We’re two weeks away from the start of the playoffs in many fantasy leagues, but some well-known star players might be trending in the wrong direction. In senior FantasySharks.com writer Matt Wilson’s newest edition of “Traps & Trends, he puts three backfields, one top-shelf wideout and one second-year quarterback under the microscope to see if they’ll save or sink your playoff run.
Before we discuss some of the fallout from Week 12, I want to wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving from me and the staff here at FantasySharks.com. I hope you enjoy the day with family and/or friends, eat lots of great food and fall asleep on the couch and miss the end of the Dallas Cowboys game like I usually do. There’s nothing like a good power nap, and the Cowboys haven’t been playing that well lately anyway.
We’re 12 weeks into the regular season and two weeks away from the playoffs starting in many leagues, but…
1. Are the Seattle Seahawks flirting with a change in their backfield once again?
The Damage: You surely remember Chris Carson losing a fumble in three consecutive season-opening games, but Rashaad Penny wasn’t playing well enough to supplant a still very productive Carson as the starter. The Seahawks, instead of benching Carson, stood behind him publicly as their starter. However, Carson’s fumbling problem popped up again during Seattle’s win over the Philadelphia Eagles this past Sunday. He lost the ball twice on consecutive second-half plays in some rainy weather, recovering one himself but losing the other. The second fumble was technically charged to Russell Wilson since Carson never had possession.
On the day, Carson carried just eight times for 26 yards and caught all four of his targets for 31 yards. Penny, however, outplayed Carson, toting the rock 14 times for 129 yards, which were both career highs, and one touchdown after logging just 22 carries heading into Week 12. By the way, Penny failed to catch his lone target. Is Carson’s second-bout with fumble-itis, combined with Penny’s great showing against Philadelphia, enough to make the Seahawks demote Carson and promote Penny?
The Diagnosis: TRAP
Nope, I don’t think so. I fully expect Seattle to stand by Carson as their starter. He’s usually very reliable – he’ll correct the ball security issue again – and personifies the tough blue-collar ground-and-pound approach that the Seahawks want with their ground game. I do expect the Seahawks to give Penny some more opportunities during their Week 13 Monday night clash with the Minnesota Vikings. Consider Carson a high-end fantasy RB2 going forward. While Penny is worth a pickup as a potential flex option, I suspect his performance in the Eagles game was an anomaly. Seattle’s next two games are against top-11 run defenses of the Minnesota Vikings and the Los Angeles Rams, followed by easier matchup versus the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals.
2. Bo knows workhorse tailback duties?
The Dude: Bo Scarbrough
The Damage: In case you’re curious – and too young to remember – “Bo knows” is a reference to some very popular late 1980s Nike commercials that featured versatile all-world athlete Bo Jackson, who played both Major League Baseball (he was an outfielder) and NFL Football. He suited up for four seasons (1987-1990) as a tailback with the then-Los Angeles Raiders.
Okay, back to fake football. Scarbrough, promoted from the Detroit Lions practice squad two weeks ago, carried 14 times for 55 yards and one touchdown (no targets) against his former team, the Dallas Cowboys, in Week 11. In that same contest, Ty Johnson managed just two carries for six yards and one reception for one yard while J.D. McKissic racked up three carries for 13 yards and three receptions for 40 yards.
Since Johnson had failed to stake his claim to the starting gig in a Kerryon Johnson-less backfield and McKissic was better suited for third-down/change-of-pace duties, the Lions gave the surprising Scarbrough (3.9 yards per carry in the Dallas game) another start this past Sunday versus Washington, and he delivered again. Running with nice power and picking up lots of yards after contact, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Scarbrough carried 18 times for 98 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and failed to catch his lone target while Johnson and McKissic combined for nine combo touches. Is Scarbrough a safe option to roll with through the fantasy playoffs?
The Diagnosis: TREND/TRAP
No, TREND/TRAP isn’t my way of avoiding a firm answer. Barring injuries or problems with ball security, I fully expect Scarbrough to keep his starting job (TREND) since Johnson and McKissic aren’t starter material, as noted. The TRAP part of my answer means that Scarbrough probably won’t be a safe weekly plug-and-play option because of the Lions’ upcoming schedule. He looks like a sneaky solid play Thanksgiving Day versus a Chicago Bears defense that has yielded at least 110 rushing yards and at least one rushing score in three straight road contests. However, things get tougher afterwards with playoff matchups @Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and @Denver Broncos, which are top-11 run defenses. Since Scarbrough doesn’t catch passes – he hasn’t so far – the Alabama product is touchdown dependent.
3. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t want to torture fantasy managers with a three-headed backfield so they decided to use four tailbacks this past Sunday. Which guy is the one to have on your team?
The Damage: With James Conner (shoulder) sidelined after reinjuring his tender shoulder during a helmet-swinging clash with the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago, Snell drew the Week 12 start against a Cincinnati defense that’s one of the NFL’s worst at stopping the run with Samuels, Edmunds and Whyte sprinkled in. Here’s the breakdown:
- Snell: 21-98-0 rushing and 1-5-0 receiving (one target)
- Samuels: 2-6-0 rushing and 3-26-0 receiving (three targets)
- Edmunds: 2-7-0 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving (zero targets)
- Whyte: 6-43-0 rushing and 0-0-0 receiving (zero targets)
Anyone who started Samuels – myself included – was surprised by his very small workload when more of an even split between him and Snell was expected. Whyte and Edmunds out-produced Samuels on the ground, which certainly wasn’t expected. With Pittsburgh’s passing attack struggling mightily versus the Bengals – Mason Rudolph was benched – Pittsburgh used a run-heavy attack to pull out a victory. Until Conner returns, is Snell the Steelers’ tailback to own?
The Diagnosis: TREND
Don’t expect Pittsburgh to use such a run-heavy game plan again (38 carries and 27 passes) the rest of the season. Cincinnati, as noted, is terrible against the run, and the Steelers ground game benefited from positive game script all afternoon. Assuming Conner is a no-go for Week 13, Snell should operate as the touchdown-dependent early-down grinder again while Samuels handles the passing-down duties. His receiving skills clearly weren’t needed against the Bengals.
The Steelers’ Week 13 matchup against a Cleveland Browns defense that has yielded the 13th-fewest rushing yards and one rushing touchdown during the last month isn’t the best, putting aside the revenge narrative from their helmet-throwing clash two weeks ago. Have we seen the last of Whyte and Edmunds? Probably not. Treat Snell and Samuels as matchup driven flex options going forward.