets those close looks, but he's running hot with the Titans winding up in that field position every game. The best way to look at him remains his high-value and low-value touches, because the 55 touches through three weeks look great until you dig in a bit.
Just over 65% of Henry's Fantasy points thus far have come on his eight high-value touches, while the other 47 (low-value) touches have combined for 20.1 Fantasy points. It's not like he doesn't have a floor — even just looking at his low-value touches is nearly seven points per game — and we know he can break big plays to create a weekly ceiling. But it's important to keep in context that even with a huge weekly touch count and strong production to match it thus far, there's been some over-performance on the high-value looks he's seen, and his workload is mostly hollow overall. I'm not arguing he can't score points, but I expect far more outputs like the 11.6 PPR points he put up in Week 3 than what he did in the first two weeks.
Henry's still a sell if you get a strong return; among the two lead backs in this game, Fournette is the one getting the type of work that could theoretically make him a difference-maker, although it's tough to buy into him right now either.
Our Week 1 review of the Jacksonville passing game covers what we saw in Week 3.
"Surprisingly, it was DJ Chark and Chris Conley with the majority of the production over Dede Westbrook. Chark was a solid prospect coming out of LSU who runs a 4.34 at 6-foot-3, so it's unsurprising he racked up 106 air yards on four targets, all of which he caught. He'll be boom-or-bust going forward, but his emergence and the lack of playing time for Marqise Lee likely indicates he's going to stick in the lineup.
Westbrook did find the end zone late and hauled in five of six targets, but for just 30 yards. His aDOT was a miniscule 0.8, but he led the receivers in snaps and routes. He'll be fine.
We crystallized the Chark/Conley split in Week 2.
"Chark is a more interesting play than Conley given he's a young guy with a solid profile, while Conley is in his fifth year and hasn't done much to date in his career."
Chark has only further solidified a full-season role, and he remains the preferred option over Conley. Lee was back in the lineup and did play a bit, which knocked some snap share off each of the top three receiving options, but he's unlikely to make much of an impact unless he can usurp Conley. Westbrook led the team in Week 3 targets and did finally see some air yards, though his efficiency was still lagging a bit.
Perhaps most importantly, Gardner Minshew has played well enough that this passing offense isn't going to completely bottom out.
Tennessee's, on the other hand, might. The slow pace at which Marcus Mariota played, and the lack of verticality of this passing game, particularly late when they were in comeback mode, was confounding. Mariota threw some nice balls throughout this game, but this just doesn't look like an offense with any urgency or willingness to press the issue.
We know about Delanie Walker, and we know — given the slow pace — his presence (nine targets, seven catches, 64 yards) limits the other receiving options. Corey Davis made a phenomenal one-handed catch to remind of his ability, but he finished with just three catches on four targets for 44 yards. Adam Humphries led the receivers in this one with a 9-6-93 line after doing nothing for two weeks, while A.J. Brown caught just one of five targets in a tough matchup. It was Tajae Sharpe who led the team in air yards in a part-time role, catching two of his three targets for 70 yards. Any production he accounts for just further limits the upside of the other options.
Mariota wound up throwing 40 passes, more than all but one game last year. He threw for over 300 yards! It's nice to see a little more volume, but the outputs on the receiving side reinforced that only Walker is startable for Fantasy. The wide receivers will all have their moments, but they'll be boom-or-busts with more busts and a lack of major ceilings on the boom weeks.
Signal: Leonard Fournette — maintaining a massive snap share, solid touch mix; Delanie Walker — only trustworthy Tennessee pass-catcher
Noise: Derrick Henry — three 1-yard touchdowns so far this year; Adam Humphries — big volume, but that's going to fluctuate week to week
Bills 21 - Bengals 17
- Snap Notes: Frank Gore - 63% (+2%), T.J. Yeldon - 37% (+33%), Dawson Knox - 56% (+5%), Lee Smith - 50% (-4%), Tommy Sweeney - 29% (-1%), John Ross - 100% (+14%), Auden Tate - 89% (+53%)
- Key Stat: Josh Allen - 8.6 aDOT (10.9 in 2018, highest in NFL)
In 2018, Josh Allen had the highest average depth of target in the league at 10.9 yards. A big early-season story has been his willingness to throw underneath a bit more, as he sits 15th in 2019 with an aDOT of 8.6 thus far. That's helped him raise his completion rate just over 11 percentage points, from 52.8% as a rookie to 64.1% in the early-going in 2019.
Some of that is likely due to script, as the Bills now sit at 3-0. In Week 1, when they had to mount a comeback, Allen's aDOT was a season-high 9.4. Over the past two weeks it's been at 8.1 and 8.3, and we've seen Cole Beasley and to a lesser extent rookie tight end Dawson Knox benefit. Beasley led the team in Week 3 with 10 targets at an aDOT of 3.8, catching eight balls for just 48 yards.
Given that context, John Brown's relative lack of Week 3 volume shouldn't be too concerning. He'll get his shots when they need to push the ball downfield, much like he did late in Week 1. Knox is establishing himself as the third receiving option, but his Week 3 was more about strong efficiency than substantial volume. He did earn some intriguing usage including a goal-line target for a 1-yard touchdown and then three more targets for another 44 air yards, one of which he turned into a highlight 49-yard catch-and-run with multiple broken tackles. But he's still sharing some of the volume with the other tight ends; fellow rookie Tommy Sweeney also had three targets for 42 air yards. Knox is a watch-lister for now, not an add.
Frank Gore got plenty of run with Devin Singletary out, as expected. He did exactly what you'd expect, rushing 14 times for 76 yards, and because he chipped in two catches and a short touchdown late in the game he wound up with a respectable Fantasy day. His 16.9 PPR points were the most he's posted in a game since 2016, and while 16.9 is certainly fine and you were happy if you started him, that's his upside. T.J. Yeldon spelled Gore with Devin Singletary out.
We expected the Bengals to struggle on the road against an underrated Bills defense, and Andy Dalton certainly didn't have his best game, but there were some encouraging signs. Despite offensive line issues, Zac Taylor's system has allowed this offense to be at least reasonably productive each week. Week 3 certainly wasn't great, but we should applaud when a team goes pass-heavy when they need to, and the Bengals' 36 passes against 19 runs nearly helped them steal a game on the road.
John Ross had another bad drop and a costly fumble, and Auden Tate wound up with double-digit targets, his volume picking up late after Ross's gaffes. But I'm not reading into that much — Ross didn't lose snaps, playing 100% of the Bengals' offensive downs, and he still saw six targets and 72 air yards for the day. The Bengals will live with Ross's drop issues because his skill set is unique and necessary to their scheme; we're still looking at this offense like it's Rams Lite, and Week 3 for Ross was much like the games where Brandin Cooks is just not as involved because of what the matchup dictates.
