The NFL is a tricky game, isn’t it? As soon as you think you have a handle on things, you get a surprise game plan or poor performance throwing you back to square one. With that in mind, here are five things that I took away from last nights game:
1) The Cleveland Browns under utilized Trent Richardson
Granted, he averaged just 3.4 yards/carry last night against a tough Ravens defense, but that is no reason to allow Brandon Weeden to drop back 52 times (yet not throw a touchdown). It is not like the game was a blowout at any point that they should have felt the need to throw the ball that many times, nor do they have the quarterback/receivers to be successful in that type of system.
Richardson, who is by far the team’s best offensive player, got just 14 carries (47 yards and 1 TD) and 4 receptions (57 yards). It also isn’t like they threw him the ball more only to see them go incomplete, as he was targeted 6 times.
Early on this is becoming a bit of a disturbing trend, as Richardson has yet to have more than 19 carries or 23 touches in a game despite the team losing all four games by 10 points or less. You have to think that they will get him more involved, and he remains a must start option, however this is something that we will want to keep a close eye on moving forward.
2) Don’t worry about Dennis Pitta
I know he was targeted just twice this week, failing to make a catch. However, he was the primary target on Joe Flacco’s 1 yard TD run, he simply slipped in the back of the end zone and took himself out of the play.
Last night also saw Anquan Boldin have a huge game (9 receptions for 131 yards on 12 targets). That is not going to happen often. In fact, it was the first time the 32-year old has been targeted more than 7 times in a game this season. Pitta is going to be a big part of this offense going forward, he just gave up looks to the hot hand last night. That’s going to happen, but look for him to bounce back next week against the Chiefs.
3) Joe Flacco has emerged as a must start option
What else can we say? Granted, you should not expect the bonus of a rushing touchdown often, but with guys like Ray Rice and Torrey Smith at his disposal you also have to expect more than 1 TD pass when he throws for 356 yards.
The Ravens have clearly transferred into a pass oriented attack, with Flacco throwing the ball 39+ times for three straight weeks. In the past two he has thrown for a total of 738 yards and has been at 299+ in three of four weeks.
The new up tempo attack clearly fits him as he has taken a major step forward in his fifth NFL season. Is he an elite quarterback? No, but he is showing us just how good he can be. With the style of play and the way he is throwing the ball, unless you have one of the true elite it is impossible to recommend benching him at this point.
4) Greg Little can safely be benched in most formats
If we didn’t know it before, last night pretty much cemented things. With Mohamed Massaqoui out and Joshua Cribbs injured early on, Little was kind of the last man standing. He got 10 targets, yet managed just 4 receptions for 77 yards. Maybe part of that has to be put on Weeden, but there had been a lot of talk heading into the game about Little’s struggles dropping the football. That issue was highlighted as he failed to bring in a potential TD pass in the fourth quarter last night.
While the Browns have little else on the outside, until Little shows us something it is impossible to trust him.
5) Ray Rice doesn’t lose any value in Baltimore’s new offense
Yes, fantasy owners can be nervous seeing Rice’s carries drop, but he did have his chances to punch in a short TD (he just failed to do so). While he had 14 carries, he was targeted 11 times (making 8 catches). He has now been targeted 30 times over the first four games, so while they may not simply hand him the football, they are going to continue finding ways to get the ball in his hands.
Continue to view him as one of the top options in the league.
What did you take away from last night’s game?
Make sure to check out the rest of our Week 4 rankings: