Week 7 Review: Gronkowski's Much Anticipated Return
I’ve never been a Cutler fan, but I finally started to buy in and what happened? He got hurt. My heart sank. Worse, I’ve always been an Arian Foster fan and he too left early with an injury. Surely I’m not alone this week in asking the fantasy Gods, “Why me?” If you had one or both, I feel your pain. Hopefully some of your other players panned out and salvaged a respectable fantasy day for your team. At least the silver lining here is that Foster and Cutler are on a bye next week. Even so, Cutler may be in trouble. His injury has the look of a multi-week issue and he’s heading for an MRI on Monday.
It wasn’t all bad news on Sunday. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights from Week 7 action.
1. Tom Brady vs. Geno Smith, who you got?
Even the most delusional Jets fan (and I count myself among them) wouldn’t have picked Geno to come out on top in this one. Maybe they win the game, but for Geno to outscore Brady with Rob Gronkowski back in the lineup? That seemed a little farfetched. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Brady continued to underwhelm (he now has one touchdown in his last three games), while Geno was able to exploit an injury depleted Patriots defense on his way to a solid fantasy stat line (233/1/1, plus 32 rushing yards and a score on the ground). Brady was inaccurate all day. Couple that with ineffective line play against a solid Jets front and the result is a poor statistical day. As Gronkowski gets back into the swing of things, his presence should bolster the Patriots offense as his chemistry with Brady continues to be re-established. It’s hard to trust Brady at this point. It’s almost equally as hard to bench him. Proceed with caution.
We saw solid play from Andy Dalton (372/3/0) and if his deep ball was even remotely accurate, it could have been a much bigger day. Robert Griffin III looked good (298/2/1) and his increased presence as a runner is the real story here as he added 84 yards on the ground. Matthew Stafford connected with Calvin Johnson for some monster plays leading to 357 yards and three scores. Aaron Rodgers (260/3/0) was in the midst of a pedestrian day until late strikes to Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin turned it around. While not statistically exciting Case Keenum (271/1/0) certainly played well in his first career NFL start. After losing Arian Foster early on, he still managed to keep the Texans in it and didn’t turn the ball over until being stripped on the team’s final drive. He’s still only relevant in the deepest of formats. It’s borderline even then.
And finally, those who underwhelmed. Ben Roethlisberger (160/1/0) continued his mostly terrible season, although the Steelers did manage to scrape together their second consecutive win. Carson Palmer (258/1/2) isn’t who the Cardinals thought he was. Even so, he’s not their biggest problem. Their running game has been abysmal. It’s time to get Andre Ellington the ball more. Sam Bradford has played well most of the season, but Sunday wasn’t his day as he threw for just 255 yards and left early with a knee injury. Anyone hoping to plug him in as a bye week play may need to look elsewhere. Tony Romo (317/1/2) continued to throw the ball for a bunch of yards, but only finding the end zone once always hurts. Last, but not least, Cam Newton threw for just 204 yards Sunday. He added a touchdown, but also lost a fumble and didn’t get much going on the ground. I find it amazing that a starting quarterback can play an entire game, win, and only attempt 17 passes. It is what it is though. Cam is a weekly boom or bust play and he is nearly impossible to bench with a clear conscious.
2. Calvin Johnson explodes for 9/155/2.
His deep touchdown grab in traffic was what really made fantasy owner’s days. He’s been quiet for most of the season, mostly due to nagging injuries. If he can stay healthy from here on out, he’ll continue to be an every week Top Five receiver.
Now that I’ve stated the obvious, let’s take a look at Vincent Jackson. He was targeted an absurd 22 times on his way to a 10/138/2 day. With Mike Glennon under center, it appears that Jackson will be an every week WR1, no matter the matchup.
Injuries led to the emergence of Harry Douglas (7/149/1) and Jarrett Boykin (8/103/1). With Julio Jones done for the year, Douglas should continue to have a large role in the Falcons offense. Boykin should also continue to see an increased workload. He filled in taking on the injured Randall Cobb’s role. When James Jones returns, Boykin may see a bit of a dip in production. Either way, he is still a must-own with the Packers receivers being so depleted. The loss of Jermichael Finley to what appeared to be a serious injury Sunday only reinforces that.
Terrance Williams (6/71/1) started ahead of Miles Austin and had a solid day. Kendall Wright (9/98/0) continues to have a quiet, but solid, fantasy season. Finally, Jeremy Kerley (8/97/1) drew 10 targets as the Jets beat the Pattiots. All five (Boykin and Douglas included) should be on your radar moving forward. Douglas and Boykin are must-owns and the others are solid bye week fill-ins. Williams and Wright have been impressive as their roles continue to grow.
3. A pair of rushers find the end zone three times, only one helps anyone.
Both Matt Forte and Roy Helu Jr. found their way into the end zone three times this week. For Forte and the Bears it was out of necessity, as their passing attack was lacking without Cutler (even if Josh McCown was a respectable 14/20). Helu on the other hand was just frustrating. Alfred Morris owners were screaming at their televisions all day long as Helu vultured touchdown after touchdown. Don’t expect this to be an every week phenomenon. He has averaged about 12 touches over the last three weeks, however. Even so, he shouldn't be on anyone's radar outside of PPR leagues.
One hundred yard rushing performances continue to be the exception rather than the rule this season. With two games left on the docket at the time of this article, only Chris Ivory and Ryan Mathews broke the century mark in Week 7. Ivory was the clear workhorse back for the Jets Sunday, out-touching battery-mate Bilal Powell 35-3. His 3.1 yards per carry leaves something to be desired, but he should be owned in all leagues from here on out as running backs have been hard to come by so far this season. Mathews is tough to trust on a weekly basis since he is a non-factor in the passing game. Danny Woodhead is still the back to own in San Diego, especially in PPR formats.
Jacquizz Rodgers was Darren Sproles-esque en route to a two score day. He only rushed for 16 yards, but he added eight catches for 46 yards. He should continue to factor into the Falcons offense moving forward. Frank Gore (70/2), Eddie Lacy (85/1), and Chris Johnson (39/0; also caught 4/71/1) were all solid plays this week. Don’t let CJ?K fool you. I not for one big play late in the game, his day would have been a total bust. Gore continues to be solid. For those astute enough to scoop him up in the third or fourth round of your drafts, you continue to reap the rewards. He isn’t flashy, but he’s a good bet for 10 or more points week in and week out.
Fred Jackson continued his solid play after returning from a scary knee injury. Zac Stacy had a good day and he’s the clear workhorse at this point in St. Louis. Both are solid bye week plays next week with some key guys having the week off.
4. Rob Gronkowski’s long awaited return doesn’t disappoint.
Gronk played on just about two-thirds of New England’s offensive snaps and put together a solid eight for 114 on a ridiculous 17 targets. As the weeks pass, he should continue to get more comfortable with Brady and the offense. He’s locked in as a Top Five tight end from here on out. Consider him not finding the end zone this week to be an apparition. If you got lucky and snagged Julius Thomas or Jordan Cameron along with Gronk, it’s time to make your move.
Jordan Reed (9/134/1) emerged this week. While his tremendous day probably won’t be the norm, he is still an intriguing option with all the byes on the horizon. I’d consider him one of the top adds off the waiver wire this week. Jordan Cameron (7/55/1) returned to form this week after back-to-back down games. Jermichael Finley (5/72/1) had a good day before a nasty looking injury ended his day prematurely. If he misses any time (which seems likely), Reed is out there in the majority of leagues.
With Jimmy Graham on a bye and Julius Thomas still to play, we’ve had a quiet Sunday so far at the tight end position. Even so, tight ends have been surprisingly deeper than expected to this point in the season.
Hopefully the injury bug didn’t bite you too bad this week. After six weeks of escaping major injuries, I finally got hit hard in Week 7. Fingers-crossed that Cutler and Foster can get healthy in their upcoming bye.