It’s fair to say that it was inevitable that COVID-19 would cause problems for the NFL in 2020. The Tennessee Titans have had an outbreak of the virus after their matchup against the Minnesota Vikings last Sunday. The Titans suspended all in-personnel activities, but the virus had taken hold in the team.
At first, the league pushed back the Titans at Steelers game until Monday or Tuesday, contingent upon further test results. After those tests revealed more positive cases, the NFL suspended the game completely, declaring this a bye week for both teams. While it has not been confirmed, the game may likely be rescheduled to Week 7, which was the Titans' original bye week. Of course, these two teams aren't the only ones who will need to make adjustments. The rival game between Pittsburgh and Baltimore was set to take place in Week 7, but that could be moved to Week 8, since both the Steelers and the Ravens have a bye that week. When the Ravens will have their bye is still unclear. Adam Schefter tweeted this out on Thursday.
This is indicative of how the league will operate moving forward. In terms of fantasy, it would be a good idea to have options to pivot to when this happens again in the future. For now, all Titans and Steelers players need to be out of your starting lineups.
We did manage to get through three full weeks before the coronavirus reared its ugly head, which we should be thankful for.
Jets Lose to a Third-string Quarterback and a Banged-up Broncos Team
Was it an outstanding performance by third string QB Brett Rypien or was it just that the Jets are that bad? Perhaps it’s both. Despite having three interceptions, including a pick six, Rypien shined in last night’s matchup. He had 19 completions on 31 attempts for 242 yards and two touchdowns with a banged-up supporting cast in his first NFL start.
Compare that to Jets’ QB Sam Darnold who threw zero touchdowns on 23 completions, 42 attempts, and 230 yards. He did rush in the first Jets’ touchdown, but simply could not connect with any pass-catchers in the end zone. Unlike Rypien, who looked rather collected in the pocket despite being sacked numerous times, Darnold had happy feet. He overlooked wide open receivers, opting instead to scramble, and made some poor throws.
It’s hard to blame Darnold, though. His offensive line has been less than stellar so far this season and he took a big hit prior to the half that sent him to the locker room. He would later return, but it’s hard to trust your line when you’ve been sacked six times already. Add that to an additional six sacks during this game, and anyone would feel jittery behind that lack of protection.
However, let’s look at the Broncos. Their offensive line is also struggling but Rypien managed to get it done, while Darnold and the Jets could not.
The 37 - 28 box score (Broncos over the Jets) sounds like it should have been exciting, but the real action didn’t heat up until the fourth quarter. The Jets scored a touchdown rushed in by Darnold and proceeded to kick four field goals until 10:45 of the fourth quarter. Pierre Desir scored on a pick six making the game somewhat interesting at 27 - 25 in favor of the Broncos. Kickers Sam Ficken and Denver’s Brandon McManus exchanged a round of field goals each, but RB Melvin Gordon took the Broncos to the promised land with a late touchdown with under two minutes to play.
Speaking of Desir, Rypien fired a bomb downfield in the first half to WR Jerry Jeudy that should have been intercepted. Instead, Desir will likely be on Monday night’s “You Got Moss’d” segment as Jeudy went up and over to snatch a reception right out of his hands. Not too bad for your first NFL touchdown. Desir did make up for the gaff with two interceptions, including a pick six as mentioned earlier.
The Jets Defense did have some good moments, but they were vastly overshadowed by the outrageous amount of penalties, including six personal fouls. The Jets totaled 11 penalties that cost them 118 yards. If you’re a Jets fan, seeing HC Adam Gase in the hot seat may actually feel good right about now. With all of the penalties on defense, especially the personal fouls, I imagine that DC Gregg Williams may be feeling the pressure after his infamous “Bounty Gate” fiasco with the Saints and the late hits to the quarterback in this game.
For the Broncos, this was an exciting win with a backup cast on the road, and they don’t have to look at 0 - 4. For the Jets, it was downright embarrassing. From QB play, to protection, to penalties, the Jets will have to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions. The Jets have already stated that Gase will not be fired, according to The Athletic’s Connor Hughes.
Whether or not this holds true remains to be seen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Gase does not finish the season as the head coach. This is his second 0 - 4 start in two years and his team has only five offensive touchdowns in four games.
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It’s not like this game held a tremendous amount of fantasy value, but you may have been forced to pivot to some of these players with the COVID news. Jets WR Jamison Crowder was clutch for Darnold, catching seven passes for 104 yards and finished with 17.4 points in PPR. The Jets also added two new faces on offense in WRs Jeff Smith and Lawrence Cager. Smith was activated off of injured reserve and caught seven passes for 81 yards. Unfortunately, Cager left the game early with a hamstring injury.
Despite losing and being sacked six times, Darnold pulled out a big fantasy day, even if it wasn’t pretty to watch. He finished with 23.6 points despite his lack of touchdown passes. His 84 yards rushing that included a 46-yard touchdown run payed off if you had to start him on your squad.
About the only fantasy-relevant players heading into this matchup on both sides were the Broncos’ WR Jerry Jeudy, RB Melvin Gordon, and TE Noah Fant. Jeudy finished with only two receptions on four targets for 61 yards a touchdown. It was WR Tim Patrick that Rypien looked to the most among the receiving corps. He had seven targets, six receptions, 113 yards, and a touchdown, finishing ahead of Jeudy with 23.3 points. Unless you are in deep leagues, Patrick may have been off your radar. As long as Rypien continues to be the starter for the Broncos, expect Patrick to be involved, especially with WR KJ Hamler and Fant out with injuries.
Gordon shouldered the load in the run game while his teammate RB Phillip Lindsay was sidelined with turf toe. He rushed a season high 23 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns as well as catching two receptions for 11 yards. He finished big with 25.8 points, giving managers a big head start for the rest of Week 4. Don’t forget, however, that Lindsay is not out for the season and should be returning soon. Gordon and Lindsay may be splitting the workload once again and this may the time to trade Gordon after his monster performance to get the best value in return.
Losing Fant to an ankle injury is bad news for fantasy GMs. The tight end landscape is a wasteland and you may be better off looking to trade for a tight end rather than finding one on the waiver wire. Managers will need to keep an eye on his status as we continue to Week 5 and make the necessary adjustments until his return. He saw six targets, five receptions, and 35 yards before he was forced to leave the game.
Broncos’ TE Noah Fant was carted off the field with an ankle injury during Thursday night’s game. WR KJ Hamler did not finish the game due to a hamstring injury. … Jets’ WRs Lawrence Cager also did not finish the game with a hamstring injury. … Packers’ WR Allen Lazard is out indefinitely after undergoing core muscle surgery. … Raiders’ WR Henry Ruggs missed practice again due to a hamstring injury. … Chargers’ WR Mike Williams was also sidelined Thursday with a hamstring injury. … Saints’ TE Jared Cook missed practice with a groin injury and WR Michael Thomas was limited in practice. … Browns’ WR Odell Beckham Jr. was added to injury list with a back issue. … Falcons’ WR Calvin Ridley missed practice with an ankle injury. … Washington Football Team’s WR Terry McLaurin has a thigh injury. … Eagles’ WR DeSean Jackson missed practice Thursday with a hamstring injury and RB Miles Sanders was a limited participant with a glute injury. WR Alshon Jeffery was not practicing on Thursday. … Cardinals’ WR DeAndre Hopkins missed practice with an ankle injury. … Buccaneers’ WR Chris Godwin and RB Leonard Fournette missed practice on Thursday. WR Scotty Miller was not seen. ... Houston’s WR Will Fuller was added to the team’s injury report with a hamstring injury. … Bills’ RB Zack Moss was still limited in practice.