by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
After another Sunday of NFL football it’s hard not to walk away with more questions than answers. As always it was yet another tough week, but that doesn’t mean we weren’t able to come able learning some valuable lessons. Let’s take a look at 10 things we learned from Week 12:
1) The Marlon Mack breakout may never come…
We’ve been waiting for the Colts to transition away from the veteran Frank Gore, but at this point we have to wonder if it will ever actually happen. For proof, here’s the Week 12 breakdown:
- Frank Gore – 17 carries for 62 yards and 1 TD
- Marlon Mack – 4 carries for 11 yards
Gore was targeted five times in the passing game, compared to two for Mack. At this late juncture in the season it’s clear that the Colts simply aren’t comfortable with Mack. Since getting 11 carries in Week 8 he’s been trending in the wrong direction and has now been under 30 yards in six straight games. You have wonder if he will ever get a shot, as the Colts could look to add another RB in the offseason. While he’s still worth owning as a handcuff, in most cases you can move on.
2) That Alex Smith could ultimately be replaced…
We all know that the Chiefs traded up to draft Patrick Mahomes with the intention of him being their quarterback of the future. With the team’s offense struggling, you have to wonder if the future is coming soon. Smith threw for 199 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in Week 12, giving him 230 yards or fewer in three of the past four games. You also have to wonder if his struggles have led to the demise of Kareem Hunt (11 carries for 17 yards) as defenses know they can focus on stopping him since the passing game isn’t going to scare you. Hunt hasn’t scored a TD since Week 3 and he’s rushed for less than 50 yards in four of his past six games. Until something changes Hunt is going to be a RB2, at best.
3) That we can’t trust Jay Ajayi…
The move to Philadelphia put him in a better situation, in theory, but in reality he’s become nearly impossible to trust. The Eagles clearly aren’t going to turn over the reigns, as evidenced by the carry breakdown from Week 12:
- LeGarrette Blount – 15 carries for 97 yards
- Corey Clement – 4 carries for 27 yards
- Jay Ajayi – 5 carries for 26 yards
Ajayi did nearly find the end zone, though he fumbled around the five yard line. Since the trade he hasn’t had more than 9 carries in a game and has been dependent on the big play. In other words he’s the epitome of a boom of bust option.
4) That Joe Mixon has finally arrived, maybe…
He definitely had a career day, with 165 total yards and 1 TD (114 rushing yards, 51 receiving yards). We have to keep in mind that we’ve been waiting for this type of performance all season long and despite having some opportunities (he’s had 15+ carries in five games) this marks the first time he’s surpassed 62 rushing yards. He has found the end zone in three of his past four games, which will always help keep him on the map, but can he continue posting big numbers?
The matchups coming up are not overly promising, including the Steelers in Week 13 and the Vikings in Week 15. That doesn’t mean that he can’t produce (68 yards on 10 touches against the Steelers earlier this season), it just means we need to be cautious.
5) That a pair of Tennessee Titans are becoming close to unusable…
It was another disappointing day for Marcus Mariota, who threw for 184 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT. That gives him 6 INT over his past two games and 9 TD vs. 12 INT on the season. He’s been able to top 300 yards twice, and also has rushed for 3 TD, but all in all it’s been a down year. The only thing that’s saving him, as well as Corey Davis and the rest of the receiving corps, is a favorable set of matchups on the horizon (Texans, Cardinals and 49ers).
The same thing may not be able to be said about DeMarco Murray, who was once again outplayed be Derrick Henry:
- Derrick Henry – 13 carries for 79 yards
- DeMarco Murray – 12 carries for 9 yards and 1 TD
The problem here is that Murray has been the TD vulture and that keeps him on radars, but he’s impossible to trust for now. Henry, on the other hand, is a viable RB2.
6) That O.J. Howard has surpassed Cameron Brate…
Brate was one of the better tight ends early in the season, but he’s quickly become a bitter disappointment. Yesterday he was targeted twice, picking up 1 reception and 6 yards. He’s now had 1 catch in each of his past four games, totaling 37 yards in the process.
First round pick O.J. Howard, meanwhile, turned 4 targets into 3 receptions and 52 yards. Over the past two weeks he has totaled 6 receptions, 104 yards and 1 TD. Does that mean we believe in Howard on a weekly basis? Absolutely not, but at this point Brate is basically droppable.
7) That we will not be able to trust Duke Johnson…
There was a lot of chatter about an expanded role for Johnson entering the day, but ultimately it was the same story as he took 6 carries for 35 yards and 4 receptions for 32 yards. There’s noting particularly wrong with those numbers, especially in PPR formats (he’s now had 3+ catches in every game but Week 1 and 4+ catches in five straight games), but they also aren’t quite what people had hoped for. With Isaiah Crowell finally posting some strong performances (95 yards on 16 carries yesterday, the second time in three games he’s reached 90 yards) there’s little reason to think that things will suddenly change.
8) That Dede Westbrook belongs on our radar…
Yes Westbrook is worth grabbing, after he turned 10 targets (leading the team) into 6 catches and 41 yards against the Cardinals. That doesn’t mean that he’s a can’t miss or must use, however, nor does it mean that we expect this many opportunities to continue. There are actually a lot of things working against him:
- Blake Bortles is his QB
- Westbrook benefited from Marqise Lee (1 reception on 2 targets) being matched up with Patrick Peterson in Week 12, and we know Lee will play a bigger role moving forward
- Allen Hurns remained out of the lineup, further increasing the opportunities
It was a nice day, but don’t think it’s a given that he replicates it.
9) That a J.D. McKissic breakout isn’t coming…
There were many people who assumed that McKissic would get his opportunity to operate as the lead back after Mike Davis was lost in Week 11. Instead it was Eddie Lacy who turned 17 carries into 46 yards, while McKissic had 4 carries for 22 yards and 4 receptions for 24 yards. It’s clear that the Seahawks view him more as a pass catcher than a runner and with talk that Davis could return in Week 13 the chance of McKissic carrying the load is almost non-existent. In other words continue to view him as a potential PPR option, but in most cases he’s better left pinned to your bench.
10) That it may be Jimmy Garoppolo time in San Francisco…
Garoppolo entered late on Sunday for an injured C.J. Beathard and went 2-2 for 18 yards and 1 TD. It will be interesting to see if the 49ers use this as an opportunity to slide Garoppolo into the starting lineup, regardless of Beathard’s health, but it seems like there’s a good chance he’s in the lineup for Week 13 one way or another. That would mean more upside for Marquise Goodwin, who has proven to be a big play, boom or bust receiving option (and getting an upgrade at QB would only help). Time will tell, but if you are in a two-quarterback format expect Garoppolo to be a hot addition off the waiver wire this week.
Sources – ESPN, CBS Sports, NFL.com
Make sure to check out all of our Week 13 rankings: