They say variety is the spice of life. But as 2017 has taught us, variety and success don’t always go hand in hand. There’s a Venn diagram where those two concepts meet—you saw it happen Thursday night against the Chiefs. But figuring out when, where and why has turned us into fantasy chemists, running data and squinting through microscope lenses like researchers on the cusp of a scientific breakthrough. The weekly guessing game of will he or won’t he has gripped us all, but at least for entertainment purposes, Amari Cooper is one in a million.
Is there a more unpredictable player in the NFL than Amari Cooper besides perhaps Marshawn Lynch, who has essentially morphed into football Dennis Rodman? Amari Cooper catch opportunities are like snowflakes—no two are ever the same. This is a player who led all rookies in receiving yards while simultaneously committing a league-high 18 drops in 2015. A player who went AWOL for half of last season and still put up the highest yardage total by a Raider in 14 years. A player who once had a play interrupted by a low-hanging television wire.
Then came Cooper’s magnum opus, a 2017 season so inexplicable that football historians will still be debating its merits and wide-ranging cultural impact years, even decades from now. Perhaps in the future it will even be a course offered at some of the country’s more forward-thinking universities (Amari Cooper 101: A Quest for Truth and Understanding).
Cooper began the year in predictably strange fashion, staging an elaborate drop parade while scoring a touchdown to leave fantasy owners with a faint glimmer of hope. Then came Cooper’s dark period, a five-game dry spell that included no touchdowns or even a single 40-yard performance. There were some mitigating circumstances—a difficult assignment against Denver’s no-fly zone secondary in Week 4 and a back injury that cost Derek Carr a game and a half. But those are just two small pieces to the puzzle. This was beyond a slump—Cooper, a perennial 1,000-yard receiver with first-round pedigree, was sinking into the bushes faster than Homer Simpson and nobody could explain why.
Just when it looked like all hope was lost, both for Cooper and the Raiders’ season, the third-year wideout reached into his bag of tricks to deliver the greatest performance of his career, a 210-yard masterpiece in a stunning win over the division-rival Chiefs. It was a fittingly bizarre end to the worst stretch of his career and it also begged the question: what in the world will this shape-shifting, heart-attack-inducing lunatic do for an encore?
Now that he’s back in the good graces of fantasy owners (Cooper was benched in over 50 percent of leagues last week), he’ll probably lay an egg against Buffalo on Sunday. Or maybe he’ll rewrite the record books with another game for the ages. Both are equally plausible in the puzzling realm of Amari Cooper. But one thing’s for certain: wherever Cooper goes, whether it’s up, down or sideways, the Raiders will follow. Now for my Power Rankings, featuring a new team in the top spot.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 2
Never mind the steady diet of touchdowns—Carson Wentz is quickly becoming one of the league’s best scramblers. His 63 rushing yards against the Redskins were a career-high and his 196 rushing yards in 2017 are already more than he had all of last year. Four of Zach Ertz’s team-leading five touchdowns (already a career-high) have come over his last three games. Monday night’s win extended the Eagles’ winning streak to five.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 1
Over the last three weeks the Chiefs have allowed 100-yard performances to Antonio Brown and Amari Cooper as well as a three-touchdown game to DeAndre Hopkins. But don’t pin the secondary’s struggles on Marcus Peters—he still holds PFF’s No. 15 cover grade out of 113 qualifiers at cornerback this year. MVP hopeful Alex Smith already has as many touchdown passes this year (15) as he did all of last season.
Editor's Note: Looking for a weekly edge in your fantasy leagues? Get the Rotoworld Season Pass for projections, early-week rankings, WR & RB reports, exclusive columns and chats with our experts and much more for just $19.99.
