Bumps, Bruises and Bowouts
Lamar Miller – Ankle
Jordan Howard – Achilles
Larry Fitzgerald – Knee
Marqise Lee – Ankle
Week 11 is the final bye that has a major impact on fantasy teams. The Falcons, Broncos, Chargers and Jets get their time off and the only teams left are the Browns and Titans in Week 13. We’re coming off a feast or famine week for running backs since only 11 notched a touchdown but seven of those had multiple scores. Each week there are fewer “one game wonder” at wide receivers and the elite of the position are really starting to dominate.
The season is hurtling towards fantasy playoffs but there are still backfield changes that are difference makers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Doug Martin returned from his eight week absence and was expected to take it easy in his first action since he strained his hamstring. And while Peyton Barber rushed for 38 yards on 12 carries, Martin ran 16 times for 33 yards and one score in the win over the Bears. And Barber only had one carry until the fourth quarter when the rout was already on. Martin even added one catch for 13 yards and his 17 touches signal that he’s healthy again. Martin will face the Chiefs, Seahawks, Chargers, Cowboys and Saints (twice) by Week 16. Both Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers turned in several big games in his absence and now Martin resumes his role as the workhorse back.
Seattle Seahawks – Christine Michael also had a hamstring injury last week but was able to play in the win over the Seahawks. But Michael only ran five times for 22 yards while the rookie C. J. Prosise gained 66 yards on 17 carries and was their lead receiver with seven receptions for 87 yards. The plan in recent weeks was to give Prosise more work but it wasn’t until Week 10 that it happened.
The problem is that while Michael has fallen from favor and Prosise comes off an impressive game, Thomas Rawls returns this week. Rawls turned in four 100+ yards games in relief of Marshawn Lynch last year and was expected to be the 2016 starter until he suffered a hairline fracture in his fibula during Week 2. His return after Prosise’s big performance makes the Seattle backfield unsettled for now. The Seahawks face the Eagles, Packers, Panthers, Packers, Rams and Cardinals to end the fantasy season. Owning the primary back – if such truly exists – will prove beneficial in this improving offense.
Philadelphia Eagles – During Weeks 8 and 9, Darren Sproles became the main running back with a total of 28 carries for 143 yards and eight catches for 31 yards. Ryan Mathews lost a fumble in Week 7 and then never gained more than 15 rushing yards the next two games. But back at home against the Falcons, Mathews was back as the primary rusher with his best performance of the year. He ran 19 times for 109 yards and scored twice.
Sproles was dialed back to only two rushes but had a season high eight catches for 57 yards. Throw in Wendell Smallwood who only rushed ten times in the last month. The rookie then showed up with 13 runs for 70 yards in the win over the Falcons. Every week there has been at least one back with significant fantasy value but the lack of consistency makes Mathews only reliable for a rushing score and Sproles for five to eight receptions. Solid production happens each week but which back benefits most is a changing target.
Eye on the Prize
Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 114 yards and two scores on 21 carries in the win over the Steelers. He also added 95 yards and a third score on two catches. That gives Elliott 1005 rushing yards which leads the NFL. His 112 yards per game average puts him on a pace to rush for 1786 yards as a rookie. That would place him only 22 yards short of Eric Dickerson’s all-time rookie record of 1808 yards back in 1983.
Elliott totals ten touchdowns over his nine games played and that is a pace for 18 touchdowns on the year. That would rank #3 all time, just behind Gayle Sayers (22) and Dickerson (20). The Offensive Rookie of the Year seems all but certain. Keep up that winning streak and Elliott could be in the conversation for league MVP.
Coming up Cherries
Slot receivers have grown in use this year. Even this late in the season, offenses are starting to rely even more heavily on them.
Jeremy Kerley (49ers) – Faced with the top secondary of the Cardinals, Colin Kaepernick had the most success with Kerley who ended with seven receptions for 71 yards and lone receiving touchdown. Kerley had been held to only two or three short catches in Kaepernick’s first two starts – both at home versus the softer secondaries of the Saints and Buccaneers. The 49ers get no relief this week facing the Patriots and then have road trips to Miami and Chicago which will provide the same situation as last week.
