Stefon Diggs roared back to on-field relevancy (as opposed to Pro Football Talk relevancy) with a three-touchdown game in the Minnesota Vikings' thrashing of the Philadelphia Eagles. Hunter Henry scored his first touchdown in 672 days…then caught another one six minutes later, though it wasn't enough to get the stumbling L.A. Chargers a much-needed win. First-overall pick Kyler Murray had his best game yet as a pro, leading Arizona to win over Atlanta with 340 yards and three touchdowns.
A little bit lost in all of these offensive developments was one of the rarest kicker-related events you will ever have the good fortune of witnessing. And no, I'm not talking about the fair-catch free kick the Carolina Panthers attempted in their win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first of its kind since 2013. That would be my focus if this was a post about actual on-field football, but it's not. All of the above is also noteworthy when it comes to fantasy football, and in the inaugural Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge league, something even more stunning and possibly even more rare occurred: the waiver-wire kicker block. I'm getting goosebumps just writing about it.
And while Carolina's fair-catch kick sailed wide right and thus didn't have any effect on the outcome of the Bucs-Panthers game in London, the FANtasy challenge kicker-block may have saved an undefeated season, depending upon who you believe. It was Christopher Hatton – one of nine lucky Buccaneers fans who won a contest to participate in the league and try to defeat a trio of NFL insiders (including yours truly) in order to win Buccaneers tickets and other valuable prizes – who made the unprecedented and wildly successful move. It was fellow fan participant Jason Swinford who might be regretting the whole turn of events on Tuesday.
Let me see if I can piece this together for you from the league's transaction log and message board.
First, on Wednesday, October 9, Jason dropped Dallas kicker Brett Maher in order to pick up Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins. His team already had two quarterbacks and no other kickers, but Jacoby Brissett was on a bye and Drew Brees is not yet back from his hand injury. The Great Marpet Capers needed some firepower going against the league's first-place team, and the pickup of Cousins was an unequivocal success. The Vikings' up-and-down passer was up this week against Philly, throwing four touchdown passes and scoring 27.32 fantasy points.
Jason chose to go into the weekend without a kicker rather than dropping another player from his bench. A dispassionate observer might wonder if he was feeling any doubts about the strategy when the smoke cleared on Sunday and his team was down by seven points to Hatton's 5-0 Water Walkers. At that point, there was only one game left to play – Monday night's NFC North tilt between Green Bay and Detroit – and only one kicker available. Green Bay's Mason Crosby is on the Brate Scott team run by Pro Casey Phillips, but Detroit's Matt Prater was on the waiver wire.
And, indeed, Prater soon found a home in the FANtasy Challenge league…just not on the Great Marpet Capers' roster. At 6:47 p.m. ET on Sunday night, Christopher added Prater and dropped Dallas, one of the two defenses he was carrying. The Water Walkers couldn't play Prater, as they had already employed Baltimore's Justin Tucker in the kicker spot for the week. But they could stop their opponent from a last-second pickup that could swing the tide.
Now it's at this point that I should tell you that Jason purports to have no plans to pick up Prater. Here's what he said on the message board on Monday morning:
"Congrats on the win Chris. I like the move of getting the kicker so I couldn't as well. I wasn't planning on it as no one I'm willing to drop but I really like the move. I'll see you in the playoffs ;)"
To be clear, I believe Jason. The decision to go into the weekend without a kicker was clearly premeditated and I think he stuck to his guns. This was clearly a dogfight from the beginning, and if Jason wanted to make a move he surely could have done so before 6:47. This is some high-level fantasy football strategeration, and it's making me wonder if I've gotten in over my head with this league. (The standings would say otherwise, but whatever.)
The real question isn't whether Jason is telling the truth or covering his backside, but whether this was a good strategy in the first place.
