Sometimes, it’s difficult for fans to differentiate between the real world of football and the realm of fantasy football. What can make a team great in the real NFL doesn’t translate to fantasy football and the reverse is true as well.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan isn’t going to get a single vote for NFL Most Valuable Player, nor should he. The 2019 Falcons are a dumpster fire. At 1-5, they haven’t been technically eliminated from playoff consideration, but they’re already on fumes in mid-October and have stacked the deck against themselves to the point that, to legitimately make a run for the playoffs, they need to win nine of their remaining 10 games to even be considered as having the potential to be playing in January.
But, without question, Ryan is the leading candidate for fantasy MVP because his defense is so God-awful that the Falcons have to get into a track meet every game simply to compete.
We got a glimpse of that in Week 1 when the Falcons went to Minnesota to get dismantled by the Vikings. Trailing 21-0 at halftime and 28-0 heading into the fourth quarter, Ryan was posting pretty ugly numbers. He had 132 yards and no TDs at halftime and his numbers weren’t that much better when the third quarter came to an end – 177 yards and no touchdowns.
But, trailing by four touchdowns and going up against a prevent defense, Ryan threw for 127 yards and two meaningless touchdowns in the fourth quarter, elevating his fantasy numbers to 304 yards and two TDs – the kind of numbers fantasy owners look for every week.
Little did most know at the time, those 304 yards would represent his season-low for weekly yardage totals and his two TDs have been his second-worst performance.
In the five games since, Ryan has posted weekly yardage numbers of 320, 304, 397, 330 and 356. In those same five games, he has thrown three TD passes three times and four once, including a rushing TD to go along with three touchdown passes against Houston in Week 5.
One of the staples of fantasy football drafts and auctions is owners piling on players from the teams that are expected to be great. Look at any fantasy league rosters and you will find them dotted with players from Kansas City, New Orleans, the Rams, New England and Philadelphia because all were expected to be Super Bowl contenders in 2019.
But, the fantasy reality is that a team can be hot garbage, but their players are coveted by fantasy owners because of the anticipation of a 38-35 shootout because their defense can’t stop anyone.
To a lesser extent, if you look just at weekly numbers, guys like Jameis Winston and Case Keenum have posted more gaudy stat lines than a future Hall of Famer like Aaron Rodgers just because their teams get behind by so much they have no option but to come out slinging and keeping it up as their teams try to make up for a double-digit deficit.
When the MVP voting is done at the end of the season, you aren’t going to see Ryan’s name listed among them. But, when it comes to the world of fantasy football, right now Matty Ice is your MVP and it’s not even close.
Here is the Week 7 Fantasy Market Report:
Russell Wilson – It’s really hard to believe that Wilson wasn’t more highly coveted on draft day as he was this year. He has transformed his game for being the conventional scrambler who could make plays as a passer to a consummate all-around QB. When the Seahawks were a Super Bowl team, it wasn’t because of Wilson. It was Beast Mode and a beastly defense. In 2017-18, Wilson threw 69 touchdowns, more than any other QB. This season, he has 14 TD passes, no interceptions, passer ratings of 114.3 or higher in five of six games, three TD runs and three or more combined TDs in four of six games. Whoever drafted him has put him in Mahomes Country – he doesn’t come out of the lineup for any reason. If I had an MVP vote, it would be for Russell Wilson, because he doesn’t have the weapons other QBs have (and hasn’t the previous two seasons), yet he still takes owners to pay window every week.
Austin Hooper – He wasn’t viewed as a “must-have” tight end at the start of the season, but he has six or more receptions in five of six games and has been targeted just three fewer times (50) than future Hall of Famer Julio Jones and has out-produced guys like Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Zach Ertz. That’s some pretty stiff company and he’s not only keeping up the pace, he’s setting the pace.
Carlos Hyde – For a guy who has been passed around like stuffing at a Thanksgiving dinner – from San Francisco to Cleveland to Jacksonville to Kansas City to Houston since March 2018 – he has been everything as advertised along the way when given the chance. In the last two weeks – both wins for the Texans when they needed them – he has rushed 46 times times and scored two TDs. He won’t post Arian Foster numbers from his heyday, but he’s a guy who is going to be hard to bench moving forward.
Terry McLaurin – If there is such a thing as flying under the radar with five TDs in five games played, McLaurin is it. He hasn’t been held under 50 yards, is averaging 82 yards a game and has a touchdown in four of the five games he’s been on the field. And this is on a God-awful Redskins team. There isn’t another teammate who deserves to be a weekly starter, but he is one.