Eli Rogers (Steelers) – The undrafted rookie returned from a turf toe injury to post six catches for 103 yards in the Week 9 loss to the Ravens. Facing the Cowboys in Week 9, Rogers provided the only wideout receptions other than Antonio Brown. He ended with four catches for 42 yards and his first touchdown since the season opener. He’s becoming more integral to the passing game right when the Steelers will face the Browns, Colts, Giants, Bill, Bengals and then the Ravens again.
Julian Edelman (Patriots) – The normally productive slot receiver struggled while Tom Brady was out and even with Brady, he was only good for around 40 yards in most games. In the loss to the Seahawks – the only time the offense has been held in check at all under Brady – Edelman turned in a season best 99 yards on seven catches. He may not be needed this week with a trip to play the 49ers, but he’ll be more involved in future games versus the Rams, Ravens and Broncos.
About Last Year
The Seahawks offense had an explosion of passing production in the second half of 2015. That failed to materialize this year as expected but Russell Wilson sprained his MCL in Week 3 and overall has not played nearly as well. But after three straight games without any score, Wilson suddenly threw for two touchdowns and rushed in a third along with 282 passing yards in the Week 9 win over the Bills.
On Sunday night, Wilson turned in his best game of the season with 348 passing yards and three touchdowns. In the process, Doug Baldwin caught six passes in each of those games and scored three times in the win over the Patriots. Tyler Lockett still has yet to score this year but turned in 72 yards on three catches on Sunday. The increased passing success will make a difference with the remaining schedule of the Eagles, Buccaneers, Panthers, Packers, Rams and then the Cardinals.
Jordan Reed enjoyed a breakout season in 2015 when he ended with 87 receptions for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns. That naturally sparked an early pick in fantasy drafts last summer but Reed has not matched that level of production. Over the last four games played, Reed totaled 28 catches for 266 yards and three touchdowns that spanned two weeks missed due to a concussion. But Vernon Davis not only performed well as his replacement, he’s still producing with Reed back. Davis caught 16 passes for 288 yards in his last four games and scored twice. The Skins have yet to lose a game relying on both tight ends and that ensures Davis continues to produce.
KC 20, CAR 17
The Chiefs won with no offensive touchdowns and kicked a field goal as time expired. Tyreek Hill (10-89) was the only decent fantasy play. The Panthers had nothing from their rushing offense besides Cam Newton who ran for 54 yards and a score plus threw for 261 yards and a touchdown. Kelvin Benjamin (7-84) was their only fantasy play. The 3-6 Panthers 2015 season is a very distant memory and they host the Saints this week. The 7-2 Chiefs host the Buccaneers this week.
HOU 24, JAX 21
The Texans finally won a road game even though Brock Osweiler only passed for 99 yards and two scores and no one else had any notable game. The Jaguars at least passed for 265 yards and two scores but Allen Robinson (9-107, TD) was the only notable player and had his best performance of the year. There were 45 total points and only Robinson mattered for fantasy purposes. Now the 6-3 Texans head to Oakland and the 2-7 Jaguars travel to Detroit.
DEN 25, NO 23
As expected, Trevor Siemian (258 yards, 2 TD) was better than usual though only Demaryius Thomas (8-87, TD) was the only good fantasy play. Devontae Booker (24-76) was still the primary back and Kapri Bibbs only ran seven times for 22 yards. Drew Brees passed for 303 yards and three scores with Brandin Cooks (3-98, TD) and Willie Snead 5-47, 2 TD) both delivering the scores. Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower and really just cancelling each other out now. The 7-3 Broncos go onto their bye while the 4-5 Saints play in Carolina.
LA 9, NYJ 6
Safe bet this was not going to be a shootout but 15 total points just makes you feel dirty for watching. Bryce Petty got the start but only passed for 163 yards and one score to Bilal Powell who totaled 89 yards., Matt Forte turned in 109 total yards but nothing else happened. Kenny Britt (7-109) gained all but 56 of the Rams passing yards and Todd Gurley (21-64) continued his high volume mediocrity. The 4-5 Rams host the Dolphins this week while the 3-7 Jets go onto their bye with shattered dreams of a .500 season.
