After falling to Green Bay at home 19-17, the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens sit at just 3-3. When looking for a reason as to why they’ve struggled it’s pretty easy to point the finger squarely at their offense. Any Fantasy owner of Ray Rice will be the first to tell you it’s their lack of a run game.
Heading into this week Rice actually had fewer rushing yards than teammate Bernard Pierce, and each averaged just 2.8 yards-per-carry. That right there is enough to make you throw up in your mouth just a little. Baltimore’s line has just been an absolute failure when it comes to moving defenders off the line of scrimmage.
Rice has only surpassed 40 rushing yards in a game once, that being last week against Miami. He needed 27 carries to log 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The obvious question now is can he salvage the rest of the season for his Fantasy owners? From what I have seen, the answer is no.
In the five games Rice has played, four of them were against teams that ranked 16th or higher in Fantasy points allowed to running backs. Outside of Miami he hasn’t been able to take advantage of any of those matchups.
Right now Rice shouldn’t be viewed as anything more than an RB2. You need to come to this conclusion immediately. Forget about the fact that you spent a first-round selection on him. He is no longer a weekly lock for your lineup unless you are in a PPR league with weak alternatives. If you own him, do your best to sell the name and not his numbers.
The unthinkable happened to Jimmy Graham. He was held without a catch against the Patriots. I joined the The NFL Under Review podcast on Tuesday night and speculated that Bill Belichick would use their top shutdown corner, Aqib Talib against him. That’s not a tactic typically employed against tight ends, but one that makes complete sense when you take into consideration just how often Graham lines up on the outside. Sure, he is a physical freak who can beat anyone in one-on-one coverage, but smaller athletic corners can shadow him down the field and force Drew Brees to make perfect throws. Expect more teams to utilize this strategy, although not with the same level of success we saw against the Patriots.
The Packers offense may look very different next week after both Randall Cobb and James Jones were both forced out of this week’s game due to injuries. Jones dropped first with a non-contact injury to his left leg. Early indications have it being to the shin/ankle and not serious. Cobb’s injury was to his right knee. He took a helmet to it and dropped to the ground immediately in pain. He will have an MRI to reveal the severity of the injury, but many in Green Bay feel he won’t be lost for the season. Both, however, look like they could miss some time, and that means things are going to get interesting in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers will still have Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley to work with in the passing game, but Jarrett Boykin would be thrust into the starting lineup. Obviously this is a huge downgrade, which will allow opposing defenses to double up on Nelson regularly. Expect the Packers to lean heavily on rookie Eddie Lacy in the run game to help open up the passing game while these guys mend up.
Last week we saw Zac Stacy emerge as the Rams starting running back. Many were leery as to what to expect from him considering just how bad Sam Bradford and the offense has looked this season. After watching Stacy run for 79 yards on 18 carries against a staunch Texans front seven I am ready to anoint him a weekly RB2 option moving forward. His downhill style is a perfect match for an offensive line that has trouble keeping holes open. Daryl Richardson lost the job because he often hesitated and bounced outside looking for the big play instead of taking what the play gives to him. Richardson and Benny Cunningham combined for just six carries for 16 yards. We should expect this usage pattern to continue, locking Stacy in for 20 touches a game. In a game where running back usage is on the decline, that makes him worth a start almost every week.
Having now seen Robert Griffin III for two full games, I see a kid who just doesn’t look comfortable. His 77 rushing yards were a season high, and he looked strong running when he chose to do so. Running was the only part of his game I liked. His accuracy again was a major concern, as he completed just 49 percent of his passes. He missed some passes that we became accustomed to him delivering on after his strong rookie campaign. Last year he completed countless passes on the move with confidence. This season he looks lost on the move. From a Fantasy perspective it now becomes time to worry a bit. He started the season with three consecutive 300-yard passing days. Each of those games he played from behind and saw soft coverage, allowing him to rack up those garbage time Fantasy points. RGIII is going to have his hands full at home against that ball-hawking Chicago defense. He should be viewed a high end QB2 heading into that matchup.
In place of an injured Michael Vick, Nick Foles has put up some pretty sweet numbers. He has completed 38-of-56 for 493 yards and five touchdowns in just over six quarters of play. Heading into this contest I worried that the presence of Foles would limit Philadelphia’s ability to run the ball because he wouldn’t be able to run the read option. LeSean McCoy shredded the formidable Bucs defense for 116 yards on 25 carries. I will continue to be of the opinion this will be Vick’s job once he regains his health because he ultimately is a better fit for the offense. Tampa Bay could have made this a much more difficult matchup had they just locked Darrelle Revis on DeSean Jackson all afternoon and loaded eight men in the box. Instead they stuck with the zone and allowed Foles to pick them apart. Foles may see another start next week against Dallas, and if he does expect his to struggle against some tough man-to-man coverage.
Through six games, C.J. Spiller has only racked up 351 rushing yards and a touchdown. When that comes from you from a first-round draft choice it stings. If you factor out his only big play, a 54-yard scamper against Cleveland last week in a game that saw him on many Fantasy benches, his season has been a borderline nightmare. He has been outplayed by the 32 year-old Fred Jackson. While injuries have undoubtedly been a factor, the bigger issue has been the team’s inability to get him the ball in space. Why in the world does he only have 11 receptions for 40 yards? Last season he caught 43 passes for 459 yards and a pair of scores and averaged six yards per carry. The loss of Chan Gailey has been a huge blow to Spiller, as new coach Doug Marrone just hasn’t found the key to turn on this engine. These struggles will continue, so if you can get your hands on any decent value in exchange, do yourself a favor and pull the trigger.
Check out our full suite of Fantasy Sports radio shows and podcasts! Listen to your favorite RotoExperts live or on demand, including the legendary Lenny Melnick, Tim McCullough, Jake Ciely, Gregg Sussman and many more. We cover Fantasy Football all week long and baseball year-round right here on ROTORADIO.