And all this time, we thought Ezekiel Elliott was going to be the primary loss to the Cowboys offense. We didn’t stop and think about left tackle Tyron Smith.
Smith wasn’t in uniform in Sunday’s 27-7 loss at Atlanta, and the Falcons feasted on the Pro Bowler’s absence. Atlanta piled up eight sacks — six from Adrian Clayborn alone — as replacement tackles Chaz Green and Byron Bell were turned into a couple of traffic cones.
To put the eight-pack in perspective, consider Das Prescott was dropped just 35 times in his first 24 starts, and never more than four times in any game. Prescott didn’t play particularly well Sunday, but it was a group effort, a stink bomb from most of the offense.
A gimpy Dez Bryant (4–39-0, eight targets) wasn’t able to impact the game, and Cole Beasley (2-23-0) and Terrance Williams (1-9-0) did next to nothing. Jason Witten caught a handful of dump-offs, turning seven catches into 59 yards. That’s not going to beat anyone.
We didn’t learn much about the Cowboys running game, absent Elliott. Alfred Morris was capable with his 11 carries (53 yards), but the game situation eliminated him in the second half. Rod Smith picked up four cheap catches in garbage time, though they went for just 15 yards. He also had three rushes for 14 yards. Darren McFadden was not a factor (one carry, minus-2 yards).
Prescott is still someone I’m willing to bet on long-term. He cobbled 42 rushing yards and a touchdown, and has proven resourceful in the past. The pass protection can’t be this bad every week, especially if Tyron Smith is able to return shortly. You want to be careful about taking too much from an outlier performance, good or bad. Maybe Atlanta just hit the right chords Sunday, and the Cowboys simply threw up something close to their worst performance.
If you can hang on to the fantasy playoffs, the Pokes should get a chance to make it up to you. The Giants and Raiders are holiday presents in Weeks 14 and 15. But sometimes a bad matchup isn’t going to bail you out — heck, the Falcons were supposed to be a plus matchup in Week 10. We should learn a lot about the true state of the Cowboys in Week 11’s home game against Philadelphia.
• In the erratic world of fantasy football, it’s nice when we can occasionally latch on to something absolute. And the Giants lack of defense — especially against opposing tight ends — is becoming the most bankable angle around.
The latest Giants abomination was a 31-21 loss at the previously-winless 49ers, a game that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. One of San Francisco’s touchdowns came on a 47-yard strike from C.J. Beathard to Garrett Celek.
Let’s put the connection in perspective — we’re not exactly talking Brady to Gronkowski here. Celek was starting at tight end because nominal starter George Kittle is injured, and Beathard is believed to be keeping the QB chair warm until Jimmy Garoppolo is ready to play. But nobody turns ordinary tight ends into spiking machines like this year’s give-up G-Men defense.
New York has now allowed at least one tight end to score in every game this year. That’s a ridiculous run of consistent putridity. Good tight ends have scored against the Giants, and mediocre tight ends have scored against the Giants. Heck, against the Buccaneers, both Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard scored.
With that in mind, let’s consider the remainder of the schedule. There’s no reason to believe the Giants are going to plug this gaping leak. Here’s your tight end hit list against the Giants.
— Week 11, Travis Kelce (cha-ching)
— Week 12, Vernon Davis or Jordan Reed
— Week 13, Jared Cook
— Week 14, Jason Witten
— Week 15, Zach Ertz
— Week 16, Jermaine Gresham
It’s hard to trust Gresham as a stash play this far in advance, though he has scored the last two weeks. Cook (70 percent) is unowned in a few shallow leagues. Mostly, this is going to turn into a DFS playbook.
• Although the Lions eventually woke up and got the win — and annoyingly, the cover — it made sense for them to come into Week 10 flat, after a Monday victory over a division rival. The same flat angle made sense for the Steelers, who have a history of taking lesser opponents lightly, and for being unfocused after their bye week. Pittsburgh generally gives you a better run when the competition level is high.
Juju Schuster turns 21 on Nov. 22. How do the Steelers keep hitting home runs on so many non-premium WR draft choices? (JuJu was the 62nd pick in his class, and Antonio Brown, of course, went in the sixth round; just two of several recent examples.)
• The Titans used 26 targets on their three best receiving threats and still couldn’t get anything juicy out of it. I’ve been a huge Marcus Mariota promoter from the moment he joined the NFL — and I’ve always maintained he was the right pick over Jameis Winston — but at this point in time, he’s just an overrated fantasy (and real-life) quarterback. DeMarco Murray wasn’t anything special on a per-play basis, but touchdowns are the ultimate deodorant.
• The end-of-half showing was comically bad, but the Browns offense showed some signs of life at Detroit. Corey Coleman and (maybe) Josh Gordon are on the way. Perhaps it’s damning with light praise, but this was the first time I thought DeShone Kizer showed something positive. Hue Jackson is probably in over his head, though.
• The Jaguars tried to give the game away, but no one out-Chargers the Chargers. It’s a shame we don’t have 12 Sean McVays to give out to the NFL teams in need. Some teams get Anthony Lynn. You’d swear the Chargers met 15 minutes before the game.
If you never make a bad drop, you’re not playing right. https://t.co/OMnXdx60ux
— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) November 14, 2017
• The Jets scoring just 10 points in Tampa was a major letdown, but if a bad game for Josh McCown is still 262-1, we can live with it. Robby Anderson scored for the fourth straight week and ASJ had his best yardage showing of the year. But Bilal Powell might be in the “so underrated, he’s overrated” bucket. Keep in mind he’s already 29, too.
• Drew Brees’s pass attempts since the Adrian Peterson giveaway: 30, 38, 28, 27, 25. So this paradigm shift hasn’t come out of nowhere. Having an excellent pass defense helps, of course, and playing with a lead. At least Brees has cushioned the fantasy blow with a couple of rushing touchdowns, though it’s hard to project those continuing.
• I offered Sterling Shepard for Mike Evans, with a straight face, to a Week 10-desperate opponent. The deal didn’t get done; perhaps the Evans owner was still stinging from his Will Fuller and Ted Ginn offers. Shepard played so well in the loss at San Francisco (11-142-0), I’m not sure if I’m glad the deal fell apart. Obviously the Giants have just two things to hang their hat on in the passing game, and they’ll be behind most weeks.
• I have to figure the Vikings stick with Case Keenum because (a) he’s played pretty well, and (b) coaches generally stick with the path of least resistance. It’s a world of Friendliest Loss. Even if Mike Zimmer wants to switch back to Teddy Bridgewater, he’ll likely wait until a clear opening presents himself, so he can avoid specific criticism.
Keenum is tricky to evaluate because the Rams were such a nightmare of coaching in the Jeff Fisher era. As for Bridgewater, the best thing he could do for his playing reputation is not play for a year and a half. We don’t have a solid understanding of what he is and what he is not.