Sun. Apr 11th, 2021

This article is part of our NFL Observations series.

I don’t know why I still get so annoyed watching football. Odd stuff happens, sometimes it goes in your favor, often it goes against you. What’s the big deal? Why the emotional attachment to particular outcomes? There must be some reason I choose to suffer so much over it. Maybe I’m worried if I took it in stride I’d stop watching, go for a walk, spend more time with my family – you know, something wholesome and worthwhile. Maybe allowing myself to be so miserable while watching is my way of justifying it. After all, if I care this much, it must be important! 

  • I had the Raiders plus seven at home, so that game was never really in doubt. Still, I found myself wanting them to win, urging them to run the ball on the penultimate drive, use more clock, so that Patrick Mahomes wouldn’t get another chance.
  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (14-69-2, 2-1-8) finally had a good fantasy game, but the receptions still aren’t there. Remember, he was a “better version of Brian Westbrook.” Le’Veon Bell (7-25-1, 1-1-11) looked strong and smooth, but with CEH there, and Darrel Williams (3-3-22) still get the passing-down work, it’s hard to see Bell as more than injury insurance.
  • Derek Carr is in command of the offense. The Raiders just mis-timed their scores, and a ridiculous sideline unsportsmanlike conduct penalty cost them a 4th-and-goal at the one that became a field goal, the difference in the game. Also, while they were bailed out by a Patrick Mahomes interception at the end of the half, it was foolish to punt on 4th-and-5 from midfield.
  • The Colts-Packers was a trying watch, and that’s with it going my way (Colts -2.5.) The game never should have gone to overtime, except the Colts decided not to run the clock in field-goal range with less than two minutes left and the Packers having only one timeout. Philip Rivers was lucky not to have thrown a soul-crushing pick too. That and the five holding calls on that drive (I’m not exaggerating.) I’ve never seen anything like it.
  • Of course, the Packers themselves gave away a big lead to get to that point with two lost fumbles, not including the game-sealer by Marquez Valdes-Scantling in overtime. A reminder that the closeness/drama-level of a game is not always indicative of its quality.
  • Jonathan Taylor (22-90-0, 4-4-24) was back in the bell cow role (on my bench, naturally), and he even had a TD run called back. Can we trust him going forward? I have no idea.
  • Michael Pittman (3-3-66-1) had a long catch-and-run TD, but the Colts spread the ball around a ton.
  • Aaron Jones (10-41-1, 4-4-30) was fine, but he hasn’t been the same world-beater since returning from a calf injury.
  • The Cowboys looked like an NFL team again. Andy Dalton was okay, Ezekiel Elliott (21-103-0, 2-2-11-1) was himself and CeeDee Lamb (6-4-34-1) made an incredible TD catch in the corner of the end zone.
  • The Vikings have the narrowest tree in the NFL. It’s Dalvin Cook (27-115-1, 5-5-45), Adam Thielen (11-8-123-2) and Justin Jefferson (5-3-86-1.) That’s really it. Thielen also had a ridiculous one-handed catch in the end zone too.
  • The Chargers coughed up the back-door cover to the Jets. Never bet on the Chargers.
  • Justin Herbert keeps sailing along, and now that Joe Burrow is out for the year, has the rookie of the year award virtually locked up.
  • Keenan Allen (19-16-145-1) is the AFC’s Davante Adams. He really hit the jackpot when Herbert took over.
  • I had La’Mical Perine going in a league, and it was looking good (TD, 33 rush yards), until he left with an ankle injury in the third quarter, and Frank Gore took over again.
  • Tua Tagovailoa couldn’t get anything going and was pulled for Ryan Fitzpatrick who nearly rallied the team to a comeback before a red-zone pick. I’d expect Tagovailoa to start next week, but the door is at least open.
  • I had Ronald Jones on my bench for Melvin Gordon last week, and this week I had Gordon (15-84-2)  on my bench for Jones. Gordon nearly had a third TD, but fumbled at the one-yard line, keeping the Dolphins hopes alive.
  • With four seconds left, Drew Lock heaved a fourth-down pass down the field to run out the clock, only Tim Patrick actually caught it for a 61-yard gain. I was facing Patrick in a close matchup.
  • Cam Newton played a good game, but for some reason he’s not running of late.
  • Deshaun Watson had millennia to throw and predictably torched the Pats. He also led the team in rushing and scored on the ground.
  • Bill Belichick’s former assistants (Bill O’Brien, Brian Flores, Mike Vrabel and now Romeo Crennel) seem to give the Patriots tough games.
  • A.J. Brown (7-4-62-1) had a couple drops, but he bulldozed his way through multiple tacklers into the end zone to put the Titans ahead in the fourth quarter. In overtime Derrick Henry (28-133-1) sealed it with a TD run. The Titans have their flaws, but no team has such punishers for playmakers. Corey Davis (7-5-113-0) is quietly having a breakout season too.
  • J.K. Dobbins (15-70-1, 2-2-15) took over as the team’s bell cow, a role he should keep if the Ravens care about making the playoffs. Mark Andrews (7-5-96-1) is still a top-five TE, but Marquise Brown 3-0-0 hardly even exists. In fact, Dez Bryant (5-4-28) was the team’s most productive wideout.
  • James Conner (13-89-0) had a good game, but Benny Snell vultured the TD. This isn’t the Le’Veon Bell/DeAngelo Williams Steelers where one back did all the work.
  • Diontae Johnson (16-12-111-0) has the Antonio Brown role. He’s getting monstrous usage (37 targets last three games.) Chase Claypool (8-4-59-1) scored his 10th TD of the year. JuJu Smith-Schuster had a quiet game and left with a toe injury.
  • The Panthers minus 1.5 seemed like a bad bet once Teddy Bridgewater was scratched, but that’s only because I thought the Lions would score.
  • After Joe Burrow got destroyed by Chase Young on a play in the red zone, I tweeted that no QB takes more big hits as Burrow. Sure enough, a few minutes later, he got crushed again, tore his ACL and is out for the year. It’s franchise malpractice to let your young star QB take that kind of beating, and Burrow, like Andrew Luck, makes it worse because he’s tough and fearless.
  • A lot of starting quarterbacks have down this year: Burrow, Dak Prescott, Kyle Allen, Drew Brees, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock, Gardner Minshew and Sam Darnold – roughly a quarter of the league, though 11 weeks.
  • Taysom Hill completed 18 of 23 passes (10.1 YPA), had 51 rushing yards (two rushing TDs) and failed to get Alvin Kamara a reception, the first time Kamara has ever gone catchless in his career. Running QBs take off, they don’t usually check down. While Kamara will almost certainly catch a pass next week, his value takes a sizeable hit. 
  • Apparently Michael Thomas (12-9-104-0) just needed to get rid of Drew Brees and get a real QB under center.
  • The Saints pass rush (eight sacks) destroyed Matt Ryan. It didn’t help that Julio Jones missed time in the second half with a hamstring injury.
  • Maybe the Browns should consider using Nick Chubb (20-114-0) instead of Kareem Hunt (13-11-1) at the goal line more often.
  • Carson Wentz took five more sacks and threw two more picks. He looks like end-stage Brett Favre, all guts and no skills. He also has the dubious triple crown of most sacks taken (40), most interceptions thrown (14) and most fumbles (10.) I can’t imagine it would take much more for Jalen Hurts to get a shot.
  • Every team in the NFC East has exactly three wins, though the Eagles are still in first place by virtue of their heroic tie with the Bengals.

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