We’re nearly halfway through the NFL Season and we’re starting to see some trends. Some are good, and some are worrying. You might also be looking for a miracle… which this Monday night might provide. More on this week’s AFC North battle in a moment. First, let’s consider what we learned from another NFL Sunday.
The NFC East has gone from Least to Beast
I wanted a rhyme, so sue me. Anyway, a couple seasons ago the 7-9 Washington Commanders—then just the Football Team—made the playoffs. The NFC East was a dumpster fire and often the butt of jokes. It was fair to wonder just how good it could be this season. A funny thing happened, it’s now the best division in football. It’s so good that the East could provide three of the NFC’s top four seeds if it weren’t for a divisional structure. It’s so good that it’s easy to suspect three teams will make the playoffs, and whoever wins the East will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Even the last place team—the Commanders—are competitive and hovering in contention in a conference that has a lot of teams within two games of .500. It’s a changing of the guard in the best way. It’s going to be fun to see the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants do battle down the stretch.
The Panthers are better without Christian McCaffrey
It seems impossible to believe, and maybe it’s more that the team is better without Matt Rhule, but there’s a spark on offense. Sometimes a player, no matter how talented, doesn’t fit well within a scheme. D’Onta Foreman is just a straightforward runner, and P.J. Walker is making the pass offense work. The Panthers are 1-1 since the trade and could have been 2-0. D.J. Moore looks like a star and the Panthers look like a team that can win games—whether they should be or not.
Andy Dalton should be the guy in New Orleans
At 3-5, the Saints aren’t out of the playoff race. The Buccaneers are 3-5 and the Falcons, who most thought would be one of the league’s worst teams, are leading the division at 4-4. The Saints started the season with Jameis Winston, hoping they’d get good Jameis. It didn’t quite pan out. The Saints got off to a poor start, and Winston struggled and then suffered an injury. Recently, the team turned to Dalton. While the team hasn’t always won games, the offense looks better. That includes running back Alvin Kamara, who’s once again killing it on the ground and through the air. With a 24-0 win over the Raiders, I think Dalton solidified his position as the starter going forward.
And now, on to Monday Night Football.
Cincinnati Bengals (4-3) at Cleveland Browns (2-5)
Well, this game got some tough news late in the week as the Bengals announced a significant hip injury for Ja’Marr Chase, who will likely end up on IR. He’s out tonight, which probably puts a damper on your fantasy team, especially if you were hoping for a Monday Night miracle. Nevertheless, we persist in looking at the game.
For the Bengals, Joe Burrow has been on fire. Even without Chase, the Bengals have great weapons in Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, and you’re starting all of them. I also like Hayden Hurst at tight end. If Chase threw you for a loop, Mike Thomas could be a YOLO option. Meanwhile, the Browns have struggled all year defending the run. That could be good news for Joe Mixon, who is involved on the ground and in the air. There’s plenty to like from the Bengals offense.
For the Browns, it’s been something of a struggle. Trade rumors continue to swirl around Kareem Hunt, and the Browns are biding time on offense until Deshaun Watson returns from suspension. In the passing game, David Njoku is out. Amari Cooper is still in and is the most reliable receiving start. I also have some interest in Harrison Bryant, especially in a poor week for tight ends. If you’re desperate, Donovan Peoples-Jones has done some good work lately. Meanwhile, the Browns’ best start is Nick Chubb—a Top 5 option at running back who figures to be the team’s best fantasy option again this week.
The Pick: Bengals
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.
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