Meet Rooney, my family’s adorable not-quite-puppy-anymore. He’s a three-year-old beagle, a feisty little guy who spent the first few months of his life on an Amish farm in Pennsylvania.
Now let’s get one thing straight. Rooney is the best friend you could ever ask for, a true ride-or-die homie who will always be there to lick your face or chase you around the house when you need a pick-me-up. But in his young adulthood, he’s become quite the player-hater (think Silky Johnson with paws). Rooney and I will always be best pals, but now that he’s a grizzled veteran (if he were in the NBA he’d have Bird Rights), the cookie-loving rascal has no tolerance for neighbor dogs or any other fun-loving pups he may come across in his day-to-day travels.
A couple weeks ago, Rooney was greeted by a run-of-the-mill dog-off-his-leash who hoped to do a little rough-housing with his furry companion. No dice. Rooney big-timed this pooch like he was an intern taking his coffee order. “Double sugar on the hop, you peasant.” Needless to say, it was a supremely disappointing development in Rooney’s season-long character arc.
Which brings me to my point about Troy Aikman, the grouchy beagle of NFL announcers. John Smoltz spent last month lecturing us all about what baseball was like back in his day (dude, you retired nine years ago), but now that his sport is on hiatus, Aikman is back to being sports broadcasting’s resident wet blanket. Sitting beside Joe Buck (who is still seething from Randy Moss’s tasteless display against the Packers over a decade ago), Aikman went into full get-off-my-lawn mode after Michael Thomas commemorated his game-sealing touchdown against the Rams with a throwback to Joe Horn’s famous flip-phone celebration. It was outlandish and probably deserving of the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag that it garnered, but boy was it a welcome change-of-pace for a sport that continually eschews personality to the detriment of its audience.
Unprofessional, selfish, childish—whatever name you reserve for Thomas’ end-zone theatrics, the truth is it didn’t cost New Orleans anything. The game was well in hand when Thomas dusted off a classic while giving the Saints fans in attendance a little extra bang for their buck. This would be a different conversation if that was Thomas’ only catch, but instead it was the cherry on top of a 211-yard tour-de-force. It was also the knockout blow that finally ended L.A.’s perfect season.
I’ll always be a proponent of players having fun, which is why I’m a card-carrying member of Team Bat Flip, Team Helmet Toss or any of the other various sub-groups devoted to athletes showing traces of humanity instead of being soulless robots. Elaborate as it was (Carrot Top would admire his use of props), Thomas is really only guilty of one thing—having fun. When did that become a crime?
Anyway, here is a photo to remind you that despite his recent crankiness and utter disdain for lesser canines, Rooney is, at his beagle core, a very good boy. On that note, here are my Week 10 Power Rankings. Ready for a new No. 1?
1. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 4
Most players will go their whole career without scoring three touchdowns in a game. Alvin Kamara has already done that three times this year including Sunday in the Saints’ win over the previously undefeated Rams. Kamara seems to have distanced himself from backfield accomplice Mark Ingram, out-touching the veteran 62-40 since the Week 6 bye. After a surprisingly long hiatus, Dez Bryant has finally resumed gainful employment after beating out Kamar Aiken and Brandon Marshall in his New Orleans tryout. Congratulations to Ben Watson, who announced his wife’s pregnancy with this touchdown celebration.
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2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 2
Kareem Hunt gave Cleveland the business in Week 9, throttling the Browns for 141 yards and three touchdowns as the Chiefs won a laugher, 37-21. Remarkably, Hunt has more touchdowns in his last seven games (12) than he did all of last year (11). Patrick Mahomes bested Baker Mayfield in a showdown of Big 12 gunslingers, setting a career-high in passing yards for the third time in four weeks. The Cardinals are next up on the schedule for KC but you can bet the Chiefs are already looking ahead to their Week 11 clash with the Rams in Mexico City.
3. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 1
The Saints handed L.A. its first loss of 2018, foiling the Rams on the strength of four Drew Brees touchdown passes. Marcus Peters had nowhere to hide in Week 9, getting massacred by flip-phone connoisseur Michael Thomas (11-211-2). Among corners, only Tennessee’s Malcolm Butler has yielded more touchdowns (seven) than Peters (six) this season. It wasn’t all bad for the Rams as Cooper Kupp looked sharp in his return from a knee injury (5-89-1) while Jared Goff won Halloween with his pitch-perfect B-Rad costume from Malibu’s Most Wanted.
4. New England Patriots
Last Week: 3
Tom Brady’s much-anticipated showdown with Aaron Rodgers didn’t live up to the hype, though Sunday served as a great showcase for Josh Gordon, who bled the Packers for 130 yards, his most in a game since Week 14 of 2013. Jack-of-all-trades Cordarrelle Patterson filled in admirably for an injured Sony Michel (knee) in Week 9, handling 11 carries for 61 yards and a touchdown in New England’s 31-17 victory. ESPN rewarded the sixth-year chameleon by gifting him running back eligibility in fantasy leagues. Former Kent State QB Julian Edelman completed his first regular season pass in Week 9, hooking up with James White for a 37-yard pickup.
5. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 5
Melvin Gordon wasted no time in his return from a hamstring injury, getting down to brass tacks with 123 yards (113 of the rushing variety) and a touchdown against the Seahawks in Week 9. The Caleb Sturgis Era in Los Angeles ended Monday when the Bolts sent him packing in favor of practice squadder Mike Badgley. It was probably for the best—Sturgis has been a disaster this year, converting just 9-of-13 field goals while shanking six of his 15 extra points. Is Hunter Henry (ACL) angling for a late-season return? It sure seems like it.
6. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 6
Christian McCaffrey had a feeding frenzy in Week 9, busting up the Bucs for 157 yards (79 rushing, 78 receiving) and two touchdowns. Four of C-Mac’s five end-zone visits this year have come in his last two outings. Greg Olsen was also on the prowl, roasting Tampa Bay for a season-high 76 yards on six catches while extending his touchdown streak to three games. James Bradberry owned Mike Evans on Sunday, limiting the Pro Bowler to a season-low 16 yards as Carolina captured its third straight victory.
7. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 7
Antonio Brown left a few bullets in the chamber against Baltimore, but he still gave fantasy owners their money’s worth by supplying his weekly touchdown in a 23-16 Steelers victory. That gives AB nine touchdowns for the year, the same number he had all of last season. Breakout star/elaborate mullet-haver James Conner continues to move mountains, compiling an absurd 689 yards from scrimmage with seven touchdowns throughout Pittsburgh’s four-game winning streak. Ben Roethlisberger’s left-footed punt on Sunday was the sixth of his career.
8. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 9
The Vikings went psycho against the Lions, thrashing Matthew Stafford (10 sacks) in a savage Week 9 beat-down. Dalvin Cook was expected to be on a tight snap count in his return from a hamstring injury but instead the second-year Florida State alum rolled to 109 yards (89 rushing, 20 receiving) while reasserting himself as the Vikes’ lead back. Adam Thielen's run of 100-yard receiving games came to an end but his touchdown streak continued Sunday with his sixth end-zone visit in as many games. Stefon Diggs (ribs) couldn’t go against Detroit, but he’ll have the bye week to get healthy.
9. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 11
Even with Khalil Mack sitting for the second week in a row, the Bears had little trouble dismantling the Bills in Week 9, rolling to win No. 5 of the Matt Nagy Era on the strength of a two-touchdown effort from Jordan Howard. The 24-year-old has been a top-notch vulture recently, poaching four touchdowns in a three-game span. We’re still waiting for Anthony Miller to crack the fantasy radar, though the rookie’s workload appears to be on the rise. He’s seen a team-leading 20 targets over his last three contests.
10. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 10
After taking a much-needed siesta in Week 9, it’s back to business for the Eagles, who return for a Sunday night battle royale with Dallas. Understandably, Philadelphia is chomping at the bit to show off its shiny new toy, slot behemoth Golden Tate, who was acquired in a trade deadline deal with Detroit. Sunday will also feature the return of Swiss-army knife Darren Sproles, who hasn’t played since injuring his hamstring in the Birds’ season opener.
11. Houston Texans
Last Week: 13
The Texans’ Jekyll and Hyde backfield took another interesting turn in Week 9 as Alfred Blue one-upped Lamar Miller, winning the touch battle by a thin 15-14 margin. Deshaun Watson has kept the scrambling to a minimum since injuring his chest last month, but he made an exception to that policy on Sunday, cruising to 38 rushing yards in a win over Denver. Hey Demaryius, the shade police are here. They’d like a word.
12. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 8
Atlanta pasted the Redskins in Week 9, halting Washington’s winning streak at three. The injuries are piling up in D.C. with deep threat Paul Richardson (shoulder) and Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff (pectoral) each headed for season-ending surgery. It may be time for fantasy owners to get acquainted with Maurice Harris. The 25-year-old Cal-Berkeley product went ballistic in Sunday’s loss, flaming the Falcons for 124 yards on 10 catches. Both were career-highs. Josh Doctson’s touchdown grab Sunday was his first since Week 16 of last year.
13. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 15
Bye weeks are usually uneventful but that wasn’t the case for Cincinnati as the Bengals learned that A.J. Green will miss at least two games with a toe injury, though fortunately he won’t require surgery. Tyler Boyd could flirt with WR1 status throughout his absence. In a more positive development, Giovani Bernard appears to be on the mend after resuming practice earlier this week. The sixth-year back out of UNC hasn’t suited up since injuring his knee in Week 4.
14. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 12
It’s been Struggle City for the Ravens, who couldn’t find the antidote in a disheartening loss to division-rival Pittsburgh in Week 9. With John Harbaugh quickly running out of rope, now would be as good a time as any for Baltimore to switch out listless starter Joe Flacco for exciting rookie Lamar Jackson, though the Ravens still seem reluctant to make that change. Alex Collins has been racking up touchdowns (four in his last four games) but not much yardage. The third-year pile-pusher hasn’t cleared 60 yards rushing since Week 3.
15. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 17
Julio Jones got an enormous monkey off his back in Week 9, registering his first touchdown of 2018 in a win over Washington. He went 343 days—a span of 12 regular season games—between end-zone visits. Tevin Coleman jogged all over the Redskins, supplying 156 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in Atlanta’s 38-14 victory. That extended Tev’s scoring streak to three games. Meanwhile Calvin Ridley leads all rookies with seven touchdown receptions and is second in receiving yards (463) behind only Saquon Barkley (497).
16. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 14
The Packers no-showed in Foxboro, crumbling at the feet of Tom Brady in a Week 9 trouncing. With Davante Adams drawing shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who only has the second-craziest name in Green Bay’s receiving corps) lit it up with 101 yards on three catches, topping the 100-yard threshold for the second time in three games. We’ll be seeing a lot more of him with Geronimo Allison (core surgery) out for the year. Aaron Jones logged a season-high 14 carries against the Patriots but ruined the Packers’ comeback bid by coughing up a fourth-quarter fumble.
17. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 16
A hobbled Chris Carson tried to gut it out against the Chargers in Week 9 but lasted just 10 snaps before succumbing to hip and thigh injuries. Mike Davis tagged in and gashed the Bolts for 107 yards on 22 scoreless touches. With Carson’s health in question, Davis is a must-add in all formats. David Moore’s Week 9 ended in heartbreak when the second-year receiver dropped what could have been the tying touchdown on the game’s final play. In a week of memorable celebrations, this one might take the cake. Well done, guys.
18. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 19
The Dolphins continue to confound, inexplicably prioritizing running back relic Frank Gore over up-and-comer Kenyan Drake. A week after blowing the doors off with a 134-yard jailbreak against the Texans, the former first-round pick was back to disappointing, managing a single catch for eight yards in a win over the Jets. With Ryan Tannehill’s shoulder still giving him fits, it looks like the Brock Osweiler show will continue for another few weeks before its inevitable cancellation. Maybe the producers can shop him to Netflix.
19. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 24
The Titans clawed back to .500 by slaughtering the sinking Cowboys in a Monday night win at Jerry’s World. Kevin Byard hammed it up by replicating Terrell Owens’ famous star celebration after a first-half interception (maybe Byard was showing up Deion Sanders for this slight). Dion Lewis had a field day in Week 9, blowing up for 122 yards on a season-high 23 touches. The first-year Titan has come alive over his last two games, piling up 277 yards from scrimmage (153 rushing, 124 receiving) during that span.
20. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 20
Boy did the Colts nail it in this year’s draft. Stud linebacker Darius Leonard (league-leading 88 tackles) was Rookie of the Month for September, an honor he ceded to teammate Quenton Nelson in October. Speaking of hardware, we don’t have to vote on it, just hand Andrew Luck his Comeback Player of the Year Trophy right now. He’s on pace to dish out 46 touchdown passes, which would be the second-most in team history, trailing only some large-foreheaded fella’ named Peyton Manning. Perhaps you’ve heard of him.
21. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 22
Leonard Fournette, he of 45 offensive snaps this season, looks ready to rumble after sitting out most of the first half with a bum hamstring. The Jags haven’t won in a minute—they’ve followed up a 3-1 start by losing four straight—and it seems the schedule makers have taken notice. Jacksonville’s Week 11 matchup with Pittsburgh was supposed to be a primetime game but with Bortles and the boys stinking up the joint, NBC traded it back to CBS for one of Doug Marrone’s patented bologna sandwiches.
22. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 18
Week 9 was looney tunes in the 313. Matt Patricia scolded a reporter for slouching (talk about the pot calling the kettle black), Matthew Stafford took 10 sacks in a loss to Minnesota and special teams coordinator Joe Marciano got the axe. The Lions also pulled the rug out from underneath Ameer Abdullah, sending the former second-round pick packing after a disappointing four-year stay in Motown. That’s a lot of carnage for one week and it won’t get any easier for the Lions with upcoming matchups against the Bears (twice), Panthers and Rams.
23. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 21
Amari Cooper showed potential in his Dallas debut, contributing a respectable 5-58-1 receiving line in Monday night’s loss to Tennessee. A week after dismissing OL coach Paul Alexander, the Cowboys’ hog mollies underperformed again, yielding five sacks to the Titans while failing to create holes for Ezekiel Elliott (61 yards on 17 carries). With Sean Lee (hamstring) headed for another absence, look for impressive rookie Leighton Vander Esch to soak up plenty of snaps at linebacker for the falling-fast Cowboys.
24. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 23
Denver took another L in Week 9, dropping a nail-biter to the visiting Texans. Brandon McManus did the Broncos no favors, missing two of his three field goal tries including a 51-yarder that sailed wide right in the closing seconds. Rookie Courtland Sutton drew five targets in the first game of the post-Demaryius Thomas Era in Denver but the real winner was tight end Jeff Heuerman, who exploded for a career-high 83 yards and a touchdown on 10 catches. Four of the Broncos’ six losses this year including their last three have come by a touchdown or less.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 25
The Ryan Fitzpatrick Experience (which would be a great band name if I had any musical talent whatsoever) is always a fun ride isn’t it? Fitzpatrick made Week 9 an entertaining one, though his second-half heroics weren’t enough to propel Tampa Bay to victory. Nobody toes the line between brilliant (four touchdowns) and catastrophic (two interceptions) as deftly as the 14-year veteran. As Carolina learned, you have to pick your poison with the Bucs. On Sunday, the Panthers sold out to stop Mike Evans (one catch for 16 yards on 10 targets) while allowing Adam Humphries (8-82-2 on eight targets) to roam free.
