What We Learned: 2021 Preseason
Check back here every week to listen to Tim: analyze what we saw, discuss who's trending up or down, and jump to some wild conclusions.
1. All hail Aaron Rodgers
On Sunday, Aaron Rodgers reminded everybody that he's still a very, very bad man. And boy, did we need to be reminded.
Prior to the Packers week seven showdown with the Raiders, Rodgers was averaging 265 passing yards and just 1.3 TD passes per game this season. Not very Rodgers-like... For those that drafted Rodgers with the expectation of weekly QB1 numbers, patience was wearing thin. With just one game over 20 fantasy points this season, nobody can blame you for trading or benching Rodgers. But if you stuck with him, your faith was rewarded.
In week seven against the Raiders, Aaron Rodgers completed 25 of his 31 pass attempts for 429 yards, five TD's, a perfect passer rating of 158.3 and rushed for a TD as well. It doesn't get much more impressive than that, especially considering he's been dealing with a banged up receiving core. He didn't even have his top receiving weapon, Davante Adams, available for the game. Yet, he managed to have as many incompletions as he did total TD's, which is insane.
In all of Rodgers's 11 seasons as the starter for Green Bay, he never had a performance as stellar as he did in week seven of 2019. In fact, it was the best single-game performance by any Packers QB ever, which is crazy to think for a franchise that has had QB's like Bart Starr and Brett Favre lead them to SuperBowl victories.
In case we had forgotten what Rodgers was capable of, it is this: a flawless QB1 performance. I know he's been off so far this season, but is anyone really surprised?
I'm not saying he does this every week (I'm also not going to rule out the possibility he doesn't) but I have to assume when he gets Adams back, things will only improve. Expect to see the Aaron Rodgers we know and love (the 300 yards and three TD's per game Aaron Rodgers) for the rest of the season rather than the Aaron Rodgers we've seen from weeks 1-6. Fantasy owners rejoice.
Aaron Rodgers reacts after throwing five touchdown passes and rushing for another in Sunday's Packers victory over the Raiders - MIKE ROEMER – ASSOCIATED PRESS
2. Chase Edmonds is a special player
Despite being listed as the week seven starter on the Cardinals final injury report, David Johnson received just one carry for two yards. Granted it was the first carry of the game for Arizona, so I guess technically he did start. But it was his backup who stole the show. As we saw on Sunday, Chase Edmonds is no ordinary backup.
Of course, that's nothing new. Edmonds had averaged 6.7 yards per carry this season and had scored a TD in two consecutive games prior to his week seven breakout. So, this had been brewing. All it took was a full workload.
Edmonds finished his game against the Giants with 27 carries for 126 yards and three TD's. He had 11 caries for 72 yards and two TD's by the end of the first quarter. He finished the game with three TD's of over 20 yards. In week seven, Edmonds put forth arguably a better game than DJ has all season.
It is crazy to think that Johnson is just two years removed from leading the league with 2,000 total yards and 20 TD's (1,200 yards and 16 TD's on the ground) but now is a legit threat to be traded before the NFL deadline. He's averaging just 49.6 rushing yards per game, 3.9 yards per carry and seems to have been rendered ineffective as a runner. It's easy to blame the line, but you don't see Edmonds making any excuses. The only thing he's making is plays.
Johnson is still one of the league's premier pass-catching backs and truly fits the mold as an RB1, but his struggles on the ground are not worth powering through if Edmonds can get the job done. And clearly, he can get the job done.
Is it possible that DJ becomes the third down back, and Edmonds takes over lead back duties? I'm not qualified to say. But it would certainly make sense given the small sample we've been provided with this year. I'm not so sure I'm ready to call it on DJ just yet, but I've got to assume Edmonds role will increase going forward.
3. Rams Defense significantly improves with Ramsey
In Jalen Ramsey's first game as a Ram, Los Angeles's defense took a huge step forward. In the three weeks prior to week seven, the Rams were allowing an average of 33 points per game. In three and a half quarters against the Matt Ryan led Falcons, they allowed just three.
It was Ramsey's first game matching up against Julio Jones, and the two went back and forth all day. Julio may have finished with close to 100 yards, but ultimately, it was the Rams who got the last laugh. There's not a player in this league that can hope to erase Jones completely. If it weren't for Ramsey, things would have been much worse.
Los Angeles held Matt Ryan under 300 yards for first time this season. He finished with just two fantasy points after scoring 30+ in the two games prior. To be fair, he was hurt in the middle of the fourth quarter, but I can't imagine he would have saved his own fantasy day by very much. Instead, it was backup Matt Schaub who came in to help the Falcons score their only TD of the day. The final score was 37-10.
