Remember when Jonathan Taylor couldn’t score? He now has five touchdowns over his past three games. And what a three games it has been. Taylor has stacked up 441 yards from scrimmage, contributing a 76-yard touchdown catch and 83-yard run. He is averaging 6.7 yards per carry during his hot streak, and is up to 5.4 on the year.
He is running as pure as he was to close 2020, and looking like the back the Colts thought they were getting out of Wisconsin. He is doing so even as injury has prevented the Colts’ elite offensive line from living up to its run-blocking potential. Pro Football Focus rates 18 teams that have been better in the trenches. What has changed for the better over the past three weeks is Carson Wentz coming back from the dead, making the Colts’ offense more multi-dimensional and relieving pressure on its home run hitting back.
Now T.Y. Hilton has also returned, drawing attention deep and adding another stressor to rival coordinators’ game plans. The nature of Taylor’s game is going to leave him volatile. Some weeks, the big plays won’t come. The Colts are also committed to something of a committee approach. Nyheim Hines is stealing change-of-pace touches and Marlon Mack is getting breather work. Taylor has yet to receive 20 carries in a game this season, a major departure from both last year and his college days.
It just doesn’t matter when a back is ripping chunk gains like this, and gobbling up goal-line carries. Taylor’s 10 totes inside the five-yard line lead the NFL. Amazingly, he has cashed in only two of them for scores. That percentage is going to change in a big way going forward, hopefully offsetting any regression he might suffer in the long run department. Taylor is special enough to succeed in a bad offense. Thankfully, he is now running in an improved one. A hinge-point player over the summer because of Wentz and Quenton Nelson’s injury issues, Taylor is looking like a potential league winner if you stopped his slide in the late first round or early second. That’s especially true of his upcoming schedule, @SF, vs. TEN, vs. NYJ, vs. JAX. Good things come to those who wait.
Five Week 6 Storylines
Kareem Hunt injures calf in Browns’ depressing loss to Cardinals. It’s one of the most concerning sights in football. A player pulls up untouched and starts grabbing at his calf. All too often that means popped Achilles’ tendon. In Hunt’s case, it was thankfully actually his calf. It’s a long-term bullet dodged but a short-term disaster for a team short-week hosting the Broncos this Thursday. Hunt will be sidelined for at least the next three weeks after he could not put any weight on his leg against the Cardinals. The question is whether Nick Chubb will be able to return from his calf injury, an ailment that prevented him from practicing at all in the run up to Week 6. We wouldn’t count on it, placing enormous pressure on anonymous third-year pro D’Ernest Johnson and rookie slasher Demetric Felton. Only Johnson can be counted on for FLEX-level touch totals. The Broncos are bottom five in running back fantasy points allowed.
Baker Mayfield and Odell Beckham join Hunt in the injury tent, stay in game. If Hunt’s injury was bad news, Mayfield’s was heart-attack inducing. Already playing through a left shoulder injury, Mayfield’s non-throwing joint seemed to get separated from his body on a third quarter strip sack. Mayfield writhed around on the ground for several moments before somehow staying in the game. It’s because the training staff managed to pop his shoulder back into place, yet another dislocation of a body part that shouldn’t be doing that. Speaking after the game, Mayfield was in a sling, saying he felt like (bleep). He nevertheless guaranteed he will be out there against the Broncos. The same is true of Odell Beckham, who will be playing through a shoulder injury of his own as he struggles to re-establish chemistry with his quarterback. It is going to be a low-scoring night for this offense against a solid defense.
Antonio Gibson’s shin injury becomes a bigger issue. Just four days ago, Gibson’s offensive coordinator claimed the second-year back wasn’t actually limited, and that the Football Team was just taking care in practice to keep him fresh. Sunday it was all too easy to see that was not true, with Gibson’s escalating shin issue forcing him to the sideline and earning him a “questionable” tag. Gibson managed to return, but the performance was one of his least effective in a series of low-wattage outputs. He underwent an MRI after. Gibson is averaging just 14 carries since a 20-tote Week 1, and has not caught more than three passes since the opener. All this after he spent the offseason battling a lingering toe injury. Gibson’s body just isn’t right, and it is fair to wonder if he might require rest beyond practice reps. The Football Team visits Green Bay and Denver before heading on bye.
