Roundtable Week 12

This week's topics: Rams sans Woods, Taylor-Peterman, For Real-Fool's Gold, and staff favorites.

Injuries, personnel changes, and new opportunities dominated the Week 11 fantasy landscape. Let's focus on the prominent examples of each and examine the potential impact on fantasy owners moving forward: 

Fantasy owners are hungry, let's serve it up.

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The Rams Offense Sans Robert Woods

Matt Waldman: Robert Woods will miss at least three weeks with a shoulder injury and the Rams will be missing a receiver that earned top-15 fantasy production at his position in standard and PPR formats. Let's address fallout: 
  • Will we see a significant change in production for Sammy Watkins or Cooper Kupp
  • If neither Watkins nor Kupp's production changes, are you expecting an uptick in production for Todd Gurley or one of the Ram's tight ends? 
  • Is there anything to see with Tavon Austin, rookie Josh Reynolds, or second-year man Mike Thomas
  • What are your fantasy expectations for Goff during this critical fantasy stretch run? 
Maurile Tremblay: Until Wood's injury, the Rams receivers had remained remarkably healthy this season. So far, none of the team's top six wide receivers or top two tight ends has missed a single game.

Woods has led the way with about 36% of the targets to the wide receiver group, with Kupp and Watkins behind him at about 31% and 19%, respectively. I would expect both Kupp and Watkins to be targeted more frequently while Woods is out, as they move into the WR1 and WR2 slots, up from WR2 and WR3.

Watkins will get the larger bump because now he'll be on the field in two-WR sets. If we assume that the wide receivers as a group will keep about the same (roughly 62%) share of the team's overall targets, as I think they will, I'd expect Woods' seven targets per game to get redistributed roughly as follows: one to Kupp (from ~6 to ~7), and two to each of Watkins (from ~4 to ~6), Tavon Austin (from ~1 to ~3), and Pharoh Cooper (from ~1 to ~3).

Kupp's and Watkins' fantasy prospects will be enhanced — with Watkins getting the bigger relative bump, but Kupp still retaining greater absolute value.

Chad Parsons: I project Watkins and Kupp will see an extra 1-3 targets per game as a result of a few trickle-down targets to tight end or running back. Kupp and Watkins will be on the WR2 radar instead of more WR3/4/flex considerations in the meantime.

Jared Goff has only three QB1 finishes all season and the schedule (more than missing Robert Woods) has me shifting down Goff over the next month. Three of the next four matchups are top-8 in pass efficiency allowed (Saints, Eagles, Seahawks) with a neutral matchup of Arizona mixed in. I would be gravitating towards non-Goff options in my streaming or committee decisions in the near-term.
Mark Wimer: I think Kupp gets the first crack at increasing his production — he and Goff are growing up in the league together. If Kupp can avoid crucial drops (and he's been very good the last two weeks with seven targets leading to six receptions in both games) I think some of Woods' targets will flow to Kupp. 
Gurley probably sees a modest bump regardless of who gets extra targets - the team can rely on him as a dump-off receiver (38 receptions on 52 targets this year — 73% reception percentage) and they will likely emphasize his presence in the game plan while Woods is out. 
Tavon Austin is the most overpaid player in the NFL, I expect nothing extra from him. The other two guys are still developing and doubtful to become meaningful fantasy factors while Woods is out. 
We'll learn a lot about his level of maturation this week against the Saints.  If Goff can keep his team competitive in this tough matchup/win the game, then I'm going to feel pretty good about Goff for the final month of the season. If, however, the Rams get blown out at home by Brees and company then I'll be less excited about his chances in December. This is truly a "critical" game for the upstart Rams and Goff. 
Jason Wood: Robert Woods was on his way to helping me win a ton of MFL10s, almost by accident. I was all in on Woods given his price/ADP UNTIL the trade for Sammy Watkins. Luckily, I had done enough MFL10s before that move to have a disproportionate share of Woods. He was cruising along as Matt noted but is now sidelined. 

