Fantasy Football Week 6 Stealing Signals: Stats, waiver targets, trade candidates for every game
Ben Gretch focuses on what matters for Fantasy players as he recaps every game from Week 6, with stats to know, details you might have missed, and more.
Week 6 brought us plenty of underperformances, another reminder that production tends to level out over a larger sample (Stefon Diggs following in Will Fuller's Week 5 footsteps) and beyond that a lot of offenses that were what we thought they were, strengthening our conviction in those beliefs.
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.
Patriots 35 - Giants 14
- Snap notes: Sony Michel: 50% (+1% vs. last weeks' season high), Jakobi Meyers: 70% (+7% vs. previous season high), Gunner Olszewski: 61% (+52% vs. previous season high), Josh Gordon: 32% (injured), Ryan Izzo: 98% (+30% vs. previous season high), Matt LaCosse: 18% (injured, -76% vs. last week's his season high), Golden Tate: 98% (+32% vs. last week's debut), Darius Slayton: 98% (+33% vs. last week's season high)
- Key stat: Darius Slayton — 156 air yards
There wasn't a ton of offense in a game that featured two defensive touchdowns as well as a blocked-punt score. And for what offense there was, it was a game of depth. The Giants came in without their three best offensive players plus their backup running back, while the Patriots came in without Rex Burkhead and Phillip Dorsett plus lost Josh Gordon and Matt LaCosse in the first half.
For the second game in a row, the Patriots utilized Sony Michel heavily in their first 15 plays, including motioning him out and throwing to him in the flat on the game's second play. But whether it was related or not, Michel getting more work in the passing game coincided with no green-zone work. Coming into Week 6, Michel was tied with Mark Ingram for a league-leading 13 green-zone touches — an important part of his Fantasy value — but despite 24 touches and 113 yards on Thursday night, it was Brandon Bolden who got the two green zone rush attempts and a short touchdown.
Tom Brady also tried a whopping four quarterback sneaks from the goal line throughout the night, scoring on two. I mentioned in Signals a few weeks ago something I'd talked about this offseason: "Because Brady sneaks a lot and the Patriots also incorporate players like James Develin — who had four touchdowns last year — in close, I've never really bought into Michel's touchdown upside." Develin's hurt now, so it was Bolden, but the data behind this note is that while LeGarrette Blount's 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016 are the dream for Michel, the reality is that in the other four seasons over the past five years, no Patriot has rushed for more than six scores. Next it will be James White getting green zone looks after the Patriots complete a pass inside the 5 and hurry up to the line to prevent the defense from subbing, the type of situation that helped White to five rushing scores of his own last year.
Still, Michel's been used in the green zone a bunch, and his receiving role is expanding, both of which are positive signs. It just feels like both of those roles are very tenuous.
Without Gordon, Brady predictably locked on to Julian Edelman and White. Edelman's 15-9-113 line featured a few more downfield looks than usual but was otherwise very typical, while White's 9-9-46 was all short dump-offs. Jakobi Meyers got in on the act, as did Gunner Olszewski. Olszewski's punt return and deep receiving role reminds a lot of how Edelman started to emerge back when Wes Welker was still on the roster, and Olszewski's probably worth consideration in deeper PPR dynasty leagues considering Edelman's age and health history. Meyers is probably already owned in those types of leagues, but if Gordon's injury is serious — and it unfortunately looked like it might be — he projects to get plenty of time on the outside while speculation about the Patriots trading for every disgruntled receiver in the league inevitably ramps up.
Ryan Izzo also saw four targets as the last tight end on the roster after LaCosse went down on the game's seventh snap, but as I noted last week when he caught a touchdown, he ran just seven routes in that Week 5 game. LaCosse did return and play eight more snaps, and unless he was just gutting that out and will be out for an extended period, Izzo's probably not worth chasing for Fantasy.
Also, the Patriots DST now has five return touchdowns for the season. I've both seen work and done my own that suggests return touchdowns are very random, and this is far from the first time we've seen a DST unit get off to this type of start and seem like a lock to score every week. Don't get me wrong, this is a great unit for Fantasy, and the Patriots will likely lead and be in position to rack up sacks and turnovers in many future games. But you can't expect this level of production the rest of the season, so if your team is reliant on the Patriots DST and has holes elsewhere, consider taking advantage of one of the rare times there's probably legitimate trade value in a DST.
The Giants' passing game flowed through Golden Tate, Darius Slayton and Rhett Ellison, which was essentially to be expected. Tate had the big play, a 64-yard touchdown that featured about 25 air yards and almost 40 after the catch. As exciting as it was, and though Tate did see a few more downfield shots, the rest of his 9-6-102-1 line was five catches for 38 receiving yards, meaning without that play he was mostly the same underneath PPR-only option.
Slayton is actually the more intriguing option to me, as he played a full set of snaps and racked up 156 air yards on his eight targets, continuing his role as a vertical threat despite lackluster efficiency that resulted in only a 3-36 receiving line.
Ellison saw seven targets — four on the final drive after the game was decided — and has no value when Evan Engram returns. Jon Hilliman and fullback Elijhaa Penny split the rushing work and also have no value as one or perhaps both of Saquon Barkley and Wayne Gallman should be back for Week 7.
- Signal: Darius Slayton — looks locked into a deep role
- Noise: Golden Tate — looked good, but was very reliant on the one big play even with Shepard and Engram out; Patriots DST — five return touchdowns to date; Patriots — green zone opportunity (the signal is that it's difficult to predict)
Panthers 37 - Buccaneers 26
- Snap Notes: Christian McCaffrey: 97% (+11% vs. season low last week), Dare Ogunbowale: 58% (+20% vs. previous season high), Peyton Barber: 24% (-2% vs. previous season low), Ronald Jones: 16% (+4% vs. season low), Scott Miller: 60% (+23% vs. season high last week)
- Key Stat: Jameis Winston — 596 air yards (most by a quarterback in a game this season)
If we were going to send a bad game to London, at least it was entertainingly bad. Jameis Winston turned the ball over six times, threw for 400 yards on 54 attempts and took seven sacks. The Panthers tried the first since 2013. Mike Evans racked up 226 air yards and caught just 76 of them (he added 20 yards after the catch to finish with 96 receiving yards).
It was a bit of a mess, and Carolina controlled throughout, settling for an early field goal after Winston threw his first interception on the game's first play from scrimmage, then scoring a touchdown later in the first. Carolina wasn't exactly great offensively, going three-and-out three times in the first half, but the Bucs didn't have a drive last longer than four plays until their seventh time with the ball, so Carolina had plenty of chances.
In the end, Carolina's box score was pretty normal for them. Christian McCaffrey had a down game yardage-wise, but scored both on the ground and through the air. The rest of the production went directly to their other three offensive weapons in this highly concentrated offense, with D.J. Moore going 10-7-73 plus a 13-yard run, Curtis Samuel leading the team in air yards at 113 and going 6-4-70-1 plus an 8-yard touchdown run, and Greg Olsen going 7-4-52. That's essentially exactly what to expect out of this offense when McCaffrey isn't doing everything, plus or minus some touchdown variance.
