Welcome to the second ever installment of the Made-Up Mailbag. In case you missed last week’s, this is where I take made-up questions and spin them into the real answers you’re looking for.
We start with the elephant in the room for Miami sports this past weekend and sift through the mail to get to an interesting slate of NFL games.
Q: What exactly did Miami lose to UC in the game on Saturday?
A: Objectively, the Victory Bell for the dozenth year and an early season, non-conference football game. Mid-American Conference play hasn’t even begun, the team showed it could get hot late last year, and a MAC championship is still within reach. But for anyone who was at the game, it doesn’t feel like any of that matters. What good would a MAC championship won in Detroit do for the students who will tune out Miami football for the next three and a half years after Saturday? The whole program had a palpable momentum. Tailgates? Check. Night game? Check. Rivalry game with a trophy on the line? Check. Miami felt like a football school. Redshirt senior Heath Harding said he’d “never had that experience here” in his life. A page was about to turn, until the book slammed shut. After a completely, totally, inexplicably, asinine delay of game penalty followed by a pick-six, left a rowdy Yager stunned. The only sound remaining was all the too familiar din of the away bench sending dejected students shuffling out. The team can definitely recover from a mid-September loss. As for the program, that remains to be seen.
Q: Who were this week’s fantasy football breakout stars?
A: I think ‘breakout’ and ‘star’ may be a stretch for anyone I could name. However, this week we had a few new starters who should sustain their role moving forward.
Running back Javorius Allen was the Baltimore Ravens’ leading rusher and second leading receiver in the first week the Ravens were playing without injured running back Danny Woodhead. Allen led the backfield in snaps, carries, and targets as well, so expect him to continue to be the guy in Baltimore. His work in the passing game was most encouraging, for the Ravens will not always be playing with a commanding lead over a young Browns or struggling Bengals squad. Today’s NFL teams are entirely willing to abandon the run if they get behind, so receiving backs are most likely to salvage a bad week and have a respectable weekly floor.
Running back Chris Carson also became the leader in Seattle’s backfield. After an excellent pre-season and pedestrian outings from his competition, Carson took the starting job and now looks to run with it. He got 80 percent of the Seahawks’ running back carries, and head coach Pete Carroll entrusted him with icing the game late. His limited involvement in the passing game concerns me, fellow running back (and converted wide receiver) C.J. Prosise handling those duties, but Carson is the only one who has shown any ability to run behind Seattle’s poor offensive line.
Wide receiver Marqise Lee garnered 12 targets in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ first game after losing wide receiver Allen Robinson for the season to injury. Quarterback Blake Bortles was back slingin’ it in garbage time, so the number one wide receiver role in Jacksonville will be a fantasy commodity on a week-by-week basis.
Around the league, running backs Derrick Henry, D’Onta Foreman, and Tarik Cohen may also have changing workloads. The Tennessee Titans’ Henry saw 14 carries to fellow running back Demarco Murray’s nine while doing significantly better with the carries he got. It is unclear how much the Titans’ lead or Murray’s possibly lingering hamstring injury had to do with Henry’s big game, but the possibility of Henry unseating Murray full-time needs monitoring. Houston Texans’ rookie Foreman also saw more carries than expected — garnering 12 carries to supposed full time starter Lamar Miller’s 18. Foreman has looked good thus far, so he has upside moving forward. Chicago Bears’ Cohen, who showed up in the mailbag last week, had eight catches to salvage a respectable outing on an abysmal day running the ball for the Bears. It appears backfield mate Jordan Howard is injured, and that the Bears will continue to play from behind. Cohen will continue to have a safe weekly floor in PPR leagues.
Q: Was the firing of Bengal’s OC Ken Zampese the most shocking result of week 2 in the NFL? I know other stuff happened, but come on, look how long they let Mike Nugent kick for.
A: The Bengals are indeed an organization that is glacial to respond to change. This is the first time in their 50 years firing a coordinator midseason. Loyal to a fault, it was only surprising because it was the Bengals. For most other teams, it would have been a no-brainer after such anemic performances back-to-back at home. For the Bengals, who still think the 2014 version of running back Jeremy Hill is coming back, it was, like you said, shocking. It came down to the Bengal’s inability or unwillingness to get their playmakers the ball — as all-world wide receiver A.J. Green lamented after the game.
Elsewhere around the league, Seattle, Arizona, Carolina and both participants in the Broncos vs Cowboys game surprised me. Seattle’s offensive struggles thus far are a major concern. The Packers and 49ers both stymied the Seahawks despite being easily handled by other offenses. Russell Wilson has not gotten in a rhythm at all. A road trip to Tennessee next week means we may have to wait until October for a home game against the Colts to see the Seattle offense come to life. Arizona and Carolina also put up stinkers on offense against defenses that were not expected to pose much of a challenge. Arizona should be on high alert after a second straight week of disappointment, but they get a battered secondary that was suspect to begin with at home against Dallas next week on Monday Night Football.
The Dallas secondary, and the entire defense, was seemingly exposed against Denver. Many were puzzled last week that the Cowboys were able to contain the Giants despite losing nearly their entire secondary to free agency, but it looks like a mirage after Trevor Siemian and company moved the ball at will to open the game. On at least three separate occasions, Cowboys defenders were juked out of their shoes on a route. Meanwhile, the vaunted Cowboys running game managed a misleadingly high 40 yards. Star running back Ezekiel Elliott had nine carries for eight yards against what was formerly the best line in football. The off-season retirement of right tackle Doug Free caught up to the Cowboys in the game, as the Broncos’ Von Miller abused the new right tackle, La’el Collins, surrendering 11 pressures. Most talking heads picked the Cowboys to win, so Denver’s dominance and Dallas’ dud was unexpected.
Thanks for making it through another Made-Up Mailbag, and see you next time. Also, if you’d like to make the mailbag slightly less made-up, send me questions at email@example.com or @Nschlete on Twitter, and I’ll (probably) ascribe the question to whoever you’d like.