I get not wanting to lose a valuable player off your bench, but was there really no one he could subject to the waiver wire, and maybe even potentially get back? Let's take a look. Okay, aforementioned QBs Brees and Brissett need to be protected, sure. Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery and Devin Singletary were all on bye weeks, and yes, running back depth in this league is incredibly precious. WR Marvin Jones has been just sort of meh so far, but I would hang onto him, especially with his comparatively thin depth at the position.
That leaves two other candidates to drop: Seattle RB Rashaad Penny and Pittsburgh WR Diontae Johnson. Johnson was a waiver-wire darling a few weeks ago after the enormous flameout of free agent addition Donte Moncrief; I know, I picked him up in another league. However, there are more than a few red flags here. The Steelers' own web site lists Johnson as the third receiver behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington, and indeed before Washington suffered a shoulder injury in Week Five he was starting alongside Smith-Schuster. Washington may return in Week Seven.
Meanwhile, the Steelers were down to their third-string quarterback, Devlin Hodges, and the play-calling on Sunday against the Chargers would indicate that the Steelers' passing attack is going to be quite limited as long as he's in there. (Mason Rudolph could return soon but he also has the limitation of being Mason Rudolph.) Johnson has had two good weeks and four bad ones. If you put him on the waiver wire, would he really draw that much more attention than Nelson Agholor, Auden Tate, Willie Snead or DeVante Parker (all available right now)?
As for Penny, he's a complete fantasy bust this year. I'm sure somebody would scoop him up and hope, but in reality, as the league's own website puts it, Penny is "a distant second fiddle to Chris Carson." On this particular Capers roster, Penny would surely only play if all but one of Christian McCaffrey, Melvin Gordon, Josh Jacobs, David Montgomery and Devin Singletary were unavailable at the same time. The only reason to hold onto Penny is to keep somebody else from having him, and to me that's a very low risk. In a 13-game fantasy regular season, you can't afford to give any week away.
So as it turns out, Cousins was great, McCaffrey was largely held in check by the Bucs but still scored 21.70 points thanks to two touchdowns, Mark Andrews got good production in the tight end spot and the New England defense went off for 25.00 points. It was a good week for the Capers with 126.62 points, but not good enough. Watson outscored Cousins by a bit, Nick Chubb was better than McCaffrey, Austin Hooper was in the FLEX and made an unusual two-TE setup work with 25.70 points and the Water Walkers made the curious decision of actually playing a kicker, getting 11.00 points from Tucker. It all added up to 133.40 points and the preservation of an undefeated season. The Capers, meanwhile fall to 3-3, just barely holding on to a playoff spot at the moment. The way things are going, Jason will only "see you in the playoffs," Christopher, if he sneaks in to a spot in the 3-6 seed range and makes it past the first round while you're enjoying a bye.
And I think that's all I need to say about that game. Wait, what's that? Oh, how did Matt Prater do? Well, he did hit a 51-yard field goal (worth four points in our league). Plus a 54-yarder. Not to mention three more field goals from 41, 26 and 22 yards, and an extra point. That's 18.00 fantasy points. Perhaps those would have come in handy.
Now let's take a closer look at how the rest of Week Six unfolded in our league.
View some of the best photos from the Buccaneers' Week 6 matchup against the Carolina Panthers in London.
Lineup Decision of the Week: Christopher Dombrowski and Risky Biscuits put all their biscuits in Kyler Murray's basket.
I'm going back to the draft for this one. Christopher notably did not draft anything but running backs and receivers for 11 rounds after going with TE Travis Kelce with the last pick of the first round. He then took a shot on the first-overall draft pick, Arizona's Kyler Murray, and that was the only quarterback he drafted. The Cardinals don't have a bye until Week 12, so it's all Murray until Thanksgiving. That strategy also allowed Christopher to jump on Chris Godwin with the first pick of the fourth round before a howling mob of Buc fans in the FANtasy Challenge draft could get their hands on him.