Mark Andrews – If you’re looking for consistency, look no further. He hasn’t been targeted 10 times in any game this season, but he hasn’t been targeted less than seven times. He has two 100-yard games and another with 99 and has three touchdown receptions in a run-first offense. At a time when tight end points are at a premium, to have three TDs and three games with 99+ yards, you’ve got something.
Tevin Coleman – There are only three numbers that need to stand out at this point – 16, 18 and 2. In the two games since returning from injury in Week 1 when Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert started making noise on their own with big plays in the 49ers offense, it appeared as though Coleman was as much wasted money as Jerick McKinnon was when he was signed to an absurdly large contract. But, in the two games since his return, Coleman has established himself as the primary running back in the offense, rushing 16 and 18 times in those two games and scoring a TD in each. He’s still not viewed as a breakout guy…unless you were “a Coleman guy” from his days in Atlanta. Good things are comin’.
Joe Mixon – In most fantasy drafts/auctions, Mixon was on the cusp of being a top 10 back in terms of where he was drafted or the price spent to get him at auction. Through six games, his only touchdown has been a 1-yard reception. He has just one game with more 62 yards rushing and three games with 17 rushing yards or less. He was expected to be a producer despite the Bengals being the unanimous choice to finish last in the AFC North – Cincy’s version of David Johnson. But, in just about every league in which he is owned, fantasy owners have simply given up on him being a starter…and for good reason.
JuJu Smith-Schuster – You can’t blame Schuster for having down numbers from what was expected of him when he was drafted to be an every-week starter. Without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers offense has gone into check-down mode, making James Connet the new leading receiver on the team. Smith-Schuster has three or fewer catches in three of his last four games and 15 or fewer yards in two of the last three. He has just two TDs in six games and is averaging slightly more than four receptions a game. When Big went down, the dynamic of the Steelers offense changed and Smith-Schuster has been the one who has paid the dearest price over the last weeks – as one of the few guys who remained a must-start fantasy player.
LeSean McCoy – Shady has been one of the most prolific running backs of his generation, but in Kansas City, he is more of a plug-and-play piece than a true every-week fantasy starter. In Week 1, McCoy gave the idea of what he could do in this offense, rushing 10 times for 81 yards. Since then, he hasn’t topped 56 yards and hasn’t had a game with more than 11 carries. He’s far and away the leading rusher on the Chiefs (48-258-2), but Damien Williams and Darrel Williams have combined for 39 carries and three rushing TDs. McCoy is a key piece in the Chiefs offense, but his lack of consistent opportunities has made him a difficult start for fantasy owners because the baseline has been set – 10 carries, a couple of receptions and hope he breaks one off for a score. That’s not what you look for in a starting lineup fantasy running back.
Keenan Allen – Allen has never been mentioned among the tippy-tippy-top of the elite receivers in the league despite posting consistently big numbers with the Chargers. Coming out of the gate this season, he was awesome. In his first three games, he was targeted 42 times, catching 29 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns. But, over the last three weeks, he has been targeted just 17 times, catching 11 passes 99 yards and no touchdowns. The thing about Allen throughout his career is that owners have to take the good with the bad. In 2018, through eight games, he had just one touchdown – and that came in Week 1. He then scored touchdowns in five straight games. It’s what he does. His value is down right now, but there are always good times just around the corner.
Joe Flacco – It’s not as if fantasy owners were lining up to start Flacco as their QB, but, with the exception of the Jacksonville game in Week 4, when he threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns and looked like a viable fantasy starter. In the other five games combined, he has thrown just three touchdowns and, in the last two, both wins, by the way, he has thrown for just 182 and 177 yards. It seems clear that glory days of Peyton Manning and getting further in the rearview and the revolving door of QBs is going to continue with Flacco’s name likely to join Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum as the guys who were the “next man up” for a short period of time.
Robert Woods – Last year, Woods was a fantasy revelation. He led the Rams in targets (130), receptions (86), and yards (1,219) while scoring six touchdowns along the way. He has yet to score a touchdown in six games this season and, with the exception of a huge game against Tampa Bay in Week 4 (13-164), he hasn’t hit 50 yards in any game. The Rams have a potent offense, but Woods seems to be the man left behind, punctuated by his first game without a catch as a member of the Rams Sunday against San Francisco.