This article is part of our NFL Observations series.
There’s always some randomness to NFL games, but Week 12 took it to a new level. I had the Bills minus 5.5 as my best bet, and with the Bills up 10 they exchanged turnovers and fourth-down stuffs with the Chargers until the final series where I had it in the bag. That is, until Justin Herbert completed a Hail Mary to Jaylon Guyton. But Guyton was called for a ticky-tack offensive PI, and I was bailed out. Until Herbert completed a second Hail Mary at the two-yard line with 24 seconds left. But on first-and goal and with no timeouts, the Chargers, for God knows what reason, ran the ball, got stuffed, and were left with eight seconds after a personal foul call on the Bills. After an incomplete pass, Herbert tried a QB sneak, but the offensive line blocked as if he were dropping back to pass, and he had no chance. Game over, cover sealed.
I felt that was the least the ATS Gods could do for me after the Giants, up nine (I was also laying 5.5. with them) had the Bengals stopped on third down in field goal range with a couple minutes left, but the refs called a phantom PI in the end zone, and the Bengals scored the TD to cut it to two, rather than six. I didn’t see the allegedly weak roughing-the-passer call against the Browns that sprung the Jaguars to the cover, but I was pleased about it.
But that’s only scratching the surface. Daniel Jones got hurt in the Giants game (I only had him going in three leagues), and no one knows whether the Steelers-Ravens (my opponent has Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool going) will even happen Tuesday night. I also had the Broncos +6 ATS, and that line went to 15.5 once it was revealed they’d be playing without a quarterback. After Saturday waivers in the NFFC, there was news Carson Wentz, my QB in one league, might cede more snaps to Jalen Hurts too.
There’s always randomness in sports, and the NFL is among the most severe given the small samples, frequent injuries and late-season bad weather. But having players shut down late in the week and games moved around due a virus that can crop up at any point pushes it from random to almost arbitrary.
Oddly for me, this makes it more tolerable. The frustration and rage I’d ordinarily feel with Jones getting hurt (and Darius Slayton, whom he missed by inches on a deep throw getting me a zero in three leagues) is mitigated by the knowledge that everyone has been screwed 10 times over, many worse than me. There is no justice, nor even a pretense of justice, only results. Somehow that’s reassuring. In 100 years we’ll all be dead, good or bad, fair or unfair. Why sweat the details so much?
- People were justifiably mocking Mitchell Trubisky in my Twitter feed, but he looked much more credible to me than Nick Foles. At least he was trying to get the ball down the field.
- It was also the first time I’ve ever been impressed by David Montgomery (11-103-0, 6-5-40-1.) He ran hard, made the right reads and cuts, looked fast and showed good hands.
- Aaron Jones (17-90-0, 2-1-0-0) looked quick and had good burst, his best showing since returning from the calf injury, even if his fantasy day was modest.
- Epic cover by the Buccaneers, but the Chiefs showed on the final drive the game was never really in doubt, with Patrick Mahomes scrambling for one first down and throwing for another.
- Tyreek Hill had 203 yards and two TDs in the first quarter. I was hoping he’d break Flipper Anderson’s record (336 yards), but the game flow in the second half didn’t cooperate, and Hill finished with a meager 15-13-269-3 (57.9 PPR points.)
- Tom Brady made some nice throws, notably the deep passes to Rob Gronkowski (7-6-106) and the touchdown to Mike Evans (9-3-50-2), but he threw two bad picks and some other passes to nowhere. Tony Romo seemed to think he was getting there with respect to knowing the offense and being on the same page as his receivers, though.
- Ronald Jones (9-66-0, 2-1-37-1) looks much more explosive than Leonard Fournette (3-10-0, 3-3-10.)
- Kyle Shanahan should win Coach of the Year
- Deebo Samuel (13-11-133-0) looks like a smaller George Kittle, just a monster after the catch.
- Jared Goff‘s middle initial should be “A” because he’s Just A Guy. (Kind of like the other JG, Jimmy Garoppolo.)
