The Saints and Cardinals had themselves an actual, honest-to-God football game on Thursday Night Football! The game had a little bit of everything: double pick-sixes, a Taysom Hill touchdown, Kyler Murray screaming at Kliff Kingsbury, calmly asking him to be calm AND A CHRISTIAN MCCAFFREY TRADE AS THE SAINTS KICKED A 62 YARD FIELD GOAL! Unlike the last couple of weeks, where we have to ask ourselves what we are doing with our time, what we did to deserve this, etc., this week actually left us with some tangible questions to ask about the fantasy football players and their prospects in this game!
Is This Taysom Hill Stuff For Real?
Well, I guess that depends on what you mean by “real.” Taysom Hill had yet another touchdown on Thursday Night Football (to go along with 48 passing yards, 9 rushing yards, and a catch for 3 yards), making that four out of seven weeks with a score, and seven touchdowns in seven weeks. On some sites, he has quarterback eligibility… but also tight end eligibility. Given the replacement level for both positions, I can’t figure out a world where you would start Taysom at QB instead of TE. So, the real question remains: is Taysom Hill worthy of starting every week at tight end?
There’s no real metric to say when Taysom Hill is and isn’t worthy of starting. He’s a unicorn on the football field, a guy with a nose for the end zone and enough Reading is Fundamental Stars for him to cash them in on a few pass attempts every once in a while. So, is Taysom Hill a start-worthy tight end? I mean… I don’t see why not? Taysom Hill posted his third game of at least 8 PPR points in his last 4 contests and posted a somewhat respectable-for-a-streaming-tight end of 4.5 PPR points last week. If you kept rolling with him, you were rewarded. So, if you’re in the streaming tight end game: stop. You’ve found your guy, at least for right now. Taysom Hill’s touches might be weird and in a by-hook-or-by-crook, but he’s averaging 5 touches per game, which is more than that all but a handful of tight ends can say (only Hill, Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, and Tyler Higbee have more than 30 touches on the year.
There’s no more chasing Irv Smith’s matchups or micromanaging when Bob Tonyan will get 10 targets. Just throw Taysom Hill in there, and watch as the chaos reigns. If he falls apart, then so be it. All tight ends except a small handful fall apart eventually, and you can at least right the lightning in the meantime.
Did Eno Benjamin “Wally Pipp” James Conner?
Eno Benjamin finished the game with 12 carries for 92 yards and a touchdown, as well as 4 catches for 21 yards on 5 targets. I didn’t have the Arizona third-stringer on my bingo card for “first productive game from a Cardinals running back in 2022” but here we are. The Cardinals were without James Conner (RB1) or Darrel Williams (RB2) in this one, and barely missed them. Fourth-stringer Keontay Ingram also got in on the action, turning 9 carries and 2 receptions into 37 yards and a touchdown. But the real question is: will this pecking order maintain when James Conner and Darrel Williams return?
I would say no, but also: yes. The Cardinals like James Conner and gave him a deal to return as their lead back this offseason. So, they aren’t going to remove him from the equation entirely. He’s also a better down-to-down runner than Eno Benjamin, despite what the final box score from Thursday said (Eno at one point had two carries for 52 yards and sat around 60 yards well into the fourth quarter). But, there’s no reason that James Conner’s targets shouldn’t go Eno Benjamin’s way. I was in on Darrel Williams this offseason for the pseudo-Chase Edmonds role in Arizona, and it appears that Eno Benjamin has not Wally Pipped Conner, but rather, Darrel Williams, for that role. That’s where he would be most productive on a down-to-down basis for the Cardinals, and it’s also the role most conducive to sustained fantasy points.
While I believe the Cardinals keep James Conner in heavy rotation upon his return, the Eno Benjamin breakout likely spelled the end of an era (that ended before it even started) with Darrel Williams in the 1B role in Arizona. If you snagged Eno Benjamin, congrats, you have the newest guy in the Nyheim Hines/J.D. McKissic archetype, with the potential to be much more. But has he replaced James Conner? I wouldn’t think so… at least, not yet.
Will Michael Thomas Returning Muck Things Up for Chris Olave?
Chris Olave finished week seven with 14 targets, 7 receptions, and 106 receiving yards. This marks his third time in five full games (he left week five with a concussion and missed week six) in which Olave had at least 13 targets. He was far and away the best wide receiver on a Saints team that missed three of its top four wide receivers in this one. But, Michael Thomas might be coming back soon, and some might fear that MT’s involvement will throw a wrench in the gears.
Michael Thomas hasn’t played since week three, and he had 7 targets for 5 receptions and 57 yards (and a touchdown) per game in those three games with Jameis Winston. On paper, he was a central part of the offense, but in reality, Michael Thomas was a core part of the Saints’ roaring comebacks in those games: 12 of MT’s 22 targets in the first 3 games of the season came in the third or fourth quarters with the Saints down by at least 8 points. Unfortunately, all 3 of his touchdowns also came on targets that met that criteria. So, Michael Thomas wasn’t really a central part of the offense overall, if we are being quite honest. Because of this, I would expect more of the same from Chris Olave. After all, two of his three 13+ target games came with Michael Thomas in the lineup, so he should continue to roll as the Saints’ WR1.
Were the Cardinals’ Problems Really as Simple as Missing DeAndre Hopkins?
Yes. Well, no. But sort of. As we saw on the broadcast, the issues between Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury persist, with the cameras catching the young signal caller pulling off his helmet and yelling at Kingsbury to calm down. That was uncalled for (and I’m a player-over-coach guy, you just can’t get that tilted at someone you’re supposed to be symbiotic with) and signs that there’s still trouble brewing under the surface. But, as the saying goes, winning fixes everything, and the Cardinals won this one going away, so that can fix quite a lot.
But, so can getting a future Hall of Fame wide receiver back from suspension. DeAndre Hopkins finished this one as the centerpiece of the offense, getting a token short pass in the middle of the fourth quarter to get him to 10 catches and 103 yards on 14 targets in his return to action. That certainly made things work a bit better, as it was the second 100+ yard receiving game of the season for Arizona. The entire Cardinals offense worked better, though, with the Arizona offense accounting for three touchdowns in this one after scoring 11 offensive touchdowns in 6 games. Part of that was the Saints’ defense being one of the worst in the NFL, but Hopkins returning helped the Cardinals take advantage of their defensive woes.