Week twelve is mostly in the books, and except for the instant classic Bills-Eagles game… this week mostly sucked. I’m not going to pussy foot around, it was a bad week all around, but some things stuck out that are worth investigating further. Let’s dive into a handful of developments from Sunday football and see if what we saw was reality.
Is There Any Hope For Kyle Pitts?
No. I mean, at this point, I don’t know what else there is to say about Kyle Pitts. This isn’t an indictment of his talent, but rather, an indictment of the Atlanta Falcons. Arthur Smith has no idea how to use his best players, but I am beyond grousing about that. If you aren’t, then I contend that’s your problem. Anyway, Kyle Pitts once again failed to be a startable asset in fantasy football this week, as Desmond Midder held him to two targets, two catches, and 22 yards. He is running plenty of routes, running one on 70% of Ridder’s dropbacks (12th among tight ends) and he’s eminently involved, as he has the second-highest air yard share among all tight ends, and the eleventh-highest target share among tight ends? The real culprit? The dastardly play call and run-pass split dictated by billionaire fail son/mustache enthusiast/head coach Arthur Smith.
The Falcons have the eighth-most plays in the NFL, but they run the ball 45.2% of the time. So, what does that mean? It means that they pass the ball 54.8% of the time, the second-lowest rate in the league, which has led to the seventh-fewest pass attempts. Not only does he have the seventh-fewest pass attempts, but he also ranks 36th in average depth of target, meaning that there just isn’t much behind the pass attempts.
With Kyle Pitts averaging the second-highest air-yard share, and the Falcons dumping the ball off as much as humanly possible, it just means that Pitts has a bigger slice of a much smaller pie. As of right now, there’s no hope for Pitts, who hasn’t finished inside the top-fifteen since week six.
Should We Start Najee Harris? Jaylen Warren? Both?
Najee Harris finished Sunday with 15 carries for 99 yards and a score, but did not receive any targets. Alternately, Jaylen Warren finished with 49 yards on 19 carries and kicked in 3 catches for 13 yards on 3 targets. All-in-all, Harris finished as the better start, with Jaylen Warren scrubbing along with some PPR points to salvage his day. As of writing this, before Sunday Night Football’s conclusion, Najee ranks as RB14 on the week, and Jaylen Warren as RB32. So, it was a good call to start Najee Harris and sit Jaylen Warren.
Unfortunately, however, last week things went a bit differently. Jaylen Warren was RB2, and Najee Harris finished as RB43. So, where am I going with this? Both guys are startable on the weekly, just understand that they might take a back seat to the other one. They are ideal flex options as the poor man’s version of David Montgomery & Jahmyr Gibbs, just don’t expect a lot of consistent or predictable production from one of them, specifically.
Is Josh Downs a Stud Waiting to Happen?
Josh Downs fully returned from injury on Sunday after failing to contribute in each of the last two games he played due to nagging injuries. Downs ran just 16 routes (combined) in those games after averaging 33.3 routes per game in the previous Gardner Minshew starts. It’s not surprising, then, that he had 72.7 yards and 5.7 receptions per game in the first three Gardner Minshew Starts and finished with 3 catches for 50 yards total in his last two starts.
On paper, it didn’t seem as though Josh Downs had a good game. He finished with just 5 catches for 43 yards. But, that certainly hides a lot of under-the-hood goodness. He was back to his pre-injury routes, running 33 of them in this game. Even better? He had 13 targets, which means he had a 39.3% target rate, which makes him an elite option in fantasy lineups going forward. It didn’t work out this week, but you can slam Josh Downs into your lineup going forward.
Is Rashee Rice Finally Happening?
Rashee Rice finally broke through, finishing with 8 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown, on a team-leading ten targets. Note that usually when you talk about Chiefs’ receivers, you talk about receiver-leading targets, as the general assumption is that Travis Kelce will lead the team in targets in any given week. But, Kelce finished with “only” seven targets in this one, meaning that Rashee Rice’s 31% target share led the team. It marked just the third time that a receiver led the Chiefs with double-digit targets in a game where Travis Kelce played since they traded Tyreek Hill. Rice is also the first Chiefs’ WR to finish with over 100 yards this season, and he now sits with two of the top-three yardage outputs from Chiefs’ receivers this season. That is to say: it was an impressive effort. It’s finally happening.