I shudder to say we'll see a "significant" change in production from either Watkins or Kupp, but I think some improvement is possible, for both. Statistical production is in part a function of snaps and targets, and both receivers should -- by default -- see more action. Will they capitalize on those additional chances? I'm less hopeful. I also think we have to remember the Rams are in dangerous territory.
For as great as the team's offense has played overall, close scrutiny shows Jared Goff's play versus good teams (.500+ records) as average to below average. He's beaten up on the bad teams, and yet gets a run of tougher matchups. I think the Rams offense could be less productive because of Goff's normalization, but it may be artificially blamed on Woods' injury. 

I see Woods' injury, and the Goff normalization, as being a net negative for the entire offense. I don't foresee peripheral contributors like the tight ends becoming viable. Nor do I see more work for Gurley; he's already a workhorse. 

I have a hard time seeing those reserve players vaulting into prominence when I'm not even sure we'll see Kupp or Watkins improve.

As I alluded, Goff concerns me. He's not playing well against better competition, and I don't think he'll be a legitimate QB1 option in most weeks going forward, for DFS purposes. It's hard to see him projecting as a top 5 quarterback on a Points/Dollar basis without a material reduction in his salary.
Waldman: For fantasy purposes, Wood, you are correct that Goff hasn't had the same strong production against the top-flight defenses. However, I will add that it's important for us to differentiate between the sub par production from the player and quality of play. If we don't, we make conclusions that aren't true and have an effect on how we view the player long-term. 
Goff's yardage and interception totals aren't massively different when comparing his easy and hard matchups. One thing that I have noticed from watching the Rams weekly is that his surrounding talent has made more mistakes with difficult matchups.
Cooper Kupp dropped the go-ahead touchdown against the Seahawks and fumbled a reception at the Vikings one-yard-line last weekend. Mistakes from surrounding talent aren't on Goff and he's done enough to keep drives alive despite pressure and teammate's mistakes. 
I find it important to defend Goff for the same reasons that many of us criticized Todd Gurley's elite talent as "fool's gold" last year. The greatest issues for Gurley were with the surrounding talent.
I agree with Maurile's assessment of the offense. I also think Chad made good points about the schedule ahead, although I'd say that the Seahawks secondary is banged up and struggling. Its defense is also vulnerable to the type of routes the Rams like to run, and it will be weaker if Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, and Shaq Griffin aren't fully recovered. I'm actually more concerned about the Eagles defense because some of its more talented defensive backs could be ready to take the field when they face the Rams.
I agree with Mark that Austin isn't worth his contract. I expect the Rams will give him another chance to contribute and potentially use some wrinkles that defenses haven't seen, but I'm not expecting consistent production unless he's used more as a scatback than a receiver. 
Long-term, I'm a believer in Mike Thomas and Josh Reynolds talents, but I only see them earning 1-2 targets a week (collectively) on shot plays. 
I don't foresee a massive change in Goff's attempts but without Woods, I expect a slight dip in completion percentage and yards per attempt. 
Darin Tietgen:  Both wideouts should see a fairly decent uptick in production.  Woods was almost a combo of both.  I would expect Watkins to see the biggest uptick. I don't see either of the tight ends producing anymore.  Gurley could see some additional swing passes.   But overall his production should stay about the same. 

I could see Austin and Thomas getting more looks. Neither is worth adding at this point though until one breaks out... which is unlikely.

Goff's value has taken the biggest hit. Woods was a do-everything producer for the Rams offense.  Couple the Woods loss with an increasingly-difficult schedule and Goff is due to slide a bit.

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The Tyrod Taylor-Nathan Peterman QB Controversy

Waldman: Buffalo was 5-4 with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. Taylor had a 63 percent completion rate with only 3 interceptions when head coach Sean McDermott benched him for Nate Peterman. 

A fifth-round pick, Peterman transferred to Pittsburgh after losing the starting job at Tennessee to Joshua Dobbs. Peterman threw five interceptions in his debut against the Chargers. 