Both Tate and Tyler Boyd had double-digit targets instead, and the big news here is Tate saw substantial volume in what will eventually be A.J. Green's role. Damion Willis got the majority of the snaps there in Weeks 1 and 2, but Tate took over in Week 3, playing an 89% snap share, and was productive. A big but not particularly athletic receiver, Tate does have some deep league appeal in Week 4.
Joe Mixon had a solid day as a road underdog, and his 95 total yards were more than double what he posted in Weeks 1 and 2 combined. He played a season-high snap share and while his workload isn't perfect — specifically splitting pass down reps with Giovani Bernard — any optimism about the offense is a positive for Mixon's long-term value.
- Signal: Auden Tate — full-time player in Cincinnati's three-wide scheme
- Noise: John Brown — relative lack of volume; Dawson Knox — productive day was mostly efficiency (not a full-time player yet)
Cowboys 31 - Dolphins 6
- Snap Notes: Devin Smith - 92% (+66%), Ezekiel Elliott - 67% (-10%), Tony Pollard - 32% (+9%), Preston Williams - 96% (+28%), Kenyan Drake - 64% (+9%), Kalen Ballage - 35% (+1%)
- Key Stat: Cowboys - 32/34 pass/run ratio
The Cowboys predictably went a little more run-heavy than we've seen so far this year as they coasted to an easy win over the Dolphins. There weren't many substantial usage notes on their side other than Devin Smith playing a full slate of snaps in Michael Gallup's role. Smith wasn't particularly productive on five targets and 63 air yards, less volume than Gallup had seen in Weeks 1 and 2. Instead, it was Amari Cooper who picked up the slack, catching six of seven targets for 88 yards and two scores.
Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard both went for over 100 yards on the ground, with six of Pollard's 13 carries coming on the final drive. Elliott played a 67% snap share, down from Week 2, something I'm reading as being a decision based on the opponent. Elliott was still in the game for the penultimate drive in the fourth quarter, so it's not like he was pulled early. Pollard mixing in throughout the game — he played a series in the second quarter and got another five touches in the third — is something to watch, but it would be a mistake to read too much into the split given the game context.
A similar thing occurred at tight end, where Jason Witten gave up substantial snaps to Blake Jarwin relative to last week. A look at routes run shows Witten didn't miss too many more pass plays (as a percentage of dropbacks) than he has in Weeks 1 and 2, which indicates Jarwin's snap uptick was mostly in the run-heavy fourth quarter, as you'd expect.
Randall Cobb also continues to be involved, and had a 70-plus-yard touchdown called back by offsetting penalties. Neither Witten or Cobb is a preferred play, but both will have usable games in what has been a good pass offense.
I thought Josh Rosen played OK, but it's possible I just had very low expectations because an 18-for-39 statline isn't good. Either way, he's certainly not getting any help.
Allen Hurns left with a concussion early, and whether it was related to that or not, Preston Williams wound up playing his highest snap share of the season by a considerable margin. Rosen targeted him 12 times for 129 air yards, though they connected on just four for 68 yards. DeVante Parker also saw a bunch of air yards again — 123 on six targets — and the volume is there for both Parker and Williams if Rosen's play can pick up. But that seems like a pretty big if.
Kalen Ballage has had some well-documented issues in the passing game, and Kenyan Drake's share of routes expanded relative to Ballage in Week 3. Ballage did see three targets, catching one, but on just 10 routes. Meanwhile, Drake saw six targets, catching three, on 24 routes. Ballage is still playing a decent amount, but Drake's clearly the back to roster here and his expanding role in the passing game specifically is helpful toward him posting some consistent Fantasy production.
- Signal: Devin Smith — played full snaps in the Michael Gallup role; Kenyan Drake — receiving role expanding at the expense of Ballage; Preston Williams — played far more snaps, Josh Rosen's favorite target in this one
- Noise: Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard — take the snaps, touch split with a grain of salt given opponent, game script
Vikings 34 - Raiders 14
- Snap Notes: J.J. Nelson - 78% (+78%), Hunter Renfrow - 56% (-18%), Jalen Richard - 49% (+22%), Josh Jacobs - 42% (-6%), DeAndre Washington - 15% (-9%), Vikings - nothing new
- Key Stat: Vikings - 21 pass attempts per game (fewest in the past decade: 2012 SEA - 25.3 per game)
I got a text from a friend Sunday that essentially said, "Diggs stinks." And if you drafted Stefon Diggs in Fantasy, you probably feel similar.
First of all, it's important to note that Diggs hasn't suddenly lost any skill. The Athletic's Arif Hasan did a great job breaking down the tape from Week 2, when Diggs should have had a much bigger game (that would have certainly bought him some time from the pitchfork mob). In Weeks 1 and 3, it's simply been an issue of team passing volume.
And look,, and they will continue to be a run-heavy team. Even Diggs stans (like yours truly) have to admit the situation is as bad as it gets. Benching Diggs is an option. Cutting him is not.
Seahawks threw fewer passes than any team in the past five years at 26.7 per game. The Vikings right now, with two dominant home wins out of three games, are averaging 21 pass attempts. Diggs is still incredibly talented, and there are several ways the volume issues can correct., but the 2018
One is simply that they find themselves in fewer advantageous game scripts for completely forgoing the pass than they have thus far. Another is a little bleak, but for how amazing Dalvin Cook is playing, he's on pace for 352 touches after injuries cut short both of his first two seasons. No one wants that. Head coach Mike Zimmer was already answering questions about Cook's workload last week. The Vikings aren't deep at running back, and a huge percentage of this three-game sample hinges on Cook being as productive and capable of handling huge touch counts as he has been. If Cook were to miss time, Alexander Mattison would likely see plenty of work, but we'd also almost certainly see an uptick in passing as well.
All of the above also applies to Adam Thielen, but his two-touchdown game keeps the panic button at bay for now. If we were redrafting today, both would need to be taken considerably lower. But both do still have huge upside if this offense picks up the passing given their combined 87% share of the team's air yards. There's not upside for this to be a high-volume passing offense, but their passing volume will rise, and likely by more than 25% of their current attempts, which would be big. So hold tight on the receivers for now unless you can get a good return.
Darren Waller isn't just doing a 2018 Jared Cook impression, he's besting him. After his huge 13-134 day on 14 targets, Waller now has a 30% target share for the season, easily tops among tight ends and right among the league leaders regardless of position. His Week 3 WOPR of 0.91 was second only to Mike Evans. He's a must start.
Other than Waller, the Raiders didn't give us much in Week 3. Tyrell Williams found paydirt again, but saw just three targets. With Josh Jacobs recovering from a sickness and a committee behind him, the running backs didn't provide much value. J.J. Nelson notably played big snaps, and caught Derek Carr's other touchdown, while Hunter Renfrow continued to play the slot role. This passing offense is taking shape, and that shape is really just an indication that Waller and Williams will see all the volume they can handle.
- Signal: J.J. Nelson — nearly every-down player in Week 3; Vikings — extremely committed to the run
- Noise: Josh Jacobs — workload split given sickness; Vikings — 21 pass attempts per game; Stefon Diggs — two catches per game
Patriots 30 - Jets 14
- Snap Notes: Phillip Dorsett - 92% (+43%), Jakobi Meyers - 64% (+64%), Rex Burkhead - 74% (+50%), Sony Michel - 22% (-26%), Jets - nothing new
- Key Stat: Patriots - 45/27 pass/run split
The Patriots coasted to a Week 3 win that was a bigger blowout than the 16-point scoreline. It was 30-0 late in the third quarter when Patriots' punt returner Gunner Olszewski muffed a punt that was recovered by the Jets for a touchdown. Later, Jarrett Stidham entered for Tom Brady and threw a pick-six that prompted Bill Belichick to bring Brady back into the game to close it out.
Given how much the Patriots dominated this game, Brady's 42 pass attempts stand out. On one hand, it's pretty great to see a team willing to be aggressive and put another team away, rather than run nine million times. On the other hand, it's awful news for Sony Michel's value that in this particular game, with James White inactive, he rushed just nine times for 11 yards and a score. He's a hard guy to cut because the Patriots could change course at any moment, but I can't imagine starting him in anything other than an old-school, touchdown-only league.
Julian Edelman was on his way to a huge day, but wound up running routes on just 61% of dropbacks thanks to a chest injury. He exited with a 10-7-62-1 line. Josh Gordon was the other heavily targeted wide receiver, leading the team with 11 and 112 air yards, while Phillip Dorsett also scored. Those are the three main wide receivers for the foreseeable future; Jakobi Meyers' extra playing time was mostly due to Edelman's injury and the scoreline.
Rex Burkhead played a huge snap share over Michel, and also saw a huge uptick in passing usage with White out of the game, running a route on 76% of dropbacks. He tied for the fourth-most high-value touches among all backs in Week 3, but of course that workload is not predictive of much given White is expected back next week.
There was no new information about the Jets, who continued to play their main skill position players heavily. They ran just 47 plays overall and managed 105 total yards, which is probably the fewest by a team this season — it's not even worth looking up.
The Jets go on a bye and are hopeful to get Sam Darnold back for Week 5. We've mentioned it each of the past two weeks, but the Jets' snap share concentration is extreme, and it's something we've seen in the past from Adam Gase in Miami. Since the hope and expectation is the offense will be much better after the bye, Le'Veon Bell is an obvious buy. He again played a 100% snap share, is mostly being held back by the offense and is a top five rest of season running back option.
Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder and Chris Herndon are also buy lows or waiver targets. The fact that secondary pieces are not very involved really helps the Fantasy outlooks for the starters. (For the record, Braxton Berrios, who led the team in Week 3 targets, ran a route on 82% of dropbacks in the Quincy Enunwa role that Demaryius Thomas is not healthy enough to play, so he was more of a full-time player than a secondary piece in this context.)
- Signal: Patriots — willing to stay pass-heavy in huge plus scripts; Josh Gordon — strong opportunity share; Phillip Dorsett — every-down outside wide receiver
- Noise: Rex Burkhead — huge workload that we won't see again; Jets — all of it
Lions 27 - Eagles 24
- Snap Notes: Kerryon Johnson - 75% (+20%), Mack Hollins - 99% (+14%), J.J. Arcega-Whiteside - 72% (-21%), Darren Sproles - 36% (+1%), Miles Sanders - 34% (-9%), Jordan Howard - 33% (+11%)
- Key Stat: Kerryon Johnson - 75% snap share, 5 high-value touches
The Lions got a big road win in Philadelphia in one of the better Week 3 games. I want to start on the Eagles' side, because I've been a big advocate of trying to acquire Miles Sanders. The snaps look like more of a split in Week 3, but Sanders again started and played heavily in the first half... until he fumbled twice in the same drive in the second quarter, losing the second one.
The second fumble came with 5:15 left in the second quarter, and Sanders already had 10 rush attempts and three targets, with one reception. From there, Sanders didn't record another touch until there was 11:01 left in the fourth quarter, and he finished the game with just 13 carries and four targets.
I'm not sure what that will mean going forward, but clearly Sanders' inability to hold onto the ball cost him significant snaps. But they did start him again and lean on him heavily early, plus they went back to him in the fourth in comeback mode, perhaps looking for a spark given Howard rushed 11 times for just 37 yards on the day. Sanders did deliver that with a 33-yard reception and 20 rushing yards on his three fourth-quarter carries.
Sanders finished with 126 yards from scrimmage on his 15 touches, including two long receptions. His 8.8 aDOT was massive for a running back, and it's a positive sign for his usage that the Eagles were running him down the field. Of course, the fumbles and his subsequent benching might hold back a potential breakout.
Then there's the reality that Jordan Howard subbed into the game for a 1-yard rushing touchdown before Sanders' fumbles, and while Sanders had been dominating the green zone touches, that was the first time the Eagles had run from that close so we got an indication they may prefer Howard there. Later, Howard came on for a rush attempt from the 5, while Sanders did have an early rush from the 10. Sanders' ball security concerns make it unlikely he'll wrestle the inside-the-5 work away from Howard anytime soon, but he does have five carries now through three games from inside the 10, plus a penalty-negated touchdown in Week 1, so it's not like he's without scoring potential.
Meanwhile, we got very positive news about Kerryon Johnson's value. Apart from his snap share jumping to the second highest total of his young career at 75%, Johnson got three rush attempts from the 3-yard line or closer on a drive he ultimately capped with a 1-yard score early in the second quarter. Later in the second quarter, he got a 1st-and-10 carry from the 7-yard line, giving him four green zone rush attempts on the day. Despite just one target, he also saw an uptick in routes per dropback to 52% compared to 41% in each of Weeks 1 and 2. In Weeks 1 and 2, he looked like a potential TRAP back; his Week 3 workload looked like that of a potential star.
The passing game volume was again dominated by Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, with Golladay posting some uncharacteristic inefficiency on an 8-2-17 line and Jones having his best game of the year at 9-6-101-1. Danny Amendola and T.J. Hockenson played their complementary roles in a game where Matthew Stafford threw just 32 times, something we discussed at length the last two weeks. Amendola came up gingerly after a key reception in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles were without DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery, so much like in Week 2 their pass volume flowed through Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor. Agholor saw 12 targets at a 5.3 aDOT, catching two touchdowns. Mack Hollins got more run than J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, who gave up some snaps to two tight end sets with the return of Dallas Goedert, though Goedert played sparingly.
- Signal: Kerryon Johnson — huge workload improvement without C.J. Anderson; Jordan Howard — goal-line back
- Noise: Eagles RBs — not buying it's a full-blown committee when Miles Sanders' fumble had such an impact on his playing time; Eagles pass-catchers — target numbers influenced by injuries; Kenny Golladay — 2.1 yards per target (volume was fine, bad games happen)
Chiefs 33 - Ravens 28
- Snap Notes: Darrell Williams - 54% (+47%), LeSean McCoy - 38% (-2%), Darwin Thompson - 7% (+2%), Mark Ingram - 60% (+2%)
- Key Stat: Marquise Brown - 9 targets, 217 air yards (second most in Week 3)
The much-anticipated Patrick Mahomes-Lamar Jackson clash went to the 2018 MVP, as Jackson was a step down from the elite passer he was in Weeks 1 and 2. Of course, Jackson's mobility is what gives him such a strong Fantasy floor, and his 46 rushing yards and a score on the ground still put him over 20 Fantasy points.
Mahomes did Mahomes things, and there's not much that needs to be said that his 27-for-37 for 374 and three touchdowns line against the Ravens doesn't already say. Yes, he was at home, but he also didn't have Tyreek Hill, and he did similar to Jacksonville on the road in Week 1. While pace stats are silly, each team has now played 19% of the regular season, and Mahomes has gone through two of the toughest matchups on his schedule. That he's pacing for an even better season than 2018 is bonkers.
The Chiefs receiving was sort of what we'd expect. Mecole Hardman led the wide receivers in air yards on five targets and got loose for the long touchdown, while Travis Kelce led in Weighted Opportunity Rating (WOPR), followed by Sammy Watkins. Demarcus Robinson was also heavily involved and made a beautiful one-handed catch for another score.
I'm not concerned about Watkins' production over the past two weeks, and think that pendulum will swing back given the way Robinson and Hardman have produced and the attention they will demand going forward. Watkins has still put up double-digit PPR points both games and is seeing plenty of volume.
The backs were an interesting split, and just looking at snaps and routes it almost appears like Darrel Williams just played the Damien Williams role, while LeSean McCoy stayed in a similar role to what he was in Week 2. McCoy did run a season-high route share, but Darrel Williams led the backfield in routes and targets. Of course, McCoy was playing hurt, as well. What's most clear is Darrel Williams is ahead of Darwin Thompson in the pecking order. That doesn't necessarily make Thompson a cut candidate, because this backfield is just so valuable that there are fewer stashes with more upside should the opportunity come.
The Ravens' targets were split pretty thinly with five players seeing at least five targets, led by Marquise Brown and Mark Andrews who remain the top Fantasy options by a considerable margin. Andrews entered the game with a questionable tag, so it's unsurprising that both of the other tight ends saw five targets apiece, given what we have seen with Jackson's tendency to target the position.
Brown racked up 217 air yards, second most to only Mike Evans in Week 3. He unfortunately only hauled in two of nine targets for 49 yards but is still seeing massive volume and should be locked into lineups going forward.
Back after Week 1, I discussed how Mark Ingram split some green zone touches with Gus Edwards, how the team's sheer dominance of Miami meant their nine green zone touches would be very tough to replicate most weeks and how Ingram didn't catch any passes. If you ignored me, and you ignored my advice not to draft Ingram in August, you're in a great spot for Week 3!
Ingram not only scored two more short touchdowns from 1 and 2 yards out, he added a 19-yard touchdown run to give him three on the day, and also caught four passes. I'm still bearish on his receiving role, as that gave him just six catches through three games, which isn't great. But the green zone touches are another story, as Ingram now has all four of Baltimore's running back rushes in that area over the past two weeks after Edwards took four of the nine in Week 1. You don't need me to tell you, after his three-touchdown game, that's big for Ingram's value in this high-powered offense.
- Signal: Darrel Williams — ahead of Darwin Thompson, big role when other backs miss; Mark Ingram — lead green zone option
- Noise: Marquise Brown — poor efficiency (the signal's the huge volume)
Packers 27 - Broncos 16
- Snap Notes: Jamaal Williams - 61% (+16%), Aaron Jones - 39% (-20%), Jimmy Graham - 42% (-30%), Phillip Lindsay - 56% (+8%), Royce Freeman - 49% (-3%)
- Key Stat: Phillip Lindsay - 9 high-value touches (tied for second most in Week 3)
About this time every year, many forget to be patient with the players we knew were starting with difficult matchups. Davante Adams is a great example right now.
In Week 1, Adams drew substantial attention from Chicago, seeing at times as many as three defenders. In Week 2, Adams got the better end of a tough matchup with Xavier Rhodes, but didn't post a massive stat line. And in Week 3, he saw plenty of Chris Harris, again playing solidly — he turned all four targets into catches for 56 yards — but again losing some targets simply because the matchups were better elsewhere.
While Adams is a buy low target in advance of some much better upcoming matchups, Marquez Valdes-Scantling was the beneficiary in Week 3, seeing an uptick in volume and leading the team with 10 targets and 110 air yards, which he converted into a big 6-99-1 day.
With Jimmy Graham ailing and Geronimo Allison struggling — he had a bad drop early — no Packer outside MVS and Adams saw more than three targets. That drives home Adams' potential ceiling, because we know Rodgers has no issue peppering him in more winnable matchups.
I noted last week that despite Aaron Jones' big Week 2, he still gave up a lot of work to Jamaal Williams and the real driver was a whopping 39 running back touches overall. We saw that rear its head in Week 3, as Jones started and led the backfield with four high-value touches, converting two green zone rushing scores, but he also ceded a lot of work to Williams again. Williams ended up on the better end of the 60/40 snap split, and was the more productive back in terms of yardage.
We've also noted in recent weeks how much value there is in the Denver backfield with a two-man committee this season replacing last year's three-man rotation and Joe Flacco's penchant for checking down. Flacco targeted both backs five more times each this week, and it was Phillip Lindsay who added the short-yardage work to build out a monster day.
Lindsay's use here might be the true lede. Royce Freeman has three opportunities from inside of the 10-yard line, but Lindsay has all five RB opportunities from inside of the five so far.— Rich Hribar (@LordReebs) September 23, 2019
That's the part of this I most definitely got wrong last week, and I'm still a little confused about it. Freeman weighed in nearly 50 pounds heavier than Lindsay, so he would make a lot of sense as a short-yardage guy. But what makes sense doesn't matter nearly as much as what the teams are doing, and Lindsay did get the job done.
Earlier in the game, though, Freeman had an 18-yard touchdown run called back by a hold on Emmanuel Sanders that the announcing team called "ticky tack." He also left the game for a brief spell before Lindsay's first two inside-the-five rush attempts due to a shoulder issue, only to return. But he was back in later when he got a carry from the 8 that he took down to the 3 for a five-yard gain, only to be subbed out for Lindsay to rush twice for his second score.
After accounting for the running back targets, Flacco threw just 19 passes to downfield weapons, and Courtland Sutton saw eight of them and 87 air yards, a 66% share of the team's air yards for the day. That gave Sutton a WOPR of 0.88, third-highest in Week 3. Emmanuel Sanders was vocal about his lack of a role, and is a candidate for the squeaky wheel treatment next week, but I still prefer Sutton for the rest of the season. Sutton's 5-87 day nearly matches his three-game averages of 5.3 catches and 82.3 yards per game as he seems to be emerging in his second season.
