Does Indianapolis have a new No. 1 tailback? Does Pittsburgh need a new No. 1 ball carrier? Do the Los Angeles Rams have a third fantasy relevant wideout? Has Green Bay finally found a legit wingman for Davante Adams? FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson answers those questions and gives us the latest injury report in his Week 10 edition of “Traps and Trends.”
THE SKINNY ON WEEK 10
For the second time in three weeks, windy weather conditions impacted the Sunday morning fantasy football talk, but Mother Nature didn’t affect as many contests this time around. The only game truly affected was Houston at Cleveland. With both teams confined to their respective locker rooms, heavy rain, hail and high winds rolled through FirstEnergy Stadium, delaying the kickoff for exactly 37 minutes. The windy conditions dragged down both team’s passing attacks, which is why the team with the better ground game, Cleveland, prevailed 10-7.
Elsewhere, 36-year-old Alex Smith made his first start since suffering a gruesome life-threatening leg injury in 2018. Smith’s Washington Football Team lost to Detroit, 30-27, but he passed for 390 scoreless yards and more than kept Washington’s offense afloat. As expected, Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay team roared back from a 38-3 shellacking by New Orleans, rolling past Carolina, 46-23. DeAndre Hopkins caught a 43-yard Hail Mary from Kyler Murray in the end zone with two seconds left on the game clock to lead Arizona past Buffalo, 32-30. Will that play be called the “Hail Murray” for all time? Finally, Pittsburgh remained the NFL’s only unbeaten team, rolling over Cincinnati, 36-10.
THE WEEK 10 INJURY REPORT
The running back position made it through almost unscathed, but it was a different story for the quarterback position. As usual, keep in mind that some teams withhold injury information until Monday, so a few more names could be added to this list.
Week 10 Injuries:
QB Teddy Bridgewater (knee)
QB Matthew Stafford (thumb)
QB Drew Brees (ribs)
RB Mike Davis (wrist/finger; returned to his game)
RB JaMycal Hasty (collar bone)
RB Jalen Richard (chest)
RB Chris Thompson (back)
RB Tyler Ervin (ribs)
WR Davante Adams (ankle; returned to his game)
WR Danny Amendola (hip)
WR John Brown (ankle)
WR Tre’Quan Smith (concussion)
TE Nick Boyle (leg)
PK Kai Forbath (ankle)
We’re just 10 weeks into the 2020 NFL fantasy football season, but …
1. Is there a new lead dog in the Indianapolis backfield?
The Damage: Even if Hines isn’t rostered on one of your teams, you probably know his 2020 fantasy story. Following preseason speculation that the pass-catching specialist would operate in an “Austin Ekeler role” to help Philip Rivers quickly find a comfort zone in the team’s offense, Hines erupted in Week 1 with seven carries for 28 yards and one touchdown, and eight receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown on eight targets. However, the talk about an Ekeler role quickly disappeared the following week after Hines caught just one pass for 4 yards and didn’t log any carries against Minnesota. From Weeks 2-6, Hines, taking a back seat to coveted rookie second-rounder Jonathan Taylor, averaged a nothing-special 6.8 touches and 30.8 total yards with no touchdowns scored. Hines was still a passing game specialist, but he clearly wasn’t getting heavy usage.
Following Indianapolis’ Week 7 bye, things started to get interesting as Taylor started to struggle due to an ankle injury and possibly starting to hit the rookie wall. During a Week 8 road clash with Detroit, Hines popped up on the fantasy radar, compiling three receptions for 54 yards on five targets and five carries for 8 yards. The touchdowns were his first two scores since Week 1, but most fantasy managers saw the performance as a fluke and understandably so. In Week 9, Hines managed just 38 scoreless combo yards on four touches against Baltimore.
Then came Indianapolis’ battle with Tennessee this past Thursday night. With Taylor (7 rushes, 12 yards) struggling for the third week in a row and Wilkins (8 rushes, 28 yards) failing to make a dent in a Tennessee run defense that wasn’t as good as it looked (both had been stuffed on goal-line runs), Hines took over the backfield. He toted the rock a season-high 12 times for 70 yards and one touchdown (a 2-yard run) and reeled in five passes for 45 yards and one touchdown (a diving 13-yard grab) on six targets. Is Hines Indianapolis’ new No. 1 tailback?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
Is Hines the new lead dog in the Indianapolis backfield? No. Listed at 5-foot-9, 196 pounds, Hines isn’t going to be pounding the rock between the tackles 15-20 times per game. Has Hines earned a bigger role going forward? Yes. Of course that’s what a lot of fantasy managers expected after his Week 1 scoring festival, but it didn’t happen. However, the situation around Hines isn’t the same as it was back in Week 1. Taylor is struggling, as noted, and Wilkins reminded everyone in the Tennessee game that he’s only a solid backup-level talent. Hines, who has scored four touchdowns in three games, deserves more than 6.8 touches per contest, and I think Indianapolis will expand his role this time. Hines deserves a spot in the team picture for flex options in points per reception (PPR) leagues.
2. Does Pittsburgh still have a workhorse tailback?
The Dude: James Conner
The Damage: After shaking off an injury-impacted Week 1 outing, Conner looked the part of a bell cow tailback and produced accordingly in five games played from Weeks 2-7 (Week 4 bye). He averaged 20.4 touches and 109.2 combo yards per game with four touchdowns scored. In Week 8, Conner’s 15 carries for 47 yards and one touchdown, and three catches for 13 yards on three targets against Baltimore didn’t set off the alarm bells because he scored and Baltimore played good defense at home.
During the last two weeks, however, the alarm bells are ringing because Conner tanked in two very favorable matchups. Battling Dallas in Week 9, Conner disappointed with nine carries for 22 scoreless yards and two catches for -2 yards on two targets. This past Sunday, Conner tanked against a Cincinnati defense that had allowed the second-most rushing yards to opposing tailbacks. He managed 13 carries for just 36 scoreless yards and made two grabs for 12 yards on two targets. Will Conner continue to struggle or will he rebound in time for the fantasy playoffs?
The Diagnosis: TOSS-UP
What’s the deal with Conner’s struggles and smaller workloads during the last three weeks? Is the injury-plagued Conner banged up and Pittsburgh is keeping quiet about it? Then again, we haven’t seen an uptick in the usage of Benny Snell or Anthony McFarland. Is Conner, a grinding power runner with good-but-not-great receiving skills, simply not a good fit for a tweaked Pittsburgh passing attack that now relies more heavily on timing, rhythm-based short throws?
There’s plenty of time for Conner to turn things around and re-emerge as a workhorse. Will he turn things around? I think so, but I suspect there’s an injury involved here. His Week 12 matchup against Baltimore is a challenging one, but Conner also has some favorable upcoming matchups at Jacksonville (Week 11), against Washington (Week 13), at Buffalo (Week 14) and at Cincinnati (Week 15).