  • What are your thoughts about the decision? 
  • Can the Bills author reliable fantasy production with Peterman under center? 
  • Who provides Buffalo the best shot at consistent production if Peterman remains the starter? [Editor's Note: Taylor will start this week, but I kept the answers to this question because we may see Peterman again due to injury or a losing streak.]

Wood: The decision was asinine. Even if you believed in McDermott's logic, the league is a results-driven endeavor and the decision couldn't have turned out worse. Peterman had the kind of performance that can derail his career, much less the game.

You have to wonder how many players in the Bills locker room are now casting a sideways glance at McDermott's way. As Matt noted, this was a team solidly in playoff contention, and they essentially handed a game away in a tight playoff race where one or two games will be the difference between a postseason run and an early season end. 

Clearly, Peterman cannot get it done. You can forgive a poor start for a rookie quarterback. You cannot forgive five interceptions in one half of football. He simply was not equipped to read NFL defenses and make the requisite throws. I don't see how that could be a fluke. He could improve three-fold and still suck.

Put McCoy in as the Wildcat quarterback and say a lot of prayers to whatever deities you worship. 

Parsons:  I have been a big Tyrod Taylor fan since he has logged time as an NFL starter. A mobile quarterback who avoids interceptions and has reasonable accuracy keeps NFL teams in games. The 'running Taylor out of town' dialogue of late with Buffalo has made zero sense.

Quarterbacks and coaches are the easiest to say 'replace them, get someone else!' With quarterbacks, finding an option as good as Taylor in the draft or free agency is a tall order. Be careful what you wish for when outright replacing a quarterback.

Kelvin Benjamin is also a question mark with his injury status, but I will fade all non-LeSean McCoy options if Nathan Peterman is the starter. Even McCoy will be downgraded 10% due to the turnover risk/factor, but still an auto-start weekly. I am skeptical of Zay Jones, Charles Clay, and company in the passing game already with Taylor under center and Peterman would take them off the weekly radar completely.

Tietgen: It was a terrible decision. Terrible.  Taylor was more than fine.  One might think there was something "more" to the decision: perhaps something in Taylor's contract that would cost the Bills more money had he kept as the starter.  That's the only thing I can think of that would precipitate such a hasty move.

Peterman is absolutely not ready and I expect McCoy to remain productive in a Peterman scenario, but at a reduced level. 

Wimer: I agree with Darin, it was a terrible decision to replace a starting quarterback with a winning record with an unprepared rookie. The fault for this most recent loss lies at the coaches/front office's feet. 

Peterman was a disaster and without Taylor, teams will stack the box and dare Peterman to beat them. McCoy may bust a long run here and there, but fantasy production will be very hard to come by if Taylor doesn't return to the starting lineup — a sorry tale for all fantasy owners invested in the Bills' receiving corps.

Waldman: It's worth noting that at least two, if not three, interceptions from Peterman's five-interception performance were not his fault. While two or three interceptions in a game is a bad debut, the pressure the Bills allowed to a tough Chargers' front-four was the most compelling reason why I question McDermott's decision to trot Peterman out there. 

Long-term, I'm not going to write off Peterman's development. I also look at Buffalo's remaining schedule and shoddy trench play on both sides of the ball and I can see why the staff wanted to give Peterman an opportunity. However, the optics of the decision were horrific. 

As Wood mentioned, NFL players are competitive and veterans don't want to play for a coach who is willing to pack-in a winning season before letting it play out with its best options. I'm probably reading into this more than what most will find acceptable, but I have to think that the coaching staff never had Taylor in mind as its long-term starter and didn't expect to field a winning record 10 weeks into the season after all the huge personnel changes it made. 

I have to think McDermott doesn't want a mediocre record, a one-and-done playoff appearance, and a low draft position with a quarterback it won't bring back in 2018. It's also why he didn't mold the scheme to Taylor's talent.

However, there's no way the Bills can say to its players and fans, "You know what? We're tearing down to the studs but we can't get rid of Taylor and get the value we'd like for him. We also can't use Peterman right away without alienating the players on this team we want to keep. So, we're going to let it play out and have a 'growing pains' year. We realize we're 5-4, but with our team, it's unrealistic to expect we'll make the playoffs, so let's get Peterman ready."