Tampa was more interesting if only because it was so erratic. Winston's 596 air yards were the most by a quarterback in a game since Blake Bortles broke 600 in Week 5 last year, and it was predictably Evans leading the way there on his 17 targets. Evans had multiple missed opportunities that left plenty of production on the field, including a bad drop just before halftime that was at least a 40- or 50-yard reception and had the potential to be a 74-yard touchdown, but plenty of his targets and air yards were also futile chucks late. Chris Godwin was his usually efficient self on underneath throws, checking in with an aDOT of just 9.2 despite the air yards flying around, and catching 10-of-12 targets for 151 yards. His role played into Tampa's desperation, as the fourth quarter game log essentially alternates between deep incompletions and short Godwin receptions underneath a prevent defense; six of Godwin's catches for 103 yards came in the fourth quarter.
Scott Miller seemingly took over the third receiver role from Bobo Wilson partway through this game, as Wilson was targeted early after playing more in Week 5 in place of Breshad Perriman. Mille was second on the team in air yards with 147, but he caught just 3-of-7 passes for 39 yards. Miller has 4.44 speed and is theoretically their best bet to fill the DeSean Jackson role if Perriman isn't healthy, but we'd have to see some production before we buy into that at all.
O.J. Howard played a bunch and ran more routes than Cameron Brate just like he usually does and yet Brate matched his four targets and got the touchdown (like he usually does). Howard seeing four targets while the Bucs threw 54 times is just another bad sign for him, and I wouldn't blame you for cutting him (I refuse to, because I'm stubborn and also an idiot). Maybe there will prove to be truth to these trade rumors.
This is a fun stat.
As if I wasn't already implying bad coaching, let me be more clear while discussing the backs. Ronald Jones looked shifty on an early touchdown run, but after the Bucs got down and started throwing a ton, Dare Ogunbowale was the main back. Jones finished with just four carries, while Peyton Barber saw eight. Ogunbowale got all five running back targets and scored a meaningless touchdown on an inside give late as the Bucs hurried up to the line and didn't substitute, his third green zone touch of the year while Jones has six and Barber five.
You could try to assign value to Ogunbowale having four high-value touches, but that's just it — he only had four touches. While it's a testament to the value of those touches that he posted 11.5 PPR points on four touches, that's a ceiling outcome for his role. Meanwhile, Jones — who I think just about all observers agree is the best back — hardly played. This backfield is driving me crazy.
This offense has tons of potential, but where we sit is you start Evans and Godwin, you can play Winston if you're the thrill ride type, and you can't play anyone else.
- Signal: Panthers — we saw McCaffrey dominate offensive production last week, this concentrated four-man output is the other side of their range
- Noise: Bucs — everything? I mean the crazy air yards, and Ogunbowale's snaps, and Evans' inefficiency, but also Evans' volume and Winston's six turnovers... plenty of signal in there but also really extreme outcomes in Week 6
Ravens 23 - Bengals 17
- Snap Notes: Miles Boykin: 56% (+8% vs. previous season high), Chris Moore: 46% (+5% vs. previous season high), Gus Edwards: 41% (+3% vs. previous season high), Mark Ingram: 38% (-12% vs. season average), Justice Hill: 21% (+15% vs. last week's season low), Alex Erickson: 79% (+56% vs. last week's season high), Damion Willis: 6% (-56% vs. last week)
- Key Stat: Ravens — 43 rushes, 269 rushing yards
The Bengals returned the opening kick for a touchdown and scored their other touchdown with 1:34 left in the fourth quarter, but got beat pretty handily throughout the rest of the game.
The book on Cincinnati is you can beat them on the ground, and especially on the edge, and the Ravens clearly followed that blueprint. Lamar Jackson had a season-high 19 carries for 152 yards and a score, including 57 and that touchdown on two carries on the first drive, both of which feigned a read option with the fake give up the middle but looked like designed runs with blockers out in front of Jackson on the edge. Jackson finished the first half with 168 passing yards and 111 rushing yards, pacing for a 300-200 day, but didn't approach either figure as the Ravens ran 25 times in the second half against 13 passes.
My guess on why Mark Ingram's snaps were down a bit is because he's seen as a between-the-tackles grinder, though he did still lead the backs with 13 carries, 52 yards and a score, plus he saw all three running back targets. But he didn't have quite the game some were expecting because Gus Edwards and Justice Hill combined for 11 rushes and 65 yards of their own, plus Jackson's rushing. I can say in Hill's case, he was given some tosses and plays specifically designed to get his speed on the outside. Ingram's lack of snaps wasn't as simple as script, as the game wasn't exactly a blowout, and Ingram rushed seven times in the second half and four times in the fourth quarter.
With Marquise Brown out, Jackson was down to just one of his two favorite targets, and Mark Andrews easily led the team in every receiving stat, posting an 8-6-99 line with 72 air yards. Rookie Miles Boykin got a bit more run, as did veteran Chris Moore, but no one else on the team had more than three catches or 30 receiving yards in this run-heavy game.
Giovani Bernard out-snapped Joe Mixon with the Bengals going pass-heavy, and Bernard ran more routes than Mixon for the fourth time in six games. Both backs saw three target. I wrote the below after Mixon's best game of the season and it remains true after he rushed just eight times for 10 yards and caught two passes for 29:
"It's hard to see how the situation gets better for Mixon if he can't smash in this situation. He was very efficient on the ground with 4.9 yards per carry, but the Bengals can't stay in games long enough for that to matter — this was his first game over 15 carries this season, and he still didn't get enough work to hit the 100-yard mark, finishing with 91 rushing yards. And then if he's losing high-value touches both in the passing game and in the green zone due to the offense's ineptitude, it's not a recipe for success."
I can't really explain Tyler Boyd's 7-3-10 receiving line, other than to say he's still averaging 10 targets and 69 nice receiving yards per game. Auden Tate looked good, though, and will continue to get extended playing time. He made a couple of diving catches and his 12 targets and 146 air yards were impressive volume, actually making his 5-91 receiving line look a little light.
Alex Erickson ran a route on 86% of dropbacks, displacing Damion Willis in three-wide sets. Willis was on early, but was seemingly benched after being called for an offensive pass interference. Neither player is Fantasy relevant.
- Signal: Auden Tate — plenty of targets, air yards, role expanding
- Noise: Ravens — rushing split appeared scheme-related; Tyler Boyd — target variance, poor efficiency
Seahawks 32 - Browns 28
- Snap Notes: Luke Willson: 67% (+9% vs. last week's season high), Jacob Hollister: 35% (season debut), Will Dissly: 24% (Achilles injury), Antonio Callaway: 68% (+25% vs. last week's debut), Rashard Higgins: 0% (active after injury rehab), Ricky Seals-Jones: 68% (+38% vs. previous season high), Demetrius Harris: 28% (-27% vs. season average)
- Key Stat: Ricky Seals-Jones — routes on 75% of dropbacks, 6 targets, 74 air yards
Seattle got a big win in Cleveland, though the Browns had some (legitimate) gripes about the officiating afterward.
Despite being without both Duane Brown and D.J. Fluker on the offensive line and with Rashaad Penny again inactive in the backfield, Seattle had no problem running the ball like they want to. Chris Carson played another big snap share and rushed 24 times for 124 yards and a score while adding four catches. His four green zone rushes gave him eight high-value touches, which tied a season high he set back in Week 1. While he had just 11 total in the four games in between, and his receiving has been a bit up and down, he's averaging a solid 4.5 high-value touches and 1.7 green zone touches per game. His role is now secure with the fumbles seemingly behind him, and that's enough high-value work along with the huge number of low-value rush attempts he racks up that have helped him post over 100 rushing yards in three straight games.
