Week nine was one of the wildest of the season! We saw the Jets upset, we saw Aaron Rodgers get very upset, and we saw Justin Fields break records! Not only that, but we had Joe Mixon score touchdowns by the bushel and the return of Cam Akers from the cold. With all of week nine’s action leaving us reeling, let’s take a look at some of the occurrences from week nine to figure out what part of the byepocalypse was reality, and what part was just noise.
Is Justin Fields a Top-Five Quarterback for the Rest of the Season?
Justin Fields broke Michael Vick’s single-game quarterback rushing record, pulling in 172 rushing yards, a touchdown, and a top-five quarterback finish on just his rushing alone. While fields had just 123 passing yards, his three touchdowns gave him plenty of fantasy points, and he was QB1 after Sunday’s action. This marks Fields’ third-straight game finishing as a top-five quarterback and his fourth straight inside the top-eight. The reason? Not only have the Bears opened up Fields’ passing (he’s thrown for at least 21 passes in each of the last four games after starting the year maxing out at four passes in the first four weeks), which has led to six passing touchdowns over the last four games, but they’ve also beefed up his rushing, and Fields responded. In the three games prior to his 172-yard outburst this week, Fields averaged 77 rushing yards per game.
All of this is to say: the Bears have unleashed Justin Fields, and he has responded. But, his schedule, unfortunately, includes a real gauntlet from weeks 14 through 16, with his bye week (hard to score points then), the Eagles, and the Bills. Philly and Buffalo rank in the bottom ten in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and you probably don’t want to rely on Fields then. But, pure fantasy gold awaits Fields in the next two weeks, as he gets the Lions and the Falcons in the next two games, who both rank inside the top ten in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. So, because of the schedule, I would say that Justin Fields isn’t a top-five quarterback going forward. But, for the next two weeks? Absolutely.
Should We Start to Worry about the Sam Ehlinger-led Colts?
32 completions, 304 yards, zero touchdowns, and an interception. With eight quarters to his name in his NFL career, Sam Ehlinger is yet to orchestrate anything that could mildly resemble being “impressive.” With 13.56 fantasy points in his two starts combined, there obviously isn’t very much value for Ehlinger’s weapons to soak up. Obviously, this week has to be the bottom. With no Jonathan Taylor to worry about, and an injury to Deon Jackson partway through the game, the Patriots teed off on Ehlinger, sacking him nine times, and he had just 24 yards passing until he completed a 23-yard pass to Alec Pierce with 0:44 left in the first half. Things were bad for Ehlinger, and that 23-yard pass to Alec Pierce? That was the longest for the game. Not the longest pass, the 23-yard completion marked the high-water mark in receiving yards in this game for the Colts. That’s awful. But, that’s also the Patriots and a young quarterback. These things happen.
Unfortunately, Ehlinger threw for just 201 yards in week eight, making that two straight games with an emaciated passing game bereft of weapons fattened on the junk time stat padding we saw from Matt Ryan. Michael Pittman squeezed out 12.3 PPR points in week eight with Ehlinger under center (and getting 9 targets against a questionable defense). Outside of that, no Colts have double-digit PPR points under Sam Ehlinger. Nobody in Indy is worth starting right now, at least until they take on a hot matchup like, say, the Raiders in week ten. And say, that game is at 1:05 PM pacific. And that’s not a hypothetical scenario. But, it’s going to get a bit bumpy from there. Two of their three games after next week’s soft landing come against the Eagles and the Cowboys. Given how well Ehlinger has handed pressure so far (that is to say: terribly) then I would move away from all receiving threats, and start just Jonathan Taylor in that time frame. The Colts have no interest in winning; don’t let them take your fantasy teams down with them.
Is it Time to Count Out Touchdown Tom?
Things were bad for Tom Brady in this one. He finished with just 15.2 fantasy points and had 280 yards passing and a score. The 280 yards passing marked the fourth time in the last five games that Brady had at least 280 yards passing. While Brady can move the ball with ease, he’s struggling to cash those in for points: Tom Brady has just four touchdowns in his last five games and passed for multiple touchdowns one time this season. Brady and the Buccaneers do a great job of moving the football, but they are one of the worst red zone pass offenses in the NFL, and that is the thing that is going to destroy Tom Brady.
28 quarterbacks have at least 20 red zone pass attempts through this point in the year, and only Russell Wilson is doing a worse job of passing for touchdowns near the end zone: Brady is throwing for a touchdown on just 16.3% of his red zone passes, with Stafford ranking 26th with a 16.7% rate and Russell Wilson with an astonishing 6.3% touchdown rate inside the red zone. That’s the problem with Brady. He can still move the ball (top-ten in 20+ yard and 40+ yard pass plays) but in and around the red zone, the condensed field is giving him fits. This is why Brady has just two games inside the top fifteen at quarterback this year, and this one will barely make it three. If we can’t count on Touchdown Tom getting touchdowns, then I am counting out Touchdown Tom.
Can We Trust Eno Benjamin While James Conner is Available?
According to Pro Football Focus, Eno Benjamin played just seventeen snaps in this game, running routes on eleven of them and getting carries with the other four. This gave him a chance to get a football on fifteen-of-seventeen snaps (88% of his snaps played), but this is actually an increase in his usage, and indicates of something slightly more insidious: the Cardinals want to use Benjamin strictly as a change-of-pace back. Benjamin played 27% of the snaps in this one, after averaging 29.9% of snaps in the first four games of the season (with a fully-healthy James Conner). But, getting involved 88% of the time when he’s on the field indicates that the Cardinals threw him out there when they wanted him to touch the ball, and not really any other time.
That’s rough and extremely unfortunate for Eno Benjamin’s managers. James Conner went right back to playing on 70%+ of snaps, playing 71% of snaps after averaging 66% of snaps in his three healthy games this season. We most definitely cannot trust Eno Benjamin as long as James Conner is around, especially since it seems as though the Cardinals don’t trust him.