Joe Burrow continues to heat up vs. Lions. As usual, Burrow found rookie deep threat Ja’Marr Chase for a bomb, this one a 53-yarder. Also as usual, Burrow flirted with 70 percent passing while averaging over 9.0 yards per attempt. He has now cleared that latter number in 4-of-6 starts, no small feat for a quarterback who was accused of dinking and dunking as a rookie as he averaged 6.9 yards per attempt. Chase has simply transformed the Bengals’ offense, and Burrow has proven talented enough to take advantage of Chase’s special abilities. Now Burrow heads into a Ravens matchup where the Bengals are not going to be able to limit his attempts, making for massive upside potential in a critical divisional showdown. It will also be a huge test after the Ravens erased similarly-ascendant sophomore Justin Herbert in Week 6.
Amari Cooper stays quiet even as Cowboys’ passing attack explodes. The good news: Cooper’s eight targets were his most since Week 1. The bad news: Eight targets were Cooper’s most since Week 1. The really bad news: His 55 yards were his fewest since Week 3. It’s been a nonsensical season for Cooper as he has battled injury in a balanced, established offense, one that loves to funnel targets to its tight end. Cooper was at least still amongst the Week 6 leaders in air yards, but it’s long past the point where we need more actual yards. There is just always something a little bit off with Cooper, one of the league’s premier physical talents at this position. With the Cowboys now headed on bye, hopefully one of their adjustments is getting Coop the ball more.
Five More Week 6 Storylines
Sam Darnold’s hot start fades further into memory. Darnold was simply awful, turning in one of the worst starts by any quarterback all season. His 41.5 completion percentage was Tebow-esque, while his third-straight two-turnover start was, well, Darnold-esque. Perhaps it is coincidental, but Darnold’s game has completely crumbled without Christian McCaffrey commanding the respect of the defense. There have been no obvious strides forward on his Jets play aside from having some better players to throw it to. Even that hasn’t mattered the past two weeks as Darnold has struggled to get D.J. Moore going. Softer matchups in @NYG and @ATL are now on deck, but any QB1 hopes, either for fantasy managers or the Panthers, are lost. Darnold is a low-floor streamer.
Packers keep shoveling work onto AJ Dillon’s plate. Dillon’s 11 carries were his second most of the season, and only two fewer than Aaron Jones’ 13. He did receive zero targets three days after coach Matt LaFleur claimed he thought Dillon was coming on as a pass catcher. Dillon’s involvement feels scary for Aaron Jones managers, but it’s really just a return to Jones’ career norms. He’s always had a nuisance RB2 stealing snaps and carries. It has helped keep him fresh as he posts elite RB1 numbers. Dillon is a bit of a different threat than Jamaal Williams since he profiles as such a weapon near the goal line, but unlike Williams, Dillon still isn’t a proven pass catcher, no matter what LaFleur claims. Dillon will be most valuable in games like this upcoming Sunday’s Football Team hosting, where he can help salt away bad teams with his power running. Dillon is firmly in the FLEX mix, especially with bye week hell now in full swing.
Ravens go with old man committee backfield. Ty’Son Williams was healthy scratched. It’s time to let the old guys cook. And cook they did, with each of Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell finding the end zone as they took advantage of the running lanes Lamar Jackson’s dual-threat commands. Unfortunately, there was no separation amongst the trio other than Murray and Freeman looking to have a little more juice left than Bell. Murray got the first crack at establishing the hot hand, getting the first touch of the game and capping the opening drive with his score. The Ravens just don’t seem interested in riding any one back. They want to involve everyone to keep the group fresh. It’s maddening from a fantasy perspective, but perfectly sensible for an offense whose backfield plans got shot to hell by injury. Only Murray offers any semblance of FLEX value.
