Josh Allen, MVP candidate? There’s still a lot to prove.
Josh Allen, Fantasy MVP candidate? He’s much further along with that campaign. We look forward to the Allen-Russell Wilson debates.
Allen was once again a box score hero in Sunday’s 35-32 thriller over the Rams, accounting for five total touchdowns and 311 passing yards. Allen stood at the top of the quarterback board when the early games completed, narrowly ahead of Jared Goff (321 passing yards, two scoring throws, one scoring run). But if you lived with Allen play-by-play, you saw the ebb and the flow, the joy and the pain. Allen made some mistakes — two turnovers, two costly penalties, a few sacks he ran himself into — and it took a questionable pass interference call in the final minute to continue Buffalo’s game-winning drive.
Say this for Allen: He used everyone at his disposal Sunday. On a day where Dawson Knox didn’t play and John Brown (calf) wasn’t a factor, Allen remained resourceful. Cole Beasley caught 6-of-7 targets, good for 100 yards, while fantasy afterthoughts Gabriel Davis (4-81-0) and Tyler Kroft (4-24-2) made splash plays. Stefon Diggs had a quiet-for-him 49 yards on four catches, though he scored another touchdown — on the heels of two touchdowns wiped out by penalty.
Devin Singletary handled most of the backfield work — with Zack Moss unavailable — and sprung for 121 total yards, though Allen once again bogarted all the touchdowns. At least Singletary is doing a fine job with ball security, and he caught four of his five targets.
Allen’s stat parade should continue Week 4 when Buffalo travels to Las Vegas. Keep voting, early and often.
Most of the Rams came through for fantasy, sparked by a furious 29-point explosion in the second half. Darrell Henderson (20-114-1) took over the backfield, while Malcolm Brown stumbled through seven carries (just 19 yards). Cooper Kupp (9-107-1) and Robert Woods (5-74-1) both found the end zone, and Woods added a useful 30 yards on three runs. Tyler Higbee wasn’t used much, but he secured both of his targets (2-40-0) and snagged a two-point conversion. Sean McVay’s offense rolled up 28 first downs and 478 yards of offense against one of the NFL’s most respected defenses. The Rams should have no trouble scoring on anyone in 2020.
Pity the Giants, who head to Los Angeles next week. The Rams travel to Washington in Week 5.
Justin Jefferson leads rookie receiver breakout
We’ve seen some nifty rookie receiver classes in recent seasons — the 2019 group was an eye-opener, and the 2014 class was the best of all time.
Start with Justin Jefferson, who was Minnesota’s downfield star in a 31-30 loss to Tennessee. Jefferson snagged 7-of-9 targets for 175 yards, including a 71-yard roasting of the Titans in the third quarter. Kirk Cousins seemed lost in Minnesota’s first two losses, but if Jefferson’s emergence is legitimate, the Vikings offense should be able to punch back in the coming weeks. Of course, the Minnesota defense can’t seem to stop anyone this year.
The Bengals were ready to unveil Tee Higgins, giving him a move forward at Philadelphia. It helped that John Ross was a healthy scratch for the game, but Higgins justified the faith, catching a pair of touchdown passes (5-40-0). Joe Burrow sent nine targets Higgins’s way. The efficiency wasn’t great, but those touchdowns are needle-moving plays.
Kyle Shanahan put on a master class as the Niners dumped the Giants, with rookie Brandon Aiyuk one of the stars. Aiyuk caught five passes for 70 yards, and added 31 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Aiyuk’s role could be in flux in the coming weeks depending on when San Francisco gets George Kittle and Deebo Samuel back, but the club proactively drafted Aiyuk in the spring and sang his praises all summer. There’s intriguing talent here.
If you’re thinking about future waiver offers, Jefferson is rostered in 29 percent of Yahoo leagues, Aiyuk stands at 27 percent, and Higgins is 4-percent rostered.
• Apparently Sean McVay wasn’t lying about a hot-hand world, as the Rams have used three different featured backs in three weeks. That’s the catch with offensive designers, sometimes they believe in themselves even more than they believe in the talent.
• There's nothing new to write about Russell Wilson. They're obviously letting him cook, finally. For the first time has two dynamic wide receivers. The messy Seattle defense is forcing weekly pinball. We are all witnesses. I've always been aboard this bandwagon, near the front.
• Ezekiel Elliott remains a durable inside pounder, but the Dallas offensive line has taken a step back, and Elliott is a mediocre receiver. He’s probably a lot more important to fantasy rosters than he is to the Cowboys right now; I bet the Dallas offense would be just fine even if Tony Pollard needed to start.
• Austin Ekeler has one catch from Tyrod Taylor this year, 15 otherwise. Draw your own conclusions. The best coaches in the league work talent-to-scheme, not the other way around. Anthony Lynn is a heck of a motivator, but no one considers him an offensive genius.
• It wasn’t a blow-up game from Robby Anderson, but it’s encouraging how the Panthers are using him with an expanded route tree; he’s not just running nine routes all day long. As is usually the case, we love a player when he escapes Adam Gase.
• In two weeks, Mike Davis has 16 catches on 17 targets. That’ll do. No one expects a full Christian McCaffrey stand-in, but if he can keep doing this 50-65 percent job, we’ll gladly take it. Teddy Bridgewater has been better than expected, too.
• Game flow wasn’t favorable for Joshua Kelley, but remember he lost a fumble, too. You know what coach really hates fumbles? All of them.
• Leave it for Rex Burkhead to score three touchdowns on a day where Sony Michel broke 100 yards and J.J. Taylor had some plus moments. Eventually James White will return, and Cam Newton remains the team’s best goal-line back. There’s nothing projectable in this backfield.
• We’ll see what the tape shows, but it sure looks like Bill Belichick identified Darren Waller (2-9-0, four targets) as the one Raiders piece to eliminate. And New England’s personnel is nothing like previous years. If the Patriots can do it, others, if they want, can probably do it, too.
• The Browns ran the ball about two-thirds of the time, turning Odell Beckham into the secondary piece that he’s dreading (4-59-0, six targets). There will be a few splash games for OBJ down the road, but good luck predicting when they’ll come.
• The Falcons have 90 points and three losses; that makes them the second-highest scoring 0-3 team of all time. Nick Foles looked rusty in his first few throws, but eventually he brought Chicago back, with the Falcons defense doing half of the pushing. Allen Robinson had the blowup game the entire world projected (industry rank before kickoff: WR4). David Montgomery was a broken-tackle machine in college, but he looks like a different player in the NFL.
• Every team in the NFL should come asking about Sam Darnold after the season. Chris Herndon, too. But the shroud of Gase will be difficult to beat before the calendar turns.
• Jordan Wilkins keeps getting the closer work for the Colts, so if anything happens to Jonathan Taylor, it’s probably the Wilkins Show, not the Hines Show.
• Just to unpack the Giants loss, New York was blown out despite the Niners playing without their quarterback, their star tight end, their terrific No. 1 receiver, their excellent starting running back. In addition, the No. 2 back didn’t dress, and the backup tight end was hurt early in the game. Yes, Kyle Shanahan is forever a wizard. But maybe this Giants team is worse off than we thought. (And maybe there’s no right answer in the Giants backfield.)
• It's kind of cute watching Jets and Giants fans insist the other New York team is more screwed.
• Tom Brady spread 36 targets to eight different players, with no one getting more than seven. That’s how Brady used to cook during his early days in New England. At least Chris Godwin and Mike Evans gobbled the touchdowns, but this offense is going to be more name than game for our stat-chasing pursuits. A mild pain in the neck.
• The most impressive thing about Tampa Bay, by far, is the defense.
• If you redrafted tomorrow, DeAndre Hopkins would be a Top 5 pick. He looks reborn in Arizona and Kyle Murray is happy to pepper him with targets, right off the bus. But Murray also seems to leave a big pass or two on the field every week; perhaps he’s an eyelash more proactive to run than he should be. The Arizona offense will take a step forward when the team finally accepts Andy Isabella needs to be a full-time player; if nothing else, he’ll be a consistent field-stretcher.