First things first. Congratulations to all Fantasy owners who are advancing to the playoffs this season! It has taken a lot of hard offseason preparation, and clearing all the hurdles that have been thrown our way during the regular season has led to this. Smart waiver wire moves and timely trades have hopefully rounded out your starting lineup for the next three weeks on the way to a title run. Performances from players like Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, and Antonio Brown likely propelled you to a big week in what is make or break time. Whereas dud games from studs like Adrian Peterson and Todd Gurley could have very well cost you a seat at the table as we head into the postseason. The most important thing to keep in mind at this time of year, is to stay on top of the trends. Do you know which offense is performing well, or has a schedule that you could take advantage of going forward? Who are the players that have seemingly hit a wall, and could hinder you if they’re left in your lineup? If you are ahead of the game here, and make the right moves with your lineup each week, then nothing should be standing in your way as you prepare to bring home the trophy.
Seahawks Fly High
Well, it has only taken all season, but Russell Wilson is finally living up to the top five quarterback billing that he was labeled with coming into the season. In a dominating victory on the road against the Vikings, Wilson was masterful in his play, as he threw for 274 yards and three TDs while also adding in a score on the ground. The early season struggles of the offensive line seems like ages ago, as Wilson looked confident in the pocket and stood tall as he waited for a play to develop. It wasn’t all the passing game that carried his day, as his 51 yards rushing rounded out a solid all-purpose game. As is always the case with Wilson, efficiency is the name of his game with only six incompletions on 27 attempts. As long as he can continue this momentum that he has built during the team’s current three game winning streak (12 total TDs over that stretch), this offense could be back to Super Bowl caliber.
Thomas Rawls has the Seahawks front office and Fantasy owners everywhere officially asking “Marshawn Who?” Funny how things can quickly turn around in this league, as entering the 2015 season, some experts were thinking that the mileage would soon catch up to Lynch, and if that did happen, the handcuff to own would be Christine Michael. Well, three teams later, Michael is in the Fantasy doghouse in Washington, scratching for relevance. Meanwhile, undrafted free agent Rawls has grabbed his opportunity and seized control of the job. With another 100-yard game under his belt on Sunday, Rawls has now rushed for 391 yards over the last three games, with a rushing TD in each matchup. Eye-popping numbers for sure, and something that is definitely giving the Seahawks the option to leave Lynch on the sidelines to rest until he’s fully healthy, much to the dismay of Lynch owners. Rawls has a very seamless running style, somewhat comparable to Maurice Jones-Drew, as he has the power to run through tackles, and elusiveness in the open field. A combination that is hard to gameplan for. In addition to the running game, intriguing options in the passing game are coming forth, as Doug Baldwin and electrifying rookie Tyler Lockett are turning heads. Baldwin has caught five TDs in the last two games, while also adding in two 100-yard receiving games in the last four contests. Lockett is starting to round into the old Golden Tate role out of the slot, as his targets continue to increase each week (seven targets on Sunday). Both players could have great value in PPR leagues during the playoffs.
Although the strength of schedule says otherwise (23rd ranked in points allowed to both QBs RBs), the playoff matchups for the Seahawks are quite favorable in my opinion. A road game against Baltimore and home to the Browns the next two weeks, you couldn’t ask for a better time for this offense to be hitting on all cylinders. Both Wilson and Rawls should continue to roll with Top 5 numbers at their respective positions. There are not many more offenses that you could have more confidence in currently as we head into the playoffs.
Chargers Lose Shock
What a difference one injury makes to a team; since the season-ending injury to Keenan Allen, the San Diego Chargers’ offense has become flat. Try as hard as he might, Philip Rivers cannot hold this offense up on his own. Over his last four games, Rivers has only managed five TDs through the air, with one game being a four TD performance. Also, during the early stages of the season, passing yardage was easy to come by for Rivers, something that he has struggled with since the Allen injury. He’s had only one 300-yard game in his last four, and with a lack of talent now around him, Rivers has slipped back into the low-tier QB1/high-tier QB2 discussion, where he was drafted entering the 2015 season.
Speaking of a lack of talent, the Chargers’ backfield could be holding open tryouts for the RB position, as no one has been able to separate themselves to the point of Fantasy relevancy. Many Fantasy owners drafted Melvin Gordon hoping that by this time in the season he would be the bell cow of this running attack, which has not come to fruition. Whether it’s because of the offensive line woes, or just a complete inability to grasp the pro game, Gordon has been an absolute bust. We are 13 weeks into the season, and Gordon has yet to record a 100-yard game, and has yet to score a touchdown. It’s hard to see anything changing in the coming weeks that would make Gordon worth starting during playoff time.
The only other back in the rotation is Danny Woodhead, whose value is limited to PPR leagues, and even that has plummeted over the last month. The Chargers’ backfield is one to stay away from for sure. In the receiving game, aside from Antonio Gates, there are no options worth rostering, as none are intriguing enough to crack your starting lineups.
Entering the playoffs, Rivers will be facing the 28th ranked schedule in points allowed to QBs, so it would be hard to see him turning things back around, especially with all the issues occurring to this offense. He’s a matchup play at this point, and a hard one to plug into your lineup. On the flip side, the schedule against the run is a little more forgiving, as it currently ranks 11th in points allowed. But, even with the easier schedule there is no confidence in this run game. Gordon will still be good for about 60 yards a game but while scoring no touchdowns, which makes him a bench player only. The trend of this offense has been pointing down for weeks now, and I would suggest staying away.
Rams in Disarray
Talk about a team that looks to be in give up mode; the St. Louis Rams have all but packed it in for the year, and who could blame them? Whether it’s Nick Foles or Case Keenum, this team has no leader at QB, the most important position in the NFL. Foles is only starting because Keenum is still in the concussion protocol. But does it really matter? Foles hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Week 8, and he looked completely lost on Sunday against the Cardinals. Granted, Arizona sports one of the best defenses in the league, but Foles is just one year removed from looking like a viable starting option in this league. As the rumors swirl that this team could be moving to LA in 2016 or 2017, it’s safe to say that neither QB on this roster will be making to trip.
With the QB position being an absolute disaster, the talents of Todd Gurley are being laid to waste as we enter the most important time of the year. Riding a streak in which he scored a TD in five straight game, Gurley has now received just nine carries in each of the last two games. No running back, no matter how special a talent they are, can run against nine men in the box, something that Gurley has been facing routinely over the last two weeks. Defenses around the league have figured out that he is the only offense the Rams have. If you stop him, it’s game over.
Now, the tough question comes as we enter the playoffs. Do you start Todd Gurley with confidence? If you own him, you almost have to unless you worked the waiver wire and have other options (like Thomas Rawls or Charcandrick West) to plug into his place. You drafted him and stashed him, he carried you through the middle part of the season, and now when it matters most, he could be the reason you get knocked out of the playoffs. What a tough pill to swallow. Should we talk about the receiving game for the Rams? No? Good, because there are absolutely no options worth your time currently on this team. Sure, Tavon Austin has flashed in a game here and there, but you should not consider starting him during crunch time.
To make matters worse, the Rams’ schedule does not get any easier. Foles will be facing the 25th ranked schedule against QBs, while Gurley has the unfortunate task of looking for holes against the 30th ranked schedule against the rush (and a road visit to Seattle during championship week). Needless to say, the only option on this team moving forward is the uber-talented Gurley, and his prospects over the next three weeks are looking very bleak to say the least. Tread with extreme caution.
Questions or comments, please follow me on Twitter (bmurch316)