3. New England Patriots
Last Week: 3
Is there a more anonymous WR1 than Brandin Cooks? Despite almost no fanfare, he leads the Patriots in receiving yards and is on pace to set a new career-high in that category. James White continued his success against the Falcons with another touchdown in Week 7. Much has been made of New England’s defense, or lack thereof, this season, but the Patriots have quietly limited their opponents to 14, 17 and seven points over their last three games.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 5
JuJu Smith-Schuster has probably had better weeks. First disgruntled teammate Martavis Bryant threw shade at him on Instagram, then somebody stole his bike. Despite those obstacles, his touchdown celebrations remain top-notch. Le’Veon Bell has really put the work in workhorse this year. He’s logged an exhausting 68 carries over his last two games. That puts him on pace for 386 carries, which would be the most by a Steeler since Barry Foster in 1992.
Editor’s Note: FanDuel is hosting the Rotoworld Beat the Writers Series, where you can play against five Rotoworld football writers for your chance at cash prizes and free entry into their Sunday Million. Put your knowledge to the test!
5. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 6
After going all of last year without a 100-yard rushing game, Todd Gurley has topped the century mark in four of his last five outings. He’s on pace for 2,103 yards from scrimmage, which would be the most by a Ram since Steven Jackson put up 2,334 yards in 2006. Meanwhile Sammy Watkins has averaged only 17.5 receiving yards during his four-game touchdown drought.
6. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 7
The bye week sure came at the right time for Doug Baldwin. Finally healed from a groin injury, Baldwin carved up the Giants for 92 yards and a touchdown on nine catches in Sunday’s victory. C.J. Prosise gave it a go Sunday after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury but only lasted two snaps. In his absence, J.D. McKissic will continue to function as Seattle’s primary back on passing downs.
7. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 12
Ted Ginn had himself a day with Willie Snead sidelined, hanging 141 yards on the Packers in Week 7. He’s on pace for 941 yards, which would be a career-high. In two games since the Adrian Peterson trade, Mark Ingram has totaled 260 yards (219 rushing, 41 receiving) with three touchdowns. The Saints’ current four-game winning streak is their longest since 2013.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 10
Come on, Vikings. Just pick a guy already. After two weeks of world-beating, Jerick McKinnon passed the baton to Latavius Murray, who blew up for 113 yards on 18 carries in a win over Baltimore. That was Murray’s first 100-yard game since Week 14 of last year. Scarcely used early in the season, 2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell played a season-high 83.3 percent of the Vikings’ snaps in Week 7. Of course, that will change when Stefon Diggs returns from his groin injury, which has kept him out the past two weeks.
9. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 14
Who knows when his suspension will kick in, but right now Ezekiel Elliott can do no wrong. He eviscerated the Niners in Week 7, exploding for 219 yards from scrimmage (147 rushing, 72 receiving) with three touchdowns in the win. Incredibly, Brice Butler has outgained Terrance Williams despite playing 133 fewer snaps and seeing 17 fewer targets. Dez Bryant’s touchdown Sunday was his fourth in five games.
10. Houston Texans
Last Week: 15
What a difference a year makes. With Brock Osweiler running the show in 2016, the Texans averaged 17.4 points per game, which tied for 28th in the league. This year only the Rams and Chiefs have averaged more points than Houston. Already off to a blistering start, Deshaun Watson should benefit from the return of left tackle Duane Brown, who ended his holdout on Monday.
11. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 9
Terrelle Pryor’s fall from grace continued against the Eagles in Week 7 as the former quarterback spent much of the first half glued to the bench. 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson logged a career-high 54 snaps in the loss, though it only amounted to three catches for 39 yards. Jordan Reed finally looked healthy on Monday night, snagging eight catches for a season-high 64 yards and two touchdowns.
12. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 4
I’ll start with the good news. Cam Newton has rushed for 121 yards over his last two games. Now for the bad news—the Panthers have lost both games with Newton throwing five picks during that span. Ed Dickson has also been slumping for the Panthers, managing just seven catches for 54 yards since his breakout 175-yard game in Week 5. Greg Olsen (foot, I.R.) could resume practicing next week, which would give him a chance to return when first eligible in Week 12.
13. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 16
LeSean McCoy ended a six-game touchdown drought with a pair of scores in Week 7, though he fumbled for the second time in as many games. After a fruitless stint in Chicago, Deonte Thompson enjoyed a spectacular debut with 107 yards on four catches in Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers. That game featured 268 passing yards by Tyrod Taylor, his most in a game since Week 16 of last year.
14. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 8
Make that three straight losses for the defending NFC champs. If you could see it amid all the fog in New England, Atlanta looked broken on Sunday night, managing just one touchdown against the Patriots’ Swiss-cheese defense. What’s worse is that Julio Jones’ touchdown (which he rudely stole from Malcolm Butler), was his first of the season. The Falcons will need to win Sunday against the Jets to avoid going 0-4 against the AFC East.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 18
Making his first appearance of the year, T.J. Yeldon buried Indianapolis with 122 yards on nine carries. He was only filling in for an injured Leonard Fournette, so don’t get used to it. Blake Bortles has been his typical erratic self this year, but even he had a good day against the Colts, topping 300 yards passing for the first time in 2017. Offseason signing Calais Campbell leads the NFL with a career-high 10 sacks including four in his last two games.
16. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 28
Hopefully last week ended the “Thursday night games are awful” narrative once and for all. Seriously, was there anything that didn’t happen in that game? Marshawn Lynch got ejected and took the BART home, Amari Cooper rose from the dead with 210 receiving yards (on my bench, of course) and Michael Crabtree erased Oakland’s four-game losing streak with a walk-off touchdown to beat the Chiefs. Jared Cook’s 107 yards in Week 7 were his most since Week 1 of 2013.
17. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 17
The Lions have lost two straight and it won’t get any easier with the Steelers coming to town for Week 8. Beating Pittsburgh is a tough enough task at full strength, but it’s going to be even harder without Golden Tate, who is still nursing a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 6. Matthew Stafford is looking to rebound after completing under 50 percent of his passes with three interceptions last time out against the Saints.
18. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 21
Bundle of joy Jay Cutler cracked his ribs in Week 7, opening the door for Matt Moore to lead a second-half comeback against the Jets. Both of Moore’s touchdown passes on Sunday went to Kenny Stills, who has caught 10-of-13 targets for 134 yards during DeVante Parker’s two-game absence. Jarvis Landry’s current three-game touchdown streak is the longest of his career.
19. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 24
Look who’s moving up in the world. Philip Rivers has kept the turnovers to a minimum during the Chargers’ three-game winning streak, throwing just one interception during that span. Hunter Henry has also impressed, ascending to TE1 status by averaging 68.3 yards over his last three contests. Meanwhile both of Travis Benjamin’s touchdowns this year and three of six since joining the Chargers last season have come against the Broncos.
20. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 11
Demaryius Thomas used to be Mr. Consistent but check out his receiving totals from the last four games: 98 yards against the Bills in Week 3, 11 yards versus the Raiders in Week 4, 133 yards against the Giants in Week 6 and finally just nine yards in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. That volatility would be a bit easier to stomach if Thomas were actually scoring touchdowns, but that’s not happening either as Demaryius has now gone almost a full calendar year without finding the end zone. Dark days indeed.
21. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 19
We have few certainties in life: by my count it’s just death, taxes and DeMarco Murray out-touching Derrick Henry in a week where he was a game-time decision. Seriously, Mike Mularkey, be more frustrating to fantasy owners. I told my friends that play DFS with me that Marcus Mariota is suspended from my lineup until further notice after Sunday’s dud against the winless Browns. That will show him.
22. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 27
John Fox was the Broncos’ head coach during the Tim Tebow Era, so he knows a thing or two about hiding his quarterback. Fox took that approach to its logical conclusion by limiting rookie Mitchell Trubisky to SEVEN passing attempts (he completed four of them) in Sunday’s win over Carolina. Here’s a stat that will wrinkle your brain: Jordan Howard out-touched backup Tarik Cohen 20-1 in Week 7 but Cohen still outgained him by five yards (70-65).
23. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 23
Sunday put an end to A.J. Green’s three-game touchdown streak. It was also his lowest receiving output since Week 11 of last season. Joe Mixon logged just seven carries in Week 7 while watching his Steelers counterpart Le’Veon Bell collect 38 touches (35 carries, three catches). No wonder he wants the Bengals to run more.
24. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 13
Brett Hundley’s first NFL start was one he’ll want to forget. He struggled to just 87 yards on 12-of-25 passing, though he did show well on the ground with 44 rushing yards and a touchdown. The Ty Montgomery workhorse experiment was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it? He’s been demoted to a change-of-pace role behind Aaron Jones, who rushed for a career-high 131 yards in Week 7.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 25
Fans were aflame in Orchard Park but nobody was hotter than O.J. Howard on Sunday. The Bucs rookie was on the war path in Week 7, torching the Bills for six catches, a career-high 98 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Evans hasn’t made a big show of it, but he’s quietly had an awesome year, ranking sixth in receiving yards per game (76.5) while scoring in three of his last four contests.
26. New York Jets
Last Week: 22
New York has come back to Earth by losing two straight but this is still a better incarnation of the Jets than any of us expected to see this season. We throw shade at Josh McCown—he’s old, sort of looks like Dolph Lundgren (the most underrated actor of all-time) and has played for a million teams including the short-lived Hartford Colonials. But the guy has actually been a pretty steady fantasy presence with eight touchdowns (seven passing, one rushing) over his last three games.
27. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 20
Don’t point-chase, don’t point-chase, oh screw it, I’m going to start Adrian Peterson everywhere. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Roman Empire fell. But seriously, AD cost me some serious pesos on FanDuel last week. Weird that an ancient, one-dimensional back would struggle behind a bad offensive line. With Drew “I’m Still in the League Somehow” Stanton filling in for an injured Carson Palmer at quarterback, things could get ugly fast for the slumping Cardinals.
28. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 26
Talk about playing shorthanded—the Ravens’ top receivers in Week 7 were Ben Watson, Chris Moore and Michael Campanaro. Shocking, Baltimore didn’t win that one. That’s been the theme for the Ravens, who have now lost four of their last five while sinking below .500 for the first time this year. Among starting quarterbacks, only Jay Cutler and DeShone Kizer have thrown for fewer yards per game than Joe Flacco this year.
29. New York Giants
Last Week: 29
Is Evan Engram the answer to New York’s receiving woes? Well, not exactly—that’s like curing world hunger with a box of Ritz crackers—but it’s a start. Engram has been everything the Giants hoped he would be when they drafted him 23rd overall, leading all rookies (that includes wide receivers, too) with 342 receiving yards. Flash in the pan alert: the Seahawks extinguished Orleans Darkwa’s hot streak Sunday by holding him to just 35 yards on nine carries.
30. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 30
So what’s new in Indy? Nothing good. Star receiver T.Y. Hilton struggled in Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville before lashing out at his offensive linemen while Andrew Luck suffered yet another setback in his never-ending recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. Throw in a season-ending ACL tear for 15th overall pick Malik Hooker (PFF’s No. 25 cover grade out of 83 qualifiers at safety) and you’ve got a real mess on your hands. Cleanup in aisle 30.
31. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
In a game where C.J. Beathard attempted 38 passes, only two of them went to his college roommate George Kittle. How does that happen??? Show your roomie some love, C.J. For the last time the 49ers beat an opponent other than the Rams, you’d have to go all the way back to Week 13 of the 2015 campaign. Back then, their head coach was this guy.
32. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 32
Cleveland lost in overtime on Sunday, an improvement from previous weeks but still not what the Browns were looking for. Free agent bust Kenny Britt could be on the outs after missing curfew while DeShone Kizer’s second stint as the starter went almost as badly as his first one. At least No. 1 pick Myles Garrett has lived up to his massive billing, contributing four sacks in his first three NFL games.
Biggest Jump: Raiders
Biggest Drop: Packers