If you can believe it, Jameis Winston actually entered Week 9 in the midst of what was by many measures his best statistical season. Both his 61.8 completion percentage and 88.3 QB ratings were on pace to be new career highs, while his 2.4 interception percentage would be a new career low. He had posted four 300-yard performances in seven appearances, more than he had managed in either of his first two campaigns. The decent numbers belied what was generally considered a sub-par campaign.
Sunday, perception grew closer to reality. After starting things off with a bizarre, some might say inane, pre-game speech, Winston embarked on a truly dismal half of football, completing 7-of-13 passes for 67 scoreless yards as the Bucs fell behind 16-3 in New Orleans. Battling through a shoulder injury, Winston simply wasn’t accurate, sailing would-be deep balls out of bounds and displaying poor ball placement on even some of his completions. The Bucs threw in the towel after halftime, throwing Winston’s Week 10 status into doubt.
Winston has never missed a game, but has now failed to finish two of his past four starts. With the fully #exposed Bucs sitting at 2-6, why should they further risk their (still somehow only) 23-year-old quarterback’s health? There’s also the matter of his psyche. Speaking after the dust settled, Winston sounded bewildered and broken. He doesn’t seem to be in the headspace to fight through it and “grow” right now. Physically and mentally, at least a one-game rest would probably do him well.
If Winston does sit against the Jets, it would mean the 117th career start for Ryan Fitzpatrick in a “revenge game” against the team that … sort of revived his career then paid him well in 2016? (Revenge narratives can admittedly be fuzzy.) Fitzpatrick would surely be generous to his ex-teammates in the form of turnovers, but also likely attack downfield enough to get Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and Cameron Brate their fantasy numbers.
Five Week 9 Storylines
Christian McCaffrey shows signs of life. The Panthers said they traded Kelvin Benjamin to spread the field out and spark the running game. At least for one week, it worked, as McCaffrey set new season highs across the board, in both rate and counting stats. His 15 carries were nearly double any total he had posted since Week 1, while both the 20-touch game and rushing touchdown were the first of his NFL career. McCaffrey’s mini breakout came as Jonathan Stewart collapsed, turning 11 carries into just 21 yards while losing two fumbles. McCaffrey still wasn’t quite the player the Panthers drafted, as he mostly remained quiet after contact and wasn’t putting anybody on skates in the open field. It was a baby step in the right direction, one he could improve on in Week 10 against the Dolphins.
Kareem Hunt held under 10 carries for second time in four games. What Andy Reid was doing was unclear. Hunt entered halftime with just six totes. He somehow halved that instead of doubling it after the break, even though the game remained close and the time of possession battle was nearly 50-50. Unless Reid is trying to manage Hunt’s workload in an effort to keep him fresh — something he has not said publicly — Hunt’s usage simply didn’t make any sense against Dallas' soft defense. Reid has the Chiefs’ Week 10 bye to ponder how to use his sensational rookie in Week 11 against the Giants. Best guess? Overcorrection and dominance.
Tom Savage dumpster fires against the Colts. The good news: Savage finally got the first touchdown of his career. The bad news: It came after he entered the fourth quarter 8-of-26 for 81 yards. For the fourth time in as many NFL starts, Savage simply didn’t have it, playing the game at grass-growing speed while displaying zero anticipation and little accuracy on his throws. It was not a performance anyone in the Texans organization could have found tenable. They need to turn to T.J. Yates or Matt McGloin in Week 10, or at the very least have them on speed dial. There’s also a free agent available, you might have heard. If Savage does start, he’ll at least be likely to lock onto DeAndre Hopkins, keeping him relevant in fantasy. Will Fuller isn’t looking quite as lucky, and should be considered a high-risk WR4 going forward.
A.J. Green goes Andre Johnson to Jalen Ramsey’s Cortland Finnegan. Shoved by Ramsey at the end of a second quarter play, Green went berserk, choke slamming Ramsey before punching his helmet. He then got in an extra choke slam for good measure. Green and the Bengals insisted his outburst was the result of an accumulation of Ramsey cheap shots. Considering Ramsey’s history, that’s not hard to believe. It was still an entirely inappropriate reaction. Green got himself ejected, severely damaging the Bengals’ odds of springing the road upset. Thanks in part to his shortened Sunday, Green now has just seven catches for 74 yards over his past three games. He has a get-right matchup for Week 10 in the Titans’ rippable pass defense.