It was a bad decision and probably most of all from the standpoint of perception to the players and fans.  

Tremblay: The Bills have been a mediocre team for a long time. The last time they made the playoffs (and lost in the wildcard round), Bill Clinton was President. Since then, they've mostly won between six and nine games a season — usually not terrible, but never actually good.

Halfway through this season, I know a number of Bills fans who were lamenting another trajectory toward an 8-8 season and were ready to try something anything, to change things up. Apparently, when your team has been mediocre long enough, you kind of forget that there are worse things to be. Going 8-8 is not sexy, but it is vaguely respectable. Sticking with Tyrod Taylor may have felt like settling, but the thing about settling is that at least it avoids disaster.

Nate Peterman's first half against the Chargers was a disaster.

That said, I really don't have much to say about the decision. In hindsight, it obviously didn't work out so well. But I think people, in general, are too quick to criticize NFL coaches from their armchairs. The coaches they are criticizing have more information than fans do — daily practice observations, for example — and more expertise when it comes to analyzing that information and using it to make complex decisions.

Besides, most fans tend to be rather fickle about these things. Before Week 11, many fans wanted a quarterback change because Tyrod Taylor couldn't take them beyond 8-8. Now many are inclined to lambast the coaches for even considering a quarterback change. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.

So my anti-hot take on the issue is: I assume the coaches took a lot of factors into account that I'm not privy to, spent more time and effort evaluating the decision that I have, and took a shot that ended up backfiring. It happens. I'm not really in a fair position to competently second-guess that decision, however. 


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For Real, Fool's Gold: The Young Buck Edition

Waldman: Pick five players from this list who you feel strongest about as "For Real" or "Fool's Gold". 

Wimer: Dede Westbrook is fool's gold. He missed too much time with the injury to excel at this level, this year. In the future, he could be an impact player, but he needed to learn on the job during the first half of the season to have a realistic shot at blowing up right now. 
Corey Coleman is the real deal. Coleman had his year of NFL seasoning during 2016 and now comes off his injury healed and rested when the DBs he's facing have, by and large, worn down over the season. Coleman could be a huge fantasy factor in the final month of the season.

Adam Shaheen is also the real deal. A competent tight end, he's a young quarterback's best friend. The Bears need playmakers and he's shown that he's ready for the job. 

Another real deal is Samaje Perine. Due to Chris Thompson's injury, Perine's NFL opportunity has arrived and he delivered when called upon in Week 11. He'll be valuable for fantasy owners during the final weeks of the season. 

Tietgen: I agree with Mark that Westbrook is fool's gold. The Jaguars are a run-first team with a game manager at quarterback. Westbrook is a poor man's DeSean Jackson — a boom-bust wideout. 
Ricky Seals-Jones is also fool's gold. He may ever catch another touchdown. Perine is for real. He's a strong runner with a big opportunity. 
I also think Williams is, at least right now, for real. The Packers are going nowhere, so might as well see what they have with him. He's also a strong runner with an opportunity. 
Austin Ekeler is another for-real back. The Chargers have been seeking a complement to Melvin Gordon III for some time. He's a true underdog story.
Parsons: Real: Corey Coleman. His snap count vaulted right back to WR1 status in Week 11, his first game back from injury. Round 1 pedigree and the only reservation is a balky quarterback situation. A wild card to the passing game is if Josh Gordon impacts Coleman to close the season as no other Browns target will challenge Coleman.

Fool's Gold: Ricky Seals-Jones.He has an athletic profile still underwhelming for an NFL tight end and his snap count was ridiculously low considering the production he logged in Week 11. Jermaine Gresham remains the starter and Troy Niklas will be an ancillary option. Seals-Jones will have low odds to continue relevant production.

Real: Adam Shaheen. The small school Day 2 draft pick is a metric marvel and the Chicago passing game is without a go-to option (maybe Dontrelle Inman?). Shaheen, at a minimum, should be a good bet for a touchdown or big play any given week to be on the matchup TE2 with upside radar or better.

