So you thought we were done with this COVID thing?
Fantasy playoffs are kicking off and each day brings new bad news to fantasy lineups. Let’s take a quick look at a few things for now and a few for later.
1.) New COVID protocols – Given the deluge of COVID-19 players this week, the NFLPA negotiated a change for vaccinated players who test positive. Previously, they had to produce two negative tests 24 hours apart before being cleared to play. And to play on Sunday, a player had to be activated from the list by Saturday at 4 pm. For games on Thursday, Saturday, or Monday, the deadline is 4 pm that day.
The NFL provided three test options for vaccinated players to return from quarantine faster as long as they are asymptomatic for at least 24 hours. It is now possible for a player to return from quarantine as early as the day after his positive test. A player can be placed on the list at any time and the protocol for unvaccinated players remains the same. While it is a plus that some vaccinated players can return faster, it is alarming how hard COVID has suddenly hit the NFL with four games left in the regular season.
2.) RB James Robinson (JAC) – The Jaguars’ only consistently productive player is Robinson, at least until two weeks ago when HC Urban Meyer quasi-benched the star running back for reasons never fully explained. Robinson had already scored seven touchdowns on a team that totals just 19 on offense. Interim head coach Darrell Bevell said that Robinson would resume his role as the primary back. With Carlos Hyde not a lock to play as he recovers from a concussion, Robinson’s workload could skew higher than before.
And that happens with the Jaguars facing the Texans this week and then the Jets in Week 16. Those are two matchups that could propel a fantasy team into the league championship. Notable too will be the look of the offense to see if anything in the passing games changes as well. The Jaguar receivers are limping to the finish line having lost their best players to injury, but it would help the franchise to see an immediate spark in the Post-Meyer era.
3.) RB Chase Edmonds (ARI) – The fourth-year back was lost back in Week 9 to an ankle injury and was eligible to return last week but was held out of the Monday night game. He’s now slated to come back for Week 15. Edmonds turned in two 100-total-yard efforts and typically gained around 75 total yards per week buoyed by four catches per week. James Conner picked up his receptions for the last month and propelled him up the current No. 6 ranked fantasy back. Those are certain to be dialed back with Edmonds returning.
Edmonds not only returns in the week that the Cardinals face the Lions, but Conner hasn’t practiced so far and is nursing an ankle injury. If Edmonds shows up with strong stats, he’ll continue to serve a valuable role as a receiver with the Colts and Cowboys finishing out the fantasy season schedule.
4.) RB Michael Carter (NYJ) – The rookie returned to practice on Wednesday after spending three weeks on injured reserve with an ankle injury. He is expected to play this week and while the Jets season was over a while back, it’s next year that they can figure out better by looking at how the current crew plays out the season. More notably, how Carter in particular acts as a receiver for the next four weeks. The Jets average six completions to a running back per week.
Zach Wilson was just starting to use Carter as a receiver in Week 7 when he completed eight passes for 67 yards to him at the Patriots, but then Wilson was lost until Week 12 – the week after Carter went on injured reserve. Carter maxed out at nine catches for 95 yards against the Bengals with Mike White as the quarterback in Week 8. Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson have seen a bump in targets the last few weeks. With Elijah Moore and Corey Davis on injured reserve, Wilson will need a reliable set of hands and it would benefit the offense now and in 2022 if he turns to Carter.
5.) WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (DET) – The Lions’ 4.07 pick out of USC was only the No. 17 rookie wideout drafted, but he one of the most productive rookies over the last two games with ten catches for 86 yards and a score in Week 13 versus the Vikings and then eight receptions for 73 yards at the Broncos last Sunday. He fielded 12 targets in each. The Lions of 2022 will look different on offense, but St. Brown is making a case for being the No. 1 wideout next year even after whatever free agency or the NFL draft may provide.
The loss of T.J. Hockenson means that another eight or so targets are up for grab in these final weeks. The Cardinals will be tough this week, but then trips to Atlanta and Seattle will give St. Brown ample opportunities to continue to produce well ahead of his draft slot.
6.) Seahawks backfield – The Seahawks feel like a team that will be very different next year. They’ve run the course on the current offense and it didn’t work this year for a variety of reasons. Alex Collins and Rashaad Penny are free agents in the spring, and Chris Carson has an out clause for 2022 if the team wants to remake their backfield since he would be due about $5 million if he stays. Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas return as cheap depth.
Adrian Peterson may play this week after missing Week 14 with a back injury. HC Pete Carroll said that Penny deserves a chance to establish himself as the lead back in the final four games. The fourth-year disappointment spent most of his time injured and never met expectations. But last Sunday in Houston, he ran for a career-high 137 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns. That was a high-game for any Seattle back this year. The final four weeks include the Rams, Bears, Lions, and Cardinals. Penny is playing for a new contract but he has to show that Week 14 was more than the extreme aberration that it seems.