Godwin is now a full-fledged fantasy (and NFL) star and Murray is coming on strong. Those two were the main reasons the Biscuits were able to sneak by Brate Scott, 124.10 to 114.44. Casey's team finally got a big game from Matt Ryan (30.94) and Zeke was great (26.20) in a Cowboys loss, but Amari Cooper limped to 1.30 points and Joe Mixon (5.90) continued to underperform his second-round draft status.
Lineup Blunder(s) of the Week: Did I mention that Jason Swinford's Great Marpet Capers elected not to play a kicker and lost by seven points to the first-place team? Cuz yeah, that's it.
Clearly, I need not write anymore about that galaxy-brain maneuver. So how about some honorable mentions instead? For instance, it's hard to blame Nick Russin's Kung Suh Panda team for leaving Robby Anderson the bench in favor of JuJu Smith-Schuster, but the quarterback situations for the Jets and Steelers could have made a switch feasible. Sam Darnold exited his spleen-protection chamber and immediately threw a 92-yard touchdown bomb to Anderson. Meanwhile Hodges took over for Pittsburgh and rendered JJSS mostly pointless. The difference was 21.80 points, but Nick won anyway.
Pro Carmen Vitali left Alshon Jeffery (23.60) and Curtis Samuel (23.80) points on the Bowles-room Blitz bench in favor of Mohamed Sanu (5.90) in the WR2 spot and Damien Williams (9.00) in the FLEX spot. I guess those are mildly defensible decisions (Williams more so than Sanu), and Carmen won anyway.
The biggest blunder of the week besides the kicker fiasco, at least in terms of results if not actual decision-making, was Justin Morris playing TE Will Dissly over the aforementioned Hunter Henry. Dissly has been good and Henry was in just his second week back, but hoo boy, did this one sting. Dissly apparently tore an Achilles tendon trying to make a catch in the end zone and ended the day without any points, while Henry caught two late touchdowns and scored 30.00 points. Justin lost to Brandon Durfey and Matt Gay 4 Trey by 29.62 points.
Best Game of the Week: Plunder and Lightning 144.42, Ladies and Edelman 135.86.
Poor Becky Hartman.
After starting the season 0-5 and failing to reach 100 points in four of the first five weeks, she scored the second-highest point total of all 12 teams in Week Six…only to be matched up against the highest scoring team. Similarly, in Week Three the Ladies and Edelman squad ripped off 148 points…and lost by four points to Casey Phillips, another of the league's three Pros. If not for bad luck, Becky wouldn't have any.
I picked this game over the Water Walkers-Great Marpet Capers shootout even though that one had more serious implications in the standings. My reasoning was that the Water Walkers ended that contest with the signing of Prater on Sunday night, whereas my game with L&E went down to the wire on Monday night. I needed about 26 points from Aaron Rodgers and Kenny Golladay combined, and I got 35. Ten seconds into the game I already had seven points thanks to that great flea-flicker from Matt Stafford to Golladay. I didn't think I could love the flea-flicker more until that play proved me wrong. At one point, I took the lead in the fantasy matchup for what I thought was good, only to have Aaron Rodgers throw a pick off Darrius Shepherd's facemask, costing me two points and, temporarily, the lead. I got it back, though.
Becky's big day was largely the work of Diggs, who led the entire league with 43.50 fantasy points this week. Mike Evans, the patron saint of Ladies and Edelman also contributed 20.60 points, and Tom Brady outscored my quarterback. It just wasn't enough.
Standings Update: Well, seems like nothing can stop the Water Walkers, whose next victim is the 3-3 Kung Suh Panda crew. Christopher Hatton's team is one game up on Brandon Durfey's Matt Gay 4 Trey team, which is 5-1 despite having the fifth-highest point total. My team moves into third thanks to the down week by Justin Beetz's The Revolution; both are 4-2 but the Plunder and Lightning have more points.