- Signal: Packers RBs — committee; Phillip Lindsay — goal-line back
- Noise: Davante Adams — current production level (tough string of matchups)
Colts 27 - Falcons 24
- Snap Notes: Deon Cain - 56% (+10%), T.Y. Hilton - 52% (-38%), Parris Campbell - 45% (+19%), Marlon Mack - 62% (-8%), Nyheim Hines - 25% (+6%), Devonta Freeman - 90% (+28%), Ito Smith - 5% (-33%)
- Key Stat: Colts - nine players with multiple targets (eight of them had either two, three or four)
T.Y. Hilton's day went similarly to Julian Edelman's. Despite playing just over half the snaps before re-aggravating his quad injury, Hilton posted a 10-8-65-1 line. Obviously, it could have been much bigger, and now we'll have to wait and see what the prognosis is for his Week 4 availability.
Outside Hilton, Jacoby Brissett spread the ball around, with no other Colt seeing more than four targets. There was a little more passing volume in this one, even with the Colts leading, but that likely had something to do with Marlon Mack's lack of practice time last week. Mack still played a hefty snap share and posted a solid 16-74-1 line, plus a pair of catches.
Nyheim Hines got a little more run, but is still not playing nearly as much as he did in 2018. He caught three of four targets for 26 yards, and carried twice. Jordan Wilkins got just three rush attempts and returned negative-two yards. All of that seems to reinforce Mack's role as the No. 1, given the lack of usage for the other backs despite his injury status.
Calvin Ridley was the missing man for Atlanta, but that's not too far out of the ordinary in a game where the Colts couldn't stop Julio Jones. It's just the nature of the Falcons' passing offense that Jones will have games like this one where he saw nine targets and 135 air yards, posting an 8-128-1 receiving line. When that happens, Ridley, Austin Hooper and Mohamed Sanu will sort of share the leftover passing volume. In this one, Hooper posted an efficient 7-6-66-2 line, and Sanu caught all six targets he saw for 75 yards, so it seems Matt Ryan just liked the matchups elsewhere.
Devonta Freeman got extended run due to Ito Smith's early injury, and while it was a positive to see the Falcons lean on him so heavily, he just doesn't look very dynamic at this stage of his career. Freeman did break off runs of 28, 24 and 12 yards, but all three were runs right up the middle where he found a hole and broke through the middle of the defense with a full head of steam. He looked great on those runs, and decisive, as one-cut running is his bread-and-butter. But outside those three carries, he amassed just 24 yards on 13 other rushes and 7 yards on three catches. You can't just throw out his best three plays and say it was a bad day, but it's a bit disappointing he didn't do more with the expanded workload.
I will say that if Freeman was starting to lose some of his ability, this is probably what it would look like, where he was mostly just flashing on a couple decisive runs and not really able to do much else. Freeman did get one green zone rush from the 7 but didn't score, and the Falcons threw on their other three plays in close.
- Signal: Marlon Mack — still a big workload despite questionable tag; Colts — lack of concentration in passing game behind Hilton
- Noise: Calvin Ridley — one target
Giants 32 - Buccaneers 31
- Snap Notes: Sterling Shepard - 95% (+95%), Bennie Fowler - 60% (-18%), Darius Slayton - 45% (+45%), Wayne Gallman - 63% (+51%), Saquon Barkley - 37% (-51%), Peyton Barber - 36% (-31%), Ronald Jones - 30% (+18%)
- Key Stat: Mike Evans - 244 air yards, 0.96 WOPR (both led the league in Week 3)
For my money, the game of the week. We got a rookie debut for the ages, a monster slump-busting wide receiver performance and a coach intentionally making a game-winning field goal more difficult for his kicker.
Oh, and none of that addresses the biggest Fantasy news of all — Saquon Barkley's high ankle sprain.. No back outside Wayne Gallman and fullback Elijhaa Penny played after Barkley left, so Gallman is the clear replacement here. We didn't see much from him despite playing nearly two-thirds of the game because the Giants were already trailing and were in pass-first mode throughout the rest of the game, but he's likely in line for enough snaps to make him worth starting consideration if you can get him off the waiver wire.
Daniel Jones was terrific, showing off his mobility with two rushing scores on top of 336 passing yards and two scores through the air. With Barkley ailing, it's no surprise it was Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard each going over 100 yards and scoring. Or, maybe it was a bit of a surprise, because it's not always easy for first-time starters to get the ball to the top playmakers on an offense, and speaks further to what Jones accomplished.
Outside those two, Darius Slayton made his debut and saw five targets for 107 air yards, bringing in three for 82 yards. Slayton ran routes on 53% of dropbacks, fourth most on the team. That's a healthy number for a rookie in his debut, especially considering essentially every other receiver who had been playing gave up significant snaps due to Shepard's return. Slayton's a fifth-round pick out of Auburn who ran a 4.39 at 6-foot-1, and he seems to be in the Giants' plans going forward.
Mike Evans broke out of his mini-slump in a big way, turning 15 targets and 244 air yards into an 8-190-3 line. Chris Godwin had to settle for a 4-3-40 as something of an afterthought in this one, while O.J. Howard was the other receiving option who had a decent day with a 4-3-66 line after his Week 2 goose egg.
If you've read this column before, you're probably aware I like to spend too much time talking about Ronald Jones. Coming into the week, I was alerted to the fact that Jones has a very good success rate over at Football-Outsiders, and noticed Peyton Barber's — behind the same offensive line! — is bad.
I was then directed by a follower to this tweet from The Athletic's Greg Auman who explained why Jones didn't play late in Week 2.
Fast forward to this week, and in his first six touches, Jones had two plays of 20-plus yards, which is two more than Barber has on his 49 touches this season. Jones also substantially cut into Barber's snap share from Week 2, so the injury information seems to carry some weight.
By my cursory look at the game log, Jones again had the better success rate, so it wasn't just that he hit a couple of big plays. But just looking at it the old-fashioned way, Jones wound up with 121 yards from scrimmage on 15 touches while Barber had 55 also on 15 touches.
Two caveats, as always: 1) Dare Ogunbowale is still playing passing downs, which limits upside here, and 2) It doesn't matter what I think; it only matters what the coaches do.
...I still think Jones takes over this backfield before long.
- Signal: Mike Evans — is fine; Wayne Gallman — only back to play after Barkley's injury; Darius Slayton — looks to be in the Giants' plans
- Noise: Daniel Jones — just kidding he's totally going to do that every week
Panthers 38 - Cardinals 20
- Snap Notes: Chris Hogan - 30% (+26%), David Johnson - 87% (+27%), KeeSean Johnson - 48% (+16%), Michael Crabtree - 17% (-15%)
- Key Stat: Kyler Murray - 5.9 aDOT (Week 1 - 10.6, Week 2 - 8.2)
We had another debut go off without a hitch in Arizona, where Kyle Allen out-dueled Kyler Murray to prevent the rookie No. 1 pick from what looked like a good shot at his first NFL win.
