As has been the case for a majority of the 2015 season, injuries played a big part in Week 11. Big names like Devonta Freeman, Justin Forsett, and Charcandrick West all left their respective games and subsequently, left Fantasy owners with large voids in their starting lineups. This season has been marred by more injuries to key players than I can remember in quite some time. Could it be the relaxed practice schedules that have led to the strength and conditioning issues? Could it be the strict rules regarding tackling that have led to issues in technique used by players? Nevertheless, the impact that these injuries are making in the world of Fantasy Football is hard to ignore. At this point in the year, it’s all about survival. If you avoid the injury bug during the playoffs, it should give you the confidence that you will be bringing home the title.
What a performance by Rawls! At around 2:30 EST, Marshawn Lynch was declared inactive for the game, which came as a shock to many owners as he had played through similar circumstances the week before. Unless you had Rawls as a handcuff on your bench, you were left with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, scrambling to find someone to put into the lineup. With the starting job landing right in his lap, Rawls only went out and put up numbers that Lynch has never produced in his career.
Rawls finished the game with an impressive 30-carry, 209-yard performance. Add in the three catches for 46 yards and the two touchdowns he scored, and you likely won your matchup if you were lucky enough to start him. Every time you looked, Rawls was just slicing through the porous 49ers defense. A testament to this was the five missed tackles that he forced, and the 133 yards after contact he piled up on that day. The ineffective offensive line play seemed like a thing of the past on Sunday, as they were opening holes all day, something that they had not been doing with Lynch in the backfield. Some say that Lynch’s poor play can be attributed to the lingering injuries that he is dealing with, or this could be the falloff that some of us has been waiting for. It would be a complete shock if he was available, but if Rawls is on the waiver wire, he is a must-grab.
Now, with word coming out that Lynch is seeing a specialist about a possible sports hernia, Rawls may be the default starter for the remainder of the Fantasy season, which is a huge blow to Lynch owners that did not handcuff Rawls. The Seahawks’ schedule against rush defenses looks imposing on paper as it’s currently ranked 23rd, but some of these teams tend to give up a lot through the air which skews the defensive statistics. Two tough road games are left on the schedule, but none will be during the Fantasy playoffs. So if Lynch opts for surgery, Rawls will have every opportunity to perform at an RB1 level as we head into playoff time.
Here’s another injury that led to a good statistical day, as Charcandrick West left the game with a hamstring injury, which opened the door for Spencer Ware to take advantage of the juicy matchup we were expecting. Entering the game, the Chargers had one of the worst run defenses in the NFL, which led to some lofty expectations for West. After getting vultured by a Dontari Poe touchdown run, you had to feel like this was going to be one of those days when the expectations were going to outweigh the actual finished product. To add insult to injury, the hamstring injury West sustained ended his day and dashed the hopes of many Fantasy owners.
Enter Spencer Ware, and his abilities, which are very similar to that of West. The run blocking from the Chiefs line was largely atrocious for three quarters, until Ware busted open a 52-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Ware finished with 96 yards on 11 carries and two TDs, with seemingly all of this coming in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs’ offense wasn’t exactly setting the woods on fire in this game, but Ware got away with just enough to make this a successful game. The only downside is that this performance was largely wasted, as no owner actually started Ware. Now, with West being listed as day-to-day, Ware has earned a bigger part of the offense, which is largely focused on the run. Ware could carve himself a nice spot, which would qualify him for Flex consideration most weeks.
The Chiefs have the luxury of one of the easiest schedules in terms of points allowed to the position, currently at 20.7 PPG. With two plus matchups coming during the Fantasy playoffs, West and Ware will be intriguing options to own as you chase a title. West, of course, will be the main man in the offense if fully healthy. But, we all know how tricky hamstring injuries can be. Knowing this, as a West owner, it will become vital to your playoff success to grab Ware off the waiver wire.
Before you go get all excited about a receiver that just posted a 100-yard game, just remember that this is the same guy that has only recorded five catches in the last four games. Sure, the decent game against a great Broncos pass defense is something to hold your head up about, but one of those catches was a long pass up the sideline on busted coverage in which Wilson was wide open. With only seven targets, it wasn’t like Wilson was the number one option in the passing game, as he was held quiet for the better part of the day. This was a classic case of the numbers looking better than the actual play on the field.
A big factor in Wilson’s performance was the absence of Alshon Jeffrey, which opened up more playing time in this game. Due to the lack of running game, Cutler and the Bears’ offense had to focus solely on the pass as the game progressed. And we all know the more weight you put on the shoulders of Jay Cutler, the more he will struggle and set this offense back as a whole. Looking forward, not much can be expected from Wilson; when Jeffrey returns to the fold, the air attack will largely go his way, with targets for other receivers being few and far between.
With the 24th ranked pass defense (Packers) coming up for the Bears as we head into playoff time, the going will be tough for the receivers in general, and not just Wilson. In terms of Fantasy, Wilson, even on the heels of a 100-yard game, is not roster-worthy in my opinion. Leave him on the waiver wire for other owners to deal with. History shows that this game was a flash in the pan, and he should come back down to his normal two catch performance this next week.
Philly’s Offense is Offensive
Here we are entering Week 12, and we are still waiting for the Eagles’ offense to come around. Well, the time for waiting is over, and we can officially deem this team as overrated. This week, the man that you can sling blame towards will be Mark Sanchez, whose sluggish start and costly turnovers held this team down in a matchup they should have taken advantage of. Completing 26 of 41 attempts for 261 yards, the rust showed early for a QB making his first start in over a year. The Buccaneers’ defense confused Sanchez all day, and the pressure from the front seven hurried plenty of throws that led to three interceptions. Now the question becomes who will be under center for the Eagles next week, Sam Bradford or Sanchez? Neither one has shown the ability to be a Fantasy starter, nor provide enough plays for the players around them to make this offense more than a below average squad. The Eagles face the ninth-easiest schedule in points allowed to the QB at 17.7PPG, so the opportunity will be there for one of these QBs to capitalize. But this has the feel of a lost season for this team.
As bad as the passing attack has been, the ground game has been even worse to watch. DeMarco Murray has been every bit the disappointment that I pegged him to be in the preseason, while Ryan Mathews has been outperforming him during most weeks. With Mathews out in Week 11, Murray took the reins of the rushing load, and still faltered as he finished with 13 rushes for 64 yards. Hardly the type of numbers you were expecting in a matchup against the poor Bucs’ rush defense. Even Darren Sproles’ receiving touchdown couldn’t help open up holes for Murray. Getting down on the scoreboard as quickly as the Eagles were, took the running attack out of the game-plan for the most part, but with the play of the offensive line it’s hard to imagine that Murray would have gotten anything going. With the 21st ranked rush defense ahead of them, don’t expect a big turnaround anytime soon unless the play at QB gets drastically better.
A lot was expected from Jordan Matthews entering this season, but he has been lost in the muck with the rest of the Eagles’ offense. Drops have been a major issue for Matthews this season, which has hurt his confidence and started to affect his playing time, as week after week his snap count has begun to dwindle. With so many more mouths to feed, Matthews is starting to get lost in the rotation at receiver. Josh Huff and Riley Cooper are beginning to get targeted more each week, causing more confusion with this offense. Once considered as a WR2, Matthews has now seen his stock plummet to only being considered as a Flex option. Matthews and the rest of the receivers will be facing the third-easiest schedule the remainder of the way, which could be a good sign for Matthews, but as is the case with the running game, he will need more consistency from the QB to be able to provide the numbers you will be looking for to consider starting him.