It’s hard to believe but we are entering into the final week of the Fantasy Football regular season in most formats! It feels just like yesterday we were talking about what spot we wanted to draft from, and which player we were targeting with that pick. Coming into this final week, you could be fighting for your playoff life or be left out of the title chase. Either way, it has been a great season full of surprises and great performances, but mostly injuries. Some players are hitting their playoff stride, like Adrian Peterson, while others are leaving you nervous about whether you should be starting them this week or not. Will Charcandrick West be healthy enough to hold off Spencer Ware? Can Thomas Rawls be the playoff factor that C.J. Anderson was in 2014? Will the injuries to key Patriots offensive players derail Tom Brady during crunch time? All these questions should be closely monitored during the coming week.
The Jets’ Offense Soars
Ryan Fitzpatrick put on quite the show on Sunday, completing 22 passes for 277 yards and four TDs on his way to a top positional performance in Week 12. Fitzpatrick was very sharp all day long against a Dolphins defense that had been playing well in recent weeks. Playing with a clean pocket for most of the day, Fitzpatrick had all the time in the world to hit his main target of the day, Brandon Marshall, who finished with nine catches for 131 yards and two TDs. The Dolphins’ secondary could not seem to figure out their coverages on this day, as Marshall and Eric Decker (5-62-1) roamed free all day, making it tremendously easy for Fitzpatrick to be successful. These two receivers were responsible for over half of Fitzpatrick’s completions, meaning that most of the damage was done on the outside. This is a little different than what we normally see from the Jets’ passing attack. Normally, we see a good bit of check-downs, something that was missing in this contest. Unless you are in a dire situation at QB, or you use the streaming option, this was a game that not many capitalized on from Fitzpatrick.
The main cog in this offense was not to be ignored in this matchup either, as Chris Ivory continued to perform at a low-end RB1 pace with an 87-yard, one touchdown game. Ivory has been tough to stop against anyone; and against the 30th ranked rush defense of the Dolphins, you knew he could be in for a big day. The game plan seemed to call for outside runs to stay away from Suh and the interior line, and this plan was executed successfully. Ivory was steady in his four and five yard gains, and once the defense was finally worn down he broke off a 31-yard TD run to cap off his day. After four of his past five games being virtual duds in the stat column, perhaps this could be the game that propels him back into his early season form heading into the Fantasy playoffs.
Speaking of the Fantasy playoffs, Fitzpatrick has only one favorable matchup, which is this upcoming week against the Giants. With the remaining games on the schedule being tougher matchups his schedule is ranked 26th in Fantasy points allowed to the position. This will make it even harder to trust Fitzpatrick as a streaming option in the coming weeks. Fitzpatrick’s shortcomings could potentially hurt both Marshall and Decker down the stretch, despite both being consistent producers during the 2015 season. I would still start each of them with confidence until proven otherwise at this stage regardless. With the 14th ranked schedule in Fantasy points allowed to running backs, the Jets offense will be wise to lean on Chris Ivory, much in the same way the Vikings have been doing with Adrian Peterson. Something that has led to recent success for the Vikes. Now I’m not saying Ivory is in Peterson’s league, but the schedule and his overall ability is something that cannot be denied. The only thing that could go wrong with Ivory could be getting hit with the injury bug, something that has been a thorn in his side in the past. Could the workload catch up to him?
The Cardinals’ Offense Bores
Heading into Week 12, if you owned a piece of this Cardinals’ offense, you had to be licking your chops at the potential for huge games all-around against the horrible 49ers’ defense. But on any given Sunday crazy things happen in this league and the fact that the Cardinals could not get off the ground in this one is a testament to that. Leading up to this game, Carson Palmer was riding a hot streak of three straight 300-yard games, but he fell short by finishing with 271 yards in this one. Palmer also failed to record a passing touchdown in this game, and his only saving grace was a game-winning touchdown run. Chalk this one up as an aberration, as Palmer and the entire offense just looked flat all day, perhaps thinking just showing up would have been good enough for the win. Larry Fitzgerald, in a PPR setup, had a strong day with a 10-catch performance, but with only 66 yards you had to be left wanting more. John Brown looked to be back to full strength with a 99-yard receiving game, while Michael Floyd might as well not played, as he caught just one pass for 14 yards. There are just too many weapons in this passing attack for it to be held down like they were in this game. Palmer and the passing will bounce back, there is no doubt there.
