Blake Bortles outran his fate for 68 starts. Every time it looked like the Jaguars would have no choice but to move on, he made like Jason Witten and pulled a rabbit out of his head. 87 passing yards in a seven-point home victory over the Bills in the Wild Card round? Here’s 507 combined against the Steelers and Patriots on the road. 176 in an embarrassingly narrow Week 1 win over the Giants? Here, let me deck the Pats again, this time for 376 yards and four scores.
Sunday, the law finally caught up. Losing 20-0 in the third quarter against the Texans, coach Doug Marrone pulled the plug. At that point, the Jags had been out-scored 60-7 over their past seven quarters as Bortles generated one touchdown and turned the ball over three times.
For the season, Bortles is sitting on 10 total scores compared to 11 giveaways. Bortles ripped the Pats for a 111 QB rating and the Jets for 114.8. His third highest? 72.6 against the Titans. That’s not sustainable for anybody, no matter how many Houdinis they’ve pulled or playoff games they’ve put in the #QBWinz column.
Not even Bortles’ new three-year contract — which, signed just last February, includes $26.5 million guaranteed — was enough to save him. The Jags came within a whisker of the Super Bowl last season and can’t continue to let Bortles shot put away games. Maybe he will get another start in Week 8 — the Jags are headed to London to face the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles, making it an unideal week to change quarterbacks — but the die has been cast. Once you have been benched once, you will be benched twice.
Cody Kessler, of course, is not the answer. The 2016 third-rounder has all the hallmarks of a career backup. Humps will not be gotten over with the ex-Brown. But an always-aggressive Jags front office has options if it takes to the trade market for the second time this month. Cleveland’s Tyrod Taylor. Philadelphia’s Nick Foles. Perhaps even the Saints’ Teddy Bridgewater. If you want to get really wild, there’s always Sam Bradford or Eli Manning.
All the Jags know is that it can no longer be Bortles. No more apology touchdowns or Patriots beatdowns. They’ve seen it all before. No matter how hopeful the middle may be, the ending is always the same.
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Five Week 7 Storylines
Sony Michel injures knee against the Bears. Michel was slow to get in the swing of things because of a summer knee issue. He missed Week 1 and appeared limited in Weeks 2 and 3. So you could say it was a concern when he was in so much pain after going down in Chicago that he threw the ball to the ground, resulting in a Patriots fumble. Michel was eventually helped to the sideline before being carted to the locker room. The early consensus is that it’s not a season-ending issue, but any knee injury is a major concern for a player who was rumored to have a bone-on-bone condition coming out of Georgia. It’s safe to assume Michel will miss next Monday’s game against the Bills. Kenjon Barner helped James White carry the mail in Chicago, but it’s possible he’s replaced by a free agent, perhaps even ex-Pat Mike Gillislee.
Albert Wilson suffers serious hip injury. Trying to turn a 24-yard catch into a true gamebreaker, Wilson nearly shed a tackle but came down in extremely awkward fashion. It initially looked like he could be dealing with a torn Achilles’ tendon. Instead it was a hip issue, one his agent said will cost him “significant time.” Even if it’s not a season-ender, that likely means injured reserve for a team that is running light at receiver and will need the roster spot. Beginning to excel in a larger role, Wilson’s loss will be devastating for a limited offense that had been relying on his run-after-the-catch skills. It also means the calculus behind trying to trade DeVante Parker ahead of next week’s deadline has grown more complicated. The ‘Fins may no longer have the luxury of shipping Parker out. In the short term, with Kenny Stills also banged up, Jakeem Grant could feature on Thursday Night Football against the Texans.
Marlon Mack formally establishes control of the Colts’ backfield. Look at me — look at me — I’m the captain now. That was Mack’s Sunday message to Nyheim Hines and company. The second-year pro decked the Bills’ previously-stout run defense for 126 yards on 19 carries (6.63 YPC). 11 of Mack’s 19 totes gained five or more yards, while he’s now posted a YPC of 6.63 or better in back-to-back games since returning from his hamstring issue. Where he once appeared doomed to be a part of an Eagles-style, four-man committee, Mack is now the clear leader of a narrower backfield. He has a dream Week 8 matchup in the pathetic Raiders to show off his big-play chops.
Kerryon Johnson makes another move in Lions’ backfield. Mack wasn’t the only running back trying to formalize command. Johnson ran all over the Dolphins, rolling to 158 yards on just 19 carries (8.31) as the Lions handled the Dolphins on the road. Johnson’s YPC is now a sparkling 6.43. He just can’t shake LeGarrette Blount, who stayed in involved for 10/50/1 in a game the Lions controlled but never turned into garbage time. Coach Matt Patricia is determined to rotate backs and apparently prevent his rookie from getting overexposed. Maybe that’s the best approach in real life — can that really be said of giving the ball to Blount? — but in fantasy it’s limiting Johnson to mid-range RB2 status when he has shown the ability to be an RB1.
Keke Coutee aggravates hamstring injury vs. Jaguars. Battling hamstring issues since the early days of training camp, Coutee went down once again on Sunday. He has already said he expects to miss Week 8. Considering his earlier timeline — Coutee was sidelined from early August to late September — he could be looking at a multi-game absence. Coutee’s loss coincides with Will Fuller’s (hamstring) return. Fuller finally looked healthy on Sunday, catching a team-leading six passes for 68 yards. Coutee has made legitimate fantasy noise, especially in PPR, but he could prove to be a tough-luck drop for teams facing bye week crunches.
Five More Week 7 Storylines
Wendell Smallwood out-touches Corey Clement again. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Coming off a Week 6 where he both out-produced Smallwood and proved his health, Clement was on track to take control of the Eagles’ backfield against the Panthers. Instead, the duo once again played to a standstill. This time, Smallwood out-gained Clement, albeit merely 37-22. It could have been worse, but Smallwood lost a few big gains to penalty. To top it all off, UDFA Josh Adams mixed in for four touches. We thought Clement was the better player, and it is quite possible he still is. He just has not convinced coach Doug Pederson, and that’s all that matters. With Darren Sproles (hamstring) theoretically returning at some point, Clement’s fantasy campaign could remain permanently stuck in neutral.
Bills further bottom out with LeSean McCoy injury, Derek Anderson radioactive disaster. The Bills are tunneling deeper and deeper each week, plumbing new depths of embarrassment at quarterback, making life extremely difficult on their All-Pro running back. Sunday the two collapsed in concert, with McCoy suffering a concussion and Anderson somehow making Nathan Peterman look like a viable option. McCoy went down early, departing with just two carries to his Week 7 name. The good news is, he has an extra day to get ready for Week 8, as the Bills are playing on Monday Night Football. The bad news is, they will be facing the Patriots, a team that is not shy about ripping overmatched teams’ heads off. It doesn’t really matter if the Bills go with Peterman or Anderson in Josh Allen’s absence. It matters so little, in fact, that they could dip back into the street free agent well and try out Option D.
At least in fantasy, Mitchell Trubisky keeps rolling against Patriots. The lad has some 2015 Blake Bortles to his game. Wildly uneven and turnover prone, Trubisky compensates with big plays and runs. That’s straight out of the old Bortles playbook. Astoundingly, just eight of Trubisky’s 26 completions against the Pats were to wide receivers. Trubisky is relying on scheme and checkdowns, but it has been working the past three weeks. Again, that is more true in fantasy than real life. This kind of erratic play always catches up with quarterbacks. Trubisky will need to start taking genuine steps forward before too long. Although they largely contained Kirk Cousins on Sunday, the banged up Jets are not a stay-away matchup for Week 8.
Bilal Powell suffers neck injury vs. Colts. Speaking of those Jets, Powell went down in the second quarter and did not return. In theory, that should have made for a big day for Isaiah Crowell, but Powell’s committee mate could generate just 29 yards on 11 carries in a disastrous game for the entire Jets Offense. Powell’s Week 8 status is uncertain. Neck issues are perhaps the trickiest in football. If Powell cannot go against the Bears, Crowell will be an upside RB2. Sixth-round rookie Trenton Cannon is the next man up at running back for Gang Green.
Matt Breida confusion continues to reign supreme. Playing through a variety of ailments, Breida aggravated his ankle issue on his first carry against the Rams. He would “return” but ended up playing only five snaps. In his absence, Alfred Morris re-emerged from his surprising Week 6 benching, though it was Raheem Mostert who once again performed the best. Constantly limited in practice and routinely checking out of games banged up, Breida might finally need a week or two to heal up. If he sits for Week 8, it will be for a dream matchup with the Cardinals’ bottom-three run defense. If you did not land Mostert last week, now is the time. If Morris was cut loose, he’s a “hold your nose and add him” flier.
2. If you told Hue Jackson in training camp that he would have a chance to tie every game in the final seconds, would he take it?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: 49ers (@AZ), Redskins (@NYG), Chiefs (vs. DEN), Jets (@CHI)
Stats of the Week
Via Lord Reebs: The Browns are 1-1-1 when winning the turnover battle by +3. The rest of the league is 20-1. Besides apparently taking a bigger role in the play-calling, what can Hue do for you?
Justin Tucker had been 222-of-222 on extra point attempts before his overtime-costing shank against the Saints.
Via Michael David Smith and Andrew Siciliano: The Rams have scored 30-plus points 15 times in 23 games with Sean McVay as head coach. They did so 11 times in 77 games with Jeff Fisher as head coach. Astounding.
GIF of the Week: This CBS graphic on the Washington Redskins’ recent record.
Tweet of the Week, From The Action Network’s Sean Koerner: Week 7 has seen such a high percentage of troll touchdowns so far. Wonder if this means we see a Julio TD tomorrow?
Tweet of the Week II, From Gregg Rosenthal: The Carl Nassib revenge game is more than I ever expected.
The Do Not Stare Directly Into Its Beauty Award: The Derek Anderson-quarterbacked Bills scoring five points.
Non-Football Award of the Week: Anthony Kiedis getting ejected from the Lakers game.