How unlikely was the NFL rise of Cooper Kupp? For starters, he entered the league out of FCS Eastern Washington, the team known primarily for having a red field. He was also 24, which is positively elderly for a first-year player. Kupp was one day younger than rookie teammate Sammy Watkins, the No. 4 overall pick of the 2014 draft. A third-round pick after flopping the Combine, Kupp was slated for No. 3 duties in a Jared Goff-led offense, which sounded a lot different then than it does now.
One of the reasons? Kupp rocked it in 2017. While the youngest player in the league, JuJu Smith-Schuster, led all rookies in receiving (917), Kupp checked in second at 869. He averaged a robust 14.02 yards per catch and found the end zone five times. Kupp overachieved, but not in a way that suggested he was a one hit wonder.
He was not. Kupp came out hot this season, scoring five times in his first five games. He was on pace for 96/1,402/16 heading into Week 6 against the Broncos. That’s when he hurt his knee for the first time. Horse-collar tackled by Darian Stewart, Kupp was carted to the locker room. His year appeared over.
Only it wasn’t. An MRI mercifully revealed a mild MCL sprain. It was a miracle for fantasy owners and another data point in the Rams’ 2018 “team of destiny” powerpoint. It was not to be. After a surprisingly short two-week absence, Kupp made it only two more games before his left knee gave out for good. Finishing up a route after some light contact, Kupp went down in agony. He was in so much pain you could literally hear him scream on T.V. Goff had the looks of a player who knew he had just lost one of his top weapons for the season.
He has. Torn ACL. Now 25, Kupp will miss the Rams’ Super Bowl run and be in a race against time to get cleared for Week 1 2019. It’s the cruelest twist of fate for an unlikely star who did his part in putting a moribund franchise back on the map. Kupp’s loss is the first real test the Rams have faced during the so far charmed McVay era. It will take a group effort to replace him. Josh Reynolds will take over in three-receiver sets, but tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett could be the biggest beneficiaries. Both players were already getting more involved before Kupp’s injury, and each caught a touchdown in Sunday’s narrow win over the Seahawks.
More than likely, McVay’s system is good enough to overcome the loss of one of its best players. He will still be counting down the days until he gets Kupp back.
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Five Week 10 Storylines
Aaron Jones has the game Christine Michael never did. The Prince That Was Promised found the perfect foil in a Miami Dolphins Defense that has collapsed to expansion levels, getting gutted by opposing tight ends and road graded by running games. Jones’ 145 yards rushing were a new career high by 14 and came on just 15 carries. His problem was not a lack of commitment by coach Mike McCarthy, but a Dolphins D that simply could not stop him, limiting his work. Jones averaged an eye-popping 9.66 yards per carry, bringing his season mark to 6.76. His career number is 6.11. Maybe someone the Packers should have been featuring earlier, huh? Jones will face a stiffer Week 11 test — at least relative to the Dolphins — as the Packers make the Thursday night trip to Seattle. After starting out solid, coach Pete Carroll’s run D has sprung one leak after another, most recently getting pasted by Todd Gurley on Sunday. Jones is officially in the land of the RB1s.
Nick Chubb has biggest game yet. Steadily heating up since Carlos Hyde’s trade, Chubb reached a boil against the Falcons, turning 20 carries into a mammoth 176 yards, finishing with 209 yards from scrimmage. He was given 23 touches for the second-consecutive game. After they came in vain against the Chiefs in Week 9, they helped polish off the Falcons as the Browns re-injected good feeling back into their turn-the-page 2018. The highlight was Chubb’s 92-yard touchdown in the third quarter, the longest run in Browns franchise history. Chubb took a stretch zone handoff, received some nice blocking from Antonio Callaway and was off the races. Displaying both his big-play and workhorse chops, Chubb will operate as a feature back down the stretch. He has forced himself into the RB1 conversation.
Baker Mayfield continues to heat up vs. Falcons. Chubb was not the only Browns rookie on the ascendancy against the Falcons. Mayfield had as many incompletions (three) as touchdowns, commanding the huddle with renewed decisiveness as he needed only 17 completions to find nine different pass catchers for receptions. Mayfield converted his first 13 throws as the Browns streaked to a 21-10 lead. Chubb then finished the job. Mayfield has five touchdowns in two games under OC Freddie Kitchens after posting just eight scores in six appearances with Todd Haley calling the shots. Now headed on bye, Mayfield and Kitchens will further refine their attack ahead of a mouthwatering Week 12 date with the Bengals.
Tom Brady flops in Tennessee. Harassed from the opening whistle, Brady had his worst game since Week 3, the last time the Pats faced a Bill Belichick disciple. Missing Rob Gronkowski and playing behind a banged up offensive line, Brady was held scoreless for the second time in three starts. He enters the Patriots’ bye with one touchdown in three games. Of course, this being the Patriots, two of those contests were easy victories. The bye will be gut check time but also an opportunity to get things in order. Constantly dealing with supporting cast issues, Brady might finally have each of Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Gronk and Sony Michel near 100 percent when the Pats play the Jets in Week 12.