26. New York Jets
Last Week: 26
The Sam Darnold Turnover Tour made a stop in Miami over the weekend as the rookie added to his league-leading interception total by churning out four picks in an ugly loss to the Dolphins. Elijah McGuire made his season debut in that game, galloping to 67 yards on 10 touches in his return from a broken foot. Since Week 6, only one tight end—Tampa Bay’s O.J. Howard (four)—has scored more touchdowns than Jets rookie Chris Herndon (three).
27. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 27
With Gregg Williams (he of endless job opportunities) at the controls, the Browns are shaking things up. On Sunday that meant getting Duke Johnson involved. After weeks spent gathering dust on Cleveland’s bench, Duke reintroduced himself with a standout performance in Week 9, snagging nine catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Kansas City. It’s still early in the process but a list of high-profile candidates for the Browns’ head-coaching vacancy is already taking shape. Bruce Arians, John DeFilippo, Mike McCarthy, Josh McDaniels and Lincoln Riley are a few of the names you might recognize.
28. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
Nick Mullens, an undrafted 23-year-old who hails from the same alma mater as Brett Favre, announced his presence with an electrifying debut, churning out 262 yards and three touchdowns as the Niners asserted their Bay Area dominance over the struggling Raiders. Pierre Garcon cashed in with a rare touchdown in Week 9, scoring for the first time since Week 14 of 2016 when he was still catching balls from Kirk Cousins in Washington. More work will fall on Matt Breida’s plate with Raheem Mostert (broken arm) lost for the season.
29. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 28
Sam Bradford may not be a great quarterback but man does he know how to earn a buck. Bradford’s Cardinals tenure ended with his release on Saturday but the oft-injured signal-caller still netted almost $16 million for his half-season with Arizona. That raises Bradford’s career earnings to $127.5 million, a pretty good cut for a guy who’s made just 83 starts. Larry Fitzgerald let out some frustration by unleashing a righteous touchdown spike in Week 8. Turns out, he wasn’t frustrated by the team’s 2-6 start—Fitz was mad his son blew him off for the Arizona State Fair.
30. New York Giants
Last Week: 29
Against all odds, the Giants escaped Week 9 without losing. They also didn’t play, but 0-0 is still progress, right? The Giants chose not to suspend rookie quarterback Kyle Lauletta following his recent arrest, probably because they’ll need him soon. Eli diehards won’t appreciate this truth-bomb but here goes—the guy is cooked. Entering the final stretch of a lost season, wouldn’t it best serve New York to see what Lauletta has to offer instead of subjecting us to two more agonizing months of check-downs and 15-yard sacks?
31. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 30
Like a swimmer in shark-infested waters, Nathan Peterman had little chance of surviving the Bears, committing three turnovers as the Bills took the latest step in their ongoing quest for rock bottom. For the glass half-full folks, at least Peterman impressed as a ball-carrier, taking off for a career-high 46 yards on eight rushes. Quarterback-turned-tight end Logan Thomas demonstrated his receiving chops in Week 9, nabbing seven of eight targets for 40 yards in the loss to Chicago.
32. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 32
The Raiders didn’t play in Week 9. Well technically they did, but is “playing” really the right verb for what Oakland did Thursday night in San Francisco? “I’ll take tanking for $600, Alex.” It takes a special kind of awful to get dunked on by the previously unheard-of Nick Mullens, but that’s where we’re at with Jon Gruden’s sorry bunch in Oakland. When you’re trotting out has-beens like Doug Martin and Brandon LaFell on a weekly basis, you’re asking to get stomped on. Mission accomplished, I guess.
Biggest Jump: Titans
Biggest Drop: Lions, Redskins