Monday was a glorious day at The Shop. As an old-school group of fantasy players, we have been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern era of fantasy football. We begrudgingly changed our scoring method to give yardage much more weight. It was a close vote to add PPR.
The intention was simple all those years ago. Running backs were dominating fantasy football. At the time, if you had two running backs sharing time, it was viewed as a natural disaster. As recently as six or seven years ago, just about every team had a go-to bell cow running back.
Rules changes were made to level the playing field because the standard draft saw about 25 running backs go in the first 35 picks. Those who went rogue and broke from the herd to take a stud quarterback or wide receiver were often rewarded for their boldness, but titles were still won by the guy with the best stable of running backs to survive injury and endure bye weeks.
In recent years, with all the incentives being dropped to increase points for passing yards and receiving yards, not only has the playing field been leveled, it has tilted in the other direction. You were assured of winning a fantasy title with DeMarco Murray last year, although it helped, but it was almost impossible not to win a division title if you had Andrew Luck.
The big games for running backs have dried to a drip because, as the game has evolved, so have the monster days from NFL running backs.
Until last weekend.
In a renaissance weekend, it seemed as though we turned the clock back and let the young men rumble. It made the fellas in The Shop feel like kids on Christmas Day Monday as they straggled in throughout the day. It was old-timey.
Through the first six weeks of the season, half of which were played by all 16 teams before the bye weeks started kicking in, only 36 running backs had rushed for 100 or more yards. That comes out to roughly one runner per team through six games.
This weekend, that all changed. Teams went old-school, winning games like they do in the postseason – involving everyone on the roster and giving an opponent a steady dose of the ground game. The result was beautiful. Twelve backs ran for 100 yards, two more came within three yards and, of those 14 backs, ten of them played on teams that won.
It was a who’s who of fantasy running backs and even some who are role players and were given a chance to shine.
Le’Veon Bell – With third-string QB Landry Jones under center, a big game was needed from Bell. He came through with 121 yards on 17 carries.
Devonta Freeman – The Falcons only scored 10 points, but won the game due in large part to Freeman continuing his amazing season with 25 carries for 116 yards.
Todd Gurley – The Offensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner was at it again, scoring both of St. Louis’ offensive touchdowns, rushing 19 times for 128 yards and two TDs.
Mark Ingram – It wasn’t Drew Brees who dominated the Colts. It was Ingram, who gained 143 yards on 14 carries, including a 44-yard touchdown.
Marshawn Lynch – Beast Mode got the week started with 27 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Doug Martin – It looked like the return of the Muscle Hamster Sunday. Tampa Bay didn’t win, but it wasn’t Martin’s fault. He ran 19 times for 136 yards.
Ryan Matthews – He has only six carries, but ran for 97 yards and scored on a 63-yard touchdown.
Darren McFadden – When Joseph Randle went down, Run DMC had to step up and he came through with 29 carries for 152 yards and one touchdown.
Lamar Miller – The Dolphins blew out Houston thanks in large part to Lamar Miller, who ran 14 times for 175, caught three passes for 61 yards and scored touchdowns of 85 and 61 yards.
Adrian Peterson – Granted, 75 yards came on one carry, but still managed 98 yards on 19 carries in a Vikings win.
Jonathan Stewart – He is one of the primary reasons the Panthers are unbeaten and proved it again Sunday night, rushing 24 times for 125 yards.
Charcandrick West – Who needs Jamaal Charles? Well, the Chiefs do, but that isn’t possible given he’s on I.R., but West came through with 22 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown in Kansas City’s home win.
T.J. Yeldon – Would the Jaguars have won their game without Yeldon running 20 times for 115 yards and a touchdown?
It likely will be just a one-week deal. We’ll return to what passes for normal soon enough, but for one glorious weekend, those of us who have played fantasy football when we were mocked for it, it was a great time to be alive and remembering the good old days when running backs dominated the NFL.
Chris Johnson – Thanks to a 62 yard “roll over and sit down” run the old timer went for 112 yards on 18 carries. Included in that was a 26 yard touchdown run.
- Don’t blow Taps on the Saints just yet. Not only has New Orleans won three of its last four games, they’ve done against teams that were in first place in their division at the time they played Drew Brees & Co. (Dallas, Atlanta and Indianapolis).
- Keep an eye on a young squire in Minnesota named Stefon Diggs. In three career games, the kid has caught 19 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown. The last Vikings rookie to have 80 or more receiving yards in three straight games? You may have heard of him – Randy Moss.
- If you’re looking for a waiver wire kicker pickup, you may want to pay attention to whoever Detroit is playing. Through seven games, the Lions have allowed kickers to score 66 points, including opposing kickers making good on all 16 of their field goal attempts.
- Remember Adam Vinatieri. Through seven games, he has just 31 points with weekly totals of 0, 1, 5, 10, 9, 3 and 3 points. Just when those two games sucked you back in, he went back to sucking.
THE RAZOR’S EDGE
10. The Fault Lies In Our Stars – When the mass exodus took place in San Francisco, there was the feeling the 49ers were going in a new direction. It now appears that direction is in the vicinity of scorched Earth. San Fran may have hit rock bottom last Thursday. Not only were they humbled at home in a 20-3 loss to Seattle, as a team they gained 142 yards on 45 plays. Colin Kepernick converted just one of 11 third downs and was sacked six times. In three of their five losses, the 49ers have scored seven points or less in three of them. In fantasy football, NFL stands for Not For Long on rosters will numbers like that.
9. Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? – Two of the league’s most notorious talents, but not always good teammates, made news in the worst possible way last. Percy Harvin didn’t accompany the Bills to London with a hip injury and apparently figured if Rex and the boys were gone, it was an early bye week for him – going AWOL. Fellow bad boy Greg Hardy had a childish outburst with the special teams coach after Dallas allowed a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown and showed that being a player on a team doesn’t necessarily make you a team player.
8. Taken Out By the Brady Bunch – The New York Jets were looking to make a statement against the New England Patriots in their Boston showdown. At 4-1, the Jets had a chance to knock the Patriots out of first place for the first time in a long time with a win. Instead, the Pats gave them a different look. New England’s running backs carried just five times for one yard. Instead, Tom Brady threw a whopping 54 times, completing 34 of them for 355 yards and two touchdowns, opening a two-game lead over the Jets and New England is once again flexing its muscles they’re contained in a tight Ed Hochuli wife-beater T-shirt as the top dog in the AFC East…again.
7. The Bucs Stop Here – Tampa Bay had a chance Sunday to show that the building process around Jameis Winston and a young defense was well underway. Heading into Washington to play the Redskins, the Buccaneers opened up a 24-0 lead in the second quarter. The Bucs never trailed for the first 59 minutes of the game. With a chance to improve to 3-4, Tampa allowed trivia answer Kirk Cousins to lead the Redskins on an 11-play, 80-yard drive that culminated a touchdown with 24 seconds left, turning a 24-0 lead into a 31-30 loss that has Lovie Smith once again asking the bartender to leave the bottle.
6. Motown Down – The weekly press conferences of Lions head coach Jim Caldwell are starting to look more and more like hostage videos. After beating a woeful Bears defense last week, the Lions were trying to save some dignity over a Vikings team that had a record of 1-13-1 in road division games over the last five years. Detroit’s offense lit up Minnesota in the first quarter, taking a 14-3 lead and gaining 160 yards in the quarter. Between the time they scored their second TD (1:24 left in the first quarter) until 3:21 was left in the fourth quarter, Minnesota outgained Detroit 363 yards to nine. Start saving boxes, Jim. You’re going to need them.
5. They Shoot Buffalo Don’t They? – It’s hard to say you’re the better team when you lose, but the Bills did everything they could to hand a victory to Jacksonville in London. Not only did the Bills allow 27 points in the second quarter – allowing the Jags offense to score two TDs and Jacksonville’s defense to score two more – after they clawed all the way back from a 24-point deficit, they allowed a late touchdown to lose. Rex Ryan can talk as tough as he wants to, but when you haven’t won a game when you allow more than 14 points and you’ve had two games allowing 34 points and another giving up 40, you don’t make the playoffs that way.
4. Storming the Cassel – Maybe it wasn’t all Brandon Weeden’s fault after all. The Cowboys hoped that benching Weeden in favor of veteran Matt Cassel would stop the bleeding on what has become a brutal season for the Cowboys since Romo went down in Week 2. With a chance to sweep the Giants, they would be giving themselves an important tie-break advantage because none of their previous three losses had come against division opponents. They still had a chance to control their own destiny, but, three Cassel interceptions didn’t help the cause one bit and the Cowboys lost 27-20 thanks to a Pick-Six and a 100-yard kickoff return after Dallas had tied the game. Romo can’t get back fast enough because they’re dying on the vine.
3. Chargers Off the Grid – This was supposed to be a time for Philip Rivers and the boys to make their move. After limping out to a 2-4 start, they had the opportunity to make some noise. Their next five games were all against teams that had losing records, three of the next four coming at home. The first of those was against the Oakland Raiders at home and the Chargers lost 37-29. While that is a bad number for any team, the fact that the score was 37-6 heading into the fourth quarter, it looks as though the big opportunity San Diego had to make a move in the AFC playoff scenario has all but died off, despite four more games in which they may end up being favored.
2. Everyone Can Mess With Texas – Miami was so bad that over their bye week they fired their head coach. Had Joe Philbin been allowed to hang around for Houston showing up on the schedule, he may still have a job. Houston’s calling card was supposed to be its defense. Not anymore. Ryan Tannehill has struggled this season, but completed 18 of 19 passes for 282 yards and four first half touchdowns. If that wasn’t bad enough, Miami’s top three running backs ran 30 times for 242 yards and a touchdown. With their only wins over hapless Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, Houston looked dead in the water before losing Arian Foster. Now it only looks worse.
1. Spit Out of Luck – It’s one thing that the Colts can’t beat anyone outside of their own pathetic division, but to lose at home to a Saints team that looked like it may be ready for the 2015 knockout punch. The final score was 27-21, but the Saints were ahead 27-0 and ran for almost 200 yards on 32 running back carries. To add insult to injury, the Colts were shown how to properly execute a special teams fake. The Colts are 3-4, but still in sole possession of the lead in the AFC Sloth Division and are 3-0 against the dregs they play twice a year (0-4 against actual NFL teams). When your owner and G.M. get into shouting matches, it’s never good.