For nine weeks, Kareem Hunt couldn’t find the end zone with a tracking satellite.
But an afternoon against the Raiders was a speedy cure for the rookie runner.
Hunt turned 28 touches into 138 yards and a touchdown as the Chiefs rode past the Raiders on Sunday, 26-15. Don’t let the final score fool you — KC led 26-0 after three periods and Oakland only made the score cosmetically close through a couple of garbage-time touchdowns.
Perhaps all Hunt needed to get on track was a committed workload. After all, even through his so-called “slump” he’s still managed at least 4.0 YPC in five of his last seven games, including Sunday’s 25-116-1 return. Charcandrick West did vulture one red-zone touchdown, but had a modest six touches on the day.
Although the Chiefs moved the ball easily through the shoddy Oakland defense, Hunt’s teammates didn’t take full advantage of their opportunities. Travis Kelce finished with a 7-74-0 line on 13 targets, missing out on what could have been a monster performance. Kelce easily could have had three touchdowns — he was ruled down at the one-yard line on one catch and run (originally ruled a TD), and he had another score wiped out by penalty. Kelce dropped yet another pass in the end zone, losing the ball in the sun.
Alex Smith produced plenty of chunk plays (20-34-268, 7.9 YPA) but couldn’t deliver a touchdown against the NFL’s worst secondary. At least the Raiders hurried Smith regularly, collecting four sacks and forcing him to scramble regularly. The less we say about Oakland’s offense, the better. At one point, the Chiefs had 19 first downs to Oakland’s four. Derek Carr (24-41-211, one touchdown, two interceptions) and his receivers looked like they first met 15 minutes before the game. No chemistry, no cohesion.
An early injury to Amari Cooper didn’t help, not that he’s seen as a savior any longer. Marshawn Lynch (7-61-1) and Jared Cook (5-75-1) picked up fourth-quarter touchdowns, long after the issue had been decided. Michael Crabtree did little on 13 targets (7-60-0), though he did grab a two-point conversion. He also was wide open for a possible long touchdown, but Carr couldn’t make the connection.
- Oakland’s schedule is daunting down the stretch: hosting Dallas, then trips to Philadelphia and the Chargers. Crabtree is probably still a fantasy starter in most leagues, and Lynch is reasonable as a lower-end RB2, but there’s nothing else in this offense I want to go near right now.
Matthew Stafford can play for my team anytime. Despite a hand injury, he had no trouble crushing the Tampa Bay secondary, completing 36-of-44 passes for 381 yards. Stafford did have two picks and just one touchdown pass, but that’s an overall haul most of us would accept. (And on one of the picks, rookie Kenny Golladay failed to recognize the under throw and contest the pass. The pick justly goes on Stafford’s ledger — it was a poor throw — but Golladay didn’t do Stafford any favors.)
Theo Riddick picked up a couple of scoring runs, nifty deodorant on a 10-29-2 line. He did add six catches in the pass game, showing his PPR chops. This offense didn’t miss Ameer Abdullah at all, though Tion Green (5-15-0) was a flat tire in the run game. If you saw Eric Ebron’s monster game coming (10-94-0 on 11 targets), bully for you. He did have a lost fumble, one of the game’s eight turnovers. Golden Tate did his normal Golden Tate thing: 8-85-1 on nine looks. The Lions have a fun remaining schedule: Chicago, at Cincinnati, Green Bay.
- Weren’t Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota supposed to take the third-year leap? Winston was his usual scattershot self in the loss to Detroit, turning the ball over three times and making a handful of puzzling decisions. And Mariota was an outright horror show in the 12-7 loss at Arizona, posting a 16-31-159 line, with two interceptions.
Winston has been dogged by a sore shoulder much of the year, and Mariota gutted through a balky knee Sunday. That can’t be discounted. And maybe Winston isn’t clicking with the Dirk Koetter regime in Tampa Bay; that’s been a hot rumor this week. I don’t know anyone who signs off on Mike Mularkey and company in Tennessee.
Tampa runs through the NFC South to finish up, challenges with the Falcons, Panthers, and Saints. Nothing easy with that slate. Perhaps Mariota will get something going at San Francisco next week, though the Niners defense has improved. After that, it’s two home challenges against the Rams and Jaguars. Tennessee, at 8-5, will will probably sneak into the AFC playoffs, but I can’t see how they’re going to last very long. Forget the Titans.
- Frank Gore handled an incredible 37 touches in the snow classic in Buffalo, taking more punishment than usual. Can he handle a short turnaround before Thursday’s game with Denver? At least it’s a home game for Indianapolis.
- Greg Olsen is another case in point of how you generally can’t initially trust players off extended injury layoffs. Until Olsen has a show-me game, I won’t rank him proactively (and I hate saying this, as he’s one of my all-time favorites). Are the rules different for Aaron Rodgers? We’ll be discussing that all week as we get ready for Week 15.
- Cam Newton did his usual thing on the ground (11-70), no matter that Minnesota hadn’t allowed much rushing production to QBs this year. Often a team will show a specific personality or stat trend on defense but it really won’t mean much against the outliers of the position. No matter where you stand on Cam, we can all acknowledge he’s a unique player and matchup.
- Imagine how good Jimmy Garoppolo could be if the Niners can stock the fridge with average-or-better skill talent. He’s looked the part in both of his wins, a combination of athleticism, poise, command of the huddle and offense, arm talent. San Francisco doesn’t have a lot of development time here — he’s already 26, after all — but it looks like Garoppolo was groomed on New England’s watch. He’s in play for the balance of fantasy 2017, and will be a fascinating player to rank next summer.
Top Jimmy, this note’s for you.