Real: Austin Ekeler. Philip Rivers loves his running backs in the passing game. Ekeler is in the poor man's Danny Woodhead mold and Melvin Gordon III is dinged up to promote touches and meaningful snaps for the RB2. Ekeler had a strong athletic profile as a prospect and dominant four-year run of production at Western State, he is not going away as an NFL contributor.

Fool's Gold: Jamaal Williams. I see a low-ceiling talent who relies on great lanes to get to the second level or breaking multiple tackles to log a solid run. Ty Montgomery (when healthy) is my bet in the Packers backfield and my sell recommendation is even stronger in dynasty formats. 


Tremblay:  Do people think Westbrook is gold in redraft leagues? I'd say he's less fool's gold and more candid aluminum. His problem is that Marqise Lee and Allen Hurns (when healthy) are the clear top two wide receivers on the team, and Marcedes Lewis is the top red zone target.

Westbrook got six targets last week, but that was with Hurns out, and even then he was out-snapped by Keelan Cole (who also got six targets). Hurns may or may not return this week, but he'll almost certainly be back during the fantasy playoffs, which leaves Westbrook jockeying for position with Cole in the WR3-WR4 bracket. On a team with a well below-average passing offense, that's not a recipe for fantasy relevance. (The overturned catch was quite impressive, however.)

Coleman as value. He opened the season as Cleveland's best receiver, and after an eight-game layoff, he racked up double-digit targets in his first game back. He's got the physical talent to be a No. 1 receiver in this league, and even if Josh Gordon returns next week, Coleman's place in the starting lineup is locked in. No offensive player on the Cleveland Browns can be considered a sure thing, but Coleman has the potential to be a worthwhile fantasy starter down the stretch.

Davis probably won't suit up this week as he recovers from a groin injury, but he's worth a roster-stash because until he left last week’s game, he instantly looked like the best running back on the Seahawks' roster. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls both look washed up. J.D. McKissic flashes talent, but he's not an every-down back. Davis could produce some decent games during the fantasy playoffs.

Seals-Jones worth a shot. His five targets on Sunday and his impressive production with them could indicate a permanently expanded role in the offense. As a former wide receiver, he's got the athleticism to make plays in the passing game.

Now he could get a sustained opportunity. There's a significant chance that he'll turn out to have been a one-week wonder, but the more intriguing (if also less probable) possibility — that he's been an overlooked talent who will thrive in his new role — makes him worth picking up if you need tight end help. 

Shaheen is developing chemistry with QB Mitchell Trubisky; but in redraft leagues, I'd rather take a shot on Seals-Jones than on Shaheen. The Bears' passing offense is pretty lackluster, and even with Zach Miller lost for the season, Shaheen is still sharing snaps with Dion Sims (out the last two weeks) and Daniel Brown. I don't think there's any way Shaheen will be consistent enough to merit cracking a fantasy starting lineup this season.

Perine is gold. With Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson out, Perine has a chance to jumpstart the Redskins running game and become a solid fantasy starter.

It sure would be nice to have Aaron Rodgers under center to make this offense go. Nonetheless, Jamaal Williams is built to be an every-down back, and he's a suitable RB2-flex option as long as Ty Montgomery and Aaron Jones are on the shelf. Williams isn't gold, but he's at least solid bronze.

Clement is fool's gold. Blount and Ajayi are both playing ahead of him. Clement has been efficient on his limited touches, but it's not sustainable. 

Ekeler is a legitimate handcuff, but his fantasy value depends on an injury to Melvin Gordon III. Ellington will be a passable flex option if Will Fuller V is out again, but other than that, he's not worth rostering.

Waldman: Westbrook is for real, but his situation is bronze, at best (love that reference, Maurile). Westbrook is more talented than Cole and the down-and-distance situations and routes that Bortles targeted Westbrook were more difficult situations than Cole's work.