It may not have been Ramsey making every play, but is it a coincidence in his first game as a member of the team the Rams defense scored two TD's, allowed the fewest points they have in a game this season, and scored over 20 fantasy points for the first time this year? Personally, I don't think so.
4. Darren Waller: worth the money
Earlier this week, the Oakland Raiders payed their converted wide-out of a TE, Darren Waller upwards of $9M per year. Jon Gruden even publicly stated that he believes Waller is the best TE in the NFL. On Sunday, anyone who questioned it was silenced.
Waller finished with seven catches 126 yards, two TD's against a top-seven Packers defense(in terms of defending TE's this season). Anyone who watched the game Sunday could tell you Waller was two yards, and one penalty away from having just under 200 yards and four TD's.
On paper, it was obvious Waller would be good, but nobody could have expected he'd be this good.
Moving forward, I have Waller as a top-three fantasy TE, maybe even top two. Okay, maybe I have him as TE1. What are you gonna do about it?
Given Mahomes injury, Matt Ryans complete lack of regard for Austin Hooper on Sunday, Jimmy Garoppolo's inconsistency as a passer and Derek Carr's reputation as a TE whisperer, I will be ranking Darren Waller ahead of Kelce, Kittle, and Hooper for the time being. And nobody can stop me...
Unless Gronk un-retires.
5. The Colts are contenders
The Colts beat the Chiefs? Eh, it was probably a fluke. They beat Deshaun Watson and the Texans to claim the AFC South crown? Well... Now you’ve got my attention.
Brissett finished the game with over 300 yards passing, four TD's and no INT's. Brissett has played well this season, he's been on pace for 35+ TD passes for weeks. But now, I'm starting to believe he's a legitimate franchise QB.
In week seven, it was all on display. From Brissett, I saw poise, awareness, athleticism and most importantly, elite-type accuracy. But he wasn't the only Colt that impressed in week seven.
The impossible-to-predict Eric Ebron had a TE1 showing that included a candidate for catch of the year with his one-handed-TD grab that proved to be the game winner. It's that type of catch and his clear rapport with Brissett that has me re-evaluating where I stand on him as a fantasy TE.
TY Hilton showed out as well. He continued his history of success against the Texans in week seven, finishing with six catches for 74 yards and one TD. He may not have exploded like he normally does (came in to the game averaging 115 yards and one TD per game against Houston), but he certainly established his dominance yet again with multiple gains of 20+ yards.
Last but not least, how about that Indy defense? Two interceptions, three sacks and a safety. (In all honestly one of those sacks was one of the biggest blown calls I've ever seen, but at the end of the day, that's how it went down) 2018 DROY Darius Leonard was flying all over the field, disrupting plays left and right. The combination of him and Justin Houston makes for a fearsome pass rush.
Overall, what I saw from the Colts in week seven was that they are more real than not, and if this keeps up, the Texans could find themselves. playing for a wildcard spot.
6. Kirk continues to exceed expectations
After being dubbed the sit of the week, Captain Kirk showed out with 337 yards, four TD's and no INT's. Over the past three weeks, Cousins has played better than any QB in the NFL. He began the season by averaging 183 pass yards per gamen through the first four weeks. Since then, he has thrown for over 300 yards, multiple TD's and finished with a passer rating of 138 or higher, three games in a row. He's the only QB in NFL history that can say that... You like that?
I like that. I like that a lot. Apparently so does Stefon Diggs who has finished with seven catches and over 140 yards two weeks in a row now, has been north of 100 yards three times in his last four games.
The passing game had taken a backseat to the running game to begin the season but now it is clear, considering Dalvin Cooks 145 yards and two TD's, that the two can co-exist.
Next week, Kirk and the Vikings get to face a brutal Redskins defense that should be their easiest matchup since week one against the Falcons. So, the good times should continue to roll. Plus, don't look now, but it's Cousins first shot at a revenge game against his former team. There should be plenty of fantasy points to go around in that one.
7. Window to buy low on Hopkins has passed
It's about damn time. In week seven, DeAndre Hopkins finished with over 100 yards and a TD for the first time since week one. He should’ve had two TD's but instead Deshaun Watson was whistled down on the most 'obviously not a sack' sack I've ever seen. I digress.
D-Hop, not unlike Aaron Rodgers, reminded us why we stay patient on our studs this Sunday. For the first time in weeks, he delivered WR1 numbers. If you failed to make a trade for him the past five weeks, it only got harder for you in week seven.
