I don’t know about you, but our holiday was just great. A lot of it is cooking for me (read my Bed Goes Up from last Saturday) and family, but a day of football, especially when the weather is a little cold outside, is the best. Though we got some sun between the holiday and Sunday, yesterday was wet and windy — a great day for tracking games surrounded by a moat of sleeping dogs.
Earlier in the week, my friend Ben Klein asked, on behalf of his son Jacob, if he should bench Alex Smith in lieu of Case Keenum. Oops.
Well, not really. Certainly Keenum is a great story and having a fantastic year. Hopefully he has a team of his own next year, without a couple of QBs looking down his back, to drive for a full season. Not that QB controversy is bad, but, if you think Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, it doesn’t always work out well for the team with the surplus.
Anyway, I was adamant that a good owner never benches a first-string star player no matter what the sport. And, while it is true that Smith had a run of bad games, he is having a strong season. At least strong enough to not warrant a benching at the hands of a Giants loss, facing the Bills.
Keenum ended up worth around 14 or so more points than Smith, and he is becoming what looks to be a solid play. But, I stand by Smith, as an owner has to stick by his or her main cogs on a team. It is possible to get lucky making a flier pick because you are disappointed in a starter, but the reason the players become solid starters is that they have produced over a period of time.
Always go with that first. And Keenum is certainly worth a free agent pick up should he be floating around in your player pool. As for Jacob, I hope he won despite my best advice.
With pending free agency, I figured the Niners better do something with their new toy, Jimmy Garoppolo. The ex-Patriot got his chance to close an awful game against the Seahawks, completing two of two for 18 yards and a TD to close the game. The problem with Garoppolo, aside from the pending free agency, is the question of how much better than C.J. Beathard can he be on this rudderless team? I would set no stock in either — even garbage yardage will be lost on this team for the remainder of the season.
OK, I cannot go on without noting Mohamed Sanu’s touchdown pass to Julio Jones. Just one of those weird seasonal position perks. It is just fun seeing trick plays like that once in a while, though usually they don’t work any better than subbing Keenum for Smith (though by next season Keenum might indeed be a great pick).
So, it seems this week a bunch of younger players — players we drafted with some expectations of potential stardom — seem to have taken hold of some points and playing time, maybe pointing to a future that justified our original hope and analysis when we drafted them.
In looking at these players — some of whom have been in this virtual space already — let’s start with Joe Mixon, who broke out with 23 carries for 114 yards and a score while grabbing three passes for another 51 yards. Let’s think Mixon is truly moving into the starter role.
I have a lot more Jonathan Stewart shares than do I Christian McCaffrey, and though Stewart is still getting more touches, it just looked to me that McCaffrey is slowly taking the premier gig. With seven carries for 62 yards, and two receptions for 35 more, just in receiving the rookie had nine more positive yards than did the veteran over 15 carries.
Derrick Henry had a big Week 6 (131 yards and a score) against the Colts but has been largely dormant since But Henry bagged 79 yards on 13 carries — tied for most since his big week — and caught a pass for an additional 10 yards. Like his mates above, though, Henry just looked the part and seemed to run like a #1 back, so look for increased touches.
Following a week when he was a primary target, collecting six of 11 targets, Corey Coleman was the potential recipient eight more times Sunday, bringing down three catches and giving him nine of 19 the past two weeks, a serious jump in activity. Looks like Corey is getting a bigger role, too.
Zay Jones has been on the receiving end of 13 catches this month alone, out of 23 for the season, scoring twice including two of the last three weeks where he has picked up 154 yards. Again, an increased role as the season fades might be worth a spot.
Finally, this week’s defensive nod goes to the Chargers defense, good for roughly 45 points depending upon your league the past two weeks. Where did these guys come from, with just three sacks but eight takeaways, three of which turned into scores. The Chargers are indeed a great second-half (of the season) team, so fasten your seatbelts for a wild AFC West finale, where all bets are apparently off.
Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET.
Follow me @lawrmichaels.