Will Dissly suffered what looks like a torn Achilles in what was one of the bigger injury bummers of the season so far. After starting his rookie season hot in 2018, Dissly tore his patella tendon in Week 4, only to make it all the way back and pick up right where he left off in 2019. The second-year player has six touchdowns in eight career healthy games, and his full-season pace in those contests would be 60 catches and 826 yards, but he's now looking at another lengthy rehab.
Having recently traded Nick Vannett, the Seahawks were down to recently re-signed Luke Willson, who led the tight ends in snaps, and Jacob Hollister. Ed Dickson is on IR and is eligible to return in Week 9. It's unlikely any have substantial value, but Dickson might be the best bet.
Russell Wilson played a typically efficient game, throwing for two scores and rushing for another. Seattle went run-heavy early, then turned to Wilson to dig them out of the hole they were in, as per usual. Jaron Brown caught two second-half touchdowns, but didn't see a meaningful uptick in snaps or routes, and Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf led the team in receiving yardage. Lockett had a touchdown overturned on review, and while his production has been a little up-and-down this year, he remains a must start with blow-up potential any week. Metcalf is more of a bye week fill-in as he's averaged just 43 air yards per game over the past three weeks after averaging 113 across the first three games, but he also has plenty of boom potential in his role.
The Browns had little trouble with the Seahawks defense early, scoring touchdowns on each of their first three drives. But they wouldn't score again until the fourth quarter, and turned the ball over four times on the day, including three Baker Mayfield interceptions. Much has been made both about Mayfield's high interception rate and also how few have truly been on the quarterback, as deflected passes have been a big story there.
Nick Chubb remains an exceptionally valuable back right now, as his season-high nine high-value touches indicate. He converted two green zone rushes for scores, caught five passes and added a 52-yard run in the first quarter from deep in Cleveland's own territory.
Odell Beckham's 11-6-101 line with 124 air yards was a nice bounceback, while Jarvis Landry's 5-3-36 left more to be desired, but he frankly deserved a touchdown on a play the Browns challenged and I'd argue there was clear visual evidence he scored, but officials determined it inconclusive. That set up a 4th-and-goal from the 1 for Cleveland they didn't convert, though they held Seattle to a quick three-and-out and scored in two plays after a shanked 23-yard punt.
Ricky Seals-Jones was a big story, playing a pretty full snap share and running routes on 75% of Cleveland's dropbacks. He caught a 31-yard score early, and finished with six targets at an aDOT of 12.3. Seals-Jones is an athletic TE who was a WR in college, and is certainly a waiver option at a thin position given that vertical involvement.
Meanwhile, Antonio Callaway's snap share rose considerably and he ran routes on 88% of dropbacks, while Rashard Higgins — active after rehabbing a knee injury — didn't play a snap. Higgins' lack of involvement seems to suggest he wasn't fully ready, but reports have him as fully healthy and he wasn't listed on the Browns' final injury report. The team might just prefer Callaway's speed at the No. 3 spot for the time being.
- Signal: Ricky Seals-Jones — solid usage, worth a speculative pickup if you're thin at TE
- Noise: Jaron Brown — role didn't change, touchdowns were just variance
Vikings 38 - Eagles 20
- Snap Notes: Dalvin Cook: 63% (-4% vs. season average), Alexander Mattison: 30% (+9% vs. season average), Jordan Howard: 63% (+10% vs. previous season high), Miles Sanders: 29% (-5% vs. previous season low)
- Key Stat: Stefon Diggs — 250 air yards (most in a single game by any player this season)
Let's get the obvious out of the way — I really hope you had Stefon Diggs in your lineups. I'll be honest, I've sat him in a couple places this year. Luckily, I didn't have him on any benches this week.
The Eagles have a ferocious run defense but are all sorts of banged up in their secondary, so Minnesota finally got a little more aggressive with the pass early. Adam Thielen had three catches for 31 yards and a score on their first drive, but from there, it was all Diggs. We've talked about a few near misses for Diggs downfield — you may remember the thread I linked from The Athletic's Arif Hasan a couple weeks ago, which included both passes that were thrown and times Diggs was open but Kirk Cousins didn't see him — but this week, Cousins was willing to let fly, and Diggs' 250 air yards were the single-game high for any player this season.
It wasn't all perfect. Diggs also had two drops, one of which went through his hands, off his facemask, and ricocheted in the air for an interception. Cousins also missed him on what was nearly a third long touchdown when he got open on a post after already scoring twice. But he did get that third touchdown on a shorter route a little later, and finished with an 11-7-167-3 line.
So what do we do with him? Yes, this was the perfect spot for him to erupt, and yes, there are still concerns about his role long-term. But it's unlikely you can immediately sell at full value, and while his usage has been inconsistent, you can't ignore what happened this week. Plus, uncharacteristic drops aside, he's been as good as ever this year — among all players with at least 20 targets, Diggs leads the NFL with 12.4 yards per target. He's a hold for me, unless I can get strong value, and I'll just accept that he'll be up-and-down the rest of the way.
The touch count split for the backs was 18 for Dalvin Cook and 14 for Alexander Mattison, but 12 of Mattison's touches came in the fourth quarter with the game in hand, while Cook played just about his normal snap share. Cook saw just six second-half touches, but one did go for a score after Mattison got a rush from the 3 and failed to get in. Cook had both of the running back targets and five green zone rushes to Mattison's two. Chalk this up to script, and it's probably for the best long-term that the team gave Cook a breather, despite his more pedestrian Fantasy total.
Kyle Rudolph had his best day of the year, but it was just 3-for-36, and while I've talked in past weeks about the Vikings' use of two TE sets or Olabisi Johnson's snap increase (which subsequently fell this week) — Rudolph, Irv Smith, Johnson and Laquon Treadwell combined for seven receptions. Setting aside Cook's role, this pass offense is still very much Diggs and Thielen first, second and third, and then everyone else, and that's unlikely to change in a meaningful way for Fantasy.
The Eagles just had a bad day, plain and simple. With Corey Clement sent to IR and Darren Sproles inactive, they were down to mostly just Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders, while Boston Scott got a little bit of work at the very end of the game. Howard played a season-high snap share, but wasn't targeted for the second straight week and didn't convert his one green zone touch. His 13-49 rushing line has TRAP back written all over it.
Sanders played his lowest snap share of the season, a concern given they were thin at the position. But he was very productive, continuing to get downfield in routes — he now leads the league's running backs with 148 air yards on the season, just ahead of David Johnson — and catching all three targets he saw for 86 yards and a score. It's clear he has the most upside in this backfield, but he's losing playing time, not gaining it, so he's tough to trust right now even with at least 49 receiving yards in three of the past four games.
Outside Sanders, you had Alshon Jeffery leading the team with a 12-10-76-1 line, then Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert and Nelson Agholor posting pretty inefficient lines but all seeing 7-9 targets, a reasonable output for the Eagles receiving corps. I'll just end with this, my favorite play from Sunday (OK, maybe second favorite behind the fair catch free kick), which featured both a direct snap to a kicker for a pass and a lineman interception.