David Johnson parties like it’s 2016. After multiple false dawns, we finally got the DJ game we have been waiting for. Johnson was the Cardinals’ entire offense as they tried to keep up with the intimidating Chiefs on the road, turning 28 touches into 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 7/85 of Johnson’s production came through the air after he entered Week 10 with receiving high-water marks of 5/41. New OC Byron Leftwich just gets it, using Johnson the way he’s supposed to be featured. How this was not OC Mike McCoy’s plan still beggars belief. Coming off back-to-back 20-touch performances, Johnson might finally have a 200-yard game when the Cardinals host the Raiders for Week 11.
Five More Week 10 Storylines
Rashaad Penny looks explosive in Los Angeles. Mike Davis got the start in Chris Carson’s (hip) absence, but it was Penny who stole the show. After entering Week 10 averaging 3.47 yards per carry, Penny looked like a player who had an extra gear against the Rams. He turned 12 carries into 108 yards (9.00 YPC) and a score, not only changing the pace, but taking it to a new level. Penny was flat explosive against a defense that has Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh to cave the interior. With the Seahawks hosting the Packers on Thursday Night Football for Week 11, Carson could very well be sidelined for the second-consecutive game. Davis will not go away — coach Pete Carroll has made it clear he wants to feature two backs — but Penny will be the higher-upside FLEX option. Even if Carson returns, Penny has once again thrown the workload delineation in Seattle’s crowded backfield into question.
Allen Robinson welcomes himself to the Bears. As coach Matt Nagy managed and manipulated Mitchell Trubisky, the one person he could not get on board was No. 1 receiver Robinson. Coming off a two-game absence with a groin injury, the high-dollar free agent acquisition entered Week 10 with just 25 catches for 285 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He finally got rolling against the Darius Slay-less Lions, posing new season highs in both yardage (133) and scores (two). The emergence of Robinson would add an entirely new dimension to an offense that has been gimmicky at times. They have been effective gimmicks, but at a certain point, you need to be able to stretch the field. A hot Robinson down the stretch would help keep defenses honest against a still-learning Trubisky and clear much needed space for Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen.
Matt Barkley sparks Bills to victory. So it’s come to this. The fourth Bills quarterback to start a game this season, Barkley is also the best Bills quarterback to start a game this season. Barkley game managed in Buffalo’s beatdown of the hapless Jets, completing 15-of-25 passes for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sean McDermott’s passing “offense” entered Week 10 with three passing scores in nine games. Think about that. In 2018. In this NFL. It means little going forward, of course. Mega project Josh Allen (elbow) should finally be healthy enough to return under center when the Bills come off their Week 11 bye. The main takeaway from Barkley’s start is that they finally have a competent option behind their shambolic rookie. No more Nathan Peterman dumpster fires or Derek Anderson sad spectacles.
Corey Davis continues to slowly emerge. Davis had his second best game of the season against Stephon Gilmore’s shadow coverage, catching seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. The second-year pro also drew three defensive pass interference penalties. Davis has now posted back-to-back 10 target games since the Titans’ Week 8 bye, totaling 13/181/1. Marcus Mariota is getting his feet back underneath him after his disastrous September/October, and Davis has been the primary beneficiary. Stilly only 23, the No. 5 overall pick of last year’s draft has a chance to emerge as an every-week WR2 down the stretch with an eye toward WR1 status in 2019.
Martavis Bryant becomes latest Raider to go down in catastrophic season. Foolishly acquired for a third-round pick last spring, Bryant has held off a rumored suspension to appear in 8-of-9 games. He is not going to make it 9-of-10 after reportedly tearing his PCL against the Chargers. It’s better news than a torn ACL would have been, but Bryant could still ultimately require surgery and miss the remainder of the season. It’s the worst-possible news for a decimated offense that is also dealing with Jordy Nelson retirement rumors. If Bryant and Nelson both join Amari Cooper as gone from Derek Carr’s receiver corps, we may some of the most dispiriting football of all time as the Raiders play out the string of their miserable 2018.
1. Who is Robert Foster and how did he lead the Bills in receiving?
2. Has anybody told the rest of the AFC East that feudalism ended centuries ago?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
DEF: Cardinals (vs. OAK), Panthers (@DET), Giants (vs. TB)
Stats of the Week
Two teams (Carolina, Cincinnati) allowed 50 points … and still have winning records. Weird week.
Russell Wilson’s 92 yards rushing were his most since November 2014. The re-emergence of Wilson as a scrambler would go a long way toward shoring up his currently scarily-low fantasy floor due to his lack of passing volume.
Julio Jones has 1,040 yards through nine games, putting him on pace for 1,849. That would be third most all time. Jones' 1,871 from 2015 is second most all time.
The Bury Me Underground Award: What Zach Ertz did on Sunday Night Football.
Quote of the Week: From Dion Lewis when asked if beating the Patriots was personal: “Hell yeah it’s personal. That’s what happens when you go cheap. You get your ass kicked.”
The Death Becomes You Award: Eric Ebron scoring three touchdowns.