However, I agree that this team wants to run. Bortles has a strong vertical game somewhere within him — two years ago, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns carpet bombed the league with their prowess in the deep passing game and Bortles was the pilot. I'm not counting on that returning with any reliable volume and efficiency with Lee and a talented pair of rookies like Westbrook and Cole. 

Coleman is for real, but barely. His quarterback play is unreliable and he'll be facing top cornerbacks every week, which a year of seasoning will not help if much of that year was spent injured. I will be interested to see if top cornerbacks try to press him because that could be risky with Coleman's quickness and underrated strength.

Davis and Shaheen are for real. I wrote about them this week in The Gut Check and The Top 10. Both players have the athletic prowess of NFL starters and the technical skills and versatility to contribute on a consistent basis. I would add either player at the end of many rosters depending on my needs at either position. 

Seals-Jones is also a subject profiled in this week's Gut Check and I think the Cardinals are excited about using him as a big slot and second tight end. Because he has that kind of dual role, I'm not writing him off as purely a second tight end who had a fluke match-up advantage against the Texans. It may turn out that way, but I think Arizona knows that Blaine Gabbert's accuracy is spotty and they would prefer to use a receiver whose size and catch radius can erase the need for pinpoint accuracy on downfield throws.

Perine and Williams are for real as talents, but Perine is for real as a priority starter. I've been sitting on that Perine bandwagon while other folks have been filtering on and off because of typical rookie growing pains and lack of usage to get him into a rhythm. He's not a superstar, but neither was Michael Turner — and I don't know a Turner owner during those productive years that complained about him.

I think the light is coming on for Williams. He has looked more like the quick, agile, and creative runner that was on display at BYU. The biggest issue for Williams will be the quality of the offensive line and quarterback play. At Aaron Jones had Aaron Rodgers for most of his productive time on the field. 

Montgomery's rushing efficiency with Rodgers in the lineup was last among league starters before he ceded time to Jones and he's not a good pass protector. On the other hand, I showcased Williams' pass protection assignments from last weekend's game. It's possible that Montgomery loses time to Williams based on the team's desire to keep Hundley as comfortable in the pocket as possible — especially if Williams' work on the ground remains steady, if not explosive against some weaker defensive units ahead. 

Clement's red zone role in Philadelphia is for real but unless you're in a deep league that starts 4-5 running backs with PPR scoring, his fantasy value is fool's gold.  

Ekeler is for real as a change of pace but the same that applies to Clement applies to the Chargers backup. Ellington runs the kind of routes that are safest for Tom Savage, so I'll take a chance and say for real if you start 3-5 receivers. Otherwise, he's fool's gold in most leagues. 

Wood: Westbrook is fool's gold. I do not understand the fantasy community's obsessions with a kid who missed most of the year and plays for one of the least effective passing games in football. The Jaguars cannot win with Blake Bortles throwing the ball a lot. Even if Westbrook gets starters' reps, he won't see enough targets to help fantasy leagues. 

Seals-Jones? Hahahahahahaha. If anyone says he's not Fool's Gold, he/she should be kicked off "Analyst Island." 

Waldman: I think I can speak for Maurile when I say that "Analyst Island" sounds like a reality show, and the term 'reality show' is insanely ironic. I'll take it as a compliment that I'm leaving the island early then. 

Wood: I will agree with everyone that Perine is for real. We were all sure Perine would become Washington's lead back at some point this year, but when he failed to overtake Rob Kelley in the early weeks, we all punted on the rookie. That looks dumb, in retrospect. He needed time to learn NFL blocking techniques but looked dominant last week in his first crack at the feature role. Perine didn't become Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher by accident, the kid can ball out. 

Like Wildman said, Clement is for real as a player; fool's gold as a fantasy commodity. The Eagles offense is clicking and it seems no player is without value when given adequate touches. However, Clement is legitimately the third option in a four-running back committee featuring himself, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Kenjon Barner. Clement should command a larger role in 2018 and beyond, assuming Ajayi and Clement become the main tandem and Blount is sent packing. 

