With his ninth 10-catch performance of 2019, Michael Thomas broke Marvin Harrison’s single-season receptions record with a game to spare. Record-breaker 144 was an overturned touchdown. 145 finished the job two plays later, giving Thomas his ninth score as the cherry on top of his 10th 100-yard game. That brings Thomas one shy of Michael Irvin and Calvin Johnson’s shared record, who both cleared the century mark 11 times in their career years.
That’s not the only history Thomas will be chasing as the Saints try to earn the NFC’s No. 1 seed against the bombed-out Panthers. Thomas’ 1,688 yards are already 10th all time. With 100 more, he can vault to fifth. With 150, he can reach fourth. Second would require 184. First, 277. Thomas went 10/101/1 vs. the Panthers a month ago. That game was in the Superdome. This one will be another outdoor affair.
Thomas’ season hasn’t featured quite the raw power of Megatron’s 2012 or Julio Jones’ 2015. Of the 46 1,500-yard receiving campaigns in NFL history, Thomas’ 11.64 yards per catch is the lowest. His 82.4 catch percentage is by far the highest. Thomas is frequently catching wide-open layups as opposed to dominating DBs in 1-on-1 situations or melting corners down the sideline.
Not that Thomas doesn’t dominate in 1-on-1 situations. A fierce fighter and route tactician, there is a reason Thomas is the man of his times and setting these records. Appreciate this efficiency while it lasts, as a new era will be ushered in before we know it. And don’t even bother trying to guard Mike. He’s already open.
Five Week 16 Storylines
Saquon Barkley finally welcomes himself back to the season. Barkley knocked the rust off in Week 15. Sunday, he removed the oxygen and made new metal, melting the Redskins for 189 yards on 22 carries (8.59 YPC). It was the second most rushing yards by any player this season. It’s been too late for the majority of Barkley’s fantasy drafters, but he’s been the player everyone expected the past two weeks, piling up 422 yards from scrimmage while finding the end zone four times. Barkley presents a daunting Week 17 challenge for the short-handed Eagles in a game Philadelphia must win to lock down the NFC East. The buy-low window slammed shut in dynasty, soon-to-be 23-year-old Barkley will enter 2020 as the top hold in multi-year leagues.
Daniel Jones has five-touchdown day on road. Barkley’s partner in crime wasn’t too bad himself, reaching four scores for the third time in his past six starts. The No. 6 overall pick enters the finale four touchdowns shy of equaling Baker Mayfield’s rookie record even though he will end up making only 12 starts. Jones will enter his sophomore campaign confronting typical second-year questions. Can he cut down on his turnovers? Can he increase his efficiency? The ones that do become franchise quarterbacks. The ones that don’t fail to get a second contract with the team that drafted them. Considering the skepticism that surrounded Jones’ selection, it’s a major positive he’s headed into the offseason on a high note.
Chris Carson suffers season-ending hip injury. One of the NFL’s most physical runners, Carson met a violent demise against the Cardinals, going down near the end of the first half. Carson had previously yet to miss a game in 2019 despite his weekly invitation to contact. He joins Rashaad Penny (ACL) on the shelf with the playoffs on the horizon, while ever-brittle C.J. Prosise (broken arm) was also lost for the year against the Cardinals. Despite his 1,230-yard campaign on the ground, Carson is headed into an offseason of uncertainty. His fumbling woes nearly got him benched several times, while 23-year-old former first-rounder Penny was looking increasingly dangerous before going down. Penny’s knee ailment likely means Carson will open 2020 as the starter, but things could be fluid in the Seahawks’ backfield.
Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf combine for one catch against Cardinals. Lockett’s latest failure was even more shocking in the context of Carson’s injury. Even with their ground game stalled, the Seahawks couldn’t get Lockett the ball against one of the league’s worst secondaries. Lockett has reached 50 yards just once during his six-game tailspin. What exactly is going on here? Slowed by illness and a shin injury in the second half of the season, Lockett was having trouble separating against Patrick Peterson in the desert, but that still does not explain one grab on eight targets. OC Brian Schottenheimer has not been up to the challenge of scheming the ball to his top weapons. With Carson joining Penny and Prosise on the shelf, that needs to change now if the ‘Hawks are to avoid going one-and-done in the playoffs.
Kyler Murray’s rookie season likely ends with hamstring injury. The Cardinals sprung the upset, but Murray had to watch from the sideline. It was the second time this season the No. 1 overall pick’s hamstring acted up, but the first time it cost him snaps. It closes the book on a promising but highly uneven rookie campaign, one that saw the Cardinals frequently change their air emphasis. Some weeks, it was the deep ball. Many more, it was horizontal passing. Murray also never quite settled in as a runner, essentially functioning as a deluxe Ryan Tannehill instead of a Lamar Jackson or Cam Newton. The takeaways: The kid can really sling it, and his instant acceleration translated to the big leagues. Murray is also a good decision maker, turning the ball over much less frequently than most rookie quarterbacks. The Cardinals need to settle on a passing identity and juice their receiver corps, but Murray remains an elite young prospect heading into his first full offseason.
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