Nick Russin's KSP team is one of four sitting at 3-3, and if the playoffs started today it would be on the outside looking in, along with Pro Carmen Vitali, whose Bowles-room Blitz team improved to 3-3 this week. Christopher Dombrowski's Risky Biscuits and the aforementioned Great Marpet Capers would be in.
Additional Week Five Results: I've already covered the wins by the Water Walkers, Plunder and Lightning and Risky Biscuits. Here's the rest of the action:
- Kung Suh Panda (Nick Russin) 116.42, The Revolution (Justin Beetz) 89.38
Nick's team keeps getting the worst efforts of his opponents, in this case the first sub-100 game of the year for The Revolution. Bye weeks and injuries were issues here for Justin's squad, as he had Chris Thompson and Rhett Ellison in the lineup, surely against his well. They did very little, and trade-bait WR Emmanuel Sanders scored all of one point (dodged a bullet there, Smith). Nick, meanwhile, probably should have been given credit above for putting Terry McLaurin in the FLEX spot and earning 26.00 points, though Robby Anderson would have given him about the same. And Devonta Freeman, a player I loved going into the draft, finally had a huge day with 26.80 points.
- Bowles-room Blitz (Carmen Vitali) 118.34, No Bark No Bite (Campbell Sears) 96.78
And we have our first team name change of the year. The Team Formerly Known as Schianos Sombrero got a new name but not a new M.O., falling below 100 points and to 2-4 in the standings. Everybody in the first six spots (QB, 2WR, 2RB, TE) was basically okay – from Dak to Fournette to Fitz to Ridley and even to Witten – but nobody really stood out. And thus, when the FLEX, K and DEF spots all rolled craps, No Bark No Bite couldn't keep up with the relatively tame Bowles-room Blitz team. Carmen did have two really big performers, Lamar Jackson and Chris Carson, and that was enough to carry a squad that underachieved almost everywhere else.
- Matt Gay 4 Trey (Brandon Durfey) 111.32, Deckerhoff the Halls (Justin Morris) 81.70
A miserable season continues for Justin's team, which drops to 1-5 after an uninspiring outing in which his kicker, Joey Slye (13.00 points) was probably the highlight. Dissly, Tyler Boyd and Derrick Henry all produced virtually nothing. Meanwhile, good fortune smiled on Brandon once again despite just an okay outing by star Patrick Mahomes (20.82). Most of the rest of the squad performed about as well as expected, and Adam Thielen even managed to score 17.70 points with Stefon Diggs soaking up most of the fantasy points for the Vikes.
Tales from the Message Board: As far as I can tell, no one noticed that I referred to a softball score as an "18-point" game instead of "18-run" game in last week's wrap-up. That would seem to call into question whether I really did play softball, but nobody on the message board said anything. What they did say this week:
Justin Beetz (The Revolution): The injury bug hasn't had time to watch you guys up close because he has spent every Sunday watching games on my couch with Andrew Luck
Editor's note: You earn the right to complain about injuries when you draft Andrew Luck and Todd Gurley.
Becky Hartman (Ladies and Edelman): Seriously! 40 points from Diggs and I'm going to lose! I think the biggest loser should go not the winner lol!
Editor's note: Becky's talking about coming to One Buccaneer Place to collect the winner's prizes at the end of the year, I think. Alas, I think we're still going to go with the whole "winner of the league gets the prizes" thing. Intriguing concept, though.
Justin Beetz (The Revolution): Debated playing henry over dissly but decided against it his first week back. Result is a torn achilles for dissly and i would have won by .4 if i played henry. This is just not my year
Editor's note: Hey, that kind of analysis is my job!
Brandon Durfey (Matt Gay 4 Trey): Considering changing my team name to The Luckaneers.
Editor's note: Hey, uh, could you share some of that luck with the Buccaneers?
Jason Swinford (The Great Marpet Capers): Such conflicted feelings with the New England Defense. On one hand, I just dislike anything Boston sports wise. One the other, damn it feels good to have a defense that's in the top 20 for overall points.
Editor's note: Preach!