After the NFL messed with fantasy managers’ minds with lots of shocking game results and surprise struggles by fantasy studs two weeks ago, a more normal Week 11 featured blowouts by six different teams. We also saw some potential changes in five different backfields, which is the subject of FantasySharks.com senior writer Matt Wilson’s newest edition of a Monday morning staple that we call “Traps & Trends.”
We’re just 11 weeks into the regular season and three weeks away from the start of the playoffs in most fantasy leagues, but…
1. Another backfield has gone timeshare just in time for the fantasy playoffs. Will it stay that way?
The Damage: As you surely know, Hunt returned from his league suspension to help the Browns defeat the Buffalo Bills in Week 10. In that contest, Nick Chubb compiled a 20-116-0 rushing line and a 2-5-0 receiving line on four targets while Hunt amassed a 4-30-0 rushing line and a 7-44-0 receiving line on nine targets. During Cleveland’s helmet-swinging win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Chubb rolled up a 27-92-0 rushing line and a 0-0-0 receiving line on one target while Hunt manufactured a 6-12-0 rushing line and a 6-46-0 receiving line on nine targets. The numbers tell the story: Hunt has emerged as a third-down back in a backfield that resembles the Melvin Gordon/Austin Ekeler duo in its prime last season. Will Cleveland continue to operate a committee backfield for the rest of 2019?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Why not? The arrangement is working, and why would Cleveland pass up a chance to use the talented Hunt? Crunching the numbers from the last two weeks, Chubb averaged 24.5 touches per contest and a solid 23.5 carries per outing. As for Hunt, he averaged 11.5 touches per game and…here’s where it gets interesting…5.0 carries per game but 6.5 receptions and a hefty 8.5 targets per outing.
While Chubb should continue to handle the bulk of the early-down duties, Hunt has emerged as a force as a third-down back, stealing what little passing-down work that Chubb had. From Week 10 through Week 11, Odell Beckham topped the Browns with 22 targets with Jarvis Landry and…you guessed it…Hunt tied for second place with 17 apiece with Chubb ranked a very distant fourth with five targets. Hunt has emerged as Cleveland’s third receiving option and makes a nice flex option in PPR leagues going forward. Three of the Browns’ next four matchups are versus Miami Dolphins (Week 12), Cincinnati Bengals (Week 14) and @ Arizona Cardinals (Week 15).
2. Has a backfield that has operated as a two-man committee for most of the season changed things up and decided to feature one guy going forward?
The Damage: Heading into the Week 11 games, Lindsay had racked up 143 touches (118 carries and 25 receptions) and Freeman had compiled 120 touches (93 carries and 27 receptions). Both guys had played 10 contests. The Broncos, just before taking on the Minnesota Vikings, announced out of the blue that Lindsay would receive a larger share of the weekly workload for the rest of the season. Of course, we all know that coaches say lots of stuff over the course of the season, right? How did things play out during Denver’s surprisingly competitive loss to Minnesota? Lindsay toted the rock 16 times for 67 yards and caught two passes for eight yards on two targets while Freeman carried only eight times for 31 yards and hauled in one pass for 14 yards on one target. Will the Broncos continue this usage – roughly two-thirds of the touches going to Lindsay for the rest of the regular season?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Barring injuries and barring regression by a Denver defense that has flashed some improvement under head coach and defensive guru Vic Fangio, Lindsay should continue to operate as the lead dog in an offense that prefers to use the inexperience Brandon Allen (two career starts) as a game manager. You probably know that the 5-foot-8, 190-pound Lindsay is quicker and offers more big-play ability than Freeman. Listed at 6-foot, 238 pounds, he’s a good runner, but isn’t as quick. Lindsay and Freeman are about equal in terms of receiving skills. The Broncos defense has improved, as noted, so game script should remain run-game friendly going forward with upcoming plus matchups that include @ Buffalo Bills, Los Angeles Chargers, @ Houston Texans, @ Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions.
3. Is a backfield that has belonged to a 34-year-old future Hall of Famer since Week 6 going timeshare?
When Bill Callahan took over as the interim head coach for Washington, he promised the team would get back to running the football. Callahan kept his word. With Chris Thompson (toe) and Guice (knee) parked on the injury shelf, Peterson, from Week 6 through Week 9 (Washington had a Week 10 bye), averaged 18.8 carries and 95.6 rushing yards per contest with no touchdowns scored. He also amassed just five receptions for 67 yards on five targets.
However, Guice returned to action this past Sunday. Peterson drew the start versus the run-stingy New York Jets, compiling 9-25-0 rushing and 2-5-0 receiving (two targets). Guice saw plenty of action. He racked up just 7-25-0 rushing but looked slightly more effective running between the tackles than Peterson. Guice also caught one of two passes for 45 yards and took it to the house for a score during garbage time. Will we see a split in the Washington backfield for the duration of the 2019 regular season?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Granted, we saw the Peterson/Guice duo together for only one game, and their carries were limited because the Jets jumped out to a big lead. However, Callahan wants to run the football, and the 22-year-old Guice is Washington’s future at tailback, not Peterson. I suspect we’ll see a 60/40 or close to a 50/50 split in touches between the two. Dwayne Haskins is clearly raw and a work in progress, and Callahan wants to protect him with a solid ground game as much as possible. Guice is worth a look as a flex option, and his upcoming schedule looks favorable with matchups against the Detroit Lions (Week 12), @ Carolina Panthers (Week 13) and @ Green Bay Packers.