Matthew Stafford passed for the fifth most yards in NFL history last season. He threw for the seventh most touchdowns.
Let that sink in for a moment.
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This is the same player who now has more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five) through six games.
This is the same player who entered the fourth quarter in Week 6 with 91 yards passing.
This is the same player whose mechanics have been so out of whack, it’s hard to say which part of his current motion reminds you the most of Vince Young.
If not for Juan Castillo revamping his scheme mid-domination two weekends ago, we might not just be talking about a severe slump for the Lions’ fourth-year quarterback, but an early-career crossroads.
Then again, if not for Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell losing fumbles in the red zone last evening, we might be talking about a struggling young quarterback who continued to show signs of emerging from the worst stretch of his young career. A gifted signal caller who threw for multiple scores (theoretically) against one of the league’s most fearsome defenses on the road.
Yes, Stafford still seemed to view setting his feet as more of a recommendation than a must, and didn’t deliver any of the big plays he specialized in last season.
But things are not nearly as dire as the shaky statlines and Twitter doom would lead you to believe. Is Stafford playing anywhere near the level he did in 2011? No. Is even approaching those numbers this season a realistic possibility? Probably not.
But the sky isn’t falling. 35. That’s how many career starts Stafford now has under his belt. That’s otherwise known as just two more than Sam Bradford and 12 fewer than Josh Freeman.
A stretch like this was hard to see coming because Stafford was so magnificent in 2011, but perhaps it should have been expected. Stafford’s mechanical flaws have been hard to swallow, but so have his receiver’s drops and the Lions’ schedule. Of Detroit’s first six opponents, five will finish Week 7 in the top-11 in total defense. Three are in the top 10 in sacks.
Not that this explains away Stafford’s shaky day against the Titans or failure to throw for multiple scores in all but one game.
But if Stafford is talented enough to throw for 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns as a 23 year old, here’s guessing he’s got what it takes to get his game on track as a 24 year old.
Of course, the Seahawks’ feisty pass defense is on tap for Week 8. Nothing is ever easy in this league, even if Stafford made it look that way last season. But it’s not hard to believe that he’ll right the ship, and soon.
Goodbye To Burleson
If Stafford is to salvage his season, he’ll be doing so without one of his favorite targets. Here are a few things Nate Burleson is not: quick, big, reasonably paid or prone to tacking on yards after the catch.
Here’s one thing he is: reliable. That’s why his season-ending broken leg is most unwelcome news for one of the league’s most out-of-sync offenses.
Including last night, Burleson has caught fewer than four passes just seven times in 22 games since Week 1 2011. He’s been a sure-handed safety valve underneath, one that now needs to be replaced.
Thankfully, the Lions have a readymade fill-in in rookie Ryan Broyles. The NCAA’s all-time receptions leader, Broyles is finally near 100 percent health after tearing his ACL last November. He immediately stepped up in Burleson’s absence last evening, catching three passes for 51 yards and Detroit’s lone touchdown.
A possible slot machine, Broyles is worth a flier in a large majority of formats, particularly PPR leagues.
MJD And The L-Word
It’s fast becoming the NFL’s most feared word: Lisfranc. A mid-foot injury, Lisfranc ailments will knock you out indefinitely if they’re a sprain, for the year if they’re a break.
Maurice Jones-Drew might have one, though the Jaguars are staying mum on his status. You might remember that it was this time last season that Darren McFadden went down, never to return, with a Lisfranc sprain.
It could be a few days before we know for sure what MJD is dealing with, but here’s one thing we do know: if you’re owner without a waiver bid in on Rashad Jennings, you’re going to be one unhappy camper in Week 8.
There Are No Winners
Not in this competition. If the question is “Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn,” the answer should be “option three.” Alas, the Chiefs will roll with Quinn coming off their Week 8 bye.
Let’s be clear: Cassel has worked hard to earn a benching. 14 turnovers and a 66.2 QB rating through five games would be enough to make Jimmy Clausen blush.
But Quinn? The same player who could manage just 180 yards and an 0:2 TD:INT ratio against the Bucs’ 31st ranked pass defense in Week 6? The same quarterback with a 52.9 completion percentage and 5.4 YPA through 393 career pass attempts?
He’s no better, and neither are the Chiefs. They might not be until GM Scott Pioli is handed his walking papers.
Quick Slants: The Saints “feel good” about Jimmy Graham’s Week 8 status, but we won’t know if those feelings are justified until they return to practice on Wednesday. … The early signs point to Trent Richardson (ribs) suiting up this weekend, but coach Pat Shurmur hasn’t ruled out giving him a game off. T-Rich is day-to-day, certain to be questionable on the injury report, and highly unlikely to be his normal self against the Chargers. … Matt Hasselbeck will make another start in Week 8, and beat writer Jim Wyatt wouldn’t rule out Jake Locker (shoulder) “(continuing) to get more time to heal" as long as Hasselbeck is guiding the Titans to victory. … Donald Brown (knee) is “close” to returning, but trending toward missing one more game. … Chris Cooley is officially back with the Redskins, but he’s also officially well off the fantasy radar. … Shonn Greene (head) is “fine.” … Blaine Gabbert (shoulder) is expected to start in Week 8. … Pierre Garcon’s (foot) status is as muddled as ever.
Fantasy Fix: Week 8's top pickups
Kay Adams (@heykayadams) and Matt Stroup (@mattstroup) look at the best available waiver wire pickups for Week 8.
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