The Top 10: Week 15

Matt Waldman opens his film notebook and examines the notable events from Week 14.

Mission

The mission of this column—and a lot of my work—is to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality of football analysis. Football analysis—fantasy and reality—is often dramatized because there's a core belief that it's more important to entertain than to educate.

I don't live by the idea that it's better to be lucky than good. While I want to give you actionable recommendations that will help you get results, I prefer to get the process right. There will be a lot of people talking about how they were right to draft or start specific players. Many of them got the right result but with the wrong process.

The Top 10 will cover topics that attempt to get the process right (reality) while understanding that fantasy owners may not have time to wait for the necessary data to determine the best course of action (fantasy).

As always I recommend Sigmund Bloom's Waiver Wire piece which you'll find available on this page, Monday night. Bloom and I are not always going to agree on players—he errs more often towards players who flash elite athletic ability and I err more towards players who are more technically skilled and assignment-sound.

Straight, No Chaser: Week 14's Cliff's Notes

The article below will provide expanded thoughts and supporting visuals for the following points.

  1. The Patriots' offense depends on receivers who can make frequent pre-snap and post-snap adjustments with Tom Brady—often mid-route. In addition to the fact New England lacks a quality receiver whose best fit isn't the slot, Julian Edelman is the only receiver who routinely earns separation and makes the correct adjustments. As a result, opposing defenses can bully Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, daring the receivers to do their job as they apply heavy pressure to Brady. Don't count on New England's receivers or the Patriots winning the AFC championship.
  2. While the Chiefs were giving Tom Brady a taste of New England's defensive medicine on Sunday, Patrick Mahomes II won while playing with an injury to his throwing hand because he made adjustments to the length and direction of his dropbacks to access passing lines and buy time efficiently under heavy pressure.
  3. The Steelers exposed Kyler Murray's flaws as a quarterback—sacking him three times in the first 19 minutes and foiling him repeatedly as a runner and passer, especially in the red zone.
  4. Drew Lock's follow-up in Houston was even more impressive than his debut in Week 14 because he demonstrated additional refinement with his drop-back game and skill to make some difficult throws under pressure. Yet, Lock demonstrated enough rookie behaviors to maintain a sober perspective about his future and a look at Mahomes and Drew Brees are worthwhile points of comparison to explain why.
  5. The Ravens defense held a sack-a-thon and made Josh Allen its featured guest. The film illustrates how Baltimore confused Allen and his teammates and why this doesn't bode well for the Bills' playoff chances or your postseason fantasy leagues.
  6. Sam Darnold has a higher long-term ceiling than Mitchell Trubisky but fewer supporting talents to help him get there..
  7. Kendrick Bourne is one of several players from my November list of fantasy playoff values (including Lock, Derrius Guice, and Anthony Miller). This week, we examine why Bourne's route running and hands have helped him earn the trust of Jimmy Garoppolo.
  8. Rookie running back Kerrith Whyte shared the FAU backfield with Devin Singletary. He's a far superior athlete to Singletary who had no chance of making the Chicago Bears. However, he's earning a shot to compete for significant playing time with the Steelers this season and perhaps, beyond.
  9. The proper bird mascot for the Atlanta football team should be the Phoenix because this team has a cycle of dying and then rising from the ashes. Now that the offensive line is getting healthier, I'm betting we'll see Dan Quinn's, and possibly Devonta Freeman's, careers return from the dead in 2020.
  10. This week's Fresh Fish:
    1. Phillip Dorsett isn't the only struggling New England receiver but if looks could kill, Tom Brady's glare on Sunday as well as last week's sideline confessional to Josh McDaniels would have reduced Dorsett to grease spot at Gillette Stadium.
    2. Carolina's defensive front without Kawann Short and Dontari Poe hurts the entire unit, especially against the run.
    3. After the team declared him inactive the week prior due to mental errors and practice issues, Keke Coutee returned to the field and lost a fumble that former Texan Kareem Jackson returned for a touchdown and sparked a rout of Houston.
    4. Rookie tight end Dawson Knox is a promising player but he dropped a big-play target and missed a disguised blitz by Earl Thomas.

For those of you who wish to learn the why's, the details are below.

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