- Signal: Jordan Howard — bigger snap share, TRAP usage; Stefon Diggs — all the air yards
- Noise: Alexander Mattison — 14 carries (12 in fourth quarter with Minnesota up by double-digits)
Saints 13 - Jaguars 6
- Snap Notes: Alvin Kamara: 59% (-4% vs. previous season low), Latavius Murray: 42% (+7% vs. previous season high), Seth DeValve: 41% (+15% vs. previous season high, Geoff Swaim injured)
- Key Stat: Jaguars — 226 total yards (fewest this season by 55)
New Orleans and Jacksonville played a slow game, and we saw Gardner Minshew struggle throughout. This wasn't the first time we've seen him struggle, as he compiled a lot of yardage late to finish with a decent line in his first start in Houston in Week 2, but it was undoubtedly his worst full game as a professional after a strong three-game run.
There's not really much notable about it — it's fine to give an undrafted rookie a pass when he's been mostly good, especially when veterans like Jared Goff were worse in Week 6, reminding us bad games just happen in some matchups — but it did limit production throughout the offense. Leonard Fournette's monster workload insulated him a bit, as on top of his 20 rushes for 72 yards, he also caught six of Minshew's 14 completions for 46 receiving yards.
That meant Minshew completed just eight passes to downfield receiving options, explaining lines like D.J. Chark's 7-3-43 and Dede Westbrook's 8-3-53. Chark got his typical air yards (89, 12.7 aDOT) while Westbrook worked underneath (6.6 aDOT). The biggest takeaway there is those two remain the lead options in the passing game.
One week after James O'Shaughnessy went to IR, Geoff Swaim suffered a scary injury on a blow to the head that also caused his knee to get twisted awkwardly as he fell. Seth DeValve moved into the lead role, while rookie Josh Oliver waits in the wings as he recovers from a hamstring issue. Oliver has a strong profile and is worth a stash in deeper leagues and is likely already rostered in Dynasty formats, but should be if he's not. If he's inactive again and Swaim misses, DeValve would have some deep league streamer appeal against the Bengals.
For New Orleans, it was more underneath throwing from Teddy Bridgewater, and the running back tandem and Michael Thomas dominated the production. Latavius Murray took a short pass for a long touchdown, only to have it called back, while Thomas and Alvin Kamara were the main receiving options with eight and seven receptions.
Ted Ginn did rack up 119 air yards, and has been playing a big role with Tre'Quan Smith struggling to get healthy. There are reports Drew Brees could be back as soon as Week 8, and that will certainly change the shape of the offense in a way that could make Ginn relevant, assuming Brees is healthy enough to throw downfield.
Jared Cook scored for the second straight week but hasn't posted more than 41 receiving yards in a game this year. Chasing those touchdowns — and least before Brees is back — is probably foolhardy.
- Signal: D.J. Chark/Dede Westbrook — solid usage even in bad team situation
- Noise: Jared Cook — touchdowns in two straight (9 targets, 78 yards in the two games combined); Jaguars — 226 total yards
Texans 31 - Chiefs 24
- Snap Notes: Carlos Hyde: 61% (-3% vs. last week's season high), Duke Johnson: 37% (-2% vs. previous season low), Darren Fells: 87% (+8% vs. last week's season high), Jordan Akins: 73% (+3% vs. previous season high), Demarcus Robinson: 86% (-11% vs. last week), Byron Pringle: 59% (-22% vs. last week), Mecole Hardman: 55% (-9% vs. last week), Tyreek Hill: 50% (return from injury), LeSean McCoy: 50% (+3% vs. previous season high, +26% vs. last week's season low), Damien Williams: 38% (-14% vs. previous season low), Darrel Williams: 12% (-10% vs. last week)
- Key Stat: Chiefs — 309 total yards (second fewest in Patrick Mahomes era, had their third fewest in Week 5 vs. the Colts)
This was the matchup we were waiting for, and yet it didn't quite live up to the hype, with Patrick Mahomes again aggravating his ankle injury, both quarterbacks turning the ball over twice and things just not clicking all the way on either side.
Houston pulled it out despite plenty of miscues. Carlos Hyde fumbled early while running into his own blocker, but the Texans stuck with him all day and he posted a strong 26-116-1 line, admittedly against one of the league's weaker rush defenses. Duke Johnson continued to look good, but his snaps are trending the wrong way, despite his receiving touchdown.
Will Fuller was a big story, as he came off an all-time performance in Week 5 to drop or at least fail to catch three potential touchdowns.
Fuller finished with 158 air yards but just a 5-44 line on nine targets. As frustrating as that is, you make your peace with it and you keep him in your starting lineup. If you're on the Watson side of things, you might be more upset frankly, as he could have had yet another monster day. But Watson did produce, most notably with the two rushing scores.
DeAndre Hopkins saw 12 targets but at an aDOT of just 6.9, catching nine for 55 yards. That's a little weird, but his aDOT for the season was 12.0 coming into this game, which isn't far off any prior seasons. The lack of air yards is probably most indicative of their efforts to get him targets, which can require shorter throws like bubble screens. Ideally, though, Watson will start to find him more down the field. I'm not too concerned, especially given how much of a threat Fuller has been over the top the past two weeks.
I called the tight end usage noise after Week 3, but we've reached a point where there's clear signal here. Both Darren Fells and Jordan Akins ran routes on more than 60% of dropbacks for the second straight week, and it seems the Texans are serious about these two tight end formations. We'll have to see if they stick when Kenny Stills is back, but the tight ends have seemingly taken precedence over Keke Coutee, at least.
After not doing much in Weeks 1 and 2, the tight end duo has combined to average 7.25 targets, 76 receiving yards, and 1.2 touchdowns over the past four weeks. The problem? They're splitting that almost right down the middle, with Fells going 16-14-150-3 and Akins 13-10-154-2 in that span. Fells has been more productive over the past couple weeks, so if I was in a position to consider these guys, I might lean toward him in the short term, though I like Akins more in a longer window given Fells is 33 and Akins 27. It's a weird situation, but these guys are seeing targets.
Tyreek Hill returned but played just 50% of the snaps and ran routes on 58% of dropbacks. His stat line didn't look it, as he racked up 10 targets and 171 air yards in that time, posting a 5-80-2 receiving line including an acrobatic long touchdown on a free play where Mahomes knew he had Houston offside and just threw it up. That he posted those numbers while only playing a partial game is a great sign.
Because Hill wasn't a full go, we got action from all three of the other wide receivers. But they all lost snaps from last week, and it leaves things pretty cloudy with early reports having the Chiefs optimistic about Sammy Watkins' status for Week 8. There's just not much in the playing time to indicate what to expect if both Hill and Watkins are healthy; if we go back to Week 1 it's probably Robinson as the main third receiver and then Hardman only mixing in, as Hardman looks like Hill's direct backup. Pringle looks more like Watkins' direct backup, if I had to handicap it, meaning those two would play when the guy in the role ahead of them doesn't.
The backs are also a confusing situation and Week 6 was a pretty big flip from Week 5, when Damien Williams returned. But if we put the two together, we can get a good grip on things here.
LeSean McCoy played a season low snap share last week, and I had this to say:
"This is a hard one to parse, but my two main takeaways are: 1) The Chiefs played from behind, and McCoy is more of the plus script back; 2) McCoy has been playing through an injury, so it may have made some sense to limit him with Damien back in the lineup. In other words, context points toward this not being much of anything for McCoy; it's hard to assume there's any long-term reason, other than perhaps the lost fumble, McCoy would be ceding so many snaps."