Ellington is fool's gold. Tom Savage isn't going to lead the Texans to many big fantasy weeks, and Ellington is only on the field because everyone else in the receiving corps got hurt opposite DeAndre Hopkins

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Waldman's Thanksgiving Tradition, Football Style

Waldman: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I make sure I host it at my house every year. The one steadfast tradition we have is sharing something for which we're thankful while we enjoy our meal. 

Since you're all family at my table this week, I want you to share which player you're most thankful to have witnessed play football. 

Tietgen: Marshall Faulk.  One of the first true "dual threats".  He and the Greatest Show on Turf were just a joy to watch.  Every time the ball left Kurt Warner's hands, someone exciting was going to get the ball.  Faulk was simply amazing!
Wimer: I have seen many "greats" play over the last quarter-century. Like Matt, I revere the times I got to see Jerry Rice take over entire games and dominate the opposing secondary. He is the GOAT at wide receiver, without a shade of question or doubt. There is a reason that Joe Montana and Steve Young were the most successful quarterbacks of their eras — they played with Rice.
Parsons: In my lifetime, Marshall Faulk is the most enjoyable player I have watched. Barry Sanders was more breathtaking, but Faulk's moveable chess piece all over the formation is something I appreciate more after Faulk retired. David Johnson is a current example to a lesser degree for the younger crowd who may not remember watching the 'Greatest Show on Turf' Rams teams where Faulk was the centerpiece of an offense also with an electric passing game.


Wood: That's easy. Carson Wentz. As a lifelong Eagles fan, I've seen my share of up-and-down quarterbacking. Even when Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb were in their primes, there were always parts of their games that drove me nuts. How many times had I seen the team get into a 3rd and long situation, and before the play was run I EXPECTED failure and a punt looming?
Yet, this year it's completely the opposite. There hasn't been a single snap of the football this season when I didn't think the Eagles were in contention. Wentz has such calm and has shown a maturity in his decision-making and on-field leadership that has me pinching myself and hoping not to wake up.


Waldman: I could list enough players that the food will get cold at the table. In terms of the present, I feel this way about Russell Wilson. Off the field, he may come off as a little phony and disingenuous during interviews to some, but I don't really care about all of that. 

If you're a stodgy old beat writer at heart like Pete Prisco, you factor teams wins into the MVP conversation and criticize a former player and scout like Louis Riddick for touting Wilson as a legitimate candidate. I believe the criteria defining the Most Valuable Player Award should not be as heavily weighted on team success. 

After all team success is exactly how it sounds: a group effort. Wilson has repeatedly done more with less than any quarterback in football since he arrived in the NFL. 

His ability to buy time and throw the ball accurately from, to borrow John Gruden's phrase, "trick-shot angles" is nothing short of incredible. Even many of his designed rolls to the left that ends with pinpoint lasers 25-50 yards downfield are amazing. 

Some criticize him for inviting pressure with his movement, but I haven't seen that nearly as often as people like to bring it up. What I have seen is a player who not only is the best at giving a team the best chance to win in the fourth quarter but one who can overcome his own mistakes. 

His second-half performance against the Packers three years ago in the playoffs was a testament to emotional resilience and will. Although they didn't beat Carolina two years ago in the postseason, there wasn't a sane member of the human race who witnessed that game and didn't think that Wilson didn't lose that game, he just ran out of time. 

Beats by Dr. Dre missed out big-time with a marketing campaign based on that game. Imagine Newton coming to the gym to train and there's little Russell Wilson standing on his shoulder whispering in his ear as he's warming up for his workout:

"It doesn't matter if I'm down 31-0, I'll never stop coming for you. You better hope you have enough time left to have a say because no lead is safe with me."

And then Newton dons his Beats over his years and turns up the volume and walks towards the equipment in the gym as we see his back and Wilson still on his shoulder talking away...

"This isn't over, Cam. I'm right behind you. Can you feel my breath at your back. I'm about to overtake you." 

Yeah, Wilson was a bad play away from consecutive Super Bowl wins. But how many quarterbacks can you say that about? He's a great player.


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