In a few weeks, perhaps when Fantasy games are being played in Week 16, we’re going to look back and point to Week 11 as a pivotal weekend of games. First, there were a number of injuries that will affect the Fantasy landscape for the remainder of the season. Second, several teams either faltered badly or surprising reasserted themselves in the week’s games. Finally, the Adrian Peterson situation to a strange turn heading into the weekend, setting the scene for what could be a decisive end to the saga this week. While we await word on Peterson, let’s take a look at some of the oddities of the weekend’s games.
The New Orleans Saints stumbled badly on their home turf and lost to the Bengals, a team that was humiliated by the Browns just 10 days ago and whose quarterback looked to be just one step away from the scrap heap. Now the Bengals sit all alone atop the crazy AFC North division after Andy Dalton followed up a historically bad game with his career-best effort. Speaking of the Browns, quarterback Brian Hoyer only completed 40 percent of his passes (20 of 50) but still racked up 330 passing yards against the Texans in a losing effort.
Peyton Manning threw for 389 yards but only one TD, which represented the only points the Broncos would score against the lowly St. Louis Rams. You have to go all the way back to 2004 to find a game in which Manning scored so few points. More importantly, though, after losing two of their last three, the Broncos are heading in the wrong direction at the wrong time of year and their aspirations to repeat as AFC champions and make another trip to the Super Bowl are in serious jeopardy. Robert Griffin III looked shaky again, throwing two interceptions, getting sacked six times and losing to the NFL doormat Buccaneers. Sure, he ran for 41 yards on six carries and completed 72 percent of his passes, but he couldn’t hook up with his WRs on anything deep and the fact that Roy Helu saw as many targets as DeSean Jackson, should tell you that he spent a lot of time checking down and still isn’t comfortable in the pocket.
There’s more to be gleaned from the results of the Week 11 games, but those were the key takeaways. Besides, the injuries constitute a whole other world of troubles that Fantasy owners need to deal with now, so let’s concentrate on them now as we take a look at the waiver wire.
C.J. Anderson (RB, Denver) – Prior to Sunday’s game we heard that Ronnie Hillman could be done for the season and during the game, Montee Ball hobbled off the field without so much as one touch of the pigskin. Ball reinjured his groin and could also be done. That leaves Anderson as the primary RB for the Broncos for the balance of the season and makes him the priority waiver wire grab for Week 12. Anderson will have the job to himself minus whatever Juwan Thompson gets as the change of pace back. Bid the farm for Anderson this week because that’s what it will likely take to get him if he’s even available.
Juwan Thompson (RB, Denver) – Given that the Broncos RB corps has thinned down to just Thompson and Anderson, the former will have value as a handcuff since he’s just an injury to the latter away from being the last RB standing in Denver. Thompson hasn’t played much this season, getting a total of 30 carries for 121 yards (4.0 ypc) and catching three passes for 11 yards in 10 games thus far. He probably won’t get more than 10 touches per game if that going forward, so the value is really only as insurance against an Anderson injury.
Jonas Gray (RB, New England) – Nobody saw Gray’s incredible Sunday Night Football performance coming, and how could they; Bill Belichick reveals nothing and everyone else in the Patriots organization is sworn to secrecy by the coach, essentially barred from revealing anything to the media. It would be great to tell you that Gray will have a shot at 100 or more rushing yards in every game and plenty of red zone action going forward, but speculation of that order is folly when it comes to the Pats. Aside from their Week 13 matchup with the Packers, who are ranked 30th in the NFL against the run, the rest of the Patriots’ schedule is against Top 12 rushing defenses. That makes Gray a fine stash for Week 13 but of not much value otherwise. The probability that he has another 199 yard, four TD game is just about zero.