McCoy bounced back with a season high snap share and led the backfield pretty easily in what was a plus script early and then a tight game throughout the second half. He finished with just eight carries and two receptions — more on that in a second — but I feel comfortable in my assessment of his general role.
Next, I'm going to go to Darrel Williams, who last week I noted:
"While Darrel didn't play much in Weeks 1 and 2 before Damien's injury, Darrel was more active by comparison in Week 5, playing 22% of the snaps."
In other words, this had been a two-man committee in Weeks 1 and 2, then became a three-man last week. And in Week 6, it looked headed that way, as Darrel played before Damien, catching a 52-yard pass on the Chiefs' third play from scrimmage. But after another target on the second drive, Darrel didn't really play much, and he finished with just seven snaps. Andy Reid's notoriously great at scripting his first 15 plays, and it's notable he worked Darrel in for those snaps, but as the game played out, it was mostly just a two-man committee between Damien and McCoy, at least snaps-wise.
That brings us to Damien, who played his lowest snap share this year at 38%, but he returned in Week 5 to lead the backfield in snaps, and in Week 6 he led the backfield in routes run again, which he has in all four of his active games. With Darrel Williams' role shrinking, we can pretty reasonably surmise Damien Williams is still in a decent role, despite getting just two touches (one did go for a 14-yard touchdown reception).
The reason this all matters, and what I was referencing circling back to with McCoy's workload — is the Chiefs have played two weird games in a row, amassing two of their three lowest total yards figures in the Mahomes era. There seems to be some concern surrounding that, but I'm reading almost nothing into it, especially as Mahomes' ankle has been tweaked in both games.
As to Mahomes' actual play, he's looked mostly fine, just hobbled. And there's reason to believe he actually thought he had a holding penalty (there was a clear hold) and a free play on what wound up going down as his interception, especially given his body language pointing at the defense right after the play:
But while it's doubtful anyone is selling low on Mahomes — even with those two low total yardage outputs this team is still third in the league in total yards and first in yards per play — and especially not on Hill when he just came back and scored twice, the same isn't true about the backs. There seems to be some real concern and a lack of interest in dealing with a committee. But the major reason there have been so few running back touches and so little running back production the past two weeks is the offensive struggles as a whole; Chiefs backs have just 10 high-value touches the past two weeks combined after seeing 11 or more in three of the first four games, and this offense still has the fifth most HVT for the season.
McCoy and Damien Williams are clear buys for me if you can get a bit of a discount, as both should see plenty of high-value touches going forward if I have their roles pegged correctly, and their production should rebound just as soon as the offense's as a whole does (which will probably be next week).
- Signal: Tyreek Hill — 171 air yards on limited playing time; Darren Fells/Jordan Akins — Texans definitely involving the TEs
- Noise: Chiefs — recent offensive output (creates buying opportunity for RBs specifically); Will Fuller — dropped touchdowns (air yards are the signal)
Washington 17 - Dolphins 16
- Snap Notes: Adrian Peterson: 63%(+16% vs. previous season high), Chris Thompson: 22% (-24% vs. previous season low), Paul Richardson: 59% (-21% vs. previous season low), Trey Quinn: 53% (-21% vs. previous season low), Kenyan Drake: 61% (+3% vs. season average), Mark Walton: 42% (+17% vs. previous season high), Kalen Ballage: 5% (-10% vs. previous season low), Albert Wilson: 38% (return from injury)
- Key Stat: Washington — 17-3 lead through three quarters (first time leading in fourth quarter this season)
Do we have to?
Terry McLaurin's a star, but that's not new. We've been bullish on him since the first edition of this column after Week 1, and nothing's changed on the weekly level. His 128 air yards on seven targets were great, and he posted a 4-100-2 line, with a bad drop that cost him perhaps even a bit more.
I don't think I've done my rant on drops this year, but they don't matter other than for the points that were lost on that one play. They are easy to latch onto, but are something that happens far less frequently than, say, normal incomplete passes. They also have no effect on volume, except perhaps in isolated extreme cases. Feel free to safely ignore drops and drop rate as stats, unless you want to intentionally swerve into high drop rate guys that the public is overreacting to, like Mike Evans or Will Fuller.
No one else on Washington had more than 24 receiving yards, as Washington deployed multiple tight ends far more than they had up to this point. That likely had more to do with script than Bill Callahan taking over the team, but we'll see.
Adrian Peterson looked spry, and credit to him for that, but it was against Miami's defense, and Washington will use Chris Thompson more in the negative scripts they usually find themselves in. Peterson racked up 14 of his 23 carries in the second half. Plus, Derrius Guice is also still a possible IR return. Peterson's not a long-term option.
Mark Walton started and got the first three RB touches for Miami across the first two drives, before Kenyan Drake saw his first action on the third drive. Later, Kalen Ballage got back-to-back rushes from the 1 and scored, on two of his four snaps overall. Drake did have a rush from the 6, but this was just the second game of the year any Miami back got green zone touches, and Ballage had two-of-three here and three-of-four back in Week 3 against Dallas.
Drake did ultimately lead the backfield, and he and Walton were very involved in the passing game — 9-6-30 receiving for Drake, 6-5-43 for Walton — but that kind of split with a third back seemingly the preferred green zone option in this kind of offense is clearly bad news.
Ryan Fitzpatrick took over for a struggling Josh Rosen, and Mike Gesicki led the non-RBs with seven targets and 51 receiving yards, while Albert Wilson led with five receptions, Preston Williams with 96 air yards and DeVante Parker got the late touchdown. So it's not just the RBs — we have an unconcentrated passing game on this bad team as well.
If you made me pick a player from the Dolphins to start in Fantasy, it would probably be Gesicki, and I imagine for most that wouldn't be the first or maybe even third name you'd expect me to say. But this is a bad situation.
- Signal: Dolphins — can't start anybody on their team right now
- Noise: Adrian Peterson — 23 rush attempts, 5.1 YPC (all matchup-related)
49ers 20 - Rams 7
- Snap Notes: Dante Pettis: 72% (+9% vs. last week's season high), Tevin Coleman: 55% (+22% vs. last week's season high), Matt Breida: 36% (-1% vs. season average), Raheem Mostert: 9% (-21% vs. previous season low), Malcolm Brown: 68% (+31% vs. previous season high), Darrell Henderson: 32% (+29% vs. previous season high)
- Key Stat: Rams — 157 total yards (57 fewer than any game in McVay era)
I'm starting to buy the "blueprint" stuff way more with the Rams than the Chiefs. Even so, what the 49ers did to them in Week 6 was unprecedented stuff; the Rams' 157 total yards were a low in the 38 games Sean McVay has coached by 57 yards. The 50 plays the Rams ran on offense were the third-fewest in the McVay era.
But for as much as the narrative should be that the 49ers dominated this game — and they certainly did defensively — they struggled to put the Rams away, and Los Angeles had a real shot late, specifically when Jared Goff missed a wide open Gerald Everett for what should have been a walk-in 54-yard touchdown to cut the lead to six with just over two minutes remaining and a timeout in hand. Instead, that 4th-and-6 throw fell (way) incomplete, and the Rams didn't touch the ball again.
That play was indicative of Goff's day, as he was a mess in what was potentially his worst game as a pro, even considering the lowest points of his rookie year. There's not much to say about the receiving options considering Goff completed just 13 passes for 78 yards; maybe "Tyler Higbee led the team with 25 receiving yards" does the trick.
We've been highlighting how much volume has been in a passing game that over the past two weeks has totaled 74 completions and 912 yards, but the dropoff this week was regression overkill. This team still has plenty of passing upside, even if defenses can slow them down a bit more these days.
As for the backs, Malcolm Brown easily led in snaps, while Darrell Henderson worked in for a few series. McVay really likes rotating his backs by series, presumably to limit substitutions and keep the pace up, but the way that typically plays out is with a lead back and then a backup who plays a couple series per half.
That limited Henderson's playing time a bit, but he looked like the better of the two backs, and frankly better than Todd Gurley has looked this year. Henderson rushed six times for 39 yards while Brown rushed 11 times for 40, and Henderson saw both RB targets, catching one for 9 yards. He's absolutely worth stashing as we see how things play out in this offense going forward.
As I alluded to, the 49ers offense wasn't exactly fantastic in this one, more or less just doing enough to get the win. Tevin Coleman led a backfield split that was mostly just him and Matt Breida, and if it sticks as a two-man committee going forward that would be big for both of them. Raheem Mostert played his fewest snaps of the season by a considerable margin.
Coleman handled all five green zone touches, though he struggled to convert at the goal line after an early touchdown. He also ran more routes than Breida, 16 to 12, though Breida saw four targets to Coleman's three. Neither back was particularly efficient in terms of yards, but Coleman's seven high-value touches have to be seen as a good sign.
George Kittle didn't show any ill effects from the groin injury he picked up in practice, as he played a full snap share and led the team with eight targets and 103 receiving yards. Jimmy Garoppolo mostly stayed underneath, and was something of a game manager, though perhaps not that effective of one given he turned the ball over twice. Garoppolo's 4.5 aDOT was a season low and he's been below 7.0 in four of five games, with a 6.4 aDOT for the season. That's not great for Fantasy value in the passing game.
Dante Pettis came out of the bye last week to play his highest snap share, then exceeded that this week. Deebo Samuel led the wide receivers in routes, but Pettis was just two behind him.
- Signal: 49ers — two-man running back committee; Tevin Coleman — seven high-value touches; Dante Pettis — playing a lot more since the bye
- Noise: Rams — Week 6 offensive production; Jared Goff — 78 passing yards
Cardinals 34 - Falcons 33
- Snap Notes: Chase Edmonds: 29% (+4% vs. season average), Devonta Freeman: 72% (+7% vs. season average)
- Key Stat: David Johnson — 9 HVT (tied second most in Week 6)
The battle of two of our favorite defenses to target for Fantasy went about as expected, with 67 total points and plenty of Fantasy value, though a late missed extra point from Matt Bryant cost us a shot at overtime and even more fireworks. Both of these teams continue to look like offenses that can support plenty of production, especially because their defenses can't stop anyone and will force their offenses to need to keep producing.
I noted earlier that David Johnson is second in the league in RB air yards, and he continues to see targets down the field, including a 14-yard touchdown on a slot fade in the fourth quarter. While he hasn't been particularly efficient running the ball most weeks, he racks up high-value touches and continues to produce for Fantasy. His Week 6 line of 12-34-1 rushing included three high-value rushes, while his 8-6-68-1 receiving line would be considered good for a receiver. And it wasn't that much of a spike receiving game — he's averaging 6.8 targets, 5.0 receptions, 52.5 yards and has three receiving scores in six games.
Chase Edmonds was also productive, and they got the two backs on the field together a bit, though Edmonds didn't really see much of a snap uptick despite the discussion about Johnson's health. He was plenty productive though, popping off for 67 yards on his seven touches, including a 2-yard touchdown reception. He's definitely worth holding, but I'm not sure he has much flex appeal right now; he's been very efficient on his touches and scored two weeks in a row, but the role just isn't that big.
With Christian Kirk out, Week 6 looked a lot like Week 5 in the receiving corps, as they incorporated their tight ends more and it was KeeSean Johnson and Trent Sherfield outisde with Larry Fitzgerald in the slot in three receiver sets, plus a bit of Pharoh Cooper. It will be interesting to see if they keep the tight ends involved when Kirk is healthy, but Maxx Williams and Charles Clay are splitting those reps so it's not a situation to target, at least not yet, even as Williams scored.
Predictably, Fitzgerald led the downfield options with an 8-6-69 line, and outside of Damiere Byrd (who played the fifth-most snaps of the team's wide receivers in his return from a two-game absence) catching a 58-yarder, no other WR or TE had more than 40 receiving yards. In other words, it was Fitz and DJ leading the passing game.
Kyler Murray played an exceptionally efficient game, going 27-for-37 for 340 and three scores, and adding 32 rushing yards. He's notably taken just one sack over the past two weeks after 20 in the first four, and an even bigger game is coming soon enough.
Meanwhile, Matt Ryan probably out-played him with a 30-for-36 for 356 and four line. This is fun for Falcons fans:
Atlanta is the same offense as ever, which I say every week. Austin Hooper smashed the great matchup with an 8-8-117-1 line, and there is and/or will be a lot of discussion about whether he's a top tier tight end now that he's continued this run of play for several weeks and sits atop the current TE leaderboard in virtually any scoring system. I'm still of the mind the targets fluctuate in this offense and while he's certainly taken a step forward, he's a notch below the difference-makers for me but still a clear TE1 and every-week starter at the position. I expect he'll be in that TE6 or TE7 range the rest of the way.
Devonta Freeman had the best game of his season, and caught two second-half touchdowns to go along with a solid 19-88 rushing line in a plus matchup. Julio Jones went 9-8-108, Calvin Ridley found the end zone with a 6-4-48-1 line, and Mohamed Sanu was the odd man out this week. No one else on the roster caught more than one pass. All of this is very normal for the Falcons.
- Signal: Cardinals/Falcons — target these defenses
- Noise: Chase Edmonds — hyper-efficient lately, not really playing enough to back up the production (he's a poor man's 2018 Austin Ekeler)
Broncos 16 - Titans 0
- Snap Notes: Royce Freeman: 61% (-1% vs. season high), Phillip Lindsay: 47% (+2 vs. season low), Emmanuel Sanders: 40% (minor knee injury), A.J. Brown: 57% (-8% vs. last week's season high)
- Key Stat: Broncos — 56 HVT for the season (third most in NFL behind NE, LAC)
The Titans got shut out, Marcus Mariota got benched, and the team finished with just 204 total yards, all of which is important context for understanding what the Broncos did on offense.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for 26 rushes and seven receptions on Joe Flacco's 18 completions. In recent weeks we've seen a slight lean toward preferring Freeman in the passing game, and this week Freeman ran 21 routes to Lindsay's nine, while Lindsay continued to be the lead back on the ground and in the green zone, but those are by no means exclusive roles.
Both of these guys have value, but this is a dormant volcano until and if one misses time. They are splitting the high-value work, but should one miss time and the other presumably earned a larger piece of this pie, that guy c ould be a top-five back. Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler lead the league with 8.3 and 8.2 high-value touches per game, while Alvin Kamara slots in third down at 6.3. Lindsay and Freeman are splitting 9.0 per game between them at 4.7 and 4.3.