Allen was great, but a little credit has to go to the Cardinals' poor pass defense. Allen averaged over 10 yards per attempt on just 26 passes, throwing four touchdowns.
Already having been crushed by the tight end position early this year, the Cardinals couldn't do anything with Greg Olsen, who went 7-6-75-2. This after the Cardinals allowed T.J. Hockenson to smash in Week 1 and Mark Andrews to smash in Week 2. It's Will Dissly who you would stream against them in Week 4.
The other guy Allen seemed to lock onto was Curtis Samuel, who posted a 7-5-53-1 line. D.J. Moore also got on the board, but saw just two targets on the day, taking his only reception to the house for a 52-yard score.
Christian McCaffrey wasn't as involved in the passing game as he typically is, with three catches on four targets, but that's in part because he dominated the game on the ground, rushing 24 times for 153 yards including a 73-yard score late in the third, which pushed the score from 21-20 to 28-20, and the Panthers never looked back. The Panthers' conservative gameplan served as a reminder that McCaffrey isn't just a scat back.
Kyler Murray finally stretched his legs a bit, rushing eight times for 69 nice yards. But he struggled a bit as a passer, throwing two questionable interceptions and averaging just 4.0 yards per pass attempt despite a nearly 70% completion percentage. After average target depths of 10.6 and 8.2 and plenty of air yards in Weeks 1 and 2, Murray averaged just 5.9 yards of depth in Week 3.
In addition to the scrambling, Murray also took eight sacks, bringing him to a whopping 16 through three games. Per the NFL's Next Gen Stats, Murray's average time to throw on pass attempts in Week 1 was ninth-longest, but in the two games since he's been among the five quickest passers in the league. It's possible the hits he's taking and the poor Arizona offensive line are not providing him enough time to get the ball down the field, which would be a significant issue for this Air Raid offense.
Murray targeted David Johnson heavily, and he caught six of nine passes for 28 yards and a score. Christian Kirk also saw a bunch of action, catching 10 of 12 targets at an aDOT of just 5.0 for just 59 yards. Larry Fitzgerald scored, but had a similarly minuscule yards per target with a 7-5-36-1 line at an aDOT of 7.3. Relative to their lines in Weeks 1 and 2, Kirk's and Fitzgerald's Week 3 lines drive home why we look at air yards and not just targets.
- Signal: Kyler Murray — taking a lot of hits, time to throw dropping, aDOT falling; Cardinals — defense to stream tight ends against
- Noise: Kyle Allen — some degree of his passing efficiency because Arizona's defense is not good
Saints 33 - Seahawks 27
- Snap Notes: Alvin Kamara - 88% (+25%), Latavius Murray - 21% (-14%), Chris Carson - 44% (-11%), C.J. Prosise - 55% (+42%), David Moore - 24% (+24%)
- Key Stat: Alvin Kamara - 13 high-value touches (tied NFL single-game high for 2019)
Yet another winner from a 2019 starting quarterback debut, the Saints traveled to Seattle without Drew Brees and got a huge victory.
Last week, I suggested Alvin Kamara would suffer without Drew Brees more than might be expected due to Brees' extreme volume and preternatural ability throwing to running backs, plus the offense suffering as a whole leading to fewer scoring chances. Instead, Kamara played a career high snap share at 88%, ran routes on 83% of dropbacks and led the team with 10 targets, catching nine for 92 yards and a score. He also added four green zone rushes. I would like a mulligan on that call.
A difference with the quarterback change is where Kamara would often have solid air yards for a running back while playing with Brees, with Teddy Bridgewater under center Kamara's targets totaled negative-17 air yards, meaning he hit 92 receiving yards because he posted over 100 yards after the catch. That's also very notable for Bridgewater, who threw for just 177 yards on 27 attempts, and struggled to get the ball down the field. Put simply, the majority of his passing yards were due to Kamara making plays after the catch, typically on a pass that didn't even travel to the line of scrimmage.
Of course, the Saints didn't really need to press. They got a punt return touchdown just three minutes into the game, then added their second touchdown on a Chris Carson fumble (more on that in a second) that was returned 33 yards to the house. They started with good field position after the Seahawks failed a 4th down late in the second quarter, and were able to piece together a drive that ended in a 29-yard catch-and-run from Kamara.
All told, the Saints ran just 50 plays, and were out-gained 515 to 265 in total yardage. Michael Thomas wound up with a solid 7-5-54-1 stat line, but no one else outside him and Kamara had more than 15 yards from scrimmage. It worked this week, but is concerning going forward.
Seattle finished with 50 pass attempts against 26 runs, but the story of this game was again their conservatism, 4th down attempts aside. Entering the fourth quarter down 27-7, Seattle at that point had thrown just 21 passes against 21 runs, and that was after a late third quarter drive that featured eight passes.
In the fourth quarter alone, Russell Wilson went 16 for 29 with 211 yards and a score on the game's final play through the air, plus he ran for two more scores. The vast majority of his monster final stat line of over 400 passing yards, 51 on the ground and four total touchdowns occurred during the futile comeback attempt. We've talked about this in past weeks, but Seattle is their own worst enemy, and deserved an outcome like this after a one-point home victory against the Bengals and a two-point road win over a Steelers team that lost their quarterback at halftime.
Tyler Lockett posted another double-digit target game after seeing just two in Week 1. He went 14-11-154-1 with 165 air yards in a script perfectly suited for him to be productive, as Seattle needed to push the ball down the field. It was also a good script for D.K. Metcalf, but he caught just two of his six targets in an inefficient game, posting 67 yards on 121 air yards.
Will Dissly continues to be the productive receiving tight end, though he's still splitting routes with Nick Vannett. He was the beneficiary of the final-play touchdown, but had been active before that, finishing with a 7-6-62-1 line. He's a solid streamer against the Cardinals next week.
Carson lost double-digit percentage points of snap share for the second straight week, falling from 76% in Week 1 to 55% in Week 2 down to 44% this week, even with Rashaad Penny inactive. That was because of yet another lost fumble, his fourth if you count a botched handoff in Week 2 that was credited to Wilson but was more on Carson by my estimation.
That fumble in Week 2 came in Seattle's own end with a nine-point lead and five minutes remaining, and was returned inside the 10-yard line, leading to a Steelers touchdown on the next play. In other words, it opened the door, but Seattle did come away with that victory.
This week's fumble, however, played a huge role in creating the deficit Seattle never got out of. Carson's Week 4 role is very tenuous, especially if Penny is active. C.J. Prosise played big snaps in place of Carson, but he's more of a passing downs back. The oft-injured former third-round pick caught all five of his targets and once upon a time had a plus prospect profile, so he's a guy to add to your watch list.