Tre Mason (RB, St. Louis) – It was pretty nifty to see Mason pile up 113 rushing yards on 29 carries against a fairly tough Broncos defense. The primary RB job is his to lose now, not that the Rams really have much choice in the matter given the dearth of talent on their roster at the position. However, much like Gray and the Patriots, Mason and the Rams have a difficult schedule the remainder of this season. Aside from a Week 16 matchup against the Giants and their league-worst rush defense, the rest of their schedule also features Top 12 rushing defenses. So, Mason is a great stash for the Week 16 Fantasy championship game, but nothing more than bench depth otherwise. He’s more valuable than Gray because of that easy matchup during the Fantasy season’s key game, so go after Mason before Gray on waivers, assuming one or both is available.
Daniel Herron (RB, Indianapolis) – You can’t be blamed if you have no idea who he is, even though he’s been on the Colts roster for three seasons now. Until Ahmad Bradshaw injured his ankle, though, there was little or no chance Herron would receive significant reps. Bradshaw may have a broken ankle and may need surgery, so suddenly Herron becomes a needed man – but probably not in Fantasy. Herron is on the small side for a running back (5’10”, 215) and he has very little experience to speak of. That said, the Colts are a pass first team, and Bradshaw’s value was primarily in the passing game. Herron doesn’t appear to have the same skill set to step into Bradshaw’s role, and without that, he’s not worth your time.
Charles Sims (RB, Tampa Bay) – Sims was designated as the primary back just a few minutes before game time on Sunday. Unfortunately, his 13 carries for 39 yards was very underwhelming, though, it’s more indicative of the Bucs’ run blocking than anything else. On paper at least, the Bucs and Sims have a favorable matchup in Week 16 against the Packers’ 30th ranked run defense. But in reality, they’ll be so far behind by half time that Sims will be lucky to get five carries in the second half. I guess if you’re desperate you can add Sims as depth, but really, I don’t see the point.
Kenny Britt (WR, St. Louis) – There was a Kenny Britt sighting in St. Louis on Sunday, as the seemingly forgotten receiver made four catches for 128 yards, including a 63 yard touchdown grab. If you believe that Britt will suddenly become a significant Fantasy receiver again on the strength of this performance, which came out of nowhere, then let me grab him off waivers and make you an offer you’ll no doubt love. I’ll take just about anything for him; a bag of footballs, a few kicking tees or maybe a kicker might get it done. Then again, you must be joking; I can’t take you seriously if you believe that. Never mind.
Cody Latimer (WR, Denver) – Latimer is on my deep sleeper list from way before the preseason. Unfortunately, Broncos have not included Latimer in the offense beyond one target in one game so far. Injuries to Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas may change that, but only maybe. At 6’2”, 215 lbs, Latimer has the size and strength to be a factor in the slot receiver role and the speed to work the outside. If Sanders, who is already going through the league’s concussion protocol, misses more than a week, we could see Latimer emerge as the player who gets the targets that Sanders would normally get. Neither Andre Caldwell, who took a viscous hit Sunday too, nor Wes Welker have played well this season, and neither of them have Latimer’s size. At the very least, Latimer should be on your watch list, but if you have the roster space he is worth stashing away. Think of it this way – big receiver plus prolific offense, plus big opportunity equals big Fantasy win.
Coby Fleener (TE, Indianapolis) – The Patriots seemed to have an answer for every aspect of the Colts’ offense, except Fleener, who torched them for seven catches and 144 yards on 11 targets. Dwayne Allen is going to miss at least two weeks with an injury, leaving Fleener as the Colts’ best TE left on the roster. The Colts have several TE favorable matchups going forward, so Fleener could end up being quite valuable. He’s certainly the top TE to target if you own Julius Thomas, who could also miss time.
Jacob Tamme (TE, Denver) – Tamme made four catches for 31 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Rams, just the second game this season in which he made more than one catch. We don’t know the status of Julius Thomas just yet, but it certainly appears that he’ll miss at least one game. Tamme is the likely beneficiary if Orange Julius is out, so grab him if you’re in need at TE. There are a lot worse options out there.