ATL 15, PHI 24
Sad when the Falcons only score one touchdown. Matt Ryan threw for 267 yards but only connected with Taylor Gabriel once but it went for a 76-yard touchdown or Ryan’s stats would have really been down. Julio Jones still ended with 10 catches for 135 yards but Devonta Freeman settled for 81 total yards. The only scoring for the Eagles were their two touchdowns by Ryan Mathews (19-108) while Darren Sproles returned to being mostly just a receiver (8-57) and not a rusher (2-19). The Falcons are back to playing worse on the road and the Eagles defense showed up in full strength. Now the 6-4 Falcons go onto their bye and the 5-4 Eagles travel to Seattle.
CHI 10, TB 36
The Bears offense has just one gear lately and that is “neutral”. Jordan Howard ran for 100 yards but injured his ankle according to his coach but refuted by him personally. Jay Cutler (182 yards, TD) threw two interceptions and Alshon Jeffery (4-47) had another down game. Jameis Winston threw for 312 yards and two scores though the best receiver was Cameron Brate (7-84, TD). Doug Martin ran for 33 yards on 16 rushes and scored once which was much more action that was expected. The take-away here is that the Bears offense is really, really bad with no signs of improving. The loss leaves the 2-7 Bears floundering their way to New York to face the Giants and the 4-5 Buccaneers to to Kansas City.
GB 25, TEN 47
No, Pack, no! Aaron Rodgers had a great fantasy game with 371 yards, two passing scores and a third touchdown via a run. But James Starks only ran for 33 yards as the Packers abandoned the run game after falling behind 21-0 in the first quarter. Davante Adams (6-156) and Jordy Nelson (12-126, TD) both came up big and no one else did anything. Marcus Mariota passed for 295 yards and four touchdowns. DeMarco Murray not only ran for 123 yards and one score, he not only caught three passes for 33 yards, but he also threw a ten-yard touchdown to Delanie Walker (9-124, TD). The win brings the 5-5 Titans to .500 and they head to Indianapolis while the 4-5 Packers head to Washington while trying to learn how to P-A-N-I-C.
MIN 20, WAS 26
What a great Week 6 bye that was for the then 5-0 Vikings. Sam Bradford threw for 307 yards and two scores with Stefon Diggs (13-164) blowing up for his best game since Week 2. The Vikings have such little success rushing that they should just down the ball and avoid a fumble. Kirk Cousins passed for 262 yards and two scores and the surprise – disappointment to some – was that Vernon Davis (3-66, TD) is doing more than Jordan Reed (2-41). Robert Kelley (22-97) is going to keep Matt Jones inactive for more than this week. The 5-3-1 Redskins host the Packers this week which doesn’t look nearly as bad as it once did. The 5-4 Vikings host the Cardinals which will make reversing that four game slide hard to stop.
MIA 31, SD 24
This was a very good game to watch and the Dolphins took it at the end thanks to a 60-yard interception return for a score with only a minute left to play. Philip Rivers passed for 326 yards and three touchdowns with Tyrell Williams (5-125, TD) and Antonio Gates (4-63, TD) the best receivers and Melvin Gordon totaled 132 yards. Rivers also threw four interceptions in the fourth quarter. Ryan Tannehill passed for only 240 yards and two scores but top receiver Devante Parker (5-103) did not score. Jay Ajayi was back to less productive ways with 19 runs for 79 yards. The win gives the 5-4 Dolphins a winning record after winning four straight and they play in Los Angeles this week. The 4-6 Chargers go onto their bye.
SF 20, ARI 23
This is what you have to hate playing fantasy football. The Cardinals already decimated the 49ers 33-21 back in Week 5 but at home they barely squeak out a 23-20 win in a game that should have not been anywhere near that close. Carson Palmer passed for 376 yards but just one score. Larry Fitzgerald (12-133) and even Michael Floyd (5-101) had good games while David Johnson totaled 101 yards and two scores. It wasn’t bad, it just could have been even more. Colin Kaepernick threw one score to Jeremy Kerley (7-71) and ran in the other touchdown which tied the game with only two minutes left to play but the Cardinals kicked the winning field goal like was expected all along. The 1-8 49ers can get back on a winning track this week if they can beat the visiting Patriots and the 4-4-1 Cardinals head to Minnesota.