- Signal: Chris Carson — fumbles continuing to cost him playing time; Alvin Kamara — share of workload expanded; Teddy Bridgewater — game manager
- Noise: Seahawks passing game — huge volume the product of game script (though it may not be the last time that happens this year)
49ers 24 - Steelers 20
- Snap Notes: George Kittle - 100% (+33%), Marquise Goodwin - 67% (+17%), Deebo Samuel - 52% (+13%), Dante Pettis - 42% (-8%), Matt Breida - 41% (+11%), Raheem Mostert - 30% (-16%), Jeff Wilson - 27% (+6%), James Washington - 92% (+33%), Diontae Johnson - 79% (+33%), James Conner - 68% (+13%), Vance McDonald - 28% (-63%)
- Key Stat: Jeff Wilson - 5 green zone rushes (tied for most in Week 3)
After a blowout win in Week 2 in which many backup 49ers got extra run, players like George Kittle, Marquise Goodwin, Deebo Samuel and Matt Breida all gained double-digit percentage points in snap share this week. Among those who lost significant snaps were Raheem Mostert and... Dante Pettis.
Pettis did catch the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, so all hope may not be lost. But it's a disappointing sign for his long-term potential that he gave up snaps this week after getting extended run in Week 2. He finished with a 5-4-20-1 line and appears to be in a backup or rotational role, at least for now.
George Kittle led the 49ers pass-catchers with an 8-6-57 line, while Marquise Goodwin (routes on 64% of dropbacks), Deebo Samuel (55%) and Richie James (55%) weren't very productive but ran more routes than Pettis (42%). Ultimately, the wide receiver situation will be tough to judge week to week.
As for the backs, Matt Breida continued to look great, and Jeff Wilson continued to steal goal-line looks. Wilson tied Phillip Lindsay with five green zone rushes for the most in Week 3. No other 49ers back got one, while Wilson saw just three other carries.
Breida's 14-68 rushing line with two receptions is solid, but his upside is severely limited due to Wilson's role, especially since he's sharing early-down work with Mostert, who rushed 12 times for 79 yards.
James Conner's snaps rose to a season high, but he totaled just 57 yards and a lost fumble on a season-high 17 touches. If there's one positive note, it's that Jaylen Samuels didn't record an offensive touch, though Samuels did play 26% of the snaps. Conner has a solid 11 catches through three weeks, but is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry and has just one score. Cincinnati's rush defense is a possible get-right spot for him in Week 4.
Pittsburgh's offense was very similar to New Orleans' in Week 3. Mason Rudolph benefited from yards after the catch and the offense generally struggled despite having a chance to win late, as they totaled 239 yards on just 51 offensive plays. Rudolph threw for 174 yards despite a 76-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster that was mostly after the catch; 73 of Smith-Schuster's 81 yards on three catches were YAC.
Both Diontae Johnson and James Washington were full-time players this week, and it was Johnson who was more involved in the offense with six targets and a rush attempt, including a 39-yard touchdown reception in the fourth to temporarily give Pittsburgh a lead. Washington caught just two of four targets for 14 yards, and overall Rudolph's first start didn't provide much optimism he can support multiple receiving options for Fantasy. Even with Vance McDonald leaving early to a shoulder injury, Johnson's 6-3-52-1 line made him the only player other than Smith-Schuster with more than 15 receiving yards on the day.
- Signal: Jeff Wilson — goal-line vulture; 49ers WRs — rotation; Dante Pettis — appears to be fourth on the WR totem pole; Diontae Johnson/James Washington — roles expanding
- Noise: JuJu Smith-Schuster — 73 yards after the catch (YAC is not a stable stat, making JuJu's 7-3-81-1 line pretty discouraging)
Texans 27 - Chargers 20
- Snap Notes: Kenny Stills - 53% (+15%), Keke Coutee - 28% (-16%), Carlos Hyde - 52% (-9%), Duke Johnson - 48% (+9%), Darren Fells - 65% (-2%), Jordan Akins - 45% (-14%), Mike Williams - 93% (+31%), Austin Ekeler - 65% (-9%), Justin Jackson - 37% (+11%)
- Key Stat: Keenan Allen - 17 targets, 166 air yards
After a slow, grind-it-out win in Week 2 over the Jaguars, the Texans couldn't get anything going on the ground in Week 3 and turned to Deshaun Watson, who led a comeback victory with 351 yards and three scores.
That part of the story is predictable, but who he threw to isn't. The Texans haven't used their tight ends much in recent years, but all three touchdowns went to the position, the first to Darren Fells and two in the second half to Jordan Akins. Fells and Akins ran routes on 51% and 54% of dropbacks, so they were splitting the routes. But both would have been viable had anyone played them, and they combined for eight catches on 11 targets for 122 yards and the three scores.
Neither is worth adding outside deep leagues given they split the work. This is almost certainly going to go down as a one-week blip for a team that features its wide receivers, but the tight end production does help explain another subpar game for the receivers.
DeAndre Hopkins saw just seven targets and 40 air yards, posting a 6-67 line. Will Fuller tied his season high with seven targets, but he saw just 67 air yards, his first game under 100 this year. Instead, Kenny Stills totaled 104 air yards on six targets, and led the team with 89 receiving yards. Fuller's 9.6 aDOT sticks out like a sore thumb and explains his 5-51 line. It's an indication Stills is impacting his ceiling as another downfield option for Watson.
Carlos Hyde rushed 10 times for 19 yards and a score, but mostly maintained his role. Duke Johnson saw just two rush attempts, and his snap share increase was due to more passing overall. Johnson was targeted just three times and his workload the past two weeks has been eerily reminiscent of his time in Cleveland, which is to say, not good.
This has always been true, but when Keenan Allen gets going, he can dominate targets and frankly dominate a game. Allen's 13 receptions were the fourth time he's had at least that many in a game. Only two players, Antonio Brown and Wes Welker, have done that five times in their careers.
Mike Williams played a full snap share and looked healthy, but given Allen was targeted 17 times and totaled 183 yards and two scores, there was limited volume to go around behind him. Williams did see seven targets and 133 air yards, strong volume in a vacuum. He just had an inefficient day, with a 3-45 line. He'll be fine.
Justin Jackson got more of an opportunity to spell Austin Ekeler, and even caught four passes, but that didn't stop Ekeler from racking up seven catches of his own. With Allen the focal point, the backs didn't amass any green zone rush attempts, and they had a bit of a down game — Ekeler had 81 total yards, while Jackson managed just 30. Next week should be a different story against the Dolphins, and Jackson's uptick in snaps makes him flex worthy for me in that matchup.
- Signal: Kenny Stills — limiting Will Fuller's air yards; Keenan Allen — target hog (duh); Duke Johnson — *sad face*
- Noise: Darren Fells/Jordan Akins — the touchdowns, also the targets, also the yards too
Rams 20 - Browns 13
- Snap Notes: Todd Gurley - 74% (+11%), Malcolm Brown - 26% (-11%), Gerald Everett - 88% (+16%), Nick Chubb - 97% (+36%), Demetrius Harris - 90% (+12%)
- Key Stat: Cooper Kupp - 30% target share through three weeks
Cooper Kupp was the star of Sunday Night Football, catching 11 of 12 targets for 102 yards and two scores. Typically we've seen the trio of Rams receivers split work, and it's probable things will shift back toward Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, but right now Kupp has 31 targets through three games while Woods has 23 and Cooks 22.
