Week 13 was a lot of fun! And I’m not just saying this because my 49ers took the Eagles behind the woodshed to the tune of six-straight touchdowns all because someone called “Big Dom” decided it was a good idea to annoy the 49ers. Anyway, there was a lot of fantasy football craziness, but let’s take a look at one player at each position that had us raise our eyebrows on Sunday, and see if their performance is a blip or the portend of something greater. Let’s check the absurdity of some questions that we might have after this week!
Is Nico Collins a League Winner?
Everything wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows on Sunday, as stud rookie wide receiver Tank Dell broke his leg and will miss the rest of the season. He finished the game with no stats, as he gave his season up as a blocker on a goal-line touchdown run for Dameon Pierce. Pierce scored, but at what cost? Collins, who was the WR1 on the team to start the year, found himself thrust back into the role. He was well on his way to a nice game as he had already caught two of his four targets for 58 yards. But he didn’t have a nice game, he dominated the Broncos to the tune of 9 catches for 191 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets.
Nico Collins had himself a dominating game, but is he going to dominate every week from here on out? First, let’s look at the opportunity. Tank Dell finished with 75 targets in 10 games this year, as he was inactive for one game. He also missed the majority of week 5 against the Falcons, putting him at 71 targets across 9 games, or about 8 per game. You’d think that Collins would have gone off in those games, but he had fewer targets today than he had in those two games combined, finishing with 10 total targets and a meager 16% target share. Considering that Collins has a 29.7% target share outside of those games, I am willing to call that a blip. So, that was a meandering route to say: the targets will be there, as they’ve been there all season.
Now, for the matchups: he gets the Jets, the Titans twice, and the Browns in the next four weeks. These teams rank 31st, 6th, and 32nd in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers. That might be startling, but the Broncos rank 29th in fantasy points per game to wide receivers, and he scored 34 dang PPR points against them. He’s also no stranger this season to games against difficult opponents. Collins has now played against five opponents who rank in the bottom ten in fantasy points per game to wide receivers. In those games before this offensive explosion, he still carried a 21% target share, though he had just 4.25 catches for 57 yards per game on 7 targets per contest. He managed just 10 PPR points per game in those contests, though zero touchdowns would account for that.
All-in-all, in a three-wide receiver league, it’s hard to get away from the clear WR1 on a team that throws the ball over 35 times per game in a three-wide receiver league, just because of the opportunity. In a two-wide receiver league, I am probably still starting him against the Ravens, but I am going to steer clear of him against the Jets. The Titans, of course, are wheels up to let him smash them, just like Michael Pittman did yesterday.
Should We Bother With Ezekiel Elliott?
The Patriots were a read-and-go fantasy offense before this week, as in you would read that the Patriots were going to be on your television screen, and you would go and do literally anything else, instead. The lone bright spot on offense this season was Rhamondre Stevenson. And, in what seems to be the universe trying to speed-run karmic retribution for all of Bill Belichick’s crimes against humanity, the Football Gods took Stevenson from us, perhaps for the season. So now, they must turn to Ewok/running back Ezekiel Elliott. But, with only Brian Robinson, Antonio Gibson, and James Conner on bye next week, should we even really bother adding his backup, Zeke Elliott?
First, let’s look under the hood at some Ezekiel Elliott stats to see if we can find something of value. The Patriots are bottom-ten in rushing plays per game, carry a bottom-three game script and run blocking rating, and run the tenth-fewest plays per game. So, nothing there. Elliott himself has very little in the way of excitement, either. He ranks outside the top 40 in yards per touch, juke rate, true yards per carry, breakaway run rate, fantasy points per opportunity, and yards created per touch. So all that is to say: the Patriots are bad, and so is Ezekiel Elliott, at least now.
But, there’s one thing you can’t teach: volume. With a receiver corps so bad it made the 2022 Patriots receivers look like the 2009 Patriots receivers, the Patriots had no choice but to turn it over to their running backs. Rhamondre was averaging a career-high 16.7 touches per game before week 13, and he turned this into 3.3 catches and 74.4 total yards per game. Elliott finished week 13 with 21 touches (4 catches) for 92 total yards. That came against the Chargers, who represent the last good play for him until week 16 against the Broncos and Elliott’s likely ceiling game. The Patriots are a terrible offense run by a mishmash of Bailey Zappe and Mac Jones, who are the same person, and that person is bad at football. They’ve scored 13 points in their last three games. What does this mean for Zeke? His touchdown upside is virtually non-existent.
With all of this in mind, I wouldn’t bother with Elliott as anything other than a hedge to make sure his matchup against the Broncos doesn’t happen against you. Otherwise, stay away.
Can Patrick Mahomes Still be Considered a Must-Start Quarterback?
With his 210 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception performance on Sunday Night Football, Patrick Mahomes sits at QB14 on the week, and this will mark the third time in four games that he’s failed to finish inside the top ten at quarterback. It also marks the fifth straight game wherein Mahomes has failed to throw for 300 yards. So, this might have you asking: can we consider Patrick Mahomes must start? After all, he’s barely cracking the top 12 and has just two top-five performances on the season.
The answer? Yes, he’s Patrick Mahomes. Sometimes these Absurdity Checks can be ridiculously easy. The only players I’d bench him for (Hurts, Allen) aren’t on your roster if you have Mahomes. After all this handwringing about Mahomes, he is still just three games outside the top 12 this season. He’s a must-start player, just not worth what you paid for him at the draft. But, that was back in August when we still had hopes and Aaron Rodgers still had an intact Achilles, but I had you going for a second, didn’t I?
Is Trey McBride Above the Blob?
If this is your first Football Absurdity article, then welcome in! Hello! “The Blob” is our shorthand to explain the tight ends that are all pretty much the same. The cutoff is usually somewhere below the Dallas Goedert Tier, though this year, the tight-end gods have graduated Evan Engram and Sam LaPorta from the blob (though they’ve demoted Darren Waller & Kyle Pitts). But, should we move Trey McBride there? The sophomore tight end finished Sunday with 9 targets, 8 catches, 89 yards and a touchdown. He dominated volume, and yardage, and scored one of two receiving touchdowns in the game. He’s currently TE2 on the week, between Sam LaPorta and Jake Ferguson.
Zach Ertz played his last game as a Cardinal on October 22. Since that game, Trey McBride ranks top-three in tight end route run rate, air yards share, target share, receptions, receiving yards, percent of team yards (he’s first, here), yards after the catch, touchdowns, and most importantly… fantasy points. Since Zach Ertz went down, Trey McBride averages 14.8 PPR points per game, behind just T.J. Hockenson and George Kittle, and just ahead of Taysom Hill (yes that Taysom Hill), and Dalton Kincaid. He’s graduated from the blob, as he is elite in every single category you can use to measure a tight end. He just needed his opportunity… and now he has it.
[Header Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Patrick_Mahomes_II.JPG, cropped, under CC SA 4.0]