SEA 31, NE 24
More than a little ironic for the Patriots to lose to the Seahawks at the goal line. At least Tom Brady did not throw an interception (but he had his first of the year earlier in the game). Brady finished with 316 yards and no scores with Michael Bennett (7-102) and Julian Edelman (7-99) the top receivers and LeGarrette Blount (21-69, 3 TD) stealing all the scores. Russell Wilson is clearly more healthy and mobile with 348 yards and three touchdowns that all ended up with Doug Baldwin (6-59, 3 TD). Christine Michael played but only ran five times while C.J. Prosise ran for 66 yards on 17 carries and led the team with seven receptions for 87 yards. This was a constantly shifting game trading the lead eight times. The 6-2-1 Seahawks host the Eagles this week and the 7-2 Patriots head to San Francisco for good seafood and sort of a week off.
Huddle Player of the Week
Ezekiel Elliott – The Rookie of the Year voting may already be over. Elliott not only leads the NFL in rushing yards, but he comes off a huge performance that extended the Cowboys winning streak to eight games. Elliott rushed for 114 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns plus caught two passes for 95 yards and a third touchdown. His 83-yard touchdown catch was the longest play for the Cowboys this year and the longest touchdown catch by a Cowboy running back since 1977. Just one season so far but Elliott has been scary good. Terrifyingly good.
Drama 101 – Somebody has to Laugh, Somebody has to Cry
|QB||Joe Flacco||296||3||QB||Matt Ryan||267||1|
|RB||Ryan Mathews||139||2||RB||Carlos Hyde||14||0|
|RB||Bilal Powell||89||1||RB||Todd Gurley||72||0|
|WR||Jeremy Kerley||71||1||WR||Ty Montgomery||20||0|
|WR||Tajae Sharpe||68||1||WR||Randall Cobb||31||0|
|WR||Breshad Perriman||64||1||WR||Brandon Marshall||15||0|
|TE||Vernon Davis||66||1||TE||Gary Barnidge||8||0|
|PK||Dustin Hopkins||4 FG 2 XP||PK||Blair Walsh||2 XP|
|Huddle Fantasy Points = 131||Huddle Fantasy Points = 32|
DAL 35, PIT 30
The Cowboys continue their winning streak and now sport the best record in the NFL. This is the first time since 1977 that they’ve won eight straight games. And this with a rookie quarterback and running back, and significant injuries in the secondary.
This game saw eight lead changes and had the Cowboys trailing 23-24 midway through the fourth quarter after Le’Veon Bell ran in a touchdown. With only 1:55 left to play, Ezekiel Elliott ran in a touchdown to make it 29-24 but the Steelers took over on their own 25-yard line.
With 1:13 left, Ben Roethlisberger connected with Bell for a 23-yard gain to the Dallas 39-yard line and then hit Jesse James with a 24-yard pass to reach the Dallas 14-yard line with only 43 seconds left where he spiked the ball to kill the clo… WHAT?!? He faked the spike and found Antonio Brown in the end zone for a touchdown while literally every other player on the field was just standing there.
The Cowboys only had 42 seconds from their own 25-yard line. Dak Prescott threw an incompletion and then connected with Cole Beasley for ten yards with only 31 seconds left. Time out. Then he hit Jason Witten for 13 yards with 23 seconds left. Time out. And the Steelers were called for a face mask. At the Pittsburgh 32-yard line, the Cowboys wanted to set up the game winning field goal but Elliott raced through the line for an untouched touchdown. Did the Steelers let him score? Seems unlikely since it was still a 49-yard field goal which is not a lock (except for Dan Bailey).
The Steelers final play as time ran out was a 44 yard gain by Brown if only for fantasy goodness.
In the end, Roethlisberger would throw for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Brown gained 154 yards and one score on 14 catches and Bell totaled 134 yards and two touchdowns – his first of the year.
Prescott passed for 319 yards and two scores while Ezekiel Elliott ran for 114 yards and two scores and added 95 yards and a score as a receiver thanks to a 83-yard touchdown catch. Dez Bryant ended with 116 yards and one score on six catches. Everyone who was relied on as a normal fantasy starter had a monster game. What more could we ask?
It was an interesting week with 11 receiving scores of 30+ yards. Five different running backs scored twice and both Elliot and LeGarrette Blount turned in three scores each. The season chugs along with a sharply declining array of fantasy points in every position – you just have to own one or more of those few guys with the big points each week.
This will be the final bye with four teams and then none in Week 12 followed by the Browns and Titans in Week 13 when big contests are starting their playoffs. Here’s hoping you make the playoffs and face the DeMarco Murray owner.
Now get back to work…