- Cam Akers (9-84-1) was more effective than Darrell Henderson (10-19-0), but it was mostly due to one 61-yard run. Take that away, and he was 8-23-1.
- Taysom Hill is killing Alvin Kamara owners. Hill seems constitutionally unable to throw him a pass, even when Hill is under duress, and Kamara is open in the flat. Throw in rushing TDs for Hill that might have been Kamara’s, and it’s a disaster.
- Latavius Murray, on the other hand, had a huge day, likely in part because the Broncos had no quarterbacks, and there was no reason to overwork Kamara in a game where the line went from six to 15.5 before game time.
- The Saints are a good team, but they’ll need Drew Brees (or at least a functional Jameis Winston) to run the table in the playoffs. The gimmick offense with Hill comes with a ceiling.
- Baker Mayfield missed one of the easiest TD throws you’ll ever see, but was otherwise serviceable in good weather. Jarvis Landry (11-8-143-1) also came out of hibernation.
- I don’t know why the Browns insist on using Kareem Hunt (10-62-0) in short yardage and goal line sets so often when they have Nick Chubb (19-144-1, 3-3-32.) Hunt is a fine back, and his pass-catching skills and slashing style are nice, but Chubb is one of the league’s elite early-down thumpers, second only to Derrick Henry.
- I took the Jets plus seven, and when, down 13-3 at the end of the first half, they missed a 29-yard field goal, I stopped watching. Meanwhile Jason Sanders is doing a Justin Tucker impression.
- Zane Gonzalez has missed some big kicks this year, though if the Cardinals had a good coach, they would have gone for it on 4th-and-1 and tried to use up the rest of the clock. Still it was only a 45-yarder.
- Kyler Murray‘s historic pace slowed considerably:
- I had the Vikings minus four, but I would definitely have taken the Panthers had I known they’d get back to back fumble-sixes to start the third quarter. I also would have picked up safety Jeremy Chinn, who scored both TDs, in my IDP league. In some ways that’s crazier than Fernando Tatis hitting two grand slams in one inning off Chan Ho Park.
- Philip Rivers isn’t the guy you want playing from behind. He’s fine if he can dink and dunk to the backs and tight ends all day, but you don’t want him forced to throw outside or down the field.
- If you think the Amazon has a problem with deforestation, you should see the Colts defense without Buckner.
- Derrick Henry (27-178-3, 4-2-7) destroyed the Colts, and A.J. Brown (6-4-98-1) padded his stats with an onside kick return TD in garbage time.
- Wayne Gallman (24-94-1) had a solid game, but Saquon Barkley would have taken at least one of his longer runs to the house.
- Daniel Jones played under control and was careful with the ball, but it looks like he’ll miss some time after hurting his hamstring. Colt McCoy is terrible.
- Evan Engram (9-6-129-0) had a nice line on paper, and he made a nice catch in traffic on one of Jones’ throws. But he also lost a fumble and often doesn’t come back to and fight for the ball.
- Leonard Williams had another sack, some pressures and a fumble recovery to end the game. Mock Dave Gettleman all you like for having an analog notebook at the draft, but he took Jones over Dwayne Haskins, an unpopular call at the time, didn’t pull the trigger on Sam Darnold at 1.2 and added Williams and James Bradberry, two defensive stars for the team, in the last 13 months. The Giants are a league-average team at best when Jones is healthy, but I don’t blame Gettleman for that.
- The Bengals generated no offense. They got one TD on a kick return, their FG off the Engram fumble, their other TD off the phantom PI and averaged 3.4 YPP for the game.
- Austin Ekeler (14-44-0, 16-11-85-0) was apparently healthy as they sure did not ease him back.
- Anthony Lynn could be fired this week. Not only did he relegate the Chargers to two plays after the Hail Mary at the end of the game by senselessly running the ball, but he punted, down 17-6, on 4th-and-2 with 21 seconds left from the Bills 48 at the end of the first half. And it should have been 35 seconds except that he squandered 14 seconds before calling a timeout.
- The Falcons are a different team since they fired Dan Quinn, but 43-6 took cooperation from the Raiders.