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Ray-Ray McCloud lived while T.J. Hockenson blocked; Please sleep Russ

Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson

Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

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You love to read it when you somehow had the foresight to start or avoid these players, you hate to read it when it’s time to figure out how that could have happened: It’s The Week In Confounding Fantasy Football! The Lions-Steelers game produced a tie and some wacky results, and the Seahawks fell apart in a national island game.

Ray-Ray McCloud explodes for 12 targets in Steelers tie

How did this happen? The Steelers were forced to start Mason Rudolph because of a Saturday positive COVID-19 test for Ben Roethlisberger. Chase Claypool sat with a toe injury that looks like it has the potential to last for multiple weeks. A Steelers offense that had already been target-vacuumed resorted to the same stuff they did in 2019 with Rudolph and Duck Hodges. That’s right, folks, it was extend the running game hours.

McCloud was only targeted one time beyond 15 yards, on a deep crossing route where Rudolph escaped from the pocket and was able to win late in the down. Most of the rest of these targets were all about horizontal yards and trying to get an explosive guy the ball in space. McCloud didn’t really reward there with a -1.2 YAC per target compared to his expected output per Next Gen Stats.

Who can we blame for this? Well you can’t blame the Lions defense, they haven’t really done a lot to hold down opponents this year in any real way. This was a conscious decision by the Steelers to run three-wide with McCloud over trusting Pat Freiermuth and Eric Ebron in 12-personel. There are arguments for and against this depending on the opponent, and Pittsburgh has never been a big play-action team.

What’s our takeaway? Even if Roethlisberger is back next week, McCloud is going to have some appeal as a PPR-streamer if Claypool sits. Roethlisberger has targeted the third wideout plenty. Don’t expect 12 targets again, but some sort of six-catch, 50-yard game should be in play for McCloud if the Steelers don’t play Ebron more.

Russell Wilson‘s finger isn’t right and neither are the Seahawks

How did this happen? Russell Wilson rushed his rehab from a pin in his finger and planted some terrific coverage about it in the national media that noted that he was devastatingly focused on getting back early. The reeling Seahawks, rather than being inspired by Wilson’s return, face-planted to go to 3-6. Wilson completed only half of his passes and looked completely out of sync with the offense. He ducked and fluttered in the pocket. His deep balls were not on target in the slightest. Both of his interceptions were easy for the defense and there were about two or three near-misses from the Packers.

Pete Carroll said after the game that he didn’t think that the finger caused any of the interceptions, but there were more than a few balls that sailed on Wilson and all of his snaps had to be out of shotgun this week to accommodate the condition. Wilson was happy to test the Green Bay secondary deep, but he completed just 2-of-15 passes beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Seattle couldn’t game-manage any offense with the extra incompletions and sacks that Wilson added.

Who can we blame for this? Well, our hero worship culture, of course, that says it’s not right for Mr. Wilson to take a normal amount of rehab and sleep. I’m half-serious, but Wilson didn’t look great and I do think it’s evident he wasn’t 100%.

Seattle’s offense has a marked schism that they haven’t seemed to be able to bridge the gap on for the last season-and-10 games. They want to run the ball to protect a pass defense that is more Legion of Gloom than Legion of Boom. Wilson wants to air it out. Shane Waldron hasn’t really adjusted the game since Week 3 or 4, and the Seahawks haven’t counter-punched in a real way to what defenses are taking away from them. The line continues to give up a lot of pressure to whoever is quarterback. There’s more wrong here than just Wilson.

What’s our takeaway? Even when Wilson was healthy, the Seahawks have gone over 20 points twice since Week 3: The 49ers in Week 4, and the Jaguars in Week 8. Wilson threw for 149 yards in the 49ers game. Geno Smith threw for 195 against the Jaguars. Until they show signs of life against a real defense, they are someone to target streamer defenses against and an offense that can’t be relied on without a great matchup. It’s going to be hard to stomach Tyler Lockett as anything more than a boom-bust starter. This is, sadly, becoming a pretty lengthy track record of Seahawks offensive dysfunction now.

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T.J. Hockenson spends Sunday blocking in Dan Campbell takeover, finishes with one target

How did this happen?

Extremely same, Dan. Extremely same.

Jared Goff was playing through a rib injury and the Lions devised a run-heavy game plan to protect him from both that and the natural problems of being Jared Goff. More notably, Dan Campbell assumed control of the play-calling from Anthony Lynn. The result was 39 runs and 29 pass dropbacks. Goff was sacked four times, and when he did throw, managed a ghastly 114 passing yards in 70 minutes.

And somehow, even with that lede, it’s hard to believe that Hockenson finished with just one target in 25 Goff attempts. We can’t all have the great fortune of rostering Trinity Benson.

Who can we blame for this? It’s Campbell. The Lions only had three total targets to all their tight ends and this was a clear problem of play design. It’s not like Hockenson wasn’t playing. He was crushing it as a blocker and even got called for a costly holding penalty in overtime. Between Goff’s reluctance to go after tight windows, a game Steelers defense, and a lack of Hockenson first-read play-action passes, the Lions simply couldn’t find a way to get their best receiver involved in the game plan.

What’s our takeaway? We hope for rationality to prevail at some point, right? I know nobody wants to see David Blough play, but I would expect Blough to be a little less bad than this shaken-up version of Goff. We’re going to have to spend a lot of time this week monitoring the Detroit beat. I don’t think the Lions want things to be this stilted away from Hockenson, but if they are going to morph into a run-heavy team, it’s going to be hard to reliably depend on Hockenson’s volume as a TE1. And it was already kind of hit-or-miss as was.

A.J. Brown falls into the Marshon Lattimore black hole

How did this happen? It was all setting up for a big A.J. Brown smash spot. The Titans have not run well in the post-Derrick Henry world. Julio Jones (hamstring) wound up on IR on Saturday. Then, as Jack White once sang, The Big Three Killed My Baby:

1) Brown’s own injury problems came to play as he missed snaps in both halves and looked bothered after a sideline incompletion where he came down hard on the back of his helmet.
2) Marshon Lattimore, one of the best corners in the NFL and someone who loves island coverage, did an excellent job on Brown.
and 3) The Titans simply never produced the volume they needed to stay in the game. They went 3-of-15 on third downs. Three of their five scoring drives were field goals, and one of their touchdown drives went 19 yards.

Who can we blame for this? Well, Lattimore clearly played a part. Most of the targets Brown got were either against zones or with Bradley Roby in man coverage. A lot of the underneath rub routes that Marcus Johnson ran were the big gainers for the Titans, who struggled to separate against man coverage in any other way.

Then, of course, the fact that Brown is in a semi-permanent state of injury that was rattled twice. I know the Titans have won two games in a row. Look beyond that, though, and the offense has struggled in each game since Henry went down. They were heavily outgained by the Saints (6.1 yards per play to 4.6) and the Rams (4.7 yards per play to 3.5), and even though Brown had 11 targets last Sunday night, he only had 45 yards. You can start to build a little bit of a concerning case for Brown around those two facts.

What’s our takeaway? Well, I’ll tell you what I am going to do in leagues where I have Brown: I’m going to start him because the Texans are a disaster. I think this will be put behind us pretty simply, and I think the remaining schedule for the Titans is much kinder for their offense. But I am going to need to see some positive trends in the next few games for Brown beyond target volume, because if this offense can’t put a great game without Henry, it’s fair to argue that some of Brown’s ceiling may be capped. Julio Jones going out is one of those things that sounds good for Brown in a fantasy football world on paper, but also may lower the talent of the offense enough to be a “straw that breaks Todd Downing‘s back” situation.