Could we FINALLY be getting the chance to see a full workload for David Johnson? It is certainly looking that way but by default, as both Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington left Sunday’s game with injuries. No one should be shocked at an injury for Ellington at this point, as he is now battling a case of turf toe, which happens to be on the same foot that cost him plenty of the 2014 season. Currently, there is no word on whether or not he misses the Week 13 game, but one would think that he will be held out. Chris Johnson, on the other hand, could be out for a while. Johnson has a fractured tibia in his left leg, so you can safely cut Johnson from your Fantasy team at this point. Since the Cardinals’ Week 9 bye, C. Johnson had seemingly hit a wall and been largely useless. He’s among the Top 5 in rushing yardage in the NFL, but for the better part of the year his actual Fantasy production has been scarce. David Johnson, if available, is the top waiver target for Week 13, and he could be a giant asset heading into the playoffs, as he could easily take this job and run with it.
With a playoff matchup against the Eagles’ poor secondary and a potential shoot-out with Aaron Rodgers looming, Palmer must first contend with two tough matchups against the Rams and Vikings. Both defenses have been very tough against the pass lately, which makes the 18th ranked schedule in points allowed to QBs a tough hill to climb for Palmer. However, Palmer has taken you this far, so you will have no choice but to ride him out. And with the ageless Fitzgerald, and fully healthy compliments Brown and Floyd, there is nothing to suggest that this team could be matchup proof. As for the running game, I am a fan of David Johnson and his skill set is something that this coaching staff must utilize going forward. With a schedule that ranks 12th in points allowed to RBs, David Johnson could be looking at solid RB2 numbers the rest of the way.
Next Man Up for the Patriots?
Another week, and yet another critical injury to a star in Fantasy Football. This time the injury bug has bitten All-Pro Ron Gronkowski. This is an injury that will have huge implications for playoff teams, as now the guy you were used to giving you an advantage at the position each week is gone, leaving you scrambling to the waiver wire since the trade deadline has long since passed. Do you pick up his replacement, Scott Chandler? Or do you go out for a hit or miss guy like Kyle Rudolph? This will be the struggle for Gronk owners, a group that includes yours truly. The Patriots have now lost Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Gronkowski in a matter of weeks, yet this offense have still performed well enough. This should put an end to the debate about just how great Tom Brady is as an all-time QB in this league. It’s tough to point to another QB that has done more with less in his career as Brady has. Even down all these weapons and in snowy conditions, Brady passed for 280 yards and three TDs against one of the toughest defenses in the league in the Broncos. In classic “spread the ball” Brady fashion, all three of his TDs went to separate receivers (Gronkowski, Chandler, and running back Brandon Bolden).
The running game for the Pats was rendered useless in this game, as LeGarrette Blount finished with only 27 yards rushing. Mind you he only received nine carries, which is typical in this offense. But Blount is a volume back who needs to approach 20 carries to get the full value out of his game. Any back in this backfield is hard to trust, so it’s tough to risk your playoff hopes on a back that could potentially post a goose egg on you when it matters most. I would steer clear unless Blount has an unlikely late season surge.
The Patriots will have tough matchups across the board moving forward, as all skill position schedules rank no higher than 20th (PPG allowed to WRs). But even with the 21st ranked schedule in points allowed to QBs, you’re simply not sitting Tom Brady. In fact, it might be safe to say that he will be out to prove a point with less talent on the field and finish as the top QB in Fantasy for 2015. With Brandon LaFell as the only receiver worth rostering, unless Amendola returns from injury, there should be plenty of targets heading his way, making him a WR3/Flex option. Scott Chandler is intriguing, as is any tight end in this offense, so I would go out and grab him if you lost Gronk and see what Week 13 looks like in terms of production. The running game will be facing the 25th ranked schedule in points allowed to RBs, making it even harder to trust Blount.