Julian Edelman’s transformation from secret weapon to star has been gradual. The former two-way player was allowed to hit free agency not once, but twice by the team whose receiver corps he now leads. He spent four days on the open market in 2014 before the Pats finally signed him to a four-year, $17 million contract. 323 days later, he caught nine passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIX.
Even still, Edelman was unloved by fantasy owners in summer drafts, going as the WR18. That put him two spots behind Andre Johnson, and just one ahead of Golden Tate. He entered Week 10 as the WR5 by average points, and on pace for 104/1,278/14.
Defying expectations has become the norm for the diminutive slot receiver, except in one area — injuries. Edelman missed 18 games over his first five seasons with a variety of ailments, including a broken hand, broken right foot, concussions and ankle issues. His latest, another broken foot, will likely cost him the final seven games of the regular season, and leaves him questionable for the playoffs. It’s as big of a blow for the Patriots as it is for fantasy owners, as Tom Brady’s receiver depth chart was thin even before his No. 1 got hurt.
The next man up is Danny Amendola, a poor man’s Wes Welker’s poor man’s Wes Welker. Amendola has always had sure hands, but is a half-step slower than Edelman, and less of a big-play threat. More than all but a select few wide receivers, Amendola is willing to sacrifice his body for any catch. Like Edelman, this leaves him prone to injury, and perhaps a ticking time bomb opposite Brandon LaFell. Amendola will soak up targets and catches, but just like Edelman isn’t quite Welker, he isn’t quite Edelman. Add him on the waiver wire, but don’t expect every-week WR2 production, let alone WR1.
As for Edelman, published reports suggest his “Jones fracture” is to his left foot, though video seems to suggest his right. It was Edelman’s right foot that right required surgery in 2012. Another operation to repair another right break would portend poorly for his future.
Like few teams in NFL history, the Pats seem to blow by obstacles en route to victories, usually big ones. But Edelman’s injury will test them more than any on offense since Rob Gronkowski’s torn ACL in 2013. If he can’t make it back for the postseason, a team that also just lost Dion Lewis may not have the horses to defend its title.
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Five Week 10 Negatives
Peyton Manning’s Matt Schaub-ian afternoon. Gary Kubiak was as patient as he could be with his starting quarterback, supplying a leash only one of the greatest players in league history could get. But Manning’s benching after his fourth interception in 35 minutes was meant as mercy, not punishment. Playing through rib and foot issues, Manning displayed zero touch or drive, making his first eight shaky performances look like they came from a quarterback 15 years his junior. Manning didn’t know where the ball was going, which generally meant it ended up in the mitts of Chiefs defenders. Of his 20 passes, 3-4 more could have easily been picked. Kubiak said afterward that he regretted playing Manning in the first place, placing the blame for the performance squarely on Manning’s health. That’s both good and bad. It means Manning will remain the Broncos’ starter when healthy, but that he may be given 1-2 games to get so. That creates a window for Brock Osweiler to run with starting duties, though he didn’t look up to the task on Sunday. If Manning is under center against the Bears next week, it will be as a bottom-barrel QB2.
Aaron Rodgers’ latest shaky day. Rodgers’ 61 passes were a career high, but they produced just 333 yards, and a Gabbert-ian 5.46 YPA. The performance came against a defense that had been hemorrhaging big plays, allowing the highest YPA against in the entire league. Rodgers has now posted a sub-6.00 YPA in 2-of-3 starts, an unthinkable ignominy for the league’s best player. It speaks to how few big plays he’s creating, and how out of sync he is with his Jordy Nelson-less receiver corps. Rodgers will probably figure it out — when hasn’t he? — but he’ll be a mere mid-range QB1 against the Vikings’ tough defense in Week 11.
Sam Bradford’s injury. The other shoe finally dropped for Bradford, though it was hardly an “injury prone” type of ailment. Bradford was pile-driven into the turf by Dolphins LB Chris McCain, spraining his non-throwing shoulder and suffering a concussion. At the very least, he appears unlikely to start against the Bucs, thrusting Mark Sanchez back into the starting lineup. For much of the season, there’s been a school of thought that Sanchez gives the Eagles their best chance to win, but his two biggest contributions on Sunday were a Jordan Matthews hospital ball and end zone interception. It’s hard to look good when you’re forced into a game on the spot, but expectations should be low for the “Sanchize” against Tampa.
Russell Wilson’s latest one touchdown performance. The league’s top dual threat has only 10 total scores through nine games, and hasn’t cleared 250 yards passing since Week 4. The numbers seem incongruent with rate stats that suggest Wilson should be making more big plays, a theory that will be put to the test against the Blaine Gabbert-led 49ers next week. DC Eric Mangini largely held Wilson in check in Week 7 in San Francisco, but his defense has been far less effective on the road.