To be fair, both Woods and Cooks were also involved on SNF, as both had far more air yards than Kupp in their downfield roles. Cooks turned 12 targets and 138 air yards into an 8-112 line, while Woods had an inefficient day at just 3-40 on his eight targets and 124 air yards.
But that's part of what makes Kupp's market share so interesting, because he's running the underneath routes and is clearly still Goff's go-to red zone option. It wouldn't surprise me if he does wind up leading the team in targets by a decent margin.
That said, Woods' lack of production to date makes him a great buy low. He's still seeing plenty of volume, and we know last week he lost three catches and a touchdown to plays called back by penalty. The window's open for him.
Todd Gurley played big snaps, but rushed for just 43 yards on 14 carries and didn't catch his only target. Malcolm Brown spelled him, but totaled just seven yards on three carries. If you have Gurley, you have to be concerned about his lack of high-value touches. He has just eight through three games; in 2018, even while managing his overall touches later in the year, he averaged 6.8 per game, while in 2017 it was 6.5. Each week he doesn't catch passes is more confirmation he doesn't have the upside he once did.
I had a lot of hope for the Browns, but we're working on a pretty decent sample now that suggests things aren't great here. It looks like a coaching issue.
Set aside the 4th and 9 draw play, and similarly bizarre playcalls. Baker Mayfield has seemingly regressed in terms of getting through reads, and it's apparent to half of Twitter he's holding the ball too long. That he resorts to instinctive, almost backyard-type football when the pressure breaks down isn't abnormal — that's a natural reaction! — but it's also not something you see on well-coached teams, because the quarterback is coached to know how to handle those spots and where to go with the ball. My issue here is that it isn't one or two bad plays; it's a repeating problem that doesn't seem to be getting addressed.
Perhaps we'll see it addressed going forward. The offensive line is a pretty big issue in its own right, and the system needs to account for that. But again, it's a pretty decent sample now and the way I'd describe what's going wrong is they don't understand the problem in the building. Stuff like this only seems to validate that.
One thing the Browns did in Week 3 was go very concentrated with their snap shares, with each of Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb playing at least 97%, and tight end Demetrius Harris at 90%. That's especially huge for Chubb, who caught four of seven targets and totaled three green zone rushes for a healthy seven high-value touches. He didn't find the end zone but posted over 130 total yards.
Jarvis Landry continued to see high-aDOT looks and continued his poor efficiency, catching three of nine targets at a 15.3 aDOT for a total of 62 receiving yards. Odell Beckham also saw nine targets, but at an aDOT of 5.1; I wish that was a mistake and those aDOTs were flipped. Beckham went 9-6-56.
Demetrius Harris played a big snap share in place of David Njoku and caught a short touchdown, but was otherwise targeted just once.
- Signal: Nick Chubb — workload still growing; Browns — disjointed offensively
- Noise: Robert Woods — efficiency (volume's still there, good buy low)
Bears 31 - Washington 15
- Snap Notes: David Montgomery - 67% (+22%), Tarik Cohen - 48% (+11%), Mike Davis - 2% (-23%), Trey Burton - 61% (+18%), Washington - nothing new
- Key Stat: Mitchell Trubisky - 168 air yards (conservative passing attack)
There seems to be a lot of concern about David Montgomery's role, and it did take until clock-killing time in the fourth quarter for him to rack up nine of his 16 touches on the day, but his snap share paints a more promising picture.
Mike Davis' snaps have gone from 56% in Week 1 to 25% to 2% (a single snap in the fourth quarter) on Monday night. Tarik Cohen also split out a bit more than Week 2 — still not nearly as much as Week 1 — which allowed Montgomery's snap share to rise to a solid 67%. Montgomery caught three passes, and ran just one fewer route than Cohen, so his receiving role is fine. Perhaps a bigger issue is he didn't get a touch on Chicago's four green zone plays, as they opted to throw in close a week after they gave it to Montgomery five times inside the 5 on the same drive, and it took until the fifth try to get into the end zone.
Mitchell Trubisky was mostly conservative for the second straight week, amassing just 162 air yards after 182 in Denver. Allen Robinson has led or tied for the team lead in targets in each game, but on the MNF broadcast we again heard the line about how Chicago doesn't have a No. 1. That's, of course, not true.
But Robinson did take a back seat to Taylor Gabriel in terms of production, as Gabriel caught two short touchdowns and added a third on an impressive toe-tap in the front corner of the end zone on Trubisky's longest pass of the night. Gabriel tied Robinson with seven targets for the team lead and led the team with 70 air yards, but 70 air yards is nothing to write home about. With Anthony Miller not playing a big role in the offense and Trey Burton on the mend, Gabriel had still caught just three passes through two weeks leading into Week 3. It makes plenty of sense he could have a splash week, but he's not someone to overpay for on waivers, especially considering these were Trubisky's first three touchdown passes of the season and this pass offense looks likely to be both low volume and led by Robinson most weeks. Gabriel also left the game with a concussion and might have a hard time being ready for Week 4 given it's a short week.
There's really not much to say about Washington that hasn't been said the past two weeks. I've harped on how thin their pass-catching group is, and what an opportunity that is for Terry McLaurin. He continues to show he's up for the task, posting an 8-6-70-1 line to become the first rookie to catch at least five balls and score in each of his first three career games, per ESPN. Washington will be trailing most weeks, and Case Keenum sits third in the league in pass attempts, averaging more than 40 per game. That should mean plenty of targets for McLaurin the rest of the way.
Paul Richardson scored for the second straight week, posting a strong 9-8-83-1 line, and has the next most upside. The offense as a whole also has a low floor, though, so bust weeks will certainly come along with these booms. Chris Thompson was active in the passing game as well, and will continue to work alongside Adrian Peterson in the two-back system, and then you have Trey Quinn as the slot guy and Vernon Davis as the primary tight end.
McLaurin is the only guy in this offense I could trust in my lineup right now, with Thompson a possibility on Zero RB teams and especially when Washington looks likely to be in heavy negative script like they were in Week 3.
Thompson again padded his final stat line at the very end of the game, catching two of his four passes for 35 of his 79 receiving yards in the game's final five plays. We noted in Week 1 that Thompson saw six of his 10 targets that week on the team's final drive. It's both true that Washington will be in these situations a lot going forward and also that Thompson's receiving production to date is still a bit inflated, even controlling for game context.
- Signal: Davis Montgomery — role expanding (Mike Davis a nonfactor)
- Noise: Taylor Gabriel — three touchdowns (not much of an increase in usage); Chris Thompson — his receiving role looks amazing on paper but it's still a bit flimsy