Thinking bigger picture, the reason to target these guys as buys — which I've advocated for several weeks — is all about that potential payoff. Trying to predict injury or role change involves a lot of luck, but understanding the potential payoff takes far less. Rather than try to predict future opportunity at a highly volatile position, we can tailor our stashes toward something we can reasonably estimate — that potential payoff. It's not dissimilar from looking at futures odds and identifying a longshot you think has a similar chance of winning a championship as the favorites; none of the bets are sure things, but we gravitate toward finding that 25/1 (or 100/1) team with a reasonable shot.
With little downfield volume from Flacco and Emmanuel Sanders exiting early to a minor knee injury that isn't expected to cost him much (if any) time, Courtland Sutton did his thing as the No. 1, earning 62% of the team's air yards on his eight targets. Only Diggs had a higher percentage of his team's air yards in Week 6. Flacco was complimentary of Sutton afterward, saying: "When everybody pictures what they want a really good receiver to look like and be, it's him ... He is a legit No. 1 wide receiver." Sutton's 4-76 receiving line is reflective of the game being easily in hand, but he remains a strong weekly Fantasy option. No other wide receiver or tight end had more than 25 receiving yards, though I continue to hold out hope Noah Fant's consistently strong route totals translate later this year.
There really isn't much to break down for Tennessee. It was an obviously bad situation for a TRAP back like Derrick Henry. With the 204 total yards as a team, no skill position player went for more than 50 yards from scrimmage. The usage was pretty consistent, though A.J. Brown gave back some opportunity after season highs in snap and route share last week. He had a 42-yard reception that featured a ton of after-the-catch physicality but was called back by an offensive pass interference. I still love his potential and still worry about how the offense could limit that.
Ryan Tannehill was better than Mariota, and perhaps he could breathe some life into this offense, but it's not clear yet who will start Week 7.
- Signal: Broncos RBs — still racking up a ton of HVT; Courtland Sutton — still racking up a ton of air yards
- Noise: Titans — this is the floor, but they won't be this bad most weeks
Jets 24 - Cowboys 22
- Snap Notes: Demaryius Thomas: 81% (+3% vs. last week's season high), Tavon Austin: 93% (+56% vs. previous season high), Cedrick Wilson: 61% (+42% vs. previous season high), Amari Cooper: 4% (quad injury)
- Key Stat: Ezekiel Elliott — 10 HVT, 6 green zone touches (both led NFL in Week 6)
Sam Darnold's return went about as expected, as he continued the improvement from his rookie season he showed throughout the preseason and was a huge lift to the offense as a whole. I've been calling all the Jets' skill position players buys for some time now, and a big part of that is after hosting New England and heading to Jacksonville the next two weeks, the Jets play one of the softest six-game stretches of you'll ever see against Miami, the Giants, Washington, Oakland, Cincinnati and Miami again. There will be plenty of Fantasy value in this offense over the next couple of months.
In Week 6, Demaryius Thomas held onto the full-time role we first saw in Week 5, as all five Jets in their standard 11 personnel played at least 80% of the snaps. That's an important note I'll keep driving home because it keeps the production concentrated.
Jamison Crowder put up a 9-6-98 line for his second strong output in Darnold games, while Robby Anderson hit on a 92-yard touchdown to turn in an 8-5-125-1 line. They were the main two receiving options, with Thomas going 5-4-62 and tight end Ryan Griffin catching a touchdown to finish 3-3-28-1.
This is about to be expected, although I doubt Le'Veon Bell will see just one target most weeks; he ran 27 routes to Ty Montgomery's six, so don't read too much into Montgomery seeing three targets to Bell's one. Darnold targeted Bell nine times back in Week 1.
A big ramification of the offensive improvement is the potential for Bell to see some green zone work after no Jets back had a green zone touch in any of the games Darnold missed. Bell punched in a 2-yard run here and has all three of the RB green zone rush attempts for the season, as expected. His role maintains the huge upside we've been highlighting for weeks and I fully expect him to be a top five back the rest of the way given the schedule the Jets face.
Ezekiel Elliott got 28 carries in a game they trailed throughout, averaging 3.75 per rush. Part of that was likely related to Dak Prescott being without either of his starting tackles, but Dak did throw a lot in second half catch-up mode, and got a late rushing score to salvage a decent day. Elliott got six green zone touches and totaled 10 high-value touches, both of which led the league in Week 10.
The Cowboys passing attack was also without Randall Cobb and then Amari Cooper left after just three snaps and didn't return, leaving Dak to work with Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson as two of his top three receivers. Given that, it was frankly a bit disappointing Michael Gallup didn't do more to separate himself in a plus matchup.
Gallup went 7-4-48 while Jason Witten had 7-5-57 and each of Austin, Wilson and Elliott had six targets and five catches in a very balanced passing attack. I'm still very bullish on Gallup, and I don't want to read too much into a small sample, but this seems to indicate his production to date might be a bit dependent on Cooper drawing No. 1 attention.
- Signal: Jets — concentrated production
- Noise: Ty Montgomery/Le'Veon Bell — Montgomery out-targeted Bell three to one but Bell ran 27 routes to Montgomery's six (the target split is the noise, trust the routes)
Steelers 24 - Chargers 17
- Snap Notes: James Conner: 50% (-11% vs. season average, quad injury), Benny Snell: 48% (+38% vs. previous season high), Melvin Gordon: 60% (+14% vs. last week's debut), Austin Ekeler: 45% (-20% vs. previous season low), Hunter Henry: 66% (return from injury)
- Key Stat: Devlin Hodges — 91 air yards (second fewest by a quarterback that played a full game this season)
The Chargers put on a clinic in how to lose a game Sunday night, giving up an unforced defensive touchdown on an early backward swing pass, following that up with an interception on the next possession and a short field touchdown that featured seven straight touches for James Conner, and then never really threatening offensively on top of that.
Plenty of credit should go to the Steelers defense for that last part. Devlin Hodges didn't throw downfield because he never had to, but the one time he did air it out further than 25 yards downfield it was picked off. He only threw two more passes further than 15 yards of depth and finished 15-of-20 for 132 yards. He threw more passes at or behind the line of scrimmage (nine) than five or more yards downfield (seven).
I highlight that because at this point JuJu Smith-Schuster is a screaming buy. His situation is bad, yes, but the Steelers can't run this offense all year, no matter how good their defense has looked. It also sounds like Mason Rudolph will be back before too long — possibly this week — and Rudolph should be expected to eventually air it out, if not a lot then at least more than Hodges.
But more importantly, you don't have the age-adjusted production Smith-Schuster did in college and then come into the NFL and start producing at 20 years old and produce consistently for two years at every chance you get and not be a special player. We often fit narratives to recent production, and there's a lot of confirmation bias on the offseason concerns about Smith-Schuster being capable of being a No. 1 without Antonio Brown right now, and the latest I've seen is Smith-Schuster can't beat man coverage.
But some of the game situations the Steelers have been in are situations even established elite talents wouldn't produce in. Smith-Schuster's two games with limited production were a wildcat heavy game and this one, both in prime time. Among quarterbacks who have started and played the full game, Rudolph's 95 air yards in Week 4 and Hodges' 91 in Week 6 are the third and second fewest this season, behind only Kirk Cousins' ridiculous 10-attempt game in Week 1.
Meanwhile, Smith-Schuster's actually been pretty solid with what he's had to work with, having put up between 75 and 85 yards in each of the other four games; he's seen seven or eight targets in each compared to four in each of Week 4 and Week 6. He's averaging an elite 8.9 yards per target for a guy with a low aDOT. You buy elite talents in bad situations because situation can turn around faster than we want to believe — we just saw it pay off for Stefon Diggs this week.
That also probably makes Diontae Johnson worth a low-cost buy or add, because he's continued to be the clear second downfield option here. Donte Moncrief made a nice diving catch, but even with James Washington out he played sparingly. The Steelers opted for Johnny Holton and more two tight end sets.
Conner was the only Steeler with more than two receptions, catching all seven targets he saw, but he left the game early to cut short what could have been a huge night. It already was, to be fair, given he racked up over 100 total yards and two scores to go along with those receptions. Benny Snell got extended run with Jaylen Samuels out and Conner ailing, and looked good. He'll be the No. 2 for several more weeks and is a solid stash in case Conner's many bumps and bruises this season cause him to miss time.
Last week, in Melvin Gordon's return, Austin Ekeler led the backfield in snaps and notably ran 33 routes to Gordon's 18. In Week 6, Gordon played far more snaps and ran 27 routes to Ekeler's 20. Ekeler had at least seven high-value touches in each of the first five games of the season, but we can pour one out for that role because he had just three in Week 6. I'd held out hope the split would be more even, but it appears we're looking at the 2018 usage going forward.
Of course, after the Chargers offense mostly flowed through Ekeler and Keenan Allen the first few weeks, it has looked pretty bad since Gordon returned. Allen's taken to social media to seemingly comment on his lack of recent targets, and he's been a squeaky wheel who got grease before. The Chargers do have some tough secondaries coming up with the Titans, Bears and Packers in the next three weeks.
The comeback attempt flowed through Hunter Henry (9-8-100-2) in his return and Mike Williams (10-5-72 with 192 air yards). Henry ran routes on 78% of dropbacks, and his immediate production thrusts him back into the second tier at the tight end position.
- Signal: Austin Ekeler — back to his 2018 role; Hunter Henry — full route share to back up the production, safe to roll out as a TE1 going forward
- Noise: Steelers — complete lack of air yards in two of last three games is unsustainable
Packers 23 - Lions 22
- Snap Notes: Jake Kumerow: 88% (+21% vs. last week's season high), Geronimo Allison: 43% (injury), Allen Lazard: 23% (+5% vs. previous season high), Jamaal Williams: 53% (return from concussion), Aaron Jones: 49% (-18% vs. last week), Kerryon Johnson: 73% (over 70% in three straight, under 60% in first two before C.J. Anderson's release)
- Key Stat: Matthew Stafford: 10.3 average throw depth in Week 6 (over 9.0 in all five games)
The Lions dominated Monday Night Football early, and also mostly late, but still came away without what would have been a key road victory. Part of that was that they settled for early field goals, and gifted the Packers a touchdown on Green Bay's first strong drive by having 12 men on the field on a field goal try to keep the drive alive. Part of it was the refereeing, which will get plenty of discussion elsewhere — but for whatever it's worth my stance is it was among the worst we've seen in a long time.
Aaron Jones fumbled early, then dropped a wide open potential 33-yard receiving touchdown in the second quarter. Jamaal Williams came on immediately after that drop, and wound up scoring on that drive, racking up 23 yards on four touches. Jones started the next drive, but Williams would come in after two plays and hit a 45-yard run that solidified a timeshare for the rest of the game.
Jones didn't disappear because of Williams' hot hand, but he ultimately played fewer snaps and was out-touched 18 to 15. I'm not sure we can really call this signal, though it follows the pattern from earlier in the season and Williams ultimately out-produced Jones both as a runner (14-104 vs. 11-47) and a receiver (5-4-32-1 vs. 7-4-13), so it's hard to imagine Williams won't stay involved next week. It's a fluid situation, though the signal here is plenty of running back production overall.
If there's anyone who had a worse game than Jones, it was probably Darrius Shepherd, who lost a fumble on a punt return and later slipped and took a pass that could have easily gone for a touchdown off his facemask for an easy interception. Shepherd was only in because the Packers were extremely thin at receiver; Davante Adams was out, Geronimo Allison was knocked from the game, and even Marquez Valdes-Scantling left the game briefly after a week of nursing multiple soft tissue injuries, but he did return. Jake Kumerow actually led the Packers skill position players in snaps, but didn't produce much. Shepherd's miscues opened the door for former UDFA Allen Lazard to get a shot, and he capitalized with a 5-4-65-1 receiving line (while running just 11 routes) that led the Packers and included a key late touchdown that put the Packers in position to complete their comeback.
On one hand, Lazard was very productive at Iowa State with an early breakout age and an underrated prospect profile, but on the other he got his shot only after five other wide receivers on the depth chart. I like Lazard as a stash in deeper leagues and there's certainly upside if he earned himself more playing time, but he only played 17 snaps late and could just as easily wind up buried again.
Lazard led the team in receiving because the passing attack was very balanced. Valdes-Scantling made an impressive play on a deep route to pull in a 46-yard catch, but was pretty quiet overall. Marcedes Lewis out-produced Jimmy Graham, though Graham did see five targets including two in the end zone, both of which he probably should have caught. Rodgers has been targeting his backs a lot in recent weeks, likely due to a lack of faith in his downfield weapons, and that RB duo combined for 12 targets.
Kerryon Johnson continues to see a significant workload bump since the C.J. Anderson release compared to his first two weeks, going over a 70% snap share for the third straight game after rates in the 50s in Weeks 1 and 2. Johnson got all three RB green zone touches for the Lions, converting a 1-yard touchdown run, and now has all 12 of the Lions' green zone touches since Week 3. That plus his four targets created a solid floor, even as he struggled with rushing efficiency and caught just two of those targets.
Matthew Stafford continued his downfield passing, averaging 10.3 yards of depth per throw, making five straight games with an aDOT of at least 9.2 to start the season. He wasn't particularly efficient outside a 66-yard completion to Kenny Golladay and a 58-yarder to little-used Marvin Hall on Hall's only target, but the verticality of the Lions' passing game has been one of the more notable early-season trends. Golladay racked up 122 air yards, posting a 9-5-121 line, and he now sits fourth in the league in air yards per game among players that have played at least two games at 120.8.
Marvin Jones also racked up 85 air yards on five targets, but didn't catch his downfield looks, finishing with a disappointing 2-17 line. T.J. Hockenson caught four of six passes for 21 yards including a designed quick hitter near the goal line where he went down at the 1. He remains in play as a TE streamer.
- Signal: Packers — plenty of running back production overall; Lions — plenty of downfield passing
- Noise: Packers — RB split (who knows what to expect next week?)
So who should you sit and start this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 7 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.
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We spend a lot of time talking about which quarterbacks to stream each week. Heath Cummings...
We've seen flashes from Darius Slayton, but he put together a huge performance in Week 10,...
Ben Gretch focuses on what matters for Fantasy players as he recaps every game from Week 10,...
Chris Towers looks into the biggest winners and losers from Sunday's action, beginning with...
Jody Smith is among the most accurate Fantasy Football experts in the country.
Is it time to give up on one of our early-round favorites? Has Kyler Murray emerged as an elite...