Mark Ingram’s eight-touch day against the Redskins’ awful run defense. Ingram took the ball 70 yards on New Orleans’ fourth play from scrimmage. He got the rock just seven times thereafter, playing behind C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower. A “nick” was supposedly to blame, but Ingram was never announced with an injury. Ingram has now face-planted in back-to-back plum matchups, helping the Saints to two losses, and leaving fantasy owners in a lurch. We’d like to think he’ll be ready to rock after New Orleans’ Week 11 bye, but rhyme and or reason haven’t been Ingram’s thing this season.
Five Week 10 Positives
Ben Roethlisberger’s eight shutout innings out of the bullpen. It remains unclear why Big Ben was active if he wasn’t healthy enough to start, but he was thrust into duty just seven minutes into Pittsburgh’s game against the Browns. He proceeded to embarrass his embarrassing division rivals, completing 22-of-33 passes for a season-high 379 yards and three touchdowns. Now Roethlisberger gets the Steelers’ Week 11 bye to heal up. The stars are aligned for him to be a weekly top-five option for games 11-16.
Jeremy Langford’s embarrassment of the Rams’ elite defense. With head-hunting DC Gregg Williams focused on slicing Jay Cutler in two, Langford cut his defense in three, rolling up 182 yards and two touchdowns on 27 touches. Langford has now taken the rock 48 times for 324 games in two games since Matt Forte went down. Forte appears due back in Week 12, but Langford has likely earned himself a weekly role as a change-of-pace back. Further down the line, Langford has shown the Bears they can let Forte walk next offseason, and install him as their new starter. Langford was worth the early-round investment in Dynasty leagues.
Kirk Cousins’ decimation of the Saints’ “defense.” Everyone knew New Orleans was a good matchup for Cousins. I thought Cousins might be a good matchup for New Orleans. 324 yards and four scores later, I now know there’s no such thing. Turning whomever they face into fantasy week-winners, the Saints go on bye before returning against Brian Hoyer in Week 12. Hoyer is primed to go Hindenburg anytime he takes the field, but you better believe he’ll be a DFS darling against the Saints.
Johnny Manziel’s (spot?) start. Even as the Browns thudded to another dispiriting defeat, Manziel had the best game of his two-year career. The No. 22 overall pick of last year’s draft completed an impressive 33-of-45 passes (73.3 percent), compiling 372 yards and a touchdown. Afterwards, even hard-headed coach Mike Pettine admitted it was an eye-opening day, and left the door open for Manziel to start following the Browns’ Week 11 bye. There’s still a high probability that Manziel busts, but it would be malpractice for a 2-8 perennial, gonowhere also-ran not to see what Manziel gives them in the season’s final six games. Manziel is worth stashing in all two-QB and super-FLEX leagues.
Charcandrick West stinging the Broncos’ league-best defense for 161 yards and two touchdowns. West set the tone for Kansas City’s upset by taking the rock four times for 25 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive. He sealed it by turning an intermediate Alex Smith pass into an 80-yard score. Averaging 25 touches for 141 yards over his past three games — where he’s scored four touchdowns — West has a dream Week 11 matchup against a Chargers defense silver plattering 4.85 yards per carry. He’ll be an RB1 in season-long leagues, and foundational player in DFS cash games.
1. Was the Packers’ bye week adjustment to be bad?
2. If you can’t get a safety against the Dolphins, what does that say about your defense?
3. What will Cam Newton have to do to convince you he’s one of the best players in the league?
Early Waiver Look (Players owned in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
Stats of the Week
Davante Adams saw 21 targets against the Lions. He could turn them into only 10 catches for 79 yards. The Pack need more than RB/TE production from Adams if they’re going to get their passing attack back on track.
Jay Cutler’s fantasy point totals since returning from his hamstring injury: 22.1, 22.1, 22.9, 21.7, 25.1 and 27.3. He’s a QB1.
Antonio Brown’s 1,698 receiving yards last season were the sixth most in NFL history. This year he’s on pace for 1,826, which would be third most in NFL history.
Adrian Peterson has 227 more rushing yards than any player in football. Being human isn’t his thing.
The longest pass in the NFL this season was thrown by Landry Jones.
Most Inglorious End To The Season: Justin Hunter fracturing his ankle. Hunter was slightly more consistent than he was as a sophomore, but will enter the final year of his rookie contract without any real accomplishments to speak of. Perhaps a change of scenery would be best for both sides.
Tweet of the Week, from @ChrisWesseling: President of the Statement Game Committee, @DanHanzus, declares this a statement win for the @AZCardinals.