Booms and Busts: Matt Moore outduels Josh McCown

Matt Moore came on for the save in Week 7 (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

It was hard to find satisfaction in the early slate of Week 7. Cam Newton laid an egg at Chicago. The Cardinals never showed up in London. Marcus Mariota couldn’t take advantage of hapless Cleveland.

Thank the fantasy gods for some things we can rely on, like a Josh McCown vs. Matt Moore battle royale. Pinball scoring in South Florida.

Moore earned the last laugh, sparking the Dolphins to a 17-point fourth period and a 31-28 come-from-behind victory over the Jets. Relief pitcher Moore racked up 188 passing yards and two touchdown passes, hitting on 13-of-21 passes. It might have been enough to earn the starting gig over Jay Cutler, who departed in the third quarter after suffering a chest injury.

To be fair, Cutler had one of his better days — two scoring passes (against a pick, same as Moore) and a rating over 114. But Cutler entered the day with a lousy set of stats: 5.2 YPA, a 75.4 rating. The Dolphins have been winning in spite of Cutler, not because of him.

It’s an open question as to why the Dolphins bothered to seek out Cutler after Ryan Tannehill got hurt — Cutler probably isn’t an improvement over Moore to begin with. Heck, Adam Gase, of all people, should know about Cutler’s deficiencies.

Whoever gets the starting gig in Miami could be looking at bonanza scoring down the road. Baltimore’s defense presents a formidable challenge in Week 8 — it’s also a Thursday game — but consider some of the other opponents: Oakland (Week 9), Tampa Bay (Week 11), New England (Week 12 and 14). The Dolphins passing game could be a boon in the middle of the fantasy year. Jarvis Landry (7-93-1) and Kenny Stills (6-85-2) were both excellent Sunday.

Hey, the less we talk about Jay Ajayi (23-51-0), the better.

McCown ended the game as the scapegoat, throwing a horrible pick that set up Miami’s clinching field goal. But he did plenty of fantasy-fun things prior to that, throwing three touchdown passes (Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins) and running in another himself. McCown has multiple touchdowns in three straight games, and he’s starting to establish nifty rapport with his underrated group of receivers.

Keep McCown’s name handy for next week, when the Falcons come to the Meadowlands. With six teams on bye, you might need him.

Although ASJ finished with a modest 3-21-1 on five targets, he did find the end zone for the third straight game. This is starting to look like a breakout year at age 25. Remember, he was a second round pick in 2014, and showed flashes of stardom before getting hurt in 2015. The Jets could be sitting on a franchise player here.

Brett Hundley not ready for close-up 

I tried very hard to be open minded with Brett Hundley, on the eve of his first start. I noted his fine play, three years worth, at UCLA. I examined his exhibition success. I threw out what he did at Minnesota last week, given that it was a surprise relief appearance, and against one of the better defenses in the league.

But there’s no getting around it, Hundley was terrible against New Orleans in Week 7 (12-25-87, 1 interception). The game was fast for him, and he was slow on his reads. He was inaccurate. Hundley’s fantasy day was partially bailed out by 44 rushing yards and a touchdown, but Hundley sunk the offense around him. And while the Saints have improved on defense, it’s not like this is an elite group.

Every part of the passing game gets at least one notch of a downgrade. Jordy Nelson, think of him as a WR2 now. Davante Adams is a borderline starter. You can cut Randall Cobb, I’ll sign off, and I considered Martellus Bennett a cut even before Week 7. The Packers are now a team that will need to hide its quarterback, hope to win ugly. The upcoming schedule isn’t easy: Lions, at Bears, Ravens, at Steelers.

Pianow on the Take 

• Although Russell Wilson was near-perfect at the Giants, the Seahawks left points on the field. A big part of it was Thomas Rawls, who made these mistakes: he ran into his quarterback on a handoff; he was whistled for a false start on a goal-line snap; he dropped a screen pass with no one around him; he lost a fumble; and he misread a block on a developed screen that could have gone for a back-breaking play. You watch Rawls on a day like Sunday and you wonder if he’s ever been coached, or listened to coaching.

The Giants defense is a good example of how one or two good cornerbacks are not enough to assemble a quality pass defense. New York was 20th in Pass Defense DVOA before Week 7, and then Wilson got them for 334 yard and 8.6 YPA — with a few missed connections along the way.

• It doesn’t say much for Zay Jones and Jordan Matthews that Deonte Thompson just joined the Bills and posted a 4-107-0 game, securing all targets. Somehow Jones finished 2-17-0 on nine looks, and Matthews wasn’t a factor in his first game back (2-10-0, three targets).

• Adrian Peterson was the easiest sell-high angle in the world after Week 6’s shocking Arizona debut, but he’s especially cooked now that Drew Stanton has to pilot the Cardinals for two months. Peterson needs a balanced offense and quality blocking to have a chance to be effective, and he’s not going to get either, consistently, in Arizona.

• I would fire Steve Sarkisian first thing Monday morning. Devonta Freeman is averaging 6.2 yards a pop the last two weeks — and has 21 measly carries. Julio Jones scored his first touchdown of the year in Sunday’s foggy loss at Foxboro.

• I don’t know exactly how talented Martavis Bryant is, but we can all see he has no interest in maximizing his talent. He’s begging the Steelers to suspend him or cut him outright.

• The Bears became just the third team in the 2000s to win with seven pass attempts or less. Mitch Trubisky Fever, catch it. Chicago has become a tough out, especially at home — where the Bears beat Pittsburgh and Carolina, should have beaten Atlanta, and lost by just three to Minnesota.

• The next four weeks are the most challenging of the fantasy football schedule, when 20 teams take their respective byes. Six teams don’t play in Week 8 and Week 9; then it downshifts to a more common four teams resting in Weeks 10 and 11.

Teams already in a leverage position should look to cherry-pick starters from desperate, bye-depleted rosters; conversely, teams with a losing record have to accept that the most important game is the one right in front of them. Either way, it’s a great time to trade, because fantasy teams have motivations that weren’t present back in September.