It’s playoff time! After a really rough Week 14, hopefully you’re still alive and playing. The most touchdowns in NFL history were scored in Week 14, which should mean a lot of Fantasy points to go around. Unfortunately, there were also many injuries, especially at the running back position. If you started Adrian Peterson or Reggie Bush, your team needed help at other positions in order to get you through the week. Hopefully, you’ve listened and picked up the handcuff to your running back. This week was lesson enough that you need to have a backup; otherwise, someone else is going to grab him and start him if your stud is injured. You want to have that player… especially if it turns into a game time decision. Reggie Bush owners that also have Joique Bell are pretty happy right now. The starter on Monday night will be a good play, but owners may not know until Monday who that starter is. If you don’t take any other advice from this column, take this: grab your stud’s handcuff.
1. Rob Gronkowski’s injury hurts most of the Patriots.
Tom Brady was struggling before Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen came back from injury. While Danny Amendola was also out, Brady couldn’t get any kind of offense going. Now, Amendola and Vereen are back, but Brady’s most trusted target, Gronkowski, is on injured reserve for the rest of the season.
In the first six games of the season (with no Gronkowski), Brady threw for 1,480 yards (average of 247 yards a game), eight touchdowns and four interceptions. In the following six games, Brady threw for 1,787 yards (average of 298 yards a game), 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Is Gronkowski the difference? Not solely, but there’s no doubt it helped. The Patriots, last year, were the team that used two tight ends as receivers, and it was one of their biggest strengths. Without any top-tier tight ends, the Patriots offense is going to struggle.
Both Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman are better slot receivers. Neither truly is a deep threat nor successful when lining out wide. Gronkowski typically played that role, but more importantly, Gronk was Brady’s biggest red zone target. Without him, Vereen will have to pick up the slack. His Fantasy value should see a boost, but the rest of the Patriots are more questionable. Logic says that Edelman and Amendola will gain additional targets, but neither truly flourished consistently when Gronk was out earlier in the season.
Tom Brady is still a QB1, but at the back half of the top quarterbacks. Amendola and Edelman are WR3s. Edelman gets a slight boost in PPR leagues. This isn’t a situation that Fantasy owners should avoid, but it’s not a great situation either. Just temper expectations when starting anyone in the Patriots passing game, even with a good matchup against Miami in Week 15.
2. Don’t start any Washington Redskins.
At this point, can you truly trust anyone on the Redskins? Head Coach Mike Shanahan is apparently looking to be fired by some of the antics he is pulling. He’s announced that Robert Griffin III will be shut down for the rest of the season to avoid injury. This is the same head coach that would commit to one running back and then start and play another one. Kirk Cousins is being thrown into the mess and he’s going to bring the entire team down with him.
Jordan Reed is still suffering symptoms from a concussion and will likely be held out of Week 15 after missing the past two weeks. Alfred Morris has struggled, and despite early season claims that he would be more involved in the passing game, he has just six receptions on the year. In the past three weeks, he’s had 52, 26 and 31 rushing yards. He has one touchdown in that span and only six on the year. Who knows if he’ll even be the starting running back this week or if Roy Helu will get a chance to shine?
On the receiving side, Pierre Garcon hasn’t had more than 68 receiving yards in the past four weeks. He has three touchdowns on the season. For the most part, the receptions have been there for him (averaging just under seven receptions a game), but the yards haven’t been consistent. He’s had three 100-plus yard games and five games with less than 60 receiving yards. With Cousins throwing to him, he’s a WR3 in Week 15, only because of the matchup. In leagues that start three wide receivers, he’s worth a start, but it is a gamble.
3. An overreaction and an underreaction: Jordan Cameron is back to early-season form and Andrew Luck’s game was a fluke.
Reality: In Week 1, Jordan Cameron had nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. In Week 14, Cameron had nine receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown. In the 11 weeks in between, he’s averaged less than five receptions per game, 54 yards per game and five total touchdowns. He had one week in which he had one reception for four yards – a zero in standard scoring leagues. It’s hard to trust him week to week. Originally, the thought was that he didn’t have any chemistry with Jason Campbell… until Week 14. Cleveland faces Chicago in Week 15, who has only given up four touchdowns to tight ends all season. They did allow big games to Jordan Reed and Jimmy Graham, but shut down tight ends like Jason Witten (except for the touchdown). Don’t trust Cameron in Week 15.
Most people sat Andrew Luck in Week 14. All of the signs were against him. He plays better indoors (the game was outdoors). He plays better at home (the game was in Cincinnati). He had struggled the past few weeks (two touchdowns in the past four games and five interceptions in that span). I understand why people would sit him. However, Luck showed that he finally can produce without Reggie Wayne. Instead of relying on T.Y. Hilton, Luck finally utilized LaVon Brazill and Ra’Rick Rogers. Both of these wide receivers are hard to trust, but they will likely end up having a good game again in Week 15. While it is going to be a gamble to start either receiver, what Fantasy owners should do is be confident in Luck moving forward.