Highway 51: Sophomores Goff, Wentz becoming fantasy stars

Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz had all the answers Sunday (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

When a quarterback is wearing a hat in the fourth quarter of an NFL game, he’s either done really well or really poorly.

Take a bow, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff. Both sophomores were just about perfect in Week 9.

It’s hard to say just how much credit Goff deserves for his four-touchdown game against the Giants; New York’s secondary was a horror show from the opening snap. But it’s refreshing to see the Rams back in business again; this has been a completely different organization since head coach Sean McVay took over. Goff completed 14-of-22 passes for 311 yards in Sunday’s 51-17 rout, hooking up with Robert Woods twice, Sammy Watkins, and Tyler Higbee. Big Blue’s compete level on all of the scoring plays deserves to be questioned.

Keep in mind, Goff didn’t win any of his seven rookie starts, and he managed a paltry 63.6 rating over 205 passes last year. The Rams remodel has been a smash — new coaching staff, revamped offensive line, fresh weapons to throw to. And while the greater Los Angeles area seems to be ignoring the Chargers, the Rams are generating a bit of a Hollywood buzz, too.

Although the Giants spent the day dodging raindrops and meandering though garbage time, the offense did post some usable fantasy numbers. Evan Engram made a terrific touchdown catch to cap a 4-70-1 afternoon, and Sterling Shepard had a credible 5-70-0 line on nine targets. Orleans Darkwa also collected 71 yards on 16 carries. The Giants and Niners might put up some points next week, even if neither team is going anywhere in the standings. (The Texans and Rams should do some scoring, too.)

Wentz’s four-bagger carried more degree of difficulty, as he fashioned a 15-27-199-4-0 line against Denver’s secondary — a unit we used to avoid for fantasy. It paved the way for a 51-23 beatdown, a game that was over by halftime. Alshon Jeffery (6-84, 11 targets) collected two of the scores; he’s finally starting to click with Wentz. Fill-in tight end Trey Burton snagged a touchdown pass, and reserve runner Corey Clement hauled in the other. The Eagles are hoping to get TE Zach Ertz back after their Week 10 bye.

Clement also had two short rushing touchdowns, adding up to a 25-point day that was scarcely utilized in fantasy. Jay Ajayi was also useful on his new team (8-77-1), while LeGarrette Blount saw tougher sledding (9-37-0). If Clement is going to be a mouth to feed in this offense, it could morph into a three-headed backfield, the worst possible thing for fantasy owners. But given the way Wentz (23 TDs, 5 INTs) is chucking it these days, the ground game is window dressing. The Eagles might be winging their way into a first-round playoff bye.

• We’ve been saying it for a few weeks, but it bears repeating — the New Orleans carnival is dead. The defense is too respectable, the running game too consistent. Drew Brees is still playing at a very high level, of course, and remains a credible fantasy option. But the pinball machine is now in storage.

Marcus Mariota played a strong game against a nasty Baltimore defense, but Mariota probably won’t come close to equaling his draft-day price. The Titans have stepped back from Mariota as a runner, Tennessee doesn’t have a game-changing receiver at the moment, and the offense is never going to be heavily slanted to the pass. Perhaps Mariota will step up into the star class eventually — I remain bullish on his future — but it’s unlikely to happen this year.

• I’m looking forward to seeing the All-22 tape on A.J. Green and Jalen Ramsey, because Green isn’t the type of player to lose his poise like he did Sunday. It doesn’t mean Ramsey is at fault here, but I’d like to see the rest of the story for myself. In the meantime, Jacksonville looks like the only complete defense that’s moving the fantasy needle right now.

• Jacoby Brissett, at minimum, is a very high-end NFL backup and maybe a lower-end starter. It’s hard to believe the Patriots gave him away for Phillip Dorsett, especially given what eventually happened with the Jimmy Garoppolo deal. Brissett needs better pocket awareness, but you can say that about a lot of young quarterbacks. He has a chance to be something.

• A finishing line of 6-86-1 looks fine for DeAndre Hopkins, but he needed a whopping 16 targets to get there. Perhaps Tom Savage was set up to fail on a short preparation week — the Deshaun Watson news moved late — and the season-opener against Jacksonville was a no-win spot, too. But Savage’s performance against the horrible Indianapolis pass defense was not acceptable. Everything from him is a beat slow. You can’t blame the Texans if they consider trying T.J. Yates later this year.

• Stop us if you’ve heard this before — the Falcons had an edge in total yards and yards per play, but couldn’t turn it into a victory (or, heck, anything past 17 points). They remain the worst return on a dollar in the 2017 NFL. Julio Jones’s awful end-zone drop didn’t help, but he’s not the primary problem here. Red-zone efficiency is often more descriptive than predictive, but there are bugs in this playbook once the field gets tight. OC Steve Sarkisian was not the right hire.