Carson Wentz begins the MVP drumbeat in earnest. Facing the Broncos’ pass-limiting defense, four of Wentz’s 15 completions turned into touchdowns in a game the Eagles went on to win 51-23. Three of Wentz’s scores came from at least 15 yards out, while his numbers would have been bigger had he not spent the fourth quarter resting on the sideline. With nine games in the books, Wentz’s 23 touchdowns are five more than any other healthy quarterback. His 7.9 touchdown percentage isn’t sustainable, but Wentz has made it clear he isn’t going to stop making plays. He’s headed on bye for Week 10 before a mouthwatering matchup with the Cowboys in Week 11.
Five More Week 9 Storylines
Jared Goff shreds the pathetic Giants. Goff entered Week 9 with two touchdowns over his past three starts. He matched that by halftime against a scarily-permissive Giants “defense.” By the time the final whistle blew, Goff had doubled it, with four of his 14 completions finding the end zone. He generated 311 yards on 22 attempts, resulting in a bonkers 14.14 yards per attempt. It helped that the Giants seemed to literally not be covering people half the time, but it was still an impressive performance on the heels of three straight shaky ones. Entirely matchup dependent thus far in 2017, Goff has another exploitable foe for Week 10 in a Texans D that just served up a 300-yard day to Jacoby Brissett.
Eddie Lacy injures groin, returns the Seahawks’ backfield to Year Zero. Tired of infinite committees and negative production, Pete Carroll finally declared a starter, saying Lacy would be the man against the Redskins. He made it six carries before he was done for the day, returning the Seahawks’ backfield to square one for approximately the 100th time this season. Lacy's Week 10 status is unclear, though he's never been confused for a fast healer. Thomas Rawls picked up the pieces in Lacy’s absence and posted a reasonably-effective 9/39 on the ground, adding 2/31 as a receiver. Considering C.J. Prosise’s (ankle) complete inability to stay healthy, that should be enough to earn Rawls a start and some extended run for this week’s Thursday night matchup with the Cardinals.
Alvin Kamara has biggest game yet vs. Bucs. Kamara turned a season-high 16 touches into a new career-high 152 yards. He found the end zone twice, the first time he has done so in the NFL. Kamara also lost his first fumble, a mistake that thankfully did not get him banished to the bench. Averaging 82 yards per game, Kamara is all the way up to 17th in yards from scrimmage. He’s posting a weekly 106 since Adrian Peterson’s trade. From a fantasy perspective, Kamara has blown by my previous comparison of a poor man’s Tevin Coleman. He’s creating a new role all his own, one that will have him in the top 18 every week going forward.
Leonard Fournette is a stunning AM scratch. Left off the Jaguars’ final injury report, Fournette was nevertheless deactivated against the Bengals. The reason? He missed the team photo, as well as “some appointments, including a workout and treatment.” The infractions occurred earlier in the week, meaning the Jags knew all along Fournette wouldn’t be playing Sunday. They sat on the decision to take the Bengals by surprise, weaponizing their young back’s immaturity. It was a stunning, gutsy decision, but it stands to reason it wouldn’t have been made had the Jags also not thought Fournette’s ankle could use one more week of rest. Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon and Corey Grant were predictably mediocre in Fournette’s absence. He should bounce back in a big way against the Chargers next Sunday.
Brock Osweiler fails to improve on Trevor Siemian. Even by Osweiler’s well-established low standards, it was a dismal day. The 6-foot-7 collateralized debt obligation completed just 19-of-38 passes, generating a putrid 208 yards (5.47 YPA) while tossing two interceptions. His lone score came with the Broncos losing 44-9 in the fourth quarter. Rather than a Rocky Mountain rebirth, the start was instead a strange coda to a strange Broncos career. With coach Vance Joseph’s team now in all-out free fall, he should turn to Paxton Lynch (shoulder) as soon as the sophomore is ready. There are indications that will be Week 10 against the Patriots. In theory, it’s a good matchup. In practice, coach Bill Belichick has probably been dying for a player like Lynch to tee off on.
1. Is Marvin Lewis trying to get the University of Florida job?
2. Did Adoree' Jackson really need to make the Titans’ backfield a three-man committee?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Patriots (@DEN), Packers (@CHI), Jets (@TB), 49ers (vs. NYG), Giants (@SF)
Stats of the Week
Adrian Peterson’s 37 carries against the 49ers were a new career high. The 150-yard day was his 19th.
Astoundingly, 37 was also the number of plays the Bengals ran against the Jaguars. It was the fewest in team history. Their 19:46 time of possession was the lowest by any team this season.
Demaryius Thomas’ touchdown was his first in 16 games.
As you’ve probably seen by now, the Rams officially have more points than they did in all of 2016. Jeff Fisher is still making miracles possible.
The Raiders are the first team in NFL history not to have an interception through nine games.
Antonio Brown didn’t play this week and still has 133 more receiving yards than anyone else in football.
The Why God Why Award: Julio Jones’ dropped 39-yard touchdown.