Marcus Mariota and I are going to need to work on our communication. I remember distinctly last week when I warned folks that Mariota doesn't play well at home (he was miserable at home, in fact). I also felt this was the kind of game the Titans would lose (and it was close). And perhaps, again I thought, you'd be better off going with Carson Palmer against the (no disrespect) feeble Jets defense.
That didn't quite work out. It was one of those things that seemed like a pretty good idea on paper but really lacked in execution. Like "Captain America: Civil War." (Save it Marvel fans, I don't care.)
The two takeaways here. For starters, you can be done with Carson. I tried to give him another shot and it didn't work out. I'm not mad at Carson. I'm not even disappointed. I should have known better. The Cardinals are a team in flux. The narrative around Bruce Arians is that he loves the deep ball. Which he does. Though, he did offer a pretty healthy mix last season with the run and the pass. Now, you look at the way the Cardinals are constructed and it's obvious this team is going to ride David Johnson both as a rusher and passer. Larry Fitzgerald will continue to hold his value. But John Brown and Mike Floyd aren't going to be reliable options in the future along with Carson. So there is that. Hey, it's a tough break, but it's time to move on.
But who we should focus on right now is Mariota. I haven't been drawn to him much because my important leagues reward touchdown passes with six points. Which is huge. And it's why I'm normally reticent to place him in my lineup. (He's a much better value in traditional NFL.com league, though.)
However, he's been amazing in any type of league over the past two weeks. He's thrown for three touchdowns in both games against the Dolphins and the Browns, with only one interception. He's also rushed for at least 60 yards in each game. You might look at the matchup and be all, "LAWLZ, it's the Dolphins and Browns." And you would be right, fictitious person who is reading this column and somehow contacting me directly as I write this. But the Titans have the Colts this week.
You might say, "But they totally shut down Brock Osweiler until the end!" And this is not an imaginary voice because MJD said this exact thing. But my comebacks is a) garbage-time points count, b) Brock Osweiler ain't great, and 3) Mariota is the truth. (I'll save the editor's the effort of having to add a note that I'm a huge Pac-12 homer and I don't run away from that. But Mariota is starting to put it all together.)
He's a great streaming option for the next couple of weeks, too. He's got the Jags next week (which, stop laughing, isn't a great matchup), but after that he has the Chargers, Packers, Colts and Bears before he faces the Broncos. So he's going to have an opportunity to string together some wins for you.
I won't even fear that I'm about to jinx him here. I'm that confident in Mariota. The run game has been way too strong for the Titans, opening things up for him. He's going to be good. I'm pretty sure we're past our issues and this is going to end up well.
Rank's 11 Sleepers, Week 7
QB: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
QB: Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
QB: Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
RB: Spencer Ware, Kansas City Chiefs
RB: Jacquizz Rodgers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB: Dwayne Washington, Detroit Lions
RB: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots (stash)
WR: Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts (stash)
WR: Kenny Britt, Los Angeles Rams
WR: Allen Hurns, Jacksonville Jaguars
TE: Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins
TE: Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
TE: Jack Doyle, Indianapolis Colts
D/ST: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I gave a weird, half-hearted endorsement of Smith last week in this space. I liked the matchup, but his history following bye weeks kind of foretold what he was going to give us. Which wasn't much. I'm going to give another feeble endorsement here. The Saints are a great matchup for sure. But the Chiefs could find themselves in a similar situation to where they were last week with the Raiders. Leading by a bunch, and not throwing the ball a lot. Your hope would then be that the touchdown to Dontari Poe is actually a touchdown pass.
Jamaal Charles will always loom large for the Chiefs, but it's pretty clear Ware is the running back they trust at the moment. He carried the ball 24 times in the win over the Raiders and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. The matchup this week against the Saints is a pretty good one, too. If the Chiefs get into a situation where they need to keep up with the Saints, Ware can catch the ball, too. But my conjecture is the Chiefs are going to try to slow down the Saints' offense by keeping a hold of the ball. You do that by giving it to your grinder. And if you are concerned, this doesn't mean Charles can't be effective as a gadget player.
He's probably made his way back to the waiver wire by now. But Washington could end up with a lot of work if he's healthy enough to play. Zach Zenner isn't going to get it done. Washington can be that early-down back, and it's too bad the ankle injury has robbed him of this opportunity. If he's set to go this week, I like him in this matchup. The Lions offense is one of the most under-appreciated in the league right now.
Rodgers is going to have a role on this team, even with Doug Martin's imminent return. He was brought in specifically by coach Dirk Koetter, and I believe he has the trust of the coach. If this game starts to spin out of control in favor of the Bucs, I feel like Rodgers will be the running back they lean on in the later stages while they slowly work Martin back into the fold.
I don't want to act like the Rams have found their new Isaac Bruce or anything like that, but you can't ignore the chemistry Case Keenum has with Britt so far this season. Britt was targeted eight times against the Lions, his highest total since he had 10 against the Seahawks in Week 2. Britt has done a pretty good job of turning his targets into receptions. He's caught 16 of his 18 targets over the last two weeks, while he's done a great job of getting past the defense.
The Raiders have the worst pass defense in the NFL, as they have allowed more than 300 passing yards per game. Only two other teams have allowed (on average) more than 300 passing yards per game (the Jets and Saints). So this will be a lot of fun for anybody who has panicked over Allen Robinson. But you should be able to get some good value out of Hurns. He's nice replacement if you have Cole Beasley on a bye this week. I can't believe I just wrote that, but this is fantasy football in 2016.
Oh my God, are we really doing this? Yes, yes we are. Davis played well last week in the absence of Jordan Reed. And if Reed is out again, then Davis is a great option. Why? Well, it's the Jack Doyle rules. Start your tight ends against the Lions. Lance Kendricks was the latest success story. And outside of Zach Ertz (jerk), everybody has hit against the team. (I should point out, I don't know Zach and he really seems like a nice guy. I'm just playing around.)
I'm going with Brate as the lean over Jack Doyle this week because he's second on the team with five red-zone targets. (And he wasn't really involved in the first couple of the weeks of the season because they were still using Austin Seferian-Jenkins for whatever reason.) And really, I've come to not trust Andrew Luck when it comes to the tight end position.