Kadarius Toney looks more dangerous than ever until aggravating ankle injury. Even on a bum wheel, Toney’s stop-and-go game was almost practically indefensible. Re-injury was the only thing that could take him down against the Rams, and it did on the first drive, a possession where Toney caught three passes for 36 yards. Toney was immediately ruled out, suggesting a severe aggravation. He will likely miss Week 7 against the Panthers before hopefully returning in Week 9 following the Giants’ bye week. In his stead, Sterling Shepard immediately reclaimed his target hog role. With Kenny Golladay’s (knee) Week 7 status uncertain, Shepard will once again have the WR2 valuation he was pushing for earlier this year. Hold onto Toney in 10-12 team re-draft leagues even though it might feel difficult. He has shown too much to be let go.
Alex Collins has 100-yard game, gets assaulted by T.J. Watt, doesn’t finish with hip and glute issues. Collins was the non-Russell Wilson key the Seahawks’ offense needed, providing his first 100-yard effort since 2017 even as Watt’s savage assaults eventually resulted in a lost fumble. Collins was taking a literal and metaphorical beating, taking a breather in overtime as he battled a pair of minor ailments. It is unclear if they will affect his status for Week 7 against the Saints, though he has an extra day to get ready with the game on Monday Night Football. With six teams on bye, Collins will be a set-and-forget RB2 in what is already an uglier mid-season running back wasteland than usual.
1. Remember when the league had figured Patrick Mahomes out for five plays on Sunday?
2. Does Brandon Staley have the gumption to keep up his fourth-down attempts after yesterday’s failures from his own 39- and 19-yard lines? I hope so.
3. What is going through Jared Goff’s mind at this exact moment?
Early Waiver Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Carson Wentz (@SF), Daniel Jones (vs. CAR), Jameis Winston (@SEA), Justin Fields (@TB), Tua Tagovailoa (vs. ATL)
RB: D’Ernest Johnson, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.D. McKissic, Marlon Mack (trade hopes), DeeJay Dallas
WR: Darnell Mooney, Christian Kirk, Michael Gallup, T.Y. Hilton, Marquez Callaway, Rashod Bateman, Donovan Peoples-Jones
TE: Ricky Seals-Jones, Evan Engram, Tyler Conklin, Dan Arnold, Cole Kmet
DEF: Saints (@SEA), Dolphins (vs. ATL), Raiders (vs. PHI), Chiefs (@TEN)
On Bye: Bills, Chargers, Cowboys, Jaguars, Steelers, Vikings
Stats of the Week
Austin Hooper has 536 receiving yards in 19 games since the target-desperate Browns made him one of the highest-paid tight ends in NFL history.
62. Rhamondre Stevenson’s yards from scrimmage nearly doubled his previous season total. He looked like a receiver on his 22-yard reception in the first quarter, something that will be a key for him to carve out a consistent role behind Damien Harris.
Rich Hribar on Daniel Jones’ continued red zone struggles: “A year after Daniel Jones threw just seven touchdowns on 54 red zone passes (13.9 percent, last in the NFL) in 2020, he is 6-of-22 passing (27.3 percent) with zero touchdowns in the red zone to start this season.”
Via Mike Clay: The Lions have not played a single snap with a lead.
Tweet of the Week, from Bobby Big Wheel: It’s possible that the Giants have quit on their coach more than the Jaguars. They look like they’re playing Madden for the first time.
The Well That’s One Way To Handle That Award: DK Metcalf not going out of bounds at the end of Seahawks/Steelers and doing everything in his power to end the game before the Seahawks could tie it.
The I Don’t Know If You’re Allowed To Do That Award: T.J. Watt savagely assaulting Alex Collins in search of a fumble.
The Stop Trying To Make Fetch Happen Award: Jakobi Meyers ever scoring a touchdown.