I expect this to be the beginning of a streak for Hopkins, a player that has finished with double-digit TD's in three of his past four seasons. The way I see it, he's long over due.
8. Just like we drew it up:
Rhett Ellison was the Giants TE who shredded the Cardinals this week... Not Evan Engram, who finished with one catch. Just like we drew it up.
Marvin Jones scored four TD's against the Vikings and currently has the single-game record for most receiving TD's by a Lions player ever. More than Megatron ever had. Meanwhile, Detroit's number one receiver, Kenny Golladay finished with just one catch. Just like we drew it up.
Matt Schaub threw the Falcons only TD in week seven, while Matt Ryan (after back to back 30-point games) mustered just two fantasy points in three and a half quarters. Just like we drew it up.
Forget Tyler Boyd or Auden Tate, it was ALEX ERICKSON who lead the Bengals in receptions and yards in week seven. Just like we F#@$%ING drew it up, right?
9. Titans offense has life with Tannehill
In week seven, Ryan Tannehill provided the Titans offense with a much needed spark. He personally saw to it that AJ Brown (whose talent I absolutely love) caught more than three passes in a game for the first time this season (six catches, 68 yards). Former first round WR Corey Davis put up respectable WR1 numbers (six catches, 80 yards and a beauty of a TD). It's the kind of production Davis has been capable of all this time, but never had QB play reliable or consistent enough to sustain. Second string TE Jonnu Smith got some shine (three catches, 64 yards) after starter Delanie Walker left early with an injury. The elevated QB play opened things up for Derrick Henry as well (23 touches, 108 total yards, one TD).
Personally, I am a big fan of having Tannehill call the shots. Basically, he has the same skill set as Marcus Mariota. But Tannehill has the benefit of more experience. He has had multiple seasons with 4,000+ yards and 20+ TD's. For reference, Mariota has never thrown for 4,000 yards in a season, and has passed for 20+ TD's in a season just once.
Tannehill has gotten it done (more or less) with a few much less talented offenses in Miami than he currently has in Tennessee. He now has the best running back he's ever played with to draw attention away from him and help him sell the play action, at least two big-play receivers, three if you count Tajae Sharpe (I don’t) and two above-average pass catching TE's in Jonnu Smith and Delanie Walker. Sounds like a solid opportunity to put up QB1 numbers to me.
Is it crazy to suggest you can trust Tannehill next week against the Buccaneers? Maybe. But I'm doing it.
10. Mitchell Trubisky doesn't deserve his defense
Did I already write about this this season? Without looking, I don't know. But It feels like I say it to anyone who will listen every week. I can't stand Mitchell Trubisky.
The final score of the Bears week seven game would indicate it was close (36-25), but don't be fooled. The Saints blew Chicago out in this one.
Trubisky couldn't lead his offense to more than three points until the final three minutes of the game when the Bears bizarrely got not one, but two onside kicks to go their way. But by then it was too late. Trubisky dragged his team down all day, averaging just 4.6 YPA in the game.
I've been saying it for years, but I simply cannot believe he was drafted over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. I mean, way to blow it Chicago... After reviewing the players that came out of that draft, I can’t even believe he went in the first round to tell you the truth. Maybe I'm a little biased, but besides a little added mobility, I personally don't see the difference between him and Blake Bortles.
Nobody should have to tell you how good the Bears defense is (the best in the league last season, top-five this season). The fact that they are stuck with a QB who can barely put points on the board for them is just unfair. With a franchise QB, the Bears are a legit threat to go undefeated. Or at least, they were.
I read a stat the other day that got me enraged. It was this: the Bears are 6-1 when scoring less than 20 points in the past two seasons... Uhm, I don't know how to tell you this ESPN, but the reason they win those games is because of their defense... The only reason they score less than 20 in those games is because Mitchell Trubisky sucks at football.
I will not sleep, I will not rest until Trubisky is fully put on blast and recognized as the fraud he is. And when he does, I will be first one in line to tell you "I told you so."
Tim Brosnan, Fantasy Sports Analyst/Freelance Journalist
Tim Brosnan is a college-educated sports journalist from the New Haven, Connecticut area.
Brosnan earned his Bachelor's Degree from Castleton University where he majored in Media & Communication, with a focus in Journalism.
During his tenure as the sports editor of the Castleton Spartan newspaper, Brosnan created the segment 'Tim's Fantasy Tips'. It began as a simple weekly start/sit column, but since then, the idea has grown into so much more.
Brosnan has taken his experience/passion for fantasy football and combined it with his journalistic know-how in order to bring you a completely original, well-informed, multi-layered fantasy football advice experience.
We hope you enjoy.