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 night's game:
1) It was too early to write off Chris Johnson
The Tennessee Titans have not had the easiest schedule in the world, especially from a rushing perspective. However, Johnson has flashed signs of his old self in two of the past three weeks. Against the Houston Texans in Week 4, he rushed for 141 yards (157 total yards) and last night he rushed for 91 yards (124 total yards). Yes, there was an ugly performance against the Vikings sandwiched in, but overall, things are headed in the right direction.
Considering those two performances and coupled with the upcoming schedule, there is reason for hope. Just look at the next two weeks:
- Week 7 – Buffalo Bills – 171.9 rushing yards per game, 9 TD
- Week 8 – Indianapolis Colts – 135.8 rushing yards per game, 5 TD
He then draws the Bears and Dolphins (currently 1-2 in rushing yards allowed). That said, I would consider him a solid RB2, and maybe even a borderline RB1, over the next two weeks. How he performs will determine how we view him moving forward.
2) Jared Cook is being highly underutilized
He caught all four of his targets going for 54 yards and zero TD. It’s not a poor day, but it is far from impressive either. On the year, he hasn’t caught more than five passes or had more than 77 yards in a game. In fact, he has been under 40 yards in three games.
Amazingly, he has accumulated 23 receptions (second behind Kendall Wright), 291 yards (second behind Nate Washington) and two TD (tied for the team lead). It is clear that he has the ability to be a major force if the Titans choose to game-plan for him and make him more of a weapon. You have to think that they will in the coming weeks, especially with 10 days to prepare for the Bills in Week 7.
3) Kenny Britt has reemerged as a viable WR option
He had four receptions for 62 yards and one TD, but the more important number was his team-high 11 targets (Washington was targeted 10 times and Wright eight times). We all know the type of potential that he has to produce, it was just a matter of time and health. I would only expect things to get better from here, so consider him a viable WR3 (at worst) with the potential for so much more moving forward. In other words, it should be safe to get him back in your lineup.
4) It is too early to entrench Rashard Mendenhall as a RB1
Yes, another injury did play a role and ended his evening early, but it is not like Mendenhall was lighting it up before finding himself on the sideline. He had six carries for six yards and one reception for 11 yards. After averaging 5.2 yards per carry in his first game of the season, this is far from the type of performance anyone had expected. While I would think he will come back strong, assuming he’s healthy, this just goes to show you that fantasy owners need to temper their expectations.
While the game plan may have been different had Mendenhall not gone down, the Steelers threw the ball 40 times compared to 22 rushing attempts. Given their assets in the passing game, even a healthy Mendenhall may not be able to overcome that trend. This is not your old ground-and-pound Steelers team, and we need to take that into account. A healthy Mendenhall will likely be a RB2, but it is hard to consider him more than that.
5) Heath Miller may be more than just a TD tight end
He failed to find the end zone for the second straight game (after having four TD in Steelers’ first three games), but he was targeted nine times on the night. That’s a big step up considering he had 25 targets in the first four games.
Time will tell if that will continue or not, but if you are sitting on him as a potential option, it is well worth watching. You don’t want to call him a must-start option, but I would feel much more comfortable using him if he starts to see continuous increased targets as opposed to having his value dependent on finding the end zone.
Make sure to check out all of our Week 6 rankings: