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Fantasy Football: (Jamaal) Charles In Charge At Running Back
When it comes to Fantasy football, things don’t always work out the way you plan. Owners lucky enough to snag Jamaal Charles with their first round selection at their draft this year definitely can’t make that claim, though. Heading into Week 15, he was Fantasy’s leading scorer at running back, and apparently he must own himself in a league or two because he went off.
He abused the Raiders for 215 yards from scrimmage with five touchdowns. That’s right, folks, a cool 51 points in standard scoring leagues. Most of his damage came through the air, as he caught all eight of his targets for 195 yards and four of his five scores. Three of the four came on screen passes, while the fourth came on a wheel route. Oakland’s linebackers just had no answer for Charles in pass coverage, and the Chiefs just kept dialing him up.
This time of year is one to also start looking forward, and it’s really hard not to like him as the first overall selection in Fantasy drafts next season. He is entering the prime of his career and plays in an offense that matches perfectly with his skill set. Coach Andy Reid is a master at maximizing the potential of running backs, and I think we’ll see another dominant display from Charles next season as well.
Matt Cassel has started or played a majority of the snaps in five games this season. The Vikings are 3-2 in those games, while they’re just 1-7-1 with either Christian Ponder or Josh Freeman under center. Statistically, Cassel has been solid, averaging 276 yards per contest while tossing eight touchdowns against four interceptions. In nine games without Cassel, Greg Jennings has only managed to catch 27 passes for 313 yards. In five games with Cassel he has 32 catches for 420 yards and four touchdowns. It’s pretty plain to see the only thing holding Jennings back this season has been quarterback play. While Cincinnati isn’t a plus matchup, Jennings should be firmly on the WR3 radar heading into Week 16. He also happens to currently be available in 54 percent of leagues on CBSSports.com, so go out and get him if you need help.
Larry Fitzgerald was forced from Arizona’s victory in overtime with a dreaded “head” injury. As we all know, the fact that he didn’t return means that he was doubtlessly diagnosed with a concussion on the sideline. Prior to the injury, he hauled in six passes for 49 yards. On the season, he has hauled in 73 passes for 823 yards and 10 touchdowns, making him a rock solid WR2. This appears to be his first documented concussion since his arrival in the NFL, so history is at least on his side for a return next week. He still has to pass his baseline tests, though. The team needs him, as they head to Seattle to face division-leading Seattle. A loss will eliminate Arizona from playoff contention. Fitzgerald owners won’t just have to worry about his health. If he does return, he should see plenty of Richard Sherman in coverage. He caught just two passes for 17 yards last time out against him, in what has been his worst game of the season. Even if he does make it back for the game, Fitz should be viewed as a prime bench candidate.
DeMarco Murray has been one of the best running backs in the NFL this season, but you wouldn’t know it by his usage. Heading into this week, Murray averaged 5.3 yards per carry on 160 totes. Only three players had a higher average, but none with over 88 carries. The Cowboys offensive line has been dominant when run blocking, but coach Jason Garrett continues to dial up pass plays when they don’t need to. Dallas led 26-3 at halftime against Green Bay. Murray had 11 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown heading into the half. All they had to do was continue pounding the rock with Murray, but he had just seven second half carries for 41 yards. As we all know, Dallas lost and they flat out deserved to. As long as this regime is in place, I just can’t view Murray as a RB1 because I just can’t trust his usage. If Garrett gets shown the door this offseason, I think Murray absolutely explodes next year in what coincidentally is a contract year for him.
Last week, I saw a Redskins squad that had given up. A power play between owner and coach playing out through the media on a three-win squad had worn thin. Coach Mike Shanahan then does the unthinkable and benches Robert Griffin III for Kirk Cousins. The team proceeds to miraculously pop back to life in a spirited loss in Atlanta. Cousins was solid, completing 29-of-45 passes for 381 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Pierre Garcon had his first 100 receiving game in a month, Alfred Morris averaged 5.4 yards per carry and Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss both had their best games of the season. With a porous Dallas Cowboys defense on tap next week, Garcon and Morris should both be viewed as automatic starts. Cousins should be on the radar in leagues that start two quarterbacks. RGIII will be this team’s starter next season, but he has definitely lost some luster. He has more questions than answers for the first time in his life. How he responds next season will likely shape his career.
Second-year man Jordan Todman got his first career start in place of an injured Maurice Jones-Drew against Buffalo. After rushing for 109 yards on 25 carries and adding another 44 on four catches, I have a strong feeling it won’t be his last start. MJD has just one 100-yard rushing game on the season, coming last week against Houston. Todman exhibited some serious quicks around the edge and showed enough versatility to be used on passing downs. With MJD’s contract expiring at the end of the season, the team may be inclined to give Todman an extended look to close out this season and see what they have. If MJD’s hamstring does heal up enough for a return, it will probably be to nothing more than a timeshare. This will render both pretty useless from a Fantasy perspective.
The loss of Rob Gronkowski for the season left a gaping hole in the Patriots passing game. Julian Edelman got the memo and soaked up 19 targets from Tom Brady en route to catching 13 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown against Miami. The big game ups his season total to 89 catches for 914 yards and six scores, all career-highs. Edelman has always flashed some ability, but injuries and lack of opportunity held him back over his first four seasons. He has played every game this season and flourished as Brady’s security blanket. The loss of Wes Welker hurts less and less every week, as the chemistry between Brady and Edelman just gets stronger and stronger. Edelman is going to finish the year with over 100 catches. I think he hauls in more next year. Don’t sleep on him at your draft.
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- Jamaal Charles
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